Escape from the Horrors of War
On the morning of 29 January 1945 Ludwig von Waldenfels was totally against leaving Panwitz. Being a former WW1 officer of the Bavarian army, he planned to hide in the forests of Panwitz and armed with a pistol intended to sacrifice his life if necessary. His wife Anna knew how to curtail such dramatic, but senseless undertaking and with gentle force manoeuvred him into the waiting car.
The population of East Brandenburg (to which Panwitz belonged) experienced all the brutalities of the Russian hordes. The people percentage-wise paid the highest blood tribute rendered in 1945 at their expulsion from the German eastern provinces. In Rogsen alone, a village of 761 inhabitants 10 km south of Panwitz, a dozen men were shot and on the night of 29 January 1945 forty brutally raped women and girls committed suicide. Already in the afternoon of the same day, Soviet artillery shot from Heidemühl and Kupfermühle at a distance of 5km into Meseritz.
For Ludwig and Anna, in view of the military situation, there was only one escape route. It led over icy and snowed-in country lanes via Lagowitz and Brätz to the main connecting road to Schwiebus. With little luggage and the few things on their body, the couple reached after one week of travel Gauting near Munich. There they found first reception at their brother/brother-in-law Ernst von Waldenfels (1877 – 1955). He was a bank chief inspector and lived at 10 Hindenburg Street. He was in charge of money matters before the chaotic times set in. Here they experienced the arrival of the Americans and thus survived the war’s end.
Within just a few hours a life’s work and dream had sunk into oblivion. Only the nostalgic feelings of 18 years of Panwitz and Lagowitz remained, which nobody of the former residence would ever see again. Alive remains the memory of the shadowy gravesite of grandmother Emma Klopp (née Bauer) in the park of the Panwitz estate. Her final resting place was supposed to have become the family gravesite of the Klopp and von Waldenfels clans. The fury of war and the greatest mass expulsion in history had swept all this away.
Canoe Trip on Whatshan Lake
Thousands of Frames Make a two-minute Video
On Monday my wife and I took the ferry across the Lower Arrow Lake and travelled with our canoe to the nearby Whatshan Lake, a mere 4 km distance from Fauquier. Surrounded by forested hills, the 30 km long lake is actually comprised of two lakes connected by a narrow and winding channel. The boat launch not far from the public beach was virtually deserted so late in the summer season. Biene and I knew that we would have the lake almost entirely to ourselves. Bent on relaxation with a chance to capture the wild scenery on our cameras, we let the electric motor do the ‘paddling’ for us. Here is the video of our exploratory canoe trip. Enjoy.
Narrow Escape and Loss of Property
In the early part of 1945 Georg’s wife, Ilse von Waldenfels escaped just in time from the rapidly advancing Red Army. After briefly visiting acquaintances at Lake Scharmützel near Berlin she reached Berghorst in the Münster region in Northwest Germany, where her mother Helene née Wattendorf (1881 – 1973) resided. Georg after joining her as reported earlier became shortly afterwards a British POW and was interned in Recklinghausen until 1947. His entire property had been confiscated on account of his SS membership. There are some vague indications about Georg having been summoned as a witness against Genraloberst of the SS, Sepp Dietrich, in court proceedings at the Nuremberg war crime tribunal or at the Malmedy Court, in which his former boss received a life sentence for being responsible for the shooting of POW’s during the Ardennes Offensive. The author Eberhard Klopp of these family chronicles did not further explore the connections of these claims. At any rate, Ilse von Waldenfels was able to send family care parcels to her interned husband in Recklinghausen.
By the end of January 1945, the Red Army was approaching the town of Tirschtiegel, which the Wehrmacht (regular German army) and SS units were defending on 30 January. Soviet units were breaking through the so-called ‘Obra Position’ and advanced on 28 January south and north of Tirschtiegel in a pincer attack all the way to the road connecting Meseritz and Bentschen. After the conquest of Bauchwitz only 5km north of Panwitz the Soviets not only blocked to the defenders the retreat from Tirschtiegel, but also to the rural inhabitants the escape route to the railway station in Meseritz.
Anna von Waldenfels describes the loss of her beloved Panwitz. “We were totally unaware the Russians with their tanks were ready to strike at any moment being only 5 km away from us. A general of the SS came by and told us that he would take us to Berlin if we would make up our mind immediately. He warned, ‘Tomorrow you all will be hanging from a tree’. Indeed that’s what happened to all our neighbours who stayed behind. For us to escape was truly a miracle”. On the very next morning (29 January 1945) the Russians had occupied the entire county. All men were shot and all women were raped by the Asian hordes.
To be continued next Friday …
‘Castle’ Lagowitz in Ruins
In a chaotic flight with lightning speed from Posen (Poznan), passing through his beloved Lagowitz, Georg von Waldenfels reached his wife’s home turf, the Münster province in the northwest of Germany and became a POW of the British Army. Ilse von Waldenfels, when approached for an interview by my cousin Eberhard Klopp, the author of the Klopp Family Chronicles, was very reluctant to share any information on her husband’s past. In her eyes, more than 40 years later in 1996, Georg was ‘an insignificant subaltern officer, who did not play any special role in the SS. After the war, he paid his tribute. We never talked about those bad years anymore.” She like many other Germans of her generation had buried and suppressed deep within her guilt-ridden psyche a considerable number of events of the Nazi era.
In the night from 28 to 29 January 1945, a certain SS general was passing through Panwitz and demanded the immediate evacuation. His urgent warning revealed that the Red Army would be at their doorsteps within just a few hours. Perhaps it was only the SS-Obersturmbannführer by the name of Georg von Waldenfels, who in his flight from Posen in the direction of Berlin had quickly warned his parents. As early as 1980 the author of this book in translation had received the following information in Trier from a reliable source: “Our all-rounded super-provisioner in France, a man from the nobility, Sepp Dietrich’s staff officer, succeeded before the arrival of the Russians in burning down Castle Lagowitz.”
Should von Waldenfels have really destroyed his very own NS-Headquarters and Castle Lagowitz with all its incriminating documents and evidence turning them into a heap of rubble and ashes? Eyewitnesses can no longer be found. But the action in a time of perilous urgency fits perfectly within the overall frame of his mentality. Treacherous documents and correspondence of all sorts in the hands of the Russian or Polish authorities would have heralded a dangerous new beginning for Georg. If all these collected facts agree, the parents Anna and Ludwig von Waldenfels on the morning of their own flight from Panwitz may have seen Castle Lagowitz for the last time as a smoking and smouldering pile of ruins. Georg von Waldenfels has taken this particular piece of history with him into his grave.