Moravian Log Cabin Days

Moravian Log Cabin Days,  in a North Carolina Forest

 Dr. James J. S. Johnson

 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’.   (Ecclesiastes 12:1)


[NOTE:  this is not the cabin I lived for 1/2 a year, but it looks similar in size and style.]

This adds another episode to the “Pilgrim Geography” series, first announced in Remembering Peer Pressure Testings  during Junior High Years,  in Reisterstown and Wards Chapel, Maryland” [posted at ].

NOTE:  The memoir below is excerpted from “Czech into Texas; From Bohemian Roots, to a Moravian Log Cabin, to the Lone Star State”, ČESKÉ STOPY [Czech Footprints], 13(1):15-22 (spring 2011).

 Czechs, and folks with Czech ancestors, have been coming to Texas for more than a century.  However, some of us gladly claim our Czech ancestral lineages, yet must do a bit more documentation to prove we are genuine  “Tex–Czechs”,   —   and I resemble that remark.    Yet part of my Czech heritage (which includes both Moravian and Bohemian elements)  includes living in a 17th–century Moravian immigrants’ log cabin (see photo of similar cabin below) during a cold and snowy winter,  prior to my “immigration” to the Lone State.  . . .


After completing junior college in Maryland (Montgomery College at Germantown), I needed to transfer to a four–year university, to complete my undergraduate studies.  Skipping the irrelevant details, I transferred to Wake Forest University in North Carolina, in the fall of AD1980   —   specifically in the historic “twin cities” of Winston–Salem, with emphasis on the “Salem”.

Originally, Salem was a Moravian colony (settled by Moravian Brethren Protestants of the 1600s), located near a site that would eventually be named “Winston”.  The industrial town of Winston grew up and out, eventually enveloping the smaller Moravian settlement of Salem, so the combined metropolitan area became known as “Winston–Salem”, North Carolina.  Tobacco was “king”, there, as the brand-names “Winston” and “Salem” still attest.


    Salem (restored Moravian town in N.C.)            

Salem, to this day, has a “historic” Moravian town (located by Salem College) which preserves many of the 17th–century Moravian customs and culture, such as Moravian cuisine, Moravian beeswax candles, the multi-pointed 3-D Moravian Christmas stars, etc.

During part of my time attending Wake Forest University, I drove home to Raleigh (where my wife was employed) on the weekends, but rented a cheap place to live that was within driving distance to the university. At first this involved living at a trailer park but that proved to be too expensive to continue beyond the first semester.  So, before the spring of AD1981, due to “student poverty” (if you’ve been there, you know what I mean!), I needed to secure a new form of “student housing”, for my non–weekend lodging.  What I found (and used into the early summer) was certainly “cheap”, but sometimes your “bargain” is not what you expected.

This new “student housing” turned out to be a 17th–century Moravian log cabin.


The dark–brown log cabin was located in a woods five miles from Wake Forest University’s campus, somewhat behind the house of the current owner  (who rented it real cheap,  but “you get what you paid for”).  This five–mile distance was not flat, and I especially recall two steep hills, because  (on days when my car wouldn’t start) I often used a bicycle, unless snow and ice conditions made walking an easier form of travel (which was frequent).

Thankfully, there was a McDonald’s located at the midpoint between my log cabin and the university campus, so I routinely bought a bottomless cup of coffee there, as I warmed up and enjoyed the bright interior lighting, which was easier to read by (when doing homework) than was reading by candlelight or firelight.   The McDonald’s also had running water (for hand-washing), a flush–toilet, and sturdy dining chairs for hours and hours of reading and writing (all the while getting free refills on my coffee).   Yet, probably best of all (for studying), the McDonald’s had very good interior lighting, for reading and writing.  Half the time my Moravian log cabin’s scintilla of electricity didn’t work, for reasons I still don’t understand, so electric light in the cabin was unavailable about as often as it was available.  Many evenings I did my reading and writing by candlelight and/or by firelight, i.e., reading by the firelight put out by the frenzied dancing of warmth-radiating flames blazing in my fireplace.

So, for the spring semester of A.D. 1981, as well as for the summer term of A.D. 1981, a Moravian pioneer’s log cabin was home for me, during week-days.  (On weekends, if my car worked, or if I could get to a bus station, I went home to Raleigh for the weekend, to the apartment where my wife and step-daughter lived.)  This arrangement was rather Spartan, on week-days, as will be explained below.  However, it became apparent that this arrangement must change before the fall semester, due to an addition to our family!  Specifically, my wife became expecting during January A.D. 1981. In time, our son was born in mid-October.  During the final portion of her pregnancy, we needed a new home that was within commuting distance to the university, yet in a city where my wife’s company had an office (so we prayed for an intra-company transfer of her employment).  Just before the fall semester, we moved to Greensboro (N.C.), which was close enough for me to commute to Winston–Salem (to attend school), and for my wife to work at her new (i.e., transferred) employment, at her company’s Greensboro branch office.  But, meanwhile, during January to September (about half of A.D. 1981), I lived five days a week  in the 17th century log cabin, which was located inside a wooded area too far to receive mail delivery form the U.S. Postal Service.

The log cabin itself was a simple Moravian settler’s cabin:  one room,  plus a “loft” (where I found a freshly shed snake-skin, left recently by a very long snake!).  No refrigerator: yet the entire cabin was like a refrigerator, unless a large fire was burning in the fireplace!   One bed.  One chair.  Wood floor.  Two shelves attached to the log walls (one for books, one for food).  Rudimentary electricity had been added to the cabin,  by the cabin’s owner,  to allow for only one electric item to use electricity.   (The qualifying word here is “rudimentary”.)  Lots of bugs and spiders.  Especially lots of spiders.  For example, one could plug in the lamp, to use a light bulb in a lamp (for reading).  Or, one could use the plug for an electric skillet (to heat food).  But not both at the same time.  Also, “multi-strip” electric–chord devices apparently overloaded the circuit, causing the wee flow of electricity to cease, sometimes for days.   (So forget using a multi–strip.)   So, to heat up food, the lamp’s light-bulb provided light to see, while the light was on. (During wintertime the daylight disappears quickly, so light becomes an important issue).   After canned food was poured into the electric skillet, I could light a candle.  Then, seeing by the light of the candle, unplug the electric light–powered lamp, and plug in the electric skillet.  After cooking the food, which can be eaten directly from the electric skillet, unplug the skillet, and plug in the lamp.   Or, eat by candlelight.  (Even today I have fond memories of reading my Old Testament Hebrew Bible by candlelight and/or firelight.)

After eating, use the snow outside to “wash” out the skillet.  (Presumably, if the “dish–cleaning” wasn’t perfect, whatever food germs remained in the skillet, till the next meal, should get cooked to death whenever the skillet was next fully heated up for the “new” food.)     The cabin had thick walls of mortared blackish–brown square–cut logs, forming an interior rectangle of about ten feet by twelve feet.   No indoor plumbing!  (No details beyond that  — except I’ll note here that cold, snowy winter nights are not a good time to have urgent digestive issues!)  And, thankfully, for winter weather, the cabin had a very efficient fireplace.  (The woods next to the cabin supplied all of the firewood needed, month after month.)   In the spring and summer, however, the inside of the cabin was so cool (compared to the outdoor weather) that it felt like air conditioning.  Cheese and pimento keeps (unspoiled) for weeks in a cabin life that, without any refrigerator.   It’s amazing how much cheese and pimento (or peanut butter) one can eat, day after day, week after week, month after month, if you have enough saltine crackers to go with it! (Because I ate so much of it then, I won’t eat it now.)

pimento-cheese-on-bread    saltine-crackers


Prior to the fall semester (of A.D. 1981) I gave up my week-day lodgings at the Moravian log cabin, when we rented an apartment in Greensboro (North Carolina), from which I could commute to the university, while my wife worked in Greensboro. Surely my college education would have been impossible without my wife working, to put me through school – so she deserves my unending gratitude for this and many other lovingkindnesses to me (over the past three-decades-plus).  And during this time our daughter (my step-daughter, if you want to get “technical”) attended school in Greensboro.  In October of A.D. 1981, not that long after my “Moravian log cabin days” concluded, our energetic baby boy was born.


             This “Czech-into-Texas” journey is now about over. After Wake Forest University, I attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for my first doctoral program.  Even during that time, however, I kept an eye on Texas (since my wife is a native Texan; need I say more?).  After completing my first doctorate, I accepted a challenging job in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.  In A.D. 1986, our family relocated to the greater Dallas area, where we have been ever since.

So, biogenetically speaking, I (providentially) finally got my “Czech into Texas”.




Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part 4: Surviving in Yugoslavia, Then Fleeing for the First Time

Volksdeutsche by the Dozen,  Part 4:

Surviving in Yugoslavia, Then Fleeing for the First Time  —  Jakob & Katarina Webel Escape from Marinci to Vinkovci

 Dr. James J. S. Johnson

For they fled from the swords, from the drawn sword, and from the bent bow, and from the grievousness of war.   (Isaiah 21:15).


In this fourth episode of the “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen” family history series, the ethnic-German family of Jakob and Katarina Webel, then living in what is today Croatia, face and struggle with the turmoil of life in the broken-apart country of Yugoslavia.  Life in war-maimed Yugoslavia is unimaginably harsh.  The family unit’s survival is often tenuous.  As the outcome of World War II becomes predictable the Webels make the hard decision to evacuate their native country.

The Webels spoke German fluently – it was the language of their home life – so they were treated differently by the German soldiers who occupied Yugoslavia during World War II. Life then was dominated by violent military aggression, counter-aggressive guerilla actions, and escalated vengeance in surreply. If a German soldier or a Croatian soldier was found killed, a reprisal swiftly followed: several Serbs would be seized and killed, for each German or Croat found dead.

Jakob Webel, as a matter of Christian conscience, did not want to fight for the Nazi-Croatian military agenda. So avoiding Jakob’s conscription into the Nazi war machine – the German army or its deputized ally, the new Croatian army) – was an ongoing peril.  Likewise, Jakob tried to avoid being forced into the Communist war machine – the so-called “partisan” guerrilla forces – which would eventually lead, after the war, to Yugoslavia’s communist dictatorship (headed by Marshal Josip Tito, a Croat).  So dodging abduction by local Communist “recruiters” was also an ongoing peril. Like many other non-combatants, Jakob and Katarina Webel were striving, as marriage partners and parents, just to survive the World War II chaos.  Even the peaceful act of church attendance, for non-Catholics, became a life-threatening endeavor in the Croatian part of Yugoslavia, because all religions except Roman Catholicism (Hitler’s religion from childhood) were persecuted by the Ustaše Croats (often to the point of violent murders), — although the chief religious target of Croatian persecution was Serbian Orthodox Christianity (which was Roman Catholicism’s chief competition in Yugoslavia).[1]


But domestic living in Yugoslavia – for the Jakob and Katarina Webel family – would not survive World War II, because the Webels would leave Yugoslavia and become refugees before World War II ended — trekking through many countries in the process. The Webels became 12 souls within a massive evacuation exodus.  Their refugee experience would involve traveling through many countries, by various means.  The first major part of the Webel family’s migrations was by train, as they evacuated Yugoslavia (painfully leaving Jakob Webel’s father behind), and thereby passed through several neighboring European countries to Poland.


Specifically, the Webels were delivered (by train, with many others) to a small German town near Breslau (on the Oder River), in what was formerly the Lower Silesia region of eastern Germany – but Breslau soon became a part of Poland (and was re-named Wrocław), due to post-WWII boundary changes (under the Potsdam Conference agreement).[2]   But many more migration miles would follow.  However, neither Poland nor any other European nation was to become a permanent home for the Webel family. Rather, years of refugee living – as Yugoslavian “expellees” — would eventually lead these brave souls to Ellis Island.  But those later adventures must wait for later episodes in this continuing series.

This episode will present the first step in the Webel family’s emigration – specifically, the wartime experiences that escalated in AD1943, up to the time when it was no longer safe for the Webels to live in the Croatian town of Marinci (where they ran a general store) – and in less than 24 hours they fled (with everything they could transport by horse-drawn wagons) to the Croatian city of Vinkovci, home of Jakob Webel’s father (Reinhardt Webel).   But before the war ended it would become apparent that Vinkovci would not be safe either – nor would anywhere else in Yugoslavia after the war. But sufficient for each day was the evil thereof, so this episode chronicles life in war-torn Marinci (resuming from the events reported in Part Three of this series) unto the Webel family’s narrow escape unto Vinkovci, from where they would eventually flee Yugoslavia – permanently – as “expellees”, refugees seeking the safety that God would providentially provide to them, years later, in America.



A short introductory review would be helpful, to provide the context of the Webel family’s last months of living in Yugoslavia (during World War II, as U.S. bombs rained down), in order to show how (and why) Jakob and Katarina Webel made the hard decisions to leave Marinci — and (eventually) Yugoslavia altogether —   as refugees, during the late-war evacuation exodus (as it became obvious that the Soviets would soon overtake Yugoslavia).

As noted in Parts One[3], Two[4], and Three[5] of this series, Texas hosted the births of Nate Webel and Luke Webel[6], two brothers of German stock, extending the biogenetic impact of their father’s father’s immigration to America, in AD1950.  In time Nate and Luke should learn to appreciate how their family history, thanks to God’s good providence, includes survival and immigration (to America, after WWII) of “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen”, on Monday, March 19th of AD 1950, as “expellees” seeking refuge in America (under the amended Displaced Persons Act) from Communist tyranny then ruling what was “Yugoslavia”.[7]

How Two Native Texans Descend from Post-WWII Refugee Volksdeutsche

To review the Texas connection, native Texan Nate Webel gained a little brother, Luke Webel (a new native Texas), during summer of AD2012. Luke’s parents are Stephen and Erica Webel, whose lives (and those of their daughters and sons) are in constant motion (due to Steve’s professional responsibilities which require international travel), yet they periodically alight and reside (just long enough to catch their breaths) in Arlington, Texas.[8]  Stephen Webel (Luke Webel’s father) is the son of Chaplain Robert (“Bob”) and Marcia Webel, who currently reside in Florida.   Chaplain Robert (“Bob”) Webel (paternal grandfather to Nate & Luke Webel), as an eight-year-old, was one of the “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen” who flew from Munich (Germany) to New York, arriving at Ellis Island, March 19th of AD1950.  Bob Webel’s parents—Jakob Webel and Katarina (née Schleicher) Webel—who immigrated to America with their surviving ten children, have repeatedly illustrated the phrase “truth is stranger than fiction”.


As noted before (in Part One), Jakob Webel’s family belonged to an ethnically German evangelical Anabaptist church tradition, a group known as “Evangelical Rebaptizers”[9] — who lived in what was then called Yugoslavia.[10]  In Jakob Webel’s mind it was vitally important, when he selected a wife, to marry within his family’s faith tradition—it would have been unthinkable to marry someone of another faith.[11]  Jakob succeeded, marrying a kindred spirit wife, Katarina Schleicher, during the early AD1930s, before the world had learned that trying times would be forced upon the world by Hitler, Hirohito, Mussolini, and their ilk.

As the testings of time (during World War II its aftermath in Europe) proved, repeatedly, the simple vows of young Jakob and Katarina (reported in Part One and Two of this series) were not a mere matter of happy youthful enthusiasm or ceremonial tradition.  Jakob and Katarina were promised to one another; there was no looking back.  It was unthinkable to consider separate lives thereafter:   these two young hearts were truly united as “one” (see Genesis 2:24), loyal to each other (and also to their God), as later events would prove, again and again. The young couple were faithfully committed to each other, before God and many witnesses (including themselves), and World War II’s horrors and deprivations would soon (and repeatedly) test that marital union.

But the couple’s family business got started, as a new family (as reported in Part Two), before those horrific challenges confronted them.

Then war came to Yugoslavia (as reported in Part Three)  –  surviving as a family became a basic need for each and every day.  Meanwhile the vying militaries of World War II, both official armies and underground resistance guerrillas, interrupted daily  living – repeatedly threatening to rupture the Webel family.


For two decades daily life in Marinci, Yugoslavia (now Croatia) – for Jakob and Katarina Webel’s growing family — was always abnormal and threatening, never convenient nor comfortable (as reported in Part Three).  Notwithstanding calamity and crisis and catastrophe (and tragedy) on every hand, the Webel family continued to grow – eventually to include 11 children, but one (Hilda, twin sister to Robert) died of malaria (in AD1943) as a newborn (of about 4 months) in Yugoslavia, leaving a dozen Webels.  Hilda’s short life would nonetheless display God’s providence, however, due to a German law that exempted men from being drafted for military service if they were fathers of at least 7 children.  (More on that to follow.)

In the transcribed interview, below,[12] notice that the replies of the Webel parents (“DAD” = Jakob; MOM = Katarina) don’t always fit questions actually asked by the interviewing daughter (DAUGHTER).  Notice also that Mom chimes in, to clarify (or correct) the English words needed to convey Dad’s memory on certain details.

In this Part Four, Jakob Webel and his wife (Katarina Webel) are interviewed about the tumultuous times following Croatia’s assertion of independence (in April AD1943 – “splitting” from Yugoslavia (which was then at war with Germany), while family life and running a family business (in Croatia) continued to become more confusing and dangerous.

Weekly (if not daily), Jakob strove to avoid being drafted by the Nazi-controlled German army, and also by Communist-led “partisan” guerrillas (or be killed by them for refusing to meet their extortion demands), while the Webel family resided in Marinci and then (in time, when the crisis situation escalated to a life-threatening climax) in Vinkovci.  At one point (not reported in this episode, because it happened later), in all this confusion, Katarina herself was captured—and she providentially escaped—and she successfully returned to her family.  But was living anywhere in Yugoslavia/Croatia safe?  What if the USSR’s Red Army invades Croatia, and decides to occupy it? Hard times called for hard decisions.

Eventually, as American bombs fell – suggesting to the Webels that the Germans would eventually lose the war – it became clear that some kind of escape was needful.   Meanwhile, baby twins Robert and Hilda would be born (June 2nd of AD1943), but only Robert would survive that year.

The interview resumes (from page 25) with Mr. and Mrs. Webel recalling life under the new pro-Nazi “independent” regime of Croatia, which was operated the country notwithstanding intermittent pro-Communist “partisan” guerrilla warfare,[13]  during AD1943 and after.  Dad Webel had just returned home (to Marinci).

*   *   *   *   *

DAUGHTER: From that time you were drafted [by the now-defunct Yugoslavian Army] to the time you saw Mom again, how long was that?

DAD: April [of AD1943] was … about 2 months.  And Mom was, in that time, running the store by herself.

MOM: And I was pregnant with Robert (and Hilda).

DAUGHTER: Now give me approximate times on this.  Robert was born in June [of AD1943]?

DAD: June 2.

DAUGHTER: So how much before June 2 did you come home?

DAD: Not much.  I came home on Good Friday so I do not know what the date is but I know it was Good Friday when I came home.

MOM: His father [i.e., Dad’s father = Mom’s father-in-law] was with me when I was running the store and Reini was young, very young.  Somebody had to be with the kids.

DAUGHTER: So, in other words, your dad [i.e., Dad’s dad] was not in Vinkovci the whole time [that Dad was away with the Yugoslavian Army].  He came to help Mom.

DAD: He came for visit and for week, couple of weeks with Mom.

MOM: I was alone and it  was very hard to work.

DAD: And I could not understand that I came with the bike, driving back [about 20 kilometers from Vinkovci to Marinci] and no telephone there in whole town.  Mom know already at home, somebody told her Dad is home again.

MOM: They all call.

DAD: And nobody called me in the town, just others, just Schwab [i.e., “Schwabbies”] but that’s the Germany.

DAUGHTER: What does that mean?

DAD: That German.

DAUGHTER: The German [i.e., the ethnic German people whose ancestors  migrated to and lived in Yugoslavia, sometimes called Swabians or “Schwabbies”].

DAD: The German.

MOM: And I was to open the store and they all come running, Schwabbies coming!

DAD: And they all call me the German because no German in that town.  I was the only German [notice that Dad considered himself, ethnically speaking, as “German”] and they call me German but now that I came, nobody says that German is coming, that Jakob is coming.  And Mom know already, the people talk, Jakob is coming.  And I had no idea how could that sound [i.e., the transmitted news of Jakob coming home] come before me [arriving].  I am driving bike and there is no phone there.  How could they know before I came there?  But they knew it.  And I came home and we had that church, not in the town.  Church  was in another town, but was Serbian town, like our town, but they had a church but they were afraid, they call the German and so they were afraid to have a church service so Mom invited, come to our place and our house.

MOM: I said, I cannot come.  I have the  children.  I have the store and all those things.  You are welcome all in our house.  I’m not afraid from the German, I’m not afraid of the Serbian people, just come.  I had the [church] service.

DAUGHTER: So the church came to your house.

DAD: So the men, the members . . .

DAUGHTER: During this time when you were gone…

DAD: No, in that coming Sunday, Easter Sunday.  I on Friday come home and my Dad is there.

MOM: And I had the store.

DAD: And the store, full of people, I had maybe time to hug Mom, but right away start to working in the store to satisfy the people to get the people out.

MOM: The whole town was so excited, you cannot believe it!

DAD: Because I am at home.

DAUGHTER: They’re all excited to see you.

MOM: They are all excited:  Jakob is home!  They was running through the street!

DAUGHTER: Did you have your [Yugoslavian Army] uniform on?

MOM: Oh, yeah.

DAD: Yeah, sure.

DAUGHTER: By then he couldn’t get it off anymore.

MOM: No.  Just that Jakob was home.

DAUGHTER: Tell me about the time you came home and Mom had Robert because this is when she was sick.

MOM: Then that was probably in April, Easter.

DAUGHTER: Were you real tired, Mom?

MOM: Oh, yeah.  I was sick, with so many kids.

DAD: You could take the children, the store, day and night, no rest, but the customer in the night, the children, and then the wash, to cook, to . . .

MOM: And his father [i.e., Dad’s dad] was there, we already decided we can close the store, it’s too much, I cannot do it anymore.  There’s so many people there, they overload me, and I can’t do it so we decided that when this takes longer, we can close the store.  And Dad is there we’ll stay . . .

DAUGHTER: During this time, the 2 months Dad was gone, did you go to Vinkovci and get supplies?

MOM: No.  No.

DAUGHTER: No supplies were purchased.

DAD: Oh, yes.  Bought supplies, written and send for them…

DAUGHTER: Sent the men, you sent them.  Okay.

DAD: Have to have supplies almost every week.

MOM: Every week you have to get yeast.

DAD: Almost every week you need something because you could not run a store…

MOM: without kerosene…

DAUGHTER: Okay, I just needed to know that.

DAD: And then, when I came home, Saturday, Sunday we had never Sundy opened the store, and only in emergency we give something Sunday.

MOM: They come then around and ask and I say, you know, we never give Sunday.  Just believe I need it.  Most was the yeast.  Got to buy the yeast for they have to fix tomorrow’s bread then.  They got no bread to eat without yeast.

DAD: ut we give them, if they need cigarette, no.  If they need, you have to buy yesterday or tomorrow of go to other store.

DAUGHTER: Sometimes you would give yeast.

DAD: Sometimes, if somebody calls or there is a custom when somebody dies or if some [one is] dying, they have to hurry in the store to buy a candle.  Give him a candle with the hand.

DAUGHTER: Candle.  Catholicism, right?

DAD: Huh?

DAUGHTER: Catholics or Lutheran?

DAD: No, not Catholic [and Lutheran] … [Serbian] Orthodox and the Catholic.

DAUGHTER: Greek Orthodox and Catholic.

DAD: No, that’s way different.  [Serbian Orthodox is “way different” from Greek Orthodox, apparently.]  They both, the Catholic too, then you get . . .

DAUGHTER: But mostly Greek Orthodox.

MOM: The candle, you give it in the hands.  They cannot die without candle, and  they come in the middle [of the night], whenever in the store, knock on the window, it would be dark and we went to bed.

DAD: And you do it.

MOM: Yeah, order a ribbon so long, a yard or 2 yards.  A ribbon to tie, I don’t know what they tie but they cost so much.  So that we had to give it.

DAD: Sunday was the church, they came there, the members they were surprise[d].

MOM: And they came one by one, he is home.

DAUGHTER: Is this when you had all the kids and they were under the bed and nobody even knew you had that many kids?

MOM: No, no, no.

DAD: No.

DAUGHTER: That wasn’t the time.  Okay.

DAD: And then was it so … and I was at home.  Then, little by little, the Croatian State got organized all right and drafted the men to the [new Croatian] army.

DAUGHTER: Were you drafted again?[14]

DAD: No, no.

DAUGHTER: Is Robert born yet?

DAD: No.

MOM: No, no.

DAUGHTER: And you’re still talking before this.

DAD: And then when the time came Mom was more sick, and more sick, and fever, high fever, and the children [i.e., twins Robert and Hilda] were born ahead of time because of the high fever, and one baby [i.e., Hilda] in hurt, but  Mom was under the doctor’s care, but not form that city, but German army doctor.  Because the civilian …

MOM: There was almost nobody there.  They was all gone.

DAUGHTER: Dispersed.

DAD: And we are German [i.e., ethnic Germans who speak German, although citizens of what had been Yugoslavia] so the German army take care of us, so they gave a medication, and . . .

DAUGHTER: Did they come to the house to take care of you?

MOM: Yes.  Go in the house . . .

DAD: They were in station in the town.

MOM: There was station there.

DAD: But as a little town, we had no [medical] doctor, otherwise, we have no drug store.  We have some drug items.

DAUGHTER: Were you sick before Dad came home?

MOM: No.

DAUGHTER: It was after Dad came home that you got malaria.

MOM: Yes, then I got malaria.

DAD: And she get [malaria] probably from the soldiers in the town, we don’t know how getting, and when the children [i.e., twins Robert and Hilda] were born, then it start already the Partisans [i.e., mostly Communist guerrilla resistance to the pro-Nazi Croatian government, plus Serbian dissidents who opposed the Croatian Ustaše terrorists], you know what “Partisan” means.  “Guerrilla” that what they call it here [in America].  The Serbian, the war against the Germans, but not the Serbs, at the time, there were some, always some fanatic.  And there goes a German soldier in there, [and an assassin secretly] shot him, and then, who did it? “Nobody”!  And they “knew” some Serbian did it.  And then the German, where did that happened? …  they’d say , here, here.

DAUGHTER: A big search.

DAD: In the city, all the Serbian they get together and tell [i.e., ask] who was it [who killed the German soldier]?  “Nobody, nobody”!  So they [i.e., the Germans seeking revenge] take 1, 2, 3, 4 and take, kill, without … [i.e., the vengeful Germans would seize a few Serbians and kill them, as a reprisal, without any trial or proof of who was responsible for the killing that was being “avenged”].

MOM: Sometimes 4 for one, it was 5 for 1.  They came and took 8 for 1, and then they took 10 for 1.

DAD: And so on.

MOM: So it was worse and worse.

DAUGHTER: And did they shoot just men?

DAD: Just men.  But then and no question, what do you think – this war was.

MOM: That was to just for war.

DAD: Who killed our soldier?  Just a “Serbian”.  They know that somebody did but who did?  Nobody did.  And a gun has everybody because the army, this person, you know, so everybody could have a gun.  Even when, I did say that, but when I went from the army home, going home was more soldier there and wounded men, had gun, with himself.  And want to go with the wagon, you could not go, when you have the guns.  What should I do?  “Get away!”[15]  What should I do?  Over there is a bridge, put it [i.e., the gun] down under the bridge.  I don’t want to meet a German soldier and we are in Yugoslavian [army] uniform and we got guns, they could think we are enemies and without thinking, without explaining, they could kill us.  No, we don’t want that.  No.  If you want to go with us, threw it away.  Yes.  And so, whosoever[16] want could find a gun in that time.  In normal [i.e., pre-WWII] time, in Yugoslavia, no man could have a gun or a revolver.  No, no, no.  Only a hunter and he have to have a license and so, but not . . .

MOM: Just buy somewhere on the black market.

DAD: No.  That not easy.

MOM: That not too easy, they will find out and they will come in the houses and look, and search the house. . . .

DAD: But in that time everybody had because the [Yugoslavian] army dispersed, you could throw away, so . . . and because one Serb killed the one German, then the German – the [German] army, not the [non-combatant ethnic German] people – the army, like I said, brought so many people. “Who did it?”  “Nobody” did it.  Then they [i.e., German soldiers] take 2 [ethnic Serbians] and kill them [as a reprisal].  And so tomorrow over there was again a German killed.  So the Serb is afraid, run away in the woods, in the mountain, so they built the Partisan (guerrilla).

MOM: The beginnings of their [guerrilla] army.

DAUGHTER: The Serbians did at that point.

DAD: Yeah.  First to fall, some fanatic want to go to war against Germany.  The majority are afraid he will kill me, the German will kill me because the German soldier is killed, they will kill me [i.e., in another multiplier-revenge reprisal, with the victims being selected solely on the basis of being ethnic Serbs who were Serbian Orthodox in their religion – and thus hated by the German/Nazi/Ustaše killers].

MOM: They [i.e., the Serbs who feared reprisal killings] run away.

DAD: So they run away and soon there was the Partisan – we call it “Partisan” over there, but [in America] they call here “Guerrillas”.  Guerrillas would come and they got the multiplied through that.

DAUGHTER: Those were strictly Serbians at this point?  Mostly, anyway?

DAD: Mostly, the Serbian because the Serbian [was] more persecuted from the Germans and … [the pro-Nazi Croats].

DAUGHTER: Why did they assume a Serbians killed him [i.e., a German soldier]?

DAD: Because a Serbian was against the German, not a Croatian.  Croatian, they see it.

DAUGHTER: What does “Croatian” mean?

DAD: That’s a Yugoslav … [Yugoslavia] is a part Serbian, part Slovanian [i.e., Slovenian?] and part Croatian – and Croatian and Slovanian [Slovenian?] was under Austria-Hungary for 100 years and the Serbian was independent for maybe 50 years, and before that’s what other 50.  So the Serbian are in the culture, culture way behind, they have no education, they have no …  but they …

DAUGHTER: In the culture they were way behind.

DAD: Yeah, in the culture, but they are the majority [in Yugoslavia].  And in 1918 the First World War they make the one kingdom [composed of Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, etc.] … because the majority rules, the Serbians made the ruling.  Because a Serbian did the ruling, here is the Croatian town, the main officer or main office-holder, main-money-getter is the Serbian from there, from Serbia, even if he has no school [credentials].  If he had no college or no high school, he is more in the position than the man in the Croatian [town] who got the schooling.  And that became friction in between the Serbian and the Croatian.

DAUGHTER: They formed a partisan at that point.  Then what happened?

DAD: The people formed a partisan.  Then whenever the German in the night – let’s say in the day time here’s a German and a Croatian, but when the night came, then the Partisan, they need bread, they need cigarette, they need ammunition, so what they do?  …  they know, here are the 20 German in the barracks sleeping, and they got 2, or at the post, kill them, they go kill them to take the ammunition.  Then we need ration cards to buy cigarette because the people are smoking, they have to go there in the office in the night, kill that man, or force them to give it.  And I go, I have a store, I go today to the town, and I … with no battery, could you buy battery?  But the radio, people had already radio, not TV but radio, some people.  And I get the battery and it is ….[end of Side A] … I was in the town, I had the batteries.  They knocked on the door, open in the night.  Who is it?  “Open!”  Yeah, I know who it is.  I have to open.  “Don’t put the light on, just open the door!”

MOM (recalling the midnight customers, i.e., Partisan resistance guerrillas, seeking to buy supplies in secret): “Open the door!  Let us in!  Close the door!”

DAD: To let in, close the door.  Sit in the store.  The town people you know.

DAUGHTER: “You got sharp tools?”

MOM: Yes. “Bread?”

DAD: “You got batteries?”  you could not take all.  Yes, I can do.  There’s more here.  “And … you got cigarette?”  Yes.

MOM: “You got socks?”  Yes.

DAD: “You got chocolate?”

DAUGHTER: And everything you gave?

DAD: Yes.  Everything, whatever they want.

MOM: We had to.  If not they …

DAD: …kill you.

MOM: …kill you.

DAUGHTER: Then you may as well give the whole store.

DAD: No, they do not.  Even the whole store.

MOM: They go nice away.

DAUGHTER: Why didn’t they pay?

MOM: Why should they?

DAUGHTER: It’s war time.

DAD: They even had the ration cards, you give me cigarettes.  They even give ten cards not matter how many they take, a hundred they got. They can go to the court house, they bring it.

DAUGHTER: So they gave you ration cards.

DAD: Yeah, so that I could buy again.  And many times they give us money too, they paid.

DAUGHTER: Oh, they did pay.

DAD: Yes – sometimes yes, sometimes no.

MOM: They sit there and they don’t want to go and pay.  They sit and ask all the things and talking.  I want to send them away.  I’m scared and they don’t go away.

DAD: You must talk  with them like them be the best friends, and when they go away, then you go to bed.

DAUGHTER: Did they come many nights?

DAD: People many nights, and …

MOM: Almost every night.

DAUGHTER: How late in the night?

DAD: This is late, when it’s dark.  Everything is quiet, quiet, just you hear:  “Daddy, there is walking?” … [i.e., Dad recalls how he would be asked if he heard someone walking] … Then boom!

MOM: You hear the heavy shoes walking.

DAD: You know that.  And then, in the morning the neighbors said, “Was the Partisan at your late place?”  “How do you know?”  “I have . . . don’t ask.”

MOM: “You saw them?”  They said no.  The we don’t ask.

DAD: “Never came here.”  Never say yes, never no.  You never know who.

MOM: Never can say anything to nobody.  No, not at all.

DAD: And then came the time the children [i.e., twins Robert and Hilda] was born and the Partisan already is very much powerful group.  They took that man and killed him and that man and beat him half-dead.

MOM: Burned the house down.


DAD: Is war time.

MOM: When you say something, when we would say they was at our place.  They took batteries or took something or asked for something and took it.

DAD: And the people are making whiskey and there was more people together and one man went home and another town and the Partisan caught him and [asked] “where you was?”  “There and there.”  “What did you do there?”  “We burn whiskey.”  And that man say a lie too, and he said, “we have organized to fight against the Partisans”.  “Who?”  “That and that man.”  And they came and caught that man the next day, next night, and was a new mayor, he was sick, and he lay in the bed and we went [to] visit them, he was in the bed, and nobody was there.  All over black and blue.

MOM: They beat him so much.

DAD: They beat him almost to death.

MOM: They sick for more than a year, not moving or anything.

DAUGHTER: Because the other guy said they were organizing against them.

MOM: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

DAD: And [there] was one man, he was in German army and came home, he rent a house and he came home on leave and they know and they found out and in the night they burned the house to pick him out from the house and –

MOM: He brought the children, he had 4 children and his wife and they went out of the house, sneaking out when it start burning and went around they had the big wall, high wall, brick wall, was by the property like a front.

DAD: When there from house to house is for fence, every house and the sidewalk is there beside.  But some people had a brick wall, not like a wooden, and they had a brick wall, and they hid behind the brick wall, laid down till the morning.

MOM: Lay down on the ground, flat down.  Children and all with the man and wife, they stay alive, but the house burned down.  Nobody come and bring the pail [of water, for dousing the house fire].  They cannot.  They is not allowed.

DAD: And the fire-ware now start to go, boom, boom, boom, boom. No.  Fire-ware, not allowed to go.  They kill you.[17]

MOM: They cannot, cannot believe it and the next neighbor can’t go out and get the pail of water, he’s afraid they will kill him as soon as they see him.

DAUGHTER: Now all these visits by the Partisan, are these before Robert was born?

MOM: What?  …  was born?

DAUGHTER: This was after Robert was born?

DAD: In that time.  In that time was it so.

DAUGHTER: And you [i.e., Mom] were real sick.

MOM: Oh, yeah.  And then we hired a maid.

DAD: And then when the children [i.e., twins Robert and Hilda] were born, in that time, and the children were born, and that happened so many times, I was afraid to be in the house.


DAD: Because they came, the man form the house is taken it out, the Partisan in the night, and killed him.  And everybody know I am a German.

DAUGHTER: [I] see, they didn’t like the Germans.

DAD: Yeah, So…

MOM: He [i.e., Dad] slept on the …

DAD: So I went out in the yard in the garden [at night] and most of the time in the tree [slept].

DAUGHTER: Slept in the tree.

DAD: Yeah, because if they go down they go on the ground.  If they do shoot, they do not shoot in the air, they shoot that way not in the tree.  And the baby [i.e., newborn Hilda, Robert’s twin sister] was sick to die.

DAUGHTER: Both of them [i.e., were both twins sick]?  You mean just one of them?  Hilda.  Both babies had malaria?

DAD: Yeah. She [i.e., Hilda] had them [i.e., malaria germs] from the Mom.

DAUGHTER: Yeah.  Both twins – Robert and Hilda – both malaria?

DAD: Just Hilda.

MOM: Robert doesn’t have.

DAD: And Mom called me in the night but not holler, just half loud, “Jakob, come, child is dying.”  I wait [in the tree] a little bit … watch … went down.

MOM: Once the Partisan came and then we saw what was in window and Dad went open and we did not want to open the door.  They saying something to him, you said something to them, and they said to you, “hang more out [of the window]” … [and Dad disagreed, replying] “yeah, you will pull me out”, … Dad said, “you can pull me out”.

DAD: Open the window and talk to them.

DAUGHTER: Open the window further.

DAD: I open the window and they talk to me, and when the window is open, they are … their head is lower than the window sill so …  because I see the house is higher and you have to go with the steps in the store, and then form the store in the house, again steps, so the bedroom is much higher than the store, and form the bedroom window sill, the men are maybe to that hedge so I shouldn’t have pull out but now out.  “No, you will pull me out.”  “I will not go out, but [you guys] come in, so I open the door, they came in.[18]

DAUGHTER:   Is this the night that Hilda died?

DAD: No, but it was very dangerous while you go away.

MOM: She was 4 months [old] almost when she died, she was sick all the time.

DAUGHTER: She was?

MOM: All the time.

DAD: Yes, for more or less sometimes better, sometimes worse.

MOM: And the [medical] doctor give the baby shots, and she was better, then became worser, then became better, so 4 months, then dead.

DAUGHTER: Were you better?

MOM: Well, I cannot get medicine till I was .. the baby was 3 weeks old, then I get my shots for the malaria shot, pills, I have to take pills, then I take a yellow…  I get yellow jaundice.  Yellow like a lemon.

DAUGHTER: Robert never got sick?

MOM: No, no, he was strong, much stronger.

DAD: No.

DAUGHTER: Were you not able to get medicine became you were pregnant?

MOM: They cannot give it, I need it, but I was pregnant.  When they give it they will kill the babies, they cannot give till the babies are born.  Some kind of medicine, not the medicine what I should have.

DAD: The German did have the better medicine than Yugoslavia then, and maybe they have the better medicine or the same as America had at that time.  Now is the medicine much better in everywhere but they could not give.

DAUGHTER: So then after Robert was 4 months old and Hilda died, when was it that you left the town of Marinci?  Was it much longer after that?

MOM: Oh, yeah.  Oh, yeah.

DAUGHTER: Was Rosie born here too?[19]

ROSIE (ANOTHER DAUGHTER): No, no, no, I was not born there.  And I want to know what happened to your hair at that time.  Did you have bond hair then?  Is that when your hair fell out?  Because of the malaria?

DAD: Wait.  We did go ahead of time.

DAUGHTER: Okay. Let’s go backwards then.

DAD: Yeah, backwards.  When I came home from the army (spring AD1943), Croatia organized and they pull out their own army, and I as a German was not obligated to go to the Croatian army but was a propaganda made.  That we should go to the German army, or not to the army, we should just be a German club because we are [ethnically] German.  And I went there and they took my name there and I regret later because I went there.  Then, not long after that the German organized the German there to go in the German army.  But the German could not draft us as a soldier, but they could take us as a volunteer, or as a SS, and so they make all the German have to go in there. Now it is here to go to sign but later on to the [medical] doctor to look if I was…

DAUGHTER: Physically well.

DAD: Good for us to do that.  And I did not went.  And then they send me a paper, I have to go to that place to be drafted.

DAUGHTER: Did you go then?

DAD: Yes, I went there.  Sunday I was in the church and I gave the song, the seventh in the addition or (sings… “Be Faithful unto Death”). Next day I gave others I give that song and next day or two days later I have to go to be examined by the [medical] doctor.  Then I came there, there is a big hall and here is a table, they ask me my name, they ask me, they know nothing about me.  Then I see but what I came here as a by my free will.  And I see right away, see the train to Germany. DAUGHTER:  They want to send you to Germany?

DAD: They did.

DAUGHTER: They did?!?

DAD: They did.

MOM: Three months!

DAD: yes.

DAUGHTER: And you didn’t know where he was?

DAD: Nobody knows.

MOM: Nobody!  He went away and this was all.

DAD: I went to [medical] doctor to look if I am healthy and just go right away.  When I came there into Germany . . .

DAUGHTER: Now tell me, when was this?  If Robert was born in June, is this before he was born?

MOM: No, no.

DAUGHTER: No, he [i.e., Robert] was born in ’43, this was afterwards.

MOM: This was in fall [i.e., autumn] when we was by Dad [i.e., Dad’s dad, in Vinkovci] and when they took you.

DAUGHTER: You said you were in a tree [evading the nocturnal partisans] when she [i.e., baby Hilda] died.

DAD; Mon, no, no, that was before.  Don’t …  that was before Robert was born.  Then when I was there in the army and right away first you have to get a gun.  I refused and then the first thing, go over to the Corporal hall to the sergeant, and he put you to clean the toilet, then after that you go in the jail, then go here and that question, then that, then that, then they take picture [of] you and sent you to Vinkovci and come back and so on, and after 3 months I was in jail.  And…

DAUGHTER: Why were you in jail?

DAD: Because I didn’t take up gun.  I didn’t take the arms.

MOM: That’s when Robert was born.

DAD (disagreeing with Mom’s chronology): No, Mom, wait.  You will see.  You will see he [i.e., Robert] was not born.  You will see.  I will prove to you.

DAUGHTER: What were you doing in the jail?

DAD: Nothing.

DAUGHTER: You just sit around.

DAD: Sat around and . . .

DAUGHTER: Did they feed you?

DAD: Sure, that they did. And when now is 3 months over, the unit is ready to go to the battlefield, and what should they do with me?  They call me many times before the office and once they called me, would I go to the battlefield as a medic?  Yes, I would.  Okay.  I was not happy when they ask me because I know what what’s battlefield mean, and then I went back, then they came afterward back, if I go, they as a medic they asked, would I take a handgun?  No.  Then I was happy when they ask me that.  No, I would not.  I could not tell them that I am glad you ask me that one.  But. . .

DAUGHTER: Why were you glad they asked you that question?

DAD: Because if I said no, they would not send me in the battlefield.

DAUGHTER: You didn’t really want to go.

DAD: Yes, but who want to go there?  A medic is ot better protected than a . . .

DAUGHTER: I know that.

DAD: . . . and sure they said to me everything, they said, you will not see your family and I think, do you get a guarantee that if I take the gun that I will see the family?  I know what you . . .

MOM: Yeah, there was always asking something.

DAD: And when the 3 months was over, they called the captain, and they said [to Dad], “what should we do with you? It’s up to you.”  Then they said, “we don’t want to send you to the court martial and the doctor said you are sick”, and they gave me papers, send me home.

DAUGHTER: In the head?  What kind of “sick”?  Were you really sick?  “Sick in the head”?

MOM: No, he was sick he was 3 months in jail.

DAD: When you are 3 months in the jail, between the 4 walls.

MOM: No windows, no air . . .

DAUGHTER: Oh, you really were physically sick.

DAD: I was, but not sick that I could not go to . . .

MOM: He was so pale… and so thin.

DAD: So they send me home because they felt they don’t want to send me to court martial and then when they send me home, they could not give me paper to home, just only to capital city to Vienna, to capital city of Austria, and there I have to go to that office.  When I came home there, I give the paper to the office, that’s the soldier in there.

DAUGHTER: Home to where?

DAD: When I came to Vienna, when I came there, again the SS office, that’s one of their office, when I came there, sure, we prove that them by the court, was not court martial, but just a examine.  We are not volunteer.  How could I be volunteer?  We are forced.  How can you voluntary when you didn’t want to take a gun?  I didn’t came volunteer, I they take me by so and so … and explained to them and they know it is so.  So when I came to the Vienna, the office, they take the paper, “what kind of sickness?”  “It says right here I am sick.”  “You know you are not sick, you go to doctor.”  The he reads letter.  “Oh, Marinci [in Yugoslavia]”, he sees.  “Oh, do you know Langenfelter?”  “Sure I know; is our neighbor.”  [Dad now provided some editorial information that he learned, later, about Langenfelter the spy.]  And that … when he was in Marinci, there was a German man, he was in the Hitler party, a spy for the German, and he went to the Yugoslavia and got in the Orthodox a priest and married a Russian woman and was in Marinci a priest, but a German spy.[20] And he was our neighbor, and when we talk with the children and he comes to us, he said, like you, like Mom talk, the same language, and he like to came to us [i.e., Langenfelter liked to visit the Webels and speak the German language with them] and when nobody was there, he talk only German to us, but he was a wear [i.e., he was wearing garb] like an Orthodox priest and he wasn’t.[21]  And that man [i.e., the Nazi SS officer] ask, “do you know Langenfelter?” “Sure, I know.”  “How is he?  Where is he?”  “We are neighbors” – and so on, “he is our house neighbor” … and then he [i.e., the SS officer] give a paper, [saying] “go!”

MOM: Not even to the doctor — “go home”.[22]

DAD: No doctor.  That he gave me the paper to go home.  But again not home only to Esseg.

DAUGHTER: What’s the name of this Orthodox priest?

DAD: That’s Langenfelter.

DAUGHTER: Now he was a German spy.

DAD: He was a German, was a SS [i.e., Schutzstaffel =   = “guard staff”] in the [Nazi] party, and he was a spy in Yugoslavia.

DAUGHTER: Did you know that [then]?

DAD: No, no.

MOM: No, no, we don’t know this.  Later on.

DAD: We would never say —  nobody would say.

MOM: No, we never say this.

DAUGHTER: Okay.  Then he sent you . . .

DAD: He sent but he gave a paper to go to Essseg and there where I was drafted or where I should be drafted, to go there.

DAUGHTER: How do you spell “Esseg”?

DAD: E S S E G.[23]

DAUGHTER: I knew it wasn’t X.[24]  You went there?  That was your original place where you went for your physical [examination by a physician].

DAD: Yes, yes.  And when I came there, I give them my paper and they said no, you will not go home.  You will go in the mountains [to] fight against the Partisan.  They need men over there.  But you go see the doctor.  Because I was sick, sent to doctor.  When I go to see the doctor, the army doctor, there’s nobody there, it is now is Good Friday.  The doctor is not there and that . . .  Again is Good Friday, I remember that’s very good.

MOM: Good Friday, a Good Friday:  no train, and the next rain . . .

DAD: And I know . . .

DAUGHTER Bob [i.e., baby Robert] had to have been born then. It’s second Good Friday?

DAD: No, that’s . . . wait.  I will tell you.  Then when I came, see, should I get no doctor? Should I wait Monday?  (It’s Saturday.)  Monday?  No, I go home on my own.  So I went to the train depot and went in the train home.  When I get on the train, they come to ask the passport, I give him the German paper, he do not know read, he could not read that, it in German.  And I had the German uniform, he cannot read, so I get home.  When I get home, everybody was surprised, Mom too, and then I think that was the time where Mom … when Dad [i.e., Dad’s dad] was there, but makes no difference though.  And then was Sunday, we went to church, and a couple of weeks later on, came from the Esseg, from the army, writing to the our mayor, to send me with police there, because I am a – how do you say? – VO.

DAUGHTER: AWOL [“away without leave”].

DAD: AWOL, yes.  And we have no post office there.  And we have just one police in that little town and that police goes to another town to bring that post, whatever that is, and goes on our house by, and then he goes to the city hall or township hall and there he has to divide that mail.  But he pass on our house and he saw that German letter, and he cannot read that stuff, from the mail, he threw it through the window, it was Sunday, threw it through the window into our room.

MOM: We had always the window a little bit open where he can throw the mail in.

DAD: And we came home from the church, here is the mail, and I am the wanted [i.e., Dad is a “wanted man”].  What should I do?  What should I do?!?

DAUGHTER: Mina Habrinsky, that’s the Mayor of the town of Marinci.

DAD: Yes.  What should I do?  It’s not the mayor, but  an official.

DAUGHTER: The head official.

DAD: What should I do?  And then we decide open it up and read.  When I read, I know right away I’m from whom is it, and could be only me because there’s no Germany here.  So I opened and saw what is it.  What should we do?  No, we will not give it to them.  We will not give it to them.  We will not destroy, just hide somewhere.  So I did.

DAUGHTER: And Robert still isn’t born yet?  Mom, you should remember this.

DAD: No.  That was all.  Then was the time elapsed and Robert was born and as soon that children was born, I went to the town, to Vinkovci, to the priest [who kept the birth records] and put them in and got certificate that we have now 7 children – because we had 5 and Robert and Hilda is 2 [more], is 7.  According to the law, German law, if I have 7 children I don’t have to go [into the military draft], I am relieved [i.e., exempt] from the whole army.

DAUGHTER: So you immediately went to the priest in Vinkovci to get your certificate of birth for your 2 children [twins Robert and Hilda],   —  you had to go to the Orthodox priest to get that.

DAD: Not, no, no, no.  Lutheran priest.  Not that certificate, to report the 2 children born and then the whole family and the one paper to certify I have – we have – 7 children.  So I keep that in my pocket, we have 7 children and I don’t have to go [into the military draft].  Then it’s no army – no, no, nothing. . . .

MOM: Dad, Dad, I even sent this to you when you was, when we finds you, I sent this to the Marinci office … of all these 7 children.  This was when Robert was born. Still, just [to] be sure, I’m sure, I had to sent it.  I had to go to Marinci to the Mayor and make the papers to Vinkovci, Dad [i.e., Dad’s dad – Mom’s father-in-law] brought me to Vinkovci, when in Vinkovci I went in the court house and he made the paper, we sent them, when we find through this man, where you are.  Was 3 months you was away.  You remember that?

DAD: Okay, okay.  And then because the Partisan they didn’t give us peace.  They know I get home and they one night came 2 Partisan or 3, and one was very rough with a  — how you say? – rifle and a knife.

DAUGHTER: Oh, yeah, the bayonet.

DAD: We say – the German say too – “bayonet”.  Serbians say “bayonet”.  I came from Germany, I have to have a gun, I had to give the gun, and I have bought some picture for the children and you could buy nothing in store except war picture.  And a German soldier on the road, a German soldier war [picture], not Russian or American would be there, and they see German soldier, and picture, and [Partisan] people get mad and the other, right away they want to take me along, one, and the other said let him alone till tomorrow evening, I guarantee he will give you a gun.[25]

DAUGHTER: They knew that you’d have a gun by the next morning so you went into town . . .

DAD (correcting the Partisan’s deadline): By next evening.

MOM: By next evening they came and we had to prepare at least one gun, they want 3.  One has to have it.

DAUGHTER: Why did they think you had a gun?  Because you were a German?

DAD: Because they need it, they want it.

MOM: They don’t care wherever you get them [from], just they want it.

DAD: In war time, is a man’s life nothing.

DAUGHTER: Didn’t they care about ammunition?

DAD: But they are together.

DAUGHTER: Okay.  Keep talking.

MOM: I went to this lady and told her, “Lady, please feed the horses; we have to go 4:00 in the morning to Grandpa”, to Dad’s.[26]

DAUGHTER: Robert was already born.

MOM: Yes.  Hilda was already died.  So I went to this lady and said.  She was kind of surprised and 4:00, she was here.  We went on the wagon, me and she, we traveled all the way, we don’t talk anything, we always used to talk and have fun.  She was also talking all kinds of things to them, what’s going on in the town, all kinds of things.  And then we was very polite and none of us saying anything and when we came to his father [i.e., Mom’s father-in-law = “Grandpa” Webel], very early and first went up, just start daylight.

DAUGHTER: Now you were in the wagon with her and all the children.

MOM: Not the children.

DAUGHTER: Just you and her.  And you had all the kids at the house?

MOM: They was home.  When I came to his dad’s – Grandpa – and I told him what happened last night, almost Dad was thrown away, for tonight we prepare, we have to have gun, otherwise they will kill him [i.e., Dad] and they will burn the house down.  They say it and they did in this town and many more places and they will do ours too.

DAD: So we said he [i.e., Grandpa Webel = Dad’s dad, i.e., Reinhardt Webel of Vinkovci] should hire a man with a wagon and come move us in the city.[27]

MOM: Yeah.  Whatever they ask.  They don’t want money.  They want all food, was very short.[28]

DAD: Corn or wheat or whatever . . .

MOM: There was never [enough] food, was any kind of food, there was a shortage on food.  Whatever they ask, we give it, and Dad [i.e., Grandpa Webel = Reinhardt Webel] hired.  They know all his dad in the whole city [of Vinkovci] and he went and hired wagons.  Still we had all hired this wagon.


DAD: And they came there and came down.  The store was full with people and they came.

MOM: And he was working hard.

DAD: Then pack, no, but nothing, — just put on the wagon.[29]

MOM: The whole town [of Marinci] was so surprised.  Was such a shock.  [The interview transcript of interview indicates that both parents were then talking over each other – obviously this dangerous experience was one of the most traumatic days of their lives.]

DAD; Nothing packed.  Nobody know we moved.  Nothing packed. . .

DAUGHTER: You mean you moved the whole store, you packed the whole store up in these wagons.

MOM: Yeah, as much as we can. … by daylight that we should come on the main roads [to Vinkovci].

DAD: Before the night came.

MOM: Before the night came the Partisan will come and cut us up and maybe we [be] killed off.  Before daytime, just taking out was everything.

DAD: Not before daytime.  Before night came.

MOM: Before night came, yeah, before it.  This was after noon already.

DAD: And so they moved me away with the children and whatever we could. And leave the other stuff opened over there.

MOM: There was so many stuffs.

DAD: And the next day again, the day time you can go and bring it.  SO we moved there and when we moved there, then again came the … from the …

MOM: This was already October, November.  This was, and Robert was already 8 months, no, he was born in June, he was already 4, 5 months.  And Hilda, she was buried too, Robert was alone.  Then we moved away.

DAUGHTER: Where is she [i.e., Hilda] buried?  Was she buried in Marinci?

MOM: Yeah.

DAUGHTER: In the backyard, a cemetery, or what?

MOM: Cemetery.

[There is then a brief discussion aimed at getting timeframes sorted out.]

*       *        *       *        *

DAUGHTER: And then you got moved to Vinkovci.

MOM: Yeah, yeah.

DAUGHTER: Okay. That settles that .

DAD: But, then in Vinkovci, they came calling m,e to the . . .

DAUGHTER: Who are “they”?  The Partisans?

MOM: No, no.

DAUGHTER: Oh, Esseg [i.e., the German military].

  [ TO BE  CONTINUED, D.v. ]


In the next report the Webel family adventures continue in Vinkovci, but the hard decision would there be made, by Jakob and Katarina Webel, to flee Yugoslavia altogether – for good.

So, for now, this “chapter” rests with an appreciation that two native-Texan boys, Nate Webel (born in AD2007) and Luke Webel (born in AD2012), as well as their sisters, descend from German immigrant stock (“Volksdeutsche”) who trace back one ancestral line to paternal grandfather’s parents, Jakob Webel and Katarina Schleicher, whose early family life together included surviving WWII.                    

><> JJSJ 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Dr. James J. S. Johnson is a member of the German-Texas Heritage Society, and an occasional contributor to its Journal pages.  A lover and teacher of Providential history and geography, Jim has taught at 4 different Christian colleges (LeTourneau University, Dallas Christian College, Concordia University Texas at Fort Worth, and ICR School of Biblical Apologetics) in Texas, as well as aboard 9 different cruise ships. As a C.P.E.E. (Certified Paternity Establishment Entity, credentialed by the Texas Attorney General’s Office), Jim maintains a strong interest in family history documentation. After studying under many teachers, at many schools, Jim happily acknowledges that his best teacher (under God) was Chaplain Robert (Bob) Webel.

Below is a newspaper caption, dated 3-19-AD1951, with the “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen” Webel family, who immigrated to America.


Volksdeutsche by the Dozen AD1951

Also shown below is Chaplain Robert Webel (who was 8 when his family came to America) with his wife, Marcia, residents of Florida.  Chaplain Bob Webel provided information that supplemented and clarified his sister (Rosie)’s interview of their parents, titled From Vinkovci to Medina, quoted extensively hereinabove.



[1] Recall (from earlier episodes in this series) that the Webels belonged to a small group of Bible-believing Protestant evangelicals whose roots traced to “Schwabbie” German Anabaptists, a group demographically smaller than the few Lutherans who then lived in Yugoslavia. As indicated below, in the interview portion of this episode, the Webels faced this crisis by offering their own home for conducting church worship services. See Rosalie Webel Whiting, From Vinkovci to Medina (Webel family history), page 25-26.

[2] Eventually – according to God’s providence – the Webels would emigrate to America. But that fateful transatlantic journey would be a long distance into the future from the days of living in and leaving Yugoslavia, when the Webels faced the Nazi/Ustaše occupation (and Communist Partisan guerrilla intrigues).

[3] “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 page 1-4 of Rosalie Webel Whiting, From Vinkovci to Medina (unpublished Webel family history), supplemented by personal interviews with Chaplain Bob Webel (during August AD2012).

[4] “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), quoting from Rosie Webel Whiting (see footnote #1), pages 5-18.

[5]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), quoting from Rosie Webel Whiting (see footnote #1), pages 5-18.

[6] Nate Webel (b. Nov. AD2007, Fort Worth, Texas) & Luke Webel (b. July AD2012, Plano, Texas).

[7] “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen” is the caption of an unidentified newspaper clipping, with a photograph of the 12 Webel family immigrants, who arrived at Ellis Island on March 19, AD1951, after a transatlantic trek that went from Munich to Copenhagen to Scotland to Greenland to New York City. The Webel dozen then were father Jakob, mother Katarina, Reinhardt (17, a/k/a Reini), Elisabeth (15, a/k/a Elsa), Karl (13), Adolf (12), Theresia (10), Robert (~8), Rosalia (6, a/k/a Rosie), Jacob (4), Katherina (2), Daniel (2 months old).

[8] The family history information in this article is derived from repeated personal interviews with Chaplain Bob Webel, mostly when he was visiting Arlington, Texas (during the summer of AD2012), and from the transcription of his sister (Rosie)’s interview of their parents, an unpublished family history titled From Vinkovci to Medina (which is further described below).

[9] The Yugoslav-emigrated, German-speaking Evangelical Rebaptizers, when they immigrated to America, renamed themselves the “Apostolic Christian Church of the Nazarene”. (This church tradition traces back to German Anabaptists – it has no ecclesiastical connection to what in America is popularly called the “Church of the Nazarene”).

[10] Like a violently erupting fumarole, the tragic history of Yugoslavia’s political factions is a series of internal fighting (dominated by Ustaše-led Roman Catholic Croats persecuting Eastern Orthodox Serbs, with Nazi and Russian Communists intervening with their own agendas), and that fighting is a major catalyst in this family history—as will be noted later, D.v., in future reports on this fascinating family history  (see, e.g., ).

[11] Certainly Jakob was thinking Biblically, on this point—see Amos 3:3 & 2nd Corinthians 6:14.

[12] Rosalie Webel Whiting, From Vinkovci to Medina (unpublished Webel family history, copy provide by Chaplain Bob Webel), pages 19-25, supplemented & clarified by personal interviews with Rosie’s brother, Chaplain Bob Webel, during July and August of AD2012, and afterwards.

[13] The interview resumes on page 25, recalling events when the Webels still lived in Marinci.

[14] Dad Webel was previously drafted into the Yugoslavian Army [see Part Three in this series].  When the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was politically split up — and recognized as jurisdictionally defunct (i.e., when Croatia declared its own “independence” under Nazi German sponsorship),  —  Dad’s military obligation (to Yugoslavia‘s draft laws) expired as a matter of law.  So the question is asked, was Dad later drafted by the new Croatian State?  (Dad replies in the negative.)

[15] Apparently Dad recalls that if he had a gun, then, he was shooed away from the wagon he wanted to ride, so carrying a gun was more of a disadvantage than an advantage.

[16] Dad uses the Old English pronoun “whosoever” occasionally, demonstrating that he learned English (in American) by reading the King James Bible.

[17] Firefighting was deterred by fear that Partisans would kill any who tried to extinguish the fire.

[18] Dad Webel rightly fears what will occur if he leans too far out his window, to where the Partisans can yank him outside of his house. Dad Webel tells the nocturnal visitors that they can enter his house, to talk with him, but Dad does not want to go outside with them (or allow them to accomplish that result by yanking him out of his window).

[19] Rosie is responsible for producing the interview with Dad and Mom Webel. However, it appears here that the main interrogator is a sister of Rosie’s – although earlier episodes in this series presumed that the interrogator was Rosie herself, since she produced the recorded-interview family history.  (It is obvious that the one asking  questions, here, is a daughter of Jakob and Katarina Webel; yet it is also obvious, above, that Rosie Webel is involved in the interview and she is the one who ultimately produces the recorded interview as a transcribed family history.)

[20]Dad is being interrogated by a Nazi SS officer in Vienna. The SS officer notices that Dad’s paperwork indicates his residence as Marinci (Yugoslavia), and perhaps the paperwork indicates Dad’s ethnicity as a Swabian (i.e., an ethnic German) whose ancestors settled in Yugoslavia. The Nazi SS officer recalls that the Germans have a spy in Marinci named Langenfelter.  Langenfelter’s “cover” identity is the pretense of being an Eastern Orthodox priest, married to a Russian woman. This would allow Langenfelter to spy on the Serbs (whose Serbian Orthodox religion is a variety of Eastern Orthodox Christianity) and his marriage to a Russian woman would allow him to learn about Soviet-related Partisan doings.  Because Langenfelter is actually a German himself, Langenfelter is naturally attracted to the Webel family, who are ethnic Germans.  So, if Langenfelter wants to visit folks who are not anti-German he would be inclined to visit the Webels in Marinci.  Speculations aside, the SS officer could test Dad Webel’s “story” by corroborating what the SS officer knows about (and from) Langenfelter, the Webels’ neighbor (who was really a Nazi spy in Yugoslavia).

[21]Langenfelter was wearing the costume of an Eastern Orthodox priest but really he was no such thing; Langenfelter was actually a Nazi party member in the Schutz-Staffel (“SS”).

[22] The paperwork provided by the Nazi SS officer did not direct Dad Webel to undergo further medical examination; rather, the paperwork directed that Dad Webel go home to Marinci in Yugoslavia. Perhaps the SS officer thought that Dad Webel would be of some assistance to Langenfelter the spy (if Dad Webel was allowed to return home to Marinci).

[23] Apparently the paperwork that directed Dad Webel to “go home” specifically indicated that he was to return via Esseg (also known as Osijek), a large city in the Slavonian region of Croatia, located on a bank of the river Drava, about 16 miles upstream of the Drava’s confluence with the river Danube.  There was then a German population living in Esseg (n/k/a Osijek), as well as an Axis-controlled oil refinery that was the target of Allied bombing on June 14th AD1944.

[24] Apparently Dad’s pronunciation of “Esseg” sounded somewhat like “Essex”, so the spelling clarified this word.

[25] The anti-Nazi/anti-Ustaše Partisans, when they see that Dad Webel has a war picture (that depicts a German soldier), are upset, assuming that Dad favors the Nazi/Ustaše military cause. The immediate goal fo the Partisans is to coerce Dad into providing them with a weapon.  The Partisans assume that Dad has easy access to German weapons, but he does not.  One Partisan decides to allow Dad some time to locate a weapon – the Partisans will return later, expecting a firearm of some kind.  The Partisans do not care how Dad gains possession of a gun; they only care that he gets one for them, soon.  (This is especially problematic for the Webels – they belong to a Swabian-German Anabaptist “Nazarene” church tradition of non-violent pacifism.)

[26] The decision was made to go to Vinkovci (where Grandpa Webel lived), to acquire a gun, to meet the threatening demands of the Partisans. To do this Mom recruited a neighbor woman to help her travel from Marinci (where Jakob and Katarina Webels then lived).

[27] This is decision-making at the climax of a growing crisis: The family of Jakob and Katarina Webel needs to completely relocate from the town of Marinci, to the city of Vinkovci (where Grandpa Webel lives), in order to flee from the Partisans (in Marinci), before it’s too late for the Webel family to do so.

[28] Mom Webel recalls that the men who moved the Webels’ personal property, form Marinci to Vinkovci, wanted to be paid in food, not money – because food was scarce then.

[29] Both household items and the entire store inventory needed to be moved in one day – there was not time for packing. It was enough to get everything onto a horse-drawn wagon going from Marinci to Vinkovci.


Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part 1: Jakob and Katarina Agreed to Marry Before They Ever Spoke to Each Other (A True Example of Love at First Sight . . . and First Sound)

Volksdeutsche by the Dozen AD1951

Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part 1:

Jakob and Katarina Agreed to Marry Before They Ever Spoke to Each Other (A True Example of Love at First Sight  . . .  and First Sound)

Dr. James J. S. Johnson[1]

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)


Texas recently hosted the birth of Luke Webel,[2] a boy born of German stock, furthering the biogenetic impact of his paternal grandfather’s immigration to America.  Like his older brother (Nate Webel[3]), another native Texan, Luke Webel will learn that his paternal grandfather’s parents decided to marry each other before they had had their first conversation!


How could this be? The answer requires some family history that stretches back, ‘cross the Pond, to war-torn Europe, during the years when and after Adolf Hitler strove to establish his “Third Reich” empire. What follows is just the first portion of an amazing adventure in German immigration: Volkdeutsche by the Dozen”, an ethnically German family  of “expellees” seeking refuge in America (under the amended Displaced Persons Act) from Communist tyranny.[4]

How Two Native Texans Descend from Post-WWII Refugee Volksdeutsche

How did little Luke Webel arrive in Texas, during the summer of AD2012?

Luke’s parents are Stephen and Erica Webel, whose lives (and those of their daughters and sons) are in constant motion (due to Steve’s professional responsibilities teaching English to students in Asia), yet they periodically alight and reside (just long enough to catch their breaths) in Arlington, Texas.

Stephen Webel (Luke Webel’s father) is the son of Chaplain Robert (“Bob”) and Marcia Webel, who currently reside in Florida.

Chaplain Bob Webel (Luke Webel’s paternal grandfather), as an eight-year-old, was one of the “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen” who flew from Munich (Germany) to New York, arriving at Ellis Island, March 19th of AD1950.

Bob Webel’s parents—Jakob Webel and Katarina (Schleicher) Webel—who immigrated to America with their surviving ten children, have repeatedly illustrated the phrase “truth is stranger than fiction”: Bob’s parents actually chose to marry before they even spoke to each other.

In other words, their marriage decision was a case of love at first sight—and sound.  (Because Jakob was looking for a girl who could sing well!)

The best way to appreciate their decision to marry, and their earliest days as a married couple, is to read a transcribed interview that one of their daughters had with them, about their amazing journey from Vinkovci (Yugoslavia/Croatia) to Medina (Ohio). But first, a bit of family background information would be helpful.


Jakob Webel Decided to Find a Wife

Jakob’s unusual approach to securing a wife cannot be understood apart from an appreciation of Jakob’s native church heritage, and an appreciation for how that heritage was perpetuated inside a Yugoslavia that was then dominated by peoples of other religious traditions, mostly Roman Catholic Croats and Eastern Orthodox Serbs, as well as some Muslims and Lutherans.

Jakob Webel’s family belonged to an ethnically German evangelical Anabaptist church tradition, a group known as “Evangelical Rebaptizers”[5] — who lived in what was then called Yugoslavia.[6]

In Jakob Webel’s mind it was vitally important, when he selected a wife, to marry within his family’s faith tradition—it would have been unthinkable to marry someone of another faith.[7]

But the Webels of Yugoslavia belonged to a church tradition that was only a very small minority religion: German-speaking “Evangelical Rebaptizers”.

And in Jakob’s community he saw no likely prospect for a wife, so that meant that Jakob must travel to another village (by train!) where there were people of his same faith, and from where he would—God willing—find a suitable wife, whom he would commit his earthly life and future to, in holy matrimony.

However, one other thing was indispensable to Jakob Webel, when selecting a wife: whoever she was, she must be a good singer of Christian songs, the kind of songs sung by German-speaking Evangelical Rebaptizers.


After Seeing (and Hearing) Katarina Once, Jakob Proposed Marriage

Would Jakob find an attractive girl, good at singing, suitable for marrying, for living with “till death do us part”, a fitting help-mate to raise a family with?

As Jakob prepared to survey the potential “candidates”, he had no foreknowledge about how World War II was about to erupt. Jakob could not then have known how the Christian faith and loyal character of his soon-to-be wife (as well as his own Christian faith and character) would be severely and repeatedly tested—amidst the unthinkable atrocities and unimaginable tragedies that would be ravaging and ruining central Europe during the AD1930s and AD1940s.

But, as time would tell, Jakob was about to make the perfect choice, and that “perfect choice” (Katarina Schleicher) would herself agree with Jakob’s choice.

In the transcribed interview, quoted repeatedly below,[8] the reader will notice that sometimes the replies of the Webel parents (“DAD” = Jakob; MOM = Katarina) don’t always fit the questions actually asked by the inquiring daughter (ROSIE). Notice also that Mom chimes in, frequently, to clarify (or correct) Dad’s memory on certain details.

ROSIE: …beginning with how you and Mom met …

DAD: [Then] I was in my early twenties … and then … I look for a girl of the same faith [i.e., German-speaking Evangelical Rebaptizer] and because I have no way to see and know that it is good for the family if they can sing and if it’s more or less inherited, if mom or dad can sing, then the children can too, so I went with a boy from the same town, from Vinkovci and he want to go to Beshka to see a girl and I went along to with be him and as it because it was a custom in the [Evangelical Rebaptizer] church.  I could not go without their permission from the church so I had to speak to that.  So I went with them, the boy in there I saw a girl who could sing good and which I like.


ROSIE: Now this [i.e., both Vinkovci, where Jakob then lived, and Beshka, where Katarina then lived] is both in Yugoslavia, right?

DAD: But it is about 160 to 200 kilometers and we traveled only by train.  And I saw the girl and then we then went home.

ROSIE: Was that ‘on Sunday’ or ‘the whole day Sunday’?

DAD: The whole day Sunday, And then we went home but I was not, at that time, it was Christmas, no, at Easter time, and I did not think to marry then but when it came the fall, then I decide to get married and I want to go and went to the same town [i.e., Beshka] to see if that girl is still single and when I get to there, the girl was not at home, she was in town about 20 kilometers farther away, working as a how-you-say … a maid in the house. And I go forenoon [i.e., before noon] in the church Sunday there in Beshka and then we took the train, I went to Novisad to see the girl when I came there somehow the noise get around that I came, I do not know who brought it but …

ROSIE: Was there a church in Novisad?

DAD: Yes, a big, large church.  There’s some boys believers, they were waiting for the train but till I came.  That afternoon church was over and they had no singing in the evening because it was forbidden.

ROSIE: By the government?

DAD: By the government it was forbidden, the church service was in the houses and then the boys tried to arrange to have a singing you know … but there was no phone.  We went from house to house, here and there, wherever there are girls and good singers and invited them.  Me too, I went with the boys, invited and there was singing in private houses, then I made the decision to ask for the girl, for …

ROSIE: At this time you didn’t know her parents.

DAD: Yes, I already knew them but I didn’t talked to them.

ROSIE: You knew who they [Mathias Schleicher & Christina (Wolf) Schleicher] were?

DAD: Yes, I did, but by going home and there was her mom, and the girl was on the same train and so I talked to her mom, little bit.

ROSIE: On your way back to Vinkovci?


DAD: On the way back … but nothing about the marriage and then we pass Beshka, her mom get out from the train and I go farther to a crossroads where I have to change the train and there was our [church] elder and I stop in at his place.  It was evening, not very late, but 8 or 9 o’clock, the elder was already in bed, and decide and went to talk to him and to ask for the girl and he asked me should he ask?  I said no, I will talk with my dad [Reinhardt Webel] first, at home, and then my dad will wrote him.  So I went home, Dad wrote him, and he asked for the ministering brother and the mom said yes, and make the story shorter, then but we never talked together before … Then I went, oh …

ROSIE:   You mean she [i.e., Mom] answered you “yes” before she even talked to you one time in your entire life?

DAD: We “talked together” just by singing.  And then some boy traveled there and same back and told me that Mom [i.e., Katarina Schleicher, soon to become Katarina Webel] said she could change her mind.  I don’t know how though.  Then I went back to see her, to talk with her.  When I came there where she work in the household [as a maid], I was with her in the kitchen, maybe for a half-hour, maybe for an hour, but not longer.  Then she agreed on the day when would be the wedding and so I went home.  When the day came, we (from our church) went about four persons (and I don’t think more than that), four persons maybe only three – me and Dad [Reinhardt Webel of Vinkovci, Yugoslavia] and –

ROSIE: Aunt Rosie and another Rosie …

DAD: Yes. I …

ROSIE: Why did you do that?

DAD: Because it is expensive to travel, you have no money to go to that town.

ROSIE: So your father [Reinhardt Webel], Aunt Rosie, another Rosie came to the wedding?

DAD: Yes, from our church [in Vinkovci].

ROSIE: From your town, oh, from your church, okay.  When was the wedding?

DAD: It was November, 1933.

ROSIE: So it would be Grandfather [Reinhardt Webel], Aunt Rosie, and a friend, right?

DAD: She was a member of our church.

ROSIE: Yeah.

DAD: But the wedding, the church service is the regular service, you know, and…

ROSIE: At the end, you get married, that’s it.

DAD: At the end,  we are called forward, and then we got married, that’s all, then we went apart, there was supper up there at Mom’s parents’ place [i.e., at the Schleicher home] and there was an elder and the ministering brother and maybe 20 persons, that’s all.  There was singing after that …

MOM: More than that . . .

DAD: Good. 20, 30 persons.

ROSIE: Singing at the [Schleicher] home?

DAD: At the home.

MOM: A couple girls came along from Novisad, where I was from.

After the Wedding, Married Life Began with Hard Work on the Farm

As time would begin to show, and as more time would continue to demonstrate, the simple wedding vows of young Jakob and Katarina were not a mere matter of happy youthful enthusiasm or ceremonial tradition.

Jakob and Katarina were promised to one another; there was no looking back. It was unthinkable to consider separate lives thereafter:   these two young hearts were now truly “one” (see Genesis 2:24), loyal to each other (and also to their God), as later events would prove, again and again.

The young couple were faithfully committed to each other, before God and many witnesses (including themselves), and World War II’s horrors and deprivations would soon (and repeatedly) test that marital union. But the couple at least got started, as a new family, before those horrific challenges confronted them.

The interview transcript now resumes, at the conclusion of the wedding songs:

DAD: And then, for the singing and after the singing we went on the train and went home.

ROSIE: Where’s home?

DAD: To Vinkovci from Beshka.  But the travel was very uncomfortable.  We have to go from one train to another, so we spent the whole night traveling.

MOM: The whole day and the next day.

DAD: Yeah. The evening, next morning we get home.  And then we get home, and the same day ….

ROSIE: Where are you talking – “home” to your father’s house?

DAD: TO father’s house, yes, live with Father now.  Then the same day we get home, we undressed [i.e., changed from church/wedding clothing to work clothing] and went to the field working for the farmers.

ROSIE: What kind of work?

DAD: Cutting the stems for the cornstalks.

ROSIE: Cutting corn shocks.

DAD: Okay. We are all day in…

ROSIE: Did you set them up in little piles and bind them like the Amish people do?

DAD: Yes, yes, like the Amish people do.

MOM: It’s not the same day, but the next day.  The same day was right around 4 o’clock when we came home.  No, we had the supper, his sisters was all there and from all the married kids with the grandchildren and relatives, and we had the …

DAD: That was the before … that’s not Monday.

ROSIE: This was Monday?

MOM: Afternoon.

DAD: We had supper at Mom and Dad’s place.

ROSIE: Then what did you do?  You went to bed in the evening and then you got up the next morning.

MOM:  We had singing, some sing, some wash dishes and some, you know, it was nothing, just so ….

ROSIE: Then you went to bed and got up and worked =the next morning and … in Dad’s field.

DAD: Yeah … yeah.

ROSIE: Together?

DAD: Yeah, all together.

ROSIE: You and her were together that day.

DAD: Yeah. And the rest of the family too.

ROSIE: Of course.

MOM: Aunt Rosie and all the others.  We worked all day.

ROSIE: Now surely you didn’t live your entire lives with Grandfather.

DAD: We lived with Grandfather about a year and a half or something like that.

MOM: Yeah, the before Elsa [i.e., Elisabeth] was born.

ROSIE: Oh, you mean you had Reini [Reinhardt] there.

MOM: Yeah, we had Reini there and we still worked in the fields and all the chickens and all the ….


When Hitler’s ambitions reached Yugoslavia (in April AD1941), daily living became an unrelenting challenge to endure, a never-ending series of threats and dangers (including German Nazis, Croatian Ustaše, and Soviet Russian Communists, plus war-caused food shortages, property and relocation losses, illnesses and injuries, etc.), as a growing family of honest Evangelical Rebaptizers tried to survive long enough to hopefully, someday, rebuild a “normal” family life.

For two decades life was anything but “normal”, much less convenient and comfortable. Meanwhile the Webel family grew to include eleven children, though one died an infant in Yugoslavia (during WWII), leaving a dozen Webels.



Volksdeutsche by the Dozen AD1951

How Jakob and Katarina survived the disasters and dangers and deprivations of WWI (and its aftermath) is a magnificent testimony, firstly to God’s providential care, and secondly to the Webel family’s persistent practice of survival skills.

All of those years, during World War II, as well as the refugee years leading up to March of AD1950 (when the dozen Webels successfully immigrated to America), are amazing chapters in the Webels’ amazing family history. And the Webel family “singing” continues…including some who came (by birth or otherwise) to Texas.  But the reporting of the next chapters (God willing) must, for now, await another day.  So, for now, this “chapter” rests with an appreciation that two native-Texan boys, Nate Webel (born in AD2007) and Luke Webel (born in AD2012), as well as their sisters, descend from German immigrant stock (“Volksdeutsche”) who trace back one ancestral line to paternal grandfather’s parents, Jakob Webel and Katarina Schleicher, who committed to marrying each other before they ever had their first conversation: a true case of love at first sight—and first sound.

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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 8 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.


This article (and its endnotes, below) began a series of family history journal articles.  This “Part 1” episode was originally published as “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).


[1] The family history information in this article is derived from repeated personal interviews with Chaplain Bob Webel, mostly when he was visiting Arlington, Texas (during the summer of AD2012), and from the transcription of his sister (Rosie)’s interview of their parents, an unpublished family history titled “From Vinkovci to Medina” (which is further described below).

[2] Luke Webel was born during July of AD2012, in Plano, Texas.

[3] Nate Webel was born during November of AD2007, in Fort Worth, Texas.

[4] “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen” is the caption of an unidentified newspaper clipping, with a photograph of the 12 Webel family immigrants, who arrived at Ellis Island on March 19, AD1950, after a transatlantic trek that went from Munich to Copenhagen to Scotland to Greenland to New York City. The Webel dozen then were father Jakob, mother Katarina, Reinhardt (17, a/k/a Reini), Elisabeth (15, a/k/a Elsa), Karl (13), Adolf (12), Theresia (10), Robert (8), Rosalia (6, a/k/a Rosie), Jacob (4), Katherina (2), Daniel (2 months old).

[5] The Yugoslav-emigrated, German-speaking Evangelical Rebaptizers, when they immigrated to America, renamed themselves the “Apostolic Christian Church of the Nazarene”. (There is no ecclesiastical connection to what is popularly called the Church of the Nazarene).

[6] Like a violently erupting fumarole, the tragic history of Yugoslavia’s political factions is a series of internal fighting (dominated by Ustaše-led Roman Catholic Croats persecuting Eastern Orthodox Serbs, with Nazi and Russian Communists intervening with their own agendas), and that fighting is a major catalyst in this family history—as will be noted later, D.v., in future reports on this fascinating family history  (see, e.g., ).

[7] Certainly Jakob was thinking Biblically, on this point—see Amos 3:3 & 2nd Corinthians 6:14.

[8] Rosalie Webel Whiting, From Vinkovci to Medina (unpublished Webel family history, copy provide by Chaplain Robert Webel), pages 1-4, supplemented & clarified by personal interviews with Rosie’s brother, Chaplain Bob Webel, during July and August of AD2012.


In Appreciation of Dr. Brian Tompsett’s Royal Genealogical Data Website, Now Quashed by University of Hull Management

In Appreciation of Dr. Brian Tompsett’s Royal Genealogical Data Website,

Now Quashed by University of Hull Management

Dr. Brian Tompsett/ Univ. of Hull photo

Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.   (Romans 13:7)

Here is an open letter (the original of which has been mailed overseas) to her royal majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, by which I am trying to apply the principle of Romans 13:7 — giving credit where credit is due — recognizing the valuable family history contributions of computer genealogist/professor Dr. Brian Tompsett, of the University of Hull.

Dr. James J. S. Johnson
[contact information omitted]

21st December, A.D. 20017

Her Majesty The Queen
Buckingham Palace
London SW1A 1AA
England, U.K.

Re: Royal Genealogical Data website,
formerly posted by Prof. Brian Tompsett / University of Hull

Dear Queen Elizabeth, your Royal Majesty:

Greetings, from the other side of the Pond – may your CHRISTmas season be filled with gladness and joy, as you contemplate how the Christ of Bethlehem, in His all-wise beneficence, selected you as Great Britain’s monarch, for all of these many years. May He continue to bless your reign and your Realm.

The glorious heritage that you have and represent, unto your Realm and to the world (which continues to be providentially blessed by the deeds of the British Empire, its leadership, and its language), has been a personal blessing to me for more than 60 years now. As a descendant of John of Gaunt, I share some of your forefathers and foremothers, so I have a personal interest in appreciating the family history that you biogenetically connect to, by God’s grace and providence. Dr. Bill Cooper, of Staines in Middlesex, introduced me to the wonderful world of British royal family genealogy, and I am all the richer therefor.

Thereafter I came upon the magnificent blend of historical research and computer science, the Royal Genealogical Data website (which was provided online pro bono publico) produced by Professor Brian Tompsett of the University of Hull – the informational wealth of which cannot be priced in pounds or dollars. For many years I used the Internet-accessible data of Brian Tompsett’s Royal Genealogical Data website, as a historian who has taught in American universities and colleges, as well as on 9 different cruise ships – and in all of my teaching years I have tried to promote goodwill for the British royals.

For example, I used Brian Tompsett’s Royal Genealogical Data within this online article: “Christmas, Vikings, and the Providence of God” [posted at   —  which refers to genealogies linked to the Battle of Stamford Bridge, and also to the Battle of Hastings], showing that Viking ancestors begat progeny, including descendants providentially responsible for the English Bible (AV) and even for George Washington, the historic father of America.)

Sometimes, sad to say, one isn’t properly grateful for valuable information until it disappears.

However, the University of Hull’s management dissolved Dr. Tompsett’s Royal Genealogical Data website – without warning it deleted the Royal Genealogical Data webpages [see below post-script] – so Americans (like me) no longer can use that online genealogical data now.

Please understand: this letter does not present a “personal” or “political” dispute. Rather, what is mentioned in the post-script (below) is provided only to give context to my appreciation for the online data (while it existed), and to show why I now miss it so. (Now that it’s gone, I better see its value.)

Perhaps your Royal Majesty could devise a way to provide that same electronic information, online to the world, so that Professor Brian Tompsett’s professional labor of love can live on, thereby gracing the cyber-world (including historian-professors like me), pro bono publico, with the genealogical heritage of your royal family. This user-friendly informational legacy is an asset worth salvaging!

Professor Tompsett does not know that I am writing this – I am writing on my own behalf, in hopes that you can and will do something to restore that Internet data to the world. (Maybe a Royal Family website could be invented.) In any event, I thank God for His providential workings in your royal family and kin.

In closing, I have the honour to be an American fan, of you and your regal family, and its illustrious kin (going back many centuries), all of whom our great God has so frequently guided and employed to implement His providential care and kindnesses unto Western Civilization and to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Most respectfully, one of your admiring fans in the State of Texas*
(*which adopted English common law as the foundation of Texas law,
by a legislative act during the 1st Congress of the Republic of Texas),

James J. S. Johnson
Chaplain, historian, lecturer, etc.

P.S., on information and belief, this is my (sad) understanding of how the University of Hull has – disappointingly – discontinued its prior practice of hosting the Royal Genealogical Data website that was laboriously produced by Professor Brian Tompsett and his team. Frankly, it seems (to me) like the wasteful burning of a cyber-palace (and I recall how horrible it was when your own palace burned), but this was destroying an imperial cyber-treasure of Britannic royal family heritage information.

The “management” of the University of Hull decided to take down all web pages except those used for advertising and recruitment. The website was considered a “marketing tool only” for use of the marketing department. Professor Brian Tompsett (and his computer science team) were not warned or otherwise informed, before their web-pages (i.e., those of all individual staff and students) were just canceled — with no advance notice. Even those web-pages, that Professor Brian Tompsett and his team (who teach web technology for the University of Hull) formerly used for teaching and research purposes, were removed as having “no strategic value for the institution”! Professor Tompsett was not able to timely move (or timely protest) the abrupt, arbitrary, and academic quality-quashing abuses of institutional authority.

Since Professor Tompsett’s Royal Genealogical Data project ran from ~ A.D. 1993 it is a terrible loss. The result of these wasteful actions are sad: your Royal Majesty’s family (and all of its dignified historical heritage, linking to all of the best of Western Civilization for many centuries), is cheated and discounted, depriving the Internet world of British Royal Family fans from the user-friendly ability to research and appreciate the God-blessed value of Great Britain’s historic role (and connectedness) for Western Civilization. This is like revisionist history by vandalism.

Of course, it is unlikely that her Britannic Majesty will actually get to read the above letter  —  Who knows?  —  yet it would be nice if Great Britain’s Parliament would declare that wonderful computer program as a national heritage treasure, like a historic castle, because that user-friendly royal genealogy information/program is truly an informational legacy worthy of preservation and public educational access.

Meanwhile, I have tried to “give credit where credit is due”.

Just thinking about all of that Providential history reminds me of Psalm 102:18, which says: “This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the LORD.”   [See also “People Yet to Be Created”,  Acts & Facts (November 2014), posted at  .%5D




Britain is graced by a laird, Bill Cooper,
Whose scholarship is quite super!
From stock of Scotch lochs,
Bill’s a true “paradox”!
Happy birthday, m’laird Bill Cooper!

COMMENTARY:  William R. (“Bill”) Cooper (shown left, by JJSJ, at the Thames, in AD2006) is a true “paradox”, because he earned a “pair of docs”: Ph.D. and Th.D., as well as other academic degrees. As a true Englishman, however, he has experienced the irony of learning about Scottish lineage within his own ancestry, including family history that verifies his status as a Scottish laird (according to applicable peerage laws). More importantly, of course, Dr. Dr. Bill is a Scripture-revering member of God’s forever family, being grafted thereunto by His Kinsman-Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ (by application of John 3:16), Whom Bill routinely glorifies in His prolific publications of Biblical apologetics/research (and his other milestones in God-honoring scholarship, including his educational contributions, as part of the Master Faculty team of ICR’s School of Biblical Apologetics).  In his godly life, and in his many scholarly works, Bill exemplifies Ezra 7:10-based living.

Regarding Laird Bill’s notable (and noble) ancestry, see pages 16-18 of “DNA says Manx King, Somerled, the Celebrated Founding Father of Scottish Clans, had a ‘Norse’ Patrilinear Ancestry!”, posted by the Norwegian Society of Texas, at .  For a list of some leading publications by Dr. Cooper, see his Amazon author page, at: .