Reinhold Federmann was born August 12, 1939 in Kischker, Yugoslavia. Reinhold’s father was a baker. Mr. Federmann was 5 years old when his family fled Kischker in October of 1944. Reinhold describes, in remarkable detail, his journey from Kischker to Flattnitz Austria and eventual placement in a refugee camp in Salfelden, Austria. His family was then place with a farmer near Salzburg, Austria. They stayed in Salzburg for 4 years. When the refugee camp in Salzburg dissolved in 1950, Reinhold’s family were placed in another camp in Maxglan, Austria, where they stayed for 6 years. Reinhold describes his journey to America in 1956, which took many interesting turns before eventually ending up in Cleveland. He was not as active in the German community in his younger days, especially after marrying an American of German decent. However, Reinhold still attended a few German functions and today is a regular attendee at the German American Cultural Center and German Central in the Cleveland area.
Federmann, Reinhold (interviewee)
Welker, Michael (interviewer)
Cleveland German-American Oral History Project
"Reinhold Federmann interview, 05 June 2019" (2019). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 195014.
Mike Welker [00:00:01] OK, this is June 5th, 2019. My name is Mike Walker. I am interviewing Reinhold Federmann. He is going to tell us a little bit about his background and his journey to the Cleveland area and his involvement with the club. OK, Mr. Federmann, first thing we're going to first thing we're going to talk about is where you were from. You mentioned your hometown. And if you could say that again,
Reinhold Federmann [00:00:28] Kischker that's in what used to be Yugoslavia, but Kischker is actually a Hungarian name because at one time it was part of Hungary during the time of the Austrian empire when all of that was part of the Austrian empire.
Mike Welker [00:00:43] OK, and how old how long did you live there? How old were you when you left.
Reinhold Federmann [00:00:47] I was born in 1939 and we left Kischker, we fled Kischker in 1944 in October.
Mike Welker [00:00:54] OK.
Reinhold Federmann [00:00:55] That's when the the German occupation troops evacuated Yugoslavia. And the recommendation was that for all German nationals, ethnic Germans to also evacuate. So we did. Not everybody did, but we did. And we're actually very glad we did. The stories that we heard from people that stayed were not very good stories to tell.
Mike Welker [00:01:21] So what do you remember about Kischker? Can you tell me a little bit about?
Reinhold Federmann [00:01:24] Well, Kischker actually, it's a very nice place. I went back to visit back in 2012, my wife and I and my one sister. And, you know, it was it's a planned city that was created in, I think, in 1786. And so the streets are very well laid out, all the houses had fairly good sized property with them so that people could have a vegetable garden, a fruit orchard for the family just use to provide for the family. And most people also kept small animals, chickens, geese, ducks, goats, pigs. Some people also had a cow or two for fresh milk.
Mike Welker [00:02:13] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:02:13] And the people who the farmers who had horses, they typically would also have a horse stall and have a horse and wagon. We did not. My father was a baker.
Mike Welker [00:02:23] Oh OK.
Reinhold Federmann [00:02:23] And so but we had small animals, chickens. I don't know if we had any- I don't remember ducks, but we had pigs.
Mike Welker [00:02:33] So I heard a little bit from my mother about the bakery shops. Was he the one where people would also pay to use the ovens to make their own breads?
Reinhold Federmann [00:02:41] Right. Yes. You know, in fact, I think that was probably the majority of the business. People the women would make their own. You know, they make their dough make their bread, let it rise. And then they would bring it for for him to bake in the baking oven. And but then he also did his own thing. He made rolls and bread and so forth for people who didn't do their own stuff.
Mike Welker [00:03:06] Oh OK.
Reinhold Federmann [00:03:06] So. Yeah, and that was a pretty you know, that was actually a pretty hard job because you have to get up pretty early in the morning.
Mike Welker [00:03:14] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:03:15] Fire up the oven to pick it up. You know, you have to heat up the bricks.
Mike Welker [00:03:19] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:03:20] And then they would scrape out the coals and shove in the bread.
Mike Welker [00:03:25] So the heat was mainly from the heated bricks to keep it at a steady temperature.
Reinhold Federmann [00:03:29] Right yes, yeah.
Mike Welker [00:03:31] hmm Interesting.
Reinhold Federmann [00:03:31] So, of course, that often stayed hot for a certain amount of time. But then towards the afternoon, it cooled off, I'm sure.
Mike Welker [00:03:39] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:03:39] And so that was that was his job. He did not have his shop at the house where I lived. We lived actually in my in my mother's father's house. That's what I remember. Because at that time, you know, when my father was gone already, he was with the military then. In 1943 I believe in April of 1943 he, like we say, they joined the German military, but that's a little bit of a, you know, an inaccuracy because there was a tremendous amount of peer pressure. And I know that there are some people who were not very enthusiastic about joining and there was quite a bit of peer pressure. That's according to my mother's story.
Mike Welker [00:04:39] Right. And I heard also, if you didn't join the German military, then you had to join the Hungarian military and they didn't pay as well as the German military did.
Reinhold Federmann [00:04:47] Right. Yes. Yeah. And so, of course, my father did join the German military. And another thing that a lot of people are not aware of is that you were not able to join the Wehrmacht, the German Wehrmacht, in order to be in the German Wehrmacht you had to be a German citizen. We were not German citizens. We were citizens of Yugoslavia.
Mike Welker [00:05:11] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:05:11] So the option that people had were to join the Hungarian military or to join the German Waffen SS. The Waffen SS was a creation of Germany that accepted all nationalities. And there were whole divisions that were different nationality. There was a Scandinavian division that was made up of Swedish and Finnish people, soldiers and so forth. So anyway, the our people, the ethnic Germans from Yugoslavia, you only had the option of joining the Waffen SS or the Hungarian military, that was it. So in 1943, my father joined to Waffen SS.
Mike Welker [00:06:06] OK. And so once the war was ending and it was looking like, you, you know, they were kind of telling you to leave the the, some call it the expulsion.
Reinhold Federmann [00:06:19] Yeah.
Mike Welker [00:06:20] At that time. What do you remember from that. How did that go for you?
Reinhold Federmann [00:06:22] It was very traumatic. I of course, I was five years old at that time and I just vaguely knew that there was a war. But I have no concept of what war is.
Mike Welker [00:06:35] Yeah,
Reinhold Federmann [00:06:37] People talked about it and so forth. But you have no concept as a child. And so, you know, I was not really aware of a whole lot of things except that this one morning my mother woke us up, my my sister, my older sister, Lori and I. And said and she was very agitated and said, we have to we have to flee. I had no idea what that meant. What fleeing is. That was not a word. That was not in my vocabulary. And so, of course, I knew that my mother was very agitated and worried. So I started crying right away. And so she explained to us what we have to do. And she made a bundle of a few things for my sister and a bundle for me. And she packed a suitcase. It was a wicker suitcase. I still remember it was a wicker suitcase. And we there was a lot of tension in the home. My grandfather was living with us and he was not going to go with us. He was going to go with somebody else. So that created some of the tension and of course, the entire episode created tension. So when we after we were done with our things, we we had to go to the main road, the main street. From there, we were going to be transported elsewhere and I didn't know where. So I, we got to the main road and I saw there were a number of people lined up already with their belongings. Well, nothing happened for quite a while. And so after a while, my mother said, we're going to go back to the house.
Mike Welker [00:08:22] Yeah,
Reinhold Federmann [00:08:22] We went back to the house. And in order to relieve the tension, I guess my mother decided she's going to go butcher a chicken have chicken soup and chicken for. And so caught a chicken, tied its legs ready to chop its head off. And then my one cousin came running by. He was 12 years at the time, 12 years old at the time. He came by and said there are some more trucks coming and get back to the main road. So the chicken's legs were untied, it was let go and we went back to the main road and waited again. And after a short period of time, word came that a an advanced troupe of partizan.
Mike Welker [00:09:14] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:09:15] Were on the way and we should all scatter. So we went into hiding at nearby homes and I still remember my mother tuck me under a washtub, she put it wash tub over me to hide me.
Mike Welker [00:09:32] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:09:32] I don't know how long I was hiding hiding there, but eventually I was brought out and we went back to the main road and then two trucks came and soldiers, German soldiers loaded our belongings onto the truck and somebody lifted me onto the truck. That trucks then left and went to the nearby town of Verbas. And there we actually had to spend the night. Now we spent the night. There was no there were no provisions, no organized provisions.
Mike Welker [00:10:10] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:10:10] So we were able to sleep in the stall, of the stable of some people, they allowed us they said oh come on in.
Mike Welker [00:10:21] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:10:22] It's you know, this was October so it was getting cool already. So we spent the night there and then the next morning we boarded a train. Now, these were like cattle cars. These were not passenger trains. And our belongings were piled in there and we sat or stretched out on those belongings. And now the train was under way for a long time. That's my perception.
Mike Welker [00:10:51] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:10:52] In reality, it probably was only a few days.
Mike Welker [00:10:55] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:10:55] Because it did go into Austria, but to me it seemed like an eternity.
Mike Welker [00:11:00] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:11:01] And the one one memorable thing was, well, there were a couple of memorable things. There were air raids during the day. It was typically American planes that were also air raids at night. And the story is that those were a lot of times British airplanes. During the air raids the train would stop and we would scatter. We would jump out of the train and go into the nearest bushes or fields or whatever. And and then when the raid was over and go back on the train, that happened a couple of times. One other memorable thing was that the train stopped near the Danube and word was that the Russian troops were very close to us. And in order to get to gain more speed, the train had to leave a couple of cars behind. These cars were filled with goods and the goods were sugar. They were sacks of sugar in sugar cubes.
Mike Welker [00:12:11] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:12:12] And the plan was to take those sugar, those sacks of sugar and dump them into the Danube and then leave those train cars behind. My two cousins, who were 12 and 14, they were asked to help unload the trains. There weren't too many men who were fit. The men that were with us were older.
Mike Welker [00:12:36] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:12:36] They were grandpas.
Mike Welker [00:12:37] Everyone else was in the military.
Reinhold Federmann [00:12:39] Yes. Yes. So so the younger boys were the ones who unloaded the train. And as a reward, they would get a sack of the sugar cubes, which was very good for us at the time.
Mike Welker [00:12:49] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:12:50] So that's another memory I have of that.
Mike Welker [00:12:53] OK.
Reinhold Federmann [00:12:55] And I remember one also we came to town and they said the name of the time was Saltzberg and we got a feeding there feeding from a soup kettle. We didn't have much food or any food. So we got this soup. And I remember the soup was very salty and everybody said, well, it's appropriate for Saltzberg to have very salty soup, you know. You know, it's strange with the things you remember.
Mike Welker [00:13:25] Right? Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:13:26] We did not stay in Saltzberg, though. The train continued on and eventually we went we ended up in the province of Styria in a small town called Flattnitz. And the nearest big town there was Graz, which is also in Styria. Graz was not that far, I don't know, maybe 20 or 30 kilometers from Flattnitz. So in Flattnitz, we were housed ina school building. They had taken out all of the furniture. I don't know what happened to the school children. I don't know if it was an elementary school or whatever. But there were probably a couple of hundred of us and we were housed there. Now, the way we were housed was that we all had we had bedding. My mother had packed some blankets and sheets, and we put those on the floor. And so that's where we stayed from October until 1944 until I believe it was April of 1945.
Mike Welker [00:14:41] Wow, so 6, 7 months.
Reinhold Federmann [00:14:42] Yeah winter, during the winter months. I don't have very vivid memories of there. Just you know, there was never much food and there wasn't a whole lot else to do. So those memories are kind of faded.
Mike Welker [00:14:57] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:14:57] But then in 1945 we were transported to another place to Salfelden, which is also in Austria. This is all now in Austria.
Mike Welker [00:15:10] Now, did you ever get back together with your grandfather that went with someone.
Reinhold Federmann [00:15:14] No.
Mike Welker [00:15:15] No, OK.
Reinhold Federmann [00:15:15] He went with a family that had a horse and wagon. And the word we got was that they of course, they went north through Hungary and in the town of Sopron he, he died and he's buried there.
Mike Welker [00:15:32] Oh OK.
Reinhold Federmann [00:15:33] He was not too healthy. Well, I think he was about 65, 66 years old, had asthma. And of course, the whole the stress and strain of the events took their toll and so he passed away.
Mike Welker [00:15:47] Oh OK.
Reinhold Federmann [00:15:48] I don't remember when my mother got the word. It wasn't very soon. There were other people who who traveled along with them. And so eventually the word got back to her yes.
Mike Welker [00:15:58] The word go back. OK, OK, OK. So back to where.
Reinhold Federmann [00:16:01] Yeah. So anyway, in Salfelden, we stayed for a little while and then we- no I'm sorry. We were. We were. Just before the war ended, we were placed with a farmer in near Saltzberg and the farm family was just a husband and wife. Their son was in the military. The woman was very good to us, you know, and that's and you have to remember, these people have no choice. They-
Mike Welker [00:16:42] Had to take in.
Reinhold Federmann [00:16:42] The government said, you will take these people. And they fed us and they housed us. But I really have to say, they were very nice. Very good. Their lady was very good to us. My mother, of course, volunteered to help them in their chores, whatever farming chores.
Mike Welker [00:16:59] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:17:00] Which she did. And they were grateful for that, of course. And then I remember one day my mother said, OK, you don't say Heil Hitler anymore. When German planes flew overhead, we would always in Yugoslavia, we always had to wave and yell Heil Hitler. So they would recognize us as being German, not Serbian or others. So my mother said, no, no more Heil Hitler, and OK. And then one memory I have, it's really stuck with me this one day. It was actually before the end of the war. There was a huge noise from a motor from motors and we had, I no idea where it came from. And then I saw in the distance coming towards our house and going past the farmhouse, three tanks, our German tanks, they were the loudest noise I had ever heard.
Mike Welker [00:18:06] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:18:06] And they were slowly moving westward. There were soldiers on on these tanks. They didn't look very happy. You know, they didn't. We waved at them.
Mike Welker [00:18:19] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:18:19] They didn't wave back. You know, it was not a very cheerful thing, but the noise was tremendous, you know, and I remember that very well. When the war did end, when my mother told us no more Heil Hitler, we had to move, the farmers no longer have to keep us because the government that made them house us didn't exist anymore.
Mike Welker [00:18:44] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:18:45] So then we ended up in a small camp near Salzburg in Puch. P, U, C, H, small village.
Mike Welker [00:18:54] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:18:55] And that's where I had my first contact with Americans because American Americans pretty much were occupying the area. So in the camp, they organized a kindergarten. And so one day the lady that was in charge of the kindergarten took us for a walk. And as we were walking, there were a couple of American soldiers there. And so they talked to the the the leader, our leader. I don't know if they spoke German or English or whatever, but they mentioned something to him. So we all lined up, went past these soldiers and they gave us chewing gum and candy. So we said, these are good guys, you know. At this point, we had no the only thing that we knew, the only bad guys we knew were the Russians. We had no idea who else. I mean, you know, who else was was in the war.
Mike Welker [00:20:02] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:20:03] Our main conversation topic was the Russians.
Mike Welker [00:20:06] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:20:06] And so, anyway, these Americans, we thought, oh, these are good guys. You know, we want to.
Mike Welker [00:20:11] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:20:11] So we hang out with them. So well, we didn't stay there very long. We ended up in another camp and that was in Salfeldon. I had things a little bit. Well that was by that time it was already fall of 1945 and getting into the winter. And then we got word that my father was a POW in an American.POW Camp and along with some other fellow Kischkerner's, some other men from our village or from a neighboring village. Then one day some of the women along with my mother and there maybe only about three or four of them, they they found out where the camp was and they decided to go and visit the camp. And I don't know what transpired there. But when my mother came back, she said, you know, we can go and visit your father some time and. OK, you know.
Mike Welker [00:21:19] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:21:20] So after a period of time, I don't know how long I'm guessing that it probably was in the spring of 1946 or so or. Yeah, because it was still cold. It was cold weather. We got on a train and after a while we had to hike for quite a way. And we came to this enclosed area enclosed with a barbed wire fence and there were a number of big tents, army, big army tents in there. So as we approached the fence, there was a there was an American sentry, a guard. He saw us and he shooed us away. Get get lost or whatever. I don't know what he said, of course. So we went back into the woods and as the guard left we walked away. We came out again and we crawled under the fence. You know, we were my sister and I were small enough and actually crawled to the tent that was closest to us. And my mother came along. I mean, she crawled under the tent to there were some other women and they all did the same thing.
Mike Welker [00:22:37] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:22:37] And we ended up in this one tent and there were there were only, I think maybe two or three men in there at the time. And they said, OK, look, we will hide you. They strung like there was a clothesline-.
Mike Welker [00:22:53] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:22:54] And they draped some blankets over it. And then we sat behind those blankets after a little while towards, I guess, the end of the workday the troops that were out on the work detail came back. And so they wanted to have a little bit of fun with me and said, pick out your father, you know, because, you know, I had not seen my father in a couple of years, but I was able to pick him out.
Mike Welker [00:23:22] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:23:23] So that was kind of another memorable moment. So now there was an inspection of the tent and to get the men knew that and they said, well, the guy would come around and stick his head in and see if everything's all right. So you just stay behind the blanket.
Mike Welker [00:23:42] Right. Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:23:42] So that is what we did. Yeah. And so that inspection went by flawlessly. And then so we then spent the night in that tent with my father and with the other men. And the next day we crept out again and-
Mike Welker [00:23:58] And went back.
Reinhold Federmann [00:23:58] And left and went back. So when I tell people here that I actually went to visit my father while he was in a POW camp, people have a hard time believing that.
Mike Welker [00:24:08] Yeah, yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:24:10] But when you think about that, you know, the entire environment, it's really not that hard. I mean, these the prisoners in there, they have no interest in escaping. You know, there wasn't much to escape to.
Mike Welker [00:24:25] Right. Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:24:26] And so-.
Mike Welker [00:24:27] And there were so many people that they had to deal with at once. It wasn't probably very well organized.
Reinhold Federmann [00:24:32] Yeah, right. So anyway, but that that's that story. We eventually my father did join us. He was released probably in the shortly after we visited with him.
Mike Welker [00:24:47] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:24:49] And when he came to us in the camp, he said, you know, I'm going to go and talk to a farmer to see if we can stay. You know, I'll work for the farmer and then maybe they can keep us because then you'll have a little more reliable supply of food.
Mike Welker [00:25:06] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:25:07] Food was very scarce at the time and having a reliable food source was very, very important. So he did manage to get a find a farmer who was interested in having him work with him. So that's what we did. We left the camp and we had a room in the farm house for us, and he worked for the farm and the farmer on the fields. And my mother helped out with the other chores there. My sister and I had a good time at that farm. You know, farm is always a fun place.
Mike Welker [00:25:45] Sure.
Reinhold Federmann [00:25:47] But by the fall, of course, the winter time was coming. Then there you know, there aren't that many chores. The farmer probably didn't need as much help.
Mike Welker [00:25:57] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:25:57] So my my parents started to investigate what was going on in Salzburg because we were close to that and they decided that we would move to Salzburg. But at that time, we also knew there were other not relatives but friends, people from our village and from neighboring villages. They were in the, in some camps in Salzburg, so probably in late September or so, we ended up in Salzburg, in the camp by the train station was called Durchgangslager, meaning the transit camp.
Mike Welker [00:26:34] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:26:35] Where most refugees would stop first. And then from there, they would either go to another camp in Austria or try to go to Germany.
Mike Welker [00:26:47] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:26:48] Now, Germany was being filled up pretty quickly, too. So there wasn't there wasn't a whole lot of place to go to.
Mike Welker [00:26:53] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:26:55] So a lot of people did stay in Austria. We stayed in that camp for about, I would say, about 4 years. And then they decided to, you know, get rid of that camp and distribute all the residents to other camps in Salzburg.
Mike Welker [00:27:17] Now did you go to school while you were in that camp or?
Reinhold Federmann [00:27:19] Yeah, initially in 1946. Like I said, in September or October, they set up a camp school. And so we were in you know, I don't remember a whole lot about that camp school.
Mike Welker [00:27:35] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:27:35] Because it was not too long after that where the city of Salzburg decided that we would go to the local, the local public school, elementary school. And so that's where all of the kids then from the camp did go.
Mike Welker [00:27:53] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:27:54] And so I went to school there and we stayed there. And we you know, we got to know the city a little bit.
Mike Welker [00:28:03] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:28:05] In 1950, I think it was 1950. Like I said, the camp was dissolved and we moved, we moved to the camp in Maxglan, which was more of a western suburb of Salzburg.
Mike Welker [00:28:18] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:28:19] And I could I went to the school there and we stayed there until we left for the U.S. in 1956.
Mike Welker [00:28:29] Ok in 56.
Reinhold Federmann [00:28:31] Yeah.
Mike Welker [00:28:31] So how did you get to the US?
Reinhold Federmann [00:28:33] Well, that's kind of an interesting story, too, because at that time you had to apply for going to for for immigrating to the U.S. and there was an application process. You needed a sponsor.
Mike Welker [00:28:49] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:28:50] And there was an organization called Christliches Hilfswerk. This was a Lutheran organization. There were also Catholic organizations that helped Catholics. We were Lutheran. And so through that, Christliches Hilfswerk, you you filed your application papers and but there was a quota system-.
Mike Welker [00:29:16] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:29:17] At that time still. And when the quota filled up, well, then, of course, you were done, you couldn't go. There was a the process was a fairly involved process you applied for. You know, you filed your application papers. Then there was an investigation. An American team of investigators came. I guess they did a background check.
Mike Welker [00:29:43] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:29:43] They interviewed your neighbors, your family or whatever. And then there was also the medical thing you had to. There was an American doctor you had to be examined by an American doctor, and there were a lot of little steps, fairly time consuming.
Mike Welker [00:30:02] Right. I know that's how some of my relatives were prevented from coming or had to come later because of medical conditions or.
Reinhold Federmann [00:30:08] Right.
Mike Welker [00:30:09] What they participated in with the war.
Reinhold Federmann [00:30:11] Oh yeah.
Mike Welker [00:30:11] What division they were in, that kind of thing.
Reinhold Federmann [00:30:13] Well, until about 1949. 48-49. All the members of the Waffen SS were prohibited.
Mike Welker [00:30:24] Yes.
Reinhold Federmann [00:30:24] They were not accepted. Applications for them were not accepted. But then that that restriction was removed. And so it was only after that that we were able to apply.
Mike Welker [00:30:36] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:30:36] But America, or the USA was not the only country to go to. There were people and we applied. My parents applied at one point to go to Argentina. Argentina was a very popular place. Also Brazil. Brazil was welcoming immigrants as well as Australia.
Mike Welker [00:30:56] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:30:56] And Canada. Now, Canada and the United States probably were the more desirable places.
Mike Welker [00:31:03] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:31:04] Because they were economically the most successful and the, you know,.
Mike Welker [00:31:08] Opportunity.
Reinhold Federmann [00:31:09] Yeah. And so, of course, we always tried the USA, but I know my parents, we applied for all we applied for going to Australia, Argentina, Brazil and Canada. But eventually and the way we ended up getting past the quota is kind of interesting is that we did not come in under the German quota. We came in under the Hungarian quota, and the reason for that was that during the war, Hungary was an ally of Germany and when Germany occupied Yugoslavia, Hungary actually occupied the area of what was called the Vojvodjani, which is the Batschka or the low area, because at one time that was part of Hungary. And I think the plan was that if if if the German if Germany had been successful in the war that prob- that land, probably would have gone permanently to Hungary again. So because This was under Hungarian administration while we were during the war.
Mike Welker [00:32:27] You got going under the Hungarian.
Reinhold Federmann [00:32:28] We were able to go and go under the Hungarian quota, which is kind of a twisted way of doing things, but
Mike Welker [00:32:38] A backdoor way to get in. Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:32:39] Yeah. So anyway,
Mike Welker [00:32:43] And did you come right to Cleveland then?
Reinhold Federmann [00:32:45] No.
Mike Welker [00:32:45] Well, OK,
Reinhold Federmann [00:32:47] We had applied in a year earlier. Our application went pretty far, but then of course with the quota it didn't work out. At that time my father was still going to go with us but that was like in 1955. But the quota system, well you know, we didn't make it so we had communicated with our sponsor who was in Chicago.
Mike Welker [00:33:17] Oh OK.
Reinhold Federmann [00:33:18] He was a pastor from a church in Chicago and we had some communication with him. But then everything, well quota was filled so no more and can't go any more. 1956, my parents decided to get divorced. My father decided he didn't want to go to America anymore. He had other there were other problems, of course, family problems. And so they got divorced. And so my older sister and I convinced my mother we should go on our own.
Mike Welker [00:33:49] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:33:49] Now, this was a risky thing for my mother because we had two more younger sisters.
Mike Welker [00:33:54] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:33:56] And no husband. And so my sister and I said, well, we'll we'll help, you know, we'll support you.
Mike Welker [00:34:02] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:34:02] And so she agreed and we applied. We got a new sponsor. This sponsor was from Detroit. They were just Seiferts. They lived in Grosse Pointe, which is a suburb of Detroit. And so we applied. And that's how we got into the we got through there with the Hungarian quota.
Mike Welker [00:34:27] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:34:27] And the word came, yes, we you know, everything was approved. The final thing that you have to do is you meet with the American consul who was in Salzburg. And after that meeting we were all set to go and we got our papers. The way we finance the trip was that the Lutheran World Federation advanced the money for, you know, for the trip. And we were going to be on a ship and all of the paperwork my mother took care of all of the paperwork and so forth. I didn't know that much about this until I came here.
Mike Welker [00:35:10] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:35:11] So by about August 5th, we left Saltzburg, got on the train, went to Bremerhaven and boarded the General Langfitt in Bremerhaven for the trip over. When we came to New York and this was quite a moving thing. You know, as we approached New York as early morning, there was a lot of commotion and I went up on deck. And way in the distance was the Statue of Liberty.
Mike Welker [00:35:44] Yeah, yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:35:45] And-
Mike Welker [00:35:48] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:35:48] Yeah. So anyway, when we landed in and we got off the ship. Everybody I mean, there was somebody that was calling everybody and they were calling my father's name. Well, I went up there and the gentleman there, he shooed me away. No, you're not. He called- my father's name is Jacob. So he called Jacob. Jacob Federmann. Well, we're the Federmann's and that's my father. And I said, well. So I kept I went up there twice.
Mike Welker [00:36:28] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:36:28] And he says, no you're not, you're, you're too young. Well then after a while almost everybody was gone, but we were still there. So there was somebody there who spoke German. Talk to my mother. And I don't know what the conversation was, but my mother came to us says well we're going to have to go to Chicago. That was from the earlier year-.
Mike Welker [00:36:53] The original application yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:36:56] I said well, we didn't know anything.
Mike Welker [00:36:58] Right yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:37:01] So they put us on a train to Chicago and but in Chicago, they were a little surprised. They did not exactly expect us.
Mike Welker [00:37:11] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:37:13] The pastor had a Lithuanian couple as helpers. They had a there's a small church in in Evanston, which is a suburb of Chicago. They the couple received us at the train station and they took us to the to the church and to the parsonage, they lived in the parsonage and we spent the night in the parsonage there. Now, we knew a family in Chicago, a family that we knew from from the camp in Maxglan.
Mike Welker [00:37:56] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:37:57] They had come here five years earlier and we had corresponded with them. So the pastor was actually on vacation, but he came back the next morning. He was a little surprised, but very helpful. And we said, well, we know this family. We could go and join up with them. So we did call and we contacted them, found them in the phone book, and they came and picked us up. They lived on the south side of Chicago and they were actually working as janitors in some apartment buildings. And so they housed us for a few days until our sponsors from Detroit, you know, they were waiting for us too.
Mike Welker [00:38:46] Right. Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:38:47] So they started an investigation and eventually learned that we were in Chicago. And, you know, you got to come here.
Mike Welker [00:38:55] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:38:56] Well, we so when we found that out, we packed up again, got on a train and went to Detroit. And that's where we then met our sponsors. And they were very good to us as well. They provided housing for us right away and took us, bought some groceries and so forth. And so we then lived in Detroit from August the late August to I think April 1957. What we Detroit was very nice. I mean, our sponsors were very nice to us. The people in their church were very good to us, but we had no other friends.
Mike Welker [00:39:43] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:39:43] And I had been in Cleveland. I had a buddy of mine, a friend who came here a year earlier, and then we had other people that
Mike Welker [00:39:53] So you knew, more people in the Cleveland area
Reinhold Federmann [00:39:54] People that we knew from from Salzburg and also people from our village. So we decided, look, we, we, we want to go to Cleveland. And my sister and I actually came to visit Cleveland around Christmas time 1956. I visited my one friend here and we said, yeah, this is this is where we're going to go.
Mike Welker [00:40:19] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:40:19] So we decided we're going to do that. So we arranged. By this time, we had some furniture that people had donated to us and we had a couple of belongings. So we arranged for moving company to take our belongings. And we got on a Greyhound bus and came here and stayed for a few days with some friends that we had here until we found an apartment and on the west side. And that's how I am here.
Mike Welker [00:40:53] And so how old were you when you came to Cleveland then? When you were19 or?
Reinhold Federmann [00:40:56] I was actually 17.
Mike Welker [00:40:59] 17, OK.
Reinhold Federmann [00:40:59] I was going to turn 18 in August, but we came in April, so I was still 17. So when I went to look for a job, I again, a friend of an acquaintance that we had from Salzburg, he worked at Marium Weld, which is a welding company here on the West Side. He says, why don't you stop by my company, our company, see if they can hire you, which I did. And the boss there, well, you know, yep, I'll hire you, but you have to go and get a certificate from the Board of Education because you're really you're not eighteen.
Mike Welker [00:41:37] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:41:37] So I have to do that. I had a friend who helped me out with this year a little longer. So I got this thing and I, I was able to work. Then I had a job.
Mike Welker [00:41:51] Sure.
Reinhold Federmann [00:41:51] Very, very menial job. But hey it it was money thats, you know.
Mike Welker [00:41:56] And so what eventually got you involved with the German club and the club here in the Cleveland area?
Reinhold Federmann [00:42:03] Well, for a while I didn't know a whole lot about the German club, but through some of our friends and acquaintances, we heard about them. And by the time I was let's see when I was about 20 years old the youth group from the Banater Club decided to go on a trip to to Chicago over the Labor Day weekend.
Mike Welker [00:42:34] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:42:36] So I decided to go along.
Mike Welker [00:42:37] Oh, OK.
Reinhold Federmann [00:42:38] And it was a bus trip and it was good, you know, I made good friends, I made some friends along the way. And so then I. I didn't become a member of the club of the Banater Club.
Mike Welker [00:42:49] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:42:49] But I hung out there with the friends then with the Germans and we had very good times during the summer as a group. You know, not too many of us were were attached to anybody in particular. There were some some of us who had paired up. And-.
Mike Welker [00:43:07] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:43:07] Were thinking more in terms of getting married and so forth. But most of us were not yeah. And so I hung out there for you know, I was with the group for quite a while until about 1963, when I started to date my, my future wife. Now, she was American. Her parents were German backgrounds. Her father was her father's grandfather was from the Banat and but her mother was from her mother's family was from Freiburg. And so when I started dating her, I drifted away from the German group. And after we got married, my connections with the German club were a little were a lot less.
Mike Welker [00:44:03] Sure.
Reinhold Federmann [00:44:04] I would go to Centrale for the special events. But our social life centered more around the family.
Mike Welker [00:44:12] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:44:12] Her family, her extended family.
Mike Welker [00:44:16] So when you were younger, you went to Chicago with the youth group there. Did you did you dance with that group or did you do anything?
Reinhold Federmann [00:44:24] No, I sang with them for a little while.
Mike Welker [00:44:27] Oh OK,.
Reinhold Federmann [00:44:27] Peter Rhine was the leader of the youth group at that time. And so I sang with them for a little while and I never did dance then. So like I said, you know-
Mike Welker [00:44:42] Drifted away a little bit.
Reinhold Federmann [00:44:44] Connections were less then.
Mike Welker [00:44:46] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:44:46] But we did go to these the Schuhplattler.
Mike Welker [00:44:55] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:44:55] You know, they have their fundraising events twice a year.
Mike Welker [00:44:59] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:45:00] And my wife and I, we would go there with our family. I would show them hey look at this. This is, you know, it's good food here, and this and that.
Mike Welker [00:45:07] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:45:07] So we did that. We started doing that probably twenty five years ago or so.
Mike Welker [00:45:13] Yeah. Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:45:13] And make that a pretty regular thing. But I never became a member of it. And but when my wife passed away about well, it's not quite 5 years yet. I reconnected with the people there.
Mike Welker [00:45:31] Oh good.
Reinhold Federmann [00:45:32] Again and eventually I joined the Schuhplattler, I'm a member of the Schuhplattler, and I'm a member of Lenau Park now.
Mike Welker [00:45:41] OK,
Reinhold Federmann [00:45:41] And I go to these events now and, you know, help out whatever I can.
Mike Welker [00:45:49] Sure.
Reinhold Federmann [00:45:50] And so forth.
Mike Welker [00:45:50] OK.
Reinhold Federmann [00:45:51] So that's my connection there now.
Mike Welker [00:45:52] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:45:53] Yeah.
Mike Welker [00:45:53] Well good. Um, I think that covers just about everything. So now you still go to German Central and I've seen you there a few times
Reinhold Federmann [00:46:02] Oh yeah I help out with the fish fry.
Mike Welker [00:46:03] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:46:05] And well like this past weekend, you know, had the German American festival. So I was there. When they have any, any kind of doing's. I tried to get my kids into it as well. They are of course, they grew up here.
Mike Welker [00:46:21] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:46:22] They they had Germany in the schools, you know, but but it's not if you don't use it, you don't really get proficient in it. But they're they like to go to these events. It's just a it isn't a main part of their social life. And so last year at this last thing on on Sunday, my Karl's Melissa.
Mike Welker [00:46:51] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:46:52] She had volunteered to help with the serving the beer.
Mike Welker [00:46:55] Right.
Reinhold Federmann [00:46:56] And I was there to help with the cleanup.
Mike Welker [00:46:58] Yeah. I saw some pictures on Facebook, so. Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:47:02] Yeah.
Mike Welker [00:47:04] All right. Well I think that's about it. That's perfect. Well, thanks so much for talking with me. And I always learn something new. Every time it was it was intersting to see you.
Reinhold Federmann [00:47:13] You know, this is not really a new experience I got here. About 7, 8years ago, my one grandson, my daughter's youngest, he was probably about, I don't know, 9 or 10 years old at that time. And he was in middle school. And they had a project there about their heritage.
Mike Welker [00:47:30] Yeah.
Reinhold Federmann [00:47:31] So he had an assignment to interview me. And he did. And we put it on my daughter taped it on, put it on a CD on a DVD actually, and he had other type of questions, but very similar. But it was actually quite, quite a long interview.
Mike Welker [00:47:50] Well good good. All right. Well, thank you very much. That concludes this interview for today.
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