The "Landjuden an der Sieg" memorial in Windeck/Rosbach commemorates the Jewish tradition of the region. In 1994, this memorial was opened in the former home of the Jewish family Seligmann. Twelve of their family members were victims of the Holocaust, the rest and their descendants are scattered elsewhere in the world today. Some descendants have documented their return to the region in a film project.
Stumbling blocks for Gustav and Mathilde Gärtner in Ruppichteroth. Photo: Daniela Tobias
For the first time in 2017, after a visit to their great-grandfather's homeland, the descendants of Hermann Gärtner asked the community of Ruppichteroth to think about laying "Stolpersteine" in order to remember the fate of the murdered and expelled Jews in the village. In 2018, two final classes from the secondary school who, after a contemporary witness interview and a visit to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, collected money for the first two "Stolpersteine" and handed it over to the mayor. The municipal council then decided unanimously to approve the laying of stumbling blocks. Godparents and sponsors for 20 stones were quickly found.
When it was first laid in August 2019, a total of 13 stones were laid, including for Gustav and Mathilde Gärtner, whose grandchildren and great-grandchildren had traveled from Sweden and the USA. A second relocation in summer 2020 had to be postponed due to the corona situation.
Horst Moog at the award ceremony in the Berlin House of Representatives. Photo: Daniela Tobias
Horst Moog was awarded the German Jewish History Award of the Obermayer Foundation in 2018 for his decades-long commitment to coming to terms with Jewish history in Hamm an der Sieg, in particular the expulsion and displacement of Jews from their hometown and from the memory of the remaining population. As a four-year-old, Horst Moog saw the synagogue go up in flames holding his mother's hand. In the 1970s he began to research, publish and organize exhibitions in his spare time, some of which met bitter resistance, including anonymous death threats. Horst Moog also took care of the care of the Jewish cemetery for years and he made contact with former Jews based in Hamm who came to visit from Israel and the USA. His descendants had nominated him for the award of the American foundation, which recognizes the commitment of German people or groups who have made voluntary contributions to the preservation of Jewish history. The prize is awarded every year at the end of January in the Berlin House of Representatives.
The Stumbling blocks laid for Willi Seligmann's family in 2011 in Rosbach, Kirchstrasse 4, source: Siegburg district archive
Until the 1930s, Jewish citizens lived side by side with the Christian population in the villages on the Sieg. Together they were for example active in associations or celebrated the anniversary of the synagogue in Rosbach together. When the National Socialists won the elections in January 1933 and took power, Jews were increasingly marginalized, excluded from social life and robbed of their livelihoods. Those who were unable to emigrate or go underground suffered the fate of deportation and death in the extermination camps.
On September 17, 2011, the first 22 "Stolpersteine" in Windeck - in the districts of Dattenfeld, Rosbach and Niederalsen - were laid by the artist Gunter Demnig. They remember those Windecker who were killed because of their Jewish faith. On the occasion of the relocation, one participant said that it was "still incomprehensible to this day why a village community kept silent when people from their midst were defamed and finally transported away". The initiator of the relocation is the "Zeitzeugenforum Windeck" of the Arbeiterwohlfahrt Ortsverein Windeck eV. In three relocation campaigns in the districts of Dattenfeld, Dreisel, Gerressen, Gutmannseichen, Herchen, Kohlberg, Niederalsen and Rosbach, 66 "Stolpersteine" have been laid, meanwhile also for victims of Nazi medical crimes .
Inauguration of the “Landjuden an der Sieg” memorial in 1994, Ignatz Bubis in the middle.
The “Landjuden an der Sieg” memorial is inextricably linked with the history of the Seligmann family: They lived for several generations in the house on Bergstrasse in Rosbach, Hilde Seligmann made contact with the district archive and left them with numerous photos and items from family property. They formed a basis for creating this facility. At the end of 1987, Hilde Seligmann suggested setting up a memorial in her Rosbacher house across from the Rhein-Sieg district. The district committee decided on December 5, 1988 to set up a memorial “Jews on the Sieg”.
The memorial was inaugurated on August 28, 1994 in the presence of the Seligmann family and numerous representatives from culture, business and politics. Ignatz Bubis, then Chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, also took part in the ceremony. In his greeting he said: “Rural Jewry no longer exists in Germany and it will no longer exist. That is why this site is so important to document history and make it understandable, especially for young people. "
As far as the issue of rural Jews is concerned, it must be said that this institution was one of the first to address this issue.
Still from the film "We were so beloved" with Melitta and Walter Hess. Source: Manfred Kirchheimer, New York
The documentary film "We were so beloved" by Manfred Kirchheimer, shot in New York's Washington Heights district, portrayed German and Austrian emigrants who had fled the Holocaust and formed a new community there, who fostered shared memories but dealt with their traumatic experiences in very different ways . His friend Walter Hess from Ruppichteroth not only worked on the film behind the camera but was also the protagonist together with his mother Melitta and his cousin Ilse Gärtner.
Walter Hess and his mother reported in the documentation of the disturbing and humiliating experiences during the pogrom night of November 10, 1938 and the subsequent deportation of their father to Dachau. While the son could not imagine forgiving the Germans, Melitta Hess believed that it had not been easy for her former neighbors and friends to withdraw or even to oppose National Socialism.
In 1987, the ZDF showed a shortened and partly dubbed version of the film.
In 2018 Walter Hess published his memories in the book "A Refugee’s Journey, A Memoir".
Return of the Seligmann family from Argentina by ship, from left to right: Frieda Minkel, José, Ricardo, Hilde and Alfred Seligmann
Alfred Seligmann from Rosbach married Hilde Minkel from Weisenau in the summer of 1938 and lived with her in his parents' house on Bergstrasse (later a memorial). Hilde and her family were the driving force when it came to emigration; to finance this, they sold their house in Weisenau. On October 28, 1938, the Seligmann-Minkel family began the ship passage from Hamburg to Buenos Aires, where they arrived on November 25, 1938.
First they found a new home in the agricultural settlement of Colonia Avigdor, in 1945 they moved to Belén de Escobar northwest of Buenos Aires and built a new life here. The daughter and two sons were born in Argentina. In retrospect, the couple described life in emigration as hard and arduous. Alfred's four siblings were victims of the Shoah.
In 1956 Alfred visited his parents Max and Maria, who lived in Rosbach, probably also to discuss his family's return to Germany. He also had himself examined by a doctor "who urgently advised returning to Germany for climatic reasons." In November 1957, Alfred Seligmann turned his back on Argentina with his wife, two sons and mother-in-law and returned to their parents' house their daughter stayed in Argentina. In 1961, Hilde and her husband and sons finally moved to Bonn.
In 1941 the first assembly camps for Jews were created. The Jewish people living in the Siegkreis who did not have to do forced labor in war-related companies were sent to the former Reich labor camp in Much until June 16, 1941. For "living" in the overcrowded - three families shared a room - and in a relatively decrepit state, the Jews were asked to pay usurious rent. The residents suffered from constant food shortages. The Jewish master butcher Hugo Koppel from Siegburg acted as warehouse manager. There were also people who helped the interned Jews, like the Ruppichterother parish sister Aureliana from the Order of the Precious Blood, who threw food over the fence of the camp.
In June and July 1942 in particular, the deportations from Much were initially to the Cologne exhibition center or temporarily to the barracks camp in Cologne-Müngersdorf. From the Deutz-Tief train station, the Jews then had to travel to Riga, Auschwitz, Minsk, Theresienstadt, Lublin and other places of horror, most of which led to their death. Only Moses Aron from Bad Honnef survived the internment in the Much camp.
Some of the barracks survived until the mid-1960s. On January 27, 2002, a memorial stele for the victims of National Socialism was inaugurated at the former location.
This (then forbidden) photo was taken by fireman Werner Heinrichs the day after the synagogue was set on fire from the window of his house opposite. Source: Rudi Heinrichs
The fire in the Ruppichterother synagogue was started on November 10, 1938 at seven in the morning. Some onlookers and SS men made fun of standing the Hess family in front of the burning door to take photos and mock them. Walter Hess, then seven years old, remembers:
“It was the opportunity for a snapshot. […] I have to say that I saw a lot of people in the crowd who were from the village. There were children who I thought were my friends, who were playmates of mine, who were throwing lumps of dirt at us. For me it was the most traumatic day of my life. To see the place that you love and where you have your roots, and suddenly everything is turned upside down. "
The fire brigade only secured the neighboring buildings. The interior and the inventory of the synagogue burned. The rubble building was not destroyed any further, so that it could later be used as a residential building. On November 15, several Jewish men as well as Walter's father Oskar Hess were deported from Ruppichteroth to the Dachau concentration camp. After his return, Oskar Hess and his family fled to the USA via Ecuador.
The destroyed synagogue in Hamm an der Sieg after the pogrom night. Source: Horst Moog
On the night of November 9th to 10th, 1938, the Jewish house of God was set on fire by the National Socialists. In the early morning the roof finally collapsed and all that was left was rubble. The usable remains of the brick walls were removed.
During the night, the Jewish families in Hamm were threatened and mistreated by SA, SS and party members, their homes and businesses were devastated, and tombstones were smashed in the Jewish cemetery. The Jewish men were arrested and taken to Dachau. As a result, the last families left Hamm an der Sieg, so that the place was already considered "Jew-free" in the spring of 1939.
Butcher´s shop Hermann Gärtner in Ruppichteroth. Source: Rob Tobias
On April 1, 1933, the nationwide boycott of Jewish shops took place. SA men were also positioned in front of the shop of the Jewish butcher Hermann Gärtner that morning to prevent people from shopping there. Hermann Gärtner could not bear this humiliation, got drunk in the surrounding restaurants out of desperation and later told a neighbor that he had heard that Jews mistreated by Nazis were in hospital in Marburg.
Three days later, Hermann Gärtner was in "protective custody" because he had allegedly spread "horror tales" about the party and "the righteous anger" of the party comrades could hit him. On June 7, 1933, he was sentenced to ten months in prison before the Cologne Special Court for a violation of Section 3 of the Ordinance on Defense against Insidious Attacks against the Government of the National Insurrection of March 21, 1933. All requests for clemency were rejected and he had to serve the entire term.
It was a traumatic experience for the family to lose all security. The business collapsed, the 16-year-old son Paul and the 90-year-old father Simon Gärtner were without a provider, the pregnant daughter Irma Tobias even thought of suicide. For Hermann Gärtner's children it was clear afterwards that there could be no future for them in Germany. They left their home.
In the spring of 1938, Hermann Gärtner fled to the Netherlands after being warned. A trip to his children in the USA was no longer successful. In September 1942 he was deported to Auschwitz via the Westerbork camp and murdered.
The Rosbach synagogue hidden behind trees, source: Siegburg district archive
In 1875 the Rosbach Jews decided to break away from the Hamm Synagogue Association and founded their own synagogue community. Initially, a prayer room in the Havetz bakery served as a meeting place. In 1879 the "Israelite Association for the Satisfaction of Religious Needs" was established. A synagogue was built around 1880. At the end of the 19th century the municipality had 50 people in 18 households.
On August 1, 1925, the Jewish community celebrated its 50th anniversary. The Waldbröler Kreisblatt reported in detail:
“The celebration started on Friday evening with a divine service in the newly renovated synagogue, at which Rabbi [Salomon] Seelig from Siegburg gave the festive sermon. On Saturday morning there was also a service in the synagogue by the aforementioned rabbi. In the afternoon, the local Jewish citizens gathered with their guests in the Schneider inn for the official ceremony. "
The ceremony, to which numerous not only Jewish guests from the near and far Rosbach area had appeared, was concluded with a festival ball on Saturday evening. The newspaper article ended with the statement: "The synagogue community can be proud of its successful celebration in every way."
Simon Gärtner was the first chairman of the Chevre Kedische. Source: Rob Tobias
In December 1900, the Jews in Ruppichteroth founded an association with the aim of building their own synagogue. They belonged to the Nümbrecht synagogue community, but wanted to build their own prayer house due to the long and arduous path to Nümbrecht, 10 km away, “in order to be able to hold a service according to regulations as required.” The first chairman was Simon Gärtner.
However, the association was only able to raise the necessary funds and permits to build its own synagogue after the First World War. In addition to the “Chevre Kedische”, to which the men belonged, there was also an “Israelite Women's Association Ruppichteroth and Waldbröl”, which campaigned for families in need.
The Jewish inhabitants of Ruppichteroth mostly earned their living as butchers or cattle dealers and actively participated in the community life of the place, were members of various associations and the fire brigade.
Postcard of the synagogue in Hamm an der Sieg. Source: Horst Moog
After Hamm fell to Prussia in 1815, the Jewish residents of the place gradually enjoyed equal civil rights. In addition to the abolition of protection money, a settlement permit was no longer required, which until then had limited the number of local Jews. In 1816 a prayer house was built in Hamm, which was also used by Jews from the surrounding villages. There was a women's gallery here, but no school and no mikveh. From 1891 efforts were made in Hamm to build a representative synagogue that offered adequate space for the growing community.
The synagogue with its neo-Islamic stylistic elements with tower tops, battlements and different colored brick segments was finally built on August 17, 1894 by the Cologne rabbi Dr. Abraham Frank inaugurated. The festivities, in which the whole of Hamm participated, lasted three days. At that time there were almost 100 Jews living in the village, which made up about 7.5% of the total population and was thus well above the average of about 1.2% in the German Reich.
Letter of protection from Count Salentin Ernst for the Jew Lazarus, source: HHStAW inventory 340 No. 3592, sheets 2 and 3
The first known Jew who was allowed to settle in Hamm was called Lazarus. On January 1, 1661, he received a letter of protection from Count Salentin Ernst zu Manderscheid and Blankenheim for himself, his wife, his children and his servants. He had to pay a Reichsthaler annually for it.