Die Welt-Post, Thursday, 15 June 1922
Page 7, "Schoolmaster Würtz, a Welt-Post Reader Describes the "Wild Beast" in the Volga Colonies"
Alt-Dönhof, 30 March 1922
"God be praised, a day is again gone by. I am overcome with despair and I feel miserable this evening as I recall the previous day. Oh, how much poverty, how much misery there is still on the earth, in our starving region, in our poor Dönhof.
I believe about 200 people came to see me today. Most of these poor people came looking to see if there were not a "Poweska" or a food-draft. When they were told that there was nothing they went away from here with disappointed, despairing faces. Many a father and mother sighingly said "we haven't eaten anything in 2 or 3 days except a little pumpkin soup or water soup. My children are sick, my old father or mother is starving before my very eyes but I cannot help them."
Others came to register their dead. I already know what kind of death the registration will indicate, but it still wrenches my heart to hear the answer: starvation. And so it goes, not just for one day but day after day the same causes the same results, starvation.
Oh, dear reader I cannot recount to you with human tongue, cannot describe the agony, nor portray the hopelessness that a starving person feels as he gets weaker from day to day. The want for food ever larger, he cannot quiet the agonizing hunger. Hunger hurts but starvation...horrible!
Do you want to hear an example? A hair raising example?
A male child of 16 years is starving. The father who cannot stand to witness the death of his children wanders out into the world as if on a pilgrimage. The mother, crying at the bedside of her only son.
"Mother" comes a faint cry from the lips of her child, "Mother, I am starving. Find me but a little to eat. I want to first eat before I die!"
What is the mother to do? She knows that if she goes out in search she will find nothing. There is nothing to be had. The people have nothing more for themselves.
She cannot bear to hear the moans of her son so she goes and gets the very last thing that they have---a little pinch of salt and a stone for bread, as it is called in the Gospels.
The mother related this to me through her tears.
A member of the American Kitchen Commission came to me and related: Today we rationed out all of the food. The little children had themselves a bit to eat and had gone. The large wash kettle was scraped out but it still needed to be cleaned with water.. We were inside the house and all of a sudden we heard a commotion, a rumbling outside in the kitchen. I hurried outside. The following picture greeted me there: The bolted doors were torn off and on the large kettle hung a man and his wife, their heads hung deep inside the kettle scratching and gathering with their hands the last little bits of pulp. 10 or 20 people were standing around them looking at them with greedy eyes...the cause---this hunger.
Someone came to me and said "this so and so had a dog's hide today that was already a year old. He scraped it and cooked it for food."
Another person, Fr. Schm., it was widely reported, had caught the family dog and killed it (for food).
A third person came and reported that R.R. had killed a sick horse and sold the meat for 25,000 rubles a pound. Even at that price there wasn't enough to go around.
One picture after another passes before our eyes, each sadder than the others. I could, dear reader pass on to you yet many more such examples, but to what purpose? You would believe I took pleasure in it. I only want to bring before you a clear image of the atrociousness in which we are stuck.
Many remember and perhaps compare this with the tales of the 90's, how they there made it through with this and that. But, my beloved, forget that comparison. Every standard that one wishes to apply here is only a caricature of our misery and its proportions.
I want to speak of the numbers: 4 years ago there were 7,000 souls in Alt-Dönhof, today there are 4,500 remaining. Where are the others? Hunger, pestilence and misery have gathered them into the grave.
We had weeks in which there were up to 70 deaths, days where up to 30 occurred. We have dug mass graves and buried 12-16 people in each. Many were lain into the cold grave without benefit of mourning (funeral service).
After death the dead are brought to the funeral chapel in the churchyard and when someone asks, no one knows where the quiet sleepers are lain. Quiet one lays in the cold grave. Quiet with heavy heart one returns home. No hunger plagues them that sleep in the cold ground.
I say that from the greatest of miseries you can make the smallest presentations.
I also have to say that about the price of foodstuffs. If someone had said 5 years ago that the price of foodstuff would be so high we would have laughed at him.
More numbers: Unmilled grain costs 7 million rubles a pud (about 40 lbs.), millet 8, rice 9 million a pud. A pound of rye bread 160,000 rubles. Meat 130 to 140,000. An insured letter 23,000 rubles, customarily 8,000 rubles. A horse 50 to 60 up to 100 million, a cow, 30-40 million. Silk panties 100,000 rubles.
There are also cheap items. Houses are sold for 1-2 pud of grain. A straw roof can be used for animal fodder and can be had for 20 pounds, even 10 pounds of rye flour or baking flour.
One has to save oneself. Everything that is sellable is taken out to the Russian. Work clothes and Sunday best, bedding and curtains, furs and boots are traded for bread. Samovars, cooking pots, kitchenware down to the last piece---all serve to preserve life. Wagons, plows, threshers, finery, washing machines--the Russians now have them. There are people who have not one dish left.
Like a drowning man grasping at a straw so they grasp at each tiny bit here and there trying to get bread.
It has been reported that people driving sleighs in the fields in winter have been attacked by rabid wild animals. The beasts come ever closer--their horrible snorts and their fiery eyes creating more and more terror. Very soon they will attack the people here. What is to be done?
In such a predicament one takes an object and tosses it down to them. The beast stops and sniffs at it, as soon as it sees that the person has not given it anything edible it begins anew to attack the sleigh. One throws a second object, then a third--endless are the objects than one will throw away. After everything has been thrown down the wolf is still there always attacking the sleigh anew and the poor occupants. Such a sleigh ride often ends in tragedy--from one village man drives out, in another there comes only the terrified horses with an empty sleigh. In the fields one finds pieces of clothing and gnawed bones.
Such a rabid beast is among us here. Already many youths have bee devoured by him, many snatched from among us. Everything that can be, has been thrown down, as I have reported above--yet it remains always behind the "sleigh." Many have nothing left except their naked lives. The defend themselves in front of the beast with their blood, giving him everything. Will he preserve his naked life? Will he escape from this horrible monster?
Will he also last as some may have done before him? Will he overcome death from starvation?
What do you think, dear reader?
Will you not help to tame the wild beast that is among your friends before it snatches us all up, this hunger?
The spark of life is growing ever weaker, the hunger, the misery ever larger. Save us, Help us as much as you can! Apply all your strength and vigor, spare no sacrifice--Save your elders, your brethren, yes, your very wife and child from the rabid beast, from death by starvation.
We need help quickly. Since the 15th of November 1921 until 1 January 1922 there were 300 children fed here daily. From January 1 up until February 17 there were 1,400. From then on 1,900. Brother George Repp selflessly goes about his labor of love. Like a caring father he labors among his 40,000 hungry children. But the quieting of all misery---it has not yet been brought to an end. Transportation causes many problems with the regular feedings. Many sleepless nights has he spent in the rescue effort. Thanks to him for his efforts are spoken, thanks from many thousands of children's lips, from their parents and from us all!
For a short while Pastor J. Wagner came with him from Lincoln to help. Energetically throwing himself into the rescue efforts. Placing himself totally in its service. Not only corporeal need but also spiritual needs were healed. He laid counless heavenly remedies of God's word on many bloody wounds through his service. God bless the conscientious work of both these dear men!
Brothers and Friends! Help we have already received but we are still waiting for energetic help from you.
The American Relief Administration comes to you, reply forthwith, so that the money in America can be taken by them to enable the procurement of products to be passed out here.
A $10 draft is like a heavenly balm. Here such a $10 draft buys a 25 million food draft in Russian money.
The American Lutheran Council likewise does a large relief service--they have already clothed many naked children, fed many pregnant women.
The Volga Relief Society is the third and is in association with the others--helping, nursing us through this time of emergency with the other loving organizations. God bless this trinity, let no hindrance deter them, hand in hand going through their loving work.
Perhaps you are thinking: What's in it for us?
God will reward all faithful workers. Our prayers rise up and ask that you receive strength and blessings.
To my beloved Dönhofers!
Don't any of you understand. Your cost.
Know only that you from our beloved Dönhof, as hard working, frugal workers, have left to a land of work and of success. God has blessed many of you richly. Here languish your hungry friends. Many of you have parents, children, brothers and sisters and friends here. They are waiting for you to look toward them. Help you loved ones.
I beg in the name of a starving communtiy. You who have lived on lovingly in my heart. Help your friends!
Think about these words: "I will always remember my homeland," yet also recall our misery and our intense poverty.
Write your friends, send food-drafts to them. Should any of you not know the address to send the letter, send it to me. I will search out your friend and hand over your letter and anything else. Again, Help! Help! Quickly Help! Help so long as there is still time!
All Pastors, natives of Dönhof--Lind, Erbes, Steinmark, Strauch, Becker and others, I ask of you to work for your old homeland, make it come to pass, do not shrink from the task.
In the name of a starving community,
Alexander Würz, Schoolmaster
Page 7, "To the Volga Relief Society, Lincoln, Nebraska"
Alt-Messer, Soviet Russia
16 April 1922
Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection and the Life, is celebrated today by all christians on earth. Easter candles, Easter hopes and Easter jubilation. This is the lot of the fortunate people who inhabit our tiny earth.
But there is a patch of ground where there will be no Easter. There is a group of people who are without Easter candles and without Easter comfort for whom external and internal celebration has been extinguished. This area of the sad and misfortunate is the Volga Region and this people who are withering and failing are the people of the German colonies. These people who can "hardly breathe" have set their hopes on you, America, the land of plenty.
Our people with broken hearts and crushed spirits have only one Easter question: "When does the American Grain arrive?" And they saw this glad Easter message ring out: "The rescue is here!"
The community of Alt-Messer received 1,050 pud (37,800 lbs.) of "Welschkorn" (maize) for 1,500 souls in 1 week. We were no longer capable of fetching the grain from the station with our horses, we were forced to ask the community of Dietel to fetch the grain for us.
After receiving the grain we immediately proceeded to distribute it. The commission worked into the dark of night. It was a tragic scene that played out before our eyes as the emaciated specters selected your grain as if they were searching for gold.
And now our hungry farmers can confidently go out and put the spring planting in the ground. The sun once again shines its good will over the horizon of our sky.
We presently have very favorable weather, the sky sends us its dew nearly every day and we can again draw some deep breaths. On this account we send to you Americans our deepest Easter thanks for your charity, which you have provided and are still providing us; our children who number 1,350 and are now all fed, also send you heartfelt Easter greetings and kiss your hands with the gentle tears of their thanks.
Ach! When will it be Easter on this ground!? When will it be Easter in the impoverished hearts of these people!?
Easter will only come to our starving community if the people get enough to eat, if all the Holy weeks pass by, if the weeks of misery and sorrows come to an end, then can one again turn one's thoughts inward to the Spiritual Resurrection, then again can our withering people come awake in the Spirit of the Resurrection and regain the spirit and mood of Easter.
Our people celebrate Holy Week in their hearts and have fallen deep into envy and dissatisfaction which you Americans can read in the many letters from here. Do not believe rumors! Give full confidence to the American commissioners who were selected by you.
Only those not working in the Food Halls are expressing discontent, since the Food Halls are only for the children and were never intended for the adults. Do not let your American heart become embittered by this and rob you of your Easter spirit, and in spite of these rumors remain our rescuers and mercy givers!
Let you hearts henceforth beat for us at Easter.
With cordial Easter Greetings, Pastor Eduard Eichhorn
This translation provided courtesy of Hugh Lichtenwald.