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


Events for April
M T W T F S S
31 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 1 2 3 4
Add your event FREE

Today



BurgKino

Pub Quiz everyTuesday at Johnny's Pub

Popular in Austria

Cosmo&Nanu

Cosmo&Nanu

Austrian woman's gift to rebuild German cathedral

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!




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


Latest News

 

What is on at Haydn Kino this week? (17 April - 23 April)
The following films are on at the English language cinema Haydn Kino on Mariahilfestrasse between 10 April and 16 April:

Two teenage girls go missing as they fly from Austria to fight in Syria
Two teenager girls who say they have left Austria to fight in Syria have trigged an international search operation from the Austrian police. The two - a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old - left identical letters behind telling their families goodbye and that "we will meet in in Paradise". The letters told of their plans to go to Syria to "fight for Islam". The parents of the girls reported that their children had gone missing last week and since then the police tracked them to Turkish city of Adana, where they had flown to from Austria - after that the police lost track of the girls. Adana is 75 miles northwest of Aleppo, a city that became a major battleground during the civil war taking place in Syria. Police spokesman Thomas Keiblinger say that the police are taking the farewell letters "very seriously" and are now conducting an international search for two teenage girls who left farewell letters announcing plans to "fight for Islam" in Syria. Both girls come from families who immigrated from Bosnia but have not been fully identified by Austrian police.

Ricky Martin to perform at Life Ball 2014
In a celebrating of joys of life, sensuousness and a tribute to handsomeness, the Life Ball 2014 has announced that the Latino star Ricky Martin, chosen many times over as Sexiest Man Alive, will perform at the event.

Pony And Trapped After Too Much Fresh Grass
A roly-poly pony lost its balance on an Alpine slope due to its calorie-overloaded body.

Vienna prosecutors target Ukrainian former government
Austrian officials have announced they are coordinating with Ukraine's public prosecutors over the investigation of former Ukrainian government officials accused of money-laundering and sanctions violations.

Former footballers charged over match-fixing
Austrian prosecutors have charged former footballer Dominique Taboga over allegations of match-fixing, nearly five months after his connection to the scandal was exposed.

Muslim Brotherhood leader denies move to Graz
A leader of the Islamist political group the Muslim Brotherhood has refuted claims that they are moving their headquarters from London to Graz in Austria.

House Where Hitler Born Painted Blue By Vandals
Austrian police are investigating after the house where Adolf Hitler was born was vandalised with graffiti.

Icelandic artist shoots whole film in front of live audience in Vienna
An Icelandic artist is making a film adaptation of the novel World Light in Vienna - but is carrying out the whole project, including filming, in front of a live studio audience.

Andreas Puelacher replaces Berthold as ski coach
Andreas Puelacher has replaced Mathias Berthold as the head coach of the Austrian men's Alpine ski team.

 


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