Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Our First Hosted Seder -– in Germany in 1971

Now that I have a moment to rest after cleaning, preparing and cooking for Pesach, I’m looking at the same April 11, 1971, letter I quoted in my last post.

The first seder of that year -- April 9, 1971 -- my husband and I were at the Jewish chaplain’s quarters. The second seder I hosted the other Jewish couple in my husband’s unit and a Jewish bachelor who I remember to this day.

Henry Einstein (yes, all the Einsteins from that part of Germany were related) had gotten out of 1930s Germany in time by being sent to relatives in New York. His father had died in Auschwitz and his mother had somehow survived by claiming French citizenship. (This had something to do with to being born in the Alsace-Lorraine area during one of its periods as French-owned rather than German-owned.)

Henry had enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II and had served at the Nuremberg Trials for Nazi war criminals as a court clerk working with Robert M.W. Kempner. Herr Kempner was an anti-Nazi official in the Prussian Ministry of the Interior who had been fired from his job early in the Nazi reign. He and his wife fled to the United States after this dismissal, and he later served as a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials. Kempner’s son Lucian was my husband’s civilian boss in Munich.

Henry didn’t leave Germany after the Nuremberg Trials were over. He stayed in Germany working as a civilian for the U.S. Army, as did many other German Jews who had gotten out of Germany in time and then returned with the U.S. Army.

Here are parts of my April 11, 1971, letter home:

“We sang a lot of songs as Henry knows them from his childhood here in Germany. The army provided kosher chickens and wine to the Jewish chaplains to pass out for people having seders… We had soup and gefitle fish provided by the Jewish Welfare Board, egg barley I ordered from the U.S., plus honied sweet potatoes and salad. .. I made charoset from a recipe in one of my Jewish books. Mitch unshelled the walnuts with his hammer.”

I had just turned 23 when Mitch and I hosted our first seder – a long time ago. And each Pesach since then I have truly enjoyed our kosher seders no matter how much work leads up to them.

This year, though, I owe a thank you to The Wall Street Journal for solving a mystery. My husband went to numerous stores in Los Angeles and none had pareve kosher for Passover stick margarine. The Journal’s Friday front-page story explained the mystery under the headline “What's Different This Passover? No Margarine.” Indeed, this year there was a shortage of pareve kosher for Passover stick margarine.

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