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: 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.

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.

000020
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

Remembering Our Ancestors: Jupp Kappius

Today we remember my father Jupp, whose family relations were a closed book for us for a long time.

Josef Kappius, known to everyone only as Jupp, was born at the onset of the 20th century, on 3 November 1907, in Bochum, Germany.  He was the first child and only son of Josef Kappius Sr. and his wife Antonie Lingemann, both of families that originally came from Haaren at the borders of the Sauerland.  But Joseph Sr. and his brother had already been born in Bochum, where their father Johann had moved after the farm and lands that the family had owned in Haaren was lost.

Regardless, Josef Sr. and Antonie most likely met in Haaren, where Josef Sr. was learning the wheelwright’s trade at his uncle’s shop.  By the time Jupp was born, the young couple was living with Josef Sr.’s parents in Bochum.  Withing the next five years, two more children were born to the couple, both girls.

We have a photo of Jupp’s grandparents, and we are not sure whether they are the Kappius or the Lingemann grandparents, but some life facts and events indicate that they are most probably the parents of Jupp’s mother Antonie, Josef Lingemann and his wife.  He was first teacher at the local school in Haaren and much involved in the affairs of the village, as teachers used to be.  We hope to discover more about this line of the family still as the Lingemann’s were closer to Jupp’s heart, but things are going slow in this research area.  They appear to have relocated to Schmallenberg in the Sauerland after leaving Haaren in the early 1900s, where many Lingemann’s still reside to this day.

Jupps Grosseltern
(most likely) Josef Lingemann and his wife Louise Becker, Jupp’s maternal grandparents

Now, Jupp’s life wasn’t very long – he died on 30 December 1967 in Dortmund at the age of 60 – but rather intense.  He lived through both great wars in Europe and was quite involved in the social and political re-shaping of his country after 1945.  He was married twice and, against all odds, fathered two children in his later years.  I have written about his personal life before, so head over to the article if you are interested.  Today, however, I would like to say a few more things about the Kappius family in Haaren.

Recently, we have discovered online access to the church books of the Roman-Catholic St. Vitus church in Haaren, and family members have been very diligently scanning the material for the name Cappius.  The result, in short, is that we can now say with some certainty that just about all people who live in Haaren and bear the name Cappius/Kappius, regardless of their various house names, go back to one and the same ancestor:  Johannes Franziskus (most likely called Johann Franz) Cappius, who is first documented as living in Haaren on 23 June 1726.  On this day, he married his first wife Anna Freitag (or Freytag) in Haaren.  They had 10 children together, many of whom did not live to see adulthood, and after her death in 1753 Johann Franz married again, this time Catharina Winhusen, with whom he had four more children.  He died on 27 April 1767 in Haaren, two years before his second wife.

Johann Franz was not born in Haaren, it would seem:  If our research is correct, he was born after 1698 in Giershagen, part of Marsberg in the High Sauerland area, and a very pretty little village.  But we say this with some hesitation because we are not completely sure yet of this fact.  Before 1726, the name Cappius does not show up in any of the Haaren church records, and the only Cappius recorded that could have been Johann Franz’s father was Johann Phillip Cappius, who died in Haaren on 10 February 1735 and had been born in Giershagen in 1672.  The only fly in this ointment is that we have not yet found proof that Johann Franz was indeed the son of Johann Phillip: We have found several children mentioned, but no Johann Franz among them.

From Johann Franz, who was the 6th great-grandfather of my father Jupp, the patri-linear line resided in Haaren until Jupp’s grandfather, who was born in Haaren but died in Bochum.  Now, the really funny and somewhat odd thing about all this is that after Jupp’s father, who still had good contact to his uncle and cousins in Haaren and visited them there frequently until very shortly before his death in 1955, the family contact with Haaren was completely severed.  None of Josef Sr.’s children, as far as we know, had any contact with Haaren anymore, or ever talked about the family in Haaren to their children and grandchildren.  This connection was only very recently reestablished (within the last decade), and while it appears to not have been a priority to my father whom we remember today, I am sure it is important to research and document the family roots, and that he would not be displeased at our doing so.

Rest in Peace, Jupp.  We remember you, and we love you, and we hope to find out more about the family of your beloved mother as well.

Josef 3 - Edited

Remembering Our Ancestors: Angela Maria Tacken

This week 128 years ago, our 2nd (and 3rd) great-grandmother on the Cappius side passed away at the age of 68.

Haaren, a small but very old village in Germany which today belongs to Bad Wünnenberg, is the place to where we can trace the Cappius/Kappius family in history.  There, they lived since the late 18th century, and there they still live, not all of them, but many.  Their farm and extensive lands, and with them their house name Reele(n), eventually got lost, but parts of the family just moved to another house in town that also belonged to them, and this property is still family owned.  Haaren is full of Kappius families who all are related to each other to one degree or another; you just have to go back far enough and find the connections.

Angela Maria Tacken was born on 10 Jan 1823 in Haaren.  Her mother Christina Müller was originally from Wünnenberg, her father Heinrich Tacken was a day laborer in Haaren.

Angela married Franziskus Xaverius Kappius at St. Vitus church in Haaren (picture below) on 2 March 1849 when he was 27 years old, and she was 26.  The family lived in Haaren on the Reelen farm, the place that gave the family the house-name Reele(n) as an attachment to their family name.

Angela and Franziskus Xaverius had eleven children together between 1849 and 1869, three of which did not live to adulthood.  Their first son and second child Johannes was our (2nd) great-grandfather, and it appears that he moved to Grumme, a district of Bochum, with Angela and Franziskus when they left Haaren.  The reason for their move was probably the loss of the farm which happened around 1877, and the smaller house in Haaren was a good bit smaller than the farm had been and had only room enough for their son Konrad and his quickly growing family.

In Bochum-Grumme, Franziskus Xaverius died on 1 March 1888.  On 16 December 1891, only three and a half years later, Angela Maria Kappius died as well and was laid to rest in Bochum together with her husband, as far as we know.

Rest in Peace, Great-Grandma Kappius.

St._Vitus_Haaren
St. Vitus in Haaren

Remembering Our Ancestors: Gertrud Kappius

Aunt Gertrud was born this past Sunday 110 years ago.

Last week, I had the great fortune to see a photograph of my aunt Gertrud Kappius for the first time.  And my, does she resemble my father!

Gertrud Kappius verheiratete Krueger.jpeg

When Gertrud was born on 8 September 1909 to Josef Kappius Sr. and Antonie Lingemann, who were living in Bochum, Germany, she already had a brother that was just about turning two.  After her, another girl was born, Elisabeth, and that comprises the entirety of Josef Sr. and Antonie’s children.

Gertrud’s mother had to leave the family while she and her siblings were still children, and when Gertrud was 15, her mother died of the flu in far-away Rostock.  Her father married again, and her stepmother’s name was Ida.  We suspect that Ida and Josef Sr. married at the courthouse in 1915, and then at church in 1927, after Antonie had passed away.

On 2 February 1933, Gertrud’s first daughter Marie Theresia was born, and she married Richard Krüger, with whom she had another daughter, Margaretha.  The family lived in Bochum at that point.  Whether Richard died or they separated is not clear, but eventually, Gertrud married Waldemar Jacobsen and moved to Wuppertal.  After his death, she moved to Bad Segeberg to live close to her daughter Rita, and at that point she called herself Gerda Jacobsen.  She found employment at a small inn where she also lived, and her daughters and families visited her there often.

Gertrud Kappius/ Krüger/ Jacobsen died on 13 November 1983 in Warder near Bad Segeberg.  She rests in the Krems II cemetery.

Rest in Peace, Aunt Gertrud.  It is such a pity that we never met.

Gertrud Kappius Krueger Jacobsen 1983
Gerda Jacobsen in 1983

Remembering Our Ancestors: Margaretha von Reele

“Tante Rita” felt strongly about our family identity bound up with the house name Reelen.

On 3 September 1935, Margaretha Krüger was born in Bochum, coal-miner city in western Germany and home to the family of Johannes Kappius since the late 19th century when the Reelen farm in Haaren was lost and Johannes moved his family to the nearby city to find work in the mines.  Margaretha was Johannes’ great-granddaughter, in other words, she was my cousin, second daughter of my father‘s sister Gertrud Kappius and her first husband Richard Krüger.  72 years later, in 2007. she died in Seattle, WA.  In between lies a long and interesting life on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Margaretha Rita Krueger

Magraretha, or Rita, as she was called, grew up in Bochum with her sister Maria Theresia, and one can assume that not much of her first ten years were actually spent there because Bochum was heavily bombed during WWII, to the point where not much of it was left in the end.  But Rita survived, and so did her parents and her sister.

After the war, in the early 1950s, Rita married Raymond L. Brown of the American Air Force who had been stationed in Germany, and the two went to live in Arizona for the next 20 years.  In 1962, Rita became an American citizen.

Eventually, however, the marriage broke and Rita took the ship back home to Germany.  On the boat she met Christian Wätjen, a gentleman whose family was obviously of northern German extraction.  The two married, and they lived in the Bad Segeberg area in Schleswig-Holstein for the next 30 years.  But eventually, Rita returned to North America, living first in Canada and then in Seattle, where she died in 2007.

Between 2000 and 2007, Rita changed her name to Margaretha von Reele.  She had always been interested in genealogy, first to find out more about the little family riddles one inevitably encounters when talking about the past with your relatives, but eventually she was most intrigued by the loss of the house name of the Cappius/Kappius family.

The Cappius family had settled in Haaren latest around 1720, according to our oldest records, and around 1760 they acquired a farm that came with a name attached to it, like all farms and houses in Haaren did.  Those names were, quite logically, called “house names”, and to this day, the German term “Hausname” is used synonymous with family name or surname.  But back in the day, a house name was not the same as a family name:  There were many families by the name of Cappius in Haaren, and so they were distinguished from each other by the houses they occupied and the names that went with them.  Thus our branch of the family became known as Cappius Reelen.  Lots of land belonged to the farm eventually, and a second, smaller house in town as well, but times were hard in Haaren in the mid- to late 19th century, and by and by debt mounted and the land had to be sold off acre by acre, until in the end the farm could not be kept either.  The smaller house was then home to the remaining Kappius Reelen family, but most family members had already left town, like my great-grandfather, to settle where a living could be made, or to go to the military.  Since they were not connected with the house anymore, they dropped the name of Reelen from their last name, or took up other house names as they bought new houses.

By the time Rita started looking into all this, she had primarily her mother as a source to rely on, and Gertrud herself had already been born in Bochum and no relationship with the family that was still living in Haaren, although her father surely did until he died in 1955.  It is quite possible that Rita wasn’t yet interested in family history while her grandfather was still alive.  From her researches, probably conducted in the 1970s and onward, Rita concluded that it was a shame how the name had been lost, as with it some of the family identity was lost as well.  Therefore, she eventually changed her last name to “von Reele”, and sought to free the family from the stain on their reputation.  She even thought that some criminal act had possibly led to the Roman Catholic Church confiscating farm and land, but I have not been able to verify this suspicion.

While it is true that the family lost land and farm, they continued to be, and still are known by their house name Reele, although none of them actually called themselves by the house name only.  Rita’s great-uncle Anton, whose father had still lived on the Reelen farm and later in the small Reelen house in town before he built a new one for his growing family, was known throughout his life as “Reelens Anton”, and his children did not develop a similar sense of loss about the family name as it wasn’t really lost after all.  True, it wasn’t officially used anymore, but it surely was still part of their identity as it continued to distinguish them from other branches of the Kappius family.

There is one member of the family that shared Rita’s concern for the family name, down to the spelling of Cappius with a C, and that was my great-uncle Father Uncle William, who came to the United States in 1913 after his ordination and lived in various places in Nebraska until his death in 1945.  He, too, was quite interested in the Reelen part of the name but was unable to find out much about it, as we can gather from his letters to my father.  He refused to spell his own or his nephew’s last name with a K, which appears to have led to some confusion in the internment camp in Australia where my father received his letters in the early 1940s.  Maybe distance makes a (perceived) loss of identity be felt even more keenly.

Rest in Peace now, dear Rita von Reele.  It is indeed a shame that much of your research was lost after you passed on, and that we cannot read anymore all the facts and anecdotes you gathered.  But maybe that would have been too easy anyway, and we are meant to look again into the past ourselves and piece together the long and the short of it.

Tante Rita 70 Jahre alt
Rita when she was 70 years old

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