Here is most of the group that assembled in June, 2004, in Guben, Germany. This photo was taken outside the chapel in the Jewish Cemetery of Reichenbach / Guben. The Chapel is now leased by the Evangelical Christian Church.
Point to faces to find identities!
Some 37 people came from at least 5 countries to meet in Guben. They are mostly descendants and spouses of descendants of Mann Marcus and Marianne Reissner, whose graves are in this cemetery. Many of us were unknown to each other until a flurry of email began in 2004.
[This is the barest sketch of the activities of the weekend at Guben. I hope that others will provide a much fuller description and interpretation of what we did. Please submit your corrections and amplifications! - Martin]
The meeting ran for two days, Friday and Saturday, June 25 and 26, 2004. Highlights included a number of presentations in the hotel's large meeting room, where as many of us who cared to, spoke about family connections and reminiscences. Many people brought old photos and letters that were shared with great interest. Especially notable were Ruben Frankenstein's genealogy of the Reissners starting with Adam and Eve -- and more probably covering the family over many generations, descending according to tradition from the great 11th century scholar Rashi. Ruben also discussed the more distant family background in towns to the east, with photos of a few surviving former synagogues. Somewhat less seriously, Henning Schroedter-Albers presented the history of genealogy itself, including his suggested descent from Wotan, if not the apes!
Again on a solemn note, the group toured the Jewish cemetery in Guben, which records the life of this community in the 19th and 20th centuries.Of special interest were the graves of Mann Marcus and Marianne Reissner. A small house and meeting room are now used by the Evangelical Christian Church for its services. Pastors Michael Domke and Wolfram Schulz have worked over many years to restore the Jewish tombstones and to erect the Church's own memorial to the Jews who were driven out or killed in the Nazi times. (See their leaflet.) Their dedication and cordiality were most remarkable.
Continuing the tours, the group found the disused textile factory of Reissner, Wohl & Co., including the house that was at one time used by Max Marcus and Dorette Reissner. It was known as "the Dienstvilla". William Reissner also lived there in 1912-1914. The factory continued operations until 1963 under the name Gubener Wolle. The old houses and factories are remarkably still there and largely unchanged. Finally, we crossed into Polish Gubin for an inexpensive lunch at the former ratskeller and then a search for the Jewish Synagogue of Guben, which was destroyed in 1938. A plaque and some foundation stones are all that are left.
A number of us also visited the memorial to Farid Guendoul, the young African immigrant who was killed in a notorious incident in 1999. There are some parallels with the Jewish experience, raising the same questions about how such things can happen.
This brief overview hardly captures the great energy and feeling that was present throughout this short meeting. Everyone seemed to leave with the thought that reunions should continue in future years.
The rustic Hotel Waldow, with swan boats, plastic cows, and miniature trains, was a very hospitable location. Vegetarian cuisine could be a challenge. As for vegan, you don't want to know!