Thursday, May 21

Czesław our bus driver picks us up at the Hotel Europejski. The almost constantly dying engine lets me fear the worst for the days to come. But the electronics miraculously recover and we arrive at the Hotel Zorza (Dawn) in Namysłow on time. Tomas, who is called Tomek by all his friends, Andrzej and a charming young lady are waiting for us. The young lady is introduced as Natalia, our translator for today. She turns out to be Andrzej’s daughter.

Her job is a really challenging one. We are received by the Vice-Starosta Bartłomiej Stawiarski (vice-chairperson of the local council) of the county of Namysłow. He and the secretary, Ms. Alina Białas give a lot of information on the administrative structures in Poland in general and in the county of Namysłow in particular.

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Front row left to right:
Asher Israel (kneeling), Vice-Starosta Bartłomiej Stawiarski, Ann Estin, Katherine Laqueur, Brigitte Faller and Mishka Luft
Back row left to right:
Andrzej Michta, Natalia Michta, Tomasz (Tomek) Soja, Bernadette Laqueur, Alina Białas, Jim Estin, Andreas Laqueur


I don’t envy Natalia for her translating task but she manages bravely. What was the most impressive part of this reception? I’m sure most members of the group will agree with my answer “Silesian poppy-seed cake”. It’s simply delicious. In the meantime, Gudrun, Annie and Klaus reach Namysłow and complete our party

Ms Jadwiga Kawecka, director of the local cultural centre, welcomes us at the Brama Krakowska, the Krakow Gate of the old city walls. The tower we climb is one of the last remaining of originally 54 towers of the medieval fortification and offers a beautiful view over Namysłow.

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The old city of Namysłow, view from the Brama Krakowska (Krakow Gate)


We are shown two major attractions of present-day Namysłow, the ice cream factory offering kosher ice cream among its products and the local famous brewery. Since the brewery is located in the local medieval palace (Polish: Zamek) the beer is called Zamkowa.

The history of Jews in Namslau dates back to the 14th century where they remained for two centuries. In the wake of the Swedish-Polish war all Jews were either murdered or evicted in 1582. Jews returned to Namslau at the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763. In 1856 the Jewish community built a synagogue in the Bahnhofstrasse (today ul. Dubois) where it still can be found. In the late 19th century there are 239 Jews in Namslau, almost 6% of the total population. The majority will eventually migrate to Breslau, Berlin or other bigger cities. In 1939 only 16 Jews were registered in Namslau.

The little museum shows an impressive collection of handicraft, art work paintings and photographs of local artists.

After dinner we consult family trees, read and translate old documents and exchange family memories. The local super market down the road is open till 10 pm and provides a variety of drinks (wines, local beers etc.)

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Wednesday, May 20

Wrocław is apparently determined to show me her beauty/hide her beauty under floods of rain. Standing once again after two years on the Rynek (the main city square with the old town hall) with my trousers soaked up to the knees gives me a sort of déja-vu impression.

Reaching Wroclaw by plane is rather uneventful in spite of the train driver’s strike in Germany. Trains did run to Düsseldorf airport. We were happy to book Gudrun on one of the last open places on the Thursday’s flight to Wroclaw. Her initially planned overnight train ride was cancelled because of the strike. Wroclaw has charming little airport, and the local bus to the city costs the breathtaking fare of 3 PLN.

Being the advance party of the family trip I do the promised scouting and book a table. I chose the only restaurant I know in Wroclaw, the Piwnica Swidnicka, The Ratskeller in the basement of the old town hall. Ann and Jim, Bernadette and Paul, Katherine, Brigitte and Mishka arrive coming from Krakow.

Later in the afternoon the rain has passed off and we have a lovely stroll down ul. Swidnicka (Schweidnitzer Str.) to the town hall. Sharing experiences of their visit to Krakow and Auschwitz and expectations for our family trip and of course tasting the local beer (Piwnica is the Polish word for brewery), we had an evening of profound encounter and getting to know one another.

Late at night Asher arrives from Israel. Gudrun, Annie and Klaus will complete our party tomorrow afternoon.

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Tracing family roots in Silesia – Part II

The idea was born two years ago – a small LQR family reunion visiting Breslau, Namslau, Festenberg and Staedtel. Now we are here – seven “double u” descendants and one “single u” descendant with their spouses.

While we are waiting for the bus to pick us up in Breslau I’d like to pay my respect to Ann’s father Edward Laquer who has given THE ultimate answer to the question, wether to spell our name with one or with two “u”s.

When God created man and beast
His sergeant said “By jove, at least
You need a scheme or some system
To talk and give a name to them.”
So God created alphabet
Twenty six letters, A to Zed
“But please” he said “except for zoo
No word should ever have more than one U!”

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Conclusion

Is there a chance to satisfactorily summarize these very special days? No way!

In the guest book of the White Stork synagogue in Breslau I wrote (quoting the final blessing of the kaddish):

“May the maker of peace
in the highest bring this peace
upon us and upon all Israel
and upon all the world
and upon all mankind.
And say: Amen.”

Bnei mishpahat Laque(u)r *

Sivan 21, 5773 – May 30, 2013

(I wrote that in Hebrew – it spared me the “double u” problem ;-))

This is my final post in this log for the time being. Thank you for your interest and your encouraging remarks.

Bernadette Laqueur commented recently:
“We look forward to a long relationship with our new Polish friends .”

I couldn’t agree more!

P.S.
Here you will find downloadable files of the pictures in the blog.
Sorry, it’s late. I’m working on the link. It should be available tomorrow.

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Day four … add-on

Manfred Rossa, whom we met at the price giving ceremony on Tuesday (day two), invited us to the opening of the Carl-Maria von Weber festival in Carlsruhe. Manfred Rossa was born in 1939 in a small village near Carlsruhe. His family had a long tradition as the local inn-keepers and postmasters.

The family fled in 1945. Manfred Rossa returned in search of his roots. Since more than 20  years he does a marvellous work in restoring the baroroque gardens of the castle and the Jewish cemetery of Carlsruhe, publishing papers on the local history in bi-lingual Polish-German editions and organizing the music festival.

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The protestant Sophienkirche – venue of the festival

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Hans-Peter Laqueur, Andrzej Michta and Tomasz Soja at the festival.

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Day four … Breslau

How can you dare to claim, that you could do this beautiful place justice with a blog entry and a few pictures?

So, let me share with you a few (and very personal) impressions.

On May 10, 1933 students and professors burnt books in Breslau. In July 1997 the millenium flood threatened the University library located on the bank of the river Oder. Volunteers helped saving the books by carrying them out of harm’s way on their shoulders.

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This monument is dedicated to those volunteers and their help to save books.

In the early 1980s Waldemar Fydrych started an undergound student’s protest movement. Initially the painted ridiculous graffitti of dwarfs on paint spots covering up anti-government slogans. They demonstrated masqueraded as dwarfs. It was supposedly Fydrich who noted:

Can you treat a police officer seriously, when he is asking you: “Why did you participate in an illegal meeting of dwarfs?”
The first statue of a dwarf dedicated to the memory of the movement was placed on Świdnicka/Schweidnitzer street.
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95 statues of dwarfs were placed all over the city in the past 12 years.
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Close to the gate of the University library
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The Sisyphean task.
And another sculpture betraying a certain sense of humour
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Located in the former street of butchers it is dedicated to the beasts who met their end there.
The pouring rain did temporarily drown our initiative, however it could not quench my curiosity to experience more of this beautiful city so closely connected to or family history.

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Day three … addendum

Tomasz Soja accompanied us to Oels, a beautiful small town 30 km northwest of Namslau. Similar structure of a Silesian town, the Ring encircling the town hall (the tower of which was always supposed to be a bit taller than the highest spire – as we learned in Namslau)

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View from the Ring to the Breslauer Tor (Breslau gate)

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Oels castle

The oldest still existing synagogue building in Poland is located in the old city of Oels. Built in 1420 it served as a synagogue for 133 years until the expulsion of Jews in 1553. It served then as an armoury and was turned into the protestant Salvator Chorch in 1695.

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Today it is the Temple of a Adventist Congregation. I’m sure this is a very recent developement – in communist times both the Party and the Church would have opposed in rare unison the deveolpment of an Adventist Congregation 🙂

A pizzeria with the promising name “The Seventh Heaven” served as a watering hole for the evening.

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