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Letters from Hell
Special thanks goes to Hugh Lichtenwald who obtained these original articles and has provided translations.
Page 5, Die Welt-Post, Thursday, July 26, 1923
From Wiesenmueller, Russia
20 June 1923 Letter to Gustav Beshomer of Lincoln, NE from Alexander Doell
Much esteemed Mr. Beshorner:
First of all, receive my deepest thanks for your extremely interesting and dear letter of the 8th of May. As we read it we felt the presence of our dear children in America. It was very kind of you to undertake the long trip to Kansas City and especially kind of you to take the extra time to visit my son and his family there; an absolute proof of your German soul. Several letters, including one from my son, have come to us reporting of your visit to Kansas City. My son writes: "We could not keep back the tears when we heard this dear, beloved man describe what he had seen with his own eyes. It shook us deeply, but as we left the church we also felt a certain joy that we had contributed something to the alleviation of this emergency; this visit will remain unforgettable for us. In spite of the news, there was also much joy in finally receiving accurate information concerning our heritage." They trust you completely and they thank you very gratefully for the picture of their brother Jacob's gravestone. They were deeply moved by it and said: "Oh, we could only shake the hand of this good man in personal gratitude."
Also, warmest thanks from me, Mr. Beshorner, for through your obliging intervention the book has finally arrived at Mr. Volz's and hopefully I will soon receive it. I have not yet succeeded in preparing the Zimmerman children for the trip to their uncle in America. The youngest girl has sick eyes and thus for her the trip is not possible.
My wife and daughter send you their best greetings. With affectionate greetings from me, I am most respectfully yours,
Alexander Doell, Schoolmaster
Page 5, Die Welt-Post, Thursday, October 25, 1923
Letters from Wiesenmueller, Russia 25, June Letter to Robert Stuckert from Theresa Schmunk
You can put the following letter in the Welt-Post if you find it interesting enough. It is from Wiesenmueller from my sister-in-law who is a teacher there. She is a widow with two grownup girls. The letter reads as follows:
Wiesenmueller, 25, June ---
First my belated and heartfelt thanks for the things that I received through the Lutheran Council from our local distributors. The events went thus: The 2 bundles you sent for general distribution and Mr. Volz arrived here on the same day. Naturally by different paths. Mr. Volz met with us in order to discuss the things that were stolen in the autumn. He noted 80 Arschin for Friedrich which he agreed to replace either there or with you. I took the opportunity to show him the paper that you had sent to Irma.
((I had written a note saying that it was our wish that this widow with her 2 daughters not be overlooked during the distribution of the items we had sent to Wiesenmueller)).
He expressed himself as follows: "I simply have nothing at all to do with the thing because it was sent by the Lutheran Council, but nevertheless, in my opinion it would be inexpensive and just, if the agents (those doing the distribution) allowed this woman to select some items for herself and her children from the bundles."
Because the disciples over there had been magnanimous and had sent so much to the community and the written note also expressed your desire that I should also have a share, all of the agents were in agreement and I was allowed to take 2 women's overcoats for myself and a man's suit which I will sell to buy shoes for us. Again, my heartfelt thanks as well as those of the children.
I also spoke with Mr. Volz about emigrating but he advised against it because it is still too difficult.
Up to now things have been going rather well with us because I always had my salary, although it was small, and I also earned a little extra by sewing. Now however, all teachers are to subject themselves to a political examination by 1 September and thereby one could possibly lose ones job. That would make things very difficult for us this winter.
Our harvest has once again turned out poorly. Most all the grain did not fruit. Because of the heat much of the Wheat was scorched. It looks as though the bread basket will again be expensive to fill. Apples are in great quantity and therefore are also cheap. Bread is also cheap when you compare it to clothing material. I cannot even think about buying any decent clothing.
The Fever has finally left me, pray to God that it stays away. My Irma is well, Beatche is in Kukkus visiting August. Tomorrow I will go and pick her up. Stuckerts Vetterche and his brother Jacob both recently died. Vetterchen very suddenly and Jacob from Tuberculosis. Also Hanmichels Heine and Fritzlers Georg Friedrich both died from Typhoid Fever. Typhoid Fever and Cholera are very prevalent. Johannes and Jacob work together, they have already brought in the grain and just now they are mowing the Wheat.
Greet Samuel and Reinhold and their families and affectionate greetings to you from your sister-in-law,
Sent in by Robert Stuckert from Kansas City, Missouri.
Page 6, Die Welt-Post, Thursday, April 20, 1921
Wiesenmiller, February 27, 1921 Letter to Mrs. George Repp from Alexander Doell
Highly Esteemed Mr. Repp:
Please send these following lines to an American newspaper editor:
Much worse than all the enemies with whom we have had to deal with up to now and who sometimes pressed us quite hard, was the harvest failure with which we were afflicted in the year 1921, and the naturally following hunger.
Already the previous autumn the people had begun to slaughter their livestock one after another, that thanks to being kept in pasture, still remained. But naturally the meat had to be eaten without bread.
It was a bit of luck that some Pumpkin and root vegetables were still available as a poor replacement for bread up until September. Soon most people had consumed the last of their remaining food and the emergency began in earnest. In vain they looked for assistance among their German brethren on the Bergseite, who were themselves without any means.
Then they began to load up clothing and farm equipment and drive further out into the district where the harvest should have been much better in order to trade their things for food. Unfortunately they received little in exchange. For entire wagon loads of different things the farmers often received only 2-4 Pud of fruit, which was like putting a drop of water into the sea.
The people paced back and forth in despair and asked whether it would be possible to expect any help. Fathers and mothers despairingly wrung their hands and pulled out their hair as they were forced to watch their beloved children, one after another, become more pale and miserable until finally they fell into the bony arms of death, the black enemy.
A terrible fright seized the people: House and homestead and everything that remained were sold for ridiculous sums and they began a journey which was more like an attempt to escape. Where? None knew what to say. "Only away, away;" they shouted, "so that we will not starve!" Those Poor! They wanted to escape from death and walked right into his cold cold arms.
Meanwhile, in November, a small amount of support came from the government, but what was that to so many? Yes, if Jesus had been on hand now as he was in the Gospel with the 5000 and the 4000, but the wait for Him was in vain and time seemed to have become our enemy. While man had often heard the voice of the Shepherd calling persistently to the faithful, it seemed that He now did not want to hear the urgent cries of the suffering. But it only seemed that way, for that day has now come, the Lord, while those here prayed and called out, had already warmed the hearts of the people over there in the New World, with love for those suffering and in misery here on the Volga, just as before 30 years ago, and guided them like the waters of a brook, so that they should bring their gifts of love to us.
Oh, forever thank, next to God, the noble man, who by now should be the Governor of the State of Indiana, or so I have been told by a reliable source, who initiated the start of this work. And a thousand thanks to all the other chivalrously disposed people in America who so actively took part in God's work!
I personally know only a few, only Mr. George Repp and Pastor Wagner, but these two gentlemen are irrefutable proof of the fact that God has selected the best tools to carry out this charitable work.
429 years ago as the crews on the ships of Columbus caught sight of the mainland in the distance and excitedly cried "Land! Land!" so here in the last days of November when extremely joyous news came that products had arrived for the opening of a Children's Kitchen, came the shouts of "Bread! Bread!" Who can describe the joy of our dear little ones as on November 27th, for the first time in months, they were able to sit at a laden table? They could hardly believe their eyes as the "blütenmeissen Kuchen" (a basic cake made from flour with Lavender blossoms-fresh or dried added to the batter. Rose petals may also be added as a garnish or in the batter, or both.---translator) and a good Rice porridge sweetened with sugar were set before them and they once again could eat their fill.
The parents watched with tears shining in their eyes and all silently prayed: "Praise and thank God. Oh, that He would also take pity on us soon." But this time their patience was rewarded. It was bitterly difficult because even if occasional aid arrived from the government, it was so little it could not prevent hunger from doing its destructive work. The need was too great and our government could not, even with its best intentions, which they continually related, procure sufficient aid.
By the 19th of February hundreds of adults had fallen prey to death from hunger and likewise death had already selected hundreds more candidates -- when totally unexpectedly the glad tidings arrived: "The adults also shall not hunger! America will also help them!"
We received from the above mentioned Mr. Repp and invitation with an order to pick up food and distribute it equally among all living souls.
I feel myself unable and also not capable to describe the joy concerning this --- you had to have experienced it in order to understand it.
Perhaps it can be compared to the joy of one condemned to death receiving the news of a pardon?
The emergency is still great, yes, very great. Since Mr. Repp has encouraged us here and told us that still more will assuredly follow the first delivery of food, we will not lose our confidence and remain firm in the belief that God's mercy has no end. We cannot repay you, brothers and sisters in America, for that which you do for us now. But we shall ask that God henceforth protect and bless your country and keep it and each individual citizen inside it, in His grace.
I close with grateful greetings, Alexander Doell
(I addressed this letter to you, honored Mrs. Repp, with the permission of your highly esteemed husband, George Repp).
6, Die Welt Post, Thursday, March 2, 1922: Headline: From
Mr. George Vogel, 1503 Harrison Ave., Lincoln, Nebr., received a Letter from his brother-in-law Jacob Greb in Wiesenmüller that was written on the 27th of November (1921).
The mother is constantly ill it says, the brother Johannes came home sick from his military service and got better while at home. Two weeks ago, the letter writer came home from the service and had to endure much sorrow. The father had died the previous year. The widespread poverty which is the consequence of a bad harvest, is so bad that many people have starved to death. Many people are going to the Caucasus, others kill their last horse, cow or camel (for food). Many betake themselves off to America, where the letter writer also has a mind to go.
**side note: Jacob Greb never made it to America. He died in Russia in 1942. He married and had 3 children. He has a grandson living in Germany.
Page 5, Die Welt-Post, Thursday, April 12, 1923
Wiesenmüller, 15 January--To Jacob Herrmann and his wife in Lincoln, Nebr.
God's greetings to you and may our dear Savior be with you my much loved friend Jacob Herrmann and to your dear wife, my much loved half-sister Katharina and to your children. I, you friend and half-sister Katharina Trott, nee Keil want to tell you that I have been a widow for a year now. My husband Johannes Trott died of Typhus a year ago brought on by the great misery and widespread sickness; and we lost two of our sons aged 12 and 14 years. Your clothing and other things weighing 10 Pfund (1Pfund=14.4 ounces) we received with great joy. for this, I and my 2 children bespeask to you our heartfelt thanks. May the dear Lord repay you a thousandfold. Your wam and gracious outpouring to us was right timely as myself and my children are very poor. We were also among those who wanted to emigrate to America be we didn't make it over the border. My man died along the way and we had to return, completely destitute, to where we came from after spending all of what we had to make the journey. Now it goes somewhat better. We are however, very very poor and ask if you can again send something to help us. I and my 2 children are in good health and wish the same for you. With best regards, your Half-sister, Widow Katharina Trott, nee Keil.
Page 7, Die Welt-Post, Thursday, March 29, 1923:
Wiesenmüller, 8 January--To Heinrich Vogel, University Place, Nebr.
Dear brother-in-law and sister together with your children:
We would like to extend to you our personal greetings but because this is not possible we will do it in spirit. We are healthy and hope the same for you.
And now we want to make you aware that we have received the huge gift from you on January the 5th. We thought that it surely had been lost because a rumour was going around that one of Mr Volz's carloads of things had been stolen. But at Christmas time we had a letter from Mr. Volz that we should pick up the things in Schilling. He said there was only 25 Pfund (a Pfund=14.4 ounces) but when we drove out and arrived there, we received everything, exactly as you had written us.
But Friedrich Stucker, who had driven with us to Schilling had his Arschinware (yardgoods as in cloth) stolen. According to his estimate 70 Arschin (an Arschin=2 ft. 4 in.).
The things you sent arrived at a most perfect time as we were in need of clothing. In the summer we wear trousers made from grain sacks. Amalia has cut up the clothes that the children had outgrown and made trousers from them. We would soon have had nothing more to wear. That's how scarce things are for everyone.
You can't buy livestock at any price and goods are unaffordably high in price.
During the Rye harvest I took on the job of cutting 3 Desyatina (about 8 acres) for David Koch's son Gottfried for 13 Pud of Rye (a Pud=40 Pfund, 13 Pud=468 pounds). 8 Pud at the start and 5 Pud after the harvest.
Gottfried is a Seventh Day Adventist and they were given lots of Rye by the Seventh Day Adventists in America. ((The last convention of the Seventh Day Adventists in America announced that they had raised a sum of over $50,000 for the financially distressed of Europe--Weld-Post Editor))
I hade the Rye threshed and took 5 Pud of it to Saratov and because your food voucher of 6 Pud had come, I sold half of it and the 5 Pud of grain in Saratov for 82 million Rubels, and because I still had 14 million Rubels in Saratov I bought 96 Arschin of Sarpinka (Arschin=2 ft. 4 in.) (Sarpinka=silk cloth) for which I paid 91 million Rubels. An Arschin of Sarpinka now costs 6 million Rubels.
If we had had to buy the things you sent to us here in Russia, we would have had to have had 2 milliarden Rubel. ((Our Readers would better understand if he had said 2 Billion Rubels--Weld-Post Editor)).
Cousin Heinrich still lives in Saratov. He and his sons have done much service handling American Products. ((Here he perhaps refers to the buying and selling of Food-Drafts for the ever present buyers. Just as we were told by returning relief workers.--Weld-Post Editor))
With best regards, I remain your brother-in-law, Peter Buxman.
*** Side Note: Peter Buxman was born abt 1877. His father Johann Friedrich Buxman was from Müller and his mother Katharina Elisabeth Traudt 1854-1892 was from Lesnoi Karamisch (Grimm). Peter's sister Mary (Minnie) Buxmann married Heinrich Vogel April 28, 1903. Henry Vogel and Minnie immigrated in 1908 to Russell, KS, then to Lincoln, NE in 1912 and finally to Portland, OR in 1937. Henry and Minnie are buried in Rose City Cemetery in Portland, Oregon
Page 5, Die Weld-Post, Thursday, Sept. 11, 1924: Headline: Letters from Russia
Wiesenmüller, July 18, 1924--To David Mut (Muth) and family, Otis, Kansas:
Dear brother-in-law David and sister Maria Katharina! We all send our greetings and wish you the best of health as ours is at the present time. Our family is composed of 10 souls, 2 sons, Friedrich and Alexander are still here with us but our oldest son Johann Georg has left us (moved). He has 8 souls in his family. Also Jacob has left. He had 7 souls.
The harvest here was very poor, wheat only 2 Pud per Desyatina (a Pud=36 pounds US) (Desyatina=2.7 US acres), Rye 5 Pud per sown Desyatina. It is nearly as bad as 1921. If it rains soon we'll still be able to harvest potatoes, if it doesn't rain then things will really get bad. We still have 2 old horses, 2 foals, 3 camels, 2 suckling foals, 4 cows, 2 heifers and 12 sheep. We have fodder enough and some old fodder left over from last year. The price of fruit is horrendous even if one had the money to buy it. A Pud of wheat is nearing 2 Rubels. If there isn't any help coming soon people will be selling livestock to buy bread. One could write still much more but what's the point? I have already written to you once but have received no answer. Now, in my old age, I think often of you. I am carrying 62 years on my back, my wife Katharina is a year younger. I don't need to work anymore. Johann Jacob Muth is also still alive but he is old and feeble. The old friends who remained here are all dead.
I send my greetings to all friends and acquaintances. Let us endeavor afterward when we are no longer here, to meet again in blessed Heaven. With regards, you brother and brother-in-law Georg Stuckert
***Side Note: The Weld-Post had to have made a typo in the letter...2 Rubels for a Pud of wheat is a pretty good deal. They had to have left off a bunch of zeroes. A Pud of wheat would have cost in the millions of Rubels during this time.
Page 2, Die Welt-Post, August 31, 1922 Headline: Russia=Letters
Wiesenmüller, 1 June 1922, To Mr. Friedrich Zimmermann, Lincoln, Nebraska:
My esteemed Mr. Zimmermann: I have thankfully received your letter of 26 April and I hasten to answer the same. In the first days of the month of May three children of your brother Johannes came here after dark. They were almost naked and they stood in front of your old house and were crying. The man who now lives there came out at their knock and took them in and calmed them through their tears.
The youngster of 14, Johannes by name, was here with me today. I showed him your letter and he related to me the following: "Shortly after we left on our journey (from Wiesenmüller to Armawir, Caucusus Region) my brother Alexander took sick and thanks to the difficult journey and bad food he died before we reached our goal. His death was bitter for my mother and affected her to such an extent that the day after our arrival in Armawir she fell ill and early on Christmas day she fell into the cold arms of death. It was certainly the saddest Christmas celebration we have lived through.
In January our eldest sister Lydia fell ill and she died and left us on February 24. Now we remain, I, Johannes 14, Paulina 17 and Maria 12 years of age, without relatives here (orphans). There we were in a strange place where we had no desire to remain so we went in search of our old home in the Wolga Region. ((A stretch of about 800 American miles--Weld-Post Editor)) But How to begin? We had absolutely nothing left. There was no work there for us and there was a very large crowd of emigrants. The Administration of the Poor Committee took pity on us and took 2 of the youngest from us to the Poor Kitchen, while they gave Pauline something at which she could earn (money).
At Easter they gave us free tickets to travel back home. Although for us this was happy news, we were overcome by fear and terror when we thought about it. We also had nothing there that we could call ours. Never-the-less we went forward to our native soil and here we are at the beginning of May, as mentioned above."
Presently the children live with the widow Müller at the poor kitchen. Johannes and Maria are fed in the kitchen of the American Relief Administration. Paulina is working. The children were very happy to hear that their dear uncle Friedrich Zimmermann in America was thinking of them and wait with great anticipation for help from him. They bade me write to you that they are very much in need of clothing and that you Mr. Zimmerman, if possible, could provide some before the onset of winter. Perhaps you could also on that account deposit a dollar with the illustrious A.R.A in New York which has a camp her in Saratov where we can take out the clothing. ((Welt-Post Ed., There's a problem here. Historically, until now, the A.R.A hasn't handled clothing in this manner)) Should this not be possible because it is already getting late, you should put the things in the mail through the German Volga Society in Berlin to Pastor E. Seib in Saratov to be given over to the children; that way everything will be received safely.
The children send their heartfelt greetings. With best regards, Alexander Döll, Schoolmaster
((Weld-Post Editorial Note: Mr. Zimmerman sent the children $20 worth of Food-Drafts and besides that he sent $20 cash through Mr. J. Peter 1307 Howard St., Omaha, Nebr., to hand on. Mr. Peter was recently in Germany making arrangements by which he can convey money to Russia.))
Page 3, Die Welt-Post, August 24, 1922 Headline: The Kindly Work of the Lutheran Councils in Russia
Wiesenmüller, May 20, 1922:
Very Esteemed Pastor: Like the first shipment of food packets which came very suitably at planting time, so came the desired shipment at the new harvest.
Like the last time, the distribution of provisions again caused great joy among the poor people who were called forward to receive them. Yes, one saw many bright tears of joy in their eyes. How could it be otherwise?
Not only have the beloved American brothers rendered important support to the people with this food, but also owing to this inestimable assistance given us by you unforgettable benefactors, since May 10 of this year starvation has been halted. Praise God! We recognize that we are in your debt dear brothers. We most likely can never repay you for what you have done for us. We remember you in our prayers and ask God to richly reward you all, to regard these powerful proofs of love as if they had ben given by you to Him, the Lord Jesus himself, for we are not worthy and have only earned disgrace and His anger by our Godless nature and it has come to pass as prophesied in Sp. chapter 14, verse 34.
And now I bring you a special thanks from the orphans who returned naked and unprotected (he refers to the Zimmermann children who returned from Armawir in May), to the American immigrants for their clothing which they received through the mediation of the much esteemed Pastor A. C. Ernst. I had only a few sacks (probably flour or grain sacks) that I had gotten from Pastor Ernst to use as clothing for the children. He however, procured good and handsome clothing for them. The children stood before me in wonderment. They couldn't trust their eyes for instead of the rags they expected, they saw beautiful, warm coats, shirts, stockings and shoes...(words obscured)...their outstretched hands when I passed them the things. With deep emotion they thank me and shake my hand, which I also wish to do for everything we have received. In my name, and in the name of all the villagers of Wiesenmüller I send my heartfelt thanks.
Alexander Doell, Schoolteacher
***Side Note: Alexander Döll/Doell relates the story of the Zimmerman children in his letter to Friedrich Zimmerman in Lincoln, NE which was published in Die Welt-Post on August 31, 1922.
Page 5, Die Welt-Post, Thursday, August 14, 1924 Headline: Letter from Russia
From the village of Wiesenmüller, July 6, 1924
Dear brother-in-law David Muth and sister-in-law together with your children:
Once again I come to you with my troubles, please help me. This year things are again bad, the worst we have ever experienced. There is much less to be had here than in 1921. We understand that you have had a very good harvest so if it won't cause you a hardship, can you help me in my sad situation with a few dollars.
Many people here have already processed their Rye into grain, they produced 1 Pud (Pud=36 pounds) per Desyatina (2.7 acres). Many have already harvested 5 and 6 Pud but that's all there is for the long winter. May God preserve us from sickness during this year of hunger. Brother-in-law Jacob's wife is now also a widow and truly poor. It is truly sad when one is left a widow with children and has nothing. One often wishes to be in heaven, yet before one's time has run out one cannot leave the world. We will yet once again see better times.
I have brothers and relatives in Canada by the name of Schmunck to whom I also beg to not close their hearts and to help with this poor sister who is a widow with children. So, dear brother-in-law David and sister-in-law Mariakatrina, please help.
Once again, greetings to you and everyone and may God's protection be upon you.
Your sister-in-law with children, Emilie Stuckert
Live well until we joyfully meet again, Amen
((Weld-Post Ed.--Sent by David Muth, Otis, Kansas)) The above referenced Emilie Stuckert is my wife's brother Friedrich's wife. Her husband is dead and she is an orphan with children. They remained in the area of the German border for an entire year intending to come to America but it wasn't to be. They had to return and the hardships she endured caused her death. Brother-in-law Jacob Stuckert also died in the same way and the money (to get them to America) lay in Germany with the Volga Society for an entire year.
Page 3, Die Welt-Post, Thursday, July 13, 1922 Headline: Of The Relief Work in the Volga Colonies
(no date in the salutation)
Assistance uplifts those who receive it even if the assistance is not enough for everyone, it is a help never-the-less because it is necessary. This fulfillment of this thought occurred here once again: At the beginning of April the hunger emergency had increased to the extreme. We could not travel to obtain any provisions because the weather with which we are plagued in the spring, made travel impossible.
The villagers sighed with hunger and agonized in fear: What's goin to happen?
One must begin to farm but how can this be done without bread?
The same were immediately distributed to the people and naturally the poorest of the poor were served first.
Beaming with joy and gratitude the people received the valued gifts and asked that I write to the beloved American donors.
An ancient 75 year old matron with tears in her eyes said to another: "Yesterday I had eaten the last of my food and thought that now I would have to starve. Tell the Americans that my lack of faith has shamed me. I have again been helped. My thanks to the donors over there in the New World where there already exists a piece of Heaven."
I hereby fulfill my obligation and say to all the donors from me personally and also in the name of all of the townspeople of Wiesenmüller, my heartfelt thanks and may God reward you! After God, we owe it to you that our farmers through your difficult work need not starve.
Without this help they would not have been able to farm.
Very much esteemed Pastor Ernst: Please, we hope that you will forward this letter to the newspapers. For this I heartily thank you in advance, from:
A. Döll, Sexton at Wiesenmüller