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Communing With Ghosts

After having spent four years in Germany (1991-95) and working in Stuttgart, I found out after I moved back to the states that my Great-Great-Grandfather, Julius Oscar VOGT, was born in Kaiserslautern (a two-hour drive from Stuttgart) on 6 April 1814, and christened in Saint Martin's Catholic Church (along with his eleven brothers and sisters).  Also, his parents, Jean Henri Joseph VOGT and Marie Catharine RETTIG, were married in the Evangelical (Protestant) Church in a village called Alsenborn (a short ride from Kaiserslautern), on 21 March 1801. Marie was also born in Alsenborn, on 20 June 1778.

This page describes part of a trip I took in April 2000 back to Germany and my visit to the stomping grounds of my ancestors.


On Saturday, April 9th (2000), I rose fairly early and drove to Kaiserslautern to "commune with the ghosts." It's about a 2 hour ride in a fast car (I kept it under 160 kph), up autobahn 81 to autobahn 6, and 6 all the way to Kaiserslautern. Though the road switches highways a few times, the route number (6) stays the same. Almost tripped me up on one of them - I wasn't expecting to have to take an exit to stay on 6.

Kaiserslautern is a lot like Stuttgart - modern, busy, and it has a huge pedestrian shopping area in the center of town that goes on and on. Size-wise, its a pretty big city. Maybe not as big as Stuttgart, but probably as big as Ulm or Heidelberg (or Worcester). Because of the massive Army base nearby, there's more Americans there by far than in Stuttgart. Seems like every third car has USAREUR (US Army Europe) license plates on it.

There's not much of an old town to Kaiserslautern, most of it is pretty new - it probably got bashed pretty well in the war, like Stuttgart. I bought a city map and studied it at one of the autobahn rest-stops just before Kaiserslautern. On the map I found a Sankt Martin's Platz St. Martin's Plaza), so I decided to try to find that, seeing as I was looking for St. Martin's Church. It would've been pretty straightforward if it hadn't been such a nightmare trying to find a place to park!! I spent about an hour circling the city trying to find something - anything. The place was mobbed. I drove by Sankt Martin's Platz three or four times!!

I finally found a parking garage that was not full, so I spun in and parked the car and headed off on foot. I found Sankt Martin's Platz straight away, and low and behold there is an ancient Catholic church on the side of the platz (Sankt Martin's, of course - Eureka!). Somehow this church (and a couple of others) survived the war whereas most of the rest of the city didn't. I guess the Allied bombers in WW2 avoided churches when they could - good for them! 

I went inside and spent some time absorbing it all. It's been renovated recently, so the inside looks very modern (in fact, so modern I didn't recognize the tabernacle as a tabernacle until I was reading a brochure I picked up later - it was very modern-art looking). The outside, though, looks like a church that has been around since the 1500's (it has). O-L-D.

I bought a couple of brochures and postcards (self-service), and I lit a candle in case the ghosts were watching, and then went out to the Platz beside the church for some lunch - kasespatzle (cheese-covered thick noodles) and beer - yum! While I was eating they rang the bells for a 2 pm service (lots of old German ladies came out of nowhere to go to the church - it was like rats and the pied piper). The bells were very melodic - and very nice.

After lunch I walked around some more but the rest of the town (except for a few more churches) is not old at all. Most of the shops were open until 4pm or even 6pm (most German stores close at noon on Saturday) - probably because of the large concentration of Americans.

Then I headed off northwest to the small village of Enkenbach-Alsenborn, where Marie Catherine RETTIG, my 3G-Grandmother, was born and my 3G-Grandparents were married. Its now a merged double-village (like Garmisch-Partenkirchen) and not shown on all maps because it is so small and the name is so long, but back in the 1800's it was two villages.

Anyway, after a few false starts I finally identified which half of the double-village was Alsenborn, parked the car (a lot easier than in Kaiserslautern - Alsenborn is a tiny hamlet still), and walked to the only church in the village - it was the one. This church had been renovated on the outside (maybe even rebuilt) so it didn't look as old, but the gates and walls and grounds around it sure did. Coincidentally, there was a wedding going on (!) so I couldn't see the inside of the church, but I walked around the outside and took pictures.

I thought of driving north about 40 km (25 miles) to Mainz (birthplace of 3G-GF Jean Henri Joseph VOGT) but it was getting late, and Mainz is an even bigger city than Kaiserslautern, and I still had a 2 hour drive back to Stuttgart, so I called it a day and drove back to the hotel.

Click on any thumbnail to see a larger image.......

The Found Church 1.JPG (68551 bytes) The Found Church 2.JPG (59570 bytes)
The Kaiserslautern Church The Alsenborn Church
Kaiserslautern - Front Door Of Sankt Martin Katholische Kirche.JPG (136089 bytes)
Outside St. Martin's
Kaiserslautern - Back Of Sankt Martin Katholische Kirche - 1.JPG (103058 bytes)
The back of St. Martin's
Kaiserslautern - Back Of Sankt Martin Katholische Kirche - 2.JPG (116064 bytes)
The back of St. Martin's
Kaiserslautern - Bell Steeple of Sankt Martin Katholische Kirche.JPG (151673 bytes)
St. Martin's Steeple
Kaiserslautern - Announcement Board in Front Of Sankt Martin Katholische Kirche.JPG (64167 bytes)
St. Martin's Announcement Board
Kaiserslautern - Statue in Front Of Sankt Martin Katholische Kirche.JPG (110476 bytes)
A Statue Outside St Martin's
Kaiserslautern - History Of Sankt Martin Katholische Kirche - 1.JPG (62658 bytes)
First page of the Chronology of St. Martin's, beginning in 1284
Kaiserslautern - History Of Sankt Martin Katholische Kirche - 2.JPG (61629 bytes)
Second Page of Chronology of St. Martin's Church, ending in modern times
Kaiserslautern - Sankt Martin Platz Sign.JPG (54586 bytes)
Street sign marking St. Martin's Platz
Kaiserslautern - City Archives Sign.JPG (64111 bytes)
The Kaiserslautern City Archives, where I would have spent some time, if they had been open!
Kaiserslautern - Saint Martin's Platz Panorama.jpg (311479 bytes)
Panorama of St. Martin's Platz
Enkenbach - Sign Pointing To Alsenborn.JPG (62511 bytes)
Road sign pointing the way to the Alsenborn half of Enkenbach-Alsenborn
Alsenborn - Announcement Board Outside Of Protestant Evangelical Church.JPG (62019 bytes)
The Alsenborn Evangelical Church Announcement Board
  Alsenborn - Protestant Evangelical Church 2.JPG (117121 bytes)
The Alsenborn Evangelical Church
Alsenborn - Protestant Evangelical Church 1.JPG (57455 bytes)
The Alsenborn Evangelical Church





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