Otto and Gertrud Baltutt

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Hermann Otto Baltutt and Gertrud Jakumeit were married on 27 October 1934 in Memel, East Prussia, Germany.

As a historical note, at the time Memel was not actually part of Germany. Under the Versailles Treaty of 1918, which ended World War I, Memel and the surrounding region (known at the time by its Lithuanian name, Klaipėda) had been detached from Germany and made a protectorate of the Entente States. This entity was the coalition of countries led by France, Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan against the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria during the First World War. The French served as the provisional administrators of the region until 1923, when Lithuania forced the withdrawal of the French and annexed the region. By the time Germany reacquired Memel as part of its formal territory in 1939, Otto and Gertrud had long since moved to Germany's state of East Prussia.

The reason for the Baltutts' move was that Otto had enlisted in the German Army shortly after their marriage, and his subsequent assignment to the military post at Gilgenburg in the Osterode District (or county) of East Prussia. He served his entire approximately four-year enlistment at Gilgenburg, and this was where the couple's first two children, Edith and Rita, were born. By the time their third daughter, Irmgard, was born in December 1938, Otto had been discharged from the Army, the family had moved to the District capital of Osterode, and he had taken employment as a machinist at a factory in Königsberg (now in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad), the capital of East Prussia, 74 miles north of Osterode. This distance necessitated that Otto spend his work weeks in Königsberg, so he was home only on weekends. It was while they were living in Osterode that their fourth daughter, Waltraut, was born in 1940.

In January of 1945 the Soviet Army began their final thrust into East Prussia, and on the 20th they broke through the southern border not 20 kilometers south of Osterode. The population was finally given leave to flee by the criminally and cowardly Nazi administration, and chaos erupted. By some miracle, Otto had managed to find a train that took him to Osterode's main train station, where he met up with his wife and children, whereupon they boarded a refugee train headed north as the sun was setting. The train was nearing the village of Grünhagen when it was stopped by a train wreck that had occurred not long before. The family had to continue their flight on foot in the snow. Morning light found them at the outskirts of Preussisch Holland, where they stopped to take shelter in an abandoned house. Over the next couple of days, Soviet tanks and troops passed by, some of whom stopped to loot in the neighborhood, until the house was taken over by a Soviet tank unit for a headquarters. The commander permitted them to remain in the house, provided that Gertrud cook for the headquarters' officers, and for the next two weeks they were able to avoid the depredations that were taking place in the rest of the town and countryside.

Finally, the tank unit moved on, and as the next unit that would be using the house had no interest in having them on hand, the tank unit commander advised them to move on into town where there were abandoned buildings to occupy. They settled on the second floor of a furniture workshop, where they remained for the next week or two. It was on 13 February, while Otto and Gertrud were out scavenging for food, water and wood or coal to burn, that they discovered a sign announcing that all German civilians in town had to report in to the Soviet occupation forces to register themselves, or be summarily executed. After discussing whether or not registering themselves would be wise, they decided obedience was the safer course, and after reassuring their daughters that they would be back soon, they went to find a registration office.

They never returned.

After Otto was extensively interviewed, he was immediately taken away. Gertrud, thinking he would return soon, remained in the office hallway waiting. After some time had passed, a man came to her and told her to leave. She protested that she was waiting for her husband, but the man told her that he wasn't coming back, and that she had to leave. She did leave, and started heading back to the house where their daughters were waiting, but along the way she happened upon a group of Soviet soldiers who were guarding a barbed-wire enclosure housing some adult women, and they took her into custody, too. Thus began a long journey for her as she was transported into the Soviet Union, and ended up in a forced labor camp near the Ural Mountains.

Gertrud was eventually released from forced labor after 3 1/2 years, and made her way back to Germany, where she was eventually reunited with her daughters in Berlin. But what became of Otto has never been discovered.


  1. Edith Gertrud Baltutt (1934 - 2020)
  2. Rita Inge Baltutt (b. 1936)
  3. Irmgard Baltutt (b. 1938)
  4. Waltraut Baltutt (1940 - 2015)