My grandmother (♥), Anna Martha Lipsdorf Geier, was born on 17 Aug 1906 in the small village of Hohndorf, Germany which is now known as Muhlanger, a part of the Wittenberg District in Saxony-Anhalt. The village lies about five miles east of Lutherstadt Wittenberg on the Elbe River, where my mother was born. This area was once part of Prussia.
Hohndorf literally means “high village.” The Saxony-Anhalt region has a very ancient history. It is believed that Hohndorf came into existence sometime in the 12th century and was settled by Flemish immigrants. However, various archeological finds seem to indicate that there were earlier settlers within the boundaries of “the high village.” Examples of some of these finds include ceramic pieces dating to the Roman Kaiser era and glass and flint pieces dating to the Iron Age. The earliest mention of Hohndorf in any archived record dates to 1349.
Hohndorf/Mulanger is very near the Harz, the highest mountain range in northern Germany. The legendary Brocken is the highest summit in the Harz at 3,744 feet above sea level. Settlement within the mountains began only 1000 years ago, as in ancient times dense forests made the region almost inaccessible. The Harz are steeped in legend and superstition and tales of ghosts and witches. In fact, do you know what a kitchen witch is? A kitchen witch is a doll resembling a witch or a crone which is displayed in kitchens as a means to provide good luck and to ward off bad spirits which superstition found its origins in the Harz mountain region.
Saxony-Anhalt, specifically Lutherstadt Wittenberg, is the cradle of the Reformation of the Church. It was in Wittenberg in 1517 that Martin Luther made public his theses against the sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church by nailing the theses to the door of the Castle Church.
About ten years ago I was lucky enough to go home to Germany – just me and my mother. I had never been to “east” Germany – and it is very difficult for me to describe the swirl of emotions as I stood in front of the farm-house here my grandmother was born – and later as I stood in front of the house where my mother was born and where my grandfather was later killed during World War II.
Imagine what a thrill it was for me to stand at the door of the Castle Church and place my hand upon it – 500 years after Martin Luther nailed the theses to it. What history!