20160415 - Some of us were fortunate to be born in a free country and a free society

posted 26 Apr 2016, 06:10 by Lodzer Shabbat-Bulletin

Some of us were fortunate to be born in a free country and a free society. For others, it is probably easier to actually grasp the sense of coming out of slavery. But even if you grew up under dictatorial regime (as I did) and are no stranger to state oppression, persecution, antisemitism as the social norm, we can all use a reminder of what we've been blessed with, and of the fact that we haven't always had it "easy", to say the least.


Hofbräuhaus beer hall in the very centre of Munich.

It was here in February 1920 that Adolf Hitler held the first official meeting of the National Socialist party, and declared the 25-point program (not to be confused with the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 which started in the east end of the city, gave the mad fuhrer a public platform during the trial, and landed him in jail for a year).

Till fairly recently, it was still a meeting place for the local neo-nazis, who would curiously and uncharacteristically cringe if you brought a cozy group of 12-15 Belzer Chassidim for a stein of beer and a chat (this is a voice of experience). Today, you will most likely be maneuvering your way in the giant chain of halls between Japanese and American tourists. Nobody cares what you look like, where you pray, or how you talk. Even the building itself was destroyed, like much of Munich, by the bombings of 1944, and later restored and largely rebuilt. History turned into that; just history. To keep it there, it must be remembered.

It is here that our clients get a free beer; their last one before Pesach. They are somewhat camera-shy. I'll try to steal a shot with the following groups, perhaps.


Marienplatz. The official centre point of downtown Munich.

Similarly bombed and duly destroyed, similarly rebuilt. The cradle of the Nazi party even before it expanded to Nuremberg.

Right behind me is the New City Hall, Munich Neue Rathaus, which replaced the old one in 1874. Joseph Goebbels gave here his hate-filled speech on November 9, 1938, launching Kristallnacht. The preparatory plans for the chain of pogroms were laid out in the old ballroom (to my right in the picture). The memorial board on the building (also bombed and rebuilt, like more than 90% of the old Munich) carefully describes how the state affairs were "hijacked" by the clique of Nazis. Which, I suppose, is one way to describe it.

It is when we look back at the not-so recent history that we can start feeling free from what used to bind us.

Happy Passover, Z'man Cheruteinu (Time of Our Freedom)!


Since someone asked, I feel bound to clarify; the "belts" around my chest and waist are not part of the traditional Bavarianlederhosen costume (yes, I know, it looks like it). They are just my walking backpack straps. Honestly.