Richard Senger was a successful German farmer (Landwirt) in West Prussia. He worked and cared for his family’s farm with the help of his wife (Frieda), children (Luise & Erich), his brother Rudolf (Onkel Rudolf, known simply as Onkel) and his sister-in-law Erna Recht (Tante Erna).
The homestead and lands had been in the Senger family since before 1893; when the home was built by Richard’s father and mother, Michael & Adelgunde Senger. The Senger farm was located on the banks of the Nogat River in Zeyervorderkampen (Kreis Elbing in Grosses Werder). At the time of the establishment of Freie Staat Danzig in 1920, the farm was the first farm inside of the Polish corridor as defined by the victorious allies of WW1.
Richard inherited the farm from his parents (Michael and Adelgunde) in 1920, the year of his and Frieda’s marriage. The 50 hectare Senger farm grew apples, cherries, plums, sugar beets, rye, and raised ducks, chickens, cows, pigs. During the Second World War, additional crops were grown as a requirement of the German government, these included rapeseed, poppies and wheat.
Both Erich and Luise were born on the farm; Erich in 1921 and Luise in 1923. Their births occurred during the hyper-inflation years of the Weimar Republic. The hyper-inflation was so bad in 1923 that it cost Richard and Frieda and entire wheelbarrow full of money to purchase a pacifier for Luise.
Luise and Erich were baptized at the Zeyer Evangelishe Kirche (Lutheran); Herr Doebel was Luise Senger’s godfather. Later Herr Doebel became an early member of the National Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiters Partei (NSDAP, Nazi); ultimately he was to become disillusioned and was imprisoned for his opposition to the NSDAP. It is believed that he served more than 5 years for his opposition (we continue to seek hard information on this event).
From the age of 14, Luise Senger lived with her Onkel Robert and Tante Olga in Elbing on 58 Wasserstrasse (today: Wodna 58, Elbląg, Elblag, Polska) . In Elbing, she attended the Elbing Handelsschule. Robert & Olga Senger owned a small Gasthaus and store on the waterfront of the port of Elbing. Luise had a small room above the Gasthaus. The Senger Gasthaus had 4 guest rooms and was described as being ‘plain’ but friendly. During her years in Elbing at the Handelsschule, Luise used to take long walks to a nearby park (in the city); this is where she watched and ultimately met some of the musicians and other members of the ‘artists’ community who befriended her. Some of these same “artists” were to protect Luise when they met once again, this time in Munich during the final collapse of the Third Reich.
“Onkel Robert and Tante Olga” were the family’s city dwellers. Throughout Luise’s youth, Luise and Erich Senger used to “smuggle” small amounts of food (fruit, wheat etc) from the Senger farm to Onkel Robert’s family, so as to avoid paying taxes to the government. One time, Onkel Robert reversed the trend and sent a bunch of bananas to the Richard Senger family in Zeyervorderkampen as a treat; Luise refused to even try the bananas; she had never seen anything like them before!
During the first years while Luise was living with Onkel Robert’s family in Elbing, her cousin Erika and Erika’s husband (Otto Grawert) and their son Karl-Otto came to live with the Robert Senger family. The Grawert’s came from their home on the Dutch border on a doctor’s recommendation. Erika, Robert and Olga’s daughter, had a severe case of TB and the cold, moist air of Elbing was supposed to help her heal. Erika especially enjoyed the Gasthaus and the customers who frequented it. She and Luise became very close friends.
From 1937 through much of the second world war (WW2), the Richard Senger farm was quite successful. The daily routines continued; the work was hard and the crops were quite good.
During the war years, the Sengers were required to host English prisoners of war. One PoW stayed the entire war; his name was Tommy (last name unknown). He had been captured at Dunkirk and arrived in Zeyervorderkampen at the age of 17. Tommy remained with the Sengers up until the time the Russians took possession of the farm in 1945. He escaped just ahead of the advancing Soviets and Poles by foot towards the North Sea (following the route recommended to him by Richard Senger).
Once the war began, Richard’s son, Erich, fought in the Deutsche Luftwaffe as a rear-gunner in a Stuka. He fought and was shot down on both the Eastern (including Georgia and Stalingrad) and Western (France) fronts. In 1944, Erich was taken prisoner by the British when his plane was shot down over France (it is believed). By the early 1940’s Richard’s daughter, Luise, was a administrative aide and Lieutenant in the Luftwaffe, ending the war assigned to Luftkommando 7 München (air defense Munich).
With all of Zeyer’s young people at war, the farm was managed and operated by the two ‘closest’ Senger brothers (Richard and Rudolf) and Richard’s wife Frieda and Frieda’s sister Erna. Finally in March/ April 1945, the family lands and property were confiscated by the Russians.
composite of verbal stories related by Luise Senger Rabideau to her children Linda & Mark