The History of the Jelly Doughnut

The History of the Jelly Doughnut

This year Fasching (also known as Street Carnival) in Germany runs from February 16 (Altweiber or Old Ladies Day) to February 22 (Ash Wednesday). A staple of this ‘Fifth Season’, as the Germans call it, is the well-known jelly doughnut pastry called a ‘Berliner’.

The History of the Berliner

Berliner doughnuts are first recorded in a collection of recipes published in Germany in 1485. The cookbook was named Kuchenmeisterei (Mastery of the Kitchen) and was one of the first cookbooks to be run off Johannes Gutenberg’s revolutionary printing press (Source: Encyclopedia of Jewish Foods). The original doughnut name was ‘Gefüllte Krapfen’, or filled doughnuts.

The filling for the original doughnuts was usually savory, including meat, cheese or vegetables. When the Caribbean sugar plantations began to proliferate in the sixteenth century, the price of sugar fell, and in turn fruit preserves developed rapidly. The jelly doughnut was born!

Source: Google

Within a century of the initial appearance of the filled doughnut, every northern European country had adopted the pastry, though it was a rare treat usually associated with specific holidays (ibid source above). In the twentieth century, Germans invented a method of squirting the jam into pre-fried doughnuts. Later machines were developed to do this job. And so the jelly doughnut obtained its contemporary character, though today other non-jam fillings like latte creams or chocolate truffle  have expanded the jelly doughnut’s popularity to new gourmet heights.

Why is the Jelly Doughnut Called a Berliner?

The story goes that there was once a baker from Berlin who applied for patriotic service in 1756. He was deemed unfit for Prussian military duty but was allowed to remain a field baker in one of the regiments. Because the field cooks had no access to ovens, the baker fried pieces of dough over an open fire. The soldiers began to name the popular fried dough balls ‘Berliners’ after the cook’s home town (Wikipedia).

Other names for jelly doughnuts include: Krapfen (Austria, Germany), Boule de Berlin (France), paczka or paczki (Poland), sonhos (Portugal), ponchiki or pyshki (Russian), Sufganiyah (Israel), Bismarks (American Midwest), jam busters (New England), jam doughnuts (UK).

The Connection Between the Berliner and Fasching

The origin of the jelly doughnut as a Fasching speciality goes back to the origin of Fasching itself, which is a period of celebration prior to abstinence during Lent. In the time of Lent during the Middle Ages, Christians would give up eating meat, milk products and eggs, so these products had to get used up before the six week period of abstinence began. Baking sweet treats like jelly doughnuts became a way of fulfilling this purpose while also celebrating prior to Lent’s beginning.

Source: Google

Christians are not the only religious group that celebrates by eating jelly doughnuts. Jewish families eat jelly doughnuts before and during Hanukkah. In Israel they are sold on almost every street corner during the holidays and are enjoyed by people in all communities and of every religious stripe (Encyclopedia of Jewish Food).

The Most Famous Berliner

Of course, the most famous Berliner wasn’t a jelly doughnut at all, but an American President.

The iconic story is from 1963, when President John F. Kennedy addressed the German people in West Berlin with one of the most famous cold war, anti-communist speeches of all time:

Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin bin Berliner’!…All free men, wherever they live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’!

Source: Google

Though technically he said he was a jelly doughnut, this is of course only an urban myth in non-German-speaking countries. Germans have never held President Kennedy’s claim as literal. It is a fun story though! 

Sources:

Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, Wiley 2010

Wikipedia

www.mydinner.co.uk

The German Westwall in WWII

Background

The German Westwall, sometimes referred to as the ‘Siegfried Line’ or West Wall, was a construction built at the beginning of WWII in response to the French Maginot defense line built during WWI along the Eastern border between France and Germany (stripes.com).

The Westwall was built between 1938 and 1940. It stretched from Kleve in the north for 630km (390 miles) along the western border of Germany down to the Swiss border. The line was comprised of over 18,000 bunkers combined with tunnels and tank traps. The tank traps were a line of anti-tank obstacles made of steel-reinforced concrete located between bunkers along the front. In English, they are often referred to as ‘dragon’s teeth’ (dunkirk1940.com).

Source: Dreamstime

Early Failures

The Westwall was little better than a ‘building site’ in 1939, according to German General Alfred Joel after the war (wikipedia.com). The construction was weak and weapon defense paltry (ibid). In fact, there was no major combat along the line at the start of the war. Instead both the French and Germans stayed entrenched on their own safe sides in what today is called the ‘phoney war’ (ibid wikipedia).

1944 Changed the War and Led to Resumed Westwall Building

With the D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944, war in the west broke out full-scale. Hitler gave the directive to renew construction of the Westwall using 20,000 forced-laborers and members of the Reichsarbeitsdienst (German Labor Service), most of whom were 14-16 year old boys. Working conditions were very dangerous and little regard for worker safety was exercised.

Source: Alamy

Confrontations at the End of the War

The first major clash along the Westwall took place in August, 1944 in the Hürtigenwald area of the Eifel, near Aachen. The Americans committed an estimated 120,000 troops to the Battle of Hürtigen Forest and 24,000 American soldiers were lost (wikipedia.com). Shortly thereafter the Battle of the Bulge began, beginning in the area south of the Hürtigenwald, extending from Monschau in the Eifel to Luxembourg. This was a last ditch German effort to reverse the war in their favor, but losses of life and material led to their defeat. By early 1945 the last of the bunkers along the Siegfried Line had fallen. 

The British 21st Army Division led attacks on the Line and included American troops. US losses totaled around 68,000, plus 50,000 non-battle casualties and 20,000 casualties in the Ninth Army. As a result, close to 140,000 Americans lost their lives in battles along the Westwall/Siegfried Line in total during the war (wikipedia).

When asked about the Sigfried Line, General George S. Patton reportedly said: ‘Fixed fortifications are monuments to man’s stupidity’ (ibid).

Source: Google

The Westwall Today

Although most of the wall was purposely obliterated after the war, pieces of it still stand today. An association with the name ‘Der Denkmalswert des Unerfreulichen’ (The Value of the Unpleasant Memorial) is working to maintain the Sigfried Line as an historical monument. The Hürtgenwald Museum documents the famous battle there. Nearby in Kall, one can tour bunkers and a castle. In Saarland and in several locations in the Palatinate, other options are also available. Below are several online addresses for organizing a tour of the Westwall.

Online for further reference:

museum-huertgenwald.de

westwallmuseum-irrel.de

westwall-museum.de

tinyurl.com

Sources:

wikipedia.com

stripes.com

dunkirk1940.com

The Cultural Importance of Organ Music and Building in Germany

German Organ Craftsmanship: an Official UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Germany has a rich history of ecclesiastical organ music written by famous composers like Beethoven, Bach, Händel and other well-known classical musicians. Much of the most well-known organ music stems from the Baroque period (17th-18th Century). Organ music was quite popular because church was an important pillar of the community where audiences could gather to listen and be inspired by the intensity and lofty sound of this highly complex musical instrument.

Source: Google

Johann Sebastian Bach

According to the UNESCO website, ‘Organ craftsmanship and music has shaped Germany’s musical landscape and instrument-making for centuries….The highly specialized knowledge and skills related to the practice have been developed by craftspeople, composers and musicians working together throughout history, and the specialized…skills are significant markers of group identity. Transcultural by its very nature, organ music is a universal language that fosters interreligious understanding.’ (unesco.org) This is why UNESCO declared German organ craftsmanship an intangible cultural heritage of humanity in 2017.

No Two Organs Are Alike; A Short History of Organ Building in Germany

Organs are always built individually to fit into the environment for which they are created. So every organ is essentially unique and built to serve a special purpose. Each organ consists of some combination of  keyboard(s), pipes, blowers that supply the wind chests (where air is kept at a certain pressure usable on demand), valves that open and shut the flow of air flow into the pipes, pedals and other more technical parts too difficult for description in this summary. The point is: There are many variables in the production of an organ that contribute to its uniqueness. 

Historically, when organs were primarily built for use in churches, their design was thus varied according to how they were utilized as part of the liturgy. 

Before the Baroque period, the art of organ building developed equally across Europe. After the Reformation, however, clearly separated traditions of Northern German and Southern German organ building developed. (pipedreams.publicradio.org)

Source: Atlasobscura.com

At. Stephen’s Cathedral Organ in Passau

Southern German organs were built to fulfill their liturgical functions. In the North, organ music is based primarily on Lutheran hymns and its varieties in preludes, fantasies and variations. Thus for the execution of this function, northern organs needed certain solo voices and a clearly designed specification to underline the phonic compositions. Here we can perhaps interpret that Northern German organ design accented its ability to create music to ‘stand out’ for passive listening and genuflection. The Southern German organs, on the other hand, were primarily used to accompany hymns and Gregorian chants (abbey churches). The instruments were designed for more improvisation and to reinforce the orchestras in masses. Thus the Southern German organ can be described as ‘suitable to vocal music,’ with an ability to blend sounds. (ibid above)

The Most Famous Organs in Germany

The largest pipe organ in Europe is in the St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Nassau (see above). The organ was built in 1682. Today the organ consists of 5 separate organs with 17,774 pipes, 223 registers and 4 chimes. (attasobscura.com)

The most famous organ builder in Germany was Gottfried Silbermann, who is considered the Antonio Stradivari of organ makers (organhistoricalsociety.org). The last organ he built was in the Dresden Cathedral, and is considered his greatest in addition to being his largest organ. Another notable Silbermann organ is in the Freiberg Cathedral in Saxony (built 1714).

Source: Freibergcathedral.com

The Great Silbermann Organ in Freiberg Cathedral

And last but not least, the great Sauer Organ in Berlin, with its 7,269 pipes and 113 registers, is also a ‘must see’ for people interested in this craft.

Beyond these ‘stars’, there are many other beautiful organs in smaller cities and churches. It is always worth popping into a local church to take a look, no matter where you are, if you are visiting Germany.

Source: berlinerdom.org

Sauer Organ in the Berlin Cathedral

But the Most Famous Organs in the World Come From….The USA!

Hand on your heart: As important as historical German organ craftsmanship culture is, the USA still has the international record for building the biggest organs worldwide!

The largest pipe organ ever built was the Boardwalk Hall Auditorium Organ in Atlantic City, NJ. It weighed 150 tons and is now undergoing a $16 million renovation set for completion in 2023. (wikipedia)

Based on physical mass, the largest pipe organ in the  world is the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ in Philadelphia’s Wanamaker Department Store (no longer exists), weighing in at 287 tons and officially the ‘Largest Organ in the World’, according to Guinness Book of World Records.

So the fact is: Whether bigger is better or heritage is the heirloom, the history of organ craftsmanship is complex and worth learning more about.

Sources:

organhistoricalsociety.com

baroquemusic.org

berlindom.de

Wikipedia

unesco.com

pipedreams.publicradio.com

attasobscura.com

REVOLUTIONARY WAR HEROES HONORED

The Palatinate Chapter is proud to report that is has created a new Historical Preservation site for the NSDAR. Committee Chair and Palatinate Member Karen Rink reports: 

‘On Saturday, 29 October 2022, the Palatinate Chapter, Germany dedicated a bronze plaque to honor local heroes Colonel Christian Von Zweibruecken, his brother Lt. Colonel Wilhelm Von Zweibruecken (both DAR Patriots), and the members of the Regiment Royal Deux-Ponts who heroically defeated English General Cornwallis’s troops on Redoute 9 at Yorktown, Virginia, in October 1781, thus ending the American Revolutionary War.

The New Plaque in Zweibrücken

This French Regiment, which was stationed in Zweibruecken, Germany, was raised and sponsored by Christian IV, father of Christian and Wilhelm.   Members of the Regiment came from the Palatinate and Saarland regions in Germany, as well as from Alsace and Lorraine in France:  truly a French-German regiment.

The plaque dedication event was opened by Palatinate Chapter Regent Pam Jensen, followed by a presentation by the Oberbuergermeister of Zweibruecken Dr. Wosnitza.   Other guests included local historians, members of the Palatinate Chapter, the French Rochambeau Chapter, the past Units Overseas Chair, and DAR members from the states.  Also in attendance were SAR members from Germany.

From Left to Right: Carol Moldenhauer, Milissa Campbell, Shirley Herzer, Johnette Scott (Chapter friend), Mindy Kammeyer-Price, Pam Jensen, Karen Rink, Lois Borsay

The Zweibruecken City Band performed the Regiment’s original theme song, plus Yankee Doodle Dandy and the American National Anthem. 

Before the ceremony, the Palatinate Chapter members were given a tour of the museum exhibit which celebrated the 300th birthday of Christian IV and described his many achievements. After the ceremony, chapter members and guests enjoyed a gourmet luncheon at the Rosengarten Restaurant and learned more about Christian and Wilhelm Von Zweibruecken from guest speaker Dr. Daniel Fischer, Professor of History, University of Lorraine, France.’

Karen Rink with Dr. Wosnitza, Mayor of Zweibrücken, at the plaque unveiling ceremony

It was a wonderful day and huge success. Many thanks to Karen for initiating, planning and guiding the project to completion. Also many thanks go to her team, which organized all the logistics of the ceremony, invitations and luncheon. The team included Barbara Gibbons, Pam Jensen, Tiffin Fox, Milissa Campbell, Shirley Herzer, Carol Moldenhauer and Lois Borsay. Several supportive HODARs were also present, and the Chapter extends its gratitude to Mindy Kammeyer-Price, past Chair Units Overseas, for flying in from Atlanta to join the ceremony. 

Left to Right: Pastor Max Krumbach of the Zweibrücken Historical Society, Mindy Kammeyer-Price, Bryan Price, Christopher McLarren (acting president SAR Baron Von Steuben Chapter, Don Puller, Pam Jensen, Milissa Campbell, Karen Rink, JoAnne Pinney (prospective member Palatinate DAR), Barbara Gibbons, Jan Kuzminski (prospective member Palatinate Chapter) Beth Gross, USO

The Palatinate DAR Commemorates the Regiment Royal Deux-Ponts in the America 250! Quilt Project

The women of the DAR Palatinate Chapter are proud that the quilt block concept they submitted to the America 250! NSDAR Quilt Project was selected as the block to represent the Units Overseas.

What is the America 250! Quilt Project?

The Quilt Project is being coordinated by the Women in the Arts Committee. 

According the the Committee website, the theme for the quilt is: ‘As each state became part of our country beginning 250 years ago, each state block of our quilt will unite with all, to become a tapestry of our country’s heritage.’

“The whole quilt is much more important than any single square.” -Rohinton Mistry

State winners were selected in May and have been working on their quilt squares for submission by October 15th. Vickie Canham, the National Vice Chair, and her team will assemble the quilt with a targeted finish in the spring of 2023.

The finished quilt will hang in the NSDAR Headquarters and will be able to travel to various locations leading up to the semiquincentennial.

The Regiment Royal Deux-Ponts Quilt Block from the Palatinate Chapter

A team of Palatinate Chapter members including Shirley Herzer, Karen Rink, Barbara Gibbons, Carol Moldenhauer, Tiffin Fox and Milissa Campbell got together at Shirley’s home and came up with a design that features the ship that sailed the Regiment Royal Deux-Ponts to America, where they fought in the War of Independence and helped defeat the British at Yorktown, resulting in the end of the war.

The judges from the Women’s in the Arts Committee were pleased enough with the design to include it as the only block representing the Units Overseas on the quilt. Here is the finished product:

IMG_0469.JPG

Barbara Gibbons explains the meaning of the quilt:

‘The Regiment Royal Deux-Ponts (Deux-Ponts translates to ‘Zweibrücken’ in German and ‘Two Bridges’ in English) was a French regiment of foot soldiers originating in Zweibrücken and whose regimental flag is symbolized on the design of the main sail of our ship.

The soldiers of the Regiment Royal Deux-Ponts came from the Palatinate region. This area today includes Kaiserslautern, Ramstein, Landstuhl, Zweibrücken as well as Alsace and Lorraine in France. 

The Regiment Royal Deux-Ponts was part of four forces that sailed to America and arrived in Newport, Rhode Island in 1780. After waiting a year, the Counts von Zweibrücken marched with their army toward Yorktown, Virginia. Along with the combined troops of Rochambeau and Lafayette, they forced the surrender of the British Army under Lord Cornwallis. In the siege of Yorktown the brothers Christian and Wilhelm von Zweibrücken took Redoubt 9 which was one of the major factors leading to Lord Cornwallis’ defeat, thus ending the war.

Because of our direct history with Palatinate emigration and the heroic ending of the Revolutionary War, we have written the words Deux-Ponts, Palatinate and Yorktown next to the sailing ship.’ 

Hardship and the Ocean Crossing

There aren’t many written records of the ship crossing to America at the time of the Revolution, but a journal from soldier Georg Daniel Flohr from Zweibrücken who sailed as part of the Deux-Ponts provides some insight into the misery of the trip. 

According the Americanrevolution.org, the ship journey took 70 days. Space was very tight: Lodgings consisted of linen hammocks with two to a hammock. Even the officers were ten to a cabin. At meals, people squeezed into tight chambers with poor ventilation. The stench of men, dogs, cows, sheep and chicken was pervasive.The food was rationed to a little over a pound of hardtack a day, and the men were perpetually thirsty. At one point there was a fire on board Flohr’s ship.

When they finally reached Newport Harbor, most were afflicted with scurvy. Only about a dozen men died during the crossing, but by the time they went into their winter quarters on November 1, 1780 the regiment was 73 short. By way of comparison, the regiment only lost one-fourth that number in the casualties in the storming of Redoubt #9 before Yorktown in October 1781, the bloodiest event of the campaign. (Source: americanrevolution.org)

The Regiment Royal Deux-Ponts After the War

In the summer of 1791, the Royal Deux-Ponts became the 99th Regiment of Infantry, and eventually there weren’t any Germans left in its ranks. As the decades passed, it became part of the body of ‘French’ troops sent to fight in America. Today, the regimental standard of the 99ieme Regiment d’Infantrie stationed in Lyon proudly displays Yorktown among its days of glory, keeping the memory of the American Revolutionary War alive (ibid, above).

In Summary

The Palatinate DAR Daughters are proud to remember the bravery and sacrifice that the Regiment Royal Deux-Ponts made for our freedom with the block that will memorialize them in the America 250! Quilt.

Pictured above: Shirley Herzer and Karen Rink lay out the fabric for the block. Milissa Campbell making fabric choices for the quilt block.  

Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin von Steuben…an Illustrious General in the War for American Independence

von Steuben Portrait, Source: Wikipedia

Von Steuben’s Career as a Soldier

Von Steuben was a Prussian aristocrat born in Magdeburg, Germany on September 17th, 1730. Like his father, he became a solider at an early age. When the Seven Years’ War began in 1747, he was a second lieutenant and became a first lieutenant in 1759. After recovering from wounds suffered that year, he became a staff officer in the position of quartermaster. He was subsequently taken prisoner, released and promoted to captain and later became an aide-de-camp to Frederick the Great. Under Frederick the Great’s leadership, von Steuben attended the King’s personal class on the art of war. Here young soldiers were schooled in the art of leadership. Von Steuben was discharged from the Prussian Army in 1763 under auspicious circumstances (Magdeburg Tourist Information).

At this point von Steuben had already gained all the military experience that would make him so essential to the American Revolution.

In 1763 von Steuben was introduced to Louis de St. Germain in Hamburg. St. Germain later become the French Minister of War during the American Revolution. His casual relationship with St. Germain was renewed while von Steuben served as Grand Marshall to the Prince of Hollenzollern-Hechingen. Von Steuben acted as the administrative director for the Prince and his court during this period. His ties to the Duchess of Wurtemburg, a niece of Frederich the Great, led to von Steuben receiving the title of Baron.

Von Steuben travelled to France in 1777 looking for some sort of military occupation. In Paris, St. Germain introduced von Steuben to the American ambassadors to France, Silas Deane and Benjamin Franklin. The American ambassadors couldn’t offer von Steuben a paid position, so he left his first encounter with the Americans in ‘disgust’ (nps.gov/vafo/learn/history). But lacking any other tangible opportunities, eventually von Steuben decided to travel to America as a volunteer, with only his passage being paid by the French government.

Von Steuben in America

Von Steuben embarked for America on September 2, 1777 with his Italian greyhound, an aide-de- camp, and his military secretary. They arrived in Portsmouth, NH on December 1, 1777, where he and his party were almost arrested for wearing red uniforms similar to those of the British Army. Von Steuben and his party traveled from Portsmouth over land through Boston, to York, PA, arriving there on February 5,1777.

Von Steuben presented himself to Congress with a letter of introduction from Benjamin Franklin that included several inflated mistakes about von Steuben’s rank in the Prussian Army (nps.gov/ vafo/learn/history). But his interview was successful: Von Steuben was offered an arrangement to serve and be paid following successful completion of the war. The Baron was told to report to Valley Forge.

3142058 BARON STEUBEN, 1778 Baron Friedrich von Steuben drilling American troops at Valley Forge, 1778. Wood engraving, American, 1877, after Felix O.C. Darley.; (add.info.: BARON STEUBEN, 1778 Baron Friedrich von Steuben drilling American troops at Valley Forge, 1778. Wood engraving, American, 1877, after Felix O.C. Darley.); Granger.

The first impression that von Steuben made upon the soldiers of Valley Forge was that of ‘an ancient fabled God of War’ (nps.gov/vafo/learn/history). His large stature, impressive horse and enormous pistols evidently made a big impression.

Von Steuben’s first task was to create standardized drills for the army, based on European methods. He could not speak or write in English, so he originally wrote the drills in French and his aide-de-camp translated them. Brigade inspectors and regiments received the drills, who copied them and handed them on to the companies. Von Steuben tried to make the drills as simple as possible, teaching the soldiers in the quickest possible time before moving on to the next set of troops. This is how the discipline and uniform maneuvers were quickly learned and integrated in an orderly fashion into the army procedures. In an unprecedented move, von Steuben also broke rank and worked often directly with the men. According to the National Park Systems history website, von Steuben’s talent for obscenities in several languages made him popular among the troops.

On May 6, the French Alliance enjoyed their first demonstration of the American troops’ new- found professionalism. Von Steuben was made a Major General, and shortly thereafter his troops brought the British Army to a standstill in a battle at Monmouth Courthouse, NJ.

Von Steuben went to Philadelphia in the winter of 1778-79 to write a book of regulations, which was translated into English by aids. The guide was used by the United States Army until 1814.

Von Steuben rejoined the Continental Army in 1779 and served through the remainder of the war. He was an instructor and supply officer to the southern army, which fought key battles that led to the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781.

Unfortunately, von Steuben didn’t receive all the money he requested for his services after the war. He sold various properties given to him by several states, but even the sale of these was not enough to cover his living expenses (nps.gov/vafo/learn/history). He retired to the Mohawk Valley in New York State on a 16,000 acre farm tract, where he died on November 28 ,1794.

Von Steuben Remembered

In Magdeburg, Germany there is a plaque that was funded and dedicated by the DAR on the main post office building, which was originally the site of the church where Wilhelm von Steuben was christened. There is also a bust of von Steuben in the City Hall and a reproduction of a statue found in Washington DC in Harnackstrasse. There is another copy of the statue in Potsdam, Germany as well.

Magdeburg Plaque

In the United States, German-Americans celebrate Von Steuben Day in several states. The parade on Fifth Avenue in New York City is particularly notable. There are cities with the name ‘Steuben’ in Maine, New York, Wisconsin, Ohio (Steubenville) and Steuben Counties in Indiana and New York State.

The original von Steuben statue stands in Lafayette Park in Washington DC. It was created by Albert Jaegers and dedicated in December, 1910.

In 1915, Swiss-American sculptor Jakob Otto Schweizer also created a standing statue of von Steuben in Valley Forge.

Von Steuben’s name has also appeared on many plaques and naval vessels over the years.

We recognize General von Steuben posthumously on the occasion of his 292nd birthday with gratitude!

 

DAR Palatinate Chapter in Magdeburg

Sources:

Wikipedia
Magdeburg Tourist Information
National Park Service/Government/ValleyForge (nps.gov/vafo/learn/historyculture/ vonsteuben)

Where the Palatinate Chapter Celebrates Memorial Day

May bursts with color and new growth outside our doors. It ends with Memorial Day, for many a day of picnics and parties with family and friends. However, Memorial Day is also a day to remember all those our country has lost in defending our freedom in wars.

The DAR Palatinate Chapter celebrates Memorial Day by attending ceremonies at two American Battle Monument Cemeteries (ABMC) near the German border in France. Here is a little description of each. If you are in the Palatinate area, both are well worth visiting.

The Lorraine American Cemetery

The Lorraine American Cemetery in St. Avold, France is the largest cemetery for American soldiers who died in World War II in Europe. Almost 10,500 American soldiers are buried there.

Most of the dead were killed while driving back the German forces from Metz, France toward the Siegfried Line and the Rhine River. Initially there were 16,000 American soldiers from the U.S. Seventh Army Infantry and Armored Divisions with its cavalry stationed there. St. Avold was a key communications center for the network of enemy defenses guarding the western border of the Third Reich.

This beautiful cemetery, with its headstones arranged in nine plots, extends over 113.5 acres of rolling hills and is bordered by lush woods. The memorial, which stands on a plateau west of the burial area, contains operations maps, narratives and service flags. The figure of St. Nabor, the martyred Roman soldier, overlooks the somber setting. Tablets with names of the missing (444) are located on either side of the memorial. The missing who have since been identified are marked with a rosette.

Lorraine American Cemetery in St. Avold

The Palatinate Chapter provides a wreath for the St. Avold Memorial Day ceremony every year. The beautiful ceremony includes music from both French and American military representatives, speeches from local French and American dignitaries, and a special fly-over by a C-130 aircraft. The ceremony closes with the firing of volleys, taps and the rising of the colors.

Cemetery Site Monument in Hochfelden, France

This cemetery memorial is located just west of Hochfelden, France. It was established in late 1944 when the American effort was advancing too fast for the US Army Grave Registration Department. The 1,093 American soldiers who were temporarily interred there were later moved in 1946 to the American Cemetery in St. Avold. Most of the soldiers were part of the 103rd Division of the 7th Army. Today all that remains in Hochfelden is the memorial to the 1,093 soldiers and the lonely grave of 20 year old Lt. John Grant Rahill.

Hochfelden Memorial

A One-Man Cemetery in Hochfelden

The one and only grave left in Hochfelden has a unique story. It tells the story of Lt. John Rahill as well as his family’s love and respect for his military career.

Lt. John Rahill was born in Caldwell, NJ on New Year’s Day in 1924. A reputedly somewhat precocious child, John abandoned his college education at the University of Chicago and volunteered for the infantry in 1942. He completed his basic training at Camp Roberts, CA and was selected for the Officer Candidate School. He was commissioned in 1943 and joined the 10th Mountain Division in the Colorado Rockies. He transferred to the European front in 1943.

His European career started in Naples, where he was dispatched to the Anzio beachhead. Assigned to the B Company platoon of the 179th Infantry, Rahill was quickly recognized as a capable leader, especially during the advance on Rome. He went on to become a first lieutenant and executive officer of the Company.

In December of 1944, he led his men into the Alsatian village of Engwiller. But on the way to their destination they were surprised by a mortar attack that killed Lt. Rahill within minutes.

Rahill was interred with his fellow fallen soldiers in Hochfelden. When his mother learned in 1946 that the interred were to be transferred to the St. Avold Cemetery, she refused to allow his grave to be disturbed. She was convinced that it would have been his desire to remain buried where he had fallen. Mrs. Rahill’s plea was taken up by a Captain of the 45th Infantry, who helped her inform the U.S. War Department of her wish.

On June 7, 1953, her wish was granted. More than 1,000 French citizens and the U.S. Ambassador to France, Douglas Dillon, were present to unveil a memorial over Lt. Rahill’s grave site. The memorial honors all the American soldiers who lost their lives for the liberation of France. To symbolize the sacrifice, Lt. John Rahill was allowed to remain entombed at the base of the monument.

To this day, there is a ceremony honoring the American contributions the liberation of France held every year at the site in May. The Palatinate Chapter is often in attendance and participates in a wreath-laying ceremony. Local dignitaries from Hochfelden and the United States hold speeches and enjoy a lunch together afterwards.

Both events are truly inspiring and we hope you will visit one or both any time you are in the area.

Lt. John Grant Rahill Grave Marker in Hochfelden, France

Sources:

ABMC.com

103rdcactus.com

stripes.com

The Easter Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany

Oberammergau Countryside, Source: google.com

With Easter just around the corner, it might be interesting to learn about a world-famous German cultural tradition that centers on the final days of Jesus’ life. The play is called the Passion Plays (‘Passionsspiele’) and is performed once every ten years on an open stage in the small Bavarian town called Oberammergau. Most recently, the Passion Plays were planned for 2020, but, due to COVID, they were postponed to 2022, starting in May with performances through September this year.

What are the Passion Plays?

The play is a five-hour performance that shows Jesus’ passion, covering the short period from visiting Jerusalem through his crucifixion. It starts when Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey and drives the money changers and traders from the Temple. It moves through his arrest and conviction, the Last Supper, Judas’ betrayal, Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the carrying  of the cross, crucifixion and resurrection in sixteen acts. The play is truly spectacular, with over 2,000 performers, musicians and stage technicians, all of whom are residents of Oberammergau.

Because the play is so long, there is a long meal break, making the performance roughly a seven hour event. Total attendance often exceeds over a half a million during the performance season. Travel agents frequently offer weekend package deals with hotels, meals and tickets included.

A Village House, Source: google.com

How did the Passion Plays Come About?

A legend says that after an outbreak of the bubonic plague in Bavaria during the Thirty Years’ War (1616-1648), a man who had worked in a nearby village brought the plague to Oberammergau in September of 1633. The plague killed over half the population in only a month. At the end of October 1633, the villagers vowed that if God spared them from the plague in the future, they would perform a play every ten years depicting the life and death of Jesus. According to the legend, nobody died of the plague in Oberammergau after they made the vow. The villagers kept their promise and performed the first Passion Play in 1634.

What is Unique About the Passion Plays?

The Oberammergau Passion Play includes between 2,000 and 5,000 of the local residents in the village. It is a family tradition. If a grandfather participated in the past, then today his sons and grandsons are most certainly also participants. Many of the main actors take a sabbatical or reduce their work hours during the performance season.

The kick-off for the Passion Play is on Ash Wednesday, one year prior to the next festival. From this time, the residents of Oberammergau are advised to not get a haircut and men must let their beards grow in order to give more authenticity to their biblical appearance!

The stage for the Passion Plays in Oberammergau, Source: google.com

The stage for the performance is also special. It has been remodeled repeatedly over the years. The stage is surrounded by around 4,500 seats in the auditorium and the roof is a grated lattice construction that provides a good view of the open air stage from all the tiered rows of seats. The stage settings are known for their appealing artistic form and colorful ambience. 

With the unrelenting work and continuing support of the residents of Oberammergau, the Passion Play has become the largest and most famous of its kind in the world. 

Happy Easter!

Sources:

wikipedia.com

germanytravel.com

thecatholicguide.com

Hannah Arendt: A Female Philosopher With Contemporary Ideas

March 8th is International Women’s Day and a good chance to highlight a famous German/American female philosopher named Hannah Arendt. Her philosophical and political theories were developed around her experiences growing up as a Jew in Germany under the Nazis. Most of her teachings revolve around the ideas of evil and power in totalitarian regimes. Many of her thoughts are as pertinent today as they were when she wrote them seventy years ago.

Who Was Hannah Arendt?

Hannah Arendt was born in 1906 near Hannover, Germany. She was the daughter of educated, liberal Jewish parents and spent much of her youth growing up in Königsberg, located in East Prussia. Her family was well integrated in the German community there, and Hannah’s education was predominantly secular, emphasizing Goethe’s humanities-oriented ‘Bildung’ (education) ideals. She was quite a precocious girl:  She understood ancient Greek at a young age and was ferociously independent in her thinking and actions during her schooling. 

Source: zeit.de

She spent some time during the First World War in Berlin and eventually studied there. Later she also studied in Marburg, Freiburg and Heidelberg, where she received her Doctorate in Philosophy in 1929.

After finishing her PhD, Hannah started to research anti-semitism and was arrested by the Nazis in 1933. Following her release, Hannah fled Germany and eventually landed in Paris. She expanded her philosophical interests there until Hitler invaded France in 1940. She was detained by the French and escaped to the United States in 1941 via Portugal. 

Source: br.de

Hannah became a US citizen in 1950. She was active in trying to find a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and published her first book in 1951: The Origins of Totalitarianism. This is probably her best known work, dealing with the nature of power and evil as well as politics, direct democracy, authority and totalitarian rule. She subsequently wrote many other books and taught in several renowned American universities.

What Was Hannah Arendt’s Political Philosophy?

Hannah Arendt’s political philosophy was based on the idea of active citizenship that emphasizes civic engagement and collective deliberation. She believed that no government could extinguish the drive for human freedom. She saw the evilness of totalitarian power in its manipulation of human thinking. 

Perhaps her philosophy is best summed up in quotes from her lectures and books. Below are a few quotes taken from the Internet portal azquotes.com

‘The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists’.

‘Evil thrives on apathy and cannot exist without it’.

‘The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions but destroy the capacity to form any’.

‘The is a strange interdependence between thoughtlessness and evil’.

‘Generally speaking, violence always rises out of impotence. It is the hope of those who have no power to find a substitute for it and this hope, I think, is in vain. Violence can destroy power but it can never replace it’.

Hannah Arendt’s ideas and theories are clearly still relevant today. 

Hannah Arendt died in 1975 in the United States, where she is buried. 

Source: fu-berlin.de

Sources:

wikipedia.com

azquotes.com

GermanyinUSA.com