Sunday, 19 January 2014

How different the world would be if.....

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?


  1. Very moving blog. I often wonder what my family members who died in the Holocaust would have contributed to society had they lived. Your research will prove invaluable ..even if it is taking so much time. And what stories lie waiting to emerge!!

  2. Sadly no, nor will all diseases be conquered and new ones will arise. Your work is valuable and fascinating. As always thanks for the update and for making us think. It is overwhelming to think about talents lost, etc. Goes to show - that those of us on this earth need to use our time wisely. Very good, Rosalind, very good.

  3. Ros this is truly fascinating. Funnily enough I was thinking of you this morning as a huge rainbow covered our island and I know you love rainbows. Sadly I do miss many or your posts, is there any chance you could add a 'subscribe by email' to you blog then I know I would miss none. Thank you and as always, fluffy hugs xxx

  4. I often think of those things. Good post!

    Hugs and chocolate!

  5. It's good to think they made their mark and are not forgotten.

  6. Interesting post, gets you thinking...

    It's sad thinking of what they may have been, although you could say even at a young age they made a huge contribution by fighting for their country.


  7. I hope so! And when I look at the kids I teach I feel hope - our school is full of kids who care, see each other for who they truly are. The world is in good hands :)

  8. I often feel WW1 was the most tragic and futile wars, but all wars are tragic. The loss of life in WW! was so horrific, though. I am very aware of it when travelling through Belgium and northern France. So many poignant graveyards. Your work is fascinating Ros. I am looking forward to hearing about the outcome of your research further.

  9. It is very sad to think about all of the people who lost their lives at an early age. Your cemetery research project sounds fascinating, and it will help people learn more about their family histories. Looking forward to hearing more about your research, Rosalind.


  10. Don't get me started on the subject of war. It never solves anything. Sooner or later everyone has to get round a table and talk. So why is it always 'later'?

  11. Good post Ros....and as you know it's something I've been dwelling on for the last few months as I'm making a series of 30 features about the First World War. Such a sense of loss, sacrifice, slaughter , heroism, resilience and genuinely amazing people doing incredible things right here in Leicestershire and Rutland,

  12. Whether the figure of 16 million is one war or two it is still horrendous. The research mus be fascinating and, being a writer, you have even more of the "What if" gene than others!

  13. Hi Ros, I've been doing some research on a local history project too, and like you, I find I wonder about what might have been...I look forward to hearing more about your project.

    Regards war, all war is tragic.

  14. I bet you shed a few tears during your research. I don't think wars will ever end ,not when we still have greedy,power hungry men in power. I often think about what all those young men killed in wars would have came to,it breaks your heart. What a truly good thing you and all your volunteers are doing Ros.


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