German city moves to bulldoze Holocaust villa

By Toby Axelrod, March 20, 2014
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Activists in the German city of Steinfurt near the Dutch border are protesting against plans to tear down what they call the “last witness to Jewish life in our district”.

At issue is the city’s intention to build a new plaza where Villa Heimann (right) now stands. Protesters say the villa is a memorial to the fate of the Jewish family that lived there and thus should be incorporated into the new project, as had initially been proposed.

The Heimanns were forced to sell their villa after the Kristallnacht pogrom; the parents were murdered in Auschwitz while their children escaped Nazi Germany.

Stumbling Stones Steinfurt, a group dedicated to commemorating the city’s lost Jewish community, has started a petition demanding that the council preserve the villa’s exterior “as a memorial... and as a sign against growing antisemitism and right-wing extremism”. Over 1,000 people have signed the petition.

In a statement made at a protest at the site, descendants of Albert and Frieda Heimann said: “Germany has made great strides in rectifying its relationship with the Jewish people… Preserving at least the exterior of this great home… will enhance this effort.”

Last updated: 8:45pm, March 20 2014