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 Park 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 was around the corner on the South Circular Road, but it 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)

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (75) 11 August 2023

An artist’s impression of the now demolished Quaker Meeting House on Lichfield Street, Tamworth (John Tracey / Tamworth Heritage Magazine)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and this week began with the Ninth Sunday after Trinity (6 August 2023) and celebrations of the Feast of the Transfiguration. The calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today (11 August) recalls the life and work of both Clare of Assisi, Founder of the Minoresses (Poor Clares), 1253, and John Henry Newman, Priest and Tractarian, 1890.

We got back to Stony Stratford late last night after our short mid-week visit to Dublin. Before this day begins, I am taking some time this morning for prayer, reading and reflection.

As I recently spent a number of days looking at the windows in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth, I am reflecting in these ways for the rest of the week:

1, Looking at some other churches in Tamworth;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The former Quaker Meeting House stood near Shannon Mill on Lichfield Street, Tamworth, but was demolished in 1960 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The former Quaker Meeting House, Lichfield Street, Tamworth:

It is said locally, with humour that Tamworth once had as many churches as it had pubs. Over the past week I have been looking at a number of those churches, including Saint John’s Roman Catholic Church, and the former Methodist, Congregational and Baptist churches in Tamworth.

In the late 17th century, there were some 140 Quaker families in the whole of Staffordshire attending meetings in dwelling houses in Leek, Keele, Stafford, Uttoxeter, Lichfield, Tamworth and Wolverhampton.

The presence of the Society of Friends or Quakers in Tamworth dates from the mid-17th century, and the early Quakers in Tamworth included Francis Comberford of Comberford Hall and his family.

Francis Comerford of Comerford, as his name is sometimes spelt, was one of only 12 magistrates to become a Quaker in the 17th century. He and his family were living at Comberford Hall in 1653, when they met two of the earliest Quakers, Edward Burrough and Francis Howgill. Francis and Margaret Comberford and their two daughters Margaret and Mary became Quakers.

The minutes of Staffordshire Quarterly Meeting of the Society of Friends record the conversations between Burrough and Howgill with the Comberfords, and Francis Comberford is said to have received them ‘kindly’.

As a gentleman and a magistrate, Francis Comberford probably played a useful role in protecting early Quakers. The minutes go on to say that for several years Francis Comberford held Quaker meetings at his home in Bradley when he returned from Comberford. With the death of his cousin Robert Comberford in 1671, he claimed the Comberford family estates, including Comberford Hall, which he had first leased from his kinsman, William Comberford, but was unsuccessful.

His daughters Mary (1641/1642?-1700) and Margaret (1642/1643?-post 1684) became Quakers at Comberford Hall with their parents in 1655. Mary was later a Quaker mystic and visionary and her dramatic vision shortly before her death in 1700 is described in the recently-edited papers of the Yorkshire Quaker Joseph Wood.

Although Francis Comberford failed to recover Comberford Hall, where he had first become a Quaker, the Quaker presence continued in the Tamworth area. There was a Quaker meeting house in Tamworth by 1653, and the Quakers of Tamworth met at Bitterscote.

Later there was a Quaker meeting house in Tamworth from 1753 to 1850, behind 101 Lichfield Street and close to the Moat House, the former Comberford family home on Lichfield Street, and about 20 Quakers were buried in the burial ground there.

The old Quaker Meeting House on Lichfield Street stood empty from 1857,until it was acquired by the Tamworth Station of the Primitive Methodist Church in 1885.

The Primitive Methodist Chapel Committee and the Circuit Quarterly Meeting agreed to reopen the Tamworth Primitive Methodist Chapel on 3 January 1886. However, attempts to revive the cause at the former Quaker meeting house in 1893 failed.

The former Quaker Meeting House on Lichfield Street was still standing in 1936, but was no longer in use. It fell into disrepair and was finally demolished in 1960. An artist’s impression of the old Quaker Meeting House by John Tracey is in the current edition of the Tamworth Heritage Magazine (1/3, Summer 2023), illustrating an account of the Primitive Methodists in Tamworth.

Many other traditions are part of Tamworth’s church history, including the Bolebridge Street Mission and the Salvation Army. In addition, there have been Spiritualists and the Mormons or Church of Latter Day Saints. They are interwoven with the heritage of Tamworth and although many are now forgotten they have influenced the welfare of the town.

‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’ (Matthew 16: 28) … the Franciscan cross in the Capuchin Church on Church Stfreet, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 16: 24-28 (NRSVA):

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

27 ‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’

Saint Clare Street, off Minories, London, stands on the site of the former Abbey of the Minoresses of Saint Mary of the Order of Saint Clare … one of the last abbesses was Dame Dorothy Comberford (1524-1531) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘A reflection on the Exodus narrative (Exodus 1-13).’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by Archbishop Linda Nicholls, who has been the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada since 2019.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (11 August 2023) invites us to pray in these words:

As you told Moses to ‘set your people free’, help us Lord to always hear your word and protect those in need.

The Collect:

God of peace,
who in the poverty of the blessed Clare
gave us a clear light to shine in the darkness of this world:
give us grace so to follow in her footsteps
that we may, at the last, rejoice with her in your eternal glory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Merciful God,
who gave such grace to your servant Clare
that she served you with singleness of heart
and loved you above all things:
help us, whose communion with you
has been renewed in this sacrament,
to forsake all that holds us back from following Christ
and to grow into his likeness from glory to glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Comberford Hall, between Lichfield and Tamworth … Francis Comberford became a Quaker there in 1653, one of the first Quakers in the Tamworth area (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org