11 August 2023

Dublin’s first
‘stumbling stones’
recall six Irish
Holocaust victims

Dublin’s first ‘stumbling stones’, recalling six Irish Holocaust victims, outside Saint Catherine’s National School on Donore Avenue (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

Throughout Europe, I regularly come across the Stolpersteine or ‘Stumbling Stones’ by the German artist Gunter Demnig. These Stolpersteine are memorials to the victims of Nazi persecution, including Jews, homosexuals, Romani and the disabled.

His project places engraved brass stones in front of the former homes of Holocaust victims who were deported and murdered by Nazi Germany. This project began in Germany and has since spread across Europe.

Demnig’s Stolpersteine are small, cobblestone-sized brass memorials set into the pavement or footpath in front of these apartments or houses, calling attention both to the individual victim and the scope of the Nazi war crimes.

To date, over 90,000 Stolpersteine have been laid in 1,000 or more cities in almost 30 countries across Europe, making this dispersed project the world’s largest memorial. The cities where I have seen them include Berlin, Bratislava, Prague, Thessaloniki, Venice and Vienna. The first stolpersteine in London was laid in Golden Square, Soho, in May 2022 to honour Ada von Dantzig.

When I was back in Dublin this week, I visited the first Stolpersteine or ‘stumbling stones’ in the city, put in place last year outside Saint Catherine’s Church of Ireand National School on Donore Avenue, close to Dublin’s ‘Little Jerusalem.’

These six Stolpersteine commemorate six Irish victims of the Holocaust: Ettie Steinberg Gluck, her husband Wojteck Gluck, and their baby son Leon, along with Isaac Shishi, Ephraim Saks and his sister, Jeanne (Lena) Saks.

The six stones or plaques in Dublin and their inscriptions are:

1, Went to School here / Ettie Gluck / Born Steinberg CZ 1914 / Lived in Dublin 1925-1937 / Arrested 1942 / Toulouse / Interned Brancy / Deported / Auschwitz / Murdered 4-9-1942 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

2,Wojteck Gluck / Born 1912 / Arrested 1942 / Toulouse / Interned Drancy / Deported / Auschwitz / Murdered 4-9-1942 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

3, Leon Gluck / Born 1939 / Arrested 1942 / Toulouse / Interned Drancy / Deported / Auschwitz / Murdered 4-9-1942 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

4, Isaac Shishi / Born Dublin 1891 / Murdered 1941 / Vieksniai, Lithuania (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

5, Ephraim Saks / Born Dublin 1915 / Arrested 1942 / Deported / Antwerp / Interned Drancy / Deported / Auschwitz / Murdered 1942 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

6, Jeanne (Lena) Saks / Born Dublin 1918 / Arrested 1942 / Antwerp / Deported / Auschwitz / Murdered 1942 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Ettie (Steinberg) Gluck, her husband Wojteck Gluck and their son Leon died in Auschwitz; Ephrem and Lena Saks from Dublin were murdered in Auschwitz; and Isaac Shishi from Dublin and his family were murdered by the Nazis in Lithuania.

The Steinberg family moved to Ireland in the 1920s and lived at 28 Raymond Terrace, in ‘Little Jerusalem’ off the South Circular Road in Dublin. The seven Steinberg children went to school at Saint Catherine’s School, the Church of Ireland parish school on Donore Avenue.

Ettie married Vogtjeck Gluck, originally from Belgium, in the Greenville Hall Synagogue on the South Circular Road on 22 July 1937. They later moved to Antwerp. As World War II was looming, they moved to Paris, where their son Leon was born on 28 March 1939. By 1942 they were living in an hotel in Toulouse.

When the Vichy puppet regime began rounding up Jews in southern France at the behest of Nazi Germany, Ettie, Vogtjeck and Leon were arrested. Back in Ireland, her family in Dublin secured visas that would allow the Gluck family to travel to Northern Ireland. But when the visas arrived in Toulouse, it was too late. Ettie, Vogtjeck and Leon had been arrested the day before.

Ettie, her husband and their son were taken first to Drancy, a transit camp outside Paris. The Glucks were then deported from Drancy on 2 September 1942 and arrived in Auschwitz two days later, on 4 September 1942. It is assumed that they were put to death immediately.

Isaac Shishi, whose family came to Ireland from Lithuania, was born in Dublin on 29 January 1891, when his family was living at 36 St Alban’s Road, off the South Circular Road. He was murdered along with his wife Chana and their daughter Sheine were murdered by the Nazis in Vieksniai in Lithuania in 1941.

Ephraim and Lena Saks were born in Dublin on 19 April 1915 and 2 February 1918. Ephraim Sacks was murdered in Auschwitz on 24 August 1942. Lena was murdered there in 1942 or 1943.

Ettie Steinberg and Vogtjeck Gluck were married in the Greenville Hall Synagogue on the South Circular Road, Dublin, on 22 July 1937 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

When I was growing up, the area close to Donore Avenue was still Dublin’s ‘Little Jerusalem’, although the Jewish community had moved in large numbers by then to south Dublin suburbs like Rathfarnham and Churchtown. When I was about 11 or 12 and living in Dublin, some friends introduced me to a schoolboys’ soccer club called Port Vale. The clubhouse was in the Donore Avenue area, but home games in the Dublin Schoolboy League were played in Bushy Park in Terenure.

I must have been no good, because I only remember playing with Port Vale for a few weeks. But the good players I remember who were of my age included Alan Shatter, then living in Crannagh Park and later Minister for Justice in a coalition government. His memories of Port Vale, Donore Avenue, Bushy Parl and Rathfarnham, recalled in his book Life is a Funny Business: A Very Personal Story, have many resoances with my memories.

Later, at the age of 16, during the school summer holidays, I had a placement on Donore Avenue, working as a copyholder or proof-reader’s assitant at Irish Printers. Dolphin’s Barn Synagogue around the corner on the South Circular Road finally closed its doors in 1984.

Some years ago, I was chilled when I realised that a direct descendant of the Comerford family of Cork, and through that line a descendant of the Comerfords of Co Wexford, suffered horribly with her husband after the German invasion of France and that both died in the Holocaust – one in Ravensbrück and the other in Dachau.

Hedwige Marie Renée Lannes de Montebello (1881-1944) and her husband, Louis d’Ax de Vaudricourt (1879-1945) of Château Vaudricourt, were French aristocrats and did not bear the Comerford family name. Nevertheless, they are part of my own family tree, no matter how distant a branch. Their fate brought home to me how even today we are all close to the evils of racism and its destructive force across Europe and in North America, and we must never forget that.

Saint Catherine’s Church of Ireand National School on Donore Avenue, close to Dublin’s ‘Little Jerusalem’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

El Malei Rachamim (‘God full of compassion’) is a prayer for the departed that asks for comfort and everlasting care of the deceased. It is said at Jewish funeral services, but different versions exist for different moments.

The version for the Shoah (Holocaust) is found in the Reform prayer book, Mishkan T’filah:

Fully compassionate God on high:
To our six million brothers and sisters
murdered because they were Jews,
grant clear and certain rest with You
in the lofty heights of the sacred and pure
whose brightness shines like the very glow of heaven.

Source of mercy:
Forever enfold them in the embrace of Your wings;
secure their souls in eternity.
Adonai: they are Yours.
They will rest in peace. Amen.

May their memories be a blessing, זצ״ל

Shabbat Shalom

Stars of David still visibe in the windows of the former Synagogue on the former Dolphin’s Barn Synagogue on the South Circular Road, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

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