The following letter was translated by John Joseph Renner in 1977.
January 1, 1922
Dear Uncle Joseph,
Received your letter Dec. 17, it made us very happy, also shared it with my mother and sisters and brothers. First I want to thank you for being so friendly towards us. The money you are going to send me is almost worthless here, no matter from where it is. So your good will is holy to me. Russia has more paper money than the whole world, so there is not shortage. But of bread; there is the greatest of need.
This winter millions will die of hunger, our village has 85 homes, and one of the more productive ones, and now more than 400 are without bread. I with my family and sister, 5 persons have bread for about 3 months, and then we are not sure if we live till spring. The hand of the hungry like a shadow is all day with us begging for bread, it is impossible to say no. Yes, dear uncle, Russia is an area where one catastrophe follows another; first it was the war, then the revolution, the murders, then the dry spell and hunger deaths. I could write a lot more, but you will see in the news how things are going in Russia.
And now I will try to fulfill your wish in a few lines to describe the murder of my father. October 27 (1919), 1:00 PM, that the village of New Karlsruhe with 33 homes was surrounded by about 500 men bandits on horse and foot. The shooting and hollering brought great fear to the people, at first they thought it was just a robber band going by. The people thought they were more intent on goods than killing, therefore, the people didn’t flee but hid in their house. But they soon found out that this hellish brood did not come to rob, but to organize the people against the army of Dinikins, so they should not fear. And all men should go to school right away, and as always our father was the leader and first in the schoolhouse, and trusted the devilish band. By and by almost all the men came to the school, and then the hellish work started. First they demanded that all the money be brought in, the demand was obeyed. When the robbers had the money, they made the men undress to the underwear, locked them in a schoolroom and locked it from the outside and shot them through the windows. To the number of those unlucky ones belonged also our dear father and two of my brothers. The second oldest and the youngest were to be shot, but through God’s intervention they both lived. The oldest was saved by a small favor of his wife. The youngest was saved in a wonderful way by the death of his father and that happened this way; before the beginning of the shooting father stood in the corner of the room between the door and window. My young brother and Uncle Frank Joseph Lanz kneeled behind the stove and prepared to die, but when the shooting began, father wanted to join the two behind the stove. He got barely to the corner of the stove as a bullet went through his head and silently he fell on the other two kneeling ones, and covered them as a blanket with his lifeless body. The shooting finally ceased, the robbers looked the place over and all lay in a bloodbath, looked dead to them so they left the school and went to rob the homes. Meanwhile, the two under the dead body of father took the opportunity to flee, 17 men were shot that day in New Karlsruhe. Our mother with two of my sisters and six children of my formerly murdered brother Jakob, sat all afternoon between two straw stacks soaked from rain that came down like in buckets. In the evening she fled to the wine hill about 300 meters from the village, where they hid in a night but, finally the noise of the robbers in the village ended. Mother found courage and went back to the village, to poorest but good people that kept her overnight. Next morning she started on foot with the children for the nearest village where she stayed for a week. The she made it to Jewish colony, Tesingar, stayed a month. My sister Margaret then went on foot to the town Nikolyev to get transportation to Karlsruhe. By and by my sisters and brothers gathered there from the villages of Halbstadt, Schonfeld, and Steinberg. Mother lives now in Steinberg with my youngest brother Theobald, who is still single and is village secretary.
And so my dear Uncle, this is what my mother, brothers and sisters told me. And now best wishes to all your family.
With love, Johann (John) Renner and family