Die Welt-Post, Thursday, 11 January 1923
Page 2, "A Letter From Russia to the Portlanders"
Norka, 4 October 1922
To: The Volga Relief Society
Much esteemed and dear friends:
Three weeks ago as I gave my last (9th) report to Pastor Wagner for forwarding, he was kind enough to give me 2 issues of Die Welt-Post. Even though I was overjoyed and had a strong and urgent desire to acquaint myself with the news from "another world" that they contained, I nevertheless was only able to get to them in the last few days. The issue of 24 August, which I read last night so struck me that I vowed to quickly write again within the next few days and offer some information.
In the paper, an old Norkan, Johannes Preissendorf, wrote that my report from the old homeland was very important to him. At that I again felt the need to write the dear Norkans in America who had done so many good deeds for me and my community and thank them and at least inform them of the facts of life and things that are happening in their old homeland community.
Though there are just as many (especially many in Portland) Norkans in America as there are here in old Norka, there are also many other Volga Germans in the United States to whom this will probably be important because conditions are generally the same in the various Volga Colonies.
On 1 October we, along with the Evangelical Christian community, celebrated the Harvest Festival. (We generally celebrate all christian celebrations according to the new style calendar since its introduction.) In bygone days Norkans combined the Harvest Fest with their "Kerb" -- for each village it was a joyful folk festival. The market stalls on the well-field were full of goods and a bustling market was going on in this otherwise quiet place. The houses of the village were neatly cleaned inside and out in preparation for Kerbfest, the housewives prepared special baked goods for these days and also other appetizing foods which they shared with guests who had come from afar. The youths also sought opportunities to have some fun but such opportunities were not always "fromm" [pious...better said as "not always good clean fun"--translator].
Since then everything has changed. The market stalls are no longer there. When, with the Revolution, private trading was ended, trade was no longer possible there. The boards (from the stalls) were being hammered loose and taken away, some to be used for coffins. Finally it was directed that all should be torn down and the boards used to repair the schoolyard fences. The emergency caused other festive aspects of the Kerbfest to disappear also - yes, and they were not always clear about when to celebrate. Thus part of the populace has for years celebrated a quiet Kerbfest according to the old style date and the others according to the new style date. Against all that this year's Harvest Fest was nevertheless still one that all could take pleasure in, even if the harvest of commodities on average was only a moderate one.
The question which has been heatedly debated by everyone for several weeks now and which often causes tempers to flare, is the question of the "in kind" taxes. The establishment of the "in kind" tax, as opposed to last year's confiscation of every bit of supplies, is an extraordinary improvement which instills the farmers with a feeling of security. The amount of "in kind' taxes depends on 3 factors: first of all (and mainly) upon the size of the plot of land: Second, the number of livestock: Third, the harvest yield. The minimum amount of tax per desyatin is 10 pfund, the maximum is 15 pud. (thus, it is the case, that the farmer must pay if he has been allotted more than 3 desyatin of land per family member, employs more than 4 head of livestock and the harvest yield is more than 100 pud per desyatin.)
One can see that under normal conditions the "in kind" tax is quite moderate and leaves plenty of room for the farmer to improve his condition and generally advance himself. However, under the current conditions the regulation is held by many to be an intolerable burden because this year the size of the farmers family, and accordingly. the size of his land allotment were of no help.
Except for a few exceptions the farmers no seed to sow. In the spring some used their seed not for sowing, but rather to maintain their existence. Many for good reason, because, for example, if a farmer had 10 family members but only on broken down nag of a horse, while another had only 5 family members, but 3 horses, how could they do the same work?
[Here some dozen lines of text are obscured - translator.]
Now Family B., which also consists of 10 souls, and in addition to 2 horses has 3 pair of oxen and received approximately 50 pud of seed grain. Now however, both families are to pay almost the same in taxes because they have the same amount of land. While family B. is hitching up their oxen and taking their "in kind" tax to Schilling, day and night things are getting worse for family A. and they can find no way out of this untenable situation.
Also the Harvest yield was not computed for any individual but for an average yield (for our rayon, if I am not mistaken, it was 60-65 pud) and the tax was based upon this. Now some harvested 75-100 pud while others only 20-30 pud (per desyatin). For the former it is easy to pay the tax, for the latter it is truly hurtful. The tax law is a good one but the authorities are not applying it practically. They should pay less attention to the letter of the law and more attention to the spirit of the law, because the intent of this "in kind" tax is to enable the weak to live along side the strong. If the letter is enforced then the weak will forever be held down or completely destroyed. Already much time has been lost, but nonetheless I hope that many of these calamitous questions will come to light and a fair solution found.
Generally speaking, a confident buzzing abounds. After years of external and internal battles, after all the disorder and decline, the hearts of our contemporaries are more open to and grateful for the establishment of structure and order. Out of the rubble of the past, man desires to build something new while retaining what was good from the past. One sees the master builder and his people at work again. One sees interest reawakening in other areas. Education, during the last years of struggle, which had become ever more indifferent, is once again drawing the interest of the people who are only now noticing the effects of its terrible negligence among the youth. However there are terrible shortages and apparently insurmountable obstacles to deal with. State and community coffers are empty. The schools must be maintained by the parents themselves. School buildings are in terrible condition. Three schools in Norka require major repairs, that at present are unthinkable, for example, the cost of nails is 1 million per pfund, 1 piece of glass 5-8 million, 1 piece of sheet metal, 2 to 3 million, 1,000 bricks, 55 million rubels, etc. Two schools can be made provisionally ready so that an area for approximately 400 children (about 1/3 of the school age children) will be created.
Parents are also responsible for the teacher's salary, which not all parents who wish to educate their children are able to easily afford. There had already been a shortage of good teachers in former times, who are now even harder to find. In addition there is a total lack of school books and other necessary teaching materials. Where there are any to be had, only a few can be purchased because of exorbitant prices. Thus it will probably be some time before the school problems are overcome.
Unfortunately we no longer have organized Consistories and Synods as in bygone days but this is not the most pressing emergency, rather it is the lack of pastors and suitable schoolmasters (sextons) and the hopelessness of obtaining any new workers for the Lord's Vineyard. On the Bergseite and Wiesenseite there are 12 ministerial positions open; in the abandoned parishes, a poor state of religious affairs prevails.
The Norka Parish was allowed, by God's grace, to enjoy all these past years of regular and orderly spiritual services. In this last difficult year it was the assistance of the National Lutheran Council that made it possible for those servants of the church to endure in their difficult posts. Thus were we weak and unworthy humans served, but also the Lord, whose work we do. May the Lord repay those who did good deeds unto His servants, for their love.
The attendance at regular religious services has fallen off among adult Christians, thus sadly, it also stands equally bad among the youngsters. Most children can no longer read --- mental development as well as regular discipline have been missing; therefore they are not open to religious influences. In the last few years under such circumstances, myself and every minister has been in spiritual agony. With the meager influence which the church had in these times, it had little possibility of exerting it over them, they would probably be as good as lost to Christendom had there not been, in most houses, some christian spirit that came to our aid. Also the "Versammlung" [meeting] of the Brüderschaft [brotherhood] have the valuable task, along with the church, to rescue the young for Christ's kingdom. There are people here, more than ever before, against whom the servants of the church and the members of the christian community must stand united, shoulder to shoulder. How many have deserted and fallen in this ever more cruelly waged battle of the spirit. The church of Christ survives because of the promise of the Lord in Matthew 16:18. ["And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." - translator]. Firm in our faith that the Lord guides all the things of His church, we regard it as our holiest obligation to spare no effort with anything as if the kingdom of God could be built by our passion. Did we not rebuild the vestibule in the courtyard of the prayer house in order to make it stable? The means to do this came to us by trading empty American rye sacks and lard barrels for which we have already received 60 pud of rye.
My report has become overly long --- but still there are some more questions to be touched upon so that this picture of the life of Norkans is complete. The road to Saratov is crowded nearly every day with people coming and going. They take some of their harvested commodities, particularly flour and millet, and get cloth, leather, iron and many other necessary things for the home and for their work, just like in the old days. However, because of high prices they cannot get everything in the necessary quantities.
The burning question a year ago was: What will we eat? Today that question is: What will we wear? The fact that this question can be solved only with the help of our American brothers is already slowly becoming clear to everyone. With the arrival of Mr. Jacob Volz, in Saratov, where I had the pleasure of being one of the first to greet him, there was as revival of hope for a supply of clothing. If it happens as Mr. Volz announced on his first morning in Saratov, then a transport of clothing could arrive in Saratov within the next few days.
However, I would like to take this occasion, if I may be permitted, to make an important proposal. Could you expand the clothing aid along with the individual aid more generally, because now even more people can be seen going about in clothing that is not fit for humans to wear, who receive no individual assistance. With luck one can make due with old worn out clothing, I know this because for the second time I have received some from the the National Lutheran council and distributed them. That which one can no longer wear outside, or wants no more, would be received here with great joy. Besides this, considering the indebtedness described by me above, Food Draft assistance is still needed. I want to specifically stress this because many, after paying the "in kind" tax are not able to cut their bread so thickly any more. The vegetable harvest has been satisfying but there is a lack in fatty things. Recently I heard in Saratov that the Food Draft Department intends to continue their activities indefinitely, which was heard with great satisfaction. Additionally for the orphans and the children of the very poor families, a resumption of regular supplies for the kitchens will be necessary. One could perhaps say: The communities can now provide for themselves, even for their poor. Such people speak only superficially and do not understand the extent of impoverishment in our colonies because there is still no end of shortages for thousands. Even the landowners who will retain something more or less meaningful after paying "in kind" taxes, after taking care of the most urgent needs of their farmsteads, will have only enough brad left for their own needs. Norka is one of the better off parishes and will again quickly stand on its own if no unforeseen circumstances occur, but it will still be in need, possibly for years, of a large measure of continuing philanthropy.
I close now with a personal note of explanation. Since the onset of relief work I have received a great number of letters as well as a number of $10 packets that, in this difficult time, freed me from worry, and they were: from my dear Norkans, namely from Portland, also from a Stucker. I have also received letters and packets from fellow clergy --- Lutherans, Reformed and Congregational. As often as I have received these proofs of love, each time I felt an urgent need to write in detail to these well meaning men and women. But times and the circumstances, which I intentionally avoid describing here, prevented me every time. I comfort myself that all my good friends read my reports in the newspapers, and indeed, are probably looking at these lines now. So I want to express my thanks here once again to all who have sent me their letters and gifts, and affectionately greet them.
I take my leave of you, all my brothers and sisters in the Lord, with my sincere greetings and Christian greetings as well as a greeting of peace.
Friedrich Wacker, Pastor
12 July 1922
To: The Volga Relief Society
On the Sunday before Pentecost the community of Brunnental received from the Volga Relief Society through Mr. Repp, a large portion of foodstuffs of about 1,800 pud.
On Tuesday, this food was distributed equally to all the residents of Brunnental by the Church Council.
It was a joy to see the coming and going of the people. The courtyard of the Church Council President, where the distribution took place, was like an ant hill. I very much regret that I had no camera on hand. The friends who donated should have seen this picture. At Pentecost, after such a long time, the people could once again eat wheat bread and food that melted (in their mouths). They were especially pleased to be supplied with food that would strengthen them for the upcoming hay harvest. We have you dear brothers to thank for the returning strength of our emaciated members that will enable us to return to work.
Many Brunnenthalers felt moved to take up the pen and express their thanks. I will let the people speak for themselves and close with the wish that God give His due to you for your charity.
J. Grasmück, Pastor
The 6th of June.
"Indeed, those who care for the thirsty, the Lord will save in bad times. The Lord will care for them, keep them alive, and allow them to prosper upon the earth, and keep them from their enemies." Psalm 71, verse 2 and 3 and 4, also apply.
You are part of this scripture my dear friends, relations and everyone who added their donations for the assistance of the Volga Germans, you have cared for the thirsty and shown your love, whereof David speaks; indeed those who care for the thirsty, the Lord will also save in bad times. My beloved, as we sat to table on Pentecost day and regarded everything before us, someone spoke above the others saying: That which we eat today is all American. Tears of joy ran over our cheeks and our hearts were filled with gratitude for those wonderful gifts which you have given us. Yes, the reward will be great in Heaven for what your love has done. The Savior said it Himself in Matthew 25: "That which you have done unto these the least of my brethren, you have also done unto me. And again, He says those wonderful words: Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy. We also will never forget and will remember your love and pray for you."
With this I bespeak my thanks and that of my entire family. May the Lord bless you in all corporeal and spiritual things, for all good and perfect gifts come to us from above from the Father in Heaven.
With greetings, I remain your dear friend,
Page 2, "Written Thanks"
30 June 1922
Herewith we advise you, our benefactors, Mr. Repp and Mr. Wagner, that we safely received with great joy, the gifts that you sent to us in the second half of this month. They were distributed on the 27th and 28th of this month. There was 584 pud for 1,775 souls, who all thank you from their hearts. Now life has again returned to dried up, near dead skeletons. Not only do the children praise these great American gifts, but also the aged raise their hands in thanks and bless the day that the gifts arrived and brought hunger and death by starvation to an end.
With this the Church Council and the Ruling Soviet do so certify.
The Church Council:
The Ruling Soviet:
Georg Heinrich Seller
G. Peter Weiderkehr
16 July 1922
To: Mr. Repp and Pastor Wagner:
The Church Council of Orlovskaya, Näb Parish, Volga German Region, bring to you deeply felt thanks from all the members of the Evangelical Lutheran community for all of the aid from our American brothers in faith, brought to us by the Relief Commission led by Mr. Repp and Mr. Wagner, who in large measure were able to implement this greatest of achievements. May God reward all those who worked to alleviate our great famine as He would a worker in His vineyard.
The Church Council
H. Otto Johann Wolf
1 May 1922
Much esteemed Mr. Repp:
We, the undersigned herewith fulfill a pleasant obligation by expressing our most deeply felt thanks to all those who thought of us in our emergency and assisted us with the same, as well as all who participated in the work of supplying food to the many who are hungry. We ask the Lord God to bless all the noble benefactors and keep them from any similar misfortune.
By this great relief effort many hungry were satisfied, many tears were dried.
At the same time, we ask that you not forget our village and, if possible, to continue to support us during the difficult months ahead, because the emergency is very large and still on the increase.
In particular, we express our thanks to you, esteemed Mr. Repp, for your prudent and self-sacrificing work and wish you the strength and good health to be able to lead successfully until the work is finished.
We also thank Pastor Wagner for his comforting words and presence.
May God bless and keep all who help us.
We greet you and sign with utmost sincerity,
Wilh. Keller, Schoolmaster
25 July 1922
We church spokesmen of the village of Bohn [Hockerberg], Johann Windemuth, Johann Hahn, K. Schmidt and David Hasselbach, along with all of our fellow residents, bespeak herewith our heartfelt thanks for the commodity aid that we have received from the American Aid Committee in Pokrovsk.
We feel especially obligated to thank Mr. Repp and Pastor Wagner both. May God reward and repay you for your trouble.
May God repay all the donors in America many times over for what they have done for those in hunger.
Page 2, "Written Thanks"
26 May 1922
To: The Volga Relief Society and all donors of these Gifts of love:
Where do we, your poor hungry brothers here in Russia, on the banks of the Volga, colony of Jost, send our thanks? In the fall of 1921, we looked with sighs into the future as hunger had already taken many from our midst, when there appeared like rescuing angels from the far country of America, Pastor Wagner and Mr. Repp, who brought us Yosters and all villages the good news to fetch gifts of love from the train station. Thus the Josters received 240 pud that time and evenly distributed it among all souls.
Many thankful tears flowed over cheeks then. On the 23rd of May of this year, we again received the happy news from Mr. Repp, to fetch 1,075 pud of loving gifts. Again they were distributed equally among the Jost community by the Church Council.
In the name of the entire Joster community, the Jost Church Council today stands before the Volga Relief Society and before each and every giver of these gifts of love and thanks you all many, many thousand times over for the love you have shown us. And because our poor thanks are only stutters and stammers compared to the inestimable love you have shown us, may our Lord and Savior grant you all the wages of His grace: "That which you have done unto these, the least of my brethren, you have also done unto me." And when everyone's day's work down below in this miserable valley of tears is completed, then may they hear the happy invitation of our Savior: "'Com dear souls, enter unto the joy of the Lord."
With this affectionate thanks and wish for your blessing, signed,
The Jost Church Council
A. Horn, Chairman
Page 2, "Written Thanks of the Community of Bangert"
30 May 1922
The Bangert Church Council and the Church Executive Committee speaking herewith in the name of the entire community, send our deepest thanks and "Vergelts Gott" (God will repay you) to the so uncommonly willing and sacrificing benefactors in America.
We must acknowledge that, by the many loving gifts which we received, probably half of our population at the Volga was saved. We especially and affectionately thank Mr. Repp for the fact that he has brought us joy, twice now, with such large assistance.
May our German population at the Volga always remember and take what the American brothers and sisters have done as an example for themselves for the future, and when they hear of an emergency, near or far, that they would do the same relief work as did the American benefactors.
Signatures of the Church Executive Committee
J. Kromm, Secretary
Page 2, "American Aid Saves Millions in Russia : In August over 10 Million Russians were fed : In Total 850,000 Tons of Food and Medicines from the United States Have been Sent to Russia"
3 January 1923
A report was just released by the Office of the American Relief Administration datelined Moscow, about American Relief Administration activities during the past year. One year ago the Russian people lay in the clutches of a terrible famine, it says in the report, while today the Russian people can look to the future with hope. Hunger still prevails in Russia and it may be that during the course of this winter still more Russians will die of hunger, but the Russia of today, compared to that at the beginning of last year, is a country flowing in milk and honey, though the milk is condensed and the honey is made from granulated sugar.
In August 1921, the American Relief Administration under the leadership of Herbert Hoover, undertook to feed 1 million Russian children. This task met with technical difficulties during the course of the year. By last New Year's Day the American relief effort had not yet reached the outermost borders of the area affected by the famine. The first cases of cannibalism were reported. Refugees fled in groups from those areas barren of food. People went mad with hunger and fell into bestiality. The the relief work began. Kitchens were established, ships brought tons of food and the specter of hunger was gradually beaten back. American aid was already doing more at that time than had been promised. Instead of 1 million children the kitchens fed 1,200,000. American relief work kept expanding as fast as the run down condition of the Russian railways permitted. New kitchens were opened to hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands. The American Congress passed a Bill authorizing $20,000,000 for the purchase of grain. President Harding signed the Bill into law in December 1921 and 55 days later the grain was on the way to Russia. The number of children fed constantly increased. With the help of a contribution from the Israeli Central Committee [see translator's note below], relief work was able to be extended to the famine region in the Ukraine and the feeding there, as always under Hoover's leadership, was done on a non-denominational basis.
It soon became apparent that feeding the hungry was not enough. Malnourishment had destroyed the strength of the people and there were epidemics throughout the country. The Russian hospitals found themselves in a hopeless situation. They lacked sufficient medicines and bandages. In one hospital which contained hundreds of patients there was only one thermometer for taking temperatures. In another hospital was posted the notice: "Patients requiring bandaging must provide their own bandages."
The Red Cross provided medicines valued at $3,500,000 and the American Congress transferred further medical supplies from the American Army to the American Relief Administration valued at $3,789,076. With these means 11,446 hospitals and similar institutions were outfitted. For the fight against cholera and other epidemics, 26,500,000 doses of vaccinations and serum were successfully distributed, which reduced the number of cholera cases from the summer of 1921 to the summer of 1922 by a third.
Feeding of the children and rations for the adults were continued up to the bringing in of the harvest. In August the highest number of those being fed daily reached 10,420,899 persons.
In total the American Relief Administration, since beginning it activity, up to December 14th, sent more than 850,000 tons of food and medicine to Russia. These shipments consisted of: 500,000,000 pfund of grain, of which 250,000,000 pfund was wheat, more than 265,000,000 pfund of flour, more than 265,000,000 pfund of pelletized grain, close to 180,000,000 pfund of milk, 50,000,000 pfund of rye, close to 45,000,000 pfund of sugar and likewise of rice, 26,000,000 pfund of lard, 17,000,000 pfund of beans and peas, nearly 8,000,000 pfund of cocoa and nearly 13,000,000 pfund of medicines.
In addition the American Relief Administration bought another $10,000,000 worth of food through the sale of Food Drafts. For this sum additional food was sent to Russia with the profit from the operation covering all administrative expenses. The Russian government provided for the unloading of ships, the rail transport, the establishment of store houses and assistance in distributing the food; so that not one cent of the money authorized by America for administration and distribution needed to be used.
Nevertheless, American relief efforts will not end for some time to come. The Russian government has asked the American Relief Administration to feed 3,000,000 children this winter and this will probably happen. But in general the situation has tremendously improved.
[Translator's note: Regarding the "Israeli Central Committee," I believe the report is referring to the "Central Committee for the Relief of Jews Suffering Through the War," more commonly known as the Central Relief Committee. It was an Orthodox Jewish relief organization in the US, founded in 1914, continuing to 1950. Records of the group's interaction with the American Relief Administration can be found at the Archives of Yeshiva University, Gottesman Library in New York City.
In the same paragraph the report says that the "feeding, as always under Hoover's leadership, was done on a non-denominational basis." The actual text used the word "non-concessionaire" which I felt was not descriptive enough. I used "non-denominational" in its place. Neither word, to my thinking is adequate to describe what the ARA was doing.
The ARA accepted funds from various relief organizations and committees and acted as their agent in Eastern Europe. If a group of people in the affected areas had an organization as its champion, the ARA would accept donations for that group and see to the distribution of the funds/food/clothing.
Better said, the ARA, under Hoover, was non-discriminatory and all inclusive. Considering that persecution of Jews was rampant in Eastern Europe at the time, it must have made for some very tense moments for aid workers.]
Page 2, "From Germany"
Refugee Camp, Frankfurt a. Oder
26 October 1922
I hereby ask you to publish my few lines in the newspaper Welt-Post, for which I would be very grateful. The Welt-Post is also read here inside our refugee camps, it is sent to us by friends, acquaintances and relatives in America. We refugees here in the camp treat this newspaper as a warm and trusted friend and read it with unspeakable joy because we always find the warmest greetings of our acquaintances, friends and relatives in it. May the Welt-Post go out to the entire world with its rich blessings, wherever there are Germans living; may it bring its love to everyone and bring news of their missing and fleeing friends. Brothers far away recruit for the Welt-Post because they are happy to read it, each refugee and private citizen look forward to receiving it and read it with regularity, particularly in this time when thousands of your friends or father and mother are helpless in the face of a changing world and painfully seek out their family by giving you their address for publication in the Welt-Post so that lost relatives can be found and you then inform us where they are. The situation of the Volga Germans is still bad, many thousands remain helpless there and seek assistance; few will stand against the Grim Reaper. Do not allow yourself the perception that the situation has become easier there; Think! during the last 2 years half of all Volga Germans have starved and many still are hungry. Arise, help, wherever you can. The dear Lord will bless you for it a thousandfold. This I testify with hands outstretched to God and in the name of all Volga Germans. I ask you, please, help all of the brethren who hunger at the Volga.
With greetings to all, your countryman,
from Dönhof, Saratov Region
Frankfurt a. Oder Heimkehrlager
Barracks 41, 8, Germany
Frankfurt a. Oder
26 October 1922
Please also put this item in your newspaper.
I am looking for my brother-in-law Konrad Hamburg and family from Neu-Hussenbach, Samara Gouvernement, emigrated from Russia in 1904, also sought by my wife Katarina (Dinis) nee Hamburg from Neu-Hussenbach, daughter of Konrad Hamburg from the same place.
I further seek Konrad Loebsack from Neu-Hussenbach.
Of these, my friends, please reply by letter.
Heinrich Merker from Neu-Hussenbach, Samara Region
My wife is Katharina (Dinis) née Hamburg
Letters can be sent to the following address:
To: Heinrich Marker [which is it, Merker or Marker? - translator]
Frankfurt a. Oder, Heimkehrlager
Barake 41, Eingang 8, Germany
This translation provided courtesy of Hugh Lichtenwald.