Unsung Heroes: Anna Kothe

There are those without whom things would have been very different in life for a lot of people, but who are very quickly forgotten by ‘the public’. Anna was one such person.

Anna Kothe was a good friend of my father Jupp Kappius from 1944 until his death in December of 1967, and continued to be a friend of the family until her own death on this day, October 24th, 26 years ago. Here is a little bit of her story.

Born into a Lutheran family on 26 May 1898 in Hemelingen which later became part of the city of Bremen, Germany, and daughter of Johann Hermann Hinrich Kothe and his wife Elise nee Blohm, Anna Gesine Elisabeth Kothe learned home economic and trained to be a cook. She became politically interested and involved, and in the 1920s and 1930s kept house for various ISK members who shared flats. We have good reason to believe that she joined the ISK in 1925 because it was then that she left the Lutheran church, something that was required of ISK members.

In 1934, she started running one of the vegetarian restaurants the ISK owned and used for centers of information exchange and contact among group members, the VEGA in Hamburg. When the ISK group in Hamburg got caught by the Gestapo in December of 1937, Anna lost the restaurant by order of the Gestapo in May of 1938, was arrested, convicted, and sent to prison in Berlin and Luebeck for two and a half years, from 17 March 1938 to 22 September 1940. Being a vegetarian like all ISK members, times were doubly hard for her there, but apparently she was able to steal some of the candy she and the other inmates had to pack at the Luebeck facility to beef up her portions (pun unintended) and survived, her spirit unbroken.

After her release in September 1940, she started to work for Ernst Volkmann and his wife in their house in the Burgstrasse 15 in Bochum, the very same house in which my father was later hid when he entered Germany clandestinely in 1944, and where Anna continued to live for a while after the war. When the war was over, Anna joined the new-formed SPD and later the AWO, an organization concerned with the well-being of workers. In both organizations she was an active member for well nigh 45 years. Otherwise, after leaving the household of Ernst Volkmann in Bochum, she kept house for Willi Eichler in Koeln and Bochum, and after his death continued to live with Willi’s wife Susanne Miller until her own death on 24 October 1994.

Requiescat in Pace, Anna. The public might have forgotten you, but we surely have not. We owe much to you and are grateful for the friendship and support you have shown Jupp as well as us even after Jupp was long gone. The featured image shows Anna with Jupps son Peter in 1978 during a visit in Bremen.

Everyone who knew Anna and talked about her praised her strength of character and her steadfast conviction – and her cookies. During the war, she was the living chronicler of the ISK, knowing everything about everyone, where they lived, what their history was and their family situation, and how they were doing. She was also the one who kept contact with the ISK members in Switzerland and made sure Aenne (as “Jutta”) knew where she would find a comrade when she traveled into the Reich in 1944 and 1945.

To illustrate how Anna once managed to dissuade a Gestapo infiltrator and thus saved not just my father’s skin but that of several others as well, we shall quote from a letter Jupp wrote from London on 10 May 1945:

The Story of Gerda

About the middle of January, 1945, in fact the same day Jutta (i.e., Aenne Kappius) arrived in Bochum, a courier came from Hamburg warning us of arrests of friends that had taken place in Berlin, Hannover and Goettingen. These friends were members of the ISK who had formerly been imprisoned for illegal activities. As the friend I was living with (i.e., Anna Kothe) had been involved in that and furthermore had recently been in communications with some of those arrested, we had to expect a visit from the Gestapo. Therefore we moved Jutta and myself out of this place, decided to keep her in Bochum and send somebody else to do her round of visits with a view of trying at the same time to find out what had happened. While this courier was on his way a woman turned up at the Burgstrasse one late afternoon. She pretended she had come from Berlin to warn our friends of the arrests that had taken place, giving to understand that she knew the people arrested and also knew about their connection with our friend she was talking to (i.e. Anna). Our friend, however, was wary, did not deny to know those arrested but pretended she couldn’t think of any reason why they should have got into trouble with the Gestapo. The woman visitor then suggested it might have something to do with Jutta, of whose former visit she knew, of whose impending visit she was informed she said, whose real name she actually mentioned and whom she pretended she was very much concerned to warn of the danger she was in. Our friend, however, didn’t let on anything, pretended she had never heard of Jutta and anyway, didn’t see at all what the other woman was getting at. This woman then tried to make our friend more confident, telling her she was on the move herself to avoid arrest, saying she had been staying with a friend in Duesseldorf for the past fortnight and that she had really hoped our friend would be so kind and put her up for a day or two. This our friend flatly refused to do, claiming it was not her house and not her flat so she could on no account dispose of the flat without permission of her employer (i.e. Ernst Volkmann) and, anyway, she would have nothing to do with anything that would get her into trouble with the police. She stuck to this line, although all the time her own mind was troubled lest she might be wrong and the visitor was really genuinely trying to warn her and she was turning her out of doors (it was bitterly cold). Still she stuck to it, and the visitor turned away, complaining of her disappointment to find such inhospitable people when she expected to meet real solidarity. (…)

Gerda had no success in the Ruhr nor at any other place. Perhaps our friend in Bochum had really convinced her she didn’t know anything, for we never noticed anything suspicious in the way of watching or shadowing; the Gestapo must have dropped the thing.

From: Martin Ruether, Uwe Schuetz und Otto Dann (Hrsg.): Deutschland im ersten Nachkriegsjahr. Berichte von Mitgliedern des Internationalen Sozialistischen Kampfbundes (ISK) aus dem besetzten Deutschland 1945/46. K.G. Saur Verlag, Muenchen 1998, pp. 50-51.

Anna Kothe around 1940, archive signature 6/FOTB062392
This picture is a link to the Archiv der Sozialen Demokratie der FES and shows Anna around 1946.

Pictures of a younger Anna and of her friends and comrades can be found at the Archiv der Sozialen Demokratie der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Bonn, Germany. They can be viewed and ordered online. Please click on the thumbnail above to go to their photo research page, query ‘Anna Kothe’.

Remembering Our Ancestors: ‘Stumbling Stones’ in Honor of Jupp and Änne

Bochum has not forgotten Jupp and Änne. I am sure they’d be happy about that.

Stolperstein for Änne Kappius, nee Ebbert.
Photo: City of Bochum
Stolperstein for Jupp Kappius.
Photo: City of Bochum

Our father and grandfather Jupp Kappius and his first wife Änne Ebbert have been honored with their own “Stolpersteine” in front of Änne’s birthplace, which is also Jupp’s and Änne’s last address in Bochum before the Third Reich began.

When Jupp left his home in Bochum-Grumme to live with the Ebbert family and Änne, they lived at Theodorstrasse 8 in central Bochum, right along the railroad track. Apparently, today this street is called Theodor-Imberg-Strasse, and in front of #8.

Stolpersteine“, or Stumbling Stones, are memorial plaques in the pavements of many European cities in memory of victims of the Third Reich. The City Archive of the City of Bochum oversees the project in their city. For more detailed information about the project, please follow the link provided.

We are pleased and quite happy about the honor, and glad that Bochum has not forgotten Jupp and Änne, both of whom were born in Bochum and counted it as their home town, even if they eventually settled in Dortmund after the war. Although we as Jupp’s and Änne’s family were sadly unaware of the honor until after the ceremony and thus missed the event, we are proud that our husband, father, father-in-law and grandfather and his first wife are now commemorated in this fashion.

Stolpersteine for Jupp Kappius und Änne Kappius, nee Ebbert, in the pavement in front of 8, Theodor-Imberg-Straße in 44787 Bochum. Photo: City of Bochum.

A special Thank You goes to the City Archive of the City of Bochum who helped us acquire photos of the new Stolpersteine in a very friendly and timely fashion, and who unceremoniously allowed us to use their photos on our sites. All pictures in this post are property of the City of Bochum.

Remembering Our Ancestors: Josef Kappius Sr.

This week in 1882, our (Great-) Grandfather Kappius was born. Happy Birthday, Great-Grandpa Josef!

On the last day of April in 1882, Josef Kappius, our (great-) grandfather, was born in Bochum, Germany to Johann Kappius and his wife Gertrud Haselhorst.  Johann had left his hometown Haaren a couple of years prior and had settled in Grumme, today part of the city of Bochum in North-Rhine Westphalia.  He and Gertrud, who originally came from Störmede, had married on 8 September 1881 in Bochum, and Josef was their first son; their second son Wilhelm was born three years later.

Josef maintained his connections with his father’s family in Haaren and eventually was apprenticed to his uncle Konrad Kappius who owned and ran a wheelwright’s shop.  We assume that it was during his time in Haaren that Josef met his first wife Antonie Lingemann: Her father was first teacher at the village school there.  The two got married around 1906, and they had three children together, one son (Jupp, my father) and two daughters (Gertrud and Elisabeth).

The young couple did not live in Haaren, however, but in Bochum with Josef’s parents, or at least with his mother, for by 1907, Johann Kappius had already passed away as far as we can discern.  In Bochum, Josef did not work a s wheelwright, but earned a living as a traveling salesman.

The marriage did not last very long, in fact, it probably had failed by 1915 already, and the couple separated.  Antonie died in 1924 at the age of 42 in Rostock in north-eastern Germany (over 300 miles from Bochum).  How, for how long, or even why she lived there in the end we have not been able to find out.

What either of them did during WWI  – both were 36 years old when WWI began – we do not know either, but we do know that the children stayed with their father in Bochum and that Josef married again in 1927.  His second wife was Ida Selma, and Josef’s brother Wilhelm, by now better known as Father William for he had become a Roman Catholic priest and was living in Crofton, NE, presided over the marriage: Documents prove that he traveled to Germany for the occasion.

WWII still finds Josef in Bochum, by now 57 years of age and probably too old for regular active service in the Wehrmacht, but he survived the war and kept up his good relations with his relatives in Haaren, especially with his cousin Anton, one of Uncle Konrad’s sons who had inherited and continued his father’s wheelwright’s shop.  Anton’s family enjoyed Josef’s long summer visits and many entertaining anecdotes have been kept alive about him to this day.  Apparently, Josef was an amiable man who had colorful stories to tell about his many travels and who brought wonderfully thoughtful gifts when he visited.  Truth be told, most of what I do know about my grandfather I have learned from the family in Haaren, and especially from my Cousin Katharina who passed away only relatively recently.

Josef Kappius died on 14 June 1955 in Recklinghausen, just 9 miles away from Bochum.  When he had moved there, during or after the war, we do not know, but since Bochum was largely destroyed during the last year of WWII, he might very well have lived there the last ten or twelve years of his life.

Rest in Peace, Grandpa Josef.  We have not found your grave yet, but maybe one day we will.

josef-kappius-sr 2
Josef Kappius (30 April 1882 – 14 June 1955)

 

 

 

Remembering Our Ancestors: Franziskus Xaverius Kappius gt. Reelen

Nobody would have called our 2nd and 3rd great-grandfather ‘Franziskus Xaverius’. In his hometown Haaren, he would have been known as ‘Reelen’s Xaver’.

When Franziskus Xaverius Kappius was born on 3 April 1821, four generations of Kappius farmers had been living in Haaren, where they worked the Reelen farm.  But Reelen’s Xaver was not going to inherit his father’s farm, in fact, none of his three brothers or three sisters did because when Xaver was in his mid-fifties, the farm was lost.  His father Franziskus Heinrich (or Hans, for short) had been taking out loans on the farm and the land since 1820, and he did not live to see the farm, or what was left of it, being sold in the end, he had very little to leave behind when he died in 1861.

Nevertheless, during Xaver’s childhood things might still have been reasonably good on the farm.  On 3 February 1849 when he was still working the farm together with his father Hans and brother Anton, Xaver  married Angela Tacken, and all of their eleven children, five boys and six girls, were born in Haaren.  It is quite possible that Xaver, being the second son of his parents and hence not the heir to the farm, lived in a smaller house that also belonged to the Reelen estate into which his (by then widowed) mother and his brother Konrad moved with his family after they had to sell the farm finally in 1877.  Said smaller house is still family property and inhabited by a descendant of Konrad.

Xaver, Angela and their oldest son Johann (see below), who was not married yet in 1877, decided to move to Bochum at this point, more precisely to Grumme, a district north of the city center.  Bochum was a coal-miner city, as most of the cities in the Ruhrgebiet used to be, and so both Xaver and Johann found engineer’s jobs in one of the mines.  For three generations, the Kappius family stayed in Grumme, in a house on Grummer Strasse which today is lined with cherry trees and known for their gorgeous pink blossoms in the spring (see image above).

Xaver died last Sunday 132 years ago, on 1 March 1888 in Grumme at the age of 66.  Rest in Peace, Great-Grandpa Kappius.

In many families, birthdays cluster around certain months.  March is one such month in our family, contemporary as well as in the past.  And so we also remember this week our (great-) grandmother Antonie Lingemann (1882 – 1915, Xaver’s grand-daughter-in-law), whose birthday would have been on 5 March, and also our (2nd) great-grandfather Johann Kappius (1851 – bef. 1907, Xaver’s oldest son, see above), whose birthday would have been this day, 6 March.  Besides, our twin cousins Franziska and Margarethe Pohlschmidt (Xaver’s great-granddaughters), whose children’s pictures could very well show our own children dressed up in 1920s fashion, were born on 6 March, too, in 1918.

Happy birthday!

pohlschmidt-children
Margarethe and Franziska in the center, with younger siblings Louise and Wilhelm, around 1924.

Remembering Our Ancestors: Antonie Lingemann

Today we remember my paternal grandmother Antonie Cappius née Lingemann.

Today we remember our (great-) grandmother on my paternal side, Antonie Lingemann.

Antonie was born on 5 March 1882 in Haaren, North-Rhine Westphalia, the home-town of the Cappius-Clan back in the day.  Haaren is where the family farm was located, but in the late 1880s, farm and land had already been lost to a large extent and the family had moved to a different house in Haaren, where one of the Cappius-brothers ran a wheelwright shop.  Other Cappius brothers had left Haaren and settled in nearby Bochum for the obvious work opportunites.

Antonie was one of three daughters of Josef Lingemann, first teacher at the local school in Haaren, and his wife.  When she was grown, she married Josef Cappius Sr., probably around 1900.  Chances are good that Josef Sr. met Antonie while he was apprenticed at his uncle’s wheelwright shop.  The two had three children together, two daughters, Gertrud and Elizabeth, and a son, my father Jupp Kappius.  The spelling of the last name – Cappius or Kappius – seems to have changed back and forth during that time.

The young family lived together in Bochum, in the house of Josef’s parents Johannes and Gertrud (Haselhorst) Kappius, wher Antonie took care of the children while Josef’s salesman’s job took him far and wide, primarily into eastern Europe.

Antonie Lingemann portrait
Antonie Lingemann (1882 – 1924).  Quite obviously, this photo is a cut-out from a larger picture, but we do not know who else was in the photo.

While my father was still a child, Antonie left the family and ended up moving to Schwanbeck near Rostock, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where she had another daughter named Hanni.  But unfortunately, Antonie died relatively young, on 8 December 1924, at the age of 42.  Her youngest daughter was raised by her sisters in a small community in the High Sauerland called Schmallenberg where the Lingemanns seem to have settled after leaving Haaren.  There are many Lingemann’s living in that town to this day.  Her three older children, my father included, grew up with their father and grandparents in Bochum.

My father kept the above photo of his mother in loving memory of her.

Rest in Peace, Antonie.

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