New Day Herald

Speyer – On the Way to the Traveler Events in London

I told you earlier about the history of my mother’s side of the family; their escape from Nazi Germany; my grandfather’s suicide in 1939; the recent discovery of a rare violin that was traced to him; and the MSIA France trip I was on in 2015 that unexpectedly included Gurs concentration camp where my grandmother had been incarcerated, jump-starting the process of our family getting restitution for the violin, which had seemed hopeless before then. Totally unexpectedly this trip eight years later added another chapter to the story.

I hadn’t been planning to go to the London events and had booked an early morning train from Strasbourg to Paris airport, and a flight from Paris to LA. But in Strasbourg I decided to go to London after all, so I got a later flight from Paris to London and cancelled my train from Strasbourg to Paris airport. I figured I could just get a later train to the airport…but when I went online the prices were astronomical and I was judging myself for carelessly cancelling the train ticket before I had all the information. It seemed like a several-hundred-dollar mistake.

But I found out that John and Leigh and a couple of others were flying out of Frankfurt and driving there that morning with Arno, our native German minister/history guru/candidate-for-sainthood, and had room in their van. So I cancelled the Paris flight and got a flight from Frankfurt to London, and hitched a ride with the crew.

Then I discovered that the route to Frankfurt would include Speyer, the town on the Rhine where my mother and my grandparents lived, in apartments above their music store, before the Nazis scattered them far and wide. Arno showed me around and we found the building where they lived, commemorated by metal plaques installed in the cobblestones listing their names, dates of birth, how they escaped, and where they went. I’ve included a video showing the plaques and the surrounding buildings.

After the mistakes that turned into blessings that I experienced in Assisi, is the series of mishaps that led me to Speyer really any surprise? Is grace just a gentle ride into perfection or does it require mistakes, like a kind of fuel, in order to function? And if the mistakes are a necessary part of the process, how does Spirit get a smart guy like me to make these stupid mistakes with such ease, in order to nudge me to where I need to be? (Don’t answer the last one.)

It was a bright, sunny summer afternoon in Speyer and the area that was the location of so many horror stories that I heard from my family is now a plaza and pedestrian mall full of shops, gelato places, restaurants and cafes. It’s a place of fun in the sun. I could feel the grief-stricken black-and-white imagery of the Nazi period that I picked up from my family’s stories melt away, replaced by color images of enjoyment. I felt lighter, like a section of my unconscious had been cleansed. Arno and I celebrated with a dessert made from half a pineapple topped with ice creams and whipped cream in a cafe just a few steps away from the site of the music store. (By the way, this cafe, the closest one to the location of my family’s painful ordeal, is called Cafe Roma, named after my favorite city, the city that to me has perfected the pursuit of pleasure, and whose glory I was bathing in just a few days earlier.)

When I returned to my Airbnb I realized that I happened to book a room just a few minutes on foot from where the music store was. I didn’t realize at the time I made the reservation it that it was in an area that was probably walked often by my mother, aunt, grandparents and great grandparents.

I asked Arno how many people in Speyer would know of my family’s history and the violin, and he thought it would be very few, even though the story got a fair amount of publicity and I was on a national German news show. After he left I walked around town watching people stepping over the metal plaques in the sidewalk with my family’s names on them, or eating and drinking in the cafes and bars, enjoying the summer day. I had a wide range of feelings and thoughts running through me. Is the process that transformed my mistakes into the small miracles of perfect timing that led me to Speyer the same process that applies to the bigger sins of war and catastrophe? Can tragedy just disappear like spilled beer evaporating from the hot cobblestones of the plaza? Should it? When something is forgotten where does it go?

I went back to the same cafe the next morning and had cheesecake for breakfast, just like in Israel. My grandmother’s story of chewing grass in the concentration camp just to have the feeling of something between her teeth came to mind, and I transformed it into gratitude for the human/divine/childlike ability to forgive, to forget, and to create abundance in the aftermath of misery.

View Video by David Sand


2 thoughts on “Speyer – On the Way to the Traveler Events in London”

  1. Barbara Schwarck

    Thank you David for sharing this deeply moving story. I am grateful to you for your brilliant writing. Love. Barbara

  2. Dear David, your story brought tears to my eyes. You captured the beauty, expansiveness and joy of ancestral healing. Thank you for narrating a very human yet awe inspiring journey. Love to you, Anne

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