2 March 1922

Die Welt-Post, Thursday, 2 March 1922

Page 2, "Walter, 30 November 1921"

Walter, 30 November 1921 
To: Johann Wendel Benner, Park City, Montana

Dear Uncle and Aunt:

I am your nephew Jacob Schlösser from Walter. (Illegible) ...the situation is very bad, full of misfortune (illegible)...in which we all find ourselves. "In a disaster one finds out who one's friends are" so the saying goes, (illegible)...but there is now a new saying "in a disaster on can count on one's friends" isn't that so?

Yesterday I was at the Chutor and in the evening visited cousin Christian. There I found an entire group of friends and relatives. The main topic around which conversation turned the entire evening was the famine and poverty with which we are plagued on all sides. Nowadays this is the only topic in homes during the long winter evenings because "Was der Herz woll ist, des geht der Mund ?ber" [perhaps: one speaks what is in one's heart??]. One searches on every hand for some way to help guide ourselves through the terrible misery but with every day one comes ever nearer to the realization that notwithstanding our strength, without outside help, the battle with this great famine will be lost.

The numbers of starving grow from day to day. Already many have died at home of starvation and this fate awaits many in the future. The following "picture" of hunger may describe for you how badly things stand with hunger in our colonies:

On the road wagons are slowly pulled along by lean and over tired horses, one behind the other. The wagon ribs are covered with raw hides like gypsy wagons and are fully loaded with the last belongings which are intended to be traded for bread. On the wagons sit children, old women and fathers; the younger ones march alongside. Daily entire caravans of emigrants are seen fleeing from hunger into the far countryside in order to search for work and bread, but few of these unfortunates who sell everything at hand for ridiculous prices achieve their goal. Already many of those searching for work and bread have starved to death; exhausted along the way, they lost all hope. Of these the many grave mounds along the roadside give temporary witness to. Many emigrants have met such a fate.

The others who come back after taking everything and spending everything are now reduced to begging and are themselves abandoned to the same sad fate.

In Walter there are many families that have been left by the wayside. With these we must share our meagre supplies. Cases have already occurred (not yet with us, Thank God) where hungry mothers slaughtered and prepared dogs and cats as food in order to save themselves and their children from death.

Others who could no longer bear to watch the suffering of their children simply turned their backs. One could relate an entire array of cruelties which were caused by starvation.

Many who were honest persons before the famine have become thieves and seize other's property in order to save themselves. Yes, my dear friends, that's how bad things are here with us. (illegible) ...All are needy, all are poor, some more, others less. The only hope remaining for us is the hope for assistance from other countries, especially from America, from where significant quantities of products have already arrived.

Two American Aid Commissions are already at work in the Volga region whose first priority is to provide assistance for the starving children. In some villages Food Kitchens for the children have alread been established and gradually this will happen in all the villages. We also expect to get a Kitchen in the future.

A week ago when I was in the district capital of Balzer concerning affairs of my profession, I had the good fortune to meet and get to know a representative of the American Administration "A.R.A." whose roots are from Norka, who has the task of providing special assistance to the colonies of the Bergseite. Among other things we learned from the aforementioned representative (Mr. Repp) that one can get special packages sent from America and he asked that if we had friends or relatives in America from whom we could expect assistance, that we should write to them and that we should inform our relatives in the Chutor to do the same.

To that end, I express my desire, in the name of everyone, through this letter, to applaud our American friends for their assistance, which is the intent of this letter.

It is, by the way, not the least bit annoying to me to resume our interrupted exchange of letters and Mama is especially happy about it.

Now a bit about us. We are still healthy and well, only we have become much older through the experience of the last few years. Our Papa is completely gray--a result of the food supply, thus things are with him as they are with most, also poor.

We are not yet suffering from hunger but we have been without bread for some weeks and as for cakes, we had forgotten what they tasted like a long time ago.

Our complete harvest this year consisted of: 28 pud (1,008 lbs) of grain of which 12 pfund (18 lbs) is for seed, 4 pud (144 lbs) of millet, 15 pud (540 lbs) of oats and 10 pud (360 lbs) of wheat from 6 pud (210 lbs) were held back for seed and the remaining 4 pud (144 lbs) milled and used as baking flour.

Our main sources of nourishment are vegetables: potatoes, cabbage, pumpkins and carrots which we primarily feed on. Supplies from earlier years are not on hand. In the spring during the difficult conditions the last of the seed grains were delivered. Because of seed shortage and the existing unrest and rebellions which plagued the villages during planting season, and because we were all called into service, we were often not at home and as a result the farms suffered from lack of attention. The spring planting was very minor and so the resulting harvest is also minor.

With cousin Christian things stand somewhat better but he has also not enough to put by because there was so little planted. Thus, dear uncle, if you look at the aforementioned numbers and estimate our supplies of produce and then consider that we have 10 mouths to feed, you will realize, without further explanations, that things are, in a word, bad, and that we are in need of some assistance.

As I mentioned above, this letter should be considered as a call for help from your friends in Russia. If you, over there, have not lost your feelings of love and obligation, if you have not completely forgotten your close relatives here by the flowing Volga, then you should be certain to let nothing stand in your way and send us something from your abundance. As Mr. Repp has explained, you simply register that which you can and want to donate with the previously named Commission. Indicate on a map where the donated sums or products are to be sent and afterwards one here can receive everything through the American Administration.

It is very unpleasant and very inappropriate for me to come to you and beg for help, dear uncle, but what am I to do? One searches with all ones strength and energy for means and ways to avoid the pitiful fate that has already seized hold of so many of our brethren and one must, on this account, sometimes go against ones natural inclinations. Therefore I beg you once again, hear my plea, which I bring before you in the name of your brothers and sisters, open your hearts (words obscured) ...and later, should times once again go well with us, we will gladly return everything with great satisfaction. We thank you kindly in advance for you kindness and wish all the best for you.

Still a bit more---From the Chutor in the next few days some families are leaving for America. Among them is your half brother Jacob Benner (who is the treasurer). If you are lucky enough to come across him, then you will be able to hear details from him about everything that has happened in Russia in the last few years that are not possible to describe in a letter.

We ourselves would get out of here and go to America were we not all bound up by service in different places. Our Johannes has been for 3 years in Balzer (with his wife who is a dentist). He has already nearly become a permanent resident there. I was also there last year. Presently I work as the Tax Inspector for our Rayon which makes it possible for me to be temporarily at home. Since the end of summer, Adolph is also mostly at home. He got married. I, as the eldest, have not yet married.

This past summer Walter was hard hit by cholera which caused the deaths of many. Some days there were 5 to 6 corpses buried in a grave. Our grandfather left this life this past winter and went to his heavenly rest. Our sister Scharlotte, whose husband did not return from the 1914 war, and her 10 year old son now live with us. Those are roughly, the conditions of our family.

I close with the wish that this letter finds you in good health. Our mama asks please, let us hear something from you soon.

With many greetings to everyone from all of us (especially Mama and Papa).

Your nephew, Jacob Schlösser

(Die Welt-Post Editor's Note: The above letter was given into our care for publication by our friend Johannes Benner here in Lincoln, who is an uncle of the letter writer.)


Page 2, "Extracts of Letters from Russia"

Mr. Johannes Schauermann near Ft. Morgan, Colorado sent us a letter that his brother Jacob Schauermann in Frank, Russia, wrote to his sons Jacob and Konrad Schauermann. It relates that the mother can no longer stand and can sit only with difficulty. For food they only have potatoes to last until March. Their meaning was that this is poor food for someone who is sick, which certainly no one can dispute. They must have assistance otherwise they are all lost.

The fact that people from America have helped their relatives over there has kindled hope in the Schauermanns that their friends will also help them.

Grain costs 250,000 and flour 350,000 rubles per pud (36 lbs.). A good horse costs 3 million rubles.

They have a millet mill but are forbidden to operate it. It is under Russian control and one can or may work there.

The letter is dated 10 November [1921].

There are people there who have no more supplies and winter is just outside the doors. Death by starvation is staring them in the eye.

For cooking only rye flour is used.

The cry for emergency assistance runs through the entire letter.

Mr. Heinrich Reineck in McCook, Nebraska, received a letter from his parents, who we assume live in Frank. In the letter written on 20 November they write that they are healthy but that many people had died in the spring, however it would take too long to list them all. They complain that they still have not received a letter from their children since 1918, but that through recent letters received by others they learned that they were alive and healthy.

Due to the bad harvest their supplies have dwindled to the point that they only have enough for 2 months.

Their nourishment comes from pumpkins, Gascha [millet mash] and Kernkuchen [cakes made of milled sunflower seeds]. "It's bringing our old gray hairs to the grave," they say. "Already there are people here who have received clothes and kitchenwares from American relatives and so we also ask about the possibility of support."

From Frank:

Mr. Conrad Eckhardt, a former mill owner well known to those from Frank and Walter, wrote to his sister Katrina Margreta Löbsack in Brush, Colorado, quite a long letter. It has been a year since he received a letter in Russia from here and a photograph from Carl Lebsack, his sister's son.

He writes: "Hunger, hunger, the greatest enemy of mankind, is striking down those with healthy hearts. It is terrible! The water land was taken away from us last year and now we can't see it. One cannot buy anything for money, only for clothing. Last year our orchard brought in lots but this year nothing. We dug up 2 1/2 sacks of potatoes with our heels. Pumpkins, sunflower seed oil, beans and lentils we have by trading our clothes, wagon, carriage, etc. The people of the Wiesenseite have consumed everything of help, there is now nothing left at hand."

In the previous year they were very well fed in the village. "I possess nothing more except my dear wife - no pig, no chicken, no dog, no cat. Dear sister, each time you put a little bite into your mouth, think then of your starving brothers and sisters in Russia. That which in former times we would not give to our cattle is now our food."

"Last week a decree was read to the community that nobody may emigrate."

"It is said here that all the Löbsack friends in America have collected a railroad car of food for their friends in the Franker Chutor. Don't you have a pound or even a piece of bread for us? Money will not help us, we are now all equal and free. Cash and banks no longer exist. All the mills and buildings have been taken away. One has no more property, everything has been placed under the control of the state. Everyone has land, even the women, but lack horse, plow, harrow - everything. The government promised to give us seed," so writes the former mill owner Conrad Eckhardt.

He would very much like to come to this country but is afraid that the strain of the journey and the hard work in this country woud be too much for his 57 years.

Last year they were still able to leave the village and go to another in order to provide mutual support. This they no longer do as their energy is sapped by the lack of food.

All the land has now been reapportioned and each family has their land together in one Ort[location].

This letter was forwarded by Carl Lebsack in Brush, Colorado.


Page 6, "From Wiesenmüller"

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.

[Translator 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.]

This translation provided courtesy of Hugh Lichtenwald.

Page 6, "Extracts of Letters from Russia"

From Kratzke:

On 10 December [1921] Mr. Johann Jacob Deines wrote a letter in the colony of Kratzke to his brother Adam Deines in Kimball, Nebraska, in which he thanked him for his letter and informs him that he is still healthy. "We still live," he writes, "but how?"

"If you were to compare our situations," he continues, "it would make you scream." Compare your clothing and your full bellies - here we are half naked and starving - certainly a strong contrast.

The Revolution, the long war and 2 harvest failures, one after the other caused hard times to follow. If people from Russia come to America and describe our situation you can believe and accept everything they say, and yet it has become 99 times worse.

As friend Deines was writing the letter he looked at their food and described: turnips, pumpkins, Oelkuchen [oilcakes?] and potatoes, of which we have plenty, but we have nothing else. Last summer it was even worse, we took grass, turnip greens and stinging nettles and cooked them for food.

Rye bread costs 6,000 and wheat bread 14,000 rubles per pfund (14.4 oz). An arschin (2 feet 4 inches) of gingham costs 10,000 rubles.

25 families have left from Kratzke, some going to Siberia, some to the Caucasus and some to America, too. The impoverished, who must remain, would gladly do so if they only had bread and clothing.

He harvested 15 pud (540 lbs.) rye from 3 desyatin (8.1 acres) of land. From 1 desyatin (2.7 acres) 3.5 pud (126 lbs.) of wheat. Watermelons they have aplenty but these offer no nourishment without bread.

Friedrich, the son of their brother "Jaschke" had been shot in the arm during the war, and he takes for granted that his brother knows that their mother is blind.


     Mrs. Annamaria Pister, born Barthuly, writes from Hussenbach to her brother Johannes Barthuly in Laurel, Montana who is from Neu-Balzer and had already gone to America before the war, leaving his wife behind until later, that his wife is now finally on the way to America. Mrs. Barthuly was born Katrina Margaret Popp from the village of Kautz
     Now, three months have already gone by since the start of her journey, thus Mr. Barthuly is of the opinion that his wife should already be in America. Traveling with her is their daughter Natalie and Mr. Barthuly's youngest brother Heinrich. 
     The letter from Russia was written on 20 November and is the first and so far the last information that friend Barthuly has received about their whereabouts. 
     He requests that all Welt-Post readers, especially however, his earlier village comrades from Neu-Balzer, to keep their eyes and ears open with regard to his family and to inform him in case there is anything anyone should find out about them. 
     Possibly the newly arrived wife from Beideck, now in New Jersey after a 4 month journey, knows something of these people. There you could provide a service of love, Mr. Balthasar Ostermiller. 
     Whoever knows anything about those sought after should write to John Barthuly, Box 611, Laurel, Montana.


Page 6, "Abstracts from Russian Letters"

From Norka:

On the 30th of November, Johann Georg and Katharina Feuerstein in Norka wrote a long letter of complaint and sorrow to their brothers-in-law Ludwig Schwindt and Philipp Scheidemann in Hastings, Nebraska.

In 1917 they had written to all their friends but six months later the letters all came back. Since that time they have heard nothing directly from their friends.

Their son Woldemar died in 1914.

Their oldest daughter married schoolmaster David Borgardt from Schwed on the "Wiesenseite."

"I labored at the mill," writes Mr. Feuerstein, "but for now the mills are all quiet because there is nothing to mill. Thousands of people walk around like ghosts and die of starvation. The bells toll continuously. Many people are buried without coffins and others lay in the hedges and pathways and are not buried at all.

The emergency is terribly widespread. The people have nothing in them and nothing on them."

One pud (36 pounds) of fruit today costs as much as one paid earlier to buy 5,000 desyatin of land (135,000 acres). One has to have a wagon full of money in order to do anything.

Those who planted potatoes in their backyard gardens, have by most accounts, had them stolen. The people eat only once a day and in spite of this they only have about 2 months of provisions to sustain their lives.

Much has been spoken about foreign aid. George Repp from America spent 2 hours in Norkaand promised to open a kitchen to feed the children.

Children sit naked behind the ovens until their raggedy shirts are dry.

They would be happy with that which one formerly fed to the pigs.

Wholemeal rye bread or semolina for the production of beet soup would nourish them if only they had enough of it.

[Translator Note: "the bells toll continuously" refers to the tradition of announcing the death of a parishoner by tolling the parishoner's age in years on the church bell.]


Page 6, "Extracts of Letters from Russia"

Hussenbach, 8 November [1921] 
To: Johannes and Annamargareta Wagner, Hastings, Nebraska

Dear Brother-in-law and Sister:

We inform you that we received the letter you wrote to us with great joy after waiting in anticipation for so long. Now we know that you are still alive. When one hears nothing of one's friends for a long time one imagines all kinds of things.

When your letter arrived we were in the fields putting together fodder for the cattle, then came Father and said: "Kath., What do you think, I have a letter from America." Then I said: "Thank God that they are still alive!"

With us things are going very poorly due to the shortage of food and clothing. We are still healthy. Mother would very much like to see you again in this life. If this should not happen, then we wish that after our struggle we will see you in heaven where there is no more sorrow, no more famine and no more parting.

Be a thousand times greeted and kissed in spirit from us, your blood relatives,

Georg Jacob and Kath. Schwarz


Translations provided courtesy of Hugh Lichtenwald.