Malaga’s German connections
Jorge Küstner (Merienberg 1865 - Malaga 1910) was a young, German businessman who settled in Malaga at the end of the 19th century. He was a merchant, selling products originating from German colonies in Africa and bringing them to central Europe. For this commercial route, the port of Malaga was an obligatory layover. At 35 years old, on one of his trips, he discovered the local produce of Malaga: its wines, muscatel raisins and dried figs. Without hesitation he started to export them to the rest of Europe and made the city his home.
He spoke no Spanish at first and mixed mainly with the German communities of the time. However, soon after he arrived he fell in love with a Malaga-born woman, with a German surname, Rosa Schneider (Malaga 1876 - 1951), whom he married a year later. Although he died young, at only 44, Jorge and Rosa had four children: three boys (Emilio, Otto and Federico Küstner Schneider) and one girl (Rosa Küstner Schneider). This was the start of the Malaga branch of the Küstner clan, whose descendants have since spread out to other parts of Spain. There are also branches of the Küstner family in Australia, Argentina, the United States and, of course, Germany, where Jorge was originally from.
The Küstners, particularly those still in Malaga, are familiar with their family’s history. The surname is well-known in the city and one of Jorge and Rosa’s children, Emilio, went on to be the German consul in Malaga.
The Küstner family also played an important role in helping and taking in the injured sailors and survivors of the wreckage of the German frigate SMS Gneisenau in 1900 in the bay of Malaga, caused by a storm. Forty-one sailors died but the tragedy was lessened by the people of Malaga going out of their way to rescue and take in the survivors; among them were Jorge and Rosa.
According to Emilio Küstner, many Malaga residents received certificates of gratitude from Kaiser Wilhelm II. Jorge also received a medal from the Sociedad Española de Salvamiento de Náufragos (the Spanish society for the rescue of shipwreck survivors). Both items are preserved by the family, and some members have inherited parts their ancestors kept of the frigate itself.
Seven years after the shipwreck, Malaga suffered a storm which destroyed its bridges. In response, Germany donated the Puente de los Alemanes in appreciation of the help given to its shipwreck survivors.
The Küstner family, celebrating their tenth family reunion, visited the bridge last Friday to remember the help offered by their family to the sailors. This reunion brought together 120 people with the Küstner surname, of whom 100 were Spanish, 19 German and one Australian.
“Of the six generations that have passed since Jorge Küstner came to Malaga, only the last three survive. The oldest is 96 years old and the youngest is three months,” noted Berta Moreno, who was in charge of organising the reunion. The last time the family got together was in Leipzig, Germany, in 2014.
On Saturday the family went to the English cemetery to place a floral tribute on the tomb of Jorge Küstner. The family reunions first started before the Second World War in Germany and, more recently, since 2000. Malaga has hosted the reunion on two occasions.source surinenglish