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Sugar Cones and Bittersweet Memories

October 20, 2010

German-Jews in exile, who fled Germany to escape the Holocaust, shared many memories of their childhood. They remembered friends, the language spoken and the foods they ate. They remembered bullying, being cast aside, harassed or worse.

But childhood memories were also filled with warmth, of remembering a first day in school. German school children carry cardboard cones, filled with sweets and little treats, to their first day in school. The so-called Schultüten are a century-old tradition. There’s not a child in Germany, then or now, that has not carried his or her precious load to school.

That old tradition that unites all school children led to the idea to launch a unique remembrance project, initiated by Carolyn Naumann and co-organized by the Anne-Frank-Zentrum and the Humboldt University in Berlin:  “The sugar cone project” — a collection of photographs of  German Jewish schoolchildren just before they fled Nazi Germany into exile and their stories of life before the war. The idea for the project was born while Naumann accompanied German Jewish refugees on their federally funded visit to their hometown, Berlin, where they shared such childhood memories as standing side-by-side with their non-Jewish school friends, all proudly displaying their cones. (In the picture, the brochure of the project, showing Heinz Goldstein on the left with an unknown friend, ca. 1935, in the Jewish Elementary School Fasanenstrasse in Berlin).

The collection of pictures showing six-years-olds and their sugar cones — just before they were deemed unfit to stay (or were sent to their death) — can help school children of today understand the realities of that time, the brutality of daily struggles, when people were clinging to even a sliver of normalcy.

If you have photos of that time, showing Jewish schoolchildren with their sugar cones, or would like to share your story, please contact Carolyn Naumann, who is also searching for teachers that are interested in the project and would like to help.

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