While most of us probably think that we need to travel to places like Poland for Holocaust history, it turns out, as we surprisingly learned recently, that we don’t have to go very far at all for such a sombering reminder of that horrific time in history.
You see, just across the water from us, which you can see from our balcony, is the neighborhood Møhlenpris where the Jewish community in Bergen lived up until World War II.
Norway fell to the Germans early in the war in April of 1940. Prior to that about 2,100 Jews were living in Norway and many escaped to Sweden and the UK. In 1942 approximately 700 Jews remained in Norway and in the fall of 1942, all remaining Jews were arrested and sent to Auschwitz.
Each year on November 26th for more than 20 years, the Jewish community in Bergen remembers the Jews that were deported that day by gathering together for a night of remembrance. Hundreds of people go on a candlelight/torchlight procession through the streets of Møhlenpris, stopping outside of each building where the victims last lived. At each house, their names, ages, and their fate (if known) are read.
Several years ago, “snublesteiners” (which literally translate to “stumbling blocks”) were placed outside of some the homes in the Møhlenpris area of Bergen. These are 4×4 concrete cubes with a brass plate inscribed with the name and life dates of victims of Nazi extermination. This morning, I took a walk around the area to photograph them for you. (The engraving on them includes their name, birth year, deportation year, where they were taken, and the date they were killed.) I’ve also included pictures of the outside of their homes, if possible.
The homes for these last two families no longer exist so these blocks have been placed near where they stood. In this last picture you can see a mural, one of the many pieces of wall art that you see walking around Bergen. Until I started researching this, I didn’t know this mural, that I’ve passed by so many times, was linked to the Holocaust.
This wall mural was painted just recently in May. The local newspapers’ caption for their picture of this art, when they ran a story about it, read, “On this house wall meet two Møhlenpris boys. One is dead, the other is alive. Oscar Müller was killed in Auschwitz 73 years ago. Jemil Kaise is an active soccer player. Street artist RC makes them friends across time and history.”
Oscar’s stone is among his mother and sister’s in the last stone picture above. Oscar and his family, with his dad, lived elsewhere in Norway, but after his father was arrested, his mother moved with him and his sister to Bergen, enrolling them in school. It was November 26, 1942, when police showed up at both his and his sister’s school, removing them from their classrooms, never to return. Upon arriving in Auschwitz, Oscar’s mother and sister were immediately sent to the gas chambers. No one knows exactly what happened to Oscar or how exactly he died (only his date of death) but he sadly, like so many others, didn’t survive Auschwitz. For Oscar and his family’s full known story, click here.
For more information about the Becker family, whose home stood at Welhavens Gate 36, click here.
Aside from these blocks and the wall art, there is only one other memorial to the Holocaust victims here. On the side of Vitalitetsenteret, a community center building in Møhlenpris, a memorial has been placed that lists the names of all the known victims.
The translation of the text on top of the mural reads: “During the Second World War, the German Nazi regime launched its cruel plan to eradicate Europe’s Jews. With the help of the Norwegian state police, 771 Jews were arrested in the fall of 1942, and most were sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. A total of 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazi regime.”
The heading at the top, Fordi de var Jøder, translate to “Because they were Jews.”
May we never forget.