Sig Illing Dot Com
There is an ancient river called the "ILL"
Illingen is a town in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. With a population of about 10,000, it is 27 kilometers to the west of Stuttgart, the capital of Baden-Württemberg. ) It is thought to have originated, because the settlement was founded by people who came from the river 'ILL'. The area around the small town is famous for its vineyards and picturesque landscape. The most important site in Illingen is the church, dating from the 14th century and the inner town with its restored old houses and buildings.
I will soon have some detailed genealogy about the Illing’s on this site along with some history and pictures of the last 60 years. Please feel free to send me an email if you have comments on additional information I might be able to use.
The following Information is taken from many letters I received from my Uncle Walter K. Illing and my Father Siegfried W. Illing
LETTERS FROM SIEGFRIED W. ILLING TO SIG A. ILLING
Just a couple of details I forgot to include about my mother and father, Paul Illing and Marie Illing:
Marie Modryejewski was of Polish Nobility parents and was more or less disowned because she married Paul Illing. He was a baker by trade so they opened and operated a bakery shop until his death in 1916. We lived above the bakery until I was taken care of by my grandparents.
May 1920, Alfred Illing with his wife, Gertrude, brought Walter and Siegfried to the United States. Arno Illing followed a few weeks later and lived with us in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. We embarked form Copenhagen, Denmark on the S.S. Stockholm, which years later was the ship that collided with and sank the Italian ship "Andrea Dora" (not sure the spelling is correct.). It was a very rough crossing - most passengers kept to their cabins except me - as the ship rolled from side to side, I would slide from the cabin side of the ship to the railing; and then back again across the deck to the cabin side. It's a wonder I didn't go overboard because each time I would grab hold of the railing to keep from going over. We arrived in New York and went through the normal immigration procedures through Ellis Island. Life in Beaver Falls was nothing unusual. We built a home in Patterson Heights which was years ahead of its time in design and quality. The first refrigerator in the country, clothes chutes from each bedroom to the basement laundry, incinerator to burn all trash and garbage, gas heated hot water radiators for heating the house, luxuries way ahead of the time. Recently we visited the area and found the home in perfect condition after 60-some years. I attended school with the father of Tom Wyscoff (again, I'm not sure of my spelling) the famous golf professional.
In 1927, we moved to Mount Vernon, New York, in Westchester County. During the drive across Pennsylvania, Charles Lindberg flew his "Spirit of St. Louis" overhead on his way west after having been the first to fly the Atlantic to Paris. Of course we stopped the car and waved, and since he was so low, we imagined he waved back to us. It took 3 full days to drive across the state in our 1926 model Dodge since the roads were single lane in those days. Would you believe that I was soprano in the boys’ choir at the church of Ascension which was located across the street from the home of Eddie Cantor (famous singing comedian with Ziegfeld Follies). Too, we lived only 2 or 3 blocks from Jack Warner's estate who use to watch us play sandlot baseball by his home. (He was owner of Warner Bros. studios in Hollywood). Art Carney attended high school with me (he was a freshman during my senior year and always attended our football games). He was just another student then and we never dreamed he'd become so famous. Dick Clark also graduated from Mount Vernon High School, but several years later. Frank Carideo used to help coach us in the backfield. He was the All-American quarterback at Notre Dame in 1930-1931 (Knute Rocknes’ last quarterback). The 7 years of my life spent in Mount Vernon were the happiest year before marriage. The 1929 stock market crash changed our entire life! Alfred lost his fortune (about a million, which was wealth in those days). We lost our home, his wife Gertrude had an almost fatal car accident from which she never fully recovered. Walter left home at this time, only 17 years of age and never did return except for one visit in 1935. I finished school and made one of my biggest mistakes not accepting an appointment to West Point. For about a year, I "bummed" around the country doing odd jobs everywhere. In 1934, Frank Carideo became head football coach at the University of Missouri. I had played in high school with his brother so several of us from Mount Vernon got scholarships. He flopped as a coach which ended our tuition, so I transferred to Ohio State on a scholarship arranged by Addis Hull. (Hull Pottery owner then)
Here was another stupid mistake - I quit because my engineering course studies, football practice, and working for my out-of‑ state fee, was more than I thought I could handle. My brother Walter came home at this time for a visit, so he and I opened a Pottery Stand in Bexley, Ohio. We did very well and had plans of opening franchise stands throughout Ohio and New York, but a strike throughout the Pottery Industry put us out of business since we couldn't purchase our products. This period was during the great depression, so once again, I "bummed" around. In 1937, I met your mother in Zanesville and through M.A. Schweiker went to work for Shawnee Pottery which he had just organized. In 1938, we married, had three sons during the period from 1939 to 1951. In 1943, Uncle Sam called me up to serve during WWII. I served for 27 months - 21 of those months in France. Upon my return to civilian life, returned to Shawnee until its closing. You and I operated the Gulf station on Maple Avenue from 1959‑ 1962. In 1963, your mother and I and Bill moved to Jackson, Tennessee, where I had joined American Olean Tile Company to build their new plant. I stayed on until my retirement in 1979, locating in Englewood, Florida. During this period of years in Jackson, we saw the civil rights movements that occurred in the South. Campus uprisings including the burning of buildings at Lane College, an all-negro college of "Roots" fame. Several civil rights riots in Nashville and Memphis. The night Bill totaled my Pontiac was the night Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis.
Alfred relocated from Mount Vernon to Lansdale, Pennsylvania, in 1935 after a short period with the N.R.A. in Zanesville, Ohio. He worked for American Olean Tile there until his retirement in 1949. He died in Philadelphia in 1951.
Walter traveled throughout the United States after leaving home in 1930, finally settling in the Los Angeles area. He had many interesting experiences during his travels which he will no doubt write you about. He served as a Captain with Patton's Third Army during WWII.
Arno was in the Tile manufacturing business all this time in this country. Mostly with Cambridge Tile Company in Cincinnati as a Ceramic Engineer. In 1963, he retired spending the winter months in Florida until his death in 1969.
Sig, what else can I write about? You know the history of yourself, Jim, and Bill. I know nothing of my other uncles lives in Germany. I would suggest however that you write my cousin Guenther in Bremen, Germany, by getting his address from Evelyn. I'll do it for you if you wish. How are your coming with information from any others? If there is anything more I can do, let me know.
All our love,
My memory goes back only to the short period of time that I spent with my mother and grandparents in Germany between 1914 and 1920. My father was killed you know in 1916 on the Russian front. Since my mother could not afford to raise my brothers and me, I lived with my grandmother and grandfather (Adolf and Clara) from 1916 to 1920 at which time I came to America. I recall how fortunate I thought I was because grandma served me oatmeal with goat's milk each morning for breakfast. Remember, we practically starved after my father's death since a revolution took place in Germany directly after the end of the war by the returning defeated German soldiers. Too, my grandparents lived by a railroad crossing in a little village, by the way, called Lichenstein-Callnburg - in the Saxony district of what is not East Germany. The keeper of the gates at the railroad crossing would give me raw turnips which too were SO GOOD to a hungry child. In other words, my earliest recollections are of food - maybe that's why I still crave it!
Another interesting part of this period was the manner in which I was punished when needed - which I am told was often. They raised goats so whenever I misbehaved, into the goat pen I went. They scared me to death at that age so just to threaten a goat pen visit, shaped me up fast! My grandfather walked 10 miles daily since he was retired and wanted to keep in good shape. I used to love going with him part way through the beautiful countryside and famous woods of Saxony.
I remember nothing of my father, but do recall my mother sending me "beer soup" which was like our vegetable soup except made with beer since water and meat broths could not be had. It was during these errands that I would visit the soldiers behind barricades to again beg for scraps of food. Many times bullets ricocheting off of the building I huddled against. How I survived this period is still a mystery!
Sunday, March 16
Okay, here's a little more TRIVIA for what it's worth!
I really never thought much about it, but you brought up a point in your last letter to me that has had me thinking about it ever since - namely "How did I feel about my part in WWII against the country of my birth?" Especially since my older brother was killed on the Russian front the very year I was drafted. Well, I was bitter - and felt I was drafted only because my birth was the country of the enemy. Remember, Wally and I were never legally adopted by our uncle because he thought we would one day want to return to Germany. Now, unknown to us, we were enemy aliens! Well, you can imagine my feelings when the FBI began investigating the false, hysterical accusation made against me by some of our good neighbors! I was supposed to be sending information direct to Hitler himself! Can you imagine such stupid war hysteria. About this time, I was also approached by the German Consul to return to the "Fatherland" and fight for the glory of the "Third Reich". Because I reported this to the FBI and M. Schweikers influence with the governor of Ohio, I obtained my citizenship. Remember, no naturalization papers were being issued at this time to enemy aliens - so this infuriated the local draft board and they called me up immediately. Now I really felt sorry for myself and my thoughts went back to the first days of my arrival in this country. How, as a 5-year old, I was being persecuted for the fact that I came from the land of the "Hun". All of the "Kaisers" acts were my fault! Kids would tie me to trees and then stone me until Wally or Alfred would rescue me. I know now that this was the period my defensive and belligerent attitude toward mankind was developed. All my life I found it hard to get along because of the slightest incident that might occur. I lacked diplomacy - tact - ready to argue or fight at all times. This feeling came again to the surface when we moved to Tennessee. As "Yankees", we were treated worse than their treatment of the black. "Sherman's March Through Georgia" was my fault, and the fact that we came from north of the Mason‑ Dixon line meant the "devil" was in us! Can you see now why I should have resented fighting for this country - but I didn't - I was thankful really for having had the opportunities that I would never had received in Europe. After all, I was raised like any other American youth in spite of the aforementioned incidents, so my true thoughts were all American. I hated before drafted, but after having gone through the war, I wouldn't have missed it!
Hope this is the kind of stuff you want - as I think of more, will send it on.
Sig, be sure to send us your new address and phone number (should it change) and too, I want to mention how glad I am that you are having this correspondence with Wally. I still wish you would get closer to your brothers.
All our love,
LETTERS FROM WALTER K. ILLING TO SIG A. ILLING
February 1, 1986
I will not try to write everything in one letter, but will send it to you a little bit at a time.
I am using notebook pages so that you can file it in a loose-leaf binder. I do have a typewriter which does not work too well, but I do better "thinking" by manual printing.
My basic thoughts about your history is that if it does nothing else, it may point out to us (or to me) why the Illing's have not been very good at getting together!
At least three generations never really socialized with each other. The "Americans" rarely write to the Germans. I never write a letter to my own mother or my own older brother. I never helped at the end of World War II, when relatives were hungry. I did nothing for the widow of my brother or his beautiful daughter.
If you can answer such a question, your history would certainly be worth while.
March 7, 1986
I am not quite sure what kind of a "history" we are writing. Is it a history or is it a "family tree"?
A book nearly always needs some kind of a FORWARD, or an introduction.
The word "history" can mean many things. True events, a story of people, the story of a country, a list of past records, an inquiry, an explanation, an apology, etc.
Are we concerned in the actions of the German Illing's and the thoughts of the American Illing's?
How much guilt do we have? Do we believe in Freud? Do we believe in the perfection of God?
There is a German psychological term, "SCHADENFREUDE", which refers to the relief we feel when something bad happens to someone else instead of to us. The soldier in combat who sees his friend killed 20 yards away while he himself is unhurt. Our brother Freddy would have been the perfect person to bring to America! Sieg and I could have been in the German army! (Sieg and I were contacted by the German counsel in 1935 to report for army duty.)
Who are really the key persons in our family? Alfred Illing was certainly important! He himself discovered America. He became very successful and wealthy. He died a lonely, broken-down, neglected, poor alcoholic!
Your grandmother Marie made a great sacrifice. The original plan was for Sieg and I to be educated in American and return to Germany after high school. Was our mother happy to see us go? Did she have the sorrow of a mother losing her young sons? Did she realize that our opportunities would be greater in America? She had her male friend! I notice that in all of my pictures as a young man, I never smiled, but always frowned.
Did anyone ever write to her? I know one German prisoner at Dachau who came to me when he was freed and offered to look up our mother in Leipzig.
He found her and she wrote me a letter in Dachau which I do not think I answered. I forget.
I was under heavy questioning by the CIA at the time.
Sig - none of these questions are written to you to discourage our history! I only want to know which direction you want to go.
Sieg wrote me a nice letter. He likes your ideas very much.
He sent me the address of the HISTORIC EMIGRATION OFFICE. I will certainly contact them and will also work with out local German counsel.
I bought a cassette edition of German language to improve my Deutsche vocabulary. I think that you and I are headed for a trip to Leipzig.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT I MUST HAVE - IS FIRST NAMES:
Wives of the five brothers - and others
P.S. I am reading and looking for more books about a new philosophy about Germany. Before Hitler and the Nazi, Germany, was the great country to recognize the Jews.
Jewish Yiddish is exactly like German. All the Jewish names were taken from German. Only in Germany were the Jews treated well.
I think the Germans will be treated better some day - about the Jews.
North Hollywood, California
April 24, 1986
I also have been busy with a lot of personal things. It is very easy to keep putting off letters for another day. I am happy to again have a typewriter which makes writing a lot easier. My good IBM has been out of action for about 2 years and I have looked around for a new machine but hated to give up the old faithful. Finally, I took it to a typewriter shop and decided to spend $50 to get it fixed; or if it cost more than $50, I would junk it and buy a new one. I explained my problems with the machine and the mechanic pulled a lever and told me to try writing NOW. It worked perfectly! I could not believe my eyes. The entire operation took 30 seconds. He refused any payment but I insisted that he accept the price of a beer. There must be some kind of a moral to this story.
Today I read a nice line from THOREAU: "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."
I have had no success in finding anything about the Illing's in Germany, but my effort has not been very good. However, I have now laid out some plans for a real detective program.
Let me give you some ideas about which I can report in my next letter:
1. A request to the police department of Altenberg for information about Freddy's wife.
2. The Consulate General at 6435 Wilshire Blvd. has told me that all citizens in Western Germany must register at the Police Station no matter where they move. These records are kept permanently so they must have some information.
3. Today I learned about a German newspaper called the California STAATZEITUNG... I am sure that there are other people like you and I who are looking for relatives and could give some ideas.
4. I was surprised to learn that there are a lot of German churches in Los Angeles where friends could be found.
5. I also found out about a German language club with a P.O. Box number in Pasadena.
6. There is also a German bookstore just a few blocks from where I work.
There are really a lot of places for us to find things once we set our minds into the proper channels.
I wrote a letter to your dad this morning. He has written to me about a plan that he and Jim (your brother) have to visit me in May. The Illing family may still have a "getting together" some day.
I will write to you soon. I send my love to you!
May 12, 1986
DON'T GIVE UP! My present effort is to find Edith Gehring. The L.A. German Consulate has shown me the proper way to address my letter to Germany. He says to mail it to the BURGERMEISTER of Altenburg, German Democratic Republic, Eastern Germany. The letter is on the way. There is no way of knowing how much red tape is involved. I never dreamed that Altenburg was in East Germany. I have also given the necessary information to a friend of mine who travels to Germany nearly every other month on some kind of business. His next trip is in June and he has promised to do some sleuthing. He has also given the information to his secretary because she calls Germany almost every day. I just discovered about his connections to Germany last week.
All these little "difficulties" are time consuming for us but, in the long run, they will be very interesting.
I am determined to find Freddy's widow and/or his daughter. My belated shame is very deep.
You should have told me about Ferdinand. I would have bet him in the Kentucky Derby.
We must figure out a way to get Evelyn to open her mouth!
My best to you.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF WALTER K. ILLING
I saw my father once! This was the first thing I can remember ever seeing. He was dressed in a soldier's uniform and held a baby in his arms. He was holding Sieg at the age of about 3 months, which made me about 15 months old.
We lived in a second floor flat on Donnerstrasse, Leipzig. The older brother, Freddy, was 2 years older than I.
Our mother was an attractive redhead. She supported us by scrubbing floors at night in a building. (Not nearby because she rode a street car.) In the winter, we boys would visit the building where our mother passed to us. Hunks of coal to take home with which to warm the flat.
The big event in our lives was a train trip to Liechtenstein to visit the Illing Grossvater and Grossmutter. We looked forward to eating potato pancakes.
Grossvater was proud of his good berries. He had a goat which was hitched to a goat cart and wheeled around the town. We picked up horse manure off the streets for fertilizer for the garden.
I remember a small hole in the cement of the rear of the house. There Grossvater allowed the blood from a freshly killed goose to coagulate so that it could be made into blutwurst. That is still my favorite cold German sausage.
Alfred and Gertrude came to Leipzig and brought us some liverwurst.
WALTER AND SIEG TO AMERICA
Our uncle Alfred was the oldest of the five Illing brothers. He came to the United States early in this century.
He was a fine artist and helped to make maps for the U.S. Government. There is a rumor that our father visited him there in the U.S. before the World War I. (It is possible) Later in the German army, he was killed in Russia.
A couple of years after World War I, Uncle Alfred and his wife, Gertrude, came to Germany to visit his parents and brothers.
One afternoon, when our mother was away, Sieg and I were alone. I don't know where Freddy was. Sometimes he visited the armory nearby where some German (or other soldiers) lived. He always carried a tin cup in case there was some hot chocolate. I asked him why he also carried a spoon.
"That is for the lumps in the chocolate." he answered. I never saw any signs of chocolate.
This day, Alfred and Gertrude came into the flat and introduced themselves. They brought beautiful fresh rolls and a huge piece of liverwurst. We were told to eat every bit of it and not to leave any for our mother (I now suspect that our mother - of Polish descent - was not greatly loved by the Illing family).
I loved her.
That was a feast I shall always remember. We ate every bit of it, "Wir habe es wie ein hund ge-essen.", after they left, and had some nasty cuts on our hands from our childish use of a kitchen knife.
Alfred and Gertrude came again another day and met us on the street. Uncle Alfred asked us how we would like to come to America where the children have toy autos and lots to eat. I laughed! I remember sitting at a table watching Grossmutter making pajamas and other children clothes. She was telling the neighbor children that the clothes were for Sieg and I to wear to America. The children did not believe this story. (Today, Sieg and Burnita have these pajamas as great mementos.)
Grossvater walked with us in the beautiful forests. He gave us advice that I remember to this day.
He had fought in the war of 1870 when Bismarck had defeated France. He received a small Government pension.
This was the time of unbelievable inflation in Germany. A postage stamp would cost a million marks. A loaf of bread might cost millions of marks one day and the next day could cost a billion marks. Grossvater and Grossmutter had a large mortgage on their house. Alfred gave them a few American dollars to trade for enough marks to pay off the complete mortgage. However, she used the money to buy a new kitchen stove. A few days later, Alfred gave his mother a dollar which now proved enough to pay off the complete mortgage!
A few days later, our mother took us to our Uncle and Aunt's hotel room. We took a train to Berlin and then through Denmark and Sweden. We reached New York after a wonderful "sailing" on the S.S. Stockholm.
THE AMERICANIZATION OF SIEG AND WALTER
From New York, we took an all-night train to Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, which is near Pittsburgh.
We slept in a Pullman car. I was in the upper berth. When I woke up in the morning, I spotted a huge black smiling porter.
I shouted, "Ist hier America?" The porter laughed, "Yes, this is America!" I reached out from my berth, put my arms around his neck, and kissed him on both cheeks.
For many years I heard the story of my kissing a black negro! I have always had tender feelings about the negroes.
Up the hill from Beaver Falls was a residential area called Patterson Heights. In September, Sieg and I started school after only 3 months in America. The little school had four grades in the lower room and four grades in a room up above. At first we had some tough times. We were asked if the Kaiser had won the war. We were in many childhood fights but eventually became good friends to all of the neighborhood kids.
After I finished the first four grades at the little schoolhouse, Uncle Alfred enrolled me in a better school down at Beaver Falls.
There was a unique small "incline" rail car that transported people up the hill to Patterson Heights. The fare was 6 cents. Alfred said if I would walk up the hill he would put the 6 cents into a fund to buy milk for our brother Freddy in Germany. I walked up that hill for several years. I do not remember having any correspondence with our older brother. He was raised in Liechtenstein by our grandparents. (NOTE: This Liechtenstein is not the country by that name, but a small village in Germany.) One time Freddy did send us a beautiful bread tray that he had made in a wood-carving school.
Our Americanization became so complete that we completely forgot the German language. The anti-German feelings during and after World War I were much stronger than in World War II. Our enemies were the Nazi and Hitler more so than the German people.
During World War I, "hamburgers" were called "Liberty Patties" and French toast was changed from German toast. Germans were called Huns! German soldiers were accused of cutting off the limbs of Belgian children, etc.
So in 1920, being only 2 years after the war, we subconsciously buried all thoughts of being Germans.
I remember that in the Eighth grade once, a teacher asked the pupils to raise their hand if they were born in a foreign country. I did not raise my hand. The teacher knew that I was born in Germany and asked why I did not admit that I was from a foreign country. I merely blushed and still did not raise my hand.
In high school, I studied German. It is the only subject that I constantly failed.
I VISIT UNCLE GUSTAVE
Do not be surprised if Evelyn Illing's contribution to your book is somewhat sketchy. I believe that her experiences of life - first 12 years under the Nazi and later under the Russian control and now in Western Germany - could certainly make things very confusing for her!
NOTE: In my operation 2 years ago, I lost a few cells; thus my poor spelling.
In World War II, we were forbidden to speak and mingle with Germans except for necessary business. However, I decided to visit my Uncle Gustave at Altenberg about 300 miles from our Bivouac. My troops were negroes and my jeep driver's nickname was Peanuts because of his size.
When we arrived in Altenberg, I stopped at the police station and asked for the address of Gustave Illing.
NOTE: Altenberg was called the "Golden City" because no bomb had ever landed there!
A German policeman accompanied me to the well-known "Eisenhandler." It was an attractive two-family house. I was, of course, dressed in my army uniform. I ran up the stairways and knocked on the door. A woman about 30 years old fearfully opened the door.
"Ich Mochte Gern Herr Illing Sehen", I screamed in the door. A German of course had no idea what an American officer might demand.
Immediately Uncle Gustave hurried to the door still slipping on the coat to his suit. In a very stern voice I asked, "Do you know who I am?" No pause. Of course he answered, "You are Walter!" As if he had just seen me yesterday instead of 25 years ago.
We embraced the great joy as his wife and daughter Evelyn joined us! The lady who had answered the door was the wife of our brother Freddy. A 5-year old blonde was my brother Freddy's beautiful daughter. I still did not know that our brother had been killed in Russia.
I had brought plenty of cigarettes, food, and liquor with me, expecting to find the usual poverty-stricken German home. However, Gustave's business of "Eisenhandler" was a lucrative, highly respected iron and junk dealer.
I visited for 3 days sleeping on silk sheets. Peanuts stayed in a guest house over the garage. He was an interesting person for the Germans to see. We ate well, drank rather heavily, and sang around the piano. Uncle Gustave explained to me that he had never been a Nazi but all of his neighbors were Nazis. (A typical story that I heard from many other Germans; certainly understandable and not to be criticized.)
Evelyn, at the age of 12, had been a member of the Hitler Jugend. The parents were very careful of their talk and actions because many children had turned in members of their family.
Gustave's wife (I think her name was Erma) wore a razor blade on a chain around her neck. This was for suicide in case the dreadful Russians take over the city of Altenberg. The Russians did take over the city. I am sure she did not use the razor blade but her fear was tremendous.
Freddy's widowed wife showed me the personal things that our brother had carried and worn at the Russian front. Somehow one of his friends (Kriegs Bruder) had brought them home. I stared at them. I touched them and we wept together.