I've posted this elsewhere before, perhaps on Myspace....but here's for the record, from an interview my little brother did with my mom:
My Interview with Mami (Karin Ingrid Fiederer)
Sunday, September 14, 2003
(this version has revisions made by Mami)
I spoke for several hours on the phone with Mami regarding information about her and our families’ past history. The first thing we dealt with was getting her side of the family’s ancestry down. Mami got this information from some handwritten papers she had received from Omalina. Some of the data from her siblings’ birth certificates were damaged because Mami (as a child) tore off stamps from them to add to her collection. She did not say anything about this to her mother, who thought the soldiers had damaged the papers because they did not know what they were
Children of Bernhard and Karin (Ruppert) Fiederer Child of Erhan Kunt and Karin Fiederer
Jens Bernhard Fiederer Joerg Thomas Fiederer Karun Erhan Fiederer
Born 06/01/1959 Born 07/10/1963 Born 09/20/1969
Frankfurt, Germany Frankfurt, Germany Agana, Guam
Children of Friedrich and Gertrud Ruppert:
Karin Ingrid Ruppert (Fiederer) Frank Gisbert Ruppert Heidemarie Konstanze Ruppert
Born 07/11/1938 Born 04/09/1940 Born 07/15/1943
Born at home in Born at hospital in Born in hospital in
Holzhausen, Germany Kassel, Germany Kassel, Germany
Bernice Elisabeth Carola Ruppert (Poole)
Born at hospital in Langen, Germany
Friedrich (Fritz) Johannes Ruppert
Omalina was born in Boberstein. She attended school up until 8th grade. She proudly remembers her father and his job as a coachman to the Earl Rotkirch of the city of Graf. She remembered the Coach that was pulled by six beautiful white horses. Her father, Andreas Widlok, drove the Earl to such far off places as Berlin, and even all the way to Russia to visit the Czar. Omalina remembered being shown a letter that the Earl wrote to her father advising him not to have so many (15 in all, 3 only lived 3-4 months, one lived only 1.5 years) children. She was proud to know that Andreas’s response was that the Earl should not try to tell him how to run his personal life.
Omalina started working as an Au Pair at the age of fourteen. She did not marry until she was 28 years old. She grew up as a churchgoing Catholic, while Opa Rupps was Protestant. As a result, they did not have a church wedding. They were married on 06/29/1938 in Holzhausen.
Karin was born in Holzhausen and lived there until about 4 or 5 years of age. Opa Rupps was an enlisted man (Unter Offizier) in the German Air Force during WWII, serving as a radioman. He fought in places like Norway and France, and was shot down twice. During one escape, he remembered being spotted by a black Military Policeman who allowed him to escape. So during 1942 & 1943, the children lived with Omalina in the village of Profen with her sister Margarete, and then in a castle named Schloss Bersdorf, which belonged to the Baroness of Richthofen. Her husband was serving in the War and she rented space to my grandmother and another family. This was where Omalina’s mother was living at the time. Omalina’s sister Tante Gretel worked as a cook there.
An interesting family story was told about Omalina’s two brothers. Franz, being tall, blonde and blue eyed was forced to join Hitler’s elite S.S. unit. Brother Hans, a short fellow ended up in the regular navy.
In 1945 as the war was ending, word was out that the Russians would soon be reaching Profen. Omalina and the kids (Mami was almost age 6 at the time, Frank 4, and Heidi almost 1) were able to board the last train leaving the area. It may have helped them to get on board because Omalina had Heidi in a baby carriage. This area would eventually become part of East Germany, under control of the Soviet Union. They rode in freight cars with open doors, standing room only. They went back to Rothwesten, into the house that had been provided the Government. The place was like an open base, close to Holzhausen.
During the period of time before the war ended, life was difficult. Omalina and her three children all slept in one bed. The windows were kept covered with cloth at night time so that no light could be seen from the outside. At nighttime, even with the covered windows, no one was allowed to use any lights. This was to protect being seen by the frequent bombing raids that were occurring. Every night, and often during the day, air raid sirens would go off. The family would have to walk downhill, passing a barbed wire fence and the ditch in front of it to get to an underground bunker. They would then climb down a "chicken ladder", helped by local Prisoners of war, into the bunker for safety. On one occasion, Mami ran ahead and Omalina was running after her with Heidi in the stroller. The stroller ended up running into the ditch. Omalina felt sorry for one of the Russian P.O.W.’s that was always friendly to them. She brought him some bread once and was severely scolded by one of the German Soldiers who saw it. They were situated very close to Kassel, a German city that was totally bombed, but the allies never found the base.
When the American troops were nearing the area, the families in the base housing were evacuated and placed in surrounding villages temporarily. Their furniture had to stay behind. They moved to Holzhausen and occupied one large room in a building that had previously been the Kindergarten. back to Holzhausen. It was there that Mami remembers the arrival of the U.S. troops. Mami remembers that at first everyone was afraid and was hiding, but when the troops came closer there was a feeling of excitement, everyone stood on the streets watching them. It seemed like a parade There were trucks and tanks, and the soldiers threw candies. For everybody, the candy was a very welcome sight, and at that age, they had no real concept of being a conquered people. One time, an MP offered cigarettes to Mami, and she refused. When she told Omalina about this at home, Omalina told her to go back and get them. Items like that, even if you did not use them yourself, were valuable to sell or trade. When Mami went to visit her birthtown in 1990, she was the only customer in the restaurant, and the waitress had much time to talk to her about the time after the war. She was told that there had been a group of German soldiers, who did not want to admit that the War was over and lost, had hidden in the hills above the village and were shooting. They were caught and punished.
Next they moved to Bad Homburg, where Opa must have found a job. Although she remembers the beautiful city ( a well known spa with many healing wells in the beautiful park where they would go and drink the weird tasting waters (one smelled like rotten eggs) she really does not remember why they lived there From there they moved to Buchschlag, because Opa had found a job on nearby Rhein Main Air Base. Many of the houses were villas. The owners had to leave them so that the American soldiers could have space for their families. Some of the lesser beautiful places were occupied by Germans who rented from the Owners who had moved elsewhere. Opa also did some freelance work, converting American televisions so that they could be used to watch the German programs. German broadcasts at that time were not available all day long. You could catch some shows maybe from 6-8 am, and some from 8-10pm.
Mami attended elementary school there until the end of 4th grade. Grades from 1-4 were all in the same room. At the same time. After 4th grade, children had to go to another town to continue schooling, this included Religion classes, taught by the Pastor. She attended Protestant church (not Lutheran) regularly. There were not so many denominations as in America. One was either Catholic or Protestant, all others were not noticeable. Each vacation, Mami would visit Tante Gretel in Bad Homburg and her daughter Edith. That family was a good Catholic family and Mami went to Catholic church with them. The service was held in Latin, but it was not boring because the Church (a cathedral) The Protestant church in Buchschlag was just a room in a house and had not much decoration. Mami appreciated the beautiful decorations and the singing found in the Catholic Church. If she could not understand what the Priest was talking about, she could admire all the beautiful artwork around her and before you knew it, the service was over. She was confirmed at the age 15 in Walldorf, after having attended confirmation classes for a year.
Mami recalled a funny story from her elementary school years. The fourth graders had the privilege to be the main characters in the yearly Christmas pageant at Church, if they had faithfully attended during the year. There were only 7 fourth graders. Mami’s dream came true, and she was chosen to play Mary in the school’s Christmas pageant. Since the two boys of her class did not attend church often, a third grader was chosen to play the part of Joseph – her younger brother Frank. Frank ended up losing his part because when he found out that he would be required to put his arm around his sister and lead her through the church, he refused to do that. Mami not squeamish, ended up playing Joseph instead while another girl got the part of Mary because her voice was too squeaky for Joseph.
Mami went to the Real Gymnasium in Langen for 2 years, a short train ride away. When Opa decided to buy a piece of land in Walldorf, the family moved after the house was built on it. Mami had to switch schools because Langen could not be reached directly by train from Walldorf. She went to Bettina Real Gymnasium in Frankfurt, a school for girls only. This was traumatic to Mami because she had really loved living in Buchschlag where all her friends were (Lilo, Edith, Gisela, Renate). of 15.
The German system of education was a bit different than the U.S. system. First through fourth grade was considered Grade School.
Students who were interested in vocational studies took grade school and continued Volksschule for 4 years. Then they entered into an apprenticeship for 2-4 years, depending on the selected occupation. Apprenticeship was being a helper, learning the trade while receiving very little pay. Once a week the apprentice would go to a trade school instead of work
Students interested in a general academic study took grade school plus six more years of education. Those 6 years were called Middle School, and upon graduation, the student had accomplished the Mittlere Reife.
Students interested in University went to a High school after the 4 years of grade school, and upon successful completion, they received their Abitur and could apply at a University.
Mai wanted to go to the Middle School where her friends went, but Omalina wanted her to be something better and study. Mami did not want to study at a University and left after 6 years and obtaining the Mittlere Reife.
There is no Government furnished transportation for students. One can go to any school of choice, if one is accepted, but it is up to the individual to make the proper arrangements to get there. Mami had to walk to the train station, ride the train, and walk quite a distance from her train stop to the school. Most children had to do that.
During her teen years, she liked American Rock & Roll music, especially Elvis Presley and the Beatles. There were many German performers she enjoyed as well, ones that would be unknown to most Americans. German youth were influenced by American, British, French and Italian fashions. Capri pants were a popular style. German men would not wear colorful pants like the Americans did. They stuck to black, navy, grey, brown and dark green. She loved to go to the movies, and enjoyed American classics like "Ben Hur", and "Gone with the Wind" which featured her favorite actor, Clark Gable. Mostly, she watched German movies. The ratings were very strict. Once she and her friend Edith wanted to go to a Movie named "Muss man sich gleich scheiden lassen? (Does one have to get divorced right away? ) They were 15 and 13, and not allowed in. They saw that movie later and could not understand why they were not allowed to see it earlier. There was no foul language, no sex, etc. – Maybe it was because the couple kissed.
Bernhard Fiederer worked as an apprentice to a plumber in Frankfurt, and did some work at the same military base that Karin was working at. One of his friends, Walter, was Mami’s boyfriend at the time. Walter was the "Dancing King" and Mami was the "Dancing Queen". Papi first met Mami when he took his girlfriend to a dance that she and Walter were attending. Eventually, Papi ended up going out with Mami instead.
American companies where hiring German workers (who could be paid less) to work in Turkey. Opa went to work in Turkey for American Express & later the Tumpane Company. An incentive for the workers was that they were paid in U.S. money, tax free. By that time, Mami had already met and was in love with Papi so she did not want to move with them to Turkey. She was 16, took care of Omalina’s house and collected rent from some tenants. She was also working at the airbase doing secretarial work for the 75th Support Squadron.
An interesting story from this time period was that she was working in an area where they had a blueprint printing press. Papi needed a blueprint made for one of his trade school projects, so Mami brought them there to be printed. She got in some trouble for this when it was seen by one of the military personnel working there. They confiscated the plans and studied them to make sure it was not some sort of spy information. It was just some piping diagrams so they ended giving them back.
Since Papi was Catholic, and Mami was Protestant, Mami decided to convert for the sake of family unity. She was rebaptized in the Catholic Church as well. Bernhard and Karin were married on June 21, 1958. Their honeymoon involved a trip to Izmir, a beautiful and famous city near the Mediterranean, where Opa worked for Amex and later Tumpane Company. Many Germans took contracts with those companies. The dollar was high more than 4 Deutsche Mark for $1. The portion of the salary that was sent to a bank in Germany was tax free.
They rode aboard the Orient Express, They had assigned seats, and found out that they were only valid from Frankfurt to Munich, where the train was half empty anyway. Latre during the trip, the train was sometimes so full, that one had a hard time finding space to stand with both feet on the ground. In Athens, there was a 12 hour layover. One was not allowed to stay in the train station’s waiting room. It was locked up. They could not afford a hotel with their little money, so they sat outside of a restaurant taking turns sleeping while sitting on the wallet . They were picked up by a friend of Opa’s and taken to their hotel in Istanbul. On the next morning they continued by plane to Izmir.
Opa and Omalina seemed to be having a good life there, they had the same privileges as the American military people and did not lack anything. So life in Turkey was attractive to Mami.
They had their first child, Jens, in 1959.
In Germany at the time, it was normal for the Men to work outside the home while the women cooked and brought up the children. While married to Mami, Papi never had to do any housework. He focused on his work, along with his hobby at the time, playing Soccer. For a short while, Mami still worked at the air base during this time, while Jens was taken care of by his Grandpa, Opa Daddi (Jakob) and Oma Inge. She worked in the personnel department and in accounting, all in all spending about four years working for the base. She later worked for a typing agency, and for the Bosch company (Refrigerators, spark plugs) using computer punch cards for one of the early computer systems.
When Jens was 2, Papi took a job with the Tumpane Co in Adana, Turkey. That city was very different from Izmir. It was 20 years behind times. Women did not ride bicycles, but most dressed in the European style.
There were no military privileges and the Turkish way of living is very different from the German way. They missed the German bread, sausage and cheeses. Tante Linda lived on the ground floor with her family. Uncle Fritz worked at the same company as Papi. Tante Linda taught Mami a lot. The first few months she did not dare to go shopping by herself. She went with Tante Linda. At the butcher shop, one had to push all those meets aside that hung at the door and in the little room. Tante Linda knew what piece to have cut from the half cow or goat. There was no pork. The fruit and vegetable markets were fantastic. Everything was laid out so nice, and one was enticed to taste so that one would buy. Before the tasting, the shop owner would ask if we wanted some tea or coffee. Men with trays would come through, and the shop owner would buy his customers the tea or the coffee. Occasionally, the Germans would make a trip to Syria. In the town of Aleppo was a Market that had Germany merchandise. One could immediately notice when one drove out of Turkey. Mami said that the difference is this. In Turkey, the men loaf in the streets wearing their pajamas, in Syria they are wearing their night gowns.
Mami was homesick for Germany and so was Papi. So after a year, they went back to Germany. In Germany they were "homesick" for Turkey, so Papi signed up with Tumpane Company again, and they spent another year in Turkey, even in the same apartment because it had become vacant just in time for their arrival. When Mami was pregnant with Joerg, she and Papi decided it would be better to have the baby in Germany and she went to stay with Omalina. Joerg was born on July 10, 2003. When Joerg was 5 weeks old, they flew back to Turkey.
After working in Germany for a while, Papi signed up with Tumpane Co. for Saudi Arabia. This kept him away from home for three months at a time.
The first member of the family to leave Germany for the United States was Tante Heidi. She was 19, and had a 2-year old boy Mark. She worked for an American insurance company in Frankfurt and her boss helped her to find employment in Denver.
The first member of the family that made the move to the Caribbean was Uncle Frank. He found a job with the Hilton Hotel in Puerto Rico. That was followed by a job on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, also at the Hilton Hotel. Opa Rupps took the job in Puerto Rico, and when Uncle Frank left the Virgin Isle Hilton, Opa Rupps moved there with Omalina and Tante Bernice (who was 12 at the time). Tante Heidi moved to St. Thomas for a while and then was transferred to Guam working for a watch company.
After Mami divorced Papi, we moved out of his apartment and into Omalina’s. Her plan was to move to St. Thomas with us, but Omalina had decided to leave Opa. She came to sell the house, which took more than ½ year, and then decided to move to Guam. So Mami had to change her plan and move to Guam too. Tante Heidi thought it was paradise, because she had met her future husband Frank there. Uncle Erhan was attracted to the idea of moving to the U.S. or an American territory, but could not because of immigration issues. He encouraged Mami to move ahead of him, and he would find a way to follow. Since Omalina was a permanent resident, she could sponsor her daughter (Mami) to legally immigrate. There was a war going on in Czechoslovakia which led to a large number of refugees coming to the U.S. That resulted in Mami’s application for a green card being delayed for about 3 months. Mami, Omalina, Jens and Joerg immigrated to Guam in February 1969. She had an International drivers license from Germany, that was valid everywhere but in the US so she had to take the written test in Guam. She failed this the first time around, because she had not learned yet what the English word "merge" meant, which appeared many times on the test.
While working at the Guam Power Authority, Mami passed the GED (which was paid for by the company). Her strengths were Math and Science. English literature had to be guess work, because she had not studied that in the German school.
Heidi’s husband Frank was able to get a job for Erhan as a welder, which got him a working visa allowing him to immigrate to Guam. Omalina only stayed in Guam for two months, and then moved back to St. Thomas which she really liked. Karin and Erhan had a child in 1969, my brother Karun. After things did not work out between Erhan and Karin, she moved with the kids to St. Thomas in 1971 where we moved in with Omalina.
Omalina, always eager to learn new things, continued her education as an adult. She took various courses, but never had to take a GED test nor a college degree. She became an American citizen She eventually became an American citizen in 1970 in St. Thomas.
Mami found work at the College of the Virgin Islands. They paid for employees to take one free course each semester. Mami took the free class each time, plus paid for an extra one. She really had no personal desire to become a U.S. citizen, but when Jens started applying for college Scholarships, he found that one of the requirements was to be a citizen. Children would automatically become a citizen with the parent. Jens and Joerg were both listed on Mami’s application, but when it came to the time for swearing in, the official determined that Jens was too close to being 18 when he would be allowed to make his own decision. So Mami became a citizen, so did Joerg, and Jens for whom the whole process was started had to wait, so for Jens’s sake, she went through the process of becoming a citizen. Mami became a citizen on July 4, 1976. She felt very uncomfortable during the ceremony, because of the way you are asked to denounce your allegiance to your former country of citizenship. Since the ceremony was done in unison with many others, Mami only recited the parts that she felt comfortable with. The person who gave the speech at the ceremonies was Dr. Harrigan, her former boss at the College of the Virgin Islands. He was a British citizen from the island of Tortola, had permanent residency but was very proud of his British heritage and always bragged about having dined with the Queen. .
Jens had to apply on his own for a $25 fee. When the offices where ready to make him a citizen, Jens was at attending the University of Rochester. For a $10 fee, the paperwork could be transferred to Rochester. When that office was ready, Jens was back in the Virgin Islands for a summer job. The papers could have been transferred back to the V.I. for a $10 fee, but it was decided that Jens could wait until he would return to Rochester for his 2nd year at the university.
The Fiederer family went to church regularly. Mami really only stopped attending after she fell in love with Erhan. Since this would be considered a sin by the church, she stopped attending.
Bernhard was part of a community of Germans who lived in Yugoslavia (Serbia), known as "swabs" or "Donau(river)schwaben". This was a county of Germany.
Mami took three vacations back to Germany, one in 1985, one in 1990, and another in 2001.
(note that some dates given in the above are suspect. I do not for one moment believe that my little brother, who now has four children of his own, was born in 2003. And whether you want to believe my own date of birth is up to you).