Report by Gerhard (Gerry) Klopp – Chart I – III
1942 -1944 Gutfelde
A safe heaven for family and friends from threats of enemy bombings and other calamities
Recall Karl’s visits. December 1944. We sat in a “bunker” that Karl built from scrap lumber and card board. He posted a picture of Rommel and told me about all his victories. We now know how Rommel died and why. Around Christmas time the family set around a small table with a small squeaky radio listening to Hitler’s last big gamble on the western front. The Battle of the Bulge. German tank units had smashed through the Ardennes forest and were headed to the coast cutting off all allied supply lines. Victory was our fearless leader’s Christmas gift to us. Karl: ”Mensch Pose. Wir gewinnen den Krieg”.
Again. We know how that went. Karl quickly rounded up boys and girls and organized war games, which would replicate those German victories and more to come. In order to keep up the high moral he instituted a system of executing deserters and cowards. To facilitate this he needed an example of what happened to such bad Germans. He convinced me to become an actor and become the first to be shot. He used an older army rifle and some carbide explosive to scare forced onlookers to witness my execution. As told, the bang occurred, I dropped to the ground. Onlookers ran screaming into the house. End of my acting career.
Recall a party our father put on for a group of volunteers from the Dutch speaking part of Belgium. They were eager to fight for Germany against the communist menace. They sang German war songs and enjoyed their good times. Likely their last one as well.
Christmas 1944 was still a lavish one. Huge tables set with gifts and all sorts of chocolate and cakes. Last of the good times. Shortly after, frantic packing and loading of wagons. Had no idea what this was all about. Thought this was great fun or some other entertainment. Father as ordered or expected by our glorious leader stayed behind. On the urging of our Polish friends advising: ”We know you, others do not” did he load up his one horse-drawn four-seater wagon. Beautifully decorated and with pneumatic tires. On his way to find us, he picked up 3 recently orphaned children by the side of the road. Their father was killed in the war and their mother shortly before the order came to flee to the west. Our mother now had 5 children to care for. Seemingly endless rows of wagons. Some motorized soon to be abandoned by the side of the road or simply broken down during very severe weather and road conditions. Not sure if we made 29 km a day. Food and fresh water often impossible to get. First some babies died to be buried by their mothers by the roadside in the snow. The sick and elderly soon followed. We were lucky. Our horseman and driver was experienced and knew the countryside well and most drivable side roads.
Father must have discussed that with him as he did meet up with us at a remote country location. Some days later we ended up at a large farm overrun with refugees from all over. Dead tired, I fell asleep in a haystack. Next morning as I awoke I realized that I was separated from all my family. Seemingly hundreds of people were running around looking for toilettes, water, food or a way to get moving west. I was terrified and lost. It was here in all the confusion Father appeared. Our good Polish friend and driver of our wagon urged us on as the presence of Russian tanks was heard all around us. Our next stop was at a remote small farm owned by a local forester. The owner Mr. Novac discussed what to do. Novac suggested to remain at his place together and to outwait the war. Still east of the Oder River, our chances of making it across alive were slim. Our good Polish horseman and wagon commander Wurblewski, likely spelled wrong, insisted on living in his own quarters. A small house on a top of a hill. We stayed with our family in the forester’s home.
Situated at the bottom of a small valley. At night we heard gunfire. Did not make much of it, as it was now a common occurrence. Early next morning an exited and distraught Wurblewski knocked on our door holding his beautiful huge fur coat, his prize possession, up for us to see. A large hole in the middle of the coat. Clearly, a gun shell had smashed through the house barely missing the sleeping man. Father had to reassure him that we all are very happy that our chief navigator is still alive. On another day Russian soldiers with horse-drawn wagons showed up. They were confused and lost. They asked a Polish speaking elderly farm employee for directions. A boy about my age, possibly a relative of the farm woman was talking to the Russians. He hopped on the wagon and they departed in a hurry. Not knowing what it was about, I ran after the wagon hoping to go along for the ride. A Russian sitting on a bench facing backwards raised his gun and pointed it straight at me. Heard a click. I froze. Just stood there. He put his gun down and sternly waved pointing to the farmhouse. I ran as fast as an Olympic runner. Not certain if just another rumor. Very common under the circumstances. The boy was never seen again. Heard later that the boy led the Russians into an ambush. All were killed. German soldiers often separated from their units continued to harass the Russians behind the front lines. Some would visit our farm at night in search of food and other supplies. Few days later more Russians arrived. They ordered us out at gunpoint.
Burnt the complex down. We were once again homeless, cold and had nowhere to go. Not certain how we got to the next village intact. Our mother forever worried what may have happened to her two sons in Belgard. A city where they were boarding with friends in order to attend schools not available near Gutfelde. Her only daughter Erika was boarding with relatives in Silesia. Mother packed us up and took a train though Russian occupied territory to Belgard. The three orphans father had added to our family were still with us. The Meisner family, where both Karl and Adolf were boarding took us gladly in. But the reason for our journey was to be reunited with Karl and Adolf. They had left some time earlier to avoid the Russians advancing on Belgard. Their Odyssey is described with Karl’s report. Hope to remain in Belgard to await final outcome of the war ended when the Russian administration decided to deport us west. First to a camp in Stettin. They made us walk miles through snow-covered trails. Any luggage we could no longer carry was simply thrown away. We were then shipped in boxcars to a refugee camp in Schleswig-Holstein.