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

Volksdeutsche by the Dozen,  Part 4:

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

 Dr. James J. S. Johnson

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

WWII-Yugoslavia-bombing-damage

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

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

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

WWII-map.Croatia-from-Yugoslavia

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

WWII-refugees-fleeing-Yugoslavia

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

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

WWII-map.Axis-occupation-of-Balkans

BACKGROUND CONTEXT

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

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

How Two Native Texans Descend from Post-WWII Refugee Volksdeutsche

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

Webel.Jakob-and-Katarina

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

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

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

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

Webel.Jakob-Katarina-faces

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

*   *   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

DAD: June 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MOM: They all call.

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

DAUGHTER: What does that mean?

DAD: That German.

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

DAD: The German.

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

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

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

DAUGHTER: So the church came to your house.

DAD: So the men, the members . . .

DAUGHTER: During this time when you were gone…

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

MOM: And I had the store.

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

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

DAD: Because I am at home.

DAUGHTER: They’re all excited to see you.

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

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

MOM: Oh, yeah.

DAD: Yeah, sure.

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

MOM: No.  Just that Jakob was home.

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

MOM: Then that was probably in April, Easter.

DAUGHTER: Were you real tired, Mom?

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

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

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

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

MOM: No.  No.

DAUGHTER: No supplies were purchased.

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

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

DAD: Have to have supplies almost every week.

MOM: Every week you have to get yeast.

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

MOM: without kerosene…

DAUGHTER: Okay, I just needed to know that.

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

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

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

DAUGHTER: Sometimes you would give yeast.

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

DAUGHTER: Candle.  Catholicism, right?

DAD: Huh?

DAUGHTER: Catholics or Lutheran?

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

DAUGHTER: Greek Orthodox and Catholic.

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

DAUGHTER: But mostly Greek Orthodox.

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

DAD: And you do it.

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

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

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

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

MOM: No, no, no.

DAD: No.

DAUGHTER: That wasn’t the time.  Okay.

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

DAUGHTER: Were you drafted again?[14]

DAD: No, no.

DAUGHTER: Is Robert born yet?

DAD: No.

MOM: No, no.

DAUGHTER: And you’re still talking before this.

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

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

DAUGHTER: Dispersed.

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

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

MOM: Yes.  Go in the house . . .

DAD: They were in station in the town.

MOM: There was station there.

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

DAUGHTER: Were you sick before Dad came home?

MOM: No.

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

MOM: Yes, then I got malaria.

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

DAUGHTER: A big search.

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

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

DAD: And so on.

MOM: So it was worse and worse.

DAUGHTER: And did they shoot just men?

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

MOM: That was to just for war.

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

MOM: Just buy somewhere on the black market.

DAD: No.  That not easy.

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

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

MOM: The beginnings of their [guerrilla] army.

DAUGHTER: The Serbians did at that point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAUGHTER: What does “Croatian” mean?

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

DAUGHTER: In the culture they were way behind.

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

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

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

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

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

DAUGHTER: “You got sharp tools?”

MOM: Yes. “Bread?”

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

MOM: “You got socks?”  Yes.

DAD: “You got chocolate?”

DAUGHTER: And everything you gave?

DAD: Yes.  Everything, whatever they want.

MOM: We had to.  If not they …

DAD: …kill you.

MOM: …kill you.

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

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

MOM: They go nice away.

DAUGHTER: Why didn’t they pay?

MOM: Why should they?

DAUGHTER: It’s war time.

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

DAUGHTER: So they gave you ration cards.

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

DAUGHTER: Oh, they did pay.

DAD: Yes – sometimes yes, sometimes no.

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

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

DAUGHTER: Did they come many nights?

DAD: People many nights, and …

MOM: Almost every night.

DAUGHTER: How late in the night?

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

MOM: You hear the heavy shoes walking.

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

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

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

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

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

MOM: Burned the house down.

DAUGHTER: Why?

DAD: Is war time.

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

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

MOM: They beat him so much.

DAD: They beat him almost to death.

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

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

MOM: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MOM: What?  …  was born?

DAUGHTER: This was after Robert was born?

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

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

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

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

DAUGHTER: Why?

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

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

DAD: Yeah, So…

MOM: He [i.e., Dad] slept on the …

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

DAUGHTER: Slept in the tree.

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

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

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

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

DAD: Just Hilda.

MOM: Robert doesn’t have.

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

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

DAD: Open the window and talk to them.

DAUGHTER: Open the window further.

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

DAUGHTER:   Is this the night that Hilda died?

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

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

DAUGHTER: She was?

MOM: All the time.

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

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

DAUGHTER: Were you better?

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

DAUGHTER: Robert never got sick?

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

DAD: No.

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

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

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

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

MOM: Oh, yeah.  Oh, yeah.

DAUGHTER: Was Rosie born here too?[19]

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

DAD: Wait.  We did go ahead of time.

DAUGHTER: Okay. Let’s go backwards then.

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

DAUGHTER: Physically well.

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

DAUGHTER: Did you go then?

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

DAD: They did.

DAUGHTER: They did?!?

DAD: They did.

MOM: Three months!

DAD: yes.

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

DAD: Nobody knows.

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

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

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

MOM: No, no.

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

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

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

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

DAUGHTER: Why were you in jail?

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

MOM: That’s when Robert was born.

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

DAUGHTER: What were you doing in the jail?

DAD: Nothing.

DAUGHTER: You just sit around.

DAD: Sat around and . . .

DAUGHTER: Did they feed you?

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

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

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

DAUGHTER: You didn’t really want to go.

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

DAUGHTER: I know that.

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

MOM: Yeah, there was always asking something.

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

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

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

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

MOM: No windows, no air . . .

DAUGHTER: Oh, you really were physically sick.

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

MOM: He was so pale… and so thin.

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

DAUGHTER: Home to where?

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

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

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

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

DAD: That’s Langenfelter.

DAUGHTER: Now he was a German spy.

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

DAUGHTER: Did you know that [then]?

DAD: No, no.

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

DAD: We would never say —  nobody would say.

MOM: No, we never say this.

DAUGHTER: Okay.  Then he sent you . . .

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

DAUGHTER: How do you spell “Esseg”?

DAD: E S S E G.[23]

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

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

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

DAD: And I know . . .

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

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

DAUGHTER: AWOL [“away without leave”].

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

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

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

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

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

DAUGHTER: The head official.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAUGHTER: Oh, yeah, the bayonet.

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

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

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

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

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

DAD: Because they need it, they want it.

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

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

DAUGHTER: Didn’t they care about ammunition?

DAD: But they are together.

DAUGHTER: Okay.  Keep talking.

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

DAUGHTER: Robert was already born.

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

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

MOM: Not the children.

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

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

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

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

DAD: Corn or wheat or whatever . . .

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

Webel.Grandpa-Reinhardt

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

MOM: And he was working hard.

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

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

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

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

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

DAD: Before the night came.

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

DAD: Not before daytime.  Before night came.

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

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

MOM: There was so many stuffs.

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

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

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

MOM: Yeah.

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

MOM: Cemetery.

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

*       *        *       *        *

DAUGHTER: And then you got moved to Vinkovci.

MOM: Yeah, yeah.

DAUGHTER: Okay. That settles that .

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

DAUGHTER: Who are “they”?  The Partisans?

MOM: No, no.

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

  [ TO BE  CONTINUED, D.v. ]

Vinkovci-postcard

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

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

><> JJSJ     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.

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.  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.Bob-with-Marcia


ENDNOTES

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

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

[3] “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part One: Jakob and Katarina Agreed to Marry Before They Ever Spoke to Each Other, A True Example of Love at First Sight…and First Sound”, Journal of the German-Texan Heritage Society, 35(1): 25-32 (spring 2013), quoting from page 1-4 of Rosalie Webel Whiting, From Vinkovci to Medina (unpublished Webel family history), supplemented by personal interviews with Chaplain Bob Webel (during August AD2012).

[4] “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part Two: Volksdeutsche in Croatia, before World War II: Jakob and Katarina Webel are Merchants in Marinci (Taking Care of Business and the Business of Life)”, Journal of the German-Texan Heritage Society, 36(3):154-170 (fall 2014), quoting from Rosie Webel Whiting (see footnote #1), pages 5-18.

[5]World War  II  Confronts  Jakob  and  Katarina  Webel (Swabians Face  Nazi  Invaders  and  Yugoslavia’s  Break-up)”, Journal of the German-Texan Heritage Society, 37(2):98-113 (summer 2015), quoting from Rosie Webel Whiting (see footnote #1), pages 5-18.

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

[7] “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen” is the caption of an unidentified newspaper clipping, with a photograph of the 12 Webel family immigrants, who arrived at Ellis Island on March 19, 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).

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

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

[10] Like a violently erupting fumarole, the tragic history of Yugoslavia’s political factions is a series of internal fighting (dominated by Ustaše-led Roman Catholic Croats persecuting Eastern Orthodox Serbs, with Nazi and Russian Communists intervening with their own agendas), and that fighting is a major catalyst in this family history—as will be noted later, D.v., in future reports on this fascinating family history  (see, e.g., http://www.icr.org/article/7056/ ).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vinkovci-Croatia


 

 

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!  🙂