About my family

My parents and grandparents, 1959

The Wein (Straupner) family

My grandparents and my father

My father's family has lived in the same village, Eglsee for more than 200 years, probably even longer (many Bavarian peasant families can be traced back 350-400 years). Virtually all family members (me being a notable exception!) still live in a 15 km radius of that village.

Eglsee lies 20 km northwest of Regensburg (named castra regina in Roman days), which some 1800 years ago was the northernmost outpost of the Roman Empire in what is now Southern Germany. Since those days grapes have been cultivated for winemaking near Regensburg, although with rather modest results. Even though our family name suggests a connection to those wineries, we have not owned vinyards in recent memory.

One of my ancestors, master weaver Johann Michael Wein made his way into church records on February 19, 1781 for his entire family not having shown up for an appointment for the baptimsm of his child, probably for being too drunk at the time as it was the custom for the celebration to start the night before the actual baptism...

In my part of the country all families have two names, the civil surname inherited from one's parents and an additional "house name" that goes with one's farm or home. Before the turn of the century our house name was Weber (Weaver) but then our family traded houses with another farmer who wanted to trade up and we inherited their house name, Straupner (which I think means Ropemaker). Linen was made from either hemp or flax and hemp then provided all raw material for rope making.

The piece of linen cloth that serves as the background of this page was inherited by one of my aunts from my great-aunt who in turn inherited it from my great-grandmother Regina Wein (after whose husband both me and my father were named). Both in the 1781 entry and in a general survey conducted in 1836 my ancestors were described as weavers.

The 1836 survey also has the following to say about crops grown in our village:

    On all properties of the tax community of Brunn [which included Eglsee] the "three field system" has been introduced. On the same object [field] were raised: in the first year wheat or buckwheat, in the second year barley, oats, potatoes, cabbage, flax, hemp, turnips, peas, lentils, vetches and clover. In the third year it was left to lie fallow, but only rarely used for green fodder.

Hemp was grown extensively in central Bavaria south of the river Danube until the end of the 19th century but was particularly valuable in poor regions such as my home where farms were small and this relatively labour-intensive crop was well suited to small farms in pre-mechanization days (Hemp was also grown in the poor Japanese mountain village in Gifu prefecture where my father-in-law was born).

My grandparents got married in 1936, only two years after their first child was born, because my great-grandmother wanted her elder daughter to get married first. My father, his older brother and his older sister were born before the war (my grandfather served Nazi Germany in Norway and later spent three years as a POW in France) while his two younger brothers and two younger sisters were born after the war. My grandfather was the second farmer in the village (after the biggest farmer) to buy a tractor and one of the first to buy a car. He died at the age of 83. My grandmother is still alive.

The Seitz (Ziegaus) family

My grandparents and my mother

I know considerably less about the early history of my mother's family. The name could be Czech as it means "hare" in that language. Visually I mostly took after my maternal grandfather, Wolfgang Seitz. During WW1 he served the Bavarian king and German emperor in Belgium which the German army occupied then and as a child I had many a nightmare from the stories he told me about that war (later, after six month of draft in the German army, I was discharged as an officially recognised conscientous objector of war, and did ten months of alternative social service).

During the 1930s my grandfather was the last non-nazi mayor of Pfraundorf and lost his job because of the nazi takeover. He was a staunch Catholic (his brother was a monk and one of his daughters became a nun) and opposed Nazism mostly for its pagan elements. When Pfraundorf was liberated by the US army in late April 1945 and many nazi officials had fled or gone into hiding, the Americans asked who in the village was least likely to be a nazi and this is how my grandfather ended up becoming mayor again.

My grandfather's house

The Seitz family (house name: Ziegaus) lived in more primitive conditions than the Wein family. I still remember using an outhouse while visiting my grandfather as a child. They still had their own baking oven (then already unused) and my grandfather's house (now torn down) was over 100 years old.

Eglsee in the final days of World War 2

Only days before the US army arrived in our village an event occured that I only got to hear about when I was already a teenager. A large group of concentration camp inmates guarded by SS troups arrived on foot from Pielenhofen, to the east. It appears they were survivors of KZ Hersbruck, a sub-camp of KZ Flossenbürg. The SS was trying to transfer them to KZ Dachau to prevent their liberation by the approaching US Army. Some of the guards were Ukrainians.

The prisoners looked like walking skeletons and obviously hadn't eaten in days. A neighbour of my grandfather took a loaf of home-baked bread and wanted to give it to the prisoners but the guards shouted at her and then fired their automatic weapons towards her farmhouse. The bullet holes in the barn door were visible for many years after.

The troop camped at the village inn were the prisoners were enclosed with barbed wire in a horse stable. Several did not survive the night. The next morning the troop marched on. Some villagers decided to follow the road back to where they had come from. On the steep slope up from Pielenhofen they found several dead bodies, one every few hundred metres, as prisoners who had been too weak to march on had been shot dead by the guards. They were buried in unmarked graves by these farmers, to avoid retribution by the Americans. For many years nobody talked about this incident. I first heard about it from my father, who was 6 years old when the war ended. Later I heard about it from a man who was 16 at the time.

Also visit The Nizkor Project

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