Married to the Eagle’s Nest, Alan Feldstein wanted to beat Hitler with his nose

JTA – Felice Jacobs and Alan Feldstein were able to marry in Phoenix, where they met and where his mother worked in the local Reform Synagogue. They could plan their wedding at the US Army base in Austria, where Alan was at the time.

Instead, they chose the Eagle’s Nest, a former Nazi possession in the Bavarian Alps, a place where, as far as we know, a Jewish wedding was never held.

“We got married there because my husband wanted to hit Hitler in the nose,” Felice Feldstein recalled last week.

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Just 10 years after Hitler’s defeat and death, Feldstein’s wedding in August 1955 was so remarkable that the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) reported it at the time, identifying the event as “the first orthodox Jewish wedding celebrated in Berchtesh a refuge, a hotbed of Nazism. “

This was not the last time Alan Feldstein, who died last month at the age of 88, took a very strong stance.

House of German Chancellor Adolf Hitler in the mountains of the Bavarian Alps, near Berchtesgaden, July 7, 1934. (AP)

As a new professor at the University of Virginia in 1968, Feldstein returned home with only a half haircut as a result of an impromptu one-on-one boycott after learning that the hairdresser did not serve African-American clients.

After returning to the Los Alamos National Laboratory after returning from Europe, Feldstein received his doctorate in mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles. He then began his academic career, first at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. When the employee moves to Charlottesville, Feldstein tries to persuade his wife to go south as well.

Felice was skeptical. Racial tensions in the South were high: Charlottesville recently desegregated schools after a long struggle, and Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in the spring before they moved. Alan eased his concern by showing him a local newspaper with a central statement in favor of racial integration, signed by hundreds of locals.

“It was enough for me to say: we are moving to a liberal city. Everything will be fine, “she recalls.

The discovery of the barber shop was a shock. But Feldstein did more than he left. He went to the dean, who he knew had been cut to encourage him to boycott.

His request was not well received. “It’s a problem with strangers coming here and telling us what to do,” Dean Alan said, according to notes he made at the time.

For Alan, “outsiders” clearly meant Jews, which only encouraged him even more. Eventually, a boycott of lone hairdressers, backed by the University of Virginia student movement, forced many stores to agree to serve African-American customers.

Extended Feldstein family, including Alan and Felice, bottom right, in date photo. (Credit: Mark Feldstein through JTA)

However, the pride in winning this victory was short-lived, as his contract with Alan was not renewed. According to his son Mark, everyone saw the decision as revenge. The family left Charlottesville, and Alan returned to Arizona State University, where he taught for the rest of his career.

Mark Feldstein said his father’s activism inspired his own: “In high school, he did an exhibition about racist textbooks used in the classroom. He also began his own career in journalism. Mark now holds a chair in television journalism at the University of Maryland after a long career in investigative journalism.

The wedding in the Eagle’s Nest was the main story in the family. “Their wedding in Berchtesgaden after World War II was an extraordinary event,” Mark said. “And we were all very proud of that. »

American troops then occupied Berchtesgaden, but the huge underground bunkers built by the Nazis had already been turned into a tourist destination.

Felice did not take part in sightseeing tours. She focused on other aspects, including getting married in another country, a civil wedding in Salzburg, and a religious ceremony at the Alpine Inn, which was above the tunnel where Nazi leader Hermann Goering’s art collection was looted. found after the war.

At the Alpine Inn, the couple married under a hupa Jewish wedding traditions. The official rabbi was Oscar Lifshutz, a U.S. Army colonel who, during his long and historic military career, accompanied the remains of Zionist leader Theodor Herzl from his grave in Vienna to his new burial site in Israel in 1949.

Felis then recalls that the couple had lunch in a “very, very nice room” for a total of $ 125, or about $ 1,300 today. Alan’s mother and a dozen comrades-in-arms were present at the wedding.

“It was shortly after the end of World War II, and I think he and my mother felt that it was not just contempt for Hitler, but a kind of confirmation of the survival of the Jews in the face of the attempted extinction of our people,” said Mark Feldstein. .

Many members of the Feldstein family were among the victims. Alan was with his grandfather when the news of the murder of a member of his family came. Mark learned that his family lived in a village on the river, which was opposite the concentration camp. “No Jew got away with it, including our family,” he said.

“My grandmother’s sister, her husband and her family were killed. I have a family photo. They were probably wealthy Jews and moved to Berlin. And it marked their sad end, “said Felis.

Over the next decade, the couple took on a new challenge: having four Jewish children. Mark was followed by three girls: Rachel, Susie and Sarah.

Mark Feldstein said, taking into account the family legend, that when his paternal grandmother learned of the couple’s third pregnancy, she was very critical. She asked why they wanted to have so many children.

“Hitler killed six million people,” his father replied. She replied, “You don’t want to replace them all, do you?” »

Felice said her four children guaranteed that she and her 66-year-old husband had never been alone in the last months of their lives.

“I am the happiest person in the world,” she said.

Due to ill health in the last years of his life, Alan Feldstein did not tell his family in detail about the march of white leaders in Charlottesville in 2017, when neo-Nazis passed the Reformed synagogue, where Mark Feldstein studied at his bar-mitzvah.

He also did not tell them about Madison Kothorn, a Republican candidate from the North Carolina Republican Party, whose trip to Berchtesgaden’s Eagle’s Nest in 2017 brought the public’s attention to Feldstein’s wedding in August 2020.

But his family knew he was upset that the United States made the right turn when Donald Trump was elected president in 2016.

“He saw parallels with what happened in Germany in the 1930s,” said Mark Feldstein. “The rise of authoritarianism, the propaganda of racism – it worried him, really worried. »

Alan Feldstein died on January 29 and was privately buried on January 31. The family urged the mourners to donate to their synagogue in Arizona, the Temple of Emmanuel in Tempe. Then, last week, the synagogue sent an email to members of the community: the synagogue was destroyed, swastikas were painted on its garbage cans.

“Do you feel that you have gone full circle from Berchtesgaden to the events here?” Mark Feldstein asked his mother.

“Well, that’s the point,” said Felice Feldstein. “Of course, [Alan] I don’t know what happened last week in the synagogue, but I can imagine how upset it would be. »

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