Auguste/Gottlieb Gratzik

our dear parents

Auguste Gottlieb

Gratzik Gratzik

* 11.9.1868 * 7.4.1867

† 26.2.1939 † 24.3.1916

Toil and labor was your life

God has given you rest [1]

Copyright: Sabine Grabowski

The double grave of Auguste and Gottlieb Gratzik [2] is located in the center of the cemetery. It consists of two stone grave borders with a common gravestone. The inscription is hardly readable.

Gottlieb Gratzik was a farmer [3], he owned several plots of land in Wilken.[4] He received two of these plots in return for taking care of the previous owners’ livelihood (Ausgedinge). This means that he undertook to provide for the previous owners until the end of their lives.[5] Such agreements were often made between parents and their children when they took over the parental farm. Since Gottlieb Gratzik could afford to take over two Ausgedinge, he must have been wealthy.

Together with his wife Auguste, née Rattay, Gottlieb had five children between 1893 and 1909: Ida, Gottlieb, Anna, Rudolf and Berta.[6] During World War I, the eldest son Gottlieb served in the Reserve Infantry Regiment 18 as a musketeer. In June 1915 he was wounded [7] but survived the war.

Nine months later, however, Gottlieb Gratzik senior died at the age of only 48. He was inherited by his wife Auguste and their children. Auguste Gratzik increased the family’s land holdings, buying another plot after Gottlieb’s death.[8] In 1932, she signed the property over to her youngest son Rudolf. Except for the youngest daughter Berta, the other children were economically provided for: Ida had married the neighbor Gustav Losch [9] from Wilken, Gottlieb junior owned land in Rostken and Anna was married to Johann Skowronnek from Pilchen. Rudolf had to pay off his siblings and undertook to arrange a wedding befitting Berta’s status – including provision of food and drinks for the guests and a bedroom suite as dowry for his sister. Auguste also had her dowry arranged in detail. Rudolf Gratzik assured his mother that he would maintain her on the property for the rest of her life. This meant not only “free laundry, clothing [and] care in case of illness,” [10] Auguste also received her own rooms in the family home, twelve free trips in the area per year, and 5 gold marks per month in pocket money. Rudolf undertook to pay for his mother’s funeral after her death. Until then, she was also provided for at the family table and received from her son “an iron cow and five iron chickens.”[11] If Auguste preferred to run her own household instead of being cared for at her son’s table, Rudolf would have had to provide her with a liter of milk every day – should her iron cow not give any. In addition, there would have been one fattening pig, five geese, 30 hundredweight of potatoes, 10 hundredweight of rye four times a year, two hundredweight of barley and one hundredweight of wheat flour. Half of the harvest of the orchard, 10 cubic meters of wood for heating and 30 gold marks per year for clothing would have been granted to her in addition. For cooking, she was also to get her own stove in this case.[12]

Probably only shortly after taking over his parents’ farm in Wilken, Rudolf married Ida Ruschinski from Grodzisko [13]. The two had three children in the years from 1934 to 1938: Irmgard, Rita, and Georg.[14] Ida brought a machine knitting factory into the marriage, which she had bought before the wedding. In the winter months, when farming did not yield a profit, the family thus had two additional sources of income: Rudolf had a contract trucking business and drove wood to one of the nearby sawmills, for example.[15] Ida sold haberdashery and white goods and was able to employ several young women in her machine knitting shop during the winter. This enabled her to earn a good 1000 Reichsmarks a year.[16]

Auguste Gratzik died at the end of February 1939. She was buried next to her husband Gottlieb. When the Johannisburg district was evacuated in January 1945, the Gratzik family also had to flee from the approaching front. The family, along with several others, was soon separated from the main trek from Wilken. In Steegen [17], after crossing the frozen Frische Haff, they again met the rest of the Wilkeners. Together they fled as far as Holstein, where the trek disbanded at the end of March 1945 after more than two months on the run.[18] The Gratzik family eventually found a new home in northern Hesse.[19]

[1] Georg Büschges u.a.: Wilken/Wilkenhof – Dorfgeschichten eines Friedhofs, in: Znad Pisy. Wydawnictwo poświęcone ziemi piskiej 27 (2021) – in print, no page given.

[2] The spelling of the surname changed. In the land records from Wilken the family name read Gratzik, in the applications for burden equalization after the flight they used the spelling Gratzig.

[3] Grundakten des Amtsgerichts Johannisburg, Archiwum Państwowe w Olsztynie (APO) 295/4279, sheet 44.

[4] Ibid, sheet 40.

[5] Ibid, sheet 41.

[6] Ibid, sheet 38.

[7] Verlustlisten Erster Weltkrieg, entry Gottlieb Gratzik: <> (last accessed 21.05.2021).

[8] APO 295/4279, sheet 40.

[9] Ibid, manual drawing, no page given.

[10] Ibid, sheet 41.

[11] Ibid. An iron cow or iron cattle were animals that always had to be present and if they died had to be replaced. Rudolf thus undertook to provide his mother with a cow and five chickens for the rest of her life. Cf. German Legal Dictionary Online, entry Eisenkuh and the related entries: <> (last accessed 07/10/2021). These iron animals as part of the dowry for old people were relatively common and, for example, also widespread in neighboring Warmia. Cf. Karl Brunner: Ostdeutsche Volkskunde, Leipzig 1925, p. 36.

[12] For the Ausgedinge and the living conditions of the siblings, cf. APO 295/4279, sheets 40 – 43.

[13] German: Burgdorf. Cf. Lastenausgleichsakten Ida Gratzik, Bundesarchiv Lastenausgleichsarchiv (BA LAA) ZLA 1/13366713, sheet 1. A man named Ruschinski was the head of the village school association, Ida’s family seems to have been respected in Grodzisko. Cf. Emil Johannes Guttzeit (ed.): Der Kreis Johannisburg. Ein ostpreußisches Heimatbuch (= Ostdeutsche Beiträge aus dem Göttinger Arbeitskreis, vol. 31), Würzburg 1964, sheets 262f.

[14] Lastenausgleichsakten Rudolf Gratzik, BA LAA ZLA 1/13363425, sheet 3.

[15] Ibid, sheet 10.

[16] Ibid, Lastenausgleichsakten Ida Gratzig, BA LAA ZLA 1/13366713, sheet 6f., sheet 72. – Cf. Büschges et al.: Wilken/Wilkenhof – in print, no page given.

[17] Polish: Stegna.

[18] Cf. Elma Rattay: …denn wir waren nicht zu Hause… Tagebuch der Flucht 1945 von Wilkenhof/Kreis Johannisburg in Ostpreußen nach Holstein,, last accessed on 24.05.2021. Direct link to the diary not possible, it can be found in the navigation top left under “Wilkenhof 1945: Tagebuch der Flucht aus Masuren / Ostpreußen”. Also printed in Gerhard Wydra (ed.): Wilken. Die Geschichte seiner Geburt und seines Todes sowie Tatsachen in Aquarellen, Gedichten, Geschichten und Sagen aus dem Kreis Johannisburg, [Hamm an der Sieg] 1985, pp. 14 – 28.

[19] Lastenausgleichsakten Ida Gratzig, BA LAA ZLA 1/13366713, sheet 4.