Life history of Henny Schmid (Klöker)

(Click on photos below to enlarge)

I was born in Wilhelmshaven on February 10, 1907, the youngest daughter of Anton and Johanne Kloeker. It was still the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm.

My mother was a seamstress who had her own business. My father was a pilot boat captain who guided the big ships that had crossed the Atlantic and the Nordsee into the harbor.

Before my parents married in 1891 my father was a sailor on the sailboat "Atalanta" and from September 1887 until January 1888 he had sailed across the ocean into New York harbor, a long way from Wilhelmshaven. He had learned English and spoke it very well.

He was also a very good eel fisherman and worked the eel pots by himself (the nets were hand knitted). My mother either fried the eels or pickled them, we always had plenty of food. A portion of the eels were sold. I was the one who brought these wiggly eels in a large burlap bag to the merchants who bought them.

Family Kloeker

I had a great childhood. After I learned to ride a bike I brought lunch to my father who had his boat anchored on the dike locks. My girlfriend and I rode there together; to us the water was always very interesting. The dikes were often our destination.

Many times my sisters would take me to the beach under strict orders from our mother never to let "Henny" go into the water. Therefore I never learned to swim, which I regret to this day.

I had three sisters and one brother. Antonia (Tony), Annette (Nette), Mariechen (Micky) and Karl. I was the youngest of them all.

I lost my three sisters and my brother a long time ago. The last sibling to die was my sister Micky, on July 25, 1966.

When World War I broke out I was only 7 years old and I had no idea just how horrible war was.

My sister Annette's fiancé never returned from the war, it was unimaginable. My brother Karl came back; he had been with the ambulance corps. He had lost his hearing after he had been buried by a collapsing building.

We kids had no worries and no idea how terrible it was and played in the yard singing soldier songs (When will we fight with England…).

World War I finally ended and I was getting older.

Then came the post-war inflation. When my father got paid at the end of the day, we had to quickly run to the store and buy food before the money became worthless.

(Note: The Reich Bank produced monetary notes DAILY during the post-war inflationary period. Inflation was so bad that the value of the Reichbanknote changed by the hour. In November 1923 it reached it's zenith... four thousand billion (4,000,000,000,000) marks had to be paid for ONE U.S. Dollar.)

Our father also liked to tip the glass now and then and I remember my mother more than once pulling him out of one of the neighborhood pubs before he had spent all his hard earned money buying drinks for his friends

When I was 14 years old I learned a trade and worked in a needlework store and was taught the job of a "tapisseristin" (embroider). I learned how to cover lampshades with silk, the stitching of silk monograms into men's coats, and also to create the most beautiful hand stitched items (tatting, crewelwork, petipoint etc). I continued to learn this trade for three years and at the end of that time graduated and received my diploma as a "tapisseristin" in the city of Oldenburg. I wanted to continue with my schooling and get a master degree in my trade with the intention to one day opening my own business. But that was not to be.
I stayed 4 more years at the needlework store Wesolowski were I had been an apprentice and then took a job at a very large store "Karstadt" where I taught my learned skills to their clients and earned a very good salary.

At that time I met my husband, who was serving with the German Marines. We got engaged, then married in 1929.

We had six children. One son, Hans born in 1929 and five daughters: Grete (1930), Helga (1936), Edith (1941), Anke (1947) and Christine (1949).

When Hans was 8 years old, we enrolled him at a boarding school called "Musisches Gymnasium". There he studied music and art, which led to his career as an actor on stage (Muenchner Staatstheater), in movies and in television. He acted under the stage name "Hans Clarin".

Hans married a fellow student, Irene Reiter, and they had three children, Angela (Anschie), Manuela (Mannie), Irene (Butzie). After many years they divorced and he married Contessa Margarete "Bebs" von Kramer-Klett, they had two children, Philipp and Anna. This marriage did not last and he married again. This time Christa Countess von Hardenberg. He now seems to be a very happy.

One year later, in 1930, our daughter Grete was born. Grete was a premature baby (seven months) and weighed just 2000 grams (less than 4 ½ pounds). In order to keep her warm I had to place her on a warm water bottle. I think incubators were not around at that time. She had the smallest feet and the only thing she could wear were doll shoes.

Our next daughter, born in 1936, was Helga and after that Edith in 1941.

The bombs were falling when Edith was born at the "Heiligen Geist" hospital in Frankfurt. Edith was a twin but because I was so night blind I had fallen out of a streetcar going to the opera where I was to meet my husband. Because of the war the city was in total darkness and I had gotten half way out of the streetcar thinking I had arrived at my destination. When the streetcar started up I smashed into the side of it. Edith's twin was born dead.

I can still remember when I was in the hospital with Edith, and the alarm sounded that the bombers were approaching, the nurses came to our rooms with their special aprons with six pockets to collect the babies and put them into these aprons so they could carry more of them out of the rooms to the bunkers. The mothers where left to their own devices. Because of my fall out of the streetcar, Edith was the only one of our children that was born in a hospital, all the other children where born at home with the assistance of a midwife.

In 1938 we lived through "Kristallnacht" in Frankfurt and it was horrible. All the schoolchildren were told to go home and go into the city and destroy the Jewish shops, to break windows and to take their goods. I would not let my children go to the city. These were very sad times and we did not really know how bad it was until much later.

After the war, the next two of our daughters, Anke and Christine were born. Anke in 1947 and Christine in 1949.

My worst memories about the war:
It was during the bombing of Frankfurt by the Americans. I was alone with 4 small children, the youngest being Edith who was born during one of the bombings on March 7th. My oldest son Hans was 12 years old at that time but he was already going to the music school, Grete was 11 years old and Helga 5 years old.

The days we had to run to the bunker were countless and when we emerged from the bunker the city was burning from the bombs that had been dropped. My night blindness because of the war blackout was so bad that I had trouble maneuvering the curbstones going to and from the bunker. Because of the children I was given a bunker identification card so we could enter the bunker at night, whether there was a siren or not. By the end of the war we spent practically all our time under ground, because the sirens were constantly going.

There are a couple of funny anecdotes I remember.
One day Grete was so much in a hurry to get to the bunker that she mistakenly tried to wear her gymnastic pants as a shirt and was getting really irritated that her head would not go through the pants. She also got really sick one day from standing in the bunker too long and being unable to make it to the restroom in time she threw up into a ladies brand new hat who was standing opposite from her… too bad about that pretty hat.

At the beginning of the war my husband was called into the German Navy and put on a U-boat and a minesweeper.

I requested to be evacuated with my family to the home of my husband's family in Dinkelscherben (Bavaria) and we moved there in 1944.

I was a Protestant in an all Catholic Bavaria, not a very good scenario. My husband's parents lived there, but my father-in-law soon died and my husband's stepmother was not very nice to us. She took her inheritance, a small farm, and divided it among her natural children and for me and my children, there was nothing left.

A horrible experience happened when my son and I were going to visit my husband's sister in Diedorf to retrieve his civilian clothes. The train that we were on, got strafed by American pilots. They shot at the train first one side, then the other, and we had to continue through the train station and the train finally stopped near an open field. We ran for our lives across the field to the woods. A lot of people had died on the train and my coat was covered with brain matter from my fellow passengers who had gotten shot. The dead were transported to the funeral home in Dinkelscherben. During all that shooting and running I had lost my son somewhere in the woods. I was horrified that something had happened to him, but after a short time he came home by himself.

We now have all the displaced people from the Eastern sector living in town but were we any better then… displaced people from burned out cities who could not find any help in our own country?

What we experienced in Dinkelscherben was scary. The farmers and my husband's relatives were not about to help us. After looking for a long time, I finally found a place for our family to live with one of the meanest women in town. We called her the "red Krausin" (she had red hair). She owned a very small farm and rented us two of the rooms upstairs. One was to be the kitchen where she had quickly removed the stove and the only light bulb so I had to take the children to a restaurant to eat. During the day we nearly froze in the place it was that cold. The other room was the bedroom with two beds and a mattress on the floor. The mattress was Grete's bed and every now and then, it was also the bed for a few mice who were looking for a warm place.

This woman made our lives a pure hell. The children were not allowed to go up and down the stairs or she would come running and clean the stairs in case they had any sand on their shoes. At lunchtime I had to take a string and let the lunch bag, a piece of bread, dipped in water and brown sugar, out of the window to avoid her wrath.

She also had a farmhand who had been a captured White Russian (Boris). (Before the end of the war she had managed to send him to a concentration camp). Soon after the Americans occupied the town, he returned without teeth and half starved from his ordeal at the camp. He told the Americans about what the "Red Krausin" had done and soon after that they told her that they would billet Army personnel in her house. They also took over our 2 sparse little rooms and we had to move temporarily to my sister-in-law and later to the only inn (Gasthaus) in town.

At that time, Boris helped us to obtain a lot of our daily food that we could not get anywhere or had no money to buy. The "Red Krausin" was in constant fear of her life from Boris, who would get chickens out of her henhouse, slaughter them, cook them, and bring them us. He would also milk her cows, so that the kids had milk to drink. He was a very good person and we kept in contact long after the war was over.

In 1942 when my husband was still at sea he came down with a very bad case of pleurisy and had to spend some time in the hospital. During that time, the ship that he had been serving on, sank with all men aboard. After he was released, he was transferred to the 8th MKA (Navy Motor pool).

In 1944 he was transferred to Russia. According to Vati, this is where he lost his wedding band at a Russian well, after he washed his hands. I still think he exchanged it for some food. From Russia he was transferred to Greece, but we didn't know this at the time. We heard nothing from him for a long time.

At the end of the war, Hans and Grete traveled to Frankfurt by switching on several different freight trains to check on our old apartment and on the furniture that we had left behind. While there they were notified that Vati had been shot by partisans on the island of Crete, but that turned out not to be true. It was someone with the same name of Johann Schmid who had been shot.

Late in the year 1945 Vati returned, tattered and dirty, but thank God he was home again. Vati had been captured and brought to an American prisoner of war camp in Sicily. When the Americans let all the prisoners go at the end of the war, he had walked from Italy all the way back to Dinkelscherben.

When he had settled into a normal life again he called his former place of work in Frankfurt, where he had worked before the war, to try and get his old job back. That seems to have been a big mistake. They kept stalling him, because he lived too far away in Bavaria.

Die Brucker-Bude

We then moved to the place they called the "Bruckerbude". This place was owned by the next-door nursing home. It was at one time a Tavern and Inn. The only reason we even got to move in there was because of the connections with my husband's half sister, who was married to Anton Mueller. Anton was the accountant for the nursing home, which was run by the Sisters of the Poor. Anyway, it was better than were we lived before. The house had a little back yard and we could keep rabbits, ducks, geese and chickens and we also had a little vegetable garden. Our lives where getting better.

Anton Eduard Klöker

On the 18th of March 1948 my father died at the age of 82.

My husband finally got a job as a bricklayer in the city of Ulm, approximately 70 km (43.5 miles) from Dinkelscherben were we lived. He worked 45 hours a week for the hourly wage of 80 Pfennig (about 30 cents), from that we had to pay the rent, buy groceries and he also had to pay for the train ticket. Without the vegetable garden and the animals that we could butcher, we would not have been able to survive. But Vati never complained and he worked there until the currency reform.

Because Vati had been a card carrying member of the Nazi party (every one was a card carrying member and had paid their 2 Marks in dues, otherwise your family would not get ration stamps), my husband was told that he could not get the same job back with the city that he had held prior to the war. Men who had never fought in the war had taken over the good jobs and could not be ousted. It was a disgrace.

After 8 years Vati's job as a bricklayer came to an end and he found a job as a scrap metal collector with a man that lived in the building with us. They drove around looking for leftover war materials, tanks, trucks that had been dumped into rivers etc.

Our last two children were born after the war… Anke in 1947 and Christine in 1949.

In 1952 Helga married Erwin Glink, the best looking guy in Dinkelscherben. They had 3 children, Peter, Dieter and Joachim.

In 1954 Vati was finally called back to work, getting a measly assistant's job for the city of Frankfurt. Now the long wait ensued for a decent place to live in Frankfurt.

After several months he finally had found something that was big enough for the whole family and we moved to Frankfurt/Bockenheim in the west end of Frankfurt to 11 Nauheimerstrasse, where I lived until 1999. It was an apartment complex that was only provided for people that worked for the city. We lived on the second floor and our rent was 70 Marks a month (approx. $20 at the time). When I gave up the apartment after 45 years in 1999 the rent had gone up to 900 Marks (approx. $525). All that the city had ever added was central heat. When we had first moved there it was cold water flat.

In 1955, Grete married Leslie Guthu, an American soldier, and immigrated to Wisconsin in the United States. The time after Grete left was not the best time economically for Germany, but Grete always sent us packages with clothes for the kids and never forgot to add something good to eat. Grete and Les have four children, Larry, Scott, Sylvia and Kirsten. All their children are already married.

On November 21, 1955 my mother died in Wilhelmshaven at the age of 84. I traveled alone by train to her funeral. Vati had to stay home and take care of the children.

In 1958 our daughter Helga and two of her children fled from her abusive husband in Bavaria and came to live with us in Frankfurt. Achim was just ½ year old and Peter was 5. Her middle son Dieter was visiting his grandmother in Dinkelscherben at the time and she had to leave him behind. Helga then got a divorce. Life in our 2 bedroom apartment became very tight, but we had a lot of fun. The kids started to call me "Mutti" like my own children did and their mother became "Helga Mama".

Helga started to look for work and found a job with real estate agent Lothar Grabowski, whom she eventually married in 1980, after her children had moved out and were married themselves.

For us life continued.

My husband worked for the city of Frankfurt until he retired at age 65. He rented a little garden plot on the outskirts of Frankfurt and we always had an abundance of fruit and vegetables and on the weekends we had a destination to get away from the city and enjoy the greenery.

The next one that immigrated to America (Connecticut) was Edith. She was just 18 years old and we were not really enthralled about her leaving and moving that far away from us. We felt a little better after Pete flew back to Germany to meet us and ask for Edith's hand in marriage. He was a very serious young man and we liked him a lot… and we said yes. Edith did not get married in Germany. She wanted to leave the door open to return, in case she did not like it in America. She did not return and was married to Peter Carroll in August 1960.
Edith and Pete have three children, Douglas, Deborah and Suzanne. Their children are all married and have families of their own.

Visitors From Germany
It was a real treat for two visitors from Frankfurt, Germany when Mr. and Mrs. Peter N. Carroll of 43 Till St took Mrs. Carroll's mother and sister on a visit to the World's Fair recently. Mrs. Carroll, the former Edith S. Schmid of Frankfurt, married Peter while the latter was in service in Germany. Her mother, Mrs. Henny Schmid, and sister Anke, are visiting here until mid-summer. Left to right in photo: Mrs. Carroll, Mrs. Schmid, Anke and Mr. Carroll.

In 1965, Anke and I planned to visit America by ship to see Grete and Edith. This was my first big adventure we took the train to Bremen and boarded the ship "Bremen". Vati did not want to come with us, he knew the ocean and also knew about the storms in the Atlantic at that time of year. The weather was terrible and they had to put up ropes for people to hang on to, otherwise you could not even walk. During a storm we had a big kitchen fire on board and one of the cooks got seriously burned. Anke and I were the only ones with sea legs; we never once got seasick. The dining room was always empty.

When we finally arrived in New York harbor and got off the boat, Edith and Pete did think that our skin color was a little green. We quickly got ourselves to a travel agent and rebooked our passage back. This time we were going to fly. This was another adventure for me… my first flight.

When we visited Edith & Pete we had a chance to also see the World's Fair that was being held in New York at the time. Being visitors from Germany we had our picture taken, which then appeared in the local newspaper. It was a very memorable trip and I have often thought about it.

In 1967 Anke married Barry Witt in Frankfurt, Germany. They lived in Gelnhausen for a short time and then left for California. She was now the third of our daughters to leave us and immigrate to America. Anke and Barry have two children; Erin and Dionne both of whom are now married.

In 1971 Vati and I visited our three children in America, flying to Connecticut, California and Wisconsin. We stayed a total of about 3 months, spending one month with each of them.

The worst day of my life, September 7, 1976, my husband, our Vati died at age 76 after 47 years of marriage. Through many years of stress about the war and bitterness about his job he had contracted stomach cancer.

Now I was alone, in the apartment at Nauheimerstrasse, with only Helga and Christine near by and our son in Aschau.

In 1977, shortly after the death of my husband, I flew by myself to America and stayed for six months. I celebrated Christmas with Grete and her family and also celebrated my 70th birthday there with Anke in California.

1989 was a big affair in Aschau. Our son Hans celebrated his 60th birthday and his 40-year anniversary as a professional actor. Everybody who was anybody in the world of theater, movie or television was there for the celebration, which was held at the Aschauer Festhalle. Heinz Ruehman arrived by helicopter and Helmut Fischer, Johannes Heesters, Simone Rethel, Thomas Fritsch, Jutta Speidel, Iris Berben, Christian Wolff and Beatrice Richter would not have missed this festive occasion to wish Hans the best.

In 1990 I flew one more time to America with Christine and Pierre. Edith and Pete's daughter Suzy was getting married. Grete and Les and Anke also came for the wedding.

Shortly thereafter Helga's children Achim and Peter left Germany and immigrated to Spain.

Achim was by profession a goldsmith but later learned to use his talents to work in a lab as a dental technician. This knowledge encouraged him to open his own dental lab in Spain. The lab became very successful and he now has five people working for him. Achim also became very interested in sailing and he now owns a large sailboat and participates in many regattas.

Peter on the other hand owns a large fishing boat and takes passenger out into the Mediterranean for deep-sea fishing. He also owns a store where he sells fishing equipment etc.

Dieter still lives in Dinkelscherben. Since I have been living with Christine and Pierre he and his life companion Helga have come to visit and celebrate my birthday every year.

Helga's husband Lothar, fell in love with Spain and had a beautiful home built in the hills of Empuriabarva. He also bought the ruins of a "finka" (farmhouse), which he started to have rebuilt, but unfortunately he died before the restoration was finished. Helga did have it finished and it is beautiful with lots of land and forest around it. But it was too desolate for Helga alone to try to live there and she decided to have a house built in Empuriabrava next to Achim, where she now lives.
Spain has now become her permanent residence and she only visits Germany occasionally to check up on the apartment house that she still owns and rents out.

In 1996 the whole family celebrated my 89th and Helga's 60th birthday in Spain at the finka. It was fantastic. We had a terrific dinner and Spanish Flamenco dancers for entertainment at a quaint restaurant in town. We also took a little trip to "Collioure", an artist town in France. This was my first visit to France.

Since my husband's death, all my children come to visit me every year on my birthday in February and for 2 weeks we have a great family reunion. Most of the time these gatherings were held in Frankfurt but we have also had them in Aschau and Spain. Since I have moved to my daughter Christine in 1999, we have celebrated it either in her and Pierre's house, gone to a restaurant or had the whole affair catered.

In the meantime I have 18 Grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. Only my daughter Christine and my son Hans are left in Germany.

My daughter Christine is married to a doctor and since I had my stroke and could not live by myself in Frankfurt anymore, I've been living with them in Alsfeld. They have no children, just four horses and twelve cats. I have a two-room apartment in their house with a large balcony and my cat and I are very satisfied with the arrangement.

It is now May 2001 and on the 5th is Anke's birthday. Christine is just wrapping her present for shipment over the big pond to America.

Hans is leaving the hospital next week. He has been there seven weeks, after he had been put into an artificial coma. After an operation on his vocal cords he contracted an infection and was very, very sick. He is still in a wheelchair but I have great hope that he will get better. His voice is not 100% yet but I could speak with him on the phone for a few minutes. He is getting a 14-day furlough from the hospital and he and his wife Christa are planning to spend that time in the south of France to recuperate. I'm not so sure he will want to go back to the hospital after that.

...something is always happening at Christine's.

Now one of her horses is sick. The veterinarian has been in and out of the barn for the past few days, but the horse is not getting any better. She is now waiting for the vet again, the horse has a very high temperature and refuses to eat. It also seems that he can't walk, his legs are all stiff. Now they're talking about giving him a tetanus shot.

The horse is dead. It was very sad to see him suffer that long. He was one of the youngest horses and he was born at Christine's.

Christine just found two more cats. The little red one was probably not more than four weeks old when she found it lying in front of her gate and it had an injured eye. Christine drove to the veterinarian immediately to have the eye fixed, but was told that the cat was too young for an operation and that she would have to wait another 14 days before he could operate, but she had to go there earlier and the cat's eye had to be taken out. She is now a beautiful and lively little cat.

That was the last notation... after that out mother did not write any more.

Our mother died on December 8, 2005 at the age of 98 and was buried in Eudorf. She left 6 children, 17 grandchildren and 34 great-grandchildren. Sadly her son Hans, our brother, died 3 months before her on August 28, 2005. His wish to outlive his mother had not been granted. In her 98 years on this earth our mother had experienced a very harsh but interesting life.