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: Jupp Kappius

Today we remember my father, Josef Kappius, who was known to everyone only as Jupp. 

Today we remember my father, Josef Kappius, who was known to everyone only as Jupp.  For those who know a bit about Germany it might be obvious that my father was a child of the Ruhrgebiet where Josefs tend to be called “Jupp”, and indeed, he was born in Bochum on 7 November 1907.  The original farm homestead of the family was in nearby Haaren (today technically a part of Bad Wuennenberg), but Jupp’s grandparents had already settled in Grumme (now part of Bochum) before their children were born, and so my father was not a child of the country, but of the city.

grummer-strasse-26-bochum
Grummer Strasse 26 in Bochum: the house in which my father was born.

There is much to say about him and we actually maintain a website where we do just that, but the long and short is that he lived to see both world wars, the first as a pre-pubescent child, the second as an active participant.  He worked in the steel industry before WWII, and after the war made a livelihood from being a representative of his political party in the local government of Dortmund.  He died there, in Dortmund, at the age of 60, on 30 Dec 1967.

jupp-010
Not sure when or where this was taken, but probably in the 1950s and on vacation.

My father was married twice.  His first wife Aenne was his companion from the early 1930s all through WWII and into the mid-1950s, and the two were childless.  Purposefully so, one has to add, because they had been active in the socialist workers youth of their day and quickly evolved into full-fledged enemies of the state when the Hitler was elected as chancellor in 1933.  All members of their political group, the ISK, vowed to be vegetarians, teetotalers, and childless.  Jupp and Aenne fled in 1933 when a GESTAPO arrest was imminent, and while she ended up in Switzerland where she stayed until the end of the war, for the most part, Jupp went to England, from where he, together with other enemy aliens, was deported to Australia in June of 1940.  For over two years he sat there waiting for his chance to do his bit in the war.  October 1942 found him back in London, England, and on 1 September 1944 at midnight, he returned to Germany via parachute with the objective to undermine Nazi Germany as best as possible, and strengthen the resistance in the Ruhr area.  The OSS was involved as well as British Intelligence, but he was only trained by them, not paid.

JuppKappius10
Don;t know when or where this was, but it sure looks like May 1st to me.

After the war he was reunited with his wife and they did their best to help shape the new Germany that was emerging out of the ashes of the war.  For Aenne, it was too late to have children anymore by that time, and she died in 1956.  She was strong of will and conviction, but her (physical) heart was weak.

jupp-006
Aenne Kappius, nee Ebbert. I grew up with a lot of her relatives, with her sister, her nieces and nephews, and their children.

Just shy of 10 years later, and after some dark and lonely years, my father married again, this time a much younger lady – my mom – with whom he had two children, one boy and one girl, before he died.  Can you imagine what it must have meant for him?  But his newfound joy did not last very long in this world:  My brother was about 20 months old when our father died, and I only 8 weeks.

father-and-son-christmas-1966
Christmas 1966

For the longest time, I only knew very basic things about my father.  He was of a different generation than my mother and the parents of my friends, and history teachers in school would call me a liar when I said anything about my father actively participating in WWII.  Later, during my years at the university in Germany, I met someone who was working on a documentary (“Deckname Downend”, in German) about my father’s involvement in the German resistance movement, and I learned something new then.  Again a few years later, I started looking into all that a lot more seriously, reading through my father’s internment diaries and studying other material about the groups he was involved in at the time, and that’s when I really “met” my father for the first time.  As a child and teenager I had met some of his “old” friends in person; now I learned about the things they had done together back in the day, and he became very much alive for me.  Fascinating!

jupp-005

If you are interested in reading a bit more or watching the documentary (it’s in German, though, no subtitles (yet)), head over to his site: JuppKappius.wordpress.com

JuppKappius14

For today, we remember the day he passed on, this coming Sunday, 51 years ago.  He lived in England long enough to cherish one English (or should I say, Scottish?) tradition in particular, that is, to sing Auld Lang Syne together on New Year’s Eve.  It’s almost New Year’s Eve, so go ahead, turn it up and sing along…

Robert Burns – Auld Lang Syne, as sung by Dougie MacLean on the album “Tribute”

Claim to Fame…

Step into the time machine and return with us to September 1st, 1944…

I guess there are all kinds of ways of being famous, or infamous.  My father claimed his fame by clandestinely returning into Nazi Germany in 1944 after a number of years of exile.  After the war, he wrote a report about it, or rather, two: one in German, one in English.  The English one you can find here:

Parachuting into the Emsland

Step into the time machine and return with us to September 1st, 1944…

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