Austrian Times RSS FeedsLike the Austrian Times Facebook page!Follow us on Twitter!


Events for October
M T W T F S S
29 30 1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31 1 2
Add your event FREE

Today

Videos


BurgKino

Pub Quiz everyTuesday at Johnny's Pub

Popular in Austria


Cosmo&Nanu

Austrian woman's gift to rebuild German cathedral

An Austrian who fled from Germany to England to escape the horrors of World War II has left a 370,000 Euro fortune to help restore Germany's Cologne Cathedral.

The donor - identified as Berta Woodward, from Oxford - specified that the sum should be used to help restore the Gothic church to its former glory.

The story of Berta is one that traces the course of both world wars. Berta Rakowitz, as she was born, grew up in the backwater Czechoslovakian town of Znaim - now called Znojmo - as a German speaker with Austrian roots.

During the years of the Habsburg's Austro-Hungarian empire, the royal city of Znaim near the border with Lower Austria, was mostly populated by German speakers.

It had a unique relationship to the First World War, which would end up redrawing the map of the continent and sweep away the empire which Berta's parents were born into. Znaim was the birthplace of Leopold Loyka, the driver of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand's car when Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo 1914 - the killing which triggered the war.

Her father was a farmer and she had one younger sister called Aurelia. She was born in 1922, educated in Cologne and grew up there.

The church was damaged by British and Allied bombers in World War II, and now local experts say the inheritance will be used to replace and restore the cathedral's doors.

Deliberately attacking Cologne en-masse Blitz-style, to ensure the German fire brigade and anti-aircraft guns were overwhelmed, the vast RAF squadron unleashed hell by dropping 1,500 tonnes of high explosive on the city in an hour and half in 1942.

Almost 500 people were killed and 5,000 were injured.

The cathedral did suffer about seventy direct hits by aerial bombs during World War II but did not collapse - instead overshadowing a flat city.

Legend has it that the cathedral survived because pilots liked using its spire for navigation.

Central Cathedral Restoration Committee official Michael H.G. Hoffmann said: "Without this money we would not have been able to even think about doing this part of the restoration."

When the Second World War came she was 17. When she turned 18 she became a 'Dienstmädchen,' a war worker for the Reich.

Josef Huber, 89, married Aurelia after the war and lived all his life with her near Munich.

A builder of sound studios for radio and TV stations by profession, he was Berta's brother-in-law and has many fond memories of visiting her in Oxford.

He said; "I am not sure what she did, but it was some kind of war work.

"She was a very strong woman, always busy, a powerful woman, single minded.

"But she cared about people and I think she would have been shocked to her core at the destruction she saw in Germany after the war."

He said she fled west with millions of others in the far-flung eastern outreaches of Hitler's empire as the avenging Red Army stormed westwards, raping, pillaging and murdering civilians as they did so.

But had she stayed, and survived the Russians, she would have been expelled anyway.

Czechoslovakia's postwar ruler Edvar Benes instigated what became known as the Benes Decrees, expelling three million ethnic Germans from land they had occupied for centuries in retaliation for the Nazi conquest and brutal occupation of his country.

"I don't remember where she went to exactly," said Josef. "Perhaps it was Cologne."

"I know the destruction of German cities, churches, historical buildings would have had a profound effect on her. I can only assume that it was as a result of this that she decided to do something for Cologne Cathedral in her will.

"She went to Oxford after the war after reading an advertisement in a German newspaper seeking a housemaid at a large house there. The newspapers at the time were full of such adverts; there was a labour shortage.

"It was while she was there that she met the gardener who was to become her husband. They were a devoted couple but sadly they had no children."

Josef lost Aurelia at the age of 80 six years ago.

He said; "The sisters were close as sisters are. We spent nice times visiting them in Oxford. But my wife wanted to remain in Germany.

"I am glad that Berta got her dying wish to leave money for the Cologne Cathedral. She was a woman who, if she made her mind up about something, followed it through."

Austrian Times


Are you on Facebook? Like the Austrian Times on Facebook and win great prizes!


Cosmo and Nanu
ORF Watch

Tag cloud:
cathedral  sister  Josef  Znaim  Benes  Berta  German  Oxford  woman  empire  Czechoslovakian  church  Aurelia  fled  restore  Cologne  newspaper  Austrian  Ferdinand  money

Latest News

 

MEP caught In Brit papers Fraud Probe Jailed
A corrupt MEP caught by a British newspaper offering to propose amendments to EU laws in exchange for 100,000 euros a year has been given a three-year-jail term.

Vienna Jihad Girls Want To Come Home
The two Austrian teenage girls who became ‘poster girls’ for the jihad in Syria are now desperate to come home after getting completely disillusioned with their new lifestyles.

Mega-Station Opens
There was a festival atmosphere as Bundespresident Heinz Fischer opened Vienna's new Hauptbahnhof Friday morning.

Apple Truck Causes Traffic Jam
When 24 tonnes of apples are catapulted across a road it can only mean a jam.

Farmer Cleared Over Wolf Shooting
Furious animal rights campaigners have accused an Austrian farmer of lying after he shot dead a wolf that he claimed he thought was a fox.

Rare Bald Ibis Makes Microlight Flight To Italy
The project to introduce an extinct bird back to Europe is hailing success after successfully negotiating a new route over the Alps and training 14 Northern Bald Ibises how to fly south to winter feeding grounds in southern Tuscany.

Pat On The Back From Manure Explosive
A traffic cop in Austria got more than he bargained for after a booby trap covered him head-to-toe in manure as he was trying to catch people speeding.

Viennese Jihad Girl May Have Been Killed
Austrian police say that one of the two attractive young teenage girls who fled the country to go to Syria to fight on the side of Islamic rebels may have been killed.

Perversion of a Medical Dream
The Decline and Fall of the Otto Wagner Hospital, Vienna.

Fat Can Be Used To Burn Off Weight After New Patent Unveiled
It is being hailed as a sensation after scientists at an Austrian university patented a method that transforms fat storing cells into mini factories capable of actually destroying fat by burning it off.

 


Mala Vrata

The most popular stories –
last 7 days



Don't moan alone, the Ombudsman Investigates.

Why suffer in silence. Let off steam by letting our readers share your troubles. File your complaints about anything and everything here.

Our ombudsman David Rogers will try and help solve some of the problems from lazy civil servants through to incompetent companies – and at the very least the worst transgressors will end up in our weekly special report.


Austrian Zimmers