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PETer C Meyer Author


Peter Meyer's new website

 

Here is a sample chapter of::   IN MY ENEMY'S SERVICE - A Memoir

 

1 HOW NOT TO MAKE A FATHER

 

Deep in the forests of the central German mountain range known as the Harz lies the village of Allrode, first mentioned in history in 961 A.D. It is a hostile place, with inclement weather in which crops have little time to ripen. For centuries villagers lived off the land and were miserably poor. Karl Meyer (1809-1893) my great- grandfather was schoolmaster to the village children. He had lost his first wife and married Caroline Nickel (1823-1882), a girl much younger, which set village gossip into motion. In their isolation, they had not much to talk about but the real or imagined shortcomings of neighbors.

Karl and Caroline (the flirt) Meyer circa 1860

In 1862, Karl added a boy to his existing children, but whispered rumors said the true father was a traveling salesman from France because Caroline was a flirt. What gave the whispers added fuel was the child’s pitch black hair, while the parents’ hair was of a fairer color. They named the boy Traugott, and he soon felt his father’s rejection and preference for his other children. 

Traugott only had his mother who gave him the love and security which ultimately would make him a success in life. He studied to become a forester and tended the vast forests that surrounded the village owned by Kaiser Wilhelm’s son-in-law. For him, Traugott arranged yearly hunts at which Germany’s nobility shot trophy deer and boar. The Kaiser himself came to these events, and his daughter Victoria Luise left her signed portrait with Traugott for his hospitality. In addition, Traugott attracted many tourists to the village and walked them through the woods to explain his work as an early ecologist. In recognition of his labors, on behalf of villagers they named a road in his honor – the Hegemeister Meyer Way – which today passes near the mansion he called home. His picture also appears in Allrode, a book written by Thomas Nabert (2010), and a record of his accomplishments is on display in the local village museum.

Clara Herrmann Meyer (holding me) and Hegemeister (forester) Traugott Meyer, my grandparents, 1929

 

Traugott’s wife Clara came from Berlin’s high society. Her father had been Secretary to the army’s chief of staff, General von Moltke. Clara had come as a tourist to the area when she fell in love with the black-bearded, handsome forester in green uniform, a shotgun on his shoulder and a dachshund on a leash.

 Once married, she helped her husband entertain his noble guests and also organized villagers into theatrical groups which performed for visiting tourists. She also ran a finishing school from her home for daughters of high-society friends from Berlin. The Meyers had two children, a daughter Waldtraut who died of diphtheria in one of the stark winters when snow prevented the doctor’s timely visit. Their other child, Hubert, suffered under his father’s strict supervision. Traugott simply copied the harsh hand he had experienced in his own youth when his own father all but rejected him.                                                                                                                          

But there was perhaps more to Hubert’s character than too much parental control. His rebellious ways caused the Meyers to blame themselves for having conceived this child in a state of intoxication in August of 1897. They had attended a party at a distant friend’s home and were quite inebriated when their horse trotted them home. The swaying carriage over unpaved trails awakened amorous feelings, and they stopped the horse to recline on the moss-lined forest floor. Nine months later on March 9, 1898, their son Hubert was born. By 1907 however, just nine years later, they sent him away because he had become too much of a problem. His last escapade at home was not a pleasant one and jeopardized the family’s name and position. Young society ladies filled their house that day – finishing school students – who enjoyed the comforts of the Meyers’ inside toilet facility. Other villagers still walked through ice and snow to the customary outhouse with the little heart carved into the door. The Meyers’ facility was fixed with a comfortable seat placed over a long tubelike shaft that ended in a barrel one flight down. The barrel sat on a cart from which it was regularly emptied on the dung heap to become next year’s fertilizer. On the day in question, Hubert entertained himself by carefully craning his neck upward to spy on the rear ends of ladies answering nature’s call one floor above. He had found a long enough stick and tickled the last visitor from below. And how he savored her screams, he said, when later in life he recalled the story. The incident caused outrage. Most of the finishing school students immediately departed for Berlin, where the story placed the Meyers in disfavor.

Hubert Meyer at age 18: my sadistic father-to-be

 They expelled nine-year-old Hubert from his home and he lived in a boarding house in a distant city. It was an establishment for wayward girls, with Hubert added as the only boy. At the instigation of the owners’ seventeen-year-old daughter, a number of her friends took little Hubert to their beds and required of him what he was theoretically too young to give. The rejected boy now had experiences that made deep and lasting impressions; his subconscious stored anger, not only toward his parents but women in general. When his mother heard of the seductions, she transferred him to the home of a male teacher who had a son of his own. That teacher, unfortunately, was another who believed in corporal punishment. “Save the rod and spoil the child” was his motto until one day, in a particular rage over poor grades; he beat his only son to death.

Hubert all along had suffered similar beatings, and so his inventory of hate extended to both sexes. Rejected, beaten and abused, he often acted like a cornered beast that tried to return pain others had inflicted on him. Hubert would become my father.Hubert