Letter to the Editor
"Letter to the Editor." Bowdle Pioneer, 26 October 2000, 2.
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
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
Janice Huber Stangl
Reprinted with permission of the Bowdle Pioneer