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German Country Jews

All his life, Ludwig Seligmann would fondly recall the days of his youth in Ichenhausen, a small town in Bavaria (1907-1933). In his twilight years, Ludwig jotted down memoirs of this time. These notes are the basis for a novel penned by his son Rafael, the publisher of the Jewish Voice from Germany . The story of a life as it was in a distant past among Germany’s country Jews during a decisive period of German history…

Happiness
(c) Verlag Langen Müller

(c) Verlag Langen Müller

Freshly combed I was standing on the platform of the Günzburg train station together with my brother Heinrich. We were waiting at Mother’s side. Father had sent her a postcard from the French front informing her that he had received two weeks of furlough.
Finally, the train huffed into the double-tracked station. When it came to a halt Heiner ran to the section for sergeants. The military trains were divided into cars for enlisted men, non-commissioned officers and officers. Men in uniforms disembarked. Heiner ran around them. The non-commissioned officers went to their waiting wives and children. Father did not show up. Mother froze. What had happened? Then I saw a broad-shouldered man with a small satchel on his back come down the step of the wagon behind the locomotive, farthest away from us. He came towards us with long strides, his sabre swinging at his side. My heart was in my mouth.
“Father”, I called. “Run to him, Ludl!”, Mother permitted me. I dashed off. Now, Heiner had also detected Papa and ran in his direction. But I was faster although I was smaller than my brother. Father looked enormous to me in his open grey military coat, the stiff uniform jacket and his rough jackboots. His eyes behind his round glasses looked lovingly upon us as he put his hands on Heiner’s and my shoulders. “Thank God, children.” Now, he turned to walk towards Mother who still stood rooted to the ground. He stopped in front of her and put his luggage down. He spoke softly to her but so clearly that I could hear him: “Blessed be the Eternal!”
Heinrich grabbed the satchel which lay on the ground and heaved it up. “That’s an officer’s satchel, Father”, he cried, his voice breaking with excitement. “You got out of the officer’s car… Are you now an officer?” “Yes, I am a lieutenant sergeant major,” was the calm answer. As we crossed the station concourse everyone saluted him, the only officer. Father responded to the honors curtly.
On the vestibule of the train station we got into our semi-covered chaise. “Giddy up!” Instantly, our horse Fritz pulled and swiftly fell into a trot. The cold wind blew against my face. Father. My father was the highest ranking soldier. A hero, to whom everyone showed respect. I was infinitely proud. It was the most wonderful moment of my life which sped along as did our carriage on its way home to Ichenhausen in December of 1914.

Soccer Hero

Unbenannt-1Ludwig

I still got the ball on half-right before it reached the centerline, I dribbled around my opponent light-footedly and ran off. It was still forty meters until I would reach the penalty box. The farther I ran the more air I got. I could hear the shouts from the crowd: “Run, Ludwig, run!”
The two defenders stood in front of the penalty box, I pulled to the middle and outran them easily. Now, only the goalie was left. I slowed my sprint. Looked over to the keeper who tried to run towards me to shorten my angle. The right-hand corner of the goal became free. I also outran him and shot the ball into the empty goal. “Ludwig! Ludwig!” the crowd chanted.
In the end, we won 2:1. Through the match against Günzburg I had won the hearts of the town. The cheers “Run, Ludwig, run!” accompanied me all the years I played for FC Ichenhausen, in fact, my whole life. They even gave me comfort and strengthened me on
dark days.
When Heinrich and I returned home, stumbling into the house fired up by schnapps and beer and talking loudly, it didn’t take long for Father to step into our way dressed in his house coat. “You are drunk! That is not respectable for Jews!” “Let it go, Father,” Heinrich responded. Emboldened by the alcohol he added: “Today, Ludwig has done more for the Jews at football than you all with your constant praying and crouching before the Goyim!”

Zionism

Ricarda approached her father. „I do not want to make you angry, Papa. You know the truth as well as I do. The whole world hates us. Not only in Berlin…” “And you Zionists are going to free us from this hate as once Jesus of Nazareth…” “No, we don’t care. Let them hate us and themselves on top. We don’t care about that. We are going to establish our own Jewish state…” “… which I and other business people may finance.” “We don’t want charity, Papa. We will establish our country with our own hands.” “Jews as farmers”, Lazarus Bodenheimer threw himself back into his armchair. “Those are phantasies.” “No, it has always been real. In the bible and now in Palestine where the number of Jewish villages is increasing.“ “…which are kept up by Baron Rothschild!” “Rothschild has a vineyard there. People are talking about it. But dozens of Jewish villages and the new Jewish city Tel Aviv are not even being noticed by you and most of the Jews here!”

SA-ViolenceAuto

When I came to a textile shop in Ansbach to repeat my request that they pay an open bill the wife of the shop owner asked me to have a seat. She was going to get the money from the savings bank. After a while, several SA men stormed into the store. “Where is that Jewish thug?”, their leader yelled while he bolstered himself in front of me. “You Jewish pig have molested a German woman and tried to extort money from her!” My anger flared up in an unknown fashion. I punched the guy in his face. Now, everyone pounced on me. Fist punches and kicks pelted against my head and body. It did not hurt. I was knocked to the floor, pushed out of the store and dragged along the street under punches. “The Jewish dog has had enough”, a voice sounded. The kicks stopped. “Water on!” Shortly after, liquid shot onto my head. They were pissing at me. “This time you got a warm shower. Next time you’ll drown in your Jewish blood.” Bawling and steps moving away.

Flight

I saw the altar decorated in gold before me. Prelate Sinsheimer approached me from the vestry. “Have you come to the wrong address, Ludwig Seligmann?” The man of the church noticed my dismay and enquired the reason. I reported of our eminent arrest through the SA. “And here you are sitting placidly in church?” “I just found out. I don’t know what to do.” “Run away, Ludwig, as fast and as far as you can. He who misappropriates garlic and incense is in league with the devil.” He looked me in the eye. “The Nazis are your mortal enemies – and also enemies of the church. Something many Christians, especially Protestants, do not want to believe. They will not rest until they have destroyed you and later us as well.” My heart pounded against my ribs as thoughts whirled through my head. “What will you do now?” the clergy man demanded. “I’m thinking…” “This is not the time to think, Ludwig. Now, you must act!”
Prelate Sinsheimer shoved me out of the church. Before I had stepped through the heavy wooden gate he gave me his blessing. “Our common Lord shall protect you at all times”, he said and made the sign of the cross. The priest had given me the courage to flee.


The novel will be published in the summer of 2019 by Langen Müller publishers

Photo Credit: Private

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