Auf den Spuren einer Stuttgarter Familie. Ein Reisebericht von Agnes Hartstein
Wenige Tage war die Ausstellung "Sechzehn Objekte" im Deutschen Bundestag zu sehen, als der Freundeskreis Yad Vashem eine ungewöhnliche E-Mail aus Israel erhielt. Über einen Zeitungsbericht erfährt Agnes Hartstein, dass die Mini-Keramikküche ihrer Mutter Anneliese Dreifus für eine Ausstellung nach Deutschland zurückgekehrt ist – über 80 Jahre nachdem Anneliese mit ihrer Familie aus Stuttgart geflohen war. Erst im vergangenen Jahr übergab Agnes Hartstein das Objekt an Yad Vashem, wo es nun als Erinnerungsstück aufbewahrt wird. Agnes Hartstein beschließt nach Deutschland zu reisen, um die Ausstellung zu besuchen. Ihre drei Töchter nimmt sie mit und begibt sich im Anschluss auf Spurensuche nach Stuttgart und Mannheim. Über 300 Jahre haben dort ihre Vorfahren gelebt. Ein Reisebericht.
In 1939, my mother, Anneliese Dreifus, at the age of 18, brought this small decorative ceramic stove with six little pots and lids, a little clay chimney and an oven door to the United States from Germany, when she left her home in Stuttgart to escape the Nazis. In an early photograph of her first home in Ohio as a newlywed, you see this childhood memento displayed in her parlor room. Maybe it once belonged to her mother, who died when my mother was 9, or she had played with it as a child. The object must have had a special place in her heart. Yet, as her four children were born into her new world, the stove was carefully wrapped in paper, placed in a cardboard box, and relegated to a cabinet for safe-keeping. When my mother passed away in 1999, the box came to my house. In the spring of 2022, soon after I immigrated to Israel, I donated the stove to Yad Vashem. My mother strongly believed in Yad Vashem’s mission. I knew it would be cherished and preserved there. I had no idea that it might one day travel back to Germany as part of a very special exhibit, Sechzehn Objekte – 16 Objects.
My three daughters were eager to travel for the first time to Germany. One, who had become a German citizen in 2022 and is studying public history in London, planned to write about the exhibit for her final exam. As a teenager, I visited Germany with my parents; when I became a mother, I hoped that one day, I would bring my girls to their ancestral land. A stop in Berlin probably would not have been on our itinerary as both of my parents were from Baden-Wurtemberg. And certainly, not a visit to the Bundestag. When I learned that this stove would represent Baden-Wurtemberg in the
exhibit, I was stunned. Nothing could have prepared me for the emotions of seeing the stove there in person. This miniature stove, after so many journeys, would now tell its own story to the people of Germany, at their center of government.
I know my mother would never have dreamed of this happening. I can’t imagine what her feelings would have been. Even though it had been less than a year since we had parted with the stove, we all felt like we were being reunited with a long lost family member. The design of the exhibit was simple but striking, elegant but powerful. The attention to detail had an effect on a subliminal level. These ordinary objects spoke volumes about what was lost. When we first came upon the stove in its display case, the curator told us that the large curved photographic backdrop behind it was my great-grandparents’ home, where my mother had lived. I had to catch my breath and step away as my eyes began to fill with tears. We were proud to be there, to share my mother’s story with others at the exhibit, and most of all, to represent our family that had lost so much. The trip would not be complete without taking my daughters to the hometowns of their grandparents.
Das Wohnhaus der Familie Dreifus in den 1930er Jahren in Stuttgart (links) und wie es heute aussieht (rechts). Jedes Objekt wird in der Ausstellung mit einem zeitgenössischen Foto des ursprünglichen Wohnortes gezeigt. © Fotos: Yad Vashem Objektsammlung (links), Christina Stohn (rechts)
We traveled to Stuttgart and Mannheim, where my father, Otto Neubauer, was born. Through the efforts of the Stuttgart mayor’s office, we were able to pray at the graves of six generations of our ancestors, including those in Freudental, and took pictures standing in front of the homes of my parents. We were gone for just a week but had traveled back in time 300 years. As I learned from my parents, I hope my children will understand from our trip that they have inherited their forebears' resilience and perseverance and that they continue to honor our past by doing good in this world.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ruth Ur for her vision and commitment as executive director of the German Society of Yad Vashem and co-curator of the exhibit. She knows the power that each of these sixteen objects has to make an impression on the next generation and to remind us all what was lost during the Holocaust.
Agnes Hartstein Neubauer