Tribute to Erich Knocke

Photo: Erich Knocke
Erich at his museum.

Erich Knocke was born in Hannover 1927 as a child of an old fairground family.

His grandfather travelled with an exotic show, his father was a comedian with an own show booth. But he also performed in famous music halls like the Berlin Wintergarten. In addition to that his father was a gifted hypnotist.

The family lived in middle-class prosperity, but as a child Erich was impressed by the terrible aftermath of WWI: poverty, hunger, unemployment. The family travelled with their living wagon from fair to fair until WWII broke out.

17 years old , Erich became a soldier at the German Kriegsmarine. Later, he saw military action in Hungary and finally had to flee in western direction.

So 1945 and 18 years old, he just tried to survive. The properties of his family were gone in the bombing of Hannover. He travelled with a self-made swing and wheel of fortune. In the 1950s he already owned a motor scooter ride and had to go for bigger fairs. By chance he landed in Essen (Ruhr), where he fell in love with his later wife and settled down.

In Essen, he began to work busily and effectively for the showmen's association H .A.G.D, later BSM (Bundesverband deutscher Schausteller und Marktkaufleute). Until his death he was an active travelling showman and president of the Northrhine-Westfalia chapter.

Being a great organizer, he founded the very successful Essen Christmas market in 1969, arranged major events, conventions and showmen's trade fairs almost singlehanded.

He always was interested in History - studying books and keeping himself up-to-date daily.

His great concern was to keep history and experiences of the fairground alive. Out of this concern he founded his life's work: the Markt- und Schaustellermuseum Essen.

In almost 50 years he created an exquisite and renowned collection, now situated in an old industrial building in Essen. Here, the spectacular objects can be viewed by guided visitor groups. And the collector never could be stopped to join the visitors and demonstrate the sound of his wonderful big fairground organs from Germany, France, and Belgium.

Erich was a friendly, open, sociable and outgoing gentleman. So his museum early became a destination for researchers, students and fairground enthusiasts all over the world. In the last years his precise knowledge of the fairground's technical evolution became more and more interesting for technical and cultural historians. Erich's memory was a direct and authentic path in an almost forgotten fairground world.

The European idea was very dear to his heart. So in 2003 he participated enthusiastically in a European Internet project "A Peep behind the Scenes" - an educational website featuring the history of European fairgrounds. The museum partners in England, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands soon became friends.

We have to thank Erich Knocke. As a prominent Showman he helped to reduce or annihilate persistent prejudices against the "Travelling people".

He died December 2, 2011. 84 years old, leaving behind his family, friends, and the fairground people very sad - and very, very graceful.

Thank you, Erich.

Brigitte Aust, Essen Dez. 2011

Photo: Erich Knocke
Erich in his travelling days.