The Pahl Family Memoirs

The Pahl Family Memoirs

The Pahl Family Memoirs As told to Herbert Herman by his mother, Ottilia (Roloff) Herman and Arthur Pahl about 1960 Arthur Pahl was born in Beresina, ...

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The Pahl Family Memoirs As told to Herbert Herman by his mother, Ottilia (Roloff) Herman and Arthur Pahl about 1960 Arthur Pahl was born in Beresina, a small "dorf" or village in the Bessarabian Region of Romania. In 2006, as these memoirs are written, this area is part of Ukraine. After WWII the borders were negotiated between Stalin and Hitler and this part of Romania became part of the USSR. When Communism fell in 1990 and the USSR was divided into independent states, this area became the country of Ukraine. Born on October 1, 1905, Arthur Pahl was the only son of Johannes and Maria (Roloff) Pahl. Arthur's mother Maria (Roloff) Pahl died of tuberculosis at the age of 28. Arthur was told Maria contracted this disease while working as a nurse at a hospital in Sarata, Bessarabia, Romania. Arthur was just 2 years old at the time of his mother's death. Arthur's father, Johannes Pahl was overwhelmed with farming and caring for Arthur and his half-brothers and half-sister from Johannes' first marriage. Johannes placed Arthur in the care of his maternal grandparents, Johann and Karolina (Schlenker) Roloff, who also lived in Beresina. Arthur lived with them until early 1910 when the Roloff family decided to immigrate to America. Grandmother Karolina (Schlenker) Roloff died on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1909. There was unrest in this area and much of it was directed at the "Germans living in Russia" - they were considered "outsiders" by the Russian government. In addition, the rise in Communism was taking hold throughout Russia with the rise to power of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party. Grandfather Johann Roloff asked to take Arthur to America and raise him there; but Arthur's father, Johannes Pahl would not allow it. When the Roloff family left Beresina on their long journey to America, it included - Arthur's grandfather, Johannes Roloff, 3 aunts Lydia (Roloff) Rempfer, her husband Samuel and their 4 children, Ottilie (Roloff) Herman and Bertha (Roloff) Fregien and one uncle Johann (John) Roloff. After their departure, Arthur joined his Father, a new stepmother and his half-brothers, Alfred Pahl, Oscar Pahl, Adolph Pahl, and John Pahl and half-sister, Otillia Pahl and lived out his childhood in Beresina, Bessarabia, Romania. As a young man Arthur was required to serve two years in the Romanian Army. One of Arthur's vocations in Romania was working at a dray service which involved transporting freight to neighboring dorfs (villages). It was on one of these trips to Kulm, Bessarabia that Arthur met and fell in love with Luise Selcho. Luise was born on September 3, 1905 in Kulm, Bessarabia, Romania. Arthur and Luise were married on February 11, 1932 in Kulm, Bessarabia, Romania and established their home in Beresina. Arthur and Luise Pahl had 4 daughters. Erna, their first child was born in Beresina in 1933 and died at age three. Their second child was named Hilma. She was also born in

Beresina on February 8, 1935. Also born in Beresina in 1937 was a little girl named Erika, who died of hypothermia at the age of 11 months while the family was fleeing Romania and traveling to Germany. This baby was buried in Poland. Arthur and Luise' fourth child was also named Erna; she was born May 17, 1942 in Kirsch, Poland. By 1939, the Nazi Army had conquered the area known toady as Ukraine - this included the German-Russian village of Beresina where the Pahl family lived. The German soldiers advised Germans living in this area of South Russia and Romania to move back to Germany. Apparently Hitler and Stalin had made a pact to exchange land and adjust borders; and as part of this agreement, Hitler insisted that Stalin allow Germans living in Russia to return to their forefather's homeland - Germany. In 1939, Arthur was a man of 34 years of age. Because he had served in the Romanian Army Arthur was exempt military service with the Russian Army during WWII. Therefore Arthur was allowed to stay with his family in Beresina. But when the decision was made to immigrate from Beresina in 1939 by way of Poland, there were very few men left in the village of Beresina. The German women packed up their wagons with what household items they could carry and left in a caravan along with the Pahl family. Arthur later told Herbert Herman that there were very few men from Beresina to travel with him on this venture because they had all been drafted into the Russian military. This was another example of broken promises to the German Russian people. When their ancestors left Germany for free land promised by Catherine The Great, they were promised the opportunity to live in peace and prosper, practice their own religious beliefs, speak their language of choice and their sons would not be asked to serve in the military. Arthur and his family left Beresina in 1939, traveling with a wagon and team of horses with the few belongings they could carry. While in Poland their little girl Erika died of hypothermia. It was after Luise gave birth to their fourth child, Erna, that the family continued their journey to Germany. Upon arriving in Germany, Arthur was forced to join the German Nazi Army and was sent to the African Campaign. From Africa, Arthur and his comrades fought their way through Italy and France. He ended his war experience by being captured in France where he became a prisoner of the USA. He told Herbert Herman that when he saw that they were going to be captured by the Allied forces, he made sure he got to be a prisoner of the USA because he knew they would not mistreat their prisoners and he wanted to be sent to the United States. Throughout the remaining years of WWII, Arthur was placed in three prisoner of war camps. The first POW was in Virginia, then he was sent by rail to a camp in Texas. His final POW camp was in California. In 1944 while Arthur was interred in California, his Uncle, John Roloff of Fredonia, ND came to visit him. They had not seen each other since the Roloff family immigrated in 1910. Uncle John was allowed 1 hour/day to visit with his long lost nephew. Arthur was returned to Germany in 1946.

When Arthur reached West Germany, he didn't know what had happened to his family. Had they survived the war? Where were they? Uncle John Roloff placed a "search" article in the German Language newspaper called the Dakota Frie (Free) Press which was published in Minnesota. This paper was very popular among Germans living in both Europe and America because many families corresponded across the oceans through this newspaper with short messages to one another. Uncle John Roloff's message looking for Luise Pahl and her daughters was read by a neighbor lady, she asked Luise if this could be “her Arthur” who was looking for his family. At the time, Luise was living and working in East Germany supporting herself and the girls. Arthur and Luise were able to contact each other; but Arthur was in West Germany and Luise and the girls were in East Germany. The Russian government ruling East Germany wouldn't let Luise and the girls leave East Germany, so in order for the family to reunite, Arthur joined his family in East Germany. Arthur was given 7 hectors of land to farm and some money by the East German government. This was payment for what they had left behind in South Russia and Romania and compensation for coming back to Germany. The Pahl farm was located in the Russian Zone near the border fence (later known as the Wall) between East and West Germany. It was guarded 24/7 by the Russian military. Arthur and Luise Pahl started to farm with a horse and several cows; but had to 'share crop' with the East German government. To "Share Crop" meant that each farmer had to turn over a portion of what they raised to the Communist government of East Germany such as butter, eggs, pigs, grain, etc. It was on one of Arthur’s trips to a nearby village to turn in his share crop and barter for supplies that he was told German men who had lived in Russia were disappearing in the night. It was believed that East German soldiers would come to a family home, take the men and send them to work camps in Siberia. It was a common practice to separate families - sending the women and children to other work camps in Siberia. After hearing this, Arthur and Luise made a decision to flee their home once again. They lived in a two-story house subdivided into apartments. A family, who occupied the upper story, was friendly to the Russian soldiers in the area. Arthur's family lived on the ground floor of the house. The night they were planning to make their escape, two Russian soldiers were visiting upstairs which worried Arthur - he thought he might be the next German man to disappear to the work camps of Siberia. In the early morning hours, Arthur slipped out of his home and went to the border fence between West and East Germany. When the border guard was over the knoll (hill) Arthur cut the wires in the fence then he returned home to get his family. Each member carried a milk pail filled with a few supplies. They appeared to be headed out to milk the cows. As they approached the fence, the guard was behind the hill so they all ran to get to the other side of the border where they could slip into a grove of trees. Arthur hit the horse on the butt to chase it across the border to the other side - he felt that the horse

would have some value in West Germany and could be sold for some much-needed cash. The guard saw them making their escape and shot at them; but never hit any of them. The Pahl family walked until they found a "displaced persons camp" in West Germany. These camps were set up to house people who had no home. The Pahls spent some time in the camp until Arthur found work. Luise also found work with a farmer in exchange for rooms to live in. While in the displaced persons camp, Arthur wrote to Herbert Herman in America asking for help to bring he and his family to the United States. By this time, Arthur's American grandfather, uncle and two aunts had passed on - only one aunt and his cousins were able to help. The American cousins decided to sponsor the family. Viola (Roloff) Ost, Lillian (Fregien) Hertel, Elsie (Rempfer) Armon, Alma (Rempfer) Roniger, Arnold Rempfer, Herbert Herman, and Aunt Bertha (Roloff) Fregien each contributed $100 to cover the immigration fees. Herbert & MaryEt Herman stepped forward to be the sponsors for the Pahl family. They traveled to Fargo, ND where they met with Lutheran Social Services for assistance in getting the immigration process started. As it turned out, the Pahl family qualified for assistance and Lutheran Social Services paid for the families transportation by ship from Germany to Ellis Island in New York City where they were processed and officially entered America. It took 2 days for the Pahls to travel by rail from New York City to Jamestown, North Dakota. When the family was being processed for immigration in Germany, Arthur had to go to the American Consulate several times to be interrogated. It was a way the American government used to limit the possibility of bringing in people who had affiliation with the Nazi regime. Arthur later described the interrogations as being "very tough and precise". The Pahl family's paperwork was processed too late for the first quota of displaced persons being allowed into the United States in 1952. But in 1955, they made the quota and arrived in Jamestown, ND on March 21, 1955 at 3:30 AM and were met at the Jamestown Railroad Depot by Herbert, MaryEt and Melinda Herman. Herbert's little 1953 Plymouth was "filled to the gills" with the 6 adults - Herbert, MaryEt, Arthur, Luise, Hilma (age 19) and Erna (age 13) and one child - Melinda (age 5) and the Pahl's worldly belongings. They traveled to Gackle where they lived with the Herman family for about a month until they found a home for rent. Bertha (Roloff) Fregien, Arthur's only surviving aunt and cousins Herbert and MaryEt Herman, Oscar and Viola (Roloff) Ost and Robert and Lillian (Fregien) Hertel helped the family equip their new home in America with furniture and household equipment. They cleaned their own closets and went on shopping sprees at the Gackle Our Own Hardware store to help them get started. Herbert Herman relayed a story about the day the Pahls one wooden crate containing all their worldly belongings arrived from Germany. The Pahls had been in Gackle a couple of weeks when their earthly goods caught up with them. It was a BIG DAY --- a large wooden box about 3'X3'X2' with a huge padlock and 2 iron hinges arrived at the Herman home. It was nailed shut and Arthur and Luise unpacked it in the Herman kitchen.

Herbert and MaryEt later told their children that the box contained chipped cups and dishes, beaten up pots and pans, odd silverware and kitchen spoons - the bare necessities for cooking. Arthur went to work soon after his arrival in Gackle. He and Luise took on odd jobs such as spading gardens in the spring. That first summer, Arthur found a job as a construction worker with Albert Elhard Construction Firm. In the Fall, as the school year was starting, the school board advertised for someone to operate the steam boiler and serve as custodian at the Gackle Public School. This job appealed to Arthur as he had experience with steam boilers. He went to see the superintendent, Mr. Otto Weir. Arthur told Mr. Weir that he couldn't speak English. Mr. Weir told him not to worry - as he could speak some German and they would get along just fine. That was the beginning of a career for Arthur and Luise that lasted until their retirement from the Gackle Public School System in 1970. In the fifteen years that Arthur was Janitor, he repaid Lutheran Social Services and each of the cousins, purchased a home in Gackle, a new Chevrolet and a mobile home in California. Arthur and Luise were hard working, sincere people who were well liked and respected by the community of Gackle, North Dakota. After the Pahl family had lived in the United States for four years, they applied for Naturalization or American Citizenship. This involved quite a bit of homework - they had to learn about American history and law. In January 1962, the Pahl family and the Herbert Herman family made a trip to the state capital city of Bismarck, ND where the four Pahls were sworn in as American citizens by a District Judge. After the swearing in ceremony, a delicious dinner was served to all the new citizens and attendees. Herbert Herman remembers about 100 people became citizens that day. Herbert Herman and Melinda (Herman) Snell both remember that day quite well - it was a bitter cold winter day - gray and dreary - quite typical for North Dakota in January - and the heater failed in the Herman's trusty Plymouth! Yes, the same one that had met the Pahl family in Jamestown 7 years before. Melinda remembers huddling in the backseat between the "girls" and Luise while Herbert drove and Arthur and MaryEt kept everyone laughing. There was lots of joking and kidding and complaining all rolled together and much celebration! In spite of the miserable conditions and weather, it was a VERY important day for ALL those happy travelers. During these years, their daughters Hilma and Erna learned the English language, grew to adulthood, completed their education and prospered. Hilma married Melvin Kinzler of Gackle, ND on December 27, 1958. Melvin Kinzler was born the April 24, 1931 at a farm near Gackle, ND. Hilma and Melvin had two children - Randal born November 29, 1959 and Monica born April 21, 1965. Randal or "Randy" Kinzler married Donna Tarada in California on August 17, 1985. They have 2 children - Ashley and Randal II.

Monica Kinzler married Keith Freites in Campbell, California on July 29, 1990. They have 2 children - Austin and Ryan. Erna Pahl married Helmut Martin on December 8, 1962 in the Lutheran Parsonage in Gackle, ND. Their wedding reception was held at the Herbert & MaryEt Herman home on a stormy winter day! They moved to California and had three children - Jerry born November 11, 1964, Kimberly (Martin) Sherak born March 3, 1971 and Jain Martin born December 24, 1972. Jerry Martin married Marci ? on in ? California. They have two sons - Todd and Scott. Kimberly "Kim" Martin married Michael Sherak on ? in ?. In 1970 Arthur and Luise Pahl sold their Gackle house and household items at an auction and moved to Sunnyvale, CA to be near their daughters who had moved to California earlier. They lived near their daughters and grandchildren for seven years when poor health took Arthur's life on February 5, 1977. Luise missed her Arthur so much, she died just three months later on May 20, 1977. They are buried side-by-side at Mission City Memorial Park - 420 North Winchester Boulevard in Santa Clara, California.