Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

27 Tammuz 5765 - August 3, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Comments about the Living and the Buried in Frankfurt

To The Editor:

Thanks for your most illuminating and well-illustrated article about the old beis hakevoros of Rashi and in particular the inset about the Frankfurt beis hakevoros. They were read with great interest.

Factual reports especially when touching history and hashkofoh are always most interesting. It is of paramount importance that they are factually correct. However, this report contained a number of inaccuracies of which I am aware due to local knowledge (and perhaps others of which I am unaware). Please allow me to elaborate:

1. You shudder: "Who knows if one isn't conversing with a murderer or his child?"

Let me put your mind at rest. The SS, yimach shmom, had about 60-80 thousand members. (Wiesenthal) These rotzchim had Jewish blood on their hands. The other 80 million applauded. So about 1 percent were actual murderers, others may have been "would-be murderers." (Unfortunately, in applauding they were joined by others, Ukrainians, Poles, etc.)

Apart from this, every third person in Frankfurt today is not German. Either he is an employee of the many international banks, or an immigrant from Turkey, Yugoslavia, etc. (There are 7 million Turks in Germany.) So your chances of meeting the real thing are quite low.

Don't get me wrong! At this time of the year we should really delve into the fiendishness of German beasts. But don't let journalistic dramatization blind you to less dramatic facts.

2. You imply that only Reb Nosson Adler's gravestone is not in the location of the actual grave. "It was only moved there after the cemetery's destruction. Rav Gabbai very much wants to rectify this situation. A gravestone must stand by the grave."

First, all other matzeivos of the rabbonim are also in the wrong place, see below. Second, the implication of the complaint is that people could not be bothered to put it on the right spot.

In point of fact none of the rabbonim's gravestones are on their graves. Nor is this due to negligence. Reportedly, the non-Jewish director of the local Historical Museum hid the famous historical matzeivos of the rabbonim just before Kristallnacht. This is how they survived both the Nazis and the Allied bombs. After the war, unfortunately, people did not remember the exact place of the kevorim. So the rov, HaRav Lichtigfeld z"l, decided that they should all be erected together in one area. Thus it looks like a Chelkas HaRabbonim but in fact none are on the exact burial sites. I do not quite understand how your esteemed reporter, etc. will be able to research the exact burial spots of R' Nosson Adler and the other rabbonim.

3. You explained that R' Nosson Adler zt"l was not buried in the rabbinical section because he adopted certain customs based on Kabboloh and the Kehilla was fiercely devoted to its own customs.

I am afraid this is a gross oversimplification and at best a half-truth. Please refer to Chut Hameshulosh and other biographies of the Chasam Sofer who discuss R' N. Adler, his main mentor. You will see that: a. He simply was not one of the city's rabbonim. He had his own small Yeshiva. b. Indeed he davened Nusach Arizal with Sephardic pronunciation and deep Kabbalistic kavonos (see Teshuvas Chasam Sofer, Chapter 16 and Chut Hameshulosh) and had other "unusual" customs. But, it was not the difference in custom alone. This caused matters to come to a head. His strong kepeidoh on great mechutzofim - teenagers led to their demise. As heard from Gateshead Rov, he was eventually put into cheirem. All this may explain why he was not in the Chelkas HaRabbonim. Most likely there are other reasons which we no longer know. Your categorical statement that the difference of custom is the whole and sole reason in surprising. The Gateshead Rov, HaRav Rakov zt"l asked his father why he is not in the Chelkas HaRabbonim (when his father took him there on Tisha B'Av as a youngster). He said that it may have something to do with the cheirem although it was annulled when he became mortally ill.

4. "HaRav Hirsch taught his congregants that burial in a gentile cemetery is preferable to burial in a common cemetery with Jewish reformers."

This astonishing statement is totally incorrect. I really wonder where you got this from. On the contrary, HaRav Hirsch writes that if the general community will deny them the right of burial in their cemetery because he left their kehilla (due to his firm principles not to be part of a Kehilla - Organization with Reform congregants) then he will not hesitate to make his own Beis Hakevoros. He expressed this as being forced into the situation, not as something he would choose to do.

The wall between the Hirsch community Beis Hakevoros and the one of the general community did not exist in HaRav Hirsch's days. It was built later. (Heard from Dr. Andernach, a Frankfurt historian, a friend of Reb Yaakov Rosenheim and publisher of his memoirs.)

5. You write that Frankfurt "is one of the regions most seriously infected with antisemitism."

I suppose you mean the present; the gruesome past needs no elaboration. If so, this statement is incorrect. In dozens of visits I only had one experience of being called a dirty Jew. (Contrast this with experiences in other places.) As all with a bit of experience know, Berlin and particularly poverty- stricken East Germany, are much more "infected". With regard to Nazi Germany the more "German" and conservative regions were also more prominent in their rishus; e.g. Munich, Nurenberg, and generally Bavaria and Austria. Hessen and Frankfurt have been and still are more "socialist." In fact in a Frankfurt hospital I met a leftist nochri whose father perished in Buchenwald K.Z.

6. A drive through the "drowsy" streets.

In my experience during literally dozens of visits the streets were always very busy and traffic was heavy, certainly not "drowsy" or sleepy. Are you sure that the reporter was not "drowsy" when he wrote this?

7. "The cemetery is one of the most ancient in all of Europe."

Actually, quite a few are older. Worms and Mainz and York (in England) are older. They are from the tekufa of the Rishonim. The same goes for the newly discovered Beis Hakevoros in France which you describe as being 800 years old. Probably the Prague Beis Hakevoros is also as old as this one in Frankfurt.

It should be added that the matzeivoh of the Chasam Sofer's mother was only erected a few years ago. The location was supposedly based on using the old trees as a reference; yet the curator of the Batei Kevoros has postwar photos of this Beis Hakevoros without these (recently grown) trees. Thus the location is at best very approximate.

8. You write that people come into the Beis Hakevoros (of the Slonimer Rebbe, the "Yenukeh") "at sunset or in the darkness" entering the gate inside which time has stopped.

Actually the gate is generally locked at about 6 p.m. Thus most people must come during daylight. I am sorry that this fact spoils the otherwise most beautiful poetic ending of a generally most interesting article.


Moshe Dovid Fleischer

Frankfurt - Gateshead

P.S. It would be most interesting to hear more details about the "scientific methods" which "had to be employed in order to verify the evidence" of the old map showing the area of the old Rashi cemetery.

The Editor Replies:

With regard to point #8, Rabbi Friedman said that when he went the cemetery was locked all the time and they had to make special arrangements in order to get the key. Thus they could make their own schedule and they were in fact there at sunset.


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