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from the September 2005 issue

A Stone from New World

Only when I turned it over on its other side did I see that the heavy sandstone circle which looked like the top half of a mill, grindstone or the top of a well, had been taken from an old Jewish tombstone. From the worn away inscription you could only guess at the name of the deceased woman: [Br]ejnche (Bräunche?), that she had been a widow and her death date: in the night in the fourth day of the eighth day of the month of elul 595 (or 598?) by the little calendar - 2 September 1835 or 29 August 1838, if I'm counting correctly. The exact date will never be deciphered, as in the place of the decisive letter in the middle of the circle a square hole has been chiseled.

I found this stone in a courtyard overgrown with weeds and shrubs not long after I bought a broken down house in the village of New World, more on account of the promising name than the place itself. After the war displaced persons from the Bug lived here, like me, and earlier Germans, who had left a faded scrap of newspaper from 1936 in the attic and a bunch of crushed medicine bottles.

I'm not asking when and how it ended up here, or who committed such an act of barbarism. I only want to protect it from further destruction, I'm looking for a shelter for it more lasting than my frail writing. I don't know what to do. What wall to set it in, since no trace remained of the nearest Jewish cemetery (in a town once called Brodziec, later Brätz, and now yet something else) from which it no doubt comes, and no one can even tell me where it was situated? I don't know what I'm allowed to do and what I'm not. I don't even know if I am allowed to be the momentary keeper of a gravestone. I don't know who to ask for advice and I don't know if I ever will.

Read more from the September 2005 issue
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