Need a holiday handknit? Time for a Schmatta!

The Fatherland, Motherland, Auntland and Uncleland

Dear Ann,
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.
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(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:
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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.
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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.
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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.)
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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.
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Some of the houses are in more or less original condition, and one has been repurposed as a public music school.
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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.
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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?)
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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.
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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.
Love,
Kay

35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. So much else to say, but I feel obligated to point out a typo: where you write “the Bronx,” I think you intended “da Bronx.” I know, you’ve been away a long time.
    What a great trip, and how fab to see the kids together! Wow!

  2. Thank you. It has been a special trip, and I”m glad you shared it with us.
    My (Christian) grandmother in Iowa made the same pilgrimages to the cemetery, also with peonies in coffee cans. (How do we manage today, when coffee comes in vacuum-packed bags and no cans?)

  3. What a gift this trip was for your children!
    And I certainly remember childhood visits to the cemetery with flowers cut from the garden. Now they’re banned in many places…too much work for the groundskeepers.

  4. Fantastic! I’m honored to call the Bergmanns my friends!
    Oh and I totally know Gretel Bergmann – saw the doc – what a life.

  5. It’s so much fun to hear about your trip. Ulm looks fantastic! I’ll have to add it to my itinerary and see if I can’t track down some of my own coole summergarn.

  6. the photo of the kids jumping in the air at the stadium is precious. and the hotlink to the HBO showing of the Margaret Lambert Story – Hitler’s Pawn (narrated by Natalie Portman) sounds like a show not to be missed – thanks for the tip.

  7. the photo of the kids jumping in the air at the stadium is precious. and the hotlink to the HBO showing of the Margaret Lambert Story – Hitler’s Pawn (narrated by Natalie Portman) sounds like a show not to be missed – thanks for the tip.

  8. Enjoyed this post very much, especially since I’ve just finished The Zookeeper’s Wife and am now reading The Book Thief.

  9. I dyed linen in indigo once….it’s REALLY hard to dip it enough times to get it darker than sky blue. But it’s very pretty….but the vat is STINKY!

  10. Too cool. I love the music school and life going on there in such a happy way. And, um, when did Ms Carrie turn into a teenage babe??Yikes!

  11. What a wonderful memory-reviving and memory-making trip.
    Here’s hoping we achieve a world free from prejudice and its all-too-easy escalation into horrific events.

  12. Wonderful.
    Particularly the music school.

  13. What a wonderful post, and what a wonderful trip! Having attempted to get an action photo of just 2 kids in the air, I have to wonder how many tries it took you to capture all four aloft. Thanks for sharing this trip with us.

  14. I can only imagine the emtoins this evoked. I am commenting simply to recommend a movie called “The Nasty Girl” which is in German with sub-titles. It’s not a porno flick; it’s about a young German girl who decides to write about her small town’s actions during the war. It may be hard to find, but worth it if you can get it.

  15. I can only imagine the emtoins this evoked. I am commenting simply to recommend a movie called “The Nasty Girl” which is in German with sub-titles. It’s not a porno flick; it’s about a young German girl who decides to write about her small town’s actions during the war. It may be hard to find, but worth it if you can get it.

  16. I can only imagine the emtoins this evoked. I am commenting simply to recommend a movie called “The Nasty Girl” which is in German with sub-titles. It’s not a porno flick; it’s about a young German girl who decides to write about her small town’s actions during the war. It may be hard to find, but worth it if you can get it.

  17. My father’s side of the family was forced to leave Austria around the same time for the same reason. My grandfather (an agnostic Jew) was arrested by the Gestapo first, managed to get himself exiled to England, left his wife in Austria (she was Catholic) where he arranged for my father (who was being raised Lutheran–at least I think that’s the story)to come over on the Kindertransport. My grandfather moved on to New York to build a new life, my father stayed in England (and became an Anglican) and then weirdly, after the war, they all ended up in Omaha.
    What is it about Omaha?

  18. What a beautiful post, and beautiful pictures, too. Your kids will treasure memories of this trip forever. Love your cable needle, and the floor in your Aunt Ruth’s room at the music school, BTW.

  19. I love this post Kay – what got you to go do this? People plan these kind of things all the time, but never have the time. The pictures are great.

  20. I second the recommendation for The Nasty Girl. I only saw it once, long ago (I’d say pre-1990) and it was really good.
    Amazing story of your family connections and it’s great to show your kids their past. My dad was in the war, but heck, he’s 90, and there are not many people left who took part in any way. It was a very strange time.

  21. OMG! Du bist in Ulm gewesen! My group took a day trip there while we were in Germany. The veiw from the Munster is amazing! One of our bassoons (I swear that kid is a ninja) managed to go up and down all 768 steps in twenty minutes. Yay for music school! The wig factory looks… interesting. Congrats to you on being able to improvise a cable needle! What are we knitters if not resourceful?

  22. Ahhh the cemetary… when I was little we visited my aunt during the summer. She lived in a small town outside of Cincinatti— we kids daily walked across the small highway to play in the cemetary. It looks so much like the one you visited… THANKS FOR SHARING THE PICTURE.
    We thought nothing of playing there and we were very respectful as kids. Then I find out that my mother and her siblings played there too.
    What a great family tradition – to visit as a family and remember those we loved.

  23. My mother also cut peonies and loaded them into coffee cans, and we’d all take them to the cemetary for Memorial Day (along with bread to feed the ducks on the pond there). We were in Ohio — could it be a Midwestern thing? Or was it just the way folks did things back then?
    Anyway, sounds like a fabulous trip.

  24. my mother baked brown bread with raisins in coffee cans……and we are old new englanders. something totally functional about that coffee can…….

  25. It sounds like you had a wonderful trip with the family. I’m sure it will provide many memories for both you and the children in the years to come. I’m so glad you had the opportunity to do this. I’m hoping I can take my own family back to Germany before too long — two of my girls were born there!

  26. lovely posting my family came
    over here pre rev the internet
    can be of help steet side view
    of my grandparents house in
    indiana -still standing-i am
    not for sure
    coffee cans for sure and
    pick the pie o knees for the graves

  27. Great trip, lovely pictures. And hey, I know where Ulm is! We lived in Germany for about a year, very close to the French border (we could see Strasbourg from our balcony). Your kids will always remember this.

  28. What a great Picture- Story Kay, thank you for sharing. It brings back so many memories from my trips to Germany, where my Father’s side came from, but we all landed in Switzerland. My Maiden Name is Friedrich. I am getting so nostalgic now, better get back to my knitting. Thanks for everytng, Love, Rita

  29. Great pictures. You make me miss my old home in Ilbenstadt, Hessen.
    On the idea of indigo and colour, I’d like to recommend a book. (Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay) It’s a well researched book that is a good read as well. Tracing the history or each basic colour the book teaches of both historical uses and how the colour is produced. I _highly_ recommend it.
    http://www.amazon.com/Color-Natural-History-Victoria-Finlay/dp/0812971426/ref=pd_bbs_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1215032868&sr=8-1

  30. Could you indigo dye hair still on your head? I think I would be into that!!

  31. coming from a family who does genealogy for fun, seeing your cemetery photos are not at all weird. every time i go to clean up family graves, i always take a picture.

  32. kay, such a gift you’ve shared with all of us out here. your delightful photos and words take me through the pain to the possibility. same for the comments. great way to approach july 4.
    yours, naomi

  33. Ok, now you’ve gone and done it.
    I’m going to have The B-52’s “Wig” stuck in my head all weekend. And it’s a loooong weekend. too.
    Looks like it was a great trip. Thanks for sharing.

  34. a happy fourth of july

  35. Sitting here in my bright, safe, cheerful garden enjoying my morning tea this July 4th weekend, I’m struck by the terrible truth that the children of those who fought for freedom (WWI), were denied it so horribly (WWII).
    My visit to Orador sur Glane (sp?) in France, 2000, was eye-opening (it is a village preserved at the moment it was destroyed – men, women, children – because of a resister). It is beautiful to see that now, at least, they are honored.
    And God bless the wig-makers! I am daily indebted to their arts…