Germany - Beyond Sliding
Please click the titles for more photos and video of each of these experiences.
3 miles from the skeleton track in Königssee where I spent the second half of Hanukkah stands the Eagle’s Nest - where Adolf Hitler and other high-ranking Nazi officials often convened for meetings and social gatherings.
5 years ago Olympian A.J. Edelman started a tradition of an Israeli athlete coming to train in Königssee during Chanukah to ensure the Menorah is lit in this significant location. On the fifth night of Hanukkah, and for the remainder of the holiday, I was honored to continue that tradition, and to make sure the presence of the Jewish people was still felt there.
On January 2nd, I had the opportunity to visit the Munich Massacre Memorial, as well as 31 Connollystrasse - the building in the Olympic Village where two Israeli Olympic team members were murdered, and nine others were taken hostage and eventually killed by terrorists during the 1972 Summer Games.
Although it’s initially befuddling to see people living normal lives in places where a historically significant tragedy occurred, I did appreciate not only that the buildings exist today pretty much as they did in 1972, (which helps makes imagining the incident easier), but also that a prominent memorial plaque listing the victims’ names stood in front of the building.
I then headed to the memorial museum in Olympiapark, which included a video timeline of the day’s events, as well as biographies and photos of each of the victims. While reading the bios a jogger approached me and said he saw my jacket while passing by, and that he used to live in Israel. He told me that he is training to run the triathlon in the Maccabiah Games, and that he makes sure that 31 Connollystrasse is the half-way point of his runs before he turns around. We spoke about the impact the event had on each of us, and also about the current condition for Jews living in this part of Germany. He mentioned, sadly, that there’s been a major uptick in the amount of conversations he has with locals in Munich who believe that the Holocaust never happened.
On a more positive note, after visiting the museum I decided to go back to 31 Connollystrasse and leave a stone by the memorial plaque to show I was there. I was surprised to see, and hadn’t noticed before, a handful of Yarzheit candles underneath the memorial. Not counting my interaction with the jogger, the morning had been extremely sad, cold, grey, and lonely. Seeing those candles was incredibly uplifting and comforting. A subtle, but powerful message conveying, “We will not forget.”
(Outside 31 Connollystrasse)
My observations after visiting the first Nazi concentration camp in Dachau, just 20 minutes from the city center of Munich. January 2, 2019:
"I walked in to Dachau through the gates reading 'Arbeit Macht Frei', then listened to two hours of horror stories, culminating in witnessing the crematorium/gas chambers. Looking back into the gas chambers one last time, I saw on a column, in the faintest pencil, someone wrote: 'Am Yisrael Chai' (the Jewish nation lives!). Walking in through the 'Arbecht Macht Frei' sign, I only felt sadness. Walking out, I also felt hope."
(Am Yisrael Chai - just outside the gas chamber)