A Travellerspoint blog

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Katharina Staritz: Traces of the First Female Parson

Theologian, City Vicar, Concentration Camp Prisoner

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In the church of St Mary Magdalena I stumbled across a stone slab on the wall with an inscription:

In memoriam Katharina Staritz (1903 – 1953), protestant theologian and city vicar of Breslau. In words and deeds she proved Christian love and care to the persecuted brothers and sisters of Jewish descendency during the years of the Nazi regime and was thus herself persecuted.

The name rang a bell. Somehow I must have come across this name during my student years in Marburg. So I started researching. And indeed…

Katharina was born in Breslau in 1903. Her father, a high school teacher, saw to it that both Katharina and her younger sister Charlotte got the best possible education at school and later university – which was not yet too common in those times. Katharina first studied philology in Breslau but then changed to Marburg University to study theology. In 1928 she passed the theological exam and, soon after, finished her promotion. Only one year earlier the churches in Prussia and Silesia had admitted women as theologians. They were not granted the full office and status of a parson, though. Women were only employed as „vicars“ (in the German sense of the word: a vicar is less than a parson or pastor). They were allowed to preach and care for women and children, but they were neither allowed to lead full church services nor administer the sacraments. They were not allowed to marry, unlike their male colleagues.

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In 1933 Katharina was employed as vicar for the city of Breslau. In 1938 she received her ordination and was introduced as „Stadtvikarin“ (City Vicar“) in the church of St Mary Magdalena. She worked with children, who called her „Aunt Pastor“, and she had to do the lessons for non-Christian people who wanted to be baptized. Many of these were of Jewish origins. So she was directly confronted with their problems, with the increasing pressure they experienced under the Nazi regime.

Brave and intelligent Katharina was not d’accord with the Nazi regime at all. Like many of her male colleagues in Breslau she joined the „Bekennende Kirche“, the resistance movement within the protestant churches. In order to help fellow Christians with „non-arian“ background, she worked with a church centre in Berlin that organized emigrations, which was still possible until 1939. About 120 persons owe their escape to her efforts.

Then the war began and the situation tightened even more. In 1941 a new law obliged all people of Jewish descendency to wear the yellow star on their clothes. Katharina sat down and wrote a letter to her colleagues in Breslau, asking them to take care of these people and support them instead of excluding them.

Neither the Nazi authorities nor the leaders of the Silesian church were amused. Katharina was immediately dismissed from her office and ordered to leave the city. She returned to Marburg, where she had support from her professor Hans von Soden, and dedicated herself to further theological studies. However, Nazi propaganda continued to diffame her. In March 1942 she was arrested, and brought to the concentration camp in Ravensbrück, a camp for women. Her sister Charlotte and a couple of other friends fought for her release. After more than one year Charlotte was finally successful. Katharina was released in May 1943. She returned to Breslau but was closely supervised and forbidden to work in public. In early 1945 the Staritz family had to flee together with the whole German population of Breslau. The two sisters, their mother and aunt made it to Marburg.

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The house

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The street

The house where the Staritz family had lived in Breslau is still standing. They inhabited a large apartment in a house in the suburb with the funny name of Leerbeutel (translates to „empty bag“) in the eastern parts of the city. The address was then Richard-Wagner-Straße, now ul. Karola Szymanowskiego. There is no hint on the house, one has to know the address. Leerbeutel is a quarter with large villas from the late 19th and early 20th century that survived the war relatively unharmed. The vicinity to the big Scheitnitzer Park (park Szczytnicki) made this an upscale residential quarter.

In Hessen, there was more than enough work for Katharina. Many parsons were still at war or imprisoned as POW’s. She worked as substitute in various parish communities, but as soon as the original parson returned, she had to leave, even if the community wanted to keep her. She constantly fought with the churches of Hessen to be granted at least the status as a civil servant and ordinated theologian that she had already had in Breslau. In 1949 she was offered a position in Frankfurt in the parish of Katharinenkirche. She worked there for hardly more than two years, though. Katharina died of cancer on Good Friday, April 3, 1953.

Source from which I assembled information for this brief summary:
Gerlind Schwöbel: Ich aber vertraue. Katharina Staritz: eine Theologin im Widerstand. Evangelischer Regionalverband 1990.

Posted by Kathrin_E 12:58 Archived in Poland Tagged wroclaw Comments (0)

My Morning Walk to School

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On most days I took the tram to school. However, sometimes when I was out and about early enough, the weather was nice, and I felt like some exercise, then I walked.

With the help of the map I figured out that the shortest way from Kredka to Plac Nankiera and the school would lead me first through the side streets behind plac and pasaż Grunwaldzki, and then through Ostrów Tumski, so this was actually quite an interesting walk.

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These quarters in the northeast of the city have come through the war remarkably well. The pre-war, late 19th century houses are mostly preserved. After 40 years of socialism and all the problems after its fall, finding owners and financing the necessary works, many of these houses are still unrenovated and not in the best of shape. But they give an idea what pre-war Breslau had looked like.

Ulica Grunwaldzka is one of these side streets. Walking there required attention because its sidewalk has all varieties of bad, uneven pavement, be it cobblestone, concrete, crooked granite slabs, gravel or tarmac with deep holes. The buildings in this street are partly 19th century, partly post-war. Halfway along, it passed the rear side of Pasaż Grunwaldzki. Little corner shops contrast with the huge shopping mall. Further west there are larger apartment blocks from the communist era. The street is later on named ulica Benedyktyńska and ends on the larger ulica Wyszyńskiego.

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After crossing this major street, I reached the eastern end of Ostrów Tumski and walked towards the cathedral. Now came the most beautiful part of the way: around the cathedral and through the main street of Ostrów Tumski, past the palace of the Archbishop and the Church of the Holy Cross. In the morning it was still quiet, the tourists would arrive later. Groups of pilgrims who had stayed in one of the accommodations would set out for the day's route, priests and nuns would go to or come from morning mass .

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Via Most Tumski I reached Sand Island and turned left into the promenade walk on its river bank. This footpath leads to the bridge which also the tram uses. One more street crossing, and I reached plac Nankiera and the school. All this took about half an hour.

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Posted by Kathrin_E 07:48 Archived in Poland Tagged wroclaw Comments (0)

Hala Targowa: Grocery Shopping Under Early Concrete Architec

...ture

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Facade in plac Nankiera
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Main entrance
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On the gallery

The market hall by the bridge to Sand Island was built in 1908 and designed by city architect Richard Plüddemann. The exterior uses a traditional style of brick architecture which makes many think that the building is older and only the interior redesigned - it isn't, it was all built at once. The interior is an early example of armed concrete architecture, built a few years earlier than Max Berg’s Hala Stulecia, Jahrhunderthalle. A structure of parabole-shaped arches and beams supports the roof of the wide hall.

The facades have been renovated in 2015. The interior could do with a cleaning and some fresh paint to make its appearance more pleasant and friendly. Nevertheless the construction is impressive. The best view is from the gallery on the first floor that runs around almost the whole hall. Upstairs there are also more little shops.

The market hall is a good place for grocery shopping. The various stalls sell all sorts of food, also household items, or flowers. Within the hall they are grouped together by „species“, the fruit and vegetables shops are the closest to the main entrance.

The far end is the realm of the florists, whose business also includes funeral wreaths and large flower bouquets for events. You can look at samples on display. Being there at the end of the hall has practical reasons: The vans for deliveries can be parked and loaded right outside the back exit.

Location and tram stop: plac Nankiera – opposite my school, in fact

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Flower arrangements for funerals

Posted by Kathrin_E 13:52 Archived in Poland Tagged wroclaw Comments (1)

The Photo Competition

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One morning at the end of the first week, the deputy head mistress pinned this note to the noteboard. She was fair - she also put up translations in German and English.
It notified us that the school held a photo competition for all participants of the summer course, entitled „Wrocław with my Eyes“. They set four tasks:

  1. 1. A place in the city that fascinated you
  2. 2. The letter W
  3. 3. Traces of the past, when Wroclaw belonged to other nations
  4. 4. The Wrocławians

We were to hand in a series of 3 to 5 photos about each of these topics. Since I constantly carry and use my camera anyway, as a true VTer (respective, now, a true TPer) does, it was clear to me from the beginning that I would enter the contest. Walking around looking for images that match a certain topic is fun.

As my „fascinating place“ I chose the tower of the Old University, which I had just visited a few days earlier.

The most impressive „trace of the past“ that I had come across was the Jewish cemetery, so I compiled a little series from the many photos I took there. These pictures have already been posted in a previous entry of this blog, that‘s why I am not repeating them here.

The best place to observe „The Wroclawians“ is certainly Rynek. I decided to put together a collection of strange jobs that people work at in the square.
(Funny detail: I found out later that the pretty young lady with the restaurant sign is the daughter of someone I know. I had no idea when I caught the photo.)

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The second topic turned out to be the trickiest! At first I tried taking photos of W’s that I found on houses, but that soon became boring.

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Then I started seeing W shapes everywhere around me: in the pattern of the pavement, in the row of gables, in grids and bicycle stands, on top of a church facade and even in the waters of the fountain in Rynek! So here is my series:

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It’s a pity that I got this night shot only after the deadline.

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In all modesty I may mention that my photos won the jury price in this competition. From some remarks I caught, I think it was mostly because of the W series. The others all stuck with the letters…

As a prize I got a surprise bag with some of the school’s publications, exercise books with texts about Wrocław (of course on too high a level again, but I may be able to use them later on), a thermo coffee mug and a few other university souvenirs. The prize was presented during the end-of-ourse ceremony when we all got our certificates.

Yes I am a little proud…

Posted by Kathrin_E 01:27 Archived in Poland Tagged wroclaw Comments (2)

A Collection of Monuments

Some serious, some not so serious, some very serious.

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Fencer Fountain

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The fountain with the statue of the naked fencer is placed in the small triangular square south of the old university. It dates from 1904, especially the shapes and figures on the pedestal show distinct art nouveau features. Is the good-looking young man to represent the ideal student?

A story which is often told: A wealthy young student was taken on a night out by some guys he considered his friends. First they drank, then they played cards, gambled higher and higher... and in the end he had lost everything, literally everything, except his rapier.

Pan Art History Professor tells me, though, that this is a legend without any reality background. The statue of the young man, healthy and perfectly built, brave in fencing and concentrating on his aim, is to represent the (male, of course) virtues which were valued highest at that time.

No matter what - if you tell a legend often enough then it becomes somehow true because everyone believes it and acts as if it is true. The legend is surely more entertaining and memorable!

Location: in front of the Old University

The Giant Chair

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No idea who put up this funny piece of city furniture, or who is supposed to sit on it... Maybe Rübezahl, in case he comes to town? The cars and the tram as comparison give an idea of its size.

Location: ul. Nowy Swiat, corner ul. Rzeznicza

Monument to Bolesław Chrobry

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Bolesław Chrobry (Boleslaw the Brave) became the first King of Poland in the year 1000. During his reign the boundaries of Poland were vastly extended. He founded the archbishopric of Gnesen and thus supported Christian mission. More about his life and reign is summed up quite well in the Wikipedia article so I don't want to repeat it here.

Local friends tell me they find this monument totally ugly. Well, I have seen worse, I actually like it. The monument is not socialist art but a rather recent artwork - maybe that's why it causes such strong emotions. The statue is only ten years old. It was created by three artists and erected in September 2007.

Before 1945 there was a monument to the German Emperor Wilhelm II in this place.

Location: ul. Swidnicka/Podwale, where ul. Swidnicka crosses the Fosa miejska, in the open square between opera house, Corpus Christi church and Renoma mall.

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Monument to the Slaughtered Animals

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The lifesize bronze animals in Stare Jatki, the former butchers' lane, are a popular attraction with small and big kids;-) People like to sit on them and pose with them for photos. The group includes two pigs, a goat, a goose, a rabbit, a cock and a hen. The animals were created by various artists. Inscriptions on the wall behind them list their names, and also the sponsors. There are plans to further extend the group.

All of them are specieses which are popular in pots and pans. The inscription on the bronze platter in the pavement translates to: „In honor of Animals for Slaughter, The Consuments“. Now is that supposed to be funny, or isn't it rather cynical?

Location: Stare Jatki, one block behind the Church of St Elizabeth

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Reconciliation: Monument to Bolesław Cardinal Kominek

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A monument on Sand Island is dedicated to Bolesław Kominek, the first Polish Archbishop of Wrocław officially only from 1972 to 1974, he had been denominated and consecrated much earlier but due to troubles with the regime could not reside in Wrocław and take his office. After the experience of World War II, the expulsion of the German population, the division of Europe, and the Cold War, he was one of the first who sought reconciliation with post-war Germany. Kominek was the author of a letter from the Polish bishops to their German colleagues in 1965(!), which contained the famous sentence that is quoted at the feet of the statue: „We forgive and we ask to be forgiven.“ This phrase is written on the inclined pavement in Polish and German. The monument depicts him with a peace dove taking off from his hands.

Location: Wyspa Piasek (Sand Island), in front of the large church

Monument to the Victims of Katyn

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In spring 1940, 22,000 Polish officers, policemen and other prisoners from three POW camps were murdered in Katyn, Miednoje and Charków by a shot into the back of their heads. The mass murder occurred on Stalin's orders. „Katyn“ has become the synonyme of this war crime.

The monument has been erected in 1999 upon initiative of an association of the victim's families. The main figure is a grieving woman holding a dead man in her lap. The man's head shows the deathly hole from the bullet. The woman is desperately looking up to the Angel of Death who is standing high above her on a stone pillar, leaning on a sword. Death's face is shadowed by a hood and appears ragged, but somehow stern and emotionless: What has to be, has to be. Just like the kneeling woman the spectators look up to Death, trying to look into his face, feeling helpless in the presence of this merciless power.

This monument has deeply moved me. It is goose-bumping and scary.

Somehow the hooded figure of Death matches my imagination of the Dementors in the Harry Potter novels (minus the wings).

Location: Park Słowackiego, a few steps from Museum Narodowe (National Museum)

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Posted by Kathrin_E 01:10 Archived in Poland Tagged wroclaw Comments (0)

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