To continue my story I need to give some background information on my parents and ancestors. A little more than 500 years ago at the time of the Reformation by Martin Luther great changes happened in Europe. The forebears of both father and mother lived in Holland and had left the Catholic Church and joined the newly founded Mennonite Church. They were very sincere and devout in their Christian faith and it is the most outstanding characteristic of my forebears and has continued to the present. There exists a written record going back to the first group of pioneers who left Holland to settle in what was West-Prussia and there to a very fertile land-triangle called “die Niederung” which means the low lying land. This area is bordered by the 2 rivers Weichsel and Nogat flowing into the Baltic Sea which forms the northern border with the most beautiful shoreline of white sand. This land was flooded every spring when the winter ice melted. The Dutch settlers were very good at building dikes and they made the land safe for farming. This is what my ancestors did.The whole area today belongs to Poland and the best known City in the north is Gdanks formerly Danzig. Father’s family became Lutheran while Mother’s remained Mennonite. All of Mother’s ancestors had been farmers and married within their own faith. My parents married in 1930 and mother joined the Lutheran Church.
Father’s family was well known and respected. His father and grandfather had been influential politically and earned the love and respect of the people. Father was raised much more formal. That was absolutely necessary to fit in with your peers of the upper class. Children can be very cruel and at that time you were shamed and laughed at easily. The way you were dressed, the way you spoke and how you presented yourself in posture were so important that parents did everything to make sure their children made a good impression. So much depended on correct behavior. It was every parent’s greatest duty to train the child well. A university education was possible only for the upper class.
Father had studied agriculture and later leased an Estate called Riesenwalde which he managed for some years. The nearest city was Riesenburg. That is where he met my mother during his stay for an appendix operation. My mother was a nurse working in that hospital and there I was born about 3 years later. A hospital birth was already very modern. Most people could not afford it. Almost every child was born at home with a midwife in attendance. I was the second daughter and was expected to be a boy. All my baby clothes were in blue and it became my favorite color. My older sister got a necklace with a red ruby pendent and I got a beautiful Aquamarine which I treasured all my life. When it disappeared about 3 years ago I felt a deep loss. I have no memory of the first years but I still have a few photos. One was taken at my baptism with my parents and 3 Godmothers. Cameras were still very special but mother had to have all the newest things and she loved to take pictures.
Father bought his own Estate when I was two years old. A third sister was one year and a fourth child was expected. This had to be a boy and he should be born on the land and in the house he was to inherit. The son was the heir who carried on the family name. So Hans Adalbert was born in our own new house. Tradition was respected and accepted. Progress was not easy. By moving to East-Prussia my Father was already breaking out of the familiar territory. Cars were still so rare I did not see one till 1939. We got around in horse-drawn carriages and in sleighs in winter. There were no street lights and in winter kerosene lamps would be attached to the sleigh. The winters were very cold. I remember one dark evening being in the sleigh as we were going to the train station most likely to pick up my mother who had been to Koenigsberg shopping. I had climbed out from under the covers and had perched myself up on the back looking at the stars. They were beautiful. All of a sudden there was a bump and I found myself in the snow with the horses going on. I was not hurt but I was very worried I would be left behind. Luckily someone noticed my fall and I was picked up. We always travelled by train. It was very popular. All our relatives lived further West, most of them in West-Prussia, too far for casual visits. As a result I grew up hardly knowing my grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins. Both grandfathers had already died before I was born.
I will continue and share what I know from 1934 till the outbreak of World War II in 1939.
In the meantime, live well, Tela