M: These business premises from the early 1950s never experienced the horrors of war. But for hundreds of years, a long-established Jewish merchant family called Stern lived in a house on this site -- until their home was demolished during the latter years of the Second World War. This is the story of a father and son, Max and Bruno Stern.
F: Max Stern was a respected resident of the town. As deputy mayor, he wrote Niederstetten's first book of local history in 1930. His love for the town is evident from his expressive description:
M: "As travellers descend from the high Hohenlohe plateau into the beautiful Vorbach valley and make their way deeper into the vale, their gaze is arrested by the view of a glorious landscape. A small town, fortified with ancient towers, extends across the valley. The houses are built in ranks up the slope of a hill surmounted by a castle grey with age. Fertile gardens surround the town, which is bordered on all sides by gentle hills planted with vines. No wonder the travellers, with future holidays in mind, think "This is a good place to be!"
F: At that point, he had no idea that just three years later, the National Socialists would destroy that wonderful idyll. On the 25th of March, 1933 they stormed into Niederstetten and attacked its Jewish residents with extreme brutality. Bruno Stern, the son, described the attack in one of his books about Jewish life in Niederstetten. It was published in 1985 and is called: "So war es" – “This is what happened”.
M: “After the doctor had treated my father's serious injuries, my mother and I went to the synagogue to hear how other members of the congregation had fared. In the middle of the synagogue stood 77-year-old Abraham Kirchheimer, a deeply religious man. Raising his arms to heaven, he cried out: "God, oh God, why have you forsaken us?" I’ll never forget the sight. His desperate lament touched the hearts of all present. Kirchheimer's son, a First World War veteran and as good a son as he was a family man, had also been beaten and abused. A world, a good world full of charity, tradition, hope for a better future and openness in matters of faith, had been shaken that morning in Niederstetten’s small Jewish community. And that convulsion affected its very foundations."
F: At the time, Niederstetten’s Jewish residents still found comfort in their synagogue. It stood in Mittelgasse, where you’ll find another stop.
Fotos: © Trüpschuch