Shabbat

The Germany Close Up group pauses by the Binnenalster for a quick photo before continuing on the tour. 
On the group’s second full day in Germany, we enjoyed a walking tour of Jewish Berlin-Mitte, once home to the city’s Jewish community. While there aren’t many visible remains of Jewish community in Berlin, in cities all across Germany and Europe, stolpersteine or “stumbling stones” commemorate victims of WWII. The brass stones, incorporated into the cobblestone of the winding streets and courtyards, name those who were deported and sent to labor or extermination camps throughout Europe. They sit outside of victims’ last freely chosen residence or place of work, and it is the responsibility of the current residents to do the research necessary to receive a stolpersteine. These stones provide a physical place for families of victims to visit and remember even though their homes and storefronts are no more. Today, Jewish Berlin-Mitte is packed with monuments, museums, shops and Jewish history. Pictured at right is German guide Anne Lepper.
The group’s walking tour, titled “Don’t Trust the Green Grass,” highlights the many open, grassy spaces in the city that appear unused and used to be important sites for Jewish Berliners. Visible in the green space right next to our hotel was the foundation of the first synagogue in Berlin. In this photo, the group visits what appears to be a lovely green park tucked away, but as visitors continue down the path, they see the headstone of philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, which remains standing in a lonely corner of the space. Closed in 1827, the cemetery was destroyed and desecrated by the Nazis in 1943. A group of us paused to say Kaddish to remember those who were buried here.