POST 9: TIEGENHOF & RUDOLF DARGATZ

NOTE: The following story does not relate to my father’s time in Tiegenhof, nor directly to any of his friends and acquaintances from his time there. Rather, it is connected to a query forwarded to me by the Director of the Muzeum Zulawskie from an American woman, looking for information on one of her relatives that lived in Tiegenhof in the 1870’s. Because her query overlapped with some of my own research and sources, it provides insight on how one can sometimes also further other people’s family investigations.

In March of 2017, Marek Opitz, Director of the Muzeum Zulawskie in Nowy Dwor Gdanski, and President of the Klub Nowodworski, forwarded a request for information from a Ms. Lori Hill living in Bend, Oregon. Because Marek, in his own words, considers me “an ambassador to the United States,” referring Ms. Hill to me seemed logical. Lori was asking the Muzeum Zulawskie whether they could tell her anything about a relative of hers, by the name of “Rudolph Wilhelm Ludwig Dargatz,” who had lived in Tiegenhof in the 1870’s.

My initial reaction when I received this referral was simply to think I could provide little help since my own father’s time in Tiegenhof had been much later and short, stretching from April 1932 through perhaps June 1937, and he was unlikely to have known her relative. With this in mind, I briefly explained my father’s connection to Tiegenhof, and mentioned two books on Tiegenhof she might consider purchasing to learn about the town’s history. One, written by Marek Opitz and Grzegorz Gola, is simply entitled “Tiegenhof/Nowy Dwor Gdanski”; the second, authored by Gunter Jeglin, is entitled “Tiegenhof und der Kreis Grosses Werder in Bildern.”

I explained to Lori that in the course of doing my own research, I had written to many people whose names and addresses I found in the membership index of the “Tiegenhofer Nachrichten.” I told her about Mr. Hans Erich Mueller, the elderly German gentleman who’d grown up in Tiegenhof and identified the “Schlummermutter” by name, and suggested she might want to contact him. I also mentioned my father’s friend, Juergen “Peter” Lau, and how much he’d helped me. With these referrals, I naturally assumed I had done as much as I could for Lori.

Figure 1-1943 Tiegenhof Phone Directory with listing for Rudolf Dargatz

Still, I couldn’t quite lay Lori’s query to rest, and continued to contemplate how else I might help. During my own investigations, Marek Opitz had passed along two Address/Telephone books for Tiegenhof, an Address Book from 1910 and a Phone Directory from 1943. I checked both for listings of “Dargatz,” and, much to my surprise, discovered an individual by the name of “Rudolf Dargatz,” spelled with an “f” rather than a “ph” at the end of the given name in the 1943 Tiegenhof Phone Directory. (Figure 1) In her initial query to Marek, Lori had mentioned that her Rudolph Dargatz had been in the plant nursery (“gartnerei”) business and there was or still is a “Haus Dargatz.” The Rudolf Dargatz in the 1943 Directory was identified as being in the business of “Gartenbaubetrieb,” or horticulture. It was logical to assume these two individuals were related.

Figure 2-Map of Tiegenhof from the German era with Schlossgrund circled and the location of Rudolf Dargatz’s garden business pinpointed

The 1943 Phone Directory included an address for this business at “Schlossgrund 18,” today known as “ulica 3 Maja.” From having visited Nowy Dwor Gdanski on several occasions, my recollection is that “Schlossgrund” is one of the former German streets remarkably well-preserved and along which it is easy to relocate remaining structures from the German period. Having also been given a map of Tiegenhof from former times, I passed this along to Lori so she could orient herself as to where her relative’s horticultural business had once been located. (Figure 2)

It occurred to me that since Rudolf Dargatz lived in Tiegenhof at least as late as 1943, perhaps my father’s now-94-year-old friend Peter Lau might remember him. So, I called him, and Peter, whose mind is still very sharp, immediately remembered Mr. Dargatz, recalling he had been in the flower business, and remembering that his shop had been located along Schlossgrund. But, the reason why Peter had such a clear recollection of Mr. Dargatz is mildly amusing, namely, because he had a crush on his daughter, Liselotte! I think both Lori and I found it particularly intriguing that someone is still alive today who had known one of her Dargatz relatives.

Figure 3-The Haus Dargatz as it looks today

Over the coming days, I continued to think back to my visits to Nowy Dwor Gdanski. I remembered that during our last visit there, my wife and I had spent the better part of a day walking the entire central part of the town taking photographs of all the remaining German-era structures. Comparing my pictures to ones I found in the two aforementioned books showing the “Haus Dargatz,” I quickly realized the structure still existed and that I had photographed and identified it (Figure 3); I immediately forwarded it to Lori telling her I clearly remembered that on one of two occasions when I walked by this house a woman was cleaning the windows of her apartment. I’m still not sure why this memory remains in my head.

Readers will recall from one of my earlier Blog posts a database brought to my attention by a German archivist, of births, marriages, and deaths of individuals from the former Eastern Prussian Provinces, entitled: Östliche preußische Provinzen, Polen, Personenstandsregister 1874-1945 (Eastern Prussian Provinces, Germany [Poland], Selected Civil Vitals, 1874-1945). Typing in “Dargatz” in the “search” query, I came up with 140 records with people by this name, two of which ultimately fit into Lori’s Dargatz family tree. Both related to an individual by the name of “Rudolph Wilhelm Dargatz,” who, coincidentally, happened to be one of the sons of the Rudolph Wilhelm Ludwig Dargatz Lori had initially asked the Muzeum Zulawskie about.

Readers may remember yet another Blog post in which I discussed what I’d learned about my father’s once-good friend, Hans “Mochum” Wagner, and the photo of him in his German military uniform given to me by a Ms. Beate Lohff, nee Schlenger. To remind readers, Beate is the grand-daughter of Alfred and Hedwig Schlenger, owners of Tiegenhof’s “Dampfmahlmuhle,” or steam-operated flour mill. Beate gave me a copy of her grandmother’s 12-page diary, written in German, covering Hedwig’s escape from Tiegenhof with her mother and younger son, as the Russians were closing in towards the end of WWII. I recently had this translated into English, and this diary provides a fascinating glimpse into the period from the perspective of Germans then forced to flee westward the advancing enemy they’d mercilessly persecuted on their way east. However, apparently, not all Prussian families chose to leave Tiegenhof, as noted in one of Hedwig Schlenger’s entry in April 1945, and Hedwig specifically mentions, among the families that chose to stay, the Dargatz family, parenthetically adding that no one knows what happened to these families. It may yet be that the ultimate fate of Lori’s Dargatz relatives may be uncovered but inasmuch as my own research is concerned, this is as far as I can take things.