Marie Kegler, Stalwart of Christian Faith

Aunt Marie (Tante Mieze)

Chart II a – II


Erika Klopp, Peter, Aunt Marie – Wesel 1955

Of all the relatives in the Kegler family Aunt Marie was closest to me. But before I go into the details, I need to go back a few years to provide the background for a better understanding of the circumstances that made her for more than a year my loving caretaker.

After my father’s failure in a small-scale farming venture  in Southern Germany, he was financially ruined. My mother had to go out and find work as housekeeper first at Sigmaringen, a small, picturesque town on the River Danube and then later in 1955 at a Senior Citizen home at Rudersberg not far from the city of Stuttgart, Father’s health while being a POW had been severely affected by the intolerable working conditions  in a Russian coal mine.  He suffered from a number of psychological and physical ailments. His recurring back pains prevented him from taking up any meaningful employment. It is sad to say that after the miraculous  survival and coming together again of the entire Ernst Klopp family in the village of Rohrdorf, there were signs of disintegration written on future’s gloomy horizon. Karl had gone off to university at Göttingen, Adolf emigrated to Canada, Eka (Lavana) took up nurses’ training at Hamburg, Gerhard entered a toolmaker’s apprenticeship program in Switzerland, and I, barely 12 years old, had to nobody to look after me.

This is where Aunt Marie comes in. She had just taken up employment as elementary school teacher in Brünen, a short bus ride away from the city of Wesel. Its  claim to fame is that it is known as the most destroyed city of  Germany  (almost 98% turned into rubble by two consecutive Allied bombing raids near the end of World War II). For almost 5 years my aunt was not permitted under the rules and regulations of the occupation authorities to carry out her teaching profession. As former state employee of Nazi Germany, she like many thousands of other civil servants was suspected of harboring pro-Nazi sentiments and was consequently classified as unfit and dangerous for the teaching profession. This happened in postwar Germany under the so-called denazification program. The injustice was that all former teachers were given the same label and that there was no exception to the rule.

Finally the Allied authorities saw it fit to lift the ban. And Tante Mieze, close to  her retirement age, was able to resume her work and do what she liked best, to teach. How I am connected to her and what impact she had on my life will be the topic on one of my following posts.

Needles – a Town that is no More Part I

The ferry at Fauquier is generally known as the Needles ferry. One may wonder why this is so. Before the valley was flooded for the BC Hydro project in 1967 there was Needles, a prosperous little town on the other side of the lake. Mrs. Annette Devlin describes the early beginning in a report with pictures, which with her kind permission I have taken from her own personal archive.

Minto at Needles Photo Credit:Provincial Archives, Victoria, B.C.

Minto at Needles  – Photo Credit:Provincial Archives, Victoria, B.C.

Why did many old timers always speak of Needles as “The Needles”? This was due to the long sand points that reached out into the lake. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s there was a rapidly growing district surrounding the town site of ‘Needles’. Amongst the early settlers of Needles were Mr. & Mrs. Robert Shiell and brothers, Jim and George Shiell who arrived in 1900. They first lived in some of the early day miner’s buildings at the Monashee mines. In 1903 there were only four names on the voter’s list.


The settlers at that time working in the district had over 1500 acres of highly approved land cleared, cultivated and planted to orchards. Within a year’s time Needles became a large fruit-distributing centre. In one season there were over 3000 boxes, crates and trays of all kinds of the highest quality fruit sent to prairie markets. One of the most valuable additions to the town was the large packing house, which was completed in 1913. A government wharf was also built at that time. The first schoolhouse was built in 1908 and the first teacher was Mr. Freeman. The first post office was at Mr. J. Bang’s place in the Inonoaklin Valley (then Fire Valley) and was moved to the Shiell’s home in 1902.

Needles General Store after a Flood

Needles General Store after a Flood

In 1908 a general store was built by Mr. A.W.Lift. A hotel was built by Mr. G. Craft and was completed in 1923. Mail service was daily by C.P.R. boat.

The P. and G. Klopp Story

From Mother's Diary

From Mother’s Diary

Chapter 5 – Part III

In the last week of August I gave Mother another scare when I came down with my first illness, an especially severe case of intestinal catarrh. She had to change diapers constantly. The diarrhea just did not want to go away. Mother was really worried by now. She immediately stopped giving me milk, cooked a sort of rice porridge sweetened with saccharin and gave me three times daily crushed carbon tablets. That seemed to help. After three days I had recovered and was my usual cheerful self again relieving Mother from the stress of worry and sleepless nights. Now I was ready again to entertain the never ending stream of visiting relatives with my laughter, smiles and beaming eyes: Karl back from high school to help with the harvest during the fall break, grandmother Elisabeth and Aunt Mieze (Maria) from Stolpmünde, and many, many more. Shortly before Christmas the measles were going around among the Klopp children, but to Mother’s great relief I did not get them, even though I had also shown some of the symptoms, a few of those scary red spots on my skin. But in the end we could all enjoy the Christmas season. Although we were now into the fourth year of the war, there were still plenty of gifts for everyone under the beautifully decorated tree. I was only interested in the baby rattle Grandmother had given to me for Christmas. There I had something concrete in my little hands that I could touch, handle, and make noise with. Karl was playing piano and the others were reciting poetry for the family. At year’s end I was proud to be able to stand up in my crib, showed off my first tooth, ate well, was toilet trained, and best of all I was happy to grow up in such a wonderful family.

Aunt Alma from Berlin

Aunt Alma from Berlin

In the New Year Karl and Adolf left Gutfelde to continue their education in Belgard. With Eka and Gerhard also away to attend a local elementary school during the day, it became very quiet around our house. But Mother still had me and I made sure with my increasing demands for food and attention that she would not get bored. We had a brief cold snap and the temperature plunged to minus 20. Nevertheless, Mother felt that even in this frigid air I must be outside and ‘toughen up’. Janina, the young Polish assistant in the Klopp household, who had taken a real liking to me, took me often for a quick stroll in my baby carriage. In the evening, when it was time for me to go to bed, friends would drop in to spend a few hours in the comfort and cozy atmosphere of the Klopp residence. Invariably discussion would turn to politics and, of course, to the war that was raging and after the surrender of the 6th Army at Stalingrad was no longer progressing in Germany’s favor. Out here, far away from police-informers and free from the fear of being denounced to the Gestapo, they voiced their opinion on the gloomy prospects of the war and even dared to make sarcastic remarks like: ‘The Führer (Hitler) has gotten us into this crappy hole, he will also take us out of it again.’ As for me, the world was still intact. I enjoyed the triple benefit of good food, shelter, and love. On that solid basis of early childhood nurturing I was being prepared to withstand the traumatic events that were to follow later with the major offensive of the Red Army in January 1945. But for the time being, even for the grown-ups with their depressing views it was still safe to live in our corner of the world. When the noisy discussion abated a little, someone suggested playing a round of Doppelkopf, the second most popular German card game. Forgetting their worries at least for a few hours, Father, Mother and her guests played the game of a long family tradition. They had a few drinks for good cheer, smoked a cigarette or two and were having a good time, while I was dreaming about my next wintry outing with Janina.

Peter in his Pram

Peter in his Pram

Spring came early in 1943. I spent a lot of time outside exploring the world around me. I learned to stand up on my own and ventured to make my first stumbling steps. Jupp, the friendly family dog, was my steady companion and my best friend for a while. Unlike my older siblings I refused to take the bottle and from my first birthday on I proudly drank my milk from the cup. When people were watching, I did my best to entertain them and show off my newly acquired skills. With the good weather also came a stream of visitors to enjoy the peaceful environment and the hospitality they found at Gutfelde: Grandmother Elisabeth and Aunt Mieze ((Maria) again from Stolpmünde (Ustka), Aunt Alma from Berlin, Aunt Margot (wife of Uncle Gerhard, General-Lieutenant in the German army) with her three children Helga, Nati and Dieter, and finally my cousin Arthur Thiess from Berlin and his three daughters Ingrid, Gerlinde and Anje. These visits spread over a couple of months were quite enjoyable for hosts and guests alike, even though some stayed for as long as three weeks or even longer. On top of it all, Karl and Adolf came home for the Easter holidays. Karl had acquired a certain degree of stardom with his excellent performance at the Belgard High School and his rapid development of his piano playing skills. As always, when he was home, he was asked to demonstrate his progress at the family piano. This went over very well, especially as his music teacher was also present and accompanied him on Father’s violin.

Gerhard Holding his Kid Brother

Gerhard Holding his Kid Brother

Mother was honored for the second time, since I was born, on Mother’s Day in Seebrück (Rogowo), a near-by town southwest of Gutfelde. With her five children, four of whom were male, she ranked very high among all the mothers in the region. Apart from the fact that Mother’s Day was a state supported festival, upon which a lot of emphasis was given to the meaning of motherhood mostly for ideological reasons – I would say for mythical reasons from ancient Teutonic folklore as well – women in general were considered not weak, but precious entities that had to be protected at all cost from any involvement in war activities. Germany was the only nation that did not employ women in the war effort in any shape or form. Young girls in colorful dresses presented flowers to the mothers. This year it was Father’s turn to make a speech to the assembly. What he was saying about motherhood and family came straight from the heart and with his genuine admiration left a lasting impression on all those who were present.

Peter and his Friend Jupp

Peter and his Friend Jupp

Mother’s diary of the first 15 months of my life came to an unexpected sudden end, because she had simply reached the last page and did not want to start another booklet. If one considers that this diary with the many tiny photographs pasted into it and written in beautiful Sütterlin handwriting was from among all the other precious goods the only object that she managed to bring safely to West Germany, one must concede that we are dealing with a little miracle. The far greater miracle, the survival of the entire Klopp family in the closing days of  World War 2 and afterwards, will be the subject of the next chapter.

Peter Sitting on Gutfelde Staircase

Peter Sitting on Gutfelde Staircase

Brilliant Sunshine – Balm to the Soul

What difference two weeks can make! While there are yet flowers to show off their colors and trees to delight our eyes with their light-green, tender foliage, the sun on this cloudless sky made everything look so bright and cheerful I could not resist going out for a photo session. On Flickr you find more photos from my morning walk. Just click on the tab with the blue and red circle above the header.

The Ending of the Mystery Story (Chart I – III)

The mystery story should rather be called mysterious, perplexing and horrifying. The reader might question the audacity and recklessness on my part to send such a horrible piece of writing to my girlfriend. What kind of love letter was this supposed to be?! How would a girl, just 19 years old, respond to the horrors of a subterranean cave dweller other than with total rejection of the young suitor, who had just revealed his otherworldly distorted sense of reality?

As it turned out Biene was deeply touched by the story, even though it did not have a good ending. But she had the advantage of getting the entire story in one piece. She also found that the story was based on a real event that took place at our yard back home, when I was on a weekend leave from the West German army. Uncle Günther was upset that mice had dug deep tunnels into the ground and if unchecked would have eventually ruined the wonderful lawn of the backyard. I witnessed how he flushed out the mouse with the garden hose and stomped on her as she was trying to escape out of her flooded den underground.

Sorting out some old documents, I came across a handwritten booklet of the mouse story and thought it might be of interest to some of the readers of my blog.

Plötzlich blendete sie grelles Tageslicht. Mit einem Satz sprang sie hinaus ins Trockene, in die Freiheit, ins Leben. Keuchend und zitternd vor Atemnot, aber glücklich für das zum dritten mal geschenkte Leben, lag die Frau da, bemerkte zu spät den dunklen Schatten, der vernichtend auf sie niederhieb. Kein Zufall, kein hier und dort treffender Schicksalsschlag, höhere Absicht bis in die letzte Einzelheit gewollt, begründet auf einen unerklärlichen Zorn, waren ihre letzten Gedanken, die ihr durchs Gehirn schossen. Der Hieb des unbekannten Gewichts saß haargenau. Es entschwand sogleich wieder in die blaue Höhe, um das Opfer gleichsam höheren Blicken freizugeben. Bestimmt schon tot, wenn auch das bloßgelegte Herz noch tüchtig pochte. Das Blut, das nach allen Seiten gespritzt war, färbte das welke Gras mit grellroter Farbe. Unter dem plötzlich schweren Druck sprizte nicht nur Blut in die Natur. Der Leib hatte die innere Last nicht mehr halten können. Umgeben von zuckendem Gedärm lagen blind und nackt die ungeborenen Kinder auf dem Geröll der Erde! Welch ein erschaudernder Anblick! Kann einem Menschen soviel Leid geschehen, wie es dieser jungen Maus geschah?


Mit lässiger Fußbewegung stieß der Mann die Überreste der Maus in das Loch zurück. Sie war ihm schon lange ein Dorn im Auge gewesen und hatte ein großen Teil seines Ziergartens unterwühlt. Nun holte er den roten Gartenschlauch aus dem Nachbarloch und spülte die blutigen Körperfetzen in den Schlund zurück. Zufrieden steckte er sich seine Pfeife an und sog den aromatischen Duft in seine Lungen. Die Schuld war beglichen.



Getting to Know our Family through Pictures

Chart II a + b, II

From left to right you see copies of messages sent in 1967 by my mother Erika Klopp, Aunt Maria Kegler, Aunt Lucie and Uncle Günther Kegler in Watzenborn-Steinberg across the Iron Curtain to Edda in the former German Democratic Republic. The quotes containing words of wisdom in German and the poems are typical and characteristic of the entire Kegler clan.