When Father’s back pains hurt too much, he stayed in bed for most of the day. Adolf and I were sitting at his bedside to keep him company. Then Father and I would often talk about the great empires of the past and the lessons one might learn from the causes of their decline. I really warmed up to this topic as I had recently taken a keen interest in the Roman Empire’s history. We concluded that if one allows foreign religious and ethnic elements to dominate the nation’s cultural core, it will sooner or later lose its identity. Its values and moral fibre will undergo first decline and then total collapse. Germany, according to Father, has not learned her lessons and was headed in the same direction. Pointing to the record player on the night table, he remarked, “The record is turning. The needle is progressing in its groove. But in the end, it will be starting all over again. symbolizing the eternal recurrent of the same in world history.” Adolf feeling a little left out in this highfalutin talk, said he would buy himself a couple of history books to study up on the things he had missed in school.
Before the end of my vacation in Michelbach, I gave Erna my moped. The engine of her better-looking moped had utterly broken down. Adolf, the skilful mechanic and jack-of-all-trades, took the working motor out of mine and installed it into Erna’s moped. As a reward for my generosity, Adolf drove me in his Volkswagen beetle back home to Wesel, where he would spend a few days to visit with Mother and Aunt Mieze. In this joyful summer of 1962, I saw Father for the last time alive. I am so glad that I did. How great would have been the loss if I had missed this golden opportunity to see him!
Spring came early in 1943. I spent a lot of time outside exploring the world around me. I learned to stand up on my own and ventured to make my first stumbling steps. Jupp, the friendly family dog, was my steady companion and my best friend for a while. Unlike my older siblings I refused to take the bottle and from my first birthday on I proudly drank my milk from the cup. When people were watching, I did my best to entertain them and show off my newly acquired skills. With the good weather also came a stream of visitors to enjoy the peaceful environment and the hospitality they found at Gutfelde. These visits spread over a couple of months were quite enjoyable for hosts and guests alike, even though some stayed for as long as three weeks or even longer. On top of it all, Karl and Adolf came home for the Easter holidays. Karl had acquired a certain degree of stardom with his excellent performance at the Belgard High School and his rapid development of his piano playing skills. As always, when he was home, he was asked to demonstrate his progress at the family piano. This went over very well, especially as his music teacher was also present and accompanied him on Father’s violin.
Mother was honoured for the second time on Mother’s Day in Seebrück (Rogowo), a near-by town southwest of Gutfelde. With her five children, four of whom were male, she ranked very high among all the mothers in the region. Mother’s Day was a state supported festival, upon which a lot of emphasis was given to the meaning of motherhood mostly for ideological and mythical reasons based on ancient Teutonic folklore. Women in general were considered not weak, but very precious who had to be protected at all cost from any involvement in war activities. Germany was the only nation that did not employ women in the war effort in any shape or form. Young girls in colourful dresses presented flowers to the mothers. This year it was Father’s turn to make a speech to the assembly. What he was saying about motherhood and family came straight from the heart and with his genuine admiration for all mothers and especially for his beloved wife left a lasting impression on all those who were present.
Mother’s diary of the first 15 months of my life came to a sudden end, because she had simply reached the last page and did not want to start another booklet. If one considers that this diary with the many tiny photographs pasted into it and written in beautiful Sütterlin handwriting was from among all the other precious goods the only object that she managed to bring safely to West Germany, one must concede that we are dealing with a little miracle. The far greater miracle, the survival of the entire Klopp family in the closing days of World War II and afterwards, will be the subject of the next chapter.
In the past few weeks, my wife and I crossed the Arrow Lake and the Needles Ferry Path a number of times. I proudly announced that we travelled up the Whatshan River to the waterfalls. When I recognized that I had made a mistake and heard that the waterfalls were far more inland, I invited my wife to go exploring. Attempting to climb the steep embankment almost turned into a disaster. Biene struggled very hard on all fours to inch her way up to the top from which I could only shout words of encouragement. When she finally stood on safe and stable ground, she was very happy that she did not give up. We were both rewarded with a splendid view and hike to the elusive waterfalls, which is the content of the video below. Enjoy!
Please note that my thoughts on my father’s life appear in green print. What is shown in regular print is translated from my cousin’s book on the Klopp family.
You may be puzzled about the title I have chosen for this episode of my father’s life. After all, in many parts of the world people were suffering under the horrific impact of World War II. After the Nazi aerial attacks on southern England came the Allied bombing raids of German towns and cities. Tens of thousands of people perished in the firestorms. Innocent people suffered, starved and got murdered in the Nazi concentration camps. Millions of soldiers gave their lives, on the Allied side in defence of freedom, on the Axis side for the illusion of the questionable honour of dying a hero’s death for the fatherland. So why would I chose such a seemingly inappropriate title for a period when the winds of war brought horror, death and destruction to many parts of the world?
Because at that particular time for the Ernst Klopp family, their workers, friends and relatives, Gutfelde and the entire county of Dietfurt (Znin) was an oasis of peace and tranquillity. Relatives from the big cities under the threat of constant bombardment came flocking to Gutfelde to spend weeks, often months far away and out of reach of the deadly bombing raids. Food was nutritious and plentiful. Even as late as December 1944 the family could celebrate a traditional Christmas with gifts for both adults and children, plates filled with Pfeffernüsse, nuts and all sorts of delicious baked goodies.
The first visitors came from Berlin in the summer of 1941. At that time my father Ernst Klopp had just started his first major assignment on the Silberberg estate in the Wartheland. Artur Thiess was the husband of Else, the daughter of aunt Alma. Later on because of the huge age difference (I was not yet born in 1941) I called him Uncle Artur, even though technically speaking he was my cousin. Artur spent his summer vacation with his wife Else and his two daughter Ingrid and Gerlinde at Silberberg. He wrote a one page type-written report, which my mother had passed on to me and which I will publish next week.
On Father’s Day my wife and I initiated the beginning of summer with a canoe ride across the Arrow Lake. The weather was perfect and the wind was calm, ideal to cross the lake for the first time in 2020. To make sure we would use the least amount of time, we followed the path of the cable ferry, which was busy with Father’s Day traffic on its half-hour journey back and forth from Fauquier to Needles. To our surprise, the water was warm enough to get in a quick swim. Alas, we had left our swim wear at home. Enjoy the scenery.