Lübbecke, the 26.2.1957.
Today, I will attempt to fulfill a wish frequently expressed by my children and tell the story of my ancestors and my own life – the 63 years of my personal experiences – and also share what my memory has retained of the stories my parents and grandparents told me. With that said, I will begin:
I was born on February 18, 1894 in Schröttinghausen, Krs Lübbecke, Germany, on the farm of my maternal ancestors, “On the Masch.” Shortly before I was born, my great-grandfather, Franz Volbert, died at the age of 85. My father, Frederick William Hermjohannes married into this estate. But because my grandfather, Wilhelm Volbert, and Father had very divergent natures, they had decided, after five, probably very unpleasant years, to separate. In the Minister House, Lübbecke, where my father, a bachelor at the time,
had served several years as a chauffeur, a position became available that included free board in a small cottage. On 1 April 1894 we moved – father, mother, my sister, and I – to the old, cozy, coachman cottage of Ladies Caroline and Louisa von Recke. Father served as coachman, gardener and manager of the small farm consisting of 1 horse, 2 cows, pigs and chickens, and the associated field and garden. Here we all, particular us children, spent happy years.
Our apartment consisted of two small rooms, but mother knew how to set it very fine and comfortable. The little narrow corridor, which belonged in part with the apartment was used simultaneously as a laundry, bakery and meat kitchen. There was thus excluding a large laundry tub and the oven, in which Father, about every 10 days, baked the bread for the residents of the
Minister House and the nursing home. The last of the kneading of the bread dough was done in the so-called “hospital”. This large floor space was ironing room, bakery, occasionally even rented out, and on Sunday it was where the children from Mehner mountain had Sunday school, much to the chagrin of our
parents, because all the rumbling disturbed their Sunday afternoon nap. With a call of ”de Froile kümp” (the lady) quiet would follow, and Miss Luisw or Adelheid von Ledebur could begin. With that I’ll conclude the description of our modest but cozy cottage.
The two gentlewomen, (we called them Aunt Caroline and Aunt Luisa, although, in fact, addressing them by, “Your Ladyship”, was called for), had two nieces, from Crollage, Luise and Adelheid von Ledebur, the children of their sister who they’d taken in to care for and raise as their own children since their mother had died giving birth to her 12th child.
Between master and servants, there was a familiar, almost familial relationship, and especially my parents as children of farmers, and later themselves as farm owners, were very respected. Once Lady Caroline even said to Father, “You farmers take after us.”(the nobility)! (When Adam delved and Eve spun, where was the gentleman?) Today, after over fifty years, we still regard those Ladies with such gratitude, both the old and the young. How kindly they always treated us! On winter evenings we were often invited to join them in the “great hall”, the large dining and living room of the house. It was there that with their supervision, I sewed my very first pin cushion for grandmother, cross stitched on canvas; or where I made a bookmark for father. And it was there that I did my very first exercises in knitting and crocheting. In the Advent and Christmas seasons the place became virtually magical. For the Sunday School dinner we were given picture books, the most beautiful things imaginable, to cut up, glue and paint. We were allowed to spin wool into all kinds of warm clothes. There was one picture book with loose biblical images in it, which we could choose one from, and then we would get to hear the story behind it. On these nightly visits, we politely removed our wooden shoes before entering the hall. Knocking was uncalled for – it would have been too formal – but then we’d shyly ask if, “wi n `Birten kurmen dröffen.” Though we’d been so firmly instructed by our parents, who’d always told us, “You must always ask, ‘May we come in?’” we’d always fallback on our old line. When they’d sometimes say, “We have no use for you tonight,” then that was okay too. Just before Christmas, the old tailor, Father Lakuler, would come with his sons and set up his workshop in the sick bay. Out of the old then were suddenly newly created clothes, things which were then given to the often quite poor children of the Mehner Berge community as Sunday School presents. This event was, quite simply, a part of the holidays.
Then, as the longed-for Christmas Eve drew nearer, we two children had to make a trip. A poor older girl, Lisa Grönemeier lived in Liekwegs, “by the four linden trees”, and every year mother would bake her a large pot pie for Christmas, and included with it another 1/2 pound of coffee beans and 1 pound of sugar. In this way, mother taught us, despite all the joy and expectation that came with the season, to not forget the poor. When we returned, mother would dress us up and shortly following that, the Christmas Angel bell would ring!
We’d march over filled with anticipation, and singing songs together with the other girls such as, “Now sing and be glad,” or ,“See what has God given,” as we headed over to the nativity. And oh what a beautiful scene it was. I wish I could do it justice with my description. There could not have been a finer one in the world. What I’d give to see it again! It was built between two tall Christmas trees. The back wall was covered with fir branches. The nativity figures stood under the left tree, and the shepherd with his sheep stood before them. A star hung from the top of the tree, with a long tail made of tinsel trailing from it. Next to the tree on the right was a large picture of the angel and the heavenly hosts. In between lay the field of the shepherds, beautifully assembled with moss and stones. There was a fountain and a small stream, with more shepherds and sheep, chickens, and ducks. It’s size was perhaps 2 to 2-1/2 square meters. The candles were made of pure wax, each of which was cutoff by a so-called taper, and they smelled very nice. After the reading of the Christmas story, we were led to our seats. Oh, what wonderful gifts there were for us children! Even by modern standards they were really very beautiful; handcrafted so tastefully and with so much love by the Ladies, such gifts would delight even the children of today. There was always a doll among them, one for dressing and undressing of course. Once there was a farmer doll house with a thatched roof, a living room with folding table, as in the farmhouses, with pewter plates and candlesticks, and with a whole doll family: father, mother and two girls, all wearing the traditional farmer’s clothes, and a bedroom with a canopy bed. There were also beautiful picture books, pretty hand-framed pictures for hanging with sayings on them, or small, brightly painted suitcases and boxes, paint boxes, colored chalk for coloring in picture books. But there were also useful things: Once there was a small, yellow cart, in which Liesbeth’s children were still pushed around in, and once there was also a small sturdy wheelbarrow, which mother used in the garden until a very old age. Oh, there was such a wealth of gifts, more than one can fathom, and no child in the world could have been richer than we felt! We could not sleep for sheer joy, and yet it had all not even ended. Because on the morning of Christmas day we were awakened from happy blissful dreams to father’s voice singing: “From heaven above to earth I come …,” And once again the Christmas tree would glow, this time our own. And once again we would exchange gifts, though more useful things this time around. Dresses, aprons, hair bands, etc. But special wishes were also granted. Once Liesbeth had wanted a corset so badly that our parents gave in and gave it to her. Yes, that was Christmas in Obernfelde.
What followed were the joys of winter. I can’t remember a single winter without snow and ice. Behind our house there was a wonderful toboggan run, “Spellmeiers Brink.” The entire youth of the estate would gather there to sleigh down the hill on their homemade sleds. One year we got a real store-bought sled for Christmas, and were we ever proud of it! When the ponds froze over, pigs, ducks, mills and fish ponds, there were new joys for us kids: the “Schutten” on the “ice roads.” Skating was only for the bigger kids, and it was something I learned only later in life. In Schröttinghausen there was no opportunity to do so.
When spring and summer rolled around, we children spent our time almost exclusively in the forest. First we searched for cowslip, and tobacco flowers (Lungwort), and above all, Woodruff, which Mother placed between the items of laundry, and which Father often enjoyed smoking in his pipe. Then came the berry season crop, for which we would have to journey deeper into the woods, often as far as Mehner Berg, and on those outings Mother would accompany us.
There were two houses whose doors we children passed through daily, but which were of quite different natures. The first was the “Chickencoop”. The Lückings (Bockel’s), and the Blotevogels lived there. The younger children there were our schoolmates and friends. Their house made a gloomy impression, and resembled a den of thieves that I’d read about in a storybook. The interior was also eerie, but its inhabitants were wholesome and good people. Especially the Lückings, who served the estate with great loyalty. Mrs. Lücking was a small, plump, pretty woman. Mr. Lücking was tall, handsome and personable. He had a beard, and closely resembled Kaiser Frederick or William the First. They had eight children; the Blotevogels six. Each family had a small living room and two small sleeping chambers. On each side of the entrance hall was an open fireplace, which was used for cooking in the summertime. In the winter cooking took place in the “Stubenofen”. The furniture there consisted of only the bare essentials: tables, benches, chairs and Molkenschapp. Nevertheless, we always enjoyed being there, and the potato pancakes that the mothers would make us when we were invited with Mother for knitting in the wintertime, tasted better there than anywhere else.
There was no water pump or well, and so water had to be fetched from the stream which flowed a little ways down from the house. This was especially difficult in winter with snow and ice, since there was no path to speak of. Later, when a beautiful new home was built for these two families, they could never get used to it, and longed to be back in their old den of thieves.
One could say that the morale of the estate workers was not the best. Nearly all the young people were required to get married. It was just the way it had always been. Our parents always took care to protect our ears from hearing mischief, and what we did hear and see, we luckily did not understand.
By and large, all were, “Arröder” honest and good people, but when the first fruit of the season ripened, especially the cherries, there was always theft, and it had probably always been that way. Because of this, Kerker, the gardener, would have to have guards out at night, and when a little sinner was caught every so often, I can still hear the voice of Lücking’s Mäume today, “You Twaus! How could you be so stupid to have gotten caught?” The fact was, if one wanted cherries, one would have to steal them, or go without. And those cherries in the neighbor’s garden was just as sweet and red as they are today. Mother however, kept a sharp eye on our fingers, and we were only allowed to take what lay beneath the trees, which otherwise would have spoiled.
The other house, in which we daily spent time was the gardener’s house. The Kerkers lived there with their eight children. It was a pleasant house, and was located in the park of the estate. Inside it was also nice and cozy, with a kitchen, living room, and even a “Best Parlor”. Mrs. Kerker was a wise and maternal woman, from whom I learned sayings and songs, including the otherwise little known, “”Ich weiß einen Strom dessen herrliche Flut…”, a song we still enjoy singing today. She raised her children in the same way as our mother raised us, and wholesomeness reigned in the air there. Still, Lady von der Recke did not approve of this environment. The children went to high school, and that was, given our position in society, not good enough. Inside and outside of the house there were wonderful playgrounds. There was the “Bude,” an area in which the gardener boys ate, and at times even slept, having gotten their food from the manor kitchen. Wreaths were bound there and flowers and vegetables sorted. We children could play there wonderfully undisturbed. However, in the greenhouse, called hot house, we were allowed only to, “Look at everything but don’t touch anything.” Usually in the wintertime it was used as a “cold house” and the potted plants were housed there, but in the summer it was a large, open space. On one wall of it was a bird hedge. During the fruit harvest, especially berries, the Arröder women sat here and prepared the fruits for sale. We were allowed to roam freely through the park, though not up to the mansion. But the old von der Recke Ladies, and the young gentleman as well, were friendly people who never said a harsh word to us, and rather more often spoke to us kindly. The only one we feared was the Rentmeister Hirsch, who often threatened us with his stick. Because the children were out danger’s range, they would cry out to him, “My name is Deer!” but stress the sentence in a certain way. We ourselves had nothing to do with the main estate, we belonged to the Minister’s House.
However, when the grandchildren of our masters, the Von Haugwitz and the Chüdens, came for their vacations, then we would be fetched to play with them. And today, after almost 60 years, Elisabeth b v. Wolffersdorf (nee Chüden) and Annemarie Von Haugwitz, who lives with her siblings as refugees in the area, and I got together for a cup of coffee on a cozy winter’s day and refreshed dear old memories.
To come back to the Minister’s House and its occupants. With special gratitude I remember Miss Luise and Adelheid von Ledebur, who both married the brothers Wilhelm and Gustav von Bodelschwingh at the turn of the century. Later the third sister Julia, married Fritz, the youngest son of old Father Bodelschwingh. The wedding showers of the two sisters were celebrated in the
Minister House, the wedding, at their home in Crollage. My memory of the wedding celebration of Luise and William von Bodelschwingh is rather cloudy. There were all kinds of comical, but also serious things performed there, including “live pictures”. In one of them,”Christopherus”, Liesbeth and I had to participate. I as the Christ Child, wearing a long, sky-blue robe was enthroned on the shoulders of the very large and handsome Mr. Ernst von Recke. Liesbeth had to stand behind a curtain and call:,, Opherus, dear one, you are good, get over here!” After Christopher saga, I myself had nothing else to do besides sit solemnly enthroned on the
proud heights of Baron Ernst’s shoulders. But since I probably had been looking for something to hold onto and found nothing, I burst out with the cry, “You haven’t got any hair on your head” into the solemn silence. After that I ended up falling asleep on Father Bodelschwingh’s lap.
There were two other celebrations held annually at the Minister House that I would like to share: the Nursing Home Festival and the Blasheimer Market
Festival. The first was always held in mid-June, and it was tradition that the midday feast included the first peas, the first young potatoes and the first strawberries of the season, the later dipped in milk. The festival modeled itself after the style of the annual church mission festivals.
The Blasheimer pastor gave a sermon followed by the yearly review of the nursing home, and then another pastor spoke, usually either Professor Möller or Pastor Bodelschwingh. But, honest man that he was, Father Bodelschwingh had once, in a momentary lapse of discretion, and in all innocence, declared before the entire community that had gathered for the festival: “Yes, Aunt Caroline, it looks like you’ll have to play the second stringer again.” It was a hard blow for her, and for this
comment he was never forgiven. What happened was as follows: In 1900, the county hospital was built. The hospital matron designated to take over, Sister Charlotte, was a very hefty, almost masculine, though overall very popular deaconess who ruled with a firm hand. The aforementioned Aunt Caroline, also rather imperious by nature, had expected that she too would become a principal player. However it was a matter Sister Lotte was not going to let come to pass.
And so it was that a dispute arose between the two, probably one that Pastor Bodelschwingh tried to mediate. But the individual he’d in all honestly found more convincing, and the one he ultimately sided with, was Sister Lotte, who then proceeded to carry off the victory. As a result, Bodelschwingh fell out of favor.
But I digress. The Nursing Home Festival was originally celebrated, “On the Four Lindens”, under a group of trees near the Liekwegs’ estate. But because it was always very cold and windy there, Father suggested moving it to, “The Kleibusch,” a grove of beech trees that one could reach by coming from the park and going over a little bridge. And that’s where it ended up. The preparations, which already started a few days before, were in and of themselves a celebration. Foliage was taken from the woods and woven into long garlands. Then came the Mehner sunday school children who were treated to coffee and cake “under the tall trees.” The cake was always the same, namely, home-baked, “Klöben,” as they were called and there was no skimping on good ingredients. Father drove the chairs and benches to the fairgrounds, where a pulpit was built up against a thick old beech tree and covered with leaves. This was then adorned with two crosses of roses and rhododendrons, or perhaps also daisies, cornflowers and poppies. Bible sayings that had been written with hot pokers onto wood were hung up all over the place in the trees, and the Young Women’s Group and a group of trombone players showed up as well. The atmosphere was so very lively and festive, and I cannot remember it ever having rained even once on that day.
The Blasheimer Market Festival or “Trombonefestival”, was celebrated in the courtyard and garden of the Minister House, and its intention was to divert attention away from the corrupting influence and bustle of the actual market. There too, coffee and cake were served, or rather, they were more like delicious hard baked cookies, called, “Trombone cookies”, because they were baked exclusively for this occasion. Later, there was music and singing in the garden, and raffles suitable for all ages were held. Children could win little toys, while the adults could win prizes in the form of sayings, pictures, books, and magazines. The grand prize was always a bible. Then, many of the revelers went home with a clear conscience. Others however, still in a celebratory mood, proceeded to the market after all, with a more or less guilty feeling.
Ah, the Blasheimer Market! We were never allowed to go. The ladies were against it and our parents, especially Mother was too. But to this day, we regret having been deprived the joy of visiting something that in the end was really quite innocent. One evening Mother took us to the Kleibusch where we could look down on the promised land that lay at our feet. We could heard the music and saw all the lights and hustle and bustle, and mother then explained to us about how at that very moment the devil himself was standing in the corners rejoicing over all the sins and wickedness that were being committed there.
It was breathtakingly beautiful, and oh how we would have liked to have been down there amidst the happy hubbub, despite all the devils lurking about. Our luckier playmates were permitted to bring us 10 pfennig worth of any fair treat, and Mother compensated us too with an apron or some other nice things.
There was one more small celebration that I’d like to share; it was the Spinning Parlor Festival at Mehner Berg. There, the Ladies set up a “spinning room” for the children over at an elderly couple’s home, Möller’s mother and Möller’s father. I can’t remember the exact purpose of this event, but I do recall that once a year, father rigged the wagon for it and we were allowed to come too. There were freshly baked “Korinthenbroetchen” (buns), and Möller’s mother served coffee with them, and in addition stories were told, riddles were shared and all was, in a word, cozy.
On January 27th was the Kaisers birthday. For that we were invited annually to enjoy hot chocolate drink and Korinthenbroetchen in the evenings. Because this pleasure was afforded us only once a year, we made the most of eating ourselves to the brink so that the only relief was to finally hang ourselves out the open windows and gasp for air. But we gladly accepted this howling misery and repeated it every year. The parlor in which this event took place was, despite its small size, (about 2 x 3m), a multi-purpose room. The furniture consisted of a small stove on which the coffee was brewed, and a larger table for breakfast and coffee, but there was also a smaller table for when the silver was cleaned, a milk cabinet, a lamp table on which the lamps and chandeliers were cleaned, a knife cleaning bench and a couple of chairs. Evenings, this was the place for the girls to congregate, and it was always warm and pleasant. Father had his morning coffee and breakfast there with his girls, but he had the other meals to which he was entitled, lunch and dinner, with us, even during the day so that he could be with his family. For that we always got our lunch from the kitchen, and that was usually made up of the typical farmer’s fare. On Sundays, however, there was beef stew with rice, and potatoes with mustard sauce, and on special days like holidays we had starch pudding with raspberry syrup, which Mother herself made out of wild raspberries from the forest.
Sometimes she also made an absolutely delicious blackberry syrup, though picking those berries had always been an abomination. Mother later cooked powder pudding, which probably came on the market just around the turn of the century, but the Ladies objected to it strongly… they preferred that we cook starch pudding and they’d give us all the eggs required to do so for free, rather than see us eat this “new-fangled stuff”. Yes, the old ladies were extremely conservative. Their motto was: “With the good old days, our loyalty stays.” And with those sentiments they founded a local heritage preservation society, in which they went to great lengths to preserve the old clothes, customs and ways that characterized the country living of our area.
In fact, they so appreciated young girls who would wear the traditional peasant garb to their confirmation, that they would present to them a bible as a gift. The clothes they themselves wore were very plain and simple and they lived their lives just as frugally. It was the ladies that founded the nursing home in 1856, and last year on July 20th, its centennial celebration took place. I would like to share some stories about the nursing home occupants of my memory. For example, there was, “Narrow Minna,” who as a young girl fell very ill and was as a result lame. I came to know her only in bed, and in the summer in a wheelchair, with which she’d be rolled around in in good weather. She was always even tempered, gentle and friendly and had a young and pretty face. Although she became quite old, her face always maintained its youthfulness. She had always been a diligent individual, and so she was able to teach us many handcrafting skills.
Then there was, “Madame Voss,” and her daughter, Antoinette. Her former husband was a Blasheimer, who after the completion of his shoemaking apprenticeship inSwitzerlandremained there and married a French woman. When he died there, his widow was deported with her young child to his home town, which then had to pay for the two. And so it was that they arrived at the nursing home. Madame Voss did not understand a word of German, her daughter not a word of French. The Ladies who spoke French acted as translators. There were often disputes to settle, for Madame wasn’t always exactly peaceful, and it seemed very likely that she never quite felt at home here.
And in general the older folks weren’t always the best behaved, and they often came to the Minister House demanding to speak to “de Froile,” but also sometimes, Mr. Froile. Then the sides would get a good and serious talking to and ultimately the argument would be mediated.
There was also once was an old couple Spreen in the nursing home. The woman was born a Peitz-Pollert from Schröttinghausen, and the pair went as far as celebrating their Golden Wedding anniversary with a large party. The two had once been very wealthy, but then, after having been moved around from one relative to another, rather poor, they finally ended up in the nursing home. Then there was Marielieschen, an old, and somewhat run down girl, who after taking what was probably the very first hot bath of her life and was asked how she felt, replied, “Oh, it was so wonderful. It gives one such a nice warm body.” I could go on and on about the nursing home and its many occupants, but there is just one more neighbor I’d like to briefly talk about. The closest neighbors were the Liekwegs, the ones with the eerie house situated beneath the high oaks in the area we called, “Under the Four Lindens,” and where we found the people to be so extremely friendly and kind-hearted. We always purchased our fruit there and when we children ever had a request, we always got our aprons filled up with dried fruit.
Another small property lay on the edge of the forest. It was called “Kontor,” and the residents, “Kontöders,” even though their name was actually Brinkhof. The younger woman there was pretty as a picture and enjoyed getting dolled up. The older woman there was reputed to have been the same way earlier in her own life. Their house, in contrast, was incredibly old-fashioned as there was neither a chimney nor bathroom. The men there, both young and old, were all very intelligent. Father once crossed paths with them at theOldendorfTown Hallaround 1906, and he asked the two farmers Brinkhof and Schlake (of Obermehnen No, 9) what they were doing there. They told him that they were being forced to build both a chimney and a privy, but that the idea was, “Out of the question! What are they thinking! How are we supposed to smoke our meats!?” They continued that if they’d be forced to build a toilet, they would refuse to use it.
We had little to do with those from the brick Arröder houses in Voßkuhle and Vinkenburg, but spent much time with the Sträters and Meiers who lived near the fish ponds. Sträter was a miller and baker, Meier a carpenter, and we went to school and played with their children.
They were both very different. Sträter was honest and straightforward, Meier sneaky and devious, and they really couldn’t stand one another at all. They were seen walking the same 10 minute stretch to work every day, only never together, though Sträter himself would never make a deliberate effort to evade his neighbors.
Once, I was very hurt by something Sträter did. I had always desperately wanted a little sister, and they had many children already. When they had another baby girl, I asked Sträter if I could have it and he said I could. I then paraded over to them, happy and proud to fetch my new baby with my little yellow baby carriage with a little pillow in it. But oh how disappointed I was when they made fun of me when I got there and said I couldn’t take her home with me. Oh how sad and ashamed I felt as I pulled my little carriage back home.
There were always many visitors to the Minister House Estate, such as family members, friends, and clergy. I’ve already spoken about the von der Reckes, of what good-hearted, friendly people they were. The old woman was born a Von Hagen, from Pomerania, and the then young baroness was originally a Von Der Borg. Today the latter lives in the Minister House with her daughter, Mrs. Von Haugwitz formerly a Von Rappart. Then there were the aforementioned Von Ledebur nieces of Crollage whose mother died giving birth to her 12th child.
If I had to explain the essence of the noble classes, I’d need only look to the Von Ledeburs and describe the striking impression they made. I knew all 12 of them, and with the exception of Adelheid, who had big beautiful brown eyes and darker hair, they were all fair, blond and blue eyed. The eldest son, William, was the county supervisor of Lübbecke for many years. Father always respected his straightforwardness and honesty, and held him in high regard. In the red years after World War I, he did not want to continue as county supervisor and therefore resigned. He was in appearance and character a true gentleman. His wife was the granddaughter of the former Oberpräsident Von Fincke, and an individual of great kindness as well.
We were closest to the two young Ladies, (later they were women-ministers) Luise and Adelheid von Bodelschwingh, especially the latter. We stayed in contact with her up until her recent death. Particularly during our time as refugees she always tried to help us in any way she could, and always signed her letters to us, “Your Mother Bodelschwingh.”
In her youth, she was a lady of the court of Prince Von Waldeck of Arolsen. Her sister, Else, was also a lady of the court for many years. Miss Marie Ledebur was a painter. An anthroposophist, she was bit eccentric, always rather poor, and walked around in the most deplorable outfits. She too visited us often, and Mother never let her leave empty-handed. Though I’m sure she must have gone hungry quite a few times, she never asked for anything, and despite poverty and simplicity, she remained always refined and genteel. I for one, really liked her, and right before her death she wrote me a very dear letter warmly inviting me to visit her where she lived at, “Der Kahlen Wart”, to revel with me in old memories. A few weeks ago, the very last of the twelve Ledebur children, Luise von Bodelschwingh, died.
Among the friends of the old ladies who came to visit the Minister House often, were a Miss Charlotte and Marie von Fincke, two of the daughters of the Westphalian Oberpresident. I only remember the latter and she was a petite white-haired old lady. I also admired another friend, Countess von den Busche-Ippenburg. She was, despite her old age, still a strikingly beautiful, stately woman. From her eyes shone a kind warm heartedness and that was exactly how she was. She too founded a nursing home, one in Bad Essen. Her maiden name was Von Arnim, and her family was very wealthy. I don’t remember how many estates she owned but I do recall that she sold one to pay for a lavish trip “InsGelobteLand”… to theUnited States“the promised land”.
Of the estate’s neighbors, there was the Baroness von der Horst of the Hollwinkel Estate. Miss Karoline von der Recke once told me that they belonged to the higher ranks of the nobility. That is, they had the authority to marry princes, for example. The von der Horst’s HollwinkelCastlewas a relatively new one, as the family’s ancestral home was in Haldem.
Of the Benkhausen estate, I personally knew only Baroness von der Busche- Münnich, and her son Alhard. She was a very beautiful, young, fun-loving widow who often forgot her social standing, and wanted to marry outside the aristocracy, but nothing ever came of it. It was another story with Baron Desenberge von Spiegel (“In this mountain, Desenberg at Warburg, you shall shine like a mirror [Spiegel])” – Charlemagne) Despite his old name nobility and lofty sounding title, he married his housekeeper, a woman named simply, Minna Prigge, making her the new Baroness of Groß-Engershausen. As a result of that union, the nobility of the neighborhood, the von Spiegels, shunned them, and all ties were severed. I personally only got to know the new baroness’s two daughters as old ladies.
The Hueffe Estate belonged to a Miss Elvira von Velie-Jungken. She was the only Catholic noblewoman of the whole neighborhood, and her ancestors were said to be French. As the Lady of the estate, she was described as being a very capable and popular noblewoman.
Those were the neighbors of the estate.
I’d forgotten to mention the relatives of the von der Reckes in Stockhausen. There were two brothers, Ernst and Hilmar von der Recke, and their sister Ella, who later married the very elderly Missioninspector, Dr. Schreiber. Baron Ernst was the CountySupervisorin Eckernförde. His young, beautiful wife, born Countess Baudissin died quite suddenly, and he never recovered from the loss and consequently never remarried. Father held Baron Ernst in the highest regard, and they were as close as if they would be good friends. Baron Hilmar was head forester in Rosenthal in Hessen. (They called him, “Flinko,” because he was always cheerful and jolly, and perhaps even a little reckless.) Both men were extremely handsome and dignified. After the untimely death of their parents, the two men and their sister moved into the Minister House to replace their two aunts, and the house was renamed the Elternhouse. The upstairs became the men’s domain, and downstairs was known as, “Ella’s parlor.” When she married, the Schreibers moved first to Barmen, then later to Wittlage, when she inherited the large home of her aunt, the Countess of Münster. Their children, Annie, Ella and Hilmar, were about my age and they always spent their holidays at the Minister house where they were great fun for us to play with. Mrs. Schreiber later became simply a middle-class woman, but in her big, beautiful home in Wittlage one could not overlook the aristocratic lifestyle. I was there a couple of times with Miss Caroline, whom I worked for when I came. Hilmar died while still a young man in Switzerland, where he had traveled to heal his sick lungs . It was said he’d starved too often after WWI. His young wife wanted to have his body transported from there back to his homeland for burial, but because it was too expensive, she had him cremated and brought the ashes back in an urn with her luggage.
He was supposed to have been buried in the cemetery in Bad Essen, but the local minister, Pastor Sagebiel, refused because the act of cremation was unchristian. But our pastor Möller from Oldendorf took pity on us, and the son of the old mission inspector did receive a Christian burial in the end. I believe that quite a few of the nobility died of starvation after WWI. It was said to have been the death of Carl Ledebur, a painter, and one of the 12 siblings. Miss Hedwig von der Recke is said to have succumbed to the same fate. They were probably too proud or too humble, or may not have known to go to the farmers in their villages. Or maybe they felt it would be too humiliating and would rather have starved to death.
However, late one evening, someone did indeed come to our door. He had been walking with his horse. It turned out to be one of the twelve, Baron Albrecht Ledebur. He was on tour, buying old glasses and crystal. His horse was weak with hunger, and he himself wasn’t faring much better. They still had to go to Ahrenshorst where he lived, but the baron must have then suddenly remembered us and that we lived here and so he came to knock on our door. We saw to it that he and his horse were both properly fed and then he stayed the night. In return, he shared so many interesting stories of his adventurous life, and if it had been up to us, we would have gladly stayed up all night listening to him. His wife, born Princess Reuss, and later becoming the widow Princess Carolath before marrying him, snapped the heads off peas and cleaned vegetables for a canning factory, just to eke out a meager living in a most wretched life.
The next morning when he was taking his leave from us, with his now richly laden little cart, (we had wrapped him up a huge black bread and other goodies), he said that he hoped he hadn’t made an ungrateful impression or that he’d come by just to complain. No, his wife was satisfied and so, of course, so was he. We were all very embarrassed.
Another time his sister, the aforementioned Miss Marie came. It was late evening and we asked her where she was headed, or whether we might accommodate her for the night. She appeared to have not really had a destination, and seemed relieved and grateful for our offer. She then told us about having become a bit anxious because she’d recently been robbed by a young man late at night on a lonely road on the way from Bohmte to Ahrenhorst. She’d had pretty much all the money she possessed with her at the time and now she was poorer than poor.
I write all this in such detail to show that these people even in their time of greatest need were able to maintain their poise and dignity. Though they may not have known how to help themselves, they didn’t complain or bemoan their lot, and they never became a burden to anyone. Whenever anyone grumbled about the nobility, Father would be quick to jump to their defenses and give that person a piece of his mind. He got to know the nobility, and despite their errors and defects (ones all we humans bear regardless of social standing), he found the goodness of these people to be a predominant characteristic.
Mankind itself is capable of recognizing its own intrinsic goodness. Whenever we, father, mother, Liesbeth and I thought back to the ladies, both young and old, we are all filled with a deep sense of gratitude to have known them.
We also remember the many visitors of the Minister House who brought us children small gifts, or entertained us in friendly ways, or even thought of us at Christmastime. For example, the inhabitants all received a Christmas gift from the two Von Bodelschwingh ladies, and these were always chosen with much love and consideration. Yes, that was how we were treated by the nobility.
Now I will tell you about our pastors, starting with Pastor Husemann from Blasheim. He was a farmer’s son from Gehlenbeck, and despite his title, nothing could mask that he remained a farmer inside and out. He was always a straight shooter and just came out and said what he thought. He never minced words, even in the presence of the ladies. When he once had a bit too much to drink during the celebration of a golden wedding anniversary, he chastised himself and his behavior publicly in the following Sunday’s sermon. When he founded the Blue Cross Club, an association designed to help treat alcoholics, he himself was first to sign up for it. One could certainly say that his effect on us was richly spiritual and that he really did do his best.
Then there was another pastor who even today is still spoken of. From the podium he was a great speaker, but as a human being he unfortunately failed quite miserably. So did his wife, though she composed some of the most beautiful songs, ones that even today I still love to sing. She was a woman possessed by such a sordid miserliness, that they would hardly begrudge their servants even the humblest meals. Whenever Father drove the old ladies in carriages over greater distances, he was entitled to a meal at the respective hosts, and the tightfisted manners of these particular people bothered him greatly. When his stomach would growl he would still be forced to request the sustenance owed him, and the pastor’s wife would finally then slam some dry potatoes on the table before him with an intense scowl. The girls received only rye mush boiled in water, chilled, sliced, and fried in almost no fat.
Of the Lübbecke clergy, the only one that would come to the minister house was Pastor Priester, an old, friendly, white-haired man, who would always bring us children colorful pictures, and I still remember him fondly when I pass by his grave at the cemetery. Unfortunately he became mentally ill later in life and ultimately hanged himself, but he was a good pastor, and he had a special affection for the little people. I never saw the ladies in the Lübbecke church, since they attended only the church in Blasheim with its rural minister.
The school we attended was in Lübbecke. This particular building at the market square must have been built around 1896. I always greatly enjoyed going to school, and therefore could never quite understand how others could look so joyously forward to the holidays. My first teacher was a Mr.
Römmling and he was young and very strict, and I remember once not being careful (6 +2 = 9), and being ordered to step down in rank. These days such hierarchies no longer exist and so it would be impossible for anyone to imagine how awful this degradation was for me. I can still recall the feeling as if it were just yesterday and there was only one other time I felt that badly and that was during the time of the Russian occupation so many years later. But I was only a little girl then and as I wept bitterly into my apron on the school corner, an older girl, Lucy Gerlach, one of the student teachers came by and asked me sympathetically why I was crying. When I told her of my grief, sobbing, she consoled me with such loving kindness, and then promised me a big bag of chocolates. This she brought the subsequent day… I don’t think I’ll ever forget her.
My second teacher’s name was Fürhölter, a short tempered little man, who was red as a fox and who in a rage would become crimson. But I was also very happy as his student. My favorite teacher by far, however, was my last teacher, a Herr Edeler, a man so good-hearted that probably the entire school was crazy about him. He had only one fault and that was that he had special favorites each year, and he would dote on these students to the great annoyance and chagrin of all the others present. In my last year of school in Lübbecke, my friend, Frieda Gerling, and I, happened to be these chosen ones.
Every so often I was allowed to buy freshly baked rolls during the morning break for 5 pfennig, and what a treat that was! I got them at Möhlmann by the market place, and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten any as delicious. In 1903 or 1904 Pastor Güse started church services for children and I always enjoyed visiting them. Christmas parties were another great pleasure during the holiday season and the children’s service was just one last gift exchange venue for us to enjoy after all the others.
On that note I would like to conclude this chapter about my childhood memories. Before I start to report about the next part of my life, I’d first like to switch gears and share a bit of family history, as it makes sense to proceed into the future only once the foundation of the past has been fully established.