Caught in the middle of a massive building site which effectively cut us off from where we wanted to go or, perhaps better, made it far more difficult to navigate the car through the town to our planned destination, we found a parking space near to the outskirts of Norden, and discovered a small, hidden spot which is probably not visited by all that many people: the Jewish cemetery. It is separate from the main cemetery, enclosed by woods and cut off from the rest of the world by a large metal gate with the Star of David inset.
Unlike every other road – where there aren’t road works at the moment! – this one is bare earth. The curving roadway leads through the trees with a long line of recovered gravestones laid on their backs which, probably in the Thirties, were wrested from their final resting places and discarded by the powers of the time. Those which could be saved have been laid out for the few visitors who venture through the gate to see and date from the nineteenth century and earlier.
We ventured into the silence of the graveyard, unsure what to expect, along this long line of stones.
Inside the cemetery itself the gravestones are packed close to one another in two sections; the oldest ones to the right with plain inscriptions and dated both in our manner and according to the Jewish calendar, the newest ones laid out in much the same manner as in other cemeteries and enhanced with bushes. There are no flowers here and it seems almost as if no one comes to visit the dead any more unless you know what you are looking for. One or two of the gravestones have small pebbles placed upon them, a sign that someone was there, that someone has remembered the dead, that they are still within a memory somewhere. The youngest inscription comes from the late Thirties.
Between the back of the Christian chapel, bordering on the cemetery, and the newer section is a memorial dedicated to those of the Jewish faith who died in the Thirties and Forties. Here are more pebbles lying as memories and, possibly the most telling thing of all, a story without words.
Four or five lists of names remembering those who suffered and died under the regime of the time, who were persecuted, tortured and shipped off to concentration and death camps in Germany and Poland. Names with a date of birth, but no date recorded for when they died. Names and dates which show how an entire family, regardless of their age, could be and were wiped out. The youngest that I see here would have been about eight years old.
I didn’t place any stones on any of the graves, not because I don’t know this people, not because it didn’t move me to stand in this quiet wood and reflect, but because a stone would merely have been an outward sign and I would have needed to lay one on every gravestone or list of names.
Love & Kisses, Viki.