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.