North Dakota's former Congressman Otto Krueger's nephew, Paul Krueger, from Germany and Siberia Visits NDSU Campus and North Dakota
April 15, 1996
Paul Krueger who immigrated from a village near Omsk, Siberia, to Siegen, Germany, in 1994, is coming to the United States for his first meeting with his American Krueger relatives in May. Paul and his wife Anna, who will visit Fargo-Moorhead and NDSU May 2-7, will be hosted by Paul's second cousin, Marilyn Lenzmeier, and Michael M. Miller, Germans from Russia Bibliographer at the NDSU Libraries.
The Kruegers will review the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at the NDSU Libraries which is one of the major resources in North America for Black Sea, Bessarabian, and Crimean German research. Miller will conduct oral history interviews with the Kruegers. Filming of their visit will be done in cooperation with Prairie Public Television.
During their visit to North Dakota, the Kruegers will travel to Fessenden on May 4-5 to see the area where five of Paul's uncles lived and where Karl and Mary Krueger homsteaded in Wells County. There will be a program and reception open to the public at the old school gymnasium in Fessenden from 1:30 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 5. At the reception, Paul Krueger will speak about his difficult life in Siberia, and Michael Miller will assist as English translator.
On Saturday, May 4, the Kruegers and Miller will visit the Harvey Public Library. Paul Krueger will speak from 2-3 pm about his life in Siberia followed by a public reception. People are welcome to meet Paul and Anna Krueger of Germany and Michael M. Miller of NDSU. The library events are free and open to the public.
Paul's father, Bernhardt Krueger, was only 13 when he watched his 19-year-old brother, Otto Krueger, leave for America in 1910. Bernhardt and his sister Martha decided to stay in Russia. The other eight children of Gottlieb and Helen Krueger all went to America, settling in Wells County. Paul's great-grandfather Karl Krueger was the first of the Krueger family to immigrate to America in 1898. He sent money to help bring the rest of his family to the United States.
Paul's uncle, North Dakota Congressman Otto Krueger, served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1952 to 1958. The Kruegers who remained in Russia had no way of knowing that Bernhardt, Otto's brother, had lost touch with his brothers and sisters after he and his parents and sister, Martha, were relocated to Siberia in 1914, at the onset of World War I.
One of Karl Krueger's sons, William living in Bismarck writes, "My father got them all over here but Bernhardt. Karl said he sent him money to come over here too, but Karl never heard from Bernhardt. He imagines that Bernhardt used the money to get married and stayed over there."
One of Emma Krueger's daughters, Olga Kraenzler of Wisconsin writes in a letter, "My mother, Emma Krueger Wagner and four of us children were living in Siberia during the Russian Revolution of 1917. My mother with her four daughters miraculously were able to make our way out of Russia into Germany in 1919-1920. Eventually we emigrated to the United States in 1921.
In a Grand Forks Herald article dated September 29, 1991, Lance Nixon writes, "In 1944, when Otto was thinking of running for state office in North Dakota, Bernhardt Krueger, age 47, was working beside his son in a slave labor camp in central Asia. Their crime was being German at a time when Germany and Russia were at war."
While Paul Krueger was living in Siberia for the past 50 years, he never gave up trying to find his cousins, the children of his aunts and uncles who immigrated to North Dakota in the early 1900s. In 1991, he saw a story in the German newspaper published in Moscow called Neues Leben, where NDSU German-Russian Bibliographer Michael M. Miller had written an article about North Dakota's German-Russian community.
After extensive correspondence in German, Miller was able to locate Paul Krueger's relatives throughout North America. Krueger wrote to Miller in August 1991, "You write you are interested in the lives of the German-Russians in Siberia. I will try to tell you as much as possible about their distress and plight. Now there is so much work to prepare for winter. As you know there are problems with getting enough food and we have to survive with what we have. But when everything is gathered, I will tell you more about the adventures of myself and my family."
Paul continued to write in later letters: "I live in Siberia about 70 km from the city of Omsk. Our town is a train station, Piketnoje, of the Trans-Siberian railroad. Here are about 1,500 residents: Russian, Germans, Ukrainian, and Tartars. I was born in 1923 and my father Bernhardt Krueger came here in 1914 from Volhynia, where he was accepted by the community as a teacher. Later my grandfather, his aunt, and his grandparents were sent to Siberia."
"In 1933 we all had to go to the Kolkoz farm. In 1942, all Germans were assigned to the so-called Trud Army. I was sent to such a camp where I was building a train until June, 1946. My brother Karl was in the camp where he worked in a coal mine until 1945." Krueger, a former teacher, has now begun to write his autobiography, which will be published by the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at the NDSU Libraries.
In 1994, Lorenz Krueger of Tennessee, son of Julius Krueger, was the first cousin in the family to travel to Germany and personally meet Paul Krueger, who had recently immigrated to Germany from Siberia. Now in 1996, Lorenz will host his newly found cousin at family reunions in Arizona and California, before Paul comes to North Dakota May 2.
In June 1994, at the large German-Russian gathering in Stuttgart, Germany, called the "Bundestreffen," Paul Krueger and his family met Michael Miller and the American delegation of German-Russians for the first time. This year, Paul plans to attend the Bundestreffen in Stuttgart on June 22, where 70,000 people are expected to gather in seeking their lost relatives. Paul will be one of the featured speakers there at the "America House for Black Sea Germans" sponsored by the NDSU Libraries' "Journey to the Homeland Tours".
Only with recent reforms sweeping the former Soviet Union, are the descendants of the Krueger brothers and sisters who came to America -- Karl, Adoline, Maria, Emma, Julius, Leopold, Gustav, and Otto -- beginning to learn what happened to the family members who stayed in Russia.
Since 1991, almost 200,000 ethnic Germans have immigrated to Germany each year from the former Soviet Union, totaling about 1.2 million immigrants. The difficult life story of Paul and Anna Krueger and their three sons who immigrated from Siberia to Germany is the typical story of thousands of German families who lived in the former Soviet Union and who have recently immigrated to Germany.
Michael M. Miller, NDSU's Germans from Russia Bibliographer has been assisting German families in the former Soviet Union and in Germany to locate their American relatives. In December 1995, he visited the former German village of Selz (today Limonaskoe) near Odessa, Ukraine. There he met Antonia Welk Ivanova (76) who is a relative to the Welks in North Dakota including families living in the Harvey/Selz area. Antonia is a relative to the late bandleader Lawrence Welk. The Selz settlement in Pierce County is named after the Black Sea German village of Selz formerly in South Russia (today Ukraine).
To document the history of the Germans from Russia for future generations, the NDSU Libraries staff is continually enlarging its compendium of oral history interviews, including recollections by some members of the Krueger family. With the help of volunteers, they are pursuing a global project to interview Germans from Russia, in both English and German languages, in the Dakotas and elsewhere in North America, as well as in Germany, in Siberia and in southern Ukraine.
The NDSU Libraries traveling exhibit, "The Kempf Family: Germans from Russia Weavers on the Dakota Prairies", will be displayed a the Harvey Public Library from October to December 31. The heritage of the Kempfs who settled in McIntosh County - another story of the Germans from Russia - reflects the story of the Krueger family and many immigrants who settled on the North Dakota prairies. The 1996 spring edition of North Dakota Horizons features an article about the Kempf family exhibit.
For further information about Paul Krueger's visit to North Dakota, the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, the "Journey to the Homeland Tours", oral histories, and traveling exhibits, contact Michael M. Miller, Germans from Russia Bibliographer, NDSU Libraries, Box 5599, Fargo, ND 58105; 701-231-8416; Michael.Miller@ndsu.edu.
Michael M. Miller
Germans from Russia Bibliographer
NDSU Libraries, Fargo