m. bef 1832
Facts and Events
According to family stories, Karl von Kraatz was born on the Isle of Rügen, in the north of Germany to a military family. He was an officer in the Prussian army and when not at war took care of the Kaiser's horses and helped teach the Kaiser's children how to ride. He was wounded in the Franco Prussian War, taken in by a farm family for a year, and emigrated to the United States in 1872. In the United States he lived near Evanston, Illinois.
Memories of a Granddaughter
"In Germany, Grandpa was an officer in the German army, and when he wasn't, there wasn't a war, he had a cottage on the Kaiser's estate where he and his family lived and he took care of the Kaiser's horses and taught the children (the Kaiser's children) horsemanship. He taught Kaiser Wilhelm how to ride horseback. Well, in Germany, when Germany conquered a country, the people of those, that country had a choice: they could either stay in their country and become Germans or they could get out. If they stayed in the country they had to become Germans, so when Father, Grandfather decided to come to America to live, he became an American just as quick as he could. He and his wife took out American citizenship papers and the children were put in American homes to learn the language and learn the American ways. And he changed his name from Karl von Kraatz to Charlie Kratz. In every way that he possibly could, he became an American. . . .
[When I was 21] "Mother had word from her mother saying that she was sick. Now Grandma lived in Chicago, and Mother couldn't go. . . . I knew none of her relatives excepting Grandma, who lived with Mother's sister, and I didn't know this aunt of mine at'all. I didn't know any of them. I knew Uncle Max, but he wasn't...Well, I didn't know Uncle Max, only that I knew him through writing, but I wouldn't know him if I met him on the street. But anyway I went, . . . .
"Uncle Max lived in Winnetka, another suburb of Chicago, and he wanted me to come there, so I went there to visit. . . . and they were very wealthy. . . . He was a banker. He hadda go down to main Chicago with his bank every once in a while, the Bank of Winnetka. . . . while I was there [in 1917 after the United States entered World War I] I decided that being a German wasn't such a good thing. I was in Chicago in a German slum [sic, meaning a neighbourhood of German immigrants]. And my grandmother, my grandfather had known the Kaiser of Germany personally, and he had trained the Kaiser's children. Now Kaiser Wilhelm had grown up, and he was the leader of the country now. My grandmother had a great big enlarged picture of him hanging in her living room. And Uncle Max used to sit on his front porch and play the bass violin, and he played all the old German songs and the patriotic songs of Germany and so on. And they told, my cousin told him, "Uncle Max, you're gonna have to stop that." . . . . But pretty soon the cops came along and he was no longer allowed to play German songs, and Grandma hadda take down the Kaiser's picture. I think that hurt her as much as taking down one of her own son's pictures. She felt terrible that she hadda take down the Kaiser's picture. And about that time when I got ready to go home Grandma told me I could take anything I wanted out of...she had a lot of old __________ of all kinds. She said I could take anything I wanted, and there were some pictures. There was a picture of my grandfather with Bismarck, sitting at a table talking and there was one picture of Grandfather out in the field as a officer in the German army, and she wanted to give me those pictures. I wanted 'em alright, but I couldn't figure myself going home during the war with pictures of German officers in my suitcase, so I turned 'em down, didn't dare take 'em home. I'd give anything to have them now, but I never got a chance to get them again."