A day trip out of Hamburg: Alfred Nobel’s abandoned dynamite factory

Drive alongside the river Elbe, see the Nuclear power station and it’s huge emergency cooling pipes, walk through a forest of hundreds of destroyed bunkers and see the beautiful water tower, the only remained building of Alfred Nobel’s German dynamite factory, that served as a forced labor camp in World War 2 and was destroyed mostly then.

Watertower Geesthacht

Background

The Krümmel dynamite factory was the first explosives’ factory outside of Sweden that was built by Alfred Nobel the inventor of the dynamite in 1865. At its pick in 1915, it was the biggest explosive factory in Europe. 

But its “glory days” came during WW2, when the factory consisted of 750 building, and had a direct train line from Hamburg to the factory’s gate. Almost 12,000 forced workers worked there, living in camps around the factory.

On April 7, 1945, a heavy air raid destroyed the factory. 

The infrastructure of the factory’s residential barracks, used to host forced workers and regular employees, made the place fit to host war refugees immediately in 1945. Later, two churches were built on the site, basic one in 1946 to serve the refugees, and in 1954, the main church was built.

Until 1952 the area was cleared and sold to several institutions. The current owner of the remaining area (the bunker forest) is the Swedish energy group Vattenfall, which also operates the neighboring nuclear power plant.

The only building left from the main part of the factory is the water tower (There are another two, one administrative building, inside the nuclear plant and the other is just a storage house).

Walking through the historical place

The best way to get to the place (which is now called “bunker forest” – “Bunkerwald”) from Hamburg is with a car. 

One thing to note from the left, before crossing the nuclear plant from the right with the car are the huge water pipes going up the hill. They are used as emergency water to flood the reactor if an accident happens and the normal cooling system fails. 

We had to try several entrances around the forest to find the actual way, and it is clear that there is a wish that people won’t go there – after all, it is the ground of an active nuclear factory.

To get there you cross a school, and two kindergartens. They all look very not normal for the area, and we were wondering for what was it used in the past.

After that, one needs to go through the forest of blown bunkers, on a way fenced from both sides.

At the end of this fenced road there is a metal gate. On the other side, the power plant stabilization field. But the gate is not locked, and a sign declares that the entrance is at your own risk, what means, that you are allowed to enter. 

The bunkers forest

Once crossing the electricity plant to the left, going down the hill back into the woods will reveal the beautiful abandoned tower.

A “one man bunker” is standing outside the water tower, where one used to hide while dealing with experimental explosive, and you can find several explanations signs around, all in German.

The trip from Hamburg last less than an hour, then a 15 minutes walk to the tower.

Once out, on the hill where the power plant, you could go and have a beautiful view on the river Elbe, and the nuclear plant on the right. 

How to get there

We parked the car near the Waldschule, from there it’s a 15 minutes walk.

My experience with dog adoption in Germany

Or: Welcome home, Motek!

On the day my beloved dog Schwitsi passed away, I immediately started to plan, how I let another dog adopt me.

Schwitsi was my companion for 13 years. She came with me to Germany, it was her, me and the luggage.

First night in Germany, after the flight

After her death – the empty house, the empty heart, the missing part of the pack, the resources I have to give, the love and good life I can, and wish to provide, the unconditional love I know I will get, all made it very clear, life without a dog are something I can’t bare.

Two months later, the journey began.

Now, in Israel, there are too many stray dogs that end up in shelters. So many are in shelters that every month, hundreds of them are put to sleep, because there is not enough space for all of them.

When one wishes to adopt a dog, one goes to the nearest shelter, picks a dog, signs some papers and leaves with a four-legs-pack-of-joy.

The situation in Germany is far more complex. To put it short: There are no dogs for adoption in Germany. Almost.
When you go to a shelter in Germany, you can find the “dangerous” races, the old and the sick. These, one day, when I’ll have my farm – I will adopt them all. But the current situation allows me to adopt small dogs. I prefer mixed, for not supporting breeding.

This situation of not having stray dogs in Germany, is a good thing. It indicates an educated society: People don’t throw their dogs to the street. People castrate/spay. People won’t adopt dogs without knowing that they can handle it in the next 15 years.

The above does not reflect on 100% or the people – of course. Every group of people on this planet, got their fare share of idiots.

Buying a dog is not an option. It is a horrible thing to do, while you have so many dogs without a home in the world, to pay someone to breed dogs, mass production, just because it looks like it is out of a fashion magazine. Horrible.

Back to the shelters situation:
Each Saturday, a long line of people is standing outside the shelters – families, couples, old people – rushing in when the gate is opened, just to discover around 5 dogs, and maybe to get lucky and adopt one of them, if it fits a city-house.

There are two main shelters in Hamburg – in both, the same situation. The shelters outside, usually update their website, and you just see that there are no dogs there.

When you do find a dog to adopt in a shelter, then starts the process: There will be a visit to your house, to determinate that it fits the dog. Then your details will be sent to the veterinary service to check if you have a past of cruelty to animals. Then (in the main shelter in Hamburg for example), you need to come five times to the shelter, and demonstrate walking with the dog, to determinate if the two of you are getting along. Finally, singing a contract, and having another visit in 6 months past the adoption.

Then, after around three to five weeks, you can take the dog home.
If you found one.

But there there is another angle to it – most of the dogs in the shelters, are not from Germany. I will come to this later.

So what most people do?

There are many stray dogs around Europe. German organisations are co-managing most of the big shelters around east Europe, mainly Romania. Dogs are delivered from Spain, Hungaria, Poland…

There are three main courses:

1.
The way most of the people do, is to browse pictures of dogs on internet websites. These dogs are in shelters in the origin countries.
Once you pick a dog, and you fill the form, pay etc – the dog is being delivered to you, mostly in a truck with many others, from the country of origin.

I knew that I cannot adopt a dog without meeting him! Picking a dog on an internet catalog?

** idea – Tindog. (searched – already exists).

2.
The second way to adopt is: Dogs that are being delivered to the shelters in Germany. As described above – very little amount, and they immediately get adopted. Since the shelters almost never get “German” dogs, and since they do get budgets per tail, and since there is such a demand – they just import dogs from other countries.

3.
The middle way: foster home. The dogs are sent to Germany to temporal families , then, their picture is being published on ebay, and then you can come and meet the dog first. The process is a bit shorter, since an association is involved here, exactly as with the shelter.

4.
Adopting a dog from ebay, from a family, that their dog just had babies, or in some horrible cases, they cannot take care of him.

So number 3 is how it went. I found a wonderful dog on ebay, drove 3 hours to the north to see him, just to discover that he is sick.

Why?
The current situation in Europe is, that most of the dogs are from Romania. And there, diseases are spreading, the conditions are really bad, and breeders for mixed dogs are abusing the situation of German associations paying to save dogs (same situation in Poland).

The biggest shelter in Romania, co-managed by a German organisation, holds around 5000 dogs.

By law, they have to be checked before coming to Germany, but with the doctors there, it is more problematic.
Also, some people just go there, take dogs to Germany and offer them on ebay, earning some Euros, but not as professional associations, and the treatment is as it sounds.

When asked about the medical situation of the dog I wanted to adopt, I got an answer:

“The dog deserves someone who is not questioning him and is sure that wants him sick or not”.

Come the fuck on.

Then I found another dog, drove two hours to Hannover, fall in love, had a horrible experience with the organisation that brought her to Germany, but kept in mind the goal – to bring her to her new home.

And this is how we got Motek, the Hungarian dog.
She was found in the streets of a south Hungarian town, brought to a shelter there, picked by a German association, brought to a foster home next to Hannover, lived there for few weeks with other dogs, got a cold on the way, got medical treatment, and then, finally, found her final, loving home in Hamburg.

It was her first shower. First bed that she is allowed to sleep on. First eating without fighting over the food. First own toys (as the first days, playing with a toy, looking to the sides that no one is taking it from her, and crying).
She brought back the love, the happiness, the noise and life into my house that Schwitsi left empty.

It was a hard process, but it was worth it.

It was a frustrating process, but It indicates a good situation – almost no stray dogs in Germany, people standing in line to adopt. After all, it is all for the dogs.

It was indeed worth it.

Adopt a dog! Have a better life!

Motek, on our first date
Motek, in her new home

This is my experience, and my learning. I am sure that it can be different to other people, in other areas in Germany, or in the eastern countries I’ve mentioned. Adopt a dog!

Baltic tour – Ninth Forth

In Juli 2018 we took an 11 days trip to see the Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

The capitals were our main targets, we always look for three things: city culture, mainly alternative, rock and metal, architecture and WW2 history. Mainly the Jewish history.

As for east Europe – the whole area was a playground for Nazi extermination. The most horrible crimes against the Jews were there. Anti Semitism is so old and rooted in the culture, what caused a local help to the Nazis. In fact, the most horrible pogroms were not made by any German. The east countries did produce the most horrible acts against the Jews.

The main extermination ground, torture, concentration and crime scene were here – in East Europe.

On the way to (Beautiful!) Vilnius, near a city called Kaunas, there is a hill. It is observing for miles into the horizon, and it is a perfect location for an army post.

It was constructed in the 19th century by the occupying Soviet Union. It was used as a prison.

The place dug in the hill and creates the perfect, long corridor with sells, to keep prisoners. It is always wet (underground) and can be protected perfectly.

During the Nazi occupation of Lithuania started in 1941, it was used as a place of extermination of Jews and other prisoners.

In this place, on the 18.8.1941 the Nazis carried on the murdered the educated scholars of Kaunas Jewry

In May 1942 began Sonderaktion 1005 operation, to hide all evidence of mass extermination by the Nazis.

Prisoners all across East Europe were forced to dig out mass graves and burn the bodies inside them.

The same happened here The same happened in the Ninth Forth.in the Ninth Forth.

One of these groups managed to escape. More about this estate can be discovered here

The visit to this site was paralyzing. One can imagine a concentration camp as a huge company, but this small piece of land, used to kill so many, this small piece of land, used to contain so much evil is something that changed the way I saw the way the Holocaust was executed.

 

Ninth Forth inside the cell
Ninth Forth inside the cell

Ninth Forth
Ninth Forth

Ninth Forth
Ninth Forth

Ninth Forth
Ninth Forth: road of death.

Ninth Forth
Ninth Forth

Ninth Forth
Ninth Forth

Ninth Forth mass killing pit.
Ninth Forth mass killing pit.

Ninth Forth
Ninth Forth

Ninth Forth
Ninth Forth

Ninth Forth
Ninth Forth

Ninth Forth
Ninth Forth

Ninth Forth
Ninth Forth

Ninth Forth
Ninth Forth

Ninth Forth
Ninth Forth

Ninth Forth
Ninth Forth

Ninth Forth
Ninth Forth

Ninth Forth
Ninth Forth

Ninth Forth
Ninth Forth

Ninth Forth
Ninth Forth

The Vilnius Lazdynai school walls, built with Jewish gravestones

The Lazdynai Middle School in Vilnius, built by the Soviets in the 1970’s.

The school’s outer walls are built with gravestones from the Jewish cemetery, as building materials.

The Soviets gave the order to destroy the cemetery and use the stones for the construction.

Every day the pupils of the school, can play with the dead:

Jewish Gravestones in the school's yard of a Vilnius school.
Jewish Gravestones in the school’s yard of a Vilnius school.

Jewish Gravestones in the school's yard of a Vilnius school.
Jewish Gravestones in the school’s yard of a Vilnius school.

“By committing a crime against humanity, tombstones from the old Jewish cemetery laid in this supporting wall were used as building materials. This is an example of the barbaric policy pursued by the Soviet authorities”

Jewish Gravestones in the school's yard of a Vilnius school.
Jewish Gravestones in the school’s yard of a Vilnius school.

Jewish Gravestones in the school's yard of a Vilnius school.
Jewish Gravestones in the school’s yard of a Vilnius school.

Jewish Gravestones in the school's yard of a Vilnius school.
Jewish Gravestones in the school’s yard of a Vilnius school.

Jewish Gravestones in the school's yard of a Vilnius school.
Jewish Gravestones in the school’s yard of a Vilnius school.

Using Jewish gravestones was a common practice.
lately, in Lviv, an effort is being made to uncover the gravestones used as building materials for the streets, see more in this post:

Replacing a live front-end legacy code – The bottom to top migration strategy

This article is written about work done in 2016 – and the technoloigies mentioned match the time:

Here’s the deal – A company has an existing product with outdated technology, an old legacy code which is unmaintainable and unextendable, essentially, written with old technology. The company in question understands that it’s time to move forward, catching up with the present day and time.

Unlike the usual method of rewriting an entire product from scratch (top to bottom), there is a better way. This includes building a new front-end feature and immediately using it within the old legacy product. This methodology works even when the technologies are light years away from each other.

I used to work for a company like that. Before I started working there, their initial starting point included an old product which was an auto-generated HTML code out of a java backend, also known as “Automagically generated JS, CSS, and HTML”. This happens to be a front-end developer’s true horror.

This company decided to rewrite its product from scratch, with all new technology (Javascript and a Python API). They recruited developers, product specialists, used the best resources, and meeting hours. This was the first time that this company had a big front-end project ahead of them.

During the following year, they had an old legacy product that was live. It was making money but had minimum resources for maintenance, and no new features whatsoever.

On the other side of the development department, a new pile of fresh code and architecture was just beginning to be written. Unfortunately, it piled up and laid there without anyone knowing about the product or its users. The feature set wasn’t that big, but because this product was supposed to replace an already live product, no one could cut the scope of its features.

After more than a year, the freshly written code and architecture failed to reach its deadline, and there was no end in the horizon.

The project was canceled.

So there we were, with a year’s worth of development time and fresh code, but none that was usable. We had a product that was not maintainable and a business that needed to keep working and growing.

We all wondered, how could we all solve this horrible problem? What would have been the best way to make up for this lost project before us? How could we revive our motivation and bring back trust to the front-end department in the company?

I was called on to find a solution – and thankfully, did. The solution focused on the business. For a developer that always wanted the cutting-edge technology to be written from scratch – it was a difficult solution to understand, at the beginning.

The idea  was to reach goals in a better way:

The solution included giving the company the possibility to maintain and add features to its old applications. And, in such a way that also took the company forward in the direction of having a full new front-end application as needed. The solution enabled us to transparently transition from an old product to a new and cutting-edge front-end product.

Unlike the original method that was used which included rewriting the whole product from scratch (i.e. from top to bottom), the new method  was from bottom to top. I determined that we could build a new front-end feature and immediately use it, and we could make a profit and learn from it.

This also enabled us to stop at any point, and to shift resources at any time, without any loss. This was because every new feature was already in production, and embedded in the old application, but separated and detached from it.

This solution undertook important calculations and measurements:  

  1. Time / Resources
  2. Risks
  3. Scope
  4. Technical limitations

Technical Problem:

In all actuality, the legacy product was very limited from a UI perspective. We were bounded only by the UI elements and functionality that it provides. And, it is not a front-end friendly framework at all – it is a closed product.

Even worst –  it was mixed in with badly implemented JS code, on top of old product, which “helped” overcome the above problem in the past, this layer can be called: the hacks layer.

It was unscalable for code/feature extension, and since each update is global, it can easily break style and functionality.

We must keep developing the money-maker products, and we cannot merely rewrite it.

When addressing a migration from an old technology to another, we developers always think about a total new re-write. But if you are able, technically, to isolate your new code, components, and UI elements – you can do the re-write in a much more efficient way.

Infrastructure preparation:

On top of all feature requests, we must implement a few front-end infrastructure features:

The idea of this preparation job is to offer a set of front-end tools for easier maintenance, deployment, and development:

  • E2E tests (wooha, Selenium)
  • SASS compiling
  • Minifier / Concatenator
  • Angular
  • Bower

Now to the real work:

JS

We chose Angular.

Most importantly, the new code must be encapsulated, and most importantly, we must not rely on the DOM.

We found Angular the most encapsulated framework, allowing us to separate our JS code and HTML from the old container.

Each component must contain an angular view and have the ng-application root. We don’t want Angular to waste resources on listening to the whole DOM (and conflicts with the legacy lib). We encapsulated the page too small Angular apps.

CSS

Style separation: The Style lib

The style we came up with was the most complicated part.

CSS is inherited. There is no easy way to encapsulate an element from a CSS rule that applies to this selector (There is one way, but it is not supported by any IE, and we could use other tricks, that looked hacky).

So, we have an old framework, with a big pile of CSS, and with various rules that select tags, classes, states, and most importantly – deep rules, such as:

body form label input [type-text]{}

There is no way to write generic rules that can predict and override them.

Also – When we write a new feature, we cannot determine what overrides what. There is an option to check in the development tools, but this is a very long process, especially for each rule.

The solution was a separate UI lib. We generated two CSS files: The old Lib.css and the newLib.css.*
On our portal, we included both files.
On a separate static HTML page, we included only the newLib.css file.

When a new feature is being built, or an existing feature is being rebuilt, we must first build it inside the static HTML. Thus, creating it’s CSS rules in a clean, isolated environment.

At this stage, we know that the independent style we included on the page will work when we remove the oldLib.css file.

As for the rules from oldLib.css that are overriding the newly created rules (some !important or deep nesting rules from the legacy code that we cannot remove), they were minimal in numbers and got their special overridden section at the end of newLib.css

Once the oldLib.css file is removed, we can then remove the sections. We will then have an immediate working product, with minimum need to adjust and fix.

Results:

As for the time spent writing these lines, many of its features were overridden, and many new features were built, all with a new front-end code. They are all live, which immediately allows the company to earn money from the invested time they spent.

In this case, the old legacy product is maintained again, it is also extendable, and one day, it will get rid of the old code easily because of this separation.

What we created allows us to change resources without any problem whatsoever. No waiting on code that will never see the light of day or make any money.

And, on the developer side, we are able to do cutting-edge technology, using the tools that we would have used in a complete rewrite project. But, now we have an even better, harder, and more complicated task. This challenges us more and helps us to find solutions that other developers who use frameworks out of the box don’t need to deal with. It forces us to need a better developer, better learning processes, and a great backup and belief from the company management that this is achievable.

The above solution gives us the possibility to maintain and add features in such a way that will also take us forward in the direction of having a full new front-end product, in its old automagically generated front-end. It also enables us to have a transparent transition of the old product, to a new cutting-edge front-end product, which is miraculous.

* not the real names of the files

Saint Petersburg and the Siege of Leningrad

When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in the summer of

When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, a German army surrounded the city of Leningrad (today’s Saint Petersburg) in an extended siege.

The siege lasted nearly 900 days and resulted in the deaths of more than 1 million civilians.

During the siege, the city established supply lines from the Soviet interior and evacuated many citizens, often using a hazardous “ice and water road” across Lake Ladoga. In January 1943, the Red Army finally managed to break that siege.

I arrived in Saint Petersburg for a vacation and took one day to see the battle areas, and the most important “road of life” – a path that kept the city alive during these almost three horrible years.

My tour guide was Alexander from Histours. Alexander drove me in his car, and for almost 9 hours, we visited the main locations that formed the story of the siege and its breaking.

Armed with maps, photos and deep knowledge of the area and the people, Alexander took me through the road of life, to the battle that broke the siege through Neva River that starts at Lake Ladoga and ends in the Gulf of Finland, in Saint Petersburg.

The road of life:

The road of life was used to evacuate people from the city and bring supplies in. In the map, the gray color is the control area of the Nazis.

Road of Life. November-December 1941
Germash19 – the crossing marks with red.

This memorial is for kids. A young girl gives her sister a phone book, so she will be able to write a diary (normal notebooks were hard to get).

On these stones are the pages where she writes the death dates of her family. Each page indicates the dead (mother, dad, grandmother…) the time and date of death.

Pages from a little girls diary, describing the death of her family.

With these stones, we follow a young girl’s life during the siege, while all her family is fading away, one by one.

Following the road of life, we climb a hill that was used as a hospital. Here, mass graves of the wounded that died later, the women of war and all other forgotten brave ones, who did not die on the battlefield.

Original road of life
Original road of life

For the women of war

The main part of the road of life was the crossing of Lake Ladoga, which is frozen most of the year.

The crossing was done with trucks, with ice in any condition – many did not finish the journey.

Here is the memorial in the exact point where the trucks went down to the ice and started crossing the lake.

The memorial symbolizes the breaking of the siege.

After crossing the lake, a train was used to transfer the supply into the city.

Without the Chinese people.

Later, a bridge was built. The Germans kept bombing it, and the Russians fixed it. The Germans did not try to fight hard against the road of life since they were sure it was a waste of resources for the Red Army and the city wouldn’t survive with this small means of transportation.

Finally, the Red Army was able to break the siege in crossing the frozen Neva River; the battle began with an orchestra playing the “International.”

Diorama of the battle of Leningrad
Diorama of the battle of Leningrad

This point held the hardest battles.

And then the shock came.

This land saw the hardest battle. It was here where they broke the siege. Every piece of land saw so much blood and gunpowder.

It is still full of remains, and it is being dug. Everywhere you go, you see war items, such as gas masks, shoes, etc. At one point, we saw human bones that were discovered.

German shoe (with nails) and Russian (glue)
German shoe (with nails) and Russian (glue)

Human remains
Human remains

Human remains
Human remains

Nazi shoe.

Not far away from there, Russian soldiers buried the remains that were found.

 

It is amazing to see, that until today, we still haven’t covered out everything from that war.

The tour was given by Alexander, a private tour guide. I highly recommend him. It was a fascinating day, with stories that are not told enough in the west.

For the bravery of the people of Saint Petersburg, and the brave people that defended them.

נוינדורף – עתיד מורשת מחנה ההכשרה האחרון של התנועה הציונית בגרמניה

למחנה ההכשרה נוינדורף התוודעתי במסגרת המחקר המשפחתי שערכתי. היה זה מחנה ההכשרה האחרון בו שהה רולף, אח סבתי, בשנות השלושים, לפני שנשלח לאושוויץ. מעט מאוד ידוע על תפקיד מחנות ההכשרה של התנועה הציונית לפני, במהלך ואחרי השואה, וכעת, יש לנו הזדמנות לשנות זאת. את הטקסט הבא של חברים יקרים השותפים לנסיון להציל את המקום תרגמתי לעברית, בתקווה שאולי בארץ, מישהו יבין את חשיבות המקום למורשת הציונית, וכדי שיותר ישראלים ידעו על מחנות ההכשרה:

אחוזת נוינדורף, ממוקמת ליד פורסטנוולד ((Fürstenwalde (Spree) כ60 ק”מ מזרחית למרכז ברלין.

רקע היסטורי

מחנות ההכשרה הציוניים ברחבי אירופה פעלו עוד מהמאה ה-19 וצברו תאוצה ככל שהתגברה האנטישמיות ובמקביל התנועה הציונית. מטרת מחנות ההכשרה בגרמניה הייתה להכשיר נוער יהודי ברמה המקצועית, החברתית, המעשית והתרבותית, בתחומי החקלאות, הבניה, החשמל, מדבר וביצות, לימודי היסטוריה יהודית וכלכלת הקיבוץ כמובן לימודי השפה העברית. בשנות ה-30 של המאה העשרים פעלו 32 מחנות הכשרה, 13 מהם באזור ברלין.

ברוב מחנות ההכשרה עברו צעירים שהגיעו מכל רחבי אירופה, קורס כבן שנתיים. הם חגגו חגים יהודיים ועשו קידוש בשבת.

ארגון הגג שאיגד את הגופים שניהלו את המחנות היה ארגון “החלוץ”.

אין כמעט בנמצא מחקר היסטורי בנושא מחנות ההכשרה, אך ברור שלא כולם שימשו רק לשם הכשרת יהודים ל”עליה”. חלקם שימשו גם למשל כמרכזים לעזרה ליהודים צעירים מובטלים לרכוש מיומנויות שימושיות בתקופות כלכליות קשות. המחנות נוהלו לא רק על ידי ארגונים דתיים או ציוניים, אלא גם על ידי תנועת הצופים היהודית או קרנות פילנתרופיות כגון בית הספר היהודי למקצועות הגינון היהודי באהלם (Ahlem) ליד האנובר, שנוסד על ידי מוריץ סיימון (Moritz Simon) בשנת 1893. לאחר 1933 הועברה האחריות על מרכזים אלו ל “התאחדות הלאומית היהודית” (הפדרציה של כל הארגונים היהודים ברייך אשר הוקמה על ידי הממשלה הנאצית). מכאן ואילך, ברוח תנועת ההכשרה הציונית, עסקו כל המרכזים הללו בחינוך והכשרת הנערים במקצועות אשר להם ידרשו לאחר ההגירה. רבים מהם אכן הצליחו להגיע לפלסטינה, אנגליה, שוודיה, או דרום אמריקה. בשנת 1936 פעלו 139 מרכזי הכשרה בגרמניה עם יותר מ 5000 אנשים שעובדים ולומדים שם. עד 1938 ירד המספר ל32 מרכזים עם כ1300 נערים. בשנת 1941 נאסרו אימון והכשרת היהודים על ידי השלטונות הנאציים, וכל המרכזים נאלצו להסגר.

אחוזת נוינדורף:

אחוזת נוינדורף שוכנת במזרח גרמניה, באזור כפרי בחצי הדרך בין ברלין לגבול פולין. מסוף שנות העשרים של המאה הקודמת, הפכה האחוזה מרכז חשוב של התארגנות עצמאית יהודית שמטרתה תמיכה הדדית והישרדות, בתקופה של מצוקה כלכלית, ולאחר מכן בצל רדיפת השלטונות הגרמניים.

האחוזה מהווה דוגמה טיפוסית של היסטוריית תנועות הנוער הציוניות בגרמניה.

In Neuendorf, 2015
In Neuendorf, 2015

בשנות ה30 המוקדמות, לאחר מותו של הבעלים היהודי של האחוזה, הפילנטרוף הרמן מולר (Hermann Müller) הועבר עזבונו לארגון פועלים יהודי-ברלינאי: גברים צעירים ומובטלים יכלו לגור, לעבוד וללמוד במקום. בשנת 1937 נוינדורף הפך למרכז הכשרה רשמי.

גם לאחר שנת 1941 פעל המקום כמרכז הכשרה, אבל אז, הפך המקום למחנה עבודה בכפייה. נוינדורף נותר בניהולו של מרטין גרזון (Martin Gerson), והפך למחנה ההכשרה המרכזי אליו נשלחו נערים ממחנות ההכשרה האחרים שנסגרו בזה אחר זה. בשנים אלו כבר גרו משפחות שלמות בנוינדורף, כאשר בילדיהם טיפלה בין היתר, המחנכת המפורסמת וחלוצת החינוך המונטסורי קלרה גרינוולד (Clara Greenwald).

In Neuendorf, 2015
In Neuendorf, 2015

בשנת 1943, “לכבוד” יום הולדתו של אדולף היטלר גורשו אחרוני התושבים/אסירים לאושוויץ.

למרות התפקיד החשוב של תנועות הנוער הציוניות (ואנשי נוינדורף, במיוחד) כארגון ההתנגדות והישרדות בזמן רדיפות הנאצים, כמו גם בתקופה שלאחר השואה ולאחר מכן במהלך הקמתה של מדינת של ישראל, יש מעט מאוד מחקרים וכמעט אף ספרות על מחנות ההכשרה בגרמניה, וגם אין מקום הנצחה בגרמניה לנושא. כמו כן, מלבד במוזיאונים יהודיים בגרמניה, לא ניתן למצוא מידע על נושא זה. נוינדורף חשוב בגלל תפקידו המרכזי ההיסטורי עבור תנועות הנוער הציוניות בגרמניה, ובתוך כך,היה זה המחנה האחרון.

In Neuendorf, 2015
In Neuendorf, 2015

המצב היום: נוינדורף עומד למכירה

כיום נוינדורף נמצא בבעלות BIMA (סוכנות הנדל”ן הפדרלית) כנאמנים של הממשלה הפדרלית הגרמנית. .לפי מסמכי הרשויות הגרמניות אין תביעות פיצויים תלויות ועומדות לגבי הנכס. עם זאת, זה לא היה ניתן לאמת באופן עצמאי האם טענות אפשריות על ידי צאצאי הרמן מילר, הבעלים של האחוזה בשנות ה1920 וה -1930, יושבו.

כיום מתקיים גיוס כספים רחב כדי לממן מחקר בישראל, ארצות הברית וגרמניה בנושא.

BIMA הציבה את הנכס למכירה ב -17 במאי 2017. BIMA היא סוכנות עצמאית של הממשלה הפדרלית עם המשימה העיקרית של יצירת רווח עבור משרד האוצר הפדרלי. יחד עם זאת, המבנה הארגוני של BIMA כן מאפשר התערבות פוליטית כדי להשפיע על החלטות מכירה.

על הצעות הרכישה להיות מוגשות עד ל -31 באוגוסט 2017, במחיר מינימום של 290,000 יורו. האחוזה שוכנת על 365,000 מטרים רבועים. היא כוללת 8 בניינים עם מגורים (26 דירות, 9 מתוכם כרגע ריקות) ותשעה מבנים אחרים (בתים חיצוניים, מוסכים, מבנים חקלאיים, וכו’). דמי השכירות כיום מייצרים הכנסה שנתית של 35,000 אירו. עם זאת, סך העלויות השוטפות עומד על כ 45,000 יורו בשנה. בנוסף, כמובן שהאחוזה דורשת השקעה תשתיתית רצינית כולל קירוי עתידי, מערכות חימום ומערכות חשמל (השיפוצים האחרונים בוצעו ב 1960, בסטנדרטים של גרמניה המזרחית). מנקודת מבט היסטורית והצלת המורשת, חוסר השקעה זה בששת העשורים האחרונים מהווה סכנה חמורה למרקם ההיסטורי של האחוזה. במקרה של מצבים כלכליים קשים במיוחד חוק הגנת המורשת הגרמני יכול לאפשר הריסת בניין מוגן אפילו. כך, על אף צו הגנה שהושם באחוזה (בזכות מאבק ארוך ביוזמותינונ) בגלל החשיבות ההיסטורית שלה, עדיין תלוי גורלה של האחוזה בבעליה העתידיים.

ברור לנו במצב זה שיש לפעול כדי להציל את המקום. אם אתם מעוניינים לעזור, יש לכם רעיונות או שאלות לגבי הפרויקט נא לפנות ל”צרו קשר” בבלוג זה, או באנגלית לסטלה או בנו בכתובתinfo@neue-soziale-plastik.org

מאת: Stella Hindemith ו- Benno Plassmann
תרגום: ליאור אורן

Save Neuendorf – Future for the History of the Hachshara Movement in Germany

I came to know Neuendorf as a part of the family history research.  Neuendorf was the last Zionist Hachshara camp where Rulf, the brother of my grandmother stayed, before he was deported to Auschwitz. The importance of this camp is huge. Very little is known about the role of the Hachshara camps in the Zionist movement in Germany, and now we have a chance to save it, with the help of dear friends, Stella and Benno:

Neuendorf Estate, near Fürstenwalde (Spree), 60 km East of central Berlin

© Written by Stella Hindemith & Benno Plassmann 

Historic considerations

Set in the East-German countryside half-way between Berlin and the Polish border is Neuendorf. From the late 1920s Neuendorf was an important center of Jewish self-organisation, mutual support, and resistance at first in times of economic hardship, and then of persecution by the German authorities.

Before the onset of Nazi dictatorship in 1933 there were about 30 Jewish youth education centers throughout Germany. There is hardly any research into their history, however, it is clear that not all of them served as places to prepare young people for emigration or Aliyah. They also served as places where young unemployed Jews had a chance to learn useful skills in economically difficult times, be it after World War I or during the Great Depression. They were run not only by either religious or overtly Zionist organisations, but also by the Jewish boy scout movement or philanthropic foundations such as the Jewish gardening school in Ahlem near Hanover founded by Moritz Simon in 1893. After 1933 these education centers were transferred to the responsibility of the so-called Palestine office in the Reichsvereinigung der Juden (the federation of all Jewish organisations in the Reich enforced by the Nazi Government). From then on, in the spirit of the Zionist Hachsharah movement, all these Jewish youth education centers worked to teach young people skills important for emigration; many of them were able to reach Palestine, England, Sweden, or South America. In 1936 there were 139 Hachsharah centers in Germany with more than 5.000 people working and learning there. By 1938 these numbers had fallen to 32 centers with about 1.300 people. In 1941 also the last available forms of training for Jews were forbidden by the Nazi authorities, and the centers had to close down.

Neuendorf is a typical example for these developments and central for the history of Zionist youth movements in Germany. After its philanthropic Jewish owner Hermann Müller had passed management of the Estate to the Berlin-based Jewish workers support association in the early 1930s, mainly unemployed young men could live, work and learn there. In 1937 Neuendorf also officially became a Hachshara center. Neuendorf continued as a place of Jewish self-organisation even after 1941, however, the situation transformed into that of a forced labor camp. Neuendorf remained under the directorship of Martin Gerson, and it turned into the central location where young people from other Hachshara centers were sent to when theirs were closed. By then entire families lived in Neuendorf whose children were looked after, others, by the famous educationalist and Montessori-pioneer Clara Grunwald. In 1943 the last inhabitants/inmates were deported from Neuendorf to Auschwitz.

In Neuendorf, 2015
In Neuendorf, 2015

Despite the important role the Zionist youth movements (and people from Neuendorf, in particular) played in the organisation of resistance to and survival of Nazi-persecution, as well as in the period directly after the Shoah, and then during the establishment of the State of Israel, there is very little research and hardly any literature about the Hachshara in Germany, nor is there any memorial place in Germany. Indeed, outside Jewish museums in Germany there is nothing much that can be found about the history of Zionism in Germany. Neuendorf is important because of its historically central role for the Zionist youth movements in Germany, and on top of that today it is the only Hachshara place in Germany the buildings of which remain in their entirety.

In Neuendorf, 2015
In Neuendorf, 2015

The situation today: Neuendorf Estate for sale

Today Neuendorf is owned by BIMA (federal agency for real estate) as trustees of the German Federal Government. According to the competent German authorities there are no compensation claims pending. However, it has not been possible to verify independently whether possible claims by the descendants of Hermann Mueller, (Jewish) owner of Neuendorf in the 1920s and 1930s, were indeed settled, or not. Fundraising is ongoing to pay for the necessary historic research in archives in Germany, Israel and the USA.

BIMA has put up Neuendorf for sale on 17 May 2017. BIMA is an independent agency of the Federal Government with the primary task of creating value for money for the federal ministry of finance. However, BIMA’s structure does allow for political influence to affect decisions of sale.

Binding offers have to be made by 31 August 2017, starting with a minimum of 290.000 EUR. The estate has a size of 365.000 m². The sale comprises 8 buildings with living quarters (split into 26 apartments, 9 of which are currently empty) and 9 other buildings (outhouses, garages, agricultural working spaces, etc.). The rentals currently generate a yearly income of 35.000 EUR; however, the yearly minimum running costs stand at about 45.000 EUR. In addition, it is clear that the estate requires serious infrastructural investment in the near future including roofing, heating systems and electrical systems (latest renovations seem to date back to the 1960s, East German standards). From a historical and heritage-protection perspective this lack of investment over the past six decades constitutes a grave danger to the historic fabric of the estate. In case of particularly difficult business situations German heritage protection law can allow for the demolition even of listed buildings. Thus, even though a protection order has been placed on the estate because of its historic importance it depends on future owners if the buildings’ fabric itself will survive, or not.

A future for Neuendorf?

In this situation it is clear that action is required to ensure a future for Neuendorf as a place of practical commemoration, translating the inspirations and actions of the 1930s to meet the challenges of today’s world. If you have advice and see possibilities of helping to fund raise for this goal (including potentially a purchase, or the renovation of parts of the location, as well as the development of activities in or around Neuendorf / the history of Hachshara in Germany) please be in touch.

Stella Hindemith, Benno Plassmann

info@neue-soziale-plastik.org

In Neuendorf, 2015
In Neuendorf, 2015

In Neuendorf, 2015
In Neuendorf, 2015