High school ninth graders followed the obstacle course on Wednesday. There is a part of the curriculum on the subject of history in which young people deal with the persecution of Jews, the disabled, homosexuals, and other people deemed “unworthy” by the National Socialists – as well as investigating an issue precisely here, in their hometown of Altena, that happened.
Altena – This is an approach very much welcomed by Ulrich Weispfennig. The Jews needed six million—that was a huge abstract number, he said when he and Stephanie Engenpas greeted the students at Markaner. The horror becomes tangible and original when the obstructions remind you of the fate of Hinmanns, Schnitzeler, Myers and other families who lived in Altina and were sent to concentration camps during the Nazi dictatorship. Most of them did not survive it.
The Obstacles was the work of artist Gunter Deming, Wiespvenig explained to the students. You will be allowed into the pier where the people persecuted by the Nazis live. They are stones with a copper plate engraved with the dates of life. Bert and Lehmann Meyer’s clothing store was the site of the castle elevator today. In 1938, their works were “Aryan”, that is, they were handed over to a Nazi-minded German.
Today the last of the Jews left Altena
The Schnitzler family then had to move to the former synagogue at Fritz-Thomée-Strasse and explain Ingenpaß and Weispfennig to their young listeners. In 1942 they were deported – “Today the last Jews left Altina,” the city administration recorded in a file that is now in the city archive.
Its manager, Monika Peruth, was a huge help when Ingenpaß and Weispfennig brought Stolperstein’s campaign to Altena in 2015 with some of his fellow activists. With the help of the archivist, one can learn a lot about the fate of the persecuted.
All obstacles are of Deming’s own making. Weispfennig explained to the students that the artist places great importance on checking the details of Stolperstein’s initiatives on site. He works with the Federal Archives in Koblenz and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. Ingenpaß said there was nothing wrong with the information from Altena.
The initiative has moved ten stumbles so far—nine for deported Jewish citizens and one for disabled Altenair Alfred Wolff, who was murdered at Hadamar in 1941.
Descendants of the Heinemanns visited Altena
There were more than a dozen Altina who were persecuted by the Nazis. Enginbas told the students that therefore the work would continue – for example with a stumbling block for the then very well-known musician Wilhelm Heckmann, who grew up in Altina and was transferred to “protective custody” due to alleged homosexuality. He came to the Mauthausen concentration camp, where he conducted the camp’s orchestra.
Ingenpaß explained with the students on the sidelines of the event that there was still money for more stones. Part of it comes from the descendants of the Heinemann family, who later owned the Bohrer department store. There are four bumps in front of him today. It reminds us of Sigmund Heinemann, who emigrated to Belgium with his family in 1939. In 1943, his two daughters were arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where one of them died in 1944. Heinemann and his wife Helene came to the Gestapo camp shortly afterwards, survived the Nazi regime and emigrated to the United States with their daughter Hannelore in 1954. Ingrid Dube-Heinemann and Stephen Heinemann with his wife Leslie and three children from Scarsdale, New York, were in Altina in 2016 to search for traces of their ancestors. The son of. –