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Siegfried Albert – A Special Tribute

by Kevin Zwar

On the 20th Anniversary of our Wend Heritage Society it is my privilege to honour a Wend in Germany who speaks no English, but who made a valuable contribution to the success of our Wend Society, particularly in its early years.

I made my first contact with Pastor Siegfried Albert thirty years ago. His name and address were passed on to me by Robert Robinson-Zwahr from Texas. Robert had been to Germany researching his Zwahr Family. Pastor Albert was the Lutheran Minister of the large Groeditz parish in East Germany where my Zwar ancestors had worshipped.

My interest to make contact was aroused in 1975 when Dr Max Lohe [Head of the Lutheran Church in Australia] passed on to me a draft of the proposed book by George Nielsen “In Search of a Home” where Nielsen referred briefly in his footnotes to Zwar letters from Australia in the Wend Newspapers in Germany.

So I wrote to Pastor Albert. He sent his first reply on 9th September 1976. It was the first of a series of exciting letters and material about the Wends he would send me over the coming years. [I later learnt Dr Nielsen did not have copies of these letters. He had visited the Archives in Saxony where someone looked through the Wend letters and told him what they were about.] The copies Pastor Albert would send to Australia were the first time they were available in the Western World. A list of the main letters and material is given on back of this sheet.

I want to pay a special tribute to Pastor Albert tonight. Life was not easy for Christians and their pastors in East Germany under Communist rule. He was the pastor of a huge parish. His sister wrote to me at one stage and advised me to be patient with him as he and his wife Annemarie hardly had a spare moment in their busy lives.

Yet Pastor Albert made the time to visit the Wend Archives in Bautzen where he photocopied the Wend letters and material, including some lengthy letters written home by Wends who had gone to Australia. Pastor Albert then translated these letters into German, typed them out neatly, and posted to me both the Wend photocopies of the originals and the typed translations. It must have taken a lot of time.
When Rob Wuchatsch visited me 25 years ago in Warrnambool looking for information on the Wends he was thrilled and excited to receive a copy of a letter by Michael Zwar describing the voyage to Australia on the Pruebislaw, the same ship his ancestors had travelled to Australia in 1849/50.

One could not send money from Australia to people living under communism in East Germany. To reward Pastor Albert for his work I would occasionally send a cheque to his sister, Mrs Irmgard Heuser who lived in Bad-Reichenhall in West Germany.
It helped that the Australian dollar was worth two West German Marks in those days! His sister would find out what her brother would like to buy, then she bought it in the West and took it to Pastor Albert when she visited him. [Ray Deutscher told me he wrapped notes in silver foil and posted them successfully to his contacts in East Germany who were supplying him with information for the Deutscher Family History.]

I am particularly keen to honour Pastor Albert as he is still alive. He lives in retirement in Bautzen. I plan to send him a copy of this Tribute when I find someone who can translate it into German!
I also had the joy of attending [and videoing] a Church service he took in the Wend language in Saxony in 1994.

The letters and material he sent out to Australia have been translated into English by a number of different people. It is my wish that anyone who translates and publishes this material, which has always been made freely available, will always acknowledge Pastor Siegfried Albert as the person chiefly responsible for making this material available to the Western World.

I now invite you to charge your glasses and we shall drink a toast to honour Pastor Siegfried Albert!