It’s amazing what you miss when you don’t pay attention. I recently started taking my dogs on a different walking route. It’s not ideal for dogwalking, since it requires passing through our narrow streeted village, but it does allow us to avoid the busy main drag for at least part of our walk.
Usually, when I’m walking through our village, I’m focused on keeping the dogs out of the street. Our old village has a lot of traffic, especially considering how small it is. Consequently, I don’t always pay attention to the small stuff I could be stumbling across on our daily strolls. Today, I happened to get hung up at a driveway due to a small traffic jam. An Asian couple were maneuvering their large station wagon out of a gated entrance to our narrow street. They happened to intercept an annoyed looking German guy in his van. This was further complicated by a yellow German Post truck coming in the other direction.
I halted the dogs so the three vehicles could get around each other in the tight space. Then I noticed five bronze plaques on the ground. Here’s the second of two pictures I took of them.
I determined by their names that they were likely a Jewish family and had once lived in Breckenheim. I discerned that they left Breckenheim for the United States. Judging by the dates, I could see that they were driven out of our town due to Nazism.
I just looked up these plaques online and found them listed here. According to the plaques pictured above, they all left for the United States, but according to the Wikipedia article I linked (in German– Chrome is your friend), Rosa Kahn actually died in a place called Jacoby’s Nursing and Care Institute in a town that was once called Sayn, but is now known as Bendorf. Judging by my cursory search, Bendorf is located not far from here– it appears to be near Koblenz. Jacoby’s Nursing and Care Institute was a Jewish owned nursing home that was expressly for Jewish people who suffered from “nervousness” and “mental illness”.
Established in 1869, Jacoby’s Nursing and Care Institute ran until 1942, which is also supposedly when Rosa Kahn died. In 1938, all but three non-Jewish workers had to be fired. From 1940, the hospital was part of the Nazi persecution of Jewish people, but it was originally intended for Jewish people who suffered due to people who were ignorant about their beliefs. Meier Jacoby, a local merchant who started the institute, justified building it, writing “I had often heard that nervous people who grew up in strict Jewish homes reluctantly enjoyed kosher food, that they probably refuse to eat such food or that they believe they have sinned by eating the food that they are teased by less educated patients and guards, especially because of their beliefs, etc. – circumstances that must certainly adversely affect the nervous and mental patients.” Jacoby took in some patients and hired a doctor to oversee their care. Until Nazism took over Germany, it was a good place for Jewish people who needed psychiatric care.
The Jacoby family were themselves able to emigrate to Uruguay via the Soviet Union and Japan. The main building of the hospital was demolished in the 1960s, but a couple of buildings still remain standing in Bendorf, including the ballroom and the synagogue. Sadly, it appears that toward the end of its existence, the nursing home was used to concentrate Jews for deportation to extermination camps. Between March and November 1942, 573 people were sent to camps in the East, while between 1940-1942, 142 people were too sick to travel and died at the hospital. Those who died at the hospital were buried on the grounds, but had no marker for their graves until the late 1980s.
Once the patients were deported, the hospital was used as a hospital for military troops, then as a replacement for the Koblenz hospital that was damaged in the war. In March 1945, the hospital was briefly taken over by American troops, and then in July 1945, French troops took possession. From 1951 until 1997, the site was a boarding school. Since 1999, it’s been a Catholic run nursing home for people with disabilities.
On November 17, 2002, incidentally the day after my wedding, a memorial was erected to honor the 573 people who were deported to Auschwitz and murdered there. Additionally, a plaque with all of the names of the people who died is hanging in the Wintergarten in the facility.
Isn’t it amazing when one story leads to another? I found out all about this simply by stopping and noticing five little plaques on a driveway that I pass all the time while I’m walking my dogs. Maybe some weekend soon, Bill and I can take a day trip to Bendorf and have a look around.
I highly recommend reading this detailed account of the Jacoby Nursing and Care Institute on Bendorf’s official page. The site is available in English, or you can use Google Chrome.
Edited to add: my German friend found more information about the Khan family and it turns out Rosa Kahn did manage to escape. She and her husband celebrated their 50th anniversary in New York on February 22, 1943. Breckenheim was a Jewish community for many years before Hitler came to power. Perhaps another woman from the neighborhood died at the nursing home. Wikipedia is not always the end all, be all of information, but at least I learned something new.