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Address: Antoine El Rayes Street, Joseph Chahine Building, 1st Floor, Apartment No. 5 – P. O. Box 40256 Baabda, Lebanon – Tel.: 00961 5 468449, Fax/Tel.: 00961 5 468438
In 1891, our grandparents originally from Baden-Württemberg, Germany, left for Lebanon, traveling by train to Genoa, Italy, and then by ship from Genoa to Beirut. They came to Lebanon for two reasons: first, they had a dream to visit the Holy Countries of Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. Second, my grandfather got a job via the Evangelical church of his native town fulfilling my grandparents’ dream. There are two theories as to what exactly was the work of my grandfather. According to my elder siblings, my grandfather was a theologian and the Evangelical church of his native town sent him to teach theology in the American University of Beirut. But according to some official documents that we still have (see attached), my grandfather got via the local church in his native town a job in his profession as a bookbinder master in the printing press of the National Evangelical Church of Beirut, which is situated in the historical city center of Beirut. This church was badly damaged and looted during the civil war from 1975-1990. After the civil war, the church was restored and looks today even more splendid than before. Also, in this church on 12 March 1955, my sister Bertha Kleinknecht got married to the German, Hans Herrig.
Our grandmother was a teacher for the languages French and German.
Grandfather : Wilhelm Friedrich Kleinknecht born 12.02.1847 in Wisslensdorf.
Grandmother: Bertha Katarine Kleinknecht born Unkel 27.11.1862 in Schwäbisch/Hall.
Born in Beirut were one daughter and three sons:
Theodor Immanuel Kleinknecht (on 06.02.1892)
Klara Stefanie Kleinknecht (unknown)
Albert Ludwig Kleinknecht (on 17.05.1897)
Adolf Kleinknecht (on 21.08.1901)
The Visit of Emperor Wilhelm II to Lebanon, Palestine and Syria – 1898:
On 06.11.1898, Emperor Wilhelm II arrived with the imperial yacht Hohenzollern, escorted by the accompanying ships Hertha, Hela and Loreley, coming from Jaffa to Beirut seaport. The highlight of the Palestine travel was the inauguration of the German Evangelical Lutheran Redeemer church in Jerusalem on 31.10.1898, which was rebuilt over the remnants of the Basilica which was set up by the German Emperor Charles the Great. The Emperor selected from the verses 1 of Timothy 5 and 6 which were written by him as dedication in the pulpit bible:
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time”.
The Emperor and the Empress visited in Palestine four Templer colonies: Haifa, Jaffa, Sarona and Jerusalem. (The Templers, or Swabian Templers, are the Germans who initially came to Palestine to wait for the return of Jesus Christ at the turn of the century 1900, building houses and camps and working hard, before getting kicked out of their own homes by Israelis, when the Israeli state was founded in 1948. I owe a great gratitude to those Templers. More on that later in my story). When the Emperor arrived on 6th November 1898 to Beirut, he was welcomed by the Lebanese people in Beirut port with jubilation. The Abadays – the bold and heroes – from the well-known Islamic city district Basta and from the well-known Christian city districts Ashrafie and Saifi, dressed in traditional costumes of that time, from Tarbuch to Babuch, – from hats to slippers – how it is said here, sang the following song, accompanied with drums and brass-band music:
Loy, loy, loy, ija Malek Olmania,
Loy, loy, loy, rah ila al Saraya,
Loy, loy, loy, rah ila Baabda,
Loy, loy, loy, rah ila Aley,
Loy, loy, loy, rah ila Zahle,
Loy, loy, loy, …..
(Translation): A German King has come, visited the town hall, the cities Baabda, Aley, Zahle)
They sang also some other cheerful songs. But this song has been sung often by our grandmother and our mother and is still in my memory. German families living in Beirut were present in the port during the reception. Our grandparents with their children were also at the reception. When our grandmother saw the Emperor, she pushed her way through the crowd with her husband and children. She was carrying baby Albert (my father), in her arms and presented herself to the Emperor: “I am from Württemberg from Schwäbisch-Hall and I have been living in Beirut with my family for 7 years”. The Emperor caressed Albert’s blond hair and said: “The German Colony in Lebanon shall prosper”! She told us often this occurrence, because it was for her, her nicest event.
Funeral Wreath for Sultan Saladin:
The Emperor and his entourage visited also Damascus on the evening of the 7th November 1898. In Damascus, Emperor Wilhelm considered that it is worth to visit the tomb of Sultan Saladin. In the mausoleum near the Umayyad mosque he laid down on 08.11.1898 a crowned golden wreath on the tomb of Saladin and conjured in the presence of a great crowd of people the friendship between the Calpih Harun al-Rashid and Emperor Charles the Great and declared the following:
“Let me assure His Majesty the Sultan Abdul Hamid and the 300 million Moslems who, in whatever corner of the globe they may live, revere in him their Caliph, and that the German Emperor will ever be their friend”.
The Emperor considered the wooden coffin of the Sultan as undignified and ordered immediately German stonemasons to produce a stone sarcophagus as replacement. The sarcophagus was delivered and stays to this day empty near the wooden coffin in the mausoleum. The Arabs did not want to put their great Sultan into another bed, and also not to reject the present. The golden wreath is no more there. When Lawrence of Arabia marched into Damascus, he sent the wreath to London. Lawrence wrote in his letter to the Imperial War Museum that he took the wreath away because, “Saladin is no more in need of the wreath”.
The Tablets of Baalbek:
On 10.11.1898 Emperor Wilhelm left Damascus for the last and final point of the great journey to the Orient: The temple ruins of Baalbek. He arrived there in the early evening. The Imperial Couple had their last night’s sleep on Lebanese soil here amid the ruins of the largest temple buildings bequeathed to us by the Romans.
Early in the morning of 11.11.1898 the Kaiser got up for sightseeing the ruins and inaugurated a present from the Sultan: The Kaiser chose a place in the northern inner wall of the Bacchus temple to place two big commemorative marble tablets, one in German language and one in Ottoman Turkish language, to commemorate the visit of the Kaiser and his wife Augusta Victoria in Baalbek. After removing the mud, rubble, stones and sand from the ground of the temple, the marble tablets were fixed at about ten meters altitude. The marble tablets contained the following inscriptions in German and Turkish:
Sultan Abdul Hamid II. Emperor of the Ottomans, His illustrious Friend Wilhelm II. German Emperor, King of Prussia and Empress Augusta Victoria, in memory of the mutual immutable friendship and the visit of the Imperial Majesty in Baalbek 15 November 1898.
Tourist guides in Baalbek tell to the tourists till this day that the Turkish Authority at that time collected from the inhabitants of the city Baalbek 1000 oil lamps to illuminate in the evening the temple ruins in the honor of the Imperial Couple (in remembrance for the 1000 years old Holy Roman Empire (German Nation) – Sacrum Imperium Romanum Nationis Germancae and for its reestablishment).
On Saturday 12th November 1898, at 6:00 A.M. the Imperial yacht Hohenzollern left the port Beirut. On November 26, the Emperor was back in Potsdam. The publisher of the Beirut newspaper Lisan al-Hal, Khalil Sarkis, wrote a note from reports compiled from his newspaper and sent it to the Emperor on 24th December 1898 in Berlin. For the port workers in Beirut, the memory of the Emperor remained awake for decades in a short song:
Tray, tray, tray – malik almani – tray, tray, tray – nizil al-mina – tray, tray, tray – zammarit zummeira”.
(Translation): A German King went downwards to the port and let sound the ship’s siren.
In 1918, 20 years after the Kaiser’s visit, the English General Allenby, after occupying the Near East, visited the ruins of Baalbek. When he saw the two immense Imperial tablets, he ordered to remove them and destroy them completely, saying “the times have changed”! Upon the plea of his Lebanese interpreter, Michel Alouf, he agreed not to completely destroy them on the condition that the names of the Kaiser and his wife be erased. In 1975, Hans Christian Lankes, German archaeologist, requested that the names of the Kaiser and his wife be re-engraved and the two tablets placed again at the same place in the Bacchus temple (this time, however, without the richly decorated marble arch that had framed it in 1898, which the owner of the nearby Palmyra Hotel wanted it in the hotel restaurant as an attraction for customers, thus continuing and enriching its proper evolution as a small palimpsest which is nothing but part of a much larger one).
Emperor Wilhelm’s left arm is 15 centimeters shorter than the right arm, therefore photographs of him were generally taken, right arm over the left arm. This is a birth flaw. (See erb’s palsy or erb-duchenne palsy)
World War I. – 1914 – 1918:
Our grandfather Wilhelm passed away on 16.02.1908 in Beirut and was buried in the Evangelical cemetery in Beirut.
Due to the allied sea blockade, food supply was provided only to the German and Turkish operational armed forces in Lebanon, which resulted in famine and epidemics for the Lebanese people; therefore, there was no work for my grandfather’s three sons and school could not be financed anymore. They volunteered as soldiers at the German military command in Beirut and were trained briefly in the town Rayak, in the Bekaa Valley, about 55 km east of Beirut. Our father was sent to Aleppo, Syria, to fight with the German and Turkish troops in the German ASIAKORPS, against English army troops.
Lebanon’s greatest poet, writer, the mystic Gibran Khalil Gibran, wrote the following about the half million Lebanese who died in the 1916 famine, most of them residents of Beirut:
“My people died of hunger, and he
Who did not perish from starvation
Was butchered with the sword;
They perished from hunger in a land
Rich with milk and honey,
They died because the vipers and
Sons of vipers spat out poison into
The space where the Holy Cedars and
The roses and the jasmine breathe
(Gibran Khalil Gibran)
I would like to add Gibran’s famous poem – “PITY THE NATION”:
“Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and
empty of religion.
Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does
not weave, eats a bread it does not harvest,
and drinks a wine that flows not from its
Pity the nation that acclaims the bully
as hero, and that deems the glittering
Pity the nation that despises a passion in
its dream, yet submits in its awakening.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice
save when it walks in a funeral, boasts
not except among its ruins, and will rebel
not save when its neck is laid between the
sword and the block.
Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,
whose philosopher is a juggler, and whose
art is the art of patching and mimicking.
Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler
with trumpetings, and farewells him with
hootings, only to welcome another with
Pity the nation whose sages are dump with
years and whose strong men are yet in the
Pity the nation divided into fragments, each
fragment deeming itself a nation”.
This poem was written in 1934, most relevant to us, during present times.
What a prophecy!!
(Gibran Khalil Gibran)
Gibran expressed the wish that he be buried in Lebanon. This wish was fulfilled in 1932, when Mary Haskell and his sister Mariana purchased the Mar Sarkis Monastery in Lebanon, which has since become Gibran Museum. The words written next to Gibran’s grave:
“A word I want to see written on my grave: I am alive like you, and I am standing beside you. Close your eyes and look around, you will see me in front of you”.
Born January 6, 1883 in Bsharre, North Lebanon – died April 10, 1931 (aged 48) New York City, United States.
Occupation: Poet, painter, sculptor, philosopher, theologian, visual artist.
Gibran’s most famous work is the book: THE PROPHET. It was published in 1923 and has since sold millions of copies. Gibran has been working on the book for 25 years.
His first service was in Aleppo at the Baghdad Railway Station, one of the most beautiful and biggest Railway Stations on the BBB (Berlin-Baghdad-Bombay) – line, which was named as such. The Ottoman Empire had at that time very good relations with Imperial Germany and therefore requested Germany to build the railway line from Istanbul to Baghdad which reached Aleppo in 1908.
Whenever my father had free time during his stay in Aleppo, he went to the Hotel Baron, the oldest hotel in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, to enjoy a good meal and have a drink and entertainment. The hotel is not far away from the Baghdad railway station. It was founded in 1909 by the great-grandfather Krikor Mazloumian. Also between World War I and World War II my father was several times on business in Aleppo and stayed in the Hotel Baron.
At the end of the war, our father was in captivity in Iraq. He was sent with German and Turkish soldiers to Turkey, in a camp near the port city Izmir. There, he met again his two brothers. Our father could not endure in the camp. He tried to persuade his two brothers to escape the camp and flee with him with a sailing ship to Beirut. His brothers rejected his proposal to avoid taking risks.
Albert’s Escape from the Turkish Internment Camp – about 1919:
Our father loved animals. He had in Beirut a German shepherd, canary birds, goldfinches, pigeons, hens and several beehives. From inside the camp, he saw a dog behind the barbed wire fence. He lured the dog with some food to the camp. The dog found a gap through the barbed wire fence and entered inside the camp. Our father was at that time slim and thin. Through this gap he was able to flee the camp at night unhurt. He walked clandestine into the port, inquired which ship is leaving for Beirut, climbed secretly into the freighter and presented himself to the Lebanese captain and told him his story. The captain told him: “You are a German hero, you are welcomed in my ship and I will help you”. After some hours sailing towards Beirut, the sea became very stormy. Albert and the ship’s captain thought that the ship will sink. My father asked the captain if he has some empty glass bottles to put a signal of distress inside them. He obtained some bottles, wrote on several pieces of paper the following text:
“Who finds this bottle, may inform my mother Bertha Kleinknecht, residing in Beirut, in the city district Zeitune, near the cemetery that her son Albert got drowned with the freighter …………. that sailed from Turkey to Beirut on ………….”.
He put in each bottle a slip of paper, closed the bottles with their cork plugs and threw them by intervals into the see. The captain did the same. Thankfully the ship didn’t sink and made its way safe to Beirut port.
Escape from Beirut Port:
When the freighter arrived to Beirut, Albert had to flee again, because he had probably no identity papers. He got off the ship, walked slowly to the port gate, waited till the gate was opened and ran as fast he could. Some port guards saw him, ran after him, but Albert was quicker. He ran to the city center to go by tram to his mother. Halfway there, he had to run uphill, he saw a house with a high garden wall with the iron gate open. He entered the garden and bumped into a woman in the garden baking Arabic flat bread. Albert told her in Arabic:
“I was a German soldier, interned in Turkey, escaped the camp, fled from there with a ship to Beirut and want to go back to my mother. The port guards want to catch me. Where can I hide myself here for a short time”?
The Empty Metal Barrel as Table and Hiding Place:
Near the woman was a metal barrel. She got up, removed from the barrel lid the water clay jug and the baked Arabic flat bread, told him to hide himself under the barrel and then placed again the water clay jug and the Arabic flat bread on top of the barrel lid. The barrel had on the other end no lid. After a short time, the woman heard the shouting of the port guards. They asked her if she saw a running escaped murderer. She told them that she saw a man running northwards. When the pursuers were no more visible and audible, she told Albert that you can now come out from under the barrel. She then told him: “If you are hungry, you can eat bread and cheese and drink water from the clay jug”. Albert was thirsty and hungry. He took one loaf of the Arabic flat bread, drank water from the clay jug and told her: “I will never forget you. I will soon come to see you with my mother with gifts for you and thank you again”.
Ride with the Tram along the François Georges-Picot Street:
Albert went to the western direction in order to reach the tram in central Beirut, martyr’s square, at a spot where the tramline makes a great curve and the trams drive there slowly. At that spot he was able to climb aboard the tram during the drive. Albert entered the tram from the front right entrance and told the tram driver that he has no money. The driver looked at him in a comical way and told him: “Albert, why are you wearing such shabby clothes! Do you not know me anymore? I am your neighbor, Jreidini! Your mother and your sister pray and cry all day, because they did not receive any news from you and from your brothers for months. Where are your two brothers?” Albert told him: “They are still in Turkey, because they did not want to escape with me!” When they arrived close to Albert’s home, where Albert would like to get off the tram, the driver drove deliberately slowly so that Albert can get off the tram during the slow drive and not at the next station stop which is a bit farther.
Albert’s Arrival at his Mother’s:
Finally he was at home. Albert knocked at the metal garden gate. “Who is this?”, said his mother in Arabic (miin)? Albert jokingly acted like a beggar and said: “I am hungry, give me something to eat and some money”. His mother did not recognize his voice. “I cannot give you anything. My three sons are not here, I have nothing and do not work” she said. He repeated this a second time, until eventually telling her: “Mother, did you not recognize my voice? I am your son Albert, open the door, I am very tired, I want to take a shower and sleep”. His mother then rushed to open the door, teared up and embraced with her son whom she hasn’t seen for around 5 years.
Marriage of our Parents – 1926:
On 13.02.1926 my father got married with Jamiléh Melhem Mansour, Lebanese, from the town Damour, about 20 km south of Beirut, in the Maronite Church of Saint Elias, Beirut.
Born in Beirut were Four Daughters and Four Sons:
- Bertha Irmgard Kleinknecht (on 21.11.1926)
- Charlotte Irene Kleinknecht (on 18.01.1928)
- Roland Kleinknecht (unknown) passed away after some months, was buried in the Evangelical Cemetery, Beirut, near grandfather Wilhelm.
- Rudolf Walter Kleinknecht (on 22.09.1930)
- Anita Paula Kleinknecht (on 08.11.1932)
- Paul Heinz Kleinknecht (me) (on 10.02.1935)
- Wolfgang Siegfried Kleinknecht (on 10.12.1939)
- Hilde Lore Kleinknecht (on 17.04.1941) father at that time already had left for Germany.
Between World War I and World War II, our father worked in the American petroleum company Socony Vacuum.
Purchase of our House in Beirut – 1929:
When our father purchased the house in the Beirut city district Mouseitbé on 20.03.1929 and moved the furniture and personal belongings to the new house, including a big radio operating per battery, he preferred to put the radio antenna on a higher place than the roof of his house. He asked our new neighbor, Mr. Yammout, whose house was higher than ours if he can put the radio antenna on the roof of his house so that he can have a better reception than from our roof. The neighbor agreed and said in Arabic as it is usual here till now: الجار قبل الدار i.e. the neighbour has preferential treatment. Some neighbors came to congratulate Albert for the house, including Mr. Yammout. Apparently nobody had a radio at that time there, so they wanted to see how it operates. My father switched on the radio and the neighbors started to hear news, music and conversations from some radio stations. When our neighbor Yammout heard this, he told my father to kindly take off the wire antenna of the radio from the roof of his house, because he doesn’t want Albert to hear him and his wife when they are speaking together in the house and in their bedroom. My father was compelled to remove the radio antenna from the neighbor’s house and fixed it then on the roof of our house.
Family Picture – 1931:
Family Picture – 1934:
Family Pictures – 1938:
World War II and the Departure of the 3 Eldest Siblings to Germany – 1939 – 1945:
With the first convoy on 6th November 1940 organized by the German Embassy, about 15 German citizens were sent by truck to the German Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, including my three elder siblings, Bertha, Charlotte, Rudolf and from there by train to Stuttgart, Germany.
My father sent them to Germany, because he wanted them to obtain a German upbringing and a better education in Germany, than in Beirut. Mother was against this. She wept and pleaded my father not to send them away from her. She didn’t want her children to be taken away from her, especially Rudolf as he was still very young (10 years old) and thus needed special care and attention from a mother. But Mother could not stop father from sending them away as he was very difficult, strict and authoritarian. This was the start of the rift between my mother and my father.
- Bertha, was accommodated by the family Mathilde and Hugo Bofinger, Rosenbergstrasse 60, Stuttgart-W.
- Charlotte, by the family Gertrude Kälble, Löchgauersteige 21, Besigheim A/N.
- Rudolf, by the family W. Braun, Dischingerweg 12, Stuttgart-Weilimdorf.
They lived with their respective families until they grew up a bit, found work and started living by themselves. The 3 siblings kept seeing each other from time to time over the years as they were all living in and around Stuttgart.
We (the 4 siblings who stayed in Lebanon) studied in the German school in Beirut, which was near our own house in west Beirut, opposite the Sanayah Public Garden.
My Sister Charlotte while Living with the Family Kälble – 1940 – 1945 in Germany:
Below is the English translation of the second paragraph above:
“It is my realization that in the house of the family Kälble in Besigheim, lived during the years 1940 till 1945 as foster daughter the 12 year-old Charlotte Kleinknecht from Beirut, an Arab. After the Moroccans came back from the town Löchgau from a purge there to the city Besigheim, they decided to search the house of the government surveyor of works, Mr. Kälble. For this purpose, Charlotte Kleinknecht opposed this matter and told them in Arabic language: “My mother, Jamile Mansour from Beirut is a daughter of your country”! They were surprised to hear being addressed here in Arabic language. After an exchange of words and after they were convinced of the correctness of the fellow country girl, the Moroccans took off their helmets and wept. They subsequently extended their kindness and attention to the family”.
Albert’s Imprisonment in Lebanon – 1940:
When the German campaign against France started in 10.05.1940, our father and all German and Austrian resident men in Lebanon fit for military service were interned in the Italian School For Girls, (Scuola Italiana Femminile), Beirut, which was near our house. When the Vichy-French Government governed Lebanon and Syria, the imprisonment of German and Austrian citizens was terminated. When in 1941 the Vichy Government in Lebanon was overthrown by French and English troops, marching from Palestine to Lebanon and occupying Lebanon, the Vichy administration was deposed and the Germans either left the country or were again imprisoned. My father was imprisoned again and sent to the internment camp Mieh ou Mieh in south Lebanon, which since 1948 became a camp for Palestinian refugees. When our mother visited our father the first time in the Mieh ou Mieh camp, he asked her if she is taking care of his songbirds; canaries, goldfinches, pigeons and his dog. He told her to bring with her next time when she visits him two cages with canary birds and goldfinches and bird-seeds for them, which she did.
Second Evacuation of German Citizens to Germany and the Departure of Albert – 1941:
Beginning of 1941, the German Embassy organized the evacuation of German residents in Lebanon, who wanted to leave the country. With the second convoy, Albert, his two brothers Theodor and Adolf and the blind wife of uncle Adolf, Emeli Salloum, Lebanese, traveled to Stuttgart, Germany. Our grandmother, our aunt Klara and the wife of our uncle Theodor, Linda Hilana Zeidan, Lebanese, with her sons Manfred and Helmut, remained in Beirut. When our father fare-welled us, he told our mother: “This time Germany will win the war in a short time and I will then come back to Beirut with our three children”. Albert never came back to Lebanon again till 1973, 33 years later.
Albert was able to see Bertha, Charlotte and Rudolf from time to time since they were all living near the city Stuttgart. However, Albert lived by himself in Wannweil.
Below are two pictures of them taken in Germany, around 1944 and 1952.
Bombardment of Joseph Joffre Army Barracks in Verdun Street, Beirut – 1941:
One day in 1941, before our internment in Palestine, we were sitting in the living room. It was hot and humid. We heard a plane with a different engine sound than passenger planes flying over our house and after 1 or 2 seconds, we heard two powerful explosions. The army barracks, about 400 meters east of our house were targeted by a German or an Italian war plane. I was unconscious for a certain amount of time. When I awoke, I heard my mother saying: “why does my son have a blue face and blue feet? Now I will also lose my second son”. Uncle Tanios, my mother’s brother, was with us. He went quickly into the kitchen, filled a bucket with cold water and poured the water on my face and body. This was perhaps helpful. When I awoke, I noticed that my mother had pulled off my pant and my shirt, drying up my body with a towel. “Since our childhood we are hearing canon thunder”!
Our Imprisonment in Palestine – 1941:
In May 1941, (I) Paul, my 3 siblings Anita, Wolfgang and Hilde and my mother were captured by force by the Lebanese Security Service from our house in West Beirut, our German identity cards confiscated and we got transferred to the Beirut port quarantine. The officer in charge told my mother: “You are Germans, enemies of France and Lebanon and are straight away imprisoned”. We were allowed to take only clothes, towels, blankets and food. We were sitting in a military vehicle in front of our house in Beirut, whilst the Lebanese Security Servants started to take away what they liked. They took what was light and valuable and packed them in linen cloth. They shouted give us linen covers! Give us linen covers! اعطونا شراشف, اعطونا شراشف – The local white Indians, dressed in official uniforms, missed to perform the usual aggressive Indian victory screaming prey! One of them said: “The lion shall get the spoil and not the hyena”! (The protectors of the Nation have become thieves)! In Arabic: حاميها حراميها. This is an old Arabic saying.
After our imprisonment was over, our mother visited the police superintendent in Beirut’s suburb, Hadath, where he lived. His wife told my mother that he passed away. In the living room, my mother saw a carpet which belonged to us. Mother told her that this carpet is beautiful and expensive. The woman said: “this carpet and many other articles my husband got as presents, because he was serious and honest and helped many people during his service”. Such words can be heard till now from such lazy, corrupt, stupid, authoritarian officialdom.
Port Quarantine – Beirut:
According to the memory of my mother and my sister Anita, we were accommodated in a big hall with German, Austrian and Italian families who were also imprisoned. When the French authority captured all Germans, Austrians, Italians, Hungarians, living in Lebanon, in Syria, in Cyprus and Malta, they were transported by bus to Palestine. My grandmother was not captured, perhaps because of old age. She was living with her eldest son Theodor and his wife Linda Zeidan, in their house near the Patriarchal School in the city quarter Mouseitbé and she remained there after her son left for Germany. (Theodor left for Germany beginning of 1941 with the convoy organised by the German Embassy, but his wife Linda decided to stay in Lebanon with her two sons Manfred and Helmut, and thus got imprisoned with us in Palestine). My grandmother eventually lived with the sister of our aunt Linda, Alice Ayoub and her family.
Templer Colony Sarona from May 1941 till 1944:
We arrived in late afternoon in the internment camp Sarona – camp 4 – in the middle of a wilderness, surrounded by about 4m high barbed wire fence and watchtowers. The gate and watchtower guards were Jewish guards. Our Lebanese guards delivered us to the English camp commander. He was sitting in the ground floor of a Templer house, which had a long veranda. He was wearing khaki shorts; khaki shirt with short sleeves, he was tall, had red hair and a red mustache, like a tooth brush. He was sitting behind a small, shaky wooden table. When he saw us, he stood up, looked at us, knocked his fingers on his big white teeth and said shockingly: “Also children are imprisoned by the Lebanese Authority”! The Lebanese guards, who escorted us to the camp in Palestine, gave the English Commander the delivery bill for the listed internees so that the Camp commander confirms their receipt. The Commander signed and stamped the delivery bill. Our mother told the English commander that she has no more milk and food for her children. He told her that he will send her immediately milk and food and that this will be done on a daily basis.
Our mother hung white cloth curtains on the western windows of the house No. 91 where we lived, to avoid sunshine and heat in the afternoon. After a few days an English official came to us, told my mother to remove the white cloth curtains, as this is prohibited for security reasons, since enemy combat air crafts can locate the Sarona detention camp. Probably the British had been frightened by the initial great military successes in 1942, of General Erwin Rommel’s tank army in North Africa, which was already near El Alamein (oasis in the eastern Libyan desert) that threatened to burst through Egypt like a tidal wave and capture Palestine. Black cloth curtains are allowed, said the English official.
The Palestine Germans in the Seven Templer Colonies in Palestine, after the Second World War:
When World War II broke out in 1939, it was finally clear for the British, what to do with the interned Germans, in the Templer colonies. The men fit for military service were interned in a prison in Akko, near the city Haifa. The British Mandate Government deported many Templers from Sarona in 1941 to Australia, to the camp “Tatura”, in Victoria, and laid barbed wire fences around Sarona and Wilhelma, expropriated their Colonies, sold their land. The Germans remained in Australia until 1947 in the detention camp “Tatura”, in Victoria. Despite being interned there, they celebrated Hitler’s birthday on April 20, 1945, as they still believed that Germany will win the war with new retaliatory weapons. In 1948, the last Swabian house builders left their homes on board the steamship “Empire Comfort” to Cyprus. Australia was generous, offered the Palestine Germans to stay in the country and to integrate themselves after their release. The Australians said to the Germans: “You have forgotten your Emperor Wilhelm, forget now your leader Adolf Hitler and his Swastika flag wavers and his Bible, “Mein Kampf”, and return to the true Bible of Jesus Christ. It was wrong of you with this Nazi nightmare, stay here with us, if you like it here, we give you the Australian nationality as a present. We have here enough beer, champagne, wine, ham, sausage, veal and pork escalope in our refrigerators and Black Forest cake and work possibilities for you, because you are excellent skilled people in the industrial sector”. Most of the haughty Palestine Germans with their slogans: blood, soil, race as god-given realities, German superior race, anti-Semitism, Aryans über alles, gladly accepted the offer instead of going to the now in rubble and ashes homeland, and preferred to remain in Australia, the new Homeland, in favor for beaches, swimming pools, sun and pleasant weather all the seasons in Australia, the hospitable and rich in tradition country, the country of parity.
The Governments of Australia and West Germany worked together for ten years before the State of Israel agreed in 1952 to pay restitution to the German refugees for their four rural villages, as well as the Templers’ three urban property holdings in Palestine. A leading agricultural economist from the Stanford University, U.S.A, valuated the Templer holdings, including all real estate, their homes and farm buildings, orchards, forest and vineyards, down to the chicken coops and pigsties. In 1962 – ten years later – the Government of Israel paid 54 million Deutsche Marks to West Germany for the “German Templer Property in Israel”, belonging to the displaced and dispossessed Templers, part of which was transferred to the Commonwealth of Australia.
Christoph Hoffman, the Founder of the German Templer Sect and the German Cemetery in Jerusalem:
Hidden out of sight behind a high stone wall is one of the last things one would expect to find in the western Jewish side of Jerusalem: a well-kept cemetery of many graves, all of them Germans and many of them housing the remains of women and men who made room in those graves at the thought of a Jewish State in Palestine. This is the cemetery of the Templers, a German Protestant sect that moved to the Holy Land in the 1860s and 70s, a decade or two before Zionists made their first migration to Ottoman Palestine, and before the city of Tel Aviv existed. The Templers had left Germany, because of persecution for their belief, to found a society that would advance the reconstruction of the Jewish Temple. This was necessary, because the followers believed for the second coming of Jesus Christ and the advent of paradise on earth.
They settled in an area, about a kilometer from the Old City of Jerusalem, known as the Valley of Rephaim. There they built one and two-storey stone houses modelled after the German homes in the Kingdom of Badenwürttemberg, they left behind. Many of those sturdy stone structures remained well intact in the area known as the German Colony. But the cemetery is a complete surprise. Beyond the locked gate, is the grave of the founder, Christoph Hoffmann, born on 2nd December 1815 in Leonberg, in the German Kingdom of Württemberg, and the bodies of the earliest residents who died in the 18th and 19th centuries. Christoph Hoffmann was buried in the German cemetery of Rephaim on 8th December 1885. In a position of prominence stands the memorial of the 550 Templers, who had lived here or in the other six German Templer Colonies; Haifa, Jaffa, Sarona, and Colonies with creative names like, Wilhelma, Waldheim, Bethlehem, who had given their lives in the First and Second World Wars, fighting for Germany.
The deceased Templer men had fought for the Ottomans in the 1914-18 war, who were Allies with Germany, against the British, who marched into Jerusalem in 1917. In the 1939-45 war, the Templer men had fought for Nazi Germany, against the Allies. Indeed, well before 1939, the Templers of British Mandate Palestine had made clear their support for Adolf Hitler’s Nazis. When the Second World War broke out, the British Authorities in Palestine ordered the residents of the German Colonies to be interned in their Colonies and then deported most of them to Australia. Their beautiful stone houses and all other properties, as already indicated were confiscated by Israel.
To the Templers, both religiously and politically, the Jews were but a means to the Templers’ apocalyptic endig. So descendants of the women and men buried in the Templer cemetery in Jerusalem must be surprised to find the cemetery intact and well tended, on a street where thousands of Jews pass by every day.
With a considerable amount of fanaticism, the Palestine Germans looked down upon the Arab and Jewish Fellahin, (peasants; farmers or agricultural laborers, plowmen) who according to them ate only the bread of laziness.
After the First World War, Lebanon and Syria were mandated territories; Lebanon and Syria, French mandate till 1946. Palestine, English mandate till 1948.
Templer House in Sarona:
After this long journey, we were lodged in a Templer house in the first floor. The owner, Helene Koeper (Guenthner), has left the house shortly before the outbreak of the war for Australia and could no more come back. In the ground floor lived the couple Uhlmann, who had no children. Mr. Karl Ludwig Uhlmann was blind. The houses in Sarona had already at that time electricity and drainage and Sarona had asphalted streets. We were astonished about the electric bulbs in the house. We lived at that time in the eastern suburbs of Beirut and had no electricity. Near our house in Sarona was a swimming pool.
The wife of our uncle Theodor, Linda Zaidan (Lebanese), was also with us in the bus with her sons Manfred and Helmut, and our aunt Klara Kleinknecht.
German Afrikakorps (DAK) 1941-1943:
Our father, who was fluent in Arabic, English, French and German and knew a bit of Turkish, was sent to Africa in 1941 to serve as interpreter in the interpreter department of the Afrikakorps. There he met his younger brother Adolf, who was also active in the same interpreter department, because he was also fluent in these languages. My father came back to Wannweil, Germany, in 1942.
Linda Kleinknecht born Zeidan:
Linda Kleinknecht, wife of our uncle Theodor, was released before us from the camp with her two sons on 28.10.1942 due to exchange agreements (The agreement negotiated by the Red Cross, entitled German women to be freed from the camp with their children whose husbands are in Germany, in return for the same number of allied wives and children to be freed from German detention camps) to join her husband in Stuttgart. Her sons Manfred and Helmut (about 8 and 10 years old at the time) were killed shortly after their arrival in Germany, by Allied bombardments. Uncle Theodor and Linda eventually came back to live in Lebanon in 1948. I have their temporary military travel document for Germany, which the German Embassy in Beirut handed it over to me during the 90ies (in lieu of passport for German nationals) issued by the Military Government of Germany on 21.09.1948. They both left per ship from Marseille on 18.12.1948 and arrived to Beirut on 27.12.1948.
Grandmother joins us in Sarona – 1943:
Life became boring for our grandmother with the family Ayoub in Beirut. So she decided to join us in the camp. She traveled by train from Beirut to Jerusalem and arrived in the evening of 10.12.1943 to the camp Sarona and stayed with us and not with her daughter Klara.
My Memories in Sarona:
I can remember in Sarona the following events:
- Loud explosion in Sarona near the city hall middle of 1943.
- On the left side of the house was a cafeteria, where we could eat and drink something. On 20.07.1944, we were around noon in this cafeteria. Our mother ordered for us our favored cake with dates (brioche) and gingerbread, cold milk and sparkling mineral water. In this cafeteria our mother could hear news in Arabic language from radio Berlin and from BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). There was music, some couples were dancing. Suddenly the music was interrupted, we heard per radio news in Arabic language from the Berlin radio station, transmitted at that time by the famous Iraqi newsreader and journalist Younis Elbahri who run Radio Berlin’s first-ever Arabic language service, about the failed Hitler assassination in the Wolf’s lair in Rastenburg. The news in Arabic language started usually as follows: – هنا برلين! هنا برلين! حي العرب! حي العرب – “This is Berlin! This is Berlin! Long live the Arabs! Long live the Arabs”! The Arabs liked this trademark opening line from his broadcasts very much. Younis Elbahri was at the Berlin station from April 25, 1935, at the début of the new radio service. He continued broadcasting from the German capital until April 30, 1945, after which he could make his way out of the rubble of the destroyed city, out of the country and back to Beirut, Lebanon.
- Many Templers came here to hear with great interest via radios with short waves, about the course of the political and military events in Germany. They listened with great devotion to the speeches of Hitler, Göbbels, Göring and Hess. For many persons, Hitler’s speeches on the radio were like a true church mass. The eyes of the women got wet. Already before the 20th July, 1944, I used to hear in school and from the parents of my school friends a lot about Adolf Hitler, but I was too young to know why he and other German leaders were important, I only learned that later. The Palestine Germans still celebrated on 20.04.1945 Hitler’s birthday believing fully for the final victory from the hinterland!
- I have a picture with my mother, my sister Anita and myself from the cafeteria. We lived behind the bush. On the left side was the cafeteria.
Germany is the country of: Beethoven, Fallersleben, Goethe, Hölderlin, Kant, Luther, Cranach, Holbein, Lessing, Kleist, Hebel, Karl May, Mann, Hesse, Nietsche, Wagner, Schiller, Orff, Dürer, Menzel, Röntgen, Diesel etc., not Hitler’s land. Also home of music, poetry, literature, culture, philosophy, theology, religious liberty, religious communities, deep history, science, industry, inventions, medicine, chemistry, physics, Autobahnen, cars, airplanes, helicopters, Zeppelins, ships, U-Boats, rockets, sports.
- My brother Wolfgang and my sister Hilde were baptized in Sarona by the German Evangelical Präpositus (priest) Döring, on 11.01.1942 and not in Beirut. Their certificates of baptism are not available with me. The Templers’ children were not baptized and the Templers had no priesthood and no churches. At that time in the church, I asked my mother, why this man is pouring cold water on the heads of my little brother and my little sister. I was 7 years old and did not know what baptism meant.
- The Templers in Sarona had in front of their houses beautiful gardens with planted flowers and arbors. At the swimming pool were guava trees, whose fruits look like pears and apples, which we picked and ate. They were very tasty. Sarona was more planted than Wilhelma, (where we were later imprisoned). I remember evergreen fir trees, palm trees, willow trees, cypress trees, fig trees, orange trees, lemon trees, olive trees, also almond trees, grape, and banana plantations. The Arabs called the Palestine bananas (abounoqta ابونقطه). This means with dark points or dark spots. Their taste is better than the bananas from Africa and America. We spread butter, banana and sugar on Arabic flat bread and ate this as a sandwich. Missing were jam, chocolate, honey and milk cream. The butter melons and watermelons were also very tasty.
- The Templers in Sarona and Wilhelma forgot Emperor William II., after Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933 and I can remember seeing the waving swastika flags in front of the Templers’ Swabian houses and the young boys wearing brown Hitler youth shirts with dark neck ties.
- I can remember the wine cellar and the town hall in Sarona and the school. The climate in both Templer colonies was mild, the winter not very cold.
- In spring and autumn there were massive locust swarms in Sarona and Wilhelma.
Below is correspondence from 1941 till 1948 from our father, our three siblings and the families with whom our siblings lived, our classmates and the German families who were imprisoned with us in Sarona and Wilhelma. Click on each document and picture to enlarge:
Templer Colony Wilhelma – 1944 till 1946:
In November 1944, we were transferred to the Templer colony Wilhelma.
Sarona was more modern than Wilhelma. Sarona had at that time already asphalted streets, whilst Wilhelma hadn’t yet. In Wilhelma there was during the winter mud and slime in the street. I can remember Wilhelma better than Sarona, because I was at that time in Wilhelma older. We lived in the northern part of Wilhelma. When it rained in the winter, water was dropping from the roof of the house from two holes into the living room. Our mother put two pails under them on the ground and put on the bottoms of the pails cleaning rags to silence the sound of the dripping water. In the ground floor lived Miss Helene Held, a very able and hard-working young farmer woman. She had cows and hens. We got from her milk and eggs. From the milk, our mother made yoghurt, butter and cheese. Helene’s father, Jakob Held, (*1836-1917) was killed by flying shrapnel when the Wilhelma settlement was occupied by the Allied forces in November 1917. For a whole month, the settlement was under fire. Despite the settlers living in their cellars during that time, there were casualties.
We lived in the first floor which belonged to the family Held. In Wilhelma there wasn’t electrical current yet. We had petroleum lamps and candles to have light in the evening and primus stoves to have warm water. The paraffin smell of the candles drove away mosquitoes and insects from the house. Our sister Hilde was always weepy. Miss Held, always complained about Hilde’s crying. We called our sister “boumeh”, which means “owl” in Arabic! My sister Hilde and my brother Wolfgang were turbulent at that time. I remember that our grandmother used to say often in Italian language: in questa casa siamo tutti nervosi, i.e. in this house we are all nervous!
The house in which we lived in Wilhelma in the first floor was restored in an exemplary way. It is sure that after Israel has expropriated the real estates of the Templers, and expelled all the Germans living in Palestine, and their houses became then in possession of new Israeli owners, that the estates had since then several constructional changes. At the entrance of the house there was no brick roof and at the right side no staircase. There were some direct steps of stones in front of the entrance and on the right side a small basin in which we washed our feet.
Landscape of Camp Wilhelma:
Wilhelma had two main streets, shaped like a cross. One was about 1000 meters long, the other about 500 meters long. Around the crossing of the two streets was the school, the football field, the evangelical church and a hall. Along the two streets on both sides were big eucalyptus trees. During spring and autumn many beautiful, colorful bee-eaters landed on the eucalyptus trees to snap their food. These migration birds transmit pleasant singing tunes which can be heard from a far distance.
In front of the Templers’ houses in Wilhelma were beautiful flower gardens and behind their houses they planted vegetables and fruit trees. We lived in the northern section of Wilhelma, where there were four houses, separated from the camp with the road from the village Et-Tire in the east, to the direction to the Mediterranean sea, also secured with high barbed wire fence. When we went to school or to see our friends, we had to go through two gates guarded by Jewish guards.
German Schools in Sarona and Wilhelma Camps:
Our teacher for German language was Miss Luise Dreher, who was tall, with blonde long braids, like the Führer wanted the German girls, a devoted Hitler adherent. The lessons started with the triple Hitler salute: Sieg Heil! (Victory Hail)! We daily had to repeat the same, now and then we had to sing the Deutschlandlied (German national anthem) and the Horst Wessel song and to say the undermentioned sayings in German language:
- One realm, one people, one leader!
- I believe in Germany and fight for it today and tomorrow and in the future until victory is ours!
- The German youth should be, tough like leather, hard like Krupp steel and quick like greyhounds!
- The Führer orders, we follow!
- Germans defend yourselves!
- Far from fear, death is near, hail to you, AH!
- The heroic death is the most beautiful death!
- The German youth serves, we are born to die for Germany!
- Hitler is Germany! Germany is Hitler!
- Hitler’s boots here, Hitler’s boots there, Hitler’s boots every everywhere! In Poland, in France, in Belgium, in Holland, in Denmark, in Norway, in Romania, in Hungary, in Bulgaria, in Ukraine, in Yugoslavia, in Czechoslovakia, in Albania, in Greece, in Russia, in Africa!
In the German schools in Sarona and Wilhelma, we didn’t have task books. Miss Luise Dreher wrote the daily school assignments on the blackboard and we had to write them on our notepads. She then checked whether all the pupils have copied everything correctly in their notepads. We learned the German language audiovisual. Too bad we do not have the notepads anymore. Probably the English Authority has confiscated all the German task books and burnt them. What would have commented Shakespeare about such action?
Our music teacher was Mrs. Ruth. I learned to play there the flute. We learned the following songs in the German Templers’ school and sang them in German language. Also we learned the following children rhymes:
- Little John, went alone, into the far world, cane and hat fit him well, and is cheerful ………..
- My hat has three corners, three corners has my hat and if my hat had no three corners, so it is not my hat ……….
- Cuckoo, cuckoo sounds from the forest. Let us sing, dance and jump, cuckoo, cuckoo ……..
- C-o-f-f-e-e-, do not drink so much coffee! Not recommended for children is this Turkish drink, weakens the nerves, makes you pale and sick. Do not be a Moslem, who cannot quit it!
- I once had a comrade, you will find no better one. The drum called to battle, he walked at my side, in the same pace and step……
- In front of the barracks, in front of the great gate, stood a lantern, and stands still in front of it, so we want to see us again, by the lantern we want to stand, like once Lili Marleen.
- Sleep, little child, sleep, father looks for the sheep, mother shakes the little tree, so comes down a short dream, sleep little child, sleep ………
- Ring, little bell, ring, little bell, ring! Let me in, you kids, is so cold the winter, open for me the doors, do not let me freeze! Ring, little bell ring, ring, little bell, ring!(Ring little bell ring is a Christmas carol from the 19th century)
- Hänsel and Gretel got lost in the forest. It was so dark and so bitterly cold. They came to a fine gingerbread house. Who could be the lord of this little house?
- (Hänsel und Gretel is a well-known children song from the 19th century)
- That’s the thumb, which shakes the plums, this one gathers them all, this one carries them home, and the small one eats them all.
- Knife, fork, scissor and light – are not for small children.
- Whoops whoops rider, when he falls, he cries. If he falls into the ditch, the ravens eat him. If he falls into the swamp, the rider makes a splash.
Our Neighbors – Family Klotz:
The family Klotz lived about 100 meters east of our house in the first floor. Their son Joseph was my sister’s classmate, his sister Isabella was my classmate. This German family lived before the war in Amman, Jordan. This family was also interned in Wilhelma. After their release, the family went back to Jordan. The second daughter Annemarie was born in Amman after 1948. She got married to the Jordanian medical doctor Ayoub. I was in contact with this family till end of the 1970ies. The family visited us several times in Beirut after 1948. The family left then for Germany. Joseph lived in Freiburg, because he got married to a German woman from Freiburg. I saw him the last time with his sister and parents around the end of 1970 in Bersenbrück, Germany, where his parents and his sister lived. Isabella was married to Mr. Welp.
Mr. Willi Klotz had a motorcycle. My sister Anita wanted to have a ride on the motorcycle. She climbed on the rear seat. After a certain drive, when Mr. Klotz wanted to turn back, the motorcycle slid due to sand on the road. Anita fell on the ground and her right hand got hurt, as can be seen from the bandage on her right hand, from the picture of the temporary travel document issued in Jerusalem on 01.10.1946 that is attached further down in my story. Anita was for a certain time unconscious.
A Necessity Invention:
Mr. Willi Klotz was working as a blacksmith in a forge in Wilhelma, about 200 meters west of our house. Our mother had no more cups. She had some glass bottles, went to Mr. Klotz’s forge and asked him if he can cut the bottles in the middle. He asked her why? She told him that she has no more cups and she needs cups for drinking water, tea, coffee, milk, soup, lemonade etc. He liked this idea very much. He made in the forge a metal round ring, with the outside diameters of the glass bottles, forged on the outside diameter of the ring a metal handle, put the metal ring on glowing hard coal till the metal ring glowed, inserted the glowing ring till the middle of the bottles, pressed with a pair of pliers the glowing metal ring against the bottles and were thus due to the heat well split and cut. Then he grinded with finest emery paper the three sides of the glass cups; top, inside and outside and checked with his fingers if the top is smooth, to avoid injuries. The next day my mother went to the camp commandment and asked the English staff if they can give her empty glass bottles. They asked her why she needs glass bottles. My mother told them that the blacksmith Mr. Klotz will cut them in the middle so that she can obtain glass cups. They could not believe this. One staff went curiously with my mother to the blacksmith and watched how he cut the glass bottles. The English staff then said: “Germans are excellent inventors”!
Escape of our Sports Instructor Leon Fuchs:
Mr. Fuchs lived in the ground floor in the same building where family Klotz lived. He saw one day from his apartment how a dog crept into the camp Wilhelma from under the barbed wire fence. Mr. Fuchs is slim, gathered some food and was able to flee the camp in the evening unhurt, through the same gap through which the dog crept into the camp. Mr. Fuchs wanted to flee to Beirut, because he also was living in Beirut before the war. After some days, he was caught in Jaffa or Haifa and brought back to the camp. After our release in October 1946, he visited us in Beirut.
Swimming Pool in Wilhelma:
Opposite to the west of our house there was a swimming pool and a high water tower. There we could swim and have shower with cold water, because in the first floor of our apartment there was no bathroom, no toilet, no kitchen, no drainage, only sleeping rooms. There was a water pipe with a water tap without washbasin.
Rinse and Bath Tub Water:
Because there was no drainage in the first floor, our mother threw the bath water from the small transportable metal bath-tub, in which our grandmother and our little sister Hilde had their bath, and the rinse water from the buckets, from the eastern window into the rear garden. Family Klotz did not like this. Mrs. Klotz went to the camp command authority and complained against our mother about this matter. Our mother continued to throw the water from the window into the garden, but in the evening. We were seven persons in the house, with our grand mother and our aunt, had to do our needs in chamber pots and empty in the morning our heap of excrement – the scent of the night – in chamber pots behind the house in a disgusting Arabic toilet, in a small wooden hut with a rattling door. That was my daily job! Miss Held did not allow us to use her bathroom and her toilet! The toilet paper were cut from newspapers, with dimensions 15×15 cm and we made use of them.
The German Templer houses in Palestine were built from nearby quarries from natural white stones. They were built on three levels. On the first floor was a kitchen, dining room, living room, bath room and toilet. Sleeping quarters were on the second floor. Foodstuff and water were stored in the cellar. But each Templer house is a real treasure.
About 80 meters in the southern direction of our house was a high wooden watch tower. In the evenings we could hear how the Jewish guards conversed together, now and then a guard asked in Hebrew “ma hasha’ah?”, which means in Hebrew “what’s the time?”. Probably not all guards had watches in order to know the time. They smoked a lot, like the Arabs, threw their unextinguished cigarette butts in the air and were pleased like children that their unextinguished cigarette butts looked like flying glow worms.
Miss Held’s Cowshed:
I remember In Wilhelma that from time to time I heard Arab workers who were working in Miss Held’s cowshed, milking her cows, singing the following short song: Palestine is our country. The Jews are our dogs.
Why is there hatred and hostility between Arabs and Jews? There was quarreling, tears, blood, wars – to this day! It all began with a man who wanted to be a father: The great-grandfather Abraham! His wife Sarah could not give him any children. He sought in a camp the Egyptian maid. The maid Hagar bore him a son, Ishmael. Some years later the wife Sarah got pregnant, bore the son Isaac. There were disputes, jealousies between the wife and the first surrogate mother of history. After several years, Abraham sent the maid with her son to the desert. His firstborn son, Ishmael the son of the maid, became the patriarch of the Arabs. Isaac, the matrimonial son, became the patriarch of the Jews.
I can remember in Wilhelma the assassination of Mayor Gotthilf Wagner. He was very rich and had a permanent permit to travel around with his car within Palestine. On March 22, 1946, he went with his car from Wilhelma to Tel Aviv and was shot dead treacherously in his stopped car by a pistol-wielding duo from the Hagana pre-state underground organization on Levinsky Street. With him in the car were his sister, Frida Wagner, Karl Steller, and a Jewish policeman. These passengers remained unharmed. People said he used to own a lot of lands that he did not want to sell to Arabs and Jews, so this is why he got killed. The murder shocked the waning Templer community. Land prices in Sarona and Wilhelma fell, and the deportees in Australia urged those remaining in Palestine to come to terms with the new reality and emigrate. About 300 meters westwards of our house was the cemetery in which he was buried. The next day we saw dark smoke clouds. There was a fire in the cemetery. The Jews said that the Arabs are the ones who set fire to the cemetery, while the Arabs said the Jews are the ones.
From the southern room we could see the airport Lydda, which at the time was known as Wilhelma Airport, which has got its name from the German Templer colony which was located in close proximity south of Wilhelma. When there was southern wind, we could hear the noise of the airplanes. We were entertained in counting the arriving and departing airplanes.
Shopping of Needed Products:
The house in Wilhelma was about 30 meters away from the two gates. Here came in the mornings Arabic dealers walking from the village At-Tire, which was a few km east of Wilhelma and we could see it from the eastern window, to sell their products from behind the barbed wire fence. Our mother bought from the dealer Abou Ahmad, matches, cigarettes, soap, flour, salt, chick-peas (Hommus), Arabic flat bread, thyme, olive oil, olives, sugar, tea, green coffee beans, cleaning needles for the primus stoves, toothpaste, toothbrushes, petroleum and wicks for our petrol lamps, candles, wool so that our mother can knit for us pullovers and swimming-shorts, thread and colored paper. I used the threads and colored paper to make kites with my own hands: Bamboo was growing wild in Wilhelma. I cut the bamboo from top to bottom in order to obtain two equal cut units. Then I connected the two bamboo units together like a cross using threads. To have adhesive paste to glue the colored paper on top of the bamboo structure, I used flour, water and sugar, stirred this mixture till flour and sugar got melted, and had thus a good clear glue. Then I made also a tail and two wings for the kite using the colored paper and paste. It used to take me several hours to finish each kite. My friends called me the kite constructor.
Every now and then, a shoe repairer was available to repair our shoes, if they were still repairable.
I can remember the names of the following persons who were imprisoned with us. Most of them were the German Templers who were already living there and got locked in the camp, the others (including us) were families that were captured from across the Middle East.
- Mrs. Aberle
- Mr. Bamberg
- Family Beck
- Family Bitzer
- Family Blaich
- Mrs. Dreher, her daughter Luise Dreher
- Family Engelhardt
- Family Ehmans
- Mrs. Eppinger
- Mrs. Paula Feil
- Family Frank
- Family Fröschle
- Leon Fuchs – From Beirut
- Family Groll
- Family Kugler
- Family Hanauer – From Beirut
- Miss Helen Held
- Dr. Hoffmann
- Family Hornung
- Family Kazenwadel
- Family Klotz – From Amman
- Family Kuhnle
- Family Löbert
- Family Lux
- Mrs. Paula Paulus
- Mr. Remi – From Beirut
- Miss Gisela and Wera Schmidt
- Family Scheerle
- Family Stecher
- Family Struve
- Miss Traude
- Family Uhlmann
- Family Unger
- Miss Luise Volmer
- Family Wagner
- Mr. Weimann
- Family Wied
- Mr. Mantura (Italian) – From Beirut
- Mrs. Ortali and her daughter Therese (Italians) – From Beirut
Visit of a Family Friend:
Beginning of 1945 an American friend of our father, Mr. Green, visited us per the request of our father. He was a colleague of our father before the war in Beirut, in the American petroleum company Socony Vacuum, and was sent to work in Palestine. This petroleum company was then bought by the Mobil Oil Company. Our Father was still in contact with him. He told him to visit us and give us some money and to tell him something about us. It was winter; he saw us walking barefooted, asked our mother why that is. She told him that my children have no more shoes. (See attached picture). Mr. Green went to the English camp commander, demanded the permission from him to take us with his car to Tel Aviv to buy shoes and clothes for us. The permission was granted and we had thus new clothes and new shoes and had no more feet injuries and got some money. We saw there many cars and heard a lot of honking which was unknown to us in Sarona and Wilhelma.
In the winter there was mud, slime and stones in the streets. In the summer sand, dust, heat and stones. Also snakes, scorpions, lizards, chameleons, bees, hornets. We were also physically suffering from homesickness, because we were expelled into a strange, primitive world.
Aunt Klara and Paul Wehr:
Our aunt Klara and her friend Paul Wehr, (Alsatian) whom she met in the camp and got married to him, were released before us due to exchange agreements and traveled by train from Jerusalem to Germany to her brother Adolf in Reutlingen, because they had no house in Beirut. They rented a house in Reutlingen near the Kaiserstrasse. Our grandmother was at that time 84 years old. When she received the information from her daughter that she has rented a house, grandmother decided to travel to Germany.
Grandmother’s Return Journey to Germany – Middle of 1946:
The war had ended. Our mother begged our grandmother to stay with us and to go back with us to Beirut when we are freed and stay to with us in our house. Grandmother refused to remain with us, because she did not want to bother our mother any further since grandmother was fairly fragile. Mother requested a special permit from the camp commander to accompany grandmother to the Jerusalem railway station. Mother gave her food and money for the journey. We cried when she fare-welled us. My sister Anita hid herself, because it was very hard for her to say goodbye to grandmother. It was the last time we ever see our grandmother. Mother ordered a taxi and negotiated with the taxi driver how much he wants to drive them to the Jerusalem railway station. This way of bargaining for taxi fares exists till this day in our region. We were able to see far away from our house the trains that departed from the Jerusalem railway station. So we waited at the eastern window of the house to see the train with which grandmother is traveling to Germany. We spent hours waiting at the window until we finally saw the train going in northern direction and waved to our grandmother although we did not see her.
We used to count for fun the number of wagons of each train and quarreled together who saw better and counted better. This time we forgot to do that because our thoughts were with our grandmother. We waited for our mother’s return from the Jerusalem railway station. It became dark, we got very afraid and worried, because mother has not yet arrived and suddenly we were for the first time, after six years alone without our mother and our grandmother. (When the fear is planted inside you, it will be hard for you to remove it easily out from your memory) – Finally she arrived, sad, very tired, exhausted. She went down on her knees on the ground and prayed that grandmother will arrive safe and sound to Reutlingen. We also prayed with our mother, like we used to pray in German language on the table with grandmother before eating:
- I am little, my heart is clean shall nobody live in my heart except Jesus.
- God bless our bread.
- God show me the right way.
- God have mercy. Till hitherto God has helped us.
- Lord let your face shine over us.
- Lord we are waiting for Bethlehem’s light.
The Holy City Jerusalem, the City of Prayer and Resurrection:
During our internment my mother asked the English camp commander several times to allow her to visit the Holy City Jerusalem. This was not permitted. She wanted to visit this holy City, which was so near and pray there in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, to see the anointing stone where the body after which he was taken from the cross was anointed. Nearby is the place where Mary was said to have stood and looked at the grave and cried when Jesus said: “Woman, why are you crying?” She also wanted to see the Via Dolorosa, the road which has been traversed by Jesus Christ on his way to Calvary. This City has three holidays a week. On Friday starts the holiday of the Muslims, on Saturday the holiday of the Jews, on Sunday the holiday of the Christians. These three religions of mankind derive their origin from this old, holy, pilgrimage City. They have one and the same God. For the Muslims, it is the third most holy city, after Mecca and Medina. My mother saw there only the railway station. She went back immediately to Wilhelma, to take care of her four children.
Freiheit *** Liberty *** حرية *** Liberté *** Liberta *** – 1946:
Our longings, our hopes, our dreams, were to be soon back home in Beirut. Finally, the time has come for us to be able to breathe again at home, Lebanese air, be free again, see again our old Lebanese house, live again in our own house, play together in our garden in the beautiful little country, Lebanon, where we all were born and educated, and no longer live primitively in Wilhelma, as children prisoners-of-war, go wherever we want to go, without obtaining the permission from the police and military authorities and no longer being treated like a flock of sheep to be transported from one stable to another stable. We are four innocent children, our mother is Lebanese, we did not understand at the time nothing about wars, hatred, fanaticism, nationalism, politics, political parties. Because we are German children, born and lived in Beirut, were interned five years and five months in the two German detention camps, Sarona and Wilhelma, Palestine, guarded by Jewish policemen, who hate German citizens very much. If we were Jews, we would have received indemnity from the Federal Republic of Germany. We were born and grown up in Lebanon. We love you, we did not forget you. The time has come that we return to the Land of the Bible, to the Land where Jesus Christ made his first miracle in the locality Qanah el-Jalili i.e. (the Glorious) – “where Christianity was born with the Lebanese people, the changing of water into wine, as a result of which Jesus’ disciples came to believe in him”. The Land of the Alphabet, (my eyes dream of the most beautiful Alphabet) – the Land of the holy Cedars, where the people, the animals, the flowers, breathe the fragrance of the holy Cedars, the Land where milk and honey flow, the Land of science, light and dialog, the gate of civilization. Lebanon is the country that values religious and ethnic diversity, openness to the outside world, culture and respect for the country’s great antiquities. Lebanon, Land of Faith. In the first century BC, Beirut became a Roman city and was named, “Berytus Nutrix Legum (in Arabic: Beirut oum al Shara’eh) also nursing mother of Law”, the Land of respect and celebrations, the land of freedom and hospitality, the green Lebanon. Finally, a long cherished dream came true after 1.961 days in captivity! It was the time for us: I (Paul) and my three siblings, Anita, Wolfgang, Hilde, and our mother to be free. I (Paul) at the age of 6 to 11 years, Anita at the age of 9 to 14 years, Wolfgang at the age of 1 year and 5 months till the age of 7 years, Hilde at the age of 40 days till the age of 5 years and 5 months, where we have all lived this time in two prisoners-of-war camps in Palestine, as Germans, separated from a part of our family, which time kept in us with eternal traumatic memory. We breathe always freedom. Nobody can take freedom away from us. You can not plague us forever. The happy and the sad days we spent in Palestine, are memories that are stored in our daily bread. (ان الأيام السعيدة و الحزينة التي قضيناها في فلسطين هي ذكريات مجبولة في خبزنا اليومي) – We can not close our doors about our past!
One day in July 1946, a military vehicle stopped in the afternoon in front of the house. An English public official knocked on the door of our house and told our mother: “you are free, you can go back in a short time with your children to Beirut. We want to take a picture of you with your children to issue for you a travel document for your return journey to Lebanon”. The photographer searched for a dark background. He saw Miss Held’s pile of hay and asked Miss Held if she has a small wooden bench, which she had. The photographer made us sit the way he wanted it in front of the pile of hay; my mother in the middle, my sister Anita to her right side, my brother Wolfgang on her lap, myself Paul on mother’s left side, my sister Hilde on my lap. You can see this picture in the temporary travel document of Government of Palestine, below.
(The short Time mentioned by the English Public Official was about three Months. Typical for Officialdom)!!
Temporary Travel Document:
On 14.10.1946 we five were finally released. Because we had no more our German travel documents, which were confiscated by the Lebanese Authority in May 1941 in Beirut, when we got imprisoned, the Government of Palestine issued for us this temporary travel document number 12865 dated 01.10.1946 as per attachment. A Pick-up was ordered. The driver told us that he can go only till Haifa, because he has no transport permission for abroad. We must hire there a Pick-up which has the transport permission to go to Beirut.
Farewell to Wilhelma and Templer Families and Start of our Journey back to Beirut:
Prior of our journey to Beirut, some German families came to farewell us and help us load our shabby personal articles: (2 reed mat sheds, clothes, kitchen utensils, 1 frying pan, 2 buckets, a watering-can, petrol lamps, primus stove, home roasting coffee kit, coffee-grinder made of empty canon shells, candles, wool and cotton blankets, pillows which my mother made herself in the camp with straw and cotton, some primitive toys, the small transportable metal bath-tub, 2 pocket knifes, one scissor, some articles packed in jute bags, because we had no travel suitcases) and our angora cat bedded in a small basket, which we called Niesel. We left the chamber pots in the house, because they were no more needed. Mr. Kazenwadel collected money for us from some German families and gave the money to our mother in an envelope, which was quite a big amount.
Our German language teacher, Miss Luise Dreher, was also with the Templer families to farewell us. She gave our mother a black cast iron Adolf Hitler wall plaque wrapped in a dark fabric and told her to take care of it. She told her the English guards will not control you, because you are with your children. She also said to her: “when I will be able to visit you in Beirut, I will collect this plaque from you”. She was not allowed to visit us in Beirut, when she was in Cyprus.
Translation of the above script: I believe in Germany and fight for it today and tomorrow and in the future until victory is ours.
We had no mattresses and slept all the years from May 1941 till October 1946, in the two camps on the ground. Under the wool and cotton blankets our mother put jute bags, newspapers, cartons and straw for protection against cold, humidity and toughness.
The Templers remained in Palestine till 1948. It became quite clear to the remaining Templers that they would be driven out of the country and would have to abandon all that they have built up with their blood, sweat and tears and there would be no going back to Palestine. Those Templers eventually went partly back to Germany, and the majority to Australia. When we heard about their expulsion from their 134 tents in Golden Sand Beach, Famagusta, Cyprus, our dreams, our hopes, our wishes, our yearning not to see them again brought pain, sorrow, sadness upon us so that the fire burnt our destination map. In our imagination; our pain, our sorrow, our sadness has spread, like a flock of pigeons emigrating from Beirut, one of the oldest, constantly and most tormented and destructed cities of sadness in the world, to Australia.
The city Beirut has been destroyed and buried seven times by earthquakes in the course of history, but it has always risen from the dust and its ashes and has blossomed again, like the legendary Egyptian bird Phoenix, which burnt itself to death on a pyre of aromatic woods after 500 years of life, to rise rejuvenated from its ashes and fly again high into the sky.
The worst earthquake occurred on 9th July, 551, in Beirut. It triggered a devastating Tsunami that affected the coastal cities of the Byzantine Phoenicia, from the cities Tripoli to Tyre, which were destroyed with many thousands of victims, with retreat of the sea up to two miles according to some contemporary reports, and destruction and sinking of many ships, sea ports and a big fire in Beirut.
Rather than the Arab brothers to distribute Bibles and Korans to the Lebanese people, they have exercised during the civil war, which raged between 1975 till 1990; fanaticism, hatred, rage, grudges, bombarded more than 200 thousand shells, rockets, katjushas, on Beirut and its suburbs, and again Lebanon has risen from the dead, out from its dust, out from the fire, out from the ashes, out from the dark smoke, and out of its darkness, out from the smell of the canon and rocket powder smell, and rejoiced and blossomed again, more beautiful than the colorful plumage of the mythical bird, the Phoenix. Beirut is the city that refuses to die! The Lebanese have lived under the sun of Satan for 15 years. And who was out of his apartment, he did not get it again – unless it was totally plundered and destroyed. Many cemeteries were full. There was hardly room for dead victims. Women who were still alive were raped and then knifed to death. The first murder of mankind was in this region: Cain, the eldest Son of Adam and Eve, slew Abel. And is it not written in the Bible, whoever kills Cain, will be avenged seven fold? Will not be killed innocents in your wars”? They do not read earthly books written by mankind nor books sent to them by God.
Fairuz, the most popular Lebanese singer, dedicated for her native city the following two songs:
“TO BEIRUT –
Peace to Beirut – with all my heart
And kisses – to the sea and the houses,
To the rock of a city that looks like an
Old sailor’s face. From the soul of her
People she makes wine, from their
Sweat, she makes bread and jasmine.
So how did it come to taste smoke and
Fire? Beirut has a glory of ashes. My
City has turned out her lamp by a
Child’s blood, who was over her hand.
She has shut her door, and became
Alone in the sky. Alone with the night
You are mine, you are mine, you are
My flag, tomorrow stone and a travel’s
Waves. My people’s wounds have
Flourished and mothers tear.
You are mine, you are mine
Ah hug me”.
Lyrics: Lebanese poet Joseph Harb
“BEIRUT, LADY OF THE WORLD”: (Beirut, Sit El Dunia)
Ya Beirut –
Ya Beirut …. Lady of the World
We confess to the God alone:
That we were envious of you and
Your beauty hurt us. We confess now:
We were not fair to you nor merciful.
We did not understand you or excuse
You. We presented you a knife instead
Of a rose. We confess to the just God:
We injured you and made you tired.
We burnt you and made you cry. We
Burdened you oh Beirut with our sins.
Ya Beirut –
The world is not enough. We now know
Your roots are part of us. We now know
What our hands had committed.
Rise …. rise …. rise.
Rise from under the rubble like an
Almond’s blossom. Rise from your
Sorrows …. rise. Revolution is born
From sorrows womb. Rise from under
The rubble. Rise for the love of forests,
Rise for the love of rivers. Rise for the
Love of rivers, valleys …. and man.
Rise for the love of man. Rise oh Beirut ….
Rise. Revolution is born from sorrows
Ya Beirut …. Ya Beirut
Singer: Majida El Roumi
Lyrics: Nizar Kabbani
Composer: Jamal Salameh
Whenever I hear the above beautiful, sentimental, eternal songs with their sad lyrics and other songs I become breathless, my heart vibrates, my eyes burst into tears every time. They are at the same time tears and smiles for me. Feiruz’ and Majida’s voices are a force from nature. Their songs are like mourning for lost love or waiting for its return.
The country was surrounded by fire, weapons and mines. Hungry wolves, tigers, hyenas, leopards, jackals, foxes, wearing shabby men suits, plundered, burnt, destroyed the houses totally, sold the natural stones of the beautiful Lebanese stone houses and celebrated. The hungry animals shot with their pistols, rifles, machine guns; chicken, pigeons, storks, ducks, rabbits, plucked them, tied metal wires to their heads and feet, fastened the wires to wooden or metal rods and grilled the birds with burning wood and quenched their hunger and prayed, believing that they won a battle. They then cooked tea above the burning wood to quench their thirst. The hordes continued to creep, raged, sang, as they have heard from their ugly leader: “The Holy City Jerusalem will be liberated via the Lebanese city, Jounieh”! (They probably lost their compasses) – There is still much more to be told how these brothers; looted, slaughtered, killed and kidnapped young people. “This happened in the land of hospitality and celebrations so that the dead in their deep graves could not forget their death and could no more stay in the silence of their graves”!!
“May Allah (God) send all aggressors soon to a place, where it is very deep and very hot”! Again, the land has risen from its dust, from the fire, from the dark smoke, from the cannon and rocket powder smells, and blossomed again, more beautiful than the colorful plumage of the fable bird of antiquity, the Phoenix. And again, Beirut has become the hub for business men, bankers, money exchange offices, shopping malls, playboys, souteneurs, gigolos, nightclubs and spies, just like “Paris”, and Lebanon, just like “Switzerland of the Middle East”, for the Arabs, as Beirut always had been. A city that enjoys freedom and strong press. Beirut is the city that refuses to die! It is the gate of civilizations and religions! Beirut the city of dawn is back to civilization! Lebanon is the country of light and science and great history with deep roots. Originally the city was called “Beroth”, City of Wells by the Canaanite Phoencians. In the first century BC, Beirut became a Roman city and was named “Berytus Nutrix Legum (Beirut oum al Shara’eh in Arabic). Also, “Nursing Mother of Law”. – “Nobody can extinguish the sun”! Beirut, the city with over two million inhabitants, radiates a tremendous life affirmation and energy. A land full of history, a lost paradise, full of natural beauties and natural wonders to be explored and unbelievable, loving and peaceful people!
In their current incarnations, Sarona and Wilhelma, are admiring historical, solid constructions of polished natural stones, renovated wooden shutters and wooden doors, houses with red tile roofs, with a weathercock on them – like in the old homeland. The 37 remaining historical houses in Sarona, which were restored in an exemplary way, are now surrounded by glass and metal sky scrapers. In their previous life, the houses were unlovely. And yet in our collective memories, Sarona and Wilhelma, were places of great emotions, of anticipations, of partings, of dreams, of tears, where in both settlements we were happy and sad. Yes, the hard-working pietistic “Swabians”, created patterns of settlements in Palestine! It is little surprising to find yourself in the Orient, so completely in German environment, to hear the most authentic “Swabian sounds” ringing to the ear, and to smell real German villages. The stranger who walked in Sarona and Wilhelma in their streets at that time felt himself being in two wealthy “Württemberg” villages, especially when a Swabian “Grüss Gott” is heard by him. The seven extraordinary German settlements were the efficent work of the “German Swabians”, the finest urban oases and jewels in the Holy Land.
Sarona and Wilhelma, I always greet you with my
heart and with my hand. I greet the “German Swabian
Citizens” who worked and lived there, two beloved
German homes in the Holy Land, ornaments of early
Germanic strength and architectural and engineering
skills. I would like to stroll again from house to house in
the golden sunshine. Your homes radiate out of the gardens,
I imagine that I am again at home! Your pine, palm, cypress,
fir, eucalyptus, fig, orange, pomegranate, apricot trees,
climbing plants, banana plantations planted alongside the
streets by German hands, protecting the German homes
from storms and against the scorching sun. We often stood
in Sarona by the windows at night, quite near the sounds
of the sea waves. Your memories stay forever awake in me.
Oh, homes of German life, pride, identification with the
homeland, German education and German upbringing
wherever you Swabian Citizens you live. I say to you,
adieu, adieu, adieu!!
Your plant splendor is still considered as the most beautiful in Israel till today. The cemeteries of the Templers of Haifa, Sarona, Wilhelma and Jerusalem are thrills, for that it is easy to understand, because both the Jewish and the Arab cemeteries are bare stone deserts.
We trembled from the darkness and from the unknown in Wilhelma to our known destiny, after the second World War was over. The internment is finally over, hopefully that now the reality begins. Our mother spoke from time to time with the English commander’s office in Wilhelma, after the war was over. She told them that the war has ended in May 1945, asked why she can’t return home with her four children to Beirut, where we were arrested from our own house in May 1941 and got interned in the two German Templer prisoner camps, Sarona and Wilhelma, Palestine. The typical answer of the lazy, moody, unfriendly civil servants was: “we here have nothing to do with your dismissal. As soon as we receive an answer from the English Mandate Government in Jerusalem, we will let you know”. We had to wait as written words and numbers until our names are deleted from the prisoners list and our file with five names sent for classification! Or we have to wait till the time will erase our names! Or we have to stay here as spectators, as listeners, to watch what is happening here and how the captors to decide about our file. According to THE PALESTINE GAZETTE NO. 1627 – SUPPLEMENT NO. 2. 6th November, 1947, page 32 – our numbers were:
865 Kleinknecht Jamileh
866 Kleinknecht Anita
867 Kleinknecht Paul
868 Kleinknecht Wolfgang
869 Kleinknecht Hilde
We trembled sometimes in Wilhelma and Sarona from the cold weather. Our mother strengthened us and covered us, sat next to us and sang us Arabic songs. My mother’s Arabic songs were for us our most beautiful cradle songs. Such was our life when we were children, which was outshone by a deep love of parents. The parents cry for their children and children cry for their parents. Since I was born I have searched for a home and a woman’s love who takes me to the edge of the universe and throws me in and places me as an ivory comb in the darkness of her hair, to live in her thoughts, to discover my secrets and not to forget me forever. My wife and I are a happy couple! Our highly educated unique son is our pride, our blessing, our consolation! Both are chiseled in my heart with a white pigeon feather! When they wake up from their dreams the feather lies next to them! When I hear their voices I forget every thing that I wanted to tell them! Finally, a white voice with four white pigeons leave the black box with their mother!
In Lebanon is my past, my presence, my future. I cannot forget my own past, as well as those of my ancestors. All the memories and the feelings of the time of separation were awakened. We have always looked to Lebanon – felt from far away and now we are so close to be there again, where we were little children, to experience there the first autumn start in 1946, in the country of the past. Lebanon is my identity! We finally return from the forced internment to you looking for our dear house where we are born, can not forget the windows, the doors, the walls, the bedrooms, the living room, the kitchen, the bathroom, the floor, the garden, the garden walls, with two flags; the German and the Lebanese, and sing the German national anthem, “The song of the Germans”, and the Lebanese anthem, (Kulluna Lilwatan) – (We all are for the Nation) – and plant the two flags in our garden, between the flowers and the fruit trees and the vegetable plants in Beirut, thank God, receive his blessing, celebrate and pray: “O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation”. (Psalm 95:1) – Also the prophetic words: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you”. (Isaiah 60:1). You land of the most beautiful and best scented flowers, best tasting fruits and vegetables. In Beirut, in our house we are guests to our host. In Germany, we are host to our guests and celebrate our safe return with our friends, neighbors and relatives under the most beautiful starry sky and tell them our story and memories during our internment in the two German detention camps in Palestine.
Before we started, our mother stared to the northern direction (Lebanon) then to the southern direction (Jerusalem) then again to the north and whispered a certain time. Her face became pale. Then she made several times the sign of the cross and she moved her arms in all directions. After many years, I remembered this happy and sad parting in Beirut, in front of the house in Wilhelma, Palestine. I asked my mother if she had prayed at that time or had certain wishes. She told me that she was praying. I told her to tell me her prayer, which she said as follows:
I beg you to give me the travel blessing:
After the flood, you have landed Noah’s Arc safe on Mount Ararat, with Noah, the father of the new mankind and his sons, Sam, Ham, Japhet.
You have protected Abraham, Sarah and Hager in all their ways.
You have led the children of Israel with Moses on a dry and safe path through the sea to Jordan.
You have accompanied the legendary queen of Sheba from Mareb, Yemen, with her ship to the historical port Aqaba, where her ship docked when she visited King Solomon in Jerusalem.
Through the star you have shown the three Wise Men from the Orient the way to Jesus Christ, in Bethlehem.
You have led the child Jesus, with his mother Mary, and Joseph, Mary’s husband, safely to the destination Egypt.
Escort me also with my four children, to see our dear home again, and live there again. Let us see our relatives, friends, neighbors, new people and perceive them with respect.
Strengthen our hope and renew our love. Protect us from dangers and protect ourselves from accidents. Grant us moments of happiness and let us return home richly.
So, I ask you Jesus Christ that my dear husband Albert, with our three children in Germany, will be able to come back soon to Beirut, so that our four children can get to know their dear father and their dear three siblings and live again together in peace and happiness in Beirut.
Perhaps that after the World War II has ended that the peace will not be just a dream the nights of which are very long!
(E N D O F T H E P R A Y E R)
If there is an invisible throne somewhere in the heavens of God, the throne is here in Jerusalem. The October wind (1946) which gently and clearly streamed over us at that moment in Wilhelma, Palestine, spread the clouds beneath the throne like a carpet. Suddenly, the wind stood still under the carpet so that no cloud may drive out other clouds. The light of the world has shone from Jerusalem, the blessed light, in whose splendor mankind has become great and glorious! A voice from heaven can be heard in its perfect path, like the ringing of gold!
Like about two thousand years ago, so too today is the call to sound from all over the world, which harbors our longing for hope: peace on earth!
The Templers and Palestine Germans were believers and all well organized. We did not see anymore their houses after our departure from Wilhelma, but we always felt them and would like to see them again in their present state. But our river cannot flow backwards. My heart has wounds, I cannot forget the Swabian houses and the Swabians. The farewell presents and the farewell speeches and the voices of the Swabians, in front of the house of the Family Held in Wilhelma, Palestine, during that time, are unforgettable and soon we will celebrate the first freedom celebration in Beirut, in our house, in our garden. The emigration to the Holy Land, for the German Württembergers, was the story of a deception!!
It was in the morning of 14.10.1946 when we started our journey with the Pick-up: Our mother sat next to the driver with our sister Hilde, we three sat in the rear compartment of the Pick-up between our shabby personal possessions, without protection against wind, sun, rain and security. One day before our journey a bee had stung me under my left eye. The left part of my face got swollen and I could no more see with my left eye for some days. The driver drove in the direction of the Mediterranean Sea. During the drive, I stood up to see the sea. I had a green cap on my head. The strong wind took off my cap. We shouted loud so that the driver may stop, but my mother and the driver did not hear us shouting. Then the drive went northwards along the coast and we saw how beautiful are the Mediterranean Sea and the Sharon fertile coastal plain between Jaffa and Haifa. When we arrived to Haifa, we saw many ships in the port. Suddenly, we heard a thundering sound and got afraid. Our mother calmed us down and told us that this is a ship’s siren of a sailing ship.
Our Stay in Haifa:
The driver found for us another Pick-up and helped us with the new driver to transfer our belongings to the second Pick-up. The Pick-up was sealed with a canvas by the customs authority in Haifa. The driver said that he has to deliver our belongings to the customs authority warehouses in Beirut port and not directly to our house as per the Lebanese customs regulations. We should then clear them through customs and perhaps pay customs duties and fees. However, he did not accept to transport us with the Pick-up, because according to customs regulations, he is not allowed to take passengers with him. So, he only took our belongings in his Pick-up while we looked for a taxi to transport us to Beirut.
By Taxi to Beirut – 1946:
Mother found a taxi. It was a big American car. Mother and Hilde sat next to the driver and we three sat in the rear seats with our cat which we named Niesel. The driver drove in the northern direction to the border crossing-point Naqura. At the Lebanese border we had problems with the customs. Mother saw there the Mayor of the town Damour, Mr. Rafari, who knows our father and our mother. He was surprised to see us at the border in a taxi and asked mother why he did not see her and Albert since years. Mother told him about our imprisonment in Palestine. The customs director was a friend of him. He talked with him and facilitated the procedures and we could continue our drive. When we arrived in Damour, my mother’s birth town, she told the driver to stop after the bridge, where there are some shops to buy some fruits, vegetables, cheese and bread and to fill our glass bottles with fresh cold water. We ate straight away cucumbers and bananas.
Arrival in Beirut:
Finally we arrived in the afternoon to our house in Sanayah, near Hamra in West Beirut. Mother knocked the garden door several times. A woman with a white veil (Druze sect) opened the door. Till that day, my siblings and I didn’t remember ever seeing women with veils. She asked what we want. Mother told her that we are the owners of this house but were imprisoned in Palestine. We started to unload our few belongings from the taxi. The woman, Oum Ramiz, helped us. When we got imprisoned in May 1941, mother gave the house keys to our neighbor, Abou Mousa Harb and asked him to deliver the keys to her brother, Tanios, in order to stay with his family in our house. Mother’s brother had during our imprisonment in Palestine a serious car accident and died. His wife Schafika with her two sons Emil and William, of our age, had no income and thus rented out a room for this woman and her son, Ramiz Abi Saab, who was a student in the American University of Beirut. In the dining room lived her brother, Mr. Asmar, with his girlfriend. He repaired hunting guns and pistols. The dining room was closed in the middle with two ward-robes like a curtain so that the couple could not be seen by other persons when going to the kitchen and bathroom.
Pick up of our Belongings from Customs:
After one or two days, our mother went to the customs authority in Beirut port to collect our belongings. It was not easy. We must pay customs duties and fees for the value of our personal belongings and the customs director asked for the invoice. Our mother told the customs director that we were imprisoned more than five years in Palestine, have no money and that these are personal old possessions that have no value and does not want them if she has to pay customs duties. The director did not change his mind.
Our mother went the next day to Mrs. Hobeich, director of the women’s prison opposite our house and told her this problem. Mrs. Hobeich talked with her brother, Scheikh Hobeich, who had a high position in a Ministry. He intervened with the Customs Authority and we obtained on 20.10.1946 our belongings free of charge. We had to pay a minimum fee of 96 Lebanese Piasters (قرش), about two Deutsche Marks, as per attached customs receipt number 61297 dated 20.10.1946. How primitive officialdom behave!
Behind our house in the garden was a wooden hut for storing garden equipment, tools and things that we did not need. Schafika rented out this hut to a Syrian Alawite family for ten Lebanese pounds per month. In this hut there was no toilet, no drainage and no water pipe. The man dug a hole outside the hut in the corner; he, his wife and his daughter Aziza did their needs in the hole like cats and then poured sand in the hole to avoid bad smell. The corner was closed with an old wooden door so that they cannot be seen from outside. They used to take shower at the entrance of the hut behind the door. A metal barrel filled with water was behind the door. They used to scoop out water with a ladle from the barrel and pour the water on their bodies and then sweep the water with a broom to the garden.
The daughter Aziza was allegedly engaged. From the eastern kitchen window I and my sister Anita saw her several times how she was flirting passionately with allegedly the brother of her fiancé. The family left the hut some months after our arrival to Beirut.
Accommodation in our House:
We five had to sleep temporarily in the living room on the cold ground. Mrs. Schafika Asmar and her brother refused to leave the house, because allegedly they had no money to rent a house. The student and his mother left the room after some days so that we can take their room. They rented a room from a family about 400 meters behind our house, near the house where Wafik Mouslimani, Wolfgang’s classmate, lived. Our mother went to the relevant police station and informed the chief of the police station about this matter. He sent a police with mother to inform Schafika and her brother that they must leave our house immediately and that if they refuse, they will then be expelled by force by the police authority. Of course the police took this action only after the public officials got a certain amount of money from my mother. Her brother threatened my mother with his pistol to frighten her in order that they can stay in the house. Three neighbor families intervened on a friendly basis with them and told Shafika and her brother that they should leave the house as it is not theirs. After some negotiations, Shafika, her brother with his girl friend and her sons left our house with their belongings after they found an apartment to live in, in East Beirut. They lived in our house five years and six months without paying rent. There is an Arabic proverb: There are parents who are like scorpions!
Before Schafika left our house, she went into the dining room, took a chair, climbed on it, took from the roof of one wardrobe a small dusty paper bag, took out from it a bloodstained cloth and told our mother, this is the blood of my husband Tanios. She said, because we lived in this house I lost my dear husband and wiped her face with the bloodstained cloth and took it with her.
During our absence in Palestine, Shafika has sold everything that was left in the house to survive with her two little sons: Radio, record player, records, father’s two hunting guns and his pistol, the Singer sewing-machine, ironing board, iron, Diesel heating stove, hubble-bubbles, tools, beehives, bird cages, some furniture etc.
Certificate of Identity of Government of Palestine:
The document from the Government of Palestine was not accepted by the Lebanese security authority as it can be seen on the rear side of the document. Therefore the chief of the Sureté Génerale, Hadji Touma, did not legally extend our stay in Lebanon as mentioned on the rear side of the document in French —> ANNULLÉ . The Lebanese authority requested our German personal identity cards which we did not have. We stayed in Lebanon illegally without identity cards till the German Embassy reopened in Beirut in about 1951. Our first German passports were issued by the German Embassy in Beirut in about 1951. Again we were interned in Beirut, from 1946 till 1951 (5 years) because we had no passports.
Lebanese Sequestration Authority:
After our arrival to Beirut from Palestine, our mother was informed by the Lebanese sequestration authority that our house has been confiscated, because we are Germans, enemies of France and Lebanon. We stayed in our own house illegally (illegally on paper). We had to pay a certain amount to the sequestration authority in order to lift the confiscation of our house from the land register and claim it as our own on paper. As we could not secure the amount, it took till 1994 until we could lift the confiscation from the land register.
Renting out the Western Room:
After some time, our mother saw the mother of the student Ramiz behind our house in the Mallastreet in a mini market. She told her that Schafika and her sons and brother left the house and that if she wants, she can stay again with her son Ramiz in the same room at the same price of 40,00 Lebanese Pounds per month. Ramiz’s mother accepted the offer and stayed again with her son with us because we had a garden, the room was bigger and our house was nearer to the university than the house where they were currently staying in. During the summer, they stayed in their house in the mountains in the Druze village, Eitat.
Mother’s Application to the French Embassy in Lebanon – 1947:
Attached is the answer of the French Embassy number 604 dated 22.05.1947 concerning repatriation of our father to Lebanon. We did not receive further reaction from the Embassy which was to be expected.
Family Photo – 1947:
Electrical Current at Home – 1948:
On 23.12.1948 we were able to apply for electricity with the ELECTRICITÉ DE BEYROUTH. After some weeks, we had electricity at home. The subscription was issued in the name of Allemani Albert, i.e. Albert the German, as per attached receipt. This was a Christmas present!
Renting out the Western Room to other Tenants – 1950:
After three years, the student Ramiz finished his studies. The room was rented out to an old woman, Anestasia Aratemus. Her son was a famous lawyer. After two years, the room was rented out to a Palestinian divorced woman Saada Hornes. Our sister Anita started to work in 1952 as an X-ray assistant in the clinic of the German doctor Mr. Greineder. Here appeared one day the husband of Saada for an X-ray photograph. From his family name, Anita suspected that this man could be the husband of Saada Hornes. She told him that his wife lives with us in our house. He gave Anita a good amount cash to hand it over to his ex-wife. Anita told this first to our mother and gave her then the money. The needy woman was surprised when she got the money. Till then she was getting monetary aid from the church.
Post-office Clerks are Thieves:
As of 1948/1949, our father could help us financially. From time to time, he sent us Deutsche Marks 50,00 to 100,00 banknotes by airmail. We discovered that we did not receive some letters. Our mother told openly to the postman, Abou Mahmoud that we did not receive all the letters sent by her husband. My mother told him that she has four children and needs every penny for her children’s school and to survive. There was then no further theft. He invited us to his house in the mountains for lunch.
My sister Anita wrote in her letter to our father dated 11.03.1949 about the stolen money and the parcels not received through the postman. She proposed to our father to send the money to the address of Miss Augusta Rieg, who lived in the Zeituné quarter and not to our address so that the money would not be stolen again by the postman.
Lamentation: What can we do, dear Mother, dear Father: our life is still in its beginning. We can not leave the country, because we have no German passports. If we can go to our big German country, we will be dispersed there like our three siblings. Germany is still in ruins. We live preferably here in poverty and misery, eat bread and olives, bread and olive oil with salt, and bread with olive oil and thyme, pray and dream in Lebanon, till we are grown up, find work and can live in better conditions than before. Our prayers and our dreams will then envy us. My dear parents, tell me why life abroad is alien, like torment and fire! We lived in the country of birth with prosperity and happiness. How bad is it to live in a country that is not his country. One lives with pain and longing, which become worse, worse, worse! How bad is it to live in his homeland, the occupying powers occupying his house and his country, his house is no more his house and his country is no more his country? Who had at that time a car like our father had? His car plate number was 3293.
My Mother visits my Father in Germany in Summer – 1954:
My mother visited my father, with my sister Hilde, in the summer of 1954, in Wannweil, Germany. She tried to persuade him to travel with her and my sister Hilde back to Beirut. He told her that he might not be able to find work in Beirut and refused to go. My brother Rudolf visited my mother after her arrival in Wannweil, to see her again. When he arrived at the Jahnstrasse 2, where my father lived, he saw our mother sweeping the street with the broom in front of the house. Rudolf said: “Mother, why do you sweep the street?” When she saw him (after 14 years of separation) she fell on her knees and wept. When she recovered, she told him: “You are taller than Paul and Wolfgang, you became a beautiful young man, let me kiss you again, embrace you again, feel you again, talk to you again, see you how you look, sit beside you again, my dear son, my dear son, my dear son! The evil war has separated us, the evil war has separated us. The evil war!! I could not keep you with me in Beirut, your father was stronger than me, he has removed you from my soul, from my heart, from my love, from my dreams, from my roots. My heart could not hear your voice anymore!” – Your little sister Hilde is in the house, let us go in so that you can see her. When my brother saw his sister Hilde for the first time, he told her you are a beautiful, blonde girl and kissed her many, many times.
After our return from Palestine, in 1946, my mother could no longer laugh. She has forgotten the laughter. Her eyes always watered. After seeing Rudolf again in Wannweil, in 1954, her eyes no longer watered and she could laugh again.
Marriage of my Eldest Brother Rudolf Kleinknecht with Lore Fischer – 1954:
Come-back of our three Siblings – between 1953 and 1954:
My sister Berta was the first one to return to Beirut in September 1953. Then my sister Charlotte came back, then my brother Rudolf with his German wife, Lore Fischer. They wanted to see their mother again, after 14 years of separation and their four siblings, Anita, Paul, Wolfgang and Hilde. Charlotte brought with her, her small radio, signed Zaubergeige (Magic Violin). We were very happy to hear music, songs and news from this radio. It was the first time that the whole family was reunited altogether since 14 years, except our father Albert. There are several reasons why Albert never came back all this time to Beirut; first, because of his rift and falling-out with our mother (that started with mother being heartbroken because Albert sent away the 3 eldest children to Germany). Second, he had no guaranteed job in Lebanon to work in. Third, he got used to the quiet and peaceful life in Germany and he had enough income coming from government pension (due to him serving in the First and Second World Wars) to live there.
Marriage of my Sister Bertha Kleinknecht to Johann Herrig – 1954:
My Work in Lebanon – 1955 – 1959:
From June 1955 till May 1956, I worked as an interpreter for the Engineering company THE MIDDLE EAST ENGINEERING & COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISES in Beirut.
From June 1956 till October 1959, I worked as a forwarding clerk in the German transport company INTERCONTINENTALE in Beirut.
Civil War – 1958:
In July 1958, Lebanon was threatened by a civil war between Christians and Muslims, because President Camille Chamoun, a Christian, did not break diplomatic relations with the Western Powers that attacked Egypt during the Suez Crisis, angering Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. The President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower, responded by authorizing Operation Blue Bat on July 14, 1958, and sent to Lebanon about 14.000 soldiers. The goal of the operation was to support the pro-western Lebanese government of President Camille Chamoun, against internal opposition and threats from Syria and Egypt. The U.S. withdrew its forces on October 15, 1958.
We lived at that time in West Beirut, predominantly inhabited by Muslims. The security situation became bad for us, because many parts of west Beirut were exterritorial. There were house searches and annoyances from armed people, because we are foreigners and Christians. An Energa projectile exploded over our heads. My sister Berta and her two daughters, Manuela and Andrea and I were in the garden. Thank God we had no injuries. A branch from an orange tree in the garden was cut by a splinter and fell on the ground. My brother Rudolf with his wife Lore, his son Rudolf junior and his daughter Judith had to leave the house where they lived, because it became dangerous there for them. The German Embassy in Beirut moved them for about 3 months to the German school to live in a classroom, near the American University, at the seaside where it was more secure for them. This was a good, helpful action from the German Embassy!
Family Picture – 1959:
My Brother Wolfgang leaves for Germany – 1959:
When my brother Wolfgang completed his secondary studies in the English School in Beirut, he wanted to continue his studies in Germany. At that time my sister Anita was working as senior stewardess in the Lebanese airline company, MEA Middle East Airlines. Both flew in the same plane of the MEA to Frankfurt, in September 1959. From Frankfurt/M, main railway station, Wolfgang traveled by train to Wannweil to get acquainted to his father Albert. He first worked for a while doing an internship in Reutlingen, then in Stuttgart. Then he studied mechanical engineering in Bingen. After graduation, he lived in Kelkheim near Frankfurt and eventually moved to Quadrath-Ichendorf, near Köln, where he still lives there.
My Work in Doha, Qatar – 1959/1960:
In 1959/1960, I worked for one year in the airport, Doha, Qatar in the airfreight department of the Darwish Fakhro Company. Climatically I could not stand it there, therefore I returned to Beirut.
My Sister Bertha leaves for Germany – 1960:
In the summer 1960, Bertha left Lebanon with her German husband to Kelkheim near Frankfurt, because he got assigned there for work. She still lives there till this day.
My First Trip to Germany – 1960:
On 02.07.1960, I traveled for the first time to Germany with the ship Achilleus to Venice, and then from there per train to Wannweil. After 20 years, I got acquainted to my father in Wannweil. Because I could earn in Beirut more than in Germany, I returned on 27.09.1960 to Beirut.
When I arrived by railway in the afternoon to the Wannweil railway station, which is about 300 meters far from my father’s house, I saw immediately the Jahnstrasse, where my father lived. I carried my suitcase and went to his house. I got chocked and stopped walking. I saw here the streets and the Württemberg houses, which look exactly like the Swabian houses in Wilhelma and Sarona. Unfortunately, I had no camera to take pictures of them. This street had no sidewalks, just like the streets in Wilhelma and Sarona, and were hardly asphalted. The German stone houses in Wilhelma and Sarona, looked more beautiful than the houses in Wannweil.
I heard a woman’s voice who said: “you foreigner, why did you stop walking?” I looked right and left, saw on the left side of the street a blonde woman at the window of the living room, who asked me what I was looking for. I told her that Albert Kleinknecht is my father. She said that he is not at home at the moment, but he told me that you will visiting him shortly. I went on, tapped the door several times to check if he is in the house. The door was not opened. I put my suitcase in front of the door, sat down on it and fell asleep after this long trip. After a while I heard the ringing of a bicycle bell. A blonde woman sitting on the bike said: “my name is Maria, your father gave me the key of the door so that I can give it to you if he is not at home”. The key was tied to the bicycle steering with a thread that oscillated forth and back. I thanked her, opened the door, went in and waited until my father and my brother Wolfgang had come. The first thing my father said when he saw me was: “you are taller than Wolfgang. Then he asked me if I have brought for him “Baklawa, Halawa, two bottles Lebanese Arak and the Back-Gammon game”, which I gave them right away to him.
Uncle Adolf – 1960:
When I visited uncle Adolf with my brother Wolfgang in Reutlingen, he begged me to send him when I am back in Beirut records of Arabic songs from the famous stars at that time; the Syrian singer Asmahan Al-Atrash, daughter of a Druze prince, her brother the musician Farid Al-Atrash, famous singer, actor, composer and the musician Mohammad Abdelwahab, also singer, actor and composer.
During our visit my uncle’s Lebanese blind wife asked me if I can sing for her some Arabic songs. I told her I can sing partially the song “Ya Mustapha” of the Egyptian singer of Lebanese ancestry, Bob Azzam. She begged me to sing what I can. I started to sing it in Arabic and after some seconds she started to cry with joy. Below some lyrics of this song in Arabic and English translation:
يا مصطفى يا مصطفى انا بحبك يا مصطفى سبع سنين بالعطارين بين الحبايب و اللايمين تعالى يا مصطفى نرجع اللي كان و نرجع امانينا محبة و حنان …….”
“Ya Mustapha, ya Moustapha, I love you Moustapha,
seven years in the Attareen (a neighberhood in Alexandria)
among the lovers and the blamers, come on Mustapha,
let us get every thing back and get back our wishes with
love and tenderness ……..”
She got up from her chair and walked towards me and kissed me many, many times and told me please sing it again! Please sing it again! It was the first time after her departure from Beirut to Germany, in 1941, after 20 years that she heard a person singing an Arabic song in front of her. She said this is the most beautiful song my heart has heard since a very long time.
Bob Azzam achieved with this song great success in the Arab World and Europe in the 1960s.
Born: 20.10.1925, Cairo, Egypt
Died: 24.07.2004, Monaco
Although Asmahan originates from a strictly conservative, wealthy, ruling Druze dynasty from Syria, she drank, spent a lot of money, amused herself in parties and loved the luxury. The pretty woman, with her beautiful green eyes, had a phenomenal voice, with which she along with her glamorous and mysterious appearance, drew the audience in her spell. Her famous Waltz song:
“Nights of Merriment in Vienna”
“Nights of merriment in Vienna, her breeze is from the airs of paradise, a melody so fair ringing in the air, upon hearing it the birds weep and sing along. And amidst the clinking of glasses and the ring of the melody you sway in time like branches in the breeze. Achieve happiness for your soul let your heart rejoice, your loved ones are all around you, it is nothing short of paradise. Enjoy your youth here in Vienna, for Vienna is a garden of Eden. A moment of bliss. If you can have it, you forget the whole universe in it. What will remain
of this happiness other than its shadow?
A specter walking among your illusion,
a ghost running among your dreams, why
wait for the days to pass without a word?
Celebrate, sing, send your heart swimming
on the air, soaring to find a companion in
this world. To rejoice with her company,
to be happy in her love. Enjoy your youth
while your heart is with her”.
Composer: Farid Alatrash
ليالي الأنس في فينّا نسيمها من هوا الجنة نغم في الجوّ له رنة سمع لها الطير بكى و غنّى
ما بين رنين الكاس و رنّة الألحان قد الأوان ميّال تعاطف الأغصان تم النعيم للروح و العين. ماتخلّي قلبك يتهنّى ادي الحبايب عالجنبيتن ايه اللي فاضل على الجنة
متع شبابك في فيينا دي فيينا روضة من الجنّة نغم في الجو له رنّة سمع لها الطير بكى و غنّى ساعة هنا لو تفضالك تنسى معاها الكون كلّه ايه اللي رايح يبقالك من النعيم ده غير ظلّه خيال ساري مع الأوهام و طيف جاري مع الأحلام و ليه تصبر على الأيام تفوت من غير ما تتكلّم دي. ليلة الأنس في فيينا نسيمها من هوا الجنّة نغم في الجوّ له رنّة سمع لها الطير بكى و غنّى
افرح و اطرب ابعت قلبك يسبح و يطير في الدنيا دي يلقله سمير تهنا بقربه و تسعد بهواه و اتهنّى شبابك و القلب معاه دي فيينا روضة من الجنة يسعد لياليكي يا فيينا نغم في الجوّ له رنّة سمع لها الطير بكى و غنّى
which her brother Farid composed for her, is an Arabic praise song for the youth and beauty of the city Vienna, although she never visited this city. When she talked, her words were songs. When she sang, her songs were words. Her voice was colourful! Asmahan, the well-known Druze princess, singer, actress, became Egypt’s early superstar, born in 1918, after only one song, before she passed away on 14.07.1944, in a mysterious car accident at the age of 26. Her car came off the road and crashed in the Damietta River. Asmahan was film diva, music icon and femme fatale of the Arab world of the 1940s. She sung this praise and love song for the far, strange, paradisical city Vienna in 1944, the same year when the Allies reached Vienna, when the city was bombarded at the end of the Second World War.
Her life was short as a candle, to illuminate, to enjoy, to enchant people with her fascinating, sentimental songs until the candle was burnt by its own flame.
Till this day this song has an impact in Arabic countries, where it is still daily broadcasted in cafés, restaurants, television and radio. Till now it arouses desires and hopes for a far, wonderful and strange city. Till now travelers and tourists from the Middle East and North Africa dream of beautiful Vienna.
Her brother Farid al-Atrash was also very famous with his films and many composed songs. The Tango song – Ya zahratan fi khayali raeituha fi fouadi يا زهرة في خيالي رعيتها في فؤادي ……. – (Oh flower of my imagination, have cherished her in my heart ………) had very big success and the people from the Atlantic ocean to the Gulf enjoy it till this day very much.
I also sent to my uncle songs of the legendary Egyptian lady singer Umm Kulthum, who got the title planet of the east كوكب الشرق . Her fame in the Arab world can be compared with that of Maria Callas, Edith Piaf and the Beatles in the western world. Umm Kulthum was born in 1904 and died in 1975. She was unquestionably the most gifted singer and musician of the 20th century in the Middle East. She was continuously popular for over 50 years and her songs are still played nightly on many Arabic language radio stations. Umm Kulthum is one of four vocalists who have achieved legendary status in Egyptian music. The other three are: Mohammad Abdel Wahab, Farid al-Atrash, and Abdel Halim Hafez.
Many songs were composed for her by Mohammad Abdel Wahab and other famous Arab composers. The following two songs are eternal songs with passionate lyrics and compositions:
“Alf Leila wa Leila” – “One Thousand and One Nights”, and “Inta Omry” – “You are My Life”:
(One Thousand and One Nights):
My sweetheart, my sweetheart, my sweetheart.
The night and its sky, its stars, its moon, moon
and keeping awake all night. You and me my
sweetheart, my life. Both of us together are the
same in love. And love, oh from the love, oh from
love, oh from love, oh from love, oh from love.
The love is awake all night long giving us a drink
of happiness and telling us about good happiness.
My sweetheart. Let us live in the eyes of the night,
let us live in the eyes of the night. And will tell the
sun come on over, come on over, come on over
after one year, not before. In a night of love as
sweet as one thousand and one nights, one
thousand and one nights, one thousand and one
nights. They say, what is inside life, but a night like
tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight. How, how, how,
I can describe to you my sweetheart, how before I
loved you, you were. I did not remember yesterday
and I did not have tomorrow to wait for and no one
is living my day, oh my sweetheart. I fell in love with
you in an eye blink and you showed me where the
sweetest days are, the sweetest days where, the
sweetest days where. The night after it was loneliness,
loneliness, you filled it up with security. And the life
that was desert, desert, it became a garden. In a sweet
night of love, in one thousand and one nights, in one
thousand and one nights. They say it is the life. What
is life, but a night like tonight, like tonight, tonight,
Composer: Baligh Hamdi
Lyrics: Morsi Gamil Aziz
(Inta Omry) – You are my Life:
Your eyes took me back to my days that are gone.
They taught me to regret the past and its wounds.
Whatever I saw before my eyes saw you, was a
wasted life. How could they consider that part of
my life? With your light, the dawn of my life has
started. How much of my life before you was lost?
It is a wasted past, my love. My heart never knew
happiness before you. My heart never knew anything
in life other than the taste of pain and suffering.
I started only now to love my life. And started to
worry that my life would run away from me. Every
happiness I was longing for before you. My dreams
they found it in the light of your eyes. Oh my heart’s
life. You are more precious than my life. Why I did
not meet your love a long time ago. Whatever I saw
before my eyes saw you, was a wasted life. How could
they consider that part of my life? You are my life that
starts its dawn with your light. The beautiful nights and
the yearning and the great love. Since a long time the
heart is holding for you. Taste the love with me bit by
bit from the kindness of my heart that is longing for the
kindness of your heart. Approach your eyes close so that
my eyes can get lost in the life of your eyes. Give me your
hands so that my hands will rest in touch with your hands.
My love, come, and enough. What we missed is not little,
oh love of my soul. Whatever I saw before my eyes saw
you, was a wasted life. How could they consider that part
of my life? You are my life that starts its dawn with your
light.You are more precious than my days. You are more
beautiful than my dreams. Take me to your sweetness.
Take me away from the universe. Far away, far away, me
and you. Far away, far away, alone. With love, our days
will awaken. We spend the nights longing for each other.
I reconciled with the days because of you. I forgave the
time because of you. With you I forgot my pains. And I
forgot with you my misery. Your eyes took me back to my
days that are gone. They taught me to regret the past and
its wounds. Whatever I saw before my eyes saw you, was
a wasted life. How could they consider that part of my
life? You are my life that starts its dawn with your light.
Composer: Mohammad Abdel Wahab
Lyrics: Ahmad Shafiq Kamel
(E N D)
And of course there was the super star and highly talented musician, singer, composer, actor, King of Egyptian music and Giant of Arabic music of his time and the twentieth century, the Egyptian Mohammad Abdel Wahab, attractive with his height and beloved with his baritone singing voice and his Tarboush and his lute (Uud). With his estimated 1000 composed songs, this musician distinguishes himself clearly from the row of Arab musicians. He was considered as the Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven of the Orient.
When I was back in Beirut, I sent the records to my brother’s address Wolfgang in Wannweil, so that he can hand them over to our uncle Adolf, because I did not have his address. When our father saw the parcel in his house, destined for his brother Adolf, he threw it out from the window into the garden, possibly out of jealousy.
My Brother Rudolf leaves with his Family for Germany – 1961:
In the summer of 1961, Rudolf left for Sankt-Blasien, Germany, with his family because he saw no future for him and his family in Lebanon. He came back to his old job as a chief cook. He still lives there till this day.
My Representative Work in Beirut – 1962:
After I came back from Germany, I worked for some time as an employee in the transit department of the Lebanese forwarding company Near East Transport Company in Beirut.
In 1962, I started my own work as a representative in Lebanon for German companies for the sale of their delivery program of automotive spare parts. In the middle of 1970ies, I expanded my activities to Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. I still do this work till this day, although today I restrict my work to only the Lebanese market.
HOTEL BARON, Aleppo:
As of the mid of 1970ies, I stayed in the historical Baron Hotel Aleppo, hosting in the past very famous people like Aghata Christie, her husband the archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan, T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia), Kamal Ataturk the founder of modern Turkey, King Faisal I of Iraq and Syria, David Rockfeller, Gertrude Bell, leader Charles Degaulle, pilot Ammy Johnson, aviator Charles Lindberg, Marshal Colmar von der Golz, General Liman von Sanders, Baldur von Schirach, Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, Anwar Sadat, president Hafez al-Assad, pilot Yuri Gagarin and many other celebrities.
I got acquainted to the Mazloumian family, the owners of the hotel, especially their son Armen, highly educated, kind, generous and helpful. His hobbies were similar to mine. So we became good friends. We spent together many nights on the balcony during my stays till after midnight, listening to BBC from Armen’s radio about the civil war events happening in Beirut and what is happening in other parts of the world. We went together for trips to archaeological sites to the dead cities west of Aleppo and to the eastern cities of Ar-Raqqah, Tell Abiad, Dayr Az-Zor, the Tabqa Dam, Qal’at Ja’bar (Ja’bar castle) and we visited the ruins of the Abbasid Caliph Harun Al-Rashid’s summer Palace in Ar-Raqqah. In Dayr Az-Zor we asked for a restaurant where we could eat. People in the street there told us that the restaurants along the river Euphrates are called Shardakh. We finally had a good grilled mutton meat meal, hummos and salad there and arrived around midnight to Aleppo.
We often ordered around midnight two particular sandwiches, very tasty, to be unique to Aleppo: Toshka and Maria from a small restaurant near the Hotel Baron. Armen told me that they were named after two young beautiful women, who fled from the Hungarian revolution in 1956 and found refuge as dancers in Aleppo in a night club. One night the owner of the snackbar asked the two young Hungarian girls who were regular guests in his restaurant to describe to him their favourite food that they missed from their home, so that he could recreate the food for them. In the summer we used to sit in the balcony along the main street, eating these two very tasty sandwiches, drinking hot tea, sometimes cold tea. In the winter we enjoyed the sandwiches indoor in the big restaurant, or in the beautiful bar, or the lounge opposite the bar drinking hot tea. Armen often told me: “Paul you are more English than German. Germans are beer drinkers!”
I always got one of the best rooms in Baron Hotel: room number 205 which has a balcony on the eastern side and had special attention. The family, the mother Mrs. Sally of British nationality, the father Koko, the daughter Mary and son Armen had their table in the northern section of the big indoor restaurant. At lunch and dinner the family had always fresh lemon juice in a glass jar on the table and often offered me a glass of lemon juice when I was enjoying lunch or dinner in the restaurant. When I used to arrive to the hotel, the waiters, chambermaids and people working there used to say in Arabic ija al Almani (i.e. the German has arrived) because my family name is difficult for them to pronounce. The Hotel Baron, Hotel with a History has been always the Hotel choice of senior State guests, as well as prominent Arab and International figures from the political, social and artistic world as well as from spies, explorers, aviators, colonialists, business people. During my many stays in the hotel for about 15 years I saw there the following famous guests:
Nadia Gamal: born Maria Kardialis 1937-1990 (aged 53) Beirut, Lebanon. Egyptian dancer and actress who became a popular dancer to dance raqs sharqi and baladi i.e. folkloric dance.
Demis Roussos: Greek singer. (1946-2015)
Tony Hanna: Lebanese singer.
Sammy Clark: Lebanese singer.
Toros Siranossian: Armenian, owner of the night club called EPI CLUB in Phoenicia street in Beirut.
Charles Glass: American-British author, journalist and broadcaster specializing in the Middle East. He was kidnapped in June 1987 in Beirut’s southern suburb Ouzai. After 62 days of terror as a hostage in Beirut, he made what to him was a hairbreadth escape.
Rifaat al-Assad: brother of the Syrian president Hafez al-Assad.
As I am writing this right now, there is a terrible war in Aleppo. So, by this occasion I wish to send to my friend Armen and his mother my best regards and much patience not to give up hope. There are many people around the globe who love this hotel and when this dirty war is over I would be happy to see him and the BARON Hotel again in which I have lived for a very long period during the Lebanese civil war.
In Damascus I stayed first in the OMAYAD HOTEL, built in 1952. Due to lack of parking places for my car there I moved to the new SHERATON HOTEL, where parking places were available in abundance.
In Jordan I used to stay in the old PHILADELPHIA HOTEL, in downtown Amman, opposite of the old Roman historical Philadelphia amphitheater cut into the side of the hill, home to cultural events. This old hotel had a swimming pool and a theater. It looked like an old castle, which was bought by the Jordanian government from the Nazzal family in the 1980ies and pulled down to have a bigger city square opposite the antique Roman Philadelphia amphitheater for tourism and festival events. When I arrived to this hotel, the waiters and people working in the hotel used to say in Arabic ija al Almani moustashrik fi qota al siyyarat, (i.e. the German orientalist for automobile spare parts has arrived) because my family name is difficult for them to pronounce. They also called me the night driver, because I usually used to arrive to the hotel around 8 o’clock in the morning.
Marriage of my Sister Hilde Kleinknecht to Alain Khoury in Beit Mery, Lebanon – 1964:
My Sister Hilde leaves for Ghana – 1964:
After her wedding, Hilde left with her husband to Ghana because his work was there and later to the U.S.A in Nebraska and then finally to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S.A. where she still lives till this day.
My Sister Charlotte leaves for Switzerland – 1964:
Shortly after Hilde left, Charlotte left with her German fiancé Jan Schnittker for Geneva, Switzerland, because her fiancé was assigned for work there. They later moved to Zurich, Switzerland, where she still lives till this day.
Marriage of my Sister Charlotte Kleinknecht to Jan Schnittker in Besigheim, Germany – 1965:
My Sister Anita leaves for Germany – 1965:
Anita left with her German fiancé (now her husband) for Munich, Germany, because he found work there. She still lives there till this day with her husband in Germering, near Munich.
Marriage of my Sister Anita Kleinknecht to Joachim Stütz in Germany – 1965:
Marriage of my Brother Wolfgang Kleinknecht to Margrit Kiske in Germany – 1966:
Living with Mother – 1965 – 1985:
At this point in time, I was the only one of my siblings living in Lebanon and it stayed this way as none of my siblings came back to Lebanon unless for some short visits. I was also the only one who was still not married. I lived with my mother till her death in 1985, although I used to travel a lot for work.
Family Picture – 1970
Journey with my Father Albert Kleinknecht by Car to Beirut – 1973:
In 18th September, 1973, I bought an Opel Commodore, model 1969, from a colleague of my brother Wolfgang, named Peter Born. I visited my father in Wannweil. I told him that because you are afraid to travel by plane, you can travel now with me to Beirut by car. He liked this proposal and we had a good drive to Beirut. I carried his suitcase, put it in the car trunk. When he sat beside me in the car, he had a small radio with him. I asked him why are you carrying this radio. He said that he would like to know to what distance he can hear German radio stations from his radio. I told him that there is a radio in the car, we can know from the car radio to which distance you can hear German radio stations. He remained as stubborn as a child, and kept the radio with him. We had a breakdown near the Bulgarian border. The engine got heated, because the fan belt got broken. A Bulgarian truck driver helped me. He found in his toolbox a similar fan belt, few millimeters longer and installed it. I gave him 20,00 Deutsche Marks, but he did not take the amount. I asked him if he wants more so that I give him. He told me we are auto comrades and he takes no money from comrades. We continued our drive. When I accelerated the speed, the fan belt slid because it had not the exact size and did not grip well the V-grooved pulleys. Therefore, I drove moderately until we arrived in Beirut.
At the Syrian and then Lebanese borders, we had problems and delays. The customs employees wanted, as it is called here in the area, bakhshich (Tips). During each overnight stay in hotels, Albert checked the bed blankets, mattresses, pillows and toilets if they are clean. On the table in restaurants and hotels, he cleaned the knives, forks, spoons, cups, plates with napkins and smelled them if they have a bad smell.
He could not eat bread when he saw that the waiters touched the bread without gloves. He ate only brown bread (خبز أسمر). He went by himself in Beirut to the bakery to buy brown bread. I told him often that the persons who bake the bread in the bakeries bake the bread without gloves and it is possible that due to the heat in Beirut, perspiration from the bakers can drop on the dough. He did not like my remarks. We were not allowed to touch his bread in Beirut. He smoked daily about 60 cigarettes.
We arrived in the evening of 22.10.1973 to Beirut, parked the car in front of the house, told my father that we have arrived. He got off the car and barely recognized the house, perhaps because it was already dark. We entered the garden, then the house. Father and Mother greeted each other coldly (due to the fact that he sent away the three eldest kids to Germany when they were young in October 1940 and also because he never returned to Lebanon for 33 years). He went into the bedrooms, dining room and kitchen and said: thank God I have seen my house again after 33 years. Mother told him: “no, this is our children’s house”.
Albert was Home-sick for Previous Memories in Lebanon:
The next day after breakfast he asked me which shoe size I have. He always wore heavy boots. I told him 44. He said that he needs light shoes to walk to the tramway line. I told him that I would drive him to the tramway line. He said that he prefers to go by foot in order to see Beirut better than he could by car. He left the house in the direction of the tramway line.
At the beginning of the famous Hamra Street, is situated the current office of the Mobil Oil Company. At the reception he introduced himself and mentioned names of his colleagues of that time. The lady at the reception told him that the present manager is Mr. Ahdab. Albert said: “Oh, this is my friend, I would like to see him if he is here”. The lady went to the manager’s office and told him that there is here a German called Albert Kleinknecht, who would like to see you. Mr. Ahdab welcomed him and they embraced. Albert told him that he did not get indemnity for his activities in the company for about 19 years. Mr. Ahdab told him that he has terminated at that time his work and thus has no legal indemnity due to passage of time. Mr. Ahdab was since years the owner of this company.
Albert continued his march to the tramway line. Near the tramway line station was his hair dresser’s saloon, where on the lateral side was an old big Lebanese mansion which was still there. It is here where he saw my mother for the first time in 1925 on the balcony. His hair dresser, Mr. Rizkallah, was not working any more as hair dresser. He asked the hair dresser where he can see Mr. Rizkallah. He told him that he works in the company Najjar, near the parliament. We visited him a few days later. Albert’s next destination was the Martyr’s Square. He waited at the tramway station. No tram came. He asked a passer-by why no trams are circulating. The passer-by told Albert that the tram-ways have been stopped since years. He took a taxi to continue his trip to the martyr’s square. There Albert got off the taxi, at the same place where he fled from Beirut port and got aboard the tram. After the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rafick El Hariri on 14.02.2005, this square was called Independent Square because the Syrian occupation forces had to leave Lebanon.
Albert strolled there for about three hours. The nostalgia was for the following sights:
- Café De La Poste, where he played with acquaintances Trick-Track (backgammon). This café was no more existing.
- His photographer at that time Alfred Daqqouni, who had already passed away.
- The Arabic night club Parisiana, on the roof of a building, where famous Arabic lady singers and men singers and belly dancers performed their fine arts.
- The Pharmacy Jemayel, which still existed, where he used to buy medicine.
- The Police station and the many brothels behind the Police station.
- The house with the garden where he hid himself with the help of the old lady after his escape from Beirut port, was no more existing.
- Opera and Grand Théatre, where famous artists performed their fine arts.
- Place de l’Etoile (Star Square) where the Parliament and the tower with the clock are located.
- The building with the lion with wings on the roof in which at that time the Socony Vacuum Company had its offices.
- The petrol station where he trained at that time apprentices. Nobody present there knew him.
- Opposite of the petrol station was at that time the biggest and most beautiful department store in Lebanon, Orosdi Back, which was completed on 1st September 1900 and opened for the public. There, an old man recognized Albert at the cashbox. He stood up, kissed Albert and asked him in German language where he was all this time. He also sung him the German anthem and saluted him with Heil Hitler. From this department store, my sister Berta bought for her two daughters the baby carriage.
Albert bought in the city center fresh dates, grapes and raisins, white figs, his preferred fruits, bought Baklawa from the famous cake shop Samadi, took a taxi and returned exhausted home.
As long as Albert was in Beirut he never wore his boots. The next day, he wanted to see the old house with garden where he lived with his parents before his marriage and visit neighbors in the quarter Zeituné, near the sea, which was at that time a little Sankt Pauli (Sankt Pauli is a neighborhood in Hamburg full of cafes, restaurants, brothels, discos, etc.). This time we went with my car. The house still existed. He knocked the metal garden gate. A man opened the house door. Albert recognized him. He was the son of the owner (Albert’s parents rented the house from the owner from 1891 till 1941). Albert asked him if he knows him. The man nodded his head. Albert told him that he would like to see again the house where he lived with his parents. The man said in Arabic ahlan wa sahlan, i.e. welcome. “Where are your two brothers and your sister?”, asked the man. Albert went into the living room and wanted to leave. The man told him you can also see the room where you used to sleep. Albert went in. The parents of the owner had passed away some years ago. When we fare-welled him, he told us to stay here and he will order food for us. When we were in the street, Albert told me that the old furniture of his parents is still in the house, as well as the Diesel stove. Nothing has been changed in the house, as if time has stood still here.
The next visit was for the previous neighbor family opposite of the old house. Albert knocked the door. “Who is this?” said a woman. Albert told her “when you open the door you will see who I am”. The woman opened the door. Mrs. Abla Abou Schahla recognized him immediately and also her husband appeared and they all kissed each other as it is usual here. “Are you still alive, Albert? Where were you all this time? How is your wife, your children, your brothers, your sister?”, etc. they asked.
The third visit was for the mini market where Albert’s parents bought at that time food stuff. The owner recognized Albert immediately and told him: “Albert, now I believe in resurrection!”
Opposite the mini market were two famous cabarets, Eve and Kit-Kat, similar to Lido and Moulin Rouge in Paris. Albert told me: “here I saw at that time the most beautiful shows and the most beautiful blonde and black girls.”
Near this mini market was the old Hotel Metropole near the sea at the Zeituni Bay. Christine Blaich was with her nephew Jacob Unger (* 1878; died 1937) proprietor of the Hotel Deutscher Hof. (later: Hotel Metropole). The former owners rest in the Protestant cemetery in Beirut. Albert knew both owners and wanted to see the old hotel again. The hotel was no more there, a victim of the modern building age. On 8 July, 1900 Karl May (famous German writer *1842; 1912) stayed in this hotel, as he was on his journey to the East. Apart from a trip to Brummana, Karl May stayed till July 17 in the German Hotel, where he writes on the day of his travel in the guest book the poem:
You gorgeous country, there is no second one
Like you, you country of salvation, you of
Redemption land, my soul has already loved
You, before yet my eye has known you, Kanaan.
You beautiful city, you bride of Lebanon,
How did you become so dear to me, so dear.
I will depart indeed, I must soon go away,
Yes indeed I think about you in all places.
You dear house, I was your loyal guest
And will be it so often, I come to stay.
How have you received me so friendly,
I will write this deep in my heart.
You do not know selfishness, you do not
Know self-interest, so dearly as here, has
Rarely happened to me, God bless you!
He is your Patron and protection. Farewell,
Farewell, perhaps I will see you again.
Officers of the French occupation army were guests of the hotel and enjoyed the German hospitality and the good food. Among them was also General De Gaulle, at that time administrative officer at the French headquarters.
The last visit in the Zeituné quarter was for the old St. George Hotel (1932) belonging to the Khoury family, which was at that time the third best hotel in Beirut, after the two best hotels belonging to the German families: ERNST GASSMANN and J. & CH. BLAICH. Nobody there could remember Albert. He told me that from opposite the hotel, from the street he used to catch fish with his bamboo fishing rod and then jump into the water.
During another day, we visited his previous colleague George Nahhal. He was still alive, but did not recognize Albert. He probably had Alzheimer. He also visited in the same street his friend Camil Tabet, with whom he used to play trick-track. He had already passed away.
The next visit was for his previous colleague Elias Haddad. He also had already passed away. He saw his wife and his two daughters.
He also visited the family Shbaro, from whom he rented an apartment for a short time after his marriage, opposite the Sanaya public garden and opposite the German school. Some persons of this family were still alive.
The Mar Mikhael Amusement Quarter: his first work after the First World War was some hundred meters east of the port Beirut, in the Mar Mikhael quarter, where till 1968 the old tramways operated in the main street. He had an auto repair workshop there. There still exists the old railway station, Mar Mikhael, from where Emperor William II, traveled in 1898 by train to Damascus. – Here is the Dance Floor for the Smart Set, here are the Dances for the Future for the Wealthy People. Beirut is the Party Capital of the World and vibrates as it were with Euphoria: Since a few years, are located there along the main street, pubs, expensive restaurants, bars, discos, trendy nightclubs, dance halls. A sky bar (aptly named Train Station) now exists on the ground of the Mar Mikhael train station where various alcoholic creations are served under starry sky. Here applies: the more exclusive, so much the better. Here today the young people spend their roaring nights, eat, drink, smoke hubble-bubble, dance and celebrate until the early morning hours, as if there was no tomorrow; on land, on water, in the air. And above all, as there had never been a yesterday. These entertainment localities in the Mar Mikhael entertainment district are generally extremely crowded and busy. “Beirut is the city, which never sleeps”, shout young Lebanese girls with a wink while dancing. Fun is their highest order. The Lebanese do not speak a common language, but three. They change from the official Arabic language into English, into French and back: “ahlan, bonjour, hi guys, kifak habibi (honey), see you again, ça va, good health, have fun, do not drink much, bye-bye, sleep well, bon weekend, drive slowly home”! Generally, they speak foreign languages better than their own Arabic language.
The Capital of the Land of Cedars: Beirut has recently become a magnet for tourism. Where once civil wars raged, cheerful people of all age groups can often be seen walking, running, cycling, and skating alongside the Corniche, the idyllic beach promenade of the Lebanese capital in West Beirut, about 5 km long, lined with palm trees. It is also a great fishing spot. Old and young fisherman are often seen along the rails, or down below on the rocks, their fishing rods in one hand, their baskets on the side. The wind caresses the palm trees at the Corniche. There can be seen caressing couples, hotels, restaurants, high residential buildings, twenty to thirty floors luxury apartments with most modern comfort rising into the sky, with a view to the sea. Additionally, families, couples, and groups of youngsters dressed up in their best attire can be seen strolling alongside the length of the Corniche, stopping from time to time to have a coffee, refreshment drinks like Coca-cola, Pepsi-cola, Seven-up, ice cream, water in small plastic bottles and a narguileh break in one of the many street cafés.
The Corniche: is a popular destination for walkers, joggers and bikers. During the day many people meet on the Corniche. Arab sheiks with their deeply veiled women and daughters are on the kilometer-long promenade as well as groups of young girls with belly-free T-shirts. Push cart vendors offer an array of local snacks and drinks, and coffee sellers knocking their cups like castanets. Bicycle vendors sell the famous Lebanese “Kaake” (Bretzel), with thyme and cheese. Many of the trunks of the palm trees that line the Corniche are pockmarked with bullet and splinter holes from the Lebanese Civil War.
Hamra a Walk of Fame: is a favourite place to stroll, eat, drink, shop, meet and greet friends there. Everything is available. On the main street Hamra, you will find many modern shops with a more western flair. You can see churches, many restaurants, bars, pubs, night clubs, street cafés, which are almost fully booked. Also hotels, furnished apartments, banks, money exchange offices, luxury apartments, boutiques, libraries, shoeshine-boys. Also some shops with handmade products and beautiful jewelry and carpet shops.
In the Hamra Street can be seen mixed populations and many foreigners. Chains such as Aldo, Armani, Hugo Boss, Christian Dior, Benetton, Massimo Dutti, H&M, Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Yves St. Lauren, Valentino, Mac Donald, Starbucks have their domicile in Lebanon. Prices: cheap to outrageous very expensive. Luxury next to poverty in the Hamra street, with many cars and people, especially at night: crews of jagals (wealthy young men) driving BMW, MERCEDES, PORSCHE, FERRARI, LAMBORGHINI, MAZERATI, HUMMER, JAGUAR, RANGE ROVER, very noisy with exhaust gas contamination, but that is the Hamra street. There are more and bigger MERCEDES, BMW, AUDI, VW, OPEL, MAYBACH and PORSCHE, driving through Lebanon’s streets than through a big city in Germany. The Hamra street is very beautifully paved differently than the streets nearby.
Place de l’Étoile (Star Square): Michel Abed, Lebanese, whose family emigrated to Brazil and made a fortune there, entrusted in 1934 the architect Mardiros Altounian, to build this clock tower in the historical city center, opposite the Parliament, which is one of Beirut’s well-known landmark and motif. Soldiers guard the Government quarter, they check each handbag. Bars, restaurants, street cafés, luxury shops, hotels, old cathedrals next to old mosques line the streets. The church bells and the muezzin simultaneously call for prayer. Churches next to Mosques, their towers embrace the minarets and greet the sky. Here Christians and Muslims seem to live peacefully together. Some hundred meters west of this historical city center, can still be seen a Synagogue (Maghen Abraham Synagogue, completed in 1925 in the Jewish quarter, Wadi Abu Jamil (meaning Valley of the Jews). A star of David is carved in the stone above the window. Two marble tablets with Hebrew characters with the Ten Commandments decorate the roof, an unfamiliar sight in this place. This sight of the city center is somewhat peculiar, as if you are watching a film scene.
The New Souk: it was called before the Civil War, 1975/1990, the Long Souk (looted and damaged completely during the Civil War) located a few hundred meters west of the Place de l’Etoile with its striking clock tower, has been reopened. But different than in Damascus or Aleppo or Istanbul. This bazaar presents itself as an ultramodern shopping world with elegant, interesting fashion shops. Hardly any of the international high-end brands is not represented here with a chic shop.
Star Square: in the middle of the Star Square, children ride plastic cars over the pavement and rage. Their mothers and fathers sit comfortably in the caffés. Some children blow soap bubbles through the air. You can see from time to time families from the Gulf and Saudi Arabia. Their children play with their smart phones, their fathers have long beards. Some women raise their black veils from in front of their mouth with their left hand at every bite so that they can eat something, then let the veil down, because their husbands do not want that other men see their faces. What a nuisance for them! One can see more hungry pigeons flying around the square than guests and tourists.
Lebanese Ladies: the light sea breeze blows through the long hair of the strolling, young, attractive, brunette, blonde, very fashionably dressed Lebanese ladies, many wearing dangerously high heeled shoes, to appear up to 15 centimeters taller, looking as if they had sprung out from a top fashion magazine. The Lebanese women take much care for their outward appearance. But they are also beautiful by nature. Most of them do not go out on the street without make-up, and without being super well dressed. It is a matter of appearance and reality, beauty illusion, beauty operations for noses, lips, teeth, breasts, hair implants for bald headed men. The outside appearance must be perfect, even if one is in debt. The Lebanese people resemble us Europeans, resemble the white Americans, Canadians, Australians, are highly educated. Many men are skilled workers.
Nightlife in Beirut: has been flourishing again since a long time. The young Lebanese women appear with top make-up, with tight clothes and deep décolleté. The men pay expensive drinks for the women, which is an old tradition, but also show-off of the young men. Outside in the parking lots or on the streets are the most amazing luxury cars to be admired, which here in Germany the ladies wish to have the same.
Men who look for a Bride: in my opinion, there is probably no city on this planet with more attractive and beautiful women than in Beirut. Many have blue, green, brown, black, dreamy eyes, with pink, white, dark complexions. This mixture of Orient and Occident is unique. The city is young, cheerful and lively. It resembles Paris, French Riviera, Rome, Athens, Barcelona, London. Beirut is simply very sexy, a very lively city where you can never have a moment of boredom. Beirut is the capital of the most beautiful women in the world. Birthdays, premier communions, confirmations, engagements, weddings, are celebrated in big restaurants, in big hotels. Various cakes and Arabic sweets for all occasions are on the tables. A world of sugar icing and marzipan! The colorful cakes look like works of art – with marzipan hearts and shower cabins made of sugar castings – inside them grinning bearded women’s heroes and smiling girls, naked: the only exception because of the local ruling morals, there are no sex parts! The pastry cook has probably had no fig leaves to hide their sex parts. And then, the famous song of the singer, Paul Anka, from Lebanese descent sounds:
“Congratulations and celebrations
When I tell everyone that you are in
Love with me. Congratulations and
Jubilations I want the world to know
I am happy as can be”.
Also, Paul Ankas famous song:
I’m so young and you’re so old
This, my darling, I’ve been told
I don’t care just what they say
‘Cause forever I will pray
You and I will be as free
As the birds up in the trees
Oh, please stay by me, Diana
Oh, please, Diana
Oh, please, Diana
The Lebanese Women: they have wonderful pear and pomegranate shaped bodies. They are more beautiful than your days, more beautiful than your dreams, more beautiful than your nights, more beautiful than 365 candles. They got their blue eyes from the color of the blue sky and from the water of the Mediterranean sea. Their green eyes they got from the color of the Cedar trees. Their honey colored eyes from the Lebanese honey. They got their fair skinned color from the white sand dunes of the Lebanese coast. You can find them where they are with your eyes. Your heart is a paradise for them. Let your love live in their imaginations. Your eyes are a promise for them. Let your love live in their fantasies. Your love for their lovely eyes are more beautiful than their eyes. They let you fly with their breath like roses and jasmine petals into the sky. Her beauties are beauties, which are not normal, her words are words that are not normal. Let yourself fall asleep to her voices of pampering. Their lips have the taste of milk, honey and sugar. The days, the weeks, the months have passed, the dreams have increased, the longing has no longer patience.
My dear Princess, let your inseparable love birds, which are dearest to you, unite us together to build our family with them as an eternal Love Story. My eyes sing you my favorite and your favorite songs. I can not remove you from my life and from my memories. You live forever in my soul. I can be only with you, I can live only with you and your life. I gave you my promise, my kindness, my love. Lucky is he who can sit beside you, dance with you, can love you. You are the love of my tears and my dreams. I cannot forget your eyes, because they are my light and my guide. You are in my heart and in my tears. My heart is a little child, it wants to know everything about you. My heart has kidnapped me to you. When my eyes got opened I saw you before the light saw you. Many pretenders knocked on your door, but you did not open it. Tell me why? Are you looking for your mirror, to see how you still look? You are my mirror. When I remove the dark curtain from your picture, I see you even more beautiful on the water level. You are the most beautiful lady in the country. Your bees have found you in the most beautiful flower garden, on the blossoms of the almond trees during the spring season, in the land of the Cedars. You are the most beautiful flower. Ask my eyes so I can give them to you. My eyes and my heart are for you as soon as your eyes give me the sign. Your bees took you back to your throne, back to your Love Birds, with the Queen Bees, accompanied with all her guardian angels. My dear Princess, my heart, my life and your Love Birds are the property of your hands. I will translate to you, your favorite songs of your birds to make you happier.
My Love, I will sail with my ship to the Nile Delta, to Cleopatra’s Realm, catch for you thousands of nightingales for you to sing for you together with your Love Birds, during your lonely nights, your favorite Love Songs, to enchant you under your magnificent sky. The nightingales will sing for you all the night so that the roses will open quickly from their sweet sounds, by echo and reverberation. My poems for you are like fragrances without breezes. My darling, your throne is near the sun, near the stars, near the moon. My small ship can not sail through your borders, send to me your space ship to see you a few moments. When we become mute, my eyes will speak with your eyes the language of deepest love. We will live without pain, without worries, without medication, without illness, without quarreling, without darkness, with respect and equal love, entertaining us about our Love Story, be healthy and happy, dreaming about our romantic novels. We then end up as one body with two heads, with two hearts, with four eyes, with two noses, with four ears, with four lips, with four arms, with four legs so that we can no longer separate! And finally my journey has begun to you. My love, your love gave me a drink on the rubble. Your tears have wetted your face and then streamed between your two colorful hills. Give me the freedom to spread my arms around you to satisfy my longing, my thirst, my hunger, my pain, my desire. You are a sorceress, enchant me to feel your warm hands. I want to live in your hands as a prisoner, go out with you out of the darkness and lead you to the silver moonlight, to your garden and dry your tears and face with your veil. The moon makes his view in all directions pouring silver light upon you. Your Love Birds, smile during their dream, guarded and fed by their loving mother. Whoever can spend his days here, his heart laughs in his chest. The silver moon in the sky with its silver brightness sends you thousands of dancing clouds through the night, thousands of golden stars shine in the night.
My dear Princess! Your birds were singing their most beautiful songs from the branches of the trees. When the branches heard their songs, they swayed from the pleasure of their songs. The sudden, gentle breeze accompanied their beautiful melodies to you, and your beautiful flowers sent their fragrance to you like round rings on your reddish hair and your pink face. Your water fountain sang together with them their songs. Your love for me changed my life from misery to happiness, from blindness to daylight, to see your magical person again. When your green eyes look at me for a few seconds, you satisfy my thirst, my hunger, my yearning, my desire, my sorrows, my grief. At your well, with its cold water, we cool our wine glasses in the darkness so that they can clink louder like violin tones and can sing with your birds until the red morning sky and forget the time.
Each time your wine glass sang, your Love Birds tasted the honey of your bees. Our nights are surrounded by vineyards. We and your Love Birds sing wishes and wish a sailing trip with your Love Boat in the moonlight. Your Love Birds got drunk at night and they were awake before us. Did your birds know how love and happiness are, as we know them? As we know them? I have forgotten all the women I knew before you, and all I knew after you. The older you get, you look more beautiful. Your beauty opened my eyes and my soul. Your long hair look like water falls and harbor many stories and secrets!
I was given paradise, but I preferred your dreamy eyes, your gentle looks, your promise. I saw in your eyes the spring with its beginning blossoming flowers, the coming summer with its gentle warm breeze, your lovely smile, your blessing and your first invitation in your garden surrounding us with your roses, jasmine, lavender, mimosa, sunflowers, gladioli, gardenias. All your flowers drank water from your tears, from your sweat, bloom, and their fragrance are even nicer than from rainwater. I will pluck all available red roses in the gardens and flower shops in your surroundings, buy an air balloon, fill it with millions of the red petals and drop them upon your throne so that you and your friends and your neighbors can breathe their fragrance and receive your YES and your promising smile. The colour of your tears have the same colour of my tears. Your soul lives in my soul, your wounds and your pain will heal and got forgotten once we are united together at your throne and drink there a glass of wine together from your warm hands. Your eyes will pour more wine. You are the fragrance of the night, you are like the first appearance of the moon and like the breeze during the month October. Inform me about the secrets of your heart so that I can love you the way you wish it. You are the life, you are the fragrance, you are the future!
Since the moon has illuminated the nights, the moon never,
never smiled. The stars scratched its face so he would smile
to give his blessing to the courting couple. Our Love Birds,
our Bees, are chasing us during our Love Parade, because
of curiosity and jealousy and because of our romantic fairy
tale. ……… After our last prayer and after the last bell ring
nobody was there!!
(Ramiro and Lola)
Oh my dear wife, oh my dear wife, I didn’t enjoy till now my
life. My life was oppression, torment, sad, hopeless, deprived
from happiness. After you, for whom, oh for whom, the red
and yellow roses will open and bend together with their
blossoms. After you, after you, for whom, for whom, the cedar
and pine tree branches decorated with their beautiful cones
will bend and send their pleasingly, natural fragrances?
My dear wife, my dear wife, after you, for whom, oh Universe,
your sun of the East, شمس المشارق (Shams Almashareq) will rise
and shine? After you, for whom, oh Universe, your Western,
red sunset شمس المغارب (Shams Almaghareb) will be? After the
sunset, for whom, for whom the symphonies of the sea will
sound? For whom, the sound of music will be? After, after you,
for whom, the silver moon will smile. For whom, the Western
breeze blows? For whom will the days, the nights and oceans
choruses sing? Liberate yourself from boredom, farewell from
loneliness, farewell to the horizon. Enjoy the present and the
future days in your homeland which you adore. Iris is back,
Iris is back, bigger and closer to the sunset! Iris is back, Iris is
back, Iris the winged messenger of the gods and goddes of the
rainbow is here again, with the rainbow under the blood-red sky!
Oh my deep love which lives now in me, the past dark, lonely
nights have vanished, the past dark, lonely nights are forgotten.
My new life with you, my reborn life with you, I got my life back.
After the dark, lonely days, nights, years have passed by, the dawn
with its rosy colors appeared. The light of the morning awakened
our happiness, we got up and rejoiced from our happiness. We are
no more lost, we live now in a new spring, in a new spring, in an
unending, unending love for ever. You are my life and my memories!
My heart is a mirror in which your picture is stored. I see you always
in my imagination and in my dreams. Invite me to your garden and
sing for me always your love songs and tell me, love is a song full of
dreams and happiness. Your melodies are beautiful. Our life is a
garden, we are his flowers and his water. Our ears, our eyes open
always in the rosy dawn from the whispers of your birds and your
bees. We will fill up our days, our nights with love and dreams, with
courage and songs, with dances and tenderness, with sleepless nights.
God bless those who are always happy in their life.
Oh our Lord, you are the light of love, of life, of truth and symbol of unity
(يا ربنا أنت نور المحبة و الحياة و الحقيقة و رمز الوحدة و المغفرة)
(Amen) – (آمين)
Lebanon: is mainly a destination for Arab guests. Its touristic trumps are: a mild climate, mountains, snow and sea, a good cuisine, an excessive nightlife.
Pigeons’ Rocks: My father’s last visit in Beirut was in west Beirut for the infamous Pigeons’ Rocks, sentinels of the Beirut coastline, or Rauwshé, also called suicide rocks, from where young, unhappy, desperate people, mainly girls, commit suicide by jumping from the street from a height of about 45 meters down on the turquoise blue water. The Pigeons’ Rocks are a famous landmark of Beirut.
My eldest sister Bertha, who lives in Kelkheim-Fischbach, Germany, since the end of the 1950s, remembers the following incident, happened about the end of the 1920s, at the Rauwshé rock, as per the below email of her daughter Manuela:
From: Manuela Herrig [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Friday, December 16, 2016 10:34 AM
To: Paul Kleinknecht <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: THE TWO PIGEON ROCKS OF BEIRUT
Dear uncle Paul,
just now we have read your email with attachment. The two Pigeons’ Rocks of Beirut are really a magnetic visiting place. My mother had an interesting story to tell about your father, who had rescued a man from the sea who committed suicide. This man wanted later to marry aunt Klara. She refused, because she did not want to leave her mother alone.
Many greetings and many thanks for your detailed explanations concerning these Pigeons’ Rocks. I learned something more about them.
I wish you a nice day.
Your Manuela and Berth
One day we went north-east of Beirut to the mountains so that Albert can see again the two beautiful summer resorts Beit Mery and Broummana, with their beautiful old Lebanese stone houses. We visited the family Abboud Blanco in Beit Mery. The daughters and the sons asked him why he did not come back to Beirut immediately after the war. His friend and wedding witness, César Abboud, father of ten siblings had already passed away. Of the ten siblings, as of today in 2015, only two daughters and the youngest son are still alive.
Then we visited the Swiss family Russli in Broummana, who have a hotel there. His friend Mr. Russli had already passed away. He saw his two daughters. They also asked him why he did not come back to Beirut after the war. In Broummana Albert showed me the old stone house where he spent some summers with his family during the 1920ies and 1930ies.
Albert wanted to see all of Lebanon. I showed him the cities along the Lebanese coast: Tripoli, Byblos, Jouniéh, Beirut, Jiéh, Sidon, Tyr. He often told me that “I read his wishes from his eyes!”
He wanted also to see acquaintances in Damour and Jiéh. We went to the mayor Rafari. He had already passed away. We talked with his sons. The persons who Albert mentioned have passed away already. He asked about our maid from that time Mhabbé, who was originally from Damour. “She is still alive” said the sons but her husband already passed away. We visited her. She recognized Albert immediately, started to cry, danced, trilled and kissed his hands. She entered quickly into her hut, brought rice and threw the rice upon our heads. She told me that she carried me and my sister Anita all the time when we were babies. “If I had a pistol I would have shot joy shots in the air”, she said.
She lived very poorly, because she had little income. Albert felt pity for her and asked her how he can help her. I gave her a certain amount of money and she kissed our hands again. She invited us to dine with her. I invited her to a restaurant along the river Damour. Albert liked this proposal. He likes to eat the traditional Lebanese food “Mesa” and drink the famous Lebanese “Arak”. The poor woman took home with her the things that we were not able to eat anymore. I gave her again a certain amount of money and again she kissed our hands and she thanked us so profusely that it humbled us; her hands flew back and forth as she called upon God and looked to the sky to remember our kindness.
Mhabbé lived in a small hut about 4 x 4 square meters. In a corner of the hut was an old wool curtain, fixed with two rusted nails on both walls. A circa 15 centimeter round hole was behind the curtain as toilet. After doing her needs, she covered the hole with a stone tile to avoid bad smells. Here she takes her shower sitting on a small wooden stool and washes up her dishes. She had a water hose for these purposes. Her hut reminded me of the time, about two and a half years that we spent during our internment in Wilhelma, Palestine. The house in Wilhelma, where we lived was not much better than her hut.
The City Zahlé:
Albert also wanted to see the city Zahlé. He has memories there because he worked there some weeks, when the road to Baalbeck was paved. Specifically he wanted to see there the old hotels; Hotel Kadri, built from massive natural stones and Hotel Arabi and the terrace restaurants along the valley of grape arbors (وادي العرايش). He had great nostalgia. In the Hotel Arabi he saw before the Second World War the famous Egyptian singer Mohammad Abdel Wahab as guest and saw him during the summer singing in the garden restaurant of the hotel. Abdel Wahab visited Lebanon almost every summer, staying in the best room of this hotel. Abdel Wahab was still alive but was in Egypt. Here in 1928 was composed, sung and played by him (with only one musical instrument, his lute), the below very famous and beloved song in the Arab world, written by the famous Egyptian poet Ahmad Schauqi, who was known as the prince of poets. Abdel Wahab also composed many other famous Arabic songs here.
Oh neighbor of the valley, I am deliriously happy and
What has come to me is portrayed like a dream of
Your memories, and in that memory I manifest your
Love, and in my sleep the memories spoke like
The echo of the years …………………….
يا جارة الوادي طربت وعادني ما يشبه الأحلام من ذكراك مثلت
…. في الذكرى هواك و في الكرى و الذكريات صدى السنين الحان
The city Zahlé, about 50 km far in the mountains east of Beirut, about 900 meters above sea level, is called the Bride of the Bekaa Valley, City of Artists, City of Peace, City of Hospitality, the Green Valley. For the Greeks and Romans, the Bekaa valley was the granary of the Near East. For the Arabs from the Atlantic to the Gulf, the city Zahlé with its romantic terrace restaurants and its grape arbors along the river Bardauwni became during the summer pilgrim sites. They want to see the old Orabi Hotel and its terrace restaurants and to hear the above sentimental song of Abdel Wahab with his baritone singing voice and other songs from him and from other famous Arab singers.
Following Lebanese Celebrities Originate from Zahlé:
- Said Akl: born on 04.07.1912, Zahlé, died 28.11.2014, Beirut. Writer, poet, philosopher, playwright, linguist an ideologue. He created an alphabet based on Latin letters for Lebanese, consisting of 36 letters.
- Elias Hrawi: born 04.09.1926, Zahlé, died 07.07.2006, Beirut, ex president of the Lebanese Republic, from 24.11.1989 – 24.11.1998.
- Youssef Gabriel Chahine: born 25.01.1926 Alexandria, Egypt. Died 27.02.2008, Alexandria. Film director, actor, writer and producer.
- Ralph Nader: born 27.02.1934 in Winsted, Connecticut, U.S.A. Famous lawyer in U.S.A.
- Michel Demitri Chalhoub: born 10.04.1932, Alexandria, Egypt. Died 10.09.2015, Cairo. Famous actor with stage name Omar Sharif.
- Shoukrieh Moubarak: singer, dancer with stage name Shakira, meaning in Arabic, the thankful.
Albert’s Return Journey to Germany – 1974
Albert wanted to celebrate Easter in Germany. This time he flew by plane with Lufthansa to Munich, with his boots and his little radio packed in his suitcase and was not afraid. My sister Anita picked him up from the airport and he traveled by train to Wannweil.
Civil War 1975 – 1990:
In the middle of 1975, the grave civil war (between Christians and Muslims) started in Lebanon, with its impact still prevailing till this day. I had often security problems, because I am Christian – and a foreigner – living in west Beirut, an area where Muslims predominantly live. I was therefore for long periods more in Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia than in Lebanon because of those problems and also for work. The canon thunders between west and east Beirut were terrible for many years. Since our childhood we heard canon thunders in Lebanon!
My office was at home. I typed my letters in the office with my typewriter. The typing sound could be heard in the street when the windows were open. Militiamen thought I have a broadcasting station at home, sending information to the Christian militia in east Beirut. The militiamen climbed over the garden wall and demanded to search our house, because they heard transmitting sounds. One bearded guy with a pistol and a machine gun saw my typewriter in my office, typed a bit and then the boys started to laugh about their own stupidity, excused themselves and disappeared. How dull, ignorant and authoritarian such people are! I still have this old small typewriter (See below picture). It was not stolen from the house, because I used to take it with me during my business trips to Syria and Jordan, to write my letters for the German companies I represented so that they receive my letters in good readable conditions!
I made my fortune using this typewriter. By the time computers came along and I started using one in 1996 instead of the typewriter to write and receive correspondences, my business had slowed down.
In 1977, a grenade exploded in front of our garden gate. The garden gate was completely destroyed and the window glass and wooden window shutters along the house façade were also destroyed. Our mother was at that moment in the kitchen, protected by three walls and was not hurt. I was at that time in Aleppo, Syria, for work.
As of the middle of 1975, I was warned several times verbally by the German Embassy to leave Lebanon, to stay in a country where it is safer, or to move to East Beirut where the security situation was better than West Beirut. I have also received a written warning from the German Embassy dated 20.02.1992 as per attachment.
(Translation): Dear Mr. Kleinknecht,
due to current events I would like to ask you, being German citizen to be careful during the near future with your movements to avoid any security risks.
With best regards.
Albert’s Journey to Ghana – 1979:
In 1979, my sister Hilde and her husband Alain Khoury invited Albert to Ghana, where they were living at the time. He was no more afraid to travel by plane. Alain had a dog that bites. After some days of his arrival to Ghana, Albert wanted to caress the dog after dinner. The dog attacked Albert, bit him on the face and snatched about half of his left ear. Alain and my sister took him immediately to the hospital with the piece of his ear that fell off to try to sew it. The operation didn’t succeed. When they returned home, Alain shot the dog with his shotgun, killing it. When Albert was back in Germany, an artificial ear was made for him and he let his white hair grow longer to cover it.
Journey from Germany to Lebanon with my Brother Rudolf and my other Journeys:
In September 1979, while on a business trip in Germany, I bought a Mercedes car 230 Model 1977 from a colleague of my brother Rudolf, and left it in St. Blasien. In June 1980 I went with this car back to Lebanon. My brother, his wife Lore and their daughter Judith, liked the idea and decided to accompany me with this trip. This is the same trip from Germany to Beirut that I did with my father in 1973 with the Opel car Model 1969. This was the fourth time that I did this same trip in my life by car. The first one was by myself with a Mercedes car 220S in 1967 that I bought in Karlsruhe, Germany. The second one was with a friend of mine with another Mercedes car 220 Model 1968 in 1970 that I bought in Hamburg, Germany. The third one was the trip with my father in 1973 with an Opel car that I also bought in Germany. Later I did this trip twice more in 1990 with the Mercedes 230 from Amman, Jordan, to Germany and back to Amman, and in 1992 with my wife and son, with a Mercedes car E230 model 1986 which I bought from my brother-in-law, Joachim Stütz, in Germering. Details of our trip in 1990 (which was a Jordan-Germany-Lebanon car trip) appears later in the story.
Rudolf and his family stayed with us in Lebanon in our house in West Beirut for about 2 weeks before going back to Germany by plane.
Mother and Father:
Our father passed away on 11.02.1981 in Tübingen and was buried in Sankt Blasien, Black Forest, Germany.
After a long battle from 24.12.1984 till 29.04.1985, our mother passed away in the American Hospital in Beirut. Her will was to be buried near her husband in Sankt Blasien, Germany, and we have fulfilled her will.
The name JAMILE means Beauty:
My mother Jamile:
“Albert, when I saw you the first time from the balcony where I lived with my uncle, entering your hairdresser’s saloon, I thought you are a seaman. I remember that when you first saw me on the balcony of my uncle’s house, you said that your eyes loved me with a glance. You said that my dark hair, smell better than incense and cedar wood. You said that if you were able to cry long, you would pour your warm tears, from your blue eyes, onto a red carpet so that we could ride together with your sleigh.
After marriage, I told you my past and gave you everything: my heart, my faithful love, my soul, my blood, my money, my body, my confidence, my thoughts. Very early my heart gave you my promise, I was only 17 years old. I have given you my black veil so that you can smell it, dry your face and your eyes with it. I could celebrate with you with closed eyes gloriously and was happy and fortunate. You are a monument for my eyes!
You said that my forehead looks like a small silk carpet. My eyebrows and my eyelashes are like a rain- and sun umbrella that protect my face and my sensitive skin. That my eyes look like rosé grapes, from the fertile Bekaa plain in Lebanon. That my nose will give you oxygen if you cannot breathe anymore. That my reddish lips, look like ripe pistachios from Aleppo. That my mouth tastes better than sweet wine. That my ears are like German gingerbread, which tasted great to you. You have decorated my long neck with the most beautiful necklace. You said my belly button is a deep, nourishing, milk fountain for our children. You told me that all spots on my body are beautiful. That no star in space and earth is more beautiful than you. You said: “God has created you so and sent you to me, my beautiful dear wife.” Kiss me my dear husband daily, and go on my darling. Come my love daily to me, kiss me and say goodbye.
Our most beautiful years were until the beginning of the second World War. There were never quarrels, never misunderstandings, never insults. I am like two roses on your cheeks, my dear husband, so that you can smell me always. I cannot hate anyone. All those who reproved us, I found afterwards that they love us. The evil war has separated us. I could take care for my dear son Rudolf, see him, smell him, wash his clothes for only 9 years. I want to be my dear husband next to you, in your primary country, in the cemetery of St. Blasien, to be near Rudolf, whom I have seen for only fifteen years.
When we were married I was very young, dear husband. I did not know what love was until your arms embraced me. I felt you, my cheeks became hot, my heart pulsed to the maximum. What you have said to me and given to me and fulfilled, were real dreams, happiness, eternal, unforgettable love and memories! God has given us 8 children, the best gifts!!
You and your brothers, Theodor and Adolf, fought 5 years for the Imperial German Empire in Syria and Iraq, during the First World War. You were only 18 years old. You and your brother Adolf served in the German Afrikakorps, in Tunisia and Libya, during the Second World War. You got sick there. Your brother Theodor, lost his two sons, Manfred and Helmut, at the age of 8 and 10 years by Allied bombardments in Stuttgart. Their fate was the sacrificial altar in Stuttgart, for the fatherland. Your brother Theodor and his wife Linda, could not see and cope with the graves of their sons anymore, because of pain and sorrow, and therefore returned to Lebanon, at the end of 1948.
Farewell my dear husband, farewell. We will be together soon. Love has two wings. The southern wind drives a wing to St. Blasien, to your resting place, a wing lands on the grave of our son Roland, who lived only a few months, and on the grave of your father, Wilhelm, in the cemetery, in Beirut. I believe in resurrection, resurrection, we meet again in Germany and Lebanon, in Germany and Lebanon. Both countries are our life, our identity, our longings, our beautiful memories! Farewell, farewell, my dear husband! My dear Albert! Habibi! Habibi! Habibi!”
These were her last words and her last battle for the family, in the death-bed and fell asleep. The sky with its stars, with its moon, with its sun, with its clouds have called her to come to rest in her final resting place.
Mother’s Widow Pension – 1981:
After our father’s death, my brother Rudolf sent me a document from the German revenue office for pension, due to our mother after her husband’s death, which our mother should sign and get legalized by the German Embassy in Beirut. Our mother was very sick and weak since months and her health did not improve. She could hardly walk in the house and due to the civil war existing in Beirut at that time she could not go to the German Embassy to sign the pension application. I went to the Embassy which was at that time still in West Beirut. A German lady there, wearing white stockings that were rolled up to her knees told me loud and bluntly that my mother must come to the Embassy and sign in her presence the pension document. I explained to this lady my mother’s bad health situation that she cannot come with me because she can hardly walk. The lady said in an unfriendly manner to bring her in an ambulance to the Embassy. I told her that the Red Cross ambulances take sick people only to the nearest hospital. I asked her if she can come with me to our house to see my mother and mother will sign the document in her presence. Here she exploded, refused totally and left me in the waiting room.
I know a Lebanese person who works in the embassy in the visa section named Youssef Abou Chaar. I talked to him via the Embassy’s interphone and told him about this matter. He said they know that she is a very strange lady and that the Lebanese people in the Embassy call her the lady with the white long stockings. He told me that he will talk with a responsible German young man about our case who is very friendly and sociable. He came and asked me if I have a car. I went with him with my car to our house and mother signed in his presence with trembling hands this document for a small amount of about DM 100 per month. I thanked him and drove him back to the Embassy.
Occupation of our House in West Beirut – 1985:
In the end of 1985, our own house in west Beirut was occupied during my absence by a Shi’ite family from the Shi’ite Amal militia. Youssef Abou Chaar of the German Embassy contacted my brother Rudolf in Sankt Blasien, Germany, and told him this information. He told him that one of us should come to Beirut and contact the Embassy. I was at that time on business in Amman, Jordan. My brother called me in the hotel where I used to stay and informed me about this matter. I went immediately to Beirut and contacted the Embassy in west Beirut. I cannot remember anymore with which German person I talked to at that time.
Because the security situation for Europeans and Christians in west Beirut was bad and because our house was completely looted and partly destroyed and I had more business in Syria and Jordan than in Lebanon, I could not stay in our house in West Beirut. When I came to Lebanon, I used to stay in a hotel called Ahiram in Jbeil, north Lebanon.
Marriage in Beirut – 1986:
On 29.03.1986 I got married in Beirut with Claudia Elias Karam, Lebanese. On 14.05.1987 our son Paul Kleinknecht was born in Beirut.
Reoccupation of our House in West Beirut – 1986:
A Sunnite family of a Syrian militia occupied our house in place of the Shi’ite family. My wife and I went to the German Embassy in Rabieh, Mtaileb, in north Lebanon. Mrs. Heidi Istanbouli, a German citizen accompanied us to Mr. Harmel’s office. We told him that our house has been occupied again and asked him to help us to release our house from the occupiers. Mr. Harmel was rude, unfriendly, stubborn and spoke like a small dictator. He said the German Embassy is not a police station. Instruct your lawyer and disappeared from his office.
Napoleon about the Germans: (On the internet I found the following words which Napoleon said about the Germans)
“There is no more good-natured, but also no more gullible people than the Germans. No lie can be conceived treacherous enough, the Germans believe it. They follow a slogan which was given to them, to act against their own countrymen, rather than the real enemies of their country”.
Assassination of René Mouawad – 1989:
On 22.11.1989 the elected President of the Lebanese Republic in west Beirut, René Mouawad, was assassinated (his car exploded) about 100 meters from our house. Wall damages occurred to our house; nearly all window glass panes, wooden window shutters and house doors were totally destroyed by the tremendous blast and pressure wave and thrown in the air. At that time, I was with my wife and son in our apartment in Hadath, Lebanon, where we were living.
Gulf War – 1990:
When the Gulf war started in 1990, I was in Jordan with my wife and son. The security situation there became dangerous for foreigners. The situation in Lebanon was also terrible. Therefore, we three went by car (the same Mercedes car with which I traveled from Germany to Lebanon with my brother Rudolf and his family in 1979) to Germany and stayed in the house of my sister Anita in Germering, near Munich, Germany. At the Austrian border we had problems and delay with the customs authority. They saw our car with a Lebanese plate number. So they started searching every inch of the car, inside and out. They also brought 2 German shepherd dogs to sniff the car. My son got very afraid of the ferocious dogs. After a while, they asked for our personal identity documents. When I showed them my German passport, the customs officers got shocked and worried that they did this to German citizens. They apologized and let us go immediately.
Presidential Palace in Baabda and the End of the Civil War:
On 14.10.1990, the Syrian army with its allied Lebanese militias attacked the Lebanese presidential palace in Baabda, some km east of Beirut and occupied it. The Lebanese general Michel Aoun, who was in the palace regarding himself as the legal representative of the Lebanese government, fled to the French Embassy. The Lebanese civil war which started on 13.04.1975 ended on 14.10.1990. We were at that time in Germering, Germany, with my sister Anita Stütz. We heard the news about what happened in Beirut. With difficulty we were able to talk by phone with the parents of my wife. Her brother told her that our apartment in Hadath (east Beirut) was occupied by a Syrian General and his soldiers and told her to come immediately to Beirut to claim our apartment. Our apartment in Hadath was a few km east of Beirut, along the demarcation line between west and east Beirut.
Our Return Journey to Beirut:
We started our journey on 15.10.1990 by car and arrived a couple of days later to Beirut. After long negotiations with the Syrians and with the help of a good Syrian friend of mine, who had good contacts with the Syrian secret service, our apartment in Hadath was liberated. Also this time our apartment was completely looted and damaged due to the bombardments and shooting because our apartment was along the demarcation line.
Our Request to Release our House in West Beirut – 1992:
When in 1991/1992 there was again a government in Lebanon and the government apparatus functioned partially, we could send an application to the Lebanese Ministry of Interior to release our occupied house in Sanaya, west Beirut. After long investigations by the Lebanese Ministry of Interior with the regional police station of the city quarter Mouseitbé, where our house is located, the police station warned the family that occupied our house to leave it. The family refused to leave it pretending that they have no other house to move to. The Ministry of Interior then made the family leave by force. Our house in west Beirut was finally free, 7 years after it was first occupied, but not without big Bakhchich (tips) amounts for some officers of the police station.
We stayed in our apartment in Hadath in east Beirut though and later moved to Baabda, also in east Beirut, where we currently still live. Later on in September 2005, after the approval of all my siblings, we sold our house in west Beirut, where I lived most of my life with my mother. The new owners demolished the house and built a tall apartment building in its place.
Today – 2015:
My six siblings are all thankfully still alive. Listed from the eldest to the youngest:
- Bertha Herrig – Kelkheim/Fischbach, Taunus, near Frankfurt, Germany (has two daughters, Manuela and Andrea)
- Charlotte Schnittker – Uitikon-Waldegg, near Zurich, Switzerland (has one daughter and one son, Ulrike and Markus)
- Rudolf Walter Kleinknecht – St. Blasien/Schwarzwald, near Freiburg, Germany (has one son and one daughter, Rudolf Jr. and Judith)
- Anita Stütz – Germering, near Munich, Germany (has one daughter and one son, Isis and Thomas)
- Paul Heinz Kleinknecht (myself) – Baabda, Beirut, Lebanon (have one son, Paul Jr.)
- Wolfgang Siegfried Kleinknecht – Quadrath-Ichendorf, near Köln, Germany (has two daughters, Ina and Inga)
- Hilde Khoury – Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA (has one son and one daughter, Albert and Adelita)
It is regrettable that from the third generation my nephews Rudolf Kleinknecht Jr. and Albert Khoury passed away in 1995 and 2014 respectively.
ARABIA FELIX: (The Happy, or Blossoming Arabia)
A mysterious Eastern Country * Paradise Gardens * Incense Streets * Fragrance of the Orient.
The Hanging Gardens at Babylon: is one of the nine world wonders.
Citadel of Erbil: a fortified hilltop town which rises 25 – 32 m above the surrounding Erbil city. One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, inhabited since 6000 BC at least.
Ziggurat of Ur: Sumerian shrine was built in the 21st Century BC. This step pyramid was more than 30 m high.
Wadi al Salam, Najaf: largest cemetry in the world, covering more than 900 ha and some 5 million burials. The cemetry is used for some 1.400 years and here are buried several prominent people. The area is densely covered with burial shrines.
Maar Mattai Monastery, Nineveh: one of the oldest existing monasteries, founded in 363 AD by hermit Mar Mattai, who escaped from Roman persecution. The monastery has a library with unique values.
Palmyra: Oasis city in the Syrian desert. The ruins of ancient Palmyra belong to the World Cultural Heritage.
Afamia or Apameia: Roman ruins and the Dead Cities in northern Syria.
Citadel of Aleppo: is considered to be one of the oldest and largest castles in the world.
The House of Saint Ananias: (also called Chapel of Saint Ananias) is an ancient underground structure in Damascus, Syria, that is alleged to be the remains of the home of Ananias of Damascus, where Ananias baptized Saul (who became Paul the Apostle). The church is at the end of the street called the Straight Street, as mentioned in the Bible, near Bab Sharqi i.e. Eastern Gate.
Norias: The Roman wooden giant waterwheels of Hama, landmark of the city Hama: the water wheels of the Orontes river have a diameter of up to 22 meters and are considered as the world’s largest water wheels.
Philadelphia: Roman theater in Amman: it is a 6.000 Seat, 2nd-century Roman theater. A famous landmark in the Jordanian capital. It dates back to the Roman period when the city was known as Philadelphia.
Petra: carved out of the red rocks, capital of the Nabateans.
Dead Sea: 417 meters below sea level. The dead sea is the deepest lake on earth. The salt there looks like there is snow on the sea level.
Ma’in Hot Springs: 264 meters below sea level is one of the earth’s breathtaking deserts in the World. 109 Hot and cold springs. The water is heated to temperatures of up to 63 degrees celsius.
Jordan River: Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in Bethany (in Arabic, al-Maghtas, i.e. bath tub) on the Jordan river. The baptismal site of Jesus on the Jordanian side was declared as a World Heritage Site.
Madaba: the “City of Mosaics” in Jordan, with its 6th-century mosaic map of Jerusalem in the Madaba Map.
JERUSALEM: the Holy City with its old churches, mosques and synagogues. Archaeological treasures.
– Church of the Holy Sepulchre: a circa-4th-century Christian chapel.
– Western Wall: Ancient sacred site for Jewish prayers.
– Temple Mount: Hilltop compund of religious sites.
– Mount of Olives: Church, Christianity, Judaism, David, and monastery.
– Dome of the Rock: Islamic shrine housing foundation rock.
– Al-Aqsa Mosque: Islamic mosque compound with golden dome.
– Mount Zion: David, church tomb, temple, and abbey.
– Tower of David: ancient citadel and city history museum.
– Calvary: church, chapel, Christianity, basilica, and tomb.
– Yad Vashem: holocaust memorial and education center.
– Tomb of the Virgin Mary: revered tomb of the Virgin Mary.
– Church of the Nativity: a historical famous ancient 4th-century church in Bethlehem.
The Roman Baalbek Temples: an impressive time journey into ancient times. Gigantic proportions in breadth and height of the excavated architecture.
Grotto of Jeita: is a huge cave, a bizarre wonder world of stalactites and stalagmites.
Saints and artists: in airy heights. Old churches near old mosques.
Lebanon: is a paradise for historians and archaeologists.
Beirut: is the water and the air for us.
City of Byblos: is an ancient port city of the Phoenicians, whose history dates back to the 7th millennium BC. It is one of the oldest permanently populated places on earth. Is World Heritage by UNESCO.
Lebanon: is home of the holy cedars and home of Jesus first miracle in QANAH EL-JALIL. Cedars of the Lord (Arz el Rab). God himself has planted them in Lebanon.
Five Places in Lebanon have been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. Lebanon is a melting pot of the Orient and the Occident.
Some Facts about the small country Lebanon:
* Lebanon is 10.452 square kilometers, about four times lager than the Saarland, Germany, 2.567 square kilometers.
* The Phoenicians are the ancestors of the Lebanese, invented the Latin alphabet. It was the scholar Cadmus in Byblos, Lebanon.
* The name of the Bible comes from the Phoenician port city Byblos, from which the first alphabet was sent to Europe.
* Apostle Paul’s last journey to Rome was from the city Sidon, Lebanon.
* The Phoenicians were the greatest and most braving seafarers of antiquity in search of wealth. They discovered America before Columbus.
* Lebanese Phoenicians were among Roman Emperors, such as Caracalla (211-217), Elagabalus (218-222).
* Elissa, a princess of Tyre, Lebanon, founded the city of Carthage, “Qart Hadath” (from Phoenician) – meaning: The new City, in 814 BC, and became the first queen of Carthage. She requested from the local Berber Chieftain, a piece of land as big as a single oxhide. Therefore, Elissa cut the oxhide into the thinnest possible strips and thus acquired a greater portion of ground than she had apparently demanded, whence the place had afterwards the name of Byrsa, meaning in Greek “oxhide”. In the harbour of Tyre, the fishermen chant till now “Ela-eee-sa, Ela-eee-sa”, as they haul in their nets. They can not say why, maybe it’s for luck, or maybe it’s a lament for their princess who left her homeland never to return.
* King Solomon has imported cedar wood from Lebanon, paneled the interior of his temple at Jerusalem from floor to rafter, together with that of his palace.
* There are 18 recognized Christian and Islamic religious communities in Lebanon.
* In Beirut’s historic city center, was there the first Roman law school until the 551 AD earthquake.
* Lebanon was occupied 16 times: Pharaohs, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Hittites, Greece, Romans, Byzantine, Arabs, Egypt, Crusader, Turkey, England, France, Israel, Syria.
* In Lebanon are two sunrises and two sunsets in one day; the first one can be seen in the Bekaa plain, then drive over the western mountains towards the coast and see the second one off the coast.
* In the winter, you can ski in the mountains of Lebanon in some ski areas in the morning and swim in the Mediterranean in the afternoon. It snows every winter in Lebanon.
* The highest mountain peak in Lebanon is in northern Lebanon (Dahr el-Qadeeb) is 3.091 meters high, higher than the Zugspitze in the German Alps, 2.962 meters high. There is eternel snow in the mountains in North Lebanon.
* The Lebanese speak to a large extent three languages; Arabic, English and French.
* Lebanon is the only democratic state in the Arab world.
* Lebanon is the only Arab country that has no desert.
* The Lebanese go to the cinema most often.
* The book The Prophet of the Lebanese poet, philosopher and painter, Gibran Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) has been translated into over 40 languages.
* About 4.5 million Lebanese live in Lebanon and about 15 million live abroad.
* The Lebanese businessman Carlos Slim Helou (born 28.01.1940) in Mexico City, is one of the richest men in the world.
* The Lebanese women wear the shortest miniskirts and the shortest pants and the tightest and shortest bustiers and T-shirts with the deepest décolltés. It is forbidden by law, but in Lebanon, not all laws can be enforced.
* The Lebanese women do most cosmetic surgeries on noses, lips, teeth and breasts.
* The best tasting pizza, the best espresso, the best cappuccino, the best food, the best bread, the best ice cream, the best wine, the best beer and the best drinking water in the world can be enjoyed in Lebanon.
* Lebanon is the capital of the eateries.
* The Lebanese hospitality is at the top.
* The Grand Hills luxury hotel in Lebanon, nestled in the well known mountain village of Broummana, is 20 km far from Beirut and Beirut International Airport. It offers stunning views of both the mountains with their pine forests and the golden coast of Lebanon. The Royal Residence is the larges hotel suite in the world as per the Guinness World Record, is exquisitely furnished and has an area of 4.131 square meters.
The Lighthouse PHAROS of Alexandria and the 70 Pyramids at Gizeh, near Cairo, are two of the nine Wonders of the World.
The head of the SPHINX looks out of the sand beside them mildly smiling.
Luxor: city in upper Egypt with its world’s greatest open air museum.
Magical emissions, turquoise blue domes.
Cleopatra: Queen of Egypt, famous for her beauty and home of NEFERTITI, Egyptian Queen, favourite wife of IKHNA’TON, pharaoh of Egypt.
I hold many memories since my childhood and my long term stays in some Arab countries. Many memories are nice and some are negative. The Arab culture for many people in the Western World is perhaps understood as: 1000 and one nights (ألف ليلة وليلة), Sheherezade, Semiramis, harems, belly dancing, flat bread, falafel, hummus, hubble-bubble (أرغيله), camels, caravans, sand deserts, tents, Bedouins, turbans, women veils, souks. Salam Aleikum, (peace for you), Ahlan wa Sahlan, (welcome), Ma’a Salama, (goodbye). The Arabic culture and the pre Arab cultures in the Near East and North Africa gave to mankind the most beautiful and expressive cultural heritage. The beauty and diversity of the Arabic culture, with the diverse Arabic countries and people in this area, is different from what you see in the Western World. One should get to know this old and modern Arabic culture. Also the rich Arabic language, literature, philosophy, art, music, theater, dance and the unique Arabic architecture will take you away to another, unknown world. The artistic skill of the musicians and music consisting of 1/4, 3/4 and 5/4 tones, is very delightful. The melodies, often beginning with high note. Who does not like to hear the lute (Uud), the trapezoidal board zither, the bamboo flute (Nay). The skillful, intensive expressive dancing performances of oriental dance of the belly dancers, on the basis of traditional Egyptian dances, by Samia Gamal, Tahiya Karioka, Naima Akef and others, are so fascinating that no butterfly, no eagle, no swallow can imitate them. The attractive female Arabic fashion, the very rich and tasty Arabic food, the lively curiosity of the people in the Arabic world for the unknown and their surprisingly unexpected hospitality and helpfulness are the most beautiful features of the Arabic cultural heritage.
I am not a reporter, nor a writer, nor a politician. I am a person who loves and has always been interested in history, archaeology and geography. I would like to dedicate a small praise to the Swabian Templers (they are the Germans who initially came to Palestine to wait for Jesus Christ’s second return at the turn of the 1900th century, building their houses and villages in which I was eventually imprisoned with my family) who were imprisoned with us from May 1941 till October 1946 in the two settlements Sarona and Wilhelma in Palestine.
“The Templers have fulfilled an excellent work. They worked courageously in a Turkish Province, which was neglected due to mismanagement and corruption and built straight avenues with clean and durable houses. They drilled the dry soil for water. The Turks laid the unpopular Christians many obstacles on the way and imposed heavy taxes. Without Bakhschish for the Turks, nothing could be realized. The Bedouins intentionally destroyed many plantations. The climate of the Near East has troubled the Templers and forced many families to give up. The Templers and their fate disappeared due to the terrible crimes of the Nazis and the occupation of Palestine by Israel. 80 years after the bold beginnings of a small group of settlers, it was over like a Ghost. Traces of them are still there: benediction sayings on the front doors, (in German Sütterlinscript) wide streets and beautiful Swabian houses. The hard-working Templers, who came initially by ship to Palestine, left in 1948 (when the Israeli State was founded) partly by ship back to Germany and partly by ship to Australia, to the Kangaroo land, from where they imported the eucalyptus trees to Palestine.”
After the confiscation of the two German colonies by the new Israeli State, Sarona got the name “Kirya” and Wilhelma got the name “Bnei Atarot”. All the two-story Templer houses in both German colonies were perfectly restored by the new occupants, Sarona amidst Tel Aviv, both exist there till this day although they are from another world and another era.
Although we are not from the Templers’ sect, we had good relations with them and they treated us well and were always helpful and generous towards us. Also the English commanders in the two camps and their personnel treated us and treated the Templers well.
I am today 80 years old. What I wish is to see again the two previous Templer colonies, where we spent our childhood from May 1941 till October 1946; I would like to see how they look today, if I can still recognize some Templer houses, especially where we lived and where we have played; I would like to see again the shining eucalyptus tree trunks on which we have engraved our names with nails, sharp stones and broken glass pieces, and the fields where we used to fly our air kites which I have made with my own hands.
Since our grandparents settled in the land of cedars in 1891, great events happened in Lebanon: two world wars, two civil wars, several Israeli invasions with terrible destructions occupying about half of Lebanon, several earthquakes and many kidnappings of innocent western civilians totaling to about 90 persons including seven German citizens.
With the first convoy organized by the German Embassy in Beirut, my father sent away my two elder sisters and my elder brother (10 years old at the time) on 6th November 1940 to Stuttgart, Germany, by land transport.
My father and his two brothers traveled beginning of 1941 to Germany after the outbreak of the Second World War, with the second convoy organized by the German Embassy in Beirut. He came back only once to Lebanon with me by car in 1973 for a 6 months stay but he eventually went back to Germany and stayed there till his death in 1981. My German grandmother and her daughter remained in Beirut and then my aunt was per force imprisoned with us, (her mother remained in Beirut) my mother with four children (my youngest sister being about 40 days old) from May 1941 till October 1946 in Palestine.
My two oldest sisters (Bertha and Charlotte) and my oldest brother (Rudolf) eventually came back to Lebanon in 1954 to reunite with their siblings and of course, our mother. The second generation remained in Lebanon till the end of the 1950ies and middle of the 1960ies. They then started to leave the country one after the other due to studies, marriage or work. My youngest brother Wolfgang went to Germany in 1959 to continue his studies there. My sister Bertha left Lebanon with her German husband with her two daughters for Germany in 1960. My eldest brother Rudolf left for Germany in 1961 with his family because he saw no future for his family in Lebanon. My youngest sister Hilde left for Ghana in 1964 with her Lebanese husband and later for U.S.A. My sister Charlotte left for Switzerland with her German fiancé in 1964. My sister Anita left Lebanon with her German fiancé for Germany in 1965. I stayed in Lebanon with my mother (till her death in 1985) and still live here till this day.
Our family had a very difficult life. As I mentioned in my story, the family was cruelly separated by my father and because of the war. My mother and 4 of the kids (myself included) stayed in Lebanon and were imprisoned for 5 years and 5 months in Palestine. The other 3 kids were sent away to Germany while they were still very young (the oldest Bertha being 14 years old) to live with unknown families, without the love and affection of a real mother or father, while my father lived by himself in Germany away from everyone.
Today, my siblings and I each live in different parts of this world, with each one of us bearing the tough – albeit different – memories of our childhoods. I am the only one who eventually remained in Lebanon, although we were all born here. We still see each other, although rarely, still bearing the wounds of our separation. The 3rd generation families, as a result, are sadly barely – if not never – in touch with each other. Whenever we meet, we always talk about our story when we got separated. We still hold an amiable relationship between each other, although with time and separation, we became somewhat strangers to each other, with the separation being the only bond/tragedy that we still sadly all share in common. I think I am the one who tries to stay in touch with my siblings the most (which is still not as much as it normally should be between siblings) because their presence in my memory is unfading.
I received several verbal warnings from the German Embassy during the civil war which started in 1975 to leave Lebanon for a safer country, or to stay in east Beirut where the security situation was better than in West Beirut. But I am still here with my family, will remain here defying all hardships, crises, civil commotions, dangers etc. till the end, like the cedars of Lebanon, cedars of God, which resisted and survived the toughest hot and coldest climates and strongest snow and wind storms since some thousand years and pray under the most beautiful blue sky. Here is the best place to be closer to our creator!
The word cedar is mentioned 75 times in the bible. Mary is mentioned much more in the Koran than in the Bible. “Mary, a figure who unites Christians and Muslims. Verse 42 of the Qur’an Sura 3: “At that time, when the angels were speaking: Mary! Behold, God chose you and made you clean – he chose you before all women in the world”.
ِArabic: مريم, شخصية توحد المسيحيين و المسلمين. الآية 42 من صورة القرأن 3: عندما كان الملآئكة يتحدثون, ها مريم, اللّه اختارك و جعلك نطيفا – اختارك امام جميع النسأ في العالم
SONG OF SOLOMON:
1 Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from Gilead.
2 Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.
3 Thy lips are like a thread of scar, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of pomegranate within thy locks.
4 Thy neck is like the tower of David built for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shield of mighty men.
5 Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.
6 Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and the hill of frankincense.
7 Thou art all fair, my love: there is no spot in thee.
8 Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon; look from the top of Amana, from the top of Senir and Hermon, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards.
9 Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.
10 How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! How much better is thy love than wine! And the smell of thine ointment than all spices than all spices!
11 Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.
12 A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
13 Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard.
14 Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinamon, with all trees of frankencense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices.
15 A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.
16 Awake, O north wind: and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.
In this song the name Lebanon, is mentioned four times and the Lebanese mountains, Hermon, Amana und Senir, are each mentioned once. Lebanon is mentioned in the Bible as the land where milk and honey flow.
Quasi cedrus exaltata sum in Libano. Translation from Latin to English: You were exalted to heaven like the cedars in Lebanon. Arabic: و ارتفعت في السمأ كأرز لبنان
Gloria Libani Data Est Ei: (Translation in English) – The Glory of Lebanon is given to Him. (Isaiah 2:35) In Arabic: مجد لبنان أعطي له –
Dear friends, dear readers,
my best wishes. I hope that you didn’t get bored while reading our authentic family story.
Paul Heinz Kleinknecht
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P. O. Box 40256 * Baabda / Lebanon * Tel.: 00961 5 468449 * Fax: 00961 5 468438 * Mobile: 00961 3 717151