by Dorlies von Kaphengst Meissner
By 1908, the estate of Klein Pobloth, a beautiful stretch of land near the shores of the Baltic Sea, has reached an unprecedented state of disrepair. Baron Hans von Kaphengst, a member of the Junker nobility, has succumbed to the allure of alcohol and free spending, leaving the estate on the brink of bankruptcy. With the baron aging and aloof, the task of saving the estate falls to his only daughter, Dolores, who loves her Klein Pobloth too much to see it sold.
Dolo, as she is affectionately called, maintains an icy demeanor before every prospective buyer of the estate, particularly when it comes to the overtures of the charming and handsome Herr Rudolf Meißner, a wealthy banker from Berlin. She believes that if she remains standoffish and defiant, the estate may find the time and luck it needs to get back into working order. When a terrible fire nearly destroys the manor house, Dolo realizes that she has no choice but to allow her father to sell.
During one of her more troubling bouts with depressing memories, Dolo devises a plan that will allow her to save her Klein Pobloth and keep it for herself: She will woo Herr Meißner. She invites the banker to Pomerania for a second tour, immediately apologizes for being so brusque on their first meeting, and gets down to beguiling him with her charms. The plan comes to fruition, but with one unexpected hitch: Dolo finds herself falling for Herr Meißner, as well.
Through this happy union, the estate is restored to its former glory. The baron is able to live out his elderly years in peace and pride. The young couple even manages to produce a pair of heirs, precocious Anneliese and rambunctious Hans-Rudolf.
The years that follow the beginning of their marriage are not as kind to the Meißner clan, however. Rudolf, a decorated veteran of the Kaiser’s own Hussar Regiment, is called to join the German effort in the Great War. While he is away, the baron succumbs to a natural death. Dolo feels robbed of the two most important men in her life, and no matter what she tries—burying herself in matters of the estate, mothering her children diligently, or taking to Berlin and its burgeoning nightlife—she can’t seem to shake her feeling of helplessness in the face of what she sees as an unnecessary and unjust war.
In her own way, Dolo resolves to face the issue head-on, going so far as to travel into Lithuania personally to see her husband and provide aid to the troops. The trip proves harrowing and difficult, but she is delivered to her husband for what will turn out to be the last time. Shortly after her return to Klein Pobloth, she receives the letter that she has been dreading since the day Rudolf left for war: Her husband is dead.
With his mother forced to tend both to her wifely duties in the manor house as well as the more masculine affairs of the estate, such as hunting and farming, Hans-Rudolf is left to essentially raise himself. He has the guidance of Martchen, the family’s beloved head maid, but apart from her tutelage, he is left to his own devices. Given such freedom, the young Hans-Rudolf takes a particular shine to mischief. His is a life of good times and well-planned pranks. Though he is eager to learn all there is to know about running an estate, his mother is too busy and too distant to teach him….
Aristocracy to Ashes: Klein Pobloth Estate 1908-1945 is a historical account of one influential family faced with the hardships of World War I and the Great Depression. It is a heavily researched and dramatically presented story of political strife, personal torment, economic turmoil, and class unrest. With an economy in decline, a Germany seized by war, and a populace on the edge of chaos, can the Meißner family keep the stately Klein Pobloth from crumbling?
Confusing world matters have been troubling Hans-Rudolf Meißner ever since his encounter with the Poles crossing the border when he was only eighteen. During his internship in Bütow, Germany, he was asked to investigate the incident and discovered a man crucified on a picnic table and his wife and daughter lying dead next to him. In May 1933, he comes of age and enlists in boot camp, and his enlistment takes place during a rather turbulent time.
While at camp, Paul Hindenburg stands in front of the soldiers and tells them to honor the oath of the black, red, and yellow flag of Germany. Within a few months an uprising occurs and the soldiers are ordered to take an oath to Robert Lay. After being on alert for fourteen days, their final oath is ordered. The important difference in this oath is that it’s to Führer Adolf Hitler, not to Germany.
His sergeant in the camp rides him unmercifully because of Hans-Rudolf’s skill with firearms, and Hans-Rudolf builds up quite a grudge against his superior. While on maneuvers on their motorbikes, Hans-Rudolf’s bike gets stuck in the muck, and by trying to start the engine he shatters his knee for the second time. He figures this is the end of his military career, and that he will never have the opportunity to become an officer as his heritage automatically entitles him to.
During the next few years, he reunites with Ruth Schläger. After a turbulent courtship, they are married in 1938. In 1939 they have their first child, and soon after the family is invited to live with Ruth’s parents at Kempen. He eventually moves his family into Klein Pobloth, his family estate.
On April 4, 1941, Hans-Rudolf is called into the military. He is ordered to report to Stettin, and from there the troops march to Poland and wait impatiently for further instructions. Trepidation runs high as they consider their uncertain future. His orders finally come through and he is horrified to learn that he is to be in the spearhead of the Battle of Barbarossa under the command of General Guderian and the Army Troop 2nd Panzer Group. The battle breaks out in the early hours of June 22, 1941. His main duties are hard on him, for he is responsible for securing the supplies for the troops by any means possible.
Hans-Rudolf’s mellow disposition keeps him out of harm’s way but places him in situations that would land any other soldier in the brig. His roguish personality has him in tapping into the Russian community with high hopes. He learns the Russian language and as a result makes friends with many of them along the way. His troops like to spend much of their free time near one of the cities in the Ukraine. They trick the sergeant, who has been barking orders at them for weeks on end, into thinking they are being attacked by airplanes. A motor is revved up in the distance, and they send the heavyset man flying head first under the nearest truck….
ARISTOCRACY TO ASHES
THE END OF KLEIN POBLOTH
by Dorlies von Kaphengst Meissner
In the wee hours of February 27, 1945, the only preparations that Ruth Meißner can make are to dress her children in clothing that she has soiled and layer them so that they are warm. The evening before Ruth’s escape, Anneliese discovers her plan and pleads to allow her and her son to accompany them. The oldest child is six years and the youngest, Dorlies, is eighteen months. Once down the stairs with the four children, they are discovered by Ruth’s mother-in-law. Dolores is outraged and insists that the two women need to make a stand against the oncoming Russian troops. She goes so far as to turn her back and not say auf Wiedersehen when they leave. After waiting for hours to board a freight train, a former villager, who is now an SS member, spots the fleeing group. Luck is with them. He does not turn them in for ignoring the law by abandoning their estate.
Finally the families reach a friend’s home near Mecklenburg, where the four children break out with the measles, which detains them from fleeing farther to the western part of Germany. Once they are able to travel by walking, they are horrified to see the complete destruction of their country. They come upon the largest Air Force base in Germany and see that the entire fleet of their once proud flying machines has been shattered by the dark clouds of airplanes from the other countries. Meanwhile, the French and Russian armies are surrounding them and pulling everyone in sight into a large meadow. That same day, POWs and people from insane asylums are liberated, causing chaos beyond comprehension. German soldiers are also trying to escape, leaving their horses to run free and abandoning their wagons. Ruth and Anneliese make a quick decision to pilfer two horses and a wagon. After a day, the chaos only worsens and their wagon is pilfered by other fleeing people, terrifying the women and the children. One French officer takes pity on the family and helps them drag the mismatched team and wagon to the French line. That same day, the lines are set between the countries by burning down buildings that stand in the way of the imaginary line separating them from the feared Russian troops. The French troops allow the family to occupy a two-room beach house. Some friends also occupy the ever bulging house. The French troops are not allowed to communicate with the Germans, but they leave morsels of food and supplies on their doorstep….
ARISTOCRACY TO ASHES
THE LURE OF AMERICA
by Dorlies von Kaphengst Meissner
During the last days of April 1952, I, Dorlies von Kaphengst Meißner, am on an ocean liner with my family headed for Ellis Island in New York. I am overwhelmed by the White Cliffs of Dover and the reassuring words that my father gives to my family: “Children, this is the first breath of freedom that you are going to experience. When my plans are put into place, we will have a wonderful life in America.” Several days out in the middle of the Atlantic, a large hurricane is brewing and the freighter is diverted to New Orleans.
The freighter makes its way up the Mississippi River. Everything is completely different in this strange land. Moss is dripping from the trees, and snakes are swimming in the waters. While docking on Mother’s Day, I cannot believe what my eyes are drawn to. An enormous black woman sits on a bale of cotton, wearing a colorful summer dress with a bright red flower stuck behind her ear. Beside her sits a dwarf smoking a cigar that appears to be larger than the small man. I hear my mother ask my father, “Oh, my God, what have you gotten us into?”
The family travels by train to what people call colorful Colorado. To us, it is a brown wasteland. Then, at last, the peaks of the Rocky Mountains appear over the horizon….
ARISTOCRACY TO ASHES
By Dorlies von Kaphengst Meissner
Maria Louise Therese Toussaint of French nobility, is dressed in her black satin gown accented at the sleeves with white lace, her head adorned with a white lace cap carefully observed the traditions of the Lutheran nunnery. In 1287 the Kloster Heiligengrabe was had been constructed as a Catholic Monastery, but since the reformation it was tuned into a Lutheran Damsels’ Convent in 1549. Maria was please to have the opportunity to live out the remainder of her days in seclusion, for her earlier life had been one of merriment and misgivings. Now in the late 1820’s she observed the carrier pigeons as they fluttered into there circular red brick coop. It gave her joy to see the birds after the turbulence that life had dealt her.
In 1789 after being widowed and left with two children, Maria’s lofty dreams had finally been made possible by Frederick The Great of Prussia. His realm was located on the Baltic Sea and was a member of the hereditary duchy of the Hohenzollern family. During the seventeenth century, the years known as “The Age of Enlightenment” the kings empire had established itself second only to the Habsburgs. Maria, a Demoiselle had been chosen to marry the kings brother Heinrich’s former favorite adjutant Christian Ludwig von Kaphengst. She was the daughter of an acclaimed lecturer and librarian for the king. She won the favor of Prince Heinrich during her performances of opera and dance while at the princess castle on the Rheinsberg stage.
Although the couple had five children her life was filled with doubts about her husbands past. Christian had been formidably at times because of his past eccentricities with the prince. In her mind she hoped that she God would grant her the wish that she had hoped for and was clearing his notorious reputation….