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.
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.
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.
Last week I indulged in capturing a hover-fly feasting on the pollen of a daisy. On that same canoe trip, I could not resist taking photos of a driftwood sculpture and a beautifully shaped root formation laid bare by the constantly rising and falling lake level. Also the first rose hips have made their appearance, a sure sign that the fall season is upon us. Enjoy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On a recent canoe ride, heading south from our favourite Taite Creek campground, we stopped at a deserted apple orchard a few kilometres from the Taite Creek bay. Biene spotted an abundance of apples in the abandoned orchard and being the inveterate gathering she started picking claiming they make excellent apple sauce. Myself being inspired by my blogging friend Steve Schwartzman was eagerly looking for some wildflower. But all I could find was a bedraggled daisy with its petals curved downward. Great was my joy when I discovered a hoverfly sitting down for a late pollen dinner. She was so preoccupied with feasting on the pollen that she paid no attention to my camera a mere five cm away from the flower. Here are five photos of the same insect and the same flower. Enjoy.
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.
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.]
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.
In the past few weeks, my wife and I crossed the Arrow Lake and the Needles Ferry Path a number of times. I proudly announced that we travelled up the Whatshan River to the waterfalls. When I recognized that I had made a mistake and heard that the waterfalls were far more inland, I invited my wife to go exploring. Attempting to climb the steep embankment almost turned into a disaster. Biene struggled very hard on all fours to inch her way up to the top from which I could only shout words of encouragement. When she finally stood on safe and stable ground, she was very happy that she did not give up. We were both rewarded with a splendid view and hike to the elusive waterfalls, which is the content of the video below. Enjoy!