Thursday, March 10, 2022

teaching the 'deaf-mute'

Every picture tells a story No. 28

Here is a postcard of the Taubstummenanstalt (school for the deaf-mute) Wriezen, which was sent to our station master at Adamsweiler by some of his daughters and their cousin Hedwig Kauer on October 19, 1901:

The card reads (with a little help from my relatives):

Hrzl Gruß aus WRIEZEN und besten Dank senden euch Vater und Hede K.
auch Johanna und Kätha vielen Dank für Ihre Glückwünsche. Ich
schreibe Ihnen bald. Unsere Wohnung ….
… Auf dem Bilde rechts oben!

The story is, one of the station master's brothers, Friedrich Kauer, born 1849 in Simmern, desperately wanted to be a teacher but was also desperately amusical. As a 19th century teacher was expected to sing with the class, his affliction barred him from the profession. So he got interested in teaching the deaf, which was a new concern that the kingdom of Prussia and then the German Empire recognised. He arrived at the right time, because the Empire built specific schools for the deaf, including the Wilhelm-Augusta-Stift at Wriezen in 1879-81, of which our Friedrich became the headteacher. He may have been there from its foundation, I have been unable to find details of that, and the town administration of Wriezen, which now occupies this very building, didn't reply to my questions. It is a listed monument, but no detailed history there either.

Sadly I don't have any picture of Friedrich at work or even at his school, this studio portrait is the only photo we have of him:

He married Auguste Kaufmann from Marienburg a. d. Nogat:

and they had one daughter, Hedwig (who co-signed the card above). She married a medical doctor from Wriezen called Morgenstern, they also had one daughter. We believe he was Jewish, and unfortunately we don't know what happened to this family in the Holocaust, or if there are any descendants that made it through. The well-preserved Jewish cemetary in Wriezen does not have a record of anybody called Morgenstern or similar. All hints appreciated. (NB Friedrich and the station master Christoph Gottlieb had a Jewish-born great-grandfather, just remote enough so Christoph Gottlieb's five daughters and their children could conveniently forget about him in the Nazi era.)

Poor old Friedrich served as a scapegoat for generations of Kauer descendants claiming they were amusical. While I believe his affliction (seeing that he was highly motivated to teach, he would have found a way to learn music if he had the physical ability), most other cases are dubious. A physical inability to process musical sounds is much rarer than people think. Basically, if you can distinguish music from noise - which is a non-trivial task and requires a lot of hard work from your brain - you are able to learn to make music. Which is an important point I'm making with my musical memoir.

This photo is also on flickr.

Every picture tells a story series so far:

  1. string quartet Wuppertal Elberfeld 1927
  2. greetings from Adamsweiler
  3. Gastwirthschaft Ferd. Weirich
  4. quartet times three
  5. Neumühl 1923
  6. Tangermünde railway station 1889
  7. a singing lesson
  8. bei Wilhelm Geppert
  9. a bakery at Lorsch 1900
  10. Consumgeschäft von Julius Düsselmann
  11. Hanna and Ruth
  12. a young chemist
  13. school's out at Reichenstein, 1886
  14. a patchwork family in East Prussia
  15. the case of the missing grandmother
  16. checkpoint Glaner Brücke 1929(ish)
  17. finding Mimi
  18. five sisters, five decades
  19. happy at home
  20. gone milking
  21. steel workers
  22. field work
  23. what to wear at Porta Westfalica
  24. a classic convertible
  25. at the bottom of the steps
  26. a forester's family
  27. the Kaiser visits Allenburg
  28. teaching the 'deaf-mute'

Alternatively, you can use this twitter thread as an illustrated table of contents.

In a somewhat roundabout way, this series relates to my research for the family history music memoir I have now completed in a first version.

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