The Village’s Jewish Life

(Outline of the book from the honorary chamrman of the Heimatverein Datterode, Karl Beck, “From the history of my home village – memories, pictures and poems”, 2006, published by Books on Demand GmbH, Norderstedt, ISBN-10: 3-8334-6507-7 – ISBN-13: 978-3-8334-6507-9 – generously translated by Nathan Reiss, Highland Parks, NJ, U. S. A., descendant of the Pfifferling family from Datterode)

It is uncertain when the first Jews came to live in the municipality of Ringgau. The history of the European Jews goes back far into the Middle Ages. On their long journey through history, they were repeatedly singled out for gruesome persecution, particularly during the 12th and 13th centuries in Germany, as well as in France and England. They were seen not only as the descendants of the persecutors of Christ, but also as convenient victims for robbery and for all sorts of extortion. Jews also were persecuted as alleged poisoners of wells. Jakob Twinger of Koenigshofen wrote in 1452 in his “Elsaessischer und Strassburger Chronik” that in 1386, during the Black Plague, the Jews were slandered everywhere with the accusation that they put poison into the water and wells, and that they were therefore burned at the stake. He adds that in many cities on the Rhine, as well as in central and northern Germany, in every town during the years 1348-1400 there were enormous funeral pyres smoking and blazing. Each place wanted to have its Jews burn. In Freiburg, on the holiday of Candlemas in 1349, all of the city’s Jews were burned at the stake. On the same day, 2,000 Jews in Strasbourg were burned on a pile of wood erected in a cemetery. Evidence was always obtained by torture, which was used to obtain the required confessions and also many others. In connection with this, he adds that at no time had humans resisted rage with as much heroic courage as the Jews in the 14th century. With only few exceptions, they rejected saving themselves, the lives of their families, and their property by betraying their religious faith. In many places, including Speyer and Esslingen, Entire Jewish populations were gathered into their synagogues, which were then set afire. In Frankfurt, 6,000 Jews were forced onto a small street, where the houses were set on fire and they were burned to death. In the Middle Ages, the handicraft guilds conspired to exclude non-Christians. No Jew could become a member of a guild, making it impossible for them to engage in the handicraft trades. They were not allowed to manufacture goods, and the only option that remained for them was trade in used goods. It is from this that the term "Troedeljudentum” (second-hand-Jews) developed. It was not an occupation that they themselves chose, but difficult work for which they had no alternative. They also engaged in moneylending, which was placed into their hands because the Church prohibited Christians from doing it. Through their world knowledge, language gifts and favored intelligence, they were particularly attracted to the natural sciences, technology and medicine. In all of those areas, particularly as physicians, they attained great importance. Emperors, kings and princes, even Popes, sought out Jewish physicians for themselves. Thus the city of Frankfurt, during the 16th century, employed Jews as its municipal physicians.

The first reference to Jews in Datterode originates from the year 1595. In a letter to the Prefect of the Werra region, the advisor to the Landgrave in Kassel inquires about a Jew in Datterode. In the description of the village, which also contains a property and tax list from the year 1745, it indicates among other things, "David Samuell, a protected Jew, has his own house, carries on a poor trade (trade that produces little income) with old cattle and does not have many assets. Callmann Maier has his own house, is a retail trader in cattle and commodities, and in his shop he also slaughters approximately ten head of cattle and as many calves annually." From the surviving village records, one can deduce that until 1925 five or six Jewish families resided in Datterode. In the church statistics of the electoral principality of Hesse given by Wilhelm Bach (1835), Paragraph 189 reads, "Datterode, 520 Evangelical residents and 28 Jews." The minister Christian Ludwig A?brand (1847-1874) writes in 1867, among other things, that "The number of residents is 519 persons, including six Jewish houses." According to a school chronicle, of the six Jewish families in Datterode during the First World War, five children attended the local elementary school in the year 1916. In his writings about the village, Gottfried Ritter for the year 1926, states, "Datterode, situation and extent: On the Ringgau at the foot of the Boyneburg, 9 1/2 kilometers from Eschwege, in the district of Eschwege, Hoheneiche Post Office, Bebra-Goettingen Railway Station, on the Eschwege-Eisenach elevated line; Inhabitants: 24 Jews, one Catholic, a total of about 951 persons." Around this time, the cattle buyers Max and Baruch Loebenstein, sons of Josef (known locally as “Der Schworze Josef” [“Black Josef”] because of his black hair), had already moved to Goldbach in Eschwege (the property today is owend by family Hausberg.). Ohmi Dreyfuß, the son of Jakob (property of family Niebergall/Post), had left for Switzerland around 1919, where he was involved with a textile enterprise. He received his starting capital from two businessmen of Datterode, and after the inflation in Germany, they received high interest in return, paid in Swiss Francs. In 1928, the merchant Baruch Loebenstein, son of Herz, moved to the Upper Bahnhofstrasse in Eschwege. The properties today are owned by Lothar Beyel (branch of the Wolff baker's shop), the former Lager House Joachim Ruch (Pub Biereck, closed in 2007), additional real estate, known locally as the "Jew school" (Walter Wieditz). Until in the middle of the 1920s the residents of Datterode lived in a good neighborly relationship with the Jews, who not only operated as merchants, but also participated actively in the village’s life. The name Loebenstein appears frequently in this connection: In the 19th century as a fire-brigade captain, and in the 20th century as a community representative and as a member of the municipal board. Young girls from Hoheneiche, Langenhain, Weißenborn, Renda, Roehrda, and even from Meckbach, in the district of Hersfeld, stayed with the Loebensteins as paid household helpers. All of them, during their work there, became acquainted with the men whom they later married, and they settled in Datterode. The fact that around 1900 the Jewish fellow citizens were integrated completely into the village’s community emerges from the report of the Heimatzeitung, which reported the death of the cattle dealer Josef Loebenstein as follows: "Datterode. At noon, the deceased veteran Josef Loebenstein, who died at 80 years of age, was, with large participation of the local population, particularly the Veteran and Military Association, as well as many friends, laid to his last resting place. The deceased took part in the campaign against the Danes in the years 1848 and 1849, and was probably the last war veteran from that time in our district." In 1913, at large expense, the 25th anniversary of the Veteran and Military Association was celebrated. Membership of the Association included three persons named Loebenstein, one named Pfifferling, and also an honorary member, Jenny Loebenstein, daughter of Herz Loebenstein (known locally as "Der Lohme Herz" [“Lame Herz”], because of a lame leg). During the First World War, Baruch Loebenstein, son of Herz, a recipient of the Iron Cross, Second Class, took part. Max and Baruch Loebenstein, sons of Josef Loebenstein; Ohmi Dreyfuß, son of Jakob, and Albert Pfifferling (known locally as “Tambour” [“Drummer”] because he was with the military marching band during World War I), father of Julius, Ilse and Hilde. Who knew at all that of the 550,000 Jewish fellow citizens, approximately 100,000 were soldiers during the First World War, of whom 12,000 were known to have been killed in action, 23.000 were highly decorated, 30,000 were promoted -- 3,181 of them to officer ranks. According to statistics, during the First World War, German Jews suffered the highest casualty rate. This fact was already questioned by certain parties during the Weimar Republic and consistently hushed up by the new ruling powers after 1933. In 1973, the Air Force barracks in Neuburg-on-the-Danube, in Bavaria, was named in memory of the highly-decorated Jewish fighter pilot, William Franke, who was killed in action during the First World War. Mentioned also in this connection is a note in the diary of Second Lieutenant Josef Zuerndorfer: "I went into the battlefield as a German, to protect my embattled fatherland and also, as a Jew, to assert the full equal rights of my co-believers." Military achievements were not the main emphasis, however. Rather, history records that even Jewish professors carried on important work in the arms sector. For example, ammonia synthesis was invented by Fritz Jakob Haber, for which Karl Posch developed the manufacturing plant. Thereby the German Reich became independent of saltpeter imports from Chile. Dr. Leo Loebenstein, who served during the war in a Bavarian communications battalion, invented a noise-measuring technique with which the location of a firing cannon could be determined precisely. In 1919 Loebenstein formed the Organization of Jewish War Veterans, the "R.J.F.", which had over 30.000 members. The German patent office records that during the Weimar Republic over 20 patents were given to him. In 1929 he was at the forefront of the development of long-distance rockets on behalf of the German Army’s Weapons Office. Professor Ludwig Willstaedter received the Nobel Prize and the Ordens Pour le Mérite in the peace category, for creating during the First World War a filter cartridge for the new gas mask, suitable for use on the battlefield, which was used in both world wars. For his research, which involved potentially lethal experiments on himself, Kaiser Wilhelm presented the Iron Cross (First Class), to him personally. As an undisputed patriot, Willstaedter, together with 90 other professors, protested Germany’s being held fully responsible for the First World War. In 1939, though in the exile, he persistently rejected entering the service of the enemies of Germany. Many German Jews could have saved themselves from persecution and death if they had not trusted that they would be protected by their Iron Cross and by their courageous efforts on behalf of their fatherland.

Regarding the fate of the Jews from Datterode, the following is well-known: In 1933, the families of Albert and Hermann Pfifferling, with altogether 12 persons, still lived in the village. Albert Pfifferling died in March 1933. According to Departure Register of the municipality, his daughter Ilse emigrated on 4 September 1934 to Switzerland, and on 28 December 1935 she was followed by her sister Hilde. At the end of November 1938, his son Julius emigrated to Santiago, Chile via Argentina. After their mother Toni had dissolved the household, she followed her daughters to Switzerland. On 5 April 1937, Jeanette Pfifferling died, and her husband Hermann died on 15 January 1938. Both were buried at the Jewish cemetery in Netra. Their son Karl (known locally as “Der Juedenkarle”, [“The Jew, Karl”]) became the last official entry in the Departure Register of the municipality when he emigrated to New York on 18 January 1938, one day after the funeral of his father Hermann. Before his emigration, Karl Pfifferling worked as a cattle and meat dealer, and also had a knowledge of slaughtering. Beyond that, he operated businesses of various kinds. In this connection, the blacksmith Heinrich Ritz once told me: When more and more bicycles came onto the market, Heinrich Ritz became a sales representative. He initially had no notion of how to adjust spokes or how to change tires or inner tubes. "Doas hett me der Juedenkarle beigebroocht." [The Jew, Karl, taught that to me.] "Eines Doaches hette in de Haenge gespetzen, Kritzhacken un Scheppen her." [One day he spit into his hands and said “Give me the clay pick and the shovel!”] and he dug a pit for me in my workshop, so that I was able to repair Christoph Fischer’s (known locally as “Steff”) milk wagon from underneath. "Haeh woar en gefaelliger Kerle, der Juedenkarle." [He was a pleasant fellow, the Jew, Karl.]

As with all the Jews who remained in Germany up to the end, things did not go well for them or their relatives (Pfifferling/Maier). The food rations that they received were not adequate for living nor for dying. In the subsequent years, millions of other humans also experienced the pain of hunger. Despite the threatened reprisals, there were in Datterode, as everywhere, humane persons, particularly women, who delivered vital necessities to their Jewish fellow citizens. One day, Luise Sippel met her former schoolmate, Frieda Pfifferling (married name Maier), who was on her way to the Mayor’s office. "Guten Tach Frieda, wie gett`s euch denn?" [Good day, Frieda. How are you?] Geh widder, Maedchen, du derfst dach nett mett meh schwaetze." [Go away, girl. You aren’t allowed to speak to me!] "Ech schwaetze, mit wem ech will.” [I’ll speak with whomever I want.] "Me hann jo su hunger." [We are so hungry!] Without considering for a long time: "This evening, when it is dark, send your husband over." During the same night, a newly-slaughtered goat, hidden under a dark cover, changed ownership. What would have happened if someone had noticed Julius Maier on his way home, 200 meters down the road? Martha Sippel (locally known as “Das Sippelmarthe”) also assisted her Jewish neighbors for many years, despite occasionally meeting with hostility. In order to not place herself in unnecessary danger, she deposited the food from her and from likeminded persons in her cellar. The entrance to the cellar was outside, directly along the road, so that it was possible for her Jewish neighbors to take a few steps off the road under the protection of darkness, and to pick up the provisions. In November 1942 that was too far. Otto Hempfing, with his horse "Rosa", operated the transport to the station where trains went to Bebra. On his wagon with some of her belongings was Kaethe Pfifferling, her sister Frieda (married name Maier), her son Erich and her uncle Josef (her father’s brother). At the same time, they fetched her husband Julius Maier from his workplace at the Schellerten sugar factory. Their residence was taken over by the Treasury and made available to evacuees from larger German towns. In 1950 Karl Pfifferling received his parents' house back and he sold it to Karl Koebrich (barber), who after demolishing the house erected a new one on the same site, which now is the Salon Fissmann (a hairdresser). Despite everything that had happened, Karl Pfifferling, who had emigrated in 1938, still came back several times to visit his hometown, where it was natural for him, to say “Good Day” to "Aunt Sippel", as she was affectionately called. On the occasion of an evening for guests in August 1970, Mayor Friedrich Beck presented a large-sized picture of Datterode to him. In various conversations, he revealed, from small comments and banter, that he was a minority apart who personally could not complain. Also he still had good memories about his former Skat [a card game] partners -- Heinrich Claus, Franz Roediger and William Fischer. Only once was he severely annoyed -- when shortly after the seizure of power, in his presence, a boy said to his father: "Mett daehm do daerfste jetz kenne Geschaefte mehr mache. S es ne annere Zeit ohngebrochen." [You can’t do business with him anymore. We are in a different time now.] In 1969, Julius Pfifferling (locally known as “Tambuersch-Juele” [Drummer-Julius]) also visited his hometown again after 30 years. During his stay in the Berggasthof (inn), he had some stories to tell. More than once he mentioned his good-neighborly relationship with Adam Ronshausen, with whom he remained in contact until his death. When his father died in March 1933, Adam Ronshausen transferred him with his team of horses to the Jewish cemetery in Netra. The last years before his departure, he continued, were not good. Whenever his adversaries (Haescher [constables]) were after him, Adam Ronshausen put his pantry, as well his extra large fodder crate in a hiding place, at his disposal. In this connection, Adam Ronshausen once told me: "After my work was done, I was sitting in the stable on my fodder crate and smoking my cigarillo, as usual. Suddenly the door opened. "Essen d'r Juehle he?" "Wenden fingt, konnten metgnaehme”." Se han'n nit g'fungen.” [“Is Julius here? When you find him, you can take him with you.” They didn’t find him.]

During his stays in Datterode, he paid a visit to one of his adversaries, who had become very ill. He himself had to visit the Eschwege Hospital for a few days a short time later because of a gall bladder infection. It became a memorable event when the main participant from at that time visited him in the hospital and apologized for his deeds. Many years after the war, a neighbor woman told me self-critically: "Even today, I cannot yet understand why, when my schoolmates Ilse and Hilde Pfifferling, departed, I did not offer them my hand in farewell." After the war, many people in many towns had to address this and similar questions, and to try to sort out the answers. This did not mean, however, that the entire population knew what happened during the war and in conjunction with the war, or that they should have known. In 1996, a man visited Datterode and introduced himself as Erich Maier, son of Frieda and Julius Maier. It is unfortunate that no one asked him for his address. It would be interesting to know the circumstances under which he survived the disaster.

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