Letter to the Editor

"Letter to the Editor." Bowdle Pioneer, 26 October 2000, 2.

Dear Editor:

Thank you for you recent coverage of my book, Marienberg, Fate of a Village.

When I started the research on this village in Russia, now Ukraine, I was especially interested in several families from Bowdle, Java, Hosmer, Roscoe, and Eureka.

Jakob Ahl Sr., a Marienberg resident, was the village preacher/teacher/scribe and later a correspondent to the Eureka Rundshau, a newspaper published in the Dakotas in the German language in the early 20th century. People from Glueckstal/Neudorf/Bergdorf/ Marienberg area would come out to him and ask his help in writing and sending letters to America to where they knew their family members had immigrated. However, they were often not sure whether their relatives still lived, or where they had finally settled in North America. This was because during WWI nearly all postal contact was barred between Russia and America. Later, after the war, personal letters were often unaccounted for (not delivered, especially if any money was enclosed.) But letters to the newspaper and the publication of them was a successful alternative means of communication for the people in the villages. This allowed families to reconnect and resulted in aid being sent from America to those left behind in "Old Russia" during the Starvation Years of the 1920s and 1930s.

Jakob Ahl Sr. had 10 children. The oldest, a son also named Jakob, immigrated to the Bowdle area in the early 1900s. Jakob Sr. refers to his son in Bowdle in several of his letters included in my book. There once had been contact with the Ahl family in Bowdle, but as the years went by, correspondence dwindled and the connection was completely lost.

It is now, after researching the Marienberg book, that I have found a grandson of Jakob Sr., whose family was deported from Germany to Siberia in 1945. They survived the Russian trud army (slave) camps, and now survivors of the family live in Germany. His name is Helmut Mayer, son of Barbara Ahl, a daughter of Jakob Ahl Sr. His greatest wish is to now reestablish correspondence with any member of the Jakob Ahl Jr. family in America. Hence my letter.

If anyone personally knows any member of this family, I would be most grateful to hear from them. I will gladly help them reconnect with their Ahl relatives in Germany. The journey of the Ahl family through life is a true miracle and testament to the resilience of the human spirit and faith in God. Several Ahl siblings were deported to Siberia after WWII; one son was badly wounded in the German army; two, both school teachers, were executed by the Soviets in the 1930s on trumped up charges that they were enemies of the state; and of course, the most fortunate was the immigrant to America, Jakob Ahl Jr.

Best Regards,

Janice Huber Stangl

Reprinted with permission of the Bowdle Pioneer

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller