Alfred Voss (*1920 in Aachen) stammt aus einer jüdischen Familie, die im Eifel- und Voreifelgebiet weit verbreitet war. Entfernte Nachkommen sind im Kreis Euskirchen nachweisbar und haben in der Zeit der Judenverfolgung auch in Kall und Zülpich ihre Spuren hinterlassen.
Ein berühmtes Foto erinnerte mich an diesen Namen, als ich Kontakt mit Fred Voss aus Ithaca, State New York, aufnahm. Der engagierte, heute in Bielefeld lebende Regionalhistoriker Stefan Kahlen hatte mir dies ermöglicht. Im Jahre 2004 hatte er die ersten nachweisbaren Vorfahren der Familie Voss (Voß) in Müntz/Titz bei Düren lokalisiert. Die Familiengeschichte setzt sich dann in Würselen und schließlich in Aachen-Burtscheid fort.
Nach einer behüteten Kindheit durchlitt Fred Voss in den Jahren 1933-1939 - und insbesondere am Tag der „Reichskristallnacht“ – das nationalsozialistische Unrechtsregime. Im Frühjahr 1939 emigrierte seine Familie Julius Voss schließlich über Belgien nach England, später nach Amerika.
Im Dezember 1939 lernte Fred in London die große Liebe seines Lebens kennen, die aus Wien stammende Ilse Machauf. Während des 2. Weltkrieges diente Fred Voss als Sergeant in einer Combat-Engineer-Einheit der US Army, in dessen Eigenschaft er 1945 auch Aachen und Würselen besuchte. Die inzwischen große Familie Voss-Machauf lebt seit einigen Jahren glücklich in ihrer Wahlheimat, in Ithaca/New York.
Als Zeitzeuge sieht sich der 90jährige Fred Voss – dank seines hervorragenden Gedächtnisses - in der Pflicht, zu berichten und zu erinnern. Sein Argument: „Wie kann der Mensch für die Zukunft aus Vergangenem lernen, wenn es nicht Zeugen gäbe, die wahrheitsgemäß darüber berichten, was wirklich geschah?“ Seit einem halben Jahrhundert hält Fred Vorträge vor Schülern und Studenten; nicht nur gegen den Antisemitismus, sondern auch gegen jede Form von Intoleranz, Gewalt und Unterdrückung. Er ist u.a. Charter Member des Holocaut Memorial Washington und ein persönlicher Freund von Elie Wiesel sowie der bekannten Bürgerrechtlerin Rosa Parks († 2005).
Fred Voss hat bis heute sein Leben in den Dienst der Aufklärung und Mahnung gestellt. Als Mitbegründer des United States Holocaust Memorial in Washington, aber auch in zahllosen Vorträgen und Diskussionsrunden erinnert er exemplarisch an das Schicksal seiner Familie und seine 68 Verwandten, die der Shoa zum Opfer fielen. Dann aber weist er immer wieder auf die 6 Millionen ermordeten Juden und anderen Opfer hin, die dem Nationalsozialismus zum Opfer fielen. Und er wendet sich immer wieder deutlich gegen jede Form von Antisemitismus, Rassismus, Hass und Intoleranz, wo immer dies auch in der Welt geschieht.
So ist es auch nicht verwunderlich, dass er ein überaus lesenswertes und in vielerlei Hinsicht bemerkenswertes Buch mit dem Titel Miracles, Milestones and Memories verfasste. Es erschien vor einigen Jahren in englischer Sprache und wird seitdem stark beachtet. Weitere Artikel, Bilder und Informationen über die Familie Voss – zusammengetragen von Iris Gedig, Peter Bücken und Stefan Kahlen – sind im „Familienbuch Euregio“ zu finden.
Zwar sind inzwischen viele Korrespondenzen jüdischer Familien publiziert worden, doch fast alle stammen aus der Zeit zwischen 1933 und 1945 oder kurz danach. Ich selber habe es in meinem neuen Buch ISIDORS BRIEFE – Über die Korrespondenz eines Juden aus Euskirchen getan.
Wie aber korrespondieren jüdische Verfolgte, deren Familien im Holocaust beinahe völlig ausgerottet wurden, Jahrzehnte später? Fred Voss beantwortet im Jahre 1998 seinem Enkel die Frage, wie seiner Meinung nach in Zukunft der Opfer des Holocaust gedacht werden sollte. Der junge Mann erhielt folgenden Brief in seiner amerikanischen Heimatsprache:
Nov. 9th, 1998
My dear Grandson,
The upsurdity of hate. Last week you asked me a question. Your question was how do I think how the Holocaust will be remembered by future generations, after we survivors, your grandmother and I, are no longer on this earth, and our eyewitness stories, especially the one about Kristallnacht, can no longer be heard.
I have thought about your question and that leads me to write this letter to you.
One day, a student will read a history book, or he / she will enter the Holocaust Museum in Washington and wonder: was it all true?
Anyhow, the student, will wander through the exhibits at the museum and will ask himself, were the victims that hopeless, that lonely, that abandoned, and rejected by most countries in this world?
How was it possible for an entire people, the Jewish people, to be chosen, to be singled out for humiliation and destruction?
I imagine the young student like yourself today, sitting in a classroom, or visiting the Holocaust Museum, of which your grandparents are charter members. How will exhibits, the history books, the works of Elie Wiesel or the story of Anne Frank effect that young student? The student may be moved by curiosity and do some research on its own. He or she may go to a library, which I hope will have volumes of books on the Holocaust, where the student can sit down and read and hopefully understand.
So what will the young student discover? He will discover, that while the killer killed, and his victims perished, this beautiful land of ours enjoyed serenity. The student will discover that while six million Jews and untold millions of Christians were slaughtered, millions of other people at the same time enjoyed life at the fullest. The hotels must have been full, the beaches crowded, the entertainment in hotels and night clubs were probable as good or as bad as ever.
The student must wonder, how come? Didn’t people know? Didn’t people care? The answer is to both, -- yes. Most newspapers reported the events, and yet somehow, it made no difference.
Will the facts that it happened as the history books will tell make a difference? I really hope so, because if the student doesn’t learn from history, how can he ever learn how to prevent another tragedy again?
I hope that future generations as they will look at the pictures of the emaciated dead bodies lying in the streets, naked mothers shielding their little babies, as a group of SS men enjoying themselves while they are tormenting an old man, with a long white beard, like my own grandfather, -- may he rest in peace.
Hopefully people will look at those pictures which have been preserved and people will realize that there existed a suffering that was beyond suffering. During that era, these poor people used to say “It cannot get much worse“. How wrong and how naive they were! The killer had a much greater imagination than their victims. What was worse than wearing the yellow star - the ghettos. What was worse than the ghettos - the train ride in the cattle cars? What was worse than the cattle car - the camps?
What was worse than life at Auschwitz and Treblinka, in Dachau or in Buchenwald, in Sobibor or in Ravensbrück, in Theresienstadt or in Bergen Belsen, in Lodz or in Vilna -- death at these camps.
There they had reached the limits and there they would say not to look any further. Do not look at what was going on inside. What was going on inside the gas chambers ought to be a privileged affair, those men, women and children ought not to be shown, not even their skeletons.
They would tell us, what went on inside the gas chambers will remain things you will never, ever, know. You can never imagine or will ever understand, except if you were there, in the gas chamber with us.
There are things that we still cannot understand in 1998 and I am not referring to the past alone. Can anyone explain the anti - Semitism of today?
Can anyone explain why in both the American and international press, the volunteers from the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, were not credited for being the very first ones at the scene, digging for survivors in the collapsed American Embassy in Nairobi, was that by any chance just an oversight?
Can anyone explain the tragedies in Africa and the murders in Bosina and in Rwanda. The repression in China, the bloodletting in the Sudan, and death tolls in Ireland, and in so many other places in the world, which are still occurring in 1998?
Can anyone explain that there are people toady, in 1998, who deny these tragedies, where one must ask do they get the money to publish their books and their arrogance to voice their perverse ideas ?
The Holocaust has become cheapened, commercialized and vulgarized. To many people the word “ Holocaust “ does no longer mean anything.
Not to remember means to feel compassion for the victims of all persecutions, it means for a Jew to claim a kinship with oppressed people everywhere in the world. It means that all decent people everywhere should and must oppose any more hatred in the world, any more anti-Semitism, which might lead to isolate the Jewish people.
Elie Wiesel has said “ We must always remember that while every Jew became a victim of the Holocaust, not all victims of the Holocaust were Jews “
The student will learn that the Holocaust could have been avoided, if the world’s leader had only spoken up with courage and outrage. Had the churches demonstrated greater measures of compassion? Had President Roosevelt and Churchill only agreed to bomb the railways leading to Auschwitz, Birkenau and other death camps only ones and destroyed them. Had the world shown only the heroic Warsaw ghetto fighters, who kept the Nazi army longer at bay than the French and British army did at Cherbourg?
The student will read Elie Wiesel book “ NIGHT “ or the story of Anne Frank, he will read her famous quote - when she wrote that she still believed that “ all men are good at heart“. My question is, would she have known the truth about Eichman, Himmler and thousands who masterminded the death factories, that they were good at heart? When Anne Frank wrote those words in her diary, she was still young and still believed in mankind, but that was before she entered Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen. Would she have written the same words afterwards, had she survived?
Elie Wiesel wrote “ We Jews believe in God, but we also believe in humanity, in spite of what humanity has done to us “
We, the survivors, are obsessed with the Holocaust. I am personally obsessed with the names of the victims, like your great grandfather, your mother’s father, Ignatz Machauf and your great uncle, your mother’s brother, Kurt Machauf, who was only twelve years old when he was arrested by the Gestapo and sent the Lodz concentration camp and from there to another camp in Chelmo, Poland, where he was murdered.
All the names, from the very young to the very old. Sixty-seven members of both your grandmothers immediate family and my immediate family. They included Oma's 4- year-old little cousin, and an 81-year old sister of my grandfather whom they took away from a home for the aged, and sent her to a Concentration Camp in the Chechoslowakia , called Theresienstadt, were she was killed two days after she arrived, because the Nazis had no use for her.
Our enemy tried to dehumanize us, the victims, but by doing what they did, they only dehumanized themselves.
The entrance sign at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC reads “For the dead and for the living we must bear witness”. These were the words Elie Wiesel spoke as he opened the museum n April 22, 1993. It was the day that America remembered those who had perished at the hands of the murders and honored those brave American soldiers who participated in the liberation of the death camps.
At eight o’clock in the morning of the previous day, on April 21, 1993, under a raining sky, the United States, Holocaust Memorial Council, met at the Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington VA to remember the soldiers of not only the United States of America, who together with those of the former Soviet Union, the military forces of Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain, France and the Jewish Brigade, which was a part of the British army, who all together liberated the over 1000 death camps in Europe. Both your grandmother and I were there, we were invited by the Museum to participated at the opening ceremony.
Historians have established that November ninth in 1938, sixty years ago this week was the start of the final solution not only in Germany and in Austria but for Jews all over Europe. The Nazi tortures were stronger than their victims.
We will always remember, even if we live as long as God lives, that infamous night when we cried out for help and the world kept quiet, We will always remember all the destruction during that night the temples burning, the people who were killed merciless, the pious and the none believers, the old and the young, the wealthy and the poor.
Tragically, we the survivors believed our friends assurances more, than we believed our enemies threats to kill us. Nights were spent waiting for dawn, days were spent waiting for dusk. We sat and stood behind our darkened windows, we were in mortal fear and terror. We got used to everything, we believed that a miracle would happen.
There are those who could not have cared less that it happened and then there are those who deny that the Holocaust ever happened.
I wish that the deniers were right, but for the dead and the survivors we must for ever bear witness.
Some time ago, I read a poem, the author is unknown to me, but it summons up my letter to you and answers your question.
And when our witness generation comes to an end
When the time comes for us to round the last bend;
We will know in our hearts, with our final sigh
Those beloved six million of us never, ever will die
They reside with you, our children, and your children too
They will reside in the hearts of every decent human too
and in the heart of the last living Jew.
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