This will be a quick entry this week. The car needs a new battery so that it can be driven to the mechanic in the morning. When it rains…
I recently received a huge GED file containing the research of a Herr Drachsler from Germany. He did the legwork that enabled me to finally pinpoint the European origins of my paternal grandmother’s Leibel and Putzler families. They were Bohemians – not the grubby, beret-topped artist-types of bad 60s movies, but actual Bohemians from Bohemia. These families and their ancestors lived in and around the villages of Plöß (pronounced “pless”) and Wenzelsdorf for more than 300 years.
Ludwig Licha (1922-1944) was a 4th cousin of my father’s. Everything I know about him was learned day before yesterday when I discovered two photos of him on a Czech website.
Ludwig was born in Plöß in the hills that straddle the Bohemian-Bavarian border. This region was part of the Sudetenland, the portion of Bohemia settled by ethnic Germans over several centuries. After World War II, the Allies forced everyone of German blood out of Czechoslovakia for relocation in Bavaria or Austria. With cultural and familial roots running so deep in this soil, the forced departure must have been agonizing.
Once the towns were empty, tanks leveled all houses, churches, and shop buildings to ensure no one would return. Ludwig’s family home is the only useable structure still standing in Plöß. It is currently a pension, and recently hosted a gathering of former residents and their descendants. I was touched by the writer’s description of the band concert in the yard there – the first music heard in this valley in almost 70 years.
As for Ludwig, this first photo was taken probably between 1938-1940. The caption (in Google-translated Czech) described him as a member of the German athletic team, a sprinter whose personal best in the 100 meters was 10.6 seconds.
The other photo shows him in the Messerschmidt he flew in WW2, mostly over North Africa. He was shot down over Normandy in October 1944.
All politics aside, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from this new chapter of research is that the boys in the German armies of World War I and World War II weren’t evil creatures bent on world domination. They were boys from little villages. I’ve honestly lost count of all my kin who went missing or were killed in Russia or Romania or France or Ukraine (or Poland or Germany or Tunisia…) during those dark, dreadful years.
On a happier note, HOW COOL is this Internet thing, anyway?
The Gasthof Flor was a hotel run, obviously, by the Flor family. My great-great-grandmother’s sister Anna married a Mr. Flor shortly before several members of their affiliated families left Bohemia for Minnesota in the 1860s.
[Edit: Actually Anna Putzler married Johann Flor after they arrived in Minnesota. But not after they’d had a child together (who sadly died on the voyage from Bremen to Baltimore). I’m kind of astonished at the frequency of illegitimate births in the old villages in Bohemia. I’m sure the women and children had to deal with some church-imposed knuckle-rapping, but there doesn’t seem to have been any sort of societal stigma attached.]
One of those photo gallery websites included this image from the cemetery in Plöß. These Drachslers are relatives of the old man who did all that Bohemian research – and the family married into my Leibl and Putzler lines several times.
And finally, a request. Next time someone goes to the cemetery in Plöß, please take a really good photo of that list of headstones (top right) for me, okay? Thanks!
I am of the Johan Flor family that left Ploess in 1867 and the Butzler and Leibl family in 1868. All coming to MN. Thank you for this information.
Cousin Katie! Fancy meeting you here! -Cousin Brad
I thought that this was yours…. You do Good!! So pleased to greet you here! I used my mother’s maiden name to make me more authentic… Cousin Kaie
Oh, my. This touched my heart. We come from such brave people. You are an excellent writer. Thanks for the information…Gwenn
Let me tell you how I came across your blog/post! Recently, I became aware of church records from Bohemia and began my genealogy journey for my maternal ancestors. My mother’s people lived in Haidl, near the city of Stubenbach and not too far from Zelsna Rudy (Czechish Eisenstein). My mother survived the expulsion from her extinct village in 1945. As I began my search, I too was astonished by the numerous illegitimate births. Sometimes, the couple marrying months after the birth of their first child. I did a search on the internet, wondering if someone else has made that observation and if they had any speculations on it.
When I asked my mother about all those births, she said it really wasn’t a big deal. That the priests would give the children odd names, so everyone would know they were illegitimate… BUT. I know that is not the case. These children were named Maria, and Johann, and Wenzl, just like everyone else. Perhaps during these times it was important to know if the women could bear children?
I had the good fortune to visit the area a couple of times with my mother with members of her village, back in the 90s. What an emotional visit! Such beautiful country. And how heartbreaking it must have been for them. Thanks for sharing your family history and for writing about your research.
I found this webside recently.
Ludwig Licha is my uncle! He was killed June 8th. in the Normandy and he is burried in St. Andre de Leur, War cemetery in Normandy
My Mom, Johanna Keul, born. Licha, is his youngest sister.
We are living in Bad Kissingen, Germany.
Does someone has more information about Ludwig?
Please contact me.
Thank you Christian
I discovered all of the Böhmisch families through a Drachsler family tree and further research. I found the photographs of Ludwig, as well as his story, at the website printed on the photographs. But that’s all the information I have at this point.
He and your mother would be 4th Cousins to my father – which would make you and I 5th cousins.
It’s very nice to hear from you!
Oakland, California, USA
Thank you for your reply.
I never thought to find someone/thing about my family outside Europe.
As I heard from my uncle, Otmar Licha (born 1932), Ludwigs youngest brother.
Ludwig was a member of Jagdgeschwader 77.
Otmar also told me that he has a lot more information about Plöss.
He lives in Witten, Ruhrgebiet. Otmar is in charge of the “family Research”.
He told me that he knows about the Putzler and Flor family.
Edgar,also Ludwigs brother, died in 1997.
His widow Alexa(*1940) and his son, Alexander*(*1969), are living also Bad Kissingen, Germany.
So let´s keep in touch to exchange more information.
Tschüß, bis bald!
Hallo wie waren heute das erste mal in Ples. Mein Großvater Mutter Seite Andreas Licha ist von da. . . Sehr interessant.