by NZ CATHOLIC staff
AUCKLAND — Fr Jack Ward’s act of reconciliation in Bremen (NZ Catholic, July 15) impressed reader Helen Moverley of Auckland.
In an email to NZ Catholic, she wrote that her dear friend and relative Marlene Pieper had written about the bombing in Bremen when the two of them first started writing to each other in 1982.
According to Marlene, during World War II, bombers came on December 20, 1943, destroying a big part of western Bremen.
At that time Marlene’s older brother, Gunter, was a prisoner of war in Australia. He was an officer of the merchant marines.
Marlene’s family house burned in the bombing, and they lost everything. Gunter’s parents-in-law accommodated her family (her mother and younger brother, as her father had died in 1939). Happily it was here where she met her husband-to-be (also an officer of the merchant marines) for the first time, as he was home from sea to see his parents — whose home was destroyed by bombs, too. They stayed with neighbours nearby.
Marlene Pieper died this year on June 2 at the age of 89. She was the last of her generation to experience this bombing. Her brother, Gunter Knop, with wife Renate, first visited New Zealand in 1981. Their grandfather, Rudolf Krippner, is the son of Captain Martin and Emily Krippner, who founded Puhoi in 1863.
Rudolf spent his childhood in New Zealand, leaving at the age of 16 to work on the ships. He lived with his family in Bremen, Germany, until he died in 1931.
Marlene said that she remembered Grandpa Krippner speaking English, and when he spoke German he had a Kiwi accent, which she liked a lot.
Marlene said that as all their Christmas decorations had been destroyed in the bombing, she started to make her own wooden decorations in 1944. Every year she designed a new figure.
When her four children were young she stopped for a few years, then started again in the 1960s. Until 2001, she made a new figure each year and sent it with her good wishes (Marlene’s kind of Christmas postcard) to all her family and friends.
Marlene started painting at the age of 56 using as her inspiration the American painter Grandma Moses. In her funeral notice she had Grandma Moses’ quote: “Let home be made happy.”
Marlene was very pleased to visit New Zealand in 2001. After her visit she described New Zealand as “my best trip ever, my grandfather Rudolf Krippner’s paradise!”
Marlene was a strong, positive woman of great faith. Mrs Moverley said that when she went through hard times she appreciated her encouraging words, “thy will be done”.
In 2013, Puhoi will have its 150 year celebrations. According to Mrs Moverley, Marlene generously donated one of her paintings to the Puhoi museum.