Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part 7 / Part 7b: Sojourning in Donnersdorf Au, Austria

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

And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.  But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.  (Leviticus 19:33-34)


Jakob & Katarina Webel family, immigrants in Austria

 [The ongoing interview of Jakob & Katarina Webel resumes from Part 7a, which see at: https://rockdoveblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/27/volksdeutsche-by-the-dozen-part-7-surviving-on-an-austrian-farm-part-7a-reaching-donnersdorf-au-austria/ .]

The Austrian farmland, where the Webel family sojourned (after emigrating from Yugoslavia), is shown at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sIo9_5tmEM , titledJakob & Katharina Webel history – Donnersdorf Au, Austria # 1”.


DAD:   Then we came there, I have to explain to that farmer again, our purpose, our aim, so I told him, we need only a place, the horses where to be, and food for the horses and a shelter where we could sleep and live, and for that, the horses will work for him and I. We did agree, I don’t ask to pay something for me. I don’t ask to feed the family, just that. And then he sold us [perhaps the verb “sold” here means “leased”, i.e., “rented” via barter for services to be performed by the Webel family], not far here is orchard, maybe like to that house over there, is  between orchard and …

 DAUGHTER:   How many feet is that, Dad?

MOM:   About 100 yards.

DAD:   But here is a way, is over there.

 MOM:   Road where the wagons go.

DAD:   And over there we could stay, and there was before we came, there was the prisoner of war, German, the soldiers from Poland or from America, was prisoner of war there and they were there sleeping and there was the house were there, a bedroom, a kitchen, and a barn, and a basement.

 MOM:   Not a “barn” — a “stall”.

 DAUGHTER:   A stall.

DAD:   A stall, and so. And we could have that, and was in, fenced in with barbed wire, that high, like a ceiling, and so, in the night they was fenced in because they sleep there and they go to work, but now is nobody there, but here bed, beds- 2×2. No, no, no. From the woods cut up, trees, wood that high, and the 2×4 back so men could lay that way or that way, how he want to lay.

 MOM:   Long was 2 yards. this way or this way.

DAD:   A bottom and on the top. So it had 2 layer.

 MOM:   And just straw, nothing else, no blanket or nothing, just straw.

DAD:   So that is there. In the kitchen was a stove, wood stove, built. So we put the horses in and we are there at home now.

 MOM:   Then we sit down and then they come with a bowl-full, like a farmer’s kit in, there’s almost nothing in, just good, made good though, we had for long time not so good food.

DAD:   They give us to eat, bring us to eat anyhow.

 MOM:   Supper, for milk for the children to drink and so.

DAD:   The farmers, because they are far from a city, they do not have to deliver the milk to the state, just only the-

 MOM:   Cream.

DAD:   The cream. Every morning they take the cream off, that farmer had to bring so and so much cream, that so and so much cream, and so, they have skim milk as much as they want.

 MOM:   Skim milk they feed, the people, swine.

DAD:   And so the next morning I went to work.

 DAUGHTER:   This farmer had what? He had cows?

DAD:   He had cows, he had pigs.

 DAUGHTER:   He had chickens.

 MOM:   Oh, yeah, lots of chicken there.

 DAUGHTER:   He had an orchard which contained? Apples?

DAD:   Oh, yeah, mostly apples.

 MOM:   Apples and pears and plums.

 DAUGHTER:   What did he farm?

DAD:   Corn and everything.

 DAUGHTER:   Wheat?

DAD:   Wheat.

 DAUGHTER:   Vegetables?

 MOM:   Soy beans.

DAD:   Not vegetables for   – – – cucumbers, spinach and so…

 MOM:   Cucumbers, lots of cucumbers. Wagons full.

DAD:   Like every farmer, whatever you could sell.

 MOM:   Pumpkins, couple acres.

DAD:   At that time the people were hungry for everything, whatever you could sell good.

 DAUGHTER:   Okay. Next morning you got up.

DAD:   Got up, whatever he said, plow, plow, disk , disk.

 DAUGHTER:   What time of year was this when you came to this farmer? Towards the fall.

DAD:   This was almost the fall, the second hay was ready to be cut.

 DAUGHTER:   So August. About August.

 MOM:   July or August, yes.

 DAUGHTER:   Well, Mom, Rosie was born the end of June.

DAD:   Yeah.

 MOM:   Yes.

DAD:   And if Rosie was 2 months old, it was the end of August, could be, could be.

 MOM:   It was 7 weeks she was old, I remember that  —  7 weeks old.

 DAUGHTER:   Did you have to have her birth documented anyplace when she was born?

 DAD:   When she was born, we get right away the document.

 DAUGHTER:   That was down in town.

 MOM:   Over there, yeah.

 DAUGHTER:   Courthouse or something? Which courthouse?

 MOM:   Obersel.

DAD:   That is like a Magistrate.

 DAUGHTER:   Magistrate, okay. You got up in the morning and did what the farmer wanted you to do. Why did he plow? Was it for a fall plow?

DAD:   Whatsoever[3] was he telled me to do, I did with the horses. Hauling manure, and in the fall they had-, they farmers are a people that way, the whole water, not only the water, the stall is here, the cows, and the drainage goes down in a cistern, this is mixed with rain water that came, and that they had pumps that put it in tanks, horses pull them on the hill, and in fall just pull them down-

 MOM:   Down the hill.

DAD:   Downhill.

 MOM:   That’s the only way.

DAD:   Only in the orchard everywhere.

 DAUGHTER:   That’s how they fertilize.

DAD:   Yeah, they fertilize that beside the manure. So if I could remember what’s I did there for which day but whichever he did, and Mom, in the morning, every day went to the house lady, she was single, “What can I do?“

 MOM:   What can I help? She had lots of workers.

DAD:   Then we had for years could buy no shirt, no material, no pants, no nothing. Everything was torn and the back was…

 MOM:   Made from 3, 4 pieces.

DAD:   Yeah, so Mom could, Mom did sew for her?

 MOM:   And make a garden.

DAD:   And go in the field.

 MOM:   Afternoon, all of, all afternoon, every afternoon we went to the field, worked with the other people.

 DAUGHTER:   Who took care of Rosie? Elsa?

 MOM:   Elsa. She bring her on the wagon to get-, then I give her-, in the afternoon later she bring her out walking on the road, in the field.

DAD:   Bring her to her….                                                                       

DAUGHTER:   Because you nursed her.

 MOM:   Nurse her. That was the only [option].

 DAUGHTER:   Did Elsa take care of all the children?

 MOM:   And then Robert was small and the house lady, she loved this Robert so much in the house, even her own too, they do all kinds of things with him. He was very active and cute and listen to all kinds of … she feed him. In evenings I came home and he’s not hungry, not at all. And she feed him butter and bread and all kinds of things.

 DAUGHTER:   This is where he’d hang on the cow’s tail.

 MOM:   On — yeah, yeah.

DAD:   Yeah, the cows are outside in the field, not in the field, that are fenced in, but here, in the pastures and escape now, that caught on any other pasture, and when the time came, the cow know the time is to go home.

 MOM:   They have kind of hollered to this cow, and then now the time they came all at of the gate.

DAD:   Somebody had to open the gate.

 MOM:   This Robert, everything he knows, open this gate, pull this heavy thing to pull them out of the loops, put them down on the floor, and the cows, they step over, they are used to this.

DAD:   Yeah, and so, and was nothing new if he pulls the cow on the tail, and follows…

 MOM:   Yeah, they had cows, very old cows, and very good cow, very slow, slow, just they had so much milk they cannot walk anymore in the evening. He hold them on tail till the cows went] in the fenced in area] … and they like it, they like him.[4]

DAD:   And he was … everything.

 MOM:   The farmer, all day long he had him on his horse, and he walks beside the wagon and Robert is riding the horse.

 DAUGHTER:   No, Robert was almost 4 years old then. Three.

DAD:   About 2½.

 MOM:   Well, we lived there 4 years with the farmer.

DAD:   He was always there. When we came…-

 MOM:   Then he came home and he said-

DAD:   First day, first day was not so. First day is everything shy, everything is strange, and little by little you are acquainted. When the fall came, there are many big pumpkins and they oh, they have to pick out the seed from the pumpkin. The seed is very good for making oil.

 MOM:   And cannot eat them, they should not eat them, it is not good for them, they get sick.

 DAUGHTER:   But they can eat the rind.

 MOM:   Oh, yeah. That’s the food. Cooking.

DAD:   And our children went there to clean that up.

 MOM:   They have to pick out about 50 pumpkins every day for this feeding pig. See, they was feeding pigs for selling and raising the young ones for themselves every year. Just like a mound, big mound. They had 60 fat pigs and then they had small.

 DAUGHTER:   Sow. Little baby pigs.

 MOM:   Yeah, baby pigs with  …  3, 4 mothers with the little ones.

DAD:   And interesting is that, by that farmer, the man eat all on the same table but all on the same bowl. Every man had his own spoon, and the table is round, you go round and eat from the same bowl, everyone, and then your own spoon, you wipe off on the tablecloth and put in the drawer and tomorrow you take your own spoon. You know which spoon is. So if you clean it up good yesterday, it is clean. If you don’t clean it so good, it is not clean. You will clean off with towel.

 MOM:   Put their marks on the spoon and this is your spoon. They know it.

DAD:   And the dishes when the…, here is the kitchen, here we have a kitchen, we eat, and behind the kitchen is another kitchen for the pigs kitchen they call it. There are here big kettles, they cook here in that big kettles, the pumpkin or the riva (turnips).[5]

 DAUGHTER:   Tell me what you’re talking about. Give me information.

 MOM:   Like red beets, just white beets.

DAD:   Beets, big beets.

 MOM:   Not sugar beets, but they were beets for the cooking.

DAD:   They cook for the pigs.

 MOM:   They cook them and smash them.

DAD:   And when that is hot, they go with that bowl we are eating put them . . . .

MOM:   In this cooking.

DAD:   . . . because all that wet stuff goes there and that’s just clean and the water pump..

 MOM:   Then they had in there, corner, a water pump, right away a pump and we get a hand pump and is a big cement bowl, not a bowl even-

DAD:   Yeah, like, yeah.

 MOM:   You know….

DAD:   That’s their washing.                                                                                         

MOM:   That’s their….

DAD:   But the . . .

MOM:   . . . rinse in place and put them there on the shelf.

 DAD:   But they feed the pigs for selling. Every pig have different, his own cage, where they are. And every pig had his own bowl that they eat. They never eat together. That pig has that much and then there, that pig has that, cannot eat here.

 MOM:   And they get very good food. They get milk and corn mixed, grounded corn, the mill came and ground the corn for them.

DAD:   But they are that small, their cage, they could hardly turn around.  When they got fat and big, they could not anymore turn around. They could just eat there and lay down.

 MOM:   They had cement and this is always clean. This cement, they just pull them out, the dirt is never dirty, always clean there.

DAD:   I mean, the men eat all of the same bowl, the pigs!

 MOM:   The pigs have their own.

 DAUGHTER:   Separate bowls.     ( LAUGHTER )

DAD:   That I worked as every time.

 MOM:   And they milk lots of cows there. Everyone had milk-

 DAUGHTER:   How many cows, approximately?

 MOM:   Oh, 20, 25, and 30, some so they leave the cream.

DAD:   And we were there, we came very good out, everywhere we go. We didn’t demand much and but we do work good and the people was everywhere good with us. They gave us freely. So later on they gave us even a whole pig for butcher without agreement.

MOM:   Without any thing. They said Mrs. Webel was coming, all, all afternoon, every afternoon she came over and she give the free pig.

 DAD:   For a while I did eat with them on the table, and then I stop, no, I would not eat.

 MOM:   Dad cannot eat with them.

DAD:   Then they [ask] why? They come and kind of upset why?

 MOM:   They were very upset.

DAD:   And Mom explained that I am not used to that eat off one bowl and all together, I get, I stay hungry. I came home and cook anyhow. You don’t have to give anything more. Just we will eat. And I went with, we did eat at home and went to work there.

 MOM:   I told her, Hannah, is she called. He satisfied with your food what you are cooking. He is not able to eat so to carry his food so far.

DAD:   They have now here in a bowl full with at this, say sour kraut, and then they cut a piece of meat on top here.

 MOM:   Thin sliced, eat like a spoon with peas.

DAD:   Thin sliced. With a spoon, I see him take it and put in food in the mouth. You need no knife. No knife, no fork just a spoon.

 MOM:   No fork on the table.

DAD:   You eat from yours, this side and that man eat from you his side, that man eats from his side.

 MOM:   Some is more fortunate, some get more meat.

DAD:   And some take care, just from top, the meat, first, and take 1, 2, 3 piece of meat, till you get 1.  And so on.

 MOM:   I then I told her, when you want, you can give me. I cook every day for my whole family and then I can cook for him too. You can give me once in a while when you want. A few eggs or a piece of butter or ..a chicken.

DAD:   And you could not live without money, you need always something, and our money did run out.

 DAUGHTER:   How much money did you take with you? Any idea?

DAD:   Our money run out.

 MOM:   We had …

DAD:   Now we need some money. We got ration card for milk, so and so much milk. And there are people, they pay us so much for the ration card and we give it, sell the ration card.

 MOM:   We sell the ration card for money.

DAD:   We sell the ration card for the tobacco. Then for Christmas or for Easter or some, we sell the ration card for the small children– nothing special, chocolate or coffee or something.

 MOM:   Conserva.

 DAUGHTER:   That’s like jam and jelly and stuff like that..

 DAD:   Yeah. Just meat, fish or so..

 MOM:   Yeah, only is like is now, tuna fish or something in this.

 DAUGHTER:   Sardines or something.

 MOM:   There was chocolate and all kinds of things for little children.

DAD:   But we could not afford that and we are not used to that kind of stuff even when we was in Yugoslavia so we sell that and we get money for that for a few groceries. And again we run out from money. Then Mom gave, also, you got to ? 3 spoons spool of thread, goes to the farmer house, and offer the children, Elsie or Reini or 2, 3 together and sell that for how much they get for it.

 MOM:   Not for money.

DAD:   Not money. Eggs, we need eggs or we need now butter, or we need that or we need that. Not sugar.

 MOM:   We get butter on the ration card, just we sell this ration cards.

 DAUGHTER:   This was after you left the farm.

 DAD:   No, [we’re] still on the farm.

 MOM:   We on the farm.

DAD:   And so we got that.

 MOM:   Dad made a big garden. We can make garden how big we want it.

 DAD:   That fence what we had around this, I cut them in the middle and that fence, I made a garden and orchard was just orchard in there, wild, and put garden in like we would use-

          [interruption in interview due to changing audiotape]


MOM:   The children…

DAD:   From the horses, the manure, not straw, just the fresh manure, filled up the garden, between the plants. And the children all day long pump, you know, up and down, up and down, fill up, fill up.

 MOM:   They had to stay home or they had to work, they had to all day long just pump on this hand pump.

 DAUGHTER:   The water.

DAD:   Yeah, the water, in the garden and the tomatoes grow that high and everything grows that high.

 MOM:   Peppers was so big, a whole pound meat you can put in one pepper, so big a pepper. We never had them and never will have them.

 DAD:   It was before and ever after. You cannot even believe it.

 DAUGHTER:   For a stuffed pepper, you could put a whole pound of meat in one pepper.

DAD:   You could, yes.

 MOM:   Could, you could not even use them, we sell them.

DAD:   We had the pepper since that time from Yugoslavia.

 MOM:   And the people came from the big cities on this farmers and get the tomatoes and the peppers in bags.

 DAUGHTER:   How big were your tomatoes? No, no, no.

 MOM:   Tomatoes, yeah, all [were big].

 DAUGHTER:   Make huge?

MOM:   Oh, like a softball.

 DAUGHTER:   Larger.

DAD:   Not all, not all, some are small.  But they big, you couldn’t put in [a small] shopping bag.

 MOM:   The vines were so big with so many on, you cannot believe.

 DAUGHTER:   Did you stake your tomatoes?

DAD:   Oh yes.

 MOM:   Yeah, stake them with this was tunnel. You had to crawl under there or under there, there was tunnel here and tunnel over there.

 DAUGHTER:   So you had peppers and tomatoes in your garden. What else?

 MOM:   All kinds of stuff.

 DAUGHTER:   And you sold most everything that you didn’t use?

 MOM:   Yah, then we had the parsley, and we had carrots and we had all kinds of things. And I can go on her farm and help her. Not help, picking for her, and later they was so used to me, they let me even plant everything, whatever.

DAD:   When the time came to plant the Kürbis, how you say…?

 MOM:   Pumpkin.  [The German word for “pumpkin” is Kürbis.]

 DAUGHTER:   Pumpkin.

DAD:   They plant a pumpkins or maybe a big wheel barrow full good manure-

 MOM:   On one pile.

DAD:   . . .on one pile, and then dirt from every side of-, that is a flatbed that high and that big at least in the girth.

 MOM:   Far apart, far apart.

DAD:   But Mom put the seed on them.

 MOM:   They let never nobody put the seed in, just I, they wait for me. Everything is ready, all the men and all are working on this hills of acres of-, then I had to go put the seeds in for the cucumbers and they said, we never had, that’s the best thing, they all grow what I put in, never failed once.

DAD:   We had melons, they had never seen melons before, grown.

 DAUGHTER:   Watermelons, Dad?

DAD:   Maybe they see in city.

 MOM:   Watermelons and the muskmelons.

 DAUGHTER:   Watermelons.

 MOM:   Watermelons and muskmelons.

DAD:   It’s just a clod [?];  I could work this.

 MOM:   And then they was very nice, very nice, big watermelons, the whole field was full. If somebody went out from the workers, cut them a square in and turn them over. The next thing was when I came out, I said, somebody was in our melon field and turned all the melons upside-down. Where everyone was I was looking, had a hole in it, in 4 square. Cut in four, was not waiting, I told them, you wait,[6]  – – – – They [say that they] “never saw it”. They saw it just from us.  They tasted how they looks from our garden, just I planted them in the field where they let us.

DAD:   How many, we plant them for us.

 DAUGHTER:   Did he ruin them then?

 MOM:   Yes.

DAD:   We planted for us and we had enough and we gave it to taste [as a sample[7]] and they like it.  Then they said, we got plenty fields, why not plant for us?

 MOM:   For all the people.

DAD:   So we did. But they were anxious to eat them, they are big and they don’t know when it’s ripe so they go, cut a hole, that’s not ripe, turn over so no one can see.

 MOM:   Yeah, on the yellow part, spot is on the top. You can see it… So I don’t have to plant any more green beans in our garden. I had enough on the field how many I want. I planted for them, they had bushels and bushels.

 DAUGHTER:   Did you preserve any of these for winter?

 MOM:   No, we don’t have bottles.

DAD:   Over there was born Jacob.

 DAUGHTER:   In this place.

DAD:   In this place.

 MOM:   Katie.

DAD:   And Katie.

 DAUGHTER:   Then you were there longer than 4 years.

DAD:   We were there from ’45 to ’50.

 DAUGHTER:   Yeah.

 MOM:   Longer, we was long there. This was a …

 DAUGHTER:   When did you leave [Donnersdorf Au, Austria] then in 1950 and why did you leave?

[to be continued, D.v.]

The next report (D.v.) concludes with Part 8 of the chronicle of the Webel family exodus, with further perils and adventures as sojourning refugees (“displaced persons”) as they leave the farm at Donnersdorf Au, in Austria, and seek a new temporary home in Austria – all the while hoping and planning to emigrate to America, to settle there, near the family of Jakob Webel’s sister in Ohio.

In God’s providence, that migration would occur, successfully, with some of their future offspring, descended from young Robert Webel (who was just a baby when the Webel family left Yugoslavia for Germany, and who guided Austrian cows as a toddler!), namely Nate and Luke Webel, sons of Steve Webel (Robert Webel’s son), 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 in the earlier episodes of this series.  (Thus Robert Webel, born during WWII, is the paternal grandfather of Nate, Luke, and their sisters.)

><> JJSJ   profjjsj@aol.com



[ NOTICE:  since Part 7b continues from Part 7a, the endnotes resume at # 3 ]

[3] 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.

[4] This is one of the early signs that Robert Webel was a very remarkable young man – the magnificent destiny that God had in store, for young Robert (l/k/a “Bob”), would later be revealed in America – including his Biblical training at Moody Bible Institute, and his marriage to Marcia Alley, and their family, and Bob’s ministry in many places (including years of service as youth/college pastor at Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville, Maryland). Ironically, even these Austrian cows knew that Robert Webel was an extraordinary boy to be trusted.

[5] The German word for “turnip” is Steckrübe.

[6] Mom is talking about how some of the greedy men would be impatient to eat some of the watermelons that were still growing; those men would sneakily cut a square out of the top of a growing watermelon, remove the slice to eat, then hide their theft by turning the watermelon upside down (so that the cut part was on the ground, unseen by someone walking by. Mom told the men: “you wait!” (but the men claimed that they never saw any such theft occur.)    Mom was right, of course — with patience there would be bigger watermelons for eating.

[7] Jakob and Katarina Webel never lost their marketing skills, as merchants, even when working on a farm in Austria.


Volksdeutsche by the Dozen AD1951

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.


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