In November 2018 my brother Stephen and I (Tim) were kindly invited by Tobias Schneider, head of the Dachau department of culture, heritage and tourism (Kulturamt) on behalf of the town of Dachau. The purpose was to take part in the 80th anniversary of the date when the Nazis threw out twelve Dachau families from their houses in the cause of emptying the town of its Jewish population, including our mother’s family – Hans, Vera, Ruth and Raimund Neumeyer – who were Lutherans but deemed Jewish by Nazi law because of their parentage.
It was an extraordinary event. The first time we had been able to publicly state in Dachau the effects on our family of the Nazis’ actions.
Tim and Stephen Locke standing by the plaque commemorating the Jewish families ordered out of the town of Dachau on the night of 8-9 November 1938, the night before the nationwide Reichspogromnacht (Kristallnacht) in which Jewish people and their properties were widely attacked by Nazis and their followers.
Kristallnacht came a day early in Dachau
November 8 1938: a date notorious in the town of Dachau. This was a day before the pogroms across Germany in which Jews were widely attacked, beaten up and had their homes and possessions destroyed in the so-called Kristallnacht (‘night of broken glass’, also known as Reichspogromnacht). Dachau didn’t have a pogrom as such but on November 8 the Nazi authorities there ordered the twelve Dachau households deemed to be Jewish to leave their houses by sunrise or else go to prison. The next day it was announced that ‘Dachau is somit judenfrei’ – ‘Dachau is hereby free of Jews’.
My mother’s family, the Neumeyers, left their beautiful house at Hindenburg Strasse 10 (now renamed Hermann Stockmann Strasse), never to stay there again. They packed up suitcases and left everything else in the house, then walked to their vicar’s residence. He told them he couldn’t do anything for them so they walked on to the station and went to Munich, where they managed to stay in a loft of an acquaintance.
Their lodger, a Jewish accountant called Julius Kohn, was less fortunate. He had nowhere to go, so in what must have been freezing conditions he went to the police and asked for somewhere to stay. They took him to Dachau’s concentration camp, where he stayed for some time before being released. He later moved to Munich, where the Jews were kept under surveillance, with many rounded up for deportation in 1942. He perished in Auschwitz.
The Neumeyer house revisited
To mark the eightieth anniversary of this dark hour in Dachau’s history, the town of Dachau invited my brother Stephen and me to speak at the town hall and at a school.
Where we stayed could have hardly been more appropriate: we arrived at night time, and had a wonderful welcome from Jürgen and Ingeborg Müller-Hohagen who put us up in their house in Dachau. It is actually next door to the old Neumeyer house – both originated as houses forming part of an artists’ colony at the turn of the 20th century. Outside the Neumeyer house there was candle wax on the Stolpersteine (the brass plaques commemorating the deaths of the Neumeyers and Julius Kohn): the remnants of a moment’s commemoration by an unknown passer-by.
The three Stolpersteine outside the Neumeyers’ house, just after cleaning ceremony had removed the corrosion of many years as well as the melted wax from a candle placed there a few days before.
Houses built for the artists’ colony in Dachau in Hermann Stockmann Strasse – in the main image is Ingeborg and Jürgen’s black and white house adjacent to the Neumeyer house.
Jürgen and Ingeborg had met my mother Ruth and my brother Nic at a ceremony in 2005 to install these Stolpersteine and spent an evening together – a time all of them talked about for long afterwards. By a remarkable coincidence Jürgen’s work as a psychoanalyst includes a specialism on the effect of the Holocaust on families, including second generation members.
On waking in Dachau each morning, I looked out over the Neumeyer house from the room I shared with Anne. Stephen and Andrew were in the other room. It was the first time any family member had slept in that street – Hermann Stockmannstrasse – since Kristallnacht.
Ruth Locke (Ruth Neumeyer) outside the family house, Hermann Stockmannstrasse 10, Dachau, in 2005 during the installation of commemorative Stolpersteine.
(top) Tim and Stephen outside the Neumeyer house; (below) inside the hall, with owner Frau Theda Schwarz presenting us with a throw woven with an image of the house.
On our guided walkabout with Claudia Buchfelder into the old town, it struck us, superficially at least, how little the old town had changed physically: the Schloss and its garden with its view of the Alps that must have held a special place in Ruth’s affections, the twisting, cobbled streets, the onion-domed Jakobskirche, the Klosterschule Ruth had attended, the old inns. A look into the Dachau art gallery, rather tucked away above a savings bank, revealed a wealth of paintings from the celebrated artists’ colony – mostly impressionistic landscapes of enough quality here surely for a touring international exhibition. During the 1960s to 1980s the town authorities made a point of collecting such art and saw it as a way of distancing the town from the notorious concentration camp. But nowadays things have turned round; they have a very open-minded SPD mayor, Florian Hartmann (the youngest mayor ever elected in Germany). During the last three decades, the town of Dachau has increasingly acknowledged this most uncomfortable episode of its history.
Inside the Gemäldegalerie Dachau (Dachau Picture Gallery): the marshlands below Dachau had special light qualities that attracted numerous artists to paint there during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
And very strangely it transpires that Hermann Stockmann, after whom the Neumeyer’s street was renamed from Hindenburg Strasse, assisted (or was made to assist) the Nazi authorities in assessing the artworks from confiscated Jewish homes. He died in 1939.
It was effectively a revisit: our mother had come for the first such commemoration in 1988, when she insisted on a memorial plaque to the displaced families being erected in the town hall, as well as the chance for her to speak at a local school.
Two talks: at the Rathaus (town hall) and the Ignaz-Taschner-Gymnasium
For Stephen and me, it was our very first chance to give such a public memorial to our maternal grandparents in the very town where they had lived and where they were thrown out.
The town hall was packed to standing with well over a hundred people (the press estimated 250, but we couldn’t see all the audience from where we were speaking). Some had travelled from Munich and beyond. There was Andreas Holz, who had met my parents at the 1988 commemoration and stayed in touch; and Stefan Kellner – a second cousin, whom I had last seen when we were both teenagers – remarkably Stefan works in the field of historical research into the owners of books looted by Nazis, and we are very keen to meet him again – his mother, Karin, is my mother’s cousin and the niece of Hans Neumeyer. Klaus Schulz, the deacon at the KZ memorial KZ Protestant Chapel of Reconciliation (in the former concentration camp in Dachau) told us that in 2005 it had been him together with Andreas Neukamm from the Catholic Dachauer Forum to initiate the installation of the Stolpersteine. We also chatted to Bruno Schachtner, who had designed the publication printed for the 1988 Kristallnacht commemoration, and has been involved in similar projects, including the Förderverein für die Int. Jugendbegegnungstätte Dachau (Association for International Youth Exchange and Memorial Work in Dachau): he was born in Dachau in 1941 and had trained as a designer abroad. On returning he was devastated to learn that his father had been an SS officer. In a letter to us after our visit he mentioned the pain he felt about what had happened to our family.
Before Stephen and I began, children played music by Hans Neumeyer – first was an orchestration of his Christmas song written for Raymond in 1939 but never before performed: I found it in the family piano stool when clearing the house after Ruth’s death in 2012. It was ably performed by an orchestra of pupils from the Ignaz-Taschner-Gymnasium led by Jutta Wörther. The mayor (Oberbürgermeister) Florian Hartmann spoke about the Kristallnacht in Dachau and how it affected the Neumeyers. We heard from Ingeborg and Jürgen, who spoke of how they had met Ruth and Nic and read from the letter she had sent afterwards, calling them her ‘neugewonnene Freunde’ and describing the experience of being with them in their house as opening a kind of side door to the past and letting a sunbeam in. The speeches were interspersed with Hans Neumeyer’s little recorder pieces written for Ruth and her friend Jane, and played this time on violins.
Our talk was a mix of languages – Stephen covering some of it in German, myself talking in English, and we’d translated all the Powerpoint slides into German. We talked about growing up in south London, in a house full of German things, but the story of what had happened to our mother only came out gradually – we moved on to the events in Dachau and the Neumeyers dwindling fortunes in the 1930s, the children’s escape by Kindertransport and the deaths of the parents; and the new life that the children had in England, as well as Raymond’s return to Germany with the British army towards the end of the war and after. I added some words of gratitude that Dachau town had remembered our family in many ways, including the Stolpersteine, the memorial outside the town hall – where there was a formal ceremony after the talk – and the naming of streets after Julius Kohn and the Neumeyers.
Ceremony after the talk, with a wreath laid beneath the memorial to the Jewish families expelled from Dachau. It was this memorial that Ruth insisted in 1988 that the town should install – it was a condition of her attending the 50th anniversary of the event. In recent years it has been moved to a prominent position right by the entrance to the Town Hall.
After the talk we met for the very first time Hans Holzhaider – the journalist from the Süddeutsche Zeitung who had written the book Vor Sonnenaufgang about the Jewish families thrown out of Dachau in 1938. He has recently retired after 40 years in journalism, and said to us after our talk that this story was to him the most important one he’d ever written – ‘because it made a difference’.
The following day we gave a similar talk, but with more emphasis on the circumstances surrounding our mother and uncle’s fortunes before and after the Kindertransport, at the Ignaz-Taschner-Gymnasium in Dachau. A classroom packed with about 60 students aged around 15-16 were extremely attentive and interested. They asked a wide range of questions:
- did Ruth talk to you in German?
- did she talk about her parents?
- did they own their house?
- where did Vera learn her English?
- what happened to your father?
- did they have a connection to the Jewish community?
Afterwards we proceeded with most of the students to the Dachauer Forum, a Catholic-run adult education centre which had a programme of researching biographies of mainly camp inmates, but also Hans and Vera. There, Sabine Gerhardus got Stephen and me to sign the interpretative panel about the Neumeyers’ story. The group continued on a walk around town in ceremonies polishing the Stolpersteine outside the Neumeyers’ house and houses of three other families caught up in the Holocaust.
Two pupils from the school cleaning the Stolpersteine outside the Neumeyers’ house. The ceremony also visited the houses of the Wallachs and the Jaffes – who were close neighbours. The Wallachs owned an adjacent weaving and fabric printing factory. Their son, Franz, escaped to England on the Kindertransport and changed his name to Frank Wallace – he later be came a professor at the University of Bath.
Three night-time postludes
After the talk, during an official inivitation to a restaurant together with others involved with the ceremony, we met Björn Mensing, the Lutheran pastor (Pfarrer and Kirchenrat) at the KZ Protestant Chapel of Reconciliation (Evangelische Versöhnungskirche) in the Dachau Concentration Camp memorial. Afterwards he showed us the church where Ruth was confirmed. It turned out to be quite an unexpected coda to the evening: more about that in a future post.
The following evening we paid a visit to Neumeyer Weg. It’s an area of public housing, near to Julius Kohn Weg (Julius has a bus stop named after him, too). The history on the street sign is well-meant but incorrect – saying Vera died at Majdanek and Hans at Auschwitz (Vera died either at Majdanek or Auschwitz; Hans died at Theresienstadt):
And finally a concert in commemoration of Kristallnacht at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater (University of Music and Performing Arts) in Munich, with pieces by composers who perished in Theresienstadt (Pavel Haas, Gideon Klein and Victor Ullmann), a reading by a well-known actor of his memories of the Reichspogromnacht as a child, and a film about music in Theresienstadt with Anne Sofie von Otter and Alice Herz-Sommer among others. Von Otter’s father had been a Swedish diplomat in Berlin during the war – a stranger on a train told him what was going on in the east and he reported it to his superiors, but always felt guilty he had not taken it further.
The university occupies a building constructed by the Nazis and used for functions and meetings; it was here on 30 September 1938, Adolf Hitler, Neville Chamberlain, Benito Mussolini and Édouard Daladier signed the Munich Agreement. The concert hall post-dates the Nazi era. It felt fitting to have such an event as a complete negation of what the building had stood for and what the Nazis would have wanted remembered.
The ceremony and talk
Online report Münchner Merkur
Online report: Süddeutsche Zeitung
pdf version: Süddeutsche Zeitung
Looting of the Jewish families’ houses by Nazis in Dachau
Online report: Süddeutsche Zeitung
pdf version: Süddeutsche Zeitung
Stolpersteine polishing ceremony
Online report: Süddeutsche Zeitung
pdf version: Süddeutsche Zeitung
The film of the event
A video of the commemoration at Dachau town hall, where schoolchildren played music by Hans Neumeyer is on youtube.
The whole film runs to 85 minutes, so here are the various sections with timings:
- Start: orchestrated version of Christmas song by Hans Neumeyer (first performance; this is a piece I found in a piano stool at our family home)
- 2’26” introduction from, Florian Hartmann, Mayor of Dachau, followed by children playing ‘Kinderlied’, a ‘canon in der Prima’ (originally a recorder duet composed by Hans and sent to Ruth in England for her to play with her friend)
- 13’01 Jürgen and Ingeborg Müller-Hohagen (with whom we stayed in Dachau; Jürgen is a psychologist specialising in the effects of the Holocaust on subsequent generations), followed by the second ‘Kinderlied’ – a ‘cuckoo duet’.
- 21’29”, ending at 1’13’50” The presentation by Stephen and Tim Locke, followed by slow movement of Hans Neumeyer’s DBSG duo for violin and viola (1940).
- 1’17’18” Ceremony with laying of wreath by memorial to Jewish families evicted from Dachau on Kristallnacht
- 1’20’44” Handshake with Florian Hartmann, and me talking to the journalist Hans Holzhaider – the first time I’d met Hans
Flashback to 2005
And that previous visit of 2005: it was reported in the local press, and summed up by my brother Nic at Ruth’s funeral seven years later:
I was amazed and delighted when Ruth invited me to accompany her to Dachau for the installation of memorial stones (Stolpersteine) in front of the house she had grown up in.
So we went, travelling in the reverse of her journey in 1939: train from London, cross-channel boat, a long train ride to Munich. In the couchette in the middle of the night on the last leg, I also witnessed her travel back to being 15 years old. She snuck chocolate to a child, pooh-poohing the disapproval of its mother, hummed nervously as she stared out at the shadows of the countryside. At one point I looked over at my 82-year-old mother on the opposite bottom bunk doing a headstand, with her feet jammed against the underside of the bed above.
Once there she faced a barrage of TV cameras, journalists, ceremonies, Mayoral lunches and photo ops. Platitudes were dismissed, glad-handing ignored – all bland and maudlin questions about the past were quietly and firmly deflected by her own fervent hopes for the future.
Ruth had one main aim while she was there, to engage with young minds. She insisted upon going to a high school to talk and listen, and it was there she struck an immediate rapport with three girls the same age as she had been when she had left Dachau and her parents for ever. Thereafter the three girls turned up everywhere we went, entranced and befriended by Ruth.
On the day of our departure the trio escorted us to the station. As I walked behind the girls and Ruth, watching them chatting and smiling, I realised that there was complete parity between the four of them, and that for Ruth, what she had distilled from the trauma of her past was the redemption to be found in new growth and nurture.
Newspaper article from 2005 about the installation of the Stolpersteine outside the Neumeyer house: Nic Locke (left), the journalist Hans Holzhaider and Ruth Locke
Our sincere thanks to Jürgen and Ingeborg Müller-Hohagen, Tobias Schneider, Florian Hartmann, Theda Schwarz, Sabine Gerhardus, Hedwig Bäuml, Claudia Buchfelder, Jutta Wörther,Tanja Jörgensen-Leuthner, Björn Mensing, Bruno Schachtner, Brigitte Fiedler and the town of Dachau for hosting us on this memorable visit. We had a supremely warm welcome from everybody.