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Minoter Visits Relatives Back From Siberian Exile

Lund, Leonard. "Minoter Visits Relatives Back From Siberian Exile." Minot Daily News, 6 September 1975, 10.


Joseph Schmalz, 229 8th St. SE, has returned from a sentimental journey to Germany, the original home of his ancestors, and a visit with three aunts, two of whom he thought had died in Russian exile in Siberia.

"This was the greatest surprise of my life," says Schmalz, who flew from Winnipeg July 23 to Bremen by way of London before taking the train to Wilhelmshaven on the North Sea in West Germany for the visit.

Schmalz, fourth in a line of six generations to carry the same name, became acquainted with three sisters of his father, a former blacksmith at Karlsruhe who moved to Minot in 1942 to work for the Great Northern Railway.

His father, also Joseph Schmalz, was the only member of a family of 15 children to leave Strassburg in the Ukraine in the spring of 1908 for North Dakota. He came to the U.S. to avoid service in the Russian army.

During the Communist revolution, starting in 1917, Schmalz corresponded with his family and assisted them through their hardships in spite of the fact that he had nine children of his own.

Two small brothers, died in 1918, one of them succumbing to tuberculosis. Malnutrition was the main cause of both deaths, Schmalz said.

Having lived through the long period of terror under Joseph Stalin, the Schmalzes, like other Germans in the Ukraine, welcomed Hitler's forces, when they invaded the White Russian area in World War II.

But when the Germans were forced back, whole villages of German-Russians, including Kandel, the father's birth place followed the Nazis back to Poland with only a few of their personal belongings.

Some of the displaced Germans from Russia moved on to eastern Germany only to see that area eventually come under control of the Soviet Union.

Those who returned to Russia or who remained in the Ukraine were sent to Siberia by Stalin after the end of World War II.

Efforts to contact his father's people paid off for Schmalz when he reached one of his aunts, Mathilda Reinhardt, three years ago in Wilhelmshaven.

Her son, Alex, a tailor, had succeeded in getting his mother, displaced after World war II, out of Siberia after Stalin's death.

With the relaxation of Russian controls under Leonid Brezhnev, Communist party general secretary, Alex also brought two sisters, Emma and Emily, and two brothers, Frank and Adolf, to Wilhelmshaven.

Two other aunts, believed dead, recently were permitted to leave Siberia. They are Rose Mastel and Emily Scholmier.

But Mathilda still has two sons, Leo and Josef, and a sister, Helen, youngest in the Schmalz family, in Siberia.

Helen was born after her brother, Joseph Schmalz, left for North Dakota.

Schmalz, on his visit, was advised by his aunts that conditions in the Omsk area of Siberia, where they still have relatives, have improved somewhat but people can own nothing.

Transportation remains primitive and living conditions are hard, they said.

Devout Catholics, such as the Schmalzes have been for centuries, have no religious freedom. They are permitted no churches but they do hold services clandestinely in their homes. In the larger cities, however, Catholics do have churches, relatives advised Schmalz.

For the aunts, life in Siberia was rough, for they served as peasants on the land and, as a minority, had few rights under Russian rule.

In 1937, Rose's husband, Josef Mastel, was taken from the Ukraine by the Communists. She never saw him again. Rose, herself, was in prison for 10 years in Siberia.

Schmalz' aunts said the German people worked in the woods and mines and on the railroads in the Siberian cold.

But in spite of everything they have clung to German traditions which go back to Alsace-Lorraine in Germany.

For Mathilda's son, Frank Reinhardt, the Russians provided training as a civil engineer.

In spite of the fact that his training provided him with more advantages, Frank and his wife left Siberia a year ago because they wanted to provide religious training for their two sons and two daughters.

Unlike the parents, their four children have grown up in Siberia without any knowledge of the German tongue but speak Russian fluently, according to Schmalz.

When in Germany Schmalz met another Minoter, Fred Merck, who is stationed as an American civilian at Ramstein Air Force near Frankfurt with his wife, Kathleen, and son, Leon, 14.

Mrs. Merck is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Schiff of Norwich. Two other sons of the Mercks, Kevin and Craig, now in Minot, will join their parents later this fall in Germany.

With the Mercks, Schmalz went to the Karlsruhe area of Germany to trace an ancestry common to many German Catholics from Russia around Karlsruhe, Balta, Selz, Harvey, Orrin and Rugby.

On tombstones around Karlsruhe, Germany, they found such names as Schmalz, Walder and Klein, ancestors of persons who had migrated to Russia largely in the early spring or summer of 1808. Their migration as a group resulted from an invitation of Czar Alexander I in February 1804.

German families arrived in the Ukraine in parties of from 50 to 100 families in wagon trains pulled by horses or oxen to farm land which had been untouched by man for many decades.

In an area located between the Bug, Dniester and Pruth rivers, Germans settled in three districts where they started villages carrying the same names as those they had left behind.

Colonies included Strassburg, Baden, Selz, Kandel, Elsass and Mannheim in the Kutschurganer District, Muenchen, Rastad, Katharinenthal, Karlsruhe, Speir, Landau, and Sulz in Beresan and Josephstal, Franzfeld, Mariental and Klein-liebental in Liebental.

Some of those names now designate German-Russian settlements in Pierce, McHenry, Wells and Emmons counties.

In the Ukraine, however, virtually all of the German settlements have been depopulated and the former German villages and settlements now carry Russian names.

When the Soviets proclaimed the "amnesty of the Soviet citizens who had collaborated with the occupation forces during the great patriotic war of 1941-1945" the German-Russian people were compelled to sign two declarations, says Dr. Joseph S. Height in his book "Paradise on the Steppe."
These were:
1. To renounce all compensation claims for the losses they sustained at the time of deportation and expropriation.

2. Not to return to their former villages.

Joseph Schmalz, the first one known to carry the name, was a great-great-grandfather of the Minoter with the same name.

He left the village of Kapsweyer near Karlsruhe, Germany, and arrived in the village of Kandel in the Odessa area June 22, 1808.

One of his sons, Michael, had a son, Joseph Schmalz, grandfather of the Minoter and third generation blacksmith in the family. He served in the Russian cavalry from 1881 to 1887 and died March ll, 1944. He is buried in Strassburg in the Ukraine. His widow, the former Katharina Hager, was exiled to Siberia after the war and with thousands of other Germans walked 1,100 miles. She died in 1956 and is buried in Siberia.

Joseph Schmalz, the first in America, was born in 1887 in Kandel. He served as an apprentice blacksmith under his father, a stern disciplinarian, without pay before leaving for America in 1908.

With a $300 loan from a Jewish friend, Schmalz slipped out of Russia to avoid military service and left Libau, Latvia, August 11, 1908, his 21st birthday. He travelled to New York aboard a cattle steamer from Germany.

After working as a houseboy at Leo House in New York for a time, he saved enough money to reach Selz, where he had an uncle, Michael Hager.

Schmalz worked on a farm in the Selz area for Franz Hegel until his marriage in September 1912 to Juliana Neiss.

They rented a farm from 1912 until 1917 in Alexander Township of Pierce County until he started a blacksmith shop in Karlsruhe in 1917.

From 1942 until his retirement from the railroad in 1956, the Schmalzes lived in Minot. They purchased a home in Karlsruhe until entering a home for the elderly in Minot in the fall of 1969.

From the spring until the fall of 1970 they were back in Karlsruhe before entering the home for the second time. Schmalz died April 20, 1971, and his widow on February 13, 1971. Both are buried in Sts. Peter and Paul Cemetery at Karlsruhe.

Joseph Schmalz of Minot and his brother, Alex P. Schmalz of Bismarck, a former Minoter, have researched much of the background history not only of their family but of many other German-Russians with whom they have ties.

True to family tradition, Joseph has a son, Joseph Jr., and he has a son, Joseph VI, the sixth person in a direct line to carry that name.

Reprinted with permission of the Minot Daily News.

Joseph Schmalz points to an area in Siberia where he still has relatives. Others have been permitted to migrate to West Germany. Mr. and Mrs. Fred Merck and son, Leon, 14, visit a vineyard near Karlsruhe in an area from where many Germans migrated to South Russia in 1808. Merck is from Minot and his wife's parents live at Norwich.
Frank Reinhardt, Schmalz' cousin, who was exiled with his family as a small boy, recently was able to leave Siberia with his wife, Clara, and four children for Germany in order to provide them with religious training.
In Germany Schmalz visited aunts, two he thought were dead and another sister of his father. They are, from left, Emily Scholmier, 77; Rose Mastel, 81, and Mathilda Reinhardt, 78. Emily and Rose, believed dead, arrived in Wilhelmshaven from Siberia just prior to Schmalz' arrival.
Schmalz' grandparents were Josef and Katharina Hager Schmalz. They survived the Communist revolution. He died March 11, 1944, at Strassburg in the Ukraine. His widow had to walk almost 1,100 miles to Siberia where she died in 1956.

 

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