In Memory Of A Girl

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In memory of Ilse Brüll
Born 28 April 1925 Died 3(?) September 1942
and in memory of all those children of Innsbruck who were victims of this time

Ilse Brüll, a Jewish girl, attended school here in Wilten from September 15, 1935. She met her death in September 1942 at Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

From Ilse’s last letter to her family, August 30, 1942: “Please tell my parents and relatives of this letter and that they are not worry…”

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The story of Ilse Brüll is one of the saddest in Innsbruck’s Third Reich history. She grew up in an assimilated Jewish family in Anichstrasse in the center of town, her father Rudolf Brüll had a furniture and upholstery business. After the November 1938 pogrom (Kristallnacht) the family looked for ways to leave the country and emigrate to America, but without success.

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Ilse Brüll and her cousin Inge Brüll were sent with the Quaker Kindertransports to the Netherlands, expecting to meet up later with their parents. At first brought to a refugee camp there, they sometimes entertained fellow refugees at events, by donning traditional Tyrolean clothing and singing duets. They were brought later to a convent with other children, and learned Dutch.

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The Kindertransports brought Jewish children out of harm’s way to he Netherlands and Great Britain. When the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in 1942 they immediately began rounding up Jews, and demanded that the convent hand over any unbaptized Jewish children. It seems that Ilse had had the opportunity to be baptized but refused (Inge’s mother was Roman Catholic, and Inge had been baptized as a baby.)

Inge recounted in a taped interview that the convent felt it had no choice — if they had disobeyed the order, the entire colony of 200 children would have been disbanded. Ilse was taken to Westerbork Camp in August 1942 (Anne Frank’s family was just settling into the hidden apartment in Amsterdam, but would also pass through here 2 years later) before “most likely” continuing on to Auschwitz to be gassed. She was 17.

Ilse’s parents, Rudolf and Julie Brüll, were interned in Theresienstadt but survived, and returned to Innsbruck after their liberation. Rudolf Brüll fought for and eventually reclaimed his furniture shop, and was president of the Jewish Community in Innsbruck until his death in 1957.  Ingeborg Brüll died in 2011, also in Innsbruck.

Information in German here images 2, 3 and 4 from here. Image 1 by the author.

Posted in assimilation, Austria, Germany, history, Innsbruck, lives of others, memory | Leave a comment

Weekend Mountain Blogging

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Hohenwerfen Castle, from a train window.  I’ve been to this pile of rocks a couple of times in the past, when I lived somewhat closer to it. The last time was by invitation of a colleague on her birthday —  a tour of the castle, lunch and a falcon show. There is a falconry on the premises.

Wikipedia tells me that the castle has been used as a location for the 1968 film Where Eagles Dare as well as the 2003 Ashton Kutcher film Just Married.  (Tja!) It also supplied the backdrop for a scene in The Sound of Music  (it’s just a bit of a drive down from the town of Salzburg).

And, since we’re on the subject of Salzburg and films, the Salzburg Museum is featuring a photo exhibit right now called Help! The Beatles in Salzburg — Photographs by Christian Skrein. The photographs document the band’s visit for a location shoot in the Obertauern Region (Why did they fly all the way to Austria for that sledding scene? It may have been the only snowy, mountainous area where they wouldn’t be dogged by fans. In fact one of the groups which came out to meet them held up signs which said “Beatles Go Home”.)

Posted in Austria, current events, Mountains, music, travel

Euro-exotica, or The Reason I Don’t Read Expat Lit

In the recent New Yorker article Northern Lights: Do Scandinavians Have It All Figured Out?, Nathan Heller describes Michael Booth’s book “The Almost Nearly Perfect People” (Picador) as

 

“essentially observational; it aspires to a comic genre that might be called Euro-exotica. The form was well established by the time Twain published “The Innocents Abroad,” in 1869, and it has been carried through the twentieth century by writers as varied as S. J. Perelman and Peter Mayle. It usually involves a witty, stumbling narrator simultaneously charmed and bemused by the foreign nation he encounters. He is a naïf but not a boor: he wants to do everything right, but he is hamstrung by his ignorance of etiquette, by his squeamishness around unwelcome foods, and—this being Europe—by the daily, soul-crushing throes of bureaucracy. Euro-exotica is generally poured in a confectionery mold, light and tart, but its core is an assertion of the narrator’s cultural power. Change the balance of the recipe slightly—make it, say, about the bumbling adventures of a Guatemalan farmer in Florence—and the cookie hardens. Can you believe how these people do things? the Euro-exoticist asks, with the courage of his own convictions. In this sense, Booth’s book is as much about Anglo-American power as it is about the Nordic way.”

(Bolds mine)

Ah yes, the bumbling adventures. Finally an explanation of why I don’t like perhaps 80% of expat blogs (from my own observations I’d say more like 90%, but I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to all those I haven’t yet read.)
I felt compelled to comment after yet another of those All The Ways Expat Life Will Change You articles turned up on social media. There may well be parallels in other cultures (there are German television shows about Germans living abroad, for instance) but I think that what Heller describes belongs to the citizens of privileged English-speaking countries. (In my opinion it stems from a larger genre of what I’ll call “lovable idiot” lit, where the narrators stumble through all sorts of cultural or societal faux pas and yet are loved in spite of their imperfections, or perhaps because of them. Think  Bridget Jones’ Diary.) David Sedaris played with this genre, so did Bill Bryson. (I don’t mind when Sedaris does it, because his wit plays well in any location.)

In a discussion of this topic someone said that assimilation is not a goal of expats. It was always a goal of mine, however, if not to be considered a local (impossible anyway*) then to be accepted as part of the local landscape. I realize that for some people this is not desirable, and they maintain their American culture out of dislike for the local one as well as a love of their own. But I imagine those people are not reading Euro-exotica either. They’re probably reading 50 Shades of Grey.

 

 

*In my college German course we read a short story by Jànos Bardi titled Der Hunne im Abendland or The Hun in the West. I cannot find it online but the story is about a man, a “Hun”, who leaves his eastern homeland for modern western civilization. He buys western clothes, trades his local wine for something like whiskey, starts smoking western cigarettes,  and when he is invited to a party he rails on about all the things the locals talk about — politics, some soulless entertainment gossip, the usual things. After he leaves the party, the host makes some remark about him being a nice guy. The hostess ends the story with “Yes, but he’s such a Hun!”

Posted in America, assimilation, blogs, culture, Life Abroad, literature, lives of others, media, travel | 2 Comments

Hardy’s Map

While packing for a long train trip to Styria, I pulled a couple of books of the shelf to help pass the time. Thomas Hardy’s “The Return of the Native” was I book I supposedly had read in high school — although I couldn’t for the life of me remember what happened after chapter one, and it’s likely I really didn’t read it at all since none of it seems familiar now, beyond the Reddleman.

But what really surprised me was this map.

egdon-heath-map1It’s not a real place, or rather it’s a composite of places near Dorchester, real or renamed,   and re-ordered for the convenience of the story. Egdon Heath figures so prominently in the book that it’s been treated as a literary character in several analyses. Of course it has a Roman road, partially a modern road and partially remains of a track through the heath.  An ancient barrow (or grave mound) also features as a setting for several meetings.

Posted in art, literature | 2 Comments

Teriolis ≠ Tirol

Continuing in the looking-up-one-thing-and-finding-the-tip-of-the-iceberg vein, I recently began looking into an assumption I had made a while back — that the name Tirol was derived from the Roman fortress Teriolis (from which the village of Zirl takes its name). It turns out that this is completely unsubstantiated, and that the name Tirol came to these lands by being ruled by the Earls of Tirol, who in turn took their name from their home, the castle Schloss Tirol, by around 1141.
Whence the castle got its name remains a mystery. Wikipedia mentions that tir meant territory or land in both Latin and Old Irish (Celtic), and that earlier written versions of the name include de Tirale and de Tyrols.

Ah, that mysterious “y” which one finds in the name when written in English! I had always wondered about that.

Then, poking around for anything on the internet concerning the origin of the name, I came across this interesting treatise (de). (I am not sure what to make of it, exactly — it reads a bit like Tolkien’s backstory in the appendices of “The Lord of the Rings”. It also shares some word-for-word passages with this.) The author (if he is the author) postulates that the rocky hill on which the castle sits had been taken in the early middle ages by conquering Germanic tribes, who named it in honor of the Germanic god Tyr (en) (aka Ziu*, both connected in turn to Zeus deus, deva, and our Tuesday). He adds that before the castle there had been an early Christian church on the site, and it is known that those early Christian churches often were built right atop pre-Christian holy sites. So it’s possible that the name Tirol (or Tyrol) is a very old, pre-Christian one.

The first Earls of Tirol were apparently Bavarian (Bavaria was running the place at the time) but they adopted the name of their castle rather than their family name, which lends a little credibility to the theory that the place name had some ancient meaning. Which nobody would have remembered by the 12th century.

The author also mentions a very curious book called Das erfundene Mittelalter (“the invented middle ages”) by a “chronology critic”, who claims that all the years between 614 and 911 didn’t exist, that everything purported to have happened in that time, didn’t, because of some sort of massive calendar jump. Scientists and archaeologists have debunked this theory.

And, completely unrelated to these places: the name Tauern, given to the Alpine mountain region of Salzburg and Carinthia, is evidently connected to the name of its earlier inhabitants, the Taurisci. After the Battle of Telamon in 225 B.C.E., the beaten Taurisci were allowed to resettle further southwest at what is now called – wait for it — Torino, or in English, Turin.

*Ziu and Zirl sound suspiciously alike. Is it not possible that, the Romans perhaps having latinized an already-given Raetian name for that hill there (now the Martinsbühel), the two names might indeed be related, by way of Ziu? The Roman name for Wilten, Veldidena, is thought to have come from a pre-existing name. Did the Raetians share any linguistic origins with their northern neighbors? One might assume yes, as Germanic and Celtic were both Indo-European. And gods are completely transferable, as history shows us.

Posted in archaeology, assimilation, Austria, Germany, history, Italy, language | 3 Comments

Weekend Mountain Blogging

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Impressions of a walk in one of my favorite patches of forest.

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There’s something sinewy and fluid about this spruce’s upended roots. A wood-sprite, perhaps, giving me the eye.

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Stacks of rails; there’s maintenance work going on (which seems to happen a lot, right at this place.)

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A line of young aspens at the edge of a clearing. Or they could be birches, it’s not easy to tell without leaves.

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Art is where you find it, and the forest is full of art materials.

As I set out, the day was sunny and calm. Within an hour the weather had turned, the wind picked up, and then the forest decided that our visit had gone long enough.

Posted in art, Austria, Mountains, nature | 3 Comments

A Stone Marker on the West Bank of the Ammersee

Sometimes the act of looking up one thing takes me to another things, and then something else altogether. This post, for example.

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This is a path on the west bank of the Ammersee between Utting and Schondorf. The stone column seen on the left bears information about a Roman-era bath house with living quarters, which stood here between the 2nd and 4th centuries C.E.
The building was made from volcanic tuff, brick, wooden posts and mosaic, and its walls were painted with frescoes. It had living quarters and bathing facilities, including a changing room (apodyterion), and baths with hot (caldarium), warm (tepidarium), and cold water (frigidarium), achieved with an underfloor heating system (hypokauste).

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This home-spa belonged to a very nice villa and farm (villa rustica) which once stood a little further up the hill. Situated conveniently near both the east-west Via Julia (Augsburg – Salzburg) and the north-south Via Claudia*, the villa had access roads leading to connecting roads on high ground west of the lake and to the Lech valley further west. It would have provided impressive views of the lake and the mountain range beyond.

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According to the plaque, the foundations were excavated in 1924 by one Dr. Blendinger along with his students. Dr. Heinrich Blendinger was director of the nearby boarding school Landheim Schondorf. In 1934 he took over the über-elite Schule Schloss Salem (Salem Castle School) in Baden-Württemberg, just north of Lake Constance. That school has kind and grateful words about Blendinger on their website, giving him credit for the school’s survival through the Third Reich years. A scholarship is given in his name.
According to other sources, Blendinger was not so much “keeping Nazi influence at bay” as he would have one believe from his published memoirs, but an excellent educator who also had impeccable Nazi credentials, and who took over direction of the school after Hahn’s very Nazi successor made a mess of things. All in all one gets the impression he was, if not quite Oskar Schindler, something like that. Former students remembered that under Blendinger’s administration, the school had no racial-idealogy studies, no mandatory wearing of the swastika, and they greeted each other with “Guten Tag” and not “Heil Hitler”. That alone says much about the climate in the school, constantly under threat of being dissolved and turned into a military school.

Somewhat related to the topic: Christoph Probst, member of the resistance group White Rose, attended Landheim Schondorf at age 17 in 1936. As did (around 12 years earlier) Helmuth Graf von Moltke, who had assisted the White Rose in getting flyers to the Allies for distribution over Germany. Another White Rose sympathizer, Jürgen Wittenstein, attended Salem Castle School during Blendinger’s tenure there. He is living in the United States.

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*The plaque mentions the Via Claudia as being the road “to Brenner”, which is not clear. The actual Via Claudia ran further west of here along the Lech River and over the Alps at the Reschen Pass. The road now called Via Raetia, which is much closer to this place, does go over the Brenner Pass but was built around 100 years later, and seems to have had no name at the time. It is possible that the new road then took over the official route name, much like highways do today, but I haven’t seen that before in connection to these two roads.

Posted in archaeology, Germany, history, lives of others, memory, travel | 2 Comments

Guten Rutsch!

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The Innsbruck Hofgarten. I shared the paths with a dozen or so Italian tourists, who seemed astonished and delighted by the recent snowfall, and who were all taking pictures of each other in it.

The Practice Room wishes everyone a healthy and prosperous 2015, with love, friendship and happiness. Prosit!

Posted in Austria, current events, holidays, Innsbruck | 5 Comments

Frohes Fest

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I wish you all safe travels over this holiday week.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Odd (and Beautiful) Nikolauskirche in Hall // Die seltsame (und schöne) Nikolauskirche in Hall

Dear Reader, I did this little trip to Hall in Tirol more for me than for you, as I knew I needed to get out of the house. Three straight months of rehearsals for three different productions, plus teaching private lessons, left very little time for blog-related excursions (and I was off to Germany any time I had two consecutive days free). Now that I have a little more time, I’ve got to make myself get back outside.
I have been to the St. Nikolaus Parish Church before, once just to look inside, once to sing a mass. But Paschberg recently brought to my attention the existence of its Waldauf Chapel, which we’ll get to in a bit…
Liebe Leser, ich habe diesen kleinen Ausflug nach Hall in Tirol mehr für mich als für sie gemacht, da ich merkte, ich brauche was um rauszukommen.
Drei harte Monate des Probens für drei verschiedene Produktionen sowie das Halten von Privatunterricht, ließ sehr wenig Zeit für blogbezogene Ausflüge übrig (und ich war jedes Mal, an dem ich zwei aufeinanderfolgenden Tagen frei hatte, in Deutschland). Jetzt, wo ich wieder ein wenig mehr Zeit, habe ich mir diese auch genommen um ins Freie zu kommen.
Ich bin schon früher in der Pfarrkirche St. Nikolaus gewesen, einmal einen Blick ins Innere zu werfen, einmal um eine Messe singen. Aber Paschberg hat mich vor kurzem auf die Existenz seiner Waldauf Kapelle aufmerksam gemacht, die wir uns nun ansehen werden…

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From the entrance the visitor can see that the chancel is not aligned with the rest of the building. The chancel is actually part of the earlier incarnation of the building, which by the early 15th century was too small for the growing local population. A wider, longer nave was built but could not be extended out directly in line with the chancel, and so the church has this odd “kink” in its interior.
Vom Eingang kann der Besucher sehen, dass der Chor nicht mit dem Rest des Gebäudes ausgerichtet ist. Der Chor ist eigentlich ein älterer Teil des Gebäudes, das Anfang des 15. Jahrhunderts für die wachsende Bevölkerung zu klein wurde. Ein breiteres, längeres Langhaus wurde gebaut, aber nicht in direkter Übereinstimmung mit der Flucht des Altarraums, so dass die Kirche diesen seltsame “Knick” in ihrem Inneren bekam.

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On the north wall, an apparently complete skeleton, dressed in Baroque finery, over an alter to St. Catherine (Katharinenaltar), but I don’t who this would be behind the glass. S/he is flanked by alleged relics of Ss. Constantine and Agapitus, ensconced in their own wall niches.
An der Nordwand, findet man ein scheinbar vollständiges Skelett, im Barockornat gekleidet, auf einem Altar der Hl. Katharina (Katharinenaltar), aber ich weiß nicht, wir hinter dem Glas ist. Er / sie wird von angeblichen Reliquien der Hln. Konstantin und Agapitus flankiert, in eigene Wandnischen eingesetzt.

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Further along in the north transept one enters the Waldaufkapelle, named after one Florian von Waldauf, the 15th-century knight who had the chapel built and who donated his massive collection of holy relics, picked up here and there during his extensive travels.
Im weiteren Verlauf in des nördlichen Querschiffs betritt man die Waldaufkapelle, nach einem Herrn Florian von Waldauf benannt, Ritter aus dem 15. Jahrhundert, der die Kapelle gebaut hatte und der seine riesige Sammlung von heiligen Reliquien gespendet hatte, die er hie und da während seiner zahlreichen Reisen erstand.

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Among the dozens of adult skulls (and some long bones) sits a very small child’s skull with the word  S Innocentibus* embroidered on its pillow. Who all these saints really were, I don’t know. The Niklauskirche is being renovated but its doors are open to visitors.
Unter den Dutzenden von Erwachsenenschädeln (und einigen langen Knochen) sitzt ein sehr kleiner Kinderschädel mit dem Wort S Innocentibus * auf sein Kissen gestickt. Wer all diese Heiligen wirklich waren, weiß ich nicht. Die Niklauskirche wird renoviert, aber ihre Pforten für Besucher geöffnet sind.

* Reader Joe informs me that this name signifies one of the Holy Innocents, the children killed by Herod shortly after the birth of Jesus. The church’s official guide booklet states that the relics come predominantly from the Roman catacombs.// Reader Joe teilt mir mit, dass dieser Name für eines der unschuldigen Kinder steht, die Herodes kurz nach der Geburt Jesu töten ließ. Im offiziellen Faltblatt der Kirche steht, dass die Reliquien vorwiegend aus den römischen Katakomben kommen.

Posted in Austria, culture, history, lives of others, travel | 2 Comments