Goff is Otto’s older
brother, the third son of Walther and Elisabeth von
Goff. Although the boys were only two years apart, they
lived very different boyhoods.
The sister immediately before Johann, Elisabeth, was born
deaf, dumb, and blind.
Until Otto was born, Johann had been pampered and treasured to
compensate their mother for her sorrow over Elisabeth.
Upon the birth of a healthy son two years after Johann, Johann
was introduced to normal nursery life and went on to live the
usual life of a younger son in a Junker estate.
babies following Otto were lost, so he continued to be their
Mama’s pet until he was 9 years old, when their youngest
sister was born.
Johann and Otto were
very close when they were little boys, until Johann was sent
off to school at the age of 8.
It never occurred to
the boys that Otto would not follow, but when Otto remained at
home with tutors after he had turned 8, Johann’s loneliness
created a hollow inside him that he spent the rest of his life
trying to fill.
not only remained at home instead of being sent off to school
but he was also kept in skirts and curls long after young boys
were normally given manly haircuts and put into short pants.
Otto and Johann’s
older brothers bullied and tormented their youngest brother,
afraid that he would grow up to be a sissy.
Johann joined in the
taunting and beatings in order to prevent being included as a
victim, but he crept in beside Otto afterwards to try to
experience developed in Johann a keen awareness for the
underdog, which slowly grew into a desire and need to do
something for the less fortunate in Prussia.
beatings were sometimes severe enough to crack ribs, leaving
Otto to return to the nursery ashen faced and gasping.
None of the boys
ever admitted to the bullying, so their mother decided that
there was something wrong with Otto, that he wasn’t strong
enough to go to school, so he was kept home until he was 12
that time Johann was 14, and well on the way towards the
career his father had chosen for him, politics.
Johann believed he
could do something for the less fortunate of the land through
politics, so he embraced his future whole-heartedly until he
was well into it.
disillusionment with politics didn’t set in until he’d
been working for some years.
It was the
revolution that showed him that he had no effect on the
father, Walther, had died in the epidemic 2 years before the
revolution, making his oldest brother, Werner, the head of the
married their youngest sister off to a politician, a colleague
of Johann’s before the poor child was out of the nursery,
then put their handicapped sister out of the manor house.
These two acts went
so much against Johann’s ethics, that it caused a permanent
rupture for him from his family’s expectations.
He sought to fill
the gap inside himself with religion, abruptly left politics
and joined a monastery, dedicating his life to helping the
the orphanage and school run by the monks in Stettin, Johann
found many young people in need of work who suited Otto’s
needs at Schönwald.
Although most of
them were hired away from Schönwald once they’d proved
themselves trustworthy and well trained, many of Otto’s most
important staff came from Johann, such as Otto’s valet,
Ernst Lenz; Luise’s companion/maid, Kirsten Morgan;
Luise’s governess, Amalie Braun; and Luise’s tutor, Erich
celibacy was not mandated for Lutheran monks, Johann took a
vow of celibacy as part of his turn away from the outside
world, into the world of dedication to the works of God.
The only one outside
of the monastery to whom he remained close was his brother,
Otto. He spent the rest of his life trying lovingly to
guide Otto towards a more spiritual view of the world,
believing that Otto would find the happiness that he had found
if he would put himself right with God.