The ‘Baby of the Family’ and ‘Frau Professor’ Later
Meta, the fourteenth child, was born in Jersleben on 5 January 1898. Her birth took place at a time of disputes about the ownership of the house in Wolmirstedt. Her eldest brother Friedrich (1875 – 1946) was beginning to assert his independence at the expense of the family. The steady new arrivals of siblings and consequently increasing competition for the modest inheritance was getting on the nerves of the ‘faithful’ and now 23-year old rope manufacturing apprentice.
Meta was baptized, as prescribed by tradition, eight days after her birth in the newly consecrated church in Jersleben. The officiating pastor was Dr. Friedrich Daniel, the historian of the Altmark. Very little is known about Meta’s childhood. In all likelihood, her sister Jula Steuer arranged for her the enrolment in a nurses’ training programme. According to vague family memories, it started in a branch of the evangelical church in Waldbröl, Westerwald. At the start of the 1920s, because of the proximity to Neu Rosow, she resided in Stettin. it probably was the first place of her employment in the hospital ‘Bethany’ in Kreckow Street. At the same time, her sister Else and brother-in-law Stier were living in Stettin. When the couple moved to Alt Valm, Pomerania, Meta felt more and more drawn to her sister Anna in Panwitz. At the end of the 1920s, one could find her noticeably more often, almost like a permanent resident, at the von Waldenfels estate at Meseritz. From there she must have found employment at the hospital Limburg, Lahn.
Meta was the youngest daughter of the Klopp children and maintained close contact with her elder sisters. Anna von Waldenfels, Jula Steuer and Else Stier took turns in taking the yet unmarried ‘late bloomer’ under their wings. Photos of the Panwitz time show her as a good-looking young woman, who appears not unhappy but a little bit shy. She suffered mildly from a ‘lazy eye’ problem.
Toward the end of the year 1934, the high school teacher Professor Vincenz Mülbert (1875 – 1958) underwent prostate surgery at the Limburg Hospital. Considering the whole story, Vincenz may have also received psychiatric treatment. Between this man, who was just going through the agony of divorce, and Meta Klopp developed a more than the usual patient-nurse relationship.
Vincenz had suffered a series of painful blows during the span between 1930 and 1935. They included a bitter mix of personal fateful events and ominous pressures stemming from his political and academic superiors. Meta Klopp, by no means an unattractive woman, felt with her fine sensitivity the needs of the man in her care. The call for love reached her heart, perhaps delayed by some overprotected years, but now with power, apparently for the first time in her life. After all, there was between the engaged couple an age difference of almost twenty years. In 1935 Vincenz celebrated his 56th birthday.
Vincenz Mülbert was born on 12 November 1879 in Edingen near Heidelberg, the son of a catholic commissioner Franz Mülbert in Mannheim, who had been sick and unemployable since 1896. After the elementary school in Edingen, Vincenz attended the high school in Tauberbischofsheim from 1891 up to grade 11 and transferred ‘because of his low achievement to the high school in Mannheim, where he graduated in 1899’.
He enrolled at the University of Heidelberg. In the third semester, he abandoned the study of classical linguistics and turned to modern languages at the University of Freiburg. For the last two semesters, he returned to Heidelberg. His major subjects were German and French with Latin as his minor. In his application for admission to a high school position in the spring of 1905, Mülbert mentioned in detail six key areas: Gothic grammar, Old High German grammar, Middle High German and modern German literature of the 18th and 19th century.
After his employment as a civil servant of the State of Baden, Vincenz began his exemplary career: May 1905 teaching position and passing the examen and successfully completing his trial period at the Middle School in Bretten, September 1907 High School in Hettenheim, September 1908 Middle School in Schnepfheim. On 22 March 1910 upon the authority of “Friedrich, by the grace of God, great-duke of Baden, duke of Zähringen, Vincenz Mülbert was installed as a professor of the High school in Weinheim”. Mülbert had now achieved official rank and social status. In full anticipation of a secure financial basis, he married on 30 September 1909 the merchant’s daughter Amalie Schmitt of Taubenhofsheim, presumably a sweetheart from the high school days.
The Tragic Loss of a Son
In 1910 the sons Werner (died in 1990) and Paul (died in 1932) were born in Weinheim. In 1910 came the transfer of their father to the renown senior high school in Mannheim, which was named after the French major and geographer “Tulla Oberschule”. The unremarkable years of a tranquil teacher’s existence were interrupted in the middle of World War I. In June 1916 Vincenz Mülbert was drafted into military service by the 14th Army Corps of the State of Baden. He served as a truck driver at the Recovery Unit I (Genesungsabteilung) of the Reserve Infantry Regiment 109. In October his daughter Hildegard was born in Mannheim.
During the static warfares in 1918, Vincenz took on active duty at the Aisne (east of Reims) and in the Upper Alsace. At the beginning of September 1918, he was declared “no useable for service at the front” on account of his highly strained nerves. As “being capable of garrison service”, he experienced the war’s end at the balloon battalion 139. On 22 November 1918, he received his demobilization papers and was released from his military service.
He returned to the former teaching post at the school in Mannheim. In May 1923, his wife Amalie gave birth to the twins Gertrud Ida and Hedwig Margarethe in Mannheim. In December followed the birth of the sixth and last child Rudolf Pius. It was according to a teacher’s news bulletin a premature birth. At that time the family possessed a home in Quadrant L of Mannheim.
From an application for financial assistance in September 1932 to the school administration one may be able to reconstruct the circumstances of a serious fateful event. The 19-year old son Paul, a commercial employee, suffered from depression and had already been receiving medical treatment for a long time. On 30 August 1932, he withdrew from his parental home and for ten days was reported missing. On the fourth of September, the Hessian police found his clothes on the banks of the riverbank of the River Main near Frankfurt. “Whether it was an accident or suicide could not be determined”. The body was retrieved from the river on the 7th of September, transferred to Mannheim and buried there. Mülbert already owed a large amount of money to the bank and was forced to borrow some more to cover the cost of transportation and burial expenses, He had asked for assistance in the amount of 258 marks.
Denunciation by a Spiteful Housemaid
Vincenz’s wife did not overcome the family tragedy. Disputes with the husband and domestic quarrels were on the increase. Amalie Mülbert went her own separate way. In 1934 she was admitted to the Heidelberg Psychiatric Clinic. Vincent had to look after the four remaining children all by himself.
In this unfortunate private situation, a dangerous threat came about through the denunciation by the former housemaid, Appolonia Bitsch. Since 1933 the Nazis ruled in their fortress Mannheim. On 3 October 1934, the NS leader of “District Group Mannheim Quadrant 7” reported to his boss Fehrmann that the wife of the party member Friedrich had found out through her new housemaid Bitsch the following remark made by Professor Mülbert: “Adolf Hitler associates with loose women and prostitutes.” Frau Friedrich insisted that the case as related to “the charge of defamation of the Führer be officially recorded at the court of the Party.” Thus, the mechanism of the new regime was set into motion.
Group leader Fehrmann passed on the original message to Mülbert’s school superintendent Heck. He demanded an inquiry and asked if the NS Party court, the school district office or the NS Teachers’ Association should deal with the matter. Heck, himself a member of the party, took due notice and arranged on 15 October 1934 further investigation by the school office leader Kuh. The noose around Mülbert’s neck was getting tighter, especially as the party and the office of the civil servants were working hand in hand together.
Mülbert’s file did not contain the official statements of the two informers. For that reason, Vincenz Mülbert was summoned to appear before the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei) in Mannheim. His wife, in the middle of divorce proceedings, was being questioned in the meantime by the Gestapo.
Vincenz’s Traumatic Experience with the Gestapo
Mülbert, by no means a resistance fighter, denied having made any of the defamatory remarks and rejected any additional accusations that had made been made against him. For example, he was accused of having said in his own home, “Adolf Hitler is the protector of prostitutes.” During the investigation Vincenz made his wife appear in an unfavourable light, whom he describes as a notorious liar and whom he made responsible for cooking up all these intrigues. He claimed that she was pursuing an irregular lifestyle, was unfaithful, was not looking after the children and had offered herself to whoredom and to ‘free love’. Amalie, having become more cautious, spoke only of a hopelessly shattered marriage and of her husband’s jealousy. “I am going through a divorce with my husband and have been badly treated by him. Nevertheless, I must say that my husband has never said anything bad about Adolf Hitler. As much as I know, he has a positive attitude about Hitler.”
Vincenz also provided the Gestapo a similar statement as recorded in his files, “I would like to remark that before 19 August 1934 (plebiscite on Adolf Hitler’s Title ‘Führer of the Reich’) Loni Bitsch had asked me what she should vote. And I replied, ‘Loni, you vote for Adolf Hitler, just as we do.” With this emphatic declaration – what else could he have done before the Gestapo? – Mülbert smoothly slipped out of the trap that had been set to catch him.
During the on-going marital crisis, his Amalie, incessantly agitating against her husband, was swinging like a pendulum back and forth between the SA-Office, the SA-Organization ‘Mother and Child’, and the NS-Teachers’ Association. Through these agencies, which could not deal with her case, she hoped to gain access to Mülbert’s salary, thus securing her own apartment in the city. The NS-trustee was following via the office of the NS-Teachers’ Association the run-afoul machinations of a colleague’s wife. Of course, Mülbert’s marital problems and the sticky criminalization at the NSDAP and Gestapo were making the rounds in the school’s rumour mills. The personal and academic reputation of the until now impeccable Mülbert threatened to head towards total ruin.
The evil machinations of the triple constellation Friedrich-Bitsch-Mülbert appeared in the end too banal even to the Gestapo. The facts just did not jive. On 26 October 1934, the Mannheim Gestapo came to the succinct conclusion to return the entire file without comment to the Minister of Culture and Education and to the court in Karlsruhe. The minister did nothing. No disciplinary measures, no letter of warning and no reprimand have been recorded in his file.
On 1 March 1935, the couple was officially divorced. Amalie moved to her brother or her parents Schmitt in Würzburg.
Meta is Getting Married
The Gestapo Mülbert case contains for the perhaps forgetful descendants all the ingredients, which empower a dictatorship to oppress with the aid of dug-up trivialities its subjects and if found to be correct, to set into motion their elimination. The bitter cup filled by his own wife went by Vincenz only because of his political insignificance, which she had convincingly put on the table.
Nothing stood in the way to Meta Klopp to get married. Vincenz, having been found blameless, experienced in Meta understanding and compassion. In the eyes of Anna von Waldenfels, he represented after initial speechlessness certainly an acceptable person. She could not have imagined in her wildest dreams her little sister Meta as Frau Professor. The fact that the nerves of this – for Klopp standards and social status – highly educated humanist were presently stretched to their breaking point, added wings to Meta’s tender loving care. Her love enabled her to easily overlook his somewhat scurrilous outer appearance. Also the other religious (Catholic) denomination and the sudden onslaught of a large number of stepchildren were manageable burdens to bear. On the other hand, the much pampered and youngest Klopp girl was looking forward to a social climb of unimaginable proportions. They did not equal, to be sure, to Anna’s spectacular journey into the Bavarian nobility, but nevertheless brought her the respectable title of a ‘professor’s wife’.
On October 24, 1935 the Catholic wedding for the new couple Mülbert took place at the Saint Hedwig Cathedral in Berlin. Meta had converted to the Catholic faith out of love for her husband. The news reached the Wolmirstedt-Zieglitz branches of the Klopp family. They were in no way involved, but found fresh food for gossip and wallowed in their pseudo indignation.
Meta treated like a true mother all her stepchildren with tender loving care. She could not have children of her own. Until 1940 she lived with her husband in Mannheim. During his last year of service he seemed to have suffered from constant health problems. On April 1, 1942, the couple rented an apartment in Freiburg, Breisgau. On December 11, 1940 Vincenz Mülbert was granted early retirement. They lost their new residence in the heavily bombed city in World War II.
Meta’s Sunset Years
After the war, Vincenz and Meta Mülbert moved into an apartment on Maria-Theresia-Street 4. At the end of 1946 Meta offered to her sister-in-law Erika Klopp (1899 – 1994), mother of this blog writer, a first dwelling. Erika was a refugee, who had fled from Gutfelde near Znin via Belgard/Pomerania to Freiburg.
The close contacts with her sister Anna von Waldenfels were also kept alive. It was perhaps Meta, who provided for her nephew Georg von Waldenfels first insights and orientation about the residential construction opportunities in the nearby town of Stauffen, before he settled down there with his wife and family.
When Anna became a widow in 1954, Meta invited her sister, who was quite wealthy, but now very lonely without any close relatives left in Bavaria, to stay with her in Freiburg. Both devoted their time and love to the care of their ailing husband and brother-in-law Vincenz. He died on October 2, 1958, after a long and painful battle with cancer in the Freiburg apartment. He had reached the ripe age of 79. He was buried at the main cemetery on the left of the entrance hall on site 16.
From Freiburg Meta and Anna undertook the occasional trip, such as visiting their brother Ernst Klopp (1900 – 1964), this blog writer’s father, who had been living in Michelbach/Vogelsberg since 1957. They also travelled to Lake Titi in the Black Forest shortly before Anna’s granddaughter Carola’s departure for America.
When Anna von Waldenfels died in November 1967, Meta was on her own. Nobody of the Klopp family lived in close proximity. The stepchildren of Mülbert’s first marriage put the woman, who had converted to the Catholic faith into a Protestant home. There the lady died at the age of 86 on January 16, 1984. Next to her husband, whom she had survived by 26 years, Meta found her final resting place.
A post describing my visit as a child to Tante Meta in Freiburg can be found here.