Another Victory of Ideology over Rationality

Canada is a progressive nation, so they say. We have national health care. Or, rather, we have ten provincial and three territorial health care systems. The Federal Government provides the ground rules, a major part of the funding, and the ideology. Big time ideology: all Canadians  have the inalienable right to good health – and if it seems to be temporarily absent, mother state is there to set it right. This right to health care, not only must be available to everybody, but it has to be unencumbered by any whiff of charity. Services are provided free, to all legal residents, without any needs tests.

Actually, no nation can afford unlimited health spending. So we have a few, almost invisible, safeguards: you are entitled to any diagnostic and therapeutic intervention, as long as you survive the waiting time. As a senior, you get your prescriptions almost free, as long as there isn’t a similar, cheaper drug. And here is my beef.

I am a senior citizen with a misbehaving pimple. After some discussion and perusal of the evidence based literature, my family doctor gave me a prescription for two weeks of an antibiotic – Doxycycline. Doxycycline, a younger brother of Tetracycline has been around for over 45 years. It is nothing exotic. In the lab, it is as effective against the same variety of bugs like Tetracycline. When I came to the pharmacy, I learned that that Doxycycline, as opposed to Tetracycline, was not covered by the health plan. Why, because Tetracycline is cheaper! Paying for the Doxyxycline out of my pocket is no problem. It really isn’t expensive, and in fact, the dispensing fee amounted to about much as the drug itself. But it got me thinking. The reason I prefer Doxycycline over Tetracycline is the convenience of having to take only two pills per day instead of four.

Real life effectiveness of any drug does not only depend of the inherent efficacy under ideal conditions, but it also depends strongly on the patient’s behavior, above all on compliance, i.e. how closely he or she follows the doctor’s instructions while taking the medicine. Let us then consider the influence of dosage frequency on compliance by examining the literature.

Between the 1990s and present I found over 20 good scientific studies exploring the question. Amazingly, they all agree: compliance behaves inversely to dosage frequency. In other words, if you double dosage frequency, you halve compliance, i.e. the patients take only about half as much of their prescription. You would then expect that therapy is only half as effective.

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Thank Heaven for Nurses!

Like most other old equipment, old people too need repairs from time to time. And if you are lucky, you find a good garage.

Three weeks ago, I too had to be fixed at the Day Surgery in the Hamilton General Hospital. And while it is cool (and sometimes justified) to complain about the Health Care System, this is my rave about the care I received in the post-op recovery room – and a feeble attempt to say THANK YOU to the nursing staff.

Waking up from general anesthesia can be a confusing experience. One doesn’t quite away realize who one is, where one is, and what is happening. For me, this wasn’t the case. The first thing I saw was a friendly face, who welcomed me back to reality. It was one of the nurses who seemed to be attached to my stretcher. I felt safe right away. Maybe I was a bit confused at first, because the bright lights made me think that I was in my wood workshop. Patiently, the nurse introduced herself and explained, where I was. She didn’t leave my side, til she was confident that I was oriented. In fact, it felt like some eighty years ago when my mother was taking care of me. I felt safe without being placed in an infant rôle.

I am using the generic term ‘nurse’ rather than naming her for a simple reason: throughout my 5 hour stay, every single nurse in the recovery behaved in the same way, simultaneously caring and professional. We could exchange jokes and get to know each other. If I would use one name, I would have to use them all, not to do injustice to one I left out. They all were wonderful.

Complications got met with reassurance and support. When I shivered, I was immediately covered with a warm blanket. When I was thirsty, I was first given ice chips, later ice water, and finally orange juice. I never felt like a burden, but always like an honored guest. Although I knew theoretically about the difficult working conditions and stress, nurses experience during these days of Covid, it never leaked through or interfered with the quality of care and devotion to their profession.

As result of this care and attention, being a hospital patient does not scare me any more, If this is what hospital care is like in Canada, then we are really lucky.

A big Thank You to all the HGH recovery room nurses!

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Conquering the Alps Virtually

Battling the ravages of old age is no trivial task. I used to work out more or less regularly at the local fitness center. But the pandemic put an end to that! To tell the truth, at first I was somewhat relieved.

Eventually I decided to overcome my sloth. It was clear that I would never amortize the investment necessary to establish my own fitness center in the basement. So I examined the options. In the garage stood a used bicycle put aside after a violent encounter with a red SUV. The cracked helmet still sat on the saddle. Could I re-purpose the bike for some exercise? I was still afraid of traffic. In the Canadian winter bicycling is not very inviting either. What were the alternatives?

While trawling the Web I encountered a flashy commercial from Rouvy, a fitness startup in Czechia. Their bicycles must have cost a fortune. The guy’s physique was to die for, and the young woman wasn’t to scoff at either. I could easily see myself in that setting.

The website went on to explain, how to realize this dream. The introductory price for the software was reasonable, and a training stand for the bicycle affordable. I owned a computer already, and the three little, necessary electronic sensors were no problem. But the Black Swan raised its head in the form of the Covid supply chain chaos: it took me three months to gather the required components, another week to assemble and debug the contraption, until I finally could start my new athletic career.

To admit, the setup resembles the advertisement in no way. The jargon in the website was directed at jocks, and took me a while to decipher. It promises realistic, virtual bike rides anywhere in the world without having to leave the comfort of your home. I started slowly with easy, undulating routes. The videos were realistic and in High Definition. There was a sheer inexhaustible selection of routes all over the globe.

As I dared to venture on more demanding rides, I realized that my physical stamina seemed to confine me forever to the foothills. At my age there was no way I could cover 20 miles and climb 4000 feet in a single trip. But eventually I figured out how to divide a ride into feasible installments spread over several days. Now things started to become interesting.

Let me take you on my maiden voyage over the Klausenpass in Central Switzerland. The particular choice was easy; I had bonded with the region over 60 years ago, when I spent there a month as supply teacher at a local high school. In dry numbers the route measures 19.5 miles and involves a total climb of 4692 feet. Altogether it took me four rides of somewhat less than an hour each, and four soaked sweat shirts.

To simulate a realistic ride experience on the plain vanilla trainer you pedal at a constant cadence (and resistance), but the steeper the climb, the slower the bicycle seems to move. It is almost like driving a car with automatic transmission.

The tour starts gently along the floor of the Linth valley. I follow my coach at an easy speed. He lets me warm up gradually, and encourages me to an occasional short sprint. It is early morning, and the sun touches the mountain peaks.

But ahead the road takes a sudden turn, and starts climbing up the side of the valley There isn’t much traffic. The video proudly displays my self selected ‘nom de roue’ together with my current riding effort. The traffic sign is somewhat confusing, for there is no railway crossing ahead. It alerts people to to a boom that bars the road when there is danger of avalanches. But we can safely ignore it.

The picture is deceiving, for the road climbs at an inclination of 12%, but I have to slow anyhow to take this picture.

Ahead is the charming village of Urnerboden at an elevation of 1348 meters. My heart is pumping, but a rest at the local inn does not seem in the cards.

Although this is not a competitive race, I still feel some satisfaction on overtaking a peer. Too bad, we can’t exchange greetings. But the view is breathtaking, and I can almost smell the mountain air.

It is getting serious. The last climb with an inclination of 16% invites to a final spurt. But it taxes my reserves.

As I cross the finish line, I can see the foam on the beer in front of my eyes

In the past my wife often reminded me, not to skip the workout. Now she comes down to the basement, warning me not to overdo it. But thanks to Rouvy it never feels like ‘too much’, rather it feels like ‘more’!


In the meantime I have climbed several more passes. Most recently I had a lot of fun with the Lukmanier Pass. Not only do you get to climb to the top, you even get to zip down at 40 miles per hour, and you don’t even have to wear a helmet!

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Who Protects me from Protectron?

At 6  this morning my wife woke me up: “The alarm system is making noises!” Sure enough, the little display on the box indicated that the smoke alarm in the basement needed new batteries. No problem. For years we have been clients of Protectron, a country wide alarm monitoring service; they stay on guard for me! I could understand why they wouldn’t call me that early to change the batteries.

But by 9 o’clock I was ready. I placed the ladder under the faulty sensor and attempted to call the company that I was going to interfere with the security system (that’s what you are supposed to do!). I dialed and waited . . . Yes, I know, I am important to the company, they told me that at least 10 times until the system disconnected me with an unpleasant snarl. So I called again and waited . . .  This time I gave up after 15 minutes. OK, so it is their problem if my system triggers an alarm. I took down the sensor, installed the new batteries and put the sensor back in place. My alarm box was protesting vigorously stating “Fire Trouble”. It stands to reason that something equivalent was happening in Protectron’s central monitoring station. What did not happen, however, was a call from Protectron to inquire about this trouble. I must say though, a week earlier I had promptly received a notification from Protectron that they were going to raise my monitoring fee by 15% in order to further improve the quality of their service.

I am asking myself now, what am I actually getting for the money if the guards are asleep. And who is guarding the guards?

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The ASUS Blues

I have a new computer, and I love it. It is an ASUS Zenbook UX31E. It is the notebook I always dreamed of. It is beautiful, light, capable,runs almost seven hours on one battery charge, and sings like a nightingale. It flatters the Mac Book Air by imitation. But that’s all right with me: there are some technical reasons why I prefer a Windows machine over an Apple descendant.

But when I did the research to choose a product that would match my needs, I was surprised about the ambivalence towards ASUS products that I found in various professional product reviews. True, early pre-roll-out models had some significant flaws, but those were remedied, once the Zenbook hit the market. I didn’t initially understand why reviewers were so cool towards what appeared to be a fantastic machine.

But now I do understand. It is not so much the product, as it is the organisation that stands behind it – or doesn’t! I had a simple need for some international ASUS parts that were in production and being delivered routinely in other countries. I first called the national ASUS store to ask for prices and to order. The clerk told me that they don’t stock these parts. I then asked if they could be ordered. The answer was a categorical “NO”! Next, I wrote to the support address; at least, I tried to. Instead, I was presented with an extremely user-unfriendly form which reset itself, whenever the next field was filled in, so you had to start all over again. Two days later I received a compressed, unformatted excerpt of my original message with the laconic comment: call the store. It took me two more iterations before I realized that there was system to the madness: the whole purpose was to keep customers from asking for anything out of the ordinary.

ASUS had made its name largely by producing motherboards for  generic desktop computers. They are relatively new in the business of primary consumer products. But if ASUS, and its CEO Jonney Shih want to succeed in competition with such masters as Apple, it doesn’t suffice that they just imitate the products, they also have to match their service. It may just be an issue of culture. What works in Taiwan will probably not work for western markets in the long run. But, hey, globalisation means that you have to compete along the whole front!

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A low-guilt potato salad

The other day  I attended a tribal pot-luck picnic. The culinary low was the potato salad – a medley of mashed potato and mayonnaise, yuk! My dream potato salad is creamy with thin slices of recognizeable potato that melt on your tongue with a cholesterol content akin to the interest rate on Canada Savings Bonds. I will let you in on the secret but first the abstract:

  • steamed, not boiled,
  • low fat yoghurt, not Hellmann’s.


  • 2 lbs of mid-sized Yukon Gold potatoes,
  • 2 cups of chicken stock (1 cube and boiling water),
  • 4 tbsp white (wine) vinegar,
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard,
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil,
  • 2 tbsp fat free yoghurt,
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped,
  • 2 dill pickles, finely chopped,
  • pepper and salt to taste.

Before we get our hands dirty, let me make a few editorial comments: performing this potato salad is not for the faint-of-heart. Although the actual work takes maybe half an hour, it will still keep you busy for the better part of a day. Plan to prepare it the day before you want to serve it. The other novelty, for many chefs, is ‘steaming’  ( Steaming is well worthwhile incorporating into your set of cooking skills. You, therefore, need steaming implements, be they state-of-the-art or improvised, plus a bowl that can take some heat, a cutting board and a very sharp knife.

Fill the bowl with cold water; peel the potatoes and drop them in the bowl. Raw potato by raw potato, cut them into thin slices maybe 1/8″ thick and drop them back into the bowl.

Start your steamer with about 2″ of water in the boiler and the drained potato slices in the basket. Put on the lid and steam for 25 minutes (20 minutes if you like ‘al dente’). Provide enough heat for a steady curl of steam to escape from the pot. Wash out the bowl, put in the bouillon cube and add 2 cups of boiling water, timed such that the stock is ready when the potatoes are. Carefully transfer the potato slices back into the hot stock, so it just covers the potatoes and let them soak in the stock, until it has totally cooled off.

Drain off the stock and add the vinegar. Let it soak into the potatoes for at least five minutes. In the mean time put the mustard into a small bowl and gradually stir in the oil. Add the yoghurt and stir, add the onions and pickles. Now carefully mix this dressing with the salad, so the potato slices don’t get mashed.

Best served refrigerated. Bon appetit!


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The Case of the Missing Tombstones

Together with a German friend my wife and I are just completing a book documenting the features and history of an old Jewish cemetery in rural Bavarian Swabia (see the picture above). During our work we becam increasingly aware of the fact that many tombstones which should be there, are actually nowhere. This blog explores the mystery of the missing tombstones.

Kolleffel map of Krumbach and Hürben, 1760

Krumbach is a small market town in Southern Germany. In fact, today’s town of Krumbach resulted from the amalgamation of two earlier, separate communities: Krumbach and Hürben. Hürben was a small farming village where Jews had settled since the 16th century. The exact date Jews first put down their roots is somewhat clouded by the mist of history. Although a document from 1759 refers to 1504 ((1759 Urbarium of Hürben)), the first documented, contemporary mention of Jews in Hürben appeared in 1542 ((Imperial Proclamation of the Freedom of the City of Memmingen, 1542.)). The first legal resident Jew – Salomon Jud – was recorded in 1580 ((1580 Urbarium of Hürben)). A single named legal person probably encompassed a whole household including any number of children, inlaws and assorted helpers.

A Hürben rabbi Moses from Angelberg is mentioned in 1568 and rabbi Isak of Prerau appears in 1670. It is likely that, over the years, Jews migrated to Hürben in groups from other communities, but this is documented only for the Jews evicted from Thannhausen in 1718. By 1759 at least eight extended Jewish families were living in Hürben, but only two owned their own houses.

The margraviate of Burgau, ca. 1750

Originally, Jews had to bury their dead in the only Jewish cemetery in the region, near the town of Burgau, the capital of the margraviate bearing the same name, some 16 miles north of Hürben. But in 1628 the Jews of Hürben received permission to establish their own cemetery. In 1675 the Jews were also allowed to build a synagogue, which was subsequently enlarged in 1710 and 1765 to keep pace with an ever growing community. It was rebuilt in 1819 and, finally, destroyed in the Night of Broken Glass – November 9. 1938.

cemetery plan
Cemetery plan with expansion dates

The cemetery, too, was expanded about eight times between 1628 and 1924. Whereas the first Hürben Jews earned their livelihood as pedlars, horse traders, money lenders, wheelers and dealers, over the years they gradually entered settled trades, respected businesses and the professions. The Jewish community of Hürben reached its peak between 1840 and 1850 counting some 652 members.

After 1850 the Jewish population gradually declined, initially due to emigration to North-America, and after 1860, migration to the large urban centers in Germany. The last fourteen Hürben Jews were deported and murdered 1942 in Piaski near Lublin, German occupied Poland.

Deaths by period and age group

Deaths by period and age group

Vital data extracted from a variety of sources allows us to  estimate the total number of deaths. Prior to 1784 data derives from burial tax receipts in the archives. From 1785 to 1876 we have analysed the death records contained in the Gatermann films, and death records after 1876 are kept in the municipal archives of Krumbach. Over the duration of Hürben’s Jewish community, approximately 2096 people had died. But 890 of them were children under the age of 1 year. According to Jewish law, children who died within their first 30 days of life warrant very limited obsequies. But given the high infant mortality, the impecunity of most Jews at the time and the cost of stones, few of the very young children would have been given a tombstone.This would lead us to expect at least 1206 graves. But only 231 graves still exist today, none older than 200 years. How have the other, almost thousand tombstones disappeared? The answer to this riddle evolves in stages.

It may not be widely known, but in contrast to the custom in Christian cemeteries, Jewish tombstones are placed for perpetuity. In fact, any unwarranted interference with a grave is strictly prohibited by religious laws. It is thus unthinkable that the headstones were removed by the Jews themselves. Furthermore, there was no need for it. The periodic purchases of land for cemetery expansion show that the size of the cemetery kept pace with the growing number of graves.

Wooden grave markers from Fischach cemetery

In May 1926 Isidor Kahn, retired school principal in Krumbach published a little article in the Journal of the Jewish Communities of Bavaria regarding the history of Jewish Hürben ((Kahn I. Geschichtliches von Hürben-Krumbach. Bayerische Israelitische Gemeindezeitung 1926(5): 139-40.)). In one sentence he deplores the disappearance of the tombstones originating from before the Napoleonic Wars. His explanation, unfortunately, does not hold water. He claimed that all those markers had been carved in oak and were used by the Austrian troops as firewood. While it is true that occasional oaken tomb markers existed at the time, they were by far the minority in Bavaria. Even before 1800, most Jewish tombs were marked by proper headstones. However, he clearly dates the disappearance of the 17th and 18th century stones long before the second World War. It is quite likely that those stones vanished during the Napoleonic Wars for whatever reason. But the event was not recorded in municipal archives.

Archival pictures from 1943

Not much is known about the history of the cemetery during the Nazi period. Pictures taken by the town of Krumbach in 1943 show the cemetery in disarray. We can still recognize some stones which no longer exist today. On September 15. 1944 the Nazi authorities entered a contract with the local master stonemason Joseph Wiedemann, selling him the Jewish cemetery with all its content for 1600.- Reichsmark. The agreement is of interest in several respects: (i) the date – in the fall of 1944 the Allied troops stood at the German border and the end of the Thousand Year Empire was in sight. (ii) the contract required Mr. Wiedemann “to complete the removal of all remaining stones.” In other words, the larceny had been going on long before September 1944, and, (iii) transferring any liability for future claims of loss or damage onto Mr. Wiedemann. In 1989, 45 years later, the son of Joseph Wiedemann received his money back from the Jewish Community in Augsburg.

Purchase contract of cemetery in 1944

It is fairly obvious that Joseph Wiedemann bears no guilt in the destruction of the cemetery. In fact, he probably contributed to the preservation of the remaining stones. If he had been involved in their earlier removal, he would have shunned any liability for their damage and disappearance. Furthermore, among the remaining stones there are some big, polished granite blocks, that would have been much more appealing for re-use than the old sandstones that form the bulk of the loss. However, material from other Jewish cemeteries had been ‘recycled’ quite shamelessly.

At the end of the war the remaining stones were lying helter-skelter all over the newest section of the cemetery. They were reset in a rather arbitrary order during the American occupation. It had namely been the custom in 17th and 18th century Jewish cemeteries in Southern Germany for men, women, women having died in child-birth and children, all to be buried in separate rows ((Kuhn P. et al. Jüdischer Friedhof von Georgensgmünd. Deutscher Kunstverlag, Munich 2006)) ((Judenfriedhof Endingen-Lengnau. Menes Verlag 1993)) ((Bamberger N.B-G. Der jüdische Friedhof von Schmieheim. Bamberger Familien Archiv, Jerusalem 1999)). This order was no longer apparent.

Pattern of tombstone disappearance

The pattern of tombstone disappearance is very peculiar. There is not a sharp cut-off, but a gradual trend. In fact, the larger, the newer and the more to the north side of the cemetery a grave, the less likely was its tombstone to disappear.




In summary then:

  • The 17th and 18th century tombstones went already missing during the Napoleonic Wars.
  • Three quarters of the 19th and 20th century tombstones have disappeared gradually between 1938 and 1944.
  • It involved mainly the older, smaller sandstones rather than the bigger, newer and flashier granites.
  • We conclude that the stones had been removed piecemeal as building material and for foundations, rather than for re-use as gentile headstones.

In retrospect, it is almost impossible to identify existing Krumbach buildings resting on Jewish foundations.

This investigation would not have succeeded without the overwhelming enthusiasm, energy, patience and proficiency of our friend Erwin Bosch, a prominent native of Krumbach. He spent many hundreds, if not thousands of hours in local archives, sifting through dusty documents from five centuries, reading and organising them in order to gradually develop a plausible picture. We are deeply in his debt for his having made our concern his own.

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Digital Disabilities of the Elderly

I am a senior! No, you don’t have to commiserate with me. I am quite happy – and lucky too. After all, aging is the “in-thing”. Aging is chic. It is even a growth industry. There are lurking legions of caretakers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, intercessors and lobbyists out there, just panting for me to ask for their “help”. I don’t even have to ask.

This development is particularly insidious, when it comes to activities and ventures such as the new media that did not exist fifty years ago. After all, it was our and previous generations who created the foundations for those media. Still, we are being identified as living fossils.

Sometimes, they ask us about our experiences, views and opinions. Sometimes, they even listen, particularly, if our responses harmonize with their canons and theories.

It reminds me a bit of black liberation in the 60’s and women’s assimilation in the 70’s. There is a difference, though. We seniors have been youngsters once, and, occasionally, we remember. The reverse does not hold.

I agree: things are different. No, I haven’t changed. The world around me has changed. My world has changed. I have episodes where I remember my young adulthood. The world was mine oyster, wide, open and full of opportunities. Risks were negligible; hurdles were there to be jumped, walls to be broached, rivers and oceans to be crossed. True, I didn’t have any money. But if I did, I would have invested it with abandon in all kind of risky ventures.

Over the subsequent fifty years or so, I have collected experience. The world has closed in around me. Accidents do happen, hurdles topple, walls cause bruises, you can drown in rivers and oceans, businesses fail. Liars, cheaters, thieves and robbers are waiting in the wings. Now, I do have some money. It is safely invested for a rainy day.

It is not just loss of ability, strength, aggression and power. It is also a growing loss of confidence in my own autonomy. I have become aware of my limitations. If I act differently today than sixty years ago, it is not necessarily that I can’t do it; it is that I don’t trust that I can.

I can type, e-mail and blog. I can create web sites and databases. I write my own software. But I don’t Twitter nor venture on Facebook. The social media are beyond the scope of my shrunken world. Digital disabilities of the elderly are as much affective in nature, as they are due to cognitive, perceptive or motor losses.

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Squeezebox Woes

I bought a Squeezebox Radio from Logitech. It replaces my old bedside short wave radio. I still fondly remember the 70’s, before the airwaves had become so anemic. It was then still possible to receive New York and Boston talk shows in Southern Ontario. I had downloaded the manual even before the box arrived by courier. By the time I set up the Squeezebox, I practically knew the instructions by heart. Even so, it wasn’t quite trivial to lead the Squeezebox through the trickeries of my wireless network. But the perfect reception of Boston, New York, London, Paris, Munich, Canberra and Budapest stations made more than up for the effort.

I did enjoy the Squeezebox that night. Subsequently, I also installed the squeeze server on my desktop. I had fun experimenting, tweaking and optimizing. But gradually, things started to go awry. I started loosing preset stations. Storing ‘Favorites’ functioned inconsistently. The menu seemed to change spontaneously. The audio might come from one station, the display from another. And, finally, the Squeezebox announced: ‘Can’t connect!’ Actually, looking back on it, the Squeezebox had difficulties with its biorythm. Almost all the problems occurred at night time. During the day, the box appeared to be reasonably happy.

The manual was of no help. I tried to find the answers on the support pages – nada! I called the helpline; I might as well have talked to a parakeet. The only advice was to do a factory reset and start everything afresh. I had to understand the system myself.

It became rapidly clear that the problems occurred primarily, when my desktop was switched off. But that was not the complete answer it took quite a bit more experimenting until I finally found the answer. Here it is:

The Squeezebox has three separate initialization sequences. The factory reset is the major one. Everything has to be entered from scratch. The network parameters have to be entered by hand; WPS does not work. The more common initialization occurs, when you connect the power. The box looks for the presence of a squeeze server to store optional data on. If it doesn’t find a server, it uses the default mode and stores optional parameters internally. The least complex initialisation occurs, when you turn the unit on. It just gets the parameters from its designated memory.

What had happened to me was that I had connected the box to the outlet, while the squeeze server was running. Before going to bed, I had turned off the desktop computer running the squeeze server. No wonder, the Squeezebox couldn’t find its parameters. Once I had figured this out, my woes were gone.

It is unfortunate that Logitech brings a device on the market, however ingenious, before sufficient support information has been developed to spare users unneccessary frustration.

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Did Lazarus Morgenthau elope?

“Almost ninety years ago, on November 2, 1843, Lazarus Morgenthau married Babette Guggenheim of Hürben; whom he had known as a child and whom he had watched grow to womanhood.”

Thus Louise Heidelberg begins a biographic sketch of her grandfather, Lazarus Morgenthau in April of 1933. The sketch was to round out Lazarus’ own autobiography of his early years in Bavarian Swabia. The purpose of this blog is to explore blatant discrepancies between various Morgenthau biographies and local records.

Lazarus Morgenthau was not just anybody. He is the legendary patriarch of one great Jewish American family, prominent in public service and philantropy over several generations. His journey from rags to riches, from Kleinwaldstadt in Bavaria to New York has been described amply in several biographies and an on-line exhibition, all emanating from the family ((The Diary of Lazarus Morgenthau, N.Y. 1933. LoC CT275.M625 A3)), ((Mostly Morgenthaus. Henry Morgenthau III. New York : Ticknor & Fields, 1991. ISBN: 0899199763)), ((Morgenthau Family: Henry Morgenthau, Jr. Books LLC. ISBN-10: 1156290821)), ((

Unfortunately, there is no trace of the celebrated marriage in the Hürben records ((, neither for 1843, nor before or after. Both, the list of Jewish marriages kept by the rabbi, and the official copy maintained by the catholic priest show only two Jewish marriages for 1843; neither involved Lazarus Morgenthau or Babette Guggenheim(er). Maybe, Lazarus and Babette married somewhere else? There is no record of such a marriage in any Jewish community of Bavarian Swabia.

Babette Guggenheim or Guggenheimer (the exact spelling was somewhat fluid) descended from a prominent Hürben family. Her father, Joachim (Chaim, Hayum) Guggenheim was a merchant. Her uncle Samuel Guggenheimer was the ritual circumciser (mohel) of the community. Babette’s birth name was actually “Seline” according to her birth record. Babette’s great-grandfather Marx Guggenheimb had arrived in Hürben around 1725 from Endingen, one of two Jewish villages in Switzerland.

At the time of her presumed marriage in 1843, Babette was 17 years old, five years younger than the average age  at marriage of her peers. Her father and mother would have been in their seventies and sixties respectively. Babette was the youngest, possibly second youngest of 12 or 13 children.

Since Lazarus’ parents had been dead for over 10 years in 1843, a traditional wedding outside of Hürben, the bride’s home, would have been unthinkable given the customs of the time.

But there are other inconsistencies. Although the only published chapter of the autobiography is entitled: “First Period from the Year 1820 to 1826”, it takes us well into 1838 or possibly 1839. Nowhere are Babette or Joachim Guggenheim mentioned, even once. There is, however, a prominent mention of one Isaac Hirsch Ottinger ((actually, Oettinger)), a religious scholar who gave Lazarus private lessons. Lazarus was very grateful to Mr. Oettinger “.. for other services that he rendered when I settled in Hürben which I will describe later.” He never did! But we do know quite a bit about Lazarus applying and finally receiving a residency permit in Hürben. There exists in fact a record at the Krumbach district office describing the application for and the granting of a permanent residency permit for  ‘journeyman tailor Lazarus Morgenthau’ (( 1839-1841; Ansässigmachung des Schneidergesellen Lazarus Morgenthau in Hürben (Nr.2814.) )). By 1841, therefore, Lazarus was a legal resident of Hürben. In the mean time, he had also acquired an apartment on Heinrich Sinz St. 6. He sold the apartment again in 1843 and a further chamber in 1844. It would have made a perfect home for a young married couple.

The version of Lazarus’ autobiography available at the Library of Congress, as mentioned before, ends in 1838 or 1839, and the town of “Speyer” is not mentioned at all. In the version cited by Henry Morgenthau III, Lazarus had lived and worked in Speyer for several years prior to his marriage. Speyer is situated some 250 Km from Hürben, a world apart before the advent of railways. This was also, where the couple actually made its home.

Thus, we have documentary evidence that Lazarus had settled down in Hürben shortly before his marriage, that a Morgenthau – Guggenheim wedding did not take place in Hürben,  and that he didn’t weigh anchors in Hürben until 1843/4. It just raises the possibility that the wedding wasn’t the grand affair described in “Mostly Morgenthaus”.

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