Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Canada Haus and the Canadian Legions in Lahr, Germany

Two hundred or so Canadians live in Lahr and the surrounding area of southern Germany .  They remained here when Canadian Forces Base Lahr closed--the military returning to Canada--in the summer of 1994.  Some of those who decided to stay in Germany have integrated entirely into the German community and thus have disappeared from the former Canadian scene.  Others are actively involved with the various Canadian groups and clubs.  One of those associations is Canada Haus, an important cultural meeting place, which was opened officially on 1 July 1994 in the former Der Kanadier newspaper building.  Colonel Les Corbett was the Base Commander at that time and Dr. Werner Dietz was the Oberbürgermeister (mayor) of Lahr.  They made Canada Haus possible.

During the following years, many events have taken place and many visitors have walked through its doors.  Rainer Hildebrand was the first president and Trisha Cornforth the last, as Canada Haus will be closing officially on 31 December 2010.

The Coats-of-Arms and flags of all ten provinces and the territories with the pictures of Queen Elizabeth and Governor General Michaelle Jean in the centre.

Below, active members at a meeting on 22 June 2010, deciding upon the closure.  Cathy Schöler at left, Charlotte Haarmann and Trisha Cornforth at the far right.

In the early years many Canadians and Germans took part in the various events taking place at Canada Haus and many volunteered their help.  With an aging population that help has diminished greatly which also means that any money-raising efforts have also diminished.  There is not enough money in the "kitty" to continue.  The City of Lahr helped financially for many years, paying a good portion of the yearly rent.  Their help was greatly appreciated.  That has now come to an end however.

At left:  some members of the Legions, various groups and the press at Canada Haus on 7 July 2010.

On the right (7 July 2010):  the Canadian Ambassador is shown in the centre with the Oberbürgermeister on the right and the Canadian Consul from Stuttgart on the left.  Trisha Cornforth ís at the far right.. 

This past week the Canadian Ambassador to Germany, Dr. Peter Böhm, and the Oberbürgermeister of Lahr, Dr. Wolfgang Müller, met with several Canada Haus, Legion and German-Canadian Club members along with the press.  Plans are now being made to turn the effects over to the City of Lahr.  We are hoping that our library will be taken over as well, but that may or may not happen.  To those who are still actively involved, it is a sad situation for us all, including the many German citizens who have helped all these years.

Two views of the interior of Canada Haus with the library at the far end of the left picture.  Note the pictures of all the Base Commanders who served in Lahr from the beginning until the end, 1967 to 1994, in the picture below right.

Most years Canada Haus held a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner and during the Christmas season, a coffee and cake afternoon. Robbie Burns night was another special evening as was a Hallowe'en party.

Over the years several musicians have entertained us, the latest being Wayne MacIsaac (from Cape Breton) about three weeks ago.  He was formerly a soldier at CFB Lahr who returned to live here with his family.  Wayne is a country and western singer who plays guitar at Europa Park in Rust each week.  (That amusement park, by the way, is now one of the largest of its kind in Europe.  In fact, it is beginning to approach the Disney parks in size and entertainment value and growing larger each year.)

Below left, Wayne MacIsaac entertaining his audience. On the right, some of us enjoying the wonderful music. Wayne entertained us all for four hours with one great song after another. 

One of the most important aspects of Canada Haus is our library and since its onset Gertrud Binder has been the custodian and buyer of our books.  Everyone at Canada Haus is a volunteer, including Gertrud and her husband, Jürgen, who has done a lot over the years.  I have volunteered at the library since its inception.  It has been a wonderful addition for all those Canadians here who love to read but could not easily buy or borrow English-language books.  Those who read French could easily buy them in France, but of course we also offer French language books and a few German books as well.  Fortunately the bookstore that opened at the Arena (a huge building in Lahr comparable to a small mall and which also houses McDonald's and a large supermarket amongst others) has a shelf of English books at reasonable prices.  Amazon.co.uk on the internet is also reasonable and accessible.  Neither of these outlets was available back in 1994.

A portion of our book collection below 

The two Canadian Legions will continue.  Each has various events such as dinners and barbecues during the year.  They, of course, also hold a Remembrance Day service and a Canada Day celebration each year.  Several of the members attend various ceremonies throughout France, Germany, Belgium and Holland in honour of Canadians who have died during the wars.  The Legion President for all Canadian Legions in Canada and abroad has visited here at least twice in the last few years.  Bill Fairley is the President of Legion #2 and Gaetan Bienvenue is president of Legion # 4, in Lahr.  There are also two other Canadian legions in Germany-- Söllingen and Geilenkirchen--as well as one in Holland.   

       Two pictures at the Canadian memorial in the Lahr cemetery on Remembrance Day; Legion #2.  
Underneath, a picture at Legion #4 on a special evening with the Area Commander, Reg Bonnar, facing.


Below, Legion # 4, Canada Day, 2010:  Hans and Sylvi Schlager, Jürgen Binder and Gaetan Bienvenue.  On the right, Erika Bienvenue with some guests.  On the wall, some Canadian Coats-of Arms.

The German-Canadian Club also still exists and will continue on in another location.  A square dance club is still active as is the bridge club.  These clubs, plus a stamp club, hold their activities at Canada Haus, so all will now have to look elsewhere.  One of the things Canada Haus sponsors is the English Speakers' Corner.  That is held on the last Friday of each month.  Over the years many German citizens have taken part in that evening, with English being the language of the night.

Canada Haus has hosted three Lahr reunions, the last one in 2009.  A number of Canadians who had been stationed here or who taught in the Canadian schools on base flew over from Canada on those occasions.  The next one is slated for five years hence the organizers say, but Canada Haus will not be the host.  Bill Moore in Edmonton was behind the last one and will be in the forefront of the next reunion as well.  He can be found on Facebook under Der Kanadier.  With all the many Gasthäuser in the area it should not be too difficult to find a place at which to gather.

Below, Bill Moore (on the right) and other guests at a Flammenkuchen (tarte flambe) evening last fall, 2009.  The picture underneath features some of the returning teachers.

Over the years many Canadians re-visiting Lahr have signed our Canada Haus guest book.  The opening hours for those who may visit this year are as follows:  Monday and Thursdays from 1600 to 1900 hours and on the first Saturday of the month from 1000 to 1200 hours.  Canada Haus is closed on a German statutory or religious holiday.  

All the activities I have mentioned will continue until our closure at the end of December this year.  We hope a few visitors, Canadian and German, will continue to drop in over the next few months.

1 comment:

  1. Looking for a contact, e-mail or postal address for Trisha Cornforth.
    Bill Hicks