Early years in Kusel
„Little Fritz (Fritzchen) has arrived today“
On the 16th of September 1892 Paul Wunderlich, father of Fritz Wunderlich was born in Mühlhausen (Thüringen). He made his living by playing the cello in various bands specialized in playing dance music. His wife Anna Malz was born on December 11th 1888 in Köstelwald (Erzgebirge). The couple met in Cypress, where Paul was working as a conductor. Their first child Marianne was born on July 19th 1919 in Landsberg an der Warthe (now Poland).
In 1929 the little family moved to Kusel where they lived in Trierer Straße 27.
Together with the restaurant „Zum Preußischen Hof“ (later named Emrich’s Braustübl) and the „Central Kino“ (local cinema) the apartment on the upper floor is their new home. In the early morning of the 26th of September Paul Wunderlich announced the birth of little Fritz with the sign: „Fritzchen has arrived today. Restaurant closed!“
Due to the lack of business, the Wunderlich family soon had to close the restaurant.
In 1935 the family moved to the Schwebelstraße and shortly after, Paul Wunderlich commited suicide, the rest of he family moved into their new house in the Hollerstraße.
School years in Kusel
On March 5th 1937 the local newspaper reported the following:
“Kusel – 75 children were registered for the first grade at the elementary school this year.
Whereas last year, two thirds of the students were boys, this year proportion of first-graders is about the same“.
The children, born between 1930 and 1931, all started school in May at the local elementary school called „Luitpoldschule“. For the first school year, the boys were taught by Mr. Wilhelm and in the second grade by Ms Margret Hub, who also taught the girls. Miss Hub was well-liked, dedicated and caring, as she also spent time with the students after class.
The children always walked together to school, in little groups named after the streets they lived on „Die Hinnergässer“, „Die Hofackerer“ and „Die Hollerer“.
Even though Fritz had moved from Schwebelstraße 13 to the part of town called „Holler“, he still belonged to the group of the „Hinnergässer“.
In 1940 Willi Wünsch and Fritz Weintz were Wunderlich third grade teachers. Music lessons were not part of their curriculum, but Mr. Wünsch led a children’s choir together with a marching band. These organisations had a paramilitary character which showed the integration of the students in the political system, even in the litte town of Kusel. Fritz was part of the choir and marching band. Practice took place at the school where they also prepared for performances in the local area.
After the final rehearsal they all walked to the performances, stayed overnight and returned home together.
Gustav Henkel, Fritz’s teacher in his last year of primary school, a retired teacher who had been called back to work again. He had very high expectations of his students. Therefore, they had to write essays and dictations almost every day. Due to his strict disciplined manner, Gustav Henkel was able to prepare his students for fifth grade in the best way possible.
Since many students took the opportunity to be part of the children’s choir or to play an instrument. Fritz Wunderlich’s talent hadn’t been recognized yet.
Fritz had to audition for Mr. Cassel, dean and religion teacher, many times as he thought Fritz had a remarkable voice. They remained friends until Fritz’s early death.
As the Luitpoldschule was a large building with spacious classroms, central heating and a bathroom in the cellar, it was used to accommodate soldiers. Therefore the students were moved to another building in the Landschaftsstraße.
On September 18th 1941, Fritz Wunderlich started grammar school, which was located in a building in the Luitpoldstraße across from the Protestant church. For the first time, music was part of the curriculum. Dr. Gerlach his teacher and later head of the school, wrote a recomendation for Fritz Wunderlich’s future school career. According to his sister Marianne he was described as “a good-natured, friendly, very open and diligent boy. He also showed outstanding abilities in sports and had a very good peception“.
„Apart from his musical talent he was also very creative and was able to express himself very eloquently“. (Marianne Decker, Mein Bruder und ich. Fritz-Wunderlich-Sammlung der Fritz-Wunderlich-Gesellschaft e.V., Kusel)
Autumn in 1944 was marked by numerous air-raid attacks which also interupted the lessons at school, forcing it to be closed. Unfortunately the entire inventory of the school was destoyed by fire, due to an infestation of lice. As a result the school archives were destoyed as well. Shortly before and after the war, Russian and Polish soldiers temporarily stayed at the „Luitpoldschule“.
With war being over, the school was able to re-open in autumn 1945. But the war had its toll on the school building and due to the shortage of teachers, more than half of the subjects could not be taught.
Many students took notice that Fritz was always tired on Monday mornings and it was hard for him to focus during class. The reason for that was because he spent the weekends at music events and performances, playing in a band. With that he helped his mother to support the family. But the lack of sleep and the malnutrition had affected Fritz’s health. Thus, a prolonged illness is documented in one of his term reports.
Meanwhile, the musicologist Dr. Joseph Müller-Blattau became Fritz Wunderlich’s German teacher. He was an excellent teacher and also established the school choir and orchestra which Fritz Wunderlich joined.
After he finished seventh grade1948, Fritz Wunderlich attended a college of education in the Landschaftsstaße for two years, before leaving Kusel in 1950. He started his studies at the music college in Freiburg. It was professor Dr.Müller-Blattau that placed him there and furthermore gave him recommendation, dated from the 28th of February.
Professor Emmerich Smola took notice of Fritz Wunderlich in Kusel during the practice sessions for the radio programme „Hausmusik bei Zelter“. The manuscript for this programme was written by Joseph Müller-Blattau. Mr. Smola also gave Fritz Wunderlich the advice to go to Freiburg to study music.
Fritz Wunderlich‘s extraordinary voice was discovered in these difficult postwar years and therefore his time in Kusel came to an end in the summer of 1950.