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 an 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 the one of her eldest brother Friedrich Klopp (1875 – 1946) in Gardelegen in the former German Democratic Republic. “Sic transit gloria mundi.”
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.
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.
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.
To be continued next Friday …
‘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.
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 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-staked 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 into 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.