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Taking the Heat in the Kitchen

Len Vertefeuille was born and raised into a loving family on the East coast. He now lives in North Carolina and he and his wife Lisa have two children who mean the world to Len. He has been working in the Warren Wilson College kitchen since 1989. Len enjoys cooking for and working alongside ...


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Fred's Story > Chapters > Background before my birth

Genes and Environment 

 
Date Range: 01/01/1920 To 12/31/1937   Comments: 2 Views: 15032
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We are who we are because of two things: our genetic makeup and how and where we grew up. The jury is still out as to what is more important to our formation but what we do now is that both have large influences upon our lives and that of our children.

My mother Louise, was born in 1908 in Elbing, West Prussia, Germany  to her parents Max and Amalie Robiller. Their stories will be covered in additional chapters.

Dad had a more complicated beginning as an illegitimate child of Friedrich (Fritz) Wienrich and Catharina Johanna Sophie Hämmerer. She had been employed as a housekeeper on a large farm in Neustadt in the Harz mountain region of Germany where the father was one of the sons. She was Roman Catholic and he was Lutheran. The pregnancy was kept secret from her mother as a marriage to a Lutheran was out of the question. But the child was born on JUne 14th 1906 and grandma immediately went to pick up the baby to take him to the nearest Catholic church to have him baptised. She took the baby with her to Essen/Oldenburg to give him to another daughter who raised him as her own. This was Anna Rump. She and her husband Bernard never said a thing and my dad did not find out that his aunt was really his mother until he was required to supply a birth certificate to get permission to travel as a joiurneyman tailor.

In his travels across Germany, working for different masters, he enhanced his skills and eventually met my mom on an excursion boat in the Baltic Sea. She was also a tailor and both were dressed to kill and they noticed each other and struck up a conversation. They married on the 24th of December 1931 in Elbing at St Nikolei Church in Elbing. The Christmas marriage at St Nikolaus was apparently the thing to do. My sister Annaliese, was born on the 17th of August 1933 and I came along on December 1st 1937.

By this time dad had established a nice tailoring business employing, at its busiest, 16 apprentices and journeymen. His fast growth was mostly due to the remilitarization of the German Armed Forces. He specialized in uniforms.  

However, it wasn't long before he was drafted into the army and sent off to basic training on September 15th, 1939. The invasion of Poland had taken place on September 1st. The Allies had declared war in Germany two days later. Except for essential personnel, all men of the my dad's age were drafted. For most it was a death sentence. I only remember seeing my dad one time until his release from Soviet POW camp in 1949 as a 90 pound sack of bones.

So much for a brief preliminary sketch as to how I came to be born in what is now Poland.



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Member Since
Aug 2007
Brian Childers said:
posted on Aug 21, 2008

I can't wait to read more of these. It's just SO far removed from anything I've known, it almost seems like it couldn't have happened.... good stuff.


Member Since
Mar 2012
Albert Reichelt said:
posted on Mar 11, 2012

Fred, How are you doing? This is Al Reichelt of Winkes/Schagemann clan. Just a note on your touching story. My Father's Mother was a Catholic and his Father was Lutheran. When Dad, Albert, was born (as well as the other 2 sons)his Mother snuck off to the Catholic Church to have him baptized. I spoke to the wife of his cousin, Herbert, before she died and she told me it was horrible what happened when my Father's Dad found out. It was so bad she would not tell me. That was frustrating but I can only guess that he must have beat her. Catherine said it was a real shame what he did because he was not even a practicing Lutheran. I have to run and I hope you are feeling well. Al