Diamond Jubilee: 1906 - 1966
Meersburg in the Glaserhäusle
October 30, 1966
I was born in Tengen - in the old school house in Thengendorf - on June 7, 1884. My early years in Denkingen where my father taught from 1893 - 1923 were happy ones. For three years I was a pupil in the school at Pfullendorf and there the principal, Professor Rahner, gave nie my first Greek lessons, so that I was able to enter the Obertertia (8th grade) at the Gymnasium at Constance. Since the school closed for major repairs, I continued my studies in Rastatt, where I passed my Abitur (matriculation) in 1902. After finishing my studies in Theology in Freiburg and St. Peter. I was ordained a priest in the Konuiktskirche in Freiburg in 1906 by Archbishop Thomas Norton.
My first appointment was as a vicar in Donaueschingen on November 15, and I was thus able to be present at the visit of Emperor William II. I served under Dr. H. Feuerstein who later died in Dachau. In 1907 I was appointed priest at the Johanneskirche in Freiburg where I served for three years. A serious illness ended my work there. I went to St. Blasien and Baden Baden for a cure.
In 1911 I became the teacher of the noble family of von Strotzingen, where more than three hundred years earlier the saint Fidelis von Sigmaringen had held the same position. Later I was appointed at the church in Sinsheim and in 1923 I came to Meersburg. I retired in 1952.
Since then I have been living in my beloved Glaserhäusle which Droste celebrated in the poem "Die Schenke am See" (The Tavern by the Lake). She was able to show in her poem the magic of the house, the wonderful view of the mountains and the lake. Gottfried Keller also celebrated the beauty of this world.
I should like these words inscribed on my grave:
Let us pray for each other.
City of Meersburg
November 3, 1966
Memorable Celebration of the
Diamond jubilee of the Geistliche Rat
who is made an
Honorary Citizen of the City of Meersburg.
Last Sunday the city of Meersburg and the Roman Catholic congregation celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of Wilhelm Restle, their priest for many years. In his honor a very well attended service was held. In the evening there was another celebration in the gymnasium, sponsored by the City and the Roman Catholic parish. There were many speeches and the evening ended with the recital of Droste's "Die Schenke am See" (The Tavern by the Lake). Professor Dr. Karl August Fink (Tübingen) spoke. His talk was about "Profiles of Ducal Bishops of Meersburg."
He gave an account of Wilhelm Restle's career and spoke eloquently about the help given by the priest to anyone who was in trouble during the years of hardship and danger, and of his remarkable sermons. He mentioned that the priest also supervised the building of a new church at the Himmelbergweg and the renovation of the interior of the parish house. Fortunately it was completed before the Second World War. He expressed his pleasure in the priest's excellent health, enjoying the love and respect of many citizens of Meersburg. He ended his speech, The City of Meersburg, and the members of the Catholic community are happy to celebrate this day in such a joyful and dignified manner.
There followed a speech by the Mayor:
My speech is not only one of thanks for all that you have done for us, but I hope it will also serve as an opportunity for reflection for his parishioners as well as for the citizens of the political community. When you entered the priesthood sixty years ago you gave up the comfort that a family would have given you; no wife could be at your side in difficult times. And our century did not want to believe in eternal values, believing in personal liberty rather than religion. Two world wars were the consequence of trying to live without religion; it led to brutal repression, misery, despair and mass murder. The disciples of Christ were in great danger; many lost their lives and liberty.
What especially ennobles you as a human being and as a priest is the fact that you have always forgiven those who did not share your belief in a truly Christian spirit. You were there for all human beings, even if they did not share your religious beliefs or your political views. You were a friend to everyone.
Sehr Geehrter Herr Geistl. Rat, when I visited you in your Glaserhäusle, you put the sorrowful question to me: will the Glaserhäusle remain a cultural landmark? I hope and pray that future generations will preserve the Glaserhäusle in which you can feel the spirit of the Droste which you have preserved with such care. May the citizens of Meersburg continue to live in this spirit and never forget your goodness and humanity. I believe that the citizens of Meersburg, the pearl of Lake Constance, will never forget you. We wish with all our hearts that you will continue to live in the Glaserhäusle in good health and good spirits, surrounded by the peaceful woods, the snow covered Alps, the mighty castle and the city of Meersburg.
And I want to end my talk with these words: I am very happy and honored to confer Honorary Citizenship of the City of Meersburg on you.
The Glaserhäusle is well-preserved, but owned privately. Friends of mine went to Meersburg and were able to take very good photographs of the house. (I was happy to include them in this essay.)
Elazar Benyoetz grew up in Israel, arriving with his parents from Vienna when he was two years old. After finishing school he decided to study for the rabbinate and at the same time he also began to write poetry. He began to learn German after finishing his studies and soon was able to translate German poetry into Hebrew, for he believed that it was important for Israelis to learn about German culture, but after 1945 few were ready for it.
He was not discouraged and started a new magazine "Anthologia Judaica," publishing Hebrew translations of German poems. To further his project he travelled to Germany and Austria. It was during that trip that he went to Meersburg and visited Wilhelm Restle at the Glaserhäusle, as he had become interested in Mauthners work. He also went to Marburg where he discovered some unknown letters of Hofmannsthal, Roth and Zweig. He was quite successful and received the support of the Ford Foundation which made it possible for him to live in Germany for some time.
The first letter to Meersburg was written in 1963.
July 5, 1963
Lieber, verehrter Herr Pfarrer Restle,
Beautiful like a beautiful dream were the two days in Meersburg: the encounter with you and with the legacy of the extraordinary Fritz Mauthner. What a happy chance it was for me. I would be only too glad to assist you with putting the material in good order and will try to get a stipend for such work. However, I will need your help and would like to ask you to write a letter on my behalf, saying that you would like my assistance, since you have met me and believe that I know a good deal about the material. Of course, it is your decision what to write, but it seems essential to point out the importance of the task and my ability to do it. I realize that you should only write, if you have confidence in me and believe that I can be of help.
lt will be necessary to examine the letters and manuscripts very carefully and put them in good order, so that it will be possible to preserve Mauthner's literary and historical achievement. I do believe in the importance of his work, especially now when there is a real danger that people will forget the past. I believe that Mauthner is not only a precursor in many fields of literature, but that he was an extraordinary human being. I hope so very much that I will be successful; I consider it an honor to assist you in this task.
My warmest thanks again for your great kindness. I will always remember the wonderful hours that I was able to spend with you.
With kindest regards, your devoted, Elazar Benyoetz
I should also like to thank you for your kind hospitality and the happy hours in your garden that I will never forget. I will send you the photos as soon as I receive them.
Kindest regards, Ruth B.
July 29, 1963
Sehr verehrter lieber Herr Pfarrer Restle,
I am enclosing the two excellent photos and hope that they will give you pleasure. These pictures will always be a happy memory for us, and we should like to thank you once more.
I have been looking around for a possible stipend, and I can tell you today that there may be a chance, lf you are willing to write a letter for me, saying that you would be pleased to work together with nie. I should be most grateful, if you could do it as soon as possible, if you believe that 1 could assist you in sorting the Mauthner papers.
With kind regards, your grateful Elazar Benyoetz
July 7, 1965
Sehr verehrter lieber Herr Pfarrer Restle,
I have been in Germany for some time as the guest of the Ford Foundation in Berlin. The days in Meersburg two years ago are unforgettable and will remain an especially precious memory.
I understand your need for privacy and have obeyed your wishes, with one exception: Professor Walter Mugsch in Basel to whom I gave your address and whom I encouraged to write to you. I did this without hesitation because Mugsch is a courageous man. I also believe that his temperament is not unlike Mauthner's, and I think that you would like him very much. In addition, he is trying very hard to find some of Döblin's letters and I remembered that you have some letters that might be important for him. But of course you know all of this. Mugsch has written to tell me how glad he was about your kind assistance and cooperation. He also told me that he had suggested to one of his students to write his doctoral dissertation about Mauthner.
That was my only case of indiscretion, and I was anxious to tell you about it. lt also happened I that some serious doctoral students would like to study Mauthner's papers; to learn more about his influence on German literature, history and philosophy. I believe that you will not deny access to Mauthner's legacy to serious scholars. Some may have tried already.
May I ask you to let me know how you are and whether you would still be willing to receive a visitor. I would love to come for a visit as soon as possible and should so much like to go back to the little room, which I remember so well, in which you are keeping all the papers and would like to read the many letters of congratulations on the occasion of Mauthner's seventieth birthday. I cannot tell you how much I would like to work there again for a few hours.
My kindest regards and best wishes to you - and my warmest thanks for all that you have done for me - I remember it all so well.
Your devoted Elazar Benyoetz
July 20, 1966
Sehr verehrter, lieber Herr Pfarrer Restle,
Many thanks for your most amiable help which has furthered my cause a great deal. My answer was delayed, as I had to take a very tiring and very difficult trip to Vienna which left nie no time for visiting. I returned only a few days ago and found incredible amounts of papers on my desk, and I am only now beginning to get the better of lt. I really could have used some of your wisdom and ability to understand the world and be a part of it, while remaining a free person. Do you believe that such wisdom comes only with the years? I certainly need it badly, but will try to be patient, if I have to.
The weather is quite dreadful here; I hope lt is more pleasant in Meersburg. Anyway, I plan to find out very soon what the weather is like; you suggested that I might work once more with you; it will probably be the last time. I would like to come at the beginning of August because soon all the papers will be gone. lt would suit nie best at the beginning of August because I have to go to Munich at that time, where I cannot stay long on account of the Festspiele. Could you let me know as soon as possible whether it would suit you between August 3 and 10. Since lt will be difficult to find a room in Meersburg, I should be grateful for a quick answer. lt will be my last chance, because I do not think that I will be able to go to the US in the near future.
I have made good progress with my work on Mauthner and would like to do much more. May I ask you, verehrter Pfarrer Restle, to help me once more - with my warmest thanks and in gratitude,
Your devoted Benyoetz
It must have been an exciting moment in the fall of 1966 when Ingeborg Foerg, the archivist of the Leo Baeck Institute in New York and the young Israeli, Elazar Benyoetz, born in Vienna, forced to leave with his family when he was two years old, met in the Glaserhäusle with the Geistl. Rat, Wilhelm Restle, retired after sixty years of service as a priest. Their common interest: the papers of Fritz Mauthner who had lived for almost two decades in the Glaserhäusle, reading and writing, able to finish his 4-volume "History of Atheism in the West" just before his death.
How I wish that I could have been there with them, listening to their discussion of Fritz Mauthner's papers. All I can do, however, is to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for all they did. These three people and the staff of the Leo Baeck Institute have enriched our lives and made it possible for us to learn more about the cultural life of Central Europe at the beginning of the century. Many thanks!