L. P. Wilhelm of San Antonio, Texas, attended the Bundestreffen in Stuttgart, Germany inJune 3-12, 1998.where he met the Alexander Herbel family. I met him in Wichita, and askedhim to submit a report for our readers. His report follows.
"The last time that I saw the Rhine in 1987, it was flooding. This year it was a well behavedriver with lots of boat and barge traffic on it. We stayed at Hotel Rheinlust at Boppard on thewest (left) side of the river.
"Johann Kromm and his wife Pauline came to visit with me. Several AHSGR people had beenworking for a year to learn where his dad, Alexander Kromm, was born on 18 Oct 1906, inColorado somewhere. The family had come to America to work; they returned to Russia in 1912,because they didn't like it in America. Marie Carroll and Barbara Morrise joined us on the parkbench overlooking the Rhein. We visited for an hour or two, talking about how he was deportedfrom Schoental [A Volga daughter colony on the upper Jeruslan River] in Sep 1941 at the age ofeleven. His family was sent to Kazakstan and lived in a small house with another family. Theother family starved to death in 1942. ---
"Marie spoke German well, Barbara did not. Everyone got along great and enjoyed the visit. Johann and Pauline were so proud to have met Americans.
"Our bus driver, Martin, and tour guide, Robert, took us for a quick tour of old Heidelberg castleand the old market square area. Then we drove up the scenic Nekar Valley on the way toStuttgart. Excitement was in the air, because the next day, Saturday June 6, was the day of thebig meeting of Germans from Russia. It is known as the Bundestreffen (federal meeting), andis held in even numbered years in "die Messe" or fair grounds. In 1987 in Wiesbaden, it was athree day lecture affair, with political and business speakers. Now it has evolved into a one daysocial extravaganza.
"Our tour members were more interested in contacting persons at the now called "old villages"tables. i.e. villages on the Volga before Sep 1941. Several of us met relatives and friends. I metMrs. Alexander Herbel, son Dr. Alexander Herbel Jr. and his wife Vera. Another correspondent,Otto Felker of Nurenberg, rode the bus 2 1/2 hours and 200 miles to visit me. He had in hand,the letter which I had sent to his half brother, Johann Rudy. Otto had written an articlepublished in the Heimatbuch 1997-8. Otto was very proud of that. He too, was very proud tohave met an American. Jakob Stremel of Stuttgart, cousin of Martha Issinghoff of Dodge City,KS, came to visit, even though he had a crippled leg, and it was difficult for him to walk.---
"Fifteen or twenty other people stopped by, looking for people from Dreispitz or other nearbyvillages. Sometimes I had difficulty understanding their dialects; I speak only standard highGerman. I did not find Lydia (Herdt) Schroeder, a second cousin who lives in Hannover. Shehad grown up in Schilling, Omsk, Siberia area, and has been in Germany for about six years. ---
"Chancellor Helmut Kohl gave a speech at the conference. He said to the awesome crowd of60,000, "Die Tuer ist noch offen" (the door is still open; Germans in Russia are still welcome inGermany.) Large T.V. screens carried the picture of Kohl to the many large rooms in the huge
building. "It was indeed a social event. The ladies, young and old, were dressed in their best attire. Young ladies mostly wore large square high heeled shoes, which seemed to be the style. Manyhotter inside.
"Everywhere German was spoken. I did not hear any Russian spoken, although many youngpeople still probably spoke it better than German. Mostly people sat around long tables visitingrelatives and friends of the past from far away places. People brought sandwiches and schnappsin purses and bags. Drinks and food sold at the food stands were very expensive. I paid 5marks 50 for a cup of coffee--about $3.50.
"On Sunday, Marie Carroll and I were invited to dinner at the Alexander Herbel house. OtillieHerbel and daughter-in-law Vera Herbel had prepared a beautiful feast. it started out with redcaviar spread on black bread. There was tossed green salad and potato salad. These werefollowed by a beautiful pork roast. Desert was chocolate cake and coffee.
"On Monday morning, we had a tour of the old Stuttgart market square, the old castle from c.1050 and the new castle from c. 1600. Most of the buildings around the square were new. Stuttgart had been 90 % destroyed during W W II. In the afternoon we visited the Hohenzollerncastle southeast of Stuttgart. A formidible fortress, very impressive. On Tuesday, we drovedown the Romantic Road, driving from one old village to another. We stopped late in theafternoon in Rothenburg, a lovely old walled city. It was ideal for the tourist to walk around the'old town' and take a few pictures. Many shops had a lot of things to buy. Prices were good.
"On Wednesday, we packed our bags again and boarded the bus to Buedingen. After westopped at Lauterbach and visited an open air county market, spread over two miles of streets. We went on to Graebenstein to visit a Protestant church with 15 aging members in a nowCatholic village. Two small village stores offered post cards, candies and cold drinks. We wenton to another village which had a natural history museum with stuffed animals. There was alsoan old farmstead museum which showed how life was one hundred years ago. It was very welldone.
"We arrived in Buedingen late on the eve of Corpru Christi (body of Christ) day. Stores wereclosed; no shopping. Next day Thursday, Buedingen, and indeed the whole state of Germanyhad their shops closed for the Catholic holiday. So the tour group walked to the Buedingencastle, the Protestant church and the quaint old streets. Some people also went to a smallVolkfest at the U. S. Army base a mile from Buedingen in the afternoon. Thursday evening, wewere welcomed to Buedingen by Mayor Luft. The dinner that followed was outstanding. Thenext morning Friday was goodby to Buedingen, from where many of our ancestors left forRussia in the late 1760's. It was on to Frankfurt to catch our airplanes back to America. Although Germany is a wonderful place to visit, it was good to be back to the good old U. S. of A."