Interview with Herta Schaible
Heubach, Kreis Schwabisch Gmund, West Germany
April 20, 1960
Extracted and condensed from a tape recording made
about April 20, 1960. The person being recorded is Mrs. Herta
Schaible, wife of Theodor, grandfather Fred Schaible’s nephew,
the son of his oldest brother, (half-brother) Jakob Schaible,
and the brother of Luise Krause (nee Schaible). Recording was
made at her home, a displaced persons camp in Heubach, Kreis Schwabisch
Gmund, West Germany.
MGM: Recorded after Herta, Theodor, her son Ernst,
and a girl Ernst was courting and I had been to see her folks,
named Meilinger. Herta is the wife of Theodor Schaible, the son
of Jakob Schaible, who was my grandfather’s half-brother.
(Jakob is Luise’s father.)
HERTA: My maiden name was Mientz and I was from
Paris, Kreis Ackermann, Bessarabia. Theodor was from Klostitz.
I did not know my father-in-law. He had died. I knew only Waldemar,
We had seven children, Rudi, Helena, Jakob, Edwin,
Anna Mariechen, Elsie and Ernst. Four are now living, except that
I don’t know about Rudi. Is he dead or is he in prison?
We left Bessarabia in 1941, were placed in a lager
(displaced person camp) until 1942. We had to leave the lager
in 1942 because the Russian enemy was coming close so we went
to Grandmothers (her mother) in Wattergau, near Posen, Poland.
I was in a “front” lager because my husband was an
interpreter during the war. My parents had colonized in Poland.
The lager leader said those who had relatives nearby could go
to them. I went and stayed with my mother. My father had already
passed away. Rudi had to leave to go to Posen to the Wehrradions
Lager. (Wehr-rad-di-sions Lager.) This was not military but a
course of study for the youth. We had to flee and we no longer
knew what happened to him. He was not on the front. He had to
go to this school. My mother and I had to flee. They brought us
to Berlin, always in front of the enemy. From Wattergau, or Posen,
Rudi disappeared, about 1943-44, and since that time we had had
no information about him.
Theodor did not find us until after the war and
then only because Theodor and I had money in the Deutsche Bank
(German National Bank). After the war, Theodor went to the bank
and wanted to withdraw the money. We could even then go to any
location and do so. He was informed that “your wife has
also just withdrawn 500 D. Marks.” When he asked in surprise
“Where is my wife,” they said “She is near Berlin.”
So he wrote me and from that we made contact. We asked him to
send us a permit (zuzugsgenahmegung) so that we could be permitted
to come to the West Zone.
Theodor went to the military in 1942 as a Russian
and Romanian language interpreter. He served in Siberia and Yalta.
He was not a military man. He worked with the Secret Police.
Lena is the oldest daughter-1930. She lives in Nemscheid.
Elsie-1936. Ernst-1938. Theodore in Bessarabia was a teacher in
the public school. He was not a state teacher. He was a community
teacher. He also at times served as a preacher.
Reichs Deutsche Commission bussed us to Ismeihl
and from there up to the Donau by ship, and then again by bus.
(Herta, the two-boys, two girls and her mother.) The first lager
after Wattergau (Posen) Poland was at Dresden. We were in so many
after that, I cannot remember all the many names. My parents and
my older brother had colonized in Wattergau, Poland. During the
war we were always in a lager from 1941 on, ahead of the Russians.
Theodor did not know where we were from 1944 or so on, from the
time the Russians overran us. He found us again in 1947 or ’48
here in Heubach where the authorities had sent us. I was in Jenickendorf
at the end of the war. When I got there Theodor was in Ansbach
at Luise’s. From there he had found us in Berlin. He sent
us the papers. We wanted to go to Ansbach but we had to stay with
the transport which went to Stuttgart. After two days in Stuttgart,
I sent Lena to get Theodor, who was waiting for us in Ansbach.
Theodore and Uncle Albert, Tante Lena’s husband, came here
to Heubach. Albert is now in Canada, Lena in Elwangen. From Stuttgart
we came here to Heubach.
We have experienced much in our lifetime. We did
not have to leave. The Russians agreed with the Germans to let
us out with the money from sale of our belongings. The present
Germans must now pay us for the property and wealth which was
mailed to Germany through the Reichs Commission. We have thus
far received three payments of DM 5,000, 500 at a time, and we
are due more shortly. I had a lot of money from selling all my
beds and family furnishings, etc., to the Russians and to the
Bulgarians. I got a lot of money from the sale. The property and
wealth which I had received from my parents alone totaled 65,000.
I received everything for the house from my parents when I married,
being the only girl. The money from all the things I sold, I took
to the Deutsche Commission who collected the funds and sent it
to West Germany. About 1939 we started to sell and send wealth
to Germany. Germany said they wanted to return all Germans to
the Third Reich. Not all Germans left. Theodor’s sister,
Katie, stayed there and married a very good man, a Russian, but
things don’t go well for them. They must do as Russians
say. We have had only two letters from them, right after we arrived
here. Now they dare not write. One of the letters was from Katie,
the other from her daughter, Celia.
Theodor has been in the hospital since July 19,
1958, for the second time because of diabetes. First in Tubingen.
We have lived here in Heubach for nearly 15 years. In 1953-56
he was in the hospital, for two years he was home and now again
for two years.
Things would have been terribly bad for us, no garden,
nothing to eat, if it had not been for what we received from your
relatives in America, things would have been much worse. All I
had when we arrived here in Heubach, was 2 dishes and 1 cup. When
we came here we had to have a permit to buy three more plates,
another to buy a coffee pot and so on. A permit was needed for
everything. When we left Jenickendorf (50 km from Berlin) I had
two suitcases of stuff.
When the Russ came to Jenickendorf we went to the
cellar where we had to stay for 14 days. If we went out the Russians
were immediately after us. I had the two suitcases of stuff then
and a few bedclothes. One night 6 or 7 Russians came down. One
ordered me to come out to get some water. It was midnight. I said
I won’t go out. He took his gun and held it against my heart
and threatened to shoot me dead. I told him to shoot, I have no
fear. He could have shot me dead but I was not afraid. So he took
the gun butt and kept hitting me on the head with it. Then he
asked me again and I said no, you can beat me to death but I won’t
leave the cellar. He fired shots into the ceiling so that the
plaster fell down. He swore at me and again threatened to shoot
me. Then he wanted Lena to go with him, but I would not permit
it. So it went on every night. Seven or eight would come in and
take other young girls out of the cellar. We really experienced
Another came in and promised me, if I told him which
they were, to protect my suitcases. I thought he was a good man.
Two days later he came back with seven others and, after hitting
me in the head, told the others to take our suitcases away. All
we had left was the clothes on our backs. My daughter, Lena, had
so many lice on her head it looked like someone had sifted a sack
of flour over her head. We had no other clothes to wear. We had
to stay in the cellar for three weeks. (This all happened in Jenickendorf
with the passing of the front.) After that a housewife gave us
a bunch of clothes which I remade for myself and the children.
When we came here my husband wrote to you in America
and then we received clothes which I remade. Otherwise we had
nothing. Theodor went to Blau-Bayern where he wanted to work as
a teacher but he became sick with diabetes and he couldn’t
The first money we earned was by our daughter, Lena,
who went to work in a factory. She was the provider for us all.
Since she was out of school she was able to support us until Papa
was able to get some money. All the furniture in the house was
bought by my children from the money earned. I could not work,
nor could Papa, so the children provided. They always gave us
all their money and we made do. After Ilse finished school and
then Ernst they both worked. We were able to give Lena a lot of
the household things she needed when she married. We, of course,
were heavy savers. I can save, and I saved for my children. Ilse
did not get much from home when she married but she told me that
she did not need it because she had received much from her mother-in-law.
Her husband is an only child and he gets everything.
Oh, God, we had to go through a lot. If your help
from America had not come it would have taken all God’s
mercy. But your relatives, your mother Bertha, and Matilda and
Jacob and Fredrich (Grandpa). Our first package came from Uncle
Jacob. He sent Lena such a very nice coat, a wonderful coat and
me they sent a knitted dress. We were so pleased. We were living
at the time in the front unit of this lager when we received the
package from Uncle Jacob. We did not know what to do for such
happiness because we were again able to dress ourselves. The girls
had no coats. We had no money to buy. Our first concern was always
with getting enough to eat. So is it on this world, so was it,
so pitiful was it for us.
Marvin Schaible was here about four years ago, just
during the time that Ilse became engaged. Papa was in the hospital
at Duttenstein and unable to go to Ilse’s engagement. Marvin
remained here with Lena and Ernst. Ilse and I went to Hambug to
her in-laws for the engagement. Papa was also not present at Ilse’s
wedding and we were very sad. They had promised him at the hospital
that he could go home but then they said no. He was home for Lena’s
wedding which was in Hamburg.
The first American to visit us was a Mr. Dietrich
who studied with Uncle Jakob. He brought along another American,
a big man named Darius.
I have often said that I too would like to go to
visit America some day. My oldest brother’s wife is now
in America with her children. I would like to go many places.
When I was single I did not want to go. My father was a farmer
and I had to work in the fields in those days. Now papa is a teacher
and I have not had to work in the fields. The land we visited
today was very much like our old home. I felt very much at home,
it was so even and no hills. It was like this also in Posen, Poland.
If Germany had not misplayed the war we would be
in very good position. All those who were at the front received
their own homes. But all would be right if I only knew where my
child who is missing is at, my Rudi. If I knew that then I would
be happy. (Do you still have hopes that he lives?) I won’t
give up that hope until I die. As long as I live I will not give
up hope. He was not yet 17 years old when he must leave. I wrote
him once asking if I should send him a package as I was doing
for Papa. He wrote back that I need not send anything, he was
receiving good provisions. That was his last letter. Then the
Russians came and everything fell apart. We were sitting evenings
with my mother and sister-in-law, the one who is now in America.
The day before we had received word to prepare to receive refugees.
That evening at 10:00 my sister-in-law had just said she must
go home (she lived only a little ways away) when suddenly there
was a knock on the door. It was already so that one was scared
that the Russians would come soon and my sister-in-law said that
she was afraid and that it was surely a Russian. My mother went
to the door and asked who was there. It was a boy from the village.
He said hurry you must leave tonight. So instead of taking in
refugees we had to pack and become refugees ourselves that same
evening. That was in Wattergau in Poland.
From there we fled to Berlin. For eight days and
nights without interruption we drove by horse and wagon. Each
village traveled as a group. After short rest stops to feed the
horses we kept on with planes circling overhead. It was eight
days before we found a camp which could take us all. That was
at Yanickendorf, near Berlin. We were there about a month before
the Russians finally came in at night. The mayor of the village
in which we lived would not yield to the Russians so they set
fire to half the village. So we cried to our landlady to put out
a white flag because we did not want to lose our lives because
of the mayor. Then our Lena took some white bed clothes, climbed
to the top floor of the house and waved the white flag out of
the window. We did not want to die as had many others.
After the Russians came through and settled the
war and war times ended, many people were fleeing to the West.
Then Papa found us and we told him not to come but to send papers
so we could come to him. He sent for me, my mother and also for
Rudi. But that took a long time. We had been at the Commission
which had arranged for our travel thus far and pleaded for a hearing
for two days. Then Lena finally said “Now I am going in
the back way (she was only 16-17) and see the men.” She
did go in and when they asked her what she wanted she said “I
want to leave, I want to go to my papa.” Then they said
what do you mean coming in the back way. They still did not want
to give her the papers, so she said I suppose if I brought you
a piece of butter then I would have my papers right away, but
I have no butter. I would be happy to if I had something to eat
myself. She was only a child so they finally gave her the papers
for us all. We were able to get on the train for the trip to Stuttgart
which took eight days. We had to fight well before we finally
came to our Papa. My dear God what we had to bear. What I had
to offer for my children and what they all had to give up to get
here and what we had to put up with the Russians. That was my
good fortune, that I could speak Russian. I can speak Russian,
German and Romanian. It would have been much worse if I could
not have spoken Russian. When they swore at me I swore back. I
told them what do you think, I too am Russian. I come from you
We had lived by Dobrich in Romania for six years
while Papa was a teacher. Dobrich was near Konstanz, Romania.
In that time I, of course, learned much. Russians would come and
want to buy so one was able to learn. I can understand every word
of Russian and Romanian, but I am forgetting how to speak.
Paris was strictly a German colony. There were colonies
of German, Russian and Bulgarian, but they did not mix. The land
belonged to the Russian first. Then in 1914 the Romanians took
it over. Now it is again all in Russian hands.
For all practical purposes all Germans left when
we did. The 14,000 Germans from Bessarabia who were at the reunion
in Stuttgart were only less than a tenth of the total. All the
people in Paris (more than 1,000) and Klostitz left. On my side
all left. On Papa’s side, Tante Katie and Luise’s
two daughters stayed and married Russians. Two husbands died in
the war. The other was married only a short time and he died.
I heartily greet your grandfather, that he was so
friendly and wrote you to visit me. I say many thanks for your
visit and that a friend from the U.S. has come again. I greet
also your mother and all the other relatives. I will hope that
more will come to see us. I am happy to receive them and to receive
them with what I have.
Today was such a nice trip. Papa was very happy
to get away today. But tonight he will suffer. I do not believe
he will sleep tonight.
(Day after tomorrow I will visit L. Krause)