Ernst Klopp (1900 – 1964) – Part 14

Cousin Hartmut Kegler’s Vacation Report

This is the second part of the guest post written by my cousin Hartmut Kegler, who also wrote the children’s seminary on Albert Schweitzer I published a few months ago in the original German. I waited until now because it throws some additional light on my father Ernst Klopp and on the happy years in Gutfelde (Zlotniki).

Playing War Games

 According to the prevailing circumstances our games often took a war-like character. I still have the following events vividly in my memory:

– Within the wide boundaries of the estate was a horse pasture. There, the yearlings were kept and could roam wild and free. We had fun chasing these horses around a bit so they would gallop over the entire pasture. It so happened that my four or five-year-old brother Jürgen had run away from us and somehow wound up among the galloping herd. We older children watched and gasped in horror. But Jürgen took the terrifying moment in stride without blinking an eye and miraculously stayed out of harm’s way. For his bravery, we awarded him the ‘Iron Cross first-class’.

– The big hay barn was the place where we played paratroopers. The barn had two floors allowing us to jump from the upper nearly 5 m high floor into the soft hay below. I do not know any more whether everyone had the courage to jump but some dared to take the plunge and even performed a midair somersault.

The ‘Warriors’ at Gutfelde

–  The war games also had a sinister side which we children did not recognize as such. It showed how children at a very young age were already shaped by the dominating culture of the Nazi era. We launched a ‘campaign’ into the settlement of the Polish farm workers, which was adjacent to the park of the Gutfelde estate. There we captured Polish children about our own age and made them ‘prisoners’. We ‘deported’ them to the estate mansion and handed them over to Uncle Ernst. However, he read us the riot act and sternly informed us that one does not do such cruel things and sent the Polish boys and girls back to their village.

To be continued …

12 thoughts on “Ernst Klopp (1900 – 1964) – Part 14

  1. Good for your father! It is so frightening to see how easily children adopt the hatred they hear around them. I worry today about all the hate that is being spewed in the US and what that will mean for the next generation.

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  2. There is so much to think about here, Peter. This post reminds me of how young boys seem to be so universally fascinated by war. Even into the early 60’s my cousins and I were playing WWII games at his parents’ farmhouse. The preference was always to be an American G.I. however, one of us had to be a Nazi soldier, which we probably picked up from watching the TV series “Combat.” Of course, the Americans always had the upper hand and come to think of it, I don’t remember my eldest cousin ever having to play the Nazi role.
    The photo from the Gutfelde estate really helps bring the story together. I feel for the Polish children who became the victims; for them it wasn’t a game. But children need guidance and it sounds like your father did a good job of correcting them.

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    • When I grew up as a refugee kid in Southern Germany, we did not have TV to incite us to play violent games. It seems playing war games is a phase that most boys go through it. We played cowboys and Indians a lot. I remember that I once volunteered to be a captive and allowed myself to be tied to a tree so others could have the fun of torturing me.

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  3. At first, the games you described reminded me very much of the way we played as children (I remember jumping out of the hayloft at my grandmother’s farm in Pennsylvania), but then I read the last paragraph. And it was a chilling reminder of how easily children absorb the values of the society in which they are raised. Thank goodness your uncle taught them how wrong society was in so many ways at that time!

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    • I played similar games with my friends when I grew up in Germany. I believe that the fascination with war games (now they are video games) is something unique with boys in times of war or times of peace. By the way, Ann, Ernst Klopp was my father. Thank you for this insightful comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the reminder, Peter! I keep forgetting that some of these posts are written from the perspective of your cousin, as my mind is a bit fried these days. But somehow, I think it’s even better to know that the uncle referred to is your father. Clearly, you inherited his sense of values and that’s a good thing!

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