Eulogy by Hans Zoellner

A Eulogy for Reinhold Zoellner, My Father
On the Occasion of His Funeral.
Hans Zoellner
Springwood, 8 September, 2016

Firstly, thank you for being here, and thank you for the love and friendship you showed my father. If he could speak, I’m sure that’s the first thing he’d want to say.

My father was a man of contrasts, and his life was made of strongly contrasting experiences. I had thought to mention some of the terrible childhood experiences that affected him, but decided it best to reduce it to the inevitable darkness of being a child during the war, and the difficulty of a father, broken by being on the losing side of D-Day, and the hardship of prisoner of war camps. And then there was the awfulness of nursing his mother through her death. His childhood was blackened by dark times.

But it was not all dark; there was also light. His mother and grandparents were affectionate. He played in a harmonica band, ‘Kleines Echo’, ‘The Little Echo’. And he was encouraged by a wonderful teacher, Lehrer Phenig, who gave him extra
painting lessons together with his great friend Martin Logus.

The suburb of Bad Pyrmont where he grew up was called ‘Die Saline’. Right on the edge of town, he spoke of how all the kids got together and called themselves ‘Die Saline Indianer’, ‘The Saline Indians’, running wild through the fields, meadows and forests near their homes. It might be hard to believe now, but he was fast, and had the Indian name ‘Der Flinke Reh’, ‘The light-footed and speedy deer’. He remembered swinging from tree-top to tree-top through the pine forest, and almost drowning in the Emma river that ran near by, and being saved by one of the other kids.

My father had great fantasy, and he made puppet theatres for the other children. Latter, he made one for me as well, and I recall that when very small, I couldn’t help myself, but was so incensed by the wicked witch, that I rushed up to the little theatre and started beating the witch with my fists. Dad did a very convincing ‘wicked witch’, but I think even he was taken aback at having to save his fingers from me.

Somehow along the way, my father became a person of strong conviction. In 1944, he reached the age for joining the junior Hitler Youth. He went along to a meeting or two, but decided they were just a bunch of nasty bullies, and stopped going. No matter how much they beat him at school, he wouldn’t go back. I’m proud that as a little kid, my father had the moral courage to stand up to the might of the Third Reich. I think that’s amazing. I really do.

He remained his whole life, a person who would never compromise on any point of principle. There was right. There was wrong. There was no middle ground. There was Reiner’s way, and none other, and although at times I found him maddening, I see more virtue in him, than in the glad-handling hollow men, who don’t believe a damned thing.

His father wanted him to work in the post-office, but Dad refused, and took up an apprenticeship in upholstery instead. His father’s response was to try and starve him into submission. My father’s reaction, was to become the best trades-man he
could, and top the regional exams. This despite boils on his arms, no doubt the result of malnutrition, so that every hammer blow he made, was a painful blow for his own freedom.

He valued his freedom. As a kid, he would disappear for days and weeks, riding off on his push-bike, with Martin Loges again, travelling across the German countryside. He figured it was worth the beating when he came home.

From photographs of that time, it is easy to see my father had become a sad, angry, resentful, young boy, and so as soon as he finished his trade, he packed his bike. He told of feeling totally alone, stopped before the old train station, trying to decide if he should turn left or right, with the whole world open, but no particular place to go. He ended going right, to head South, where it seemed it would be further to go before running out of land. He had a time of terrible loneliness, and told of a night spent on the bank of the Rhine, watching a party ship steam past, loaded with people singing and dancing, and how he never felt more alone than on that night.

But he eventually biked into Bonn, and there followed some happy years working in a theatre decorating troupe, that bussed up and down Germany, making curtains, upholstering walls, laying carpets, hanging wall papers, and of course, building theatre seats. He was proud of the time they sent him ahead of the rest of the team, for them to only find he had almost finished the job by the time they arrived.

As a child I was, and remain still now, amazed at the accuracy of his hand-stitching, the precision with which he could hit tiny upholstery nails with ridiculously small headed upholstery hammers, and the deft expert movements of his mastertradesman hands. He always took the view that a good tradesman could work across more than one trade. He did plumbing, minor electronics, carpentry, bricklaying, and of course painting. He extended himself to also enjoy lead-lighting and was a talented artist with a pen and brush. He enjoyed putting his hand to making things, and solving problems, and he was very good at it.

My father had strong arms. He could lift lounge chairs or sofas onto the roof rack of our car, sometimes exasperated with me supposedly ‘helping’, but more dangling on the end than lifting on the other side. Much of my childhood was spent ‘helping’; trying to hold or carry things. It was evidently frustrating for my father, but I think he knew I was trying, and suppose that just had to do.

It was in Bonn where my Father found my name. Hans Doland was a senior colleague and great friend to my father. He took Dad, a lost boy, under his wing, and I think it was in Bonn where the world started to open up for him. He attended philosophy classes, and loved the ‘candlelight philosophy nights’ he had with his friends.

When he was ready, he decided to bike to Spain. Somehow along the way, coincidences led him to Biel in Switzerland, where he worked for Schenke, a firm where he always said he really learnt his trade. And there he really hit his stride.

He started a sort of Youth club, and named it ‘Club Germania’, where young people from Germany, but also from Switzerland and all over Europe, would meet and party till late in the night in a pub overlooking the city below. ‘Club Germania’, turned out to be an unfortunate name, because the Swiss secret police came to watch them closely. They took my father in for questioning, and probed him for his political views. My father was convinced they once broke in and rifled through his flat. The police must have eventually realised, that ‘Club Germania’ was not a neo-nazi association, but instead just a bunch of young people getting drunk .

If you only knew him in his latter years, you would find it hard to imagine him as he then was: a charismatic, devil may care, good looking young man, who would give anything a go.

Skiing? No lessons; no worries; and there is a story of him going to the top of a mountain, and basically falling all the way down. Singing? No training; no worries; sing away, and he actually had a really powerful voice. Sometimes it was too
powerful, and I had to hold the phone away from my ear. Dad was an all dancing, all singing, all harmonica playing, all partying guy. He was the leader of the pack, the life of the party, and frankly the most charismatic person in the room.

When I was 13, there was a reunion of ‘Club Germania’ in the little pub overlooking Biel. Dad was more or less forced to accept responsibility for quite a few marriages, and many more children who filled the place up. But the first marriage from Club Germania, was that to my mother. Looking over old photographs, I can see my father’s life as a love story. I’ll tell you how it started.

The men of the Club had decided to celebrate ‘Father’s day’ by pushing a cart full of beer and ham around town, drinking, singing, and generally having fun. There was also possibly a guitar and harmonica involved. The other men had the peculiar view that ‘Father’s Day’ shouldn’t include any women. I think my father had quite a different view, and recognized that without women, there wouldn’t be any fathers. My mother worked in a butcher’s shop, and my father was charged to buy the ham, and that’s where he saw my mother for the first time.

It was love at first sight, and he latter said that he thought ‘This is the one for me’, and that was that. I know that all might sound unlikely, but I can also say that many years later, I had the same sort of experience. My father often said, that when he met Mum, that was when his life really started. But of course, as my mother has said, there was always the Dutch girl he was engaged to before.

They got married. They left for Oldenburg for my father to attend Master’s school, where again he pretty much topped the class. They had me in Rotenburg, and then lived in the tiny little village of Schessel. And then, something very strange
happened. They went to the movies.

There they met a guy they knew from Club Germania days, who said ‘Guess what, I’m going to Australia! They are looking for skilled workers there, and the boat’s cheap’. I think it took little more than ten seconds, for my parents to decide they
were going too. The other guy got cold feet, and thirteen years latter, he was still there in Schessel.

My father was an adventurer, but an adventure is only true, when there is opportunity for complete disaster, and so once again, there were very hard times.

My parents didn’t speak English. Work was hard to get. He tried to start a business, but there didn’t seem to be a market, or perhaps he just couldn’t get the marketing right. It was a total come-down, for my father to be reduced from Master Tradesman, to working at the laundry at Royal Women’s Hospital in Paddington. Eventually, however, he gained a position at the Railways as an upholsterer. It took a long time for him to feel accepted, but his skills became evident, and whenever there was anything difficult to do; something in the central offices, the Queens carriage, a special seat for David Hill; then they would call Dad, because he was the man to do it. He enjoyed teaching younger colleagues and apprentices, and I think they appreciated his efforts, while he later enjoyed teaching in the Technical College at Meadowbank.

After 12 years in Australia, however, my parents went back to Germany. My father started a business in a small village, Klein Heidorn. He joined the pub choir, and had a place in the local community, but in the end, my parent felt they just had to return to Australia. Both my parents always said it was for me, but I honestly believe it was really for them, because Australia for both my mother and father, had become the land of adventure, and that was where adventurer’s belonged.

And my father was to have many adventures yet together with my mother. There were many travels, and there were political adventures. He was very active in the Labor Party, where he was noted for making many motions for party policy. The
first work for the Party was handing out pamphlets for Whitlam in the 1975 election. Whitlam, amazingly, years latter remembered both my parents. Whitlam of course, had an amazing memory, but on the other hand, my father was a hard man to forget. Dad fought for a dialysis unit at Nepean hospital, and won. He worked hard supporting the great Wharfie strike. My parents also worked tirelessly supporting booths during elections.

And there were other efforts. He painted the scout hall when I was a kid. Both he and my mother worked hard supporting the Hubertus Club. And my father was I think justifiably proud of being made a life member of the Union, for saving the railway workshop from closing for a time, by designing the ZS seats, named after himself, Zoellner, and Vivian Sanday who was the cutter for the new design. Dad took pride in attending the Labor Conferences, and had an opinion on everything. Although not in total agreement with the Party on everything, he did have a generally loyal labor perspective. It made for some interesting table conversations, when I told him I’m voting Liberal.

He had a strong sense of trying to make the world a better place, and I think he saw the work he did as a tradesman in that light. I recall him saying how grateful he always was, that somebody had gone to the trouble of making a foot-path for him, just so it would be easier to walk. I recall sitting on his lap when I was very small, and him earnestly instructing that I should never waste materials, because everything we have, somebody had to make and sometimes even risk life and limb to do so.

But my father’s greatest adventure, was his life with my mother. She was the great love of his life, and I know his life would have been empty without her. And I think the next great adventure, was the wonder of the new life they created together; me. It’s hard to see yourself as a wonder, but to my father, I was.

I remember, being very small, thrown in the air, and being caught laughing with delight. I remember sitting in a pram, loving my father racing me up and down a passageway. I remember his strong arms, lifting me to ride on his shoulders. Many
years later, I discovered how every man becomes king, when his child rides his shoulders.

Looking at photographs of my father with his grandchildren, I can see the sheer joy and wonder, at these beautiful new lives, cradled carefully in his strong arms. There are beautiful photographs of my father playing with children, myself, and latter my own children. It was his special joy.

My father loved his family. I think he had a lot of love for most people. He was on the whole, generous and big hearted. More giving than taking. More offended against than offending. I cannot remember him ever being hateful, or petty. He was too big a man for that.

My father was a man of contrasts. He could be Joyous or depressed. Delightful or
maddening. Grateful or resentful. Accepting or outraged. Tolerant or opinionated.
Considerate or self-centred. But I think he was always loving. It was his greatest
saving grace.

My father was not a perfect being. He was a man like all others, and still like none we will meet again.

My father lived to the full. And I will always remember, my father had strong arms.

There will now be a reading of a poem written by Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, ‘Wandrer’s Nachtlied’, ‘The Wanderer’s Nightsong. It has special significance , because it is a favourite of both my parents, and will be inscribed on the tomb stone
at this place, where my father will now lie, and where ultimately my mother will also be.

The German version will be read first by Ute Schiller, and this will be followed by a reading of an English translation by my children, Sophie and Mark.

English Translation of a Eulogy by Marc Zoellner, Reinhold Zoellner’s Nephew.

In Memory of Uncle Reinhold
Bad Pyrmont, September 2016

Dear Aunty Inge, Hans, Sophie, Nick, Mark and all others gathered here today.

I sit at my desk the other side of the world, and seek words to speak for my family here in Bad Pyrmont. I am grateful for this opportunity, to express the wealth of things Uncle Reinhold meant to us.

When a man like Uncle Reinhold is so well loved by so many people, it is not only wonderful, but also begs the question, ‘how is such a thing possible?’

As we placed the death notice in the Bad Pyrmont newspaper, we searched for words that reflected both our sorrow, and our thankfulness. We began the death notice as follows:

‘A great heart has ceased to beat’

All of us here are endlessly sad, that this heart no longer keeps time. But we are also endlessly thankful for having had his great heart in our lives.

I’m sure that you will all know, what I mean, by a ‘great heart’. Many believe, that the heart is where the soul resides, where our feelings are at home, and the qualities that make us individually human, our inner values, are to be found.

When I think of Uncle Reinhold, many special human qualities occur to me, that resided in that great heart. I would like to talk about a few of these.


We all came to know Uncle Reinhold as someone who took pleasure from gift giving, and from giving pleasure to others. By ‘gifts’, I mean not only the many wonderful gestures given over many years on occasions such as birthdays or at Christmas. I also mean the time he gave us, the ear he leant us, and his advice, whenever we needed it. He was a wonderful listener, and I loved talking with him about goings on in the world, and to philosophise with him.

He Courageously Embraced Life

Uncle Reinhold embraced life with an enormous courage, that always astonished us. Many of the decisions he made, must have required not only great courage, but also great strength. I think he drew much of that strength from his positive attitude. He always said ‘Yes’ to life, and expressed through this, an enormous life-force.

Honesty and Justice

We came to know Uncle Reinhold, as a man who spoke what he thought; as an honest man, who stood for what he believed, and unlike so many we know today, he didn’t bend like a blade of grass with every change in the wind. He had a powerful sense for justice, thought of politics for the greater good, and engaged himself to fight for a more just world for us all.


I think the most wonderful quality that Uncle Reinhold had, was the capacity for love. He loved life. He loved freedom, and he loved the wide world as
much as his homeland. On the many travels he undertook in his life together with Aunty Inge, he came to know the world and sought to understand it as a whole.

He also loved music. Sometimes I think of his entire life as a single great melody.

Above all else, as you know, he loved people. He loved his wife. He loved his family. He loved his relatives, and he loved the many friends he made across the globe. Also my family here in Bad Pyrmont, especially my father, belong amongst the people, who were gifted by his love.

His death inflicts a deep injury upon us, and leaves a deep pain. Nonetheless, his life has left us many traces that we cherish, and there are
wonderful memories of hours spent together, that we are thankful to carry in our hearts, and that can never be taken from us.

And I believe, there is one great prise to be won in life. He who is prepared, to give much love to others, will also receive much love in return. Uncle Reinhold won that prise throughout his life, as can be seen even alone from the wonderful woman who spent nearly sixty years with him.

A great heart has ceased to beat. And despite this, the sound of that beat echoes in our own hearts, till we, Uncle Reinhold, and I believe this deeply, see you once again.

With love and gratitude
In representation of the entire family
Your Marc

In Erinnerung an Onkel Reinhold
Bad Pyrmont, September 2016
Liebe Tante Inge, lieber Hans, liebe Sophie, lieber Nick, lieber Marc und liebe Anwesende, ich sitze hier am anderen Ende der Welt an meinem Schreibtisch und suche im Namen meiner Familie hier in Bad Pyrmont nach Worten, die das auszudrücken vermögen, was Onkel Reinhold uns allen bedeutet hat. - Ich bin sehr
dankbar dafür, dass ich hierzu die Gelegenheit bekommen habe.

Wenn ein Mensch wie Onkel Reinhold von so vielen Menschen geliebt wird, dann ist das einfach wunderbar und man stellt sich die Frage: „Wie ist so etwas möglich?“

Als wir die Traueranzeige für die Zeitung hier in Bad Pyrmont aufgegeben haben, haben wir nach Worten gesucht, die unsere Trauer und zugleich unsere Dankbarkeit widerspiegeln.

Wir haben dann die Anzeige mit folgendem Satz überschrieben:

„Ein großes Herz hat aufgehört zu schlagen.“

Wir alle hier sind unendlich traurig, denn dieses Herz schlägt nun nicht mehr. Aber wir sind auch unendlich dankbar für die Erfahrung, diesem Herzen in unserem Leben begegnet sein zu dürfen. Und deshalb wisst Ihr alle, was ich meine, wenn ich sage: „ein großes Herz“.

Onkel Reinhold hatte wahrhaftig ein „großes Herz“. - Wir Menschen glauben, dass das Herz der Ort ist, an dem unsere Seele wohnt, wo unsere Gefühle zu Hause sind und die Eigenschaften, die uns Menschen auszeichnen – unsere inneren Werte.

Wenn ich an Onkel Reinhold denke, fallen mir ganz viele besondere Eigenschaften ein, die in diesem großen Herzen gewohnt haben. Auf einige von ihnen möchte ich an dieser Stelle näher eingehen:


Wir alle haben Onkel Reinhold als einen Menschen kennengelernt, der gerne geschenkt und gegeben hat, dem es Freude bereitet hat, anderen Menschen eine Freude zu machen. Mit „Schenken“ meine ich nicht nur die vielen wunderbaren Geschenke, die wir zum Beispiel an Geburtstagen oder zu Weihnachten über all die Jahre bekommen haben. Ich meine damit auch andere Geschenke: Er hat uns seine Zeit geschenkt, sein Ohr und seinen Rat, wann immer wir ihn brauchten.
Er war ein phantastischer Zuhörer und ich habe es geliebt, mit ihm über die Dinge, die in dieser Welt passieren, zu philosophieren.


Onkel Reinhold besaß einen enormen Lebensmut, den wir immer sehr bewundert haben. Zu vielen Entscheidungen, die er in seinem Leben getroffen hat, bedurfte es ganz bestimmt sehr viel Mut, aber auch sehr viel Kraft. Ich denke, einen Großteil dieser Kraft schöpfte er aus seiner positiven Lebenseinstellung. Er war jemand, der immer „Ja“ zum Leben sagte und dem deshalb auch eine unglaublich große Lebensenergie innewohnte.

Ehrlichkeit und Gerechtigkeit

Wir haben Onkel Reinhold kennengelernt, als einen Menschen, der das aussprach, was er dachte. Als einen ehrlichen Menschen, der geradlinig für seine Meinung einstand und nicht „umknickte“ wie ein Grashalm oder sich mit dem Wind drehte, wie es heutzutage leider viele Menschen tun. - Er hatte einen ausgeprägten Sinn für Gerechtigkeit und war darüber hinaus auch ein sehr politisch denkender Mensch, der sich engagierte und für mehr Gerechtigkeit auf dieser Welt kämpfte.


Ich denke, die wunderbarste Eigenschaft, die Onkel Reinhold besaß, war seine Fähigkeit zu lieben. Er liebte das Leben, die Freiheit und die große weite Welt ebenso wie seine Heimat. Auf den vielen Reisen, die er in seinem Leben zusammen mit Tante Inge unternommen hat, hat er die Welt kennengelernt und versucht, sie als Ganzes zu begreifen. Er liebte auch die Musik. Manchmal – so denke ich – klingt sein ganzes Leben wie eine einzige Melodie.

Vor allem aber, das wisst Ihr alle, liebte er die Menschen: seine Frau, seine Familie, Verwandte und die vielen Freunde, die er über den gesamten Globus verteilt kennengelernt hat.

Auch meine Familie hier in Bad Pyrmont - besonders natürlich mein Vater - gehört zu den Menschen, die durch seine Liebe beschenkt worden ist.

Sein Tod reißt bei uns eine große Lücke und hinterlässt bei uns allen einen tiefen Schmerz. Aber ebenso hinterlässt sein Leben bei uns viele Spuren: wunderbare Erinnerungen an gemeinsam verbrachte Stunden, die wir dankbar in unseren Herzen tragen und die uns keiner mehr nehmen kann.
Und ich glaube, das ist der höchste Preis, den ein Mensch in seinem Leben erringen kann: Wer bereit ist, viel Liebe an andere Menschen zu schenken, dem wird auch viel Liebe zurückgeschenkt werden. - Onkel Reinhold hat diesen Preis in seinem Leben gewonnen, was allein an der phantastischen Frau sichtbar wird, die ihn sechzig Jahre seines Lebens begleitet hat.

„Ein großes Herz hat aufgehört zu schlagen“ - und dennoch lebt der Klang dieses Herzschlags in unseren Herzen weiter fort, bis wir uns, lieber Onkel Reinhold, und daran glaube ich ganz fest, irgendwann einmal wiedersehen. In Liebe und Dankbarkeit stellvertretend für die ganze Familie

Dein Marc

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