Mind The Trees

The man waited under the tree. When his time had come, he moved forward.
A sudden, strong gust of wind broke off the crown of a plane tree. It fell into the chestnut under which the man had waited.
He laid on his back, unconscious, seemingly unhurt. When the ambulancemen moved him, they realised that the back of his skull was smashed in. They brought him into the next hospital, already dead.
Paris, Champs Élysée, 1. VI. 1938, 19:30.  Ödön von HORVÁTH (Ger., Eng.).

In 1956 a young German student* visits Paris trying to identify the location. He speaks with the street sweepers, but no one remembers the accident. When he walks away they come back and point him to Mr Maurice – Maurice was already there twenty years ago, he may know something.
And he does, he remembers it well, he actually saw what happened. He thinks of HORVÁTH as a poet of Czech origin, remembers the brother.
HORVÁTH is of old-European origin, he describes himself as a “typical mix of Austria-Hungary”, “with Hungarian passport and German mother tongue”.
He was born into a family of reasonable wealth, his father Ödön Joseph (1874-1950) held a position as minor diplomat of the Doppelmonarchie – he took care of the economical ties between Austria-Hungary and the Southern-German kingdoms of Bavaria, Baden, Württemberg, diverse parts of Hassia and the Rhineland. The revolution of 1919 interrupted his service, the economical disturbances and ongoing inflation did harm to the family fortune, but he was reassigned into his old role in the new republic (Eng.) until retirement.
In those turbulent years after The Great War young Ödön started to write seriously, of course he went to Berlin. HORVÁTH was accepted & established when he was awarded the Kleist-Preis (Ger., Eng.) in 1931, the prestigious literary award of the Weimar Republic, of course discontinued after 1933.

HORVÁTH is a superstitious man with a fondness for macabre stories. The storm that killed him, overturned a fishing boat on the Channel with all hands drowning. The boat was beached on the second of June. As Walter MEHRING (Ger., Eng.) remembers, the last words HORVÁTH wrote in the manuscript of his new novel “Adieu Europe” were :”Ein Sturm kommt über das Meer. Er wirft eine Barke um. Übers Jahr kehrt sie vielleicht zurück, mit schwarzen Segeln und unbemannt …”
“A storm comes over the Sea. It overturns a boat. Perhaps she comes back over the year, with black sails, unmanned …”

The burial saw the gathering of the German emigration in Paris, WERFEL (Ger., Eng.), ZUCKMAYER (Ger., Eng.), ROTH (Ger., Eng.) – they all were there. A large bunch of zerzauster Vögel, as ZUCKMAYER put it, “dishevelled birds”, wearing those undefined and undefinable neckties that cover shabby collars.
While the burial goes smoothly, the infight starts when friends decide to honour the late author with a commemoration (“When they invite the Commies I do not attend !” etc.). Finally this takes place on the 13th of June, Josef ROTH leads through the evening. Nobody realises that the large glass of water, from what he now and then takes a big gulp, contains pure Slibovitz.

I end this with the last sentence of HORVÁTHs last finished novel, A Child of Our Time : “Bedenk es doch, er wußt sich nicht anders zu helfen, er war eben ein Kind unserer Zeit.”
“Mind, he did not know better, he was a child of our time.”

The young man’s name is Traugott KRISCHKE, whose biography of HORVÁTH I shamelessly use here : KRISCHKE, Traugott : Ödön von Horváth. Kind seiner Zeit. Berlin 1998 (Ullstein-Buch, 26525)

Ich Will Silvaner

I had to look into the diary to be sure that it was only one week ago when we gathered in the Lorenzkirche (Ger., Eng.) in Nuremberg to say farewell to our friend M.B. The pastor said she had expected perhaps 25 souls to turn up, in the end there were more than sixty people in the church and at the following get-together – that of course took place at her favourite spot, the Kaffehaus in the local library (Ger.), her second living-room. I came home late, a bit tipsy.
On Monday the festivities for the Tag der deutschen Einheit, or German Unity Day (Ger., Eng.) took place in Dresden. And of course the “concerned citizens” showed up in all their brutal stupidity, this time top brass could not ignore them. Only one reporter described that the “concerned citizens” not only yelled and hollered at the main political figures of Germany, chancellor, federal president and head of parliament, but also made very tasteful “Affengeräusche”, imitations of ape-sounds (“Ugh ugh ugh !”) when people of colour went over the red carpet towards the main events – GOd, who cares about them nigger ambassadors ?
Nevertheless the Ministerpräsident of Saxony, the host of this event and head honcho of the uncivilised masses over there, later described  the whole ceremony as “well done” & “gelungen”, successful. Maybe he’s glad that Merkel was not hit with a bottle.
One has to accept that racism and neo-nazism has reached a certain part of the German society. I think around 20 percent of the population is more or less openly racist and fascist – that is the average : There are areas in the East of Germany that are nowadays totally brown. Notably in Mecklenburg and Saxony.
This is depressing – I never thought that it would come back. But I am a product of the old Western Germany, a state and a society that do not exist anymore, I was socialised and educated there. Those who yell, march and bomb are young, mostly of East-German origin and today stand in a tradition : They continue what their parents started 25 years ago when they burned houses of refugees, of course with the “niggers” and “Fidschis” still inside.
Today it is the “Arabic” migrant – it is absolutely pointless to start to argument and explain that these humans are not necessarily of Arabic origin or of Muslim faith – for them it’s all the same : Simple explanations rule ! The people of Turkish origin I know do look a bit concerned. It is only a question of time until the first mosque is burned down.
All this nonsense is depressing : the brutality ; the stupidity ; the sheer impertinence of those liars & manipulators who gain political capital from the idiocy of stupid people ; the Verbrechervisagen who all of a sudden show up in German parliaments, from local to the federal level. Of course we see a new nationalism in the whole of Europe, a very dangerous development. BTW those states of the “Vishegrad Group” (Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic & notorious Hungary, Ger., Eng.) came up with a new word for cherry picking – they now speak of “flexible Solidarität”, flexible solidarity, what means nothing else but that they take what they like (mostly cash) and refute what they dislike, for example refugees. Because they have “principles” you know, like “holy” “nation” “first” or such crap.
But it cost you only three hundred thousand Euro to become a Hungarian citizen, of the “holy” “nation” : If you invest in this shithole of a country they throw their lousy passport at you. So much for “principles” …
This is not very uplifting, all in all.
I drove my kids around, at least some useful activity, and it pays the rent. Other things happened over the last ten days, mostly nice and positive. But I could not drag meself together and come up with a Sunday Music – the first time since … don’t know when I started this, and I am sorry for this breach or disruption of a long run. I like continuity.
Right now I should do some household chores, but frankly can’t be arsed to do this, Monday’s another day, eh ?!
I find it consoling or comforting to see beauty in the wounderful autumn lights early in the morning, when I drive into the rising sun, and in the late afternoon, when I drive West. All the human stupidity, all the brutality will one day be gone, done away with, there is a chance for development towards the ideal, the enlightened humane human being. And all the beauty I see reminds me of the limitedness of my own existence, the mortality of everything that is. It is autumn, and everything has a blue edge.
Rory GALLAGHER, I’m Not Awake Yet, just so.



German Genealogy – What’s in a Name?

No – I will not explain family names in the following scribble. And I’m sure there are tons of „how to“-instructions available on the net about genealogy in Germany – there is surely no need for another one. I like to speak about genealogy in Germany from the practising researcher’s point of view. And one of the most important things are names.
Let us assume that your forefathers emigrated from Germany sometimes in the 19th century. They went overseas by ship – and that means that there are good chances to find them in the passenger lists of the Auswandererhaus *. You should know a year – or at least narrow down the year of their passage, it helps with the search.
But the most important thing is the name. The 19th century did not have something like a Duden (Ger., Eng.), Konrad DUDEN published his lexicon 1880 for the first time. There were no fixed, holy, rules of orthography – strictly speaking there are none today: Outside the official use of the German language in written form I am free to write the way I like. I can follow old rules, and can set my own.
The way names were spelled can vary a lot; and names in these lists were often wrote down as they were heard. For example: “Schäfer” (shepherd) can be spelled “Schäffer”, “Sche(f)fer”, “Scho(f)fer” and “Schif(f)er”. A Franconian speciality is the difference between consonants pronounced “hard” and “soft”: For reasons unknown to me a written “B” is mostly pronounced “P”, the same goes for “G” and “K”, “D” and “T” – and of course vice versa, the written “hard” consonant is pronounced “soft”. And speaking about dialects: The emigrants from the South of Germany surely had difficulties to understand Northern Platt (Ger., Eng.), and the rich variety of Franconian dialects surely was of limited beauty to the Hamburgian or Prussian officials, who had to write down these names.

The other very important name is the one of the place of origin. Normally the name of the location the emigrants come from is recorded in the passenger lists, but sometimes a vague description or only the name of the province is given. Family lore and tradition may have preserved and passed down the place of origin over the generations – but with all due respect, I have to say that this is not always a reliable source of information. You may be lucky and letters of the emigrants’ family in the old Heimat and a written name of the place survived. If you are in doubt about the spelling, please let someone have a look on it: A single letter does make a difference! It is a difference whether a place is for example called “Unterregenbach” or “Unterengenbach” – they belong to different administrative bodies, different church parishes – and hence the records are kept in different places.
A further complication arises from the fact, that many names are not unique: A place called “Haslach” can be found at least more than eight times in different parts of Franconia.
Since the middle of the 19th century a lot changed in the public administration and in the administration of the two large christian churches too. From the kingdom of Bavaria – with some Franconian specialties – via the Deutsche Reich from 1871, through the whole brutal 20th century up to now, places changed names, were incorporated into larger administrative entities or even stopped existing. The dreadful Gebietsreform of the 1970s brought the last major change in this respect. The religious administration changed too: Parishes and Dekanate were changed, reformed, united and separated again.
But the 19th century knew such reforms too: Between the newly formed kingdoms of Bayern and Baden the frontier was corrected in the 1850s. This let to the fact that church records of places originally belonging to Bavarian/Franconian parishes for quite a time, today are kept in Karlsruhe in the Badisches Kirchenarchiv.

All I want to say is, that the time used to identify the place or origin of the family – which is the starting place for a genealogical research and important for finding the records – is well used time: Finding the right place of origin saves a lot of fruitless, frustrating and expensive research.
If one has the correct family name and knows the right place of origin a research can be started – let’s look for the records.

* Strangely enough one has to go via the German page (“Migration/Recherche” on the left) to find the button “Rechercheauftrag”; it’s a pdf-application, they charge 40 Euro. And btw – you can turn the sound off down left.


As some of you, my beloved readers, may know, especially those who follow me a bit longer, I do genealogical research in the area of Franken and its neighbourhood.
It started sometimes in the 90s when a colleague asked me whether I would like to take over a small job she could not do anymore, I think she was starting her MA thesis at the time. She had worked for a lady in Munich, who offered German genealogical research for all areas, but of course needed people on location to visit archives or parishes.
I accepted and inherited it by my colleague: Now and then I travelled to archives in the region or to villages to read church books and collect data. After some years the lady in Munich decided to change her business and go for the more lucrative work of finding heirs – a kind of lottery in my eyes. As a kind of gift, after all we had worked successfully together for some years, she pointed one of her last customers in my direction, recommending me to Mr. H.
Mr. H. send a mail and phoned me – the first phone call from overseas I ever received, I think he wanted to check if I really exist and whether our bureau was working, one can write anything on paper. And doing such research has to do a lot with trust.
I went to the archive of the protestant church in Bavaria, that was then still in Regensburg, today it is in Nürnberg, trying to find a certain entry, or better to find a starting point. Mr. H. had told me, that he wanted no “cheap solution”, he was definitely determined to get this research started. I had no idea what data he already had. He was interested in a certain individual, a direct ancestor of his.
My visit in Regensburg was short and disappointing: I found nothing, at least not what I had hoped for. Standing in the corridor of this old large house I thought about it again and again, and finally found, that the researcher before me simply had missed an entry. Counting two and two together I realised that the only chance would be to read the books of another village – and those were not in Regensburg, but still in saied village.
I told my client about this and he saied simply something like “just do it”, and we did. I visited the village and found some entries, related to a brother of the real aim of the research, and finally travelled to the nearby other village – and bamm, this was it. I had only two hours or so, but I knew that I had found them: The ancestor, his family or origin, and tons of relatives. I do not know now how often I travelled there, four times at least, it became the most successful research I have done up to now.
And the special thing about it is, that my client Mr. H., really fully appreciated what we did. He stante pede worked the results into his family history, later he sent over an exemplar of the tome of his work and we corrected it, he edited it again. It was simply a pleasure. Over the years the relation between Mr. H. and us became more friendly, less business like; nevertheless, he always was very correct and clear in what he wanted us to do, he knew that good work does not come cheap and that this important “bit more” is a result of how one treats people. It was a pleasure and privilege to work for him.
I once did research with his name and tried to find out a bit more about him, and had an idea, who he was and what he did in his professional career, but that was that.
In the beginning of this year 2011 I did a small research for him, nothing too exciting, the subject were people related to his own family, just to clear some relations.
In the summer he sent us a CD with the tome he was working on, and we enjoyed to look through it. He promised the follow-up for the end of this year. Some days (less than two weeks) ago we got a card from him, informing us that he had moved to another cottage.
Yes he died.
On the 7th of December, in the middle of it all. He had his new cottage decorated and was preparing to start his genealogical work again. This  had been put to a halt, because some months ago he had suffered from a nasty cold and pneumonia, but he had recovered.
I will miss him.
It’s ironic, I only saw a picture of him after his death, his nephew put up a video by him: Mr. H. seemingly planned some videos in which he would describe his family history and the research for it, one was finished.
May he rest in peace.

On the business site I will pay another tribute to him. With names and links and all.