I’ve been spending so much time at the Cemetery lately that I’ve started to think about the ‘what ifs’ of life. What if those who died young had lived and had the chance to make a valuable contribution to society? How different would our world now be?
My total involvement in all things cemetery is to do with the Heritage Lottery funded project that I’m coordinating. We're cataloguing Leicester’s Jewish Cemetery. I explained about it here and here. We now have a database which contains a record for each grave. Most of them have yet to be filled in but when we have completed this mammoth task, the information will form the basis of our genealogical website.
I have been researching the first burial at the Cemetery; a young girl, Nina Rosina Berger, who died in 1902 at the age of 13. From my research it would seem that she did not live long enough to make significant contributions to her society but her father did. I have a picture of him, Mr Frank Louis Berger, found at the Leicestershire and Rutland Records Office.
The photograph illustrates an article about Mr Berger's struggle to escape from relative poverty and create a successful Leicester-based business manufacturing boys’ suits. The article explains as follows [I’ve retained the original grammar/print style]
“From small beginnings the firm has risen and it is a fact that to-day they have over one thousand different styles of Boys’ Sailor Suits in Velvets, Plushes, Serge, Tweeds, Worsted, &c…..”
There are plenty more snapshots of life to be rediscovered as we progress with our project, but this got me to thinking about other lives lost. This year there will be a lot of rediscovering events from 100 years ago as it is the Centenary of the outbreak of The Great War. Leicester’s Jewish Community sent 49 men to fight in the 1st World War, a major contribution as there were only 37 Jewish families in Leicester at that time. Fortunately only three of those men died in action. 46 returned to continue their lives but, as history reminds us, millions and millions of young men never did return. The total number of deaths has been estimated at over 16 million.
If you speed read that then please slow down and think how many parents mourned and how many lives were lost... a million lives 16 times over.
How many of those young people would, had they lived, have made major contributions to life, cures for diseases, innovative developments in the arts, exciting new technological advancements? How different would life have been if these people had not been pointlessly slaughtered? We’ll never know. I’d like to think that at least we’ve learned lessons about the futility of war but I know that we haven't.
Do you think we'll ever be able to put an end to war?