Collection: Rustemeyer Papers

Author: August Stockebrand

Recipient: Bernard Rustemeyer

Description: Letter from August Stockebrand to Bernard Rustemeyer, Easter, 1920. In 1920, Easter Sunday fell on April 4, and this is the date that has been assigned to the letter.

August Stockebrand to Bernard Rustemeyer, Easter, 1920

English Text

My dear cousin Bernardt! Once again I took your dear letter dated 12/15/1915 into my hand and will try if I can now manage a response to you, dear cousin, so far I have already written to you two times, but I assume that due to the horrible war no letter ever reached you, and therefore I am sending these lines again. Dear Bernard, first I will once more consider the horrible war, it is terrible to think of it. I had to send 2 already grown strong sons of 25 and 27 years into the horrible war, the older one August was wounded for the first time in September 1914 in France, that went well, he recovered his health and then in January 15 he was posted to Russia where he was wounded again in the horrifying battles at Grottno . Luckily both times the injuries were to his legs, the last one was quite serious, but after only 5 months he was posted again to Russia, where he then participated in the heavy fighting near the Norot Lakes, as a company commander. Then, from 1917 on, he was a group officer in Lithuania (Russia) and returned again in January 19. [Marginal remark:] L.B. Please, forgive me once more my bad handwriting, my eyes are no longer any good. Good bye, your devoted cousin August. [end page] [new page] home, before the war this our oldest son had been the one to take care of our business, and what now, our business has been laid off since January 15 as no rye or barley is available for the purpose of distilling spirits. Since 1897, we had a large steam distillery and it was doing well, but it has now been laid off due to the war, and there is not any hope for years that we will start up again. Before the war, we made a lot of money, and now we still own the farm with acres, which feeds us, but more of that later. My second son Ferdinand 25 years old a stately son, tall, strong, at least 1/2 head taller than I was in those years when you wanted to leave here, this one was an accomplished farmer and worked in our business on the side. I could totally rely on him, so it was clear that I was able to retire, dear Bernard, I never saw the big hunk again, he was killed in the Carpathians, I am sure you have heard of this, wounded heavily before that, and then after 14 days he died in a field hospital in Hungary in Deberizin in the year 15 on . 20. My God, how must that good chap have suffered, to die with no help, far from his home. I still couldn't believe it, and yet it is true. Terrible, you cannot imagine this misery, and as year after year progresses that misery gets greater. But I guess our dear God loved him, because life here in present day Germany is not a pleasure any more, rather a torture. We in Germany are poor, more than poor, we have plenty of paper money, but except for a small value it is all worthless, and now, in addition, we also have [end page] [new page] for the last few days, Bolshevism in our country; and in the last few weeks, heavy battles have been raging, mainly originating around here, near Hamm, in the village of Kalkum. In the latter village, 300 soldiers of the Red Army were killed on Thursday within 2 hours. So not enough with the horrible war, no, now we have a horrible brothers' war, or hunger war. The big cities in the industrial area have almost nothing left to live on, so that every day now we are in fear of being robbed, dear Bernard, you cannot possibly imagine what it is like here in Germany. Before the war we could get everything for little money, and today nothing for a lot of money. In most cases not even the necessary clothing. While we still have everything to stay alive, which is the result of having the farm, clothing and linens, however, that is something we do not have enough of now, - shoes, too, are enormously expensive and bad. Now I want to tell you about my youngest son, who was still in highschool in when the war began, in his junior year. He, too, wanted to join the war voluntarily, but since he was not even 17 years old he needed my permission, which I did not give. Then at Easter 1915 he graduated from highschool and is now studying to be a medical doctor. In the year 1916 he was also drafted into the support service, but was still spared from the military for 1 1/2 years of reclamation. Now in the course of this year or at the beginning of the next one he will have completed his studies to become a medical doctor. He is a fantastic guy, now 23 years old. If it hadn't been for the war he could have finished and become a doctor last year. That doesn't matter now, after all he has done so early enough. If only the circumstances [end page] [new page] here were tolerable again. Now I also have 2 daughters, the oldest of whom is married in Minden and the youngest still lives at home. I and my wife are still quite fit (?) although almost 63 by now; I am no longer able to do much as my eyesight is very bad, please, you must forgive my bad handwriting. Today it is still going soso, otherwise I could not write this. But now it is over, too, and I will continue writing tomorrow. Dear cousin Bernard, I am taking to the pen for the second time to tell you more news. So, I did give you an idea of my family' circumstances, now I want to briefly describe my financial standing. We are doing okay, we have accumulated enough wealth. But as I have told you before, all of it is no longer worth a lot; I own 75 acres of agricultural land, 2 horses and all of 5 cows. Before the war it was 5 times that number of cows, plus 3 - 4 horses; that would still be tolerable if the horrible famine and civil war were over now. Who knows what may await all of us yet, God will help us, or otherwise Germany will be lost forever. Now you also wanted to hear about the other relatives. Uncle Giese (Bunsen) has long been dead. Cousin Josef is at home but has no children. Uncle (Schulte/Gurres) has also long been dead. Cousin Albert is doing reasonably well, many children, but he can live. Uncle Josef in [illegible] has long since passed away and the cousins are teachers. Bernard is a bailiff and August works for the postal service. [end page] [new page] now about the Altekösters (Schlept), they are doing alright as well, Anton has the bakery and farm, Franz is a carpenter. Heinrich is a bailiff/marshall in Ruhport, he is fine, but just like here with us, there is nothing you can buy for money. Here in Körbecke quite a lot had improved before the war as opposed to what it had been like before, but now all that is gone. Back then you wrote about the prices for groceries over there. Now I want to tell you something about our present prices here: For 100 of wheat they'll pay up to 150 Marks and more, the same goes for rye, 100 of oats 250 - 290 Marks, for bacon and ham up to 30 Marks a pound, 10 - 12 Marks for a pound of beef and sweet cream butter is 30 Marks and more per pound. And the same goes for everything else. One liter of spirits 40 - 50 Marks, a man's suit 1500 - 2500 Marks, a pair of shoes 300 - 1000 Marks, you see more than enough when it comes to paper money, but there is not even one piece of gold or silver left, and our paper money is barely worth anything in your country. I have held back some gold and silver, for which huge prices are being paid these days, e.g. one 20 Mark coin costs 600 Marks or more, one Thaler or 3 Mark coin is 30 - 40 Marks; I could write you a book about life in Germany these days. For now I'll have to close, I promise that as soon as I hear from you I will write back within 8 days, that is if nothing else happens to us because of the riots. [end page] [new page] Now dear Bernard I would also like to hear how all of you are doing. Let's hope you are well. I take it that you are all farming. In your letter you are writing that niece Maria, your wife and Josef's, too, all suffer from rheumatism. Hopefully they are all well again, and you are not wanting for anything. Now you also wanted to know how many soldiers left Körbecke. It would be too lengthy to list them all, in just one word: anyone between 18 and 45 had to go, unless they showed some obvious signs of sickness. Unfortunately 37 or 38 were killed, certainly a lot for Körbecke. Should you be interested in wanting to know something more about this or that family, let me know. Then, in your letter, you are writing about the German successes early in the war, well - we have been lied to, and the German warfare had not been good at first; well, I guess you may have heard such things, too - I won't say any more about it. Now dear Bernard I wish to close, my eyes are deserting me. Therefore take the most heartfelt regards from all my family. Please give our regards to all, Josef, Anton, Ferdinand, Maria plus wives and children. It is to you, dear Bernard, that I am sending the warmest greetings from my wife and children, and it is your cousin August who greets you the most sincerely. Brother Franz lives with his daughter in Düren, Anton and Albert have long since passed away. Write again very soon and keep us in your thoughts, we poor Germans ... [Continuation in margin:] would like to have asked you for some clothing but as I said, our money is of no value where you are. We have enough money but only in paper form, and for that, I think, all of you dear ones have [4 words, illegible].

Original text