Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

July 31, 2012

Hartman clan reunites in Germany

Debbie Blank
The Herald-Tribune

-- — When brothers Al Hartman, Batesville,  and Harry Hartman, Twin Oaks, attended the first international Hartman-Treffen reunion in Schimborn, Germany, last spring, they were reminded of Freudenfest and St. Leon’s Octoberfest.

At all three events, a traditional German song, “Toast to Coziness,” brings smiles.

In addition to the two brothers, 14 other relatives and one friend made the trip: Harry’s wife, Jo Ann; Craig and reunion organizer Isabella Crume (the Hartmans’ niece), Mike and Liz Stenger and Bertie Schmidt,  Batesville; Schmidt’s three sisters: Rudy Fasbinder, Vancouver, Wash.; Bernadette and Roman Widolff, Portland, Ore., and Shirley Gibson and boyfriend Gary Delestine, Palm Springs, Calif.; Tony Hartman (Harry’s son), Plainfield;  Christine  (Harry’s daughter) and Tommy Brennan, Lebanon, Ohio; and Al’s friend who’s like a brother, George Meeker, Sun City Center, Fla.

Schmidt says, “We had the best time in the world!  We all got along so well. Just meeting our fourth cousins” was the journey’s highlight.  “They couldn’t do enough for us. They fell over backwards trying to keep us happy and content. They had something going for three days.”

In 1999, Al and Norma and Harry and Jo Ann toured Germany and found records and evidence “the Hartman family was still alive and well there. We got thirsty for more information.”

In 2001, on a similar journey, the brothers found a book containing an 1860 map of Schimborn, located 50 miles southeast of Frankfort, Germany, with a diagram of homes. Great-great- grandfather Heinrich Hartmann (1796-1854), a farmer, lived in House No. 60. According to Al, “The next day we set out to find where the land was located” by using the old map.

As they studied it, a woman asked if she could help. It turns out Erika Rosenberger, whose mother was a Hartmann, is a fourth cousin to the Americans. They began a relationship and soon Rosenberger was offering to host the 2012 reunion, which occurred  in mid-April.

It was a big deal for the little town, meriting a front page newspaper article. The mayor welcomed the clan, speaking perfect English.

Al Hartman and his friend stayed at a bed-and-breakfast. The rest slept in two small  hotels with architecture similar to the Sherman House that were right next door to Rosenberger’s home.

A historian the pair had befriended on earlier trips invited the Americans to his home for an afternoon tea party.

Later Rosenberger and her husband threw a big Bavarian beer party, called a Bayerischen Bierabend. A band played German and American music.

The savored foods they were accustomed to, “but done in a German style.”

“A table as big as this room was just covered with food ... every piece you put in your mouth was delicious.” A butcher was slicing ham  and an array of desserts “just knocked your socks off,” according to Harry.

The next evening the group attended a German language Mass, where intentions were announced for the Hartmans’ great-great- grandfather and his wife and the son who emigrated to the United States.

After the Mass, there was another night of celebrating before they said farewell to the hosts.

“We really met a lot of new” relatives, Al reported. “A bunch of those are coming to our 2015 reunion” in August at the St. Leon American Legion hall.

The gatherings began in 2000 with the Hartman Millennium Reunion and take place every five years. Of the hall, he says, “We fill it. We have maybe 500 people show up,” mostly  Hoosiers, but also others from California, Oregon, Florida and Texas.

After the Schimborn event, the brothers split up. Al Hartman and George Meeker went to landmarks in southern Germany: Neuschwan-stein Castle (the Disney World castle is modeled after it); Hoffbrau Haus beer hall, Munich;  Oberamergau, where the passion play is presented every decade; and Salzburg salt mines.

In Trier, Germany,  Harry and his wife saw the holy robe of Jesus, not the shroud, which he supposedly wore at the crucifixion. Very rarely seen by the public, it was the 500th anniversary of its first display. He admits, “You really couldn’t see it” due to a protective fabric over the robe. “It’s frail as all get-out.”

The couple also will remember old Roman ruins at Rothenberg and  their drive from Munich to Reute, Austria: “It started to snow and here were these gorgeous fir trees. When the wet snow got on them, it decorated them like Christmas.”

Any European travel advice? Harry reports, “Believe it or not, every one  in our group made it with one suitcase.” Al agrees: “Travel light.”