The Fatherland, Motherland, Auntland and Uncleland
July 1, 2008
Gosh it’s good to be back at the blog! I’ve been Snippeting and Found Objecting with glee, and now I’m going to blab some more about our trip. The knitting must wait a little more. (I said I knit 3 baby sweaters; I didn’t say I sewed the ends in.)
Stop 2 in Germany is tricky to write about in my typical breezy style. (Moi? Breezy?) It was a wonderful time, but of the tender-moment, not the loads-of-laughs variety. It was a visit to the town Hubby’s father’s family had to leave in 1938. The extended family had lived for several generations as proud Germans in a small community in which Christians and Jews had coexisted peacefully since 1724. It’s a sad story even though, for this family, it had a sweet ending in New York. (Where, among other things, fabulous girls from Nebraska and the Bronx were waiting to marry the boys of the next generation. Hey, I have to make a footnote for me and Aunt Kathy in this story.)
Like some other German Jews, this family revived some of their connections shortly after the war. Despite everything, and not without mixed emotions, they retained a fond feeling for their old home. In recent times, that feeling is being validated, in large part by people who were not even born until after the bad times, and who, it seems, are trying to understand what happened by documenting it.
(The only knitting in this portion of our travelogue is the knitting you should assume I am doing pretty much constantly, to the eyerolling of my companions: baby sweaters in Rowan Denim. There was cabling; there were blue fingers; a twig did duty in as cable needle; I had a fantastic time. )
A few highlights in pictures:
The Jewish cemetery, a place of peace. A shambles in the 1960s, the stones have been restored, and today are maintained by volunteers. They open the gate each day in case there are any visitors. It’s a lovely spot, frozen in time, in the heart of town. Joseph got to stand in front of the marker of his ancestor Josef, which was not creepy at all. (Funnily enough, this practice– grave-visiting as family outing–was also a tradition of Die Gardiners aus Omaha. Loading up the aunties’ Corvair with peonies in coffee cans, reading the out of style names on the stones: good times.) Our guide– a high school history teacher who met us there out of kindness–knew more about how we were related to people than we did.
Several markers (including this memorial to “our sons”–Jewish soldiers lost in the first world war) were designed by the Art Nouveau designer Friedrich Adler, a native of the town who perished in Auschwitz in 1942.
The running track. (The kids are in mid-air because the track was named to honor a cousin who high-jumped her way onto the 1936 German Olympic team, but was kicked off before the opening ceremonies.)
Homes of extended family members; these houses were the first housing for Jews, built by the nobles who allowed them to stay in the town, initially by paying for the privilege.
Some of the houses are in more or less original condition, and one has been repurposed as a public music school.
When we stuck our heads into Aunt Ruth’s childhood bedroom, there was a flute lesson going on, which she would like. She would love the posters of Louis Armstrong and Yo-Yo Ma, and the kids skidding into the parking lot on bikes, instruments strapped to their backs. It’s a happy place.
Music is fine, but a chance to visit the wig factory? Sign us UP. Surprisingly, none of the youngsters expressed any longing to be in ye olde family business. Something to do with the aroma of stewing hair, I think? (Yes, the shade swatches reminded me of yarn. If only the family had been in garn instead of haar–where did the dyeing talent go?)
So what if it’s a short street in a small town: it’s our street, dangit. We haven’t been able to get a street anywhere else yet, so this one is just fine. First exit off the roundabout, or you’ll miss it.
A long day ended in awe with a visit to The Museum of the History of Christians and Jews, which was started in 1994 but was new to us. For a town this size to have such a museum was stunning. (We were particularly enamored of one of the items on display. A wig catalog. A really beautiful wig catalog. Wigs R Us.)
I’m going to get Hubby working on an indigo vat, to see if he’s got the chops. I think it’s premature to start winding off hanks of linen for that.