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Shards of Memories

Shards of Memories


Thaxted. It was part of my mother’s history. The part that I knew about.

The Holocaust was never spoken of in our home. It was only many years later that I discovered that my mother, of blessed memory, had arrived in England from Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport: trainloads of children whisked out of the flames of Europe before the gates slammed shut.

But I do remember my mother talking about Thaxted. Thaxted was a farm in Essex, England, purchased by Bachad, a religious Zionist youth movement that was the forerunner of today’s Bnei Akiva. On the farm, Bachad prepared young people to go to the newly established State of Israel and set up a religious kibbutz.

The Holocaust was never spoken of in our home.

Many of the children from the Kindertransport found a home in Thaxted, where they readied themselves—socially, religiously and agriculturally—for a new life. Their common goal and shared determination must have helped in some way to numb their pain, and their time on the farm was very successful. The farm even won an award for the highest-yielding dairy cow in all of Essex.

My mother was not destined to settle the Jewish homeland; thank G‑d, her parents managed to escape the European inferno, and they set up a home in London. But her friends from Thaxted went on to found Kibbutz Lavi, a religious kibbutz in the hills above Tiberias.

(As an interesting aside, Kibbutz Lavi was the first kibbutz to reject the idea of a children’s house. The founding members, who keenly felt the loss of their parents, were determined to keep close ties with their own children. All children in Lavi slept at home with their parents from the very start.)

Thaxted Farm and its memories drifted into the annals of history . . . until the summer of 2012.

The English countryside is at its most inviting in the warm summer months, and young hikers can be seen crisscrossing the hills and valleys.

A group of Bnei Akiva graduates were on a trip in Essex exploring their historical roots in Thaxted, the site of their predecessors original training farm. The small town has changed very little over the centuries, with a small population hovering around 2,000 since the 1800s.

They visited the farms where Kibbutz Lavi's founders had learned to farm the land. They were astonished when one of the farmers told them he had something he wanted to show them, and produced a piece of pottery he had found some time ago in the field.

The most startling thing about the shard was the swastika which formed part of the design.

The most startling thing about the shard was the swastika which formed part of the design. The sight of the shard brought up images of the past: Nazi Germany; the Kindertransport; young, bereft refugees trying to prepare for a new life and future.

The farmer did not want to part with this piece of history but he let the boys photograph the shard, and the story of their discovery quickly spread amongst the Bnei Akiva community, both current and past.

When I heard the story and saw the photo my first reaction was to Google the name of the porcelain company, which was clearly visible on the shard. The company’s website was immediately accessible, including a photograph of the complete item. The one difference was that on the website, the swastika had been deliberately blacked out.

I sent the story and photo to friends in Kibbutz Lavi, although I didn’t have high expectations for a response. Any surviving founding members of the kibbutz who were at Thaxted would be in their 80s or 90s now, and had probably never seen this porcelain, or wouldn’t be able to remember it.

I was unprepared for the flood of memories my e‑mail unleashed.

It appeared that when the teenagers moved to the farm in Thaxted, they needed all the things anyone needs when setting up a new home, including furniture and kitchenware. Evidently, someone sent these orphan refugees a box of tableware for them to use. No one had any idea where it came from, but its contents horrified these young Holocaust refugees. Maybe the benefactor never looked at the design, maybe this person was insensitive, or maybe there was just no choice in wartime and you had to make do with what you could get hold of.

Several people remember feeling so angry at seeing the swastika emblazoned on the tableware that they started smashing the plates, wanting nothing to do with them. It took a survivor of the concentration camps to calm them down. He reminded them that it was almost Passover, when they would need separate utensils, and they had neither kitchenware nor money to buy any alternatives.

As one Lavi member said, “If he could eat off them, having suffered far more horrors at the hands of the swastika wearers than we, the Kindertransport children . . . then who were we to refuse to use them?”

You didn’t argue with a concentration camp survivor regarding his feelings towards the Nazis and their symbols. What was left of the tableware remained—though apparently some teens later smashed the rest of the plates in secret.

And so a shard of my mother’s past resurfaced more than half a century later. I cannot help but reflect that the swastika was broken, but am Yisroel chai, the Nation of Israel lives on.

Ann Goldberg and her family made aliyah from the UK over 30 years ago, and live in Jerusalem. She is a web content and Israel travel writer and writing coach. She runs writing workshops and e-mail courses. For more information, visit her website.
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Francine Glasser March 26, 2013

The shard Thank you for your story, I too had a similar event, I was rummaging through yard sale chatychkes, and found at the bottom of the bag, a nazincoin with the eagle holding the swats tikka in its talons, I am a daughter of a survivor, that lived in England after the horrors, I was initially horrified to find the coin, but tried to make peace with it and know that the symbol only is representational of hatred, but is only a symbol, I don't wish to fear it nor give it anymore power of fear over me. I thank you for opening up this discussion., Reply

Anonymous WERRIBEE March 25, 2013

forgiveness and repentance It is good the teens could rid themselves of their anger without hurting anyone, and sometimes forgiveness needs an emotional outlet such as that to be effective emotionally. Has anyone considered though that perhaps the crockery was donated as a sign of repentance, by someone from the Navy, who had come to realise s/he had been deceived and a terrible wrong had been committed? Sometimes in cases like that people give their richest treasure as a sign of sorrow, then go without even a simple neccessity such as plates to eat from. It is not common, but possible. I heard many stories of shock when people were finally aware of the horrific tragedies, and giving a material item is how some reacted to apologise. May they find and rest in Peace. Reply

cedric muscat belgium March 23, 2013

M & Swastika found shard. Below is info mentioned above about porcelain marks used by Jaeger Eisenberg that you can search on the web for.

Sorry no links allowed.

Chag Sameach to all readers! Reply

Anonymous Cornwall. UK March 22, 2013

Shards of Memory This article brought back memories. I spent a few days at the farm in Thaxted in the summer of 1963 in order to sample kibbutz life. At that time, it was in the hands of HaShomer HaTsa'ir and there was a group of young people training before joining a kibbutz in northern Israel. I think their shiliach was Avik Yaari of Kibbutz Merhaviah. I shared a cottage with a youth group of little boys from Manchester. The night they arrived nobody slept. All night long,up and down drain-pipes, in and out of bedrooms, including mine, they played cops and robbers and cowboys and indians. Next morning, they were roused early and, with packed lunches, went on a long route march with their Israeli youth-leader returning late in the evening footsore and weary. There were no more games that night. I, meanwhile, worked in the hen-house and planted potatoes. Happy Days! Reply

Pnina March 20, 2013

Remnants While the swastika is a thing of the past Kibbutz Lavi is a testimonial to the jewish future. My American dentist practices on Kibbutz Lavi. It's a far drive from Tzfat but its worth it to see the pastoral beauty. Especially fun for my son was seeing all the toddlers wheeled around in a crib on wheels. Made quite a lasting impression. Thanks for the story and the superb writing. Reply

Truth Earth March 20, 2013

The Swastika represents a Demon G-d of Destruction from India, long, long before WWII...This image is, and never will be, a part of German heritage, so long as they are actually a sovereign people. Reply

Anonymous Arizona, USA March 20, 2013

Shards Of Memory Some people do not realize how deep and how long a trauma can crush a life. People who has suffered such traumas might survive, but the painful memory would never be erased from their mind. At one point or another anything could trigger the painful memory. I do not understand why some human beings cannot see that. Even animals who have been traumatized never forget their abuser. I hope for all those who are still alive after all these years find peace in their heart and soul for the suffering they went through. May Hashem, blessed be He, give them comfort and peace. Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn March 18, 2013

"M" stands for "Marine" - the German Navy Hello: Thanks for sharing your story. According to the website "porcelainmarksandmore" dot com, the large "M" from the marking stands for "Marine", indicating that the pieces were made for the German Navy. Chag Kasher v'Sameach Reply

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