Thursday, June 26, 2014

More on WW I and my family

DAY TWENTY-SEVEN: Today is cool and rainy, but Ellen has taken Max to soccer camp. His attitude toward the camp improved immensely when he learned that he could take Gatorade. All the other kids had Gatorade, while he just had water. We just got on to that yesterday. His parents figured that a couple of days of Gatorade probably wouldn't kill him. So even though it was raining, he went off to camp with his green bottle very excited.

I would be watching the U.S./Germany World Cup game, which is going on right now, but Paul has the system set to record it and the TV tells me that if I try to watch it live, I'll cancel the recording. So I'm not touching it!  But I'm following a live blog. It 0-1 Germany at the moment, and US hopes of going into the next round are fading. But .. thanks to Portugal's defeat of Ghana 2-1, and the somewhat Byzantine scoring system of the World Cup, US will advance despite the loss to Germany.

To go back to WW I -  my mother's older brother, Julius Winter, was born March 7, 1894. He was sixteen when the family emigrated to the U.S., and was 23 when the U.S. entered the war. President Wilson initiated a selective service system, and  the first registration was June 15, 1917, for all men between the ages of 21 and 31. Julius must have had to register for the draft at that time. But things were not all well for young German-Americans.

My uncle, Julius Winter
"President Woodrow Wilson issued two sets of regulations on April 6, 1917, and November 16, 1917, imposing restrictions on German-born male residents of the United States over the age of 14. Some 250,000 people in that category were required to register at their local post office, to carry their registration card at all times, and to report any change of address or employment.  Some 6,300 such aliens were arrested. Thousands were interrogated and investigated. A total of 2,048 were incarcerated for the remainder of the war in two camps, Fort Douglas, Utah, for those west of the Mississippi and Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, for those east of the Mississippi."

Julius was not incarcerated, nor, to my knowledge, did he serve in the U.S. army. I believe he, like his father, was working for the Timken Rollar-Bearing Axle Co. in Canton, and his work may have been regarded as essential to the war effort. But he must have been affected by these regulations. What were his feelings? Was he "pro-German?" Or, like my mother, was he determined to put everything German behind him and become fully an American? There is no one living any more whom I can ask. 

However, we have in our family archive a fascinating glimpse on the war from a friend of Julius' living in Kaiserslautern, Germany, where the Winter family lived before coming to the U.S. This is a letter from Friedrich Schwarz, written on January 18, 1920 - just a year and two months after the armistice on Nov. 11, 1918.  Friedrich was writing in reply to a letter he had gotten from Julius, written the previous October. That tells us that Julius had not cut all his ties to Germany. Friedrich's father, Karl Schwarz, was a businessman, selling electric coffee roasters, and Friedrich writes on his father's letterhead:

Letter from Friedrich Schwarz to Julius Winter, Jan. 16, 1920

A translation reads:

January 18, 1920

Dear Julius,

We received your letter on October 9, 1919.My father gave it to me to take care of because he has no time to write. We were very surprised to hear from you and hope to hear from you more often. We are all well. Peter had to join the military in August 1914. First he was with the Landsturm battalion, Kaiserslautern,[1]  with which he was sent to the Vosges (in Alsace-Lorraine). Then in 1915 he was sent to Serbia and the Roumania where he was to the end of the war. He came home December 15, 1918. Here we feel the war, especially regarding food, and the airplane attacks gave us much trouble. Shortly before the peace was declared, a bomb fell so near us that all the windows in our house on Mannheimer Strasse were broken. The groceries here are very expensive and will go up more. Here everything is "totally  crazy"- ("full of  schwindel" - vertigo). Nothing but strikes, rising grocery prices and bank crises. Here it is quiet at present but in Berlin there are troubles again. One doesn't know what will develop.

I am for a year now in the Schรถrken plant here, in the office as an apprentice. You may remember where they are. So far here all is as it was, except that the streetcar is working.

Now I shall close with the hope that you and your family are well.

                                                Friendly greetings,


                                                              Friedrich (Schwarz)

[1] This would be like the local militia for the city of Kaiserslautern

This is fascinating because first of all, it reveals a friendly relationship with no trace of bitterness between Friedrich and Julius - friendship obviously has trumped any possible resentment on Friedrich's part that by going to the U.S., Julius had "gone over to the other side." But mostly, it gives a glimpse of the post-war situation in Germany, which was obviously very difficult and uncertain, but probably not as bad in Kaiserslautern as it was in some other cities, though I do not know exactly how badly Kaiserslautern was damaged by WW I. I know more about WW II, because my father actually went to Kaiserslautern in 1944 after it was occupied by the Allies, and he took pictures of the Stiftskirche, (the Collegiate Church) where my mother had been baptized as an infant, and which had been damaged by Allied bombs; he also visited her home at 36 Steinstrasse, met the Assel family who lived downstairs there when she was born, and was warmly greeted by them. 60% of Kaiserslautern was destroyed by Allied bombs during WW II, so it is amazing that mother's birthplace was still intact. However, when I went to Kaiserslautern in 1984, her home was gone. It had been torn down and replaced with condos just the previous year! Economic growth proved more deadly than Allied bombing.

36 Steinstrasse, Kaiserslautern. My mother was born upstairs in this building.

Dad's photo of the Stiftskirche in Kaiserslautern, 1944
Stiftskirche today
My father, Barney Crockett, was born May 14, 1896. Thus he turned 18 just a month before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, and was 21 when the U.S. entered the war. He too had to register for the draft:

My father's WW I draft registration card

When he registered, my father had not yet met my mother, so he didn't know when he registered that he would someday be married to a German woman. I think he would have thought that to be highly unlikely at the time! I have a vague sense that my father enlisted in the army for a very brief time before the war ended, but I have no record of that, and I may be wrong. What I wonder is whether his experience of WW I played any role whatsoever in his decision to enlist at the age of 46 as a chaplain in WW II.

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