Paulus Family – A Cry For Help From the Old Country

As I mentioned in previous blogs, my great-uncle Robert Krueger passed away recently.  His daughter Esther has graciously allowed me access to the family archives of photos and other historical materials.  I have been making my way through the boxes and envelopes finding little treasures as I go.  I’d say at least 60% or more of the material is from the family of Robert Krueger’s wife Shirley Paulus.  So if someone from the Paulus, Langsdorf, or Lenz families comes across this blog… let me tell you, there’s a gold mine in some boxes in my kitchen at the moment!  I’ll probably write something about the Paulus family here at some point soon, just to leave a trail for any genealogists who are (or will be) working on that family.

To the point of this blog: I came across something tonight that really moved me, even though it’s not directly from my family.  Shirley’s great-grandfather Heinrich “Henry” Paulus (1829-1905) immigrated to the US from Koblenz, Germany in May of 1868 aboard the “Hansa and Deutschland”.  He left behind his Uncle Philip, and the rest of the Paulus family.  Then WWI and WWII intervened.  In 1946, about a year and a half after WWII ended, the Paulus family who had been left behind in Germany reached out twice to the Paulus family who had immigrated to Wisconsin.  One letter [written by Philip’s son, who was also named Philip] was sent, but the family could not read the German writing and the letter was lost for some time when they took it to be translated.  The second letter, written by Philip Jr.’s daughter Milly Paulus Zeckler (born about 1900), reached the family from Wetzlar, Gross-Hessen, Germany.  I’m attaching it here because it is a moving, evocative bit of history.  It tells of the situation of the German people between WWI and WWII in a way I’ve not seen written about before.

[NOTE: You can click on each picture to enlarge it or download it.  Transcription follows the images.]

Envelope Front

Envelope Front

Envelope Back

Envelope Back

Zeckler Letter, page 3

Zeckler Letter, page 1

Zeckler Letter, page 2

Zeckler Letter, page 2

Zeckler Letter, page 3

Zeckler Letter, page 3

Wetzlar, October 9th,1946

My dear relations !

Can I assume that my father’s letter reached you?  Unfortunately it will have been too long and besides written in German letters.  But I hope that I will be more successful with mine.

My father is a nephew of your father henry Paulus, born at Tiefenbach near Wetzlar.  He died shortly before the outbreak of this unhappy war.  That is to say that your father was a brother of my father’s father. Unhappily our correspondence was interrupted before the war.  We only were informed that the late President F.D.Roosevelt took over the sponsorship for a child of your_family.  Do you remember the cutting with the picture you sent us?

I don’t know if you are informed about our situation in Germany?  But there was no rest for us since the end of world-war l. The political life (since 1933) was continually developing unto a end of terrible restriction caused by national socialism.  It was a hard time.  We were silenced, no criticism was allowed. Though we knew quite well where Hitler [was leading] us, we could not do anything against it.  During the following war nobody of our family needed to take part actively in fighting.  My husband was too old to become a soldier and he worked as a director with the local Buderus-steelworks Ltd. My son was called not before 1944.  He survived the German collapse in an army hospital.  He was taken prisoner by the Americans and discharged in August 1945. In the beginning of the war we did not feel much of it in Wetzlar.  Many men were drafted and [poured] into the barracks,  Provisions were rationed.  But in 1943 war came to us with its bombers, flying fortresses and fighters by air and the RAF by night.  Our industry and railway installations got several hits. We were always deadly alarmed as we live in the vicinity of the railway


station.  In January 1945 even our house was bombed but it is now [restored].  There were always alerts.

With the arrival of the Americans we got at last the long awaited rest.  We are happy to live in the American zone and not in the Russian one.  With regard to the other occupied zones food in ours is best: Some 1500 calories per day.  We can talk to the G.I and his officers who behave in a correct and decent manner.  In some way we feel ourselves connected with them,more at least as with the French or even with the Russians.

My father had to suffer hard the last years of the war.  It would not have been much and the steady run to the shelters, the bad food and the continuous upsetting of his weak body by the howl of the sirens would have killed him.  But he succeeded in surviving the war.  For a time we evacuated him to the small country town of Braunfels in order to get him out of the dangerous zone of Wetzler with its big Industry.  In the last phase of the war he was unhappy enough to lose a great part of his clothing and property by plundering Russians and [Polish],not to talk of the damage done by the bombs.  By now he is somewhat, what you may call OK. if it were not the insufficient food supply.  He is 83 years old, nearly biblical age.  His wife Elizabeth passed away in 1940, so that he lives now with us.  As many inhabitants of our town start again with their correspondence with American relations he too wrote to you.I  ‘m sorry to think that his letters did not reach you. That is why I try it for him.  My son, who learned some English at the college translated my lines.  So I hope that you will understand his  English.  He is working in the redaction—staff of the local newspaper and intends to become a journalist, If possible in foreign countries, maybe in America.

I would be very glad to get an answer from you.  My father talks all the day long [about] Wausau and you.  He is of the opinion that [Wisconsin] must be the “Paradise” on earth.  What you will understand at the present sad conditions in Germany.


With my best greetings from the pert of my father, husband, and my son,


Millÿ Zechler born (née) Paulus

Milly Zeckler, Wetzlar, Kaiserstrasse 8,Greater Hesse, US—Zone of Germany

The family tried writing back, but their letters were returned.  Finally, 11 years later in 1957, Henry Paulus (grandson of Heinrich) wrote another letter reaching out to the family still living in Germany.  I don’t know if that letter was received, or if the two branches of the family ever did get in contact.  I’ll ask Esther about it and report back here when I post the second letter.

About cthomas1967

Seeking to bring my ancestors out of the shadows of history and into the light. I have always been interested in history, and at a few different times I tried to do a family tree, but wasn't able to do it with the technology that was available then. On a business trip I visited the World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO and it was a very impressive establishment. While I was there I remember thinking, "Didn't my great-grandfather father fight in World War I? And wasn't his brother killed alongside him in some famous battle? I wonder if I can find out where he died." That's what started it all. View all posts by cthomas1967

One response to “Paulus Family – A Cry For Help From the Old Country

  • Dave

    Wow, how frustrating it must have been to not know for years if a letter even reached someone in another modern country. We are blessed (yet impatient) with today’s instant communication, and, of course, the “paradise” that is Wausau, Wisconsin. It’s quite a reminder that most things are perceived in the context of recent experiences.

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