“The names were given a face”
At noon on 26 June 2014, the students of Kurt-Schwitters-Schule and Phorms Campus Berlin Mitte came together and read aloud the names of the murdered Jewish children from the Auerbach Orphanage. The Baruch Auerbach Orphanage and Education Facility for Jewish Boys and Girls was established in 1832 at Oranienburger Strasse 38. In June 1897, the orphanage was relocated to Schönhauser Allee 162.
Starting in late 1942, around 140 children and and teenagers, as well as their carers, were deported to Auschwitz and Riga, where they were later killed.
The former building of the Auerbach Orphanage was badly damaged in the war, and it was demolished during the 1950s. Today, all that remains is a portion of the front garden wall. This wall was the reason for the inauguration of a new memorial. In 2013, an art competition was held in Berlin. The winning design by artist Susanne Ahner was entitled “I was here”. Part of her concept was to carve the known names and ages of the murdered children and their carers into the front garden wall.
It was a very emotional and interesting event that once again showed us how many lives were brutally claimed by National Socialism.
The youngest person whose name we read out was a ten-month-old infant. Everyone had to hold back their tears, and Holocaust survivor Walter Frankenstein was also visibly moved. We had already been in contact with the author after reading his book in class, and he also visited us once at Phorms Campus Berlin Mitte to tell the group about the things he had witnessed and experienced during the Third Reich.
Walter Frankenstein grew up in the orphanage, where he made friends and also met his future wife, Leonie. He knew many of the names we read aloud, so he often lowered his head or wiped a tear from his eye during the ceremony.
Saxophonist Kathrin Lemke provided musical accompaniment during the inauguration of the memorial.
Each of us had previously read the list of names aloud in front of the class. However, it was only during the ceremony and in the presence of some former residents of the orphanage that these names were really given a face. The fact that is was children who were crammed into trucks and trains – which is how they were treated back then – illustrates the terrible situation for Jews during those years.
I am pleased that we were able to be a part of this event and that we will have the opportunity to welcome back Walter Frankenstein as a guest later in the year.
Danielle M. Hoche, year twelve, Phorms Campus Berlin Mitte