Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dinklage or Bust!

This was a full, full day!  I just can't keep up this pace.  No rest for the weary.  I'm not complaining, but crap, I am not a young woman anymore!

First, Matti and Wilfried took me to the "new" Catholic cemetery.  Wilfried worked very hard finding the spot where the Kerkhoffs were reburied.  From what I understand, when the "old" cemetery was closed, they reburied everyone in the new cemetery.  I can't thank Wilfried enough for all he did for me on this subject.  Another family is buried on top of my Kerkhoffs, but that's normal in Germany (and most of Europe).  Once the "lease" for the plot runs out, someone else is buried on top of the other remains.  And a new stone is put up.  The family of the other person gets the stone to take home.

From the information I was given, our Kerkhoffs are buried under the Kaemmerer family.

After the "cemetery run," we walked to the Rathaus for my introduction to the mayor.  During the walk, Matti and Wilfried pointed out where Jewish families used to live in the town.  I was told there were 20 Jews living there at the start of the Third Reich, and 15 of them were murdered.  Five were able to get out of Germany and immigrate to Canada (I think it was Canada).  Haselünne has memorialized those who were murdered by placing plaques in the brick sidewalk in front of the spots of their former homes. Quite something to see these.  One woman was my age.  There was a 4 year old child.  Another person was Nick's age.  And this took place only 70 years ago.

Once we arrived at the Rathaus, Herr Bürgermeister was very nice and welcoming.  He seemed to really like the key to the city of Covington.  I think he actually got a little emotional about it.  He immediately placed it inside a cabinet in his office (along with other mementos).  Well, after photos were taken. :)  But I've got to admit that I felt sorry for the guy.  He didn't speak much English.  I don't speak German.  And Wilfried and Matti were telling him stuff about my Kerkhoffs.  It was very sweet of Wilfried and Matti to arrange the meeting, however, and it's something I'll never forget.

After the meeting, Trish and I were heading to Dinklage, the home of my Vodde family.  For those of you keeping score at home, Johanna Vodde married Anthony Kerkhoff.  Johanna "Anna" Vodde was born in Cincinnati, but her father (Joseph Vodde) was born in Dinklage.  And in 1860, Joseph Vodde traveled back to Dinklage to bring his father, Franz, and brother, Anton, to Cincinnati.  Are you all with me?  Do you need to take a break, get a beer, pop some popcorn?  :)

I was a good little computer user and Google mapped our way.  Wrong move.  Really wrong move.  We got so freaking lost.  So we solely used Trish's handy dandy map of Germany and went town by town.  What's the next town on the map in the direction we need to go?  And that's where we'd head to.  By this point, I needed a major beer and some food.  Trish saw a little hole in the wall restaurant, and we pulled off the road.  Best decision of the day!  It looked like a bunch of nothing special from the outside, but the owner was fantastic.  And his food!  Oh man, his food!  Every single thing is made fresh.  Order schnitzel, and he goes back to his kitchen and starts pounding that meat!  I ordered Jägerschnitzel, and as he was placing that work of art on the table in front of me, I could smell that the mushrooms were fresh.  Yes, he confirmed, he sliced the mushrooms after I ordered the meal.  Trish decided on some sausage thing.  Then the chef/owner brought us homemade pineapple "pudding."  It wasn't really pudding as we know it, but I can't describe it any other way.  Then he delivered to us a shot of coffee liqueur.  I despise coffee.  Everything about it.  But this was good.  Don't ask me why, but it was really good.  The owner loved it that 2 American women visited his restaurant and loved his food.  And he liked getting his photo taken with me.  But why wouldn't he?  LOL!

Trish and I noticed while we were there that people kept staring at us.  We decided it wasn't because we were stunning but because we were quickly identified as 2 Americans in an area where Americans are not known to vacation.  At some point during our meal, the owner/chef/waiter came up to us and asked, "Who are you?"  At first, he wondered if we were Americans in the area to buy horses (he told us that there is a horse farm close by where "rich" Americans and others sometimes go to purchase horses).  I was immediately thrilled that I was misidentified as a "rich American," but I had to fess up to the truth.  After explaining my reason for being in the area (and the fact that we were completely lost), he asked me what town we were trying to find.  I told him, and he screamed (in a darling way), "I'm from there!  I'm from there!"  He immediately wrote out directions for us (he spoke and wrote PERFECT English even though he apologized because he didn't think he spoke it well enough).  Then he asked me what family I was trying to find.  When I replied "Vodde," he again exclaimed, "I know them!  I know them!"  This darling German was one of the highlights of my trip, and I will never forget him.  But soon we had to be on our way.

We only got lost a couple of more times before we found Dinklage.  And you couldn't miss the church since the steeple was towering over every other building.  "Follow the steeple, Trish!"  The church that's there now is not the St. Catherine's Catholic church that my people went to and were baptized in.  But the old church was on this spot (as far as I know).  Found a great parking space right in front of the church, and I was off to steal pebbles from another Catholic church.  Success!  At least with this one, I didn't have to look hard.  They were right there in front of me, unlike the other churches I stole from.

The inside of the church is beautiful, and I left a little note in the prayer book.  After our little trek and how turned around we got so many times, I can't imagine what Joseph Vodde had to go through in his travels.  It was 1860, he left a wife and 4 kids to go and get his dad and deaf brother from Dinklage and bring them back to Cincinnati.  He had to travel to a port (I'll guess NYC), spend weeks on the boat crossing the Atlantic, get into Bremerhaven or Amsterdam or somewhere, get transportation to Dinklage, get his elderly father and deaf older brother, and then travel back to Cincinnati.  I bet he was gone at least 6 months.   And that's if he had pretty good weather the entire way.  Poor Franz Vodde didn't last long once he got to Cincinnati.  He died in 1861, but Anton lived until the mid 1870's.  I'll try not to complain the next time I'm stuck in traffic.

After a little light snack, we were back on the road.  Now headed "home" to Haselünne.  A lot of my trip has revolved around feeding time, and today was no different.  We were on the lookout for a restaurant.  Found one in some town whose name I can't remember.  But it was a great place with great beer and great food.  Good enough for me.  Got back to the hotel late, packed up, and will leave the home of my ancestors tomorrow.  Hopefully, someday I'll be back.  And bring family with me!

Tomorrow, we're driving to Bremerhaven, the port where our Kerkhoffs left from.  I'll keep you updated.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like another lovely but also emotional day. I fought back some tears about the fate of so many of the Jewish citizens. And yes, as you point out, simply a short time ago, historically speaking.