Of Crime and Punishment
During the second half the school year Frau Stoll gave birth to a baby boy. With his arrival came also a dramatic change in my relationship with the Stoll family. Had I experienced until then a semblance of acceptance as being part of the family, I now felt completely out-of-place. I had become a nuisance, an irritant, a foreign obstacle that needed to be brushed aside to make room in their home and hearts for their newborn son. Old grandma Stoll with her gigantic, trumpet-like hearing aid pretended not to hear me anymore. Frau Stoll was now occupied with her own child and had no time to bring some cheer into my heart. Herr Stoll’s attitude towards me became more and more critical on everything that in his view was unacceptable behavior. He was meting out harsh punishments for my tardiness at suppertime. I had no watch and being a dreamer I easily lost track of time. He also spanked me harder and more frequently for associating with the ‘wrong’ friends.
Castle and Park in Messkirch – Photo Credit: schloesser-bawue.de
Toughened up by the frequent spankings I often took on the role of the victim in the ‘Cowboys and Indians’ games I played with my friends in the beautiful park of the Messkirch castle. On one occasion I allowed myself to be captured and tied with ropes onto a tree. In a bizarre combination of fun and cruelty the ‘Indians’ were howling and dancing around the tree taking turns at punching me in a ritual of crime and punishment. Later on when they had released me, they praised me as their hero for so stoically and silently taking their punches. I delighted in their accolades. The role of the cooperative sufferer with real life experience in the domain of pain suited me well. However, its enjoyment was indicative of a character warped by the loveless and punitive atmosphere in the carpenter’s household.
Messkirch – Photo Credit: schloesser-bawue.de
One rainy afternoon I had to stay indoors after school and spent time at the carpenter’s shop downstairs. Herr Stoll and his three apprentices had been working on various woodworking projects. I was standing next to the first-year apprentice at the very front of the workshop. He had taken a liking to me and often found time to chat with me. It was near closing time. While the young man was cleaning up his workplace, I teased him by hiding his plane he been working with just a few minutes before. The young man was puzzled by its sudden disappearance. While he searched for it, Herr Stoll like a raging bull came racing down the aisle. Without giving a simple word of explanation he grabbed me by the neck and dragged me to the back of the workshop, where he beat me in his furious anger, slapped me in the face, banged me around and threshed my behind. When my cries had turned into a mere whimper and then into silence, Herr Stoll decided that the first part of my punishment had been successfully completed. Nearby was a small storage room for plywood and other wood products. That’s where he threw me for the second installment of my punishment for distracting the apprentice from his all-important clean-up job. I sat on the bare floor aching all over. For how long I sat there I cannot remember. In the darkness of the storage room I contemplated on the crime I had committed against one of my master’s employee. I was still stunned by the traumatic experience, when after a very long time the door of my prison cell opened and the bright outside light made my eyes squint. The shadowy silhouettes of Herr and Frau Stoll like phantoms of the netherworld were looming in front of me. Looking down on this miserable human bundle, Frau Stoll glanced at me as if expecting a word of apology for my misbehavior. Wondering about my silence she remarked to her husband, “Look how guilty he must feel. He is not saying anything at all.”
From this time on I was desperately thinking of escape. Anxiety about this horrific life and homesickness often drove me to the balcony on the north side of the building. There I stretched out my arms towards my home village Rohrdorf as if to invoke some magical force to rescue me from this intolerable situation. But there was no rescue and no home to flee to. The Klopp family once so miraculously reunited was beginning to show signs of disintegration. The failure of the farming venture resulted in a debt load that created a lot stress. Father suffered under long episodes of backaches. From time to time he found temporary employment in the village, while Mother worked hard in a household in the town of Sigmaringen to make ends meet. Karl had gone to Göttingen to study economics. Adolf, who had worked at the Bizerba factory in Messkirch, emigrated to Canada in 1953. He was tired of handing over all his hard-earned money to cover family expenses. Eka (Lavana) had begun her nurses’ training in Hamburg and Gerry had moved to Switzerland to enter a toolmaker’s apprenticeship program. By looking back at the extended periods of separation between Father and Mother I am sure that their relationship was already greatly strained. At the time when I was desperately yearning for the comfort of an intact home, it had ceased to exist.
In the menu under the heading ‘The P. and G. Klopp Story’ there is now an additional subheading called Stories in German. There you will find contributions to our family tree written in German. It is my hope that this change will encourage our relatives in Germany to present their work in their own language, which in turn may help increase interest in the blog among people who do not have sufficient language skills in the English language. As for me, I will no longer have to translate lengthy submissions, before I post them. However, I don’t want to be misunderstood. I will continue to translate and post page-length contributions and, of course, welcome photos and documents of any size. An email will also go out to all participants of the family tree project to announce the change in our blog.
A goal without a plan is just a wish. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
One day while cleaning up the closet in our spare bedroom, I came across half a dozen boxes overflowing with photos, documents and letters. Although some items, especially those bundled together and secured with elastic bands, were in a fairly recognizable chronological order, most were in a state of extreme disarray. Having endeavored to bring order to chaotic situations throughout my thirty years of teaching, I immediately felt the need to peruse, sort, and arrange this long forgotten wealth of family information. A formidable task lay before me. What could I do, when I had already filled my waking hours with must-do activities? To prioritize is the name of the game. Oh, how I hate this word, even though it is derived from my beloved ancient language Latin! Something ‘prior’ is something that comes before else. It became obvious to me that sorting hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures and papers would be very time-consuming and would be strictly an indoor activity for the long, dreary winter months, when my only outdoor jobs would be splitting and stacking firewood, shovelling snow and knocking off sheets of ice off the roof.
Biene and Walter with Model Boat 1959
On my first post of many more to follow on my late brother-in-law Walter, I would like to highlight just one of the many fascinating hobbies that he passionately pursued through his entire life. When he was ten years old he received as a gift a simple model construction kit with dozens of tiny parts and an instruction manual on how to build the ship. It was a humble beginning. But when he presented the finished project to his parents, he was filled with the proud feeling of having accomplished a piece of craftsmanship. It was not only the beginning of a passion for model boats and airplanes, but it also set the course for his future career as a successful engineer. When after their flight from East Germany to the West and a long wait in a refugee camp, his father and mother were finally able to find a small apartment in the city of Velbert. There Walter continued to build bigger, more elaborate and more complicated models from a Mississippi sternwheeler, a French warship, a Roman trireme, all the way up to his the masterpiece, the great American sailing ship. The lesson we parents can all learn from Walter’s amazing hobby is that we should attempt to awaken talents and interest in our children at an early age. For once developed the resulting hobbies will help enrich their lives and the lives they come into contact with.
American Sailing Ship
Invitation to Participate
The two family trees of the Klopp-Kegler clan are complete. On the Panknin-Reifferscheid side there are still a few important branches missing. We are working hard to fill the gaps. Thank you to you all far and wide for your enthusiastic assistance in the creation of these trees!
The trees are nice to look at and give us a sense of identity within the bewildering complexity of family relations. But just as the trees, before spring returns after a long winter, the family trees look bare and lifeless.
To add meaning and beauty to the family trees we need to go beyond the mere names attached to the branches. We all have fond memories that are worth reporting and recording on this site. So if we contribute just one interesting story, one exciting episode, or a colorful description of a time and circumstance in someone’s life perhaps supported by a photo, drawing or painting, then certainly the trees would begin to blossom and reveal the rich tapestry of life. Seeing us as an integral part of a network of individual branches will make us aware of our own individual place within the multifaceted context of our families.
The blog “Our Family Tree Project” will serve as the vehicle allowing us to share, collect, organize and publish our thoughts and memories on our family members including ourselves. I suggest that you email me your contributions. I will then post them in the order they arrive. If they are in German, I will first translate them. It would be great, if someone in Germany could create and use a parallel blog site for our German relatives who do not have a good knowledge of the English language.
On my next post I will explain in greater detail how I envision the Family Tree Project to work. In the meantime take some time to reflect.Then leave a comment or send me an email on how to decorate our family trees.
Happy New Year and Best Wishes for 2015