Aunt Marie (Tante Mieze)
Chart II a – II
Of all the relatives in the Kegler family Aunt Marie was closest to me. But before I go into the details, I need to go back a few years to provide the background for a better understanding of the circumstances that made her for more than a year my loving caretaker.
After my father’s failure in a small-scale farming venture in Southern Germany, he was financially ruined. My mother had to go out and find work as housekeeper first at Sigmaringen, a small, picturesque town on the River Danube and then later in 1955 at a Senior Citizen home at Rudersberg not far from the city of Stuttgart, Father’s health while being a POW had been severely affected by the intolerable working conditions in a Russian coal mine. He suffered from a number of psychological and physical ailments. His recurring back pains prevented him from taking up any meaningful employment. It is sad to say that after the miraculous survival and coming together again of the entire Ernst Klopp family in the village of Rohrdorf, there were signs of disintegration written on future’s gloomy horizon. Karl had gone off to university at Göttingen, Adolf emigrated to Canada, Eka (Lavana) took up nurses’ training at Hamburg, Gerhard entered a toolmaker’s apprenticeship program in Switzerland, and I, barely 12 years old, had to nobody to look after me.
This is where Aunt Marie comes in. She had just taken up employment as elementary school teacher in Brünen, a short bus ride away from the city of Wesel. Its claim to fame is that it is known as the most destroyed city of Germany (almost 98% turned into rubble by two consecutive Allied bombing raids near the end of World War II). For almost 5 years my aunt was not permitted under the rules and regulations of the occupation authorities to carry out her teaching profession. As former state employee of Nazi Germany, she like many thousands of other civil servants was suspected of harboring pro-Nazi sentiments and was consequently classified as unfit and dangerous for the teaching profession. This happened in postwar Germany under the so-called denazification program. The injustice was that all former teachers were given the same label and that there was no exception to the rule.
Finally the Allied authorities saw it fit to lift the ban. And Tante Mieze, close to her retirement age, was able to resume her work and do what she liked best, to teach.
In 1955 she managed to land a teaching position in the nearby city of Wesel on the River Rhine. At a time, when there was a great housing shortage in the bombed-out city, she located a two-bedroom apartment. At last, Mother, who had become Tante Mieze’s housekeeper in exchange for room and board, was able to reconnect with me. Marie Kegler retired in 1957 and in 1962 the two sisters accepted my uncle’s invitation to share a rental house in Watzenborn-Steinberg. The new place turned out to be a veritable beehive of relatives and friends dropping in for a taste of the pleasant hospitality, which Uncle Günther, Chief of the Kegler Clan and avid Doppelkopf player, his wife Aunt Lucie, Aunt Marie, and my mother were tirelessly offering to their guests. I have the fondest memories of my frequent weekend visits during my army years. Aunt Mieze as during the time in Wesel continued to provide spiritual leadership by daily reading from a devotional booklet and saying grace and thanks to God at breakfast, lunch and dinner time.
Alas, Aunt Lucie passed away after a lengthy illness. When Uncle Günther remarried and moved with his new wife Aunt Friedel to Kassel, a very happy period of family togetherness came to a sudden end. Tante Mieze could not afford to pay the rent. Even if she had had the means, the house in Watzenborn was too large for just two people. So they moved to Bad Ems in the beautiful Lahn Valley, where they lived in Haus Abendfrieden (House Evening Peace) for another six years. In 1980, Tante Mieze became very ill. The Senior Citizen Home, where they stayed, had no intensive care facilities. Thus, they had to move to Gladenbach close to the picturesque medieval city of Marburg. Shortly after Tante Mieze had been taken by ambulance to the Old Folks Home, she died at the age of 89.
Deeply steeped in the Christian faith, she led a life that in my view was exemplary. When she saw other people in need, she was always ready to help.Thankfully I will always remember her kindness to invite Mother to join her in Wesel. With her financial help I was able to finish my German High School diploma. without which my teaching career in Canada would have been unthinkable. After we emigrated to Canada, she kept mailing devotional booklets to her niece and nephews in the hope to provide some spiritual guidance. I must admit I did not take the time to read them. My brother Gerry too was not too interested either and irreverently called them flyswatters (Fliegenklappen).
In the world we live in we appraise a person’s success in life by standards, such as wealth, status, popularity, etc. God on the other hand looks at the motives and favors the purity of the heart. Aunt Marie’s actions always spoke louder than words. Love and compassion for her fellow human beings were the guiding principles throughout her entire life.