Tag Archives: Germany

Braille City Maps of Germany Delight Me

22 Sep

Our first stop in Germany was in an area that once was East Germany and part of the Soviet Union.  While many people from our cruise ship chose to take a train to Berlin, we decided to visit another Baltic City and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Wismar.

The first place we went to in Wismar was the center town square, or Market Place.  Our tour guide, a college student, first told us about the square and its important architectural structures, then walked us to a wonderful metal 3-dimensional, braille map of the city. When we arrived, a blind man and his care giver were at the map.  The man was examining the map with his fingers, as the woman explained what each place was, naming streets and buildings.

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Map of Wismar

Our guide waited a bit, then asked politely if he could talk to us about the map. (I was glad to know I still understand German, even though I have not used it in 20 years.)  Most important, I was impressed with the map.   I asked the guide if Wismar had a school for the blind, and so the map was there for this purpose.  He asked the care giver, who replied that was not the case. The map was just there for anyone to use.

That was that, or so I thought.

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St. Mary’s Church tower.

As we walked our guide told us about Wismar and the bombing damage during World War 2.  Two churches close to the town center, St. Mary’s Church and St. George’s Church, were heavily damaged.  Although St. George’s Church was rebuilt, St. Mary’s has only its main tower remaining and the start of a park that will be in the shape of the outline of the original church.

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When we got to St. Mary’s Church. I was surprised to see another braille map this one detailing the destroyed church and its environs.  It was being examined by the blind gentleman we had seen earlier.  We waited until he was finished, then we walked over to examine the map ourselves.  It was interesting to see the details of the church from before the war.

After viewing this map, we visited both churches.  The St. George’s Church has been rebuilt, but nothing remains inside. It is now used for concerts because the acoustics are excellent.  Inside the remaining tower of St. Mary’s Church are some displays about the churches in the city.

We signed up for this tour for another important visit, to the one brewery in Wismar.  Centuries ago, there were almost 200 breweries in the town.  During the Soviet occupation, all breweries were closed and the beer came from other cities.  In 1995 Herbert Wenzel purchased a building that had been a brewery in the 15th century.  It is now the only brewery in Wismar.  We visited the now named, Brauhaus am Lohberg zu Wismar, and tasted three of its beers.

Although the brewery, the port and the town center were all delightful and gave good reason for this to be a UNESCO heritage site, it was the braille maps that gave me the most joy.  What a great idea!  And to see someone actually using it made it so much more meaningful.  I loved these two maps.

I thought when leaving Wismar, I would not see them again.  But I was wrong.  The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lubeck also had a braille map that was used by our tour guide to explain the old city to us.  I really enjoy seeing the city from an overview.

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Map of Lubeck

I was very curious about these maps.  Were they a German government idea? I thought maybe a UNESCO plan? I did not see these maps at any other UNESCO World Heritage Site.  When I looked back at my photos, I realized he map in Lubeck had a big clue.  On the map was a note in German that mentioned that the map was a gift from the Rotary Club Lubeck-Holstentor and said the maps were for the blind and sighted people.

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Map of Lubeck with information about donors

That helped.  I knew that Rotary Clubs do community service and specifically have activities for the blind.  In 2017 Rotary International joined with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) to combat blindness.  I am assumed the map in Wismar was also donated by a Rotary Club, but I was wrong. When I looked back at my Wismar photos more closely, I saw that this map was donated by a large number of organizations, starting with the Lions Club of Wismar.  I am aware of what Lions Clubs do as well.  I often donate my old eyeglasses to the Lions Club!

I personally would like to thank the Rotary Club of Lubeck-Holstentor and the Lions Club of Wismar along with all the other organizations for these great maps!! I have an affinity for anything that helps the blind and vision impaired.  My mother was blind in one eye due to childhood accident.  Throughout my life, she constantly dealt with issues concerning her eye and was vigilant in making sure we had good eye health.  These maps delighted me and touched my heart.

 

 

https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-partners-international-agency-prevention-blindness

 

 

Seeing A Surviving Synagogue in Lubeck, Germany, Made My Day!

11 Sep
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The Holestentor, gate to the old city of Lubeck.

When we toured the UNESCO Heritage site of Lubeck, Germany, I loved the oval-shaped, island city which is surrounded by the river Trave.  I never thought I would enjoy being in Germany.  I carried my grandparents’ and parents’ distress about the destruction of our family in Europe during the war. But I hoped that Germany of today is not the Germany of the 1930s and 40s. So I went with an open mind.

Of course. I had to ask our tour guide about Jewish Lubeck.  She was open and sincere and had knowledge.  I am sure I am not the first person to ask her. She informed me that before the 1800s Jews were not allowed to live in the old city.  But afterwards, when the French took it over, Jewish residents moved in. But they had to leave again after the French and Napoleon were defeated. Jewish residents did not move back until 1848.

She told me that the synagogue in Lubeck survived because the Germans did not want to damage the museum that was next to it. It was built in the middle 1800s.  She gave me directions to find it during our free time.  The synagogue was closed for renovations, but I had to see this German synagogue that survived the war.

My husband and I took a ten-minute walk in the rain to the building. For me it was well worth it.  It seemed, from the outside, to be in good shape. A red brick building set far back from the street, the area in front was gated off and a sign explaining what was happening was in front.  When we were there a group of elementary school children were walking by.  Their laughter and joy in the rain, lightened my spirit.  Although I could not go inside, below I have put a link to what the shul looked like inside in the 1920s.

Our guide also told me an interesting story. She said that Jewish resident of Lubeck who escape Germany and settled in England helped to save the city. She said that the city was bombed by the Royal Air Force of Britain in March 1942 in retaliation for Germany bombing Coventry.  During that bombing 20 percent of the historic area was destroyed.  That was the only major bombing of the city, but it caused much damage.

From what I had read, the reason it was bombed was to test the firebombs to see how much destruction they would cause on the narrow streets of the old city. About 300 people were killed during the raid, so I think the RAF succeeded in destruction.   Her story is not totally correct from what I can tell. But that bombing was the only major attack on Lubeck.

She also said, that the Jewish resident who fled Germany to London wanted to save Lubeck. That made me wonder, could it be true?  Would a Jewish resident want to save a city in Germany?  It is a lovely historic area, but really after fleeing to survive, would I want to save my home town? I am not sure. However, that was her comment.

She continued that this man was a relative of the head of the Red Cross. So, I did research.  I think it all goes back to a man named Eric M. Warburg, who was born in Hamburg, Germany, not far from Lubeck in 1910.  He fled to the United States in 1938 and he became an intelligence officer for the US army and helped get German scientists and their families to the United States and out of Germany. He served as a liasion officer between the RAF and the US Army Air Force.

He along with Carl Jacob Burchhardt, who was president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, made Lubeck port a Red Cross port to supply prisoners of war with aid. Since Burchhardt was not Jewish, I assume she was referring to Warburg, even though he was not the head of the Red Cross, he had contacts. Also it made sense for Lubeck to be the Red Cross port as near Lubeck, the Nazis had a prisoner of war camp for officers, Oflag X-C, from 1940 to 1945.

Mr. Warburg was a member of a large Jewish-German banking family.   Could he have had a relative who lived in Lubeck and wanted to save it?  Maybe? Or could it be Mr. Warburg himself, a Hamburg native, who supposedly tried to save Lubeck?

I just have no proof of this. But I do have proof that members of the Jewish community in Lubeck were murdered by the Nazis.  I found five Stumbling Stones (Stolpersteine) for Jewish residents who were murdered in Riga. In fact, the last 85 Jewish residents in Lubeck were deported to Riga Ghetto in 1941-42, including Rabbi Joseph Carlebach (1883-1942), who was murdered in the Shoah.

You might notice that two of the Stolpersteine are for victims with the last name Alexander.  I have in my family members with this surname.  I will admit that I felt an extra pang in my heart when I read these two stones.  (See blog below about my Alexander family.)

I am not sure if there are any Jewish residents in Lubeck now.  There are about 3000 who currently live nearby in Hamburg.  At one point, before WW2, Hamburg had almost 20,000 Jewish residents.

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Salzspeicher houses along the Trave River.

Lubeck has many lovely medieval buildings.  I saw the unique entrance gate, the Holestentor,  that leads to the old town.  I ate marzipan at the famous Cafe Niederegger, which was founded over 200 years ago.  I saw the Salzspeicher houses that stand along the Trave River close to the gate. We walked past the home of Thomas Mann’s family. But for me, seeing a synagogue that survived World War 2 in Germany, was the highlight of the day in Lubeck.

 (Thank you to a resident of the area who was kind enough to contact me and tell me that there are about 800 Jewish residents of Lubeck and 5000 in Hamburg.)

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_L%C3%BCbeck_in_World_War_II

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_M._Warburg

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10165-lubeck

https://dbs.bh.org.il/place/hamburg?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI2PabjJTH5AIVBr7ACh3P1gVmEAAYASAAEgJd4vD_BwE

 

https://dbs.bh.org.il/image/interior-of-the-synagogue-of-lubeck-germany-1920-c

https://zicharonot.com/2015/06/13/finding-katie/