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

Panzer-Yugoslavia.Wikipedia

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.

Webel.Jakob-and-Katarina

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.

Vinkovci-postcard

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.

Croatia-map

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 …

DAUGHTER: A tent?

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?

Yugoslav-WWII-soldiers.AD1941

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.

Yugoslav-king-PeterII.17yearsold

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?

German-tanks-invade-Yugoslavia

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?

Jakob-Webel-on-horse.Yugoslavia

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.

Mitrovitz-Serbia.postcard

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

 

Sremska-Mitrovica.coat-of-arms

 

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.

Yugoslavia-map.partitioned-in-AD1941

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.]

Vinkovci-Croatia

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?

WWII-tanks-in-Yugoslavia

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.

WWII-tank-in-ditch

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.)

[ TO BE  CONTINUED, D.v. ]

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.)

Webel.Jakob-Katarina-faces

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.

Webel-dozen.newspaper-photo

Volksdeutsche by the Dozen AD1951

Webel.Bob-with-Marcia

ENDNOTES

[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.



 

 

 

 

Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part 2: Volksdeutsche in Croatia, before World War II — Jakob and Katarina Webel are Merchants in Marinci (Taking Care of Business and the Business of Life)

Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part 2:  Volksdeutsche in Croatia, before World War II  —  Jakob and Katarina Webel are Merchants in Marinci  (Taking Care of Business and the Business of Life)

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man, who walks, to direct his steps.   (Jeremiah 10:23)

Webel.Jakob-and-KatarinaAs mentioned in Part One[1] of this series,[2] Texas hosted the birth of Luke Webel,[3] a boy born of German stock, furthering the biogenetic impact of his paternal grandfather’s immigration to America, as an 8-year-old boy.  Like his older brother (Nate Webel[4]), another native Texan, Luke Webel should one day learn to appreciate how his family history, thanks to God’s good providence, includes the 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.[5] 

How Two Native Texans Descend from Post-WWII Refugee Volksdeutsche

To recap the Texas connection, little Luke Webel arrived 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 (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 war by Hitler, Hirohito, Mussolini, and their ilk.

 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 (reported in Part One 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 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 German-speaking couple (living in what was then Yugoslavia) 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.

In the transcribed interview, quoted repeatedly below,[9] 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.  At this point (following Part One of this series), Jakob and Katarina Webel are newlyweds, in Vinkovci, Jakob’s hometown.

Vinkovci-Croatia

ROSIE: Now surely you didn’t live your entire lives with Grandfather [i.e., Jakob’s father, Reinhardt Webel, i.e., the paternal grandfather of Robert Webel].

DAD: We lived with Grandfather [immediately after getting married] about a year and a half or something like that.

MOM: Yeah, the [i.e., that was] before Elsa [i.e., Elisabeth, child # 2] was born.

ROSIE: Oh, you mean you had Reini [Reinhardt, child # 1] there.

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

(A discussion follows, about other relatives, who lived and farmed in Vinkovci; then the interview returns to Jakob and Katarina Webel’s life in Vinkovci, —  and their decision to move on to another town.)

DAD: And then when Reini [child #1] was born and then about 2 years later, we decide to move to different place and [have] the store, because I …

ROSIE: In the same town again?

DAD: No, no.

ROSIE: Different town, okay.

Dad and Mom Webel describe entrepreneurial activities as merchants in Marinci   —  juggling cashflow, inventory, using credit, barter, and family.

DAD: In a different village called Marinci, we opened not a grocery but a …

ROSIE: General store.

DAD: Yeah, general store.

ROSIE: How did you get the money to do this?

DAD: How did we get money?

ROSIE: Were you working for your father [i.e., for Jakob’s father, Reinhardt Webel] for money at this point?

DAD: We was working but there was no money almost.  We set up the store, the inventory, without what to sell.  Then we owed more, you know, then [we] owed already, then we bought the merchandise on credit with no money, that’s the way we start it.

MOM: They give us credit and they pay it nice, often get other credit.  More and more and more.

ROSIE: Did you have money to buy the premises, the building?

DAD: No, we rent it. We rented a house.

MOM: We rented a big house, the house, then we open a big store on that corner.

ROSIE: And you borrowed for inventory.

DAD: I borrowed as I did inventory, that doesn’t mean the shelf and whatever you need.

ROSIE: How many kids were born at this …?

MOM: Just Reini [child #1].

ROSIE: Oh, you moved out [from Vinkovci] before Else [child #2] was born.

MOM: Before Else was born.

ROSIE: How many kids were born at this house [in Marinci] with the rental of the store?  Oh, we’re not getting that far yet.  Okay.  You borrowed money for inventory, then you purchased on credit your stock items.

DAD: Yes, yes.

MOM: The store went very good.

ROSIE: How large was this town, Marinci?

DAD: That town, it was a 250-300 houses. It was not large.

ROSIE: Were you the only general store in this …?

DAD: No.  There was already 2 stores when we opened ours but theirs was very small space.

ROSIE: Was yours bigger? … [Were other stores] smaller than yours?

DAD: Oh, yeah.  Then when we open, the next year another man opened a large store.

ROSIE: Even larger?

DAD: Not larger but competition but so bad, we have then 4 stores and that was too much for the town.

MOM: Just you don’t say we had the yard goods.

DAD: Yeah.  Then we start that.

ROSIE: Oh, we’re going to get that, Mom.  I know all about that.

DAD: Then we saw it is…  I rented that house for 3 years.

ROSIE: Your lease was for 3 years?

DAD: Yes.  And then when the lease was over and the time was over, there was a church property with a house over the church and a man had a store, he was working with us and he insisted to be auction for the lease.

ROSIE: Option probably.

DAD: Not option, but operate from an auction sale, but a lease I gave her that much more rent, you give that much[?], who gives more for that rent.

MOM: Who give more rent.

ROSIE: That would be like a bid.

DAD: Yeah, like bid.

ROSIE: He wanted to bid for what you were renting?

DAD: No, he wanted to push me out, to make it, but then I insisted, okay, everybody whoever had to, had to put that much money, it not just a bid.

ROSIE: You wanted cash up-front.

MOM: Oh, yes.

DAD: I bid $10,000.  He would bid $1 more, and I don’t go farther, and then when I move out, he has nothing given, the building stay empty, so I said, you have to put that much money if you want it, and so we did.  Part one way, and they eventually sold, then that man withdraw.  He withdraw.

ROSIE: Where did you get that much money to lay on the table?

MOM: We get.

DAD: I had no money.  Again, I borrowed enough money in stocks form someone.  I borrow stocks to put.  But that man withdraw but soon we could get the auction, so I have found another man who came to bid against me.  So I found and I bought it, for if one came to bid against me too, so I get the house again.

ROSIE: For another 3 years.

DAD: Yeah, for another 3 year[s] I get one.

MOM: We get.

DAD: Yeah, it wasn’t important.  It was ’39, it was ’33, ’34, ’39 … 6 years.

MOM: In ’34 was Reini [child #1] born, we just moved in before winter when the first snow fall.

DAD: Yeah.

ROSIE: To your new store.

MOM: Yeah.  In this store, was usually.

ROSIE: You moved into this house [in Marinci] in the fall, near winter.

DAD: In the fall of ’35.

MOM: And then early ’36 April was Elsie [child #2] born.

DAD: Reini [child #1] was born in September of ’34, next year in ’35 we moved in, and when the first snow fell, you know the salt is white, you know, and he said heh (noise), not so salt we got, because salt always white.

ROSIE: Reini was just a tike and he thought [the snow] was salt.

MOM: It was salt.

ROSIE: Now his kids, if you remember when Paul first saw the snow, he decided it was sugar, not salt.

MOM:  He said, salt we got now.

DAD: The store we got sugar that much, but salt we got much, you know.

ROSIE: I want to talk about this store.  When you first opened it up, you had the normal things like nails and screws and …

DAD: No, no.

ROSIE: No hardware?

DAD: No, at first it was just grocery.

ROSIE: And what else?

DAD: Grocery.  Period.

ROSIE: When I talk grocery, am I talking fresh fruits like apples, lemons, cucumbers, what kind of groceries?

DAD: No, no, no.

ROSIE: You’re talking dry goods, flour, and sugar.

DAD: Coffee and …

MOM: Poppy seed.

DAD: And rice and salt and …

ROSIE: No vegetables?

DAD: No.

MOM: All colors what you painting, all the colors needed for house painting.

ROSIE: You had groceries and paints.

MOM: Paints, all kinds of paints.  Not like here is made the paint ready in big bucket…

ROSIE: This you had to mix.

DAD: Yes.

MOM: This was just powder.  We had to fun …

ROSIE: Furnace?

DAD: No, no, no.  To mix the oil paint, you have to mix that to be some kind of oil, not oil but they call it something like that, for to mix it.  And we got the water paint for the house, just make it with water, like…  you have to mix it with the oil.

MOM: For paint, for furniture you have to mix with …  we call it “Fearnice”.  “Fearnice” was oily and thick like here when you buy the ready-mix.  But then you put the color in whatever you want in.

ROSIE: SO your store was groceries and paint.  How long did you have that, groceries and paint?

DAD: Maybe 2 years.

ROSIE: And then you decided to expand?

DAD: And we had the wooden shoes, and the strings [harness] for the horses and cows and all those things.  It whatever the farmer needs.

ROSIE: Farmer supplies.

DAD: Then, little by little, you …

ROSIE: Did you have garden tools at this time?

DAD: Oh, yeah.

ROSIE: Hoes and things like that?

Not right away but we did have…

ROSIE: Shortly thereafter.

MOM: Yeah.  Hoe and rake and all kinds of strings [harnesses used by farmers].  What they need for this … for the barn and yards [pastures, fields, garden plots].

DAD: Little by little expanded.

MOM: How you said that … Here is grease job.  Over there for the wagon, what they use every day in the field and everywhere, they had to kind of grease, big can grease like here.

ROSIE: Oh, for the wheels and stuff.

MOM: For the wheels.  They call you in the morning early, they had to go in the field and they forgot to buy.

ROSIE: Yeah, wheel-bearing grease.

MOM: Yeah, thick grease, yellow-brownish.

DAD: you have to put the grease on the axle.

MOM: All the axle, whatever turns the wheel, this had to be with this thick grease.

ROSIE: You have that?

MOM: Yeah.  And cigarettes, matches and how you say?  Kerosene?  Every house had kerosene.

ROSIE: That’s the lighting you had, this kerosene lighting.

DAD: The kerosene light.

ROSIE: What did you cook with?

MOM: Cook, we with wood stove, with sticks under of wood.  We cook in the same stove.

ROSIE: How did you heat?

DAD: Heat?  Wood stove.

ROSIE: You had no coal?

DAD: No, no coal.

ROSIE: Did you buy your wood, or …?

DAD: Buy, sure, I buy.  But the wood was not far, you could find it.

ROSIE: Was there water?

MOM: Well.  We had well.  We have …

ROSIE: [To] carry it into the house?

MOM: Oh, yeah, sure.

ROSIE: And you had outhouses at this point?

MOM: Oh, yeah.

DAD: They build the house before Adolf was born.

ROSIE: Alright.  We [are] just a little bit past Elsa here, we’re not anywhere near Adolf.  Elsa was born in April.

DAD: In April ’36.

ROSIE: And Reini was born in September?

DAD: ’34.

ROSIE: I have all the information at home but I just thought I’d ask.

DAD: And then we rent on lease was almost over —  you know, for that house, that we bought, and bought an old house.

ROSIE: We’re talking the second time around.

DAD: Yes.

ROSIE: So that would be 6 years later?

DAD: Yes, it was 5, 6 years, maybe for … for rent that for 3 years.  Then we bought an old house, and tore it down and build a new one.

ROSIE: You bought the house, tore it down, and bui9lt one on top of it?

DAD: No, no.  We tore up the house.

MOM: Oh, make them level and then start building.

ROSIE: Bought old house, ripped apart, tore down?

DAD: Tore down and put a new house and new foundation [down].

MOM: And then it’s not built like here with bricks.

DAD: That makes a difference now.

MOM: Yeah, makes a difference with just the dirt – that thick.

ROSIE: Like the kind of stuff you’re talking that your dad used to make.

DAD: No, no, no.  You put like telephone post here.  Both side of wall that thick, then form, each side 2×8’s, put along, and then it’s filled up with dry dirt.

ROSIE: The telephone poles were for support, then you put wood in-between so that the telephone poles hold it.  And then you put dirt in-between.

DAD: In-between dry dirt.  And …

MOM: The ladies, the girls, they stomp it!

DAD: Stomp on that and then seal it up, and then you lift that board, both sides up and fill it again with dirt.

MOM: The wagon is bringing the dirt.

ROSIE: How did that dirt stay solid?

DAD: They stay solid when you put pressure …

ROSIE: All day long they do this?

DAD: On the corner they put … weeping willows or any kind of wood on the corner.

ROSIE: That you can bend a little bit?

MOM: No, no.  Hold all together that when this dry out, this is hard like cement.

DAD: And then they said the house is, all walls are put up together, the middle walls, all the walls, all up together goes up.  When they finished, before they’re dry, they have to take a hatchet hole and make a hole in it.

MOM: And the holes going to be the windows, doors.

DAD: They have to because these are later on becoming hard like concrete.

ROSIE: Is this similar to the adobe houses that the Indians built in New Mexico?

DAD: I never saw that, but that is …

ROSIE: Now, were the standard homes built that way?

DAD: The most.  The many, many.

MOM: The most, just very seldom with bricks.  This was not a solid house like the houses like they built here [in America].

ROSIE: What kind of a roof did you put on something like this?

DAD: Brick roof.  Thick bricks.

ROSIE: What kind of support did you have?

MOM: They had noses.

DAD: They put the wood rafter on.  How do you say that cross beams, that’s not rafter.

ROSIE: Braces?

DAD: No, no.  From wall to wall.

MOM: The “bulker”.

ROSIE: That’s a rafter, Dad.

DAD: No, the rafter you put after.

ROSIE: Tresses?  Beams.

DAD: Beams.  But the beams are about 6×6 or 6×8, and then the rafters are 5×5.

MOM: Oh, at least that.

DAD: And that rafter, and on the rafter are …

ROSIE: Grooves.

DAD: No, no, no.  From one rafter to other like that, but …   No, no.  But an inch by two, 1×2.  They nail from one rafter to other, and on that hangs the brick.

ROSIE: Shingle.

DAD: But that [was] like bricks.

ROSIE: Yeah, but hangs.

DAD: Hangs, yes.

MOM: Hangs like the fingers on this, closed together, one after the other row will come over here.

ROSIE: Is that similar to the tile roofs that you see in some old houses?  The half-moon tile roofs?

DAD: No, no.  They are flat.

ROSIE: Well, okay, but …

DAD: Yeah, yeah.  Just on that top is a half-moon to cover the …

ROSIE: The ridge.

MOM: This was my work when I was a girl making this bricks.

ROSIE: Oh, you made the bricks!?

MOM: I made the bricks when I was a young girl.  My father was this for the house.

ROSIE: He was a brick maker.  Yeah.

MOM: I and my sister, we had to work this …

ROSIE: Okay, Mom, when you built the house, who was born then?

DAD: Then we moved in.

ROSIE: How long did it take you to build this house?

DAD: About a whole summer, the whole summer.

ROSIE: And did you have your other store?

DAD: The other store?  We had brought the store.

ROSIE: You had the store?

DAD: Yes, yes.

ROSIE: Did you hire this work out?

DAD: Yes.

MOM: No.  All on one floor.

DAD: All on one floor.

ROSIE: Is this place still existing today?

MOM: Yeah.

DAD: Yes.

MOM: The building is still there.

ROSIE: And did you close out the other store at that point?

DAD: Yes.

ROSIE: Was it a gradual close-out or was it immediate?

DAD: I gradually close.  That’s how we could move.

ROSIE: You closed own.

DAD: We moved that first store down.

ROSIE: Who did you hire in this store?  Just you and Mom?

DAD: Just we two.

ROSIE: Just the two of you.  And who took care of your kids?

MOM: Nobody.  Nobody by themselves.  They have to be in the store and helping.  Even Reini know how to help and how to get matches and to give change.  He knows they’re good, some people they want to trick him, maybe give you, it’s not the right change what you give to me.  And he would look at you, and say, I give you the right change.  I know for sure.

ROSIE: He [i.e., Reini] sold matches?

MOM: Matches and he sold tobacco and cigarettes.

DAD: That’s a … like a brick you can eat, chocolate, and we cut them into pieces for that much money a piece.

ROSIE: Reini was like 8 years old here.

DAD: About that.

MOM: He know [what] he do.

DAD: When we moved in, he was 2 years, but in 4 years he already a good merchant.  He could give cigarettes, he could give yeast, if it was pre-packed, he could do.

MOM: Like now the pound of butter, the yeast is the same size it was a piece like a pound butter was it in one piece.

ROSIE: Did you have the flour in big sacks and you divided, you bought it in big sacks and they wanted to come in for a pound, you had to measure it out?

DAD: Yes.  Sugar, that way the sugar, that way the rice, that way everything.  Nothing was pre-packed.

MOM: Nothing.  Raisins, nuts.

ROSIE: Oh, you had raisins there, too, and nuts?

MOM: Oh, yeah.  Nuts and raisins and all kinds of things, plus you need for anything?

DAD: Before Christmas apples too, and oranges.

ROSIE: Where did you get all your produce from, or whatever?

DAD: In the grocery store.

MOM: Big city.

ROSIE: Big city in Yugoslavia?

DAD: In the … it’s a whole city in Vinkovci.

MOM: Yeah, he went to the whole city.

ROSIE: Did you go there and pick this stuff up and bring it back?

DAD: Yes, yes.

ROSIE: There wasn’t any delivery?

DAD: No, no delivery.  We hired a man with a wagon, you know, horse and buggy, to go there and bring it back.

MOM: All day.

ROSIE: Oh, you went with him.

DAD: I went with him. And I take the cash along to pay it and I paid last bill.

ROSIE: Last time’s order?

MOM: Always we paid the last order and get the other order.

DAD: And always at Christmas time, is always a big business time, and when Christmas time, after Christmas, with the Christmas and New Year, it’s day to day.  In that time I went there and paid all my bills and came home empty.  So on the New Year when they has [sic] to close the books, Jakob Webel owes nothing.  And after New Year, I go right away, you don’t have to do that, I stop to fill up the store again …  5 to 600 dollars …

ROSIE: Did you close the store?

DAD: No, no, no.  Then I had not everything …

MOM: Everything sold plenty, was not so filled everything, he wants to fill all shelves full.

ROSIE: Okay, you just went ahead.

DAD: Yeah.  You have no 100 pounds of sugar, and you have no have … you have only maybe 10 pounds of sugar now in that period.  Everything little bit, but you have everything.  Somebody could come there, you don’t have it. And when a customer came, ask something, you don’t have it, you mark it down that we have to bring it.

ROSIE: The next time you’re in Vinkovci.

DAD: Whatsoever the customer asks.  [notice the King James English! Jakob and Katarina learned the English language by using the King James Bible in America]

MOM: Keep supply, people don’t get them.

DAD: Whatever the customer asks, you know …

ROSIE: How far was Vinkovci from Marinci?

DAD: It was 20 kilometer, 20, 25, so what.     [i.e., about 14 miles distance]

MOM: And then so many time on the bike, you get stuff, the people was asking and we will not say we don’t have it in our store …

ROSIE: What is kilometers in miles?

DAD: Miles? It’s 160 kilometers is 105 [miles], that is …

ROSIE: So it’s less than 20 miles?

DAD: Oh, yeah.  Less than 20 miles.

ROSIE: Yeah. 80 kilometers is [about] 50 miles.

MOM: And the tobacco and the cigarettes are always sent on the bike, loaded on the bike, this is not heavy stuff, just these big packages and he bring them on the bike.  We cannot get in the same city where he get the groceries.  He had to go in the …

DAD: That is the state-owned, you know, cigarettes and matches.

ROSIE: Because of taxes and everything?

MOM: No, no, no, that you got the …

DAD: That is state-owned.

MOM: You cannot buy in the big stroe.

DAD: You get only the 5%, that’s all, the price is, let’s say $1, you paid that $.95, and you could not sell it higher.  You cannot put higher or lower.

MOM: Right.

ROSIE: In other words, you made no money on the sale of cigarettes.

DAD: No, but you have to have them because the customer wants [them].  And the same with the matches.

MOM: You had to go even [i.e., sell for cost – no profit on cigarettes and matches] in the store.  When you work in the kitchen, go in the store, he wants 5 cigarettes, is not worth nothing to go even in the store, wipe your hands, just you have to give it.

ROSIE: Give me [the] layout of your home, so I have an idea of what it is like.

DAD: Okay.  There was a store in the front, and one of the bedrooms beside it.  Behind the store was a magazine or a storehouse.

ROSIE: Is that where you had more stock?

DAD: More stocks and that dirty things like lime.  The people …  that lime means a stone, not [lime powder] dust like here.  Like a stone, and you put them in water, then [that] boils …

MOM: It gets so thick, you cannot even mix it, like cook.

ROSIE: I’ve seen it before.

DAD: That’s kind of stuff, and wood, coal, for ironing …

MOM: That’s why you say, how you say you would what you make the wieners, well, charcoal.  We had this, they put them in the irons, a little bit.

DAD: But we buy from a gypsy, not in a sack like here.

MOM: This is black and dustier, [in] big pieces.

ROSIE: You had a storeroom in the back behind the store.  What was behind the bedroom?

DAD: Behind the bedroom was a kitchen.

ROSIE: And that was it?

MOM: No, we had the other room too.

ROSIE: One more room?  Where was that?

MOM: And we had behind the store, first was, like this porch, a little, plus a window out.

DAD: Yeah.  Like a porch, maybe just a little, and there was a door here, and here was the stockroom.

MOM: And from there we go into kitchen and the kitchen was very big.  There was 2 beds in.

ROSIE: Oh, you had 2 beds in the kitchen?

MOM: Beds in the kitchen and we had the children’s beds and we had a couch in the kitchen.

ROSIE: Just like in Medina [Ohio].  You had a couch and a chair and …

MOM: Yeah, this was almost so big, big, and we had a big hutch where all the dishes are …

ROSIE: Cupboard, yeah.

MOM: Where all the dishes are, in the kitchen washing …

ROSIE [speaking to Dad]:  And the bedroom was yours and Mom’s bedroom?

MOM: We sleep in the kitchen.

ROSIE: What was this bedroom then?

MOM: For guests.

DAD: We sleep in the kitchen and children too.

ROSIE: Okay, now back to facilities, did you have indoor plumbing here?

DAD: No.

MOM: No well.

ROSIE: You had to go out and pump everything?

MOM: No pump.  Over there we had the wheel [i.e., water-well], you wind.

ROSIE: Well.  There was a big open water well and the bucket coming in.

MOM: Yeah.

DAD: Water well was enclosed and was closed and the roof on it and was a wheel and a big axle and the rope goes down with the bucket.

ROSIE: Did you ever get any animals in your bucket?

DAD: No.

MOM: No.  We put the watermelons in this bucket and put them down and the yeast [in order to refrigerate them].  Dad make a little box form wood, the yeast had to stay down cool, otherwise they spoiled in one day.  Just his house is not like this one, this is the thick wall, so thick walls.

ROSIE: How did you keep your food cold?  Did you have ice boxes?

DAD: No, no ice box.

MOM: No, no have.

ROSIE: How did you keep food cold?

MOM: Like this, hanging down in the well.

ROSIE: How did you keep milk [from spoiling]?

DAD: For one day only.

ROSIE: Did you have a cow?

MOM: No, we buy every day.

ROSIE: From the milkman?

MOM: No, not milkman.

DAD: From the farmers.

ROSIE: Did you have to go and buy it or did they come and deliver?

MOM: We can go and get them or she can bring it, whatever we want.

ROSIE: So it was a little town where you kind of exchanged things back and forth.

DAD: No, with the money.

MOM: For money, everything for money.

ROSIE: Tell us more about your store.

DAD: The store was everything all for money but the people had the chicken and eggs and then they can bring eggs and we give them grocery for the eggs.  We know that that much egg, than many eggs, what is worth …

ROSIE [or was this said by Mom?]:  This is this much and they exchange the eggs.

DAD: And then in the fall, they can bring flour, exchange for bread. And they could bring corn and exchange for candy, the children.  And when the fall is, the farmer brings corn, wagon full of corn, and the children are hollering “give me a cup, give me a cup, give me a cup”.  And they get a cup and they run with the cup in the store and candy for that.

MOM: They come, so many children …

DAD: And we put on the scale how much is it, so we give 1 candy or 2 candy, how much …

MOM: 2, 3 candy, how much is, how big, how many corns they have in cup, the children.  And the lady has no salt at home, she bring an egg and I show her how much [salt] she gets for this egg.  She has no money, she has egg.

DAD: Nothing is pre-packed then.

ROSIE: When did you start getting more things?  Did you ever become a hardware store?

DAD: Little by little.

ROSIE: As the customers asked for it or how?  What inspired you?

MOM: When we came in this new store, it was a lot bigger.

DAD: The new house.

MOM: A new house, this was now 4 times as big.

DAD: Then we started yard goods.

MOM: And all the lace for all kinds of when you want to have lace, and kind of lace.

DAD: And yarn.

MOM: Or like I crocheted the …

DAD: Oh, and also we had the yarn there for sale and to crochet, and people need that.

MOM: And then I thought to …

DAD: To pre-print for handiwork.

MOM: You know all this what you buy that was printed blue on white material.

ROSIE: Oh, that you iron on so you can embroider.

MOM: Yeah, that’s for embroidery.

ROSIE: Transfers.  You made those.

MOM: Yeah, I made this.  The people come in with the wagon, and bring lots of what they sell by themselves, woven.

DAD: Self-woven.

MOM: Self-woven stuff.  When I print it, they help me.  Evenings when we close the store and the children went to bed.

ROSIE: Just like that thing you made that Theresa has that you embroidered when you were a little girl.  You drew that.

MOM: Yes.  This was on paper and then I make this and the next day or day after …

DAD: Everything was to get money.

MOM: When other day or next day, I said then they can come and pick it up.  This was the good thing then they buy even the embroidery.  All this was standing there.

ROSIE: Did you draw this on their … to their size that they wanted on their material, where they wanted it?

MOM: Yeah, yeah.

DAD: We had pre-printed papers.  They came and look at the paper, I want that and that, and then from that paper we make it.

MOM: Put pattern onto skirts and on the bedspreads and on all kinds of things.

ROSIE: You made it to the size they wanted even though you only had a small picture to look from?

MOM: Don’t matter.  They was looking on a small picture.  But my pattern we enlarge it and do it how they want it.  We had this heavy …

ROSIE: Like carbon paper?

MOM: NO, it was heavy, to put this weight on the … and stretch it on this big counter, like a counter where we selling stuff.  And evening for it was quiet and then I can make it … make money.

DAD: Many times Mom made for [i.e., before] the fire, the stove is here, wood is here, and the meat is here, all the same, other, and a customer came, and customer came, and customer came, and fire goes out.

MOM: And chicken lays half-cleaned on the table, half of its feathers off lying, still there.  But Dad come home from the store, from the city, and I leave him then alone and I go in the kitchen and make us some food to eat, something to eat.

DAD: Maybe we just eat so-so.

ROSIE: What did the kids do when that was happening and they were hungry?

MOM: From one lap to the other.  They were carried.  Customer to carry one and then the other customer …

[Katarina Webel (“Mom”) remembers how babies were cared for during hours when the family store was open for business. Sometimes, customers took turns holding small Webel children while Katarina was attending to customer needs. Customer nowadays would be surprised if the store merchant expected them to hold or carry children during their shopping experience!]

MOM [continuing]: Then is leaving this customer, and give it to the other [i.e., transfer a small Webel child into the arms of another store customer], then they[10] [i.e., infants who were passed from one customer’s arms to the next] fell asleep.

DAD: The small children, we had a …

MOM: A wagon, have a wagon wheel [?].  …  [Wicker?] chair, a chair is just that way, and it put them upside-down and put them on the counter, and here is, and could not get out.  Our customers, they feel sorry, [so] they take this child from this chair out and carry around [inside the store].

DAD: The customer take the children.

MOM: Till they come on their turns, and then they give it [i.e., the small Webel child being held] to the next [customer who is waiting to make a purchase].  So Sometimes [the child] went asleep or they put them over there I their little carry or some are going one day to the other.

DAD: It was not easy, but a hard living.    [What an under-statement!]

ROSIE: What inspired you to have your own store like this?

DAD: Because only that way you could gain something.

ROSIE: By working for yourself.

DAD: By working for yourself.  In a store, you could gain in a 5, okay, in a 5 year you had a store, you owe no money nobody.  Otherwise you could work 50 years, you could not achieve to have your own house.

ROSIE: This is an example?

DAD: Example.

ROSIE: How old were the kids when you put that [child restraint enclosure] in?

MOM: 6 months only.

DAD: They start to walk, either way, when they start walking, then a little bit higher …

MOM: Then we tie a rope around.  Then they begin to walk around, higher, they have higher fence.

DAD: That is the …  a little bit more than that.

MOM: A little bit higher.

DAD: Little bit high, then we put a rope here so that when they get up, to not fall out.

ROSIE: Like a playpen only a lot smaller?

MOM: Lot smaller.  They have to sit there.  They get used to it.

ROSIE: You gave them a piece of bread to chew on, or something?

MOM: Yeah, a piece of bread, give them to chew on, or something else, always was something.

DAD: Homemade bread.  Then we had a bread form bakery too, from the town.  Bring it back for bread, selling the bread were exchanged for money or for flour.

MOM: They had to bring it so many flour, so many pounds of bread, was very good bread.  That … they had very good bread.

DAD: Very good.  Little by little the store [business] was built.  And then we had every other year another child.

ROSIE: Approximately it was every other year.

DAD: Year and a half, 2 year, another child, and then there came time Mom hired someone to wash clothes and do some kind of work, out in the store.

MOM: They come and shop …

ROSIE: A young girl?

MOM: No, ladies, they come.  They are very poor.

DAD: They can’t buy grocery, grocery, grocery without money.  They cannot pay.  They say, I work [in] your store to pay.

MOM: When I call them and I saw them on the road, when I see across the street, then they came.  Can you wash for me?  Or can you come over do something in my garden?  I have to hoe or send [sand?].  When you want to, whenever you can, just come and do it.  Okay, I will, and then they come and do it and then we …

DAD: Wiped her slate clean.

MOM: Then we say, your debt, we say, you owe us that much and that work is, that way, that we erase, oh, I need so bad that much money.  Okay, we give you the half for what your wages and the next day to work for that too.

ROSIE: You’d pay her sometimes in wages [money] and sometimes all for debt …

DAD: Till she paid off the debt she had.

ROSIE: Did you ever get into the hardware part of the store?

DAD: Oh, yeah.  We get little by little.

MOM: We have nails was almost from the beginning.

DAD: Then the tools, shovels, and fork [i.e., pitchfork], and rake, and screws …

MOM: Most time we got the farm stuff.

DAD; And then for the plow, what they need.

ROSIE: At this point was everything done by hand?  Everything was work horses and plows?

DAD; Oh, yeah.  Not big with the tractor.

MOM: How we say the platter or the plates or the bowls?

ROSIE: Oh, your bowls and your saucers and your cups and your plates.

DAD: Every house had a bowl where they wash the face.  And towel was hanging beside the kitchen a nail was here it was a towel for wipe up the hands and the face.  That was custom, every house had that.

ROSIE: So Adolf was born in ’39.  Next we have Theresa.

DAD: Yes.

MOM: Theresa, was in same kitchen born as Adolf.

ROSIE: Now Adolf and Theresa were born in this new house in Vinkovci.

DAD: Yes, and Robert.

ROSIE: Oh, and Robert was born there with [i.e., as one of] the twins and you were so sick at this point.

MOM: Yes, I was so sick; I had malaria.

ROSIE: You had malaria?

MOM: Yeah, then it came to prepare for war.

ROSIE: You mean news of war came?

DAD: Not just news but preparing.      [In other words, not just a rumor of war.]

ROSIE: Right after Robert was born?

DAD: Before.

MOM: Before.

DAD: Before Robert was born.

[TO BE CONTINUED, D.v.]

More adventures of the family of Jakob and Katarina Webel, during and after World War II, needs reporting (God willing), specifically world-changing events directly impacting the Webel family, triggering their emigration from Yugoslavia.

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.

Webel.Jakob-Katarina-faces

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.  Meanwhile, the life of business – and the business of life – continued for the growing Webel family.  Hardships and heartaches would hover over the Webel family for years to come, as World War II and its aftermath ravaged the European continent.

Yet, in time, 12 of the 13 Webel family members would successfully migrate to Ellis Island, and from there to Ohio.  But the reporting of the next chapters (D.v.) 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, whose early family life together included challenging years as merchants in Marinci, before the storm of World War II arrived in Yugoslavia.

<> 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 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.


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

Webel-dozen.newspaper-photo

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.

Webel.Bob-with-Marcia.png

Chaplain Bob Webel provided information that supplemented and clarified his sister’s interview of their parents, “From Vinkovci to Medina”, quoted extensively hereinabove.


ENDNOTES

[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] “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), citing Rosalie Webel Whiting, From Vinkovci to Medina (unpublished Webel family history), supplemented by personal interviews with Chaplain Bob Webel (during August AD2012).

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

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

[5] “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).

[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 Robert Webel), pages 1-4, supplemented & clarified by personal interviews with Rosie’s brother, Chaplain Bob Webel, during July and August of AD2012.

[10] The small children eventually fell asleep, so they could be laid on a bed and thus no longer needed to be held by someone. The pronoun “they” refers to small Webel children who would fall asleep in the store, not to the helpful customers!  🙂

 

 

 

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)

Webel.Jakob-Katarina-faces

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!

Webel.Jakob-and-Katarina

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.

Vinkovci-Croatia

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 ….

[TO BE CONTINUED, D.v.]

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.

AD1951

Webel-dozen.newspaper-photo

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.

><> JJSJ     profjjsj@verizon.net

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.

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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).

ENDNOTES

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

[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.