German English    

Adaptation
 

Keeping ones principles up and trying to be a good man is a difficult task at times.

 

Hansgeorg Lopatta was born April 18, 1910, in Ober-Radoschau part of Rybnik County in  Germany and was about to face this problem.

 

His parents lived in this area their entire lifetime and went through some severe changes in lifestyle, politics and ethnicity. With its substantial coal mining activities, it certainly could be compared to the Ruhr area on the opposite, the west site, of Germany. The city of Rybnik and its county was a very German country under Prussian territory and therefore influenced by its customs and traditions from 1740 to 1922. Germany had lost the 1st World War and due to its Polish influence after an unruly time - Silesian Revolts - it was subject to an election that changed the course of its dependency for the next 17 years.

 

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published on http://www.davidrumsey.com/

 

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Grandfather as 1st lieutenant wearing his silver NSDSt honor badge with the rest of his decorations

Not just the very different language spoken on the German and Polish site but also the cultural differences of this overlapping area made a living across borders rather difficult. One can imagine that it may not have been a choice of life either with the customs one was used to growing up with, or to adapt to the new regime with its laws and ways. One would think that it must have been easy to cross back to the old mother land and fully integrate despite having just a few years back acquired a passport. Imagine one had to live life through the exact same process again just a few years later with the outbreak of WWII and then one more time with the loss of the same war. This second time, after the eviction by the latest victors - the Russians made life harder. It did happen indeed and Hansgeorg Lopatta had to face again the judgment of its earlier adaptation. 

The denazification process.

At that point we find clear evidence in form of his hand written notes to prepare his appeal to the denazification court in West-Germany. 

Freshly sentenced he was classified in category 4 in the laws opinion; meaning he was a supporter of the Nazi movement. How did it come to this?

 

All grown up he started to study structural engineering 3rd quarter of 1931, but had a tough time taking courses in Germany since he grew up in the polish part of Oberschlesien (Upper Silesia). He joined the NSDAP during those politically changing times in 1933 in order to adapt, to blend in with his fellow German students. Keep in mind that his parents still lived in Poland and had the polish citizenship.

 

 

Furthermore, being a member not being good enough for this Pole he was also pushed into joining the SS in November of 1933.

 

 

Grandpa must have also been a member of the NSD-Studentenbundes (NS German Student Society) before January 30, 1933, since he visibly wears the special silver honor badge on his uniform. Certainly joining these two organizations was another very important step to completely adapting to and out maneuver un-pleasantries of his peers because of his parents' Polish citizenship. He also joined the Army reserve engineer corps in March 1935 to add to his studies and more importantly to show his support for his country - Germany.

 

Silver Honor Pin of the NSD-Student Society

 

With promotion to Feldwebel d.Res  (reservist Sergeant) during the Summer of 1938 he was finally promoted to Unterscharführer der Allgemeinen SS (equivalent rank to the Army junior NCO).

The reason his promotion came so slowly, he stated, was his repeated refusal to drop his polish last name - Lopatta.

 

 

He further writes in his appeal the following: 

”November 9, 1938, at 9:00 pm in the evening a SS commando arrived from Gross-Strehlitz O/S to Bischofstal (my residence town) and demanded from me to burn down the synagogue. I refused and ordered the commando to return to its origin. (Witness is available to testify not only for this but that I did not take part in the Crystalnight riots)"

 

 

He ended his SS Membership October 08, 1939, to be able to marry his wife Charlotte in a church wedding and to properly baptize his daughter Barbara. The SS prohibited any involvement of this kind with the Catholic Church.

 

 

The last two notes are certainly very untypical for someone during that time. Non-conformance at a point even that earlier during the III. Reich did certainly not help one's chances to shine. Hansgeorg was clearly conflicted as the Germans went to war against Poland - his country?! 

 

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Grandpa as Sergeant with his squad

 

He finally came back home February 23, 1944, with a severe lung injury and was kept in Branitz O/S, close to Ratibor ((Branice) Leobschütz County).

 

 

Grandfather and Grandmother in 1944 at the Branitz Military Hospital

 

The war not being over the following letter testifies for yet another story:

 

 

     EPSOM 3000                                       Belfied,

                                                                          7, Lynwood Road

                                                                                   Epsom.

                                                                              Surrey

                                                                          England.

                                                                                14.2.49

 

 

      Dear Col. Gallagher,

 

           You will be surprised to have a letter from me after all this time & I have never yet written to thank you for all your help & kindness in the case of Marianne Wilke! However, I am sure you have seen her since & know how very grateful she was for all you did for her and for my part I know my efforts at this and then, would have been vain without you!

 

Should Herr Lopatta bring this letter to you as an introduction from me I will be most grateful if you can advise him. Personally, I don't think there is much that can be done for him, however you will know best. His sister in law & her family sheltered & hid seven of our airmen in the basement of  their home in Rybnik in Poland in March 1945 (I think from memory) this I substantiated as correct by writing personally to the men. Herr Lopatta is very anxious to get his Denazification through & hopes this may weigh in his favor for the sake of his family. Unfortunately it is quite beyond me to do anything -  if I could even, from here. But I will be very glad if you can advise him. I have seen Dorothy Turnbull several times lately. Very best wishes & kindest regards, from Winefred Noyes

                                                                                                                           

The mention of those British airmen may be another story, but is certainly linked to the family. Grandpa's nephew was watching convoy's of Russian, British and US POWs during the fall of the Reich marching by their family estate. He remembers four British soldiers in their back yard that were hidden in their basement thanks to the mercy of his mother .

 

Another day one German soldier guarding three British soldiers stopped at their house. He recalls the German soldier leaving the three POWs behind since one of them had a fresh surgery wound and was dying. Luckily Grandfather Hansgeorg's sister in law, a medical student, was able to help the injured British POW. They all survived.

 

All seven were kept in hiding until March of 1945.

 

Their names based on Grandpa's diaries are as follows:

  • James Anderson

  • Robert Yay

  • Laurence G. Coal

  • Hugh Marley

  • Robert Hughes (possibly the wounded one, since he remarks: appendix 01.24. - 03.03.1945)

  • Leslie Edmonds

  • Norman Scarborough

One of the British soldiers left his cap badge behind as a token of appreciation:

 

 

Finally this war was over, the east German territories were now under Soviet command and soon to be part of the new Polish state.

 

What happened to those that used to live there?

 

They were evicted and lived in our case as follows:

 

a) Branitz - January 21, 1945 to March 23, 1945

b) "Sudentenland", the part of the Czech Republic that was merged into the German Reich, Märisch-Schönberg; Würbental - March 23, 1945 to June 1945

c) Polisch Silesia, Gleiwitz; Habelschwert, June 1945 to March 23, 1946

 

Finally in 1947 the received papers to leave Poland and to go to Germany, to West Germany, living for months in refugee camps (Lamme 10, refugee camp close to Brunswick until 1949) and being treated as such by their own people. Certainly times were hard and food and goods were scarce, so that those eastern German folks were looked at with skepticism.

 

With life getting back to normal, at least in the western part of the former Reich, one had to go through the process called denazification. One had to prove to not have been a supporting part of the Nazi movement. Being a former member of the SS and party member did not help to clean his slate. Not enough that they were refugees with yet a funny accent from Silesia, they had to prove themselves again and adapt once more to a new lifestyle.

 

He did not quite make the cut in his first attempt to cleans himself from recent history and had to appeal the courts decision, being classified as category IV - supporter. Lucky for us today we can review and piece together the history of these events. Besides his affidavit we have several witnesses that attest in writing to his fine character. There are those of royal descent, like Mrs. Luise v. Belling, a born Baroness von Roth, the State Secretary of the Christian Democratic Party in Brunswick, Mr. Carl Schönfeld, former colleagues as well as even former employees of his father in law's construction business.

  

This was certainly enough to clean his record in the eye of the law, but still not enough to get him back into the newly found military service, the German Bundeswehr. This new found army did certainly offer a good career choice. Especially for a well seasoned engineer with construction experiences. His application for the service did include facts about his involvement in building the bunkers and reinforcements on the Mediterranean Sea as well as on the Atlantic. He also built a 1800 m long tank wall in Marseille, France, as well as designed and built the very first nuclear bunker in his new hometown Münster in Westphalia.

 

His earlier choices to blend in prevented him from re-entering the new found military service. However, he again adapted and again survived, ending his career as an engineer at the Waterways and Shipping Office.

 

Thanks to his army application in 1956 we know about his military career, promotions and awards:

 

 

 

 

And so again I say: "Keeping one's principle up and trying to be a good man is a difficult task at times."

 

Grandfather Hansgeorg Lopatta passed March 27, 1971, to a place were adaptation was hopefully not necessary anymore. He was a good man.

 

© Andreas M. Schulze Ising VII/2009


 
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