A couple of years ago, as some of my early followers may recall, I published the life stories of the first seven children of my grandparents. My father was the sixteenth and last child of this extremely large family, an unusual occurrence even in the world of the 19th century. My posts are based on a book published by my cousin Eberhart Klopp.
Now that Book I of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp has been published in its entirety, I can turn my attention again to the remaining children, my aunts, uncles and my father Ernst Klopp. The life story of my aunt Anna is particularly fascinating, as she was the one endowed with a large portion of beauty and intelligence with that extra portion of luck, which enabled her to catapult herself from the lower-middle class segment of society into the glorious realm of nobility.
The Long Road to Castle Panwitz – Part I
Baroness Anna Auguste Luise von Waldenfels (née Klopp)
Anna was born, as stated by the author Eberhart Klopp, as the product of a passing state of euphoria in marital relations after the parents Friedrich and Emma Klopp received their share of the inheritance from Emma’s grandfather Johann Christian Bauer (1792-1883). Anna, the eighth child, was born on September 29, 1885, in Jersleben, was baptized by Pastor Heyne. After the completion of the elementary school program in Wolmirstedt she enrolled around 1900 in a trade school in Berlin, an early form of business college for women with room and board facilities for non-resident students.
As a 15/16-year-old student she somewhat experienced from afar the narrow-minded domestic squabbles between her father and her brothers Friedrich (1875-1946) and Ferdinand (1879-1952) as well as her mother Emma being discriminated against back home at Wolmirstedt. She spent in 1902 or1903 some time as an au-pair girl in an Irish household, where she acquired her English language skills.
In 1903 she applied for a secretarial position at the administration at the garrison in Metz, Loraine. After she was hired, she became acquainted there with Lieutenant Ludwig Max Baron von Waldenfels (1875-1954). Ludwig entered the officer’s training program at the First Field Artillery Regiment in Munich in 1897 and after being promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant he became a member of the 4th Bavarian Infantry Regiment in Metz.
When the liaison between the protestant miller’s daughter and the titled Lieutenant von Waldenfels became known, it created mixed feelings with the future mother-in-law Maria von Waldenfels (née von Mühldorfer), whose husband was not involved, since he had already passed away in 1898.
The birth of Anna’s son Fritz Georg was not exactly a joyful event for the catholic von Waldenfels family. Anna gave birth to her only child neither in the proximity of her mother-in-law nor in the nebulous circle of the officers’ wives of Metz. In preparation for her ‘heavy hour,’ she decided to give birth in the impoverished pioneer’s cabin at her mother Emma in the West Prussian village of Schönsee-Weihe near Thorn. In the church of Schönsee (today Polish Kowalowo Pomorskie) Fritz Georg was baptized into the protestant faith. The offspring of the much later performed official marriage ceremony offered a great opportunity to the Klopp-Weihe family clan for deriding comments, not omitting even adventurous speculations about Anna’s Jewish background. The actual truth for the rumours trickling down to Wolmirstedt and Zielitz may be found in the reaction of the Bavarian mother-in-law Maria von Waldenfels.
Conversion to Catholicism
Anna’s mother-in-law living at Etzenhausen near Dachau insisted that she and her baby converted to the Catholic faith. This intent according to the Wolmirstedt-Zielitz family clan represented the ultimate of impertinence towards the family, which from earliest times has presumably adhered to the Lutheran confession.
As long as Ludwig Max von Waldenfels has been for 16 long years serving in the same Metzger regiment (1905 battalion assisting officer, 1909 promoted to senior lieutenant, 1913 captain and company commander), religious questions played a minor role in Ludwig’s life. However, the choice of his wife was an entirely different matter. Anna did not befit his social status.
Anna and Ludwig must have been trying for years to navigate around the cliff of Ludwig’s mother’s adamant position. Now because of mother-in-law’s pressure and of related inheritance and financial questions, the situation demanded a sacrifice, from which there seemed to be no escape. The future husband had earlier introduced Anna to his mother as a ‘society woman’. The wedding took place on October 19, 1916. At the same time, little Fritz Georg most likely was baptized into the Catholic faith. Obviously, money and inheritance matters accelerated the decisive step.
Twelve years had passed until the Klopp offspring Fritz Georg received the prestigiously sounding name von Waldenfels now even with the blessing of his grandmother and the Catholic church. Now the Klopp family of Wolmirstedt and Zielitz could no longer despise Anna for the loose lifestyle they had accused her before, but her conversion to catholicism definitely made her a renegade in their envious eyes. It made no difference whether her change of religion was based on Jewish or Catholic causes. Despicable was everything that deviated from the Wolmirsted-Zielitz norm, even at the risk of having confused in their stupidity apples with pears.
The Long Arduous Road to the Panwitz Estate
While World War I was still raging and devastating Europe, Anna’s husband Ludwig von Waldenfels was reactivated into the military service on July 27th, 1918 and served as a supervising officer at a penal camp at Oberhaus near Dachau until demilitarization in May 1919. Now already 43 years old with a modest pension Ludwig had to worry about his family’s future. After his high school graduation in Munich, he had taken a three-semester training course at the forestry college at Aschaffenburg between 1894 and 1896. Therefore, he had some basic agricultural knowledge. On the northern edge of Passau, the couple acquired the estate Kastenreuth. On the hilly terrain, the work in the fields was not very cost-effective and the harvests appeared to have been quite meagre. Already by 1922 Anna and Ludwig sold the property to the physician and researcher Professor Dr. Wilhelm Kattwinkel.
In the same year, they acquired the estate Neuhof (today Polish Garbek) in the county of Schlochau. It was located right at the border of the newly formed ‘Corridor’ between the remaining part of German West Prussia and the new state of Poland. According to my cousin Eberhard Klopp’s research, my Uncle Hermann (1892-1937) had passed on the 200ha property to his brother-in-law Ludwig. As a result of the Versailles Treaty, the Polish border was moved within a few metres of the estate boundary. It ran about 300 metres east of the village street alongside a pond still existing today. In a 100 m direct line of sight was the Polish hamlet Zychce (German Sichts). In 1921 the West Prussian rural bank founded ten settlers’ places in Neuhof. Baron von Waldenfels and his wife Anna acquired the remaining parcel with the even today well-preserved estate building on the left side of the village street.
In the village of Neuhof of some 200 inhabitants, Ludwig von Waldenfels worked the 810ha farming property and served at the same time as mayor until 1927. “The inhabitants originated mostly from the stolen parts of West Prussia and partly from Münsterland (Münsterland is a mostly flat, agricultural region in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany). Only 14 people were speaking Polish.” When the family von Waldenfels left Neuhof in 1927, their property was also parcelled into seven more settlements.
It is definitely unimaginable that the couple von Waldenfels accustomed to the big city lifestyle of Metz and Berlin would feel at home in the solitude of a remote little border village. In the year of their departure in 1927 brother Ernst Klopp (1900 – 1964 my father) found employment and stay during the summer harvest. Most likely he participated in the preparations for the move out of the second agricultural venture. In the remote bush, heather, and meadow landscape with a few deciduous blocks of wood, the family von Waldenfels managed to last barely five years.
Now, brother-in-law Herman Klopp jumped into action as a helper in a new government initiative. Having been the administrator of the copper mill near Meseritz, East Brandenburg (today Polish Miedzyrzcezc) he was familiar with all locally pertinent facts. He made a concrete proposal to the couple von Waldenfels, which turned out to be a stroke of luck.
The Panwitz Estate
In 1927 Anna and Ludwig von Waldenfels acquired the estate Panwitz (today Polish Panowice). It was located 15 km southeast of Meseritz, East Brandenburg (today Polish Miedzyrzcecz). Originally it was a knight’s estate of about 300 ha, half of it was land under cultivation and pasture, the other half was a forest. The building had been in the sober and down-to-earth style constructed following the trend dominant around the time of World War I. The two-storey manor with its pseudo-classical columnated entrance and its three-storey high addition of a tower is located in a park in the centre of the village. In the south and east, it was partly surrounded by a wall.
In the mid-1920s, the German government has set up a special office at Meseritz to deal with the resettlement of those farmers, who had been dispossessed and expelled from their land in West Prussia and the Posen territory. To provide the support for their livelihood new settlements were established, in which Panwitz was included. By granting credits for the exchange of real estates to the former landowners the German government was able to push through the acquisition of large tracts of land to help the dispossessed farmers from the former eastern provinces. Through this fortunate turn of events, Ludwig von Waldenfels took possession of the new estate in Panwitz. Ludwig and Anna appeared to have profited the most under the new settlement provisions of the agro-political government programme. In the written records it was mentioned that in 1930 the village of Panwitz under the mayor W. Ihnow was still in the resettlement phase. By 1939 the village had 32 households of 147 German inhabitants.
Ludwig von Waldenfels and his ‘Baroness’ Anna, as she was from now on very pleased to be called, were by 1930 well established here. Many relatives began to drop in for a visit. Among them were captain and company commander Gerhard Kegler (my uncle), who was stationed at Züllichau in 1934 and brother-in-law Ernst Klopp (my father). Anna’s sister Meta spent in some years entire months at the Panwitz estate. ‘Castle Panwitz’ had turned out to be a beloved family centre for the entire family. For the development of this feeling, the arrival of Anna’s mother Emma (my grandmother) had greatly contributed. She spent the remaining 14 years of her life at Panwitz. Here in the living- and dining room at the warm fireplace she devoted herself to her dreams. Of unbroken and enterprising spirit even until her very old age, she used to encourage her visiting children and grandchildren with a statement like this, “Come and let us make plans”. In the tower chambers of the manor, she had her own private apartment.
In 1996, Eberhard Klopp (a cousin of mine), the author of the Klopp family chronicles, noticed that the wooden floors and staircase to Emma’s tower had become totally rotten and had collapsed.
The Acquisition of Castle Lagowitz
At the time of his parents’ wedding in October 1916, the twelve-year-old Fritz Georg von Waldenfels attended a high school in Munich, lived in the boarding school and in 1921 attained the ‘middle graduation’ diploma in Passau. Fritz Georg had considerable talent as a violin player, which he had obtained in a two-year course of instruction in the ‘Pagerie’. This institute was exclusively established for the sons of the Bavarian aristocracy, who had fulfilled the prerequisites to become page boys at the Wittelbach court. However, after 1921, House Wittelbach did not need page boys anymore. After 1921 Georg squandered away the following six years as an agricultural assistant at his parents in Kastenreuth, Neuhof and Panwitz. In 1927 his father Ludwig dismissed the 23-year old son with the words, “Although your presence has not done us any damage, it had not been very useful either.” In the same year, Georg married Emelie Hildegard von Zychlinska.
The adopted daughter of the in 1922 deceased lord of Castle Lagowitz could actually trace back her ancestry to the royal line Sobieski. Therefore, she was a direct descendant of Jan III Sobieski (1624-1696), the famous defeater of the Turks and king of Poland. Within the Polish nobility, it was quite customary to resort to adoptions, when there were no children to maintain the family line.
At the time of her wedding, the 18-year old Emilie had just returned from her schooling in a Swiss college and had been assigned the task of managing the estate Lagowitz, which she found a bit difficult to cope with. Thus, being most likely the heiress of the estate, she leased it to the von Waldenfels family. The marriage with Georg brought the most fortuitous turn of events. The two agricultural enterprises Panwitz and Lagowitz became one under the direct rule of father and son von Waldenfels. One does not need much imagination to comprehend the euphoria that Anna née Klopp felt when her ‘good-for-nothing’ son married into such an illustrious family. She almost was tempted to call herself mother-in-law of a king’s daughter. Like ripe apples, a large chunk of real estate had fallen into the lap of Klopp-von-Waldenfels clan. Too late, poor Emilie realized that she had fallen victim to their scheming. Barely six years lasted the marriage with Georg. Then she gave up.
My Aunt’s Triumphant Coup
With the marriage of her son Fritz Georg with Emilie von Sobieski (after her adoption she had become a von Zychlinski ), the heiress of Panwitz and Castle Lagowitz, Anna had climbed the highest possible rung on the social ladder of the Klopp family. Through an almost incredible stroke of luck and clever manipulation, grandmother Emma, daughter Anna and her offspring had married into an actual castle. From now on they were considered even among distant envious family circles as people ‘in the big chips’. The news about Anna’s grandiose coup made all the jealous gossiping about her Jewish ancestry and her good-for-nothing son freeze. All they could say in both dubious and admiring tone was, “The grandmother, Anna and her son are now castle owners somewhere in West Prussia”.
With the acquisition of Lagowitz the von Waldenfels estate expanded to an impressive 1000 ha piece of property. Lagowitz (Lagowice) is by way of a dirt road a mere 3 km distance away from Panwitz. At the eastern village entrance stood the stately manor inside a park. The country castle was built sometime between 1850 and 1860 in the typical Windsor-Gothic style with its stylistically typical little towers and turrets. In 1995 the author of the Klopp family history, Eberhard Klopp, a distant cousin of mine, found nothing but a few remnants of the ruins of a once magnificent building.
Supposedly the Red Army had set it on fire in 1945. The Polish villagers reported the blowing up of the remaining ruins in 1947 when most of them had just arrived from East Poland to settle in this now Polish territory. Even though there was much information available about the still existing wooden church (built around 1550) in Lagowitz, the author could not find anything on the inherited castle of Emil von Zychlinski (1852-1922). At the castle entrance was supposed to have been a Nepomuk-column. Today there is on a base a statue of the Virgin Mary. Behind it, there are the former state farm buildings, stables and granaries, which were after 50 years in run-down and dilapidated conditions. Opposite to the former castle entrance and the statue, two ‘socialist’ buildings are located, in which live the approximate 30 families of the personnel of the communication centre of the Polish army (1995).
The Second Marriage of
Georg von Waldenfels
At Lagowitz two children were born, Hans-Jürgen in 1929 and Carola von Waldenfels in 1932. When the children turned seven and four respectively, the marriage between Georg and Millie had already been in a crisis for quite some time. Officially the two separated on February 22, 1936.
In 1937 Fritz Georg von Waldenfels, quite bored with the monotony and bourgeois atmosphere of Panwitz-Lagowitz living, got acquainted with his future wife in the ‘House Vaterland’ (House Fatherland), the greatest cabaret and dance palace of the Reich’s capital of Berlin, Ilse Jannink (born on May 9, 1914 in Epe near Granau, Westphalia). She was the daughter of the Dutch textile manufacturer Jan Frederik Jannink (1874 – 1943). Her father had founded the company in Enschede, Holland around the turn of the century. The son transferred the firm shortly before the beginning of WW1 to Epe and carried on the business under the company name ‘Germania’. In Epe, he could avail himself of a personnel match larger than in Holland. The cotton industry under his management employed in the 1920s and 30s almost 600 workers. South of Epe stood the stately family manor, the birthplace of Ilse Jannink.
Even at the age of 82 years (in 1996), Ilse looked very much like the singing superstar Lale Anderson, a celebrity of the early Nazi entertainment scene. Georg von Waldenfels married in July 1938 the tall 24-year-old manufacturer’s daughter, who fitted well into the image of the blond girl ideal of its era. In stature, she must have towered over her husband by an entire head length. A catholic wedding took place in Berlin, the wedding ceremonies in the St. Hedwig Cathedral and the banquet in the luxury ‘Hotel Adlon’.
Georg and his wife Ilse carried on with the management of the castle estate Lagowitz, supported by an administrator, an assistant and a secretary. They kept about 100 cows, a sheep farm, cultivated mostly sugar beets and maintained an orchard. In 1939 387 inhabitants lived in that village.
It remained an unwritten law in the new family von Waldenfels, never again to talk about the cast-away first wife. Millie von Waldenfels left Lagowitz with her two children in 1934/35, and, although pushed out, had no doubt received a royal compensation. She lost her family possession and the glorious showpiece Castle Lagowitz. One for the Klopp family exceptional and usurpation-style seizures catapulted the Klopp-von-Waldenfels branch into a ready-made nest.
Rumblings and Grumblings in the Klopp Clan
In November 1939 Ilse von Waldenfels gave birth to her first son Jan-Frederik in Münster, Westphalia. Grand-mother Emma died in May 1941. The war against Poland and Great Britain soon changed all their plans and lives’ directions. In dark premonition my aunt Anna von Waldenfels wrote the following lines to her sister ‘Frau Professor Meta Mülbert’ in Freiburg, Breisgau, for New Year’s Day 1941, “We wish you a happy and blessed New Year! May it keep you healthy and may it bring peace.” However, things would turn out much worse.
Five years earlier, the addressee Meta (1898 – 1984) had been married off in spite of her 37-years of age with Anna’s energetic support. Her marriage with the high school teacher Vincenz Mülbert (1875 – 1958) landed the trained nurse Meta the title ‘Frau Professor’. This prompted Anna to organize for her and her presentable brother-in-law a sumptuous wedding celebration in October 1935 in the prestigious “Hotel Adlon” in Berlin.
Anna’s role model eased Meta’s conversion to catholicism. The author’s grandfather Friedrich Klopp (my uncle) once remarked sarcastically, “There are swindlers and tricksters in the family, who sell their souls, and, if it must be, their own grandmother.” That was clearly directed at Anna and Meta. Even though one could not speak of deep religious conviction on the part of the Klopp clan, they generally viewed conversion to Catholicism as the last straw. In spite of their own lax commitment to their faith, it was totally incompatible with their traditional protestant day-to-day living. Such a change was simply not allowed and its integrity was put into question. When the news of Anna’s and later on Meta’s conversion, “all because of the despicable mammon”, reached the ears of the family of the Altmark, the digging for scandalous titbits of Emma’s ancestry started all over again. “One does not need any innuendos. The explanation of their behaviour is so obvious. Never to have heard anything about their Jewish ancestry, but now to play the pious Catholics, that really hits the nail on the head!” expressed Eberhard’s grand-father Friedrich in his anger and dismay.
Georg von Waldenfels and his Great Ambition
The Nazi and his Shattered Dreams
Considering the massive amount of available information, I had right from the outset limited the scope of our family history to my wife’s and my grandparents and their children, our uncles and aunts, to our own stories and those of our children. As reported earlier my grandparents on the paternal side had 16 children, of whom my father Ernst Klopp was the youngest. My aunt Anna von Waldenfels (née Klopp) was the eighth child, who is the focus of the present series. So in view of this massive undertaking, there is no time to deal with all the other children.
However, with Anna’s son Georg von Waldenfels, I would like to make an exception, the reason being to avoid being accused of leaving out embarrassing details about one black sheep in the family, whose greed and ambition for fame and gain made him a follower of the Nazi regime. On the basis of document files, which my cousin Eberhard Klopp had gathered from various government and archival sources, I tried to put together and to highlight Georg’s ‘achievements and failures’, which will clearly identify him as the black sheep of the family.
- An early member of the Nazi party.
- Known to disrupt meetings of other parties, especially speakers of the socialist and communist parties in pubs and other public places through rude and bullying tactics.
- It was during this period that his marriage with Emilia (née von Zychlinsky fell apart and ended in divorce.
- Emilie could not stand that the Lagowitz castle had become the centre and breeding ground for National Socialism (Nazi), all the more when she realized that her husband wholeheartedly embraced the new movement and supported it with vim and vigour.
- Even Georg’s mother Anna von Waldenfels regretted the end of their relationship, although she was fully aware of her son’s conduct, which destroyed the earlier solid foundations of her son’s marriage.
- One day after Hitler’s rise to power on February 1, 1933, Georg became a member of the infamous SS with the number 147,781.
- It is still difficult to see through the maze-like complexity of the SS organizational structure. Heinrich Himmler, the Reich’s leader of the SS, created one sub-organization after another with various fanciful names to camouflage his intent to turn the SS into his own personal empire by enlisting as many members as possible with no regard to any military background and experience.
- This may explain why Georg found easy access to the SS in view of his non-military background as estate manager.
- But a career as a military high ranking officer seemed impossible under the given personal circumstances.
- A fateful chance encounter in Berlin with the like-minded commander of Hitler’s bodyguard unit “Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler” and friendship with this notoriously rambunctious leader removed the obstacles to Georg’s military career in a jiffy.
The Problem with Georg’s Ancestry Passport
Heinrich Himmler, the Reich’s SS leader, had decreed that all members of his organization had to produce evidence of their Aryan ancestry in order to retain their rights and privileges of their membership in the SS. By a good portion of luck and conniving Georg von Waldenfels managed to establish a personal connection to the special SS elitist group, which was sworn in as the one and only bodyguard responsible for Hitler’s limb and life. This personal connection was no other than the leader of the bodyguard, Sepp Dietrich. Georg had calculated in wise foresight that he could use his like-minded wedding guest as an influential person in his attempt to conceal his Jewish ancestry.
Georg had been unable to provide sufficient evidence for his Aryan descent for the officials in the department for racial questions in Berlin. They had no issues with his ‘pure Aryan’ wife Ilse Jannink. Himmler, who personally took care of such questions, granted the marriage licence without any reservations. Yet, feelings of relief for Georg were premature. One cannot fail to notice on his family records the blue stamps behind the various names of his forefathers, indicating a negative response by the agency’s officials.
In addition, the data which Georg had submitted did not go farther back in time than his great-grandfather Friedrich Wilhelm Bauer born in1818 in Groß Ottersleben. A very suspicious gap remained in Georg’s records. Indeed, SS officers had to provide evidence for their Aryan genetic background all the way back to 1750.
Also puzzling for the government race experts was the noble character of Ludwig von Waldenfels, who 12 years after Georg’s birth and one week after the wedding with Anna officially declared himself the father of this child. Obviously, such a declaration even in writing does not prove a bloodline to the von Waldenfels family. Fortunately for Georg, the officials did not investigate this matter any further.
In the meantime, Anna von Waldenfels was sitting on pins and needles. Should she reveal the name of her son’s real father? Would such a revelation not make her son’s situation worse? Would the Nazi investigators not get really suspicious when eyeing the old Galician-Austrian Jewish sounding name “Grasmück”? Such thoughts occupied Anna’s mind and must have caused many a sleepless night at castle Panwitz. It was lucky that there was not sufficient time to turn the focus on grandmother Emma’s ancestry. The family kept her until her death (1941) in her tower room away from the public eye to make sure that the friendly old lady’s tongue would not let slip out an incriminating word or two.
Georg von Waldenfels
His Aryan Background under Scrutiny
The investigation process by the “department for Racial Purity” was dragging on deep into the war years and hung like the Sword of Damocles over Georg von Waldenfels. In May 1943 he received the following threatening message, “In his letter to the personnel main office dated April 15, 1943, the Reich’s Leader SS (Himmler) has ordered the review of your ancestry.” On June 12, 1943, the department for racial questions toned down the threat, “The Reich’s Leader SS desires the process for final clarification to start right after the end of the war.” Sepp Dietrich must have put a word in for Georg.
Two aspects saved von Waldenfels, who himself was caught in the Nazi net of racial insanity: The generosity of the SS towards people from the aristocracy even burdened with a questionable ancestry background. The name counted when it could be used to advantage for the ’NS Movement’. Secondly, during the war against Poland and later as an administrator in the agricultural field at Glückshütte near Schrimm/Posen Georg had earned considerable recognition for his work.
Whoever might have been Georg’s supporter, his SS career continued with lightning speed. On July 1, 1942 in Schrimm Georg was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. With the full support of his friend and boss Sepp Dietrich, he could boast bearing the rank of captain in April 1943. In the fateful and dangerous month of May Dietrich’s influence brought about Georg’s promotion to the rank of major in the SS. Right from the first contact with Sepp Dietrich Von Waldenfels had unerringly placed his bet on the right horse. Two promotions within 8 weeks from April to June 1943 is quite a remarkable fact. Sepp Dietrich must have had a ‘Spezi’ (Bavarian: meaning friend) in the department for racial questions making it clear with the bold statement, “I decide, who is a Jew!” Indeed he could care less whether Georg had a non-Aryan grandmother or not.
Both Sepp and Georg knew how to play the game in this complex multi-faceted system, which in spite of its reputed ruthlessness left significant gaps, which allowed personal initiative, civil courage and connections to change or even reverse an administrative decision. Of course, outsiders had no such luck. However, if the Nazi regime had survived the year 1945, Georg von Waldenfels’s SS career would have in the long run ended in a big fall.
New Prospects on the Horizon
or Georg’s Unlimited Greed and Ambition
After the 27-year old von Waldenfels had left his high school in 1921 with the equivalent of a grade 10 education, he asserted later in a curriculum vitae that the November revolution of 1918 had ‘prevented him to take the highly desired officer’s career.’ Now the SS had raised him to a high staff rank without even requesting proof of qualification at an officer’s training centre or military academy. Judged by his tone and tenor of his literary outpouring, Georg’s academic horizon corresponded to one of his role model Sepp Dietrich, who according to statements made of SS officers was incapable to digest not even half-way the complexity of a military report. But in their Bavarian foolhardiness and wanton bravado they were very much alike. Even in their physical appearance, corpulent and of low stature they showed great similarities. Both were miles apart from the ideal type of an ‘Aryan model of light.’ Georg had a good reason for unlimited gratitude towards his benefactor. But by a hair, he almost spoiled things with Sepp.
In March 1938, Hitler brought about the annexation and integration of Austria into the ‘Greater German Reich’. Within half a year the ‘Special Leader’ with the rank of an SS lieutenant embarked on surveying the ‘East Mark’ of Austria for new activities with his strong agricultural background. In 1938 Georg felt the time had come to get rid of the estate Lagowitz. Because of envy and a harsh letter-writing campaign against Georg by NS party members at home, he wanted to move as far as away as possible.
In the summer of 1938, he found out through his network of connections about a very large ‘abandoned’ estate in Austria. A few days after the wedding von Waldenfels approached the SS very own ‘German Settlement Agency” (Deutsche Ansiedlungsgesellschaft -DAG), which had its headquarters in Berlin. At the office of director Richard Rücker he applied directly for the agricultural and industrial ownership of the Jewish family Gustav and Wilhelm Löw in Angern at the River March (Moravia).
The area contained more than 3,000 ha (about 7,400 acres) some 40 km southeast of Vienna. It was fertile and very productive land used for centuries for growing crops of grain, corn, sugar beets, potatoes, even vineyards. The industrial real estate consisted of an alcohol factory, refinery, a molasses-spirit facility, potash plant, pea shelling outfit, feed mixing centre, grain elevators and central workshops with the seed research station. The mega estate was governed at the castle-like building complex, which served as the residence for the administrator and his family.
Georg’s Pipe Dream
Pulling the right strings at the right authorities, Georg von Waldenfels managed to acquire from the DAG the trusteeship over the ‘abandoned’ estate property at Angern on the River March between Lower Austria and Slovenia. As a trustee, he worked there for two months from August 3 to October 1, 1938.
His ultimate goal was by hook or by crook to take possession of the property of the Jewish family Löw, who had owned and worked this large parcel of land of prime agricultural land for many generations. The DAG (Deutsche Ansiedlungsgesellschaft), the so-called German Settlement Agency, had set into motion punitive court proceedings against the Löw family to the tune of 13 million Reichsmark (RM). Eight million RM were covered by the sale of all movable equipment. Remained the five million RM, which the DAG desired to collect. To fully comprehend the value of the entire estate, one can easily peg the sale’s price on today’s real estate market at around 100 million dollars. The commissioned administrator von Waldenfels bragged among friends that he could easily come up with the five million RM. Through marriage, he had connected with father-in-law Jan F. Jannink, “one of the wealthiest mega-industrialists of Holland, who would throw the five million RM on the table with a smile.”
Von Waldenfels had also set his eyes on the palace-like mansion of the Löw family located at the 19th District of Vienna. This stately and historically important residence also belonged to the total ‘Aryanized’ property of the SS. The low ranking SS officer of Lagowitz, swept up by his incredible pipe dreams, now beyond all reasonable dimensions appeared to drift away into the fantasy world of his own desires.
Georg’s Pipe Dream Collapses
Rücker-Emden, the DAG director, sensed that with this person would come an unhealthy development for the SS, which was otherwise not generally known for finicky handling of problems of this kind. Fraud and deceit lay almost graspable in the air. He put an immediate stop to the von Waldenfels lust for wealth and property and abruptly ended the commissioned working relationship as of October 1, 1938.
From this point on began a four-year court battle, which dragged on till 1942 between the Viennese lawyer of the DAG, representing the property of the dispossessed Löw family, and Georg’s attorney. The von Waldenfels files contained more than 200 pages and occupied among others the chancellery of the Party and the highest court in Munich. Georg insisted with selfish stubbornness that he had received approval from the DAG, personally insulted its director Rücker-Emden and tried to make an inspection committee more agreeable to his plans by serving them alcohol quite early in the morning.
Even his mother, Baroness Anna von Waldenfels got involved in the subsequent flood of letters being written to the highest authorities of Nazi Germany, which included the boss of the Reich’s main security office Dr. Ernst Kaltenbrunner and the head of the SS Heinrich Himmler. However, the tone of responses from the various SS offices was getting increasingly sharper and included more and more requests to put an end to Georg’s farcical behaviour.
In the middle of 1942 von Waldenfels received the final warning shot from Karl Wolff, a member of Himmler’s personal staff, “It is intolerable that in a time while Germany is at war and thousands of SS men are fighting on the front lines that year in and year out the SS has to deal with trivial stuff like that.” The dream of a ‘castle in Bohemia’ had finally melted away.
Georg von Waldengels had been playing a high-stakes poker game and had planned to climb on the shoulders of the SS up to a new type of grand estate and castle owner. The settlers’ policy, by contrast, was primarily aiming in the opposite direction: the transfer of rights regarding vast tracts of agricultural land to dispossessed farmers from the east. On account of this key discrepancy, the enterprise Angern was doomed to fail.
More Promotions for Georg von Waldenfels
As noted earlier, Georg von Waldenfels had experienced a number of promotions in his officer’s career, quite unheard of and irregular in the German army, where advancements were based on military training and especially on merit on the battlefield. The SS was, however, no regular army. On 1 July 1942, he was promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer, somewhat equivalent to the upper rank of lieutenant and in April 1943 to SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain). Although von Waldenfels occupied the same ranks in another branch of the SS, he acquired them all over again in a more prestigious division. Now under the protective umbrella of influential Sepp Dietrich he now became so-to-speak a ‘regular’ in the hierarchy of the Common SS. It is not surprising that after the war the Allies were facing an incomprehensible phenomenon within the hierarchal structure of the SS. They were unable to cope with all the confusing differences within the ranking system and ignoring them erroneously treated all cases the same. In May 1943, barely four weeks later, Georg was promoted to SS-Sturmbannführer (major).
In spring 1944 there were definite signs that the idyllic life in the eastern province of Posen (Poznan) would come to an end. The commander Sepp Dietrich engaged on the western front arranged Georg’s transfer from the so-called ‘Common SS’ (Allgemeine SS) to the prestigious “Leibstandarte SS”. As a support officer at the various battle locations after D-Day in France and Belgium he was never employed in a military function but was responsible for providing food, drink and entertainment for his boss and his entourage. Georg must have experienced – obviously mostly far removed from the actual fighting – at least three of the four major battles, which took place after 6 June 1944.
The casino chef Georg von Waldenfels survived the dramatic weeks shortly before the Allied troops marched their troops into Paris away from the front lines in any of the numerous secure headquarters of the SS, which were mostly requisitioned hotels, residences and castles in and around Paris. Before the battle between Falaise and Caen, which ended in defeat and signalled the retreat of the SS units in August 1944, Georg, unsuitable for military duties, managed to be ordered back to Germany. By 1945 he acquired, no doubt with the help of some influential political ‘friends’, the rank of SS-Obersturmbannführer.
‘Castle’ Lagowitz in Ruins
In a chaotic flight with lightning speed from Posen (Poznan), passing through his beloved Lagowitz, Georg von Waldenfels reached his wife’s home turf, the Münster province in the northwest of Germany and became a POW of the British Army. Ilse von Waldenfels, when approached for an interview by my cousin Eberhard Klopp, the author of the Klopp Family Chronicles, was very reluctant to share any information on her husband’s past. In her eyes, more than 40 years later in 1996, Georg was ‘an insignificant subaltern officer, who did not play any special role in the SS. After the war, he paid his tribute. We never talked about those bad years anymore.” She like many other Germans of her generation had buried and suppressed deep within her guilt-ridden psyche a considerable number of events of the Nazi era.
In the night from 28 to 29 January 1945, a certain SS general was passing through Panwitz and demanded the immediate evacuation. His urgent warning revealed that the Red Army would be at their doorsteps within just a few hours. Perhaps it was only the SS-Obersturmbannführer by the name of Georg von Waldenfels, who in his flight from Posen in the direction of Berlin had quickly warned his parents. As early as 1980 the author of this book in translation had received the following information in Trier from a reliable source: “Our all-rounded super-provisioner in France, a man from the nobility, Sepp Dietrich’s staff officer, succeeded before the arrival of the Russians in burning down Castle Lagowitz.”
Should von Waldenfels have really destroyed his very own NS-Headquarters and Castle Lagowitz with all its incriminating documents and evidence turning them into a heap of rubble and ashes? Eyewitnesses can no longer be found. But the action in a time of perilous urgency fits perfectly within the overall frame of his mentality. Treacherous documents and correspondence of all sorts in the hands of the Russian or Polish authorities would have heralded a dangerous new beginning for Georg. If all these collected facts agree, the parents Anna and Ludwig von Waldenfels on the morning of their own flight from Panwitz may have seen Castle Lagowitz for the last time as a smoking and smouldering pile of ruins. Georg von Waldenfels has taken this particular piece of history with him into his grave.
Narrow Escape and Loss of Property
In the early part of 1945 Georg’s wife, Ilse von Waldenfels escaped just in time from the rapidly advancing Red Army. After briefly visiting acquaintances at Lake Scharmützel near Berlin she reached Berghorst in the Münster region in Northwest Germany, where her mother Helene née Wattendorf (1881 – 1973) resided. Georg after joining her as reported earlier became shortly afterwards a British POW and was interned in Recklinghausen until 1947. His entire property had been confiscated on account of his SS membership. There are some vague indications about Georg having been summoned as a witness against Genraloberst of the SS, Sepp Dietrich, in court proceedings at the Nuremberg war crime tribunal or at the Malmedy Court, in which his former boss received a life sentence for being responsible for the shooting of POW’s during the Ardennes Offensive. The author Eberhard Klopp of these family chronicles did not further explore the connections of these claims. At any rate, Ilse von Waldenfels was able to send family care parcels to her interned husband in Recklinghausen.
By the end of January 1945, the Red Army was approaching the town of Tirschtiegel, which the Wehrmacht (regular German army) and SS units were defending on 30 January. Soviet units were breaking through the so-called ‘Obra Position’ and advanced on 28 January south and north of Tirschtiegel in a pincer attack all the way to the road connecting Meseritz and Bentschen. After the conquest of Bauchwitz only 5km north of Panwitz the Soviets not only blocked to the defenders the retreat from Tirschtiegel, but also to the rural inhabitants the escape route to the railway station in Meseritz.
Anna von Waldenfels describes the loss of her beloved Panwitz. “We were totally unaware the Russians with their tanks were ready to strike at any moment being only 5 km away from us. A general of the SS came by and told us that he would take us to Berlin if we would make up our mind immediately. He warned, ‘Tomorrow you all will be hanging from a tree’. Indeed that’s what happened to all our neighbours who stayed behind. For us to escape was truly a miracle”. On the very next morning (29 January 1945) the Russians had occupied the entire county. All men were shot and all women were raped by the Asian hordes.
Escape from the Horrors of War
On the morning of 29 January 1945 Ludwig von Waldenfels was totally against leaving Panwitz. Being a former WW1 officer of the Bavarian army, he planned to hide in the forests of Panwitz and armed with a pistol intended to sacrifice his life if necessary. His wife Anna knew how to curtail such dramatic, but senseless undertaking and with gentle force manoeuvred him into the waiting car.
The population of East Brandenburg (to which Panwitz belonged) experienced all the brutalities of the Russian hordes. The people percentage-wise paid the highest blood tribute rendered in 1945 at their expulsion from the German eastern provinces. In Rogsen alone, a village of 761 inhabitants 10 km south of Panwitz, a dozen men were shot and on the night of 29 January, 1945 forty brutally raped women and girls committed suicide. Already in the afternoon of the same day, Soviet artillery shot from Heidemühl and Kupfermühle at a distance of 5km into Meseritz.
For Ludwig and Anna, in view of the military situation, there was only one escape route. It led over icy and snowed-in country lanes via Lagowitz and Brätz to the main connecting road to Schwiebus. With little luggage and the few things on their body, the couple reached after one week of travel Gauting near Munich. There they found first reception at their brother/brother-in-law Ernst von Waldenfels (1877 – 1955). He was a bank chief inspector and lived at 10 Hindenburg Street. He was in charge of money matters before the chaotic times set in. Here they experienced the arrival of the Americans and thus survived the war’s end.
Within just a few hours a life’s work and dream had sunk into oblivion. Only the nostalgic feelings of 18 years of Panwitz and Lagowitz remained, which nobody of the former residence would ever see again. Alive remains the memory of the shadowy gravesite of grandmother Emma Klopp (née Bauer) in the park of the Panwitz estate. Her final resting place was supposed to have become the family gravesite of the Klopp and von Waldenfels clans. The fury of war and the greatest mass expulsion in history had swept all this away.
New Beginning for Anna and Ludwig von Waldenfels
From Gauting as their starting point, Anna and Ludwig von Waldenfels, both already at retirement age, began once again to build up a foundation for their livelihood. At the end of 1947, they leased one half of the former Wehrmacht training camp Pentenried, which had become the possession of the State of Bavaria. They purchased the living and material inventory for the property. The couple kept about 15 to 20 cows, 2 or 3 teams of horses, 2 German shepherds; they had access and use of a tractor and employed three coachmen, also Walter Schirrmeister, their former estate manager of Panwitz, as well as a certain Ulrich Kennemann, and between February 1948 and February 1949 their nephew Karl Klopp (1929 – 2019) [Peter’s brother]. At the beginning of 1950, the couple von Waldenfels gave up the lease again and went into retirement. Ludwig was 75, and Anna was 65 years old. Today there remains very little of the Pentenried estate, a few outbuildings, and a hall with pigs’ troughs dating back to the army years.
Anna and Ludwig acquired subsequently the house at Hauptstraße 1 in Söcking near Starnberg and there they spent their golden years. On 17 March 1954, Ludwig von Waldenfels died at the age of 79. His wife had him buried in his Bavarian officer’s uniform. In September 1990, the author of the Klopp Chronicles, which I am translating into English, Eberhard Klopp, visited the neglected gravesite and found Ludwig’s wooden cross, which while still showing name and vital dates of the deceased von Waldenfels had due to weathering greatly deteriorated over the past four decades. Ludwig’s unserviced gravesite No. 84/85 is located at the forest cemetery of Söcking. One searches in vain for the mention of Anna von Waldenfels (née Klopp), who has also been buried here in 1967.
Aunt Anna’s Neglected Gravesite
At the end of the 1950s, after giving up the house in Söcking, Bavaria, Anna von Waldenfels moved to Freiburg/Breisgau close to her sister Meta Mülbert, who lived at Maria-Theresiastraße 4. Her husband Vincenz had passed away in 1958. Anna at first rented an apartment at number 7 across the street.
In the summer of 1959, while on a bike tour through Germany with my friend Rainer Schüler, I visited both aunts, who add moved together at No. 4. I remember Aunt Anna quite well, a feisty old lady filled with an unbroken spirit and a fervour, which revealed strong nationalistic overtones. She spoke to us young men of sacrifices to be rendered in blood and honour to put Germany back on her feet again. Obviously, her heart and mind were still dreaming of era that no longer existed. These bizarre ideas of a past imperialistic Nazi-Germany, having brought nothing but extreme suffering and total destruction to many nations under its control, were completely foreign to us growing up in democratic West Germany.
At about the same year she met for the last time her granddaughter, the then 23-year old Carola von Waldenfels (born in 1932 at Lagowitz). She had most likely made a farewell visit and proceeded from there to travel as a photographer to California, USA. The two widows maintained contact with Ernst Klopp (my father), who had remarried and lived with his new wife Erna Klopp (née Krämer) in Michelbach near Schotten.
Once a resolute, energetic lady, always leaving the impression of a governess, now suffered from bladder incontinence, which considerably restricted her mobility and physical activities. At 82, she died of cancer on 3 November 1969 in Freiburg/Breisgau. The two families Georg von Waldenfels from Haren/Ems and Meta Mülbert provided on 7 November 1967 a final resting place for Anna on her beloved husband’s side in the Starnberg forest cemetery. Her son had arranged the transfer of his mother’s remains to Söcking, but he did not deem it necessary to take care of the completion by adding a cross for his mother. Fate’s irony is that her gravesite remained nameless just as one of her eldest brother Friedrich Klopp (1875 – 1946) in Gardelegen in the former German Democratic Republic. “Sic transit gloria mundi.”