The Koenig Family Spent Many Years Abroad

My grandmother Hildegard Paul (b. Koenig)  and her two older sisters, Editha and Käthe and an older brother Robert spent much of their childhood abroad. Another sister died young while the family was living in Zanzibar off Africa’s east coast.

Hildegard’s father Harry Koenig was a high-ranking general physician in the German Navy. His work took him and his family to Zanzibar, an island outside Tanzania on the African East Coast, a German colony 1885-1914, where their first child Editha was born in 1890. When Hildegard was little the family moved to China and lived there for a couple of years before returning to Germany.  Before deciding to accept the position as surgeon in the Far East, Harry Koenig asked the family maid Varvi if she would come with them if they moved across the globe. Varvi was the stable bedrock the household rested upon, and first after getting her approval Harry asked his wife Auguste.

Käthe, Editha and Hildegard in China in 1905.

The picture to the above is of my grandmother, her older sisters Editha (Ditha) and  Käthe wearing traditional Japanese outfits posing for the camera in 1905. In one of the pictures one can see the Japanese sandals that I have in my home. It is unclear whether the family also lived in Japan.

The family traveled by boat and train to Tsingtau (Quindao), a strategically important port town in the Shandong province on the east coast of China, which was controlled by Germany until World War I. (1898-1914).  The Germans transformed this small fishing village into a modern town with safe drinking water, a sewer system, electricity, and government buildings and built a railroad to Jinan, the province capital. The area had the highest school density and the highest student enrollment in all of China, with primary, secondary and vocational schools funded by Germany and Protestant and Roman Catholic missions. In 1903 German business people started a brewery that today is well-known under the name Tsingtao Brewery.

The family stayed long enough in China for Harry and Auguste to become fluent in mandarin, which their used as their secret language after moving back to Germany.  Among her siblings Hildegard was closest to Robert and Käthe who were close to her in age. Editha was nine years older than Hildegard.

Käthe, Auguste, Harry, Hildegard, Robert and Editha Koenig returning from China in 1909.

Upon returning to Germany in 1909, Harry became the chief of medicine of a large sanatorium in Tegel outside Berlin where Hildegard received much attention being his youngest daughter, and a lively, charming child. She was not happy about leaving Tegel for Berlin when her father retired from that position and moved to Kaiserallee, today named Bundesallee, in Berlin. Auguste did not care much for Berlin either and once Harry permanently retired  they moved to Cuxhafen on the north shore of Germany where they had been spending summers.

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