Photo by Wandaline Joassin
After the flood, Gemünd, Eifel.
Dieter looks down from the upstairs window, he sees us in the street below, standing around the Stolperstein in front of the house next door.
We are filming.
He comes down and hands George and I an envelope and says, “I lost Maria four weeks ago, she is gone”, dazed, he speaks of her pain, the sudden losses of all that was familiar and dear… the flood.
Amy Williams sees the Stolpersteine
for the first time | Photo by Ryan Thurman
The envelope | Photo by Ryan Thurman
He takes us back to the apple tree.
On the way we hear the hammering of workmen, radio music blaring from the open, empty ground floor.
The apple tree, survivor of the devastation at the end of World War ll, left standing among the rubble that had been a Kurort, a spa town, Gemünd.
The same apple tree that had flourished for years pouring leaves, blossoms and fruit over the fence into the next door garden behind my family home in the years before Gemünd became Judenfreie.
Since September 2, 1945 Gemünd has been remembering and restoring.
Today it is harvest time. Large apples, ripe apples weigh down the branches and lie in piles on the ground around the tree.
Mournful, Dieter says,”We cannot eat the apples this year, the earth is poisoned from the contaminated flood waters that devastated Gemünd in June 2021.
For years Maria and Dieter made gallons of apple juice and we tasted some of their bounty.
This year no Maria.
Dieter is still in shock.
As we leave, he says, “I have no photos of Maria, they were all swept away, do you have any?”
The next day, scrolling through my gallery, I find so many memories, joy filled memories, beginning in 1992.
Maria and Dieter, 2012
I click and send.
And then I remember, when I left Germany in July 1939, I had no photograph of my parents….
Years later I received a black and white photo of mother and me in our garden from Gisella. My mother had sent that photo of the two of us to her parents in Israel. It is the only photograph of my mother that I can touch and hold.
The only photograph of my father is from the Gemünd archives. he is standing in a line of Schützenverein.
I meditate on the role of photographs in mourning our dear ones. And the generous empathy of friends.
My Mutti and me.
My Vati stands at the far right.