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Archiver > POSEN > 2000-09 > 0970261423

From: Hermann da Fonseca-Wollheim <>
Subject: Re: [POSEN] keep this a secret
Date: Fri, 29 Sep 2000 23:03:43 +0200

> I try to understand some people's touchiness, too. As naming a region, a
> city or a town is not at all expression of laying claim to changing borders
> again - a little bit more coolness would be wise. I don't remember that a
> European neighbour of any other nationality had tried to urge me to say
> Liege rather than Luettich, Wissembourg rather than Weissenburg, Mulhouse
> rather than Muelhausen, Geneve rather than Genf, Neufchatel rather than
> Neuenburg, Torino, Genova, Milano, Venezia, Bolzano rather than Turin,
> Genua, Mailand, Venedig, Bozen, Koebnhavn rather than Kopenhagen, Klaipeda
> rather than Memel, Tallinn rather than Reval... I also don't have any
> problem with neighbours calling Muenchen Monaco, Nuernberg Nuremberg,
> Aachen Aix-les-Bains, Koeln Cologne, Mainz Mayence...
> So, my advice is: Stay cool and try to understand other naming customs than
> your own. This will improve education and coolness - and it will keep away
> nationalistic excitement.
> Friedrich

Dear Friedrich,

I agree to 97 or 98% with you: In most of your examples, the different names of
towns are just different linguistic versions of the same word (this is obvious in
such cases as Turin/Torino or Kopenhagen/Kobnhavn but also true for
Breslau/Wroclaw). In particular, when people speaking a third language used one or
the other of the names , they were almost certainly not aware that they were
taking position in favour or against a national claim.When the French in 1939
questioned the wisdom of dying for Danzig ("de mourir pour Dantzig", "für Danzig
zu sterben"), they certainly did not mean that the town should be called Danzig
or Gdanks. If they had meant that, they would have easily realised that to die for
Danzig also meant to die - and to fight - for Strasbourg (and not for Strassburg).

But I would hesitate to apply this logic to towns which changed their name after
1939 (Hindenburg, Litzmannstadt etc). Because in these cases, the change of name
implied essentially a linguistic annexation of a territory. I would not want to be
part of such a claim.

By the way, this is the reason why I have not tried until now to get an answer
from Posen-List-Members to the following question which is important to me:

At the beginning of the 19th century, the German-Jewish Family of WOLLHEIMs lived
in Breslau (Silesia) and in small towns around Posen/Poznan (Rogowo, Rogasen,
Gnesen, Filene etc). Recently, I discovered in the "Town List of the Third Reich"
that there had been a place WOLLHEIM under the NSDAP Kreisleitung (regional
Nazi-Party Organization) of GnesenGniezno in the Warthegau (Wielkopolski)
procince/Gau. This reminded me that I had read as a small boy during the war hat
Hitler had given a German General not only the Iron Cross with swords and diamonds
but also, as a "gift of the German People", the Estate Wollheim.

As all names ending with "...heim" (like Oppenheim, Wertheim etc) seem to be of
South West German / Alsatian Jewish origin, it would seem to be very strange that
the Nazis after 1939 had maintained this Jewish name in occupied Poland (although
this was, in the 19th century, the official Germanisationvpolicy in the Province
of Posen: Jiddish was considered to be a Germanic language and, therefore, Jews
were considered to be less German than the Germans but more German than the Poles

If I could have an answer to this question without rekindling the discussion about
the correct spelling of towns in Posen/Poznan / Poznan/Posen (I live in Belgium,
so I know that citing places in the wrong order might start a civil war) I would
be very happy. If, however, the price for such an answer would be a repetition of
the kind of messages we had in the last few days, I, as a retired civil servant of
the European Union, concerned with the future, less with the past, of Europe,
would prefere to have no answer at all.

Hermann da Fonseca-Wollheim
Tervuren, Belgium

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