After the war, Vincenz and Meta Mülbert moved into an apartment on Maria-Theresia-Street 4. At the end of 1946 Meta offered to her sister-in-law Erika Klopp (1899 – 1994), mother of this blog writer, a first dwelling. Erika was a refugee, who had fled from Gutfelde near Znin via Belgard/Pomerania to Freiburg.
The close contacts with her sister Anna von Waldenfels were also kept alive. It was perhaps Meta, who provided for her nephew Georg von Waldenfels first insights and orientation about the residential construction opportunities in the nearby town of Stauffen, before he settled down there with his wife and family.
When Anna became a widow in 1954, Meta invited her sister, who was quite wealthy, but now very lonely without any close relatives left in Bavaria, to stay with her in Freiburg. Both devoted their time and love to the care of their ailing husband and brother-in-law Vincenz. He died on October 2, 1958, after a long and painful battle with cancer in the Freiburg apartment. He had reached the ripe age of 79. He was buried at the main cemetery on the left of the entrance hall on site 16.
From Freiburg Meta and Anna undertook the occasional trip, such as visiting their brother Ernst Klopp (1900 – 1964), this blog writer’s father, who had been living in Michelbach/Vogelsberg since 1957. They also travelled to Lake Titi in the Black Forest shortly before Anna’s granddaughter Carola’s departure for America.
When Anna von Waldenfels died in November 1967, Meta was on her own. Nobody of the Klopp family lived in close proximity. The stepchildren of Mülbert’s first marriage put the woman, who had converted to the Catholic faith into a Protestant home. There the lady died at the age of 86 on January 16, 1984. Next to her husband, whom she had survived by 26 years, Meta found her final resting place.
A post describing my visit as a child to Tante Meta in Freiburg can be found here.
The Gestapo Mülbert case contains for the perhaps forgetful descendants all the ingredients, which empower a dictatorship to oppress with the aid of dug-up trivialities its subjects and if found to be correct, to set into motion their elimination. The bitter cup filled by his own wife went by Vincenz only because of his political insignificance, which she had convincingly put on the table.
Nothing stood in the way to Meta Klopp to get married. Vincenz, having been found blameless, experienced in Meta understanding and compassion. In the eyes of Anna von Waldenfels, he represented after initial speechlessness certainly an acceptable person. She could not have imagined in her wildest dreams her little sister Meta as Frau Professor. The fact that the nerves of this – for Klopp standards and social status – highly educated humanist were presently stretched to their breaking point, added wings to Meta’s tender loving care. Her love enabled her to easily overlook his somewhat scurrilous outer appearance. Also the other religious (Catholic) denomination and the sudden onslaught of a large number of stepchildren were manageable burdens to bear. On the other hand, the much pampered and youngest Klopp girl was looking forward to a social climb of unimaginable proportions. They did not equal, to be sure, to Anna’s spectacular journey into the Bavarian nobility, but nevertheless brought her the respectable title of a ‘professor’s wife’.
On October 24, 1935 the Catholic wedding for the new couple Mülbert took place at the Saint Hedwig Cathedral in Berlin. Meta had converted to the Catholic faith out of love for her husband. The news reached the Wolmirstedt-Zieglitz branches of the Klopp family. They were in no way involved, but found fresh food for gossip and wallowed in their pseudo indignation.
Meta treated like a true mother all her stepchildren with tender loving care. She could not have children of her own. Until 1940 she lived with her husband in Mannheim. During his last year of service he seemed to have suffered from constant health problems. On April 1, 1942, the couple rented an apartment in Freiburg, Breisgau. On December 11, 1940 Vincenz Mülbert was granted early retirement. They lost their new residence in the heavily bombed city in World War II.
The ‘Baby of the Family’ and ‘Frau Professor’ Later
Toward the end of the year 1934, the high school teacher Professor Vincenz Mülbert (1875 – 1958) underwent prostate surgery at the Limburg Hospital. Considering the whole story, Vincenz may have also received psychiatric treatment. Between this man, who was just going through the agony of divorce, and Meta Klopp developed a more than the usual patient-nurse relationship.
Vincenz had suffered a series of painful blows during the span between 1930 and 1935. They included a bitter mix of personal fateful events and ominous pressures stemming from his political and academic superiors. Meta Klopp, by no means an unattractive woman, felt with her fine sensitivity the needs of the man in her care. The call for love reached her heart, perhaps delayed by some overprotected years, but now with power, apparently for the first time in her life. After all, there was between the engaged couple an age difference of almost twenty years. In 1935 Vincenz celebrated his 56th birthday.
Vincenz Mülbert was born on 12 November 1879 in Edingen near Heidelberg, the son of a catholic commissioner Franz Mülbert in Mannheim, who had been sick and unemployable since 1896. After the elementary school in Edingen, Vincenz attended the high school in Tauberbischofsheim from 1891 up to grade 11 and transferred ‘because of his low achievement to the high school in Mannheim, where he graduated in 1899’.
He enrolled at the University of Heidelberg. In the third semester, he abandoned the study of classical linguistics and turned to modern languages at the University of Freiburg. For the last two semesters, he returned to Heidelberg. His major subjects were German and French with Latin as his minor. In his application for admission to a high school position in the spring of 1905, Mülbert mentioned in detail six key areas: Gothic grammar, Old High German grammar, Middle High German and modern German literature of the 18th and 19th century.
After his employment as a civil servant of the State of Baden, Vincenz began his exemplary career: May 1905 teaching position and passing the examen and successfully completing his trial period at the Middle School in Bretten, September 1907 High School in Hettenheim, September 1908 Middle School in Schnepfheim. On 22 March 1910 upon the authority of “Friedrich, by the grace of God, great-duke of Baden, duke of Zähringen, Vincenz Mülbert was installed as a professor of the High school in Weinheim”. Mülbert had now achieved official rank and social status. In full anticipation of a secure financial basis, he married on 30 September 1909 the merchant’s daughter Amalie Schmitt of Taubenhofsheim, presumably a sweetheart from the high school days.
In preparation for our ambitious goal to travel by bike all the way down to Lake Constance with stopovers in Bad Kissingen and Freiburg at Aunt Meta’s place, Rainer and I had a lot of things to do. We planned to camp in the fields and woods along our route and stay away from the campgrounds to save money. I already owned a two-person tent, for which Mother had so lovingly sewn together a sheet of cloth that could be draped over the tent for extra protection against the rain. Rainer, being the son of the owner of a lucrative car repair shop, had access to telephone and quickly set the approximate date of our visit as promised by Christine’s father the previous summer. For food we limited ourselves to non-perishable goods, such as canned sardines, meat, even pumpernickel, and fruit for dessert. For entertainment I took along my harmonica and also a novel written by Jerome K. Jerome at the turn of the century with the title ‘Three Men in a Boat’. In English class we had to read excerpts from the book and we had so much fun with many of the hilarious passages that I decided to buy the book in German translation. At the end of a long and tiring day on the saddle we would crawl into the tent and I would read aloud from this delightful traveling book. We often had to pause to recover from our fits of laughter over a particularly comical description of the three boaters and their temperamental dog.
The Lower Rhineland and the adjacent Ruhr industrial area are almost level. So traveling was easy and light for the first couple of days, even though our bikes were loaded to the maximum capacity with supplies. But when we were nearing the halfway mark to Bad Kissingen we were in the hill country. The slope was getting steeper. Riding old-fashioned bicycles without being able to shift into a lower gear, we often had to get off our bikes and push them with the heavy luggage several kilometers uphill. Oh, how I wished then to be back again in the cool refreshing breeze of the Baltic Sea. Eventually though we were rewarded for our hard labor with a comfortable coasting down into the valley bottom. On one of these pleasant downhill rides not too far from our first stopover I lost control on a sharp curve and took a nasty spill over loose gravel. I badly scratched up my right knee and was bleeding profusely. Other than feeling the stinging pain I got away without any major injuries. Fortunately, the bike had not suffered any damage. So Rainer and I, disheveled and myself a little bit shaken up, arrived at our first major destination. Dr. Baudach took immediate care of my knee and applied a stinging disinfectant and a healing cream to my wounds from a little tube that was worth fifty marks, the equivalent of 10 days of my traveling budget. Bad Kissingen is a spa town and a world-famous resort town in the Bavarian region of Lower Franconia about 300 km southeast of Wesel. We were thankful for the opportunity to recover from our arduous climbs over the hill country and thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality in the doctor’s home during our three-day resting period. When we said good-bye and our heart-felt thank-you to Mr. and Mrs. Baudach, we promised to write as soon as we had finished our journey. We also promised Christine to start as pen pals a correspondence with her. After all she was the one who initiated our invitation from her dad in the previous summer.
Having already been almost two weeks on the road, Rainer and I decided to drop Lake Constance from our itinerary and ride on in a southwesterly direction to Freiburg. Because of the sultry and hot weather we did not average more than sixty kilometers a day. More and more often we had to walk our bikes, as the road was getting steeper. When we had finally reached the famous Black Forest Highway, we realized that the toughest part was still to come. We had to overcome the difference in elevation of more than five hundred meters in order to reach the top of this arduous mountain road. Our progress dwindled to a mere thirty kilometers a day. We would need seven days or more to get to Aunt Meta’s place in Freiburg.
On a particularly long and steep stretch we almost despaired and were ready to buy train tickets in the next major town to escape what appeared to us to be self-inflicted torture rather than a fun-filled journey through one of the most beautiful parts of Germany. While we had parked our bikes on the roadside and contemplated what to do next, we noticed how sluggishly the big trailer trucks were crawling up the mountain road. Necessity is the mother of invention. Seeing the trucks rumbling by at a very slow pace sparked the idea. We would pick one with a trailer and attach ourselves to its back-end. At less than twenty kilometers per hour we figured we would be able to hang onto it with one hand and steer the bicycle with the other. Totally ignoring how dangerous and unlawful it would be, we tried out our plan on the next curve, where we could be sure not to be seen in the rear view mirror of the truck driver. It worked marvelously. Even though we had to switch trucks several times to give our arms a rest, we reached the summit of the North Black Forest road in a matter of a few hours. Tired and exhausted, but happy and content we set up our tent in a cool forest meadow near a mountain creek, whose gentle murmuring quickly lulled us into a deep and well-deserved sleep.
Well rested we made excellent progress on a relatively level stretch of highway on the Black Forest plateau. We refrained from hitching onto the much faster moving trucks this morning. Turning west near the picturesque town of Hinterzarten we were now heading toward the Höllental (Valley of Hell). Below these high-lying hollows of the town the federal highway B31 winds downhill in spectacular loops. Riding on this road turned to be a fantastic joyride, even though in hindsight it could have easily turned into a disaster, if the simple back pedal brakes had failed. After the railway station Hirschsprung with its steep slopes up to six hundred meters high came a section with towering cliffs known as the Höllenpass (Hell Narrows). The narrowest part of the gorge is called the Hirschsprung (Deer’s Jump). A common tale reports that a deer escaped hunters by jumping over the nine-meter wide gorge. Enjoying more the exhilarating high-speed ride than the magnificent scenery all around us we zipped by in typical teenage fashion toward the widening valley of the Freiburg district. It was late afternoon when we arrived at Aunt Meta’s place, where we received the warmest reception and for the first time in days had a decent meal again.
Since my last visit in 1953 Aunt Anna after the death of her husband Baron von Waldenfels had been living with Aunt Meta at the same apartment. Her colorful life as baroness, a very interesting piece of family history, can be read in the voluminous book ‘Familienchronik Klopp’ written by Eberhardt Klopp, a distant cousin of mine. Having grown up in the nationalistic era of Imperial Germany, she was still filled with the fervor of German patriotism. While we were savoring Aunt Meta’s delicious cake at the coffee table, her passionate plea to us strapping young men to embrace and adhere to the archaic concepts of blood and honor is still ringing in my ears after all these years.
Rainer made a phone call to his mother describing to her the fun we had but also the ordeals we experienced in pedaling through mountainous terrain. Whether it was compassion for her son or whether she just wanted to take a break from her household chores, I do not know. But she decided to pick us up in her VW beetle. We took our bikes to the railroad station and had them shipped to Wesel. The trip home with Rainer’s cheerful mom along the scenic River Rhine with its impressive mediaeval castles brought another adventure to a most pleasant conclusion.
Succulent Peaches and Playful Friendship with a French Girl
The yard around the house at Maria-Theresia-Str. 4 was beautiful indeed. A hedge completely surrounded the property except for the iron wrought gate near the main entrance of the house. Various fruit trees decorated a good part of the yard, and the peaches were reaching full maturity. There was nobody who expressly told me not to eat them. I ate them, because they were there and because they tasted delicious. With each new bite the juice was squirting into my face and running down on each side of my mouth. My taste buds were so delighted that I overindulged in the pleasure of eating the succulent fruits, until my stomach began to grumble and was sending warning messages, which I chose to ignore. Too late! At first I barely made it up the two flights of stairs to get to the bathroom on time. Then the visceral revolt became too strong, I ran behind a bush to relieve myself. A woman from a next-door balcony watched in horror the revolting sight and rushed over to complain to my aunt, “This boy did not have the decency to go to the washroom and he disgusted himself on the lawn.” This was the way she described it in her excessive sensibility regarding bodily functions with that the rare German expression ‘Er hat sich verekelt.’
On the ground floor lived a high-ranking officer of the French occupation forces with his wife and a daughter, who was about my age. She often came out on the yard to play with me. There was no language barrier. We played all the simple games we had learned in school that required no or very little equipment, such as hopscotch, throwing pebbles into a circle, hide-and-go-seek, etc. Prejudices of our two different nationalities did not exist in our young hearts. The extent of my French vocabulary after three months of instruction was still under one hundred. However, under the tutelage of this vivacious little girl bubbling over with words and gestures my stock of words grew by leaps and bounds. When I made my first attempt to use some of the new phrases I had learned from her, she giggled goodnaturedly over my enthusiastic effort to communicate in her mother tongue. I have very fond memories of my summer holidays in Freiburg, and they will remain as one of the pleasant highlights of my childhood years in Southern Germany.
Upon my return to Messkirch things were looking up for awhile. My homeroom teacher Fräulein Welte was quite pleased with my sudden interest in French and with the general improvement in the other subjects as well. My more positive attitude was in part prompted by the so-called ‘blue’ letter. It was sent home to inform parents about their child’s poor performance in school. Now I was no longer in danger of failing the grade. Also there was a more pleasant atmosphere at the Stoll family. They must have enjoyed the break from having to deal with me during the summer holidays. The focus was now on the upcoming joyful event. For the baby was due in less than two weeks.
The summer holidays came as a relief from the mounting anxieties that I felt in school and at the Stoll’s. My parents put me on the train to Freiburg, where Aunt Meta lived at Maria-Theresia-Str. 4.
The city has now a population of 200,000 people. Historically, Freiburg has acted as the hub of the Breisgau region on the western edge of the Black Forest in the Upper Rhine Plain. One of the famous old German university towns, archiepiscopal seat, the city was incorporated in the early 12th century and developed into a major commercial, intellectual and ecclesiastical center of the region. Freiburg is located in the heart of a major wine-growing area and serves as the primary tourist entry point to the scenic beauty of the Black Forest.
When I arrived at my aunt’s apartment, I immediately felt that a great burden had been taken off my shoulders. Aunt Meta, Father’s youngest sister, cheerfully received me into her pleasant home and the love, which I had been so sorely missing for the last three months, she lavished upon the youngest child of her youngest brother Ernst. Her husband, Professor Vincenz Mülbert, had been suffering from a lengthy illness and was in the hospital during my entire stay. Meta Emma Klopp made me feel right away at home, and even though she had no children of her own, she was like a mother to me. And when I needed correcting for something in my conduct that she strongly disapproved of, her kind words flowing from a warm and understanding heart accomplished much more than the harsh treatment that I had endured at the carpenter’s house in Messkirch.
In the spacious living room stood a grand piano. Tante Meta allowed me to play on it, even though I had never received any lessons. What attracted me were not its sheer size and unusual shape and the looks of the mysterious white and black keys. Rather I was fascinated by the discovery that by simply pressing the keys of the piano I entered a world hitherto unknown to me, the amazing world of musical sounds. Each individual note or sequence of notes created a pleasant sensation, which made me search for other notes to reinforce it. I once sang Kindergarten songs to seek comfort from the fear of darkness, I played the kazoo to express the joy of being part of a group, but the notes I played on the piano had a more profound impact. They provided a first glimpse into the power of music to open the doors to my inner being, the very gateway to my soul. However, for someone else, especially for Aunt Meta my musical explorations on the keyboard must have been horrible to listen to. Her patience and understanding were truly admirable.
On Sundays, Aunt Meta took me to the church service in the famous Münster of Freiburg. Everything in the cathedral, the towering stone columns, the stained glass windows, the altar, indeed the entire building itself inside and outside pointed heavenward towards God. You stand there in awe of the splendour created to the glory of God by generations of craftsmen. The priest delivered a sermon whose content I have long forgotten. It must have been a very simple homily. For almost every sentence emphasized the need to pray and the need to be thankful. And that was I guess the essence of what the priest conveyed to his flock in church.