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The Haunted Spas of Europe

Jews flocked to retreats like Marienbad, but what couldn’t be healed was Europe’s anti-Semitism

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Munkatch Hasidim in Marienbad. (Courtesy of Pini Dunner)

Of course, many hoped and believed that things would evolve differently. Back in the 18th century, in the early stages of Jewish acculturation, spas offered communicative spaces where social and religious differences could be bridged; they seemed to be ideal places for practicing the principle of religious tolerance. When German Jews started flocking to the fashionable spas, these cosmopolitan settings in which the ideal of sociability was nurtured offered a stage for interreligious encounters. Moses Mendelssohn, the famous Jewish philosopher, spent two summers in Pyrmont in northern Germany in the early 1770s, and in addition to the strenuous therapeutic treatment he underwent in the hopes of recuperating from the mysterious illness he suffered, he socialized with non-Jews, as did other members of the Jewish economic and intellectual elite. It was in Carlsbad in 1795 that Sara and Marianne Meyer, two sisters from the Jewish elite in Berlin, established a lifelong friendship with none other than Goethe. Jewish women from the famous Eskeles dynasty in Vienna also socialized with the famous writer during their common stay in Carlsbad and Franzensbad. It was while vacationing at this latter spa in 1797 that another Jewish woman, the Breslau-born Esther Gad, then an aspiring author, made the acquaintance of Jean Paul Richter, a German writer widely admired at the time.

However, inter-religious sociability failed to become the dominant feature of the spa. It was rather Bäderantisemitismus, the specific type of anti-Semitism evident at spas and resorts, that eventually gained the upper hand. At intimate spas in Germany anti-Semitism was outright and expressed itself in a direct rejection of Jewish visitors, with some petty bourgeois localities purposely fostering this image; in the large, international spas in western Bohemia the anti-Semitism was more genteel: Jewish summer guests received friendly and courteous treatment, but during the winter the latent hostility was given free rein, and aggression was turned toward the local Jewish community. On the eve of World War II, even the summer idyll was shattered. By the end of 1938, six weeks after the Nazi invasion, Marienbad locals boasted in the Marienbader Zeitung: Our town is judenfrei.

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A note for the curious about our lead art: Tablet magazine reached out to the official Munkatch archivist Rabbi Meir Yosef Frankel who shared the following information about the occasion when Rabbi Chaim Elazar Shapira, Grand Rabbi of Munkatch, visited Marienbad and strolled around the spa town sipping mineral water with his delegation. Pictured, left to right, are Rabbi Shlomo Gross, personal shohet (ritual slaughterer) of Rabbi Shapira; an unknown rabbi; Rabbi Chaim Elazar Shapira, Grand Rabbi of Munkatch; Rabbi Chaim Ber Greenfeld, gabbai (personal attendant), holding the cup of mineral water; and Rabbi Shalom Eichenstein of Prechnik and Zidichov.

You can see evidence of the international Jewish presence at spas in the Jewish cemetery in Meran/Merano, Italy (in South Tyrol/Alto Adige), a spa (themal baths) and sanatorium (treating tuberculosis) town that drew Jews from around the world (including notables such as Franz Kafka). A number of patients died during their stay — there are said to be graves of people from about 100 places of origin in the Jewish cemetery.

herbcaen says:

Now the spas are inhabited by natives of N Africa, the Arabian peninsula, and Pakistan. Women are given a special Lara Logan treatment of sexual harassment and rape, and Europeans across the political spectrum applaud the rape as an enlightened example of cultural diversity. Every day, the Europeans thank Hitler for solving their Jewish problem and welcome the new immigrants who have replaced the odious Einstein and Hitler with Mohammed Atta and Abu Hamza

Melpub says:

There’s still spa culture in Europe–it is, alas, just not Jewish spa culture. What’s offered in Germany at moderate-to-somehat-pricey but affordable comes with everything but Kosher: hot, salty mineral baths, steam rooms, inhalation rooms offering eucalyptus and birch bark, massage, saunas, saunas, saunas. The spectacular Bad Salzuflen offers all of the above; see my post: http://www.thecriticalmom.com/2012/10/the-critical-moms-guide-to-german.html

SherwoodRobin says:

Wouldn’t
it have been best for these Rabbis and their followers to use their common
sense and to learn to avoid these places like the plague? Study this photograph
carefully, Jewish men dressed this way was once very common in Vienna, Berlin
and Munich for some 55 years (also in Poland, Hungary and the Baltic states) Wherever
the extreme Orthodox groups went their outlandish dress, sect garb, swarthiness
and beards caused anger, resentment and vicious untrue rumours that were
impossible to disprove or dispute. May I add hatred cannot be cured, it cannot
be eradicated and even today is more rampant than ever. It needs to be said the
Holocaust Memorial movement and Museums do more harm than good, and the
resentment they cause among non-jews far outweighs their educational use and
benefit. If you want to be Jewish then the price you pay may be your life, I
wish it was not so.

SherwoodRobin says:

Wouldn’t
it have been best for these Rabbis and their followers to use their common
sense and to learn to avoid these places like the plague? Study this photograph
carefully, Jewish men dressed this way was once very common in Vienna, Berlin
and Munich for some 55 years (also in Poland, Hungary and the Baltic states) Wherever
the extreme Orthodox groups went their outlandish dress, sect garb, swarthiness
and beards caused anger, resentment and vicious untrue rumours that were
impossible to disprove or dispute. May I add hatred cannot be cured, it cannot
be eradicated and even today is more rampant than ever. It needs to be said the
Holocaust Memorial movement and Museums do more harm than good, and the
resentment they cause among non-jews far outweighs their educational use and
benefit. If you want to be Jewish then the price you pay may be your life, I
wish it was not so.

So apparently your answer to ignorance and hatred is to run and hide, disowning ones self because hey, the racists and bigots of the world must be appeased, and if – GASP! – we actually remind them of the outcomes of their philosophy when translated into actual actions that result in death and destruction.

In your mind better we should not exist because by exposing others to ourselves, we soil their delicate sensibilities which would result in our death.

Got it.

Or, conversely, state that the bigots and racists can go F*ck themselves and take their hatred with them.

If they have a problem with others then its their problem, not ours, and we will be damned if we offer up our throats to be slit for their enjoyment. Never again means something to us, Robin, and that means that we won’t change our garb, whether it is as simple as a kippa, and possibly (horrors) a beard and tzitzit, or even as elaborate as full Chasidic dress. It also means that we will continue to remind the world that if it allows hate-mongers to rampage unchecked, that the death and destruction strewn by such evil people, won’t just be limited to Jews.

“Common-sense” means standing up with pride for oneself, and not allowing bullies to rule the proverbial playground.

Karlsbad was spelled with a “K”!

Excellent article the one point to note is that the Jewish diseases are due to intermarriage not due to food. The prevention is simpe these are all autoimmune diseases see http://www.cispusa.org

TELEFORA LIMITED says:

Jacob, great for you, what an hero and a fool you are. But please, under no circumstances must you ever let me deter you one bit, all I ask is that you walk or drive your son and daughter to school, and take heed of my warnings that each year some Chassisdiche die, very few admittedly, but a death is a death is a death not that you would care or notice. It becomes a deadly serious game when some madmen who achieve power like for instance Corporal Hitler and chicken farmer Himmler choose Jewish law abiding persons as their target, I guess you already know that most wannabe Hitlers and Himmlers cannot recognise a Jew if he was sat opposite them on a train, bus or in a restaurant, but dressed in Chassidic Garb well they become obvious targets, sad, sacred targets who tend to avoid dangerous places, and by the rule of common’sense have learnt to avoid areas in which racist trouble repeateadly occurs. So good luck, stick to Harlen, Watts, pass a few days in Gaza, and when you have time read up on orchestrated anti-semitismn, the camps, and dare I say it the Rabbonim who died, MTDSRIP.

We’ve learned Teleafora, that it doesn’t matter how we dress, it doesn’t matter where we go to shul or for entertainment, that the Jew Haters and worse, those that seek to murder Jews will search us out.

You saw it in Argentina when the local JCC was bombed. You saw it in Bulgaria when Israeli tourists were bombed. You saw it in Cyprus when the government there arrested a member of Hizballah who was told by his masters to seek out places where the Jews congregate – not just kosher restaurants, but hotels too. And these are just a few examples. The list is long and notorious.

But the idea that if we run and hide – show an assimilated face to the non-Jewish world, or run behind locked doors and thick walls – only then will we be safe – is narishkeit. They’re going to try to come for you anyway.

If that’s the case, then why hide? Why cower? Why beg and plead for our lives when in the killers hearts, we should be dead anyway?

How much should we give up? Kashrus? Shabbes? A synagogue?

Then President Reagan used to say the best defense is a good offense, or as the sages said – if someone comes to kill you, kill him first.

Hello,
Would you allow me to use the photograph of the Grüngard family in Marienbad, 1922, courtesy Anat Feinberg, Stuttgart for a book I am preparing about iron? Or otherwise perhaps I could write to the owner?
I cherish a small, rust-covered object from the Carlsbad wells and was so happy to find old photographs of the place in its glorious times.
I would duly credit the image (1/4 page inside the book).
Yours sincerely,
Pauline van Lynden
The Netherlands

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Jewish Spa Culture

Images from the lost world of prewar European health retreats