Bad Durkheim

“Flowers for Nicholas” watercolor by Wendy Harty February 2021

What if?

What if they had missed the boat? I missed a cruise ship. We were seat belted in the plane when someone forget to remove the chalk block and ruined the tire. We couldn’t fly to catch the ship before it left. In the grand scheme of life, it was one week of holiday and really didn’t make a big difference but the telling makes a good story and has a happy ending.

But what if they missed the boat at LaHavre, France. Or hadn’t even made the decision to leave? Or not had the money needed to relocate their large families? What if? This is the story of my Great Great Grandfather Nicholas Reinhardt on my mother’s maternal side. Nicholas was born July 11, 1811 in Munich Stadtkreis Bavaria and as I write this looking at his tombstone he died on February 22, 1892, 129 years ago today. My Heritage has a wonderful feature that reminds of you relatives who died in the month of _ and their clue prompted this blog.

Others have researched and say Nicholas’s parents were Johannes Wilhelm Reinhardt who died in July 28, 1759 and wife Maria Eva Koppin. His grandparents were Hieronymous Reinhardt 1711-1794 and Elisabeth Jorns or Jerns 1715-1789. The Reinhardt family can be traced back to 1667 in Germany when Peter married Anna Maria and died in 1685 found at Niederkirchen bei Deidesheim, Bad Durkheim, Rheinland-Phalz, Deutschland. This information establishes the family at Bad Durkheim.

Bad Durkheim is situated on the Rhine River, on the edge of the Palatinate Forest. The meaning of the town’s name is Bad = Bath and it has become a spa town with the 7 mineral springs found there where tourists go to enjoy the briny bath. Above the town high on the cliff stands the remains of a ruined castle called Hardenburg. At one time it was the mightiest fortress, rising over four terraces high. This fortified hilltop castle with its mighty walls, bulwarks, gun turrets, catacombs and pleasure gardens was the spacious residence of the Leiningen family. The Germans fought wars it seems forever! The Counts of Leiningen for five centuries ruled over the Isenach Valley here. The town was an important trade and travel route but for 800 years its history was one of warlike feuds. The area survived the Thirty Years Wars but was not so lucky in 1689 with the scorched earth campaign of the French. Bad Durkheim was nearly destroyed when French troops came there during the Nine Years War. The French Revolutionary troops 1794 destroyed the interior of the castle and its lavish decorations. Reconstruction swiftly occurred. How did they get the rocks up the mountain to build a castle and the water carried up that steep hill? High above the Rhine River sits another ruin called Linburg Abby or Monestery. It was here in the monastery 1038 that the dates of Advent were set. After the Napoleonic wars Bad Durkheim ended up in the Kingdom of Bavaria, still on the Rhine River’s bank. In peaceful times I imagine the knights in armor and ladies in beautiful gowns walking the ancient paths of the forest, strolling the pleasure gardens and enjoying the theatre there. It was here my Nicholas Reinhardt was born on July 11, 1811. His baptism was recorded on July 26, 1811 Katholisch (Catholic) in the Bavarian Kingdom. And Nicholas sometime before 1843 when he married my second great grandmother Katharina Charlotta Kress at Brown, Ohio got on the boat and came to America! But what if he hadn’t?

Yes During the Night of Broken Glass or Kristallnacht in the town of Bad Durkheim another war! The Year was 1938. World War II and the synagogue was plundered. The Jewish shops were looted and there was broken glass everywhere, thus the name above. The estimate of the damages, $1,250,000. The nineteen Jews left after that night were deported to the Gurs concentration camp. Then again in 1945 the town was hit by bombs in an allied air raid where 300 died.

What if Nicholas hadn’t left? Would I have worked the underground and been caught? Would I be under the rubble as the bombs dropped? or would I survive and climb up through that mighty forest to peer into the ruins of the castle and marvel at the thickness of the walls, visit its subterranean passageways, the catacombs and imagine who is buried there so long ago? Instead, because he left, I am!

Nicholas Reinhardt 1811-1892

Rest in Peace my 2nd great grandfather, Nicholas, Rest in Peace. Today on the 129th anniversary of your death you are remembered. I do not know much about your life other than you farmed in the beautiful Ohio valley. You married Katharina Charlotta Kress on December 5, 1843 and George Wilhelm Reinhardt the oldest of your eight children 1844-1891 my great grandfather married Samantha Hendrickson. To this union were born two children: my grandmother Josephine Elizabeth Reinhardt 1884-1971 and a son Philip Henry 1882-died young in 1890. Josephine married William Miller and had my mother in 1926 Jeane. What if Grandfather Nicholas, what if you hadn’t made your way to America?

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