Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Stolperstein...a way to remember.

Stolperstein is the German word meaning "stumbling block," "obstacle," or "something in the way." Stolperstein has now taken on the meaning of being a small plaque in the sidewalk. These plaques commemorate the former homes of victims of the Holocaust. They demarcate where Jews (and sometimes where other ethnic groups who were also persecuted) lived and were taken by the Nazis.

Here lived
born 1912
Interned 1939
Gurs (concentration camp in Southwestern France)
Killed 20.2.1943 in
Today I went on a walking tour of Düsseldorf with the 8th grade Humanities classes. They have been studying the Holocaust and each group visited different parts of the city. It was a torrential downpour during most of the trip and we had to take a temporary and warm Starbucks break. But, the kids (and I) were really moved.

Many of the Stolperstein are in front of what are now businesses and some are still apartment buildings. They specifically marked where people lived and were taken. We spent a long time discussing how sickeningly scary it would be and what it would be like to be a neighbor of someone who was just taken from their life in such a sudden manner.

Here lived
Franz Anselm
Born 1905
Deported 1942, Died in Izbica, Poland

The kids placed flowers at each of the plaques. The language on the plaques is very plain. It states that they were murdered, as truly was the case.

We inferred that this was a married couple.
Alfred & Meta Meyerstein
Deported 1941
Murdered in Minsk
The next one was especially sad. This was likely a mother and daughter. And, the fact that it said they were "reported" (auswiesen) lead us to believe that they were hiding but then found out and later murdered in Treblinka in Poland. This was in front of an apartment building that is still an apartment building. It is right along the Rhein River and one can assume this was likely a very expensive area to live then, just as it is now- given that it is water-front property. Pescha was only around 15 when she died and given that her neighbors just down the street were taken in 1933, we inferred that they were possible in hiding for five years.
Reisel Laja & Pescha Birnbach
Reported 28.10.1938
Taken to a Ghetto
Murdered June 1942 in Treblinka
Small but significant.
At each Stolperstein, our directions were to look at the building and infer what it must have been before the war compared to now.
You can imagine people looking out that bay window as the people they'd been hiding were taken.
These plaques are small and only provide an outline of information. But, they help us remember. They put a name and a place to someone's life that would otherwise be forgotten. It makes me so sad and at the same time makes me glad that we are still speaking those names and still remembering- the victims deserve at least this.

Just earlier this week there was an NPR story about Stolperstein.
Click here to read/listen.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The mundane and the update from The Traveling Teacher

I've done no blogging since spring break but have had lots of fun. If you are friends with me on Facebook, you've probably seen some of these pictures but for my non-FB people, I was encouraged by my friend Kir (who IS a FB person now!) to not let my blog go! 

So, here's a little slice of life from The Traveling Teacher....
My cousins from Denmark, The Lauritzen Family, came to visit me at the end of April.
We spent a day at the Cologne cathedral...the Kölner Dom...

The short American-Dane mut (and Irish, German, & Welsh) with the purebred tall  Danes!
For three days, I attended a conference entitled "Making Thinking Visible" at the International School of Amsterdam through Harvard's Project Zero. It fed my love of teacher-geekiness and renewed me. I've really missed my professional development network through PEBC since I left Colorado so it was great to feel some of that here...and...there was a PEBC staff developer from Denver there so that was really really exciting! 

The whole conference! 
There has also been some nice spring weather (for a change...although right now it is 48F and rainy. BRRR!) and so my friends The Brydens rented a car for a few weekends! One sunny Sunday we went to an old grain mill that has been converted in a biergarten. Germany is NOT lacking in biergartens! We chilled in the sun and played Frisbee. It was wonderful!
Auermühle. Another reason to enjoy Deutschland!

My school hosts an international festival every spring. The parents organize the whole thing and it is a large community event. It is a fundraiser and a celebration of the fact that we have over 40 countries represented at our school. Each country (or region as is the case for Scandinavia) has their own booth with tradition food and drink. There is also a full day of traditional (and not so traditional) performances by the kids, parents, and even some teachers.

At the Scandinavian station, one could order meatballs, herring, schnapps, or schnapps with a song! My friend Nina and I chose "schnapps with a song" and they plunked down two Viking helmets on us! Then, they proceeded to pour all of the parents (Swedish mostly) in the vicinity a shot of Aquavit and then sang us a Swedish drinking song wherein we all took a shot together! This was an amazing day (and not just because of the food and drinks) but because it really is a unique experience to be part of an international community. I got veklempt at the parade of flags! 
Sadly, the American "traditional costume" is lacking.
Most of the Americans were wearing July 4th t-shirts from Old Navy like me.
Next year, we decided we should just invent our own national costume so we can be cool like everyone else.
Notice: Nina is wearing a traditional Bavarian dirdl (Sp? A St. Pauli girl dress!).

We had a three day weekend (same weekend as Memorial Day in the US but for a Catholic holiday...don't know which one) a few weekends ago and so a few of us did a day long bike ride down the Rhein River. Our first stop was at Benrather Schloss which just means Benrath Castle. It was a lovely day weather-wise and company-wise with lots of laughs and some very sore butts the next day as we were on bikes for about 7 or so hours that day. We got lost a few times and following the river takes quite a bit longer than riding directly to somewhere!
Benrather Schloss. 

Taking the bike ferry to Zons, a cute medieval town.

Riding along the Rhein.

Another weekend The Brydens rented a car and we went to a castle called Schloss Burg. It is in the Wupper River Valley...or Wupperthal. It was another gorgeous day and there was a chairlift that went up and down the mountain from the town to the castle. 
Hugh in his typically orange apparel. Pretty sure he was Dutch in a past life.

Barbara and I are just chilling on the chairlift bench.
Düsseldorf is SO flat because it is on the Rhein floodplain and
so whenever you leave the immediate area, it is shocking to see all the hills again!

One of the hardest parts (besides living so far away from home) about teaching abroad is the high turnover rate of staff. You make friends and then they move on or you move on. The upside is that you get to make lots of new friends and have lots of coming/going parties! This year's leaving staff organized a Segway tour around Düsseldorf. This was one of the most fun things I have ever done and it is going to require a great deal of restraint to not take a Segway tour every time I go somewhere now. 
Segway tours are my new boat cruises.

Just chillin' on my Seg...

So, that's that. A quick update on my happenings for the last 7 or so weeks. I have a week and a half of school left and then I fly to Nice, France with Lauren to meet my friend Maura (from South Kakalaki) and her friend (soon to be my friend too, I hope!) Lisa. Then, Lisa, Maura, and I will fly to Münich and tour the Bavarian Alps. Most importantly, we're going to Salzburg, Austria to do the Sound of Music tour! WAHOO!!!

 I am ready for the school year to be over but the speed with which this year flew by is a very positive sign. I have had a great year (if I can just get through this last round of report cards!) and am looking forward to another great year at my new school. It will be nice to NOT be a new person for the first time in two years. AND, I am moving to a new apartment next week which is much closer to actual commerce and no longer in a retirement village! Hopefully, that will be my last house move for a bit. I've moved every year for the last three. At least I don't have to deal with furniture this time since I am taking only clothes and personal items and selling all my furniture to the new occupant of my current place.

So, off to bed to prepare for another day of report card writing. These narrative report cards are a killer.

Ciao, mes amis!