Chapter 26 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part I

Of a Young Man’s Needs and Faithfulness

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for. Epicurus

Biene’s Second Visit to Gotha

Beautiful Stained Glass Windows at the Erfurt Cathedral

During the last three weeks of my military service I took the time to write a report on my army experiences. I intended to mail it to the ombudsman, whose job was to receive and act on the written complaints from soldiers about alleged abuses and injustices in the West German army. Having gained the much-needed distance from the upsetting transfer episode and having received fair and respectful treatment at my final army post at Marburg, I was in the right frame of mind to describe in an emotionally neutral and objective manner some of the deplorable conditions at the Koblenz barracks, where low ranking army personnel were fraternizing, drinking, and getting drunk with common soldiers and thus tarnishing the public image of the Armed Forces. I also pointed out the errors, which the officer in charge – whether intentionally or not I could not say – committed to bring about my transfer to Maxhof. Furthermore I made it clear that while I lost out on a chance of becoming a lieutenant of the reserve, the army itself would suffer in the long run from such careless and wasteful practices. Biene helped me by typing up the handwritten draft copy of the report.  She was quite impressed how I managed to control my anger and yet decidedly communicated my legitimate concerns to the ombudsman. Being aware of the fact that for the first time we worked together to address and solve a problem, she remarked in her letter that all her thoughts were directed to a time in the future with me. She wanted to do her part that our life would not turn to be something, upon which we would look back with regret, rather a life that was perhaps difficult, but would fill our hearts with joy, because we mastered it together.

Lingerie Boutique in East Germany 30 Years after the End of World War 2 

About a week before my birthday Biene and her twin brother Walter traveled to Gotha to visit their sister Elsbeth in the GDR behind the Iron Curtain. In those days, when a fence heavily guarded by the National People’s Army (NVA) divided the two Germanys, a person needed a traveling visa and a residence permit in order to cross the border and visit close relatives. What made the application process so frustrating for so many West Germans was not the hefty fee they had to pay, but the arbitrariness in the approval process by the East German authorities. Only in the event of a severe illness or death of a close relative could one be fairly sure to get that all important entry document. So Biene and Walter were lucky indeed to make their journey to their former hometown Gotha and to be together with sister Elsbeth and her family at their birthplace. The apartment, where Elsbeth, her husband Paul Werner, and their two sons Norbert and Christian lived, was located in a beautiful house that had escaped the destruction of the Allied bombing raids during the war. The home offered the warm, cozy feeling of a secure harbour, where the family found refuge from the desolation of the outside world, the depressing sights of dilapidated houses all around the neighbourhood. While West Germany had experienced an incredible economic boom with an unprecedented growth in prosperity during the past twenty years, not much had changed on this side of the border and large parts of the major cities still lay in ruins. There was a shortage of the most basic consumer goods that forced shoppers to buy, whenever and wherever they happened to be available in the drab city stores.

Biene and her two Nephews Norbert and Christian – 1965

On Biene’s previous visit in the summer of ’64, the two sisters had already formed a close bond with each other. Now Elsbeth was jealously watching that nobody spent too much time with her cherished guest. Together they traveled to Erfurt to visit the famous cathedral, where Martin Luther was ordained in 1507. Inside the 1200-year-old Gothic church they marveled at the beauty of the altar. Biene was impressed by the rich colors of the stained glass windows that let the vibrant light stream into the interior. In the evening the entire family would sit around the table and play a round of the German card game Doppelkopf, which was also our favorite game at the Kegler Clan. Of course, her two nephews were delighted, when they were allowed to spend a little bit of time and go for a sightseeing tour around town with their elegantly dressed and pretty Aunt Biene from the West.

Biene’s Birth Place in Gotha

Elsbeth had watched on East German TV many interesting documentaries on the landscapes and people of Canada. She confided to Biene that if she could live her life over again and had the freedom to travel, she would immigrate to this fascinating country with its magnificent scenery and its promise of a better future. When Biene told her that I was going to Canada in a matter of a few weeks and that we had promised to be faithful to each other, Elsbeth voiced her skepticism and did not mince words in sharing her opinion on what a man of my age needed. She warned her younger sister that I would be looking for a girl who would offer more than she had been able to give. Biene was quite troubled by her sister’s pessimistic views on men’s desires for sex and their  potential lack of faithfulness. True to our promise of always sharing our thoughts and concerns with each other, she immediately communicated her worry regarding these disturbing insights in a letter directly from Gotha and asked me to respond and hopefully reassure her.

13 comments

  1. arv! · March 11, 2017

    I’m sure people in DDR must have led a difficult life. I really enjoyed old pictures. Do you also have more pictures of Elfurt cathedral, to share?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Klopp · March 13, 2017

      Yes, indeed, their life was difficult for the first twenty years or so. But in all fairness it must be stated that they had enough to eat, enjoyed an excellent health system and could travel freely in other communist countries in Eastern Europe. You could google for images of the Erfurt cathedral, arv!

      Liked by 1 person

      • arv! · March 13, 2017

        Sure I Will. Good to know about this fact. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. taphian · March 11, 2017

    Du scheinst zu einer seltenen Sorte Mann zu gehören, lieber Peter. Da hat Biene Glück gehabt. Das alte Haus in Gotha gefällt mir sehr. Das hätte ich gerne.
    Ein schönes Wochenende nach Canada. Hier scheint die Sonne, es ist 10 Grad. Es könnte noch etwas wärmer sein. Liebe Grüße Mitza

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Klopp · March 13, 2017

      Viele Dank, liebe Mitza, für deinen lieben Kommentar! Die Meinung über die Untreue der Männer ist weit verbreitet und natürlich ist sie auf traurige Tatsachen begründet. Es freut mich, dass dir das alte Haus gefällt. Ich habe es auf Fotos nun schon so oft gesehen, dass ich den Eindruck habe, als hätte ich dort selbst gewohnt. Viele liebe Grüße aus dem regnerischen Fauquier!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. jeannettepaterakis · March 11, 2017

    Thanks a lot for sharing with us your life.Difficult moments.Gotha is a very beautiful place.But the whole world is very beautiful.Life is like a book 🙂 People can change the direction of our path,but we have to decide,because it is our life.Nothing is certain.I wish you and your family all the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Klopp · March 13, 2017

      These were indeed difficult times. Looking back I must say they served a very good purpose and tested our resolve in sticking together during the long period of separation. Thank you, dear Jeannette, for taking part in our life’s journey!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ann Coleman · March 12, 2017

    I hadn’t realized that people were able to travel between East and West Berlin. I’m glad Biene got to visit her sister, even if she did sow some seeds of doubt on your relationship.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Klopp · March 13, 2017

      Not just between East and West Berlin, people could not freely travel from one part of Germany to the other. You are so right in using the term ‘seeds of doubt’. They often spell disaster in a relationship. Thank you for taking such a keen interest in my blog, dear Ann!

      Like

  5. Klaus-Dieter Barge · March 13, 2017

    Hallo,Peter! Sehr interessant,dieser Beitrag.Es war wirklich auch ein kleiner Rückblick in unsere Vergangenheit..und das Haus in Gotha kennen Dieter und ich ja gut-zumindest von außen..Als wir die ersten Male mit euch”korrespondiert” haben,waren wir ja in Gotha und haben u.a.dieses Haus aufgesucht… Und zu Bienes Ängsten( von ihrer grossen Schwester ausgelöst) damals in Bezug auf deine Treue-sie hatte sich ja schon längst fest entschieden,dir zu folgen.Es ist doch verständlich,dass sie von dir nochmal hören wollte,dass es das Beste und einzig Richtige war,was sie tun konnte,um ihre Träume wahr zu machen.Sie konnte auch innerlich gar nicht mehr zurück,stimmts? Liebe Grüsse! Edda

    Von meinem iPhone gesendet

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Klopp · March 13, 2017

      Liebe Edda, wenn ich rückblickend daran denke, wie fantastisch und unrealistisch unsere Pläne damals in den Augen von Bienes Schwester und auch vielen anderen erschienen, kann ich ihre Bedenken und Sorgen schon verstehen. Auch Erna Klopp, die zweite Frau meines Vaters, sagte mir mal diesen altbekannten Spruch: Aus den Augen, aus dem Sinn. Vielen Dank für deinen lieben Kommentar, Edda!

      Like

  6. Bun Karyudo · March 13, 2017

    Oh dear, that wasn’t a very helpful thing for Elsbeth to say. It’s good that Biene communicated her feelings to you immediately rather than brooding on them by herself.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Peter Klopp · March 13, 2017

    Open and frank communication takes care of many problems and helps to forestall many more problems in the future. Thank you, Bun, for your thoughtful response!

    Like

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