Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Berlin Connection

Last week I spoke about the homeland of my Great Grandparents. I spoke in generalities. Today I indulge in some specifics.

As a child, my sister and I would be play a game we made up called, “Berlin Wall.” I was eight when the wall between East and West Berlin was built. Television shows, quick to see the compelling drama that stories centered on this subject would have, proved to be ample fodder for our young minds.

It never occurred to me or my younger sister that for some of our relatives, this was not make-believe drama, bur rather a fact of every day life. At the time, we didn't know that our grandmother had aunts, uncles and cousins she had never met living in Berlin and East Germany.

In a November post, I wrote about a box that my younger sister had “inherited” that contained precious clues to our German relatives.

“The box went from my great-grandparents' house to their eldest son, William. Upon William's death, his widow, Louise, gave the box to my parents. Because the papers in the box were all in German, my parents gave the box to my sister, who had taken two years of high school German. My sister dutifully stored the box of German papers on a shelf in the closet. And there the box sat half-forgotten gathering dust.”

Among the items in the box was a letter written from Leo's sister Minna. The letter, written in 1907 has not been translated, but the address is easy to read — the letter came from Berlin. It was signed Paul und Minna, and the reason I know she was Leo's sister is because of another item that was also in the box.

Only two things in the box were place there after World War II. One was a German bible that my great grandmother Emma had carried with her every week as she walked to Sunday church service at St. Paul's in Clyde. The bible was added to the box after her death in 1952.

The other was a copy of a funeral notice for Minna von Malottki, who died May 31, 1958. Among other things we learn from the notice is that she outlived her husband by a year and a half, her survivors include a daughter Kathe Corsten and her husband Dr. Walter Corsten. Also surviving are Kathe's two children, Manfred and Wolfgang Corsten, a daughter-in-law Charlotte von Malottki and presumably Charlotte's two children, Victoria and Sylvia von Malottki. No son is mentioned, but Charlotte is listed with a maiden of Karl indicating that there was probably a son who predeceased Minna.

Part of the opening lines “unsere über alles geliebte Mutter, Schwiegermutter, Oma, Schwester und Schwägerin,“ refer to Minna as being a mother, a mother-in-law, grandmother, sister and sister-in-law . This leads to speculation that perhaps some of those siblings who remained in Germany were still alive.

Leo, my great grandfather, came to the United States in 1906. Another sister, Hulda Kollat, emigrated in 1904 along with her husband Carl and her children. Carl Kollat acted as a sponsor for Leo and Emma.

It is known that another brother, Franz, had died before my great grandfather was born, but two sisters, Ida and Emma, are unaccounted for as well as two brothers Carl and Paul. I suspect that either Ida or Emma was married to a Tuschy because in 1910 a letter arrived from Budow. The letterhead read, “Albert Tuschy, Gastwirt.” Gastwirt means innkeeper. The greeting in the letter is “Lieber Onkel und Tante!” or Dear Uncle and Aunt. I have not found any more information on Albert or the Tuschy connection to the Schröder family.

Minna's funeral notice gives the place for the burial service as the chapel at Wilmendorfer Cemetery. Wilmendorfer was in the British Sector of Berlin. It is quite likely that Minna was living in the British Sector. Of course, she died before the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961, but she would have been living in Berlin in 1948 when the Soviets decided they wanted the Allied Forces out of Berlin.

As I wrote last week, after the war, Berlin was divided into four occupied zones. The Eastern section of the city was under Soviet occupation, while the western portions of the city were under either France, American or British rule. The problem was that Berlin itself was situated in what was to become the German Democratic Republic, more commonly known as East Germany, which was entirely under the control of the Soviet Union.

The Soviets decided the best way to get rid of the Allied Forces was to impose a blockade so that no Allied trucks could go into or out of Berlin. The effect of this blockade would be to keep food and fuel getting to the American, French and British troops in Berlin. It would also keep 2 million Berliners from getting these same items.

Because Berlin's two airports were in the British and American sectors, and because in 1945 a 20-mile wide strip of free air corridor had been agreed upon by all parties INCLUDING the Soviets, the British and American forces launched the Berlin Airlift to supply the troops and the people of Berlin. It seemed at first an almost impossible task, but with ingenuity and the help of the West Berliners themselves, the operation was a success. The Airlift lasted from June 1948 until September 1949. Approximately 2.3 million tons of goods were delivered in that time.

A very interesting account of the Berlin Airlift is here http://www.spiritoffreedom.org/airlift.html. Be sure to read the paragraph labeled, “OPERATION LITTLE VITTLES” which tells the story of one Air Force Pilot's efforts to go the extra mile for the children of Berlin.

Minna's funeral notice was sent to Hulda's family and someone from the family copied the notice and sent it to Leo. It is the only tangible proof we have that a member of Leo's family survived the war. The upside of being a genea-blogger is that I can put my unsolved riddles out here on the Internet. You never know — someone out there may Google the Tuschy or von Malottki name and find this post. Stranger things have happened.

Until Next Time! s

Note this post first published online, May 6, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online http://www.thenews-messenger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?Category=BLOGS02

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