Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part 7: Surviving on an Austrian Farm / Part 7a: Reaching Donnersdorf Au, Austria

Jakob & Katarina Webel family, AD1951: "Volksdeutsche by the Dozen"

Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part 7:

Surviving on an Austrian Farm (and Elsewhere) After World War II  —  Jakob and Katarina Webel Family, Hoping for a New Home


Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee….  (Genesis 26:3a).

In this seventh episode of the “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen” family history series, the ethnic-German family of Jakob and Katarina Webel, after evacuating from their former home in (what is today) Croatia, and having traveled through Germany, as a refugee family, during the last months of World War II, – plus sojourning as farmers for ~5 years (AD1945-AD1950) in Donnersdorf Au (Austria), and thereafter in Graz (Austria), they hoped and planned (e.g., in Salzburg, Austria) for a new home in Ohio (America), near the sister of Mr. Jakob Webel.


Volksdeutsche by the Dozen AD1951

During years on the Donnersdorf Au farm, the Webel family raise many vegetables, including pumpkins, watermelons, carrots, beans, parsley, etc., plus raising farm animals, e.g., pigs, chickens, and cows.  Even after 60+ years, little Robert Webel is remembered for how he would hold onto a trusting cow’s tail!  Regarding little Robert Webel’s fame in Donnersdorf Au (Austria), a local recalls his unique toddler personality – 61 years later!  [See 14:46 (of 19.55) in the YouTube posted at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSsZea7Vhww .]

For a YouTube mini-documentary of the Webel years in Donnersdorf Au, Austria, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sIo9_5tmEM , titledJakob & Katharina Webel history – Donnersdorf Au, Austria # 1”. This video footage features Elisabeth Webel Yovichin, her daughter Kristy Yovichin Steiner, her son David Yovichin, and David’s wife Sandy Folia Yovichin (i.e., Elisabeth Webel Yovichin’s daughter-in-law). This 17-minute-long video-recorded visit to Donnerdorf Au occurred in May of AD20110. (In the video Elisabeth Webel Yovichin mentioned that her father (Jakob Webel) dies in AD1989, and that her mother (Katarina Webel) dies in AD2002.  This family history is continued in “Jakob & Katharina Webel history – Donnersdorf Au, Austria # 2”, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSsZea7Vhww . See also Bad Radkersburg [Austria] – Mom’s School”, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qa6Q-2QAFQE  and “Jakob & Katharina Webel history – Graz, Austria”, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdghufYbLvU .

A related video episode reports on the Webel family’s sojourning time in Germany, as refugees, titled “Jakob & Katharina Webel history – Obernzell & Winzer, Germany” [where a flour mill was located], at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnTM3Sb1Ve8 .

For a quick slide-show overview of the Webel family’s refugee years in Europe, see David Yovichin’s “Jakob & Katharina Webel history – Europe (with Mom [Elisabeth Webel] Yovichin) – Slideshow”, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmXVzrMqC2A . This 11-minute youtube mini-documentary (accompanied by music that aptly fits the providential history depicted by the video footage “slides”) provides highlights from the entire series of video episodes noted here, with helpful geography indicators from time to time.

More related video episodes (by David Yovichin) include: “Jakob & Katharina Webel history – Vinkovci, Croatia”, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGbI76ODOAo; “Jakob & Katharina Webel history – Marinci, Croatia # 1”  at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GM9dHiE_URI – followed by https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fzkEk5tvcA “Jakob & Katharina Webel history – Marinci, Croatia # 2”, – followed by “Jakob & Katharina Webel history – Marinci, Croatia # 3”, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlvlf7Ob20k  — followed by “Jakob & Katharina Webel history – Marinci, Croatia # 4”, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GrQooRzHCQ  – followed by “Jakob & Katharina Webel history – Marinci, Croatia # 5”, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVjvoBPbOug .

[CHRONOLOGY CORRIGENDUM NOTE: In the interview excerpt quoted below, the interviewing daughter is identified as a Webel girl born during April of AD1949. However, in earlier episodes of this series,[1] I reported the interviewing daughter as Rosie Webel, since she is the one who actually produced (i.e., authored) the transcribed interview as a family history. But the actual interview questions  —  at least those appearing on page 163  —  cannot have been asked by Rosalie Webel, the ultimate author/producer of the Webel family record (“FROM VINKOVCI TO MEDINA”), because Rosie is reported as 6 years old (see newspaper photo and caption, above) during early AD1951, so she would have been born about 4 years before the daughter whose questions are recorded on page 163. However, Katherina (shown in Mr. Jakob Webel’s arms, in the above-shown newspaper photograph, is then reported as age “2”.  Accordingly, although the arithmetic is not a precise fit (because a child born during April AD1949 would be almost-but-not-yet “2” years old, as of March 19th of AD1951), it appears that the interviewing daughter, who is referred to on page 163, must be Katherina (a/k/a “Katie” – see also pages 156, 162, 168-169), since she was born during early AD1949. This correction should be imputed to prior episodes that apparently err when indicating Rosie as the interviewing daughter.]



Jakob & Katarina Webel family, AD1951: “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen”

How can the Webel family survive, as refugees, outside their native Yugoslavia? What about food, shelter, hygiene, and some kind of stable future for family living? For immediate survival, as refugees, what can they do, as they plan for a permanent solution to the problem of being forced to escape their homeland (and earlier life as merchants there)?  What must the “new normal” be, until a permanent home can be established, somewhere?  Where to live, now?  Where to live, later?  And how can a successful transition be made, to eventually settle in

a new homeland with a new home, where they can live according to their faith and values, as ethnic-German “Nazarene” Anabaptists? None of this will be easy!

[This interview quotes pages 116-172, From Vinkovci to Medina.]

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

 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, .  .  .  .

 DAUGHTER:   What for?

 MOM:   The river is there. They fall down. This a kind of fence like here they build on the bridges.

DAD:   Just a post here and a post there, mark every half kilometer or whatsoever. So our ship, the Hungarian soldier, they bound it, they fasten it here and there on 2 posts in the front, in the back, so we are here anchored. Everybody is left, we are there, our everything(?). So I, with Reini, what do we do? We could not stay here. No houses, no neighbor, no people living there, so we went out looking for something. We found an old and new automobiles or trucks but nobody knows how to drive it and nobody had a key and we found a farmer, he had a horse and we bought the horse and a buggy.

 DAUGHTER:   With the money originally from-

DAD:   Yeah, yeah.

 MOM:   From all the stuff.

DAD:   We bought that for money, some money. Then we had-

 DAUGHTER:   Where did you get that money?

DAD:   I told you. We had the money from before.

DAUGHTER:   That’s what I wanted to know.

 DAD:   We had the transfer from Yugoslav money, make German money. And beside that we had in a-, more than we had, I had to put in the bank and I got now received over half million in Germany money, that I got just a receipt, that’s all. And money is not much.

 DAUGHTER:   A receipt.

DAD:   Money is not much so we will give that farmer that bottle filled with margarine. And that-

 MOM:   And the stove and all kinds of stuff.

DAD:   Food whatever we could not carry. And we loaded all the-

 MOM:   The rice.

DAD:   Loaded all in that buggy and we had a small buggy made like a big buggy, little bit larger than that, like a big buggy, that we had from

DAD:   Yugoslavia already.

 MOM:   Four years.

DAD:   And we loaded that and hang on the big buggy.

 DAUGHTER:   How big was this wagon?

DAD:   This wagon was little bit bigger than that.

 DAUGHTER:   No, the big wagon.

DAD:   The big wagon. Oh, how big?

 DAUGHTER:   Like for baling hay?

 MOM:   Three yards long and almost that, like that.

DAD:   Not like that, little bit shorter, but about that short.

 DAUGHTER:   And as wide as-

DAD:   Like they are normally.

 MOM:   10 feet by 5 feet.

 DAUGHTER:   Was it covered?

 MOM:   No, was open.

 DAUGHTER:   Flat wagon?

 MOM:   No, wagon with sides.

 DAUGHTER:   Flat bed or just a shell inside?

DAD:   No, not shell. That high the sides, just 2 feet high.

 DAUGHTER:   And how many horses?

DAD:   One.

 MOM:   One, one.

DAD:   And we want to go, how far? The first place where is a hospital or where are a nurse.

 DAUGHTER:   Yeah, when you were 9 months or 8 months pregnant, right?

DAD:   Not farther but that much. First our intention was to get home before we got the baby.

 MOM:   While this was taking weeks and weeks.

DAD:   But it takes time so, that all, so now is the time, we came in the first town, what was the name?

 MOM:   Obersel.

DAD:   Then we get there, came in a city hall, you call it here a city hall. All we said was we need, but they have not. They are not obligated to give us something because we are now no more refugee. We are no more-, when we was in the Winsor, they are obligated to give us everything, now we are our own.

 DAUGHTER:   What made that determination?

DAD:   Because we left, we left by our own free will.

 MOM:   Free will to go home.

DAD:   We left our home. So, but they gave us ration card, every city when we came, our ration card, we got the food, we got that family….

 MOM:   So far we had them and then we get food for them.

DAD:   And they have nothing but they have a barracks, army barracks, through that road on, that’s uphill so far, and then the other part, they is plenty room, you could lodge there. So, what to do? Lets go, there nothing to do, nothing, so we go uphill and go, go, go, cannot farther pull the wagon.

 MOM:   Horse cannot go farther.

DAD:   So what yet? Unload the half stuff, half children stay there, and wait, and we go up. When we get up there, horse, we unload that, and when the Hungarian people and other kind people in that filled up the barracks but you’ve got room. And the people say, ‘you want to came over here? In that state is full with bed bugs.’ If you know what bed bugs is.

 MOM:   Want this. No. You cannot sleep in this house.

DAD:   But we passed a water mill, for food grounding flour, was a small more river, we pass that. That just one house, nothing, we pass it. No, we will not stay there, Mom goes to the children.

 MOM:   I said, don’t unload it, we go back. Let me go. I said, let’s me go. Okay.

DAD:   So Mom went down with Else.

 MOM:   Took Else, left them there.

DAD:   We stayed there.

 MOM:   He’s talking to this people, all kinds.

DAD:   We stay there not unloading and that’s some children are there, I do not know which one but Reini probably know. So Mom came there to that mill on the way.

 MOM:   Mill lady.

DAD:   She pass by the mill lady and stopped by her and talked with her and ask her for a place to live.

 MOM:   To stay overnight.

DAD:   And that lady, she had not very good living with her husband, and the husband was the owner from that mill and her husband and her husband’s brother, they work. They run the mill, the two men, and now was the husband sleeping and brother-in-law was working. So that woman has compassion with Mom, Mom promise her she give her that rice and give her that and that, and they had built a small cabin. There was 2 men sleeping there and baking bread for the soldier because that, not soldier, but for the civilian taken in the war defending, but this was a, was a small building for that purpose.

 MOM:   Just for making bread.

DAD:   There was beds there, not a bed, just to sleep in, to make bread and tables and they taked their own. And if you are satisfied with that, I will [?].

 MOM:   She show me this little room and she said, I can you give this overnight, my husband is now asleep, just you can have this little room, that’s the only thing what I have. I said, I don’t mind, just even the barn where your cows lay.

DAD:   She was satisfied with that.

 MOM:   Then we agreed both, and I went up there.

DAUGHTER:   How big was this little cabin?

DAD:   Cabin was about like our own kitchen.

 DAUGHTER:   About the size of your kitchen?

DAD:   About.

 MOM:   About 10 x 10.

DAD:   No, not like that. Was small and long.

 MOM:   Small and long.

DAD:   It’s okay. So Mom agreed and she get back to us and we, with the horse, go downhill, there is up there unload our stuff and went there, bring the other stuff with the children. And we did have covered up our wagon.

DAUGHTER:   With a tarp.

DAD:   Yes.

 MOM:   With some cover.

DAD:   And the bigger children slept there in the wagon. We make them sleep there. And so when in the morning or when the husband woke up, the owner, he was, when she told him, he was very upset and very mad.

 MOM:   He almost throw her away, threw her out of the house.

DAD:   Very upset and very mad, loud because she did it. And why he was upset so much? It’s, again, a reason. When the German army fell apart, there was many horses, German horses everywhere and prisoner of war go, take that horse and that horse, we will go home, the prisoner of war, to Poland land or to Yugoslavia and take the horses along. So we need a horse and that horses eat this farmer’s, that mill owner’s and farmer what…  his food here and there and he could do nothing about because-

DAUGHTER:   His wheat. His wheat they eat.

DAD:   His wheat and his hay, and everything and he could do nothing about because they are, they win the war. I have to be quiet, they could shoot me.

 MOM:   They can shoot our whole family out of our house.

DAD:   What could I do, so he was quiet, but now she-, but these men, American, before we came, the American put them together, all of their prisoner of war in the big autos, took them home, no horses.

 MOM:   No horses. Leave all those horses on the way.

DAD:   They thought they will take the horses along, but the American take the men home. You are from Poland, to Poland, Yugoslavian to Yugoslavia, wherever they belong. Now the men is get rid of the Polish horses, now we came with horse and he had nothing.

 MOM:   He had nothing.

 DAUGHTER:   He was jealous that you had a horse and he had nothing?

DAD:   No, no. Our horse get to eat his stuff.

 DAUGHTER:   He didn’t want your horse eating his stuff.

DAD:   Was little bit what he had, was left. Not jealous of me.

 MOM:   See, this is not like here a field, they had mountains where nothing grow, then it’s a river, and then it’s the road, and again the mountains.

DAD:   Just little bit here grow.

 MOM:   Just a little bit in this corner and the other corner grow something beside the river or some.

DAD:   And I go then-

 DAUGHTER:   How did she soothe him?

DAD:   When the morning came, I get up, out, the man was there. Waiting to see who’s there. I went there, talk with him, like with a boss.

 DAUGHTER:   What language did he speak?

DAD:   German. This is Germany. And so [I speak] the German language.  I went to him, introduce myself, who am I and so on, and we thank him for accepting us. And I said, our horse will not eat your stuff. We will go with the children in the mountains pull grasses here and there to bring to feed the horse.

MOM:   Get far in the woods and we will bring it home.

DAD:   And with that small wagon we had, we will feed our horses not from your stuff. And I will help you to work just for that, for to be here. You will not feel sorry because we work and help.

 MOM:   We want to go home to Yugoslavia, we are on the trip, just I cannot go farther, I had to get child born, then we will go riding.

DAD:   And when the people go there mowing grass for hay. but mowing grass, the hill, and some hill is so steep, some hill is not so steep, but when the hill is steep, then put a rope on the man here and somebody holds up stay, up, up, and then going downhill and cut the hay.

 MOM:   And they hold them all the way(?).

DAD:   And not let a little bit by and when it not so steep, then there’s no rope, then he mows, and when the hay is dry, they pull it just down.

 MOM:   They roll from top to the bottom.

 DAUGHTER:   When the hay is dry.

DAD:   When hay is dry. There big rake, down, down, down, down, down.

 MOM:   Big rolls.

 DAD:   And when they do, I went with them always to work.

MOM:   Work every day.

DAD:   Whatever they did, I went to work. I was not afraid to work and Mom was not afraid either, as much as she could in that condition.

 DAUGHTER:   Did you take the children with you, any of them?

 MOM:   No, no, no.

DAD:   The children have to take care for the horses. They go the mountain for grass, I said bring grasses to feed the horse.

 MOM:   And bring blueberries home or raspberries home to eat, and all kinds of things. They are making bread. I went to help them making the big dough. Every day they had to bake bread and all kinds of things, and this old lady there.

DAD:   And they now get horses, was the soldier, German soldier left, and prisoner of war left. That horses will be sold by auction, whosoever buy, and we was there. And in that close there we lived, by that same he had under something, like I magazine or what underneath was a room for make a stall for the horse to be, but it was not built for that, it was so small, here was a pole, and here was a pole, and somehow the horse laid down and could not get up, they get entangled and then broke the neck and so we had to-

 MOM:   Butcher.

DAD:   Not  …  we did butcher, but somebody else butchered that horse so we had.

 MOM:   They butchered the horse, we don’t want it.

DAD:   And that horses was now, the German horses was auctioned and we bought 3 horses and that mill owner bought 2 horses. Up to then he was making his delivery, he had delivery the flour in the stores. He had to deliver that much , the government give that, he ground it and after that-

[interruption in interview due to changing audiotape]

DAUGHTER:   Was he grinding corn and wheat or just wheat?

DAD:   It was mostly wheat.

 MOM:   Mostly wheat.

DAD:   And then when he bought the horses, he put them in the wagon but he could not drive them.

 MOM:   He never had them.

DAD:   Not only that, in that part of the country, the horses are, the wagons are built that way like the plow. So one horse could go.

 DAUGHTER:   Oh, sure, they a center axle type thing.

DAD:   And the center axle had but where they pull, and one pull ahead, and another goes back. And their horses what in Yugoslavia they could not saddle, one horse works, the horses could push back. The other horse could go without pulling anything so the horses were not used to that kind of travel, that kind of-

 DAUGHTER:   They were used to being ridden, not work horses.

DAD:   Even work horses.

 DAUGHTER:   Oh, okay.

DAD:   So when one of them pulls up, the other could push back so never, never could go. Then I go with them, I hold the horses tight, both horses tight on one hand, both horses here, and go by feet far away and leading the horses, you could not go one up forward and one back. All together so leading in the town and leading them back till their horses get acquainted. And so we was working.

 MOM:   Passed weeks and Dad spent every day in the city walking.

 DAUGHTER:   Pulling the horses.

 MOM:   This horses carry and they would not go otherwise.

DAD:   So there their owner was very, very satisfied with us. And then the time came that Mom should deliver. We called how they call how you call?

MOM:   Midwife.

DAD:   Midwife and she want in the hospital. No, we want at home and the baby was delivered there.

 DAUGHTER:   In this little cabin?

 MOM:   Yah [ Ja ], in cabin.

DAD:   Yeah, in little cabin. And when the Mrs. Rossinger saw in the morning we are up, she came right away, take all the dirty stuff, all the diapers, every dirty stuff, wash it, and she..

 MOM:   She was so busy lady.

DAD:   And she was so good toward us, Mom was never, had never such a good time with the baby like she had then.

 DAUGHTER:   Because someone was there to help her.

DAD:   Because someone takes her real good care. Two times, three times, cooked meal, good meal, not only for her, for the whole family.

 DAUGHTER:   Mrs. Rossinger did that?

DAD:   Mrs. Rossinger did that.

 MOM:   For them all and for me. For them all and for me.

DAD:   Yeah, and the washing, everything, she didn’t let Mom wash, she didn’t let me wash, she did it.

 DAUGHTER:   Why do you suppose she did that?

DAD:   Why? Because she had never… she had three children or two and she had never a good time. She had not very good time with her husband at all and she had not good time. Why she do it? That’s because she did it.

 DAUGHTER:   How long were you there?

DAD:   We lived there-

 MOM:   Just a month more than this.

DAD:   And when Rosie was born. After that and then their little Billy was a man.

 MOM:   This was the big Billy.

DAD:   Yeah, boy or whatever, was a big boy now.

 MOM:   Yeah, Billy-

DAD:   She got a girl and a boy.

 MOM:   Yeah, Billy had something happen to him in his foot had something in his foot and she had to take him to the doctor. There’s no doctor for them, they cannot go to a doctor, we can go to the-

DAD:   No doctor, German that is here, just American doctor, and the American doctor could not take care of the German people because they are enemies.

 MOM:   And we are..

DAD:   But we are Yugoslav they will, now we are not German, we are Yugoslav, they will. So Mom should go with that boy-

 MOM:   As my own.

DAD:   — as my boy. That’s my boy told him.

 MOM:   And then they take care of him. I said, no, Mrs. Rossinger, I don’t do this, I will not lie and say that’s my boy if not my boy. I will not do this.

DAD:   But they see what is in the boy.

 MOM:   I know now. He stepped in a strick needle, in a big needle.

 DAUGHTER:   Oh, in a crochet hook.

MOM:   Not a crochet hook, just a long one was half out from the ground and he stepped. And then I said, Mrs. Rossinger, I will not do this, I make some medicine for him and we will put on the place what happened to him. And I will see, when I go I will explain that’s not my child, just we are living in the same house.

 DAUGHTER:   Mom, how old was this Billy?

 MOM:   About 14 years old. And then I made this plaster, what’s ever just make bread and soap and she had all things what I need and we put them on and he was getting better. He had no fever, only getting better and he jumped around the house and he was not like sick boy.

DAD:   So he got healed.

 MOM:   And then her girl was 9 year old and she had a stick [i.e., puncture wound from a stinging insect]  from when they went picking blueberries in the mountains and she had on her breast just way on the pimple that it have sting and on the head, they pull the head, the rest from the bug fell off and she had such a big breast this little child.

DAD:   Swollen.

 MOM:   Swollen and she was so in fever, she don’t tell me, Mrs. Rossinger. And one day I said, where is Mandy? (I didn’t have good the name.) She said, Mandy’s very sick, she had that thing so I want to ask you will go again to the doctor, just I know you would not do. I said, Mrs. Rossinger, you should tell me, I will mix the same, what I made on Billy’s leg and this will be over in short time. We made it. She said for 3 nights she was not asleep and not.. with a high fever. We made this, Mandy fell asleep, about 2 hours after this popped open with all the

 DAUGHTER:   Pus and everything.

 MOM:   All that material, how you say it, pus, came out, Mandy was better, everything was good.

DAD:   They were very happy with us, father and mother, and-

 MOM:   When they feed Robert, Robert was already trained without bottle or any, we don’t have, and she had a little boy like the same age was Peterli. He has not his Dad made this…

DAUGHTER:   There was a Billy and a Mickey and a Peter.

 MOM:   Mandali and a Peter. and the Peter don’t, he don’t want to drink the bottle. They had many milk, all time what he want, he can have, he would not drink. Our Robert has the same bottle, they had to be sitting them besides each other, and they drink their whole bottle. Otherwise he would not drink, this Peterli. So they spoiled even the Robert.

DAD:   And now when a week or two week was Rosie old, we got to go.

 DAUGHTER:   Before we go too much further, have we already gone past the time when Robert would hang on a cow’s tail?

DAD:   No.

 MOM:   Oh, no, we have…this is way later..

 DAUGHTER:   I don’t want you to forget that part. So let’s go.

DAD:   There Robert was too small. And now we want to leave. Mr. Rossinger don’t want to let us. He had, uphill on the same river-

 MOM:   Sawmill.

DAD:   . . . sawmill, you know what is, to cut it.

 DAUGHTER:   Sure. Yeah.

DAD:   And I should go there, work for him, and we could live there.

 MOM:   The house there and everything is there. They will give us everything there.

DAD:   We want to go home. And that was very close to the Austrian border American was here has, and American was there but just German, during the war was it one. In 1939 German annexed it was it one German. But when the war was over, Austria is not part to Germany, we are separate. So we go to Austria and the Austria have to accept us, they have no power because there are American here, American there, they are the powers so we came there. If we would came from Yugoslavia, flying from the Communists, they had to accept us and put us in a camp, somewhere. But because we came from Germany, we go somewhere, nobody, you are on your own.

 MOM:   See, we had to go, then they left this farmers, Brassinger, just one more little town and then is the border, just we had to go over that Danube [River] with the big ship again.

DAD:   Over the river.

 MOM:   Yeah, even across river.

 DAUGHTER:   Like with a ferry.

 MOM:   Yeah, with a ferry. With the horses and with the children….

DAD:   Now we could not go back to Germany and we do not want to go back, we want to go there. But when we came, nobody wants us but we go.

 MOM:   Nobody wants us anymore.

DAD:   But we came and here is a big camp, many Yugoslav people and here we meet people who were already back after war in Yugoslavia and Tito and the communists strip them naked and sent them back. And so we are afraid to go in Yugoslavia. So we don’t go straight as the road. We go this way and that way we heard we are there, even the Pfeiffer’s are there. Go there. Just they are in a camp. The camp is full. think!. They have no power to say, ‘Come with us.’

 DAUGHTER:   A refugee camp barracks.

DAD:   Yeah, barracks.

 MOM:   People and people.

DAD:   The army barracks transferred into refugee camp but filled up. And if I came from Yugoslavia, they have to give me room but if I came from Germany, nobody. So we went from here to there, from here to there.

 MOM:   Three weeks on this or four we do.

DAD:   More. With a ration card. You get here, stop here, it’s a little bit river, little bit water, take what we have to bring to water the horses, and little bit of grass to feed. Then here is a farmer, we go there, pick some hay, oh, I give you the ration card for tobacco, I will give you ration for that, I will give you little bit rice, I give you little bit rubber band with that.

MOM:   Rubber bands.

DAD:   That they deal with it. Yet we came close to a city called Bad Ishel. That’s the place where Austrian king have summer vacation, a big city on the high mountain. And close to that and when the . . . about from the mountain up and down, Reini’s job was to go behind the wagon, when we go downhill to put the brakes on.

 MOM:   The horses could not hold the wagon.

DAD:   There was not a brake, with a pedal, so you go behind the wagon and you have to screw to hold it. So he again, now it’s a little better so he let them go and go up. And was a little bit rainy, and he slip up and wagon went over his-.

 MOM:   He jumped on the front where he get up.

DAD:   Yeah, but he slip down in there. Now he was sick, sick, sick [i.e., very injured].

MOM:   His legs was broken.

 DAUGHTER:   It was the foot that he ran over?

 MOM:   Oh, yeah.

DAD:   And then I take him in small wagon and pull him to the town.

 DAUGHTER:   How old was Reini now?  More like 12, huh?

 DAD:   Reini was [born] in ’34-

 DAUGHTER:   Nine at this time?

DAD:   No, no, no, bigger, bigger, 11.  Well, this is ’44, ’45.  What?

 DAUGHTER:   When was Reini born?

DAD:   ‘34. Now it’s 45, and so, take the first to the doctor, doctor take care of it and say, give us what he needs based on what he did, next town go to the doctor again. So, still not long after that we get-

 MOM:   Cannot walk anymore. He have to lay in the wagon. Nobody can go on the wagon, all we had to walk. He had to lay in the wagon, big wagon.

DAD:   Yeah, and then we, when we get in that big city, they have a hospital, we had to there, but the big city built on the mountain, the streets are small, the houses are crowded, no place to park the horses together so we in this hospital, put them there, oh, he have to stay there in the hospital. So we had to put him in the hospital, we go out of the town, how far will we go? To first place where we could find, so was a railroad crossing, railroad there and a small river there and-

 MOM:   A couple houses.

DAD:   A couple of houses, and beside the river was a little bit grass, that’s the place we could stop. The horses can here, eat the grasses, but one thing we had, the main thing, we had water to wash the diapers and to …

 MOM:   And clothes, I wash all because we have to stay 3 days in this.

DAD:   And beside that, I had made from a heavy wire like that, just on 3 place feet, and put a thin sheet on it bind with wire, so to put fire here on and cook on that.

 DAUGHTER:   Like a small tripod type thing.

 MOM:   Yeah, yeah.

DAD:   And that we put always under the wagon when we travel and fine, so-, and when we go somewhere, the children pick up that food, pick up that wood so we have —

 MOM:   And we see a little branch, we send to get in the wagon.

 DAUGHTER:   Who paid for Reini’s hospital stay?

DAD:   I did. When we get there, he was out of the hospital and we are there on that place, on that space, oh, here is a farmer, go up to the farmer and beg for some hay, pay for that, tomorrow, and we stay there for 3, 4, 5 days and every once in a while I walk to the hospital, he was not in the gypsum in the iron.

 MOM:   Kind of boards, boards all with the….

 DAUGHTER:   Called a splint. They had his leg in a splint.

 MOM:   Yeah, yeah.

DAD:   The whole foot was very damaged.

 MOM:   And all the fingers.

 DAUGHTER:   Little bones.

DAD:   And in that time, like before, we were of the faith and we never did steal, and we make our living so, but we could not go to farther and nobody will sell anymore.

 MOM:   They selled us already couple times here give us some hay.

DAD:   The whole thing was-, important was food for the horses.

 DAUGHTER:   You still had 3 horses?

 MOM:   Yeah, 3 horses.

DAD:   And one evening I went there with a rope and opened the barn. See, the hay is here, is the hayfield, not a farmers house, hayfield, and down on the bottom of the hill they had a barn, I would say, to put the hay in.

 MOM:   No, no animals, just hay.

DAD:   Just hay, and in the winter, when they need it, they came with a wagon, took it home where the animals are. So nobody’s there, I went there and opened and fill up my rope and on my back and take it to the horses where we are to feed them, once. When I did that, I know it’s not right, I know it’s stealing, but I justify myself. It is written when the-, you short the horse not bound mouth when they are threshing, and it is written when they are passed when Jesus went to the field, they passed and get hungry, they have pick it and even the corn and eat.[2]  This was not their corn, but they need it, so I justify myself and I was not condemning myself but [my] justification was not justified.

 DAUGHTER:   You didn’t feel good.

DAD:   I was not justified but I try to justify myself.  So when we get Reini out, we didn’t have to pay nothing, this war time…   that was so…

 DAUGHTER:   Was his foot completely healed?

 MOM:   Oh, no, we had to carry.

DAD:   We had take care again.

 DAUGHTER:   What did they do to him in the hospital, Mom?

 MOM:   Put new bandages on him, everything new.

DAD:   First, they put in the gypsum, but not in the gypsum, they put an iron here, an iron here, to hold it.

 DAUGHTER:   Gypsum means cast.

 MOM:   Cast. Don’t make … 

 DAD:   . . . cast, cast, but make an iron here and put them on maybe a right place and bandaged them and stay that long, 3, 4 days there.

 MOM:   This no infection, this was everything they take…

DAD:   Then they say they will give us a paper, with that you go where you go, the first doctor, he will what now to do.

MOM:   The biggest city what we get towns and towns, and again a bigger city, in this city, this and this, a hospital or a doctor …

 DAUGHTER:   Was his foot broken open or was the skin all still intact?

DAD:   No, was not intact.

MOM:   What is” intact”? [i.e., what does “intact” mean, as used in the phrase “not intact”?]

 DAUGHTER:   His skin was all torn and everything.

 MOM:   Torn.

 DAUGHTER:   Where were you traveling to?

 DAD:   Back to Yugoslavia.

 DAUGHTER:   Were you still trying to go back to Yugoslavia?

 MOM:   Oh, yes.

DAD:   We are trying to take time, to take time to stay there as if possible.

 MOM:   If somebody wants us.

DAD:   We are afraid to go to Yugoslavia but we have no place to stay so we are traveling like gypsies..

 DAUGHTER:   You’re looking for a home in Austria.

DAD:   Here and there and always closer, closer to the Yugoslav border, and the mountains are that steep somewhere horses hold back the

wagon. The 2 wheels are tight, could not roll, and the wagon runs before the horses.

 MOM:   Cross the road, not like this.

DAD:   Like when you go with automobile and it cut out and it go that way.

  DAUGHTER:   That’s how steep it was going downhill even though you had 3 of the wheels locked.

 MOM:   Yah  [Ja],  2 of the wheels were locked.

DAD:   Two of the wheels, yeah, yeah. And still it was very dangerous. And Rosie grew little by little older but as long as the wagon rolls, she was quiet. When we stop, ahhhhh, cries, cries, cries.

 MOM:   She cries.

DAD:   And every people wherever we go, were aware we got the baby, and some were curious, some came-

 MOM:   And never left the children in the wagon on the hill down, we had them out of the wagon and had them walk down and when the wagon was down, and everything is set, then we go back in the wagon and go again.

DAD:   So we go lots of time. Interesting things, sometime a horse could not walk in a whole day, ten miles. Two mile, 3 mile, it cannot walk.

MOM:   Can’t walk, just so tired.

DAD:   A man could much more endure than a horse can.

 DAUGHTER:   Were the horses shod? Did they have shoes?

DAD:   Yes, yes. They have shoes.

 MOM:   They had shoes, they get so soft they cannot walk anymore.

 DAUGHTER:   Okay, then what happened?

DAD:   Then finally we came to Leipsik [i.e., Leipzig, in Saxony, Germany – formerly spelled “Leipsic”].

 DAUGHTER:   What happened to Rosie’s crying?

DAD:   I would just say, nothing, she cried, you have to stop them, but it was so.

 MOM:  Everybody know we have a baby since as soon we stay on the road. But for a water or whatever.

DAD:   Telling about that…. one place we stopped is a railroad, beside the railroad, place we stop, we stop here. The horses put down on the wagon untied and give something food.

 MOM:   Right here is the railroad and here is the road and this was a triangle so was just weeds and trucks and…

DAD:   And we stayed there, was a flatbed truck there standing beside it, and we take our stuff on the flatbed there, catch a little sleep there.  Came-

 DAUGHTER:   On the flatbed truck, Mom.

 MOM:   Yeah.

DAD:   A lady from the window calls, ‘we [i.e., you] have no right to stay here, we [i.e., you] should go away, this.’

 MOM:   She was yelling at us all kinds of stuff.

DAD:   Cannot go farther, we stay here.

 MOM:   And the other lady. Don’t forget the other lady is looking through the window over the railroad and she see all the thing what I do. I wash the children one by one and make their beds ready and I wipe them with my apron. And she was kind of.. she had to take a towel over. It’s not right, I wipe them, all their faces and hand, and they are clean on my apron.

 DAUGHTER:   Brought this towel.

 MOM:   Not right away, not right away. She was just looking everything was going on. And that lady was yelling over there so bad.

 DAD:   And then so it’s night, got dark, that lady was holler.

MOM:   Listen, listen, before this lady was a hollering, she was washing clothes in her wash kitchen down in the basement, not the basement, even floor, and then she had a other floor and a other. And the smoke came very bad out of this kitchen.   And Dad was the first one there run over. All this paper what she had before the fire where she peddled.

DAUGHTER:   Yeah, where she was boiling the water.

 MOM:   Boiling the water.

DAD:   Catched fire, and so …

 MOM:   Catched fire, was on fire, the kitchen, and Dad went there and put the fire out and made everything ready, and he was the first there, and this lady stop hollering and everything was smooth.

DAD:   This was a — she almost died when that happened. And so we lay all in the bed, came a storm, a big, rained hard, hard.

 MOM:   And this lady came, and said they got a workshop beside their house with a wooden stuff all woodwork and we can come over there with the children and with the horses, put the children in the dry, this bad weather is now here.

DAD:   And they had a workshop and it had a flat, only a roof before that, so we get the horse under that roof and we get in workshop, just don’t make a fire.

MOM:   Don’t put a light on or anything.

DAD:   And then came thunder….

 MOM:   The lightning.

 DAUGHTER:   Thunder and lightning.

DAD:   And I put the horses in the, on the wagon, they could not pull, they could not pull. I had forgotten I had my make it tied, the wheels.

 MOM:   We tied the wheels. They cannot pull for nothing. Here comes the bad weather, rains and thunder and lightning.

 DAUGHTER:   Then did you remember?

DAD:   Probably.

 MOM:   Finally he remember.

DAD:   Finally the horses get there and the horses are in dry place and we are in dry place, settled again, sleep till the morning. When the morning came up, sure enough, I cleaned up, take some broom, find somewhere, cleaned up what the horses make everything, make it clean, not leave that mess there, and-

 MOM:   We was even good friends when we leave and this lady from across the street, she saw it, all these things, was I did before the storm come, and everything, she brought the towel over and she said she saw how I wash this children and she was kind a….

 DAUGHTER:   Was Reini’s foot still bad?

 MOM:   Oh, yeah, still the same.

DAD:   One day.

 MOM:   Better, was always a little bit better, healing, just not good.

DAD:   He could limp already. And so on till we finally, oh, the main experience was there in…

 DAUGHTER: Yeah, but didn’t somebody ask about me? If I was your baby?  Because I was dark?

DAD:   No.

 MOM:   Well, maybe in some-, we went onto one place, was the same thing happen, was coming such a big storm, we did park was outside only, nowhere, just somewhere. Then an old man came over there and he saw this baby and he was so surprised and I was washing the diapers and making supper for us, was before night. And he went away, he give me 5 marc or 10 marc, money, for this little child, and then, okay, “thank you”, and he was really a old man. He went home, then came more ladies there. He went home and say, over there is some so and so, and this people came there, they said, what! he give you the money? I said yes. He such a stingy man, he would not give even a straw hollum, you know how you say it, even nothing! They are refuge [i.e., refugee] too.

DAD:   But you should know that we had our diapers, were all clothes, cloth diapers you know, but many was rags, but not dirty.

 MOM:   No, I wash all the time.

DAD:   We had, our rags were clean, regardless how we were, which condition, our rags were clean. We didn’t have a bathtub, we didn’t have running water, we didn’t have many thing, but we were clean, we didn’t have soap, we didn’t have detergent, but that makes no difference.

 DAUGHTER:   Okay now, Jake and I were born in Donnersdorf [Au], Austria?

 MOM:   Yeah. That was much later. We coming now there. Then we was traveling, traveling, then the —

           [interruption in interview due to changing audiotape]

 DAUGHTER:   You mean Reini had to go in the hospital periodically for more medicine too?

DAD:   Yeah.

 MOM:   Yeah. when they saw the dressings that the nurse give. They say you have to be in the hospital in big city.

[missing some interview: someone is speaking too softly to be audible]

DAD: —  then we know it not good to express it.

 DAUGHTER:   Curiosity.

DAD:   Curiosity, yeah.

 MOM:   They come from so far like a ….

DAD:   Yeah, and soon, we talk, Mom was talking now.

 MOM:   You was not there even, you went in the mountains with Reini looking for a job or even if a farm there we can stay with somebody-

DAD:   A place who needs horses and workers, to stay there.

 MOM:   And Dad was not there, then an old lady came there and she was talking all kinds of things. I told her was now Dad is looking for a job and this, all of this. Then she told me she know a farmer what he needs worker and he needs horses, her son goes there for work.

DAD:   He needs horses, not workers so much. And before, the first, when they divided Austria, there are four aliens, the Russian, French. That part was Russia occupied, but when they divided, then Russia had to go out from there, and came the English men there, England, and when the Russia went, they took all the horses from that farmer and that was a..-

 MOM:   Acres of land but no horses.

 DAD:   There’s a rich farmer and no horses and no tractor so how can?  So he need badly horses, and that old lady’s children, went periodically there to work.

 MOM:   They are working by for this farmer and they are coming home on the bike and so on, and she told me all kinds of things and I was quick writing down some things, address and other, and she said, I will send my son, okay, I will send my son. He comes over here only you will follow him. And when Dad comes back from this mountain, what’s-, all afternoon something, who knows how much time, then I told him, let’s go right away, tomorrow is Sunday, let’s go right away. Okay, finished everything up and take the wagon and we go. We had Reini out from the hospital. When we wait, this old lady’s son, maybe he never comes, better we go by ourselves. We know the name and we know the town, and let’s go. Oh, we go, go, go, go, go, and getting dark, and no place like this.

DAD:   And we found a place, with that name-

 MOM:   Dad stopped and no place like this.

DAD:   No, no, no, we found the place, but no farmer like that and even-

MOM:   Find the name.

DAD:   No farm, no big farmers, no small farmer. Then somebody remember, oh, there and there is a town the same name, that’s are rich farmers, the farmers there.

 MOM:   That’s are the big farmers.

DAD:   And now it’s all night.

DAUGHTER:   You mean 2 towns with the same name.

DAD:   Yes.

 MOM:   Same name. And then, while we have to stay now overnight, it’s too late, late at night. We ask them how far this is. You have the whole day traveling with these horses, so far is this from their same town. So we stopped over there and I ask can we have maybe skim milk for the children, they have no supper, and then they give them just a little bit something. She gave us skim milk and we stayed in their yard overnight and so in the morning early Sunday, we never traveled Sunday, just Sunday was no travel, ever, with the horses.

DAD:   I don’t know when was that where they would not keep us because they still stole their horses.

 MOM:   No, this was on other place, same time, the same time, same time before this. We came on a place, and was the same thing, they would not even let us-

DAD:   We stopped in the front of the farmer. Why? Because here is a well with we could have water, could give us was water and the farmer came out, and want to chase us out, no we could not stay here, but you could not chase us out, just stay, that’s all.

 MOM:   He didn’t listen to us say anything, we don’t say nothing, we was quiet, we stayed and, well, we was all kind of shy so anyhow, he was not just coming and, you know-

DAD:   Not physically but just hollering we should go away.

DAUGHTER:   Since you couldn’t go to church any Sunday mornings or anything like that, what did you do? Did you have church with your family?

DAD:   No, we didn’t have church. We didn’t have church. First of all, the children were small, we had no church. We had only our service every day, our prayer before meal and after meal and before going to bed, but we had not never imitate a church service.

 DAUGHTER:   What did you do on Sundays since you didn’t travel?

DAD:   Same thing.

 DAUGHTER:   Just rested?

 MOM:   Same thing. rested. Just cook just a simpler soup, I cook soup.

 DAUGHTER:   Nothing [else]?

DAD:   Some people does kind of have a devotion and have a… I never felt that way that we should.

 MOM:   And then as he told us we should go. We don’t.

DAD:   The next day we went.

 MOM:   Next morning, when we get up, I can go there in the house and find the lady and I said, will you sell something to us for the children. Yeah, you can even cook them here, okay. I said that’s not necessary, have to be cooked. Yes, then she said, that is skim milk or you cook for the children. I said, okay, I cook. I put rice in and make a good meal then. Cook rice in the milk and that was good for the children. And so I cook them over on her stove, the whole pan full and I give her a cup of rice. She was so glad and so happy. And the husband was already somewhere on the field or in the work somewhere, just she was very nice, very nice.

 DAUGHTER:   Okay, that Sunday you traveled. Did you make it to the other farm?

DAD:   Yes. Not the whole day, but afternoon, early in the afternoon we got there. The farmer was standing at the roads before his house, just close by there. It was farmer and a whole bunch of people there.

 MOM:   Workers, his workers.

DAD:   We saw that. What should we do?

 MOM:   This young boy went already with the bike, morning early, and he was there for long already, long before. And he told them all kinds of things and when we arrived, they was all sitting on the steps there, the 5 high steps, very big ones, and then he — –

DAD:   Not very much we could not … “What should I do with the bunch of children?” He was a single man.

 MOM:   Never married.

DAD:   Never married, 40 years and his sister too was 52 and they run the farm. They were rich people but what can he do with that children. He don’t need to feed 10 mouths.

 DAUGHTER:   Before we go on any further, tell me the name of this town.

DAD:   That name really, Au. That means “valley”.

 MOM:   It just “Au”.

DAD:   It is not official name. It’s official name that belongs to Donnersdorf, but it Au [i.e., Donnersdorf Au, in Austria].

 DAUGHTER:   How large is Donnersdorf  [i.e., Donnersdorf Au, in Austria] ?

DAD:   Donnersdorf is here maybe 10 house, maybe 20, that’s all, but the farmers are, here a farmer and there a farmer, had 100 or 200 or 500 acres field and every farmer…

 [See YouTube @ https://youtu.be/9sIo9_5tmEM?t=37 ]

DAUGHTER:   The main city or whatever is very small but it has the big sparse farms around.

DAD:   Yes, yes.

 DAUGHTER:   And it’s a very rich valley.

 MOM:   Rich valley, yah. — The Au.

DAD:   Sure, very rich people live here, there’s always the poor people because it could not exist rich without poor.  And so then I again to explain to him we are anxious to get a roof, that’s all, not to go to Yugoslavia.  That’s all.  There, in Leibnich, we did met Bach’s wife. Also a woman called Pfister, she was in Yugoslavia, she was in Austria and went back to Yugoslavia, and the Communists stripped her all and she is here with 2 young girls.  She has nothing whatsoever [notice the King James English again], only what she had on her.

 MOM:   No cover for the children, not even a blanket, not even anything.

 DAD:   Blanket.

 DAUGHTER:   “Poplum”, I used to know what that means. What does that mean, Dad? Is that like a quilt?

DAD:   Yes, like a quilt, like a quilt but wool inside and not a…

 MOM:   We gave them a quilt for those 2 girls to cover at night.

DAD:   Yeah, to have something. And later on.

 MOM:   We had enough.

DAD:   And later on the 2 girls, they came to America, one is Bach’s wife, one is Pfister’s wife, members here. The mother-

[Here Mom suggests shutting off the recorder: “Then we can eat a little; Dad should eat too.”]

PART 7  to be continued,  soon,  God willing )


[1] The 6 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);    (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);   and  (6) “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part Six:  After Yugoslavia, Wandering Through Europe: Jakob & Katarina Webel, Fleeing To Germany,” Journal of the German-Texan Heritage Society, 39(1):196-215 (spring 2017).

 [2] See Matthew 12:1-4; Luke 6:1-5 in conjunction with Deuteronomy 23:24-25, Leviticus 19:9-10, & Deuteronomy 24:19.


The Steve and Erica Webel family (above), during AD2014. Included in this family photograph are the 2 native-Texan boys, Nate Webel (born in AD2007) and Luke Webel (born in AD2012), who thus represent the ethnic-German-descended Webel immigrant family heritage, as they rightly claim their own status as “German-Texans”.  Steve Webel is a son of Robert (“Bob”) and Marcia Webel.  (The family resemblances, to both Chaplain Bob and Marcia Webel — both of whom are shown below —  is easy to see.)


    ><> JJSJ   profjjsj@aol.com

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.



  1. Pingback: Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part 7 / Part 7b: Sojourning in Donnersdorf Au, Austria | rockdoveblog

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