My Visits to Unna
Written by Manfred Lindenbaum
Return After 20 Years
My first return to Unna was very traumatic, In 1958, just twenty years after my family and I were removed from Unna, I went with my Uncle Simon Bienstock who found a few people who knew my family. They told me that our store was broken into on Kristallnacht.
I don’t remember any warmth. Just stony silence – my Zayda, Heinrich (Zvi) Stegmann- my Mother and Father , Frieda and Otto Lindenbaum- and my sister, Ruth LIndenbaum- silence.
Return After 56 Years
My second visit was with my wife Annabel in 1994. My brother, Siegfried Lindenbaum, had just died. Before he died, he gave me a gift. He said, “ Remember us at the railroad station in Zbaszyn – with no future – only darkness ahead – and then look at my life and celebrate.”
Siegfried’s life had been one to celebrate. He was a world renown scientist who lectured all over the world including Germany. He had a wife and three children who were all achievers and all made a difference and made the world a better place as he did in so many ways.
My brother told me a story about how he had been in touch with a historian in Unna and how people in Unna claimed that our sister Ruth was alive. He said, “ After I am gone, go to Unna but do not make it a long project.”
In my whole life, I had never spoken about my childhood – about my trauma. I never spoke to my brother – I never spoke to my children. I hardly mentioned my past to my wife.
I went to Unna and with help from the historians Walter Flick and Bernt Cnyrim, Ruth’s picture was in Unna’s newspaper. I met with many of her former friends. They had withdrawn from her and were in denial about what had happened. After long conversations and seeing that my sister’s name was not on the Gedenkstein or Memorial to those who were murdered in the Holocaust, I was upset and vowed never to come back.
Return After 71 Years
My third visit to Unna fifteen years later, in 2009, was entirely different. I had told my friend, a Holocaust Survivor from Dinslaken, about my sister’s name not being on the Gedenstein. He had gone to Unna with his friend and investigated. My sister’s name was then put on the Gedenkstein. I returned with my family (picture included). I was greeted at a ceremony by the Pfarer (Minister) Jugend Dusberg and many others and my feelings towards Unna, especially with the next generation, changed as I met many empathetic people.
Return After 73 Years
My fourth visit was in May 2011. The artist, Gunther Deming, was setting the Stolpersteine* in front of our store/apartment, in front of my grandfather’s house and in front of my friend, Herbert Penner’s house. (Herbert, together with my mother,father and sister were murdered in Auschwitz and Treblinka.) Seeing that the names are inscribed and not forgotten, helps with a very dark reality.The warmth and greetings that we received in Unna changed forever my feelings for the town of my birth.
While bystanders were responsible – the next generation was not there and all that is asked is that the next generations acknowledge the past.I was very touched at the talk by Jugend Dusberg, the Minister and others who spoke.
One man who came with his three children really touched me as he said that his children are now the same ages as the ages as we were ( my brother, sister and myself) were when we were taken out of Unna.
I can now think of Unna with no animus and warmth for the people I met.
Return After 76 Years
My fifth visit will be this June, 2014, which I am calling my Odyssey with my wife, my three children , seven of my grandchildren and friends when I will be retracing the steps when my family was taken to the border and forced over and where my parents Otto , Frieda, and my sister Ruth were marched over to a ghetto where they eventually were murdered.
We will travel the last 200 miles by bicycle back to the place of my birth.