I gave a presentation in the Shul of Elburg and afterwards I drove back home from Elburg to Beekbergen, where I lived in a kosher hotel which fell under my rabbinical surveillance. In a place named ’t Harde we pulled over. Because my wife saw on the provincial road to Elburg a gravestone, for some part almost on the bike lane, a gravestone with a Magen David. I parked my car. Walked to grave and read the tekst “Bachenheimer Theodore. H, U.S. ’82 Airborne Division. 504 Parachute Infantery” Here is obviously buried a Jewish solder who gave his life to set my parents free. Who was he? Did he have a wife, kids or Parents? Did he come as a volunteer to free us? And why has he been buried along the road all alone?
It is now the Jewish month of Ellul, the month which precedes the High Holidays, the month we blow the Shofar every day. This is the month that we should scrutinize ourselves with a magnifying glass. How did I behave towards this year towards G’d and fellow man? What about my ego? Did the world only turn around me or was I able to forget about myself to serve another?
In front of that gravestone I felt humble. It was if everything fell away, that my daily concerns vanished like snow in the sun. seized by everything I walked back to the car. A cyclist stopped ‘Are you Chief Rabbi Jacobs? I recognize you because I am a guide in the Shul of Elburg. There is a photo of yours’. I took the opportunity to ask him. ‘do you know you more of this grave?’ This old teacher in history actually knew ‘Bachenheimer has been dropped above the Netherlands when the war was almost ended during the Operation Market Garden. He was made a Prisoner of war and when they found that was Jewish he was separated from the other POWs and transported to another place. In ’t Harde he jumped out of the German ca rand has been shot on the flight. It is not clear whether he lies still here or he has been moved to the general cemetery.’ The cyclist will study the subject matter and inform me, because there will be an article published in the now defunct Elburgsche Courant.
My wife, some kind of a walking history book, went meanwhile to the car when I was talking with the cyclist. And an occupant of the house where our car was standing asked my wife. ‘Is your husband perhaps some kind of a Jewish priest,a rabbi?’ And again a conversation evolved with an unknown person, who radiates friendship and warmth. My day was made! Of course the conversation came on Bachenheimer. He knew everything about the story. Bachenheimer has been shot in front of his house when he tried to run away. He showed us the spot the killed pilot was. He was Jewish, he knew, and his remains were transferred to his family in the USA after the war, after he has been buried here in this grave.
I got homework to do, I must find out whether this grave is still a grave, just to prevent that it might be cleared, but I also felt the relativity of our existence, the relativity of life. On the 4th of May the procession passes along this grave. It halts for this unknown hero every year. I want know who he was to keep the memory of him alive.