Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part 3: World War II Confronts Jakob and Katarina Webel — Swabians Face Nazi Invaders and Yugoslavia’s Break-up

Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part 3:  World War II Confronts Jakob and Katarina Webel  —  Swabians Face Nazi Invaders and Yugoslavia’s Break-up

Dr. James J. S. Johnson


For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.  (Isaiah 25:4)

As mentioned in Parts One[1]  and Two[2] of this series, Texas hosted the births of Nate Webel and Luke Webel[3], two brothers of German stock, extending the biogenetic impact of their father’s father’s immigration to America, in AD 1951.

Nate and Luke should one day 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 ruling what was then “Yugoslavia”.[4]                                                            WWII-map.Axis-occupation-of-Balkans

How Two Native Texans Descend from Post-WWII Refugee Volksdeutsche

To recap the Texas connection, native Texan Nate Webel met his little brother, little 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.[5]  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 AD1951.


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, Jakob Webel’s family belonged to an ethnically German evangelical Anabaptist church tradition, a group known as “Evangelical Rebaptizers”[6] — who lived in what was then called Yugoslavia.[7]  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.[8]  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.


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

As the testings of time (especially during World War II and its immediate aftermath in Europe) proved, repeatedly, the simple wedding 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.

As noted before, 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-backed 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 daily life was always abnormal and threatening, never convenient nor comfortable. Meanwhile the Webel family grew to include 11 children, but one (Hilda, twin sister to Robert) died of malaria (in AD1943) as a newborn in Yugoslavia (during WWII), leaving a dozen Webels.  Hilda’s short life – as the details below show – 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 later.)

In the transcribed interview, below,[9] 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.  At this point (following Parts One and Two of this series), Jakob and Katarina Webel are merchants, in Marinci, as war approaches Yugoslavia. Amidst the invasion of Yugoslavia by German soldiers and tanks, the death of Robert’s twin sister Hilda (due to malaria as a newborn), threats of capture, and more, the Webel family move from Marinci to Vinkovci (see Vinkovci’s municipal coat of arms shown below, including storks that inhabit its marshlands), as American bombs fall.  Vinkovci-coat-of-arms.with-storks

In this Part Three (of Volksdeutsche by the Dozen),  Mr. (Jakob) and Mrs. (Katarina) Webel are interviewed about the tumultuous times that led to abandoning the store-home in Marinci, after Jakob left the Yugoslavian army (due to Croatia’s assertion of independence in April AD1943 – “splitting” from Yugoslavia (which was then at war with Germany).  Afterwards (to be reported hereafter, D.v.), Jakob strove to avoid being drafted by the Nazi-controlled German army, as well as by the Communist-led “partisan” guerrillas, and the family moved to Vinkovci.  Also (to be reported later, D.v.), Katarina was captured and providentially escaped captivity, and successfully returned to her family.

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.   In the midst of this turmoil twins Robert and Hilda were born (June 2nd of AD1943), but only Robert would survive that year.  The interview resumes (at the top of page 19, and continuing to page 25) with Mr. and Mrs. Webel recalling life in Marinci, during the months of Yugoslavia’s short war with Germany, followed by German occupation, Croatia’s pro-Nazi “independence” regime, and pro-Communist “partisan” guerrilla warfare.[10]

*   *   *   *   *

DAD: [Yugoslavia’s] Government drafted the men to dig ditches, the [German] tank could not go over — so big.  And the people, the soldier was [quartered] here in the house and there in the house, in our house were maybe 10 soldiers.

DAUGHTER:   What soldiers?

DAD: Yugoslavian.

DAUGHTER: They lived there?

MOM: Yeah, they live there.  They work, they went every day out.

DAD: They work, working, digging the ditches.

DAUGHTER: And then they came in the evening and lived there.  Did you have to feed them?

MOM: No, the government feed them, they had a …


MOM: No, a big, not a tent …

DAD: A wagon.

MOM: A wagon and cook, and they bring this food in the yard and it smell so bad and they don’t eat everything, then they threw it over there and we said no, they cannot do this, they had to put this in a pail and give it to swine.

DAD: Pigs.  Yeah, we had pigs too.

MOM: We had pigs.

DAUGHTER: Did you feed them then when they got this terrible food from the government?

MOM: Oh, no, no, no.

DAUGHTER: What did they eat then?

MOM: They ate okay, I guess.  I guess tomorrow is something else.  Whatever … we don’t have to give them food.

DAUGHTER: Why did you have to give them housing?

MOM: Where should they sleep?


DAD: When the government says you have to live with 10 men, that meant 3 men who you have to take it … [3 men per room, maybe, perhaps looking like these 9 Yugoslavian soldiers, shown above, from AD1941?]  That’s all.  No choice.

MOM: No choice.  They go in the room to see how many room you got, how many children you got, that’s enough for you.  The rest you have to give to soldiers.

DAUGHTER: Were any of our family, Reini or you, drafted or tried to be drafted into the [military] service?

DAD: No.  Reini was little…

DAUGHTER: I don’t know what age you get drafted in Yugoslavia.

DAD: Reini was born in ’34 and war [in Yugoslavia] started in ’43 so he was 9 years old.  They drafted no younger, the first they drafted only 20, 21 …  Then later, 18 or so.

DAUGHTER: Why did you go away [from Marinci]?  Where did you go? Drafted.  That’s why I was asking.  I thought somebody [in the family] was supposed to be drafted.

DAD: When the war started, I was …

DAUGHTER: How many boys did you have in your home?  Ten?

MOM: Yes, 10 men.

DAD: 10 men.

DAUGHTER: Was Yugoslavia an ally of Germany?

DAD: No.

DAUGHTER: They were at war with …

DAD: Yugoslavia was neutral at that time, it was before the war [in Yugoslavia, i.e., before World War II became active fighting inside Yugoslavia].  But the king [Yugoslavia’s Alexander I] was assassinated,[11] there was no king and his son was about 15 year old [actually the crown prince was only 11 when his father was assassinated] so they have 3 men [i.e., regents] who ruled the country and that 3 men went to Hitler and made agreement with Hitler, with Germany, tell we let Germany go through but not be involved in the war.[1]  And when the war is over, then they will talk about the border because it was … but when they made an agreement, the king [Peter II, by then 17 years old, shown below], as adult, the young king, a 16 year old [actually, he had just turned 17], and the 3 men went down, then said better war [with Germany and its allies] than the pact.  Then they prepared a new government and prepared for war against Germany.


DAUGHTER: Against Germany?

DAD: Not against, to defend, not to [attack offensively].

DAUGHTER: Defend against Germany?

DAD: Not to let Germany go through because Germany has a plan to go through Yugoslavia, through Bulgaria, I don’t know where, that makes no difference, but then they [i.e., the Yugoslavians in anticipatory defense] made the ditches, [so] the German tanks could not go through us.  Ditches here and 50 kilometer out, again ditches.

MOM: Big like houses you could put in [i.e., big enough for a tank to fall in].

DAD: And the ditch it was on one side almost straight up so tank would go down but it would not go up.  But when the German came, they did know [i.e., the Germans had already learned about the tank-trap ditches – see photographs of invading German Panzer tanks in Zagreb, 4-11-AD1941, as now “independent” Croats cheered], they did not go on the ditches.

MOM: They did not even go on ditches.

DAD: They went straight on the roads and nobody could stop them. Nobody.

MOM: They didn’t even saw them ditches.

DAUGHTER: And did they come with tanks?


DAD: Yeah.  They come with tanks, 100 tanks and here and there in Yugoslavia.

DAUGHTER: Okay, back up now.  You’ve got me to the point where they’re digging ditches.  Robert was born.  Were you drafted?

DAD: No.

MOM: No, Robert was not born yet.

DAD: I was drafted in the army because the war was imminent.

DAUGHTER: Everybody was.  What were you drafted to do?

EPSON scanner image

DAD: To go into the [Yugoslavian] army. [Note: the photo shown above shows some Yugoslav soldiers 5 years before the invasion; the purpose for including it here is to portray Yugoslav soldiers that are not heavily armed – not even equipped with ammunition belts, something Dad Webel talks about later.]

DAUGHTER: To do what?

DAD: When you go in the war in the army to be a radio man.

DAUGHTER: Were they teaching you this?

DAD: No. I know that.  I have that.

MOM: He had that training already.

DAD: But when I came there, they have no radio unit there so I agree I should be regular soldier but other man was drafted to be a cook and he does not want to be a cook.  So I volunteer, I will be the cook.

DAUGHTER: And did you do that?

DAD: Yes.

DAUGHTER: How many years?

DAD: Not how many years.  A couple of weeks I was the cook.  But then, the rumor is that Germany is already in Belgrade[13] , passed by us [in Marinci] and went there [see picture of Belgrade after German bombing in AD1941].  So we have to go, our whole unit, across, go across, through the German territory, south because the German did not stay here, they just go, go, go, go, go.  Tank after tank, they go.  Belgrade-Yugoslavia.after-WWII-bombing

DAUGHTER: The purpose of going through Yugoslavia was just to go through Yugoslavia.  They weren’t going to do any damage.

MOM: No.  They just want to go through.

DAD: Go to occupy the capital city [i.e., Belgrade].

DAUGHTER: So they could[n’t] care less about this little city of Marinci.

DAD: What do they care for that?

MOM: NO. They was never there [i.e., to stay and fully occupy Marinci].

DAD: They don’t care about that – only for whosoever[14] stood against them.

DAUGHTER: What was the capital?

DAD: Belgrade [which city was bombed by Germany – see photograph below — prior to the arrival of German tanks] was the capital. And they just go.  And then we have to go…

Belgrad, Zerstörungen

DAUGHTER: When you said you went south or wherever you went, were you still the cook for the [Yugoslavian army] unit?

DAD: Yes. Yes.

DAUGHTER: It was the whole time, always the cook.

DAD: It was the whole unit.

DAUGHTER: How large was that unit?

DAD: Maybe a couple hundred men, I don’t know that, but with horses, cavalry,[15] and we …  that kitchen was on the wagon.

DAUGHTER: The pictures we have of you, is this you with the horse?  Is this [a photograph of you, on a horse, at about that time] then?


DAD: Well, sure, but that …

MOM: No, not the same, different time.

DAD: And then when we came to a town close to the [Sava, a/k/a Savska] river (called Mitrovitz)[16] there is, before we came to town [of Mitrovitz], people run out from the town and our officer stopped, one among the people was a police in uniform.  He stops him, said, What’s news?  Why you running?  Said the Germans took over the town, that town where we have to go through. But then he, what kind of German? Our German.


DAUGHTER: What kind of German?

DAD: Our German, the people from here [i.e., “Schwabbies” — the ethnic Germans who lived in that part of Yugoslavia, due to a much earlier immigration], that German, took over the ruler. What’s happened to the Yugoslavia people? All run away, no Yugoslavian in that area.  I mean, the mayor, and the general, the police or nobody from the government is there.  Everybody disappeared.

DAUGHTER: Let’s get a little history, why did we [meaning the ancestors of the Webel family, who originally came from German-speaking Europe into what later became Yugoslavia] end up in Yugoslavia, and how did you get there and all that stuff?  That’s what I want to know.

DAD: Four thousand [oops – he probably meant to say 400] years, they go immigration because Germany is over-populated and there need more people, it was poor lands and nobody want it us [or maybe he said “nobody wanted us”] and good land. They get land.  They get land for nothing.[17]

DAUGHTER: Okay, you were saying the people who were living in Mitrovitz [see photo of old church in Sremska Mitrovica, a/k/a Сремска Митровица], the German people who lived there, decided to set up their town because all the Yugoslavians ran away. Sremska-Mitrovica-church.Mitrovitz-Serbia




DAD: Not all the people, but the government, that mean here is the draft board and the officer and the mayor.

DAUGHTER: And they were all Yugoslavian and they decided to leave.

DAD: They are afraid now ‘cause Germany is coming, they be killed, they disappeared.  And even if I am mayor here in Mansfield and I am … [apparently he is using an analogy to make his point] the Russian is coming, I have no mayor anymore.  Let whoever want be mayor, and somebody have to take order so the German take order, you go patrol here, you do that and that, the German people.

DAUGHTER: Did your unit go into this city then?

DAD: Yes.  We came to the village.  Prepared if the German will attack us, to start to fight.  But the German people that was civilian, they didn’t do nothing, no, just to go away.  And let us … and when the food …

DAUGHTER: How many meals a day did you have to prepare?

DAD: Three, in the morning was a tea, in the noon was whichever cook, kraut or whatever it be, some meat, in the evening too.  But when we was rushed to go, there was no time to cook.  The fire burns and cooks but you go and we bought from the bakery bread, there was no delivery, no army to bring us something so we … but big loaf and divide, give to each one, but when we came to that town, we have to sleep, you know, between because it takes time.

DAUGHTER: Did you have camps or did you sleep out in the open air?

DAD: In the open, no tents.  Then …

DAUGHTER: Everyone had their own bed rolls?

DAD: No bed rolls, you down here.

DAUGHTER: Bed rolls, like a blanket?

DAD: No, no.

DAUGHTER: Nothing?  —  you just laid like that, what was your head on?

DAD: Yes. Anything.

DAUGHTER: What time of year was this?

DAD: That was not cold, it was not cold but it was summer.  And then we had in the wagon, not carton but wood boxes, with ammunition, and then we are just all unload here and we must sleep here.  No, we could do that.  I help bring that here behind a tree, behind that big tree so we sleep over here so that if it should explode we are a little bit protected.  We would be protected … and when we came to the town, then there is some officer, give me want to give me hand-bomb, a grenade, you know, to carry.  No, I am cook, that not my business to carry that.  I don’t want to that.  And when we came and here is the city, here is, there were roads goes to Vinkovci [Dad’s earlier hometown] and here is the river [presumably he is referring to the Bosut River], going over the river, and when I came close to the river, I saw here some volunteer, they just came, go, go, hurry, hurry up.  And then I see here they’re pushing over you know … so I left there my horse and my buggy and I go walking to our home in the north.

DAUGHTER: Why were they pushing more to the other side of the river?

DAD: Because you go in the mountain in the woods to fight against Germany.

DAUGHTER: And you decided at that point you were through.

DAD: At that point, we have heard already, not we, the people, the Croatian have made a split [i.e., asserting independence, 4-10-AD1941] from Yugoslavia and Croatian has built new government in Belgrade, they split from Yugoslavia and go with Germany, and we live in Vinkovci and Vinkovci is part of Yugoslav—no, of Croatia now.  So automatically I am Croatian citizen, so I ….

DAUGHTER: And, therefore, German.

DAD: No, therefore, I am not obligated to go with Yugoslavia any more.[18]  So I am free from Yugoslavia army and I go home.


DAUGHTER: You decided this all on your own.

DAD: On my own, sure.  That I had not, no long choice.  You go in the mountain …

MOM: No one see you.  Nobody knows he did that.  He’s a “deserter”.

DAD: I am in the uniform, Yugoslav uniform, but I have no gun, no nothing.  And the boys …

DAUGHTER: Did the Yugoslavia army issue papers like they do here in the American army?

DAD: Yes, they do.

DAUGHTER: You had those with you?

DAD: No, no time for that.  This was no different than … let’s say that that some regiment, some 500 people should go to Medina [Dad uses an analogy: Medina is a city south of Lake Erie, in Ohio, whereto the Webels eventually immigrate] and … there will be dressed up there, but no belt.  They had no belt, and without belt, how could the soldiers be without belt?  They were so angry, they put a rope and hung on the ammunition and so on.

MOM: But no belts.

DAUGHTER: On your uniform you had no belt?

DAD: No belt in the whole unit.  Not the whole unit.  Not the officer.  But the men who came there.  So I decide on my own I go home to Vinkovci. [See photo below.]


DAUGHTER: You didn’t tell anybody you did this.

DAD: No, I did not, tell what kind of tell, if you tell, they kill you right away.

DAUGHTER: ‘Cause you were considered a “deserter”.

DAD: They turn you over, “traitor” or whatever, you never know what the neighbor thinks.

MOM: Cannot say anything.  No, you just go by your own.

DAUGHTER: So you started walking back home.  Now you’ve got a Yugoslavian uniform on.

DAD: That’s not the only one; [there] are many [of] that, that day.

DAUGHTER: That was not so unusual then.

DAD: No, not so unusual.  We go on the roads.

DAUGHTER: Did you know where, how to go?


DAD: Sure.  Sure, I know, when I am in Medina [another analogy to American geography], I know where is Mansfield so I could go that road and that road is the main road that German goes with the tanks, just go, go, go by us, they go.  We go back here, I go against them, and here I see a German tank beside the road in a ditch and some soldier there and I ask him [in German[19]] what kind of trouble you got?  Because they stay here.  In German I ask him.  Oh, he said, yes, we got a trouble here.  Here is a tank shot, and I think 2 German men got killed.


DUGHTER: Who shot them?

DAD: Oh, Yugoslav army.  Here was a cannon … and you can see here horses running around here, that and that … wagon…

MOM: … lay around, all running …

DAD: Yeah.  It was a little war there, but [it did] not stop the German.

MOM: One tank is good.[20]

DAUGHTER: Did you help these people?

DAD: No, the German.  Nothing to help with that unit.  Just talk a little bit and ask me if the king [meaning King Peter II, the last king of Yugoslavia] is in Belgrade.

DAUGHTER: They asked what?

DAD: Is the king in Belgrade?  I have no idea where the king is!  (LAUGHS)  So there are horses there, go catch horse, put them in the wagon and some men help and we get in the wagon, and horse and buggy go home, it’s easier than [to] walk.

DAUGHTER: How did you catch the horse?

DAD: That was army horse.  Without owner, just …

DAUGHTER: He got killed or something.

DAD: That’s not a farmer horse.

DAUGHTER: What kind of horses did the army have?  Do you know the breed?

DAD: They had no own horses [i.e., they had none-of-their-own horses].  You, as a farmer, you have 3 horses, 2 get the army.  You have 4 horses, 3 get the army, or 2 get the army, so that kind of horse …

DAUGHTER: They can … ?

DAD: … take it from the farmer.

DAUGHTER: If you had only one [horse], did they take that one?

DAD: No.  We took 2 horses and put in the wagon, well, we are 5, 6 men, good, we came in that town, stop the Croatians, down with the … we are Croatians, you  are … let us go, we go to Vinkovci and we will go there.  We are Croatians too.  (LAUGHS)

DAUGHTER: So you go to a town where there were Croatian people and they wanted to stop you.

DAD: They want to stop you and take the horses, take whatever we got.  No, we are Croatian too.  We go to Vinkovci, and Vinkovci is bigger town so they came to Vinkovci and a man, [who] was with me in war, says, I will take the horses to my home because the Yugoslav they take my horses, my horses were taken.  No, the horses go to the City Hall and there we give the horses, they get the horses, and then you could go where you want.  When we came to City Hall in Vinkovci, we give the horses there because I was the commander there I was the man who arranged to take the horses and then we give the horses, then you have to go in the office to report there in the City Hall.  I came there, all Yugoslav mayor and all the other are there, just a new people. You have new people, just Croatian people there and when I get there I say so and so and so, they came from there so I Yugoslav [?].  And in Vinkovci was not much farther, it is about 20 kilometer from there to Marinci([21]) where Mom was there.  In Vinkovci I left my bicycle in the yard by my father.  And then the men whom I report to have said it’s a law, you are Croatian, you are born then and then, you have to go right away to Croatian Army, not home.  But I know him, [so he said] you can go home.  So he didn’t take a paper, nothing, so just go home.

DAUGHTER: So where did you go?

DAD: I came to Dad’s house [i.e., to the house, in Vinkovci, that belonged to Jakob Webel’s own father, Reinhardt Webel] and take my bike and take bike home [to Marinci].

DAUGHTER: From that time you were drafted to the time you saw Mom again, how long was that?

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

(A chronology-of-events discussion follows, correlating Dad Webel’s return to Marinci, memories about the family store, etc., during AD1941-AD1943.)


At this point “Yugoslavia” was no longer a nation. Yugoslavia was split up, dominated mostly by Germany, with Croatian nationals controlling most of Croatia, where the Webels lived.  More adventures of the family of Jakob and Katarina Webel, during World War II, and after, need reporting (God willing), including the world-changing events that threatened the Webel family, in time triggering their emigration from Yugoslavia.

In the next report (God willing) the birth of twins will be reported – Robert and Hilda Webel – only Robert of whom will survive infancy.  It is that same Robert is the father of Stephen Webel, father (by his wife Erica) of brothers Nate and Luke Webel, the native Texans mentioned on the first page of this report.  (Thus Robert Webel, born in WWII, is paternal grandfather of Nate, Luke, and their sisters.)


How Jakob and Katarina survived the disasters and dangers and deprivations of WWII (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’ providential family history. Meanwhile, the life of business – and the business of life – continued for the growing Webel family.  Hardships and heartaches would come, stay, and eventually go, for years to come, as World War II and its aftermath ravaged the European continent (especially while partisan rebels fought guerrilla warfare in Croatia, often coercing aid from civilian families).   Yet, in time, 12 of the 13 Webel family members would successfully migrate to Ellis Island, and from there to Ohio.  But reporting the next chapters (God willing) must 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, whose early family life together included surviving WWII.                   ><> JJSJ        profjjsj@aol.com 

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

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


Volksdeutsche by the Dozen AD1951



[1] “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part One: Jakob and Katarina Agreed to Marry Before They Ever Spoke to Each Other, A True Example of Love at First Sight…and First Sound”, Journal of the German-Texan Heritage Society, 35(1): 25-32 (spring 2013), quoting from 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).

[2] “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part Two: Volksdeutsche in Croatia, before World War II: Jakob and Katarina Webel are Merchants in Marinci (Taking Care of Business and the Business of Life)”, Journal of the German-Texan Heritage Society, 36(3):154-170 (fall 2014), quoting from Rosie Webel Whiting (see prior footnote), pages 5-18.

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

[5] 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).

[6] 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”).

[7] 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., http://www.icr.org/article/7056/ ).

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

[9] Rosalie Webel Whiting, From Vinkovci to Medina (unpublished Webel family history, copy provided 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.

[10] The interview resumes on page 19, recalling events when the Webels still lived in Marinci.

[11] Yugoslavia’s King Alexander I was assassinated in Marseille during AD1934, so he was formally succeeded by his son Peter II (who then was 11). King Peter’s regent Prince Paul announced (on March 25th AD1941) that Yugoslavia would accede to the “Tripartite Pact” originally bonding Germany [which as of March AD1938 has annexed to itself Austria], Italy, and Japan, a/k/a “Berlin Pact”, but eventually joined by Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Slovakia, and (on June 15th of AD1941) the “independent” state of Croatia.  Yugoslavia’s alliance with Germany was seriously interrupted, however, by King Peter’s reversal, when he turned 17 (and was declared “of age” –i.e., an adult king, no longer needing regents to speak for him), allying with Great Britain (on March 27th AD1941 – 2 days later) and announcing opposition to the Tripartite Pact.  In reaction to King Peter’s announcement, 4 of the Axis powers (Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria) invaded Yugoslavia – within a week.  The invasion so overwhelmed Yugoslavia’s defending army that Yugoslavia surrendered on April 17th AD1941.

[12]  Hitler’s German troops did much more than merely pass through Yugoslavia (due to King Peter’s decision to oppose the Axis powers (see prior footnote).  German troops invaded on April 6th of AD1941, quickly overwhelming Yugoslavia’s defenses, in a few days.  During AD1941 Yugoslavia was dismembered – partitioned between Axis powers Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, and Hungary – amidst an opportunistic civil war that soon resulted in the establishment of a Nazi-backed puppet state, the Ustaše-controlled “independent” state of Croatia, which employed genocide and other forms of terrorism to impose Roman Catholicism within the Croatian portion of Yugoslavia – see Wikipedia entries at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usta%C5%A1e and at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ante_Paveli%C4%87). The primary targets of Ustaše genocide (“ethnic cleansing”) were Eastern Orthodox Serbs, Jews, and “partisan” rebels.

[13] Belgrade was the capital of Yugoslavia (a/k/a Jugoslavia, meaning “Southern Slavs”, originally labeled “Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes”) when the composite nation was formed immediately after World War I. Belgrade was invaded by Nazi Germany on April 6th AD1941.   After the break-up of Yugoslavia, in AD1992, Belgrade became the capital of Serbia.

[14] Again we see an illustration of King James English, due to the Webels learning English (in America, during the AD1950s) by virtue of studying the King James Bible.

[15] For some reason the role of horses during World War II is frequently missed in history presentations, yet the truth is that horse were then harnessed for many tasks by both the military and civilians. WWII was a war that contrastingly combined cavalry and atomic bombs.

[16] This appears to refer to the Sava River (also spelled “Save”, “Savus”, “Savska”), near the town of Sremska Mitrovica (a/k/a Mitrovits, f/k/a Sirmium, in Vojvodina province, Serbia).

[17] Maybe Dad Webel is talking about the time, centuries before, when the depopulated Pannonian Basin (a/k/a Carpathian Basin, which includes Northern Serbia, Central Croatia, and Slavonia) was resettled by “Schwabbies”, immigrants of German ethnolinguistic ancestry, a/k/a Donauschwaben (“Danube Swabians” – see  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danube_Swabians and  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pannonian_Basin ).  The Danube Swabians were German immigrants who succeeded (as settlers of the Pannonian Basin) the expelled Ottoman Empire Moslems.

[18] Dad Webel is providing jurisprudential logic regarding the jurisdictional authority of a government to draft one of its citizens into military service. While he was a Yugoslavian he was obligated to respect Yugoslavia’s laws, including its military laws.  But, once Croatia had become an “independent’ nation, is was up to the new Croatian government to establish binding laws for its citizenry.  Since Jakob Webel was a native of Vinkovci, a Croatian city, he no longer owed allegiance to the Yugoslavian army.  This sufficed to satisfy his conscience – but that did not mean that his “neighbors” would concur with his jurisdictional/political analysis.

[19] By conversing sympathetically with the German tank man (about his trouble), in the German language, Dad Webel is likely to influence the German soldier to regard him as a non-enemy, because a German soldier is less likely to kill a stranger who speaks fluent German.

[20] Mom Webel is helping Dad Webel to fill in details that apparently he has reported to her previously, since she is not the actual eye-witness of these events, only Dad Webel is.

[21] Marinci is a town on the eastern border of present-day Croatia. In the subtitle (and elsewhere) of Part 2  (as published earlier, in the JOURNAL OF THE GERMAN-TEXAN HERITAGE SOCIETY),  of this family history mini-series,  the town was misspelled as “Marcini”. This is probably not the only misspelling that I am guilty of in this series. However, if I waited for perfection in proofreading, I fear I would only write and publish, ½ of what I write and publish.