Thursday, 30 May 2013

Another Walk Down Memory Lane

While I was having a half-day trip down memory lane a few weeks ago, last Saturday I went for a shorter and closer-by walk with my Mum, a walk that took us to places filled with memories for both of us, although for different reasons. 

After many days of rain and cold, Saturday began sunny and bright (although still very chilly), and we decided to walk from our town across the fields to the nearby smaller town of Kornwestheim. That picturesque place has featured on my blog once before, last year in April

If he was still alive, my grandpa (Mum's Dad) would have been 99 years old on that day. And although we did not go to the cemetery to "pay our respects" (to us, a person's memory is not kept alive by a piece of rock somewhere, but by us remembering them in our hearts and minds), it was a good reason for going there and giving our walk a purpose. 

At the cemetery, these beautiful azalea were just a little past their best, but still looking glorious: 


Leaving the cemetery, we had three more stops in mind before making our way back to Ludwigsburg: First, I asked to walk through the Stadtgarten ("Town Garden") and look at the small fountain by the wall, the place of one of my earliest childhood memories. Second, we wanted to try and find the house were the painter of the beautiful sunflower painting used to live (more about him later). Third, we intended to have a drink and maybe a piece of cake or a snack at the small café that is our preferred stop whenever we are in Kornwestheim.

There were several roads we could take to reach the Stadtgarten, and we decided to explore a path not even my Mum was familiar with - and that is saying something, since she spent a lot of time in this town as a child and teenager, with her grandmother and many other relatives living there in those days.

The narrow public foot path took us along the stone wall at the back of the old (disused) cemetery. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I do have a thing for old, more or less neglected places, and so I couldn't resist taking a few pictures across the wall:

In the background, you can spot the spire of the old church that I showed you in my older post about Kornwestheim, mentioned and click-linked above.

We came out of the path still in the oldest part of town, with some beautifully restored timbered houses:

It wasn't far (nothing in Kornwestheim is really far) from there to the Stadtgarten, and we sat on a bench in the sun for a while, close to the fountain with the frog that I remember from the time I was about 2 or 3 years old - my great-grandmother was still alive then, living in the road next to the park, and I was taken there often by both my Mum and my Grandma when they were visiting.


For my Mum, sitting on that bench brought back memories of many a day spent at that very spot, reading books she had borrowed from her mother or from her Onkel Otto, books such as "Gone With The Wind" (which I have never read myself, by the way).

When the sun hid behind clouds and it became too chilly for our liking, we went to the café. On our way there, we tried in vain to find the house where the painter used to live, but we couldn't be entirely sure where it was according to the rather vague description my uncle (Mum's brother) had dug from his memory and sent her by email when she asked him what he remembered about the painter.
Of course, a lot has changed since Mum and her brother were children, but this is what we managed to piece together:

As mentioned in the post where I showed you the sunflower painting (click-linked above), the painter's name was Fritz Hartnagel. He was my grandfather's colleague; their workplace was a foundry in Kornwestheim (the company ceased to exist in 1981). Mr. Hartnagel's wife had cancer, and he quit his job in order to take care of her full-time. That was VERY unusual for a man to do in those days (we are talking the late 1940s or early 1950s here), and my Mum's parents were greatly impressed by that. Of course, back then, not working meant almost no money; the benefit system was not what it is today. To pay bills, Mr. Hartnagel sold paintings to friends and former colleagues; two of these ended up in my grandparents' possession: the sunflower one and another one of the Watzmann, a mountain in the Bavarian Alps.

We think that "our" Fritz Hartnagel was a relative of (most likely not identical with) Fritz Hartnagel, friend of Sophie Scholl and later husband of her sister Elisabeth. But we don't know exactly how the painter fits in; the area is right, and so is more or less the time frame. You don't know who Sophie Scholl was? She was a student (went to school in Ludwigsburg and later studied at university in Munich) who actively (but without violence) resisted the Nazi regime. For her resistance activities, she was convicted of high treason and executed in 1943, when she was 21 years old. She and the "Weiße Rose" ("White Rose", the resistance group) are very well known in Germany. You can read about Sophie here on wikipedia.

19 comments:

  1. It's amazing to relive family history in a nice day's walk, isn't it? Here, i must drive to get to any of the places i can remember, and so much has changed.

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    1. It's something I enjoy very much, and I am happy to have both my Mum and Dad close by to tell me all those things that I am either too young to know from my own experience or can't remember properly.

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  2. Dear Meike,
    I have been waiting for this post!! As I told you before, I had never heard of Sophie Scholl and Fritz Hartnagel until I read your post about the painting of the sunflowers! Could your painting not be by THE Fritz Hartnagel? I do so wonder about this...
    Even if he is a relation, I wish we could find out more information about him.
    I think this is a fascinating subject and one that should be investigated further!

    I love all these photos that you showed us from this walk.
    And you really MUST read "Gone With The Wind". Promise me that you will, at least, one day!! :-)

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    1. Dear Kay,
      yes, a biography of Fritz Hartnagel the painter would certainly be worth researching and writing, and I know I could do it, provided with enough time and money. I am glad my Uncle and my Mum remember some bits. But no, I don't think he is identical with Sophie Scholl's friend; the military background doesn't fit. If he really was the same man, the wife who had cancer and who he quit his job for, would have been Sophie Scholl's sister. That would have certainly been well-known in our area. On the other hand, in the years shortly after the war, people didn't like to talk about what they had been up to during the Nazi years.

      I'm afraid I can't promise you that I'll read "Gone With The Wind". I've seen the movie and that was lengthy enough ;-)

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    2. http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/Holocaust/gill-white-rose.html

      There! I really worked to get that link for you and I hope you can read it!
      I see that Fritz Hartnagel married Sophie's sister, Elizabeth and they had four sons. Fritz died at the age of 84 on April 29, 2001. The information that I read said that Elizabeth was still alive in Stuttgart. (When that was written, it did not say, so she might have died since that was written.) The girlfriend of Hans Scholl, Trante Lafranz, moved to the USA, to South Carolina, and was still alive at the age of 93. Once again, not sure if she is still alive.
      Fascinating stories to me, and I would never have known of any of this if you had not shown me that beautiful sunflower in the blue vase painting!

      You don't HAVE to read "Gone With The Wind". I read it when I was 11 years old. Gee whiz, I was a bookworm of a kid!! I must have gotten all of my fiction fix in my youth!

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    3. Thank you, Kay, that was very interesting, and so good of you to do additional research! Now I know with a 100 % certainty that Fritz Hartnagel the painter was not identical with Sophie Scholl's friend. That Fritz Hartnagel is mentioned in the article you found as having been a judge until his retirement. And the painter certainly never was a judge; he was my grandfather's colleague at the foundry.

      Like you, I was a bookworm! Ask my Mum - she can confirm that I really forgot time and space when I was absorbed in a book. I often read one or two entire books on a rainy Sunday when I didn't feel like going out to play.

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  3. Such a beautiful post. I love the yellow and orange azaleas. Love walking down memory lane, love slow walks through cemeteries. Am fascinated by lives gone and the artifacts that remain. You are so lucky to have your mother who enjoys doing these same things with you!

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    1. Yes, Kristi, I know I am very lucky, and truly appreciate all those good times we can spend together.
      I've always liked cemeteries, since I was a little girl; the peace and quiet there had a positive effect on me, and I loved reading the names on the stones and calculating how old they'd been, and from the sound of their names in my head, I imagined what they had looked like and what sort of life they had.

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  4. I have read Gone with the Wind at least 3 times. The first time because it was required reading in High School. As for the movie, I think I have seen it at least 20 times...they repeat it very often on Italian TV:)

    Have a nice weekend!

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    1. Thanks, Francesca, and the same to you!

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  5. That fills in a lot of the gaps and made very interesting reading. I hadn't heard of Sophie Scholl either. And, to cap it all, I have neither read the book nor seen the film of Gone With The Wind.

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    1. Graham, I was sure few - if any - of my regular readers would have come across the name of Sophie Scholl, which is why I found it important to explain at least very briefly who she was.

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  6. How interesting. I always think it is nice that you are so firmly rooted in your corner of the world, and you appreciate it too.
    21 years old - oh -
    what can I say?
    I had heard of Sophie and White Rose but not very much. I will read the link now.

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  7. I have just read it. It is sad to think of intelligent, thoughtful and good people whose lives were cut short. I wonder how the human race doesn't get worse and worse when you think of how many murderous people are, or have been the ones who have done well, throughout history.

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    1. Thank you for reading this, Jenny. Yes, it is very sad. And I try not to despair of humankind when looking at the news and thinking of all the atrocities that are being committed every second somewhere not too far away on this planet.
      Still, I do - maybe naively so - believe that there are many very good and kind people out there, some of which I am happy to be calling my friends and family.

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  8. I missed this post last week... The azaleas are in bloom here now (a couple of weeks later as we're further north) and we have lots of them in the cemetery close to where I live, I went for a walk there on Sunday afternoon (and in another park with lots of them yesterday). How interesting about the painter. I recognized the name Sophie Scholl and then it struck me why... I have a film about her waiting among some more DVDs yet unwatched. Have you seen it? German film from 2005.

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    1. No, I have not seen the 2005 film but another one from the 1980s. It left a deep impression on me and my friends, we were teenagers when it was in the cinema, and it did more to bring the message home than all the lessons we'd been having at school about the Nazi regime.

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  9. Lovely ramble down memory lane. I hope the weather has improved now and that and your mum can do lots of pleasant walking in your gorgeous corner of Germany.

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    1. Thank you, Friko! Yes, it has been warm and sunny for the last two days and hopefully will stay like that for the big horsemarket parade on Sunday afternoon.

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