The last letter my father received from Wolfgang Kempff was dated Berlin, September 20, 1939. Canada had declared war on Germany ten days earlier.
We hear many stories about allied soldiers, their heroics in the war and how proud they and their ancestors are of the medals won. This past remembrance day there was a story about a couple who had found medals and were trying to reunite them with the recipient’s family. One person commented that his German father had burned all his medals, not wanting to remember his part in the war. This invoked other comments saying how we have never heard what the German soldiers really felt about Hitler and the war.
I have some letters written to my father from a German fellow, Wolfgang Kempff, who was just 22 in 1939. Wolfgang had followed in the footsteps of his older brother and spent four years in Canada, attending Westmount High School, Westmount Quebec. He enjoyed his time perfecting his english and living the Canadian life. When he graduated in June 1935 he returned to Germany.
He is pictured in the school year book with all the other graduates. His biography is very revealing of his thoughts and feelings about Hitler and the position of Germany at that time.
His Quote: “Nature might stand up and say……”
His Favourite Expression: Heil Hitler
Pet Aversion: The treaty of Versailles
Past Time: Boosting Hitler
Ambition: To be as like Hitler as possible
Activities: Sailing Team, Junior Basketball, Play, Lifesaving and Public Speaking.
Wolfgang corresponded with his school friends after he returned home. He was very anxious for them to come visit him, to enjoy German beer, wine, racing cars, skiing and opera. He lived in Berlin with his mother and their guest room was always available. He even suggested they try to win scholarships so they could study in Berlin.
In 1937 Wolfgang was in the German army. He loved it and thought he would have great success because of his knowledge of English. He was proud of being German and believed Hitler was doing great things for his country. “I really gave myself pains to do everything well, and one can only do that when one is “flesh and blood” for the idea.” Unfortunately because of his health, continual throat infections, he was dismissed from the army. He was very upset as he would have been promoted to the military school that October and become an officer 18 months later.
With his military career over, he decided to study engineering at the University in Berlin. He needed six months of practical experience working in a factory before he could begin his program. It would then take seven and a half years before he would obtain his degree, much longer than his friends in Canada. In the summer of 1938 he worked for the State Railway and found it a very interesting experience. That fall he started his second term in mechanical engineering.
Wolfgang was enjoying the typical student life, going out, drinking beer, ski trips in the Bavarian Alps and chatting up English girls. He was annoyed that his summer holidays were to be cut by five weeks, but in September 1939 he and his mother were to drive to Italy, with stops in Prague and Vienna.
He wrote about politics. He didn’t think what was reported in the west was the truth. Wolfgang thought German food rationing was a joke. Every person could still have a pound of butter per week and enough eggs for breakfast! Lobster and caviar were expensive but these luxuries were something people could do without. No one was starving as local meat and vegetables were still readily available and there was almost no unemployment. “In 6 years much has been achieved. Perhaps no country in history has undergone such a change in 6 years. Hitler said in one of his last speeches, that Germany would far rather spend cash on things than on an unproductive army but apparently other countries have different ideas.”
The final letter was from September 20, 1939. He said, unfortunately he and his mother had to cancel their trip to Italy. Wolfgang didn’t understand why Britain and Canada had declared war on Germany. “We fight our own battles and won’t stand other people sticking their fingers into things which are none of their business.” He felt the Allies had nothing to gain and everything to lose in fighting the very fine German forces. “I don’t suppose any of you fellows will ever get on French soil. My pity for the “Paile and Tommy” who is going to try to run in our fortresses.”
He certainly didn’t think the war would last very long. “My invitation still holds good when the scuffle is over. Please give my regards to everybody and with best wishes to you and your family,
Letters and photographs from Wolfgang Kempff, Germany to Donald Sutherland, Westmount, Quebec, Canada. Aug 5, 1937, Aug 23, 1938, March 29, 1939 and September 20, 1939. In the author’s possession.
Westmount High School Annual, Westmount, Quebec, Canada. 1935
I assume Wolfgang was accepted back into the German army and didn’t survive the war. As yet, I haven’t been able to find any more information about him.