hidden europe 2

Ephraim's villa: a Görlitz portrait

by Tim Locke


guest contributor Tim Locke explores how the turbulent history of Görlitz is intertwined with his own family history

For me the word Görlitz has always conjured up distant, glamorous but ultimately tragic family history: a Germanic side of myself that I never really fathomed until I visited the town. The house I grew up in, in southeast London, was full of what seemed enigmatic mementos of a world I had never encountered: tomes of yellowing piano music, which I myself play, bearing the purple rubber stamp of a Görlitz bookshop; a faded sepia portrait of my great-grandparents Martin and Hildegard Ephraim; a certificate presented by the Kaiser bestowing the Freedom of the city of Görlitz upon Martin Ephraim; and a photo of a vast mansion that once belonged to my family.

Martin Ephraim, born in 1860, was a Jewish magnate whose father had moved to Görlitz and made a fortune in iron - from nails to railway components. By the turn of the twentieth century, Martin Ephraim was at the heart of Görlitz's cultural life. In 1907 he built himself a fine villa, the first Jugendstil (art nouveau) house in Görlitz. He contributed to the railway station, synagogue and art gallery. He also donated archaeological finds, paintings, porcelain and painted folksy furniture from the local Oberlausitz (Upper Lusatia) culture to the museum. Despite his religion, he married a Lutheran, Hildegard Rauthe, an alderman's daughter and one of the first German women to go to university; they brought their children up as Lutherans too.

Ephraim's villa was sold at the height of the German hyper-inflation of the 1920s - the proceeds they got after the exchange of contracts was, as the family legend goes, "just enough to buy a basket of cherries".

This is just an excerpt. The full text of this article is not yet available to members with online access to hidden europe. Of course you can read the full article in the print edition of hidden europe 2.
Related article

Marking Time: New Train Services for 2020

The hidden europe award for ingenuity in creating new European rail travel opportunities is awarded to Austria's state rail operator, Österreichische Bundesbahnen (ÖBB). We look at what ÖBB will offer anew for 2020, and examine too what's new on the rails in Russia, Germany and elsewhere across Europe.

Related article

Making Tracks for Sweden

As winter slipped slowly into spring in 1917, Lenin passed through Berlin on his journey back to Russia from Switzerland. His onward route from Berlin took him by train to Sassnitz, then on by ferry to Trelleborg in Sweden. These days it's still possible to follow the route taken by Lenin, using the occasional direct trains from Berlin to Sweden.

Related article

At the water's edge: Germany's Wadden Sea

Within just a few centuries, the geography of the Frisian region has been reshaped by storms and tides. Paul Scraton is a regular writer for hidden europe; here he explores Germany’s Wadden Sea coastline. It’s a tale that shows the power of the sea.