Monday, 27 January 2014

The Mysterious Tale of the Travelling Tombstone

The Jewish museum in Hamburg has had for many years in its collection half the grave stone of a prominent eighteenth-century Rabbi, who had been buried in the Jewish cemetery in the centre of the city. No prizes for guessing how the stone got broken, but what happened to the other half? Surely even the most enthusiastically anti-Semitic  Nazi wouldn’t carry off half a gravestone as a trophy? The other half finally turned up only a few years ago, miles away in the sand and mud at the mouth of the River Elbe. Mysteriouser and Mysteriouser.

What had happened was that after the Second World War, during which Hamburg had been pretty much flattened by allied bombing, the vast amounts of rubble was taken out there to strengthen the sea defences. Sea erosion, aided by a quite recent hurricane, has turned up all sorts of interesting and disturbing things, including even gas-powered street-light standards, that had once been in Hamburg and are now in the Elbe estuary mud.

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