Preserving and Promoting local history for the former Rideau Township
Log Fence

Other items of note from the presentation included:

    Buildings so close-packed they hold each other up

Buildings so close-packed they hold each other up  

Like so many North Americans who visit Europe, Schaubs felt overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of history, culture and craftsmanship found there, inside and out. On parts of the trip he said it seemed impossible to not be within sight of some significant castle, palace or cathedral. A number of cities put that rich heritage to good use, with guides conducting walking tours of the highlights particular to their town. (Might that be worth doing in our historic areas?)

Schaubs mentioned he collected supplemental material on his trip (on subjects like half-timber houses and such) which he would be happy to share with interested persons.

With many buildings in continuous use century after century, it was interesting to note that in Germany the emphasis on preserving a historic look generally allows for perfectly modern interior renovations, as well as the use of modern materials for interior and exterior efforts, so long as the core external appearance is maintained.  

    Bronze paving stones in memory of German Jews who resided in nearby houses

Confronting a dark era: metal cobblestones embedded in ordinary streets mark where German Jews once lived before being deported and murdered (“ermordet”) in the Holocaust. (“Uberlept” means survived.)  

Which raises interesting questions about just what historic preservation is, or should be? Something frozen in place, with a particular time-stamp? Or a continuum?

  Schaubs summed his presentation up with praise for Germany's ability to integrate new and old, while keeping much of what symbolizes a culturally rich past.  

Many of us grew up in places that felt rather remote. Thanks to freeways, discount airfares, an explosion of TV channels and the Internet, it now seems far easier to explore the world, in person or from a comfortable armchair. But before all that, it was fairly common to gather and enjoy slides shows presented by neighbors who actually went out and traveled. Well, slide projectors have largely been replaced by laptops. But apart from that detail, it was like old times, as 29 RTHS members gathered for the AGM and a detailed show from our own Bill Schaubs.

Though he was born and raised in this area, Schaubs has strong ties to Germany. His parents, Gerhard Schaubs and Hannelore Schaeferlein, grew up there before coming to Canada in 1953. Schaubs speaks German and also spent 2 years living with his grandmother in Coburg, in the 1970's.

In the fall of 2010, Bill and his mother, Hannelore, traveled back to see relatives, familiar haunts and new territory. They spent four weeks touring mostly East German towns such as Gotha (Gerhard's birthplace), Zeulenroda (Hannelore's birthplace), as well as Erfurt, Dresden, Bautzen,Wernigerode, Quedlinburg and points in between. The latter part of the trip included visiting Coburg (where his parents grew up and met) as well as Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Coburg is the birthplace of Prince Albert, husband of England’s Queen Victoria.

With over 3100 digital images from that trip, Schaubs chose a smaller selection to illustrate interesting features of German architecture and culture, especially as related to historical preservation and restoration. Traveling between cities, Schaubs also snapped images of well-managed farm land, wood lots and even wind and photovoltaic farms – evidence of Europe's strong interest in resource conservation and alternative energy.  

    Look closely – this is actually a tarp, maintaining a nice, cohesive look during renovation work

Look closely – this is actually a tarp, maintaining a nice, cohesive look during renovation work.  

    Hannelore (Schaeferlein) Schaubs and Bill Schaubs at the summit in Brocken

Hannelore (Schaeferlein) Schaubs and Bill Schaubs at the summit in Brocken.  

Schaubs came away with various impressions, including a sense that present-day Germany makes historic and cultural preservation more of a priority than is generally found in Canada. Of course, that wasn't always the case in East Germany, where Schaubs says many things “stood still” after WW II. Post-war construction there favored the grim block style so common under Communist control, leaving most older structures in varying states of neglect. But Schaubs says this has completely changed since the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. He feels East Germany in particular has benefited enormously from post-unification restoration efforts.

In places, scars of evil and devastation unleashed during WW II have been intentionally retained.  Other sites now represent the resurrection of hope and beauty, as with Dresden's Church of Our Lady.

Built between 1726 and 1743, the Protestant church was considered a masterpiece of Baroque architecture. It was reduced to a heap of rubble after allied fire bombings in February, 1945. Dresden's beloved FrauenKirche was painstakingly rebuilt following German reunification. Fire-blackened original stones were used in combination with new blocks. Reconsecration came in 2005, a year ahead of Dresen's 800th anniversary, and the church has attracted many millions of visitors since. Restoration was largely funded with donations from ordinary citizens and former foes across Europe and serves as  a powerful symbol of  peaceful reconciliation.  

Our Trip to East Germany, 20 Years after Re-unification

Presenter: Bill Schaubs

Article by Lucy Martin