Erwin Weber's Christmas Letter 2002
The year 2002 marked the pinnacle of my professional career. With the assistance of Dr. David Renneke, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, who helped me over many of the rough spots of learning the computer, and Christopher Tracy and Shawn Beattie of the Olin Educational Technology Center at Augustana, who taught me how to produce video tapes and DVD disks, I successfully completed the Bergendoff PowerPoint slide presentation depicting the life and work of Dr. Conrad Bergendoff.
The show was very well received at its premier at Bethany College during the Gathering of the Augustana Heritage Association in Lindsborg, Kansas, in June 2002. John Pearson, who was chair of the Gathering, said, "The show was a valued addition to the program and we appreciated the many very fine responses and feed-back which we had received from those associated with this Gathering."
In August, Dr. Martin E. Marty, the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, the author of over fifty books, and recipient of numerous national medals including sixty-seven honorary doctorates, who was one of the first to support the Bergendoff project two years ago, who invited me and a few guests to his home in Riverside, Illinois, for a presentation of the Bergendoff slide show where Dr. Marty expressed his appreciation and even wonder in the face of Professor Weber's skill, devotion, and commitment. He said, "Anyone who has ever groaned because some host is going to show pictures will quickly find that there is no groaning here; in its place will be a program that demands and deserves sitting forward in the chair; the pace is brisk; the narrator does not dilly-dally; the picture sequence moves along as fast as the eye and mind can take them; yet it all feels unhurried and we are allowed to let it sink in. Let it sink in!"
In order to celebrate the successful conclusion of the Bergendoff show, Gwen, my friend and neighbor for 25 years, and I decided to go Europe. She wanted to see the Oktoberfest in Munich: It certainly has changed a lot since I saw it in 1959. Now 5 million people from all over the world attend the event. There are many young people who stand on the table, sing at the top of their voices and drink large steins of beer.
We then drove to Wittenberg to photograph the Lutherhalle which was under reconstruction to make it more accessible to visitors by building an elevator. During the renovation workmen discovered a spiral staircase which Luther used to go to a room where he reread the chapter in Romans that read, "...he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus."
In the town where my grandfather was born, there is a small half-timbered constructed house that is now a memorial to the holocaust. The entire Jewish family that lived there was sent to Riga and executed in 1938. Relatives who fled before 1938 did not want to live in the house and turned it over to the city. Along with a Jewish star that people had to wear on their clothing, and other artifacts, there are models of synagogues in the district which were destroyed by the Nazis. A memorial hall with the scroll of the Thora seats about 25 people. It is used for lectures and seminars.
Before we returned to the United States, I stopped at my boarding school along the Rhine River. A member of the local press interviewed me. A friend of mine in the city sent me a copy of the newspaper article titled, "US Professor Returns to his Roots." Erwin Weber lived from 1929 until 1935 in Godesheim. Then he went to America and made various careers for himself. There is a photograph of me standing in front of the school. The caption reads, "In the footsteps of his youth: Professor Erwin Weber is standing in front of the Godesheim school."
And now I wish you and your friends Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. Gwen and I will spend Christmas with my family. All of them are healthy and happy and are doing fine. Don't forget to keep in touch. By the way, I hope the Fryxell project will be completed in the Spring of 2004.