If you like what you see, please make a tax-deductible donation here to help us complete the film »

Konrad Yona Riggenmann, PhD

The following text I drafted originally (with all due citations, references and also pictures) for the Society of Crypto-Jewish Studies whose member I am. Quien me presta una escalera? “Quien me presta una escalera?” is a line from a classic Spanish saeta song, asking: “Who will give me a ladder – to free Christ from the cross?” And what is a saeta? One theory, says Doreen Carvajal, holds that saetas emerged as a subversive Marrano form of demonstrating passion for their new religion while at the same time communicating coded aversion against the inacceptable claims of this religion. Paul’s doctrine that Jesus, on his divine father’s order, had to die on the cross to reconcile this father with Adam’s offspring led astray by Eve’s appetite for the forbidden fruit was always utterly inacceptable to the Catholic boy my parents had baptized Konrad (stopping shortly from naming me Konrad Maria). And my non-acceptance of the crucifix, my compassion with the Galilean hanging fixed on nails up there triggered my climbing down into the Marrano depths of my Bavarian family. Christians say Jesus works wonders. Yes, I’ve seen the light! When I stepped up and took him from the wall my Jewish roots began to pull below. Testing two effigies Johanna didn’t need a ladder. The two-year-old girl was sitting at her grandparents’ table on which grandma had put her delicious vanilla cake for Sunday afternoon coffee time. While Johanna was parting the piece of cake with her fork, on a sudden something crossed her mind. In her caring and empathic way, Johanna took a piece of cake between her fingers, climbed up the corner bench and fed hungry Jesus, putting the cake to his open wooden mouth beneath the crown of thorns. Four decades earlier, when I was four years old, I had pointed to the same wooden Jesus Johanna would try to comfort with vanilla cake in 1997. Johanna is my youngest niece, today a gifted pianist in her early twenties. Back then in 1956, I asked my father “Papa, what’s that up there?” What my father replied to me in this minute I remember but roughly; what I’m sure about is that the word “Juden” did not occur. My own way of testing whether an artificial body feels hunger or distress was strongly different from Johanna’s. One morning in 1956, before leaving for school, my sister had bedded her doll on the dresser besides the crucifix corner. I lighted a match and, in a strange excited curiosity I can recall until today, put it to the tiny toes of the doll’s right foot. Terribly quick the rosy cellophane flesh caught fire, panicking I took the plastic girl by her arm and whirled her around in desperation, threw her under the piano, ran out by the balcony door and hid in the garden. Alarmed by the smell of burning, my mother found the burned out doll dresses beneath the smoldering piano, thought on first sight it was me, ran out and called her neighbor women one of whom found me huddling behind a shrub. My sister shed bitter tears when she came home from school, my sister with her green eyes and brown braids. Now a grandma of two, friends and family still don’t call her by her name Elisabeth but always by the name my oldest brother had invented for her in the cradle: Haia, almost like the elder sister Binem Heller recalls in his song: “Main shvester Chaye mit di oygn grine, a daytsh hot in treblinke si farbrent.” How come that a Catholic boy burns a body “in effigy” and his firstborn brother gives his sister a name that sounds so Jewish that friends of our Catholic family supposed we’re somehow Jewish? I don’t know, but at Bar Mitzvah age the next strange thing happened to me. It was shortly before my parents agreed to take me from the Catholic Claretine gymnasium where I, the calm but often faraway pupil of grade eight, was bullied by one rather fascist teacher, and where the nice guys sitting behind me in the classroom had marked me with a hot nut from the heater “like a cow in Texas”, as one of them quipped, leaving a red rectangular singe on the back of my neck. This was my mental background when on Friday, April 29, 1966 I was alone at home at night, my younger brothers sleeping already, and I, age thirteen, watched TV. Not a Western, but a docudrama about an eastern concentration camp; a drama that I not until 2005, in the library of Porto Alegre’s Instituto Goethe, recognized as The Investigation of Peter Weiss, with the scene that shaped my life. Witness Number 5, Dunia Wasserstrom, related an incident that ended with the death of a Jewish boy of four years. I will not relate how he was killed. Decisive for me was the subsequent dialogue. Attorney: “Mrs. Wasserstrom, during the preliminary hearings you never mentioned this incident.” – “I was not able to talk about it … By personal reasons … Since then I never wanted to have an own child.” And I made the same decision right in this moment, considering a world in which fathers are not able to protect their children from such monsters. “If a man has a nickname …” Seven years later, this strange kind of celibate became the passage in mined area that led me, after local leadership activity in Catholic Youth and paratrooper military service, to the entrance of Augsburg sacerdotal seminary. As an inmate, reality caught me up soon. “How can Jesus say about Judas that this man better never had been born? For a Godson this is a declaration of bankruptcy” I explained to our wise old spiritual trainer Father Waldmann who used to begin his exercises with Martin Buber’s Chassidic Tales and who, unable to clear my doubts, asked me to accept his blessing. So I became a blessed teacher, and my first eighth graders, by whatever reason, nicknamed me Moses. “If a man has a nickname, this is the proof that his given Christian name was not correct” remarks Samuel in Steinbeck’s “East of Eden”. Childless Moses was a dedicate teacher. “Your professional commitment is at the upper limit” a supervisor warned me, in vain. In 1993 for instance, during summer vacation I prepared my classroom for my future third grade pupils: a reading corner with couch, self made pinewood bookshelves, colorful pictures. On the side wall, above the door, hung the obligatory cross, a dark one with carved corpus and painted blood. I took a pupil’s chair, sat down right in front of the symbol and asked myself: What’s this symbol giving to my pupils? – “Surely nothing positive” was my answer after long consideration. I took down the death symbol, went home, pasted a beautiful poster from Misereor (a Catholic third-world solidarity NGO) on a pinewood panel: two hands, one white, one black, sharing bread in front of the blue planet. This, I opined, could visualize Christian human ethics much more adequately to my children than the picture of an execution. I was wrong. Before Easter, my pupils addressed me about replacing the bread-sharing hands by nailed-on-wood ones, because “the cross will help us in math tests”. Only at the end of the year the parents of a French girl told me how upset they had been about the backstage action of the Catholic parson who taught religion in my class, and why they nevertheless had told her daughter to vote with the majority. Two years later I saw the word “Kruzifix” in bright sunshine, in the headlines of half a dozen German newspapers at a news-stand. By strange coincidence this news-stand was exactly within the former Jewish ghetto of Prague. The journals reported a judgement of German Constitutional Court, in favour of Bavarian family Seler: “The mounting of a cross or crucifix in the teaching-rooms of a state-run obligatory school that is not a denominational school, offends article 4 of Basic Law.” I took the next train home to support the Supreme Court’s judgement that was under heavy fire already. The shortest one of my letters to the editor had only three sentences: “When the Nazis wanted to remove the crosses from the classrooms, a stormwind of outrage aroused among Bavarian population. The crosses remained. Removed were the Jewish pupils.” Supreme Court judgment, so what? In December 1995 the Christian-conservative majority in Bavarian Landtag parliament passed a new law that clears everything yet in its first sentence: “In every classroom a cross is to be mounted.” Clearly anti-constitutional, but never mind. I dared to mind since public servants, especially public school teachers, have to protect democratic constitution against its enemies. After a seven years trial, a Munich appeal court conceded to me the exceptional right to teach in a cross-free classroom. “Church is Raging”, the tabloid Bild-Zeitung headlined, quoting a Christian Social Party leader of my hometown who supposed that pupils might revolt if this teacher would get fired. Almost daily now the postman delivered new murder threats. In contrast with the psychologically interesting insults and menaces I received by phone and mailbox or while walking or bicycling in my home district, many courageous Christians gave me support and showed in their letters how children view the symbol. Already before the scandal that I had triggered, parson Ludwig Dallmeier had removed the big black crucifix from his Catholic kindergarten, because his female educators had told him that it frightened the children. He publicly confessed his pedagogical decision and sent me supporting letters he had received afterwards. Most poignant was what an observant Catholic lady had told him: “As one of the attending mothers I was close by when during rehearsal for Thanksgiving celebration a Greek kindergarten child suffered a shock when she saw the crucified one for the first time! The girl just cried and cried and no one could calm her, she was in panic really! … Why is there a dead man being prayed to in the churches? … Your words in the article, saying ‘it is the brutal presentation of a tortured man’, I emphasize completely!!!” Munich resident grandmother Lisa W., for instance, told me in her letter: “Not earlier than when 15 years ago my then-time three-year-old grandson viewing a way-cross with the crucified one asked me: ‘Grandma, does this not hurt that man?’ I became aware of what barbaric symbol I often had admired in Gothic style, Baroque etcetera. And what this symbol causes in tender souls of children. I thank you very much for your engagement and your refractoriness against this inhuman sign.” In the same month of January 2002 when also my book “Kruzifix und Holocaust” was published by a Berlin Edition, one evening I received the telephone call of old Mr. Benjamin Schwarz of Munich, who thanked me for my courage. “So you agree to my view”, I asked, “that the cross is the deepest root of anti-Semitism?” – “Of course. What else? As a Jew you always feel accused when you pass by a cross.” The roots start pulling As a Jew, you? Here I must lead the reader back to the family’s afternoon coffee table with vanilla cake for crucified Jesus. Johanna’s father, my brother Johannes Riggenmann, is a church painting master with own company. Three times I helped him hang up life-size corpuses, standing on the ladder embracing Jesus’ bloody legs. Once in the 1990s, Hans was performing the restauration of the townhall in nearby village Waldstetten, a village just three miles from small town Ichenhausen which for centuries had given home to the strongest rural Jewish community of Germany. An old resident watched him painting, asked for his name and remarked that here in Waldstetten yet in 17th century a church painter named Johannes Riggenmann (1682-1767) had lived. Old Mr. König even provided my brother with church register documents yielding that this master Riggenmann the Elder was the grandson of the shoemaker Jacob Rikheman (1627-1687) who around 1653 – when the Chmielnitzky pogroms raged in Eastern Europe – had settled here and reared 14 children with his first wife Anna Maria N.N. and his second wife Maria Mandel. One grandson and one great-grandson of his became church painters: A thoroughly Catholic family, right? In 1827, exactly 200 years after the birth of Jacob Rikheman, a newborn boy of the Riggenmann family was baptized Jacob again. This recalling of ancestors after two centuries is as uncommon for Catholic German peasant families as it was uncommon for Catholic Austrian entrepreneurs to have a Jewish associate. In 1919, Innsbruck authorities banished a Jew though his brother was the associate of renowned Innsbruck employer Riggenmann – who happened to be the uncle of my grandfather who reared his seven children on a 23 acres farm ten miles from Waldstetten. By coincidence, he too raised suspicions of his neighbors by having a Jewish friend, the textile peddler Jakob Koschland of Ichenhausen. My father, born 1920, seems to have inherited the church painter gene. In 1937 he, just seventeen and studying in the aforesaid college of Claretine order, painted a tableau “Madonna with Jesus boy” which was then placed on one of my grandfather’s fields at the country road to Ichenhausen. Ready painted, the boy and his mother had pitch-black curled hair like Mr. Koschland. In this way my father – as my youngest uncle Joseph told me after my father’s death – protested at a time when Jesus and his mother had to be blond Arians. The Koschland family was deported to Poland in 1943, the same year when my grandfather died on stomach ulcer and my father earned his two Iron Crosses in service as lieutenant of artillery in Ukraine and Crimea while his brother Alois died near Moscow, and though the death letter told my grandmother that the shell had killed him instantly her beautiful voice never again was heard in church. In 1945 my father came home, read KZ-inmate Eugen Kogon’s “Der SS-Staat”, married the young woman with whom he had exchanged more than 500 letters, became a father of five children, the master of the church choir, of two amateur choirs and one theater group, a village mayor of Christian Social Union party and public school director highly esteemed also by his many Turkish pupils and their parents. In spite of his increasing symptoms of Alzheimer, my father still in 2000 contributed to my book “Kruzifix und Holocaust”, providing me with cut-out articles, for instance concerning Russian neo-nazis, of his staunch Catholic daily Tagespost. In the foreword of my book I quoted the Jesuite Father Alfred Welker, working in the slums of Cali, Columbia, with these words: “Auschwitz, that is a question that must occupy every good-willing human”. At my father’s burial in January 2004 – with five priests concelebrating and a CSU lawmaker praising the humanistic stance of the beloved school director – hardly anyone of the many funeral guests will not have pondered about the estrangement that the devout Catholic apparently had suffered by his wayward son, the infamous, and alas successful, enemy of Jesus’ holy cross. Two weeks later, one morning my daily newspaper had an article about Padre Welker. No sooner than I had cut out the article from my daily, I perceived what was right on its back: Johann Riggenmann. Card of Thanks, to all who took part in our father’s burial. Chance is not a kosher word, said Eli Wiesel. Backside: Backing me or Padre Welker, or both? I read the front side article again. At its end, Father Welker explained his concept of Imitation of Christ by a Columbian legend: “A woman took the vow to donate a crucifix. When she had saved up the money, she spent it for ransoming her brother from jail. Jesus appeared to her in a dream and said: “You have acted right.” Six months later, in a northern Brazilian city not too far from Columbia, I heard an actor in a street play say: “Andamos com os mortos nas costas” – We walk with the dead ones on our back. “Transgenerational transmission of unresolved conflicts” is Anne Ancelin Schützenberger’s term for this phenomenon. “As mere links in a chain of generations, we may have no choice in having the events and traumas experienced by our ancestors visited upon us in our lifetime.” Applies to how many crypto-Jews? As a young man, my father had learned Spanish in his free time, my mother told me after his death. So did I, passing from Spanish to Portuguese due to my predilection for Brazilian music, soccer and multi-culture. But my first visit to Latin-America was for volunteering in the construction of a kindergarten in San Carlos, Nicaragua. This contact led me to subscribe for Brazilian teachers’ review Nova Escola, which led me to make my PhD about John Dewey’s influence in Brazilian education between 1998 and 2001, while I was waiting for the appeal hearing of my trial. I won my process of seven years in 2002. The secretary general of the governing CSU party yelled into the TV microphones: “This man must get out, out, out of public school.” But my pupils, their parents and some colleagues gave me support. Not until 2009 Bavarian school authorities succeeded in mobbing me out of service. In the same year I converted to Judaism and two years later I emigrated to Brazil. “Hence Brazil became filled with New Christians, of doubtful orthodoxy”, Cecil Roth reminds concerning the centuries after Columbus, during Inquisition. In “Labirinto Reencarnado” a drama of Paulo Faria, the protagonist Ananda, daughter of a black woman and a Jewish doctor, characterizes Brazil as “the biggest country of New Christians, of Marranos. We all here are children of Jews.” And I? Climbing down the gene test ladder Living in Curitiba as a member of a small humanistic synagogue, in 2012 I had to know it: what I carry not on back, in bowels, but rather in my chromosomes. When I received the results of my genetical test with familytreedna, I first was bewildered. Had my deep and lifelong intuitions just fooled me? Haplogroup T1, what’s this? I needed some time to realize that the result confirmed these intuitions of Jewish descent in amazing clearness. Recent research links my paternal genetic signature with its “very low frequency in the world” to “demographic processes such as … the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles and the Jewish Diaspora. The Median-Joining network for T1 haplotypes links these lineages to Israel, Lebanon and Palestine”. The lineage of the ladder passing through my tenth generation ancestor Jacob Rikheman is Arab-Jewish, period. And what’s equally important to me: The results strikingly confirm racism as the “science of the witless guys”. Races don’t exist. Conferring and computing all available data I came to striking conclusions concerning the very special Jewishness of this very rare and interesting Middle-Eastern haplogroup T1. The following list shows T1-frequencies of selected populations (in brackets: general populations of the selected regions): Sephardic Levites 23.0 (Jews globally 6.0) Iraq Jews 22.0 (7.2) Cushites in Yemen 21.2 Somali Arabs 20.8 Kurdish-Armenian Sasunzis 20.2 Kurdish Jews 18.0 (6.6) Lemba (South Africa / Zimbabwe) 17.6 Balears (Ibiza, Spain) 16.7 Northern Portuguese Jews 15.7 (1.6) Iran Jews 14.0 (5.8) Sephardic Israelis 13.0 (6.3) Galileans, Israel 11.0 Egyptians (Southern Egypt) 10.3 Columbians of Spanish descent 8.7 Campania (Southern Italy) 8.3 Fulbe (Sudan) 8.1 Moroccan Jews 8.0 (0.1) Druse in Israel and Palestine 7.7 Arabs in Israel 7.4 Yemenite Jews 7.0 (0.8) Turkish Jews 6.0 (2.5) Ethiopian Jews 5.0 (6.1) Bulgarian Jews 5.0 (0.5) Due to the “complex history of dispersal of this rare and informative haplogroup” , in each one of the researched ethnicities the frequency of haplogroup T counts a story about migrations, conversions, marriages: Iraq and Kurdistan: 2 Kings 17:3-6 and 18:11-12 as well as 1 Chronicals 5:26 relate the deportations of Jews and their resettlements at the rivers Habor und Gozan in present day Syria, Iraq, Iran, Armenia und Kurdistan. “Kurdish and Iraqi Jews” in Mendez and colleagues’ view “represent some of the oldest established populations of Jews, tracing their origins to the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles from the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, respectively.” At the beginning of the first century CE, Iraq was the scholarly center for a global Jewish population of six to eight millions of whom but one million lived in the Roman province of Palestine. Considering DNA patterns for Jewish men, Nebel et al (2000) found a large genetic relationship between Jews and Palestinians, but in 2001 they found an even higher relationship of Jews with Iraqis and Kurds. Somalia: Though the Somali religious group of Yibir (Hebrews) converted to Islam yet in 13th century, down to the present day the Yibir remain conscious of their Jewish heritage which still conditions their disadvantaged status within Somalia’s social hierarchy. The Kurds are genetically very close to the Jews. Genesis has Noah’s Arch stranded on Kurdish Mount Ararat; Abraham grew up in in Kurdish Haran, near the Syrian border. Armenia: During the First Exile period, after 721 BCE, the Assyrians deported and settled parts of the Jewish population in the region of Armenia. During the first century BCE again large Jewish groups were forcedly settled in Armenia. “By 360-370 C.E., there was a massive increase in Jewish Hellenistic immigration into Armenia; many Armenian towns became predominately Jewish” (wikipedia; Armenia, Jews). Lemba: The culture of black African Lemba (South Africa, Zimbabwe) is very clearly Jewish. Historians trace it back to a descent (500 BCE) from Yemenite Judaism. The famous Cohen Gene which 52 percent of the Aaron descendent Cohanim bear in every cell of their bodies and which belongs to haplogroup J1 is more frequent among the Lemba than in Israel. The Balear Islands have been rather isolated until around 1960. Still in 1691, two hundred years after the forced Catholic-making of Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza, 82 descendants of baptized Jews were burned for relapse into their old religion. Until the 1990s the 20,000 descendants of the surviving “Chuetas” kept being sidelined and married only among themselves. “Unlike other Marranos who scattered, the Chuetas were almost like hothouse flowers … offering research possibilities to scientists who studied the patterns of their DNA” and facilitating the decision of the rabbinical court in Israel that they are evidently Jews. Columbia: Here the situation is similar to Brazil: Since 30 percent of the immigrants in 16th – 17th century were forcedly baptized “Cristãos Novos”, about 30 to 60 percent of present day Brazilians have Jews among their ancestors. Since the percentage of Jews among the emigrants from Spain was three times higher than their ten percent share among the Spanish population of that time, the share of T1 is also triple in Latin America today compared to Spain and Portugal. Southern Italy: Max Dimont estimates that in 5th century Italy, for instance in Emperor Theodosius‘ new capital Ravenna, every third Jew descended from pagan converts. The first Italian female Rabbi Barbara Aiello in Serrastretta/Calabria claims that 50 percent of Southern Italians have partially Jewish ancestry. Northern Portugal: The high frequency (19 %) of haplogroup G (marking 15 % of Sephardim and 9.5 % of Askenazim globally) in Portuguese villages near the Spanish border is explained by Bennett Greenspan with that it „may reflect migration of Sephardic Jews during the Inquisition, who fled Spain across the border to escape persecution”. This applies even more strongly to the high frequency of T1 in the border districts of Bragança (15.7 %) and Vila Real (7.7 %), as compared to the general frequency of T1 in Northern Portugal (4.7 %). In direct paternal line, centuries back my listed genetical relatives are 40.8 percent Arabs and 40.9 percent Jews, mostly with Spanish-Portuguese surnames. The surnames of other tested men and the information they give about their earliest known ancestors provided me decisive clues concerning the origin of my surname and the wanderings of my ancestors. What have the surnames Franks, Bloch, Driggs to do with Riggenmann? The surname Franks derives from Hans Francke (“the French”) born in Germany 1543. “Bloch” means “French” in Polish language. And according to Dan Rottenberg’s “Finding our Fathers”, Franks is related to Bloch. Obviously some of my close relatives in 15th to 17th century migrated from France over Germany to Poland. But from where had they come to France? Driggs is the anglicized surname of Joseph Rodrigues who was born in Portugal 1686 and died in Connecticut 1748. Other Rodrigueses went north: More than 300 victims with the surname Rodrigues, mostly from Amsterdam, died in the holocaust and are listed in Yad Vashem registers together with surnames as Rodrig, Drikes, Dricks, Drikman, Drykman. My ancestor Jacob Rikheman spelled his surname also Rykman. So the very German surname Riggenmann hides Marrano roots of Rodrigues family? Not too strange a thesis since until 1100 CE ninety percent of all Jews were Sephardim, as Malka (p.24) states, and since Joshua S. Weitz, professor of bioscience at Georgia Institute of Technology, declared in The Forward (Jan. 2014): “Nearly all present-day Jews are likely to have at least one (if not many more) ancestors expelled from Spain.” They could not carry much property with them, but memories. In 1943, Charles Singer said: “We carry our history in our very bowels. Both spiritually and biologically the dead live in each of us”. In 1993, highlighting “coincidence in time and space” as means of transmission between generations, Anne Ancelin Schützenberger stressed drily: “The dead pass down to the living.” Schützenberger quotes Jacob Levy Moreno who postulated the existence of the family and group “co-conscious” and “co-unconscious”. And she supposes that for instance “the sense of guilt for an action has persisted for many thousand years and has remained operative in generations which can have no knowledge of that action. I have supposed that an emotional process, such as might have developed in generations of sons who were ill-treated … has extended to new generations which are exempt from such treatment …” Does this apply to me? If I felt scared and threatened by the crucifix to the degree that I rather exposed myself as Bavaria’s public enemy than to bow down before the symbol, I have to arrive at the question if to my ancestors the symbol had to do with ill-treatment. Still today, Portuguese language has a special term for ill-treatment: judiar, judiação. How Marranos viewed the symbol “Here the crucifix has been insulted!” a Catholic priest thundered. “Let us pray the rosary.” This happened not in Toledo or Sevilla during 15th century but when the judges adjourned for recess in my Munich 2001 trial concerning classroom crosses. Actually I had quoted, concerning god images, some statements of Kant and the Bible. From the beginning of Catholic reconquista, the crucifix was used to announce forced conversion. In 14th century Spain Vincent Ferrer, the champion of Jew-baptizers, infatigably traversed Castile from end to end, invading synagogues with a Torah scroll in one arm and a crucifix in the other, “while an unruly mob at his heels added force to his arguments”. In this way, “on a single day, in Toledo, he is said to have gained four thousand converts.” In 1492, when the Jewish community of Spain tempted to rescind the expulsion order with an exorbitant bribe, Torquemada is said to have erupted into the royal chamber with crucifix held high: “Behold the crucifix whom the wicked Judas sold for thirty pieces of silver!” And King Ferdinand caved in, the Jews were thrown out of Spain after 2000 years, except those who became “New Christians”. If she would not confess that father and mother had insulted a crucifix, he would burn her little hand in this brazier of glowing coals he had put in front of her! So the Inquisitor of Coimbra told the little daughter of rich Cristão Novo Simon Alvares from Porto. The girl confessed, the parents burned.” The crucifix visualizes the most fundamental difference between Jewish and Christian tradition: God prevents the sacrifice of Isaac but sacrifices his son Jesus in the cruellest possible way. Invited to explain my reasoning in a Protestant Sunday Service in 2002, I took Schiller’s poem Wilhelm Tell as example of a father’s love. On order of the despotic governor, Tell has to shoot an apple from his little son’s head. He hits the apple – and frankly tells the curious governor why he had prepared a second arrow. “The second arrow was for you”, the loving father tells him. “In case I’d failed the apple and hurt or killed my son. And you I certainly would not have failed!” During a Castilian passion play in 1494, a Spanish converso named Santacruz dared to mutter similar paternal feelings, and much too loudly: “He was the son of God? What Father would put his son through this?” The image of what Jesus’ heavenly father had required him to go through was present at all stages of the proceedings that ended in the second cruellest way of execution, in burning on the stake, alive: “Looking away from the crucifix” was a denouncable grave demeanour. Praying “without making the sign of the cross” was one of the evidences of apostasy which made Maria de Zarate face the crucifix in the interrogation room. The crucifix was needed for swearing oaths and present in the torture chamber; there were crucifixes in the procession to and at the stake, green crucifixes in the hands of the condemned ones, and crucifixes in the hands of the friars who till the very last moment solicited the stiffnecked ones to take the last minute opportunity of being strangled on the stake instead of burning in the flames alive – simply by kissing what? Around 1968, as a teenager I was very embarrassed by having to kiss the crucified one’s wooden feet during Holy Friday worship. I did it. At the auto-da-fé of Mexico City of April 11, 1649, Tomas Treviño de Sobremonte was among the non-kissing Marranos: “When I held the crucifix to his lips, he turned away his head”, Father Correño related, “saying … he was a Jew and wanted to live and die in the Law of Moses.” Contrary to living human bodies, the wooden crucifix with its wood-carved or metal-cast corpus truly merited compassion. The Christian expectation that Jews would scourge crucifixes – a frequent accuse in Brazilian Bahia after 1646 – enters stage when in 1630 the skilled interrogators of Madrid found out that during their perverse religious services Judaizers used to flagellate a crucifix; in the subsequent auto seven of them were burned in their flesh and four only in effigy because they had escaped. In the spring of 1506, in a church of Lisbon Holy Mass was celebrated on April 19, the Sunday of Easter, this “age-old source of anti-Jewish explosion”. The faithful implored for cessation of the pestilence which had begun to spread half a year ago, adding to the miseries of draught and lower-class famine. Suddenly, a crucifix at the altar was observed to be unusually luminous. A miracle! Tactlessly, a New Christian laughed at the idea, saying that nothing more was in question than the normal refraction of light: “How can a piece of wood do miracles?” He was dragged out of church by a group of women, beaten do death, and the same happened to his brother who had rushed to protest. The mob was strengthened by German, Dutch and French seamen. On Monday evening the mob’s anger seemed to chill down, but on Tuesday morning, aided by two confreres, “a Dominican friar with a big wooden cross, brading ‘Here, sons! For the faith in Jesus Christ, not one of those Jews shall remain!’ roamed the streets till supper”. And the crowd replied shouting: “Since the king refused to punish the New Christians, God now must do so.” 2,000 humans massacred, punished for what? For allegedly having tortured the innocent man depicted in the ubiquitous symbol. In 1673, Padre Torrejoncillo regards the crucifixion of daily 500 Jews before the walls of Jerusalem in 70 CE just justified: “And all this occurred to them as castigation for the words they had spoken against Christ our Lord: Crucifige, crucifige, sanguis eius super nos …” Torrejoncillo, just as innumerable Christians of the second millennium, had learned his Jew-hate in his childhood, musing about the crucifix. In his study “The Moral Judgment of the Child” (1973) Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980), referring to a Russian developmental psychologist who emigrated to Brazil in 1929, explained what happens in the child’s soul: “As Mrs. Antipoff has demonstrated very well in a short remark about compassion, the inclinations to revenge may be ‘polarized’ very early under the influence of sympathy: While the child, due to his amazing ability to empathy and emotional identification with the suffering one, suffers himself, he feels the desire to avenge the unhappy one, like himself, and senses a certain malicious joy about the suffering done to the originator of someone else’s pain.” Within the same study, Piaget points to the amazing severity and hardness, even cruelty, with which children wish to punish all evildoers: If they themselves can choose the “just punishment” for transgressions, they “almost always recur to expiation, and their choice is of amazing rigor.” In Goethe’s words, “all children are moral rigorists”, and Christian philosopher Søren Kierkegaard grasps this rigor sensitively in the child’s desire to “smash to pieces” the crucifiers of good Jesus – a wish as rigorous as recurring through the centuries. The constant reminder The role of the crucifix as learning device of Jew-hate may hardly be underrated. Simon Wiesenthal resumes the history of Jew-hate as “1900 years of punishment for the death of the Jew Jesus.” But this is not exact. “The year 1000 found Jews in conditions reasonably stable for the time”, Catholic cleric Edward Flannery remarks. “Two centuries later they were almost pariahs, in three, they were terrorized.” What had changed? The earliest representations of the crucifixion date back to 8th century. They show the Christ lesser as a victim but rather as the sovereign ruler. The expression of human pain would have contradicted this kingly role. No earlier than around 12th century, a poignant and meaningful change happens. Just when artists learned to add spacial deepness to their flat two-dimensional paintings, compassion now acquired its third dimension, opening a soul-space whose converging lines aim to utmost pain. Not by coincidence, this 12th century that had the great cathedrals, these “religious and social encyclopedias, intelligible to the masses” adorned with the Crucifixion story on their pediments “in increasingly realistic detail”, this 12th century was also the one which produced more works of anti-Jewish polemics than all centuries before; and it also marks the beginning of the socio-economic change “that was to characterize the predominant occupations of Jews in the countries of Europe for the next centuries”. It happened in exactly this 12th century of emotionally enhanced bloody paintings that the catching annual rhythm of the Jesus child being born at Christmas and Jesus crucified on Holy Friday produced the first rumours of Jews crucifying Christian children, later on also using their blood to bake their Matzot. And this picture-incited complex was “combined with the belief in a secret and mysterious Jewish society, a conclave of sages holding its sessions somewhere in a remote country and choosing by lot the place where the sacrifice was to be performed …” Thus the two most disastrous derivates from crucifix that are used against the Jews until today – Blood Libel and Elders of Zion – were conceived in the minds of crucifix-viewers in exactly this 12th century. Seven centuries had to pass until sensitive persons described the psychic transformation of compassion with innocent Jesus into justified anger against his alleged tormenters: the Jews. In 1925, Catholic Austrian Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi rephrased Kierkegaard’s insight of 1850 concisely: “The child views a crucifix and asks for its meaning. He receives the answer that the man on the cross is the dear Saviour (whom he loves and reveres as the “Christ child”) being tortured to death by the Jews. In the child naturally awakes a deep compassion with the Saviour, connected with an equally deep abhorrence of his enemies and assassins: ‘the Jews’. If later on he hears about Jews or sees Jews, he associates them spontaneously with the Christ-killers … With this antipathy inside, the child grows up.” In his fulminant essay “The Jew and the Cross” Jewish-American philosopher Dago¬bert Runes (1902-1982) put it bluntly: “The cross is for the Jew the symbol of pogrom … hate and condemnation. […] “The Christian child drinks his Jew-hate in Mother Church … This first impression of the grisly crucifixion stories is never to be forgotten […]. Indeed, cross and crucifix are the constant reminders of the deviltry of Jews, the God-hated murderers of his son.” Four decades later, Melvin J. Lerner concludes from studies of Carolyn Hafer that the responses to unjust treatment of a victim are so automatic that they “appear to be scripted”. Especially notable in view of the abused one on the cross, “witnessing some injustices inflicted on others may create a greater imperative to punish the perpetrator than does directly experiencing the same undeserved fate.” Employing the videotape of a very moving incident of bullying, James J. Gross and Robert W. Levenson (1995) “vividly demonstrated the persistent preconscious influence of these … automatic justice-driven imperatives on the person’s behavior.” So Jew-hate is Jesus’ guilt? By no means. My research increased my sympathy with him – with the man, the tragic rebel, not with the virgin born Godson – on a thoroughly human level, free of Pauline distortions. “Jesus of Nazareth was a faithful and observant Jew, who lived by the Torah, and taught nothing against his own people and their faith. He did not claim to be the Messiah and may even have denied outright that he was. The Jews did not conspire to kill him and were not responsible for his death. He met his end on a Roman cross, condemned by a Roman official for a Roman offense. The myth of the Christ-killers lacks a basis in history. The story it tells of Jewish rejection and malice is not true. The Romans, not the Jews, were the Christ-killers.” This is the resume of Anglican theologist William Nicholls, well agreeing with the view of Lübeck born Haim Cohn (1911-2002), judge of Supreme Court in Israel, delegate to UN-human rights council and judge at International Court in Den Haag: “Everywhere in the Christian world the Jews have been accused of a crime that neither they nor their ancestors had committed. Worse even, through centuries and millennia they had to suffer all kinds of torture, persecution and humiliation due to the role their ancestors were said to have played in the trial of Jesus, in which these ancestors not only didn’t take part by any means but also did everything that was feasible by human standards to save this Jesus, whom they loved as one of theirs, from his tragic end in the Roman oppressors’ hands.” Conscious cross objectors I had to explain the psychological effects of crucifixes because many Jews still underrate these effects. Rabbi Joachim Prinz probably wouldn’t, remembering how long he sat on his chair in the main synagogue of Sarajevo ready to start the sermon he was invited to give. Time passes and nobody wants to open. Eventually Prinz flusters to his neighbour for the cause of the strange delay. “He replied, with some embarrassment, that I was sitting before the altar with my legs crossed, and that reminded the Sephardic community of the cross which their ancestors had been forced to worship many centuries before. It was a great relief to the rabbi and the congregants when I uncrossed my legs. The service began. They were no longer ‘in the shadow of the cross’.” Does this speak of the “hereditary aversion against the cult of images” Anita Novinsky attests to Portuguese Marranos? Hereditary? Let’s review the names of those “conscious objectors” against the crucifix who became public enemies in European states (in brackets I add the number of victims Yad Vashem registers with same surname): The families Seler (Germany, 509) and Schlesinger (Switzerland, 1000+); the teachers Rauch (Germany, 883),Wolf (Germany, 1000+), Moise (Romania, 1000+) and Riggenmann (synonyms 1000+, surname Rodrigues alone, without derivations: 350 victims). How close am I to Brazilian-born artist Carlos De Medeiros who in Children of the inquisition explains how his artwork “Hanging Man” symbolizes question marks as well as his own “fading away” from Christianity? Trying to ease his doubts about faith he even entered a monastery for potential priests – and was rejected after nine months, quite exactly the length of my stay in sacerdotal seminary. In Medeiro’s case, it was his mother who found the roots, simply reconnecting with relatives who could document that their 14th grandmother was a Converso who escaped from Portugal to Brazil. “I’ve come full circle to something to which I belong,” Medeiro says. “It’s a work in progress. Never ever let the candle burn out.” Progress in review: Can Schützenberger’s findings cast light on all those biographic breaks? “It is evident that some of us carry ‘crypts’ inside like tombs in which were tucked away the half-buried, the half-dead – those buried with secrets unmentionable by our ancestors, or the unjustly dead (premature death, assassination, genocide).” Schützenberger might have Medeiros and me in mind when she concludes: “We have to pursue this ‘unmerging’, often with difficulty, in order to acquire our own identity among the long line transmitted to us.” Fidelity to ancestors … “To be an enemy of Christians, of Christ and his Holy Law, a Jewish father or a Jewish mother is not necessary. One parent suffices. It will not mean anything if the father is not a Jew, the mother suffices. And even if she is not completely Jewish, already the half will suffice; and even if she is not that, one quarter or one eighth as well. Holy Inquisition has found out in our times, that Jewish blood continues until the twenty first generation. Many heretics become Catholics, many gentiles convert to our faith, but never, or rarely, you will see a Jew converted, if not for much fear of punishment …” This statement was made by an expert of Inquisition: Fra Francisco de Torrejoncillo, in his Sentinela contra los Judíos, admonition against the Jews, in 1673. In amazing congruity, Janusz Korczak, the Varsaw orphanage director who died with his children in Treblinka, made the following observation as an educator and physician: “There are sometimes children who still don’t have ten years of life but are carrying with them the load of many generations. Within the labyrinths of their brains rests jammed the bloody torment of many centuries … You say: ‘My child’. No, it is a common child, an offspring of father and mother, of ancestors and grand-ancestors. Some distant ‘I’, sleeping in a row of ancestors, the voice out of a rotten, long forgotten coffin, suddenly speaks out of your child […] Sometimes a sensitive child indulges in fancies of being a foundling in his parents’ home. That holds true: His progenitor has died yet a long time ago. A child is like a parchment, densely inscribed with tiny hieroglyphs you can decipher only partly ….” Yes, I had this fancy of being a foundling, somehow adopted by my parents. In 2010, I deciphered old entries in Catholic parson records, in search for my grandmothers. In direct maternal line, my mother descends from Maria Anna Bissinger, born in 1759 and buried in 1814 on a Catholic cemetery eight miles from Germany’s biggest rural Jewish community Ichenhausen where 131 persons named Bissinger lived between 1813 and 1883. Rosa Bissinger, born 1889, was among the last ten Ichenhausen Jews deported on March 8, 1943, with “probable destination Auschwitz”. Out of eleven Bissingers listed in Yad Vashem, eight lived in the rural Bavarian district of my mother and all her grandmothers. Can someone help me to decipher why I at the age of four years held a burning matchstick to the rosy toes of my sister’s doll and why my classmates branded me at age 13? Are children and drunkards telling the truth? In “Hidden Heritage. The Legacy of the Crypto-Jews” Janet Liebman Jacobs lets a South American girl tell her childhood story of mischance: I was only nine when I was badly burned. I was dancing around the room, and back then the houses were heated by big cast-iron stoves with coals, and my mother said: “Be careful”, and when she said to be careful, I went backwards and fell into the hot coals. They were boiling milk with sugar to make a typical dessert, and when I fell into the stove, the coals went over me. I felt like I was on fire. I was burning, mostly on the feet and neck. One of the charcoals went into my arm. I think I had a memory then of being burned before … I was very hurt. Then after a couple of weeks, I went to visit a family from Cataluña who lived across the street from our house. They were Catholics who lived in our town. And the gentleman says: “Here comes the burned one. The burned one.” And I say: Oh, thank you. I am very well.” And he says: “No, no. You are the burned one from before.” When I arrived home, I asked my papa: “What does that mean, ‘the burned one from before‘? He asked me: “Do you remember the story of the French lady, Joan of Arc, who was burned because she didn’t believe like everyone else?” I said, “Yes” – “Well,” my papa said to me, “when we did not believe like they believe, they would burn us like her.” This was the first time that I had consciousness that I was a Jew.” A “memory of being burned before” has never racked me. Just as to Anne A. Schützenberger, reincarnation is “not my path nor my way of reasoning”. I rather suppose that the reenactments in my CV spring from the “unsettled accounts” and the “implicit family book-keeping” Schützenberger postulates , and from the “unfinished tasks” psychologists Kurt Lewin and Bluma Zeigarnick refer to, as well as the “suspended questions” stressed by pediatrician Stephen Tucker and orthodox rabbi Yonassan Gershom.” Admitted, Tucker mentions “children who reenact their death in an earlier life”, and “post-traumatic plays” in which children use dolls to reproduce traumatic experiences. But whose experiences? Between Freud’s individual and collective unconscious, Leopold Szondi viewed a “family unconscious … in which the ancestral demands live on dynamically and may endanger the person’s destiny.” Far from the idea of reincarnation, Jacob Levy Moreno and many others proposed to heal traumas by reenacting the scene. “It was Jacob Levy Moreno … who postulated the existence of the family and group “co-conscious” and “co-inconscious”, Schützenberger recalls. “Françoise Dolto, Nicolas Abraham, Maria Torok raised the question of transgenerational transmission of unresolved conflicts … I have seen family repetition over three to ten generations.” Why did, after eight generations, my brother Johannes repeat the profession of the church-painter Johannes Riggenmann the Elder whom my family had forgotten completely? Why did my father reenact the Hollywood movie Ben Hur, which deals exactly with the Jews-and-Jesus problem, on a Swabian village stage? Why did my youngest brother enact with his amateur group Woody Allen’s play “God”, Ephraim Kishon’s “Black and White” and then a self-written historical drama about 1848 revolutionary and Chile emigrant Anton Hofstetter who later proved to have been Jewish? Why did I write a historical play about a famous 18th century pickpocket, the blackhaired “Schwarze Liesel” Elisabeth Gassner , née Ebner who, apart from being the ancestor of my classmate Johannes Gassner, proved to have belonged to the 80 percent of Jews among German vagrant paupers of 18th century? And why did I enact the subject of emigration in my prizewinning historical play New Heimat about German US-immigrants of 1848 with a Jewish protagonist, the seamstress Gitele Ullmann? Why had I replaced the crucifix in my classroom by a picture showing the sharing of bread, which is almost archetypical for the Jewish rite and ethics that dominate the non-Pauline parts of the gospels? Because, in Schützenberger’s wording, “fidelity to ancestors, which has become unconscious and invisible (invisible loyalty) governs us”? Ruth Beckermann, daughter of Shoah survivors, had told Vienna daily Standard on August 3, 2009: “One reason why we didn’t enroll our son in any state-run Austrian school was the cross on the wall. I didn’t want my son to have to sit under Jesus on the cross. Why should he? What is being communicated to him by this permanently is just what the people believe: ‘You have killed him’.” My dedicated work for removing the cruel symbol from classrooms was thwarted with the convenient help of an Israeli law professor. In 2009, the European Court of Human Rights had decided unanimously (7:0 votes) that obligatory classroom crosses infringe European convention. Italian mother Soile Lautsi had started her lawsuit in 2002, by coincidence at the same time when Italian TV reported my success at a Bavarian appeal court. Conscious of the connection between cross and Jew-hate, the astute Berlusconi government engaged Professor Joseph Halevi Horowitz Weiler (New York / Florence / Jerusalem), a convinced Zionist and veteran commander of a tank unit. And Halevi Weiler won the case for Berlusconi. On March 18, 2011, the Strasbourg jury decided 15:2 that no European can legally object to crucifixes in the classrooms of her child. Weiler is a staunch Zionist. What else does his pleading for crosses in European classrooms express than “Jews must not live in Europe today, now that we have a Jewish state”? And what is “orthodox” in helping to expose millions of non-Jewish children to God-images that the dekalogue bans strictly, in those ten ethical rules that were meant to be a light for the nations? If this is Jewish, my identity remains Marrano. If I am supposed to support, against international law, the occupation of Palestine or even the construction of a third temple instead of Al-Aqsa, I am Marrano. Yirmiyahu Yovel observes that as double outsiders the Marranos could find their place “only as reformers and nonconformists”. Since human life to me has the same value independent of ethnic or religious identity, and since I regard the fight for equal rights of strangers as the essence of Jewish ethics, several times my Jewish identity has been questioned by “Jews first” Zionists. Well, I proudly admit: I am a Marrano! And as a Marrano, I did not surrender to the symbol once again. Maybe this is the legacy of my ancestors who had to surrender to save their families. In my family I remained the loner. Just as in Genie Milgrom’s case, my genealogical discoveries created a conflict because they involved the entire family’s identity. “You come to this place alone,” says Milgrom, “without your family.” However, in September 2015 my sister-in-law surprised me at the end of a long distance call, after my mother had spoken with me the last time in her life and then returned the phone to her daughter-in-law: “By the way”, Klara said, “do you speak Hebrew?” – “Just very basically. Why do you ask me that?” – “Maybe you could translate some apartment rental offers for Clemens. They are all in Hebrew. He’s going to study one term of Arts in Jerusalem.” Clemens is whose brother? Yes, of compassionate Johanna. The last chapter “Why Johanna Fed Him Vanilla Cake and Other Child’s Play Questions” is the heading of the “final exam” that concludes my book “A Picture Held Us Captive. Crucial Learning, Golgotha to Gaza”. Essentially, this book deals with the impacts of three nails in the minds of sensitive children. Little Johanna had much more wisdom than the cream of Europe’s Supreme Court judges. She acted out a brilliant idea when she, sin escalera, climbed up to feed the wooden Herrgott Jesus, as if proving after 3000 years the Deuteronomy (4:28) verse of Moses “There you will serve man-made gods of wood and stone that cannot see or hear or eat or smell”. Her spontaneous action is as witty and provoking as Abram’s coup who smashed all the terracotta statues in his father’s shop, except one in whose hands he put a stick, and when his father saw the pile of God-shards, Abram pointed to the big one: “He’s done it, Dad!” Johanna’s silent coup was striking but parents-friendly and much more economical: Offering sweet cake to a woodcarved mouth, artful little Johanna put the senseful human reality of taste, smell and caring against the insensivity of the wooden idol in which her uncle views the root of Jew-hate, from the stakes of Iberia to the ovens of Auschwitz. Andamos com os mortos nas costas. Konrad Yona Riggenmann, Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil Quoted works: Andermann, Frank: Das große Gesicht. Munich 1970. Ben-Chorin, Shalom: Überwindung des christlichen Antisemitismus. Rothenburg on Tauber, 1962. Bodian, Miriam: Dying in the Law of Moses. Crypto-Jewish Martyrdom in the Iberian World. Bloomington, IN, 2007. Carvajal, Doreen: The Forgetting River. A Modern Tale of Survival, Identity and the Inquisition. New York 2012. Cohn, Haim: O Julgamento e a Morte de Jesus. Rio de Janeiro 2.1994. Coudenhove-Kalergi, Richard (ed.) and Heinrich: Judenhaß von heute – Das Wesen des Antisemitismus. Vienna and Zurich 1935. Epstein, Lawrence J. (ed.): Readings on Conversion to Judaism. Northvale 1995. Flannery, Edward: The Anguish of the Jews. Twenty-Three Centuries of Antisemitism. Mahwah, New Jersey 2004. Gerber, Jane S.: The Jews of Spain. A History of the Sephardic Experience. New York 1994. Gitlitz, David M.: Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of the Crypto-Jews. Philadelphia 1996. Haus der Bayerischen Geschichte (ed.): Juden auf dem Lande. Beispiel Ichenhausen. Catalogue to the exhibition in the former synagogue of Ichenhausen. Munich 1991. Heer, Friedrich: Gottes erste Liebe. Die Juden im Spannungsfeld der Geschichte. Berlin 1981. Klinghoffer, David: Why the Jews Rejected Jesus. The Turning Point in Western History. Doubleday/Random House (s.l.) 2005. Korczak, Janusz: Wie man ein Kind lieben soll, Göttingen 1979 Krogmann, Angelica: Simone Weil. Reinbek 1971. Lerner, Melvin J. and Clayton, Susan: Justice and Self-Interest. Two Fundamental Motives. New York 2011. Liebman Jacobs, Janet: Hidden Heritage. The Legacy of the Crypto-Jews. Berkeley/Los Angeles/London 2002. Nicholls, William: Christian Antisemitism. A History of Hate. Lanham (Maryland), 2004. Novinsky, Anita Waingort: Cristãos Novos na Bahia: A Inquisição no Brasil. São Paulo 2013. Perera, Victor: The Cross and the Pear Tree. A Sephardic Journey. London 1995. Piaget, Jean: Das moralische Urteil beim Kinde. Frankfurt 1973. Poliakov, Leon: The History of Anti-Semitism (4 volumes), Philadelphia 2003. Prinz, Joachim: The Secret Jews. New York 1973. Roth, Cecil: A History of the Marranos. New York 1974. Runes, Dagobert D.: The Jew and the Cross. New York 1955/1966. Schützenberger, Anne Ancelin: The Ancestor Syndrome. Transgenerational Psychotherapy and the Hidden Link in the Family Tree. New York 1998. Szondi, Leopold: Schicksalsanalyse. Basel 2004. Singer, Charles: The Christian Failure. London 1943. Sorj, Bernardo: Judaísmo Para Todos. Rio de Janeiro 2010. Torrejoncillo, Francisco de: Centinela contra Judios, puesta en la Torre de la Iglesia de Dios. Pamplona 1720 (Google-books). Wachtel, Nathan: The Faith of Remembrance. Marrano Labyrinths. Philadelphia 2013. Wiesenthal, Simon: Segel der Hoffnung. Christoph Columbus auf der Suche nach dem gelobten Land. Berlin 1991. Yovel, Yirmiyahu: The Other Within. The Marranos: Split Identity and Emerging Modernity. Princeton and Oxford 2009. Internet Sources:

http://www.plosone.org/article/infodoi10.1371journal.pone.0080932 http://www.familytreedna.com/PDF/MendezHumBiol2011.pdf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_T_(Y-DNA) http://www.eupedia.com/europe/european_y-dna_haplogroups.shtml http://www.cryptojews.com/Comparing_DNA.htm http://anthrocivitas.net/forum/showthread.php?t=11570 http://gbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/5/1/61.full http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1274378/ http://www.cryptojewsjournal.org/jewish-dna.html

 

Konrad Yona Riggenmann, PhD

konrig@t-online.de