Stefan and Erna Deutsch Interview – The Labor Camps – Text Version

Below is an edited transcript of the audio file ( of an interview with Stefan and Erna Deutsch that was conducted by Mark and Henly Deutsch on May 15, 2011 where they share their experiences immediately before and following World War II.


Deutsch Familie History : Stefan and Erna Deutsch

This is the story of Stefan and Erna Deutsch (recorded on May 15, 2011), talking about their experiences around and after World War II.

Stefan Deutsch: This is a condensed history of our life in our village.  I was born in a small village in the former Yugoslavia called Kruschiwel, that was also at one point or different points part of Hungary and then Yugoslavia was invaded in 1940, but you want to know some things about before that?

I was born in 1936 and my father became a butcher and opened his own butcher shop in our village and shortly after that, he and his wife, my mother Eva Deutsch, they traveled to Germany.  No, I believe that was before they opened the butcher shop, I am not sure, they traveled to Germany and worked in Germany for some time, I am not sure how long, maybe one year or two and then they came back to our village, opened a butcher shop and I was two years old at the time, it must have been 1938 and they traveled to Germany and then came back and opened a butcher shop in our village and they were working until the war came in 1940 and then the German army invaded Yugoslavia, they came through our village with the soldiers, they were on their way towards Russia I suppose, the Sothern Front, I think it was called at the time, and I went to German School over there, cause that’s the only kind of school we had in our village, I went to school and the village was comprised of all German people, there were no Yugoslavian people in the village, the only Yugoslavian in the village was the tax collector and a local blacksmith was a Hungarian fellow.  They were the only Non-Germans in our whole village. The village started approximately two-hundred and fifty years ago, by the Hapsburg Empirein that area, and it was comprised of farmers, and all the farmers were so successful there that they  pretty much supplied all of Yugoslavia with grain, corn and wheat that they needed.  Then the war came in 1940, the German Army came through and well probably, four years after that the Russian Army pushed the German Army back and the German Army came through our village as they retreated and the Army asked all the German people, whoever wanted to join up with the Army and travel back to Germany with them and a lot of the people did.  They just retreated with the German Army back to Germany because the Russian Army pushed them back.  And we had our covered wagon in our barn at the time and we could hear the Russian guns across the Donau River, the Donau must have been twenty to thirty miles away, we could hear the guns, the fighting between the Russian and the German Army and we had the covered wagon sitting in the barn and my sister and me were sitting in the wagon, and the parents were inside the house trying to decide whether they were going to join up with the German Army and retreat with the German Army cause the German Army was protecting us more or less, I don’t know, and our parents decided not to join up with the Army, I don’t know the reason for that, and then shortly after the German Army retreated, the Russian Army came through our village and some of the officers made their headquarters in our house and we had dinner every night with the Russian officers, having dinner with us, sitting with us at the table, because of the butcher shop they probably figured that’s where to get the best meat in town I guess.  Well there was another butcher shop in town besides ours, but anyway they stayed with us the officers and as far as I know they were perfect gentlemen, the officers and when the Russian Army, I don’t know how long they stayed, when the Russian Army decided to move back to Russia, the Yugoslavian Partisans took over the duties of the Russian Army and that’s when things got nasty when the Partisans took over they were very unfriendly, towards the German people and they rounded up everybody in the village and they told us to get down to the street, where they told us we were going to travel to another village and they put us all out on the street, and they decided not to transfer us to another village, they decided well, everyone can go back into the house and I am trying to remember this stuff now, anyway …

Henly:  Do you remember being scared?

Stefan:  Me, myself, probably not, I don’t know, it was 1945, I was nine years old at the time, my sister was thirteen years old at the time.

Henly:  What were your parents feeling at this time?

Stefan:  I’m sure they were scared, but I remember the night, I went, after the Russian Army decided to leave, go back to Russia and the Partisans took over, the night, the surrounding areas around the village was occupied by Yugoslavian people and they were not nearly as successful as the German farmers, they seem to have a lot of resentment for the German people there, a lot of the Yugoslavian people, they’ve worked as hired help on the German farms, I don’t think they were mistreated, but they had some resentment and when the Russian Army left and some of the serving people came into town and they were shooting up the village with rifles and shot guns and beating up on some of the young men that were still around, I remember hiding in the back of my grandfathers house, my mother, my sister and me were hiding in a haystack, we crawled inside there and these guys came storming into town, they were shooting rifles and shot guns all over the yard while we were sitting in the thing underneath that haystack, scared I guess, we were pretty scared, I’m sure, I guess.  Anyway that night went by and the next day we found out that a lot of the men got beat up by the Partisans because of the resentment that they had.

Stefan:  Alright, after that, after that the Partisans decided to make a concentration camp out of our village, this is a village of thirteen hundred people and they put the watch towers all around the village with the guards with machine guns, you know, and at the height of the concentration camp, there was like ten thousand people living there.  Like fifty people in a house, the people were sleeping in the hallways and everywhere else, underneath the roof of the houses, like ten thousand people living there.

They were brought in from other villages, right, they concentrated them from surrounding areas, brought in all the German born people and they brought them in there.

Do you want me to tell the story about when I was in the orphanage? Okay, while the concentration camp was going on there, I saw people being hauled away in wagons, corpses, they were taken outside the village into mass graves, I’ve seen the mass graves too.  I’ve seen people getting shot there that were, they always made these announcements if somebody tries to escape, those guards that they had around the village, they would get shot and I’ve seen people getting shot for that reason.  One woman I saw her getting shot.  They put her right in the middle of the city square there, in the middle of the village and asked the guards, the Partisans for a volunteer to shoot this woman, and one young fellow, he volunteered and he walked up to her with a rifle and he put the rifle on her forehead and pulled the trigger and that was that.

Henly:  How old were you when you saw that?

Stefan:  I was ten I guess, that must have been 1946, and in 1946 the camp started in 1945 or so after the war ended, in 1946 that’s when both of my, my father died in the camp there, he has some kind of sickness he acquired before the war and he was disabled and he died and his parents, both of my grandparents died within a month right afterwards, in 1946 and then my mothers parents, I was being taken care of, my sister and me were being taken care of by my mothers parents Albert Settele and Katarina Settele.

Now we will have to back up, back track a little bit here now, after the Russian army decided to go back to Russia, they put all able bodied women, males and Henlys, there weren’t many males left, they were all in the war, they did join the general army, the men of the village, and my mother were taken away, they put them in box cars, and they told them they were going to go to the next village, which was the capital of Batschka, that’s the county that we lived in, in the capital of, the county was Sombor and they told them that they were going to be going to the airport in Sombor, the Retella Airport that was bombed by the Germans before the Russians came, because they bombed things as the Russians came forward, the Germans just bombed things, scorched earth type of thing, well anyway they put them in box cars, but they did not take them to Sombor, next time they opened the box cars they were in Stalingrad, Russia and they had no idea where they were and the reason they took them over there is to repair the cities in Russia that were bombed by the Germans and that were damaged during the war, reparation I think you call that, that was, so my mother and all the other young women and other young men there were not very many left, all the farmers to, I guess, I don’t know what age, they probably took everybody over there was under age fifty probably, so that means that the only thing that was left for us our grandparents, so I was being taken care of by grandparent, my mothers parents and for some reason they wanted to put me into an orphanage in the neighboring village, that was about three miles away, maybe less, and because I don’t know what the reason was, why they took me to this orphanage, they didn’t take my sister, my sister was fourteen at the time, and I was ten, they took me to this village, next to our village, to an orphanage and I decided why, I just didn’t like it there.

They didn’t mistreat us or anything, they just fed us and we went to school, Serbian School that was, and I didn’t like it there, so a few of us kids got together and we decided to escape and this village also had guards around it, around the village, anyway we snuck out of the orphanage, I think it was four or five of us, we snuck out and we walked up to the guards and one of us would watch the guard when he was facing the other way, one or two of us would run out, out in the field and hide in the corn fields, or wheat fields and then we would watch again when the guard turned around we would do the same thing until all five of us were outside of the limits of the camp and we worked our way back, we wanted to go back and join our family again.  So that was the first escape, and on our way home, back to the village, we stayed in some haystacks overnight, and I’m not sure whether we got back into the village because we had to go past the guards in our village too, cause their were guards all around are village too.

I think there were four or five of us the first time and we hid, I remember in this haystack outside the village, we slept in a haystack and then we kinda got into the village, some how we were sneaky enough to get past the guards, I don t know how we did it, maybe the same way we did it when we got out the other side, the other village, one of us, I guess we were pretty sneaky, I don’t know.  But anyway they came looking for me while I was back with my grandparents and my sister, some partisan riding a tall horse he came to the house looking for me and everybody they denied that I was there, but anyway he got a hold of me, he found me and they sent me right back to the orphanage.  Let me see, yeah, okay and the second, they put me back in the orphanage and the second time I escaped there I don’t know whether it was myself alone or whether someone else came along there.

I don’t remember, I escaped again from the orphanage and I went back to our village to join my sister and my grandparents and they came looking for me again, some Partisan fellow, some guard that came looking, came to the house and everybody was watching out for these guards and they would say, no he’s not here, he’s not here, well they told me this guard was coming and I ran off, out in the cornfields while this guard was coming looking for me, and everybody in the house denied it, you know, they said, he’s not here, he’s not here, he said, no, somebody saw him over here, he has got to be here somewhere, and I was outside in the cornfield and this guy walked out to the cornfield and shot some bullets over the cornfield, well I cam running out, I came running out of the cornfield, I was scared I guess, he was just shooting up in the air, well I came running out and they sent me back to the orphanage the second time.  Well the next time, I still was determined not to stay there and the next time I got out of the orphanage again pretty much the same way I guess, I kinda snuck past the guards over there, but this time I knew that there was a railroad track that was going from a neighboring village to one of the other villages next to our village, where I had an uncle living there, that was my grandmothers sister that was married to a Hungarian fellow, Uncle Matise and he was the one who also trained my father in the butcher business, my father learned the butcher business there, from Uncle Matise, and he was a Hungarian fellow that married my grandmothers sister and they were, because of the fact that he was Hungarian, they did not put him in a concentration camp, they were free, and he was running his butcher shop in the neighboring village, any way, I got on the railroad track leading to that town there, I was smart enough to know that I guess, and I followed that railroad track and these Partisan guards were going, would be going up and down that railroad tracks with dogs, in those paddle carts that they pushed, like and I was cruising up and down and I was in the cornfield watching out for these guys and their dogs and I was just walking along the railroad tracks maybe fifty yards away and I worked my way to the neighboring village Stanišić, and I went to Uncle Matise and Kajibas Katarina, her name was Katarina too, yeah, that where, Katarina, yeah, okay and I stayed at their house and they took good care of me there, I liked to stay there a lot because it was away from my grandparents and my sister, but I was pretty content there.

The Partisan police or whatever they were called and that is when things really got interesting.  This guard came from our village to that village over there and Uncle Matise was sitting on the table with this guard and I was under the bed hiding in the kitchen, they had some kind of bed in the kitchen there and I was underneath there, well Uncle Matise was sitting on the table with this guard and this guard asked him whether I was there or not and Uncle Matise said “no he’s not here, no I haven’t seen him”  Well anyway, I was underneath there, I had to be quite as a mouse I guess, anyway Uncle Matise bribed this fellow, I guess he probably gave him a couple of hams and salamis and he left, he didn’t bother him.  But then we found out that all of the people from our village are going to be transferred to another camp, a larger camp and they had to smuggle me back into the village to join my grandparents and my sister because before we get transferred to the bigger camp they had to figure out how to do that, well some of the older men, that were in the camp, they were taking care of some of the fields around the village, the farmers, you know, actually growing some corn and vegetables and things for the guards or the army they had in there, the Partisans and one of the farmers one day that Uncle Matise knew about he was on the field with a hay wagon and he got in touch with this farmer and they were driving in and out of the camp, these farmers that were able bodied, taken care of, going out to the fields, they had to come back again, otherwise if they didn’t come back they would probably get shot.  Anyway, he got in touch with this farmer and this farmer put me, came and got me and put me inside of his hay wagon, he had this great big hay wagon, put me inside of this hay wagon anyway he was going to smuggle me back into the village and you know, if I would have joined the, If they would have known that I was going to join my grandparents again, they wouldn’t let me stay with my grandparents they would move me back to the orphanage.  So I had to go back there without them knowing that I’m there.  Anyway, this farmer put me inside of this hay wagon and he was driving toward the village and he got to the guard post and the guard post I guess people are always smuggling things, trying to get food from the surrounding villages, because we were all undernourished – they were starving us to death really, that is why so many people died there. Well they stopped the farmer at the guard post and the guard asked the driver whether he’s got something in the wagon, he said you know I ain’t got nothing, just hay here you know and I was inside the wagon, the bottom of the wagon and this guard took a pitch fork and started poking at the hay wagon from all sides and I was inside there, you know. Well I guess there was definitely enough hay in there, so he couldn’t get to me.  Anyway, the guard said “go on” and he drove into the village and dropped me off at my grandparent’s house and that was around 1947.

Erna Deutsch: My name is Erna Kollinger Deutsch, well I was born in 1942, so that was during the war. I had two sisters, one Helga she was two years older and Leni, was four years older than me, so I was the baby, so not much to tell, not as much as Opa has to tell, which is Stefan Deutsch. So as far as I remember, my parents, it was at night, we were in a wagon and I was looking up in the sky and we were driving to Rudolfsgnad I believe with my grandmother. In the meantime, just before that, the Russians came and they took my mother and her girlfriends. They went in a wagon and in a train and they went to Russia and she was working in a coal mine for two years and also at the same time my father was a soldier and he was a prisoner of war and they took him to England. In England he was working for a real nice family, I forgot the name of them, but I do have a letter of them that they sent.  In the meantime, my mother was in Russia, my father in England and my two sisters and my grandparents, my mother’s mother, which is Elisabeth Weiss and my father’s parents.

We went to a Rudolfsgnad, which is in 1947 so I was only about, what, I was about four years old and we were in there and in the meantime, my father’s parents Katarina was her name, that’s right, Katarina, no she wasn’t Katarina, well anyway, they were there and my father’s parents died, I don’t know the date when they died and my mothers father died at the same time, In Rudolfsgnad, and as far as I remember, they went into a mass grave, that’s all I really remember, because I was so little. They wrapped them in the blanket and put them in a mass grave.

Stefan:  You didn’t stay in Rudolfsgnad very long, did we?  You and me at the same time…

Mark Deutsch:  But you never knew each other?

Erna:  Yeah, we didn’t know each other, we didn’t know the family.  Well anyway they…

Stefan:  That’s where I stopped wasn’t it, when we got moved to Rudolfsgnad that was a big camp… And well she was anyway, they all died and they put them in mass grave and uh…

Mark Deutsch:  Who was left to take care of you then after that?

Erna:  My mothers’ mother, my grandmother, which is Elisabeth Weiss.

Elisabeth Weiss, right, that is my mother’s mother, Magdalena Kollinger, that is my mother.  And she took care of us three girls and then my sister Helga was about six-years old and she couldn’t eat, she couldn’t eat anything without salt and of course you didn’t get nothing to eat over there except water and peas and cornbread, so she wouldn’t eat so she starved to death and she was only six years old.  She was the middle one, but me and my sister the older sister, Leni, Magdalena, she and me survived but I was skinny, everyone thought I would be the one that dies, but it was Helga that died, but then… And then…I can’t continue.

Erna:  Okay, I stopped when Helga died, she died of starvation, that’s what she really did, because she couldn’t eat anything without salt, but Leni and me, we survived and everybody thought that I would be the one, because I was the skinny little one, so my mother’s mother took care of us and then, I don’t know what year it was, we got out of Rudolfsgnad and went to Uprava…

Erna:  That was a forced labor camp, so my grandmother… My mother’s mother, my grandmother, Oma …

Mark Deutsch:  Is this the time you were in Rudolfsgnad – was that not a labor camp?

Stefan:  No it was a concentration camp…

Erna:  It was a concentration camp….

Stefan:  It was a starvation camp, it was, just people were starving to death

Mark Deutsch:  You were still surrounded by fence and things?

Erna:  Right…

Stefan:  There were guards around the village,

Erna:  See I don’t remember all of that…

Stefan:  It was a large, 50,000 plus person camp though…

Erna:  Because I was so small, you know…

Stefan:  It was a bigger town…

Erna:  Because Stefan was much older, he was about six years older then me, so he remembers more than I do.

Henly:  So did you live in, in little houses or how, what…

Stefan:  Mostly people in a house, you know…maybe 50

Erna:  What it was, I remember, there was a building wasn’t it and everybody was in there, I don’t know fifty sixty people were in there as far as I can remember…

Mark Deutsch:  Like a barracks?

Erna:  Like a barracks, and then when you…then when you went to sleep, well anyway, when you went to sleep in there, the rats and mice they come and eat some people’s heels off, because they were hungry, so they were just eating the peoples feet and their fingers, while we were sleeping, I guess we were so tired or whatever, we’re starved that we didn’t really feel it, cause I remember seeing some of them,

Stefan:  I heard a lot about that too…

Erna:  But I was very little when I saw that and then Oma and that was, we were in there maybe about a year, huh?  Something like that in Rudolfsgnad and after Rudolfsgnad we went to the Uprava, which was a forced labor camp, which my grandmother had to go to work and us kids had to go to school, but I was to little, but Leni went to school, that’s my sister and we only learned Serbish, and I went too, but all of the sudden I got sick, here I go again, and I could hardly walk and I went only, I only went one day to school and I remember one work that I learned, that was luljatchka that means swing set, that is still stuck in my head, I still see the picture in the book, but anyways, I couldn’t go to school, I had to stay home, because I couldn’t walk, I was sick, my legs went bad and my grandma she had to go to work everyday, so I remember it was like a chicken farm, she used to work at, little chickens and we used to stay in the meadows and play, then a few more kids were there in Uprava and we’d play together while the grown ups were working, so there were about five or six families in one little house, each one had one room, but anyway it was, they treated us pretty nice, it wasn’t bad at all really, anyways, as far as I remember, I remember Christmas time, there was a nice young girl there and she put a tree up, it looked beautiful to me, you know, I was young, and we used to go up into town, I don’t even know the name of the town, it was a town, you don’t remember the name of the town that was there?

No, I was not in the same town; I was in a different town.  That’s right, and I remember one thing that they had a play and it was called the “Golden Goose,” you know where the goose laid and egg and everything came out gold, I remember that play, that was so nice.  I actually in a way, I had a good time over there, in a way, because I was a kid, you know, kids don’t think about all the bad stuff, but anyway after that, that was 1951, my grandma she tried to get us out to Germany because my mother came back from Russian to Germany as where is Eisenerz.

Stefan: We went to an uprava in Serbia called Godomin near Smederivo until 1953.

Mark Deutsch:  So you went from the camp?

Erna:  From the camp…

Mark Deutsch:  You all went to Germany?

Erna:  Not quite yet, we tried to go anyway, my grandmother had to fill out a whole bunch of red tape, you know, and finally they let me and my sister go, they let us go to Germany and my mother came and met us because she came from Russia to Germany and my father around the same time from England to Germany and they…

Mark Deutsch:  You went back to Germany instead of to your village?

Erna:  Yeah no, they never went back anymore, no, no, because it was all bombed and it was not livable anymore there…

Mark Deutsch:  How about the forced labor camp?

Erna:  The forced labor camp, no, we never went, no, they let us go from over there, my grandmother had to stay in the forced labor camp, except the kids, they let go to the parents, so me and my sister went on a train from Belgrad which was the capital right, the capital of Yugoslavia at that time.

Me and my sister went by ourselves…I was eight, nine, I was about nine and Leni was thirteen. My grandmother didn’t go with us. This is in 1951.The forced labor camps were still there…The concentration camps were dissolved by the United Nations in 1953, but the war ended in 1945. In1951 my grandmother she had to stay there still, she had to work, because they wouldn’t let her go out, because nobody could leave unless they were approved, you know, and she stayed there, we went to Germany actually to Austria first and then my mother came and picked me and Leni up in Austria.

What was that like when you saw your mother again in Austria? Well I didn’t really know them … My mother knew us, yeah, she knew us, yeah sure she knew us, but my mother came from Germany to Austria and she took us from over there to Germany and then my father and mother and us we were there and then my father, I remember he says “give me a kiss” and I said “I don’t know you, so I won’t kiss you.”

I imagine it hurt them of course, of course, but I was nine years old, eight and a half, nine years old, because three and nine there is six, seven years in between, so I didn’t know my parents, I just remember seeing a nice picture of my mother, but never my father.

They got letters in Russia and they were able to write back through the Red Cross…and then my grandmother she got mail, Oma, cause she got mail from her daughter but I couldn’t read I was to young to read…The Red Cross took care of those things…

They did that and then, then we went to Germany and we stayed there with my parents, my father was working in the Weberlei and my mother was working in a garment factory, yeah she was working there in Germany and me and my sister went to school and then we were there for about, we had it pretty nice over there in Germany, we stayed there for six and a half years, until 1957…

It’s in Reutlingen, it’s about fifty kilometers from Stuttgart…

When we went to Germany though it was the Adlergodi that was my grandmothers, my mothers, my grandmother’s sister Adlergodi she lived over there and we lived with them until we found an apartment, because at that time apartments were scarce, you couldn’t find any apartments we all lived in one room because of all the bombing.

We lived in one room Adlergodi and her son, she had a son, Peter and we lived in one room and Adlergodi and Peter they stayed there to sleep and we rented a room to go to sleep, my parents and me and Leni.  That was going on for about one year. My mother went almost every day she went to Landesamt to see if they have apartments available and finally they had one so we finally moved into an apartment next to a butcher, isn’t that amazing, next to a butcher and your father was a butcher, next to a butcher and so we had a real nice apartment, we had two bedrooms, there was actually three bedrooms, and a living room and a kitchen, real, real nice, so and then, was that in 1951 me and my sister came to Germany. In 1953 oh my that’s two years later my mothers, mother, they finally let her come out from Yugoslavia to come and join her daughter which is my mother, they let her come out and she stayed with us, she lived with us in Germany and then a couple of years later Oma she wanted to have her own apartment so she got and rented her own apartment in Deutschland and my father he had a good job and my mother had a good job and then in 1956 my parents decided they wanted to go to America because my mothers cousin, I think it was, yeah, Elisabeth Urso her name was, they lived in America already and they wrote to us how nice it is here and everything you know you can find work and everything, you can live better than you do in Germany at that time, because the war destroyed, demolished over there, so my parents decided to come to America in 1957 all the paperwork is all done in 1957 January 21st, 1957 we came to America.

We came by boat with a troop transport, the “General Taylor ”…With a whole lot of people from Germany, a lot of them came to America because they figured, well Germany is all destroyed, most of it is going to take a long time, so you can make a better living maybe in the United States and that’s why we came to the United States. For me it was a fun trip because I didn’t get sick, I wasn’t sea sick, but my sister had a rough time, Leni, she had to have a brown bag with her all the time.

They were not very big ships the troop transports you know… No, there were a lot of people. I don’t remember how many people that were on there…It was full anyway you know but we had fun, so we came over here to America and we came to through New York to Ellis Island…So everybody, all of us went to look and when you saw the Statue of Liberty and everything, they said oh look, look, look we’re in America, so we came into the New York harbor and the only thing that struck me at the time was everything where we came from Germany it was pretty neat and clean our little village that we lived in but the first thing that struck me was in New York, first thing, there was a newspaper flying in your face, in other words the streets were pretty dirty.

Yeah, you know, it wasn’t too neat then, but right now they are much better. And we went to New York and from New York we took a train and we had everything we had from Germany we brought along and the only thing, other thing is, I had an accordion, Hohner, which is a very well known brand, because I was learning how to play the accordion, so the thing they did, Americans, you know, the first thing they did, they took off the name from the accordion Hohner, because they thought we might want to sell it, we didn’t even have the intention of doing that, we were going to keep it, so they took the name brand off of my Hohner accordion, which I just got, so, that’s the only thing that wasn’t to nice I thought at the time I was thirteen and a half, I was fourteen, I was fourteen years old when we came to America, 1957 in January and from New York we took the train to America, I mean to Chicago.

My father’s cousins lived in Chicago, on the north side of Chicago on Cleveland, Cleveland Avenue, Cleveland and North Avenue they lived. It was an all German neighborhood, they even had a movie over there that was all German, they used to show German movies, and we went there and they had a house already and we lived with them for about two weeks and my mother had to work and my father had work and we went to school and we got an apartment after two weeks we were with relatives, we had an apartment on Orchard Street, it was Orchard and North, it wasn’t too far away from the relatives and I went to school at an all catholic grade school, St. Michaels and then also to a High School, St. Michael Central High, which I graduated from in 1962, because I didn’t have any schooling actually when we came from Yugoslavia so I had to start first grade, I was nine, so and another thing is because we didn’t speak one word English when we came. So there really, the way I really learned English was from the commercials on TV, which we never, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a TV when we came from Yugoslavia or Germany either, we didn’t have any TV’s there, we had a radio but not a TV so I learned mostly from the commercials and the reason is, because they repeat everything a hundred times on the commercials so I learned actually English from there, but then I had, I went to a catholic sister, Sister Cosild, she, she knew German and there were about fifteen or sixteen of us German girls that came around the same time that we came to America, they were in the same situation as I was and so we made friends…we made friends right away, you know, and Sister Cosild she always wanted to talk German because we knew how to talk it you know and she helped us along with the English, so in other words, another thing that was struck us, German people when we came there, us German girls, we were way ahead in school compared to the American kids, but we didn’t know the language so they always asked us, how do you do this, how do you do that, you know, especially math, you know, cause, what they learned we had two years ago already in Germany, so that was, kind of fascinating, yeah and what kept us back was because of the language, but then they let us skip a couple of years, you know, and put us farther ahead, so I did graduate in grade school in 1958 and High School in 1962, and after that, after I graduated, I found a job in a bank, I worked in a bank, First National Bank of Chicago and that’s where I met some other German girls and Americans, we were always stuck together, there were seven of us, we were always together and worked over there until I met my husband which is Stefan Deutsch, I met him at a German dancing and every Saturday night they had German dances, so they were there every Saturday night with all our girlfriends in a German neighborhood…seven of us girlfriends who were working in the First National Bank together we always went, there were four, three American girls and that was Susan, Annette, and Gloria, they were the American Girls and there was Linda, Meta, which is still my girlfriend which lives now in Florida, and Carol too, she is American too, Linda, Carol, Me, Edorsia, we went to the dances. Carol was Polish and she lived in a Polish neighborhood, but that doesn’t…Chicago had all these ethnic neighborhoods you know… Yeah they had the Italian neighborhood, German neighborhood, Bohemian Neighborhood … Mexican … They all stuck to themselves then … At that time …

Stefan:  We left off at the camp, where I went to the big camp. Okay well I left off the story in 1947, well we went to the big camp in Rudolfsgnad and which is the same camp that my wife was in, although we didn’t know it at the time and that was a bigger camp, but maybe fifty-thousand people there in the concentration camp and we were there only for a short time, maybe a year, less than a year, and that was, I’ve seen mass graves there too, and a lot of houses with sick people in them and dead people in them, I was at the time twelve-years old and a bunch of us guys, young fellows, we would be roaming the village, the town, we had our little group or I guess you could call it and we would just wonder around the village their and we would go into houses with dead people in them and sick people in them and it was a pretty bad time and I believe it was in Rudolfsgnad that my mother joined us from Russia, she was released from Russia at the time, that was my mother Eva Deutsch and she was released from Russia to Germany, but she, she wanted to join us, we were still in the camp at the time and she wanted to join us in the camp.  She was free in Germany, but we were still in the camp and she just wanted to see her family, her parents and her children and she actually walked from Germany down to Yugoslavia on foot, that’s a story in itself, maybe I will tell you that story sometime.

I don’t know how long it took her, but it’s a, it’s quite a story, the way she walked from Germany down to Yugoslavia she was arrested a few times on the way by the border guards and released again, two, or three, or four times.  Maybe I’ll tell that story some other time.  Anyway I believe my mother joined us in Rudolfsgnad in 1947 and we stayed there for a short time and then the United Nations dissolved the concentration camps and all the German people from the concentration camps were transferred to forced labor camps around Yugoslavia, the forced labor camps we used to call in Russia the Gulags, where the people, the German people worked there and they couldn’t leave, but we actually got paid for the work.

The Yugoslavian army ran those camps. They were the army they were government farms, we were transferred from Rudolfsgnad to a town called Smederevo on the Danube river which was a city of maybe a hundred thousand people and we were, our forced labor camp was a huge farm of thousands of acres that included, corn fields, wheat fields, vegetable fields, one corn field was like a mile long and a mile wide, a huge farm, but it used to be private before the communists took over and then they came and took it over, when Tito was running the country the government took the farm over and there was vineyards, orchards, fruit orchards and there was actually an agricultural college on the farm itself.  That was run by the communists and that’s where we got transferred, we got transferred to in 1948 and nobody could leave there, no German people could leave there and somehow sooner or later they decided to release some of the German people and the German people they all became German citizens at when the German army invaded Yugoslavia all the German people became German citizens and the somehow the Yugoslavians decided to release the German people and let them move back to Germany.  I lived on the farm there with my grandparents, my mother and my sister and we lived there until 1953 on that farm, some of the people left sooner and some of the people left later and as far as I know, we had to pay the government a certain amount of money to get the release forms from the Government to move back to Germany, well my sister went to dances on the uprava on the farm every Saturday night and the Yugoslavian boys used to come and dance with the German girls there and my sister got to know a Serbian fellow, actually he was Slovenian a tall blonde fellow and they decided to get married and my sister stayed down in Yugoslavia and my grandparents stayed in Yugoslavia too.  I left with my mother in 1953 in Yugoslavia outside of Smederevo was that city, Smederevo was an interesting town because they had an oil refinery there that was bombed by the German Air Force, there were great big holes all around uprava over there on the corn fields and wheat fields where the bombs fell, they also had a fortress that was built by the Turks a thousand years before that, that was like a mile long and a mile wide right on the Danube river anyhow we were released from the farm there, we actually got paid for our work there, but we only got paid enough to buy clothes for ourselves and food and nobody was allowed to leave until you got some money saved up and paid the government off and paid for your release to go back to Germany.  Well, anyway my mother and me got, I guess we took a bus from Smederevo to Belgrade and on Belgrade in the middle of the night I think it was midnight we got on the Orient Express I guess I think it was, It came from Istanbul to Germany or wherever it goes to Paris, I don’t know, and we got on that train in the middle of the night if I remember, I was seventeen at the time, we got on the train and we went to Austria and I got off the train in Villach a beautiful little town in Austria, it’s a resort town, where my mother’s brother lived, they moved there after the war sometime. We stayed with them I don’t know for a short time maybe a month or something and then we were transferred to another transfer, it wasn’t a camp it was transfer station where they kept DP’s, Displaced People, that were people from other countries that immigrated back to Germany because they were of German origin and that they were trying to figure out where to put everybody and they anyway we got transferred to that place, transfer station and then from there that was my mothers brother lived there in Philip and from there we were transferred to a Niederkirchen where my mothers lived Deliva Tante and Marybass and we lived in Niederkirchen for three years from 1953, we left in 1953 to 1956 and I finished my schooling there in Neustadt I went to school, to German school before the war in Kruschiwel up to the fifth grade I guess, and I finished my school and in Neustadt and I learned the printing trade right after that in real fast order somehow and from Niederkirchen we decided to immigrate to the United States, I had an Aunt in the United States, Aunt Mary that was my fathers sister that immigrated to Canada around 1928 and from Canada she moved to the United States to Chicago, I don’t know what year she moved to Chicago, and she sponsored us to come to Chicago, we had to have a job lined up and had to have a place to live lined up, you know, it was all done legal, yeah and she sponsored us to come to Chicago…

In Germany we took a bus I suppose to Bremerhaven which is one of the big ports in Germany…Harbor, Big Harbor, Hamburg and Bremerhaven are two big ports I guess in Germany and from there we got on a troop transport ship like my wife did, the name of that ship was General Langford. It was a troop transport, not very big, I don’t know, maybe a couple hundred feet long. Anyway, we got on that ship and we were on our way to America and as we traveled across the Atlantic we got into a hurricane. My mother and me only, and we got into a hurricane and the boat was rocking so bad the….the prop was coming out of the water in the back end and you could hear, it was rumbling, brrummm, the propeller came out of the water and then it went down and the other end would come out of the water, the waves were like I don’t know fifty feet high and everybody on the boat was screaming we’re all going to die and everybody got sick and I was one of the last ones to get sick too, but I finally got sick too on the boat, anyway at one point there was a fire on the ship and smoke came out of one of the rooms and everybody panicked and people started screaming we’re all going to die, we’re all going to die, the crew tried to calm everybody down, well anyway we survived and finally arrived in New York, Ellis Island, right and from Ellis Island we got on a bus to Chicago…No, we went on a bus, if I remember, I think we went on a bus.

Yeah it was a long ride okay and we got to Chicago and Aunt Mary picked us up with a great big Buick at the bus station and she took us to her house, Aunt Mary had a beautiful duplex on the south side of Chicago, we stayed with her for a, I don’t know, six months maybe until we found our own apartment, apartments were easy to find at the time and work was easy to find at the time, I first applied at the German newspaper because I learned the printing trade, but the German newspaper at Chicago, in Chicago had it’s own German newspaper, they still have it, but they didn’t need anybody at the time, so I applied at Donnelly’s that was the biggest print shop probably in this country, they print all the telephone books, Donnelly’s’ corporation on Lake Shore Chicago, they didn’t need anybody either at the time, well there was other jobs available, lots of other jobs available, anyway I found a job at a, with a big printing company in Chicago called Wallace Press and I spent sixteen years there from 1956 to 72, spent sixteen years at Wallace Press, but I didn’t speak the language, although I went to night school, I went to school in Germany to learn English but it didn’t help all that much…I was twenty, I was twenty when I came to the United States, yeah and I got the job at Wallace press, but I had to go, I learned the printing business in Germany, but I had to go through a whole apprenticeship program again in Chicago because I didn’t speak the language and I had a diploma that was not recognized, so I learned the printing business again, I learned the printing business twice, maybe helped me, it made it easier, and in Chicago we lived pretty good.

My mother was cleaning houses for some folks in the suburbs of Chicago cause she did, you know, they didn’t learn any trades, they were farmers and as a wife worked in the butcher shop back home with my father, but they didn’t learn any trades they were just many farmers, and she was cleaning houses for these nice folks outside of Chicago in the suburbs and I was working at Wallace press in the print shop, I started up on the floor as a floor boy and I became, I finally got transferred to the press room and then I was an apprentice on the press, and I was a what they call a feeder on the press, that was the second stage after being a helper and then I finally went to trade school in Chicago that was run by the Union and I learned how to become a pressman and I was running this printing press that was like a block long…In the meantime, the web press yeah, in the meantime, I was only in this country for a year or so, I got enough money to buy myself a car, which I thought was great and a year later around 1959 or so I bought myself a boat, Aunt Mary had a cottage on the lake out at Fox Lake, that was thirty miles north west of Chicago, she had a cottage out there and we would go out there for weekends and I talked Aunt Mary into, I bought the boat and she bought the motor.

Aunt Mary lived in Chicago I don’t know how many years, but she was married to Uncle George and Uncle George died in his fifties and she was alone after that. Her name was Mary Zettl, you know her maiden name was Deutsch, Mary Deutsch and married name was Zettl, Uncle Georges name was Zettl. They had one son, Gabrielle, that lived with us in our house in the old country back in Kruschiwel, he was a young man, seventeen or eighteen, and during the time that Aunt Mary was in Canada and Chicago, we took care of him, their son Gabrielle lived with us and we took care of him, my parents and my grandparents took care of him and when he was eighteen or so he decided to join the German Army all the young fellows in the village pretty much volunteered to join the German Army and we never saw him again and Aunt Mary never saw him again either.  He died somewhere in France.

And she never had any more children, yeah that was heartbreak for Aunt Mary and Uncle George and Uncle George died in his fifties in Chicago.  Okay, where was I then, after I talked Aunt Mary into buying the boat and I bought the motor or the other way around, I don’t know which way it was, but she had that cottage on the lake and I told her, well if you have a cottage on the lake, you have to have a boat, you know, so she bought that boat and we had a good time all the time and in Chicago we had this soccer team there with mostly German fellows on it, played soccer every Sunday afternoon there. The team was called the “Wanderers,” it was started in the 1920’s by some German folks down there and when I came to Chicago I joined them up and we played every Sunday against other teams from other ethnic groups like Italian teams, Polish teams, and all sorts of ethnic groups in Chicago that we played against, because Americans didn’t play that much soccer at the time, but anyway, right after I decided to buy a boat I got a draft notice from Uncle Sam it said, “You have been chosen.”

Erna:  To go to the army.

Stefan:  I joined the Army or I reported for duty in the Army.

Henly:  and this is what year?

Stefan:  1960, June 22 1960.

Henly:  So when they were drafting because of the Korean War?  Is that why they were drafting?

Stefan:  No, at the time.

Erna:  Everybody had to.

Stefan:  The Vietnamese war started it at the time, but everybody had to join the Army, everybody was drafted unless you got a college deferment or if you got married…

Erna:  If you got married…

Mark Deutsch:  You had to do two-years…

Henly:  That’s right because …

Stefan:  It was an honor of two-years at the time.

Erna:  Yeah, till 1962…

Stefan:  And I got drafted…

Erna:  Till 1962…

Stefan:  Yeah and the sad part was that my mother was alone at the time, you know, in a foreign country, you know, when I think about that, that must have been awful for my mother, but I was having a good time in this country and I went in the Army, I was inducted in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Fort Leonard Wood and from Fort Leonard Wood I went to Fort Riley, Kansas that’s where I joined the First Infantry Division and from Fort Riley Kansas we went to Fort Gordon, Georgia in the Signal Corps, learned to be a signal corpsman and that was two-months boot camp, two-months of specialty training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, boot camp was Fort Riley, Kansas, signal core training was in Fort Gordon, Georgia, just outside of Columbus Georgia, that was another two-months and from there I was transferred to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and I spent the rest of the two-years in Fort Bragg, North Carolina and they were going to send me to Germany but they never did send me to Germany and I spent the whole rest of the time in Fort Bragg, North Carolina and when I came back in 1962, June of 1962 back to Chicago, going to all the German dances and playing the soccer games and all the girls would be out there watching the games and they’d be going to the German dances and the German boys and the German girls met each other at the dances, that’s where I met Erna Kollinger, we decided to get married in 1964, we bought a house before we got married, actually, didn’t we?

Erna:  Yeah

Stefan:  Signed a contract before we got married and we got married in Chicago 1964 and we bought a house out in Wheeling, Illinois that was like thirty-five, thirty-five miles North West of Chicago in the suburb and well…

Erna:  Well…

Stefan:  Should I continue?

Erna:  The rest is history, the rest they should know after that.

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