Frankfurt a.d. Oder
by Dr. Rothermel
From: Das Wolga Journal, April 1928
Translation courtesy Hugh Lichtenwald
The other report comes from Titus, the brother of Mr. Sallet who publishes the “Dakota Free Press.” Titus had, through the “Press,” collected money for the camp refugees and he reported on its distribution in the March 5th edition under the title: “Titus among the Refugees at the Frankfurt Camp.” Some portions are reprinted herein: After his discussion with Pastor Altenhausen and his visit with Mother Leimann, he continued:
“Dr. Rothermel, the Camp Physician.”
“Wherever I went with Dr. Rothermel, in the hospital, in the orphanage, all eyes turned to him expectantly and hopefully as he passed among them comforting, advising, encouraging, joking and amusing each patient. Every patient was addressed, the young ones as well as the adults, the sick, even the seriously ill children were compassionately caressed and the hard-hearted made to smile happily, and he questioned a sick Russian woman clearly and pleasantly in her native tongue. This I have seen only once before in my long life, as you Neu-Ulmers see daily with your physician, Dr. L. A. Fritsche–human beings at the peak of humanity.”
“The minutes I spent and the steps I took with Dr. Rothermel among the small children, the youths and the older adult patients at the refugee camp have joyfully rewarded me over and over for my Frankfurt trip. Dr. Rothermel is in fear of losing his position. He comes to you, Americans, listen to him and trust what he says. He has richly served your poorest, most distressed blood relatives in the Frankfurt Camp.”
Thus is the report of Titus, who captured the hearts of the refugees in their turmoil with his open and straightforward nature.
He mentions that I should go to America in order to raise money for our brethren in Germany so that their lives here could be somewhat bettered. Although this does not exactly fit the theme of this essay, there has been so much said that the fact of the matter is that my attempts to collect money did not meet the expectations hoped for. Various reasons for this can be examined in detail which would lead to me talking too much. Nevertheless I did succeed in drying some tears and satisfying some hungry mouths.
We return to our description which was interrupted by these 2 reports.
Please look at the attached Photograph. You see before you the camp kitchen in which mainly Volga Germans were employed, now mostly staffed by East Germans doing the menial labor. This employment was in high demand and certainly a little of it should have been reserved for the hungry. The kitchen has to cook for the Main Camp and for the Hospital. Soup was “brewed” in enormous cauldrons as it was one of the mainstays of the daily food ration. Our people were very content with it, though this soup would never be found in any Volga German home. Even if one, after a long time “fishing” found only a few scraps that looked like meat, it was nevertheless always strong and healthful. Grains, potatoes, grits provided some variety to the sameness of the daily meals. When dollars from America began to arrive, more sumptuous meals were prepared, to which I was often invited. Thoughts of the “Kreppel” ((fried dough)) made by Mrs. Gerhardt (now a resident of Kansas City) and the “Kartoffeln und Klümp” ((potatoes and dumplings)) as well as the “Kraut und Brei” ((Sauerkraut and Mashed Potatoes)) of tiny Mrs. Gross (presently in Sheboygan, Wisc.) still make me hungry. There is no amount of money I could receive that would equal the satisfaction I found among my friends.
Each camp inmate had his own Meal Card which was naturally held to be of high value. I will speak more about the Meal Card later since it played an extraordinarily important role in the life of the refugee.
The people in Maywood will recognize Alex Heinze in the photo, who worked for a long time in the kitchen. To the right of the table is Seifert, the kitchen “Boss,” who was, in his sphere of influence, a little god.
(more to follow)