The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project

Reflections on Life, Family and Community

Gerhard Kegler


A Brief Overview of Gerhard Kegler’s Education and Military Background

1898 – 1986 (Chart II a – II)

On January 26, 1898, Gerhard Kegler was born in Grünewald, Pomerania (Province of Germany until 1945). Posts on his three older siblings Marie, Günther, and Gertrud can be found in the archives of this blog. They show how the children of Pastor Carl Kegler and his wife Elisabeth had a happy childhood in the small Pomeranian community of Grünewald. Also the third chapter of the P. and G. Klopp Story has more information on the Kegler family background, which therefore need not be repeated here. Like his brother Günther, Gerhard began his military career as a cadet in 1908. The outline of his comet-like rise in the ranks of the German army follows below.

  • 1904 -1908 Elementary School at Grünewald
  • 1908 – 1914 Military Academy at Plön
  • 1914 – 1917 Military Academy at Groß-Lichterfelde
  • March 1, 1917 Officer Cadet at the 149th Infantry Regiment in Schneidemühl
  • September 1917 On the Western Front at Champagne and Argonne
  • November 1, 1917 Lieutenant
  • 1918 Participated in the last major German offensive of World War I
  • 1919 – 1920 Border Patrol at the section between Schneidemühl and Bromberg
  • End of November 1920  Transfer to the 4th infantry regiment of the newly created army, which was limited by the Treaty of Versailles to 100,000 men
  • 1921 – 1922 Officer’s training in Munich
  • 1924 Teacher at the Officer’s Sports Training School in Berlin
  • 1925 Promoted to the rank of first lieutenant
  • 1926 – 1929 Trainer and Sports Teacher at the Infantry School in Dresden
  • 1929 – 1933 Leader of military courses for officers’ trainees in Berlin and Dresden
  • March 1, 1933 Advanced to the rank of captain
  • 1933 – 1934 In charge of the 11th Infantry Regiment 9 at Spandau
  • 1934 – 1938 In charge of the 3rd MG Battalion 8 at Züllichau
  • 1937 Promoted to the rank of major
  • 1938 Teacher at the Military Academy in Munich
  • 1939 At the beginning of World War II Battalion commander in the Infantry Regiment 282 of the 98th Division at the Western Front
  • 1940 Commander of Infantry Battalion in Training at Kreuznach; front-line duty in the attack on the French Maginot line in the Vosges Mountains
  • November 1, 1940 Commander of the Infantry Regiment  27 and promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel
  • 1941 – 1944 Invasion of the Soviet Union
  • February 1942 Promoted to the rank of colonel
  • October 1, 1944 Promoted to the rank of major-general
Gerhard Kegler on a Visit at Gutfelde 1944
Gerhard Kegler on a Visit at Gutfelde 1944 (the tall person in the middle)

In February 1945, Gerhard Kegler was condemned to death after being court-martialed for disobeying Himmler’s orders to defend the town of Landsberg on the River Warthe. The following posts will deal with the circumstances leading up to this terror verdict and will hopefully contribute to dispel the myth about all German officers blindly following the Nazi Regime without any moral backbone.

The Woldenberg Division and Himmler’s Order to Defend Landsberg

Excerpt Taken from the book ‘The Siege of Küstrin: Gateway to Berlin 1945’ by Tony Le Tissier, Publishers: Pen and Sword Books

The ineptness of Heinrich Himmler’s appointment as commander of Army Group ‘Weichsel’ is clearly demonstrated in his handling of the so-called ‘Woldenberg’ Division, a random assembly of troops taken from convalescent and training units stationed on the north bank of the Warthe, with which he expected to block the Soviet advance. Major-General Gerhard Kegler later wrote of this:

On the 30th January 1945 I received orders from Himmler to take command of the ‘Woldenberg’ Division without being given any orientation on the subject, nor the division’s task.

I had to find the division. I found the division’s command post east of Friedeberg. It had no signals unit and there were no communications with a superior headquarters. I took over command at about midday as I found this recently established ‘division’ in the course of disintegration as it retreated to Landsberg. While I was busy in Landsberg on the morning of the 31st January with the organization and deployment of the available units, I discovered that the ‘division’ had no anti-tank weapons, no ammunition or food supply arrangements and no signals unit. Neither was there a divisional medical officer. The artillery consisted of two horse-drawn batteries. The ‘division’ was not a ‘strong battle group’ nor were the troops battle­-worthy.

The population of 45,000 inhabitants were still in the town and no preparations had been made for evacuation.

I received Himmler’s orders from the commander-in-chief of the 9th Army to defend Landsberg as a fortress over the tele­phone. Russian tanks were already north of the Warthe-Netze sector. I had the Warthe Bridge demolished. After some consci­entious consideration, I decided to disobey this order [to defend Landsberg], which I considered senseless and whose compliance would serve no purpose other than great loss in human life.

Generalmajor Gerhard Kegler
Generalmajor Gerhard Kegler

Landsberg was abandoned by the ‘Woldenberg’ Division that same night. Major-General Kegler had set the withdrawal for February 1st, as the Soviet spearheads had already reached Küstrin some 40 kilometres to his rear, but his demoralized soldiers would not wait and abandoned their positions in the dark. The headquarters staff were only able to stop these demoralized units with difficulty some 3 kilometres west of the town.

'Fortress' Landsberg, Warthe - Photo Credit: prussianpoland.com
‘Fortress’ Landsberg, Warthe – Photo Credit: prussianpoland.com

Kegler reported by telephone to the 9th Army commander, General Busse, who had meanwhile established his headquarters in the Oderbruch village of Golzow. Busse demanded that Landsberg be retaken and defended, threatening Kegler with court-martial in accordance with Himmler’s orders. Nevertheless, Kegler stuck to his decision to withdraw to Küstrin by stages over the following nights. Even this, in view of the state of his troops and his open flank, was risky, and depended to a large extent upon their not being attacked as they withdrew along the northern edge of the Warthebruch on Reichsstrasse 1.

Lieutenant Rudolf Schröter, whom we last encountered west of Landsberg on the morning of 31 January, was completely unaware that he and his 400 recruits were part of the ‘Woldenberg’ Division,’ as he related:

Field Commanders discussing a Desperate Situation - Photo Credit: softairmania.it
Field Commanders discussing a Desperate Situation – Photo Credit: softairmania.it

On the morning of the 31st January my unit rejoined the Königstiger SS-sergeant-maior about 4 kilometres west of Landsberg in the Wepritz area. As we were still without a super­ior command or orders, I had us retreat westwards.

Beyond Dühringshof I was met by a car with a general, who received my report, did not introduce himself nor did he name his formation. He ordered me to deploy left of the road to Diedersdorf. My left-hand neighbor would be Second- Lieutenant Clemens’s unit.

When we stopped a Russian armored reconnaissance vehicle with infantry fire, the soldiers jumped over the sides with a blanket that was supposed to protect them from our fire. That night the first Russian attack occurred with more on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd February. Small enemy breaches were driven back with counterattacks by the exemplary fighting recruits.

On the 3rd February I was summoned to a conference by the divisional staff in Vietz town hall. Here for the first time I discovered that my unit belonged to the ‘Woldenberg’ Division. The divisional commander, Major-General Kegler, described the situation.

The division was surrounded by Russian troops. Vietz station on the south-eastern edge of the town was in enemy hands. Blumberg was also occupied by the Russians. Two enemy infantry regiments were at Gross Cammin. Communication with Küstrin was severed. Re-supply was only possible by air. His decision was to leave.

The orders handed out by the divisional chief of staff for my unit and that of Second-Lieutenant Clemens were not possible of execution or would entail heavy losses. I therefore rose to protest and suggested that we should first disengage ourselves from the attacking enemy so that the immovable heavy weapons and especially our infantry could get out of the diffi­cult terrain and deep snow.

As the general declared to the chief of staff that this was also his opinion, the following radio message arrived from headquar­ters 9th Army: ‘Report situation and intentions. Hold Vietz.’ Major-General Kegler promptly rescinded his orders for the division’s withdrawal.

My Uncles Günther and Gerhard Kegler at the Grave of their Brother in 1940
My Uncles Günther and Gerhard Kegler at the Grave of their Brother in 1940

Back in my position and after speaking to my left-hand neigh­bor, both of us fearful of having pointless high casualties among our recruits, I decided to convince the divisional commander that he should stick to his plan to withdraw, and that in any case I would decide according to my conscience. I returned to Vietz.

 

Eastern Front 1945: Worn-out and Ill-equipped German Soldiers - Photo Credit:: taringa.net
Eastern Front 1945: Worn-out and Ill-equipped German Soldiers – Photo Credit: taringa.net

Lieutenant Rudolf Schröter continues his report:

I had to overcome the resistance of the staff officers to get through to the general. Major-General Kegler was astounded but open to my arguments:

  1. Once an order had been given it must be adhered to in order to keep up the morale of the troops.
  2. The Army Headquarters’ radio message ‘Report situation and intentions’ unusually left open the decision. If this was not so, the message would have read: ‘Report situation. Hold Vietz.’ While it was expected that the Army would correctly use tactical language and especially stressed ‘Report situation’, it meant that it was holding open the opportunity for us to decide for ourselves in this special situation, and our decision was ‘Withdraw’.
  3. There had also been instances in this war in which troops had withdrawn against orders in recognition of their hopeless situation, had upheld the morale of their troops and the officers had received high decorations.
  1. The decisive argument, General, is in accordance with one’s own conscience. The responsible officer must, if common sense is to prevail, understand that slavish obedience in a hopeless situation only condemns him to a senseless bloodbath, which he should spare his men.

These arguments, especially the last, visibly moved Major-General Kegler. He then went briefly into an adjoining room. When he returned, he was white in the face. He asked me where I had lost my right arm, praised the discipline and commitment of my youngsters and also my objections at the conference a few hours ago. Finally the following dialogue ensued:

‘Do you think that you can withdraw the division in good order in this situation?’

‘Yes, if I have your support in doing so.’

‘Then I hereby beg you to undertake it on my staff.’

I immediately sent all the staff officers to the units, where they with the sector commanders were to stop the units and individ­uals retreating and incorporate them into the local defense.

Then I prepared to retake Vietz station with a platoon of my infantry and a Königstiger and while doing so a runner brought me a letter from the general. It read: ‘I have given up command of the division. Kegler, Major-General.’

I then asked a colonel to take over command of the division as a matter of seniority, which he accepted under the condition that I assumed tactical control.

The withdrawal of the division was made ready and all sector commanders summoned to an order group in Vietz at 1500 hours.

After stabilizing the situation in the town I made a recon­naissance in the amphibious jeep with the SS-sergeant-major and one of my recruits, using Major-General Kegler’s map. I discovered that:

  1. The road to Küstrin was not blocked by the Russians.
  2. There were no Russians in Gross Cammin, the nearest enemy movement being in the northerly neighbouring village of Batzlow.

I stuck to the original plan. A radio message was sent to Küstrin fortress about the division’s withdrawal. The order to withdraw was given at 1500 hours and went without problems. When I later went into Vietz with the amphibious jeep to check the enemy situation, the first enemy scouts were already feeling their way forward.

At dawn on February 4, the remains of the ‘Woldenberg’ Division began crossing the anti-tank ditch that blocked the Landsberger Chaussee at the eastern end of Küstrin. They had already come to within 10 kilometres of the town the previous day but had waited for darkness to get through the area occupied by Soviet forces.

General Busse had sent a young liaison officer to meet them, but without any instructions for Major-General Kegler. When the latter arrived in Küstrin he was promptly given orders to report to the standing court-martial in Torgau, thus becoming one of the last to leave Küstrin by the normal road. As the witnesses to the events leading up to Kegler’s court martial were now trapped in Küstrin, evidence had to be obtained from them by telephone.

Soviet Advance across Poland - Photo Credit: historyimages.blogspot.com
Soviet Advance across Poland – Photo Credit: historyimages.blogspot.com

In and Out of the Generals’ Reserve List 1944/45

What follows is partly translation partly adaptation of a report I found in the German army encyclopedia: Lexicon der Wehrmacht. On January 14, 1945 Gerhard Kegler was put on the generals’ reserve list, which was no surprise considering the fact that so many entire German divisions were wiped out during the closing weeks and months of WWII. During that time he took a six-week medical leave at my parents’ place at Gutfelde (Zlotniki) near the town of Dietfurt (Znin), where I was born in 1942.

Bild Gutfelde 29
Uncle Gerhard in the Middle, his Wife, Aunt Margot, on the Left, my Mother with me on her Arm, and Aunt Johanna, Uncle Bruno’s Wife to the Right of the General

He believed he would best recuperate in the presence of his wife and children, who had found refuge in Gutfelde from the bombing raids in Central Germany. Perhaps, if he had gone to an official health spa instead, to which he had been entitled, he might have avoided all the troubles that lay in wait for him.

General of the Woldenberg Division

Commandant of Fortress Landsberg

On January 20, 1945, while still on sick leave, Gerhard Kegler received a call from army HQ with the order to take over the command of a division. A few days later  he was assigned to the post of battle commandant at the city of Thorn (Torun). On January 26, while his family had to flee without his help from the advancing Red Army, he was heading to his assigned post. However, he was unable to reach his destination, since the enemy had already captured the city of Thorn. So instead he was given the command over the newly formed Woldenberg division. He arrived at Friedeberg (Strzelce Krajeńskie) on January 28, where the division was located.

Today's Thorn (Torun) - Photo Credit: tripadviser.com
Today’s Thorn (Torun) – Photo Credit: tripadviser.com

On the very same day the Soviets attacked with about 40 or 50 tanks. The town was taken and the division was broken into fragments, most of which managed to withdraw to the city of Landsberg (Gorzów Wielkopolski) at the river Warta.

Landsberg_gross

In those chaotic days, when the entire Eastern Front was at the point of collapse, Hitler in his fortress-like command center in Berlin was moving on military maps tiles, which represented in his mind fully equipped and battle experienced divisions, but in reality were nothing but units that only existed on paper. One of these phantom army units was the so-called Woldenberg division consisting mostly of inexperienced, inadequately trained and equipped soldiers and a lot of useless non-army personnel, with which Major-General Kegler was supposed to defend the Fortress of Landsberg against the impending assault on the city.

Landsberg - Photo Credit:t wodenber-neumark.eu
Landsberg 1943 – Photo Credit: woldenberg-neumark.eu

Kegler’s Death Sentence and His Life put on ‘Probation’

If you have not read the previous posts on Major-General Kegler, you can look them up by clicking on IIIIIIIVV and VI.

Parts V and VI are a digression from the report extracted from the book: The Siege of Küstrin – Gateway to Berlin 1945. But they provided some valuable insight into Kegler’s personal life before he was called away from Gutfelde to become commander of the newly established Woldenberg Division and also commandant of Landsberg/Warthe, which was declared a fortress by Himmler.

 “At dawn on February 4, the remains of the ‘Woldenberg’ Division began crossing the anti-tank ditch that blocked the Landsberger Chaussee at the eastern end of Küstrin. They had already come to within 10 kilometres of the town the previous day but had waited for darkness to get through the area occupied by Soviet forces.

General Busse had sent a young liaison officer to meet them, but without any instructions for Major-General Kegler. When the latter arrived in Küstrin he was promptly given orders to report to the standing court-martial in Torgau, thus becoming one of the last to leave Küstrin by the normal road. As the witnesses to the events leading up to Kegler’s court martial were now trapped in Küstrin, evidence had to be obtained from them by telephone.” Thus, one reads in the book ‘The Siege of Küstrin: Gateway to Berlin 1945’.

Court martial proceedings against Major-General Gerhard promptly began on February 11, 1945  and ended on the following day with the pronouncement of his death sentence for not having defended the city of Landsberg against the enemy.

The Death Sentence of Major-General Gerhard Kegler
The Death Sentence of Major-General Gerhard Kegler

The bottom line of this document written ‘In the Name of the German People’ reads: The accused Major-General Kegler due to his breach of duty on the battle field is condemned to death, to loss of his eligibility for military service and to perpetual loss of his civil rights.

The Two Kegler Brothers, Günther on the left and Gerhard without his right Arm

Von Scheele, the president of Nazi-Germany’s Court Martial Justice System, brought about a suspension of the death sentence and postponed its execution to the end of the war.Demoted to the rank of a private, he was to die a heroic death or to prove himself worthy to be pardoned. As a soldier in the battle field he was severely injured losing his right arm and in the closing weeks of the war became a prisoner of war of the British, who promptly promoted him back to the rank of a ‘Nazi-General’.

The Kegler Family with Gerhard and his daughter Helga on the left
The Kegler Family with Gerhard and daughter Helga on the left (1964)

When in 1952 he applied for a pension as a former general of the armed forces, the official in charge declared, “You have been condemned to death by Himmler!” and turned down my uncle’s application. What followed is hard to believe. Gerhard Kegler had to apply to have his death sentence annulled in order to be eligible for his pension. However, the provincial court of Hesse in Giessen rejected his application on the ground that he had missed the deadline regarding compensation for injustices suffered under the Nazi regime. The West-German press heard about this case and spread the news about the condemned general with headlines like ‘Does Himmler still rule from his Grave?’. The news created such a public outcry that in the end Theodore Heuss, the first President of the Federal Republic of Germany, stepped in and officially rescinded the death sentence. Thus, my uncle finally regained his status as general in retirement and was able to draw his pension.

Theodor Heuss, First President of the Federal Republic of Geramny - Photo Credit: germany.info
Theodor Heuss, First President of the Federal Republic of Germany – Photo Credit: germany.info

His Side of the Story

While Gerhard Kegler was fighting for his pension with the bureaucratic system of West Germany, he also had to defend his honor as former general of the ill-fated ‘Woldenberg Division’. As this post and next week’s post are going to be the last ones on my uncle’s military life, I consider it important to publish his own personal response to the slanderous attacks by his former commanding officer (General Busse) of the 9th Army and let Major-general Kegler have the last word on this matter.

Landsberg_gross

On January 30, 1945 I received from Himmler the order to take command of the ‘Woldenberg Division’. I did not receive any orientation about the military situation nor any specific instructions. I had to locate the ‘division’ myself. I found the command center east of Friedeberg. There was no connection with any high-level command posts. Adjoining troops did not exist. Shortly before noon I took charge of the command at a time, when the hastily assembled ‘division’ had already begun its retreat in a nearly disintegrated condition.

In the morning of January 31, I was busy with the arrangements of the left-over army units in Landsberg. Then I noticed that the ‘division’ had no antitank weapons, no reserves of ammunition and food provisions, and no communication units. There was no physician for the ‘division’. The artillery consisted of two horse-drawn batteries.The ‘division’ was not a “very strong fighting unit”. The troops were definitely not battle-ready.

The Warthe Bridge at Landsberg
The Warthe Bridge at Landsberg

For the town of 45000 inhabitants no preparations had been made for its evacuation. The high command of the 9th army passed on to me through the army’s mail service Himmler’s order that I had to defend the town of Landsberg as a fortress. On that day Russian tanks had already entered the area north of the Warthe-Netze region. I ordered the Warthe bridge to be blown up.

To be concluded next week …

American and Soviet Forces Meet at Torgau April 1945 - Photo Credit: dw.com
American and Soviet Forces Meet at Torgau April 1945 – Photo Credit: dw.com

After much conscientious deliberation I decided to disobey the order, which I considered senseless and whose execution could not have brought any positive results, but would have cost great unnecessary human sacrifices. In spite of being threatened with court martial proceedings, I remained loyal to my conscience and relying on my three years of front experience in Russia I led the ‘division’ within four days in an orderly fashion to Küstrin with the purpose of integrating the troupes into the Oder front.

From the New York Times Edition of February 4, 1945
From the New York Times Edition of February 4, 1945

General Busse, former commanding officer of the 9th Army, describes in an article to the magazine ‘Wehrwissenschaftliche Rundschau’ the situation with the words, “He fled in a train to Küstrin”. Nothing could be further from the truth. The description and his conclusions do not agree with the facts.

Castle Hartenfels at Torgau - PhtoCredit: wikipedia.org
Recent Photo of Castle Hartenfels at Torgau – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

In the early morning hours of February 2, 1945 I arrived with the last unit at Küstrin-Neustadt. There I received the order to report to the war tribunal at Torgau. Dr. Jur. Freiherr von Dörnberg was commissioned to act as investigating judge. He could not prevent that I be sentenced to death, as it was then customary, and be sent on ‘probation’ to the Eastern Front, where as a regular soldier I was seriously wounded on the first front line.

Thus, from the first to the last day not only as soldier did I prove my mettle, but also saved the lives of many comrades and civilians through my opposition against a senseless retaining order (Durchhaltebefehl in German – defense order to fight to the last man).

Signed: Gerhard Kegler, Majorgeneral in retirement

Dr. Dietrich Kegler, the late Majorgeneral’s son, is presently writing an epilogue, which I will publish in a future post, as soon as it becomes available.

Gerhard Kegler – ein militärischer und ziviler Held

BIOGRAPHISCHE SKIZZE
BEITRAG VON DIETRICH KEGLER

Die militärische Laufbahn meines Vaters ist hinreichend bekannt und verschiedentlich nachzulesen, nicht zuletzt im Internet, wo die Generale der Wehrmacht ausführlich vorgestellt werden. Bekannt wurde Generalmajor Kegler in Deutschland vor allem durch die Ereignisse am Ende des Krieges, als er in hoffnungsloser Situation die Stadt Landsberg (ehemals in der Neumark gelegen, heute polnisch) auf Befehl Himmlers verteidigen sollte, der sich die Befehlskompetenz der 9. Armee anmaßte, die eigentlich dem Kommandeur der Armee, General Busse, zustand. Wie man weiß, weigerte sich mein Vater, diesen unsinnigen Befehl auszuführen, wurde sofort zum Kriegsgericht nach Torgau bestellt und dort in einem Schnellverfahren zum Tod durch Erschießen verurteilt.

Generalleutnant Gerhard Kegler - Gutfelde 1944
Generalmajor Gerhard Kegler – Gutfelde 1944

Nur dem Untersuchungsrichter Freiherr von Dörnberg ist es zu verdanken, dass mein Vater überlebte. Er wurde zum Schützen degradiert und als einfacher Soldat wieder an die Ostfront geschickt, die sich bereits an der Oder befand. Dort, unweit von Frankfurt/Oder, wurde er verwundet und in einem langen und sehr beschwerlichen, immer wieder aus der Luft beschossenen Bahntransport nach Eutin in Schleswig-Holstein gebracht. Da hatte sich die ursprünglich kleine Wunde (ein Granatsplitter in der linken Schulter) derartig verschlechtert, dass der linke Arm abgenommen werden musste. Mein Vater blieb noch eine kurze Zeit der Rekonvaleszenz in Eutin und wurde dann aus englischer Gefangenschaft noch 1945 nach Gießen entlassen, wo unsere Familie im Jahre 1947 wieder zusammenfand.

Gerhard Kegler between his Daughter Helga and Brother Günther 1964
Gerhard Kegler zwischen Tochter Helga und Bruder Günther Kegler; rechts folgen die beiden Schwestern von Gerhard, Erika Klopp und Maria Kegler, und Günter Keglers Frau Luci (1964)

Da die Bundesrepublik sich noch lange auf das von Himmler befohlene Urteil des Kriegsgerichts (Degradierung vom Generalmajor zum Schützen) berief und meinem Vater die ihm zustehende Pension verweigerte, bedurfte es erst einer großen Pressekampagne, um die Behörde zu bewegen, das Urteil aufzuheben, was schließlich durch den Bundespräsidenten geschah. Dann konnte mein Vater seine Pension erhalten.

Die große Pressekampagne zeitigte noch eine andere positive Folge. Freunde und Bekannte, die in den Wirren des Kriegsendes, durch Flucht, Ausbombung usw. überallhin verschlagen worden waren, wurden aufmerksam und nahmen Kontakt zu unseren Eltern auf. Ich erinnere mich an viele Besuche ehemaliger Freunde, Kameraden oder Untergebener meines Vaters. Und immer hörten wir großes Lob und große Anerkennung, wenn diese Menschen von den Ereignissen erzählten, die sie zusammen mit meinem Vater erlebt hatten.

Die tapfere und verantwortungsvolle Handlungsweise meines Vaters bei Landsberg ist nicht das einzige Ereignis dieser Art. Immer wieder wagte er, Vorgesetzte zu kritisieren, wenn sie unsinnige Befehle gaben. Dafür wurde er mitunter durch Versetzungen bestraft.

Umsichtiges Handeln in schwierigen Situationen berichtet auch schon die Regimentsgeschichte des Westpreußischen Infanterieregiments 149, dem mein Vater im Ersten Weltkrieg angehörte. Eine dieser Aktionen war die nächtliche Aushebung eines französischen Doppelpostens bei Reims in der Champagne, die dem Regiment wertvolle Informationen lieferte und, wie ausdrücklich betont wird, größere Verluste ersparte. Mein Vater hat uns auf einer Frankreichreise in den sechziger Jahren die Stelle gezeigt, wo er mit ein paar freiwilligen Leuten die Franzosen nachts überraschte, gefangen nahm und hinter die deutschen Linien brachte, wo man sie verhören konnte.

Soweit der militärische Teil im Leben meines Vaters. Aber das Leben ging ja nach dem überstandenen Krieg in Gießen weiter und gewährte meinen Eltern nach der ersten harten und entbehrungsreichen Zeit auch noch schöne Jahre.

Unsere Mutter hatte ebenfalls seit Kriegsbeginn Schweres durchgemacht. Aus München, wo das Leben durch die Luftangriffe immer unsicherer wurde, zog sie mit uns Kindern in den Warthegau. Von dort musste sie sich mit Jutta und mir wie Millionen anderer Menschen auf die wochenlange winterliche Flucht begeben. Wir fuhren zunächst in einem Planwagen mit polnischem Kutscher durch das winterliche Westpreußen, bis der Pole irgendwo in Pommern umkehrte. Ein Offizier nahm uns mit seinem Fahrzeugkonvoi bis nach Berlin mit, von dort ging es in überfüllten Zügen nach Dresden zu meiner Großmutter. Helga und Nati waren vorher schon nach Augustusburg (bei Chemnitz) gebracht worden. Bevor wir aber dort sein konnten, erlebten wir die drei verheerenden Bombenangriffe, an die ich mich lebhaft erinnere.

Im Sommer 1947 verließen wir die sowjetische Besatzungszone und gingen bei Philippstal an der Werra schwarz über die grüne Grenze, wobei uns die ortskundige Tante Lucie half. Unsere Familie fand nun in Gießen wieder zusammen. Wir wohnten zunächst in zwei Zimmern der Bergschenke, einem Hotel und Restaurant, das ursprünglich zum Kruppschen Bergbaubetrieb gehörte. Vater hatte in der Bergschenke eine vorläufige Bleibe gefunden und die Aufgabe eines Hausmeisters und Betreuers der dort wohnenden Studenten übernommen. Diese Studenten waren zumeist bereits Kriegsteilnehmer gewesen und studierten an der Universität Gießen Tiermedizin. Als Familie Stolcke, Onkel Werner, Tante Anni und ihre drei Kinder, nach Argentinien auswanderte, konnten wir aus der Bergschenke in die relativ komfortable „Baracke“ auf dem Bergschenkengelände umziehen, die sie bewohnt hatten.

Die Lebenssituation war in dieser Zeit zwischen Kriegsende und Währungsreform (1948) bekanntlich äußerst prekär. Als Vater uns in jenem Sommer 1947 in Gießen erwartete, sammelte er in einer ehemaligen Munitionskiste eine Menge von Lebensmitteln, die er sich vom Mund abgespart hatte, um seiner Familie einen guten Empfang zu bereiten. Das ist eine Tatsache, die ich selbst nicht bezeugen kann, Helga mir aber erzählte.

Besser wurde die Situation erst, als Vater die Stelle eines Stadtjugendpflegers der Stadt Gießen übernehmen konnte. In dieser Zeit, Anfang der fünfziger Jahre, erfolgte auch seine Rehabilitierung, wodurch sich unsere Lebenssituation entscheidend verbesserte.

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Gerhard Kegler zwischen Bruder Günther und Sohn Dietrich (1969)

Das Leben mit der Einarmigkeit verlangt sehr viel Geduld und Geschicklichkeit. Durch Geduld zeichnete sich unser Vater gewiss nicht aus, aber er war sehr geschickt bei allen Verrichtungen, wozu ein Mensch normalerweise beide Arme braucht. Und der Stolz über die relative Unabhängigkeit und Selbständigkeit, die Vater sich trotz der Einarmigkeit erworben hatte, kam zum Beispiel in einem Reim zum Ausdruck, den Helga und Nati zum 50. Geburtstag unseres Vaters in einem Gratulationsgedicht formulierten. Sie legten ihrem Vater folgende Worte in den Mund, die er sicherlich in „Prosa“ geäußert hatte: „Was ich mit einer Hand kann richten, macht Ihr mit zweien stets zunichten.“ Vater brauchte nur zu wenigen Handlungen im Alltag Hilfe, so etwa zum Schnüren der Schuhe. Aber Rasieren, Schlips binden, Schreibarbeiten usw. erledigte er ohne Hilfe, auch Autofahren in Fahrzeugen, die dafür nicht besonders präpariert waren. In den Wagen mit Schaltgetriebe, die er zuerst fuhr, musste er zum Schalten das Steuer loslassen. Er fuhr sicher, aber ich erinnere mich, dass mir als Mitfahrer immer etwas mulmig wurde, wenn er schaltete.

In der einsam am Waldrand gelegenen Baracke hatte der General natürlich auch an mögliche Einbrecher gedacht. Die Fenster waren sehr niedrig und stellten kein Hindernis für kriminelle Besucher dar. Vater hatte einen kurzen dicken Knüppel an seinem Bett und sagte mir, als wir uns einmal über die “militärische Lage“ der Baracke unterhielten, dass er hart zuschlagen würde, wenn ein Bursche es wagen sollte, einzusteigen.

Und als Held zeigte sich unser Vater später wieder einmal, als die Eltern in Leihgestern (Am Hasenpfad) wohnten. In einer Sommernacht schlief er allein in seinem Zimmer im ersten Stock. Die Balkontür stand offen, es war eine warme Nacht. Vater wird durch ein Geräusch geweckt und sieht von seinem Lager aus, wie sich ein Einbrecher, der über den Balkon in das Zimmer gekommen war, am Kleiderständer an der Jackentasche des schlafenden Generals zu schaffen macht und sie untersucht. Vater erkennt sie Situation sofort und brüllt ihn noch im Bett liegend an, worauf der Dieb sofort das Weite sucht. Die Reaktion unseres Vaters ist erstaunlich und bewundernswert, denn aus dem Schlaf direkt zum Angriff überzugehen, erfordert Mut, und in schlaftrunkenem Zustand ist man normalerweise moralisch nicht gerade stark.

Die Krankheit, die ihn dann im Jahre 1986 auf das Krankenbett warf, hat er tapfer ertragen. In dieser Zeit war auch unsere Mutter kränklich und pflegebedürftig. Unsere Eltern waren nun auf Hilfe angewiesen, die ihnen vor allem Helga treu und fürsorglich zukommen ließ. Mittlerweile lebten sie in einem kleinen Haus am Alten Friedhof in Gießen.

Der ältere Bruder meines Vaters, Onkel Günter, mein Patenonkel, war schon im Januar desselben Jahres verstorben, und Vater hat ihn noch bis zum Juli 1986 überlebt. Vaters langjähriger Freund, Horst Schubring, ebenfalls Hinterpommer, den er in den ersten schweren Gießener Jahren zufällig kennengelernt hatte – damals Gemeindepfarrer in Wieseck, dann Propst von Oberhessen – begleitete unseren Vater auf dem letzten Gang. Sein Grab, das einige Jahre später auch unsere Mutter und in jüngster Zeit unsere Schwester Renate aufnahm, liegt auf dem Neuen Friedhof in Gießen.

Ein tapferer Mann, dessen Leben im Pfarrhaus von Hinterpommern begonnen hatte, der in den Kadettencorps von Plön und Berlin seine Erziehung zum Offizier erhalten und zwei Kriege und große Belastungen durchlitten hatte und der nach allen Katastrophen noch viele friedliche und gute Jahre erleben durfte, war an sein Ende gekommen.

Dormagen (Gohr) im September 2016

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