Six or seven years ago, Warren Myers visited me when I was living in a different apartment. He said he had been to The Netherlands and gave me a boxed set of teacups and matching saucers that he said were Dutch. I kept them in their box until I moved into this house when I took them out and put them on display in the kitchen. The tea set includes four tea cups and four matching saucers. They include a scene typical of Holland: a small farm with a lone windmill somewhere in the middle of the Dutch countryside.
A few months ago, I turned one of the teacups upside down to see what it said on the bottom of the cup. Here is the inscription that reads the same on all four saucers and all four tea cups:
DELFT SBL AUW
I had not read this inscription before, but I pulled all the cups and saucers out of their display case and carefully examined the illustrations on each one. They were all very similar, but not quite exactly the same because they were a matching set that had been hand painted. I did not know what DELFT SBL AUW 170 meant, but the “AUW” made me think of Auschwitz. I realized that the only thing Warren had told me about the tea set was that it was Dutch and from Holland. He told me nothing else and I thought nothing of it, until now.
My “uncle” by marriage on Shirley E. Myers side is Dutch. Both of his grandparents were said to have been born in Holland. I tried to think of what DELFT SBL AUW 170 might mean. I looked at DELFT and thought of the word deft in English. Deft in English means dexterous or nimble; deft hands, deft mechanic. I thought of my uncle and how he had been drafted for the Houston Oilers while he was in college. The SBL I think refers to the color, sable, usually a mix of light and/or dark brown colors. My uncle had mostly a combination of light and dark brown hair. The AUW could only stand for Auschwitz, and the number, 170 must have been their number at the concentration camp in Poland where the Nazi’s initiated a human breeding program. The stamp on the bottom of my tea set from Holland meant these teacups were hand painted by someone who was kept as a prisoner at Auschwitz and used in their human breeding program and Nazi War Machine from WWII. Presumably this person was my Uncle Harold’s mother.
It turns out “Delft” actually means “Dutch” in English and I found additional information on Delft tea cups and pottery on Wikipedia. Delftware or Delft pottery, is also known as Delft Blue (Dutch: Delfts blauw).
Delftware includes pottery objects of all descriptions such as plates, ornaments and tiles. A brief history of Blue Delftware is available on both the Holland.com website and the Royal Delft website. Royal Delft started out in The Netherlands in 1653 as a Dutch pottery business called Porceleyne Fles, or The Porcelain Jar. In 1919, the Dutch government granted Porceleyne Fles the title “Royal” in order to restore the fame of Delft pottery. The crown above the inscription on the bottom of the tea cup must have come from Royal Delft.
Last night I typed in DELFT SBL AUW 170 into the internet search engine. The Royal Delft website and the Wikipedia – Delftware page were at the top of the search results list. I chose the Wikipedia – Delftware webpage and started reading about Delft Pottery and its history in The Netherlands. I looked at the pictures to see if the pottery pieces looked like my tea set. I found similar paintings on tiles like the one pictured above: peaceful farming scenes in the Dutch countryside with windmills, barns and farm animals. I found another picture of a Delftware window display in a marketplace in Delft, Netherlands.
I did not see any pictures of tea sets or tea cups on the Wikipedia website. What I did see was a picture of a swimming pool with hand painted Delft Blue tiles in a palace in Munich, Germany from the mid 18th Century.
Bath of the Bavarian Electors in the “Badenburg” (1719-22)
Nymphenburg Palace Park, Munich (Germany)*
I looked at this picture last night and remembered a dream I had quite a few years ago. In my dream, I was walking slowly through this bath house, although it appeared to have been abandoned for some time. The gold railing was missing and the brownish-red wall panels had turned a dull, dingy brown, as if they had been boarded up like the windows of a condemned building.
Outside the bath house, I saw a sunny, silent forest glade. The inside was eerie, empty and quiet. I looked down at the bath and saw a long, rectangular shape, much like a swimming pool. The pool was filled to the rim with deep, murky, green water. I looked around the bath house but did not see anyone. I wondered what had happened to the swimming pool in my dream, but thought nothing of it until I saw this picture.
I never found my tea cups from Auschwitz, but it seems that the Delft Blue pottery ware travelled from Holland throughout much of Europe to places like England, France and Germany where royalty used it for interior design and decoration, as well as earthenware.