Right in the busy centre of Cologne there is a small side street, the St.-Apern-Strasse. It is a quiet street, sided by modern and turn-of the century buildings that house small shops. Trees add to the restful atmosphere that offers a surprising change from the crowded main streets. It is easy to pass by a little square just off St.-Apern-Strasse without noticing it. A big tree nearly hides it, and modern buildings surround a fountain which dominates its centre.
This is, where the ‘Jawne’ used to be, the former ‘juedisches Reform-Realgymnasium’, the only Jewish grammar school in the Rhineland, founded in 1919 and closed in 1942.
And this is, where today you find the “Lern- und Gedenkort Jawne”, the ‘learning and memorial centre Jawne’, a small organisation run by volunteers. (see www.jawne.de )
The square is named after its last headmaster, Erich Klibansky, who was in charge from 1929 until 1942. On the fountain, the so-called ‘Lion’s fountain’, you find the names of those 1100 children and teenagers of Cologne who were deported from 1933 until 1945.
The school building itself was destroyed during a bomb raid in 1943 and nothing is left of it today.
What you find there today are the rooms of the ‘learning and memorial centre Jawne’. Founded by Dieter and Irene Corbach in the late 1980’s, today’s “Jawne” has collected reports, documents and photographs of the former school. What is more, they have created a network of former Jawne-students all over the world. Today, the ‘learning and memorial centre Jawne’ presents the exhibition “The children of the schoolyard nextdoors” as well as a range of workshops focussing on Jewish childhood and adolescence in Cologne.
When I first came to the “Jawne” early in September, what immediately caught my attention was a mobile of Origami-birds, each bird carrying a name. It so much reminded me of Lisa Sterling telling us about paper-planes at Centropa this summer!
Adrian Stellnmacher of “Jawne”, had asked me, whether I’d be interested in a project connected with “Jawne’s” Kindertransport-exhibition that was opened this October. He didn’t have to ask twice.
From January until July 1939 more than 130 Jawne-students left Cologne on ‘Kindertransporte’. One of them was Lore Robinson, who lives in London. Born in 1923 she left Cologne in June 1939, expecting to meet her parents later, in the United States. Tragically, her parents’ departure from Rotterdam was prevented by the outbreak of the war. Both were deported to Bergen-Belsen. Her mother died in April 1945, her father in 1950.
Lore Robinson has never returned to live in Germany but is in close contact with today’s “Jawne”. In October she came to the opening of “Jawne’s” Kinderstransport-exhibition “KINDER ABREISEN 17 UHR 13”. The day before, my class and I met her, a fragile old lady with a very sharp mind. It was a very special experience, for my students and for me. Mrs Robinson told us about her family, about her childhood, about growing up in Nazi-Germany, about the trip to England, about her life there and … about her cheesecake-recipe. And this cheesecake-recipe initiated our project…