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All In The Family - Part II

By: Barbara Bevier Sacks

Ute Bevier, Herbert Bevier (Ute's uncle), Barbara Bevier Sacks and Lotte Bevier (Herbert's wife).   -  Photo courtesy Barbara Bevier SacksThanks to Cousin Kim Bevier for his account of his visit to Germany in the September Historian. As he promised, you would hear more in the near future.

I had been corresponding via E-mail with Ute Bevier, telling her a bit about the Bevier family in America, and learning about the small town in which she lives -- Winden, in the Rheinpfalz. Winden is a village of some 900 people -- that's right, nine hundred -- southwest of Frankfurt and Mannheim, very near the French border.

In late September my husband, Howard Sacks, and I were delighted to visit Winden and to meet Ute and her son Sören Bevier and her neighbor and second cousin/"uncle," Herbert Bevier, and his wife, Lotte. Although these Beviers speak German as their native tongue, they pronounce their surname in the French fashion, a pronunciation most of us have abandoned.

Ute took a day off from her work in Karlsruhe as a computer programmer to be with us. She drove us to Winden from our hotel in Speyer, an historic town some 12 miles away on the Rhine. On the way we had a chance to observe the flat Rhineland countryside with its vineyards and extensive fields of sugar beets.

Upon our arrival in Winden, Ute showed us her home and the new office for the desktop publishing and programming business she and her husband operate. We quickly decided that she is not the "hausfrau" we might have expected. As evidence, consider her decision -- although she is married to Klaus Boos -- to use her maiden name of Bevier, and to raise her son, Sören, as a Bevier, also.

Then we were driven perhaps a quarter mile to Uncle Herbert's house, where we met Herbert and Lotte and, a bit later, their daughter Heide Walz and two of her sons, Patrik and Moritz. (Janik, her middle son, was off on a school trip.) We talked a bit (with Ute and Heide translating for us, since Herbert and Lotte speak no English) about Winden and the family and German education. It did go slowly, though, despite two dictionaries !

Then Howard noticed the carved wooden Huguenot cross, about 24 inches in diameter, hanging on the living room wall. When he commented on it, I showed off my enameled Huguenot cross (purchased at the gift shop in New Paltz) worn on a chain around my neck. Herbert pulled out a gold cross on a chain around his neck, too. We then were shown the center hall of the house where the family crests of both the Bevier family and Lotte's family make a nice display. We celebrated our meeting with a glass of the delicious local wine.

Herbert and his wife served us lunch -- more properly dinner, a full meal in the German fashion -- for which we were joined by Ute and Heide and her boys.

They were most generous. Heide and her husband have an antique furniture business in Mannheim. In the living room of their 200-year old house they have an enormous and beautiful tiled stove for heating, of the sort seen in castles in Bavaria. We walked through the village of Winden, with its beautiful old buildings, most of them in good condition, including the handsome old Rathaus, or town hall, pictured here. There are only about three or four streets in Winden and only about 900 people in the town. We saw the Reformed Church, which was not as old as I had expected, and the cemetery behind it.

Herbert drove us to see the Bienwald -- an area south of Winden, along the French border. In this forest the Huguenot immigrants were said to have lived when they first arrived in the area from France in the 17th century, while they sought a place to settle. It seems that, in those days, as was true in much of France, certain areas of the forest were controlled by the Catholics and others by the Protestants. Thus, it was very important, and not always easy, to find a "friendly" area to stay in, to avoid the King's troops.

We stopped on the banks of the Lauter, a small river which forms the border between Germany and France at this point, where an inn operates in an old mill. We walked across the bridge into France; not something one could always do so freely, in either the 17th or the 20th century ! Then we drove back to Winden, through the beautiful hilly countryside of the Deutsche Weinstrasse -- the wine growing and tourist area of the Pfalz.

Herbert and Lotte had arranged to take us to a community supper at the Sportsplatz, sort of a community hall and Bierstube, next to the town's football (soccer) field and tennis courts, and reminiscent of a large church basement. There were long tables, seating around a hundred individuals and family groups, most of whom knew each other. We each had a glass of beer or wine, and Herbert suggested the small dinner "sampler" plate, consisting of roast pork, sauerkraut, four kinds of sausage, and delicious dark bread. Some sample ! It was a great experience.

We didn't get any more information about the immigrant Beviers (from France) and emigrant Beviers (to America) and other Huguenot families; communication was difficult. I did not learn much that was new, except that the Beviers and other Huguenots were believed to have been in the textile industry in Nîmes, where they may have been weavers and dye-makers. We'll follow up on that.

All in all it was a most enjoyable opportunity to meet some very warm people, in a charming part of Germany.

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