Now I will move on to the third chapter of my life.
I met your father in 1929, and at the turn of 1929-30 we became engaged. We immediately started looking for a livelihood and soon found that the little manor “Haus Broel” was for lease. It was located in Borgeln, the homeland of your father and his ancestors, and belonged to the Baron von Werthern, who did not manage it himself.
Our predecessor was old and moved to his daughters, who had a farm in Lippstadt. Thus, starting the 15th of June 1930, Haus Broel and 100 acres of land, became available.
On May 23, we celebrated our wedding according to traditional custom, although not large, with about 45 people. And exactly 25 years after our family moved from Obernfelde, I had to leave home and move into the unknown again. It was quite difficult for me and my parent since they were getting older and brother Fritz was still young – but: “A man will leave his father and mother … ” and vice versa. One establishes a new family and finds a new home, that is the way of the world. I had to move often in the following years until we finally found a beautiful new hometown again here in Luebbecke.
After a difficult farewell from home and parents, with cheerful courage and a lot of goodwill, we got to work. In the farmhouse, we lived together with the Von Werthern family, with whom we always got along quite well. Our apartment consisted of: a huge kitchen, which was never to get warm, because it also had 6 doors and a porch; a utility room and many side rooms; living rooms; and upstairs 3 bedrooms along with more side rooms. There were also abundant stables and barns, all of which were still a very old style and thus impractical. Some we soon changed. We also reduced the large kitchen and installed a pump, before that we brought the water from the well. Economically, we experienced the saying: “Every beginning is difficult”. We were particularly hard hit by all sorts of unexpected and undeserved misfortune. It started with the harvest… The barley was in a sunny corner, and the harvest was during a heat wave, so that the delicate blades broke and the ears were partly lying on the field. We had to take over the harvest of our predecessors (it had been appraised) and with the rye we experienced our second big disappointment, because its value remained well below tax. The oats, which were relatively good, matured in a rainy period, and despite all our effort and care a great deal of grain stayed on the ground, while the other part was wet and semi-spoiled in the barn. Added to that, and this is what we knew from Schröttinghausen, pigs held a lot of promise. We changed the stables, at our own expense, to fattening houses, and diligently bought piglets, but when they were ready for sale, and we hoped to make our first least payment from this sale, prices had unexpectedly fallen, so that even in this regard we had worked only at a loss. On the good side, were the big, beautiful orchards with rare indeed beautiful fruit, and the trees bore abundantly, but also the fruit yielded a low price, and was so hard to sell that it did not even pay for the work of harvesting.
The cows and horses were well taken care of and halfway satisfied, but at the end of the year we found with sadness that not only had we worked in vain, but at a loss. It was bitter, but we were young and hoped for better times. It did end up getting better, at least the crops, but then the financial crisis of America came over and prices fell, so that there was not much profit to be made from the stables. It also turned out that, although the Soester Börde (a region in Westphalia) is very fertile in general, just the Broel is an exception. It is said to be an inferior flooded soil, and we were in constant battle with the weeds.
In the autumn of the second year Elizabeth was born in hospital in Hamm. I got a severe pulmonary embolism, and my life was hanging by a thread. The doctors had already given up on me, and said I was a miracle because for half an hour I was without a pulse and heartbeat, and was only kept alive with the administering of carbon dioxide and oxygen. They were at the end with their knowledge and skill, and had only God’s help to count on. Contrary to expectations, I did come back to full health. Elizabeth was born on the 19th of October, after which I stayed in the hospital for 7½ weeks. When I was well enough to travel, I went to Schröttinghausen and stayed there until February for further recovery. Elizabeth had already been sent on ahead, and Aunt Liesbeth had taken her and her 4 week old, Erich, to her breast, and the two were well taken care of. Grandmother Klüsener faithfully filled in for me during those many months, but on my return I was still weak and my ability to work lacked strength. On top of that, we did not have any health insurance and had to pay the hospital costs ourselves.
On 16 April 1933, 1 1/2 years after Elizabeth’s birth, Gerhard was born on Easter and his father’s birthday. The doctors who had taken care of me during the first birth were very concerned and advised I have a caesarean section. But then it all went unexpectedly well, and no one was happier than we were. I recovered quickly and was soon able to start working again. But the rewards of our work remained quite modest, and so we decided not to delay and settle in the east. It was tempting indeed, the thought of our very own farm. The settlement idea was very encouraged at that time by National Socialism, and once we found a successor to take over our lease, we went in search of a new life. Although the prices were much cheaper in the east, it was not so easy to find the right place. I experienced this firsthand when I toured the area in March 1934.
Then we decided on the farm in Peeselin.
It was 207 morgens in size and cost, including all the buildings, 63000 marks.
In the beginning, it was even harder than when we started out in Broel. We did not foresee that because of the size of the farm we were starting out with too little working capital. “Gespannen” we ordered only very moderately, and the barn was filled at a slower pace than was necessary.
During the second year there, on 18/03/1935, Hanna was born in hospital in Neubrandenburg. This time it was so easy and fast that I was discharged after 7 days, and it was also important that I was again involved and in the thick of things.
Three months later I had one, rather two, operations in Lübbecke hospital. I was there for 4 weeks, after which followed years full of worry, work, and bitterness that overtime led to overload, and thereby also to the current state of my leg condition. I do not want to describe this year in anymore detail. All of you, to some degree or another, experienced these times with me , and whoever so desires – perhaps Gerhard – can include my report with their own report of their childhood and youth that occurred during this time, and continue and complete the story.
When the war broke out, almost all of our people were drafted except for a young man from the work service who was not worth much. The work stood like a mountain in front of us, and to this day I still do not know how we did it. Government agencies seemed more interested in throwing obstacles in our path, than helping us, although there was the opportunity. It became noticeably better when the Polish workers came into the country. We then had, at that time, a reliable permanent workforce, who was industrious and willing if you treated them decently. Gradually we filled the stables, machinery was bought, and the processing of the heavy soil was improved through the use of abundant and good horse manure, a yoke of oxen, and most of all the tractor.
In March 1944, your father was drafted, and I had to figure out how I would get things done alone. Even at this time, my life was made difficult by the authorities and indeed intentionally. The instigator of these actions against us was our neighbor Bünte, the assistant to the regional leader Tesch, a pompous airhead and 200% Nazi. Why these two hated us so profoundly, never became clear. With Bünte we were initially very good neighbors, with Tesch we never had any dealings, good or bad,. These two, as major party bigwigs, contrived to gradually stir the regional farmers, labor office, and the Party against us, and always in the background. We were completely defenseless. Other neighbors suffered because of them as well, but we were targeted the most. And it stayed like that even when I was completely alone. Meanwhile, so many Polish people had come into the country that we were provided with a normal amount of labor. So I worked alone alongside these people, and I cannot say anything other than they stood faithfully by my side.
Economically, it was also slowly getting better, yes, even good, so that I was able to pay off 15,000 mark in the autumn of ’44. The stalls were full, machinery and equipment plentiful and readily available.
Then the collapse and the Russians came, and I want to touch only briefly on it. It was like everywhere in the East, a time full of fear and terror. But I must say full of gratitude, nothing serious happened to us. There was looting, and like all we lost possessions, but we had to a roof over our head, enough to eat, and were able to provide many refugees for a shorter or longer period of time with food, shelter, and also some other means of support in the autumn of ‘44. Most of our villagers helped the poor willingly and actively. But economically it again became very bad for me. Shortly before the Russian invasion, our refugees, whom I had befriended, continued their escape to the west.
The Polish people, who did their work to the end, were deported by the Russians, and indeed wanted to get back to their home. So I stood with you three children alone, because the neighbors also had enough to deal with themselves. Although new refugees came, they were all strangers, and almost only women and old men. But life went on, and through good and bad I carried on as best I could.
Refugees came and went, but for the summer I again had people who stood firm in the job, and at first were also very capable. But I soon found out that there were some rather untrustworthy workers, against whom I probably would have prevailed in normal times. But there was no law and order anymore, so I had to standby and watch as they stole from me. Furthermore, the Russians gradually took over management and new difficulties arose. I often saw no way out. The major farm owners were almost all shipped off to prison, many dying in misery. I did not want to expose your father to this danger and asked him to stay in Schröttinghausen where he was safe. When there seemed no likelihood of the Russians withdrawing and my situation became more difficult, I leased out the farm, and the two of us alone, Gerhard and I, went in the company of Agnes Klänhammer and Mrs. Hesse, on our so-called flight. It was not a true flight in the sense that our departure was halfway legal, but was full of fear and anxiety all the way to the border crossing in Herleshausen, because there was always the danger of being sent back again. But then, finally, we had the crossing behind us and were able to breathe again. The journey lasted eight days, and was really no fun at all.
In Schröttinghausen we found accommodations, work and bread, but it was not permanent or a proper existence. We tried desperately to lease a farm or something similiar, but there were too many refugees and too few farms. We, as unrecognized east zone refugees, could expect no state aid, and without money you cannot rent. And so we came through the best we could. Your father worked where he found work, we had food on the table and did not make any debts we could not pay, we did not buy what we did not need and so dispensed with much of what appeared to others as absolutely necessary. With much sacrifice we gave you three a good education, which later paid off nicely. You all willingly and contentedly joined in with everything, and we never looked on enviously at those who were better off. Only the housing shortage was something that troubled us a great deal. We always came from bad to worse, ending up at one point in the hands of a crook who brought us to despair, so that we sometimes thought we were in emotional ruin. However, “when the need is greatest, God’s help is closest”. Out of the desperation we came up with the decision to build. Today, the verse often comes to mind:
Gathering all your forces
for the offensive,
never to give way,
showing yourself powerful:
this calls the arms
of the Gods to your side!
When we conceived of the plan to build, there was not much to it. A building society offered us 300 DM, to which we first had to pay in 120 DM. Our wishes in relation to the building site and house were extremely modest: four walls and a roof over our head, somewhere where there was cheap land, and as quickly as possible, so maybe in 3-4 years at best. It all happened quite differently! First we were assigned an apartment in Luebbecke, which was made available to us due to our construction plans, and if we committed to hosting a refugee from Luebbecke in the granny flat. The apartment we received was neither beautiful nor cheap, we were warned by the landlady. But everything went better than we thought it would. The nonprofit housing and settlement company for the Luebbecke area sold us a building site in a beautiful residential area, which was, moreover, very inexpensive: DM 3,55 / m2. Today, four times as much is required and given.
Now we could begin to plan. I myself had started planning during the darkest times of our housing difficulties, but it was for me just a “Fata Morgana”. Now, however, it seemed to become a reality, and with joy we studied architectural plans and construction documents – it was a good time. In between came some dark hours when things did not work out with the funding and we did not have enough to cover everything. We all did our best, and made do without wherever we could.
Last but not least, in the end we were still missing DM 5500. If it was not procured, our financing plan would not be fulfilled, and we would not be able to start. Miraculously we found a last-minute sponsor: our contractor, who gave us a very affordable, interest-free loan.
Now we could start, and on September 14, 1954, the foundation stone was laid after a rainy summer that gave us some trouble. On the 30th of October we celebrated Richtfest, and then it proceeded, though with a lot of worries and troubles, anger and impatience when the artisans would now and then leave us in the lurch, still spryly forward. On May 15, 1955, we were finally able to move in. Even then, not all was done, neither in the house nor in the garden. But we slowly managed everything. Now, three years have passed since we moved in. Everyday we are grateful for our beautiful home and the rich blessings brought to us by the garden, of fruits and vegetables and an abundance of flowers. And when last week we were awarded 3rd prize in a garden and floral decoration contest from the city of Luebbecke (our street received the first prize), the recognition made us quite happy.
Looking back on my – on our lives – I must say there was no lack of light and shadow. From very great misfortunes we have been preserved so far. The parents have reached the biblical age. My children are long grown, and you have all learned a skill, found your place in life, and have never given us any grief. Instead of the large farm in Pomerania, we now have a beautiful home, and after the time of homelessness we again have our own land under our feet, as is our peasant nature. This, our small property, is not built from inherited money, but from our own strength with God’s help and blessings from our parents. Mother’s fervent prayers with which she tried to help us as she had nothing else to give, and her firm belief in those prayers, I also give some credit.
“Fleh’ nicht daß Gott dein Glück im Schlaf dir schenke, fleh’ daß er dir zum Kampfe Kraft erhält. Ein Stücklein Land, das du dir selbst erworben, ist mehr als eine dir geschenkte Welt.”
(Beg not that God will give you your happiness in sleep, beseech that he gets you to battle force. A little piece of land that you purchased yourself, is more than a given world.)
And so I will finish my report. My childhood was spent in Obernfelde, and in my old age there is no where I would rather be than in our homeland. So one could say, the ring closes.
“Der Anfang, das Ende, o Herr sie sind Dein, die Spanne dazwischen, das Leben, war mein. Und irrt ich im Dunkeln, und fand mich nicht aus, bei Dir Herr ist Klarheit, und licht ist Dein Haus”.
(The beginning, the end, O Lord, they are yours, the span between, that life was mine. And I mistaken in the dark, could not find my way, with you Lord is clarity, and light is your house.)