Tag Archives: Germany

Dad’s story

I don’t remember exactly how this came up. It was probably related to all the contact with relations that Sepi had on Nowrooz.

She was aware of my cousins in Germany. I had told her of my trip there in 2017 and I had said that any trip we would take to Europe would have to include a visit with them.

Just the other day, she was asking what was the exact relationship that I had with these people so I told her about how Zacharias Hangauer had left Germany and came to America in 1869, married and had a family that included my grandmother. This led naturally to questions about how I knew of the German relatives.

I was astounded that I hadn’t told her the story before. It is one of my all-time favorites.

I present it here in full.

My Search For Unknown Kin
by Bernard J. Wood

How it Came About

In September 1975, I had the opportunity to attend a conference on surface science held at the University in Namur, Belgium. Nancy and I had often talked about visiting Europe, and this seemed to be the time to make our oft-discussed visit a reality. A three-week visit was reasonable, within the constraints of our family responsibilities and our financial resource. The conference in Namur occupied two weeks, so we had one full week to do sightseeing on our own in Western Europe.

When we looked at the travel guides and maps we realized that 52 weeks would hardly be enough to visit every place we wanted to see! We had to make the hard decision to limit our excursion to a few places. The principal limitation became geography; we didn’t want to spend all of our time traveling, so we chose three places that were reasonably close together, yet had some special meaning for us.

We selected Amsterdam, because two friends live there; one is a young woman, Johanna (Honny) M., who was an exchange student in our community a number of years ago; the second is Rutger van S. (and his family) who spent a year at SRI as a visiting scientist.

We chose Paris for the same reason: George A. is an old friend from SRI, and Mike and Trish C. and their family moved away from our parish in the middle ‘60’s. And besides, everyone wants to see Paris!

Our third choise was somewhat off-beat and very personal. The twin towns of Berkastel-Kues, located on the Mosel River in Germany, were the home of my ancestors in my mother’s family. I knew from conversations with my late Aunt Elizabeth that my grandfather Hangauer had emigrated from Bernkastel-Kues sometime around the middle of the 19th century. Indeed, Elizaceth had given me and old souvenir book of the Mosel Valley which showed photographs of Bernkastel-Kues. We had no inkling that any living kin resided in this region at the present time, for noe of my aunts in the American Hangauer line, whom I had know, had ever mentioned the existence of living relatives in Germany. Nevertheless, the reasonably convenient location of Bernkastel-Kues and its connection with my ancestors compelled us to include it in our itinerary.

The Journey to Bernkastel-Kues

On Tuesday morning, September 16, we boarded the Lorelei Express in Amsterdam and commenced a four-hour rail journey into Germany to Koblenz, where the Mosel flows into the Rhine. There we transferred to a Paris-bound train that took us west to the town of Wengerohr, where we again changed trains, this time to an inter-urban type of local that terminated its run in Bernkastel-Kues.

Bernkastel-Kues are twin towns situated on opposite banks of the Mosel, and connected by a bridge. Both are nestled into the hillsides that rise rather steeply from the river’s edge. The vineyards that cover the hills reveal the principal industry of these towns; winemaking. The second industry is tourism. Bernkastel-Kues is a resort area where people come to hike, breathe the fresh air and relax in the sun. the towns have the appearance of classic Alsatian villages, with narrow, winding, cobblestone streets lined with gabled houses constructed of wood and masonry. The village square in Bernkastel looks as if it might have been designed and built by Walt Disney; a perfect stereotype and perfectly charming!

We stayed in a hotel in Bernkastel called Doktor-Weinstuben. The name had nothing to do with the medial arts; it referred to a tavern wherein the famous Bernkasteler-Doktor wine was kept and served!

The Search

We spent the evening exploring the town and the shops. Next morning we inquired of the hotel clerk about the name Hangauer. He indicated there were people with that name in town, but he didn’t know whether they had been around very long, or if they had any connection with Hangauers in America. He suggested we visit a famous historical library in Kues, called the Cusanus Stift, where we might obtain some genealogical information. Unfortunately, the Cusanus Stift was not open until 3:00 p.p., so we had to pursue our inquiry through another channel.

Examination of the street map of the town revealed a number of churches with adjacent graveyards. We walked to the nearest one and looked for the name Hangauer on the grave markers. But we drew a blank. So we walked a few blocks to the next churchyard, St. Briktius, and repeated our scan. Here we found a simple wooden cross with the inscription “Hans Jos. Hangauer”.

The pastor’s house was the next logical place to visit, but the location wasn’t obvious. There was no indication of the priest’s residence in the vestibule of the church. We stepped out onto the street and looked about. Houses and small stores, but no sign or symbol that would identify a parsonage was in view. A woman, however, was leaning out a first stroey window of a nearby house. I approached her. “Guten morgan, meine Frau. Bitte, wo ist das Hause auf der Pastor?”, I said in my rudimentary German. The woman understood me, however, and spewed-out directions in a cascade of words, only a few of which I understood. “Langsam, langsam”, I pleaded, and she repeated her directions more slowly, pausing at strategic points to make sure I understood. “ Auf den Strasse, lenks . . . , richt, . . . ober den Eisenbahn . . .”

It was several blocks distant, and after we had come to the vicinity of the house, we were still unable to identify it. A young mother with two children in tow, approached us on the street. I repeated my inquiry to her. She nodded, then directed her smaller child to take us to the pastor’s house, which turned out to be just a half-block away. We rewarded the young guide with a coin, then rang the bell. The priest came to the door. “Sprechen Sie Anglais?” “Nicht.”

Ach! So I launched into my inquiry with what surely was quite vulgar German: “Meine Name ist Bernard Wood. Ich auf Amerika gekommt. Die Name auf meine Mutter ‘Hangauer’ war, und ihr Vater auf Bernkastel-Kues in achtzehn-hundert-sechzig or siebenzig getreben . . .” The pastor listened patiently, then invited us in. He went to a file and removed a few cards. Then he explained that although he had several Hangauers in his parish, he had no idea whether they were related to a person who emigrated to America in the mid-nineteenth century. However, there were tow sisters, unmarried, who were born around the turn of the century and would surely be able to remember if an uncle had emigrated to the USA. He gave us their names, Anna and Cilli Hangauer, and directed us to their home, just a few blocks away. We thanked him and proceeded directly to Goethestrasse 24.

The Discovery

The bell brought a white-haired woman to the door. I began again my spiel, prefacing my inquiry with Pastor Störmer’s name to lend some kind of respectability to my presence at her door. The woman was not impressed, and with a puzzled look protested that she knew of no relatives living in America. I had decided that my inquiry was futile, that there was no connection between these Hangauers and my grandfather. But before leaving I made a final effort to clarify when and where my grandfather emigrated to the USA. “Aber, meine Grossvater nach Amerika in achtzehn hunderd-siebenzig, in dem Stadt Buffalo in New York getreben!” Just as I was speaking this sentence, the other sister appeared in the front hall. At the word “Buffalo” her face lit up and she rushed to the door. “Buffalo, New York. Ja, ja! Zacharias Hangauer. Ja, ja! Kommen Sie in das Haus!” Then she ran back into the house and up the stairs. Her sister seemed rather bewildered, but led us into the parlor. In a moment, the second sister was back with a box of old letters and photographs. She held up a tintype-like portrait of an old man with a beard. I had seen the very same picture many times before – it was Grandfather Hangauer! Another photo came out of the box: young woman in a white dress. It was my mother, Rose Hangauer, and the picture was a duplicate of a portrait we keep in our own family archives! “Ja, meine Mutter!” I was so excited I could hardly believe the experience was real. I looked at Nancy to verify that we were awake and not dreaming. The Hangauer sisters were likewise excited. Anna spoke rapidly with great animation, and I had to beg her repeatedly to speak slowly. After a short time we settled down to a more calm demeanor, and spoke of many things: about our own family; about the other Hangauer descendants now living in America, and those presently living in various places in Germany; about the beautiful Mosel Valley; about the war (W.W. II) and how it affected the residents of Bernkastel-Kues; about the house in which Cilli and Anna lived, which had been built by their Grandfather Andreas.

Andreas and Zacharias Hangauer were brothers. Andreas’s son, also named Andreas, was born in the same year that Zacharias emigrated to America, 1869. the younger Andreas had 11 children, several of whom still live in various places in West Germany. Four of these children, Hans, Karl, Anna and Cilli, remained in Bernkastel-Kues.

Anna an Cilli served us a luncheon of schwarzbrot, cheese and wine, then showed us their home and garden. We departed from them to take a hike to the castle, Berg Landshut, after promising to return in the evening for supper.

The walk to Burg Landshut on top of the hill above the town was glorious. The day was warm and sunny. The vineyards were in full fruit, as the grape harvest had not yet taken place. And the view of the town and the valley from the castle was magnificent. The ruins of the castle were occupied by a restaurant, so we drank a glass of beer to quench the thirst we had developed during the climb, then returned to the town.

We rang the bell at Goethestrasse 24 about 6:30 p.m. Anna ushered us to their studio dining room and we enjoyed a hearty German meal. Shortly after dinner, Hans Hangauer and his wife, Helena (called Leni), arrived, and we spent a couple of hours looking at old photographs and talking about the Hangauer clan. Hans had cataloged a great deal of information about our ancestors, but he had few facts about the descendants of the American emigre. I was able to supply some information to him. He presented me with copies of letters that Zacharias Hangauer had sent from America to his relatives in Bernkastel-Kues. One of them was written on the day he arrived in New York; a second many years later when he traveled by train to the West Coast.

We then left the home of Anna and Cilli, and walked to Hans’ home. Here we met the youngest son of Hans and Leni: Franz. Franz is a student in his last year at the gymnasium (grade 13 by comparison with U.S. schools), and he spoke English quite fluently. Hans brought out the fine Mosel wine, and we imbibed freely while telling about our children, our experiences and our plans. Franz would like to visit America when he completes his studies next Spring, and we encouraged him to come. We offered him the hospitality of our own home in Northern California, and we suggested that Hangauer descendants located in Buffalo, Denver, and Southern California might be willing to be hosts to him also.

Hans is a civil servant and before we left he presented us with a bottle of fine Kardinalsburg wine to take home. As the hour grew late, we bade goodnight to the Hangauers and thanked them for their kind hospitality. Hans walked with us to our own hotel and pointed out a number of places of interest in the town. Filled with fine wine and warm with gemütlichkeit, we slept soundly.

Our Departure

Our schedule called for us to arrive in Paris the next day, so on Thursday morning we packed our bags, checked out of the hotel and went to the bus stop to meet and board the bus to Luxembourg, where we would transfer to an express train to Paris. Before the bus came, I walked to the post office to mail some post cards, and enroute was intercepted by Cilli. She greeted me and presented me with a small package to take home. The package contained a small basket, a hand-made linen doily, a piece of home-baked bread, and a picture of Grandfather Hangauer. We said good-bye, and I felt sad that our encounter had been so short, yet grateful that we had met at all under such improbable circumstances.

Before the bus arrived, Leni walked to the busstop. She had come downtown to do some shopping and stopped to say good-bye again to us. As the bus pulled away, we waved farewell. What a remarkable experience we had! Leaving Bernkastel-Kues was almost like awakening from a dream. Like Brigadoon, Bernkastel-Kues seemed like a place in a fantasy; something that came into existence just for us, and then disappeared forever into the mists.

Epilogue

Bernkastel-Kues and the Hangauers live! Shortly after we returned home, our cousin and neighbor, Mary S. (a great grand-daughter of Zacharias Hangauer) learned she would be sent to Stuttgart, Germany, for a business trip of about a month’s duration. She corresponded with the Hangauers in Bernkastel-Kues, and they invited her to come to visit them. She is now in Germany, and she plans to spend Christmas holidays with the Hangauers in Bernkastel-Kues.

politics

I was upset enough about the way the Supreme Court nomination hearings were going. I shouldn’t be surprised at how brazen the Republican Senators are in hijacking our democracy but I guess I still am. Bush v Gore was nearly 20 years ago now. I keep coming back to the thought of how people in other countries left to come to America when their home was going crazy. The most obvious is Jews in Germany in the 1930s but there are many other examples.

What if I had to do it? Could I give up my family, my livelihood, my friends, the land that I love? Where would I go? These thoughts run through my head when I get too deep into the political news.

So I went to FaceBook and saw this at the top of my timeline:

He was a classmate and known gang member. It was during 8th grade homeroom when the assault happened. The teacher had only been gone a few seconds. Some of my friends laughed as they witnessed it. I had trust issues and became quite withdrawn for a long time after that. I was ashamed and embarrassed and scared of retaliation.

#whyididntreport

Ashley wrote that! My own daughter-in-law. Daughter-in-love. OMFG!

Since her marriage to Jeremy, Ashley has shown me again and again what a high quality person she is. As I’ve gotten to know her better over the years, my respect and love for her has grown by leaps and bounds.

And now I discover that she has been carrying this. OMFG! The sweetest, purest person I know had this happen to her??

Perhaps equally unsettling is the thought that many, maybe even most, other women are carrying similar burdens. Sarah doesn’t like to talk to me abut such things, but she has had similar experiences over the years. Sepi has told me of some things that happened to her as an adult. Men power tripping with sex.

None of these, as far as I can tell, were actual rapes, but where do you draw the line? There are some incidents in my past where I went across the line for an inappropriate touch or a kiss (I realized later). I have tried to reach out to those women in recent years to apologize and take responsibility.

Dear Ashley, thank you for having the courage to speak out. Love, Dad.

Bilder von Franz

That’s the title of the folder I have on my hard drive. It’s pictures Wilfried got from his brother Franz’ computer after Franz died. Wilfried generously allowed me to copy them and they come up on my screen saver occasionally.

Here’s one that came up today:

For those that don’t know, Franz was the audio recorder part of a two man team that did documentary filming in Germany. Miss you, Franz.

European history

Wilfried’s able leadership of our tour of Germany last month whetted my appetite for more of the story of how things got to be the way they are. In short, the history of Germany.

I found a book at the library called The Concise History of Germany which was ok but filled with a lot of big words. I’ve got nothing against big words except when they are used to obfuscate. When I started swimming in sentences 20 or more words long, I gave up on it.

Again at the library: European History for Dummies. OK, better. Not so many big words plus short sentences. I’ve made it through almost to the end. Honestly, it’s pretty depressing. I get that the history of human affairs is largely about control of one group by another and that that is usually accomplished by violence. The Dummies brand of books is designed to go over a subject in a breezy, often humorous, tone. It’s exactly what I was looking for, actually.

But having such a litany of violent things set in front of you in such a lighthearted way is weird. I’ve had the book at my breakfast table and thus read it in 15 or 20 minute chunks. Sometimes, I stay at the table for a few extra minutes but more often I have to just walk away from it. Will we never learn?

I’m sure there are many books out there about this subject – repeating the cycle of violence, not history per se – so I’m not sitting here thinking I’m going to find some solution. Humans are pissers, whether it’s driving on the highway or running a company. When I start to think about larger organizations of humans, I find myself in dangerous shoals of definitions: what is a country? What is influence? What is power? When a ‘country’ ‘takes over’ a city, what does that really mean? The Dummies book throws those words around a lot but I believe it’s worth asking what their core meaning is.

To me, it comes down to power. How does one person have ‘power’ over another? There is always an exchange, although it is not always balanced. I agree to go to work of a person or organization in exchange for money. I can use that money to get other people to do things for me: supply me with food, clothing and shelter. If my ‘boss’ at work asks me to do something for him/her, I will accede to that request because it is within the realm of what i have agreed to do in exchange for that money.

But what if it isn’t? What if my ‘boss’ asks (or tells) me to do something that will injure another person? Or myself? Presumably, this is something that is not part of what was originally agreed to in the definition of this job. Suddenly, money is not the exchange medium. It becomes more elemental. How does my value of self preservation compare to my ethical value of not wanting to hurt another person? Perhaps I can make myself safer at the expense of another person coming into danger.

I believe it is this transaction writ large which has driven human history. Some humans are able to rationalize this transaction and others can’t. And some humans have a need to dominate while others don’t.

The whole family went to England in 2000 for two weeks. We really had a very nice time. We walked across Abbey Road and among the stones at Stonehenge. We walked along the Thames and on the cliffs of Dover. We went to museums and castles. Perhaps too many castles. Because by the end, I felt about history as I do now: why is it all about killing? Someone wants ‘power’ and is willing to step on other humans to get it.

eclipse

I finally got to the library the other day. I got two books on German history, a book on the airline industry and Seeing In The Dark, by Timothy Ferris.

I thought I had read it before, but I took it home anyway. After I got into a bit, I started remembering the stories of how amateur astronomers have contributed to humankind’s knowledge of the cosmos. The subtitle is How Backyard Stargazers Are Probing Deep Space and Guarding Earth from Interplanetary Peril.

Ferris tells of his visits to a number of pretty much regular folks who like to look through telescopes on their own time. Each one has a special interest that he or she has parlayed into some notoriety amongst the sky-viewing cognoscenti. Interspersed with those stories are concise lessons on our current understanding of various astronomic objects. It’s interesting.

Since the total eclipse of the sun was news here recently, I offer this quote about witnessing a total eclipse:

Suddenly the sky collapsed into darkness and a dozen bright stars appeared. In their midst hung an awful, black ball, rimmed in ruby red and surrounded by the doomsday glow of the gray corona. No photograph can do justice to this appalling sight: The dynamic range from bright to dark is too great, and the colors are literally unearthly.

I had a copy of Ferris’ The Whole Shebang, but I went in to look for it just now and it isn’t there. I guess I’ve loaned it to someone and I’ll probably never get it back. It had a great chapter about the existence of God. I do have another one by Ferris called The Mind’s Sky that I found used. It’s OK, but it didn’t grab me like The Whole Shebang did.

Speaking of the Sun, I was headed to work today about 7:15 am. The Sun rises late over Pacifica so I wasn’t surprised at the gray morning light. I put my headlights on. What did surprise me was the Sun well over the horizon when I came up over the hill in Daly City. It was blood red and baleful through the smoke that has lain over the Bay Area for two days now. As I write this, the Sun has gone down, but it’s doing a nice job of lighting up the few wispy clouds in the western sky.

Not high art, perhaps, but hopefully a harbinger of cooling breezes by tomorrow. There were no clouds of any kind yesterday. It’s been over 100º F in San Francisco the last two days. Out here on the coast where it’s usually much cooler, it was over 90 in my apartment when I got home. With the front door open and the fan blowing at maximum for the last two hours, it’s down to 88. Outside it’s 85. No one in Pacifica has air conditioning.

jet lag

. . . exists. I know, I’m feeling it. My two weeks in Germany were fantastic, but good sleep was rare for me. I think I was just rounding into shape for the Continent when I had to come back. I hope it doesn’t take two weeks to return to form here.

Yesterday, our airplane left Frankfurt at about 5:30 pm local time for a 10 hour non-stop flight to SFO. I was able to get a couple of hours of sleep – maybe three if you count tiny catnaps. I got into my bed at almost exactly 9 pm local time and fell asleep pretty quickly.

That’s the good news. At 12:30, I woke and couldn’t get back to sleep. At 2:30 I got up and had a cup of chamomile tea and some toast. Back in bed, I read for a bit and got to sleep again about 3 :30. I woke again at 5:30 and had the certainty that I was done with sleep for a while. A cup of Darjeeling and some food and I’ve been puttering around since. I emptied out my suitcase and sorted the many papers, post cards, beer coasters, cathedral and museum pamphlets that I brought back. Also hotel and restaurant bills, which I entered into my Quicken records. Then to the grocery store and now doing laundry at 12:30 pm, I’m starting to feel tired.

I agreed to work a rehearsal tonight so I really need to have a nap. Tschüss!

trip planning

I’m starting to get serious about my upcoming trip to Germany. I talked to Mary yesterday and we agreed to talk tonight when we’re both able to concentrate better. (She was driving home and I was at Mom’s.)

Today I picked up a Michelin guide to Germany at the library and brought it home. I didn’t check the due date but it may be that I could just take it with me . . . Don’t lose it! There are lots of interesting things to do there. I was sort of blasé about it before but now that I’ve looked at the book, I’ve got lots of ideas.

Bernkastel and the Mosel River valley are no brainers. I always wanted to go back to Trier which is at the west end of the valley. Leni’s party is near Bonn so Beethoven’s birthplace is right there. The Rhine River valley south from Bonn is beautiful. The cathedral at Cologne is a must. There’s a wonderful Roman-German Museum right nest to the dom. I’d love to be able to go back to Aachen and see the throne of Karl der Grosse again. Wilfried and Elisabeth are near Baden Baden so that is a must.

Mary wants to see Neuschwanstein so that is near Munich where Andreas and Luisa live. I’d love to be able to show Mary the upper Rhine valley from Freiburg to Lake Constance.

Mary wants to go fast on the autobahn but I’m not sure how or where it would work to do this. We’ll consult with Wilfried. He and Elisabeth will be picking us up in Frankfurt and it’s a 2 hour drive to Bonn. Maybe he’ll let Mary drive for a bit! I believe they are joining us for the Sistergold concert which is 3 hours from their home. That will likely be a drive too.

Lots to think about!

goals and quotas

Quotas are, of course, related to things quotidian so I’ve been thinking about the relationship of these two with the idea of goals.

Quotas are even more pejorative than quotidian. Quotas are something assigned to a sales person. It implies things that must be counted which takes us away from the rarefied air of ‘goals’.

Yes, sales people have goals, no doubt, but I’m trying to stay in the realm of goals that can’t be counted, at least not with numbers. Today, for example, I have a goal of getting my laundry done. I am nearly done with my goal of writing in this blog today. I have a longer term goal of preparing for my trip to Germany in 11 days.

None of these can be subject to a quota, but are they quotidian? Laundry is quotidian. A trip to Germany is not. Is the goal of getting my laundry done less of a worthy goal because it is quotidian?

Also, the trip to Germany can be quantified in the sense that the date will come and I will go to Germany and come back and then it will be done. Or accomplished, if you will.

What about my goal of staying healthy? That is open ended and ultimately not achievable. We will all die, some too soon like Zach, and others after a long and fruitful life. So I shorten my time frame on that goal and concentrate on eating right and sleeping properly. Exercise is what I get only at work, sad to say. When work ends, I will be faced with a challenge to exercise my body.

(I still haven’t looked up quotidian. I’m pretty sure I’ve got it right but if I don’t I’m looking awfully silly right now. I suppose another long term goal is to go out on a limb, to take chances, more often. No saws allowed!)

Franz

I looked at my birthday calendar this morning and I noticed that it’s been a year since my cousin Franz died. It was actually the anniversary last week but I didn’t note it then.

I’ve been better (if you want to call it that) about anniversaries lately. I’ve made it through quite a few 14th’s of the month now without getting all knotted up about Zach. The sorrow comes at odd places and times now. Odd in the sense that they are not predictable. Sunday I was in my car on the way down to Santa Clara when I just started weeping. There was no obvious trigger; I was just missing Zach.

Today Jeremy sent me a detailed itinerary of his and Ashley’s move in June. Seeing in glorious detail their plans for finding a place to live and jobs while also being concerned about places my sister Jane’s family can take Rosalie for fun brought on the waterworks again. It’s the kind of gutsy move you don’t see often. I am so full of admiration for them.

My thinking about Franz recently has mostly been about looking forward to visiting Germany this summer. I will be paying my respects to his mother – turning 100 in August! – his brother and sister, and his grave. Two men gone too soon.

miscellany

Buzzing around some previous entries I find some loose ends. One has to do with the work weekend in May. Ally and Noah are coming to join us in North Carolina! That means I won’t be driving to Cincinnati which simplifies things. I’m still waiting to hear from others attending whether it’s better for me to fly to Charlotte or Atlanta.

In other travel news, I am now planning to attend the 100th birthday of my cousin Leni Hangauer in Germany in August. Mary Beth and I will be going together. Besides the party, which includes seeing all the German relatives, the only thing I really want to do is visit the grave of Franz. We are planning on two weeks so there will be more.