Searching for Traces in Moravki (Kalisz County) in the Warthegau

Kienzle, Martina. "Searching for Traces in Moravki (Kalisz County) in the Warthegau." Mitteilungsblatt des Bessarabiendeutschen Vereins, February 2014, 8.

Translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, CO, with editorial assistance from Dr. Nancy Herzog.

The preparations for our trip to the Warthegau took a while. That is where my father, Egon Kienzle, his brother and parents were taken to after the 1940 resettlement, following a lengthy stay in a Kirchberg camp and a further stay in a cloister, and finally, in the fall of 1941, on a small farm in Moravki (Kalisz County). In February 1942 my sister Ella was born in Moravki.

Our search for traces there began on May 17, 2013. We were accompanied by a dear acquaintance with Polish roots, who has been living in Germany for thirty years. We found accommodations at her parents’ home. On my behalf, Graszina’s father and brother-in-law earlier on had made an unbelievable number of telephone calls to authorities, offices keeping records of residences, mayors, and clergy. They had performed excellent work. I had always had one burning question, that is, why is so little known about Uncle Erwin Kienzle, my father’s big brother? My father told me that Erwin was born on September 18, 1927 and that he died of blood poisoning in December, 1943 in the Kalisz hospital. Documentation is lacking. However, with us we had three photos that had survived the turmoil of the resettlement and later flight.

Right away we were received by a friendly lady at the residential registration office. This is the person who had been contacted several times by Graszina’s father. The two had evaluated all available data and writings. And today she proudly handed us a specific document, the death certificate for Erwin Kienzle! “That’s impossible,” I stammered, and we hugged and cried. The lady pointed out the name on the certificate.

Instead of “Kienzle,” it read “Küntzle.” So that explains things. In my searches in the Internet and in the many letters I had written in trying to learn something about Erwin, I had indicated that the name might perhaps be spelled with different variations. However, I had not come upon this particular variation. But now I know at least that his birthplace was Parapara, and that he died at 8:30 PM, December 7, 1943 in the Kalisz hospital. The cause of death was listed as sepsis. That is what my father always had told me. A blood blister on his thumb, which he had punctured with Oma’s darning needle, had caused tragic consequences. Here in my hand I was holding the first and only document concerning him. I could barely believe my good luck. Only later did I realize that my father had died at exactly 8:30 PM, except that it was on July 26, 2011.

Graszina’s father gave the friendly lady of the registry pralines, and she told us further that she had tried to locate my uncle’s gravesite. Unfortunately she had been unsuccessful, because gravesites were not registered before 1945. She then gave us directions to the cemetery. With thoughts of my uncle, we remained for a while at the site where my uncle had found eternal rest—far from his homeland. And for my father’s grave I took along a bit of soil. He loved his big brother very much.           
Our journey continued on toward Moravki, thirty kilometers east of Kalisz. The first thing we did was to stop at the town sign to take photos. We spoke with many people as more and more joined us. They were very nice and friendly, initially somewhat reticent, but later they could hardly stop talking. It was a good thing that we had three interpreters. We showed them the photos depicting my father, his brothers and sister as children, and we asked about two small ponds in front of a certain farm. We finally located the site not at all far away. The tractor, about to leave the farm, was immediately turned off, and again we began a cordial conversation. We presented our concern and asked many questions. The locals dug up old photos. What an experience! We learned that a few outbuildings had been torn down, but the house my grandparents had nearly completed in 1944, but which my family had not been able to move into, was still standing. The thatched roof had been replaced with tiles. Other than that, not much was changed, and the farm presumably still looks the same as before. A small path, a small garden with a fence in front of it, much grass, and a well in the center. So here is where my father played as a small child. Here is where he paddled around on a nearby pond in his mother’s washtub, for which he got into big trouble. The skates he had made himself in 1945, to which he even fastened aluminum runners, he used to hide in a niche behind the kitchen cupboard. A thousand thoughts ran through my mind. I was able to take many photos and videos, and there was a lot more talking.

We then drove to the neighboring town of Chlevo, about six kilometers away. It was the place where the children, including my Aunt Ella, were baptized in those days. She was nearly three years old when she had to leave her homeland and therefore has no memories of it. Today she is seventy-one. So now she at least has some photos of the house she was born in and of the church she was baptized in.

During our second stop in Moravki two days later, we even found Jushko, whose name is really Josef. He was somewhat older than my father, and he had to work as a laborer on the farm. In those days he became a close friend of my father and his brother Erwin. We had with us a photo from him, on the back of which is the following penciled dedication in Polish: “For you, to remember me forever. Your friend, Josef.”

My father had guarded this photo as the most valuable thing in the world, and he had often talked about Jushko and Stashek. From the mayor’s daughter we received directions for a place we should drive to find him. Looking again and again at the photo, she concludes that the man who lives there could be the right person. The mayor nodded in agreement. Off we drove and found him. He along with his wife and son live in Moravki. He is nearly ninety years old. We supported him as he was coming out. When we showed him the photos, he began to cry, and his hands were shaking. He recognized Erwin, pointed to the picture, and said: “He was here! He was here!” He also recognized himself, and we hugged each other and cried. We showed his son the picture depicting his father as young man. As he turned it over to read the dedication, he could no longer speak and struggled for composure. We remained for a while, sitting and looking at photos. Graszina translated everything I know from what my father and my grandfathers had told. We relived little memories and could hardly believe it all. What good fortune! Never will I forget these beautiful and heartfelt encounters.

It is possible that the Warthegau never counted as homeland for our parents and grandparents, but there were and still remain true and genuine friendships, no matter the place, when people respect, love and trust each other. A look back: January 15, 1945. The wagon is packed and the horses are hitched. They must leave. “Jushko, please come with us. You can surely stay with us.” Jushko is torn, but he is staying. Tears flow. “Dobzhe, Egon, dobzhe …” These are also the last words I heard from my father in July, 2011.

We never did find Stashek, at least not yet.

Our appreciation is extended to Dr. Nancy Herozg for editing and to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

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