13 September 1923

Die Welt-Post, Thursday, 13 September 1923

Page 5, "The Plain 'Truth' about the Clothing Distribution in Beideck, Russia"

6 August [1923]
To: Mr. Georg Reh Newark, New Jersey

     The day before yesterday Konrad Würtz came and gave me a letter to read that you had written to Jakob Grünemeier with a page added for K. Würtz. 
     I am the cchoolmaster in Beideck, a refugee from Poland during the war and a stranger to everyone here in Beideck. I was appointed as secretary for the American Food Products Commission as well as for the Clothing Commission.
     Because you so harshly insulted and accused Konrad Würtz in your letter, I feel obligated to step in and impartially clear up some things for you. You accuse K. Würtz of theft of the American clothing that someone from Beideck reported to you in a letter, yet we should look at it a bit more closely to see if it is so. I do not defend K. Würtz because he is my friend but because the vicious lies written to you have caused you to falsely judge and convict him and things are not as they were described to you.---
     I myself went with the drivers to Saratov, there were 9 carts that were authorized to pick up the clothing. There were, I believe, 38 bundles waiting in Beideck and the ones from Lincolnwere very well packed and during packing they were compressed by a machine. Of these there were only 2 bundles that had bindings cut and indeed had items stolen, but where? In  Saratov, or on the train, or on the ship, who can say?
     The other bundles packed in New York were poorly packed and not compressed. All of these bundles had been pilfered, though their packing wrappers had not been cut but rather unstitched, pilfered and sewn up again. One could easily see that they were half empty. Where did this happen? None of us had any such needle or twine with us so that we might pilfer the contents en-route, so the theft must have occurred before we received the bundles. 
     We arrived in Beideck with the bundles on Friday morning at 6 o'clock and they were delivered to K. Würtz at the storehouse and their condition was noticed by many people who came to unload them. The storehouse was locked and the key given to a church elder. 
     On the same Friday at 11 o'clock in the morning, Mr. Jacob Volz ordered the bundles to be brought to the schoolhouse and distributed. The individual packages before Pentecost, since many of the children being confirmed at Pentecost, who were needy, might have had clothing sent to them from America as confirmation presents. We had wanted to distribute the clothing just after Pentecost but instead the distribution began before Pentecost. 
     It was on that same Friday that the bundles were brought into the schoolhouse under my supervision and I saw that they were in exactly the same condition as when we had delivered them to K. Würtz. 
     We then opened the bundles and laid aside the individual packages from those for general distribution, and those individual packages that were found to have been pilfered, many of them only empty sacks with addresses but their contents all stolen. This was announced by Mr. Volz who then called these people in and allowed them to fill their empty sacks with items from the general distribution until they were satisfied. Satisfied? I say to you that these people would not have been satisfied if they had gotten the entire contents of the schoolhouse!
     Now, Mr. Georg Reh, I have already demonstrated that, in the first place K. Würtz could not have stolen anything because it was not possible for him to do so, the "how" and "when" are clear proofs of this. Secondly each person received his package before Pentecost, on Friday and Saturday, not after Pentecost as you wrote. You can confirm this from Jac. Volz's list where everyone personally signed that they had received their bundle. The date of the list will show you that it was before Pentecost. 
     In your letter you ask why we did not immediately give out the packages since they were individually addressed? I have already mentioned above the manner in which people received their things but your letter continues on stupidly, saying we should have issued the people their packages as soon as we arrived from Saratov. This you can inquire about from the people who did the packing. They will tell you that on each bundle there was only written: American Relief Administration, Mr. Jacob Volz, Saratov and the number of the bundle. Thus one could not see from the outside if there was anything inside for a Würtz, a Pabst, or a Trübelhorn. I am surprised that you, having already been in America for a long time, can still come up with such a stupid idea. I can tell you, Mr. G. Reh, that the entire controversy, envy, quarrel and discontent lies not with the individual packages but with the general distribution.
     Many people in America have written to their friends here and I have personally read many of the letters; that state: "We have sent you a package of clothing that you will receive from Mr. Volz and when you get it, do not just stupidly take it and leave because you should also be getting something from the general distribution packet that we put together and sent." And that is what the people did.
     On the Saturday before Pentecost, from the clothing for general distribution, over 40 of the poorest children being confirmed were given some clothing. The remainder of the clothing was to be distributed after Pentecost. Since there were some thousand items of clothing to be distributed, we wanted every family to get something but the Soviet government sent a representative and a secretary to our commission with an order that the clothing from the general distribution was only to be given to the poorer classes, those people who were better off and those who had received individual packages from America were to be given nothing and if the commission did not do this then the government representatives were to lock the Schoolhouse and report this to the Kanton and then the government would do the distribution itself. Like it or not, we had to follow the government order and not the letters from America.
     We, the commission, were not in charge of the general distribution, but only co-workers. The government representatives eliminated over 70 families from receiving anything from the general distribution. We are not to blame here. From this development came the hate, envy and discontent of the people. Since they could not avenge themselves on the government they vented their anger on us, the commission, by writing various defamatory letters to America and soon K. Würtz, soon the pastor, and soon one of the church elders were made out to be rascals and swindlers. 
     From the many slanders that were written, you Americans can imagine how many more we of them we heard here. You can go from house to house and ask everyone on the streets and you will not find a single person who was content with what he received. Everyone sees only this person or that who received good things while they only received a few ragged scraps; they all say the same thing over and over and thus it spreads throughout the village. The people are beset by terrible envy and discontent. My dear American friends, I can tell you in all honesty that it was 10 times easier for you to gather together these sacrifices of money, clothing and food, than it was for us to distribute the same. 
     Instead of getting down on their knees and thanking the dear Lord and you, they quarrel, slander, curse and lie. That is the deplorable fruit of your act of love, which has often caused you pain, and yet you still send it here out of love to assist us in this emergency in which the Lord has placed us.
     The rich curse the poor who should get nothing, the lazy who do not work but only wait for the Americans to clothe and feed them. The poor curse the rich who want everything for themselves and leave nothing for the poor. 
     Yes, come here yourself Mr. G. Reh and see if you can satisfy all of the people, or even a Volz, a Repp, or a Wagner, even if an angel came down from heaven it would not be able to deal with it all and make everyone happy. Yes, now that nothing more is coming from America it has become quieter in the villages and envy has almost stopped. ---
     I am sorry that I have had to write such a letter to you. I am not a hypocrite or a flatterer and I prefer to speak truthfully even if it causes you hurt. Forgive me if this letter has possibly offended you.
                                     E. Pritscher, Schoolmaster


Page 5, "Letters from Russia"

27 July [1923]
To: Heinrich Beck, Pendleton, Oregon

Dear brother-in-law and sister-in-law Kath:
      We inform you that we, except for my wife, are all still well. My wife still has the "Freieren" [that's what they call fever over there--Heinr. Beck].
      At last we have the great pleasure of telling you that the bundles of clothing that you sent in September 1922 have been received. We had been told that the bundles had been returned to the sender. We got busy and put together enough money to redeem one bundle which came to 1 billion, 200 million or the value of 25 pud of grain. Two weeks later we received the other 2 bundles without having to pay anything. We were annoyed at having paid so much for the first bundle but yet we were very happy and thankful for those valuable gifts. Altogether the 3 bundles are equal in value to 500 pud of grain.
      Brother-in-law Emmanuel sent us 45 dollars and brother-in-law Hartung also 12 dollars, with which each of us bought a goat and together we bought a camel. We thank you a thousand times! Now we have milk and an animal with which we can do our work.
      There are 4 men from Brunnenthal in America who have sent more help to their relatives than all the Brunnenthalers in America together have sent to their relatives. These 4 men are: Heinrich and Emmanuel Beck and August and Karl Aschenbrunner.
      For the camel we paid 5 billion, 700 million. For the 2 goats, 1 billion, 200 million. Overall we received 7 billion, 500 million rubles for the 57 dollars. 
      Brother-in-law Hartung and Lottchen, we received your letter in which you report that there is yet a further shipment of clothing and also some food for us on its way. 
      "Vetter" Joh. Georg Hergert and family are still well. He also has 2 bundles laying in the Post Office, one for Nagel's Mariechen, but they cannot redeem them without getting the money to redeem them with because there are silk items in each bundle and for silk one must pay a duty.
      We are still at Johann Konrad Grünwald's windmill. We also did a little sowing so that we are now able to get by.
      With best greetings from your brother-in-law and sister, 
                                            Jakob and Maria Spieker


This translation provided courtesy of Hugh Lichtenwald.