My Grandmother, who celebrates her 92nd Birthday next month was born in Dresden and lived there till she was 2. Many of my ancestors lived and struggled in that area. In 1918 and 1922 my Great Grandmother and Great Grand father converted to the Church of Jesus Christ there and later migrated to the US in 1927. My brother served in the area and city as a missionary in from 1991-1993. And so 90 years later, after hearing so many stories about Dresden from my Grandma and my brother we visited over Labor Day weekend. I prepped by reading my great grandparents autobiographies and talking about a dresden agenda with Jeff for hours.
My Great Grandfather Otto Johannes Doelling was born in 1897. His mother and father died by the time he was 8. He lived with his Grandmother till his was 12 and after that was in foster care. Great Grandpa moved from his smaller town in Saxony to Dresden and then joined the Army. He was injured by a grenade explosion in WW1 on the French border. After the war, he lived through Germany during the depression and instability in the 1920s. From reading his autobiography, he was very German. He loved order. He was very smart and has a stubborn streak. I think he became Mormon part out of a desire for more from life (Spiritual community, a desire for Zion both metaphorically and literally the promise of America, etc) and also out of the preference of doing it his own way and going against the crowd.
I have a few memories of him trying to tickle me as a kid. Another memory I have of him is him not being as responsive as he was before he died when I was 5, likely related to dementia. I have a Mark note and his funeral program in my study bible.
My Great Grandmother Emma Camilla Hartmann Doelling was born in Lomnitz in 1902. Her mother, who came from an upper crust part of Dresden died tragically in 1908. Her Father who owned a bakery, died in 1914. She lived with relatives and others till her adulthood. In 1916 her brother was killed in WW1 in the same area where her future husband was almost killed a few years later. They met at Church, had Martha a few years later in a section of Dresden later destroyed by the infamous firebombing. They moved to New York for about 15 years and then to Utah. Grandma Doelling died before I was born in Salt Lake. She loved her husband and was very loyal to him.
We got to Dresden close to 11 and Cheyn had booked a Pension in Neustadt, the newer part of the historic downtown. By "new" it means like only 100-200 years old. It reminded me of New York. It had lots of clubs and nightlife and apartments that were like brownstones but with more Baroque features.
We started out by walking down to Altstadt and seeing the Frauenkirche. My Grandma told me we have an ancestors that were married in this Church. When Dresden was firebombed in 1945 the church and much of the city were left in rubble. The Church remained so until after the reunification of Germany. In LDS General Conference a few years ago the rebuilding of the Church was used was used as an example (with pictures) of the spiritual rebuilding of lives.
We crossed the Elbe River, where my Great Grandmother was Baptized in 1918, on our walk back uptown.
The kids discovered what became their obsession over the weekend, bottle caps. Cobblestone roads and German drinking are great if you are in the bottle cap collecting game. The final tally of the whole trip was 112. It also gave us more opportunities to prevent the children from running into the street.
Jeff recommended a Folk Art Museum where the kids got to look at and play with toys and even put on a puppet show. As always on our little trips throughout Europe we have to balance the places we want to see with keeping the kids, who outnumber us, happy.
Next, we got in the car and went to visit an apartment Jeff lived in in the early 1990s, which was also the location where the Dresden LDS Branch met, and where Grandpa Doeling worked briefly for the Army.
We visited the grave of Joseph A. Ott, a young missionary from Utah who died shortly after arriving in Dresden from Utah. He has an interesting story featured here and used as an example in General Conference.
As we walked back to our Pension, we stopped about two blocks away to look at the apartment the Doellings lived in before they left for America (The second apartment they lived in in my Grandmas time in Germany). There was graffiti on the walls but it was a nice gentrifying neighborhood. Jeff says ever since the Secret Police went away graffiti has increased. The kids loved the park across the street.
On Sunday we went to our first Church service in German at the Dresden 1st ward. This location came into use in the 1980s. The members seemed nice. Jeff attended here as a missionary. In back there was a statue of Karl G Maeser. An academic, he was introduced to Mormonism in an anti-Mormon book that ended up having the opposite effect with him. He sent letters to the Missionaries and was baptized in the Elbee. He was the first Mormon in Saxony and the 1st branch president in Dresden. He moved to the states and was the 1st president of BYU.
We went to Loschwitz next a wealthy burrough. My Grandmothers maternal Grandmother was from here and was buried here, though there is no longer a grave marker. We enjoyed a walk and the fernacular railway.
We next went to Lomnitz where Emma Camilla Hartmann Doelling grew up. We were able to visit the Church where her brother Willy Hartmann was memorialized. Jeff says we have distant relatives living in this are still. The Bakery her father owned has been torn down.
We next went to the Military History Museum. Here is a picture of my Great Grandfather on the steps of the museum with the Dresden Branch. We tried to recreate it with our little family.
I'm sure the museum was quite different in the 1920, but now it makes a pretty convincing argument that the world wars were terrible, especially in Germany. Below are a campaign against the Nazi Party in the last election before Hitler took power and items to remember the horror of that government.
Before leaving we visited the apartment Grandma came home to as a baby. Then we were off. I loved seeing Dresden, imagining life there and learning more about my heritage and family.