In 1942, the last of the Jews were forced out of Neumarkt (New Market), Germany, a village about 20 kilometers from Nuremburg. Neumarkt once had a robust, although small Jewish community. There is a Jewish cemetery and a plaque with a menorah hangs on a building highlighting the fact it was once a synagogue.
In 1930 it is believed the Jewish community neared 100 in this Bavarian city. Things changed rapidly when the Nazis came to power. The teacher who was kind to the Jewish children was replaced by one who encouraged the non-Jewish children to beat up those who were Jews.
Finally, in 1942 the last of the Neumarkt Jews were put on trains and taken to concentration camps. Visiting the old Jewish cemetery, we saw that the last Jewish death took place in this city in 1938, just before Kristalnacht and the beginning of the Holocaust.
Pastor Johannes Wegschaider, a young German pastor invited Elana and I to come and minister at his church in Neumarkt. I didn’t realize at the time, as I thought I was merely coming to teach Jewish Roots, that the pastor had other plans. He wanted to break the curse off his city. Johannes and one of his elders, Avram Motei, a local anesthesiologist, wanted to do something special marking seventy years since the last Jews were expelled from their city.
On Sunday morning, after a weekend of wonderful ministry, Johannes explained the history to his congregation and then they called up me and Elana, saying (in German), “Seventy years ago the Nazis forced the Jews of Neumarkt to leave. We want to invite you, as Israeli Jews, to come into our city. We repent for what has happened and ask your forgiveness.”
I took the microphone asking if I could respond. First, I made sure I had understood them correctly and then, once assured that I did, we expressed love, forgiveness and blessings. Both Elana and I were in tears. While I had felt nauseous all morning for no apparent reason, suddenly there was a wonderful sense of God’s presence. May God’s blessing be on Neumarkt!