While translating parts from the family chronicles written by my cousin Eberhard Klopp, my main focus was on rendering an accurate translation. My personal interest in our family history and a deeply felt responsibility towards the Klopp branch and future descendants living in Canada provided me with the motivation and necessary persistence to delve into this laborious and time-consuming undertaking. With the exception of four aunts and my father Ernst Klopp, I did not get to know the other twelve children of my paternal grandparents Emma Christiane and Peter Friedrich Klopp.
As I was writing down the wealth of ancestral information of Eberhard Klopp’s book containing more than 200 pages in small print and then publishing it on my blog one uncle and one aunt at a time, I gained deep insight into the causes of what makes a family function in harmony and of what makes it fall apart. Quite frankly, reading some of the stories shocked me so intensely that I hesitated for a long time to publish them online.
My readers, who read the posts on my nephew Georg von Waldenfels, a Nazi SS officer, may understand as to why I was tempted to leave out this embarrassing chapter of our family history. In the 1930s many people were misled by the promises made by the Nazi propaganda for a more prosperous and stronger Germany after having suffered through the worst economic depression in German history. Actually, at least initially, their hopes and aspirations were being fulfilled. While millions of people had been struggling to make ends meet, every person willing to work was now gainfully employed and able to put bread and butter on the table. They had no idea that the Third Reich that was supposed to last a thousand years would lie in ruins so quickly and millions of soldiers and civilians would be sacrificed on the altar of an insane ideology.
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.
As noted earlier, Georg von Waldenfels had experienced a number of promotions in his officer’s career, quite unheard of and irregular in the German army, where advancements were based on military training and especially on merit on the battle field. The SS was, however, no regular army. On 1 July 1942, he was promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer, somewhat equivalent to the upper rank of lieutenantand in April 1943 to SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain).Although von Waldenfels occupied the same ranks in another branch of the SS, he acquired them all over again in a more prestigiousdivision. Now under the protective umbrella of influential Sepp Dietrich he now became so-to-speak a ‘regular’ in the hierarchy of the Common SS. It is not surprising that after the war the Allies were facing an incomprehensible phenomenon within the hierarchal structure of the SS.They were unable to cope with all the confusing differences within the ranking system and ignoring them erroneously treated all cases the same. In May 1943, barely four weeks later, Georg was promoted to SS-Sturmbannführer (major).
In the spring 1944 there were definite signs that the idyllic life in the eastern province of Posen (Poznan) would come to an end.The commander Sepp Dietrich engaged on the western front arranged Georg’s transfer from the so-called ‘Common SS’ (Allgemeine SS) to the prestigious “Leibstandarte SS”. As support officer at the various battle locations after D-Day in France and Belgium he was never employed in a military function, but was responsible for providing food, drink and entertainment for his boss and his entourage. Georg must have experienced – obviously mostly far removed from the actual fighting – at least three of the four major battles, which took place after 6 June 1944.
The casino chef Georg von Waldenfels survived the dramatic weeks shortly before the Allied troops marched their troops into Paris away from the front lines in any of the numerous secure headquarters of the SS, which were mostly requisitioned hotels, residences and castles in and around Paris. Before the battle between Falaise and Caen, which ended in defeat and signalled the retreat of the SS units in August 1944, Georg, unsuitable for military duties, managed to be ordered back to Germany. By 1945 he acquired, no doubt with the help of some influential political ‘friends’, the rank of SS-Obersturmbannführer.
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.
Pulling the right strings at the right authorities, Georg von Waldenfels managed to acquire from the DAG the trusteeship over the ‘abandoned’ estate property at Angern on the River March between Lower Austria and Slovenia. As a trustee he worked there for two months from August 3 to October 1, 1938.
His ultimate goal was by hook or by crook to take possession of the property of the Jewish family Löw, who had owned and worked this large parcel of land of prime agricultural land for many generations. The DAG (Deutsche Ansiedlungsgesellschaft), the so-called German Settlement Agency, had set into motion punitive court proceedings against the Löw family to the tune of 13 million Reichsmark (RM). Eight million RM were covered by the sale of all movable equipment. Remained the five million RM, which the DAG desired to collect. To fully comprehend the value of the entire estate, one can easily peg the sale’s price on today’s real estate market at around 100 million dollars. The commissioned administrator von Waldenfels bragged among friends that he could easily come up with the five million RM. Through marriage he had connected with father-in-law Jan F. Jannink, “one of the wealthiest mega-industrialists of Holland, who would throw the five million RM on the table with a smile.”
Von Waldenfels had also set his eyes on the palace-like mansion of the Löw family located at the 19th District of Vienna. This stately and historically important residence also belonged to the total ‘aryanized’ property of the SS. The low ranking SS officer of Lagowitz, swept up by his incredible pipe dreams, now beyond all reasonable dimensions appeared to drift away into the fantasy world of his own desires.
After the 27-year old von Waldenfels had left his high school in 1921 with the equivalent of a grade 10 education, he asserted later in a curriculum vitae that the November revolution of1918 had ‘prevented him to take the highly desired officer’s career.’ Now the SS had raised hime to a high staff rank without even requesting proof of qualification at an officer’s training centre or military academy. Judged by his tone and tenor of his literary outpouring, Georg’s academic horizon corresponded to the one of his role model Sepp Dietrich, who according to statements made of SS officers was incapable to digest not even half-way the complexity of a military report. But in their Bavarian foolhardiness and wanton bravado they were very much alike. Even in their physical appearance, corpulent and of low stature they showed great similarities. Both were miles apart from the ideal type of an ‘aryan model of light.’ Georg had good reason for unlimited gratitude towards his benefactor. But by a hair he almost spoiled things with Sepp.
In March 1938, Hitler brought about the annexation and integration of Austria into the ‘Greater German Reich’. Within half a year the ‘Special Leader’ with the rank of an SS lieutenant embarked on surveying the ‘East Mark’ of Austria for new activities with his strong agricultural background. In 1938 Georg felt the time had come to get rid of the estate Lagowitz. Because of envy and a harsh letter writing campaign against Georg by NS party members at home, he wanted to move as far as away as possible.
In the summer of 1938 he found out through his network of connections about a very large ‘abandoned’ estate in Austria. A few days after the wedding von Waldenfels approached the SS very own ‘German Settlement Agency” (Deutsche Ansiedlungsgesellschaft -DAG), which had its head quarters in Berlin. At the office of director Richard Rücker he applied directly for the agricultural and industrial ownership of the Jewish family Gustav and Wilhelm Löw in Angern at the River March (Moravia).
The area contained more than 3,000 ha (about 7,400 acres) some 40 km southeast of Vienna. It was fertile and very productive land used for centuries for growing crops of grain, corn, sugar beets, potatoes, even vineyards. The industrial real estate consisted of an alcohol factory, refinery, a molasses-spirit facility, potash plant, pea shelling outfit, feed mixing centre, grain elevators and central workshops with seed research station. The mega estate was governed at the castle-like building complex, which served as residence for the administrator and his family.