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Experiences in Germany

Willy Winger, Speaker
Heritage Luncheon, GRHS Convention
Bismarck, ND 14 July 1995

Transcribed by Norm Betland
Edited and Proofread by Marcie Franklund


We went into the restaurant, almost completely [side 1:001] the guy behind me said to the waitress, ‘Now what’s going on here?! What’s going on here?’ so she said, “Well, all the Germans are here tonight,’ then he said, ‘well, now that is a [side 1:003].’ [side 1:003] to write a paper on the life story where Ole and Lena went from Bismarck to Fargo on Interstate 94. By the time they reached Valley City they tend (?) to a place where two mules were standing outside the [side 1:006] and they never called on the old place so Ole leans over to Lena and says ‘Are they your relatives?’ so she said ‘Ole, I’m married to one!’ (Laughter)

Seventy four years ago I was born in Sarata, Bessarabia, but belonged to Ukraine in the eighteen hundreds. And as you all know, through 1800, all the Germans from Germany, Switzerland, Austria would fill up the Ukraine to the point where it was declared by the [side 1:011] chamber in Europe as the richest country in Europe at that time. It’s not that way anymore. And everything grew down there except for the bananas and the palm trees. So you can imagine there was a lot of sale through, so nothing you can buy was not through the Ukraine for the old continent (?). It was all fine and dandy until the 1930s or the 40s when the Soviets or the Communists took over and demolished it.

Now we were fortunate in Bessarabia until the June of 1940, when the Russians got back, Bessarabia gained what was given to Romania, after World War II (I) in 1918. So I [side 1:018] to let the Russia in October 1940, when Hitler took all the Germans from Bessarabia into Germany where I had to serve, of course, for three years in the German Army. There was really nothing I had to regret being in the German Army because I was very privileged through my languages in school, since I was an interpreter to the old-time service and was always behind the lines with the headquarters of the German Army, but then in 1945 [side 1:023] and I became a prisoner of war under the Allied Forces. From 1945 until about the middle of 1946, I been through hell from A to Z and I would not want anybody to know or even experience what my wife and I went through. So, after that, it became a little bit better. And then finally I got released in October of ’48 back into Germany again from France where I had to work more or less like a slave so to speak. But I learned three very important lessons in that fifteen months from May ’45 to ’46.

Never worry about tomorrow. Because tomorrow comes by itself and there’s nothing in the world you can do about it.

Secondly, don’t hate any person in this world no matter who they are or what they are, because you’ll [side 1:038] yourself more than the person you really hate.

And thirdly, believe in your faith in God because there is nothing else, that human beings can fix in this world, but God can do it. And that’s why I’m alive today because otherwise I would have died some fifty years ago just like my other friends and comrades, or whatever you call it.

Then, four years later, of course, we had the chance to come to the United States, after losing everything in 1940 in Romania or Russia, some of those things. The second time we lost everything in [side 1:046] in 1945, and the third time we lost everything in Germany again in 1952, before we got on to the ship into the United States. But they still did not help us out from another [side 1:049] to get help to get in the United States. And I will mention again only through the help of Almighty God. We by ourselves probably could never have done it. But it happened and we done it. We have now been in the United States for almost forty-four years. We are United Citizens for twenty-eight years and even approached me to speak [side 1:053] happened after allied forces when I was imprisoned there. But it’s the truth and I cannot get away from it and I cannot forget it either.

Therefore, a Mrs. Belita Tyler from Freemont, South Dakota together we [side 1:056] from Aberdeen, South Dakota. They wrote a book about our experience. I would like to tell you our experience [side 1:058]. But this way you can read everything in this particular book on the ironic way of life, which is right in the bookstore here, next door. If you want to have it signed, I will be in the courtyard here after the meeting to get it signed to everyone who wishes to do so. I would like to say and I will take, people do yourself a favor, get the book, read it, hear it, to your children, and grandchildren. Not very many people in the United States know what really happened fifty years ago except for the holocaust. Everybody talks about the Jewish people, but nobody talks about what happened to the German people. And more or less we all belong to [side 1:066] kind of people.

So, in closing, I would like to say, since we are in the United States, we got a second chance. We had a really beautiful Christmas, we’ve got a really wonderful family, and we thank God for everything that happened in the last forty-four years. And God forbid that none of your children or grandchildren has to go in life, through what my wife and I’ve been through. Because I would not want anybody to even know what it feels like, God bless you all. Thank you! (Applause)

It’s time in our program to do awards and recognitions. And the first person I will call on to work on that is Mr. Clarence Bauman.

Clarence Bauman: The Germans from Russia were not entering politics. Either way, I guess they did and they didn’t. But there was one person that did enter politics for many many years, and that person is here today, she is a German from Russia and comes from South Dakota, I would like at this time to ask Alice Gonder to the stage. (Applause)

As many of you don’t know, Alice comes from my part of the country, northern South Dakota. She was a school teacher, she was a merchant, she entered politics, she was in the government service for many many years as state treasurer, state auditor and she probably had a few more under her belt that I’m not even aware of. However, in 1872, a few families came into South Dakota through Yankton and in 1873, they came by the hundreds.

In 1973, it was a hundred years then that the Germans from Russia came into South Dakota. This was during the time when Alice, you were Secretary of State in the capitol of South Dakota. And I don’t know how this happened, because I did not learn that part of the story, but there was a commemoration on that day, on May 14, 1973, a proclamation was signed by Governor Richard F. Snipe. He was then governor of South Dakota, and it was one hundred years that the Germans from Russia had immigrated to South Dakota.

Alice, at that time, a picture was taken, and there are some North Dakotans on there too. There is a John Kramer from Linden, and Leroy Overlander from Dickinson, he was with the Germans from Russia, Mandy Goldbridge and Guten Bertz (?) from Freeman, South Dakota, and then you Alice, and another official candidate from the capitol, and the governor. Alice, at this time we would like to give you these framed pictures for you to take back home of that eventful day in South Dakota. (Applause)

Alice Gonder: Thank you, Clarence. If you can tell on the picture, there was one person in the picture that was built like a brick house, that was me. But what caused it was [side 1:107] more than anybody else when we decided we wanted to commemorate the 100 years. And then Mr. Kennedy. And as you can see, the big little one, that’s me. But if you want to talk about someone who really is a dedicated German from Russia, look at Clarence. This guy has worked eight hour days forever. But I do thank ya, I appreciate, and I’ll put it in my house so that everybody can see it. Thank you very much.

Clarence Bauman: And we’re going to continue this so that I don’t have to get off the stage and back on. Back in 1989, I was in Strasburg for our chapter meeting. At that time, I discovered a young girl about sixteen who entertained at the chapter meeting. She did such a good job we remembered who she was and we invited her to our convention in 1989. Her name was Dorothy Frank and coming to Bismarck in 1989, I thought it was the first time she had wandered away from Haag, North Dakota, where she comes from, but she chastised me and said, ‘No, Clarence, it was the second time.” She entertained us then and sang “I’ve been everywhere.” I lost track of you Dorothy, and I thought, ‘Hey, this might be a good time to see if you’re still around, and I called all the folks down in Haag and they said you had left. This is five years later and I found you in Jamestown. Now how did you ever get that far from home?

Dorothy Frank: Well, you know, they do let me out every once and awhile.

Clarence Bauman: Well, we made contact, and Dorothy is back today, to give us, probably, another rendition of “I’ve been everywhere,” or whatever you wish to sing.

Dorothy Frank: They let me out of the hospital for a day at least to entertain you. First of all Father Sherman, I want to tell you about Larry, who does live, I swear, I saw him down at Piggly Wiggly in Texas in the hobo section. I forgot my lederhosen, so a kind gentleman was so nice as to let me borrow his, there he is, there he is, let me borrow his hat so I could into the festivities. Um, like Clarence said, when I first started playing for Germans from Russia, it was a smaller group, it wasn’t quite like this and I didn’t know I was going to be this big today. It’s really nice to see this many people involved with the organization. When in high school, of course I didn’t get to travel much, I just went to school. But since then, I’ve had four years of college, and I’ve had a lot of time to travel around, and I’m in choir and band at Jamestown College and I had a chance to visit all of the United States including Europe. Last spring, the choir went over to Europe for a nine day tour. We sang in France, and we sang in Holland and Italy, and of course, Germany and Austria, which were definitely my favorites, being a good German Russian. And I want to try out my German a little bit. Guten tag!

[side 1:144-150]

Not only that, I’m not only excited about the wedding, but I’m also really excited that, Clarence took the time to look me up and ask me to come back again. I was really tickled that you remembered a little fifteen/sixteen year-old girl, who gets up and does her thing and thinks choir is just fun. Anyway, this week when I sat down and practiced this song I realized I had done it in quite some time and couldn’t remember the last verse. So I thought, ‘Well, I’ve been to quite a few places, I might as well try and write my own, and so I did and my cheat sheet is down here in one of my purses because I can’t remember what I wrote. So the last verse I’ll slow down a little bit and you can listen to some of the places, I couldn’t name them all, mostly states that I’ve been to. Here we go, I’ve been everywhere.

I’ve been everywhere man, I’ve been everywhere man,
I’ve crossed the deserts bare man, I’ve breathed the mountain air man,
Of travel I’ve had my share man, I’ve been everywhere man.
[side 1:160-162]

I’ve been everywhere man, I’ve been everywhere man,
I’ve crossed the desert bare man, I’ve breathed the mountain air man,
Of travel I’ve had my share man, I’ve been everywhere man.
[side 1:165-167]

I’ve been everywhere man, I’ve been everywhere man,
I’ve crossed the desert bare man, I’ve breathed the mountain air man,
Of travel I’ve had my share man, I’ve been everywhere man.
[side 1:169-171]

I’ve been everywhere man, I’ve been everywhere man,
I’ve crossed the desert bare man, I’ve breathed the mountain air man,
Of travel I’ve had my share man, I’ve been everywhere man.
[side 1:174-177]

I’ve been everywhere man, I’ve been everywhere man,
I’ve crossed the desert bare man, I’ve breathed the mountain air man,
Of travel I’ve had my share man, I’ve been everywhere man.

I’ve been everywhere man, I’ve been everywhere man,
I’ve crossed the desert bare man, I’ve breathed the mountain air man,
Of travel I’ve had my share man... I’ve been everywhere.
(Applause)

Now, Father Sherman was up here and he told a few jokes, but I’ve got one, but being a good Catholic, I can tell this joke without getting into too much trouble I think. There was this nun that went to a baseball game and she happened to sit in front three real obnoxious guys. The first guy says to his friend, he says, “You know what?” he says “I think we should go to Europe. Only half of the population in Europe is Catholic.” And the second guy says, “Well, I have a better idea. Why don’t we go to India? India’s population for Catholics is only one-third.” The third guy says, “You know what, I have an even better idea, let’s go to China. China only has one percent of Catholics in their population.” Finally the nun got so fed up and she turned around and she said, “You know what guys I have an even better idea. Why don’t you all go to hell, because there’s no Catholics there!” (Laughter)

Well when I was asked to come over and sing they requested two specific songs, “I’ve been everywhere” and also the “Hillbilly Auctioneer.” I’m just going to do it for you. It’s a story about a young boy who wants to become an auctioneer and does his best to do so. So here we go.

There was a boy from Arkansas
Who wouldn't listen to his Ma
When she told him that he must go to school.
He'd steal away in the afternoon;
Take a little walk and pretty soon
You'd find him at the local auction barn.
He'd stand and listen carefully,
And pretty soon he began to see
How the auctioneer could talk rapidly.
Well southern boys its do or die.
”I've got to learn that auction cry,
Gonna make my mark and be an auctioneer."

Twenty-five dollar bidder, and thirty dollar one,
gotta give me thirty, make a thirty,
bid another thirty dollar, well I got my thirty dollar
Well I got a thirty dollar bid

Thirty-five dollar bidder and forty dollar one,
gotta give me forty, make a forty
bid another forty dollar, well I got my forty dollar
Well I got a forty dollar bid

As time went by he did his best
And all could see he didn’t jam
He practiced calling them both night and day
Well you could often find him behind the barn
Workin’ up [side 1: 213]
And try again to take that auctioneer
[side 1:214-218]

Twenty-five dollar bidder and thirty dollar one
gotta give me thirty, make a thirty,
bid another thirty dollar, well I got my thirty dollar
Well I got a thirty dollar bid

Thirty-five dollar bidder, and a forty dollar one,
gotta give me forty, make a forty
bid another forty dollar, well I got my forty dollar
Well I got a forty dollar bid

Well from that boy who went to school,
There came a man who could let it cool,
And he came home a full-fledged auctioneer.
Well folks come from miles around
Just to hear him make that rhythmic sound,
That filled their hearts with such a happy cheer.
Well his fame spread from shore to shore,
He had all he could do and more,
Had to buy a plane to get around.
Now he’s the top in all the land,
Let's pause to give that man a hand,
'Cause he's the best hillbilly Auctioneer.

Twenty-five dollar bidder, and thirty dollar one
Gotta give me thirty, make a thirty
bid another thirty dollar, well I got my thirty dollar
Well I got a thirty dollar bid

Thirty-five dollar bidder, and a forty dollar one,
gotta give me forty, make a forty
bid another forty dollar, well I got my forty dollar
Well I got a forty dollar bid.

Y’all with me now. Here we go.

Twenty-five dollar bidder, and a thirty dollar one,
gotta give me thirty, make a thirty
bid another thirty dollar, well I got my thirty dollar
Well I got a thirty dollar bid.

Thirty-five dollar bidder, and a forty dollar one
gotta give me forty, make a forty
bid another forty dollar, well I got my forty dollar
Well I got a forty dollar bid.

Little bit faster!

Twenty-five dollar bidder, and a thirty dollar one,
gotta give me thirty, make a thirty
bid another thirty dollar, well I got a thirty dollar
Well I got a thirty dollar bid.

Thirty-five dollar bidder, and a forty dollar one,
gotta give me forty, make a forty
bid another forty dollar, well I got my forty dollar
Well I got a forty dollar bid.

One more time!

Twenty-five dollar bidder, and a thirty dollar one,
gotta give me thirty, make a thirty
bid another thirty dollar, well I got my thirty dollar
Well I got a thirty dollar bid.

Thirty-five dollar bidder, and a forty dollar one,
gotta give me forty, make a forty
bid another forty dollar, well I got my forty dollar
Well I got a forty dollar bid.

(Applause) Danke.

Clarence Bauman: Thank you very much; I couldn’t do anything that fast I tell you. That’s not what I heard! Let me tell you. You weren’t supposed to know about that. But when you said the one about the nun, I checked to see how many Catholics were in here, I think [side 1:230-233] and I’d like to call up our society president, Mr. Al Feiss.

Al Feiss: Okay, we’re going to get right to the awards. Awards are important because they recognize those people who have done something special, done extra, or gone out of their way to help our society. First of all we have George Bowman, with the obituary (?) award.

George Bowman: [side 1:240] I am withholding publication of my own obituary. Would Al and Lee Bert please come up to the microphone. This is the third year we’ve given this award. Our first year award was the Grand Forks Herald, and last year was Brookings Daily Paper. This year we decide to give an award to outstanding obituaries in weekly papers. And it’s after reading obituaries and I spend about a half an hour each day reading obituaries and some of them are really good. And especially in this paper, they are far above any other weekly paper in North and South Dakota. The Burt [side 1:253], the Emmons County Record, the [side 1:254] Pioneer, and the Selvy [side 1:254] Record. Publishers were Alan and Lee Bert. (Applause)

Alan and Lee Bert: I want to thank you very much for the award honor. I thank Clarence Bauman for his support along the way, although, I have Irish ancestry, he has brought us along with the German from Russia history and taught us a lot and we appreciate that very much. And also Michael Miller has taken us under his wing. I’ve also been a reader of obituaries since I was a little kid, and I guess what always interests me is that people later in life can find as much success and do so many interesting things. And we like to report that and recognize people who accomplish that. Thank you very much.

Clarence Bauman: Our volunteer awards are being presented by our office manager, Rachel Smith. And while Rachel is coming up here, let’s give her a special hand for all the work she’s doing at the headquarters.

Rachel Smith: Here we try to say thank you to all the volunteers who assist us in so many ways. I will not take the time to read our list of our volunteers because there are over 200 of them. Please stop over at the bookstore, I’ve got volunteer certificates for many of you people. I’ve got a list posted on the door. I’d like to hand them out to you. But I do have some professional awards. For the last few years we’ve been participating in something called ‘Someone Special Volunteer Award’. It is sponsored by the Clicks (?) radio station and the Dakota Awards here in town. And this year, I would like to give awards to Gwen Crisco, Judy Walker, Dale Vole, Al Feiss, and Dorothy Feiss, please come forward. (Applause).

Clarence Bauman: Hey Rachel, all these awards [side 1:289] I didn’t realize I was getting that one. One other thing, I think a lot of the volunteer awards, Rachel said you are asked to pick them, names are posted, and the names will also be published in the Heritage Review so you receive the recognition from the rest of the members. Our next award will be presented by George Bowman. I believe Professor Boswa was going to help, and this is the charter member awards.

George Bowman: And Professor Boswa will hand out your pins and give each charter member that wrote us a letter will receive a special booklet. So will all the charter members please come up. [side 1: 303] Irene is number one in our final. The second one is Laverne Neville. Number three and number six is Ardman and Elaine Bauer. Number eight is Rueben and Elsie Ether. Number eighteen is Kara Grestlaff. Number nineteen is Brother Placid Gross.

All these people wrote us letters and they’re published in this hundred page booklet. Number twenty-seven is Barbara Wald, who will receive it for Pius and Juliana Reese who are deceased. Is Barbara Wald here? Okay, if not we will mail it to her. Number thirty-two is F.C. Woolrich. Number forty-one member is Albert [side 1:319]. Al is here isn’t he? Number forty-nine is Louise Coltrane, who is number forty-nine. Is she here? If not we will mail it. Fr. Sherman, I gave him his book a couple weeks ago, so he just gets a pin. Father Sherman proofread this; I hope I had his letter in it. Number twenty-two, number twenty-two is a George Hawk. That’s right, he was at the head table. Fifty-two, Donna Bennerhorse. Number fifty-seven, Clara Ehock or her mother Catherine Ehock. Number fifty-eight is Mary Ehock. Charter member number sixty-eight is William and Jean Ogilve. Apparently they aren’t here, we’ll mail it. Number sixty-nine is Clara Ebocks, you get two? Number ninety-two is Richard Gulfmiller, I don’t believe he’s here is he? Okay Number...is Mike Miller, number ninety-seven is Larry Pratt, of Grand Forks, I don’t believe he’s here. Number ninety-eight is Major H.D. Wilderboost.

Number one-oh-five is L.C. Bop, is he here, if not, we’ll mail it to him or Clara can take it. Number 115 is Joseph Venner or Gwendolyn Venner, his son, is he here? Number 116 is Wade Gunther. Number 154, our own Deloris Green, spelled with an ‘O’ like it’s supposed to be. Number 180 is Irene [side 1:357]. Number 200 is William Wenslough, son of Colonel P.C. Wenslough. Number 206 is Carl and Anita Wagner. Number 252 is Dale Wall or Mrs. Dale [side 1:365], Dale’s sister. Number 254 is Donald and Clara Rotts. [side 1:397] will accept it for them. Number 259 is Rutina Miller Jr. Number 268 is our own Professor Arnold H. Martsoll from Fargo. Number 251, Margaret E. Lang from Minneapolis. Number 274 is Adam Garsinger, I’ll take his and present it to him next week up in Winnipeg. Our last one, number 291, Mrs. August G. Eeb. She’s 92 years old. Let’s form a second row over here, short people in front.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller
North Dakota State University Libraries
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
Libraries
NDSU Dept #2080
PO Box 6050
Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Tel: 701-231-8416
Fax: 701-231-6128
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Director: Michael M. Miller
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