SEPTEMBER 1994 Reprinted from Hood County Genealogical Society Newsletter dated May 1995

Editor’s Note: When member Diane Stavenhagen Kadletz wrote that she and other family members were going to a Stavenhagen family meeting in Germany, I asked her to write an account of the trip for us, which she has kindly done. Her families, the Leopold Stavenhagens and the Austin Yeats, were early settlers in Granbury and then to Lipan where they contributed to the development of that section of Hood County. Several of our members are now researching in the former East Germany, but, wherever you are researching, if you have some interesting experiences, or if you learn some facts which would be helpful to other researchers, please share it with us. Merle McNeese

Through a wonderful set of circumstances and the generosity of Stavenhagen family genealogists in Germany, eight descendants of Leopold Stavenhagen (a resident of Hood County in the 1860’s to 1911) were lucky enough to attend a “Family Meeting” for Stavenhagen family members in September 1994, held in Stavenhagen, Germany (located in the former East Germany).

There are three distinct and unrelated family lines which trace their beginnings to the town of Stavenhagen – the Ivanak line, the Anklam line, and the Strelitz line (based upon the name of the city to which the families moved from Stavenhagen). The Ivanak and Anklam lines began holding family meetings in 1990, upon the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification of Germany. (Large numbers of Stavenhagens resided in East Germany making such meetings virtually impossible before reunification.)

The 1994 meeting was the first at which representatives of the Strelitz line were in attendance. This is not totally surprising in that the early members of the Strelitz line were Jewish, so they did not remain in Germany after World War II. Instead they are found throughout the world in Mexico, Switzerland, England, South America, Australia, and the United States.

Those in attendance from the United States were:

  • James and Virginia Stavenhagen of Shamrock, Texas.
  • Mac and Jean Stavenhagen of Clarendon, Texas.
  • Nick and Glenna Roof of Cleburne, Texas.
  • Janet Stavenhagen of Montebello, California.
  • Diane Stavenhagen Kadletz of Orange, California.

Diane Keifer-Stavenhagen of Berlin, Germany organized the family meetings and was a gracious hostess. She not only invited us to attend the family meeting and arranged for interpreters, but she also arranged for an archivist in Strelitz, Germany to meet with us and tell us about the history of the Jewish population in Strelitz (where a large number of our ancestors lived).

The archivist met us in a small Jewish cemetery which the town has managed to restore as a remembrance of the Jewish population in the area. He spent over a half hour telling us everything he knew about the Jewish life in the community. (They were segregated by law even in the 1800’s.) He told us how the old Jewish cemetery had been sold as farmland in the 1950’s, with only a small corner left as a remembrance of the cemetery’s existence. The headstones were either sold to sculptors or split and used to line the roadway. The community is now attempting to recover the headstones and place them in the small remembrance area. There were over 800 people buried in the cemetery when it was closed.

He also described how the synagogue was burned on “Kristalnacht” in 1938 and the bricks used to pave the street leading to the Jewish cemetery. Janet and I also visited the site of the old cemetery and drove over these old bricks.

At the family meeting information about the city itself (from which each family line derives its name) and about the various family lines was exchanged. We also participated in social gatherings to get to know our fellow Stavenhagens on a personal basis.

We also toured the city and surrounding area. The town is located in northern Germany in a largely agricultural area. Hogs seemed to be the predominant livestock raised. The city itself is laid out much as it was in the 1700’s and 1800’s with old buildings around its cobblestone marketplace, with more modern buildings in outlying areas. Unlike many of the cities we saw in the former East Germany, Stavenhagen is attracting new industry and modernizing its facilities.

After the family meting, Janet and Diane traveled on to Hamburg to trace the path of the Stavenhagens who moved there while the remaining U. S. contingent traveled to Frankfurt and toured through southern Germany.

We all enjoyed the trip immensely, made some good friends, learned a little German, and learned much more about our family roots.