Ernst Klopp (1900 – 1964) Part 18

Peter’s Second Year – Mother’s Day 1943

From My Mother’s Diary

Spring came early in 1943. I spent a lot of time outside exploring the world around me. I learned to stand up on my own and ventured to make my first stumbling steps. Jupp, the friendly family dog, was my steady companion and my best friend for a while. Unlike my older siblings I refused to take the bottle and from my first birthday on I proudly drank my milk from the cup. When people were watching, I did my best to entertain them and show off my newly acquired skills. With the good weather also came a stream of visitors to enjoy the peaceful environment and the hospitality they found at Gutfelde. These visits spread over a couple of months were quite enjoyable for hosts and guests alike, even though some stayed for as long as three weeks or even longer. On top of it all, Karl and Adolf came home for the Easter holidays. Karl had acquired a certain degree of stardom with his excellent performance at the Belgard High School and his rapid development of his piano playing skills. As always, when he was home, he was asked to demonstrate his progress at the family piano. This went over very well, especially as his music teacher was also present and accompanied him on Father’s violin.

Peter and his Friend Jupp

Mother was honoured for the second time on Mother’s Day in Seebrück (Rogowo), a near-by town southwest of Gutfelde. With her five children, four of whom were male, she ranked very high among all the mothers in the region. Mother’s Day was a state supported festival, upon which a lot of emphasis was given to the meaning of motherhood mostly for ideological and mythical reasons based on ancient Teutonic folklore. Women in general were considered not weak, but very precious who had to be protected at all cost from any involvement in war activities. Germany was the only nation that did not employ women in the war effort in any shape or form. Young girls in colourful dresses presented flowers to the mothers. This year it was Father’s turn to make a speech to the assembly. What he was saying about motherhood and family came straight from the heart and with his genuine admiration for all mothers and especially for his beloved wife left a lasting impression on all those who were present.

Peter’s Mother in a Rye Field 1943

Mother’s diary of the first 15 months of my life came to a sudden end, because she had simply reached the last page and did not want to start another booklet. If one considers that this diary with the many tiny photographs pasted into it and written in beautiful Sütterlin handwriting was from among all the other precious goods the only object that she managed to bring safely to West Germany, one must concede that we are dealing with a little miracle. The far greater miracle, the survival of the entire Klopp family in the closing days of  World War II and afterwards, will be the subject of the next chapter.

Ernst Klopp (1900 -1964) Part 17

Baby Peter Arrives at Gutfelde

Family Photo Gutfelde 1941 – The six people on the right: My brothers and sister in the front, Ernst and Erika Klopp, my parents in the back

At the time of my birth, Father as manager and inspector was in charge of the estates Silberberg, Oberhof and Gutfelde totalling an area of approximately 3000 ha. Although he must have been thankful to the authorities for landing him such challenging and prestigious position and therefore may have harboured a favourable disposition towards the Nazi regime, he always strove to keep his humanity in dealing with his fellow human beings, Germans and Poles alike. In particular, through his actions he distanced himself from the policy that forbade German citizens to fraternize with the defeated enemy. It is a great testimony to his moral independence from the dark and sinister sides of Nazi Germany that he allowed Polish men and women to live and work closely and cordially with the Klopp family at the Gutfelde residence and the agricultural headquarter for the region.

My Father Ernst Klopp 1941

From the stories I picked up from my mother I speculate that Father owed his survival to his reputation of treating fairly and equitably all the people who worked for the large estate under his directorship. Other administrators notorious for their arrogance, cruelty and injustice in dealing with the Polish population were rounded up, lynched, hanged or shot in the closing months of the war. On a  Polish website with a special focus on mansions, manors, and castles of Poland, I found an entire page devoted to Gutfelde – now an agricultural training center with orchards, wheat and corn under cultivation, 800 cows and 8000 pigs. The same page to my great surprise also mentioned my father’s name as an administrator during WW2!

The following are excerpts from my mother’s diary which she wrote from baby Peter’s perspective.

Mother and Baby Peter

When I arrived with Mother at Gutfelde, I received a truly royal reception. My brother Karl, who attends a boarding school in Belgard (Bialogard), would see me a few months later at the beginning of his summer holidays. But the others including my proud father did everything to welcome the fifth child in the family. Flags were waving. Fir branches and a big welcome sign decorated the door to my very own room. Inside the sunny and warm room several pots with beautiful flowers created a cheerful atmosphere for the latest arrival in Gutfelde.

First Page of my Mother’s Diary

Father must have kindled my passion for music and my desire for writing. For he often spent time at my crib telling me long stories, singing with his deep beautiful voice or whistled many a lovely tune. His birthday was coming up. The entire family had prepared a wonderful celebration. For the first time the five children were together. Early in the morning of June 28th, Karl, Adolf, Eka and Gerhard entered the parental bedroom and presented to Father a bouquet of flowers and started off the day with cheerful ‘Happy Birthday’ wishes. Later when good friends of the family, the Döpelheuer couple, had arrived, Karl sat at the piano and played a few pieces to show what he had learned. For accompaniment, Father and Auntie Döpelheuer played on their violins with great enthusiasm. The trio created a really festive atmosphere. 

To be continued

Ernst Klopp (1900 – 1964) Part 16

Cousin Hartmut Kegler’s Vacation Report

This is the third 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).

The Hunting Firearm

Finally, still vivid in my memory is another experience that was connected to a visit by my uncle Gerhard Kegler. [In January 1945, he was sentenced to death for disobeying Himmel’s insane order to defend the fortress and town of Landsberg, where thousands of innocent townspeople would have lost their lives. His story can be found here.] He was a colonel on the eastern front at that time and was on vacation in Gutfelde. One day, he asked me if I could shoot with a gun. Since I carried on my shirt the shooting badge of the German Youth Organization, I proudly answered yes. My problem, however, was that as a cub I had only been using a light pellet gun. But my uncle entrusted me with a heavy hunting firearm. At my uncle’s visit I was eleven or twelve years old but went full of pride out into the field. Then I spied a riot of crows which were sitting on a high poplar tree. I loaded the gun, raised it, aimed and pulled the trigger. The recoil of the firearm and the loud bang almost knocked me over. The crows flew away. I had not hit any. Since then I have never touched a gun, and never needed to nor was I forced to use one.

Generalleutnant Gerhard Kegler – Gutfelde 1944

The relationship of Uncle Ernst and Aunt Erika with the Polish personnel was, as I recall it, fair and respectful. I believe that they owe their successful escape from the Red Army to the proper treatment of the Polish personnel. The farm workers prevented through their cooperative actions that Uncle Ernst was captured by the Soviet soldiers. Through a series of adventurous moves he managed to safely make it to West Germany. [The actual tragic events that my cousin Hartmut Kegler did not know will be published on a later post.]

1943 Family Photo – My mother on the right with me on her arm

While at the fronts and the bombarded German cities, in concentration and POW camps innumerable people found a horrible death, we children enjoyed happy days during our vacation in Gutfelde. Much later I began to think about the darker sides of life. At any rate, I am thankful to Aunt Erika and Uncle Ernst for their hospitality and for giving us the freedom to romp around at our hearts’ content.

End of Hartmut Kegler’s childhood memories

Ernst Klopp (1900 – 1964) Part 15

Cousin Hartmut Kegler’s Vacation Report

This is the third 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).

The Games we played in Gutfelde

In the pond of the park, we enjoyed going for a swim but also played ‘war’ on it. We scrounged up wash-bins and tubs, we used as our battleships and loaded them up with chunks of sod that were our ammunition. On these ships, we rowed around the pond and fired at each other with the clumps of grass and dirt. The ‘ships’ that had been hit often tipped over so that we were forced to swim with them ashore. However, we did not succeed rescuing a particularly valuable zinc tub, which sank in the deep water. Together we tried to retrieve the tub by diving but could not find it. Aunt Erika to whom we had to report the loss naturally was very angry with us and we were much ashamed of our misdeed. The tub most likely still lies today at the bottom of the pond.

Happy Children at Gutfelde

We also played peaceful games. One of them was circus performances. In the park, there stood next to beautiful shrubbery a big old tree. There we presented our acrobatic showmanship. From the sturdy branch hung a swing, which we skillfully used for our performances. In addition, we did gymnastics exercises complete with headstands and rolls spiced up with oodles of clownery. Our mothers and other spectators generously provided applause and praise.

In Gutfelde, we had our own carousel. At the lower end of the estate building was a horse-operated gin. It consisted of a massive wood beam that was mounted on a large cogwheel, which in turn was connected to a shaft leading into the house. Its purpose was most likely to drive a generator inside the building. The beam was pulled by a horse, which trod around in a circle and was guided by the coachman. We children sat down on the beam and with great delight, we turned cozily round and round on this most unusual carousel.

To be continued …

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 …

Ernst Klopp (1900 – 1964) – Part 13

Cousin Hartmut Kegler’s Vacation Report

The following story is a 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).

My Memories of Gutfelde after more than Seventy Years

I gladly remember the wonderful vacations we were able to spend in the years of 1942 and 1943 during the murderous World War II at Gutfelde. Our aunt Erika Klopp, the sister of my father Bruno Kegler killed in action in 1940, and her husband Ernst Klopp were the caretakers and administrators of the Polish estate Gutfelde in the so-called Warthegau. They lived in a spacious mansion, behind which was a big beautiful park with a small pond. About the house, I still remember the large dining room and the estate office.

The Pond in the Park behind the Mansion

In the dining room, there was a long table. There we all, the four Klopp children and their parents and we three Kegler kids with our mother would sit to have lunch and dinner. Beforehand, the Polish domestic employee would diligently set the table. I remember her well because of what she said after one of us children had hidden a fork from the carefully laid-out cutlery. Quite shocked, she exclaimed in garbled German, “Where is forkie this?” We rascals were very much amused by her reaction. But the young Polish woman took our prank all in strides and was not even cross with us. When all had punctually taken their seats at the dinner table Uncle Ernst opened the mealtime with these somewhat irreverent words, “People eat, horses gorge. But today it will be the other way around. Enjoy your meal.” Not exactly a pious expression. According to the spirit of the times, the Klopps had left the church but described themselves as God-fearing.

Our holidays were filled with playing many games often bordering on extremely dangerous escapades.

To be continued …