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Not a Mata Hari.

7 Mar

Speaking of Dresden…Oh, were we speaking of Dresden? Dresden is the place where I will not be traveling this summer.  However, in thinking about my days there in 1971, I wanted to finish the story of my visit.  I spent a pleasant although wary three days there in 1971.  Wary because it was at the time of the Russian occupation, and Dresden was located in East Germany, the enemy of the West.  I had the necessary documents in order to travel into the Communist ruled section of Germany, and I traveled there with a clear mind. When I left the city, I took the train that would take me back to West Germany, specifically to Rüdesheim am Rhein.  I was near the end of my six-week grand tour of the continent and was looking forward to spending my final days discovering Paris, The City of Lights.  When my train arrived at the border between East and West Germany, the train stopped so that officials could check passports.  I sat and waited while they combed through the railroad car and finally got to me.  The East German official looked at my passport and frowned.  He indicated that I would have to come with him and get off the train.  The alarm bells in my head started ringing.  They pulled me and my suitcase off the train and took me to a small station house some yards away from the railway line.  I knew so little German, almost none.  And they did not speak English.  To say that I was scared when they took my passport away would be an understatement.  I sat alone in that hut for what was close to an hour, and I knew the train would be leaving soon.  I wanted to be on it, and I thought about all the people I would never see again. Soon, the train engines roared on and I feared I was lost. However, suddenly the official appeared again with my passport, gesticulating and pointing out a certain page.  He kept repeating “Polizei!” (Police!)  As far I as could understand, he was indicating that I was supposed to have registered with the police department in Dresden, something I had failed to do.  He had called Dresden to check and make sure that I was not a dangerous spy, and when he learned that, I was cleared.  The train was ready to leave.  He ushered me quickly to the steps of the railway car and literally threw my suitcase up on the train behind me.  The handle broke off.  The final comment I heard as we pulled away was “Kein Qualität!” (No quality!) So…I made it out, and somehow I managed to get to Paris with a very heavy suitcase that was missing its handle, and this was back in the days before suitcases had wheels.  I really don’t recall how I managed that. It was with great relief that I arrived in Paris with no more mishaps. No, I am not and never have been a spy.

Addendum:  One would think with that scare that I would never go back into East Germany again, but that would be incorrect. The following summer I was back in Europe again this time in Berlin, and I crossed over by foot into the East side near the Brandenburg Gate. I sauntered down the famous Unter den Linden Avenue and viewed the archeological marvels in the museum there.  I was approached on the street by men wanting to purchase American dollars.  Other than that this trip was uneventful. I found my way through narrow streets and bombed out buildings to Checkpoint Charlie, where I was greeted by friendly American servicemen. I easily crossed back into West Berlin. Safe once more.

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When Is a Pound Not a Pound?

4 Mar

When Is a Pound Not a Pound

Here is the beautiful store of the Gebrüder Pfund Mölkerei in Dresden, Germany. Translated into English that would be the Pound Brothers Dairy, an establishment with a proud and varied history. This dairy was begun generations back in the German side of my family and it became famous and prosperous. World War II. Dresden was bombed, and then the Russians took over. The dairy became the property of the state. That was its status when I visited there in 1971. I did meet my cousin Leonore Pfund and one of her sons who worked at the dairy. Once the wall came down things changed. I had assumed that ownership had reverted back to the original owners, and in fact, it did. I just learned though that that is not the end of the story. There were several shareholders and an investor interested in buying. The majority voted in favor of selling and agreed that the name of the establishment would remain Gebrüder Pfund Mölkerei. So the Pound Dairy is alive and well, but it no longer belongs to the Pound family. Therefore, a Pound is no longer a Pound. And I have decided that Dresden will not be a part of my itinerary this summer, and that’s OK, because I have a full menu of activities already.

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Frau Leonore Pfund

24 Feb

Frau Leonore Pfund

1971. A strong and elegant 93-year old. My cousin in Dresden in her apartment. Look at the old wind-up Victrola.

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To Dresden or Not?

24 Feb

To Dresden or Not

Yesterday while browsing the web I found the Facebook page for the Pfund Mōlkerei (that’s dairy) in Dresden. I’ve been there. The dairy belongs to German relatives of mine, another branch of my mother’s family. In 1971 I made my first grand tour of the continent. Near the end of my six-week journey I visited Dresden, which at the time was under Russian communist rule in East Germany. The reason for my visit was to meet and greet my elderly cousin Leonore Pfund, the 93- year old grand dame of the family. Her fortune had been plundered by the Russians. She lived in a small apartment in what had once been her entire house. Her husband had owned the famous dairy and they had been very prosperous before the war. My St. Louis aunts had sent many care packages to them during the war when provisions were hard to come by. In return Leonore sent gifts of many little wooden German figurines. The connection was made and our families kept the bond. I spoke almost no German at the time, and Leonore spoke no English. We still managed to communicate and she played the piano for me. She had been a well-known composer and pianist. I paid a visit to the dairy, which was very beautiful even under communist rule. I stayed at a hotel which seemed a trifle dilapidated, but which had obviously once been a fine and elegant establishment. They were very kind to me, sent flowers to my room, and I ate each night in the dining room listening to a live string quartet with piano. It seemed I had traveled back in time. Meanwhile going into the heart of the city was heartbreaking, because the bombed out damage from World War II was still very obvious everywhere. This city had once been a jewel on the Elbe and was known as the Florence of Germany because of the omnipresence of art in the city. I did visit The Zwinger Museum which had been partially restored. However, it felt very strange and vulnerable to be a single woman alone in communist East Germany. Leonore and her friends did their best to make me feel at home and welcome. The following year Leonore died. (She was the mother of Peter and grandmother of Hannes in Konstanz from an earlier post). I am so glad I had the honor to meet her. So…here I come to another decision, not immediate, but will I make the journey northward from Munich to see Dresden all dressed up and looking beautiful again? I could visit the famous dairy and possibly hunt up Leonore’s children there. The other reason to go would be to visit my roots, because my great grandparents came to America from their home in Saxony where Dresden is located. Well, I have time to think about it. There is such joy in the planning and the possibilities.

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