Letters From Germany

Köhler cousins (page 1)
1932 - 1948


In August 2005, Kevin Maas discovered in the attic of his parent's farm house a box of letters that had been sent by Köhler relatives in Germany to their cousin, August Maas, in Walnut Grove, MN. The first letter was dated October 3, 1932 expressing condolences at the death of Emilie (Köhler) Maas. No letters were found for the years between 1933 and 1947; however, some letters were undated. More than 80 letters and cards from eight cousins were found for the years between 1948 and 1957. The last letter, dated March 20, 1957, was received from Emma Vogel. The cousins were the sons, daughters and daughters-in-law of Carl Friedrich August Köhler, a brother of Emilie (Köhler) Maas. All of the letters were hand written in either the old Gothic script or the more modern German script. Many of these letters have now been translated and are published here and on the following pages.

We are indebted to all those mentioned on this and subsequent pages who graciously provided transcriptions and English translations. A special debt of gratitude is owed to Siegfried Krause from Germany who transcribed and translated over 90 letters. Many of the letters were further edited by Gene Maas to improve (but not perfect) grammar and sentence structure. It is possible that the English version does not always reflect exactly what the writer intended.

[The accession numbers (A/N) are for reference and cataloging purposes.]

The letters on this page were sent by Anna (Köhler) Michaelis to her first cousin, August Maas, in Walnut Grove, MN.

[ Comment by Gene Maas - CARE stood for "Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe", a private humanitarian organization founded in 1945. It now stands for "Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, Inc."]

A/N - MIC001 - This letter from Anna Michaelis was sent when she and her husband were still living near Labes, Kr. Regenwalde, Pommern. [translation by Marv Lanzel from Indian Head Park, IL]

Labes A and D

October 3, 1932

You dear ones all!

Because my parents are also old and do not like to write anymore, I must, therefore, write to you answering your last letter. We are very sorry that Aunt (Emilie) Maass died so suddenly. She often wrote us such beautiful letters which always made us very happy. The other relatives didn’t write us very much. Dear Cousin! As you wrote, Auntie had a good end and reached a great age. Father was 73 in September and Mother was 72. If God wills and all remain healthy, we can celebrate on November 3 this year their golden wedding. Father will continue tending sheep and helping me in the sheep farm until fall and then he will retire. Mother is not as active as Father, she had influenza very bad two years ago. Since then she is totally exhausted. In spite of that, her health is good. Your letter was addressed to Piepenhagen; we don’t live there anymore because the sheep farm was closed. We have lived here in Labes A and D for three years already. It is not far from the old place. For that reason, we received the letter from there. We have a good living here and if you have that today one is happy. Our parents would have preferred to stay in Piepenhagen where Father lived so long, but he wanted to continue tending sheep.

We are all still together because I married a shepherd. The worst is that I have a sister who sadly has epileptic seizures that come frequently. She is here with us also, she has never in her life been able to work. She is 33 years old. My parents have taken so many measures but all without result, nothing has helped. I have two children who are already in school. From what we see in your letter things are the same there. The livestock that we sell are always too cheap for the things we must buy which are too expensive. For the landlord and the tenant things are no longer good because of the many taxes. So we now must live as if we were three.

My brother Franz in Stettin is already long out of work, the other brothers also have things rough. Karl and Wilhelm also have sheep farms. My youngest sister who is married and in Thuringen, is equally bad off because her husband has been out of work for two years already. Those who herd on the farm always have their herd and do not hunger. Wage reduction we already have and must do with less money.

You dear ones! If you should be together with the other relatives, please greet them heartily from my parents and us all. We would be very happy if you would write us a few lines. Mother no longer has her many sisters because they are going one after the other. Uncle Franz will soon follow his wife.

We are always very happy when a letter comes from abroad, and if we owe any relative an answer don’t think evil of it; as I already said, my parents can no longer write. We were really happy six years ago when Anna Buss and her husband visited us. We cannot make such a trip because I would certainly have difficulty with such a voyage over the water. You dear ones I now close with the hope that you will receive these lines in good health; from the great distance away you are greeted by my parents and us all in an unknown way.

Anna Michaelis nee Köhler

A/N - MIC002 - [translation by Monica Spicker from Spokane, WA]

Heeslingen near Zeven, Bezirk Bremen, Germany)
11 January 1948

Dear Cousin August and Family,

Must answer your dear letter today, Sunday; you cannot believe how much joy your letter gave me; it still arrived in the old year, 31 Dec 1947. We find it so nice of our dear relatives, that one gives the other our address. Especially thank-you for the warm Christmas and New Year's greetings and for the nice family picture, that one can look at over and over again.

Dear August! You have such beautiful children and it is good that your son Paul came home again well. We only had 2 children, a boy and a girl. But our dear boy was taken in Thurigia and fell in Russia in 1943 at the age of 20. He had settled on the occupation of sheepherder and wanted to be a support to us, but the evil war has wiped out everything. Now we only have the one daughter, who is 22 years old, got engaged on New Year's, the future son-in-law is also a refugee, so both are standing before nothing. And how we had saved on the old beloved homeland, the whole dowry is gone.

My dears, I don’t want to complain, it doesn't help us, and I want to write to you that we haven't lost everything and that we are doing very well. Since my husband was very industrious and lived so well together with my dear parents. My father went alone on that path, died in 1942 and lies buried in the cemetery in Labes (?). We had at that time bought a spot for Mother, a very nice tombstone; Mother's name was already on it. But the dear God has decided otherwise for us and for her, she had to join the flight with us and then die during the flight, buried in Frankfurt (?) in Sachsen by Hulla (?) on the S.

My dear ones! If I had to describe the horrible experiences of these past years, I would have to write a book, but believe us; we both have endured horrible things before I found my dear husband. We arrived here with a bundle under the arm and so skinny, because we had to stay in the camp for 4 months. We three worked for farmers for food, they were good people, but believe me, it wasn't so for all of us. We had it so good in the beloved homeland, the yearning rises up again, but there is no hope for a return. That you dear ones have sent a package makes us very happy, because one can use everything, even if they are used things. My husband _______ himself at his work, perhaps you have an extra used jacket for him. From the Lau’s my daughter and I got dresses and we were very happy, also Martha Buss sent us for Christmas a food package, and we could bake ourselves a good cake. We are grateful to you all, that you have something to spare for us. Not even a picture can we send you, everything was left behind. The medal for our son, the Polish broke with their feet. One does not dare remember one grasps fresh courage and with God's help press forward, the main thing is that we remain healthy.

We are still in the best age, I am 52, Bertha is 63, about your age. Only 5 siblings still live, Franz, the oldest will be 68 next March, is in the vicinity of Ihneburg (?). My brother Fritz was a master smith and had his own smithy. The Russians dragged him away, any trace (of him) is missing, and also a brother of my husband is missing.

Dear August! That you saved a letter I wrote 15 years ago is touching, but will you receive these lines with the same joy? Your lines are good to read, your handwriting is not bad. Aunt Block has written us. When something from America arrives, we are always happy. Otherwise there is very little happiness. Missing is every little things. If you could send a brush and scissors, we would be most grateful.

I now want to come to an end and wish for you Dear Cousin and family much luck and God's wise blessing in the New Year. You write that your wife already has gray hair, I have them already, too.

Be heartily greeted from afar,

From family August and Anna Michaelis with daughter Anni.

Will not be writing soon

A/N - MIC003 [translation by Siegfried Krause]


31 January 1948

Dear cousin together with family!

I immediately must write that your two packages have reached our hands OK. Our daughter has picked up the CARE package from our district capital and those with the clothing came a few days later. Our joy was naturally very great receiving 2 packages from you! It is a big help for us and we are very grateful to you for it. First of all, cordial thanks for the beautiful package of food. It contains all the delicacies that we lacked already many years. And now once the second package with the valuable things. For me, the beautiful coat that fits very well and the warm dress. Our daughter was tremendously pleased with the pretty clothes; they fit so well, in addition the beautiful shoes; also my husband can use the things so well. They were already scarce here. In the homeland one had everything, despite the years of war. Our daughter, Anni, thanks you a thousand times for all the good things. Aunt Block has sent us beautiful silk stockings; now we are still missing a garter for it. Maybe your daughters can get one for her once, also some underwear as well as shirt-slips. As it is with the youth, they want to participate in everything and dress themselves sensibly.

Please forgive me, because I have so many wishes, it is not so easy, however, when one has lost everything; it begins already with the smallest piece. We had packed the most necessary things, when we were expelled, but everything was taken away behind Stettin by the Polish, one must not think about it. We also want to resign ourselves to what fate will bring us. How gladly, we would like to go back again to our beloved home, and build our own home again. There we still had many wool sheep -- today, one stands here like a beggar. It is a very big help to us, if you dear ones discard something for us. You have thought of even baby linen; so far, we still have no grandchild, but I mentioned already in the first letter, that our only daughter became engaged and our future son-in-law is left empty-handed exactly as we are. The beautiful things are well looked after, maybe they were used once.

Dear August! If once you discard a suit, or a coat, then think of us. My dear husband still wears his mended soldier-jacket and he has such a bad coat, that it is already patched everywhere, it’s a military coat as well. My husband is middle sized, not far too stout. Maybe your sons also discard something once. So, one must beg today, even if it is difficult and we were so beautiful in our clothing. Have not gotten any thing for my husband.

If the dear God only will give us health, we want to strive courageously forward. Our farmers are happy with us, when we get a dear package from you over there. Only believe that it is bad for the farmers here. The house is full with refugees, they shall deliver more and more; if a farmer once needs a bit ? necessarily, he has to exchange it. In the Russian zone many (people) from our home settled, but many moved away once again; rather, we want to work so. The most beautiful is, that it is not so cold this winter; we were freezing so much the previous winter. Here, a big peat-bog is in the proximity and only peat will be burned. My husband helps with it. It is heavy work that begins in May. Now I want to close; we greet you many times,

your always grateful,

A. Michaelis family

A/N - MIC004 [translation by Siegfried Krause]


1 November 1948

Dear cousin together with family!

Must write to you after a long time. However again, I already had written 2 letters to you in January, did you receive them? In particular, I want to tell you that we have gotten your dear CARE package. We thank you quite heartily for it, you won’t believe at all what a big help this is for us. Our daughter was also married and cooks for herself; now, we share the love-offering from you; and through it we both have something to add. How it is here you also know, particularly after the currency-reform.

So goods are available, but we cannot pay for it because the wages are so low. The farmers have released many (people) for the winter. My husband still has work with the farmer, he earns 50 DM in the month, there one must calculate. You dear ones! Our existence has been difficult at times since we lost our dear home; but the dear God will help us. I was still working until this fall; unfortunately, I can't work any more, my nerves suffered too much, through all these dire straits that one has gone through; also, I have much trouble with my heart.

The years go by and one probably thinks we won't return any more; the war is much spoken about. We expellees probably come to nothing more; we must patiently join with all and thank God that one has a small room; it is sad with apartments, there are still too many people seeking housing.

My eldest sister Bertha has had it rough, a son missing; and in September, her youngest daughter, who lived together with her, died of lung-disease; now maybe her son-in-law will also leave her. The poor prisoners who return home, particularly from Russia, are mostly undernourished and sick. My nephew lies in Hamburg in the hospital, also lung-disease. (she probably is referring to Herbert Köhler)

How are you dear ones? Hopefully all healthy? Dear August! Please write a small letter once again. Your writing also is not so bad, it can be read completely well. We have not received any mail for a long time from the other relatives; however, hopefully, they will write once again. You probably always have much work, one knows with such an economy what always has to be done.

Our letters are probably always long on their way. Therefore you dear ones! We thank you again now a thousand times for the dear package and greet you many times from

A. Michaelis family

Anna Michaelis, nee Köhler

If I don’t write again soon, we wish you at the same time a glad, healthy Christmas celebration! The few weeks will pass soon.

again many greetings, Anna.