Sur­vivor who re­turns each year to the city that sent her to hell

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY NATHAN JEFFAY

IN HER home­town near Haifa, Karla Raveh does not stand out from the crowd. But in Lemgo, Ger­many, she is a celebrity.

Ms Raveh is un­usual among Holo­caust sur­vivors. Ev­ery year she goes back to the Ger­man city from which her fam­ily were de­ported by Nazis, for sev­eral weeks, and has be­come a pop­u­lar speaker and moral author­ity in the area.

The fame of this great-grand­mother is such that, in the very city where she was barred from her stud­ies in 1938 for be­ing Jewish, a school is now named in her honour.

At her fam­ily home, which she left for the hell of There­sien­stadt, Auschwitz, Ber­gen-Belsen and a work camp, there is a mu­seum — and a flat where she stays.

Ms Raveh has been mak­ing long, an­nual vis­its to Lemgo since the 1980s, and is al­ways wel­comed with a string of speak­ing en­gage­ments, meet­ings and peo­ple em­brac­ing her when they see her on the street. In a few weeks she will leave Is­rael for what she sus­pects may be her last trip — but one dur­ing which the res­i­dents will be giv­ing her a large 90th birth­day party. Just be­fore she leaves for Ger­many, she will tell her story for the first time at a pub­lic meet­ing in the Is­raeli town of Kiryat Tivon, where she has lived for al­most 70 years.

Ms Raveh ar­rived in Is­rael in the early days of the state, when sur­vivors tended to keep their sto­ries pri­vate. “When we ar­rived, Is­raelis didn’t want to hear about these things,” she said. “We de­cided, both me and my hus­band, who was in the camps, not to talk about it so our chil­dren wouldn’t hear of the things we went through.”

But in the 1980s it be­came clear to her that Lemgo was des­per­ate to hear her sto­ries. She said: “I re­ceived a let­ter from a teacher in Ger­many ask­ing what hap­pened to all the Jews from the town and say­ing, would I tell the story? I didn’t want to an­swer but my hus­band said that I should.”

She wrote an ac­count, which was pub­lished in Ger­many in 1986, be­ing care­ful to omit the names of Nazis in or­der to shield lo­cals whose fam­i­lies had been per­pe­tra­tors, and her fame grew from there.

Ms Raveh’s story is be­ing spo­ken about in Is­rael now thanks to the ef­forts of Holo­caust re­searcher Li­lach Naish­tat Born­stein, who wrote about her in her book, Their Jew: Right and Wrong in Holo­caust Tes­ti­monies, af­ter trav­el­ling with her to Ger­many. Dr Born­stein said: “In Is­rael there are thou­sands of sur­vivors but in Lemgo she’s the only sur­vivor and also the only Jew. “She’s one of them — she speaks in the lo­cal ac­cent, knows the lo­cal his­tory, and is very con­nected to the place and the peo­ple. And she talks with­out blam­ing and mak­ing peo­ple feel un­com­fort­able, giv­ing them the chance to iden­tify with her tes­ti­mony.”

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