Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part 8 (of 8): finally, from Europe to America!

 Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part Eight:   Refugees in Austria, Fleeing Post-WWII Europe for America   —   The Jakob & Katarina Webel Family Journey to a New Home

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry; hold not Thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with Thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.   (Psalm 39:12)

But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly; therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, because He hath prepared for them a city.   (Hebrews 11:16)

For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.   (Philippians 3:20)


[This is the final episode in this ongoing Webel family series  —  earlier parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7a, and 7b appear elsewhere on this blog.]

In this eighth (and final) 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, near the sister of Mr. Jakob Webel.

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 AD2010. (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 .


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

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 Webel family 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 have reported the interviewing daughter as Rosie Webel, since she is the one who actually produced (i.e., authored) the 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. ]

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 from pages 172-183 of From Vinkovci to Medina.]

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *


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

 MOM:   No money coming in, they don’t pay anything, and we had the off season.

DAD:   There was something else. And when we was there, now, in the beginning, now we are kind of settled for a while, not for permanent, that is such a, just a settle-

 DAUGHTER:   Temporary.

DAD: Just until we can go home, and then start being organized, the believers from America and go Switzerland, looking for the believers, from  Yugoslavia and Hungary, from everywhere so the refuge. And they made known through the court through the wherever, everyone should write, report himself. Not you have to but everyone to find each other. And before we get even there, I was looking for believers and couldn’t know the believers. Then Graz is capital city from that province and I wrote to the newspaper (the farmer receive newspaper) so I brought newspaper to make an ad and … something in that effect, I look for connection with the believer, we call it Nazarene over there, from Yugoslavia, and from Hungary. And my full name and address, and we get letters from everywhere–I am from here, I am from here, and I am from here, even from unbeliever, do you know for my brother, do you know for that and for that. One lady had a big flour mill for husband and wife in the town where we are, and their sister was a member, not she, and the sister moved to Argentina in 1920… only,  no later, about [19]25. And we wrote a letter, could I tell her the address for her sister.

 MOM:   You are the Webel from Vinkovci? That’s what she said.

DAD:   Then I wrote her, yes I am that Webel from Vinkovci and I do not know the address from your sister, but in the same time in Argentina, I got a sister who is a member too and they go to the same church. I could give you the address for my sister and then you could get a connection with your sister and so I did.

 MOM:   They moved there.

DAD:   And we visited even them, not so close, but we visit them and it we took them cabbage.

 MOM:   This was something for them.

DAD:   They had a daughter-in-law, she was expecting, and she said would give her what could she give for a …

MOM:   For a piece of sausage, just a piece of sausage like homemade sausage, she would give anything. They was rich people.

DAD:   At home. And we came there to visit them and …

 MOM:   Sausage.

DAD:   Sausage.

 MOM:   Well, we thought everybody’s so good.

DAD:   We had that sausage from the home till we got there to that farmer. Not, you would think, you could not think we had a 1,000 pound. We had a bag full, maybe 20 pound sausage at most, and maybe 2 piece, maybe 4 sticks ham, and maybe 2 piece from the sides of a bacon.

 MOM:   And the most we eat it already,

 DAD:   But we eat little bit, you spend little bit.

 MOM:   So we sold some,

DAD:   That shrink. But we still had it when we came there.

 MOM:   We trade so many things.

DAD:   But that we need a community.

 DAUGHTER:   Now get back to why you decided to leave besides the fact that you were getting a hold of believers.

DAD:   We decide to leave because we were tired to settle down. But we got then connection with the believers too, we wrote to Switzerland and … , and then we find connection, then Danny Spangler was a Salzburg. Salzburg is American part of Austria and Steiermark [“Steiermark” is the German name for Steyr (Austria), which is also known as “Styria”] is English part of Austria. And we are close to the Yugoslav border and nobody could go in that part close to the border except he get special permission and-

 MOM:   Same as Communist.

DAD:   So when we find through Yugoslavia somehow for Danny where he is, then we sent to him a bag a box, apples with the railroad, a box, maybe like crate now, maybe 20, 25 pound, and he was hungry for everything.

 MOM:   He was almost starving to death. He was on death already. No eat, he cannot.

DAD:   We used to say we Americans, Americans are good, they are good like everybody else. Danny Spangler, he is not a man who likes to talk and he just once said that. He was a prisoner in the war by American. On the field, fenced in, and here stands a post on a high place, with a machine gun and there and fenced in. You eat, became that shape and that people was with that soldier, they eat the grass, pick up that grass is good and that grass is good, and that root pick out.

 MOM:   That root’s good, that was not even roots anymore.

DAD:   And they went under the fence to beg and to steal and to beg. And Danny was not a man to go to beg or to steal, and he was there to die, from hunger.

 DAUGHTER:   They didn’t feed him? The Americans didn’t feed him?

DAD:   Yes, they did.

MOM:   But dry corn, little cans…

DAD:   Once in a while. like they do the Chinas, like they do the Russia, like they do everybody.

 DAUGHTER:   Off in the war zone.

DAD:   It is war time. First, it’s hard to deliver to the soldier, not to the prisoners of war, but he was dying. Then came one of his buddies, everybody, more or less, especially in the army, in the need, everybody who is close to him. One of his buddies went out there and stole or dig out potato piece, what’s ever, and came, then he could eat. Not be alone, no. Eat. And he forced it in his mouth and so he-

 MOM:   Few crumbs bread, a few crumbs bread, and-

DAD:   So he eat a little bit and see, he came to life. He was that far exhausted, even nothing just.

 DAUGHTER:   Was Dan a Christian at that point?

DAD:   No. No.

 DAUGHTER:   At that point, no.

DAD:   He was raised a Christian.

 DAUGHTER:   And isn’t Karl and Danny brothers? Karl and Dan are brothers?

 MOM:   Yes.

 DAUGHTER:   And Karl is older?

DAD:   No. Danny is older.

 DAUGHTER:   Karl is younger?

DAD:   We like to call ourselves Christians and we are, but there are many, many people in the world who do not call themselves Christians like we do,  but live in a God fearing land. The Bible says if you are Jews and your called, you are proud because you are Jews, you have a reason to be proud because your fathers are given the law and so minister that, but that heathen, that man who have never heard from God, he honors God by nature, and he will condemn you who are called Jews, something to that, and the same thing is in us Christians. We heard today a very good sermon, Art Yarhouse, He was here. And he said, not the same word, when what they do. If we haven’t the same attitude as belong to a Christian, but I would add, I would add to it. Jesus said, forgive them but we need to know we need forgiveness. How often have we grieved our neighbor, our Heavenly Father seems even farther, even this is nothing, this is nothing.

 DAUGHTER:   Okay, you sent Dan a crate of apples?

DAD:   A crate of apples and he eat it, and he, when we get permission, he give to us.

 DAUGHTER:   Oh, the Americans granted him permission.

 MOM:   This whole crate was not long, not even a week, he had to eat.

DAD:   Then he give to us and he lived with us. He was with us.

 DAUGHTER:   In this farm.

 MOM:   Yah, in this farm.

DAD:   And then he was a tailor, he found work as a tailor in the town.

 DAUGHTER:   At Donnersdorf?

DAD:   No. No. Not in Donnersdorf of the AlberRhine.

 MOM:   AlberRhine.

DAD:   That was little bit village a little bit bigger and he was work there and came every day home and sleep by us and live by us. In the kitchen we had a big table and they open up, it was a bed, and he and the.

 MOM:   We don’t open this table for a bed! And behind the table was this bed always. They was all sleeping on this bed, children when we was there. Over there was sleeping Reini and Dan. This was all we had.

 DAUGHTER:   Yeah, I know what it is.

DAD:   We all others slept in that room, just we cut that bed that had so we had only 2 beds, 4×4, so we could but… we had 6 straw but we had the blankets.

 MOM:   The next day when Sunday was over, then Monday morning I went over to the boss lady and told her, I don’t want you to put anything in this house while the soldier was there living for years. We want all new straw, and we want everything taken out and clean it and I want to paint all the walls before I do it.

DAD:   Not paint, but-

 DAUGHTER:   Whitewash.

DAD:   whitewash, whitewash.

 MOM:   I even put the-, even later we put the molded.

 DAUGHTER:   Drawing.

 MOM:   No, the molding.

DAD:   No, no, no, no, no. Some kind of figures out of picture.

 MOM:   Figures and I make it on paper and cut them out and then we paint, make them different color.

DAD:   Make here some kind of flowers and then put with oil over it so the paper is strong. And then you put on the wall and you paint, is a flower on the wall.

 MOM:   You can paint, buy this. (stencils)

DAD:   Okay, Mom think we should before we move in, we clean it.

 MOM:   And the whole week and was everything we’re scrubbing and washing.

DAD:   And so we live there, Why we move? We had even there church service. Right in the beginning, when we found believers, one man

from Hungary was in Rosenburg maybe 40 miles, from there, from our place and then Danny and we and one lady was in that Leibnich so we 4, 5 had a church service.

 DAUGHTER:   How long was Danny with us?

DAD:   Danny was with us till-oh, who was it?

 MOM:   Till  Katie was born.

 DAUGHTER:   So how long was he with us?

 MOM:   Real long. So we told him, Danny, you are a big man. You are old enough and you have a good job where you can go in town and get apartment for you, somebody rent. We need the place. We get a other baby, we need one child again out this room in the kitchen and that’s enough. You have a good job and he have money.


DAD:   But he was very good boy. He was like our boy.


MOM:   He was always like our boy. And then there was never a Sunday, he always came home when he was not working, he was here, not there in town.


DAUGHTER (ROSIE?):   What relationship is he to us?

 DAUGHTER:   Cousin. He’s a cousin.

DAD:   His mother was my sister. And so when we decide to leave then, we have no social security, we have no future not at all, and later on we had church in Graz [Austria], believers from here and there and everywhere, we had church in Graz. We had to travel every Sunday to Graz, walking, maybe 4, 5 miles to the railroad station then traveling there, leaving the children at home or taking them along and it was very inconvenient and so we want to move to Graz.

 DAUGHTER:   Mostly for the church.

DAD:   Mostly for the church purpose. And-

 MOM:   Most Sunday we went, we try, we want to go, we had to go leave the house morning 3, 4:00 and come evening home about 10, maybe later. We never know what’s happened to the children . . .

DAD:   And whenever we had-

 DAUGHTER:   Was I born in this house?

 MOM:   Yes, yes, you were born in this house, yes.

 DAUGHTER:   April of [19]49.

 MOM:   Oh, yes.

 DAUGHTER:   You were there till [19]50.

Before Danny was born, it already fall, ‘50.

DAUGHTER:   The fall of 1950.

DAD:   And it was hard to find a place in Graz, no place to find, but again, only the barracks, and barracks that we found, now it was almost like private was no anymore camp. Everyone lives for himself with a job but the barracks you fix up a little bit, but when we moved in, fixed up, raining, we have the put that umbrella here, or put that pail there, pail there.

 MOM:   And all the pans and everything on the bed, the children are now sleeping now not is raining over here, Dad, okay, put that thing over there. Then, okay, move the bed over there. Now starts here coming rain down, okay, move the bed over there. You don’t know what you should do, all the pans and everything, what else?

DAD:   And then we found a man.

 MOM:   No, windows, all broken out.

DAD:   I find a job.

 MOM:   You was trying…

DAD:   But very hard job, very hard job, making, not producing, but making sand. The sand and the gravel came from the… the dirt in the wall is it, through the screen divided, that was my job long time, very hard job, but makes no difference. Then we found a man who was willing to build for our money on his place a bedroom apartment for us.

 MOM:   Kitchen and bedroom…paid for the wood.

DAD:   And we gave the money through the bank but he never build apartment because he did not build, he somehow spent the money, he gave us, for temporary, he built a regular apartment but that apartment was just here was a kitchen and then was a hallway and then here was a bedroom on the other side. And that hallway was drafty, was just was covered, but was not closed, and in that apartment we had many time in that kitchen, that kitchen was not larger than our kitchen, I don’t think was larger and there was many time church service in there and there was that place where the children are.

MOM:   This was in the bedroom.

DAD:   Where we go to bed.

 MOM:   Bedroom, there was a little bit big, then the children can sleep on the bed. We had three . . . .

DAUGHTER:   Three bunks up.

 MOM:   Yeah, bedroom and our bed. And that’s not built-in like here for the clothes, no closets. And then some children was under the tablecloth, or under the table, nobody knows. The smaller, they are there on the beds, but sometimes they are fighting or beating each other. No, no, not loud noise, just, and they looked at Dad and was enough, stopped right away. They know they will get…

DAD:   I t was enough, I always sitting so that I could see the children.

 DAUGHTER:   Was it cold in this part of the country?

DAD:   Yes.­

 DAUGHTER:   It gets cold in the winter time?

DAD:   Oh, yes.

 DAUGHTER:   Just like Ohio? Or colder?

DAD:   About. And in that building, in that was the Danny born.

 DAUGHTER:   Oh, in this little apartment.

 MOM:   This apartment.

DAD:   He was born in December.

 MOM:   Oh, was cold.

DAD:   In a room where we had no stove.

 MOM:   No fire.

DAD:   No heat, no fire.

 DAUGHTER:   December, [19]51. December 17.

DAD:   No was ’50.

 DAUGHTER:   Yeah.

DAD:   No fire, no room, no fire in the room, no fireplace, no stove, no nothing, cold there, like cold.

 MOM:   You brought some kind of heater from somewhere. An electric heater, put them there for she cannot even give the baby a bath was so cold, frozen cold. I cannot be uncovered, not even the hand almost, so it’s cold.

 DAUGHTER:   Did we all sleep in that cold room?

 MOM:   No, some are sleeping in the kitchen. Some are in the kitchen, some are in the-, again, the same thing.

 DAD:   It was very hard time.

 DAUGHTER:   Do you remember that man’s name?

DAD:   Which man?

MOM:   Yeah, Singraber(?). Yes. Singraber, was living here…

DAD:   He had a daughter, she was a married for, deliver or something, post office and that lady, she was such a woman, she could not care money. He give her today, I would say in American money, $2, go buy grocery or $5, She bought grocery, everything whatsoever she thinks he need and leftover 50 cent, she bought for the $.50 chocolate or something for something in it for herself or for her child and she came home, “clap” [gesturing]. The cooking, I have forgotten to buy vinegar.

 MOM:   No paprika.

DAD:   Then, Mrs. Webel, could you borrow me a little bit.

 MOM:   No pika bona (baking soda).

DAD:   If she goes in the store tomorrow again, tomorrow again, every day.

 MOM:   She buys a little bit.

DAD:   And then give me for, I could say, for 5 penny, salt, for 10 penny, sugar, for 20 penny, that. So figure out everything what she need, better. When she got home, she needs something.

MOM:   Start cooking. Again something she had not.

DAD:   It’s the Singraber’s daughter.

 MOM:   Yeah, I said, Mrs. Spring, her name.

 DAUGHTER:   Spring.

 MOM:   Yeah. Mrs. Spring. I said, why you don’t save this, this was. She said, oh, Mrs. Webel, I’m so glad I shop today. Everything what I need, and I will bring yours back. I said, you don’t have to bring it back. She said, yah, I will. And I had a little leftover money, and then she show me, and our children was open wide their eyes and their mouth. And this little child eat chocolate and all messed up and ours like would like….

DAD:   She would even eat it, too.

 MOM:   Yeah, I said, why you don’t save this, this penny or whatever was you left? Maybe you need it later when you start again cooking. She said, oh, I made a good list, I know I had everything just enough. Finally she came laughing like this and she said, you are right, Mrs. Webel, I don’t have this at home. I said, I told you. Don’t spend every penny.

DAD:   But that happen every day.

 MOM:   Don’t spend every penny. She had never soap to wash her clothes. She had never soap to wash the clothes.

 DAUGHTER:   How long did you live in this apartment?

[end of audiotape side A; then interview recording resumes]

DAD:   We went, oh…

 DAUGHTER:   How old was Danny?

 MOM:   Danny was.. When we…

 DAUGHTER:   When you left?

 MOM:   When we left? How old?

DAD:   Was couple months, couple months.

MOM:   Yeah, couple months.

DAD:   In March, really before March, maybe February.

 DAUGHTER:   And that’s when you started making plans to come to the United States?

DAD:   We making plans always but was no opening, was not allowed. United States did not let no German out, German was considered enemy and no Germany. Hungarian and Yugoslav and Polish, they could, but not to United States, till they changed the law German could go. And then we right away applied and we went through it and so.

 DAUGHTER:   Were you corresponding with your sister here in the United States?

DAD:   Yes, yes.

 DAUGHTER:   To make plans to come. What sister? [Mrs. Keiper, née Webel]

 [Referring to Jakob Webel’s sister in Ohio]

DAD:   You have to have somebody to sponsor you, regardless who you are. If nobody, relative, church organization, or anybody have to sponsor you before you get. Because United States don’t let you come in otherwise.

 DAUGHTER:   In March of [19]’51 you decided to leave this apartment, where did you go?

DAD:   Then we decided, we left to go to America.

 MOM:   Oh, we was here in March already, 20th of March.

 DAUGHTER  (ROSIE):    Yeah, we arrived March, [19]51. But tell us about how the… when I got lost, what happened.

 DAUGHTER:   I want to talk about this first.

DAD:   We have decided before to go. We have to make plan. In that apartment we was longer. Katie was born in-

 DAUGHTER:   April, [19]49.

 MOM:   In the Au.

DAD:   Yes, but we didn’t came in [19]51 to Graz.

 MOM:   When Katie was little.

 DAUGHTER:   How little was-. You must have come in [19]49, Mother, to this apartment.

 MOM:   No, no. First in the barracks in Graz.

 DAUGHTER:   Yeah.

 MOM:   And then later in the apartment.

DAD:   Probably [19]’49 sometime. and we lived, we had a garden out that-

 MOM:   Yeah, we lived in the barracks.

DAD:   [19]49,  and sometime in [19]50, we moved-

 MOM:   This man, she built us apartment.

DAD:   -to that house and we always we made plans to go. First to Argentina, wherever we could go, because was no abiding place there.

 DAUGHTER:   And at this time now you no longer wanted to go back to Yugoslavia because there was nothing there.

DAD:   No, it is not possible to go.

 DAUGHTER:   Was your father already dead at this time? Yes.

DAD:   Yes. Yes.

 DAUGHTER:   And what about Uncle John? You said that he came back to Yugoslavia.

DAD:   He [i.e., Uncle John] was staying, he stayed in Yugoslavia.

 DAUGHTER:   So he was under Communist control?

DAD:   Yes. And he was there, and he was an unbeliever before, and he get converted, but after Dad died. And we must to live in Graz at least 2 year but 1 year in the barracks and 1 year by that Singraber. But in all the time we applied to go to United States and when we was ready to go ‘til the paper went through, was Danny born.

 DAUGHTER:   Danny born.

DAD:   So we have to make a new paper again, and then have once was, it was everything ready and then Karl was under-nourished.

 MOM:   Karl was not healthy.

DAD:   Then we have to have nothing wrong with children, just feed him eggs, raw eggs I give eggs or something like that.

 MOM:   Raw eggs.

DAD:   It came in 6 months back, then we came back, the law is changed, you cannot go.

 MOM:   And oh, oh, Karl was good, it just is the law again changed.

DAD:   Till finally wherever they go, we are ready to go, you can go.  Now, we have put money in that building. Our money is there that men give us, not the money, but he give us, black and white, we could live there, so and so long.

 MOM:   Five years, 5 years.

DAD:   So we sold that same building, the right to another family, believers..

 MOM:   For the rest of the years.

DAD:   But if we go out and leave empty, that man would not let them in.

 MOM:   The other people in.

DAD:   So we let the people in before we moved out so the people was there so-

 MOM:   He cannot throw them out. We sold them our right.

DAD:   Then that people did not have the money to give us, but HILTA, that’s the aid for the Switzerland, they give them the money so we had some money.

 DAUGHTER:   And that’s the money you had when you came to America.

DAD:   That’s the money. That was very little and it was transferred in American money, was maybe $50. I do recall how much, but then we have to go over to the United States part of Austria.

 DAUGHTER:   How did you do that? By train?

DAD:   By train. We have left packed, everything ours, go by train to Salzburg [in Austria, by the German border], Salzburg there is the main United States office or you can call it Consul.

 DAUGHTER:   Consul. Consulate.

DAD:   And there you get the visa to go, and sure, we, takes a long time and there Rosie got lost. How? Oh, that is upstairs office, you have to, there are many people that wait all day long to get in and out and so this and that and that. And the children, like children, went downstairs in the street looking in the windows, the TVs and that, that’s big city, that’s show window here and there, here is that, here is that, here is that. Somehow they get separated, the bigger children from Rosie. And Rosie was small and she got…[2]

 MOM:   And she came around just now not to..

DAD:   Came the children and no Rosie! Then down, down, looking every street corner looking for Rosie, no Rosie! Somebody told us, go there, there, so, so far.  It’s far to that way, that way, and that is police station  —  and probably they know something. And we came there, we looked in the door and there was Rosie among them, and she right away said, “Mom, what’s my name?”

 MOM:   She was crying, “Mom, what’s my name?”

DAD:   They ask her “what’s your name?”  She know the name but just she could  —  “Where are you from, what street, which town?”  —  and she does not know, she didn’t [clarify] nothing.

 MOM:   She was this, you cannot, and the police all around her, they gave her candies. And she was crying.

DAD:   She could talk in German, she talk German with them, but she does not know her address, she does not know where she is.

 DAUGHTER:   So then from this, you got your visa. Then what happened?

 DAD:   There we get our papers to go to the United States and that was the first transport of Germans to be allowed to go to United States. And the president of that… United States government had organization who handled that. The president from that organization, how they call it I have forgotten, makes no difference… Mr. Wagner, and he came to Salzburg to congratulate to us we get to the United States because we had small child, we go with plane, the other people go with ship, but we go with plane because we got… and we will be there in 3 days, we are in United States and congratulate. But no plane goes from Salzburg. The planes goes [sic] from Germany, from Munich, so we have to go with the train to Munich with our papers to go to America. When we came there, the leadership from that camp has no idea Germans could go to United States. What kind of organization is this? I do not know. But they have no, you could not go. They assigned us, again, a big hotel room that’s where we lived. It’s a big room and that’s our room. We go to the kitchen to eat and so on, but the kitchen is so-, the children, from so and so much year, goes over here. So old goes over there, and the babies goes over there.

MOM:   Mother with the babies.

 DAD:   The mothers gets over there.

 MOM:   And the fathers way in the…-

 DAD:   What kind of organization is it? And I made then and every week or now is your wash day, you could go in the kitchen and wash your stuff, now is your wash day, so and so on.

MOM:   Is all you can wash.

 DAD:   And every day is a list there, they and they fly to America, they and they fly, never we, never we, then one day.. We made.. everything written, application, asking they should give us their food, one plate all for all. I told her, have to explain why, why you want to get the food.

MOM:   Oh, cause the mother go there and the father go there and other.

 DAD:   Because our children could not eat that. How could we sent a child for 5 year, go there, get your the food and eat and the child not get…. So we got lost, we got hungry, and finally they agree to give us bargain, that’s you get a pound that, a pound that, a pound that, and so on. And when the time goes, came Jews, the rich people from there, refuge from Poland, they fly, and we stay.

MOM:   Just they came in yesterday, the other day, then they fly. And we sitting here for weeks.

DAD:   Yeah, all them, they go, and we sitting. What should we do? What should we do? Wrote, sit down, I wrote a letter, Mr. So and so, president from the . . .   I would say unit or such an organization, Frankfurt, Germany.  We are in Germany too, but I do not know his address, but they know if I should write President Carter  [actually Truman was president during AD1951],  Washington,  they would know [how] to find him.  I don’t have to put zip code in [i.e., that was prior to when U.S. mail required use of zip codes].

DAUGHTER:   That’s right.

 DAD:   So I wrote him, and so I wrote a letter something like that in German. I am so-and-so, my name, and on that and that date I was in Salzburg and you was there and we was ready to fly to United States and you congratulated us and say we will be in 3 days in America, but we have to go to Munich, and we came to Munich and we are here so long and nobody takes care of us and nobody knows when we can go and we are here. What for? What will do? Some just to complaining and asking for help, and don’t take a long time, 2 days.

MOM:   Couple days.

 DAD:  A day or 2, then office said, ‘Mr. Webel tomorrow you will fly’.

MOM:   The lady said, “Mrs. Webel, tomorrow you fly. We got orders, don’t tell anyone. You got orders you will have to fly.”

 DAD:   And Mom was sick.

MOM:   I came up to Dad and said….

 DAD:   She got sick, she get vomiting, she get dizzy, she sick, oh, and before you go to the plane, you have to go to the [medical] doctor to check you and check everybody. We came to the [medical] doctor, mom was sick, but the doctor was refuge [i.e., a refugee], a Hungarian man, and when I found out he’s Hungarian man, I talk to him Hungarian, and when we talk Hungarian, then was Mom “okay”.   [ In other words, the Hungarian physician decided that since Mom Webel could speak Hungarian, she was “okay” enough by his standards! ]

MOM:   He don’t even look at me. Not even measure my temperature.

 DAD:   But beside that, they had a hired plane, not a United States, they hired a plane to take that special transport over, but the company that owned the plane, said no, we could not take so many children. And they picked out all such family with so many children so they could not go with so many children.

MOM:   The most can take is so much children. That’s all . . .

DAD:   Then everybody thought ‘Webel family will get out, we will just go.’ But I know we will go because I know where came the order, I wrote a letter.

MOM:   This office girl told me there is the order.

 DAD:   We know that.

MOM:   Then right away we know what’s happened. Exactly that.

 DAD:   So that family eliminated 2 children, that family eliminated 5 children, or with four, and we go.

MOM:   They were surprised. All the neighborhood. . . .

 DAD:   Not only surprised. All those generals are mad!  —  we go with so many children, 10 children.

DAUGHTER:   So this special transport took you where?

 DAD:   From Munich to New York.

DAUGHTER:   To New York.

 DAD:   But not direct. In that time was no jet, was propeller and we went first that is a Scandinavian airline. We first went from Munich to Scandinavia to Copenhagen and from there to Scotland, and from there to Greensland [i.e., Greenland].

DAUGHTER  (ROSIE?):   Greenland.

 DAUGHTER:   Did you have to change planes every time?

 MOM:   Yes, almost, yeah.

 DAD:   I don’t think we change but we have to go out.

MOM:   Yeah, yeah. They cleaned it for 2 hours or something.

 DAD:   Yeah, and then go again the plane and go farther. I don’t think we changed the plane. I just think we..

DAUGHTER:   They just fixed it and it got refueled and all stuff and it took that long to get going.

DAD:   Yeah.

MOM:   Once we had to go down, was full of ice and everything, it was so heavy with snow and ice.

DAD:   The wings were filled with ice so they had to land to thaw.

MOM:   Everything was different.

 DAUGHTER:   How long did this take?

 DAD:   Not long. It take about 2 days, second day we are here, just one night.

MOM:   Yeah, 18 hours. That’s all together.

 DAUGHTER (ROSIE?): Yeah, it takes 6 to 8.

 DAUGHTER:   Then you got to New York City.

 DAD:   To New York City.

DAUGHTER:   And I know there was a problem in New York City.

 MOM:   There was a problem.

 DAD:   They, whosoever [notice again the King James English!] brought us, we… they have to give us to the sponsor. Some goes with the train too, but that Keiper, our sponsor, made arrangement to meet us in New York and Reinhardt Keiper went to New York to meet us. And when we arrived, we arrive to the airport, today is Kennedy airport, they call it international airport at that time I think so. We are here waiting for sponsor to take us and nobody came. Reinhardt Keiper came with Freddie Fetzer.

MOM:   Three cars came.

DAD:   And Reinhardt Keiper on the phone, didn’t have no idea where the plane land, here on the phone asking is there here the plane, that and that and that, and never went Reinhardt Keiper on the phone but always Freddie Fetzer on the phone. Why I do not know. And when they asked who is talking, ‘Freddie Fetzer’. He didn’t tell him…

MOM:   They don’t say anything.

 DAD:   About the family Webel. So they could not find out where the Webel family is and they could not find out where the sponsor is. They called Medina [Ohio], “What’s happened to the Keiper people?  They should pick up the people and they are not here.” “They are in New York.” So late evening, the whole day we stay there. Not fenced in but almost fenced in, here you are allowed to be and…. Like in every crossing you remember something what you have forgotten.   .  .  .  . .

 [Dad reminisces for a while about other topics.]

DAUGHTER:   Okay, Dad, you’ll have to get back to New York City now. The last thing you said was we were in a roped off area.

 DAD:   We were roped off and everybody is was gone, just we, and nobody is now, nobody recognize, nobody have to feed us because we are supposed to be by Keipers already, and we are hungry and the people are not allowed to go to it, keep somebody by, and put an orange there like you-

MOM:   And feed us.

 DAD:   Like embarrassing for us, like hurry up catch, no, the children did not went. They was ashamed that they was ashamed to do something like that. And finally they found someone who could talk in German and went take me a store to buy something meat for children to have to eat. Then we eat and finally came Keipers. Finally they are awaken, the Keiper went to the phone and then they say where we are and then they get us. And when they get in that cars, travel to home, it was already dark and night and they got lost on the highway, they have to turn back,

MOM:   It was raining, snowing…

 DAD:   Then we go in a motel [in New York], and then we arrive the next day here [in Medina, Ohio].

[The interview ends at page 183 of From Vinkovci to Medina.]


This wraps up the immigration chronicle of the Webel family, from Vinkovci (Yugoslavia, now Croatia) unto Medina (Ohio), as refugees (“displaced persons”), ending with a successful landing and resettling in America, with some of their future offspring (Nate and Luke Webel), descended from young Robert Webel, to eventually arrive on planet Earth — as God’s providences in Webel family history continue —  as native Texans.


Volksdeutsche by the Dozen AD1951

In particular, that same Robert Webel (born in Yugoslavia, as a baby, with his family later fleeing Tito’s Communism) is the father of Stephen Webel, who is father (by his wife Erica) of sons and daughters, including brothers Nate and Luke Webel, the two native Texans.  (Thus Robert Webel, born in WWII, is the paternal grandfather of Nate Webel, Luke Webel, and their sisters.)

During January of AD2018 this author visited Chaplain Robert (and Marcia) Webel, in St. Petersburg, Florida, where they have lived for many years. Chaplain Bob gave me a book, then, which I since have read —  STINGING NETTLE, by Carola Schlatter & Kendra Ramsier (Westview, 2014; 284 pages), which chronicles many tragic adversities and survival adventures of Vladimir Fortenbacher and Margaretha Wittmann, who both became refugees from war-torn Yugoslavia, experiencing the heinous horrors of Tito’s Communism there immediately following World War II.  (Margaretha’s memories of living in concentration camps in Yugoslavia, after WWII, is a testimony to God’s sustaining grace – as many of her family were barbarically starved, tortured, and killed by Yugoslavian Communists (who hated anyone with any kind of German connection – including the German-speaking Swabians of Yugoslavia).

Vladimir and Margaretha both fled to Canada; they met there and married, and parented 12 children (10 daughters and 2 sons), whom they raised in the same Apostolic Christian Church (Nazarene) group that the Webels belonged to.  [For more on this Anabaptist group, see  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostolic_Christian_Church_(Nazarene) .]


So, for now, this series concludes 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.


Chaplain Bob Webel & JJSJ at Webel backyard, birdwatching [photograph by Marcia Webel]

><>  JJSJ     profjjsj@aol.com

Below is Chaplain Robert Webel (who was 8 when his family came as refugees to America) with his wife, Marcia Webel, now residents of Florida. Chaplain Bob supplemented and clarified his sister’s transcribed interview of their parents (titled From Vinkovci to Medina) as quoted hereinabove.



[1] The 7 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);  (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);  (7) “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part Seven:  Surviving on an Austrian Farm (and Elsewhere) After World War II: Jakob & Katarina Webel Family, Hoping for a New Home,” Journal of the German-Texan Heritage Society, 39(4):389-418 (winter 2017).  This 8th episode has been published as:  “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part Eight:  Refugees in Austria, Fleeing Post-WWII Europe for America—The Jakob & Katarina Webel Family Journey to a New Home,” Journal of the German-Texan Heritage Society, 40(1):38-54 (spring 2018).

[2] This crisis is mentioned, as an example of identity-context confusion, in James J. S. Johnson, “The Gap Theory: A Trojan horse Tragedy”, ACTS & FACTS, 41(10):8-10 (October 2012), posted at http://www.icr.org/article/gap-theory-trojan-horse-tragedy .