The Kings Of Kallstadt
— My Village, Ketchup And The Prince Of New York
By Karl Holman
This is the title and subtitle of a 2014 German film by Simone Wendel, which was classified as comedy. Where the hell his Kallstadt and who on earth are its “kings?”
I visited the village last June at the end of my trip to Europe. Kallstadt is a charming village in the Rhineland-Palatinate, one of Germany’s 16 federal states. During much of the 19th century, it was part of the principality of Bavaria. Population: 1,225. Friendly and scenic, surrounded by vineyards on sloping hills. Popular folklore has it that a white wine from Kallstadt was served at the coronation dinner of Princess Elizabeth in June 1953.
Still, what’s all the fuss about? For one, Kallstadt is the ancestral home of Johann Heinrich Heinz, founder of the H. J. Heinz Company (as in Ketchup), 1876.
And, it also happens to be the birthplace of Friedrich Trump, or as the locals say, “Drumpf,” grandfather of the 45th President of the United States, and of Elizabeth Trump, nee Christ, his grandmother.
As Simone Wendel, a native of the town, suggests in her film “The Kings of Kallstadt”, that the locals have more appreciation for the Heinz family because they recently provided a major donation for the renovation of the organ in the local church, St. Salvator, while Trump did not contribute a dime.The Heinz’s also have returned to the village for occasional holidays, although they prefer to remain incognito. Trump never has. In fact, for a time he denied his German heritage and claimed to be Swedish.
The Deutsche Welle notes: “The villagers used to have a better opinion of Donald Trump before he started his boisterous campaign.” And a local vineyard owner said, when I asked: “He comes from a nice family. We just wish he would shut up.” Or as a well-known Kallstadt phrase goes: “Before you put your mouth into gear, be sure to turn your brain on.”
The vintner and his wife took me on a tour of the village, showed me the house where grand-father Friedrich Trump was born and that of his grandmother Elizabeth Christ, right across the street from each other.
No plaque commemorates its former owners. My friendly tour guides dropped me off at the cemetery, where I found a couple of Trump and Heinz grave sites. The Guardian newspaper (Kallstadt, Germany: on the trail of The Donald) also mentions “the faint outline where once “Trump” was set in wrought iron above a bunch of silver grapes at a winery that went bankrupt several years ago”.
Trump’s grandfather Friedrich left Germany (then Bavaria) in 1885 for the United States, at the age of sixteen, without notifying the authorities. From New York, the young Friedrich decided to go west, eventually settling in Seattle, where he opened “The Dairy Restaurant”. It had a curtained-off area that served as a low-rent whorehouse, according to Gwenda Blair, who had the family’s cooperation in her history of the Trumps. In 1892, Friedrich became a US citizen, lying about his age by saying he’d landed in New York two years before he had.
After hearing about the Klondike gold rush, “Frederick” headed for Canada’s Yukon Territory. He had no interest in the hard, physical labor of panning for gold in frigid streams; so, he “mined the miners” instead. He built a bar and grill on a land claim that wasn’t his own. It offered hard liquor and again “sporting ladies,” as the prostitutes then were called. So, the current person in the White House was not the first ….. grabber of the family.
By the time the gold was running out and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police came riding in, Fredrick had made a small fortune to take with him. In 1901, at age 32, he returned to Germany, where his mother introduced her “nouveau riche” son to eligible young ladies. He, however, took a liking to a woman from across the street, which his mother did not care for, a twenty-year-old, named Elizabeth Christ, blond and with big boobs. Thus, Trump men favoring busty blondes would become also a family pattern.
Fredrick took his new bride with him to America and scouted for opportunities to increase his fortune. But Elizabeth did not like New York. She desperately wanted to go home. So, in 1904, Friedrich or Frederick, by now, sailed back to Germany, with his young wife and their infant daughter. Once there, however, he had to convince the authorities to overlook the fact that he had left Germany (Bavaria), without notifying the authorities, shortly before facing mandatory military service. Draft dodging thus became another family trait.
In a flowery, syrupy letter to the Prince of Bavaria, full of “alternate facts”, Frederick begged to be allowed to remain in Kallstadt. He explained his absence to the government in writing: “I did not emigrate to avoid military service, but to establish a livelihood that would enable me to support my sick mother”.The German authorities didn’t buy it, established a “Trump ban”and ordered him togo back where he had come from.
Donald never knew his grandfather, because in 1918 Frederick died in the Spanish Flu epidemic, leaving Elizabeth, still homesick for Kallstadt, having to fend for herself and her three children. To support her family, she founded the real estate company Elizabeth Trump & Son with Fred, Donald’s father. So, if there is a hero in all this,” points out Wendel, “it should really be Elizabeth.” Nevertheless, with his greed for money and flouting legal niceties, grandfather Friedrich cast a century-long shadow over the Trump family.
As a native of Germany, I extend my sincerest apologies on behalf of my “fatherland” to all US citizens for having inflicted Herr Trump on you.