This is my great-grandmother. Isn’t she beautiful? I’m sure her siblings were just as lovely.
But I’ll probably never know. The picture below is the only physical representation of my great-grandmother’s sister that I have ever seen, and it did not exist until August 2018. It is a plaque called a Stolperstein, or “stumbling block,” laid in a sidewalk in Pitten, Austria. This stumbling block is what substitutes for my great-grandmother’s sister’s tombstone.
I didn’t even know about Rosa Rebecca’s existence until I was contacted by Ruth Contreras, a woman from Rosa’s hometown in Pitten, Austria. Ruth currently lives right next door to the building Rosa Abeles called home before she was taken by the Nazis and eventually sent to her death in Treblinka.
There are four Stolpersteine in all in my great-grandmother’s hometown of Pitten. Each plaque represents one of the four Pitten residents taken against their will and sent to their deaths as part of Hitler’s “purification” pogrom during the Shoah.
The Stolpersteine are just part of the work Ruth Contreras has been doing to revive the memories of the people who lived in the Bucklige Welt and Wechselland regions of Austria before Germany annexed Austria in 1938. In April of this year, a new museum exhibit in the neighboring town of Bad Erlach, called “With – Without Jews,” will be opened commemorating my family and their former neighbors who once thrived in the area.
I have been inspired by Ruth’s efforts to raise awareness of racism and marginalization in Austria, and have decided to create an American extension at Stories From the Past, with the working title, Raising Voices. The first article in the project, titled American Slavery in Kentucky, was posted on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2019.
I am honored to have received a personal invitation to participate in the inauguration of the museum exhibit in Austria. It is a wonderful opportunity not only to do personal family research, but to do the more important service of researching stories for Raising Voices in Europe. This is a very expensive venture, and my family simply cannot afford the trip at this time, so I have created a GoFundMe fundraiser. You can click here to donate.
Your Donation will Make all the Difference
Extra funds will be put back into Stories From the Past to extend the Raising Voices project, open Stories From the Past as a non-profit organization, and to recruit researchers/writers.