On 15 April 1912, I was born in Hanover, Germany, the capital of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) northwestern Germany with my fraternal twin Sister Rose who we have called Rosy ever since I can remember. The city lies on the Leine River and the Mittelland Canal, where the spurs of the Harz Mountains meet the wide North German Plain. Pictures of my birth place do not do it justice for it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with different architectually designed buildings and parks that make you stop and look at with awe. It is a town with a long and varied history. We were born in a turbulent time and within two years WWI started. I learned early in life that challenges are meant to be met and overcome and that they are ever present but surmountable.
We were also born on the day the famous RMS Titanic sunk, the newest luxury oceanliner which left Southampton on 10 April bound for New York. As everyone knows in a few days into the journey, it hit an iceberg and just under three hours, split in two and gradually disintegrated under enormous depths below the ocean. The sinking resulted in the loss of more than 1,500 passengers and crew, making it one of the deadliest commercial peacetime maritime disasters in modern history.
One of the passengers that died in this horrific disaster was good friends with my grand parents. His name was Isidor Strauss and he was born in Otterberg, Germany. Apparently, Isidor went to school with my grandpa Ludwig senior (Lou he was known by) and Isidor’s brother Nathan. In 1854 Isidor and his family were migrating to the United States, following his father Lazarus who immigrated two years before. Apparently, they settled in Talbotton, Georgia, where Lazarus had convinced Rowland Macy to allow L. Strauss & Sons to open a crockery department in the basement of his store in New York.
According to history documents, Isidor and his wife Ida were last seen sitting in deck chairs on the deck, having refused to be separated in the lifeboats: they wanted to be together, no matter what (in 1997 movie Titanic, they’re shown lying together in bed as water rushes into the room). Eyewitnesses described the scene as a “most remarkable exhibition of love and devotion”. The only comfort for the grieving family was that baby grandson Stuart was due to be on the voyage too, but as a twist of fate would have it, he was sick and had been left in England.
Since the Titanic’s discovery in 1985, thousands of artefacts have been recovered and put on display at museums around the world. As older women, Rosy and I took some time out to visit the SeaCity Museum in Southampton and we were so moved by the titanic story exhibition. Through powerful oral testimony from survivors, the Disaster Room describes the sequence of events from the time the ship struck the iceberg to its sinking, and the rescue of passengers by the Carpathia. There were also many artefacts displayed that were found at the wreckage and one that I remember was a pocket watch found on the body of Sidney Sedunary, a steward by the name of which shows the exact time the pocketwatch plunged into the North Atlantic Ocean at ten minutes to two when the Titanic sank, claiming his life and the lives of 1,502 others on 15 April 1912.
When we grew older, papa showed us newspaper articles of the day ‘Titanic’ sunk and also one when we were one month old babies, on 20 May 1912, Prince George William of Hanover died, the eldest son of Ernest Augustus, Crown Prince of Hanover in a motor accident at age thirty one at Nackel, Brandenburg, Germany. He was at the wheel of his car en route to the funeral of his uncle, Frederick VIII of Denmark. Royalty has existed in Hanover since October 1814 by the Congress of Vienna, with the restoration of George III to his Hanoverian territories after the Napoleonic era. After his accession in 1714, George Louis of the House of Hanover ascended the throne of Great Britain as George I and Hanover were then joined in a personal union with Great Britain.
My papa kept newspaper articles of important events his whole life and had a filing cabinet full of them. My sister and I did the same thing when we were older and many times we referred back to them for whatever reason at the time.