Thuringia, Germany – The longtime leader of Germany’s Thuringian Jewish community was laid to rest on Wednesday in the state’s capital city of Erfurt, with high ranking officials and religious leaders among the 200 mourners who turned out to pay their respects.
Wolfgang Nossen died at the age of 88 on Saturday after a long illness, reported Der Ostthüringer Zeitung (http://bit.ly/2SeWwJ9). Among those who came to bid a final farewell to Nossen were Thuringian Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow, bishops Ilse Junkermann and Ulrich Neymeyr, and local and state political leaders. He was recalled by the community’s spiritual leader Rabbi Alexander Nachama as someone who spent his entire life fighting for Jewish rights and supporting the State of Israel. In his remarks, Bishop Ramelow remembered the Holocaust survivor for galvanizing the city of Erfurt when its synagogue was reportedly being targeted by arsonists, calling on citizens of all religions to stand together in the face of hatred.
Nossen was born in Breslau and spent much of World War II in a ghetto, landing in Erfurt after the war when his mother fell ill while the family was attempting to emigrate to Uruguay. According to MDR Zeit Reise (http://bit.ly/2SfwgOW), only 15 members of Erfurt’s Jewish community had survived the war, but numerous others from Breslau settled in the city and Nossen remained there until 1948 when he decided that as a Jew, he belonged in a Jewish state, making his way to Israel.
Over the years Nossen ultimately made several transitions between Israel and Germany, settling permanently in Erfurt in 1977 and, having been divorced from his first wife, marrying his childhood sweetheart.
He was elected chairman of Thuringia’s Jewish community in 1995, taking on the responsibilities of welcoming Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union and ensuring that they became part of the fabric of the community. Through his efforts, Thuringia’s Jewish population has grown to number approximately 800 and Nossen spoke out strongly against extremism and anti-Semitism, urging others to take concrete actions to sustain the local Jewish community.
Nosson was known for wearing a lapel pin that bore the flags of the two countries he called home: Germany and Israel. He was succeeded in 2012 by Reinhard Schramm, who lauded his predecessor for his years of service, reported Jüdische Allgemeine (http://bit.ly/2SgApSu).
“He was not just driving the development of the Jewish community,” observed Schramm. “He has also actively defended himself against the growing anti-Semitism in any form and has roused the population to actively fight against anti-Semitism.”
Nossen’s death leaves a painful void said Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
“He belonged to the generation that suffered immensely in the Holocaust, yet after the war contributed with stubborn will to renew Jewish life,” said Schuster, who credited Nossen with the rejuvenation of Judaismw in the region.
Those thoughts were echoed by Prime Minster Ramelow who remarked, “Thuringia owes a great deal to him.”