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: The Small Things

There is so much to know about our ancestors, and the small things are often the most wonderful.

Recently, I was gifted a bunch of old family pictures, in digital format. Wonderful! Here are two that seem particularly noteworthy.

Haven’t you also found that when it comes to genealogy, it’s the little things that tell you the most? Oh yes, there is lots to glean and surmise (and imagine) from census data and other collections of dates and places, and we have done so countless times. But the two pictures below have told me more about my father than any data: Jupp and Aenne loved little feisty dachshunds. The more, the merrier, it seems. How wonderful.

This must have been around 1950.
The smile on his face…

Remembering Our Ancestors: Paul Heinrich Bücker

Last Sunday 37 years ago, (Great-) Grandpa Paul passed away in Gütersloh, Germany.

When Paul Heinrich Bücker was born on 26 January 1911 in Balve in the German Sauerland, both his father Josef Bücker and his mother Anna Hotmaker were 35 years old.  He had many brothers but only one sister, Auguste, or Gustchen for short, and she died fairly young.  They all missed her terribly; Paul named his first daughter after her.  From the quiet and beautiful Sauerland, the family moved into the Ruhrgebiet during the 1920s, most likely because Paul’s father had to find work in the city to feed his big family.  Times were hard in the Weimar Republic.

There, in the city of Dorsten, Paul grew into a man and married Anna von Hinten on 23 January 1939.  Paul moved his family out of the Ruhrgebiet to the more quiet Gütersloh close to the Teutoburg Forest – yes, the same area where the Cherusci Arminius (or rather, Hermann) beat the Romans in 9 AD -, where he worked for a private rehab clinic as a physiotherapist.  They had two daughters, one at the onset of WWII and the other when the war was over.  During the war Paul served in a medical unit in Danzig.

Paul with 2 grandchildren

In the late 1940s, Paul’s mother Anna, then widowed, lived with them for a few years in Gütersloh before she died in 1950.  His older daughter remembers well her ‘Strickoma’, and the time spent together.  Paul worked at the same place until he retired when he was 70 years old, so that would have been in 1981.

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Paul with his wife Anni on a visit to Bremen, Germany, around 1975

Paul died of a heart attack only roughly two years later, on 12 July 1983, in Gütersloh, and lies buried there, see picture below.  His wife Anny followed him fourteen years later.

buecker hain grave 7-12-2020
Here, Paul and his wife Anny lie buried, together with their son-in-law Ingo Hain, whose 51st birthday it would have been on the day this picture was taken, 12 July 2020.

Rest in Peace, dear Opi.  You had a big heart, and from you, I first learned about Goethe’s Faust, the music of Richard Wagner, and why it is a good idea to eat smoked ham sandwiches with knife and fork.  You also were the most cunning Easter-egg-hider in the family!

We love you, and we miss you.

paul-buecker-1982
Paul liked to visit the harbor in Bremen. Here he is watching the ships being loaded and unloaded, in 1982.

 

Remembering Our Ancestors: Hans von Hinten

Until recently, we did not know when exactly, where or how Great-Uncle Hans died. Now we know.

I heard about “Bruder Hans” a good bit in my childhood:  Julius Hans (nobody called him Julius, however) was my maternal grandmother‘s favorite brother.  Given that she had four of them along with three sisters, that’s saying something.  And while we always knew that he fell during WWII, we never knew when exactly, let alone where or how.  Memorial Day is always a good occasion for research websites to release genealogically interesting material from military records, and this year they released the records of German forces casualties for the years 1939 – 1948, among other data.  And listed there I found my Great-Uncle Hans.

But back to the beginning:

Julius Hans von Hinten, the second son of Franz von Hinten and Johanna Clemens, was born in Aachen, Germany, also known as Aix-la-Chapelle, city of Charlemagne, on 7 June 1910.  Here we have him (on the left) with three of his siblings, some time between 1916 and 1919, I should say.

von Hinten children aroubd 1916
left to right: Hans, Anna, Kurt and Franz Jr.

Times were turbulent in Germany during Hans’ youth.  He was born when Emperor Wilhelm II still ruled Germany, grew up during WWI and the Weimar Republic, and was 23 years old when the Nazi-era began.  The family relocated to Dorsten before 1913, and when Hans had finished school, he became a dentist like his father, although we do not know if he stayed in Dorsten for his studies or went elsewhere.  However, in September 1939 at the age of 29, when WWII was just beginning in Europe, he married Elisabeth Anna Ulrich (or Ullrich) in Eutin, Schleswig-Holstein, close to 300 miles (almost 500 km) north-east of Dorsten.  The Ulrich’s were from that area, and Hans and Lisa settled there, too.  They had two children, first a girl, then a boy, although Hans cannot have seen much of them, as was the fate of many young men during that time:  Hans was a soldier in the German Wehrmacht, and thus he was more away from home than not.  His daughter was around two years old by the time Hans passed away, and his son was born shortly before his death.  Here is a picture of him as a young man, presumably in his late teens or early twenties:

Hans von Hinten
Hans von Hinten (1910 – 1942)

By the time Hans was to die, he served as a private in the 376th Infantry Regiment which was to be included into the 376th Infantry Division that was formed in March 1942 and sent direction Stalingrad to fight Communism.  But Hans never made it anywhere near Russia, it seems.  Death found him on 16 February 1942 in some place we cannot decipher:  Try your luck in the featured image, the word after the date 16.2.1942: Rytr?  Rytv?  Sounds more like an abbreviation to me than a place; maybe he was on his way to France or back home from there.  Regardless, he took a direct hit from an artillery grenade, the above death certificate states, and I guess it matters little where precisely it happened.  I wonder if he has a grave at all, given the circumstances, or if he is one of the countless un-buried soldiers that the history of mankind has produced.

Strangely enough, his family didn’t know a whole lot about this until now.  His mother did receive the news of his hero’s death along with a medal, the “Golden Mother’s Cross”.  Apparently, she did not appreciate it – small wonder – but threw it through the closed window into the street instead where the family then quickly retrieved it to keep her out of trouble with the authorities.

Requiescat in Pace, Great-Uncle Hans.  You were loved, and you are not forgotten.

***News***

Apparently, Hans does have a grave in Eutin, so we can hope they found his body and brought him home, and it is not just a memorial marker.  Also, it appears that Hans and his brother-in-law Paul, husband of Hans’ sister Anna, met somewhere during the war, and that Hans was anxious to hear if his second child had already been born.  Paul (my grandfather) did not know either, it seems.  This meeting must have taken place early in 1942 or possibly late in 1941.

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: Johannes Stuttenbecker

Our 8th and 9th great-grandfather Studebaker died this week 292 years ago, only three days before his 66th birthday.

When Johannes Peter Stuttenbecker was born on 10 April 1662 in Solingen in the Bergisches Land in what we now call Germany, his hometown had just become a fortified city after having been a tiny village for about 500 years.  It had also weathered a severe outbreak of the plague with almost 2,000 deaths in town, as well as the Thirty Years’ War within the last 50 years.  Chances are Johannes was actually born in Dorp, a nearby town which was incorporated into Solingen in 1889 and in which his parents Peter and Anna both were born, but we can’t be sure.

Johannes had two older sisters, two older brothers and two younger brothers, which makes them seven children altogether.

Johannes married Catharina Rau in his home town on 9 May 1692, and the two of them had five children together, four boys and one girl.  At least two of their children, one of them being our direct ancestor Peter Studebaker, immigrated into the New World in the first half of the 18th century where the spelling of the last name was changed into something more palatable for English-speaking people.  But Johannes and Catharina, as well as at least two of their children, lived and died in Solingen.

After living all their lives in and around Solingen, Johannes passed away on 7 April 1728.  Catharina had already died 16 years earlier.  Their son Peter and his family arrived in Maryland only nine years after his father’s death.

Rest in Peace, Great-Grandpa Stuttenbecker.  According to information on Find-A-Grave, you and your wife lie buried in the Waldfriedhof of the city of Charlemagne, Aachen.

IMG_2764 - Edited

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: Johann Gerhard Büker

This week 206 years ago, our 3rd (and 4th) great-grandfather Bücker passed away.

Johann Gerhard Büker was born on 13 October 1792, in Riesenbeck, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.  His father Gerd, whose last name had been Laumann, had taken on the profession of barrel maker and in the process his last name was changed to fit his craft, first to Boddeker and later to Büker, to which over the years a ‘c’ was added to assure a short vowel sound for the ‘ü’.

The place where young Johann grew up went through a lot of political change during the first three decades of his life.  In 1803, when Johann was 11, his hometown Riesenbeck on the southern slopes of the Teutoburg Forest, which had belonged to the grand duke of Tecklenburg since 1236 and through his intervention was counted with the Prince-Bishopric of Münster since 1400, became part of Prussia.  Five years later, it became property of the Grand Duchy of Berg, and with the end of Napoleon’s time it became Prussian again.  In 1816, two years after Johann had married  Maria Katharina Hünemeyer on 25 July 1814, Riesenbeck finally became part of Tecklenburg again, and such it is to this day.

We do not know much about Johann and his wife and how many children they had, but we do know that they had one son, Bernhard Heinrich Anton (no idea by which name he would have been called!), who went on to become our 2nd (and 3rd) great-grandfather.  What we do know is that the family Büker lived in Riesenbeck for four generations, beginning with Johann’s father, before our great-grandfather moved first to the Sauerland and later to Dorsten.

Johann Büker lived all his life in Riesenbeck where he died on 26 February 1852 at the age of 59.  We assume that he was buried there as well.  Got to wonder if any of the political back-and-forth had an impact on the life of Joe-Average-barrel-maker at all.

Riesenbeck,_Sankt_Kalixtus_Kirche 2013-09-28_14.30 - Edited
Sankt Kalixtus Kirche in Riesenbeck in 2013, with a steeple from the 12th century

Featured the Riesenbecker Berg with the Schönen Aussicht (which translates Beautiful View), a platform at 116m above sea level from which one can see across the Münsterland all the way to the city of Münster, if the weather is just so.

Happy Birthday, Willi!

Today we remember Willi Wagener, who passed on in 1986.

My Stepdad would have been 87 this day, and he loved Mario Lanza’s songs.  Here’s to you, Willi.

He loved fishing, photography, travelling and history, both ancient and more recent.

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This picture was taken in the Buergerpark in Bremen, Germany, in 1975 or thereabouts. Used to go there of a Sunday to play put-put golf, visit the animals in the small zoo and go row-boating.

gravestone

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