Pictures and Videos

Here is a selection of photos of family and events, which hopefully help bring the story to life. Unfortunately, as you will appreciate, many of the early family photos were left behind in East Prussia, which is now Russia.

Thankfully, Helene went back to Kaukhemen and put as many family mementos as she could in a pram; that is the only reason that there are any photos to share at all.


The Family

The Contessa and Franz Zomm, in the late 1800s, needed to relinquish her nobility when she married a commoner. They had three daughters and three sons.

The three Zomm sisters Helene, Trude and Anna, also known as Anita.

Helene Zomm married Julius Saul, and they had four children.

Grete and Gunther, her son.

Lotte and Adolf Keller, in a newspaper clipping of their wedding day.

Anita and Herbert, taken with friends shortly after they first met in 1926.

A picture of Anita (Mutti) taken in her twenties.

Betty and Walter on their wedding day.

Mutti (Anita) in her early thirties

Herbert Tollkuhn was conscripted into the German Army at the age of about 30.

Betty Saul, who married Walter, Helene and Julius’s son

Walter joined the NAZI party when he was just 18 years old.

Walter’s wife Betty, with her five children

Inge at four years old

This is a picture of Inge with her cousin Harald; he was Betty and Walters son. They were only about three years apart and quite close growing up. Harald is Raymond’s father, who we found during the writing of this book.

Inge and her cousin Gunther, he was Grete’s son.

Inge aged 16

Inge at the apartment in Konigsberg in the summer of 1944, aged seventeen

This was Dennis Hopper (senior) shortly after he married Inge

Inge in her twenties in the UK

Inge’s two children, Marianne and Dennis (Jnr), in 1958

Mutti and Sepp Hospodarz in the 1950s, they divorced in 1960s

Four generations of females in the family, Helene, Anita, Inge and Marianne.

Inge worked at Parkside hospital in her thirties

Still sporty in her 50’s

Inge in her sixties

Inge and her daughter, Marianne and son Dennis on her 80th birthday.

Inge in 2014, just 10 months before she passed away.

Then and Now

Kaukehmen Marketplace
Inge took a photo of the centre of the market place which still stood, this held memories of christmas lights and we believe may have lit up the whole square.

The House of Helene and Julius Saul
Most of the trees are still there lining the square and although dilapidated, the buildings still bore the hallmark of the Prussian architecture of a hundred years before.

The Schloss
Shown in Summer and Winter.

The Robot
This is what the Russian built after they destroyed the Schloss. The Robot or house of soviets, where the beautiful Scholss once stood.


Cranz was a holiday town for the people of East Prussia, and it was where Anita and Herbert ran a hotel called the Blaue Moewe and where Inge spent much of her time growing up. She would pick Amber off the beach, and it was as they left Cranz with Herbert that he gave Inge his ring and his watch and asked her to look after then as he said he did not need for them

It was from Cranz that the family fled as the Russians were advancing in January 1945. They fled when the Russians were just 20 minutes away and already rampaging through the country, raping and killing women and children as they did so.

They escaped along the beach carrying a white sheet over themselves as the aeroplanes bombed the people on the beach below.

Nazis & Hitler

There are many documentaries about Adolf Hitler, and we are not claiming to be experts in the rise and fall of this man. However, for the benefit of any reader who may not have learned about this man, here is a brief synopsis of his life.

Adolf Hitler was born in Austria on April 20th 1889. His parents were poor and very strict. His father died when he was 13, and shortly after that, Adolf left school without any school certificates. In 1907 he went to Vienna, intending to go to art school, but he was rejected and failed to get into the Vienna school of Architecture as he had no qualifications.

He struggled financially and started to engage in political activity. However, the lack of success and rejection may likely have started to affect his mental state, and he had to undertake menial jobs to make ends meet. By 1913 he was facing military service, which he took steps to avoid by moving to Munich. Yet after the outbreak of war in 1914, he joined up and was awarded the Iron Cross for services on the Western front.

In 1918 as the first world war ended, Hitler was temporarily blinded by a British gas attack but returned to his regiment and was intent on staying in the army as it gave him a purpose in his life. In 1919 he was posted to the intelligence/propaganda section and beginning his political training. During this period, he began to make speeches and spoke about German nationalism and anti-communism. He joined the German worker’s party, which was anti-Semitic and incredibly right-wing.

Germany was forced to sign a treaty at the Palace of Versailles in the hall of mirrors, and this came to be known as the Treaty of Versailles. See Picture (1) Many politicians felt that the treaty left Germany humiliated and needing to give a lot away, not least the ‘war guilt clause’ where Germany was forced to accept responsibility for the war starting in the first place.

In 1920, Hitler was discharged from the army and took on greater responsibilities with the name of the German worker’s party to the National Socialist German workers party or (Nazi for short). However, he was soon challenged to become a leader. In 1923, he with others attempted to overthrow the Bavarian government; as they marched on the streets, the police opened fire, and Hitler was captured and tried for treason. Serving nine months in prison, he started to dictate his thoughts to his friend Rudolf Hess and wrote the book “Mein Kampf”.

In 1925 Hitler re-formed the NAZI party and gathered support until, in 1930, he had 107 representatives in parliament (the Reichstag), making the NAZI party the second-largest party in Germany. There were reports of a romantic liaison with his half-sister’s daughter, which he denied, and his ‘niece’ was found dead in his flat in 1931; the verdict was suicide. Picture 2

In 1932, Hitler became a German citizen and, in January 1933, held a third of the seats in The Reichstag. In February, the Reichstag was destroyed by fire, almost certainly orchestrated by the Nazis, and the blame was placed on the communists. By March, all powers of legislation were passed to Hitler’s cabinet for four years, and he announced the NAZI party to be the only pollical party of Germany. Effectively Germany was now a dictatorship.

Support for Hitler and the Nazis grew, as did the crowds coming to listen to him in the years preceding the war. Pictures 2
In 1938, the Austrian Chancellor, the Austrian Nazi Party leader, invited the German army to occupy Austria and proclaim a union with Germany. Picture 3. The same year the British prime minister travelled to Germany to meet with Hitler, and they signed the Munich agreement giving Germany the borderlands of Czechoslovakia.

By November of that year, the Nazi’s start to destroy Jewish shops and over 400 synagogues were burnt. In 1939 Hitler invaded Poland, and World War 2 started. Hitler stayed in Berlin until the last, and two days before his suicide, he married his long term lover Eva Braun. Picture 5.

The British advanced from the west and the Russians from the East, and here you can see a Russian soldier raising the Russian flag over the German Reichstag in 1941.

The Flight

In Late Summer 1944, it became apparent to many East Prussians that Germany was beginning to lose the war. So numerous people decided to escape from their homeland, even though Berlin and the Military leaders’ message was to stay out and wait for Victory.

As time went on, people flocked to the station platforms; hundreds and hundreds would try and get on board every train that came into the stations. Unfortunately, many people clung on like limpets to the outside of the trains, and consequently, some lost their lives.

This picture of Cranz illustrates just how bad the winters were, and Inge often recalled that the winters were like a scene from the film Dr Zhivago. This was the scene on the night they fled, except it was worse as there was a blizzard and visibility was down to a few yards.

Many people took a horse and cart and as many possessions as they could, often across the frozen sea and the beach covered in ice and snow, making them a target for the English and Russian bombers.

The frozen sea made transportation easier as long as the ice didn’t give way.

Many horses lost their lives as they pulled carts that sunk under their weight as the ice broke under their feet.

People took everything they could, and as a consequence, some people perished as the ice broke beneath them.

Once people made it to the other side of the frozen water in Pilau, the spit then took them to West Prussian and Poland.

This map shows Pilau & the frozen ice they cross to get to the Frische Nehrung.

Wilhelm Gustloff

The Wilhelm Gustloff was named after a Nazi who was murdered by a Jew called David Frankfurter. The ship was built as part of the ‘strength through joy’ project, where workers were encouraged to take holidays. It was classless.

The ship was docked in Gotenhafen and represented a symbol of hope for all the refugees who trudged through unbelievable conditions for days to reach it.

Thousands climbed the gangways to get on board this ship, but the count of people was lost after 7000 people when they ran out of paper.

People were packed onto every deck and available corner of the ship.

Imagine dancing on the dancefloor of this dining room; on the night of 30th January 1945, this floor was packed with desperate people needing to escape the advancing Russian troops.

The swimming pool was decorated in beautiful mosaic tiles. As the second torpedo ripped into this swimming pool, it caused massive injuries to the people in there who managed first to escape drowning.

The X marks the area where Anita and Inge settled for the night before setting sail, and where Anita (Mutti) had her dream. This dream caused her to insist they disembarked and ultimately saved their lives.

The ship set sail with good intent but was being shadowed by a Russian U boat

After the torpedoes hit, some of the lifeboats’ davits were frozen, and further lives were lost.

Some of the Lifeboat Davits were frozen sending its occupants into the sea

Many lifeboats were not at total capacity when they set off

Stairs were dangerous under the burst fire extinguishers leaving foam underfoot.

An artists impression is drawn from the memories of those few that survived.