Friedrich Ernst Klopp (1900 – 1964)


Introduction Part I

While I was translating parts from the family chronicles written by my cousin Eberhard Klopp, my main focus was on rendering an accurate translation. My personal interest in our family history and a deeply felt responsibility towards the Klopp branch and future descendants living in Canada provided me with the motivation and necessary persistence to delve into this laborious and time-consuming undertaking. With the exception of four aunts and my father Ernst Klopp, I did not get to know the other twelve children of my paternal grandparents Emma Christiane and Peter Friedrich Klopp. 

While I was writing down the wealth of ancestral information of Eberhard Klopp’s book containing more than 200 pages in small print and then publishing it on my blog one uncle and one aunt at a time, I gained deep insight into the causes of what makes a family function in harmony and of what makes it fall apart. Quite frankly, reading some of the stories shocked me so intensely that I hesitated for a long time to publish them online.

My readers, who read the posts on my nephew Georg von Waldenfels, a Nazi SS officer, may understand as to why I was tempted to leave out this embarrassing chapter of our family history. In the 1930s many people were misled by the promises made by the Nazi propaganda for a more prosperous and stronger Germany after having suffered through the worst economic depression in German history. Actually, at least initially, their hopes and aspirations were being fulfilled. While millions of people had been struggling to make ends meet, every person willing to work was now gainfully employed and able to put bread and butter on the table. They had no idea that the Third Reich that was supposed to last a thousand years would lie in ruins so quickly and millions of soldiers and civilians would be sacrificed on the altar of an insane ideology.

Title Page of the Klopp Family Chronicle

Introduction Part II

It was painful for me to discover that the son of Anna von Waldenfels was an SS officer. However, what made this particular case even more shocking was that Georg von Waldenfels’ heart and soul was filled with an insatiable lust for power, glory and possessions, which even went beyond the allowable within the regime he was serving. In other words, he was an opportunist of the worst kind and would have been ‘successful’ in any other political system. He skillfully exploited every opportunity for his personal gain. For example, he attempted to acquire an estate worth millions of dollars in today’s real estate market, a large piece of property complete with a mansion, even a factory and many outbuildings that been confiscated by the state from a Jewish couple.

In spite of this blemish in our family history, I decided to publish it. What made my decision a bit easier was the fact that I had no personal connection with the son of my aunt Anna von Waldenfels. In all biographical endeavours one needs a certain emotional distance in order to preserve objectivity. Furthermore, so far my task had been to translate merely the relevant passages from my cousin’s book published in German with the somewhat long-winded title: “A Letter to the Descendants of the Klopp Family from Altenburg/Brome and Wolmirstedt.”

When I now turn my attention to the biography of Friedrich Ernst Klopp, it is important to be aware of the fact that emotional distance in describing objectively my father’s life is no longer possible. On the one hand, I continue to rely on Eberhard Klopp’s family chronicle for invaluable information. On the other hand, there are my very own experiences with and personal impressions of my father that needed to be told in order to add some deeply felt love, understanding and respect for my father to an overly sober and matter-of-fact kind report by my cousin. To distinguish my insertions from the translation, I am going to use the italic font style whenever I feel the need to throw additional light on my father’s fascinating life story or fill some of the gaps left in the Klopp family chronicle.

Klopp Residence and Rope Manufacturing, Wolmirstedt, Germany

My Father’s Childhood Years

Ernst was the sixteenth and last child of Friedrich and Emma Klopp. Within the short timespan from March till June 1900, four fateful events occurred in Wolmirstedt. In March the eldest son Friedrich (1875 – 1946) married Marie-Luise (née Weihe, 1880 – 1924), who was six months pregnant. At the end of May, Peter Friedrich Klopp (1852 – 1900) passed away. He was good-looking, handsome, slightly obese, and a giant of a man. He was generally of a cheerful disposition and was not disinclined to an occasional drink in the genial company of like-minded buddies every once in a while. 

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In the middle of May not long before my father’s birth, he was riding home from a hunting party. It appears that he often left direction and speed to the discretion of his well-trained horse. Maybe on this chilly night, he had had just one drink too many. Falling asleep on horseback is never a good idea, especially when you are in that cozy state of inebriation. Inevitably, he slipped off the saddle, and the horse trod home without him. Early next morning travellers found him lying half-conscious on the roadside. He was sober by now but suffered from a severe case of hypothermia. Soon after, he acquired a kidney infection, from which he was unable to recover. He died on the 26th of June 1900 at the age of 48. 

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Photo Credit: Museum Wolmirstedt

At the beginning of June, the first child of the eldest son was born. Her name was Frieda (1900 – 1979). Finally, on June 28, 1900, the fatherless Ernst was born. Thus, Frieda and her uncle Ernst were of the same age. The two have never met again in later years.

These intersecting both joyful and painful events happened during those four months in the crowded conditions of the house in Wolmirstedt. The expulsion of the Klopp son Ferdinand (1879 – 1952) and his departure to the United States also occurred during the first half of 1900. All this wore down the family’s physical and psychological ability to cope. The acquisition of the mill Wehrmühle near Zieglitz by the forty-year-old widow appears almost like a desperate attempt to gain her freedom and independence from all these troubles at home.

My Father’s Childhood and Adolescent Years

Church in Elsenau (Olszanowo)

Widow Emma moved to West Prussia to take up farming in 1903/04. Thus, Ernst spent his childhood and adolescent years with his remaining five siblings in Elsenau (Briesen County). There and in the neighbouring town of Schönsee, he attended the elementary school from 1906 to 1914. An agricultural apprenticeship followed during World War I. At the beginning of 1918, Ernst was called up for military service to receive basic military service at Kassel. Fortunately, he was not sent to the front. The war to end all war was over.

Ernst, now 19 years old, joined the Free Korps (Freikorps), which was fighting in the Baltic region against Bolshevik intruders. Probably the news reports in January 1919 about violence perpetrated by Polish insurgents prompted him to make himself available to this paramilitary organization. His main objective, however, was to acquire a settler’s parcel of land in Latvia and to make a living by farming it. This plan never materialized since Germany had lost political control over the entire development in the eastern section of the Reich.

Baltic States (1920 – 1939)

To understand Ernst’s involvement within the historical context of the Germany’s military operations in the Baltic states, I provide a quote from Wikipedia: “The Freikorps had saved Latvia from capture by the Red Army in the spring of 1919. However, the Freikorps’ goal of creating a German dominated state in Courland and Livonia failed. Many of the German Freikorps members who served in the Baltic left Latvia with the belief that they had been “stabbed in the back” by the Weimar Republic, under President Friedrich Ebert. Hundreds of Baltic Freikorps soldiers had planned to settle in Latvia, and for those who had fought there, the land made a lasting impression, and many of them longed for the day that they could return there. The Baltic Freikorps characterized their struggle against the Reds as the “Drang nach Osten”, (the drive towards the East), and some Freikorps units returned to Germany and planned for the day of their return.”

In the early 1920s Ernst Klopp returned to the Berlin area. The only certain information we have from this time is that his sister Jula Steuer strongly advised him to throw away his gun. Carrying a weapon in those turbulent times would have put him into immediate danger.