The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project

Reflections on Life, Family and Community

Category Archives: Flucht 1945

Baroness Anna von Waldenfels (née Klopp) – Part XVII

11

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 …

Johanna Kegler, Widow of Bruno Kegler – in German

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Neuanfang und Existenzkampf der Johanna Kegler Familie

Bericht von Oma Hanna  (Chart II a – II)

Aus den Erinnerungssplittern von ihrer Enkelin Anke Schubert

Im Sommer 1945 wollten wir, da auch hier in Mellen die russische Armee war, vor der wir geflüchtet waren, in die Heimat zurück. Weder Radio noch Zeitungen, nur mündliche Mitteilungen gaben vage Auskunft! So spannte der Bürgermeister – froh, Flüchtlinge loszuwerden, – 3 große Wagen an und transportierte etwa 30 Personen nach Lenzen/Elbe zur Bahn. Tagelang waren wir bis Berlin in überfüllten Zügen, auf deren Dächern Menschen saßen, unterwegs, von Rotarmisten bewacht – manchmal fuhr der Zug nur weiter, wenn dem Rotarmisten, der mit auf der Lok war, „Schnaaps“ spendiert wurde. Wer eine Flasche besaß, mußte sie hergeben. – In Berlin erfuhren wir von Soldaten, die von Hirschberg kamen, dass dort jetzt die Polen waren. Es gab kein Zurück mehr!

Germany 1945 - Photo Credit: nyt.com

Germany 1945 – Photo Credit: nyt.com

Durch das Trümmerfeld Berlin zogen wir mit Handkarren, die irgendwo am Bahnhof rumstanden, aufs Geratewohl zu Verwandten von Keglers, und tatsächlich, wir konnten unterkommen, teils in Charlottenburg, teils im Pfarrhaus in Wedding. Ich bin an diesem Tag mit Hartmut 40 km und mehr hin- und hergelaufen – Bahnen, Busse etc. gingen nicht, Brücken waren kaputt.

Berlin 1945 - PhotoCredit: forum.warthunder.com

Berlin 1945 – PhotoCredit: forum.warthunder.com

Am nächsten Tag ging es wieder zurück nach Wittenberge – tagelang. Dort schrieb ich, noch auf den Treppenstufen des Bahnhofes auf einem alten Feldpostbrief meine Bewerbung um Wiedereinstellung als Lehrerin an das Schulamt, denn die Schulen sollten wieder eröffnet werden. Ich hatte Glück: am 1. Oktober 1945 wurde ich in Rambow – Mellen in den Schuldienst berufen. Es war eine schwere Zeit – keine Hefte, keine zugelassenen Bücher, keine Bleistifte … und es gelang! Arbeitswille und Disziplin halfen mir und 118 Schülern zu bescheidenen Freuden und Erfolgen.

Muehle Mellen

Alte Mühle in Mellen

Meine Familie zog in das Schulhaus in Rambow ein, altes, abgestelltes Gerümpel der Bauern wurde mir geborgt. 1946 wurde die Schule zur Zentralschule, ich zur Schulleiterin, mir wurden vier im Schnellverfahren (acht Monate) ausgebildete Lehrer zur Seite gestellt.

Gertrud Kegler 1896 – 1957

0

Life-long Service to the Sick and Wounded

Chart II a – II

On March 27, 1896, Gertrud Kegler, second daughter of Pastor Carl Kegler, was born at home in the parsonage of Grünewald, Pomerania. She attended the local elementary school from 1902 to 1905. For the following three years she received private instructions in a neighboring village to prepare her for the all girls’ high school in Stettin (Szczecin). Like all the other Kegler children she was confirmed by her father in the village church of Grünewald. It must have been a great joy for Pastor Kegler to see his three lovely daughters sitting in the front pew, while he was delivering his Sunday sermon from the pulpit. He endearingly called Marie, Gertrud and Erika (my mother) his three lilies.

The Three 'Lilies'

The Three ‘Lilies’

After graduation from high school she took nurses’ training in Neustettin (Szczecinek) and obtained certification as a registered nurse in 1919. For almost 20 years she worked as a member of the sisterhood of the Johanniter Order. The Order’s regulations have worded this command as, “The Johanniter answers the call, where the suffering of his neighbor awaits his act of love, and where the irreligion of the afflicted demands that he witness his faith.”

Saint Catherine of Alexandria church Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

Saint Catherine of Alexandria church in Thorn – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

During the Second World War she worked from 1939 to 1945 in a military field hospital at Thorn (Torun) tending to the needs to the sick, disabled and injured. This came to a sudden end, when the advancing Red Army forced the medical administration to close down the hospital. Gertrud fled with her colleagues and managed to reach Stolpmünde (Ustka), where my grandmother Elisabeth and Aunt Marie were renting a small apartment. Shortly after,through a kind of ethnic cleansing all Germans in Pomerania and all the other eastern provinces were expelled from their homeland. So the three eventually arrived in Middle Germany, what later  came to be known as the German Democratic Republic.

A276

Mother and Aunt Gertrud on the Right

After the war from 1945 to 1947 Gertrud Kegler continued to work as a nurse in Belsen-Bergen, where nearby the infamous Nazi concentration camp was located. In 1948, the chief physician, who had worked with Gertrud in Thorn, West Prussia, remembered her as a highly qualified and competent nurse. He asked her to join his staff at the hospital in Malchin. There she was employed as head nurse. She helped under most difficult circumstances to build up the medical facilities of the hospital.

My wife Biene already described in her fascinating blog ‘This Miraculous Life’ at bieneklopp.com the lure of the ‘Golden West’. In addition to the attraction of greater freedom and prosperity in West Germany, there was a third factor that prompted my aunt to cross the Iron Curtain. Her sister Marie, who lived with my mother and me in Wesel from 1956 to 1962, had noticed an ad in the local newspaper for the position of a head nurse in a senior citizens’ home and alerted her Gertrud to the opportunity to start a new life in Wesel. When my aunt arrived in 1956, the three sisters were finally reunited.The Dom in 2001

However, what could have been a joyful period for the three, ended in tragedy. On her time off from work, Gertrud would often drop in at our small two-bedroom apartment on the street corner of ‘Auf dem Dudel 1’. Stress from the new and very challenging position as head nurse was written all over her face. It was not just the tremendous workload in a totally different environment that caused her a lot of grief. It was rather the envious and ill feelings her staff had toward the Ossie (slang for someone from East Germany) that gave her so much pain. Also they may not have liked the conscientious attitude of their supervising nurse, who put the care and well-being of the elderly front and center before comfort and ease at the work place. Gertrud did not mince words when it came to correct sloppiness and negligence in the treatment of the most vulnerable in her care. She may also have suffered under depression, which had struck on and off quite a few members of the Kegler family when they had been under great duress and mental strain. After one year of suffering she could not take it anymore. She committed suicide on February 21, 1957. I was not yet 15 years old at the time. Not having a concept of death as a final event for us here on earth, I was not overly shocked by her parting. I remember her as the kind aunt with enormous eye brows, who liked to listen to me, when I was reading aloud from my Latin reader.

The P. and G. Klopp Story

0

Conclusion of Chapter 6

Chart I – III

My very first memory goes back to the tumultuous time, when Mother, my brother Gerhard (Gerry) and I were on a train crammed with refugees. I do not remember any specific details, such as the name of the railroad station, where we must have stopped, the town, the time of the day, etc. What I do remember is that I was standing at the edge of the platform with hundreds of people frantically milling about. I do not know why I was standing there in a strange, noisy station surrounded by strange, noisy people. Then quite unexpectedly the train began to move ever so slowly at first. Panic stricken I looked around and searched in vain for Mother. In agony I cried out for her. While the train on its way out of the station was gradually picking up speed, the fear of being left behind, the feeling of complete, utter abandonment struck me like a ton of bricks. Suddenly I felt being lifted up from behind and passed through the open compartment window into my mother’s arms. This traumatic event left such a vivid impression on me that even though it was devoid of concrete details the inner experience was so real that I have not forgotten it to this very day.

Expulsion from the Eastern Provinces - Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org

Expulsion from the Eastern Provinces – Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org

We arrived in Schleswig-Holstein at one of the many refugee camps set up for the thousands of displaced people from the eastern provinces. But it was only a temporary stay. The authorities urged the newcomers, after they had recovered a little from the ordeals of their long journey, to move on to areas in Southern Germany, which had been less affected by destruction and would more readily have accommodation available for us. So Mother, Gerhard and I traveled into the French occupied zone to Freiburg, where my father’s sister, Aunt Meta, lived with her husband Professor Vincent Mülbert. On a stopover in Offenbach, Baden-Würthenberg, Mother made arrangements for me to be baptized. I often pondered later in my adult life on the reasons why it had taken more than four years to receive my baptism, one of the essential sacraments in a Christian’s life. I see an important lesson for all of us, who have grown up in the rapidly changing era of modern Western civilization with its great emphasis on materialism. The root of evil is not money itself, but, as the Bible states so clearly, it is the love of money. It is the desire to find happiness in the acquisition of material things. Looking back at Gutfelde with this critical perspective in mind, I cannot help, but observe a drifting from the true faith, in which Mother had been nurtured in her father’s home, away to a faith-like trust in the security offered by material possessions. We lived in a mansion that did not belong to us. Father was a good administrator of the lands and fields of dispossessed Polish farmers. Yes, he was kind and helpful to all the people working under his authority. But it does not detract from the rightful charge that the farmland was worked in a system that heavily relied on a master-servant relationship in order to make it work. With the collapse of the Third Reich that was supposed to last a thousand years and the loss of our beloved Gutfelde came the sober realization that their little ‘paradise’ in the east had been nothing but a pipe-dream, a house not built on rock, but on the shifting sands of man’s earthly aspirations.

Freiburg City Center 1944 - Photo Credit: City Archive

Freiburg City Center 1944 – Photo Credit: City Archive

We received a warm reception at my aunt’s place in Freiburg, a city with a population of over 100,000 inhabitants before the war. By the end of the Second World War 80% of the city lay in ruins. An air raid as late as November 27th, 1944 made 9,000 out of 30,000 apartments uninhabitable, killed 2,000 people and all that was left of the city center was the cathedral. The Münster of Freiburg was built across a span of several centuries and exhibited a range of architecture from late Romanesque to Late Gothic and even a tad of Rococo. Its single tower with a lacy spire was the first of its kind. The building remained mostly unchanged since its completion in 1513. Miraculously, unlike so many great cathedrals and churches in Germany, it was not entirely destroyed during the severe Allied bombing of Freiburg and its ensuing firestorm, although the whole area around it was reduced to rubble. The city fathers had expected an aerial attack, even though strictly speaking Freiburg was a non-industrial town and practically useless as a military target. So they put their heads together to find a way to save the cathedral from destruction. My aunt told me, when I came to visit her later as a ten year old, that they had fir trees attached to the pinnacles and other high points of the cathedral so that like Christmas trees they would with their bright green colors of hope alert the pilots to the city’s urgent plea to spare the 500 year old precious piece of architecture. I could not verify the story, but I too found it amazing that everything else in a large diameter around the building was completely flattened by the Allied aerial attack, but the church itself had remained virtually unscathed.

Coal-mining Spoil Tips along the Kalmius River

Coal-mining Spoil Tips along the Kalmius River – Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org

In the meantime Father had a major accident, while he was working in the coalmines in the Donbas region of the USSR. He received treatment for his head injury and would have been sent back to work, if he had not feigned continual headaches. Thus, he succeeded in getting an early release and was sent back to Germany. When he arrived at Uncle Günther’s place in Erfurt, he heard that the entire family had survived the war. He established contact with Mother and the children and in 1947 moved to Rohrdorf, a small village in Southern Germany between the River Danube and Lake Constance. There he found employment with the regional branch of the Fürstlich-von-Fürstenberg forest administration. Eventually the entire Klopp family was reunited. Although now extremely poor, often hungry, and dispossessed, we were together and could attempt a new beginning.

St. Peter and Paul Church Rohrdorf - Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org

St. Peter and Paul Church Rohrdorf – Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org

There were indeed very few refugee families who were fortunate enough not to have lost any family members during the horrible expulsion from their eastern home provinces. Volumes have been written on the topic of the greatest mass migration in modern Western history. I will relate only the bare facts as they pertain to my own family. Father belonged to that segment of civilian population that was deported in large numbers to the Soviet Union to do as it was called ‘reparations labor’. The German Red Cross estimated that 233,000 German civilians were deported to the USSR, where 45% were reported either missing or dead. As to Mother’s expulsion from the eastern provinces, the numbers are truly mind-boggling. The movement of Germans involved a total of at least 12 million people. Official sources, like the German Federal Archives, estimate that at least three million people perished in their flight from the Red Army, in labor camps, through starvation and disease, through murder in retaliation and revenge for atrocities committed by the Nazis during the war years. I mention these gruesome statistics only to emphasize the great miracle of the survival of the Ernst Klopp family amid all the odds stacked against them.

The P. and G. Klopp Story

Chapter VI continued

Report by Lavana Kilborn  (Chart I – III)

My Journey from 1943 to 1947

In the summer of 1943, my mother and I left by train for Hirschberg, where relatives of mine resided. As we lived in the country, it was necessary for me to move in order to obtain proper schooling. My host-family consisted of my widowed aunt Johanna, her parents and three cousins of mine, one of them being a girl, named Elisabeth and two boys. After a few days my mother returned home.

I got along very well with my new family, in particular with Elisabeth, who was of the same age as myself. We sat side by side in school and became good friends. The beautiful city had a large swimming pool, surrounded by grass to sunbathe, play ball etc. On weekends the family would go hiking in the nearby mountains, where the source of the mighty Elbe River is located. The song “Oh du schönes Riesengebirge, wo die Elbe heimlich rinnt …” still makes me melancholic, when I sing it. We also skied on wooden skis. There were no lifts then, but how much fun it was. All these activities were new and exciting experiences for me.

Refugees Waiting for the Last Train at Breslau

Refugees Waiting for the Last Train at Breslau

In January of 1945 everything came to an abrupt halt. Refugees started pouring in from neighboring provinces, fleeing from the encroaching Russian front. They were mostly old people, women and children. There was lots of speculation about how this all would develop, some people moved westward on their own, others stayed in the city, hoping that they may return some day. The evacuation order came in early February and trains were ready to take us to safety and by now we could hear the guns in the distance. My family hesitated, there were discussions, but finally common sense prevailed. And our little group left on the last train out; later on we learned that all Russian soldiers entered the city the following day. Our train compartment was very crowded, one toilet, a small hand basin with only cold water for all of us meant long line-ups throughout the day. Food and drink were provided for our journey. The winters in East Germany are very cold, the land covered in snow, not much for us kids to see. Twice the whistle blew, the train stopped and we were ordered to step outside and move away from the train and stand still. When the whistle blew again, we were to get back on the train immediately. These were brief episodes when Allied planes came and went quickly not interested in us at all as they had bigger fish in mind. However our last stop along the way was different, as we were now ordered not to leave the train. We were all wondering what this was all about. Soon it became apparent that Dresden, the beautiful city, had been bombed, the sky was aflame to tell the story. Later we learned that thousands of people had perished, many of them at the main train station. This was the reason for us to be rerouted a day later. Our Tante Margot survived, as they were in another part of Dresden.

Dresden - Photo Credit: Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-Z0309-310

Dresden – Photo Credit: Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-Z0309-310

Our little group eventually made it to Mark Brandenburg, a place so far untouched by the war. Our major problem was that we were always hungry. Us older kids left daily on food-begging trips. Thus we managed to survive. Often I went on my own. Once while crossing a forested area, I came across the body of a German officer, eyes and mouth open providing a feast to tiny creatures. Another episode was more frightening. Three German teens in uniform, not knowing that the war had ended, shot dead a Russian soldier on patrol. These kids were caught and executed in the courtyard of the farmhouse where we stayed. It was horrifying to hear those shots. Another experience stands out for me. As I was approaching a large farmhouse, the hausfrau saw me coming, yelling at me to leave or she would sic the dog on me. Scared I turned to run off, when a Russian soldier took me by the arm and motioned to follow him into the root cellar. Here the farmers kept their food. From the shelves the soldier took bread, cheese, a piece of bacon and handed me the goodies, which I put into my bag. I was out of there in no time never to come back to that place again.

Railway Station Erfurt

Railway Station Erfurt – Photo Credit: Wikipedia.og

Eventually my host family was able to contact an uncle of mine in Erfurt. He and his wife took me in and my life began to normalize again. I loved the family, the school and the beautiful city. However, I often wondered where my parents and siblings might be. My mother and the two youngest brothers were finally located. In the meantime the two older brothers also arrived in Erfurt. And it was decided that Adolf and I were to join Mother in southwest Germany. The necessary papers arrived and we were on our way. The train took us close to the border and we walked the rest of the way. Two Russian border guards saw us coming and questioned us. After studying our valid papers allowing us to pass, they just tore them up. We were stunned at such injustice, after all we were 15 (Adolf) and 13 years old myself. The soldiers shooed us off, one of them pointing at his gun, in case we had any ideas of returning. We left seeking shelter behind a haystack and began to weigh our options on what to do next. Adolf wanted to return to Erfurt, but I would have none of it. I picked up my stuff carefully avoiding the guardhouse. Now a steady rain had begun. Soon I heard my brother’s footsteps behind me and I was much relieved. I don’t remember how long we walked. It seemed like a long time. By the time we got to a small railway station, we were exhausted, yet very much relieved that we were in the West. Two French border guards approached us demanding to see our papers, – no wonder, we looked like runaways. Adolf handled the situation quite well and we were allowed to board the train,

Nuernberg_Burg_Panorama_PtGUI

Nuremberg Castle – Photo Credit: Wikipedia.og

In Nuremberg we found the Red Cross Refugee Camp, where we received food and shelter. As we were out of money, discussing our next move, a woman interrupted us handing Adolf a bill that would cover our train fare to Meßkirch. Several kilometers more on foot and we arrived in Rohrdorf. What a relief for all of us to join our mother and the two youngest brothers again after such a long separation!

Memory Fragments by Anke Schubert

Lenzen

Lenzen near Anke’s Hometown Mellen – Photo Credit: Lea@Flickr

Reflections on Early Childhood Memories

Anke Schubert (Chart II a – IV)

Translated by Peter Klopp

Do you feel the same as I do? The older you get, the more in your memories you return to your childhood years. That’s at least how it is with me, especially now that the children have grown up and are taxing my physical and mental strength around the clock any more. Thoughts are stirring, nostalgic and regretful at times, because happy days, familiar places and dear people are gone forever, but I am also filled with joy, because they were once present way back in long-gone times.

Actually I thought that I would remember next to nothing at all about my earliest childhood. But sometimes and quite suddenly like out of the blue a memory shoots through my mind, a piece of the past, an event of my childhood, often only a single image without any connection. The more these ‘memory fragments’ go back in time, the smaller, the more scattered they appear to be. Yet, as the thoughts travel back more frequently, other thoughts rise and flash on my inner horizon. Often I no longer know how they are connected. In fact, it is next to impossible to maintain a reliable sequence of the fragments in my early childhood memories.

But that is actually not so important.I simply try to nail down a few of these fragments, before they vanish forever into the abyss of eternal darkness. There are some events, which I no longer know or cannot know at all, because they happened before I was born, for example, how my parents got to know each other. These things I will draw from old letters and later down the road from my old journals. Who knows there might be somebody somehow involved here, who might add something to whom I may pass on to read the rough copy of my scribbles. They may perhaps contribute a couple of their own memories to turn the individual fragments into a cohesive picture of my – or much better – of our childhood in Gulow and in Mellen.

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