The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project

Reflections on Life, Family and Community

Friedrich Wilhelm Ferdinand Klopp (1879 – 1952)


A Somewhat Rocky Start

On November 22, 1879, the fourth child was born in the house on Hemmsack Street in Osterweddingen near Magdeburg. Anyway, these houses – some still existing today- are traditionally ascribed to the dwellings of mill leasers and workers since the 19th century. Already in 1881 Ferdinand moved with his parents back to Jerslebe3n, spent three years there at the Düppler Mill and in 1885 entered the Elementary School of Wolmirstedt, the birthplace of my father Ernst. In the nearby town of Jersleben, Ferdinand’s father P.W.F. Klopp had found work as miller master.

In 1893 Ferdinand was sent to Hannoversch-Münden to attend a dairy apprenticeship program. When he returned to his father’s great disappointment after only one year of training, his father forced him to work with his eldest brother Friedrich as a rope maker’s apprentice in the Wolmirstedt house. He had probably shown little interest in his work in Hannoversch-Münden and further increased the image of a good-for-nothing worker under the whip of his elder brother and rope making master Friedrich. The disrespectfully treated Ferdinand was from then on called rather degradingly clown (“Klon”).

Turmoil in the Parental Home at Wolmirstedt

Around the turn of the century, the rope maker’s apprentice Ferdinand Klopp turned 21 years of age. The family structure in the overcrowded house in Wolmirstedt threatened to fall apart. The business of rope making was just beginning to secure an income to feed the family. It was also quite foreseeable that the continuously expanding family would soon reach the breaking point.

4 Seilerei Klopp

Although the siblings Jula and Karl, the nineteen-year-old Rosa, the eighteen-year-old Alma, possibly also the fifteen-old Anna had most likely been placed elsewhere, the parents Emma and Peter Friedrich Klopp still had to care for the remaining five sons and three daughters. In addition, they had to cope with the newly-weds Friedrich, their eldest son, and Marie-Luise Klopp, who was expecting her first child. This all happened at the same time, as my grandmother Emma was expecting her 16th child, my father Ernst Klopp.

In this tense and often emotionally charged atmosphere lack of control and anger were heaped onto the ‘Late Bloomer’ Ferdinand. His father P.F. Klopp turned violent and beat him up on several occasions. The dummy, as Ferdinand was often branded never forgave this kind of humiliation. Father Klopp in the meantime was seeking comfort through beer and schnapps in ‘Fatjes Hotel’ or in the ‘Anchor’. One night in May 1900 his alcoholic excesses cost him his life when on his way home he fell off his horse.

On a Special Mission to the United States of America

It cannot be stated with certainty whether Ferdinand’s father kicked his son out of the house or whether Mother Emma sent him on a special mission to the USA. In 1900 Ferdinand arrived there and spent almost five years in Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago. Ferdinand’s job was to research the market for the usefulness of American varieties of flour and to arrange for their purchase and export to Wolmirstedt, Germany. The mission appears to coincide with the planned acquisition of the watermill at Zielitz. Widow Emma was perhaps calculating improved marketing chances for her business.

Old_South_Church,_Boston_(Boston_Public_Library)

But Ferdinand was developing his own life plans. he became engaged to an American woman, which indicated that he may have had plans to stay in the US. But the engagement did not work out, primarily because his mother from the Old Country was pleading for his assistance. For the first time in his life ‘outcast’, Ferdinand was needed on the home front.

He now saw himself in the role of a “saviour in times of need”, returned from the US and acted accordingly at the Wolmirstedt house in June 1905. The relations with his eldest brother Friedrich worsened and soon reached the boiling point resulting in a state of constant enmity between the two brothers and their families. Incapable of carrying on with the rope making business in this poisoned atmosphere, Ferdinand reluctantly or rather craftily passed on the factory to his brother. He did this without being clear about the ownership question with regard to the inheritance of the property. He most likely left that critical question deliberately open in collusion with Emma. When Ferdinand followed his mother to Elsenau, West Prussia (now Poland), in 1905, the property and inheritance question was left precariously hanging in the air.

Charged with Attempted Murder

On a sultry summer evening pub owner Ferdinand Klopp, short-tempered and irascible at the best of times was quaffing copious amounts of schnapps with his younger brother Wilhelm. As the drinking session was dragging on into the wee hours, the two had an argument over the financial status of the pub ‘Brown Elk’, which they owned and managed together. Wilhelm’s wife, whom mother-in-law Emma later described contemptuously as Satan’s wench, added oil to the fraternal dispute by heaping insults upon her brother-in-law Ferdinand.

WWI Pilot Ferdinand Klopp

With no weapon at hand in such an explosive situation, one would expect the dispute to deteriorate into a brawl. However, Ferdinand did have an illegal weapon, an army pistol hidden away somewhere. In his fury, he aimed at his brother and pulled the trigger. The shot penetrated Wilhelm’s shoulder and injured his wife, who was standing behind him.

After his arrest Ferdinand, while waiting for the court proceedings to start, spent several weeks as a prisoner in the castle at Wolmirstedt. His sentence turned out to be rather mild. The judge dismissed the attempted murder charge. It was clear to him that the accused committed the crime under extremely volatile and emotional circumstances. After being released from prison, Ferdinand handed over the pub to his brother, departed almost like a fugitive and left his home turf around Wolmirstedt in a big hurry.

Lake Scharmützel ß Photo Credit: Alfred Held

Ferdinand found refuge at his sister Jula‘s brick and mortar factory, whom I had already mentioned in a previous post. There he found employment and received a modest income. It appears that here in Diensdorf at the beautiful Lake Scharmützel Jula rescued her brothers Ferdinand and the still unmarried younger brother Hermann (1892-1957) from the devious comfort of drinking and carousing that people in trouble often seek as a form of escapism.

Mother Emma and Ferdinand

In 1923 Ferdinand acquired the inn “At Recreation” (Zur Erholung) in Hainrode near Sangerhausen. Connected to and supporting the operation of the inn was a small farm. Here, mother Emma, often travelling from place to place, found a reliable stop-over and return station. She was very thankful to her son for support and encouragement. Ferdinand’s daughters had fond memories of the idyllic hours when Grandma talked about the olden days and taught them how to dance.

Sangerhausen in the Harz Mountains - Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

Sangerhausen in the Harz Mountains – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

Ferdinand sent the older daughters for their education to a boarding school in Magdeburg, while the youngest daughters Meta and Rosel to the Berlin Lette-House for their trade diploma. There Ferdinand’s sister Anna had already received her education around the turn of the century.

Ferdinand Klopp

Ferdinand Klopp

Ferdinand sold the inn in Hainrode in 1930 and acquired a private house in Bad Saarow-Pieskow at Lake Scharmützel. Perhaps in conjunction with his sister Jula’s auctioning off of her hotel, Ferdinand abandoned his property again in 1930. He moved with his wife Rosalie and his two daughters – the other 4 were already on their own – to St. Andreasberg in the Harz Mountains. There he managed for three years the “Hotel at the City Park” (Hotel zum Stadtpark). The property was destroyed in a bombing raid. Already in 1939, the family had moved to Nordhausen.  The author of the Klopp Family Chronicles, my distant cousin Eberhard, reported that the daughters Meta and Rosel refused to answer questions as to how their father managed to pay for their upkeep and how he had spent the years during the Nazi era.

Ferdinand Withdraws from the Harsh Realities of Postwar Germany

Before the end of WWII, perhaps in 1944, Ferdinand purchased a larger house in Rhinow, Brandenburg, to secure it as a retirement home. The former hotel, which the now 65-year-old Ferdinand remodelled for private residential use, was located at Dorfstraße 58. Here the entire Ferdinand Klopp family experienced the end of the war and a new beginning. The family at that time also included their daughters and sons-in-law, who had returned from the war and POW camps.

The invasion forces of the Red Army declared the building as a Soviet command post. Family documents and photos were permanently lost during the ‘liberation’. The Polish language skills of mother Rosalie, who had been speaking German for the past 50 years and is being described as a kind-hearted, hospitable woman, kept her daughters out of harm’s way from the Soviet soldateska notorious for raping girls and women of all ages during and after the end of WWII.

When for property owners life became more and more unbearable in the GDR, embittered Ferdinand began to give away his furniture, farm animals and estates to the people in Rhinow. He transferred the title of his house at Dorfstraße 58 to his daughter Margarete Rocke and her two children.

River Havel at Lake Wannsee - Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

River Havel at Lake Wannsee – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

Given to cynicism, he withdrew from the harsh reality of life under the Communist regime and moved with his wife into a little cottage with a flower garden back into the village Strodehne near Rhinow. There he lived for another year, during which time he indulged in his angling passion at the River Havel. On July 17, 1952, his wife found him dead lying in her flower beds. At the age of 73, he had suffered a fatal heart attack.

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