Review

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“Love unrequited, coffee decaffeinated and Hitler goes to hell while good Germans germinate and emigrate in a well told, loving memoir”

– Peter Goers – Plane at reception. I admire you and your book.

Peter Goers
Presenter, Evenings Show
Monday – Thursday 7 – 10pm
891 ABC Adelaide


Review of Bombshell (ISBN: 978-1-62516-346-2), by Ludwig Leidig, for the Australian Lutheran Theological Journal. Published by Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co., Houston TX 77065, 2013, 241pp. The book is available with free delivery from the Book Depository https://www.bookdepository.com/

When they note the name of Bombshell‘s author, many Australian Lutherans will immediately think ‘Immanuel College’. Ludwig Leidig (founding principal of Muirden Matriculation College, 1974-1980), is indeed a grandson of Immanuel’s Point Pass founder, Pastor G.F. Leidig. Ludwig’s book is however primarily about his mother, Barbara (nee Goette), born in 1908 at Naumburg, Germany. It is in fact dedicated to her, ‘in recognition of her courage and her fight for freedom’. Accordingly, her fascinatingly interesting life is here told with obvious love and with grateful filial pride. The author has also had the advantage of access to a virtual goldmine of family and business correspondence, as well as other sources. Thirteen chapters, most of which present some quite original material, gently lead the reader through fields of surprise and toward quietly suggested conclusions, some of which are less than comfortable and may have led to the book’s title.

Barbara’s fortunate life (but see p. 187) unfolds in two unequal parts. The first embraces her youthful years, coinciding with difficult and dreadful times in Germany: the rise of fascism and the eruption of World War II. Barbara’s brother is married to a daughter of Bremen’s Ludwig Roselius, inventor of decaffeinated coffee and head of the Kaffee HAG conglomerate and a whole cluster of companies and interests (including publishing, artistic promotion, aircraft manufacture and airport construction). Roselius is also Bulgarian General Consul! This billionaire tycoon employs the talented, vivacious, highly organized and mathematically gifted Barbara as his secretary and confidante. With others of the family she accompanies him on business travels also to other countries and continents (e.g. Britain, Africa, the Americas, Indonesia).

Roselius’ early denial of funding to Hitler proved hazardous. The industrialist (often referred to by family as ‘the Lion’) also supported what the Nazis considered ‘degenerate art’ (see chapter 3 on the Böttcherstrasse, Bremen). Barbara’s meeting and intervention with Hitler may well have saved Roselius’ life. He remained her boss, friend and benefactor (his intentions here thwarted by a mysteriously ‘missing will’!), and she cared for him up to his death in 1943. Significantly, the second part of Barbara’s life is introduced by a chapter headed ‘Life after Death’! The shadow of Ludwig Roselius was an enduring one.

The sermon preached at Bremen cathedral on the occasion of Roselius’ funeral is, it appears, printed in full (pp. 56-58). This is a document that will certainly draw interest and comment in our circles. Worth scrutiny for what is not there, as well as what is!

In February 1945, well before the deathly bombing and brutal bloodshed ceased across Germany, Barbara Goette married Prof. Dr. Paul Leidig (son of the Immanuel College founder). Paul lectured in English literature in Greifswald and then at Würzburg. The birth of the couple’s two sons, Nicholas (1946) and Ludwig (1949; and named after Ludwig Roselius, pp. 164 & 235!), the family’s move to Australia in 1950, her husband’s tragic death by drowning at Port Elliot seven years later, and Barbara Leidig’s outstandingly successful teaching career at Adelaide secondary schools thereafter are the marking posts along the other half of her life’s journey.

The Leidigs resided at Childers St., North Adelaide, and were members at Immanuel Lutheran Church. Barbara continued to attend German services there throughout her 40 year widowhood. Her obituary is published in the 1997 Bethleham’s-Bote, Adelaide.

Dr. Paul Leidig took a position teaching at Immanuel College, Walkerville. There he instilled a love of literature among the school’s senior classes (‘Macbeth’, ‘Hamlet’ etc., Shelley) while, fittingly, reconnecting the Leidig tradition into Immanuel (notable also for a country kid or two from Point Pass!). Doc Leidig was of course over-qualified for this school post. A good example of the depth of his philosophical and literary work, and his learning, is the letter to Barbara on pages 133-136. Ironically, his chances for an Adelaide University professorship were high and in play at the time of his death.

‘Bombshell’ belongs to our literature. It is highly readable and nicely illustrated. Its narrative is disciplined and sticks with its historical sources. And these are quoted liberally in the text – both for their intrinsic interest and to advance the story. The book concludes with further documentation (mainly letters), some of it in facsimilie/photocopied form (only a few items are in German). And thankfully the book comes with a useful index and bibliography.

Dr. Maurice Schild