Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part 6: After Yugoslavia, Wandering through Europe — Jakob and Katarina Webel Family, Fleeing from Germany
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. (Hebrews 13:1-3)
In this sixth episode of the “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen” family history series, the ethnic-German family of Jakob and Katarina Webel, having evacuated from their former home in what is today Croatia, strive to survive as refugees, during the latter part of World War II, having left the broken-apart country of Yugoslavia in a train – traveling through places like Prague (in present-day Czech Republic), eventually to reach Germany.
But it is obvious that Communists are gaining control of what was Yugoslavia (and will nail that control tight as the war concludes) — including Croatia — and the Webel family rightly fears and is fleeing the intolerable cruelty of the Communists. The country of Yugoslavia (then Croatia, later Yugoslavia, then again later Croatia), their original homeland before World War II, has ceased to be a safe-to-live-at “home”, so the Webel family has emigrated – facing a very uncertain and unpredictable future in other countries — leaving behind extended family members (such as Jakob’s father). Masses of displaced families on the move, but to where?
But what is next? Where will the trains take them as a family? Can they succeed in staying together as a family? Where should be their new home in post-WWII Europe? Where will the trains take them? What about food and hygiene?
[This part of the interview quotes from pages 91-116 of Rosie’s record.]
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DAUGHTER: So approximately how long were you in this train?
DAD: Maybe 2 weeks, huh, Mom?
MOM: Long enough, long enough.
DAUGHTER: About 2 weeks.
DAD: Many times nothing to eat for a day or two.
MOM: Yeah, and once they had to-
DAD: But we had that sausage in the — you know, you are not allowed to open. Nobody is allowed to know, even not the children. Because when the children know it’s here, they would ask, and if one person know beside you, then everybody knows. So we just scarcely opened it, cut little bit off.
MOM: Get something in your stomach, this was all we had, never filled up.
DAD: Then we came there and unload from the train in Germany.
MOM: Many days on this train, then the transport was, they say, now 4:00 we arrive over there in Prague or somewhere where we was, we will have a good meal, we can go there with our dish, we get good meal and all the people will be fed. Yeah, was not so. We don’t arrive this night and this foods have to stay overnight and the next day this time almost, and when Dad brought this food in the wagon. I was not feeling food, this was stinky, I said, no, I would not eat this, stinks this food, And Dad told me ‘how you can say this before the children, this food stinks.’ Now, we had finally something to give them and all they look at me. I will not eat, I will not eat. And he forced some dish, they have to eat, and I’m not hungry and the other said, I’m not hungry, And Dad start eating, okay. I cannot eat, rather I die. I cannot eat. This stink this food, you know, this was just couple hours, they threw up. They was so sick, all, the whole transport was sick from this food, they had them keep this food overnight in these big kettles for over thousand people.
DAUGHTER: There was over 1,000 on the train?
MOM: Yeah, and was noodles and beans all mixed together, was a kind of pig food. what you feed the pigs Just when I smell it, Dad says you find nice. He was throwing up, all others.
DAUGHTER: So who all got sick? Dad?
MOM: Oh, Dad was very sick.
DAUGHTER: Did the kids eat?
MOM: No, they was sick, you have to eat, they were sick, very sick. Very sick. They threw up, there was no end to throwing up, the whole stomach was sick. Then finally when we came off this train…my, my….
[The audiotape was stopped after a discussion about how late the time was.]
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[When the interview resumes there was a digression of topics, returning to earlier events, when Dad first saw and heard Mom, as she sang in church, when Dad was scouting for a girl who would make the right kind of wife.]
DAD: I was not a tall boy, never, and I did not like to have a wife taller than I am. So that’s nothing, so when she stood there….
DAUGHTER: But she’s not taller than you, is she?
DAD: No, she’s not, there she was, was singing somewhere, she was standing anyplace, then I remember how tall she is. Let’s see on that… so I remember, about an inch lower than that. Then, later on, I go there and stand there and stand to my body, and see, am I taller than that or not.
DAUGHTER: Why did you pick mom out of all the other girls?
DAD: Why? Well, why?
DAUGHTER: She had a nice beautiful voice? Cute?
DAD: One thing, she was a nice looking girl, and one thing, she had a good voice, and I know I cannot sing and it is very important for a believing family [i.e., a Christian family] if they can sing. And if a mom can sing, then she can teach the children, not so teach, then that inherited by the children, they can usually. And I like to sing, I know cannot, maybe if I would grow up in a church where there are good singers, maybe I could train myself because I know the notes, I know very good the notes, I meant not only the name of notes, I know which is which. But I have not hearing to decide to know am I following ever now a little bit higher or lower than you are. But that could be trained if you…-
MOM: I thought so when he would…
[interruption when audiotape stops]
DAD: The train finally arrived in the — that’s almost Eastern Germany, but now is a Polish territory — and from the train we are transferred all in a big some kind of like a dance hall or something like that.
DAUGHTER: What’s a ‘dance hall’?
MOM: Dance hall.
DAUGHTER: Oh, like a big building.
DAD: Big building, yes, but I don’t think it was upstairs but a big building and I think we had about 30 beds there, make up beds, but on 2, 3 floor, the beds, (bunk), somebody is here on the top, and the beds were wide easy for 2 persons. So we were all that and just a little room to walk in-between.
MOM: Was 93 person in one room, and in other was over 100, there was just 2 big sitting — not halls, was like halls for dancing halls.
DAD: And we did… The food, we get all from the same place but whatever we did have, put under the pillows or under your bed and so hide how you know, and one lady was with, she had sugar, whole box, about 100 pound. . . . . Not crystals, but pieces. How you call this?
DAD: Yeah, and the children had always sugar to eat and they had stuff: meat, was winter time, they put, hang on the window outside overnight to keep it cool, in the morning would disappear, nobody is there because there are 100 people, you never know who. And there is everybody hungry, it’s, the food is, here you get food, but that food is no good, you could think that the war is almost to the end. The war is prolonged 4 or 5 years and nothing came in, nothing grow, nothing is there, everybody is poor.
MOM: I had never eat such food what they cook.
DAD: Everybody is poor, so everybody’s hungry.
DAUGHTER: The food that you took from your father when you went on the train.
DAD: We did have it.
DAUGHTER: You still have some of that left?
DAD: We went with much, we still had much but we slept on it in that time.
MOM: We hid it because of the people.
DAD: We hid it.
DAUGHTER: It was hidden?
DAUGHTER: You were hiding it.
DAD: Hiding it, but how could you hide? There where you sleep.
MOM: Well, was not long like this. Tell them a little farther what I did. I went to a lady, get known was Major’s wife.
DAD: And then in that big room was a little corner, have there some more nurses, the nurses who take care of us, and mom went there to the nurses and asked permission to make something-
MOM: On their stove that was there, was cold.
DAD: They had a little stove, to make something for us especially, and they allowed, you know. And sure mom take, give it, them a little bit. And they didn’t have it something, and so little by little Mom and Aunt Anne’s mom get in the city, get acquainted with a lady . . . .
MOM: No, was not Anne’s mom, this was Anne’s sister, Eva Brasenkovich.
DAUGHTER: Okay. You were not held captive there. That’s just where you were, where you slept, where you lived?
DAD: You were there like refuge. And they take care of us, but they didn’t have any, they themselves had nothing so, and mom get acquainted with the lady, she happened to be the Major’s wife. And they lived in an apartment, in a big building apartment, they had about maybe 4 or 5 persons with families there, and Mom asked to give the permission to take a bath, the children.
MOM: Give the children the bath over there and wash the stuff and-
DAUGHTER: And so, little by little, we washed, bathed the children there, and washed our clothes and washed their clothes too for nothing.
MOM: Oh, this was something….
DAD: And sure, how we make out the soap, probably she giveth the soap [notice the King James English here!] because everything was a ration card. Right away when we get there we get ration card, but you can buy nothing and so Mom asked there to hide our bacon and our hams and our sausage, and we hid in the attic, like attic here, just you could walk in.
MOM: Storage, storage, there stuff and. . .
DAD: And every apartment has little bit fenced in.
MOM: Was fenced in.
DAD: But so you could see through, so they could dry their clothes there in winter, could lock up there part.
MOM: Each one was locked.
DAD: So you could put here, they put paper, from outside could nobody see it, and hang there, and so they hang our stuff there and whenever mom goes to bring a slice, she give her a slice, little bit.
MOM: And I gave to her a slice, to this lady. Oh, she says, my husband would just love, this noon we will have a lunch what’s we have not for 3, 4, 5 years. So one slice of ham, Nice dry ham sliced like a finger thick or so, nice slice.
DAUGHTER: How would you do that? Would you cook that or fry it or what would you do? Add water to it?
MOM: Eat in raw, no, eat in secret, beside our little bed, no good food then, you get some kind of bread, cornbread and this little bit sungka or how you say, ham, dry ham, or what is on the bottom, is bacon like this and the others all…
DAD: When she was able to have some potatoes from somewhere, then she go to that nurses to cook there and then she cook with our sausage, a little bit in there, in the potatoes too, and sure is just little bit sausage, the sausage have to disappear not to see, nobody, but you give little bit the nurse if it is only that much.
MOM: Oh, I cut them right away in little slices in round circles.
DAD: So there is something to the food we get or . . . .
MOM: I cook their beans and make the noodles.
DAUGHTER: How did you buy the potatoes?
MOM: The farmers I go and beg.
DAD: If you cannot buy, you could beg.
MOM: I go and beg for one potato over there, one over there, and they give it.
DAUGHTER: And what were we doing, us kids?
MOM: You was home. With Dad in this….
DAD: And over there, the people, came, them give us puzzles, give us that and that.
DAUGHTER: Give you what?
DAD: The puzzle for doing . . . .
MOM: A puzzle.
DAD: So something like that.
DAUGHTER: To occupy your time?
DAD: Occupy . . . .
MOM: The children.
DAD: And many time I did play with the children, puzzles or [the board game] ‘Mensch ärgere Dich nicht’ [a board game somewhat like Parcheesi] something to get the children quiet down.
DAUGHTER: Did they have no work for any of the men to do?
DAD: No, not — in that time was nothing. This was not long. And then, little by little, they find a quarters, apartment somewhere, that family, that family, and so finally we get somewhere out from there.
MOM: They find for us an apartment somewhere big room for all. They have to empty this farmer and have to have one family and they took us. So we finally, and then all . . . .
DAUGHTER: Where did you get sent to? Where was your apartment? In the same city?
MOM: Oh yeah.
DAUGHTER: What was the name of this city?
DAD: That’s [a town] by Brisnow [did Dad say “Breslau”?] , that is a big city now in Poland — but that was a small town, and I do not recall the name.
DAUGHTER: In occupied Poland now.
DAD: Yes, it is now. And that not happen for along . . . maybe a week or two.
DAUGHTER: How long were you in this big quarters? About 2 weeks?
BRESLAU (a/k/a Wrocław in Polish, & Vratislav in Czech) shown in pink
(Breslau was within German land transferred, after WWII, to Poland.)
MOM: We was very . . . the children was all sick there, all the yellow jaundice from this bad food in this, there was no food enough. Was this food was not for eating, just what I make once….
DAUGHTER: Okay. Was in this same city you found an apartment? At that point . . .
DAD: Not we found, they found for us apartment.
MOM: They get (?) closer and closer.
DAUGHTER: Then were you supposedly self-sufficient at that point?
DAD: Self-sufficient. … our ration card to eat, buy what you can, and eat what you could . . .
DAUGHTER: Then what did you do to live?
DAD: We had from our home money and we use that.
DAUGHTER: Did you have these people live with you?
DAUGHTER: Just your family.
DAD: When we arrived there, then everybody who had relationship in America, in Germany, they could apply to go there, and Pfeifer they had a sister some children (Robert) somewhere in Bavaria, and they are transferred there.
MOM: In Salzburg.
DAUGHTER: And then they were transferred there.
DAD: So they were transferred there immediately. So we was there and then after period of time and we were there, but that not take long, the war get closer and closer. The [Soviet] Russian army came from North and we heard all day the cannons and bombs there . . . .
MOM: All night long.
DAD: . . . . and the planes, running over, the German was retreating and then we saw man go with a wagon, a woman, the whole family, little bit have left food, some take their belongings and go South, go South, go South.
MOM: Hundreds and hundreds of people.
DAD: From morning till night you can see that from our window. And even you can see a child die, left them there in a ditch, just go farther along, go farther, go farther.
DAUGHTER: The snows were deep that this time in this place?
DAD: The people, we, mom, have to go to shovel the snow, to help the traffic go.
MOM: Army just looking.
DAD: And little by little even the army goed by, not the regular army, but when you are retreating, there’s no regular, just bunches, of people, and then in the town where we are have to be . . ..
ethnic Germans expelled from Poland, winter AD1945
MOM: How many months we have people the whole room full laying on the floor. We got much people was there.
DAUGHTER: Where from?
DAD: The people from more North where already the Russian army was.
DAUGHTER: You invited them to come in?
DAD: No. They come from outside far and the night is here, they slept wherever. We could not walk all ways, all ways, all ways. So they said we are here, there’s 20 more here, or 30 more here sleeping. In the morning they go farther.
MOM: The whole barn full by this farmer, the whole yard full, you cannot believe.
DAUGHTER: Where did you live? In an apartment by a farmer?
DAD: It was not an apartment, it was in his house, just a big room.
DAUGHTER: In his house. In the barn.
MOM: Yeah, in the barn.
DAD: And then came the time they said we have to leave, not we, the whole city, only the men have to stay there, to fight. The men had to stay there to, for a war purpose, then here, before that, they want me to go to enlist to defend, Every man who is in that age have to go in the war, regardless, and I could not go. And because… I could not go… one thing, I would not take arms, the next thing, I would not leave the family and they came, the women and the children had to go away and the men had to stay behind. And I don’t want to, I will take our sack, and that wooden suitcase that we got, for plywood, we bought them because we didn’t have them from Yugoslavia. We bought them and packed everything, packed everything and other farmer, they took us to the railroad depot to go, when we came there, we stay all night then the farmer went back and then once went back to the farmer again.
MOM: No we was all day and all night was no train, no room, no train, nothing. We can sit there but people all over. Cannot imagine.
DAD: And so the next day we went again and-
MOM: Farmer took us back and he brought us again other day .
DAD: Oh, then the bathroom flooded, the mud everywhere, was in winter…. Flood, but the children, sleeping on the table.
MOM: Could not put them on the floor, it’s all water.
DAD: After midnight it already quiet. I went out and found a buggy where they-, the railroad, a small railroad they had a big buggy with 2 wheels, you could put packed much packed, and 2 wheels and is balanced you could push it. And I put all our stuff on that that one buggy and when they arrive at train, all the people around there, there’s still not a train.
MOM: Even Pfeiffer’s stuff, he put all our stuff and each one had to watch one hour during the night, it was frozen cold. Hard, you get cold feet, cannot stand, and then another go out.
DAUGHTER: You took turns guarding your supplies or your stuff.
MOM: Yeah, all together.
DAD: And when the train came, go away, somehow mom and the children went in, and I am not there with my stuff, could not get through it, through that window the children get in.
MOM: I put the children through the window. One lady says, give me that little child, here I carry it in and I was afraid to leave it ‘cause I can never go through the door, we have to crawl out somehow, and I give the little ones through the window, they help me, they open wide the window, and the husbands, they get the children and when all of them in, now I have to-, dad is not here, nobody’s here, how can I go in the train. Where they go. They are alone. The train goes.
DAD: And behind, with that train was a boxcar where you put the stuff in, and I get somehow our stuff in. Now I have no room in the train but, I don’t know, how they managed to get me in . . . .
MOM: Yeah, yeah, you crawled in, they help you.
DAUGHTER: In the same [train] car where mom was.
MOM: Yeah, I told there, there’s my husband and the children are all now in, and this people what took me first in, I said that’s my husband, he has to go with the train. They said, we will push him in how somehow. No, no, you cannot go through the door or through the steps, you have to crawl through the window, somebody has to pull you up, and they did so. So he was in.
DAUGHTER: What were these trains like? Did they have seats dad?
MOM: Yeah, yeah, dad can tell you how many people was in this small . . . .
DAD: The train is divided, 2 seats sit, see each other against the wall. In the two seats, there may be room for a four maybe five but this is that way and the children are here and children are here . . . .
MOM: He faces them.
DAD: And I don’t think we were less than 20, were maybe 30 people in that room, crowded.
MOM: You never get up or put down.
DAD: In that time . . . .
MOM: We were all stinky.
DAD: When you want to get up, stiff, you could hardly move, but that’s it.
DAUGHTER: Where did you go? How long were you on the train?
DAD: How long we are on the train is hard to tell you exactly, but at least 5, 6 days.
DAUGHTER: How did you eat?
MOM: Ten days, Dad.
DAD: I said at least but will be….
MOM: How you get.. huh…
DAD: They know the train is coming there, they prepared the food, but there are again not German airplane, but American, and they bombed there, the bridge so you could not go, so that –
MOM: So the food you can never get.
DAD: Never get to the food. But the locomotive, hitch up here and there and go the other way. And so it takes more longer. Then we get to where we get, and once we get to the capital city from that Czechoslovakia, Prague is the name… And there, oh, we were supposed to get something, and we did, but . . . . but it’s okay.
DAUGHTER: Now what was it?
MOM: I will tell you before this, we want, Dad was saying. Dad went out, right away out of the train, and look for some food. Find some food, make no difference what, and he saw a line. And he went in this line and finally come, he was a long time gone, he’s not coming when he can, he brought schnitzel, on how many he has ration cards, he get so many schnitzel for his child, one. Then they didn’t come back while here are more children here.
DAD: And more people.
MOM: And more people and they are all the same way and they are so hungry.
DAD: We are . . . .
DAUGHTER: What is a schnitzel? Is that like a roll?
MOM: Yeah, a roll.
DAD: We are 8 people with the children and here are about 20 in here. And everybody want to eat, everybody’s hunger so we divide that because you could not eat that we took out of the mouth.
MOM: Some people, they took us in in this train, this people, and they helped people that was like us, all of them did. And then Dad broke it in pieces and it was a mouthful.
DAUGHTER: Each one gets just a little mouthful.
MOM: Don’t matter. And then they sent their mother, their mother, she wants to go, she has just 2 children, for her husband is in the war. She don’t even know where he [is], and she went, the mother, and left the little boy and girl with us. And the train start running, and the mother was not therewith; the children start screaming and crying! When Dad saw her running, toward the end of the train where her wagon, he grabbed her — he just grabbed her and pulled her up, how was the train gone. She said she would never leave her children anymore for any food, they go all together hungry or so . . . .
DAD: In that time you know what that means. When you are hungry or your neighbor, people you never saw, never meet before, you divide with them the last drop or that crumb bread. But don’t forget we hid our package behind, there we got sausage, there we got lard, there we got bacon, but we could not get there and we don’t have nothing from it. So we leave it. Some day we eat a little bit more, some day almost nothing and . . . .
MOM: Dad always was when, he went out he said, I will be very careful what I do, how far I go, and he once say he have a ration card for tobacco and finds somewhere a very rotten apple, he gives this ration card for this apple, he brought this apple that comes so handy, you cannot believe. You cannot eat the ration card for tobacco. Apple, that’s something for all these children. And one young mother, she has a child 8 days old, and she has it in the middle of-
DAUGHTER: In this same little room?
DAD: In that room we had 2 girls, they had somewhere found a child, abandoned, they took it with themselves, they want, not young girls, maybe only 25 or 30 year old, but they took that girl and that child for themselves and here you can get milk for the ration card. They need to run there to get it and because of this line, there is a big line already, and you get them, drink for them too, and nothing new when the diaper, newspaper diaper, rag, whatever use for a diaper, and we go out and again, when the train goes, when it stop, and run there to the locomotive, beg for water, hot water to . . .
MOM: You have to beg for the food, have to beg for diaper, sometimes you beg for outfit.
DAUGHTER: Now who was-, the last one born here was Robert. Rosie was not born yet.
MOM: No, Rosie was not born.
DAD: Just was Robert.
DAUGHTER:How old was he at this time?
DAD: Robert was at this time a year and a half.
DAUGHTER: (January, February.) And you were pregnant then with Rosie.
MOM: Yeah, sure.
DAUGHTER: Because Rosie was born in June.
DAD: Yeah, but Robert, he was a little fellow, he know when he want to go to the bathroom, he ask. And I take him out, hold myself on the . . . on the train you got like a bar and holds on the bar and hold him out, the running board. Then he . . . ‘I have to go.’ No, you don’t; no, you don’t have to.
MOM: No, you don’t have. ‘Yeah, I have to go’.
DAD: But sometimes you have to… [Dad is noting the difficult logistics involved], . . . you know. No, no.
MOM: He was very good, that so many days and so many nights.
DAD: But he like that, the wind from the train running(laughter). And mom holds me . . .
MOM: I hold him in the back. You know that air is very sharp when you open that train door. And him you have to hold until he’s done and he holds him from the back.
DAD: And we had a lady there, she had a buggy with a child, and this, she never take care of the baby, left him in the buggy. He was stinking, he was everything in the buggy, everything.
MOM: He made the sickness, he was older than Robert. He was older and he start and get fever, this little child. And the grandma just hide this the little baby in that buggy. ‘He catch a cold, you can’t open the door. Mister, you shouldn’t. Don’t do this’, she says. And our child is already sick, well, we have to open the door here, you got the stink, it’s stuffy. You know, he made all this mess in his diapers and he lives in buggy.
DAD: Till we finally could get to the nurses to take the child out, he’s sick, and then. . . .
MOM: We have to get the signal, here is a child sick in that [buggy] — and then on the first big stop where they can take this child out from a big city. They took this mother and father, no, was not the father, the mother and the grandma and grandpa, with this little baby, they took her out. We have such a relief, we had such a relief, can hardly stand them anymore.
DAD: One thing is, 4 people less, 3 grown-up people and that buggy, and more than that, they were-, the people were afraid the child…
MOM: They took him out to the doctor, and they said he had pneumonia. Well, he was so thirsty for coffee, all day long he was yelling for coffee, this child. ‘Coffee, coffee, coffee.’ Like teeny voice. When he start asking, he was not quiet till he was drinking coffee.
DAD: Probably so…
DAUGHTER: So this train when to Prague, Czechoslovakia. What happened there?
DAD: And then we came to there through Bavaria, close by Aregansborg [spelling?], big city, and in that city we make a halt in there and that train was full with people, from German people from Northern parts and with us it was nobody from Yugoslavia to our knowledge. Just the people from Germany. And they divided us among the houses, farmers here and there, and so we got in a city, they call it, is a small city, they call it Winser, like Winsor, Winser, and the house where we got our apartment, for a 2-story house, our part was a second story, I think it was a little small, maybe 2 rooms or 3 rooms we had, something like that, but not a bigger one.
MOM: It was a very nice room.
DAD: Yeah, and the backyard was Danube River.
MOM: Across the street was the store, across the street was the courthouse and all the main.
DAD: And now we again live on our own. Now we got our packages, everything, and we get a ration card.
DAUGHTER: How did you manage to find your packages? You just threw stuff on, who’s to stop anybody from taking them?
DAD: When the train stops, you will over here unload and everybody looks for his own, nobody looks for somebody else because-
MOM: They’re all….
DAUGHTER: Nobody really cares about anybody else’s.
MOM: You don’t know, will you live tomorrow? This was not a nice like living like now.
DAD: And then usually get the noise round, tomorrow will be the store and they have butter. But on the ration, nothing without the ration, on the ration card you have butter, but they know it’s about, I say about 1,000 people here and they got butter for 300.
DAUGHTER: Dad, where was the ration card distributed from? Where did you get them?
DAD: Like for every city, go for the court house, they distribute for every person who lives here, every week.
DAUGHTER: You had to go and get them.
DAD: You had to get them.
DAUGHTER: They were given to you according to how many you had in your family?
DAD: Yes. Yes.
MOM: Yeah, had to put down a name.
DAD: But different is the ration cards for the grown-up people, different for the mother, different for the children up to 10 year, and even for the small children.
MOM: And the babies. The baby get one, when I get one too.
DAD: So the people know tomorrow will be something. In the morning about 4:00, the people are already standing there.
DAD: When the store open, is a line, big line waiting, and when they open the doors, they let in about 10 people, then they got served, then they get out and the other people . . . .
MOM: Otherwise they would step on people.
DAD: So the first people gets, the last get nothing, no nothing, is sold out. But they got everything, but again, we-, how should I say it, not to be smart, but everyone takes care of first of himself, and so when is nobody more there, and it’s sold out, that is the owner, whosoever it is, old lady or young lady, mom goes there, and talks to them and they get acquainted to them and-
MOM: An old woman, she was a very nice person.
DAD: And we had so and so many children, we had 6 children and we are from there and there and we had a store there, you know what’s to mean the store get them, and we do have that stuff with us and that stuff with us and that stuff with us so we could give you something, a little black pepper.
MOM: I told her we had the ration cards for coffee, nobody we cannot afford to buy coffee.
DAD: Yeah, yeah, we would not buy coffee. And coffee, the people would pay for the ration card to get coffee. We would give you the coffee ration card and you give us a little bit of something, and so we never had to stay in the line.
MOM: Save for us.
DAD: When they got the butter tomorrow, then for our butter, it all ready before they open the door.
MOM: She make this ready before even…
DAD: And so everything.
MOM: Cabbage, was big cabbage, from a whole truck full, but is not enough for everybody.
DAD: But on the ration card.
MOM: On the ration card, each one gets a little head. All kinds of things.
DAD: And mom gets a big … And the bread is very coarse, made from corn, of corn and very coarse, and mom cannot get sick from this. So she goes, maybe not in that town, but she goes to the bakery, and when there is no customer there, she goes with the baker lady in the kitchen and she want to talk with her. And then she told her, I am ..say, who we are, introduce ourselves, and then what we want, but you have to introduce yourself. And then we want, I want light bread, 1 loaf, 1 pound light bread every second day or every week, and I would give you that.
DAUGHTER: And you were with the children the whole time?
DAD: Sure, sure.
MOM: Oh, yeah.
DAD: Mom was the most that.
MOM: I had to go make something for the family, it was not-
DAD: If a man goes, he will not get. And most of men are in the army, the home men are in the army or in the prisoners of war. And women run the business, run the store, run everything, so if a wife goes there, it’s very different thing than if man goes there. And beside that, I was always more or less behind, the people would say, how is that young man not in the war, our men is in the war, so you have to be very careful for everything.
MOM: He’s home. He never goes out. I had to go for everything.
DAD: Not much.
DAUGHTER: You were afraid to show your face in the town.
DAD: So Mom get that stuff here, and that stuff there, and that stuff there.
DAUGHTER: Let’s get these times right. You said that happened about in February sometime.
DAD: February to March, and then came already the American from the other side where are not the Russian is far behind, but American came.
DAUGHTER: Up the Danube River way, south way.
DAD: Yes, they came. And on our side, where we are, came the American, and German, is no soldier more there. But the civilian have to defend, and most places get winter damage, not let them in, and the wind destroy the bridges, not let them in, but before they came, the German, the government they had here a big stock house, and there a stock house, filled with stuff because they never know how long will take the war so our mayor, the Russian, the American is here, tomorrow, even tomorrow, every day they will be here.
MOM: Every day, every . . . .
DAD: So he proclaim everybody should get there with a ration card and according to ration card we will get whatsoever they get. So we got ration card for 8 persons, we got a big, maybe 100, maybe 200 pounds of rice. Some people have no place to put it but in the pillowcases, put in pillowcases.
MOM: Put in the pillowcases, the rice . . . .
DAD: (I talk, not you). So it was ever, so then we got for food is that the main thing. But then children’s shirts and some different things you want, regardless big and small, every ration card gets so much. So we get this and that. And, oh, like when is war times. Everything is no order so the-, you know what’s kepper but these I don’t know. Ribbon that small, rolled on a big, big roll to sell it, and that was no place to buy it, but somewhere in a storehouse, was some pile and pile, and the children play with that, throw them round, over the house, and in the river, and everywhere. And pacifier, the streets full, everywhere and the most that the people back up, children play. And we gathered them, good pacifier, children go get, so we got lots of pacifier and that pants too.
MOM: The rubber . . .
DAUGHTER: Rubber bands?
MOM: No, the pacifier, not the pacifier, what go over the bottles, the other.
DAUGHTER: The nipple?
MOM: The nipples, that was the same thing.
DAD: So we gathered them again. Like a businessman, oh, boy, I could use that, not we . . . .
DAUGHTER: But somehow . . .
[Break in the audiotape recording]
DAD: No war, they came, but when they came to our place, everybody out, everybody out. We just start to eat supper, everybody out, everybody out. We had to go. where go? Go, go, go ,go, go with the children, nothing with you. So we go and if on the way we see somebody throw a pitcher over there, in the grass, and we came at the end somewhere and was a farmer, we’ll get over night.
DAUGHTER: Wait a minute? You mean you had to leave all your things?
MOM: Everything. Not one meal to cook.
DAD: Nothing. Just the children and go. Even our food we sat to eat, let it. And American soldier eat there, they put the cover up the window, whatsoever they find they turn up, cut off the windows because other side over the Danube is still German and once in a while they shoot cannons, the American, but was no the war between them. And in the morning everything is quiet, we try to go back on our place and by going back I say ‘Reini, go [get] that’. He look for that pitcher.
DAUGHTER: Oh, you sent him to get that pitcher that someone had thrown away.
DAD: Yeah. And we for long time had that pitcher. That was a . . . .
DAUGHTER: What kind of pitcher?
DAD: For drinking. For water, for, like a beer, they used to have a . . . .
DAUGHTER: A beer stein?
DAD: Yeah, yeah.
DAUGHTER: You still have it?
MOM: It was somewhere broken.
DAD: And then we get back in our home.
MOM: We had no glass or a…
DAD: Our home, oh, there is a pile of garbage, no soldiers anymore. Right away they come, hide the bread, better we pick it, because American soldier eat, what they throw away. Pick them out, we eat what was good, and whatsoever was good to eat. And so. . . .
DAUGHTER: In other words, you’re saying they were wasteful with the food that you had there. Did they get into your stuff there?
MOM: No, no.
DAD: No. They were . . . .
MOM: No, you ate their food.
DAUGHTER: No, no, no, they were interrupted during their mealtime and they were not allowed to finish their meal.
MOM: . . . they didn’t eat their food. I know, but they left American food there.
DAD: They left it, yes. They left it.
MOM: Yeah, see, they were eating American food.
DAD: Yeah. They left American food, what they had eaten there, the military food what they had was they threw out in the garbage like they do. And we will go through, that is good bread, that is good that, that is good that. We could even-, we eat that. And our food what was it?
MOM: Baked potatoes, without anything.
DAD: Yeah, was . . . she had on the table. They was not hungry on our food.
MOM: Mashed potatoes was on table too.
DAUGHTER: No butter, huh, mom?
MOM: Oh, no.
DAD: And there we… Robert, our Robert, He had a pacifier. And there we take the pacifier away, no more pacifier, and when…. ‘See, the soldier take it.’ No, no soldier would take that. ‘The soldier took it.’ ….
MOM: He always understand soldier take it. And he will, too, with the hands [imitating how little Robert would ready his fists, to fight whoever took his pacifier]: “No, no, soldier, you took my pacifier!”
DAUGHTER: So he’s almost 2 years old by now.
DAD: Almost, yeah.
DAUGHTER: Now was Rosie born?
MOM: No, not born yet.
DAD: And then is the war at an end. Now the war is end. There are no German soldier or . . . . to end. But here are some prisoner of war, Yugoslav men, and here and there working by the farmer, and they, you can talk with them, you could . . . . they are ready to go home. They could not how to go home, they will go with the Danube River. And how they got, not a ship, but where you put the grain in and a ship pulls them. How you call that?
DAD: Oh, barge, that’s the same then, because “barga,” that’s the same as barge. In this barge, we in the barge and that goes, the river goes that way so we goes with the river, so they will go and one family from Czechoslovakia will go with us and we go, we too.
MOM: Takes the men.
DAUGHTER: Your object was to get back to Yugoslavia.
DAD: Yeah, anxious to go back, our business, our… everything we have is there. And we have . . . . the war is ended, we have nothing to lose, we have to go back home. In Germany, nobody wants you, you are . . . . they have almost nothing to eat and where, they have to share with us.
MOM: And every day the same thing.
DAD: And when we get in the store, our, you gypsy, you have that and I have not.
MOM: They call us gypsies.
DAD: They are, they don’t realize or didn’t think equal, we are not equal with them. They are at home here and we eat their bread. How could you feel equal? No! It’s so we are . . . .
MOM: They thought the food should….
DAD: And beside that, our people from Yugoslavia or from everywhere, and they are hungry more than the people who live at home. And they got, stealing, they got that and that.
DAUGHTER: Now you went on this barge.
DAD: So we will go home. We packed our stuff, we bought a stove and everything we go.
DAUGHTER: This happened in March?
DAD: Second part of March, maybe April.
MOM: April, April. That was, yeah, it was. I knows it was.
DAD: Already would be April. Maybe even May.
MOM: Yeah, it was warm.
DAD: Could be even May because was no more cold. So we go that way with . . . down the river. But we could not go far away here. Through the war, we came to Reggensburg [spelling?] and here through the war, the bridges are crashed in the river because of war. And here the American made pontoon bridges, we could not go farther. So we stopped then, wait, wait till finally the American open and let us go through and we went through it now, is that now is that bridge, Isle Bridge. Isle Bridge does not hold up the water, the water goes, runs around this and the post and so on, and here we go through, but not slow like a current.
MOM: The water is boiling like in a bug pot.
DAD: So we went by but hardly, and beside that, from that all men, no man was ever living on a boat or knowing handling to handle a boat.
DAUGHTER: None of you had the knowledge to work that.
MOM: No, and this was something…
DAD: I had the knowledge but was not enough. And then came on another place again, bridge down, what to do with the current is so, and came another river into the Danube, the river called “Inn” [also spelled “En”]. And is very . . . came from the mountain, very strong, and that because that is strong, it pulls that Danube water strong. And here is the bridge, here is you, so what to do? The men decided we will put a rope on our barge and go beside and hold back to go slow, till the current is over. And mom was on there with the children and the other lady.
MOM: All out of the boat. Just Dad was in and a couple men in it.
DAD: Yeah, but the man does not want to listen, here is the bridge and the bridge is build on a solid foundation. And they hold the rope around the corner instead of go with the rope, not to hold back, and when the finger came to the solid, you let them go, so one by one let everybody go and the ship go and came around and pull it and go that way, not that fast, but goes that way into the Danube River.
MOM: We don’t see any men anymore on the ship. Nothing’s there, nobody.
DAD: And then the ship goes that way.
DAUGHTER: Before you go any further, dad, give me approximately how big this barge was.
DAD: The barge is big, maybe that big from that ladder, like that room.
DAUGHTER: All the way to the kitchen?
MOM: Yeah, all the way.
DAUGHTER: About 40 or 50 feet. And about that same wide?
DAD: Maybe that wide, maybe that wide.
MOM: Yeah, so wide too.
DAUGHTER: 18 feet?
MOM: That’s like a barge.
DAUGHTER: Who was on the barge? The women and children?
DAD: No, the men.
MOM: Couple men.
DAD: Just a couple men. And they had all the other let out.
MOM: I went out. I don’t want to go…
DAD: And then, but little bit farther that bends that way. Because it was war, war time, so the Hungarian marine, marine who was working, a soldier on the ships.
MOM: On the ships.
DAUGHTER: That’s called Navy.
DAD: Navy, the Navy, they don’t want to surrender to the Russia, they fly [flee?] to the American, to surrender [to] the American. And they was parked there in the Danube River, the Hungarian, like a prisoner of war — but on their ship because they surrender here, and they threw a lasso, I would save, would catch.
MOM: He catched it.
DAD: I would catch the ship…
DAUGHTER: The barge?
MOM: The barge with Dad. Some jumped out.
DAD: And then when they catched us, then we were afraid to go farther.
MOM: They told Dad and they told us, don’t do it anymore. You cannot go.
DAD: You cannot go on.
MOM: You have to be a really a seaman.
DAD: Not only that, the bridges are down here and there, everywhere, you could not go to Yugoslavia, to Belgrade.
DAUGHTER: Where did this happen? At this intersection with the Inn [a/k/a En] and the Danube River.
DAD: A little bit farther. And that’s close by Regensburg . . . that’s all . . . .
DAUGHTER: So everybody had to run and catch up then.
MOM: Bassau, Bassau, Bassau , Bassau [probably Mom said “Passau”, i.e., the city located at the intersection of En/Inn River and Danube River], – – – not Regensburg, Bassau.
DAD: Not the Regensburg.
DAUGHTER: ‘Cause I know. . . ? Regensburg was earlier.
MOM: It was [undecipherable — perhaps she said “Passau”, which is located in Lower Bavaria, Germany]. I know good.
DAD: B… B… Bassau [“Passau”, perhaps?].
DAUGHTER: Okay. Where was this? In Czechoslovakia?
DAD: No, Germany, It’s in Germany. And then the prisoner of war take their package, go home, with their package of war, walking… wherever.
MOM: Left us alone.
DAD: Now we are alone. We are alone. That other family left and we are alone. Very good, we go with 6 small children and waiting another to go. Where could we go? Here is the Danube River, beside the river is a road. Always in the mountains, between the mountains where the river is, . . . .
[to be continued, D.v.]
The next report (D.v.) resumes the chronicle of the Webel family exodus, with further perils and adventures as refugees (“displaced persons”), eventually leading to a successful migration to America, with some of their future offspring, descended from young Robert Webel (who was just a baby when the Webel family left Yugoslavia for Germany), to eventually arrive on Earth as native Texans.
That same Robert Webel (who emigrated from Yugoslavia, as a baby, with his family fleeing Communism) is the father of Stephen Webel, who is father (by his wife Erica) of brothers Nate and Luke Webel, the two native Texans mentioned on the first page of this report. (Thus Robert Webel, born in WWII, is the paternal grandfather of Nate, Luke, and their sisters.)
So, for now, this “chapter” rests with an appreciation that two native-Texan boys, Nate Webel (born in AD2007) and Luke Webel (born in AD2012), as well as their sisters, descend from German immigrant stock (“Volksdeutsche”) who trace back one ancestral line to paternal grandfather’s parents, Jakob Webel and Katarina Schleicher, whose early family life together included surviving WWII.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. James J. S. Johnson is a member of the German-Texas Heritage Society, and an occasional contributor to its Journal pages. A lover and teacher of Providential history and geography, Jim has taught at 4 different Christian colleges (LeTourneau University, Dallas Christian College, Concordia University Texas at Fort Worth, and ICR School of Biblical Apologetics) in Texas, as well as aboard 9 different cruise ships. As a C.P.E.E. (Certified Paternity Establishment Entity, credentialed by the Texas Attorney General’s Office), Jim maintains a strong interest in family history documentation. After studying under many teachers, at many schools, Jim happily acknowledges that his best teacher (under God) was Chaplain Robert (Bob) Webel.
Below is a newspaper photograph, dated 3-19-AD1951, captioned “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen” Webel family, who immigrated to America.
Also shown below is Chaplain Robert Webel (who was 8 when his family came as refugees to America) with his wife, Marcia, residents of Florida.
Chaplain Bob Webel provided information supplementing and clarifying his sister’s interview of their parents (titled From Vinkovci to Medina) quoted hereinabove.
 If Dad said “Breslau”, that is the German name for the major once-German city that the Poles call “Wrocław” (and the Czechs call “Vratislav”), city which became part of post-WWII Poland in late AD1945 (due to the Potsdam Conference), when the “Oder-Neisse Line” redefined the border between East Germany and Poland, moving that border west. Because Breslau is located on the Oder River east of the Neisse River (its northeasterly-flowing tributary), Breslau was transferred to Poland. Previously, Breslau had served as the capital of Silesia (and Lower Silesia), and had variously belonged to (at different times) to Bohemia, Hungary, imperial Austria, Prussia, and Germany. Today it is the 4th-largest city in Poland.
 Notice that “whatsoever” is King James English — this is because Mr. and Mrs. Webel learned English, in America, from reading the King James Bible. By comparing a Scripture text in a Bible translation of an already-known language (such as a German Bible translation), to the same text in the King James Bible, the Webels could learn how to say the same thing in English. Thus, the King James English version of the Holy Bible provided a convenient source of English vocabulary (i.e., serving as a bilingual dictionary/lexicon) by which the Webels could enhance/expand their English vocabulary, as immigrants who came to America not knowing English.
 The Inn River [a/k/a En River] is a tributary of the Danube River. The Inn River drains into the Danube at Germany’s Lower Bavarian city of Passau, on the border of Austria and Germany. As a border city, Passau is an important migrant entry site for people immigrating into Germany. The Danube River itself eventually drains into the Black Sea.
 Interestingly, Regensburg (a Bavarian city at the confluence of the Danube, Naab, and Regen rivers) was once a hub of expatriate Croatian Protestantism, led by a Croatian Lutheran named Matija Vlačić (Franković) Ilirik – i.e., Flacius (i.e., Matthias Flacius of Illyricus, AD1520-AD1575), who taught Calvinist-like theology at a school that he founded in Regensburg, in December of AD1561. Flacius was born in the Istrian town of Labin (a/k/a Albona), when Labin was still part of the Venetian Republic. (Labin was later acquired by Austria; today Labin is part of Croatia.) Due to persecutorial Counter-Reformation politics (including the Schmalkald War), Flacius could not live safely in Croatia, so he dwelt most of his life as an exile-refugee in Germany (and briefly elsewhere), from where he led the conservative portion of Germany’s Lutheran church after the death of Lutheranism’s founder, Dr. Martin Luther. Flacius’s leadership included service as Hebrew professor in Wittenberg, and later teaching in Magdeburg, Antwerp, Frankfurt, Strasbourg, and again in Frankfurt. In Wittenberg, during AD1545, Flacius first married, having 12 children by his first wife (before her death in AD1564). In Regensburg Flacius remarried, later in AD1564, and had another 6 children by his second wife. During World War II Regensburg hosted a factory for Messerschmitt Bf 109 aircraft, as well as an oil refinery, both of which were bombed by Allied warplanes (8-17-AD1943, again 2-5-AD1945). During AD1945-AD1949. As part of the American Zone of Occupation, Regensburg hosted the largest Displaced Persons camp in Germany, at one point housing about 6000 refugees and other displaced persons.
 Regarding the Bavarian city of Passau, (a/k/a Dreiflüssestadt or “City of Three Rivers,” because Danube there receives the Inn River, from the south, plus the Ilz River, from the north). Notice that the Danube River’s intersection with the Inn River is specifically mentioned in this part of the interview. [For more about Passau, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passau .]
The 5 earlier episodes, in this Webel family history series, are published as follows:
(1) “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part One: Jakob and Katarina Agreed to Marry Before They Ever Spoke to Each Other, A True Example of Love at First Sight…and First Sound”, Journal of the German-Texan Heritage Society, 35(1):25-32 (spring 2013), quoting from Rosalie Webel Whiting’s From Vinkovci to Medina (unpublished Webel family history), supplemented by personal interviews with Chaplain Robert Webel (during August AD2012);
(2) “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part Two: Volksdeutsche in Croatia, before World War II: Jakob and Katarina Webel are Merchants in Marinci (Taking Care of Business and the Business of Life)”, Journal of the German-Texan Heritage Society, 36(3):154-170 (fall 2014);
(3) “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part Three: World War II Confronts Jakob and Katarina Webel (Swabians Face Nazi Invaders and Yugoslavia’s Break-up)”, Journal of the German-Texan Heritage Society, 37(2):98-113 (summer 2015); and
(4) “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part Four: Surviving in Yugoslavia, Then Fleeing for the First Time – Jakob & Katarina Webel Escape from Marinci to Vinkovci,” Journal of the German-Texan Heritage Society, 37(4):219-240 (winter 2015).
(5) “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part Five: Fleeing Yugoslavia, Escaping the Communist Takeover: Jakob & Katarina Webel Flee Toward Germany,” Journal of the German-Texan Heritage Society, 38(3):110-124 (fall 2016).