The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project

Reflections on Life, Family and Community

The P. and G. Story – Chapter VII

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Rohrdorf

The Poorhouse – Chart I – III

 

We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.
Immanuel Kant

 

Map of Baden-Württemberg - Rohrdorf is located between the Danube and Lake Constance.

Baden-Württemberg – Rohrdorf is located between the Danube and Lake Constance.

          As the refugees began to move south from their camps to Baden-Württemberg, pressure was building on the local inhabitants to make room for their ‘brothers and sisters’ from the eastern provinces. Soon accommodation became very scarce. It consisted of space directly under the roof or some other primitive living quarters often without heat, electricity or water. Upon arrival in Rohrdorf, local officials assigned to our family one of these dingy places. I have no memory about my physical surroundings. But I had once a very vivid dream. In it I saw surrealistic images, in which space and its objects appeared grotesquely distorted. The assembly of the tableau consisted of bird-like creatures, men with birds’ heads strutting around with long beaks. There were strangely shaped sculptures, stone blocks with holes in them that looked like empty eye sockets. It seemed that the dream had broken all the laws of physics and all the rules of perspective in art in this contorted display of a chaotic world. When I woke up most likely from hunger pangs, I could not connect anything I saw in my dream to the real world around me. Could this have been an archetypical experience? Or did I sense as a child that the struggle for survival in a broken world was not over yet? It is impossible for me to tell. But the phantasmagoric imagery and the bewildering impact it exerted on me remained. Much later in life, when I was looking at abstract art, especially the sort that is known as surrealism, I encountered a few paintings that revealed an uncanny resemblance to my early childhood dream.

Rohrdorf near Messkirch

Rohrdorf near Messkirch

          Our next dwelling in Rohrdorf was located in the lower village not far from the intersection of two highways, one leading to Sigmaringen, the other one where our house was located to Castle Wildenstein. We lived on the second floor with access to the attic space. We called the place Armenhaus, ‘Poorhouse’, because in comparison with the stately mansion in Gutfelde it was a dark and uncomfortable place, too small for our seven family members. Downstairs on the ground floor lived the owner with his ailing mother and at least a dozen cats. He loved them dearly, but for the Klopp’s they were always slinking in and around the house and were occupying every nook and cranny as if they owned the place.

Castle Wildenstein - Photo Credit: Klaus Stückl on Flickr

Castle Wildenstein – Photo Credit: Klaus Stückl on Flickr

          The winter of 1947 was one of the severest in recent memory. All of Europe suffered under its icy grip. Even England, which usually enjoys a temperate climate, experienced extremely cold temperatures and massive snowfalls blanketing the entire country. Gigantic snowdrifts completely cut off Rohrdorf from the neighboring town of Meßkirch. Food had become so scarce at the Klopp family that we had to resort to begging. The local farmers, who had suffered the least during the war and had plenty of food on the table, were reluctant to help their fellow German citizens whom they considered with suspicion like intruders, almost like foreigners. True, we did not speak their southern dialect and belonged to the ‘wrong’ faith. Most of us were protestants, not Catholic. In short, we were outsiders, who did not belong. To avoid confrontations with the people in Rohrdorf and to protect the family from feelings of shame and disgrace, we often went begging in a neighboring village, where people would not recognize us. Being only five years old, always hungry and looking hungry, the family thought that I would be the best candidate to move hearts, especially those of kind-hearted women. One day I entered the yard of a farmhouse alone, while everyone else was hiding in the background. I walked up the steps. With some trepidation I knocked at the front door. Farmers had chased me away empty handed before. To add injury to insult, they had even hurled abusive language at me. After a long wait and repeated knocking, the door opened just a crack, and a gruff voice demanded to know, “Wa’ wit’?”, a hackneyed version of standard German, “Was willst du?”, meaning “What do you want?”

With all the strength at my disposal I replied, “ I’m sooooo hungry!” The man was just about to slam the door shut on me, when I heard the farmer’s wife ask, “Who is at the door?”

“Just a lousy refugee kid asking for grub!”

“Let him enter. I will take care of him.” Reluctantly he let me come in into the warm and cozy entrance hall and stepped aside, as his wife welcomed me with a motherly smile. She just took one glace at me and knew what my problem was. Before I could even say a second time, “I’m sooooo hungry!”, she rushed to the kitchen. I will never forget the moment when she placed a loaf of bread into my outstretched hands. But what is even more important than bread that is baked today and eaten tomorrow, is this kind of love, kindness and compassion that breaks down the walls of prejudice, bigotry and hatred, which people erect to protect their selfish comfort zone.

To be continued …

Günther Kegler, Chief of the Kegler-Clan (Part I)

Our Uncle and his Profile (1894 – 1986)

Charts II a & b – II

by Peter Klopp

In the first part of the report on my uncle’s life I will focus on the profile that he had written  about himself in his  Kegler Family Chronicle. In subsequent posts  I will publish a few of my own ‘memory fragments’. They will show how  the threads of our lives intersected on many occasions. Being together with him at his home in Watzenborn during my army years enhanced my sense of belonging to the Kegler-Klopp family. Uncle Günther definitely deserves the title ‘Chief of the Kegler Clan’, by which he was known among family members.

From left to right: Erika Klopp, Lucie, Günther and Marie Kegler

From left to right: Erika Klopp, Lucie, Günther and Marie Kegler

Günther was born October 1, 1894 in Grünewald, county of Neustettin (Szczecinek). He married Lucie Kegler (1898-1968) in Elsterberg on June 21, 1925. He attended the elementary school in his hometown from 1900 to 1906. Then for his high school education he joined the military academy first at Plön near the Baltic Sea from 1907 to 1912, then at Großlichter-Felde southwest of Berlin from 1912 to 1914. As cadet at the beginning of World War I he was assigned to Infantry Regiment 149 at Schneidemühl (now Pila, Poland ). From 1914 to 1917 he served with Infantry Regiment 14 (Graf Schwerin) at many battle fields in Western and Eastern Europe.

In January of 1915 he advanced to the rank of lieutenant  and in 1916 he became commander of a M.G.K. (machine gun company). As such he participated in various theaters of war, such as Flanders, Russia, Carpathian regions, Galicia, and back to the western front in France at Verdun, Aisne and Champagne.

In May of 1917 he was seriously wounded. Actually, according to a story not mentioned in his profile he was already in a military hearse among many dead soldiers, when fortunately someone discovered that he was still alive. After a long stay at a hospital he finally recovered from his wounds, but having lost a kidney he was no longer fit for continuing his military service.

To be continued …

Driftwood Art and Other Visual Delicacies

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Fauquier, BC

How beautiful you are!

Photo Gallery by Peter Klopp

The Life Lines of Bruno Kegler and Rolf Barge Intersect in 1940 (in German)

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Die Lebenslinien von Bruno Kegler und Rolf Barge treffen sich 1940 im Schwarzwald

Von Dieter Barge (Chart II a – II & IV)

Seit ca. 2 Jahren beschäftige ich mich mit den Kriegsjahren meines Vaters im französischen Atlantikwall-Forum und dem deutschen Forum der Wehrmacht.
Dabei ist mir eine Parallele zwischen Bruno Kegler und meinem Vater Rolf Barge aufgefallen. Sie sind beide gemeinsam bei der deutschen Offensive am Oberrhein im Juni 1940 beteiligt gewesen !
Bruno Kegler war in der:
-6.Kompanie, (Kompaniechef Oberleutnant Nowak) im
-386.IR = Infanterieregiment der
-218.ID = Infanteriedivision.
Der Divisionskommandeur hieß Generalleutnant Woldemar Freiherr Grote.
Mein Vater gehörte zur 2.Batterie der schweren Artillerie-Abteilung 806.

Beide Einheiten gehörten zur 7. Armee unter Generaloberst Friedrich Dollmann.

Die 7.Armee griff einige Wochen nach Beginn des Frankreichfeldzuges (10. Mai bis 25. Juni 1940) im Rahmen der Operation “Kleiner Bär” die Maginotlinie an (Beginn am 15.6.1940).

Ich begann nun, mich mít dieser Zeit zu beschäftigen, dazu bestellte ich mir die Kriegstagebücher der 218. ID und nahm Kontakt mit Herrn Josef Göhri auf, der das Buch “Breisgauer Kriegstagebuch” geschrieben hat. Er hat als 10-jähriger Bube, wohnhaft in Bleichheim, das Geschehen sehr nah erlebt, Bleichheim liegt im Bleichtal, wo später Bruno hinkam, das Nachbardorf (2 km entfernt) ist Tutschfelden, wo das letzte Foto von Bruno Kegler aufgenommen wurde!, beide Orte gehören zu Herbolzheim.

  1. Zu meinem Vater Rolf

Mein Vater wurde am 21.6.1919 in Nordhausen geboren, er war vom 1.11.1938 bis zum 30.4.1939 beim sogenannten Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD) in Buttlar/Rhön, am 1.9.1939 wurde er zur Artilleriekaserne Mühlhausen zum Wehrdienst einberufen.
Die genannten Orte gehören zu Thüringen, im Herzen von Deutschland. Davon die Bilder vom RAD, der Kaserne in Mühlhausen und von der Grundausbildung an der Flak 8,35 (t).

Im Januar 1940 wurde seine Einheit in den Schwarzwald verlegt, dazu Bilder von der Ankunft in Karlsruhe und dem ersten Unterbringungsort in Oberachern.

Während der folgenden Monate fand eine umfassende Ausbildung statt, dazu Bilder von Manövern und vom Schießplatz in Zeutern.

 

  1. Zu Bruno

Wie bereits geschrieben, machte Bruno zunächst den Polenfeldzug mit, die Einheit blieb danach noch in Polen stationiert und wurde später in den Raum Burg bei Magdeburg verlegt, dort waren traditionell schon immer Truppenübungsplätze, von unserer Zeit in Wolmirstedt kenne ich den Truppenübungsplatz Altengrabow, den es seit 1893 gibt, auch dort waren damals die Russen stationiert, jetzt ist es ein Übungsgelände der Bundeswehr.

Ich habe in den Dokumenten der 218.ID folgendes Blatt gefunden:

15 Dokument zur Verlegung

In Johannas Album für Elisabeth ist ein rührendes Gedicht von Bruno enthalten:

16 Gedicht Bruno

Dretzen liegt in dem beschriebenen Gebiet, hier eine Übersicht:

17 Dretzen

Brunos Einheit wurde am 31.5.1940 in den Schwarzwald verlegt!

Dazu mehr im nächsten Teil.

William Laux – His Art, His Castle and a Tower of Bats – Part I

William Laux

By Yvette Brend – Arrow Lakes News December 14, 1988

From the Archives of the Arrow Lakes Historical Society

Photos by Peter Klopp

Bill Laux plans nothing.

Forester, Batik artist and sculptor, he builds his talents like he builds his “castle”, ad­ding walls, arched windows and wood stoves to every room. He prefers not to finish.

“When you put the roof on, that’s as high as it’s going to go, and that’s a sad day,” he said. Visitors pass a “Beware of Bats” sign entering Laux’s property, and may no­tice a strange gnome perched on his chimney. Up the hill, overlooking Arrow Lakes stands his strangest, most imposing creation. Laux be­gan his pet architectural pro­ject in 1969. It symbolizes his entire life.

The 'Castle' that would never be finished

The ‘Castle’ that would never be finished – 1977

He has varied interest from the daring architecture of Huntertwasser, and copies of Col. R.T. Lowery’s witty edi­torials to the tiny brown bats that live under the eaves of his “castle.”

Laux has an English de­gree from the University of Wisconsin, with some chemis­try and science background.

“I took English because it gave me the most freedom,” said Laux, “as long as you took one English course, you could take anything else you wanted.”

He worked as a forester in California before moving to Canada, when the U.S. Feder­al government expropriated his property for a park re­serve. He changed countries and then professions. Laux and his wife Adele, bought 100 acres in Fauquier, where he began a batik studio. Laux had no prior artistic experien­ce, but his chemistry back­ground fostered his inventive skills with dyes for fabric.

Batik Purchased by Gertrud Klopp - 1977

Batik Purchased by Gertrud Klopp – 1977

“I got involved in batik be­cause I was broke – the great­est motivation in the world,” laughed Bill.

The Lauxs moved to B.C. because they loved the valley, and land was very cheap in the interior during the 1960’s.

When B.C. Hydro bought the flood rights to seven acres of Laux’s property he was cautious. Part of his neighbor Logan Bumpus’ land and Laux’s foreshore was flooded. Laux was compensated with a generator to restore his pow­er. He was not disheartened by this event at all, saying it was good luck to be discon­nected from B.C. Hydro. Lo­gan Bumpus never regained his power. [They do have power now.]

Adele, Bill’s wife, died sud­denly in 1967 from blood poi­soning, leaving him alone in Fauquier.

Batik was very stylish in the 1970’s and artists began to gather at Laux’s in the summer to learn the art of waxing and dyeing fabric.

Bill joined with other art­ists to form Vaki studios – a Tarahumara Mexican Indian word meaning “homestead”.

Batik Purchased by Gertrud Klopp - 1977

Batik Purchased by Gertrud Klopp – 1977

When Vaki studios started booming it supported five full time artists, who worked dur­ing the winter and sold on the road two months of the year.

Laux said it took some time before he felt confident as a designer, he excelled at the chemical mixing of dyes and created new dyes for different effects.

He taught Batik techni­ques to students until 1975, but now he prefers to create.

Batik is a form of artwork using waxes and dyes to em­boss a pattern on a natural fabric – usually high quality cotton.

A negative design is drawn on the fabric with wax resist of different consistencies, then dipped into a dye one co­lor at a time, using yellow first, then ruby red, tur­quoise-blue to black, and slowly a design is built.

Originally Batik was sold as yardage for clothing. Batikers created a design and made a yard of it for sewing into garments. For this rea­son many Batik artists had problems as the process was recognized only as craftwork. Crafts have a use; art is creat­ed solely for aesthetic value.

Once completed, a batik is identical front and back. Silk screening – the process or printing fabric with oil based ink – does not produce this ef­fect. Hung in a window, in front of a light source, the ba­tik acts like a stained glass window, casting colored light.

“There’s no way to dupli­cate a batik, except going through the process again,” said Bill.

Different waxes used on the fabrics creates varied ef­fects, a brittle wax creates more of a “crackle” or cracked texture, smoother wax gives an even color. Ba­tiks were in fashion in the 1920’s, and again in the 1960’s, “Oh they’ll come in fa­shion again. ’ ’ said Laux.

Vaki studios sold at least 80 batiks a year, in British Columbia and along the west coast of the U.S. They pro­duced Westcoast Indian de­signs, Mexican Indian patterns, Oriental and floral pat­terns. The artists worked on each other’s ideas, making the operation a co-op studio. Vaki Studios designed an Owl Lo­go for the Calgary Inn. The Inn only bought one batik of the design, fearing the $90 art work would be damaged if placed in the rooms.

“I would recommend this to anybody, when you go into a hotel, with those awful pic­tures on the wall, put them under the bed, and I mean leave them there, ” he said emphatically, “ After a while management may get the hint – It’s visual pollution, but no­body says anything.”

“We couldn’t make enough bullfighter stuff in Calgary,” Bill speculated that many rich Calgarians holiday in Mexico, and admired the Mexican styles of their work.

Indian designs were also popular. Art studio refused to handle genuine Indian artists, and their skills remained in tourist booths – carving totem poles and soapstone.

Some of the titles of his pieces were Toro, Witness Tree, Constipated Owl, and Lovers or Madonna and Child.

Through the growth of his studio, Bill also began work on his “castle” in 1968 with fellow artist, gone architect, Lynne Gilroy. “Those happy days are gone. A lot of art outlets in B.C. have gone bankrupt and can’t make it anymore,” laughed Laux. “If I were to hit the California market now, I’d sell them life sized sculptures of their astrological signs.”

So Laux began to spend more time with his pre­packaging dye and tool busi­ness and his architectural pro­ject. He still does some cus­tom work for commercial in­teriors, such as hotel lobbies and other public buildings.

“When you’re in the art business you have to keep changing. Tastes change.”

Someone gave him the idea of sculpting with steel wool and cement, so he built a strange gnome, which perches on his chimney. After seeing his chimney ornament, a resi­dent of Fauquier commis­sioned him to create a meteor­ite-like chimney pot, and two customers, in Seattle and Wenatchee Washington, have also ordered custom sculp­tures.

Four of his life-sized struc­tures will also be placed on his turret, one for each chimney. He has rigged a pulley system to hoist the heavy pieces into position.

Bill Laux working without a Plan - 1977

Bill Laux working without a Plan – 1977

Laux’s castle can be viewed from his small two le­vel cabin and studio, lower on the property. The ominous structure faces the lake with turrets, endless chimneys and white-framed windows.

“We didn’t draw any plans, we just let it keep growing,” said Bill.

Entering the house, a gey­ser spurts water on its left – perhaps for a fountain? Bill prefers to leave it to the ima­gination.

The house has three main levels and countless smaller rooms on varying levels. The main turret has three levels, one planned as Laux’s bed­room, with a small hatch door on the floor to close off the world.

Laux said he learned “rude carpentry” from his experi­ence as a forester and experi­mented from there.

Two of the chimney statues are in place. They are naked females, one with flowing gol­den hair. The third, a nude In­dian with spear is almost fini­shed, and the fourth is still in Laux’s imagination.

From the turret another chimney topped by an ab­stract chimney pot, made of old dishes, mirrors and brown clay, can be viewed.

The tower also presents a seemingly endless view of the Arrow Lakes. “The higher we

went, the better the view got,” he said.

Downstairs, past veran­das and window frames hand sculpted with Poly filler, the basement floor is heated by a huge log burning stove, and contains Laux mini sawmill he uses to cut the lumber for building. The bathroom and kitchen should be finished by next year, when Laux may move in.

Bill picked up a tiny bat, dead from exposure, on his or­nate windowsill, and gently examined it.

“I don’t plan, I never have planned, because when I plan something, I always change it.”

Memory Fragments – Part II

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Kientzheim. Alsace, June 1940

by local resident Theresa Held-Schmitt

Kientzheim, Alsace, France - Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org

Kientzheim, Alsace, France – Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org

“I was 10 years old at the time. Germany’s attack on France lasted only a few weeks. France was ready to surrender. June 18, 1940 was a sunny day. A company of German infantry was approaching the village on bicycles. Although they could see no French soldier far and wide nor hear any shots, the commander, Sergeant Bruno Kegler, let his unit wait at the village outskirts and went alone into the village. He wanted to find out, whether the quiet scene was perhaps a trap. He stopped at our house, which was close to the graveyard wall, and asked, if he could have a look from the attic window. He wanted a better view onto the surrounding area. I was just a little girl and accompanied the German soldier to the attic. There he was attentively looking out of the window. I stood next to him. Suddenly a shot rang out. He touched his head and said, ‘I have been hit’. Then he collapsed onto the floor. When my mother alarmed by my screaming entered the attic, Bruno Kegler was already dead.

Bruno Kegler Giving Instructions to his Troop

Bruno Kegler Giving Instructions to his Troop the Day before he Died

He was the only dead German soldier at the invasion of our region and all the inhabitants of Kientzheim were of the same opinion. An overly zealous German soldier mistook him for an enemy and shot one of his own troops (in modern terminology he was killed by ‘friendly fire’).”

Jürgen Kegler continues, “When I returned home from my bicycle tour, I reported what I had experienced. My uncles reproached me for not letting my mother in the belief that my father had died for ‘Führer, country and his people’, as it was written in the letter from the regiment’s commander. But she took the news in stride. She even was thankful for it. she knew that the notifications were all worded the same way, and that the circumstances of death were, however, always different.

The two Sons Hartmut and Jürgen Kegler Visiting his Grave

The two Sons Hartmut and Jürgen Kegler Visiting his Grave

I was thinking by myself how his early death had perhaps saved him from greater trouble in the war. There was also the possibility that out of disappointment with the system he may have sought contact  with the Resistance Movement against Hitler’s regime and could have ended up in the torture chambers of the Gestapo. Is it not true that disillusioned idealists most often have to face the most radical consequences?”

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