Page 60 - Foreign Service Journal - May 2013

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MAY 2013
Finding Roots After a Life in the Foreign Service
Retirement has given me the
chance to do something I’ve
wanted to do for a long time:
research my family’s geneal-
ogy. The Internet proved to
be a wonderful tool for this
endeavor. The more I got into
the subject, the more pas-
sionate (my family might say
obsessed) I became. It was
like a treasure hunt—noth-
ing exciting for a while, then
Eureka! I would discover a
small nugget that would lead
me down a new path.
After more than a year
of e-mailing with German
contacts to prepare for a pil-
grimage to Saxony, my sister
and I only recently made the
trip. Our great-grandfather,
Robert Henze, was a rather
prominent sculptor in
Dresden. We believed that all
his monumental sculptural
works were destroyed during
the Allied frebombing of
February 1945, as was his
graveside (which we had
helped to restore). Dresden
has been beautifully rebuilt,
although grim reminders of
the frebombing of “Florence
on the Elbe” remain. Each
Feb. 13, precisely at 10 p.m.,
all of the city lights go out
and all of the church bells
We were pleasantly
surprised to fnd that was
not the case. For instance,
his depiction of a golden
goddess continues to stand
atop the dome of the Fine
Arts Academy in Dresden.
With further research, we
were able to locate many of
his works and even found a
street named after him.
Before leaving, we decided
to show our appreciation
to Saxony by donating our
great grandfather’s autobi-
ography—a fragile document
handwritten in old German
script—to the Saxon State
and University Library.
Going even further back
in our family’s history, we
discovered that the sculp-
tor’s father-in-law, our great-
great-grandfather, Johann
Friedrich Baltzer, had been
a revolutionary pastor at St.
Martin’s Church in the village
of Zwochau near Leipzig. He
reportedly incurred the king’s
wrath for preaching in favor
of democracy and was sen-
tenced to four months in jail,
which was increased to two
years upon appeal. He fed
and became a man without a
country. Today, he is some-
thing of a local hero.
The only existing image of
Pastor Baltzer we have found
is a fne, large oil portrait
which has been passed down
in our family. My siblings sug-
gested we put it up for auc-
tion after our parents died,
since no one had a suitable
place for it. I felt that would
be a great pity and decided to
contact the current pastor to
see if his church or the town
council would be interested
in receiving the painting as
a gift.
The response from the
pastor and a local historian
was enthusiastic, so my sis-
ter and I added Zwochau to
our itinerary. During a special
service on St. Martin’s Day,
Nov. 11, the crate containing
the portrait was opened in
the presence of the pas-
tor’s Catholic counterpart,
the mayor and the press.
It was then that the pastor
announced to all that the
town council had decided
to name the village’s main
street “Baltzerstrasse.”
At this point in my
children’s lives, they have
little interest in their family
background. But I predict
that when they have grand-
children of their own, they
will be grateful to know more
about their roots. I think it’s
important to preserve what
we can for future genera-
tions. Otherwise, much will
be lost.
Christopher Henze served
with the U.S. Information
Agency in South Africa, Dar
es Salaam, Ljubljana, Geneva
and Paris. He retired in
France, where he has worked
as a consultant to the
national Herald Tribune
at the press and publications
ofce of the International
Energy Agency.
Robert Henze’s
golden goddess
stands atop the
dome of the Fine
Arts Academy
in Dresden—a
landmark that
survived the Allied
frebombing in
Below, portrait
of revolutionary
pastor Johann
Friedrich Baltzer,