Otto Gerhard Boesel
|First name||Otto Gerhard|
|Country of Origin||Germany|
|Date of Birth||28.12.1938|
|Year of Arrival in Australia||1/26/1960|
|Submitted by||Elizabeth Boesel|
Otto was born on December 28, 1938 second child of Paul Otto Boesel, and Minna Elfriede Koltzenberg in Lutherstadt, Wittennberg. Otto’s family of 11 children were from Lutherstadt Eisleben. Only five survived into the 1920s, Anna, Paul Otto, Franz, Emma and Friederike. Otto was a baker, a drum major & enjoyed dancing where he met his wife. They married in February1935 (or Nov1936) and he built a house at 20 Garten Strasse, Reinsdorf-Sud via Lutherstadt Wittenberg; the family home until 2007.
Otto was co-opted into Arbeitsdienst (work duty) for one year as jobs were scarce. He later worked at Piesteritz in the Stickstoff factory (nitrogen/chemical) & was taken from there by the army in 1938. So began a fraught period for all. He was first sent to Poland & returned in 1939 for six weeks then was posted to Africa with Field-Marshal Erwin Rommel’s 5th Panzer Division until conclusion of that campaign. Daughter Christel was born on July 9, 1940. This family of four and grandmother Frau Lindemann who lived next door, endured & struggled to survive during & after the War. Elfriede became sole family provider. Food had to be grown in her fields, potatoes grubbed for winter storage, fruits picked & preserved, clothes, sheets & doonas made from her trousseau & feathers from plucked poultry; with rabbits their only other source of meat. Often this produce was raided by others. Sleep was very scarce.
After Africa Otto was sent to the Balkans then to an island off Danzig (Gdansk, Poland) He was interned by the Russians in 1944 and sent to Siberia. The Russians began to move west towards Berlin & people feared for their lives. A decent soldier saved the family from drowning but was too late for Elfriede’s mother. Alone with three children & no income a crisis of survival was exacerbated by the post-war scorched-earth policy & sequestration of materials, transport, metal & infrastructure by the occupying Soviet army. Food had to be begged and weeds eaten – to survive was a miracle.
Otto Jnr. & his sisters have distressing childhood memories which remain much too difficult to resurrect. Schooling post-war was poor and limited. Otto obtained an apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker at 13. Life remained difficult & constrained under the new regime. Work in the fields, gardens, breeding domestic animals, making preserves were still the drivers of daily life for all.
Otto Snr. returned home in April 1947 (?) in bad health & furious about the treatment of his family by some in
the village. He was briefly interrogated by the new East German regime. Meanwhile Elfriede’s step-brother
Erwin Lindemann died in Siberia from pneumonia. Otto Snr. returned to work at Piesteritz in the Stickstoff factory.
A son Erwin was born on May 21, 1949 and a sister Judit on May 20, 1951.
Excepting Otto Snr. & his brother Franz in Eisleben, their three surviving sisters lived in West Germany. Otto Jnr. won & hid a suitcase & applied for permission to visit the west for a family celebration. He left East Germany for Hildesheim on April 20, 1957 before the Berlin Wall of 13 August, 1961. A week later his elder sister Eva also left – but for family in Hanover. Those left behind must have been devastated. Eva was 20 years old & Otto 18.
Without hope of seeing family in East Germany, Otto applied to migrate to Australia in 1959 & arrived on Australia Day, 1960 on Castel Felice making two life-long friends on board. They first went to Bonegilla then worked in the Riverina before moving to Sydney. The East German regime began to open a Christmas and Easter crossing for West Berliners’ brief family reunions. So the three returned to West Germany hoping to visit family in the East. They left Australia on the Wanganella in April 1963, via New Zealand & the U.S. A two week visit was arranged for Christmas & New Year 1964-1965 via Helmstedt. A foreign friend drove Otto’s car across while he had to travel separately by train.
After marriage & the birth of his first child in Hildesheim, West Germany, Otto made another visit in Jun1966 to introduce five-month old Ralph to the family. This time the family unit was able to use the car for the whole trip. Although planning to return to Australia the following year this was kept from the family so the 1966 parting would not be so traumatic. The young family left Bremerhaven on Jul11, 1967 & arrived in Australia on August16 on Flavia after a 3 week delay in shipping due to the Six-Day War of June 1967 in the Middle East.
Two brothers to Ralph were born in Australia. Mark on Nov, 1967 (Crown Street) and Leon (Auburn) on 30Apr, 1971
Otto now has 11 Australian grandchildren – l0 being boys. In 1978 Otto took his 3 sons to visit all the relatives – grandparents to great aunts in East & West Germany.
See Ralph Boesel.