Chapter XIV of the P. and G. Klopp Story – Part 2

koepenick 1
Berlin-Köpenick, Dahmeufer, Altstadt, Panorama – Photo Credit: Andreas Steinhoff

Visiting Relatives in East Berlin 1959

Chart I – II of the Klopp Family Tree

A few days after the sightseeing tour with Peter I went to see Aunt Alma in Berlin-Köpenick. In contrast to Aunt Meta’s tranquil life in Freiburg, the apartment in Köpenik was a beehive of activity of more than ten family members bustling about. The spacious living room could hardly accommodate the large family. On the one hand I felt like a guest of honor, being the youngest son of Alma’s youngest brother (my father). But I also had the impression that they all had come together to gawk at this rare specimen from West Germany. At age 77 Aunt Alma was still strong in spirit and body to run the household of her daughter Else and son-in-law Artur Thiess and their four daughters. Two were already married with children at the time of my visit.

Rathaus 1961 - Photo Credit: koepenick.net
City Hall (Rathaus) 1961 – Photo Credit: koepenick.net

Uncle Artur was actually my cousin. But I called him uncle, because he was almost forty years older than I. He was engineer. He had published a book on low frequency communication technology and was giving lectures at the Humboldt University as a specialist in the field of electronics. I took an instant liking to him, not because of my hobby akin to his academic work, but rather because of the fact that he was one cut above the rest of those adult family members, who had chauvinistically embraced the communist-socialist ideology. He impressed me with his sharp wit and disarming humor, with which he distanced himself from the political narrow-mindedness of his sons-in-law. Perhaps more importantly, he was for me a father figure radiating kindness and affection. No wonder I maintained contact by corresponding with him until his death in 1992. Apart from the one-sided political talk about the advantages of their peace-loving society versus the corrupt war-mongering system of western capitalism, to which I had nothing to add, confirm or oppose, it was a very enjoyable time spent in a family so wonderfully knit together. One thing of great interest to me was the stereoscopic viewer, in which Uncle Artur had inserted glass plates each containing two b/w images that he had taken with his special 3d camera. The quality of these images was absolutely stunning. For the first time in my life I got a glimpse of the land, where I was born. Artur had taken many pictures on his various visits to Father and Mother’s place at Gutfelde (Zlotniki). When I looked at them, it was like traveling back to a time, when my parents were happy and managed together the three large estates entrusted to them.

View of the Altstadt - Photo Credit: koepenick.net
View of the Altstadt – Photo Credit: koepenick.net

In the afternoon Aunt Alma took me to the cottage of her elder sister in the garden district of Berlin-Köpenick. Aunt Jula was born as the second child to Friedrich and Emma Klopp in 1877. She had lived a colorful life spending her teenage and early adult years in Vienna as student and artist. She struck it rich by marrying a wealthy mining director. Later on she became the proud owner and manager of a hotel, but lost it all again during the turbulent inflation years after WWI. In a deal that went bad she took out a mortgage on her property to help out her brother Hermann, a classical rags-to-riches story in reverse.

Schlossplatz - Photo Credit: koepenick.net
Castle Square (Schlossplatz) – Photo Credit: koepenick.net

This feisty old lady must have absorbed the whole gamut of communist ideology and firmly believed in it. For she presented her distorted views with so much passion that only unwavering conviction can deliver. In her strident tirades against capitalism she did not spare the West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, a Nazi in disguise in her strong opinion, who was planning to wage a revisionist war against her peace-loving republic.

Altköpenick Sparkasse (Credit Union) - Photo Credit: koepenick.net
Credit Union (Altköpenick Sparkasse)  – Photo Credit: koepenick.net

She served stale coffee and moldy cake that someone may have brought to her humble abode a few weeks earlier. Aunt Alma signaled to me not to eat it and drop it quietly under the table. To my great relief she soon announced to her sister that it was time for her to leave and prepare supper for her folks at home. I was a bit disappointed with the visit to Father’s eldest living sister. However, I did not feel personally attacked by my aunt. Being an apolitical teenager, I had already forgotten this unpleasant episode upon my return to West Berlin.

Gerhard Kegler, the general, who dared to disobey Himmler – Part VII

Kegler’s Death Sentence and His Life put on ‘Probation’

If you have not read the previous posts on Major-General Kegler, you can look them up by clicking on I, II, III, IV, V and VI.

Parts V and VI are a digression from the report extracted from the book: The Siege of Küstrin – Gateway to Berlin 1945. But they provided some valuable insight into Kegler’s personal life before he was called away from Gutfelde to become commander of the newly established Woldenberg Division and also commandant of Landsberg/Warthe, which was declared a fortress by Himmler.

 “At dawn on February 4, the remains of the ‘Woldenberg’ Division began crossing the anti-tank ditch that blocked the Landsberger Chaussee at the eastern end of Küstrin. They had already come to within 10 kilometres of the town the previous day but had waited for darkness to get through the area occupied by Soviet forces.

General Busse had sent a young liaison officer to meet them, but without any instructions for Major-General Kegler. When the latter arrived in Küstrin he was promptly given orders to report to the standing court-martial in Torgau, thus becoming one of the last to leave Küstrin by the normal road. As the witnesses to the events leading up to Kegler’s court martial were now trapped in Küstrin, evidence had to be obtained from them by telephone.” Thus, one reads in the book ‘The Siege of Küstrin: Gateway to Berlin 1945’.

Court martial proceedings against Major-General Gerhard promptly began on February 11, 1945  and ended on the following day with the pronouncement of his death sentence for not having defended the city of Landsberg against the enemy.

The Death Sentence of Major-General Gerhard Kegler
The Death Sentence of Major-General Gerhard Kegler

The bottom line of this document written ‘In the Name of the German People’ reads: The accused Major-General Kegler due to his breach of duty on the battle field is condemned to death, to loss of his eligibility for military service and to perpetual loss of his civil rights.

The Two Kegler Brothers, Günther on the left and Gerhard without his right Arm

Von Scheele, the president of Nazi-Germany’s Court Martial Justice System, brought about a suspension of the death sentence and postponed its execution to the end of the war.Demoted to the rank of a private, he was to die a heroic death or to prove himself worthy to be pardoned. As a soldier in the battle field he was severely injured losing his right arm and in the closing weeks of the war became a prisoner of war of the British, who promptly promoted him back to the rank of a ‘Nazi-General’.

The Kegler Family with Gerhard and his daughter Helga on the left
The Kegler Family with Gerhard and daughter Helga on the left (1964)

When in 1952 he applied for a pension as a former general of the armed forces, the official in charge declared, “You have been condemned to death by Himmler!” and turned down my uncle’s application. What followed is hard to believe. Gerhard Kegler had to apply to have his death sentence annulled in order to be eligible for his pension. However, the provincial court of Hesse in Giessen rejected his application on the ground that he had missed the deadline regarding compensation for injustices suffered under the Nazi regime. The West-German press heard about this case and spread the news about the condemned general with headlines like ‘Does Himmler still rule from his Grave?’. The news created such a public outcry that in the end Theodore Heuss, the first President of the Federal Republic of Germany, stepped in and officially rescinded the death sentence. Thus, my uncle finally regained his status as general in retirement and was able to draw his pension.

Theodor Heuss, First President of the Federal Republic of Geramny - Photo Credit: germany.info
Theodor Heuss, First President of the Federal Republic of Germany – Photo Credit: germany.info

To be concluded on next week’s post

The Annual Pine Mushroom Bonanza at the Arrow Lakes

The Pine Mushroom, a Renewable Resource

Mushroom Picker's Delight: A Pine Mushroom Button
Mushroom Picker’s Delight: A Pine Mushroom Button

Among all the choice mushrooms growing in our forests, such as Chanterelle (Pfifferlinge), Lobster, King Boletus, Honey Mushroom, and many others, no fungus can compare in monetary value to the prized Pine Mushroom.  Every fall local and out-of-town mushroom buyers set up shop for the annual harvesting bonanza. This is the time of the year, when people, who would normally sleep a few extra winks on the weekends, get our of bed way before dawn and scour the woods for that elusive fungus.

A Nest of Honey Mushrooms
A Nest of Honey Mushrooms

The article below is an excerpt taken from the Arrow Lakes News published last year in their October 29th edition. It describes very well the dilemma of the major industries in our area, timber and mushroom, being in conflict with each other over the management of our natural resources. The photos shown on this post are from my own personal archive.

Triplets of Boletus Mushrooms
Triplets of Boletus Mushrooms

Since she was 12 years old, Jean Hewat has been involved in the mushroom industry. As a kid, she went out with her family picking for pocket-money and she’s been buying mushrooms from other pickers at her place on 15 Avenue on the north end of town for the past 21 years. With some help from her mother and occasionally other family members, she is more or less a one-woman show.

A Basket Full of Chanterelles
A Basket Full of Chanterelles

The set up has moved from her garage to a new building still being finished on her property with plenty of parking and a large walk-in cooler. She explains the unfinished building during an interview with the Arrow Lakes News as her mother answers the phone and groups of pickers come in carrying their bounty — large buckets of freshly picked fungi.

Lobster Mushrooms are rarely as clean as this one.
Lobster Mushrooms are rarely as clean as this one.

The odour inside is damp and mossy — the baskets of mushrooms are mostly the large, fluffy white pine, or Matsutake as they are known in Japan, where most of these are destined to go. The largest market for pine mushrooms in the world is in Japan, but Canada is not the only supplier. They are also grown in the US, China, Scandinavia and elsewhere.

Dan and Jan's Buying Station in Nakusp
Dan and Jan’s Buying Station in Nakusp

Local to Nakusp, Chanterelles, Lobster and several other varieties sprout up inexplicably in pockets throughout the forest. Many locals covet their spots; at least those that haven’t been decimated by the biggest competitor to mushrooms: forestry.

Logging is one of the highest paying primary industries in the Kootenays, yet it poses the biggest threat to the niche industry of mushrooming.

Mushrooms are a multi-million dollar industry bringing tourists, pickers and buyers to the area. During September and October, the streets are lined with vehicles belonging to people who are in town because of this natural resource. They are buying gas, groceries and other supplies and are staying in hotel rooms and going out to dinner. More dollars are being pumped into the local economy, but all of it is threatened by clearcut logging.

“Mushrooms grow naturally in certain little micro climates, pockets and patches that are ideal for their growth. It is possible for the two industries to coexist. My family grew up on logging,” Hewat explains while sorting pines by hand. “They don’t grow everywhere; just small spots in the forest. In hindsight, things like selective logging, saving sections probably could have been done but it hasn’t.”

Dan Dahlen Carefully Grading my Wife's Mushrooms
Dan Dahlen Carefully Grading my Wife’s Mushrooms

Janis Dahlen of Jan and Dan’s Mushroom Station echoes the same sentiment.

“Clear cutting—it takes the mushrooms right out and it could be 80 years before they grow back. We’ve worked the last couple of years with Nakusp and Area Community Forest (NACFOR) to do some strip logging to try to preserve some of the mushroom areas. But (much of it is) being logged as we speak and the mushrooms will never come back. Logging is our first industry in Nakusp. It’s a hard mix.”

Pine Mushroom Just Pushing through the Forest Floor
Pine Mushroom Just Pushing through the Forest Floor

Next week I will talk about habitat, harvesting, grading and manipulative pricing of the Pine Mushroom.

The Value of Blog Comments

COW PASTURE CHRONICLES

leavecommetgifWritten in response to the Writer’s Digest 2015 October Platform Challenge

Blogging is an excellent way to express ourselves, improve skills, impart knowledge and expertise, or share stories. But, what role do comments, both given and received, play? Are they important?

When I began blogging in 2008, I had no aspirations beyond using my blog as a way to express grief after the sudden loss of my best friend. But, then people began to respond. I made connections, my grief lessened, and my writing evolved. Without their encouragement, I’m not sure I would still be writing.

The Value of Blog Comments: 
  • They are the lifeblood of any blog – connecting us to others.
  • Tell us our words have resonated with someone.
  • Sometimes, they express gratitude.
  • Other times, they offer us a different opinion to consider.
  • An avenue to share resources, give recognition, or validate information.
  • Provide ideas for future topics.

View original post 263 more words

Chapter XIV of the P. and G. Klopp Story – Part 1

Travels to Berlin (1959), Spain (1960) and Yugoslavia (1961)

 

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.

St. Augustine

Brandenburg Gate 1959
Brandenburg Gate 1959

During my Easter holidays Mr. and Mrs. Peter L., who had recently escaped from the German Democratic Republic (GDR), invited me to come and visit them in West Berlin. Whether they were distant relatives or just friends of the family, I can no longer tell with certainty. But after their escape from the Eastern Zone, as the GDR was called, they had often visited us in Wesel. In those days West Berlin was geographically isolated from West Germany. It was an exclave surrounded by communist East Germany. Also a fence stretching over a thousand kilometers following the inner German border complete with thousands of observation towers prevented the mass migration from the east. Many people died in their attempt to flee from their ‘socialist paradise’.

State Museum 1959
Old State Museum 1959

The rapid train I had taken from Cologne stopped at the border where travelers had to show their passports to cross the Iron Curtain to go from one part of Germany through another part of Germany to Berlin. This was the only stop for the train. After it had been given the green light, it sped through all the major railway stations past many towns as if trying to shield us from the ugly sights of a country that still lay in ruins so many years after the war. At the border station near West Berlin another even more thorough inspection was being made that included the search for fugitives who might have jumped in transit onto the train. Border guards were using specially trained dogs to sniff out any potential escapees clinging to the train’s undercarriages in their desperate attempt to get to freedom. Finally the train was given clearance and allowed to cross into West Berlin. I breathed a sigh of relief, when our train rumbled into the main station, where Peter L. was waiting for me at the platform.

Soviet War memorial commemorating the 80,000 Russian soldiers who died in April and May 1945
Soviet War Memorial 1959

On the very next day Peter took me on a whirlwind sightseeing tour through the divided city that was still interconnected by subway, streetcar and roads. Thus, Berlin was the only remaining escape route for thousands of refugees, until the building of the infamous wall stopped the ever-increasing flow in 1961. Among the sights were the illustrious Brandenburg Gate, which stood right behind the border crossing in East Berlin, and the Soviet War memorial commemorating the 80,000 Russian soldiers who died in April and May 1945 in the Battle of Berlin. Then we went to see the Congress Hall, which on account of its shell-like shape the Berliners irreverently call the Pregnant Oyster. Here Bill Haley and his rock and roll band caused an uproar, when he whipped the mob of young fans into such a frenzy that they demolished their seats normally reserved for more conservative concert goers.

The Congress Hall (Pregnant Oyster)
The Congress Hall (Pregnant Oyster)

We also looked at the Reichstag building, which was almost completely destroyed during WWII and now was being reconstructed. We were not much impressed by the Stalin Boulevard.

Stalin Boulevard - Now it is called again Unter den Linden
Stalin Boulevard – Now it is called Karl-Marx Street.

With its new box-like massive apartment buildings, built Soviet style, the structures were completely out of tune with modern architecture, but were designed to serve as a showpiece of the fledgling East German capital. There were so many impressions that at the end of the day I could no longer absorb any more sights. In today’s language I began to suffer from a severe case of information overload.

The Reichstag Building under Reconstruction 1959
The Reichstag Building under Reconstruction 1959

So I was glad when Peter suggested we should go and find a place to eat. As a former citizen of the GDR he knew that the basic necessities of life, such as food, were heavily subsidized by the socialist state. As it was close to dinnertime, he took me to the great student-dining hall of the Humboldt University in East Berlin. There we feasted with a good appetite on an excellent meal complete with roast beef, fresh veggies, beer and dessert for the extremely low price of two east marks. Considering the depressed value of the currency often trading at less than one tenth of the value of the West German mark, we had our fill for the measly amount of 20 pennies, for about a Canadian nickel. Even though I had learned early to look out for a bargain, it did not feel right to take advantage of a state supported facility that was not based on profit but on service to the people. Later on I found out that the West German government in Bonn heavily subsidized West Berlin to help with housing and food expenses. Even luxury items, such as coffee, cigarettes and liquor were selling so cheaply that even I could buy half a dozen bottles of fruit wine with my pocket-money for as little as six marks. West Berlin had become a showcase for the entire world, a giant billboard of glamour and glitter, the gateway to the ‘Golden West’. Refugees from East Germany found out upon their arrival the harsh realities of life in camps, old army barracks, and other emergency shelters. The reader may wish to read more on this topic in my wife’s blog bieneklopp.com.

%d bloggers like this: