A confronting question embossed on the cold surface of a tombstone made of granite at a cemetery in Angaur, Palau has been the subject of curiosity among many locals who would happen to visit the graveyard.
‘Warum?’, says the perplexing word on the back of the gravestone that would immediately jump into one’s view upon entering the cemetery.
A quick look through the cemetery’s surrounding, one could easily see how the tombstone looks out of place as it is the sole gravestone there that is made of granite, molded into the shape of plain rectangle – an outlier when compared to the other gravestones in the site that have concrete ‘crosses’ on them.
The tombstone with a five-letter German inscription on it stands at the heart of the stillness of the grave site for over a hundred years now yet it seems to ring like a clanging cymbal that would never fail to catch one’s attention, especially after it was learned that when translated to English, the word means ‘Why?’
Why, why? One could only wonder.
Intrigued, visitors at the cemetery would look for some clues on the other side of the gravestone to know who had been buried there and would find another German inscription written this way:
geb. 22. Mai 1868
gest. 14. Febr. 1911
Just like any tombstone markings, these would immediately hint that the person who died is named Röse Rodatz who was born on May 22, 1868 and had died on Valentine’s day of 1911 – a tragedy that befallen on lovers’ day if you would really think about it.
It was only recently though that some of the mysteries behind the gravestone had been put into light as German residents in Palau had took the initiative to examine the grave and fixed it.
In an interview with Island Times on March 27, German anthropologist Dr. Constanze Dupont and Honorary Consul for Germany in Palau, Thomas Schubert, said that the family of the deceased is still alive in Germany. In fact, a member of the Rodatz’s family whose name is Diether Rodatz, had contacted them and asked of the possible coordination with the group to repair the grave.
Without any second thoughts, they had gone to the site along with Dr. Victor Yano, Dupont’s husband, to check the grave and see what they could do to fix it.
Shortly after, a few locals in Angaur namely Jesse Marcil, Jethro Kadiasang, Marino Thomas, Thomson Alfred, Boaz Belibei, Noel Ngedebui, Jeraldez Hesus, Henly Tomei, Kastol Hesus, and Russ Rodas had voluntarily joined the team, all fueled by the enthusiasm of knowing the story behind the grave.
With the communication established by the group with the deceased’s family, it was found that Röse’s complete name was actually Maria Rosa Amanda Lindner and that she was married to a German man named Hans Adolf Rodatz, who used to work for the phosphate mining in Angaur. Before he worked in Palau, Hans Adolf Rodatz was part of the second German Ramu-Expedition in Papua New Guinea.
Hans Adolf Rodatz then married Röse on August 15, 1910 but fate seemed to be cruel to them as just the following year, six months after they tied the knot, Röse died.
“She (Röse) was very young when she died, so I guess he (Hans) was asking why? Why [was she taken from me?] Why did she die?” Dupont said in the interview, in an attempt to explain the possible reason behind the ‘Why?’ inscription.
When the group visited the graveyard for the first time, they found that the gravestone was detached from its foundation. Stories from the locals in Angaur revealed that in the 1980s, some eager men had removed the stone at the belief that Germans hid gold in the foundation when the Japanese came to Palau.
The men’s desperation to find the gold was revealed by the fact that the granite stone was very heavy yet they managed to lift it off the foundation. But their efforts proved futile after they found no gold inside it.
“The stone had been taken off the foundation, the grave marking had to be redesigned because a hundred years had already passed and nobody was really looking after it, so we picked it up again so that it [would] look presentable,” German Consul Schubert said.
According to Schubert and Dupont, Röse’s widowed husband went back to Germany after he completed his work contract in Palau and did not manage to come back to visit the grave as he was caught up in the tides of war that broke out in 1914.
“They (Röse and Hans) didn’t have children. He didn’t have the chance to come back here because it was already Japanese time (Japanese Occupation in Palau)- and that time we had wars going on in Europe,” Consul Schubert said.
On January 10, 1914, Hans Adolf Rodatz married his second wife, Franziska Maria Eliese Dietrich in Germany.
While a century had already passed, memories of that short-lived romance had remained. Hans’ family in Germany still possessed the photo documentation of the grave in Angaur and had kept it as part of their collections.
And while we now learned of the story behind the grave, it remains unknown as to what was the reason behind Röse’s death. Did she die because of illness? Why did she die? Why?
And now, just like the inscription on the grave, we are forever left haunted by the question: “Warum?” (Rhealyn C. Pojas/Reporter)