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October 24, 2010

A Trip to Niedenstein, Germany

Filed under: My Knatz Family History — gknatz @ 5:13 am

October 28, 2010

When I learned that Niedenstein would open a museum on October 30th, 2010, I decided to go. I have previously communicated via email with the museum director Elvira Friedrich and had sent her copies of the Knatz family letters. Once I learned that a letter would be on display during the opening, I just had to be there. Landed in Germany on a Thursday, took at train to city of Kassel, then a cab to the church Archives to see if I could learn more about the Hessian soldier Heinrich Knatz. Found his baptismal record in 1759 but it looks like he went back to Germany to Niedenstein and married. So maybe the Hessian soldier who stayed in America was Gerhard. Marburg Hessian soldier records show his birth in Ziegenhain. But I could not find any of his baptismal record in Ziegenhain or Niedenstein. A mystery still to be solved! Or it could be I was so tired from not sleeping on the plane. Met Elke Holmann from Neidenstein and she and I worked together. October 29. 2010
Elke Hohmann met me and she took me to the historical museum in the nearby village of Wichdorf, a small hamlet two kilometers from Niedenstein that is today considered part of the city of Niedenstein. Wickdorf had a castle which had now been turned into a private home. The museum was set up like the inside of an old German home. Then she took me to another history museum in the town of Metze where she is from. This museum had alot of textiles and mannequins wearing traditional german dress. I especially liked the cone-shaped hats called Betzels. The pictures were taken and given to me by the museum director Renate Gelpke. The proper name for these hats in the area where our family came from is “Niederhessische Spitzbetzeltracht”

Here I am with Elke Hohmann with another mannequin wearing a Betzel.

We went to lunch in Gudensberg, where up on the hill overlooking the town there are the ruins of the castle. In the afternoon, I was met at the Hotel by Sonja Passman who is the daughter of Walter and Ingrid Knatz of Niedenstein.

This in Walter and Ingrid and their daughter Sonja.

Walter’s father was Adam Knatz. Ingrid and Sonja walked me to the cemetery to see Adam’s grave. The Knatz home in Niedenstein is filled with memorabilia from Walter’s Father, Adam Knatz who was a hunter. Lots of mounted deer antlers line the walls.

Walter also showed me a knife with a handle that was formed from a large piece of scrapnal from a exploded bomb during the battle of the Argonne in France during World War I. He said a Knatz had done it who fought in the war.


The Niedenstein museum opening was at 2pm. I walked down a bit early so I could walk down the Unterstrasse and see the Knatz ancestral home. Just outside the home, I ran into the current owner Mr. Schmidt, who invited me in. He had seen the pictures I took in 1987 on this Knatzfamily website. Knatz family letters will be on display and part of the museum collections. If you want to see the letters, click on the page Knatz Family Letters. There was a crowd at the museum opening and the Mayor gave a speech which of course I could not understand. Then the Museum Director Elvira Friedlich welcomed everyone and she gave a special public welcome to me who had come from America!

I did not know until that day that Elvira was born a Knatz. Her grandfather and Sonja Passman’s grandfather Adam Knatz were brothers. When the museum opened everyone crowded around a model of the town Niedenstein that showed the locations of all the family homes.

Two Knatz homes were there, the Johann Jost Knatz home and the Justus Knatz home that became the Heinrich Knatz home. The Johann Jost Knatz (later Reinhard, then Schmidt) home is the center of the photo near the back. Then two doors down is the Justus Knatz (Later Heinrich Knatz) home. if you click on the picture to blow it up you can see a green sticker on the Johann Jost Knatz house.

Here is a better picture of the Niedenstein museum model which shows the Knatz house on the top of the column on the right side. This is the first house on the Unterstrasse and backs up to the wall of the city and in this model is labeled No. 1.   The address I have for this house today is 77 Unterstrasse although a map in the book Chronik Stadt Niedenstein 1254-2004 label the Knatz land parcel as 134.   Two doors down on the house which would be house No. 5 is the Justus Knatz house.  In the next photo you can see the Justus Knatz house right where a cross street intersects the Unterstrasse and has a white door.  Houses 3, 5, and 7 appear to be connected together as one building.

I was able to make a scan of the notebook page that showed the ownership history of the Johann Jost Knatz home.

The most exciting part for me was seeing the name August and Conrad Knatz written on a display board and a copy of the oldest Knatz family letter dated 1872 on display. In the first photo is Illona Grunau who is related to the Schmoll family, that authored the letters to August Knatz. Ilona’s greatgrandfather is is Carl Knatz, brother to Adam Knatz, who is Sonja Passman’s grandfather. That’s me standing by the display in the second photo.

What a surprise to also see a display on another Knatz, Heinrich Knatz who had been a policeman in the early part of the 20th century and see his ring on display in the museum.

Below is a photo of Heinrich Knatz.

While I was at the opening I purchased a copy of a new history on Niedenstein, writed by Horst Eubel.
Here is a picture of me and Mr. Eubel in front of the museum. ( I did notice that the book has omitted the name of Heinrich Knatz on the list of Hessian soldiers from Niedenstein.)

So how are the people that work at the museum related to us in America? Well, August and Conrad Knatz had an older brother named Carl. Being the oldest, he stayed in Germany while the younger brothers had to leave to find their fortune. Carl married Marie Magdalena Gerhold. They had four children, two boys, Johannes and Justus, and two daughters, Sophie and Charlotte. Justus had three sons, one Adam Knatz who is Sonja’s grandfather, one Johannes or Hans, who is Elvira’s grandfather and one Carl Knatz who is Ilona’s great-grandfather.
If you had a chance to read the family letters written from Germany to America in the family letters link on the website (the one dated 1887), you will read about the two sausages that were sent from Germany to America with someone from Niedenstein to hand deliver them to August and Conrad Knatz. Sure…..give someone two sausages to carry on a long journey, at sea possibly for weeks and expect they got to New York! Well, I learned that this part of the state of Hesse where our family is from is know for this dried cured sausage- sort of like dry salami. So before I left, I got a tip on a good pig farm in Niedenstein that had sausages. Sonja took me there and they said they were out of sausages. Then she told the farmer that I had come from California and then we were brought into the barn, back through all the rooms until we came to a door that opened into a refrigerated room hung with sausages. So in keeping with family tradition, I had to bring two back to America.

Through this door one can find good Hessian sausage!

This is the newspaper article that appeared about the museum opening. It even mentioned the I had traveled the longest distance to be there.

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Filed under: My Knatz Family History — gknatz @ 5:04 am

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