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My great-grandmother Justine Weiss, née Otto, 55, married my great-grandfather Christoph Weiss, 54, when she was 15 years old. That was probably also then something unusual. What is unusual today, it that something like this people want to regulate.

Of her daughter Wilhelmine it was always said she has 10 children, but Justine Weiss had 16 children; she therefore had two special features, first she married very young and secondly she had an unusual amount of children.

My grandmother Wilhelmine Mattern, née Weiß, 56, the wife of my grandfather Leopold Mattern, 37, the daughter of Justine Weiss, was also an unusual woman, and that because she had 10 children. Also that was then unusual.

As child I once found a mother medal of which I knew that it was awarded to my grandmother by the state, and that precisely for that reason, because she had so many children.

As I now studied the family records, I found this statement about the children of Leopold Mattern and Wihelmine, née Weiß:

12 children born in Kranthau (twins Ernst and Emma died little)

With this grandmother had therefore given birth to 12 children, in Kranthau.

In an addendum it says: ('twins' = delete!).

Therefore there were therefore 2 children, but they were not twins.

Now follows an extract from a report which her granddaughter, Waltraud Hilke, has written on the 24th July 2005. Waltraud is the daughter of Grete Gehrmann and Grete is the second daughter of my grandmother, the second of six daughters, where my mother is the third.

Waltraud is the oldest grandchild of my grandmother. Here now her report.

Page I

Wilhelmine fell in love as young girl with a man, a young man, who was not acceptable to her father. The ten years older farmer Leopold Mattern from Kranthau courted her. But she was pregnant and gave birth to a son; Leopold nevertheless wanted her as wife, so they married on the 6th of December of the year 1894 and she moved to the farm in Kranthau; at that time still situated in the village in Kranthau. The little boy had an accident during harvest time; he played behind a highly loaded cart-load with sheaves; the cart rolled back and killed the child.

Wilhelmine became again pregnant, but it came to an abortion and she lost the twins Ernst and Emma.

On the 21th of December 1897 the daughter Ida was born. Grete followed her 1899, 1900 Lina, 38, Fritz 1901, Osswald 1903, Emma 1905, Gertrud 1913, Bruno 1916 and Edith 1918.

In the report of Waltraud Franz is missing, who was born 1909.


Addendum to "twins" Ernst and Emma
NameDate of birthDate of death
Johann Ernst Mattern 24.06.1895 02.12.1897
Auguste Emma Mattern 10.08.1896 02.04.1897
See Ernst und Emma klein verstorben.


From the children of the brothers of my mother I have best known the children of her brother Oswald, three sons. The youngest son, Hans Oswald, born 13.1.1938 in Elbing, gave me his air rifle as a gift. That was some years after the war and was really something.

Waltraud probably obtained this special knowledge about the first child of our grandmother from her other grandmother, because both her grandmothers came from the same village, Himmelforth.

My grandmother therefore has given birth to at least 13 children.

My memory of her is that she sat at the spinning wheel. And that she taught me to tie the laces of my shoes, and was very patient at it.

I once sat at the kitchen table and she sat on left of me. I was then about 8 years old. I rested my left elbow on the table and then my head on the left hand. She took my left forearm, lifted it up and knocked it then onto the table. I was immediately aware why she did it and also that it was a good teaching method and that it was justified and was therefore not cross with her. I have learnt as a result, not to lose control of myself.

I received a similar lecture from my father, 05. I was alone with my father in the forest and we loaded a cart and I moaned. My father immediately shouted at me sharply and also that I accepted as good upbringing and for that reason also did not get into the habit of doing it and also not telling people all my woes and also not wailing and also not talking about it. That was just not on with my father.

My grandmother and my father had another thing in common.

My grandmother did not accept when she was not respected. She broke off diplomatic relations with such people. She also did this when it was about her sons. Her peace was more important to her than having a good relationship with her own sons whatever happens, which is then, when respect is not found, also not really a good relationship.

And now still something from Waltraud Hilke:

With the early death of grandfather in the year 1926 much had become different, above all the question arose, who should continue to run the business. Difficult times for grandmamma. There were problems between brothers and sisters, except my mother, still none of the daughters were married or with a finished training. Fritz, the oldest son, had a girlfriend all right, and saw himself as farm heir, but no testament existed. But his future wife demanded that grandmamma and the children must leave the house and were to live in the cottager’s house in the village. The sisters fought against this; it prevented their chance of finding a respectable husband. First Emma was persuaded to manage the farm, but she did not want to, became engaged with a cousin of her mother, Reinhold Weiß. Ida, the oldest was more for housekeeping and talented keeping the clothing of the family in order; she made clothes, knitted and did embroidery. It was decided to get her married and looked for a suitable partner, by advert; so she found her Bruno Neumann from Marienburg and after the wedding in Kranthau moved to him into the town house. That was my first consciously experienced Kranthau wedding, in the voile dress with laces at the hem, patent-leather shoes and wreath of flowers in the hair. August 1927. Through Ida Lina got her husband. He met her first on a railway trip from Marienburg to Kranthau-Horn; she got into conversation with him and learned that he had come from the USA, to look for a German wife. She referred him to the ball of the farmers in Mohrungen; there he met his Lina. On the 30th of March 1930 was the wedding in the church in Eckersdorf; the best horses were hitched up before the Landauers to drive the pair and the guests to Eckersdorf, where Pastor Kalff married them

I have seen with another person, who did not break off the diplomatic relations after some of her children treated her disrespectfully. And I have also seen how this person suffered by it and did not really live in peace.

And with my father it was similar as with my grandmother, also he accepted no behaviour, which contradicted his wish for peace and freedom. In our house it was normal, when visitors started to talk positive about totalitarian systems, my father, like my mother, stopped the communication. Silence occurred. And such visitors with a positive attitude towards National Socialism or Communism then soon left the house.

With my father this went so far that he put his life at stake.

During the Third Reich the then rulers told him that they needed him, since he brought essential foodstuff in a very effective way on the market, but after they then would have conquered the world, they would dispose of him. These people then died, after their system had come to an end after quite a short time, partly a very terrible death, through the conquering troops, which were particularly after Nazis and intensively tracked them down. My father on the other hand still lived over 20 years in peace and freedom and reached a normal age.

In the work of my sister Ellinor, "Dokumentation über Kranthau im Kreis Mohrungen/Ostpr.", 1985, is the following statement on page 223:

So, as grandmother Wilhelmine Mattern read in the Psalms on Sunday, …

And in the already mentioned report of Waltraud Hilke she writes that in the winter of 1927/28 as child she was brought from Löpen to Kranthau to her grandmother and there it says:

Page III

In the large living room before the kitchen the table was laid on Sundays. In the morning grandmamma held a service and prayed with everybody.

Page IV

Grandmamma had a good relationship with her son in law.

Page VI

Grandmamma and daughter Lina, outwardly already so different, and so reserved grandmamma was, so open and approachable was aunt Lina, for me. She has often encouraged me, also sometimes criticised, but always in the positive.

My grandmother, as well as my father, did not talk much about worldly things. They were rather the exception in a society of worldly people. When it was about really important things, when my father for example reported to us children about his experiences – he had been a soldier in both world wars, he had worked as estate administrator, he had lived in America – then his reports were a true treasure house of won life experience.

Both, my grandmother and my father, consciously resisted the prince of this world and his conscious and unconscious servants; worldly things were handled effectively and firmly; but they did not let the world and the god of this world get them down; matter was controlled by them and quite certainly matter did not control them.

And these life reports of our father were therefore of such importance for us children, because we knew the life, that this man lived, extremely well and it testified to their genuineness.

It was about 6 km to drive, to get to the church in Eckersdorf. I once heard my mother say that grandmother had often pressed to harness up on Sunday and drive to church, therefore to do a lot of effort, and in Bad Salzdetfurth the church was very close; it was only a few houses away, at the end of the same short street, in which we lived in the middle, and there she hardly goes to church.

But it was so that at the time of the Third Reich the church was persecuted, that church, which was not the Reichskirche, but was called the Confessional Church, and which as a result again moved closer to God and his word. But after the war, and consequently after the end of the regime of the Nazis, that again soon wore off and even developed to an approach to Communism, therefore became again more opposing to God.

I now once again bring an extract from Ellinor’s work, from page 202:

Pastor J. Kalff, Siegen, the 18.11.1948


The farmer Walter Preuß from Bad Salzdetfurth owned in my former church community Eckersdorf, District Mohrungen/East Prussia, a c. 45 ha farm. During my time in office (1931-1945) there, I have, since I myself grew up as farmer’s son on a farm, got to know Preuß as a professionally particularly efficient farmer.

Through his intensive agriculture and his fruit succession Preuß has achieved yields from his soil, which were far above average. Also in stock breeding he had good results thanks to his knowledge. But P. found attention and recognition far beyond the district, through his extraordinary successes in hoed crop farming and in pig-fattening. I still remember that P. had received the first prize of East Prussia with a competition of the professional association of agriculture about "pig-breeding and –fattening with regard to potato ensilage".

Also Mrs Preuß is a specialist well trained, experienced and exemplary farm woman. Until 1942 she was an acknowledged teaching woman for rural home economics apprentices. She ran an acknowledged brooding business and poultry-reproduction-farming with brooding egg for hatching supply business. Her fruit and vegetable garden supplied large yields and in home economics she was always exemplary.

P. was a loyal member of our church community and from the start of the Confessional Church its eager member. With regard to politics he never made a secret of his opposition against National Socialism and by this was exposed to many hostilities and difficulties.


Sgd.: Johannes Kalff, Pastor

And now again something from Waltraud Hilke:

In Kranthau the problems were far more difficult; Aunt Lina and Uncle Walter belonged to the "Confessional Church" and strictly refused to have something in common with the Nazis. They had support from the married couple Kalff in Eckersdorf, with whom they were friends, took regularly part in the Sunday services and with grandmamma held house services.

The six daughters of my grandmother were by 1941 all married and lived, except my mother, not in Kranthau. Ida in Marienburg, Grete in Löpen, Emma in Reichau, Gertrude in Osterode and Edith in Preussisch Eylau. Aunt Grete had an apprentice, and after the apprenticeship the contact was kept up and was the destination of the escape out of the east into the west. And suddenly, in the year 1945 all six sisters, including their mother, lived again in one place, in Bad Salzdetfurth. And then their men arrived there, except the man of Grete, who was already there, because he was already older, born 1889, and was therefore not a soldier. Also grandmother’s youngest son, Bruno, and his family, met again there.

Four of the six sisters, and also their mother, lived until their end in Bad Salzdetfurth, and also died there.

I once said to Georg Neumann, you have known our grandmother 10 years longer than me and in a better age and consequently in a better understanding, what kind of person then out of your view was our grandmother?

He thought about this for a while and then said, he has once with his many visits with us and therefore with his grandmother, asked her to allow him to go Horn and to buy effervescent tablets. And she then replied, with us on the farm we have everything what is necessary for life, and there is no need to go shopping for something.

He probably thought this was not very good. I thought the reaction of my grandmother was wonderful.

My grandmother had four sons. I cannot remember the first three sons; it could also be that I never met them. Here once again Waltraud, who gives information about them.

In the house now still lived the two youngest siblings, Edith, who still went to school and Bruno, for whom an apprenticeship as gardener was sought. Fritz had made an apprenticeship as merchant in town and got a grocery shop fitted out in Horn, which he ran with his wife; the house was by the way from the village to the station. As child I have been with Aunt Anna and Cousin Ursula with him in the shop and he gave us a bag of sweets. Anna was the sister of my father, married to the joiner master Max Amling, whose workshop and house was very near. Uncle Osswald learned bricklayer and made his master examination. Uncle Franz-Ehrlich became carpenter and master builder. All have married and got children.

What can one now learn from such a life, as that of my grandmother?

I have known my grandmother only a few years, but would recommend taking her as example.

I have always compared my grandmother and my mother and that particularly in their behaviour towards their children.

My grandmother did not tolerate an impertinent behaviour and consequently lived in peace. My mother did tolerate it, and therefore did not have her peace.

My grandmother parted company with relatives, even so with particularly close relatives, but also with other people, when these displayed no god-fearing behaviour.

My mother tried to always get along with all people, and particularly also with those people of all the many relatives, and also tried to reconcile the splits, which the Nazi regime caused, after that regime had found its end.

What was the problem with the children? That they insisted to demand from the mother that the mother hands over the property of the mother to the children; they demanded that that, what belonged to the mother, she hands out to the children; they wanted to dictate to her to transfer the possessions of the mother to the children.

To witness something like this is a sad and disappointing matter, since it is about those people who are nearest to one.

But something like this passes. One behaves like my grandmother – behaviour to rule.

"Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." "I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."

This rule comes from 2 Corinthians 6:17-18.

And this rule also immediately contains the solution to the problem, the lost sons and daughters are replaced by those of the Lord.



From left:
1. Wilhelmine Mattern, née Weiß, born on 01.02.1872 in Himmelforth
2. Friedrich Leopold Mattern, born on 13.04.1862 in Kranthau
married on 06.12.1894 in Mohrungen


My grandmother had a golden or gold coloured watch. It had a loop, to hang from a watch-chain. The watch was smaller than a gentleman's pocket watch. She perhaps wore it on a chain around her neck. Perhaps that chain seen on the picture was this watch neck chain. This watch was my first wrist watch. At that time there were special straps for such small pocket watches, lady's pocket watches. It was wound up every day.


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