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Relatives From Germany Visit Family

"Relatives From Germany Visit Family." Submitted by Thomas and Janice Stangl, Bowdle Pioneer, 5 August 2004, 5.


Two women from Bowdle met a relative from Germany for the first time last week. Hulda Paulson (seated at right) and Erna Huber (middle) were introduced to their first cousin Helma Eberle of Weissach, Germany. The ladies are related through the Seefried family.
Guests of Lyle and Rita Huber this past week were Thomas and Janice (Huber) Stangl of Sterling, VA. They were accompanied by three visitors from Germany: Oskar and Helma (Seefried) Eberle of Weissach by Leonberg, and Helmut Mayer of Waiblingen, all near Stuttgart. The travelers participated in the recent annual convention of the Germans from Russia Heritage Society (GRHS) in Bismarck, ND.

Helma and Helmut were born in the German colony of Marienberg in Ukraine. Oskar was born in the nearby German colony of Eigenfeld. All three were evacuated as children with their families by the German army in 1944 to Occupied Poland. In 1945 they were deported with their families from near Berlin, Germany to Soviet Russia. The families of Oskar and Helma were in a labor camp in Swerdlowsk in the Ural Mountains where they were slave laborers in the mines.

Helmut’s family was in the northern Siberian forests where his widowed mother, Barbara (Ahl) Mayer, was forced to fell trees. After nearly 10 years in the camps they were allowed to leave for other parts of Soviet Russia, but not to their native villages in Ukraine.

Oskar and Helma were married and moved to Tajikistan, from which they emigrated to Germany near Stuttgart in 1972. Helmut and his family were able to move to Kazakhstan in the 1950s, but he was not able to emigrate to Germany until 1981.

Helma (Seefried) Eberle is the first cousin of Erna (Hoffman) Huber and Hulda (Haberer) Paulson of Bowdle, both through the Seefried family. Helma’s father, Emanuel Seefried, was the youngest brother of Erma’s and Hulda’s mothers respectively Bertha (Seefried) Hoffmann and Barbara (Seefried) Haberer, who had emigrated to America. The families had lost contact with each other in the 1930s.

During a 1998 trip to Ukraine and Moldova, the Stangls found Helma and her four siblings in Stuttgart at a large gathering of 60,000 Germans from Russia. The families have been in close contact since then.

The book by Janice (Huber) Stangl, Marienberg: Fate of a Village, which can be found in the Rev. Martin Bieber Public Library, details some of the experiences of this family. Janice’s great-grandmother, Rosina (Kruckenberg) Seefried Bader, who was born in Arcis, Bessarabia, lived in Marienberg until her death from starvation in 1922 at the home of her youngest daughter, Emma (Seefried) Mainhardt in the nearby village of Seebach.

Helmut Mayer is the grandson of Jacob Ahl, who was the author of many letters written to America from Marienberg from 1971 to the 1930s, some of which are published in the Marienberg book. Helmut is also a cousin of Janice (Huber) Stangl, but through a different family from the Glueckstal colonies in Ukraine. Helmut’s uncle was Jacob Ahl Jr., who emigrated to America in the early 1900s and settled in eastern Walworth County, southwest of Bowdle. Jacob Ahl Jr. married in Bowdle to Regina Schick, who was the sister of William Schick, the father of Eleanor (Schick) Haupt of Bowdle.

Helmut has a wedding photograph of Jacob and Regina (Schick) Ahl, which survived a journey from Bowdle to Marienberg, Ukraine; to Occupied Poland; to Germany; to Siberia and Kazakhstan; to Germany; and now back to Bowdle. Helmut has Ahl relatives in the Sturgis, SD area, who he will be visiting during the group’s tour of the Dakotas. Helmut is an accomplished poet in German and Russian. Some of his poems have been published in German-Russian publications in Germany and one which, having been translated to English by Janice (Huber) Stangl, is included in the newly published bicentennial book on the Glueckstal Colonies, which debuted at the GRHS convention in Bismarck. He is also writing about his experiences in America, which will be published in a major German-Russian publication in Germany.

Helma (Seefried) Eberle also has other relatives in the Bowdle and Sturgis areas. Her mother was born a Huft and her maternal grandmother was born a Dietrich. The visitors will return to Virginia with the Stangls for a week’s visit in the Washington, D.C. area before they return to Germany. They have been pleasantly surprised that so many people in North and South Dakota can still speak the Schwabisch dialect, which is their native German language.

Helmut Mayer of Waiblingen, Germany holds a wedding picture of his uncle that survived a journey from Bowdle to Marienberg, Ukraine; to Occupied Poland; to Germany; to Siberia and Kazakhstan; to Germany; and now back to Bowdle. A larger version of the original is in the lower right had corner.
Thomas and Janice Stangl (back) of Sterling, VA were recent visitors of family and friends in Bowdle. They were accompanied by three relatives from Germany. Front from the left: Helmut Mayer of Waiblingen, Germany; Erna Huber of Bowdle; Helma and Oskar Eberle of Weissach, Germany.

Reprinted with permission of the Bowdle Pioneer.

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