Germany

Stolpersteine

The German word Stolperstein means stumbling stone, and today you may “stumble” over one of these 70,000 small brass stones placed all over Germany as well as Europe. This is a project initiated by German artist Gunter Demnig in 1992 to commemorate victims of the Nazis at their last place of residency or work. Most stones remember Jewish victims of the Holocaust, but there are also stones remembering other groups or individuals persecuted and murdered by the Nazis. When you “stumble” over the 10 x 10 cm stones while walking by, it’s meant to make you stop and think about the impact of Nazi terror and the lives that were destroyed.

In Görlitz, the first stones were placed in 2007. As of 2018, there are 21 Stolpersteine commemorating the victims of Nazi terror in Görlitz, and in the future we will probably have more.  Engraved on the stones is usually the text “Here lived/worked….” with their name and their fate, if known.

On November 9th each year, Germany commemorates the November pogrom in 1938, coordinated attacks carried out against Jews throughout Nazi Germany in which their homes, businesses and synagogues were looted and destroyed and many Jews were arrested or murdered.

In Görlitz in 2018, this date was commemorated through several events, including a tour of the Stolpersteine in our city that I participated in. It was after taking part in this tour that I felt compelled to seek out all the information that I could about the 21 people commemorated and to share this information with you about the Stolpersteine in Görlitz:


Stolperstein for Eugen Bass in Görlitz, Luisenstraße 21

Eugen Bass was a veterinarian who was born in Berlin but lived in Görlitz at Luisenstraße 21.  His stone was placed there in 2007. In 1930 he published a book “Der Praktische Tierarzt” (The Practical Veterinarian). He was first sent to the Jewish ghetto in Tormersdorf, today a deserted village north of Görlitz on the Polish side of the Neisse River. In 1942 he was deported to Theresienstadt, today Terezín in Czechia. Theresienstadt was not an extermination camp, but the conditions there were appalling. Eugen Bass died there at the age of 80.


Stolpersteine for Paul and Jenny Boehm in Görlitz, Vogtshof

The artist Paul Boehm and his sister Jenny Boehm were both born in Breslau (Wrocław, Poland) and lived in the Vogtshof in Görlitz beside the Peterskirche where their stones were placed in 2007 near the entrance. Paul died in the Jewish ghetto of Tormersdorf at the age of 74, his sister Jenny was deported to Theresienstadt in 1942 and murdered at the extermination camp Treblinka.

Vogtshof in Görlitz

Stolpersteine for Sigmund and Betty Fischer in Görlitz, Demianiplatz 25

Sigmund Fischer and his wife Betty Fischer were textile dealers in Görlitz. They owned and operated the Textilhaus Fischer on Bismarckstraße, which was plundered and damaged during the November pogrom in 1938. They lived at Demianiplatz 25 and today when the doors are unlocked, you can step inside the entryway and read information about the Fischers and their descendants on the walls. Their stones were placed there in 2007. Betty was born in Görlitz, her husband Sigmund was born in Aussee (Usov in Czechia). They were both deported to Theresienstadt in 1942. Betty died there at the age of about 62, while Sigmund was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944 at the age of about 65.


Stolpersteine for Erich, Charlotte and Werner Oppenheimer in Görlitz, Jakobstraße 3

Erich Oppenheimer and his wife Charlotte Oppenheimer lived with their son Werner Oppenheimer at Jakobstraße 3 in Görlitz. Erich and Charlotte’s stones were placed there in 2007 and their son Werner’s later in 2012. Erich was a doctor born in Berlin and his wife was born in Görlitz Moys, now a neighborhood in Zgorzelec. All three were sent to the ghetto in Tormersdorf in 1942. Erich and Charlotte committed suicide by drowning themselves in the Neisse River to avoid being deported at the ages of about 48 and 46. Their son, about 21 years of age, was sent to the ghetto in Lublin in 1942. His fate is unknown.


Stolpersteine for Hugo, Robert and Elsbeth Schaye in Görlitz, Salomonstraße 41

Hugo Schaye lived at Salomonstraße 41 in Görlitz with his wife Elsbeth Schaye and son Robert Schaye. Their stones were placed there in 2007. Hugo and Elsbeth Schaye owned a hide and fur trade in the neighborhood of Rauschwalde. Hugo was born in Görlitz but his wife was from Bernsee. They were deported to Theresienstadt in 1942 and died there at the ages of about 78 and 71,while their son was sent east and murdered in the concentration camp Madjanek at the age of about 47.


Stolpersteine for Carl and Hans Jacobsohn in Görlitz, Bismarckstraße 16

Carl Jacobsohn and his son Hans Jacobsohn lived at Bismarckstraße 16 in Görlitz, where their stones were placed in 2012. Carl was born in Gollub and Hans was born in Görlitz. They both fled to Holland in 1938 but were sent to Auschwitz in 1944 and murdered there at the ages of about 67 and 35. Their son and brother Walter Jacobsohn escaped and lives today in Israel.


Stolpersteine for Fritz and Käthe Warschawski in Görlitz, Postplatz 10

Dr. Fritz Warschawski, a dentist, and his wife Käthe Warschawki were wealthy and influential citizens in Görlitz. Sensing that life was becoming increasingly dangerous for them in Germany, they fled in secrecy to Palastine in 1938.  Their grandson wants to remember his grandparents, who lived at Postplatz 10 in Görlitz where their stones were placed in 2012. Käthe struggled to cope after fleeing to a strange new country and killed herself in 1935.


Stolpersteine for Paul and Margarete Arnade in Görlitz, Jakobstraße 31

Paul Arnade and his wife Margarete Arnade owned and operated a suitcase and leather goods factory in Görlitz, which Paul’s father Julius Arnade founded in 1872. The factory was on Peterstraße until it was destroyed in a fire in 1876. Arnade took the opportunity to start a larger factory in Görlitz Moys. His business profited from a prosperous economy and increase in tourism. Julius Arnade died in 1915 and his tombstone can be found in the Jewish Cemetery in Görlitz. Paul and Margarete, both born in Görlitz, took over the business after his death and lived at Jakobstraße 31 in Görlitz. Their stones were placed there in 2014. Paul became chairman of the tourism association in Görlitz, but was pressured to resign in 1933 because he was Jewish. In 1936 the family was forced to sell the factory for a paltry sum. In 1941 both Paul and Margarete were sent to the ghetto in Tormersdorf. Paul and Margarete were both deported to Theresienstadt in 1942 where he died at the age of about 68. Margarete was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944 at the age of about 58.


Stolperstein for Martin Ephraim in Görlitz, Zittauer Straße 64

Martin Ephraim was born in Görlitz. His father, Lesser Ephraim, founded a successful ironmongery trading business. After it outgrew its premises on the Neißstraße in Görlitz, he acquired property on Jakobstraße 5. Today, you can see the initials EG on the beautiful ornate golden door, standing for Ephraim Görlitz. After Lesser Ephraim’s death in 1900, Martin Ephraim took over the business. Lesser Ephraim’s gravestone can be found in the Jewish Cemetery in Görlitz. Martin Ephraim had a villa built on Goethestraße 17 – one of the first houses in Görlitz built in art nouveau style. The villa was a youth hostel for many years and is now a hotel.

Martin Ephraim was a public benefactor who made huge contributions to Görlitz both culturally and commercially. He donated art collections to museums and helped to build the Ruhmeshalle (Dom Kultury) and the New Synagogue and to rebuild the railway station in Görlitz. His Stolperstein was placed outside of the office of the factory manager’s house on Zittauer Straße 64 in 2014. In 1944 at the age of 84 he was deported to the ghetto in Theresienstadt and he died there the same year.

Jakobstraße 5
Today the Ephraim Villa on Goethestraße 17 is a hotel

Stolpersteine for Wilhelm and Elsbeth Ucko in Görlitz, Elisabethstraße 10/11

Elsbeth Ucko and her son Wilhelm Ucko, both born in Görlitz, had a photo studio at Elisabethstraße 10/11, where their stones were placed in 2018. Her husband had died earlier in WWI. In 1944 at the age of about 63 Elsbeth was deported to the ghetto Litzmannstadt (Łódź) where she died. Her son Wilhelm was deported to Theresienstadt in 1944 but he survived and went to Sweden.


Stolperstein for Alfons Wachsmann in Görlitz, Struvestraße 19

Alfons Wachsmann, born in Berlin, studied theology and was ordained as a priest in Breslau in 1921. From 1921-1924 he was the chaplain of the parish of the Holy Cross Church in Görlitz on Struvestraße 19, where his stone was placed in 2018. Alfons Wachsmann took an early stand against National Socialism, using his pulpit to criticize and speak out against the regime. He was declared an enemy of the state and his calls and correspondence were monitored. In 1943 he was arrested and sentenced to death. In 1944 they executed him at the age of 48.

The Heilig-Kreuz-Kirche in Görlitz

The 21 stones scattered around Görlitz remind us of the 21 lives that were destroyed by National Socialism. Some of them are well-remembered as influential citizens of Görlitz, and some of them were “average” people who left little behind to remember them by. One thing they all have in common – their lives were cruelly taken away from them. These stones remind us of the history everywhere we walk. So if you’re in Görlitz, and you happen to stumble upon one of these small brass stones, take a moment to think about what was lost.

Day Trip to Großschönau

Slate tiles on a house in Großschönau Schieferhaus

This article originally appeared in the digital magazine Görlitz Town and Country in August 2018

One of my favorite things to do since moving to Görlitz is to take little day trips to explore my new home & all of its surroundings. I am always on the lookout for a new location to “discover”, so when I saw a special on MDR about Großschönau (Teure Tücher – Meterware aus der Oberlausitz), I was intrigued by the story of this small Upper Lusatian town that has such a long history of damask weaving.

Großschönau Mandau Fachwerk river
Along the Mandau River in the center of historic Großschönau

Großschönau is a small and picturesque town of around 5,800 people in Saxony, Germany and it shares a border with the Czech town Varnsdorf. Named for its location on a big, beautiful meadow (große schöne Aue), the Upper Lusatian town is about an hour drive away from Görlitz (47 km) and is also easily reachable by public transportation through connections in Zittau. Taking the bus from Zittau to Großschönau, I was transported back in time as we drove along curving narrow roads through rolling fields and little villages full of historic half-timber houses. I had read up about the town’s history with textiles before departing on my journey, but what I didn’t realize was just how gorgeous Großschönau would be.

View from Hutberg of Großschönau and the Zittauer Gebirge
View from the Hutberg of Großschönau and the Zittauer Gebirge in late winter

The town lies at the foot of the highest mountain in the Zittau mountain range, the Lausche (793 m) and on the floodplain of the Mandau and Lausur rivers. In fact, the town suffered a great deal of damage during August of 2010 when heavy rainfall caused the rivers to flood. Although this caused a great deal of destruction & loss of property, one can barely see the signs of this damage when walking through the historic center of the town as it has all been nicely repaired.

The most remarkable thing about Großschönau, besides its history of cloth-making, are its many half-timber houses (Umgebindehäuser). Dating back to the 17th to 19th centuries, these buildings are typical to the Upper Lusatian area and are characterized by their distinct architecture – a supporting wood frame with vertical and horizontal beams embraces the ground floor, and the upper floor rests on this frame. I found myself getting lost down various streets in the historic center of Großschönau, wanting to see all of these unique houses that have been so lovingly restored. Many of them also have slate tiles on the sides in varying patterns, which to me resemble the scales of a fish.

slate tiles on houses in Großschönau Germany Schiefer

The first mention of Großschönau in historical documents was in 1352 and it was founded as a blacksmith’s village but soon became world-renowned for damask and linen weaving. It all began in 1666 when the Zittau council sent two linen weavers, the brothers Lange, to Holland so that they could learn the art of damask and linen weaving and bring it back to the region. This industrial espionage was successful, as the two brought back with them the knowledge they had gained. The skills they had learned needed to be protected and so there were very strict rules for the weavers about leaving town or meeting with outsiders.  These cloths and the knowledge of the weavers were jealously guarded just as Meissen guarded their “white gold” porcelain.

old textile loom at the museum in Großschönau

Damask weaving, which took a great deal of time and effort to produce, is characterized by its beautiful and complex designs woven into the often single-color fabric by contrasting the weaving patterns. The small town of Großschönau became the center for artful design and technical perfection in damask weaving and their cloths were coveted by the elite. Unless you had money to spend on table cloths that were as costly as gold or silver, as an average person you would probably never lay eyes on some of these exquisite pieces. It’s lucky for us that today you can see over 600 examples of these beautiful works of art and skill in the German Damask and Terry Museum in Großschönau (http://www.ddfm.de).

The museum is housed in the Kupferhaus (copper house) built in 1809. Named for its copper roof, the building was home to the damask manufacturer Christian David Waentig. This small but fine museum in Großschönau is home to, not only an extensive collection of historic woven cloths and designs, but also to many historic weaving machines, like the Jacquard machine which revolutionized the way cloth was made in 1804. The Jacquard technique simplified the weaving process by controlling the loom with a chain of cards with holes punched into them. This invention turned out to be not only revolutionary for the weaving industry but for computing as well.

The Kupferhaus (copper house) has been home to a museum since it was gifted to the city in 1947.

Although there are much fewer people now employed in cloth-making in Großschönau than in former times, the textile industry continues to shape the economic structure of the community. Today there are two companies which sell their cloths worldwide: Damino GmbH (https://www.damino.de) and Frottana Textil & Co (http://www.frottana.de/), the former of which produces damask cloth in the form of table linens and sheets that are used frequently in hotels and on cruise ships and even damask clothing that are very popular with consumers in Africa. While visiting the town you can stop at the Damino outlet store and purchase a piece of the legacy of this town to adorn your own table at home.

While visiting Großschönau, whether you choose to explore it by foot or by bicycle, make sure to get lost along its curving little streets full of charming houses and to cross the numerous pedestrian bridges that cross the Mandau. While wandering, one should also take the opportunity to follow a path up the Hutberg mountain (371 m) for a view of the town from above and the Zittau mountains in the distance.

Although it’s a small town, Großschönau is brimming with beauty, charm and history and an important reminder to us explorers that veering off the well-traveled tourist path can pay off with some unique and memorable discoveries!

If you’re looking to travel to around the area using public transportation for the day, I recommend the Euro-Neiße ticket. It becomes cheaper if you are travelling with a group!

Church and cemetery in Großschönau
The Protestant-Lutheran church in Großschönau (1705) is the second largest village church in Saxony, able to accommodate 2000 churchgoers. Its greatest treasure is the altar piece “Christ’s Resurrection” painted by the artist Johann Eleazar Zeissig, born to damask weavers in Großschönau in 1737.

 

You might be interested in these other day trip locations in Germany that are easily reachable from Görlitz!

Mount Oybin Ruins

Mount Oybin is located near Zittau and is about an hour’s drive away from Görlitz (45 km). This mountain is famous for its castle and monastery ruins. Also famous is the narrow-gauge-railway where you can take a steam train from Zittau to Oybin.

oybin germany train station schmalspurbahn
Oybin Train Station

Mount Oybin is made of sandstone and 514 meters high. It’s a little bit of a hike up to the top (about 15 minutes), but mostly paved. There is an entrance fee to enter the ruins of the castle and monastery on top of Mount Oybin, so be sure to check out the opening times and prices on their website.

View from Mount Oybin in summer
View from Mount Oybin in winter
The Restaurant on Mount Oybin

We’ve now been to Mount Oybin twice, once in the summer and once in the winter, so don’t be astonished by the abrupt change in weather between my photos! These ruins are truly impressive and one feels transported back in time, imagining the monks who lived here. In the 1300s a church and residence were built on the mountain. The fortress proved impregnable after successfully fending off two attacks during the Hussite Wars. The castle and monastery fell out of use around the end of the 1500s when lightning struck the church and it burned down.

The ruins were “rediscovered” during the 1800s by artists such as Caspar David Friedrich, who appreciated the aesthetic of the massive, overgrown monastery ruins.

Caspar David Friedrich – The Dreamer (Ruins of the Oybin Monastery) Source: Wikipedia

Once on top of Mount Oybin, you can take a walk all around the summit, providing stunning views of the spa town Oybin as well as Zittau. Up here you can also find a restaurant and a graveyard. There are stairs that will take you to the top of the ruins for an even better view of the surroundings.

I really enjoyed our walk around Mount Oybin and was impressed by the preservation of these ruins and the views. It’s incredible when you think of the amount of work that went into creating something like this, on top of a mountain and without modern tools. There is a passageway through the stone that leads to the graveyard on top and a sign that tells you that this was chiseled away by hand from 1512-1515. If you look closely, you can see hundreds of thousands of chisel marks in the stone!

Passage chiseled through the stone

You might be interested in reading about these other day trips around Görlitz:

 

St. Marienthal Abbey

The St. Marienthal Abbey (Kloster St. Marienthal) is a beautiful nunnery that’s about a thirty minute drive (20 km) south from Görlitz, right on the Neiße River and the border to Poland.

The abbey was founded in 1234 and destroyed several times by fire or during war. In 1685 it was rebuilt in Baroque style, and then damaged during the flood in 1897. You can see the high water mark from the floods in 1897 and more recently in 2010 on the side of one of the buildings. The retreating German forces might have blown up the abbey at the end of WWII, but the nuns refused to leave and the building luckily survived.

Kloster St. Marienthal Abbey Ostritz
St. Marienthal Abbey
Kloster St. Marienthal Abbey Ostritz
St. Marienthal Abbey

The abbey is a cheerful pink color with green copper roofs. There are still nuns living there with regular masses as well as seminars and a meeting place for local organizations or places to stay for the night.

The abbey market has a large selection of regional gifts such as handmade crafts, beer, liquor and bread from their own bakery.

Kloster St. Marienthal Abbey Ostritz
St. Marienthal Abbey
Kloster St. Marienthal Abbey Ostritz
St. Marienthal Abbey

The breath-taking interior of the abbey has ornate patterns painted all over the ceiling. When we walked inside there were women up in the choir singing which set the mood quite well. As we walked out of the abbey, a tubby tabby came dashing through the door and between the pews. Worried about locking the cat inside the church for an unknown amount of time, I scurried after it. Fortunately it was agreeable with being picked up and cuddled a bit before being put back outside!

Abbey cat

The St. Marienthal Abbey is really lovely and worth a stop on your way south to other sites in Zittau or Oybin. Check out their website for events. There are tours of the abbey in German on Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm and from May to October every day at 3pm.

Kloster St. Marienthal Abbey Ostritz
St. Marienthal Abbey

You might be interested in reading about these other day trips around Görlitz:

 

 

Karl May Fest in Radebeul

When I heard on the radio that there was a Karl May Fest in Radebeul (about an hour away from Görlitz) and was promised that it would have “echte Indianer” (real Indians!) I couldn’t resist the temptation to check it out. Naturally, being from Arizona, I have seen real Native Americans and this ad on the radio made me chuckle. But people living in Germany, and especially in East Germany, have most likely not seen Native Americans “up close” and this festival is a chance for them to experience the Wild West and Native American culture. Although, how does one even begin to describe a culture that includes hundreds of different tribes and traditions? There are over 560 tribes in the US recognized by the government! This is where things get a little bit…awkward at the Karl May Fest.

But let’s back up – who is Karl May? (last name is pronounced like “my” not like the month)

Karl May (1842-1912) was a prolific German author who wrote adventure novels set in the American Old West. His main protagonists were Winnetou and Old Shatterhand.

Old Shatterhand and Winnetou Source: www.kino.de

May’s stories differ from the typical westerns that most Americans grew up with because the Native Americans in his stories were the heroes instead of the villains, and they fought against the nasty European settlers to protect their land and culture. May wrote all of these novels about the American west in spite of never having been there himself until later in life. His books and the characters are hugely popular all across Germany, but the fascination with Native American culture seems to be even stronger in East Germany. I’m not entirely sure why this is, perhaps because people couldn’t travel or perhaps because the GDR government found the narrative useful in criticizing US policies.

Whatever the reason, East Germans love Native American culture – they love collecting items like bows and dream catchers and they even like camping in teepees and trying to live “like the Indians did”.

In Radebeul, the Karl May Museum has gotten into a bit of hot water over their collection of scalps, which they have insisted on keeping although a tribe has requested they be returned to them.  As an American I am very aware of the controversy surrounding misuse of Native American culture because it’s a big topic here, but this topic hasn’t reached Germany and I don’t think most Germans are aware that it could be offensive for them to wear headdresses and camp in teepees. They are simply showing admiration for a culture that they are fascinated with. And while some moments at the festival had me squirming a bit, such as the Germans wearing headdresses and doing rain dances while a “real Indian” chanted a song with dubious lyrics, it reminds me of something like the Renaissance Festival, which we have back home. For the Germans, the Wild West is a distant place, romanticized and fictionalized, instead of a recent and violent past like it is for those of us living in the current American West.

Karl May Fest in Radebeul

The location of the festival, Radebeul, is a beautiful suburb of Dresden with vineyards on hills and lots of shady valleys and trees. It’s a beautiful spot for a festival. If you come from the train station Radebeul Ost you can take an antique train to the festival grounds (festival tickets are available on the train and the ride is included in the price). The festival has various stands selling Native American objects and souvenirs as well as food & drink. There is a schedule of shows, including reenactments of stories from Karl May, Native American dances and songs, and country, western & bluegrass bands. I was already curious about the festival but when I heard that the bluegrass band The Dead South (from Canada) would be there and that the show was free with admission to the festival, I knew I had to go. They sounded really great live and as usual, the banjo player was an inspiration.

The Dead South perform at Little Tombstone

After their show we took a walk through Radebeul. In spite of the heat, it was cool & refreshing under the trees. We found the campground and area where they do horse riding shows. We enjoyed checking out the beautiful horses and the teepees where people were camping, and all the costumes. We were amused and confused to see American, Canadian and Confederate flags flying.

View from Radebeul

I’ve been told that Karl May was ahead of his time, and that his stories are entertaining and fun – I’ll be adding them to my reading list.

If you get the chance to check out the Karl May Fest, you definitely shouldn’t miss it, it’s quite the experience! Whether you go in for the “authentic” experience, for the beautiful surroundings or because you are fascinated by the hobbyists, it’s a day well spent in Radebeul!

The Karl May Fest takes place every year in Radebeul at Lößnitzgrund on the weekend after Himmelfahrt/Männertag.

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