Story of Sebastian Bitz of Karlsruhe,
As told on May 23, 2004 to relatives
Transcription from German to English by Margaret Bitz
I listened again to the audio tape I made with Sebastian Bitz on May 23, 2004 in Kruft, Germany. I was visiting relatives in Kruft and Sebastian, along with his daughter Lilli, Alexander and Julia came to see us in Kruft. I missed taping the story of their first return to Germany in 1941 and how they ended up in Siberia after WWII. it was amazing to hear him talk the German I heard growing up - the Kandel German.
Here are stories he told while we were visiting.
We lived in barracks in the woods of Siberia. We were always under the watchful eyes of the police. There were towers where they watched us so that we couldn't escape. We couldn't go more than 3 km without permission from the police. We couldn't escape because where would we go? Either we would freeze or starve. The train station was 100 km away. Until 1956 we had to register every 3 months to assure them that we had not escaped.
When we were taken from Germany to Russia after WWII we took along clothes, blankets and some money. In Russia when we ran out of money we had to start bartering our clothes to the natives for a kilo of potatoes or other food. Mothers looked after their children so that no one would starve but many starved. Thank God, no one from our family starved. We bartered all our clothes for a rib or other food. When spring came we picked berries in the woods. This lasted from 1945-47. This was about 700 km from Moscow in Siberia. They made us chop trees. We had to walk 8 km in the morning; chop trees all day and walk home again at night. We got all wet when we stomped the snow down around the trees because we had to chop the trees to the ground. If we didn't we had to do it over again. I was 16 at this time.
If the war had lasted another year I would have been called into service in Germany too, before we were sent to Siberia. My two older brothers were in the German army. Pius was 25 and imprisoned in Hungary and that is where he died, shot. Georg came home to Germany and worked for a farmer. He later died in an auto accident in Heilbrunner near Karlsruhe in 1980. My younger sister still lives in Nikolai, Russia. We invited her for my 75th birthday and she was allowed to come by bus. It took 2 days and 2 nights to get here.
In 1956 when Adenauer came into power he came to Russia to look for those who were in Germany during the war. With his help we were released from military command control. People were happy. We were free. We got a red pass. At the bottom of the pass it said that we could go anywhere in Russia except not home to Kandel where we had been born. My wife was from Sabroshka. She couldn't go there. We lived in the woods of Siberia for 12 1/2 years until 1957. When we could leave Siberia we wanted to go somewhere where it was warm. We looked and looked for places where apples and tomatoes would grow. My wife's brother moved to Kazakhstan. It's nice and warm. On March 27, 1957 we left Siberia for Kazakhstan. We arrived in early April. All we had was a few rags. We came with those warm high boots and fur caps. And it was a heat. Once we got there then we wondered, "Now what?" We needed a place to live. My wife's brother's wife was there already and they took us in. We lived there for 8 days. Every morning we'd go and look for a place to live. We had saved a couple of rubles. We finally found a place and stuck all our money into it. There was a garden and grapes - better grapes than here. We worked and worked and improved our lot over time.
When we left Siberia they weren't all born yet. The oldest daughter, Irena, was a small child. We went by car to the train station 100 km away. It was a blizzardy day. We left in the morning and arrived the next day. We didn't think we'd make it. We had to wrap our daughter so thick in blankets we were afraid we would suffocate her. She grew up and wasn't suffocated. We were in Kahzikstan from 1957 - 1978. We build houses; raised geese, chickens, cows, sheep. We had an auto.
But Germany called. When the Russians saw that the people wanted to go to Germany they said, "Here they ate our bread and now they want to go to Germany." Khruschev with the iron curtain stopped it. They didn't want to let the Germans go because they were such good workers.
The Germans were looking for those from the war to bring them back to Germany. But many of those never survived. They starved or froze to death. In Kahzikstan most people worked in the coal mines. They'd go down into the mines in the morning and never came out in the evening.
We came to Germany before Christmas in 1978. We went from Russia to Germany; from Germany to Russia and from Russia to Germany again.
In early times there were churches in Kandel. In every village there was a church. When Stalin ruled everything was ruined. The Steeples were taken down. Tractors and wheat were put in them. We couldn't pray in them anymore. People got together in each other's houses. One day here and tomorrow at another one's place. And they prayed: the rosary and prayers like that. It was the same in Kahzikstan. Where there was a large room there they prayed.
Now I tell you how my wife and I got married. We lived in Siberia. I wanted to get married. You didn't want to marry a Russian. So you looked for a German. Germans from all different villages were thrown together. Then I found this girl. My wife had come from an Evangelical village. I was 25 years old. She was going to school. She was 20. And was in her 8th year of school. She learned Russian. I didn't have any education because I had to work. In 1954 we wanted to marry. How was it at home (Kandel)? You first had to ask your parents. I had only a mother, not a father. Nina had a father and a mother. He was a teacher at home (Sabroshka). I walked 25 km to Gorsky on logs frozen into the river to ask her father's permission to marry her. Her father told me that I needn't have done that. And then I walked 25 km back again. Now what? Because we were under a commander we had to ask him permission too. He gave us permission so we married in 1954. We made hochzeit but there wasn't anything. The meister wrote out 5 ? and my mother and her mother put something together and we made hochzeit. There was no wedding blessing, no wedding ring. Now it's 50 years on Dec. 5th. My mother came to Germany before we did. My in-laws and we applied for emigration together several times and we never were accepted. My mother-in-law told us to apply for ourselves and they would apply for themselves. I said, "Momma, it could come to that that they could let us go and not you." And she said, "Or the other way around. They could let us go and not you. If only you younger ones are over there we older ones can hold it." We were given permission and the in-laws were not given permission. So they never came over. They died over their.
My mother-in-law became quite sick. My wife needed permission and all those papers to go and see her. It was so far away. Her mother died. My wife was not given permission to go to the funeral. Another time they gave her permission to visit. She went to Uzbekistan. From there they would not let her go the village where we had lived. Wherever Nina went the police followed her. The young relatives wanted to drive by car in the night to the village. The father-in-law told them not to do that because they could catch them and not let them come back to Germany.
This is part of the story of the life of Sebastian Bitz now living with his wife, Nina, in Karlsruhe with his daughter, her husband and their daughter. Their wedding anniversary is Dec. 5.
Seated in front row left to right: Joseph Lingor and his wife, Notburga. Second row left to right: Doreen Zeiler, Julia Sch, Martin Reuer, Genoveva
Reuer, Nina B (Sebastian's wife), Colleen Zeiler, Sebastian B, Jack Griffin, Back row left to right: Lili Sch, Reynold Zeiler, Vera Bitz (Anton's wife), Anton Bitz, Victor Bitz (son of Sebastian).
This photo was taken when the Zeilers from Canada and Texas were visiting the Bitzes in 2002.
These are the children of Sebastian born in Kandel in 1895 and executed by the Bolesheviks 28 Nov, 1937. Left to right: Notburga Bitz Lingor, Rosa Felix, Anton Bitz, Genoveva Reuer, and Sebastian. This photo was taken in Karlsruhe, Germany in 2003 on the occasion of Sebastian 75th birthday. Notburga is the wife of Joseph Lingor, the co-author of "Entstehung, Entwicklung und Auflosung der deutschen Kolonien am Schwarzen Meer". Rosa still lives in Nicolai, Russia.