Whirlwind tour of Jewish Frankfurt opens my eyes to personal growth


Frankfurt’s Holocaust Memorial commemorates more than 11,000 city residents who died during the Holocaust. (Alex Weisler)

It seems odd to write a blog post about Frankfurt, given that I spent less than two hours in Germany’s fifth-largest city — but the city is charming enough to merit one.

Faced with a five-hour layover en route from Budapest to Reykjavik and armed with the knowledge that it only takes about 15 minutes to travel from the Frankfurt airport to the city center by train, I decided to pop in.

I wandered along the Main river, gaped at the city’s futuristic skyline (hey, l miss New York) and visited a handful of shops and churches.

But the real highlight for me was definitely the city’s Holocaust Memorial — a stark white wall located just next to Frankfurt’s Jewish museum and surrounding its medieval cemetery.
Lining the wall, printed on small metal blocks with engraved biographical information, are the names of the more than 11,000 Frankfurt Jews who died during the Holocaust.

On the areas of the wall surrounded by black gravel, each name has several stones places on top of it — one of the Jewish rituals for mourning.

It’s simple and subtle, and you probably wouldn’t give the wall a second look if you didn’t know its context.

But it’s beautiful and I’m glad I went, said the Shema, likely mangled what I could remember of the Mourner’s Kaddish and paid my respects.

Before I started this gig, I wasn’t the kind of traveler who’d always seek out Jewish sites — Holocaust memorials and Jewish museums interested me, but they weren’t my guaranteed focus.

Now, they’re the first things I visit, my way of getting to know a city and its culture. As Frankfurt proved, that’s opening my eyes to some hidden and powerful things.

I haven’t suddenly started keeping kosher, and I haven’t begun wearing a yarmulke, but this trip is changing me — and I’m grateful.

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