Cindy McLeod Watts’s mother was Gertrud Schoettner McLeod, born in 1925 in Radisfort, Czechoslovakia.
Gertrud died in 2015 in a nursing home in Fayetteville, NC. Her obituary is very short; this is unusual in that it doesn’t list any family except Cindy Watts and Cindy’s sister, Linda and that there are four grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren, all unidentified.
Obits like this sometimes indicate some degree of family estrangement, but not necessarily so. It contrasts with obituaries from the Rzucek family which are much more loving toward the deceased and contain more extended family names and relationships. (Overall, the Rzucek and Watts families seem contrasted in that the Watts family seems impoverished somehow whereas the Rzuceks appear more connected and loving, but that’s just what is seen from here.)
Gertrud’s documents say that she was stateless. This could be from any number of reasons. I won’t speculate about that here, but her status could have been a decided disadvantage to her in Czechoslovakia. and later, in Germany.
Radisfort is near Trebic where there was a Jewish community of about 300 in the 1930s. (formerly 1500 people lived there in 1890s) The Jewish people living there in the ’30s were taken to the German concentration camps and killed. Only 10 came back to the area after WWII.
Gertrud’s papers show that she and Herman Dalton McLeod married in Landshut, Germany in 1951. Gertrud’s and Herman’s first daughter, Doris L(inda) McLeod was born in Germany; Cindy was born at Fort Bragg, NC.
Herman’s online documents show that he served in the US Army 1943-1963. The U.S. Army maintained facilities in Landshut until 1968. Herman died in 1991, having served 20 years in the US Army.
Gertrud’s physical description on her naturalization application is age 30; weight 136; 5 feet 3 inches tall; hair blonde; eyes blue. (I thought of Cece.)
The family was living in Hodgenville, Kentucky when the naturalization petition was filed. Hodgenville is 25 miles from Fort Knox, the US gold repository. They moved to North Carolina at some point, likely to the Fort Bragg area where Herman McLeod could have been stationed.
That area is where Cindy grew up.
Landshut, Germany is the location for the Dachau Concentration Camp, opened in 1933 to hold political prisoners. We don’t know at what point Gertrud moved to Landshut. Possibly she was there during the time Dachau operated. She would most certainly have heard the stories of what happened there. Since Herman was in the military by age 22 in 1943, he likely was sent to the European theater of war and could have been part of the US forces that liberated Dachau in 1945, but this is just speculation.
This Wikipedia link about Dachau goes into detail about what happened there
Since Gertrud lived to 2015, and lived near Chris and his family in North Carolina, he could have had regular contact with her. Did she talk about her experiences in World War II era Czechoslovakia and Germany? Did she tell stories about Dachau? Could she have sparked an interest in Chris in the concentration camps?
I thought of the Stephen King book, Apt Pupil, where a young boy becomes friends with an old man living in America who was once a concentration camp prison guard. The man gradually begins to tell the boy of the atrocities in the camp, and the boy becomes obsessed – asking the man to tell him about the “gooshy stuff”, details of the horrible things that went on in the camp. Eventually, the boy turns to murder as a way to keep his own demons at bay.
Chris’s grandmother may have lived in a town where some of worst crimes against humanity in history occurred and it is possible that she lived there when the camp was operating. There is no way of knowing if Gertrud talked to Chris about this unless someone in the family says she did.
One final thought: Cindy’s background had this connection to mass violence and murder. Ronnie Watts’s family was wounded by violence as well. Ronnie’s direct ancestor was a soldier in America’s greatest killing spree – the Civil War, Confederate side. There are other Civil War soldiers in those family lines. The official numbers for the Civil War dead are in the range of 700,000 total for both sides.
Living people today revere their Civil War soldier ancestors and many Southerners are still angry about the outcome of the war. I see this in my own family. The current rise is neofascism in this country has appropriated symbols of that war and in some cases, they blend the Nazi swastika with the Confederate flag image.
North Carolina was torn apart more than some areas by the war, with the brother against brother and neighbor against neighbor killing amounting to a war within a war. The movie and book, Cold Mountain, is a good depiction of this.
All that said, the Watts family is a closed system. Endless speculation as I have done really doesn’t add much because a direct connection to Chris’s deeds in 2018 is just not there and unlikely to be proven.
Kentucky, Naturalization Records, 1906-1991
The National Archives at Atlanta; Atlanta, Georgia; Petitions for Naturalization, compiled 1906 – 1978;
NAI: 1275754; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21
Wikipedia articles about Dachau, Landshut, and Trebic