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Ruth and Susan Muscovitch in front of Humberghaus, Dingden, Germany


by Rhonda Spivak, March 19, 2019

Winnipegger Ruth Muscovitch never would have imagined that the home of her grandparents, Abraham and Rosalia Humberg, in the small town of Dingden Germany would have been made into a museum. At a session of Limmud, Ruth and her daughter Susan Muscovitch, a teacher living in Ontario, told the fascinating story of how a committee of German townspeople from Dingden  became the driving force behind preserving  a piece of Jewish culture and history by turning the Humberg home into a museum. 

"The Humberg's were the last Jewish family to live in Dingden," a town of about 5000 people  Susan noted, and the Dingden Historical Society has been in charge of preserving and restoring the home. 
Ruth's father Ernst was a farmer whose wife who was almost nine months pregnant (with Ruth) when the  Nazis showed up at his door on Kristallnacht in 1938. Ernst and his wife managed to escape by taking a ship to Canada. Ruth was born in Germany and grew up on a farm in Quebec before moving to Winnipeg, where she worked for many years as a legal secretary. 
Ruth indicated that for a long time her parents "never talked about what had happened." 
In Dingden, Ruth's grandparents Abraham and Rosalia  Humberg ran a butcher's shop out of their home, and Rosalia ran a textile business out of  their home. As Susan Muscovitch noted, her great grandparents, Rosalia and Abraham, and their seven children were "popular" and well-regarded members of the village community.
As Susan explained, "Through this special project [Humberhaus], we learned intricate details of my mother’s parents’ escape from Germany around the time of her birth, just one week after Kristallnacht. We learned how integrated the Humberg family had been in their community, despite being the only Jewish family in town." 
Life for the Humberg family changed dramatically when the Nazis rose to power.The Humberg family, like other Jews in Germany,  became targets and victims of the Nazis. Abraham and Rosalia had seven children. Four brothers and sisters and their families were murdered in concentration camps. Three siblings were able to emigrate to Canada with their families. 
In 2012, Susan and her mother Ruth traveled to Germany to attend the official opening of Humberghaus. Susan recalls,"It was a very moving and meaningful trip as we met and spoke with countless friends and neighbours who had helped the Humberg family members escape Nazi persecution." 
On Kristallnacht in 1938, the Humberg home was ransacked and plundered, and Leopold Humberg (a son of Abraham and Rosalia) who was a prosperous cattle trader who ran the butcher shop was the last member of the family to live in the home. He survived for a few years by hiding until in 1941 he died in a concentration camp.
In October 2002, the Dingden Historical Society uncovered a mikveh used for ritual cleansing in the  Humberg home. It is unusual for  a mikveh to be found in a private home, but as Ruth and Susan explained it may be that the Humbergs had a mikveh in their home since they were the only Jews in the area.

Traces of a mezuzah were found in the door frame of the Humberg home. The butcher shop has been carefully reconstructed by the Dingden Historical Society.  As the website of Humberghaus notes, "The imprint of the company nameplate of the Humberg family (“Abraham Humberg – Livestock Trader”) is still visible today, next to the entrance. It had already been chipped off here by members of the SA on 30 March 1933, the day on which Hitler came to power."
 "The Humberg house escaped major bombings during World War II", Ruth explained, making it possible for the Historical Society of Dingden to convert it into a Jewish museum.
The Historical Society of Dingden also made a recipe book from Rosalia's recipes, and a copy of the book was shown to those in attendance at the session of Limmud.  
The Humberghaus website also notes that there is a media guide to the Humberg House which " offers an extensive database containing a large number of images, interviews with those involved in the projects and film clips. Thanks to the contribution of various key players, contemporary witnesses, members of the Historical Society, renowned experts and the descendants of the Humberg family, a multi-layered, complex insight into the everyday lives of Jewish families is presented..."
Susan Muscovitch also said that  "Ulrich and Anne Bauhaus came to my wedding. Ulrich was the man I'd been in contact with over the years about the museum, one of the committee members who spearheaded the project."
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.