Leo Cefkin, France, April 16, 1945
in a German Church,"
A W.W.II Memoir
January 26, 1995
"VE day found me in the city of Worms, Germany.
I was there for a day or two en route to rejoin my
outfit. We had a victory parade and I got up from my
hospital bed to march. It was an exhausting albeit an
exciting experience. . . I reached my destination, the
village of Tufles in the Tyrolean Alps east of Innsbruck
. . . Tufles was a beautiful and charming place. . . We
were housed (my squad) in a large farmhouse. The
inhabitants (enemy civilians) were moved into the barn.
There was a grandfather and grandmother, parents, three
daughters and a son and their children. The daughters all
had husbands in the German/Austrian armies. They didn't
know whether they had survived.
Interviewer: Rheba Massey
The middle daughter
organized a sightseeing trip for me to the village of
Ruin and its church, Judenstein (Jew's stone). That was
an eye-opener for me. The experience remains sharp in my
Judenstein -- Jews stone -- had one wall built on an
outcropping of rock. On that rock was a carving. Three
figures depicting hooked-nosed Jews, the first holding a
bloody knife and on that rock, a male doll of a young boy
who had just been stabbed.
(The canard of blood libel states that Jesus sought
out a Christian male child to sacrifice and to use his
blood to make matzos for Passover. This sorry libel is
discussed in the Encyclopedia Judaica under the heading
"Blood libel.") I had heard of the charge of
'blood libel' since my childhood. Here it was depicted in
a most astonishing way."
Cefkin was born in Rochester, New York, to Jewish
parents who had immigrated from Russia. His first
language was Yiddish and had learned Jewish history and
literature in secular Jewish schools. During his first
combat experience in December of 1944, crossing from
northern Alsace into Germany, he was determined not to be
captured by the Germans because he was Jewish. "We
knew that things were terrible . . . We didn't know that
Jews were being cremated and didn't know about
Auschwitz." Cefkin did not experience discrimination
in the army and when his buddies came across some former
prisoners from Dachau, the men shared their rations and
made some Hungarian cavalry troops dismount and give
their clothes to the refugees, in Cefkin's 'honor.' Thus,
seeing anti-Semitism institutionalized in this church
from the 19th century was a shocking experience for
Cefkin. He saw the church again after the war, traveling
with his wife.
"I'd fully expected that the display of May 1945
would no longer exist 33 years later. To be sure the
carving was gone, but the pathetic boy doll still rested
on the rock. Judenstein had become a tourist
'attraction'. There were kiosks and souvenirs market
outside of the church.
As we were leaving, Susan looked up at the ceiling and
spotted three murals. In the first, the Jews had captured
Andrew, the little boy. The second scene showed Andrew's
parents begging for his life. In the third, Andrew is
slaughtered for his blood.
I told my friend, Governor Richard Lamm about
Judenstein. Dick and Dotty were to visit Innsbruck after
he'd completed his stint as Governor of Colorado to take
up a teaching assignment in Innsbruck. The Lamms visited
Rinn and Judenstein, and they too were astounded. Dick
looked into the matter and learned that the Catholic
Bishop for the region wanted the Church to dismantle the
display. However he was refused on the grounds that
Judenstein was too good a tourist attraction to shut