Memory Fragments – Part II

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?”

Memory Fragments

Tribute to our Father and Grandfather Bruno Kegler

by Jürgen Kegler and Anke Schubert – Chart II a – II & III

Bruno Kegler with his Family 1940

Bruno Kegler with his Family 1940

When the war broke out in September 1939, Bruno considered it his duty to participate in Germany’s struggle to shape her destiny. He enlisted in the army. At that time he was an enthusiastic supporter of National Socialism and proud to be a member of the Party with a fairly low membership number. He took part in the campaign against Poland. However, upon his return he was totally depressed and disgusted about what he had experienced.  He said to his wife Johanna that the Party was nothing but a criminal bunch of rabble (Sauhaufen). With his illusions about a better world destroyed, he had to go back to the front lines.

Bruno Kegler

Bruno Kegler

To describe what happened next, it is best to let his youngest son Jürgen Kegler continue. In 1956 he made a bicycle tour with a friend through Western Europe . Their goal was to explore Belgium, Holland, Great Britain and France. He wrote:

Vosges Mountains - Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org

Vosges Mountains – Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org

“The journey back home went over Paris in the direction of the Vosges Mountains. By the way, we slept in the open air, ate little,  and experienced much. On a map I discovered the little village of Kientzheim. I wondered if it was possible to locate my father’s grave site. I found it marked by a simple wooden cross and a tin tag, which every soldier had to wear on his body. It was a strange feeling to read my father’s name in an unfamiliar region of a foreign country . It was like something very much alive rising from the ground, quite a mystifying feeling. While I was squatting down at the grave site, a woman approached me and asked if I was a relative of the German soldier. When I had introduced myself as the youngest son of Bruno Kegler, she began to tell me the following story.

To be continued on the next post …

Memory Fragments by Anke Schubert

Lenzen

Lenzen near Anke’s Hometown Mellen – Photo Credit: Lea@Flickr

Reflections on Early Childhood Memories

Anke Schubert (Chart II a – IV)

Translated by Peter Klopp

Do you feel the same as I do? The older you get, the more in your memories you return to your childhood years. That’s at least how it is with me, especially now that the children have grown up and are taxing my physical and mental strength around the clock any more. Thoughts are stirring, nostalgic and regretful at times, because happy days, familiar places and dear people are gone forever, but I am also filled with joy, because they were once present way back in long-gone times.

Actually I thought that I would remember next to nothing at all about my earliest childhood. But sometimes and quite suddenly like out of the blue a memory shoots through my mind, a piece of the past, an event of my childhood, often only a single image without any connection. The more these ‘memory fragments’ go back in time, the smaller, the more scattered they appear to be. Yet, as the thoughts travel back more frequently, other thoughts rise and flash on my inner horizon. Often I no longer know how they are connected. In fact, it is next to impossible to maintain a reliable sequence of the fragments in my early childhood memories.

But that is actually not so important.I simply try to nail down a few of these fragments, before they vanish forever into the abyss of eternal darkness. There are some events, which I no longer know or cannot know at all, because they happened before I was born, for example, how my parents got to know each other. These things I will draw from old letters and later down the road from my old journals. Who knows there might be somebody somehow involved here, who might add something to whom I may pass on to read the rough copy of my scribbles. They may perhaps contribute a couple of their own memories to turn the individual fragments into a cohesive picture of my – or much better – of our childhood in Gulow and in Mellen.

Bruno and Johanna Kegler

A Touching Love Story

Contributed by Anke Schubert

Chart II a – II & IV

My grandmother Johanna attended a teacher’s college in Stettin. Her hometown was Hirschberg in the Giant Mountains. Her father, the headteacher Ludwig Engel, had chosen this institute of higher learning, because in contrast to all the others only female students were educated here. Now it so happened that a young customs officer by the name of Bruno Kegler was a guest at her cousin’s place. On the wall of the apartment hung Johanna’s picture, and Bruno curiously asked who she was. He was being informed, and he in turn asked if he could pass on a greeting to the cousin. He was permitted to do so. When Johanna during her semester break was at home in Hirschberg, she received one day a letter with a strange handwriting with the even stranger address, “Dear honorable Miss!” She laughed and showed the lines to her parents. She read out that the writer had requested a meeting with her so he could pass on her cousin’s greeting. Father Ludwig immediately said, “You will write that there will be no such meeting, because you happened to be in Hirschberg just now.” Johanna sat down at once and wrote her refusal on a tiny little letter card. The envelope landed into the mailbox, while her father was overseeing it from the balcony, and Johanna contentedly spent the rest of her vacation.

When she was back again in Stettin, Bruno wrote another letter to Hirschberg, The letter was opened, but at least was forwarded to Johanna in Stettin. It contained the repeated request to pass on the greetings. Johanna showed the message to her classmates, who warned her about the forceful handwriting. Nevertheless she responded to the letter and gave a time and place, a café, for the date. All her classmates wanted to come along!

As a sign for recognition Bruno had indicated that he would wear a gray suit with a white carnation in the buttonhole. Johanna wanted to wear a white dress and a white scarf.

When she showed up at the appointed time in the café, she saw … two gentlemen in gray suits, and nobody had a white carnation in the buttonhole! But one of them rose, walked up to her and introduced himself – and it was like if they had known each other for years.

For Johanna a wonderful time now began. They saw each other as often as they could; they went on hikes together and enjoyed steamboat excursions.

To the two old ladies, from whom he was renting furnished accommodation, Bruno said already after their first date that he had just got acquainted with his future wife. Without saying anything to Johanna he wrote to her parents, described his economic status and his family and asked to pay them a visit. That being granted, they met and got to know each other, and on April 29th, 1930, Johanna and Bruno got married. They were a very happy couple and consolidated their happiness with the births of their children Hartmut, Elisabeth and Jürgen.

Bruno and Family

Uwe and Anke Schubert

A Miraculous Escape (Chart II – IV)

 

Contributed by Anke Schubert

Uwe’s mother originally comes from Breslau (now a Polish town by the name of Wroclaw). She was just six years old, when she had to flee with her family from the advancing Red Army. Somehow the family with four children managed to reach Dresden. But she does not remember much about it.

On February 12th, 1945, they were left stranded at the Central Railway Station and the trains were not moving anywhere. The father, who had been a governmental councilor in Breslau and also in charge of transportation, for some reason had on his key chain a square-headed key. To get his family out of the overcrowded railway station, he took the family to an empty locked train car that had been moved some distance from the station.By means of this square-headed key he opened one of those locked cars, and his family could finally find some rest. Shortly after, the ’empty’ car was moved to another location so that it would be protected from the impending bombing raids (How many people could have been taken and saved!)

And so it came to pass that during the night that followed the family could escape the devastating aerial attack. The train was parked on a sidetrack near Chemnitz in Waldheim, where the family then stayed.

Dresden after the Devastating Bombing Raids

Dresden after the Devastating Bombing Raids