Saturday, December 5, 2015

Ernie Margheim: Recalling his Russian Heritage and the reality of WWII

George Sr, Katie (Dietz), George Jr,
Daniel and Amalia "Mollie" Koleber,
mother of Ernest Margheim, 1905
Here follows an email my dad wrote in 2008 to a cousin.

I bet a lot of our generation of Volga German descendants wish a greater effort would have been made to record stories of our parents and grandparents' experiences. Not only of the immigration and USA adaptation, but how it was in the old country of Russia.

My mom's dad (George Koleber Sr, pictured at left) served in the White Russian Army. Now that would have been interesting to learn of the details regarding the Red Russian Army vs. White Russian Army. I had a conversation with one of our auditors at the plant that was from Wichita. He told me his grandfather also served in the White Russian Army. So there must have been a decided difference. I remember talk of the ruthlessness of the Bolsheviks. As I told you before, I remember Grandpa Koleber reading a letter (in German) from his relatives in Russia saying they were starving in the early and mid 1920s. Apparently the Bolsheviks permitted our people to send mail to the USA. I looked up Bolshevik in the Webster Dictionary and it includes the comment it was a faction of government that formed the Communist Party in 1917. 
Ernie's grandfather George Koleber (1856-1912)
 with Ernie's younger brother Alfred (1923-1933)
in WaKeeney, KS wearing his traditional
Russian work clothes. 
Mom's folks came over in 1904, so probably they experienced living during that political turmoil. It is a wonder they even permitted the Volga Germans to leave, from what we know of the Russians during the Berlin Wall. 

Growing up during the 1940s, etc. heritage of family was the last thing on my mind. Visiting with others now, I understand that some of our immigrants did not want to talk about the subject. It was treated much like WW2 combat vets, who do not want to open old wounds and memories of their horrible experiences. I know I still had realistic nightmares ten and fifteen years after my discharge. Phyllis, my wife, had to wake me up and I was wet with sweat. For several years after I came home, the sight or mention of SNOW took me back to the Battle of the Bulge in Luxembourg and Belgium Dec 1944 to Feb 1945. I shall never, never forget the body parts and blood stained snow. I could hardly sleep at the time. My lips were swollen, crusty with scabs from biting them to bleeding in my sleep. 

Of course, my personality has always been chicken, I cry easily, fainted easily. Must have a terrific imagination. Ha! I had to tell our officers that I could not continue to be their interpreter, as telling folks they had to evacuate their homes so our officers could use them for billets, upset me. One such house, already had 30-35 occupants. (Most homes in the small town had been bombed out). One lady just had a baby that night when I went in the house to tell them "Herr-Rouse" (Evacuate). They took me to the upstairs room where the mother lay on a blanket on the floor with her newborn infant. How inhumane can you get to force someone like that into the streets? Our CO consented to let them stay. With my experiences in talking to those folks, they explained how they were not Nazi, that they were part of the underground that helped our downed Air Force personnel get back to Britton. They talked the same language I spoke. How could I not believe them? Speak about "Unser Lueit". I lived the exposure. 

Well, you know Ernie. Get me started and I don't run out of words. My fingers just keep clipping away at these keys as though my brains were in my finger tips. 

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