The little town of Berlichingen lies in the picturesque valley
of the river Jagst in northeastern Württemberg in south Germany.
Jews were living in this town for hundreds of years. They had their own distinct religion and traditional culture in the midst
of the Christian population. Just as in Berlichingen, Jews lived in many villages and towns in every part of Germany.
One of the most
precious books in my small library called “Jüdische Gotteshäuser und Friedhöfe in Württemberg”
shows all the synagogues, cemeteries, and the history of the congregations, which existed before 1933. During the twelve-year
long rule of the Nazi regime, all those Jewish holy places were systematically destroyed. Today nothing is left except the
old gray tombstones of the Jewish cemeteries, which are kept as archaeological remnants of the rich Jewish culture everywhere
in Germany. Those Jews who were lucky to get out of Germany, as myself and my family, reached far away USA, or as in my case
the new old homeland of Israel. All others were horded together, transported in sealed railcars and brought to the so-called
concentration camps, which were non other than extermination camps. After every one was accurately recorded, they were all
herded into enormous gas chambers. All Jews who vanished there were not buried in those plainly kept Jewish cemeteries by
the present German government.
Many Jews who lived for generations in those villages and towns adopted the name of their communities, such as all Berlingers
originated from Berlichingen. One of my Jewish teachers by the name of Shimon Berlinger was born in Berlichingen. They had
a printing shop there with the same name. A Rabbi with the name Berlinger was residing in the little town
On the opposite side of the
river Jagst rises the awesome medieval castle of the famous Barons von Berlichingen called Jagsthausen. There in an open-air
theatre every year, Goethe’s play, “Der Götz von Berlichingen” is performed for a large crowd of spectators
from all over Germany and all over the world.
It is the story of the robber baron, who sided with the peasants when they revolted against the aristocracy, of which the
Götz was actually a part of. He lost one of his hands in battle, which was replaced with the famous Iron Fist, and can
still be admired in the castle itself. The hero of my story is his grandson Baron Hans Pleickhardt von Berlichingen, who owned
a library of five hundred rare books, of which I could detect the exact list of their titles. From this list I determined
that the young Baron was an educated intelligent man, who grew up and was befriended by the fictional Rabbi Menachem, who
I saw as my ancestor. If I had stayed living in Germany, I probably would have become a rabbi, because I was much attracted
to our beautiful, little synagogue in nearby Künzelsau where I grew up.
This synagogue also vanished during the Holocaust and only a little memorial
plaque can still be seen nearby mentioning it.
The Baer family had a real connection with the Barons of Berlichingen, which lasted for several generations: A large farm
of one thousand acres called Halsberg, which belonged to the Barons, was leased to the family grain business, Jacob Baer,
my great-grandfather, until the Nazi regime forced us to terminate the lease.
I have chosen the colorful storks as a symbolic connection of my old home
in Germany with my new one in Israel. As a child, I admired those large birds building their nests on high roofs during the
summer. Then I met them again flying over my head in Israel on their way to Egypt in the fall and returning again in the spring.
They always used the warm air of the hot wind blowing from the desert to carry their heavy bodies on their long way back to
Europe. This connection illustrates the age-old band of the Jews living in Exile far from their biblical promised land.
The middle part of my story
plays in the mountainous town of Zefat in the Galilee, where at the time of my novel the Kabbalah was in its fullest blossoming.