A Letter to the Memory of My Father as I Stand in the Leipzig Zoo on Kristallnacht 2014

Leipzig zoo

Is this the place?
Is this where they took you, my precious father, on that horrible night?
Is this the place where they spit on you, cursed you, threw mud on you and reviled you for the crime of being a Jew?
I am so thankful, my father, that you made it out alive.

I am thankful that you met my mother and that my sister and I could be born.
I am thankful that you raised us as proud Jews, and I hope you are proud that I am standing here today!
But I cannot be sure!
I cannot be sure because you never, ever spoke to me of the night I have come to this place to commemorate.
You spared me the trauma that—as I now know—scarred you.

But I thank you!
For though you were scarred, you persevered.
You and Mother created a warm, loving Jewish home for Rochelle and me.
You taught me of our ancestor, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer,
The first Orthodox rabbi to encourage Jews to settle in the Land of Israel in fulfillment of their sacred Covenant with God.

You taught me of your father Hirsch Wolf Fuchs, who was murdered
At the beginning of World War I leaving you as a baby to grow up without a father to teach you the things only a father can teach.
But I was blessed to have you!
We stand in this place, and in truth, I fight back tears.

But I did not come here only to weep!
I am here with my wife, Victoria, whom you would have adored! I am here with your niece, Irene, who you did indeed adore.
Dad, our son carries your name
With great pride!

You did tell me one story that I share now:
When you were born
Your parents named you
Leo Eliezer Fuchs!
Eliezer means “God is my help.”
But the German government—even in 1913—informed your parents that Eliezer was not an acceptable name for a German boy. And so you became
Leo Elias Fuchs.
Your silent protest was to never—ever —
Use your middle name!
It was a subtle protest, but it was not lost on me!
And so when your grandson, who stands here with us today
Came into the world,
Vickie and I proudly named him
Leo Eliezer Fuchs
In your memory!

Today, my precious father,
We have come to a different Germany than the one you left
(In the words of the Prophet Zechariah)
Like, “a brand plucked from the fire!” (Zechariah 3:2)

Because Uncle Allie and Uncle Morris, who spent the best years of their lives in this city
Could get you out and bring you to New York.

Yes, Daddy, Vickie and I have come to a Germany that is very different!
We have come to Germany as welcome guests in the home of German Pastors who have planned for months to make our visit comfortable and productive!

We have come to a Germany where anti-Semitic speech and actions are forbidden!
We have come to a Germany where rabbis, Cantors and Jewish professionals from all Europe learn and train at government expense.
We have come to a Germany that has paid billions in reparations to Israel
And to families like ours whose members suffered the ravages of the Shoah.

To this land of that perpetrated the greatest horror that I can imagine.
I come to say:
Remember! And indeed I shall remember!
I shall remember the horror as long as there is breath in my body!
And my children and, I pray that my grandchildren and those who come after will remember as well!

But I also forgive!
I forgive because Germany has asked for forgiveness so many times and so many ways
Because of all that Germany has done
To repent the horror of the Nazi Era
I forgive!
Speaking for myself and my family alone, for that is as far as my influence extends,
I feel called to say as God said
to the children of Israel long ago:
“I forgive as you have asked!” (Numbers 14:20)

I accept your Teshuvah, your repentance, and–
I forgive.
And I join hands with all who stand with us here and with all of those around the world
Who commemorate this day seared into memory,
And I pledge, and I ask all of you to pledge with me
To use whatever talents God has given us
To bring nearer the time
When the world will become
The just, caring and compassionate society that You have desired we create since the time of Creation!

21 thoughts on “A Letter to the Memory of My Father as I Stand in the Leipzig Zoo on Kristallnacht 2014

  1. What a wonderful way to memorialize your father, You have always had a wonderful way of delivering your thoughts and feeling in your sermons, and I feel touched and blessed that you chose to share this special letter with us, this entire trip sounds like it has been an amazing journey.
    Thanks for blogging,


  2. This is so powerful, Stephen:

    “I feel called to say as God said
    to the children of Israel long ago:
    “I forgive as you have asked!” (Numbers 14:20)”


    if it is any consolation, I believe he is very proud of you, friend.

    With heart,


    1. Dani, I wee no record that I ever responded to this very touching comment. It means so much to me as does your approbation for anything I write because you write so magnificently! Thank you for your friendship!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was very touched by your profound words and the personal history behind them. Having stood where you stood in Leipzig, I can relive the emotions I felt being surrounded by not only Jews, but Germans who are eager to make right the wrongs that began to intensify on November 9, 1938. Let us pray that the incidents of prejudice that have begun to happen in Europe lately will be met by strong resistance, so that we can all truly say “Never Again.” Ellen Goldberg

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you, Susan! I am glad that this speaks to you because even though I wrote it and delivered it almost two years ago, it still is hard for me to read. Your lovely comment makes me feel like the pain it still causes is worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

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