Friday, August 26, 2016

Commemorating Carbonear's German History

I was in Carbonear today for the unveiling of a new plaque marking the history of German settlement and industry in the town. Early in the 1950s, nine craftspeople arrived in Carbonear as part of a plan to stimulate industrial growth in rural Newfoundland. Those nine would be followed by families and workers, who opened three leather-related businesses in Carbonear. While the businesses were short-lived, they had a great impact on the town and on its people. Many of the Germans left, but some married, and stayed, and the names Reiss, Reichel, Shaefer, and Stoeterau can still be found here to this day.  The plaque unveiled today commemorates that history and their contribution to Newfoundland. Congratulations to the Carbonear Heritage Society and especially to Ron Howell for their fine work. 



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My dear people of Carbonear,

Even though I, Ruth Herzberg Gurski, am at present, a long distance from Newfoundland,
I would like you to know that my thoughts are with you today.
The story of the tannery is very near and dear to my heart.

I would like to express sincere thanks to the Carbonear Heritage Society,
Ms. Ratcliffe and anyone else that contributed to the
"German Project." It was beyond my wildest dreams to hear that such
a project would ever take place...a small piece of history preserved
for generations to come.

Our little family (my dad, mom and I) arrived in Carbonear in
1952. I was almost 4 years old. My dad, Erwin Herzberg, had been hired by
management in Germany to work in the tannery because he was
a skilled and experienced master tanner. The big war had ended. My
parents' homes had been bombed. The prospects of a new life
on a peaceful island, was a dream come true. Promises were made
by the Smallwood government and company management. A group of excited
immigrants take the risk and venture out to follow a dream.

Our reception in Carbonear was beyond incredible. The people
made us feel truly welcome...and then some. They were friendly,
tolerated the language barrier, supported and helped, and made
us feel at home.

Over the last few years, I have written about a few memories that
I have from my time in Carbonear. I have been reassured that
those comments have been kept on file at the heritage society,
so I won't ramble on now about my little anecdotes.

I would like to mention, however, that I feel if history is to be preserved, the not so good realities of the "German Project" need to be preserved along with the good. Although, my childhood in Carbonear was exceptionally idyllic in so many ways, times became challenging for my family. Along with trying to adjust to harsh winters, different food, fear of house fires, fear of sicknesses, etc.,
I remember struggles during a company strike and my dad's total embarrassment
and fractured pride, as our family had to apply for "welfare" aid.

As history proved, the "tannery" and "new industries" plans were
doomed before they even started. There was a "dark side" to all the promises
and the german workers, along with the local canadian workers were sorely affected (e.g. During my last visit to Carbonear I spoke to a former local tannery worker who mentioned he and his co-worker developed rashes while working in the tannery.) Unemployment was difficult.

Our family had to leave Carbonear in 1959 because my dad finally
found work elsewhere. I remember looking back at the little
town that was my home, filled with so many friends, as Walter
Krone's car took us over Saddle Hill, to Bell Island to board the freighter,
and wondering if I would ever return.

Well it took several years, but I did make it back (3 times now)....and
was welcomed as if time had never passed. Some things don't change.
Thank-you so very, very much!!! You are all very special.