Wednesday, February 04, 2009

From Spremberg to Moosburg

As I sit here recouping from jet lag, enjoying my morning coffee and bread with Johannesbeeren jam that I brought back from Germany, I will try to recapture the memories of the last days of our trip.

After leaving Spremberg on Saturday, we drove to Dresden. Hans had described the devistation, and while driving there, George pulled out a DVD for us to watch: "Dresden: An Epic Mini-Series" (2008). This is a very accurate collaborative production by the German Koch Vision and the BBC, that presents a fictional character's account of the bombings of the city and of London. Extras on the DVD include actual archival footage of the bombings that illustrate the amazing scope of the destruction to both Dresden and London. Prior to the war, Dresden was called the art capital of the world and it is once again a beautiful city, although residents report that it is nothing like it once was. Once in Dresden, we climbed to the top of the recently restored Lutheran Frauen Kirche to see a fantastic, open-air view of the city. We purchased brats and Dresden stollen (fruitcake) which was good, but not as good as my Grossmama's (Grandmother's), and we took pictures of the statue of Martin Luther in the square.

See pictures of the trip
Read more about our trip to Nuremberg.

Later that day, we drove to Nuremberg. (You'll note on maps that the Germans spell the city name as Nurnberg, with an "umlaut" - two little dots - over the "u") Nuremberg is known as a city "of wit," where inventiveness and curiosity are fostered. Diane and I found miniature silver "funnels" at the information center that represent funneling knowledge into the bearer. That night and the next we stayed in a 700 year old hotel within the scenic walls of the Old City, - it was really quaint, comfortable, and had a great breakfast. (The Elch - The Elk)

Sunday morning Becky, Diane and I got up early and attended church at St. Lorenz. We hurried through the bitter cold on quiet cobblestone streets to arrive slightly late. This wouldn't have been a problem except that the small, early service was held in a tiny side chapel that had only three rows of pews. (I felt like I was upholding the family tradition when our tardiness meant that we had to sit in the front row.) The pastor spoke on the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-7), and I caught bits of his message to share with the others. He emphasized that while we often have "mountaintop experiences" in life, it is important to remember that God is with us in the valleys, too.

I am sure that my father was aware of God's presence during his days at Stalag 13-D. He shared that there was a rail marshalling yard very close to their barracks there, and that they could hear the Allied bombs whistle close overhead. After several close calls, he and his fellow Kriegies began to dig trenches with tin cans from their Red Cross parcels. At first, the German guards stopped them, but then one brought four shovels and they were allowed to continue. The reason became clear when the Kriegies ran out to the trenches during the next raid, only to find that the guards had jumped into the trenches ahead of them. They enlarged the trenches the next day.

To their credit, Nuremberg has a fantastic documentation center on the site of the former NAZI Party Rally Grounds, that chronicles the rise, reign and fall of the megalomaniac Hitler. My only criticism is that they have next to nothing to report on Stalag 13-D that lay at the outskirts of the grounds, and of which nothing remains. (It is now a residential neighborhood.) Early on, the site (labeled the S.A. Lager on their maps) housed Hitler's Youth Camp and other groups attending party rallys. Later, it housed prisoners of war and from January to April it housed Allied prisoners from other camps. Only two of the fathers represented by our group were here, the others all went directly from Spremberg to Moosburg after the march.

As a result of the scarcity of information, we (Wayne, Marilyn, and Kat, and Diane and I), had to do some in-depth sleuthing to figure out where our fathers had been. We looked at old and new maps that night to locate the train station where our fathers had arrived at Nuremberg and the location of the camp, and the next morning the others in the group were gracious enough to allow us to drive by the location. We ran down a small side street off Thomas Mann Strasse, and were amazed to find an information board that identified the site between the rail tracks as the former location where war prisoners (in particular, Russian prisoners) had arrived. We were thrilled and took pictures to remember the spot (see the picture link). We then drove another couple blocks to the site of the camp (at the corner of Glieswitzer and L streets). There are apartment buildings there now, but we were thrilled to stand on the site, none-the-less.

By the way, Nuremberg was the hometown of Renaissance artistic giant, Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528), the famous painter, printmaker and theorist who wrote on principles of mathematics, perspctive and ideal proportions. You may have seen one of his beautiful watercolor landscapes, block prints, or the famous rabbit that he painted. The rabbit is used as a motif all over the city. (Note to my daughter: After completing his term of apprenticeship, Dürer followed the common German custom of taking Wanderjahre in which the apprentice learns skills from artists in other areas, Since Dürer spent four years doing this, I guess you can call this semester's internship merely a start! :o)

From Nuremberg, we drove on to Moosburg, site of Stalag 7-A where all our fathers had been liberated by Patton's army. Wayne, Marilyn and Kat's father had traveled there earlier in the Spring of 1945 than our father had. Our father's group had left April 5th (the week after Easter that year) and had taken 20 days to get to Moosburg. Their Senior American Officer was stalling in hopes of a liberation by Allied troops - the German in charge of that march had finally threatened to exterminate them if they didn't get over the Danube River that night. Moosburg was horribly crowded when they arrived and in a state of disarray with (by some accounts) 110,000 prisoners crammed into and around the camp. Dad was in the last tent and was only there for part of four days before Patton's arrival.

Later today, I'll post more pictures and a recount of our time in Moosburg and the final day in Munich.

1 comment:

Hillbilly Rockin' Robin said...

M- Can't wait to hear all about your trip when you return to CC! This blog has been facinating. I can not imagine the emotion for you all! Love- Robin