Schleiden – Many people are happy if they never have to set foot in their "penne" again after graduating from school. Not so Fritz Sistig. The 85-year-old is putting his heart and soul into getting his old school back in shape – and for a special reason: The school stands in the Wollseifen desert – his birthplace, which his family was forced to leave in 1946 on orders from the British military administration. Residents had only three weeks to vacate the site.
For the already in the 12. The village in the Dreiborn highlands, which was first mentioned in a document in the 16th century and is located in the immediate vicinity of Vogelsang, was to be used by the British military as a military training area. In 1950, the site went to the Belgian military. It was not until 2006, after the troops had left, that the former Wollseifen residents were able to set foot in their home again.
In the shadow of the former Wollseifen churches, Hartmut Cremer (v.r.), member of the KSK board, Henning Walter, head of the national park administration, Manfred Poth, general representative of the district administrator and chairman of the supervisory board of the Vogelsang site development company, the model of the former village of Wollseifen. Picture: Tameer Gunnar Eden/Eifeler Presse Agentur/epa
Little was left of the 100-plus houses. Today, the former church of St. Rochus, which Fritz Sistig helped vigorously renovate between 2008 and 2010, as did other Wollseifen residents; a transformer house; the Wegekapelle, which was renovated in 2007 by the Tradition and Support Association Wollseifen; and the old school.
At a press meeting last Friday, those responsible now reported on the future use of the school building. Henning Walter, Head of Administration Eifel National Park: "There is a lot to do, because the school is to become an exhibition space about the former village of Wollseifen."The chairman of the tradition and promotion association Wollseifen, Wilfried Ronig, wants to do basic work with many volunteers. In addition to the "muscle mortgage", however, a hefty financial injection is also necessary. 51.000 euros is provided by the NRW Foundation for the actual renovation work, 10.000 euros for the implementation of the exhibition donated the Kreissparkasse Euskirchen (KSK), which through the Rheinischer Sparkassen- und Giroverband another 10.000 euros for the project.
Hartmut Cremer, member of the board of the KSK: "The school is located in the immediate vicinity of the church. The renovation completes the whole: In the church you can spend contemplative minutes and let the impressions of this special place take effect on you, in the school you can inform yourself about the history of the place after the implementation."
As far as possible to the St.-Rochus festival in August next year, the school should be rebuilt, reported Ronig. The son of a Wollseifen resident expressed his sincere thanks to the donors. "Without you nothing would happen here!"
There is still a lot to do: Professor Wolfgang Schumacher (v.l.), Chairman of the NRW Foundation, Manfred Poth, General Representative District Administrator, and Henning Walter, Head of the National Park Administration, look at the interior of the school, which is in need of renovation. Picture: Tameer Gunnar Eden/Eifeler press agency/epa
Architect Klaus Freimark informed about the planned works: "The building fabric will be secured, the empty window and door cavities will be filled again."The vaulted cellar has partially collapsed and is to be rebuilt. The cellar is not to become however like also the attic, which is to be separated with a timber ceiling, accessible for visitors, but is reserved as retreat area bats.
In the two classrooms on the first floor, the weatherproof exhibition will show the history of the village of Wollseifen, in one room from the first mention to the expulsion of the inhabitants with a focus on the Second World War. In the second room, the expulsion and the settling down in new places will be illustrated by individual fates.
The scientific nature of the project is ensured by "vogelsang ip", as Manfred Poth, General Representative of the District Administrator and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Vogelsang Site Development Company, put it. They had a long way to go until the implementation, many formalities and coordination had been necessary: "But I am very happy: Now it's finally getting started!"
Contemporary witness and Wollseifener Fritz Sistig in the dilapidated old school Wollseifen. Picture: Tameer Gunnar Eden/Eifeler Presse Agentur/epa
Fritz Sistig was visibly moved by the plans. His grandfather had to leave home twice: Once by the expulsion from Wollseifen, then, when his new home had to give way to the Rursee. Professor Wolfgang Schumacher, Vice-President of the NRW Foundation: "From our experience with the renovation of the church St. Rochus we know with how much commitment the Wollseifeners are involved. When you talk to them, you know that preserving these buildings is very important."
The Wollseifen Tradition and Support Association still has a good 120 members, about 80 percent of whom are over 75 years old. Fritz Sistig: "There are still about 100 people born in Wollseifen. I follow it very closely and often go through it in my head." With memorabilia of the former inhabitants the exhibition should be enriched. Historians Klaus Ring and Gabriele Harzheim from "vogelsang ip" interview former villagers about their old home and incorporate this into the exhibition design.
Sistig remembers a special story directly related to the school: the Kaufmann family had lived in the teacher's apartment on the upper floor of the school during World War II. When their son Clemens came to Wollseifen on home leave at the end of 1944, he officially disappeared – a high risk, because desertion was punishable by death. Even the field police could not track him down: he had built a dungeon in the attic of the school and waited there, undetected by the authorities, for the Americans to advance in February 1945.
An ambitious project is the conversion of the old Wollseifen school into an exhibition space. Picture: Tameer Gunnar Eden/Eifeler Presse Agentur/epa