January 25, 1925
|Siegelau, 25 January 1925
Dear Brother and Family
We received your very precious letter on Christmas Day and we were happy to hear from you again and find out how things are over there. As we can see from your letter, everything is all right so far, since all of you are well, which is the most important thing. Well, dear Brother, as far as our health is concerned, we cannot complain, though one does get older and older and one's powers diminish increasingly. My breathing too gives me quite a bit of trouble, but nothing better could have been hoped for after so many years of hard work.
However, as far as everything else is concerned, we can hardly praise it and it would have been impossible to imagine that one would still experience such a period in his old days. Of course we did have a little to do in earlier years when the children were still smaller, but that was still golden. Everything went pretty well until about the middle of 1923, then taxes really started, and right away in the thousands, then in the millions, then billions, finally trillions, and then when it could not go on like that any more, the change to the “Rent Mark” and all earlier assets were lost.* One billion is the equivalent of one Rent Mark now. You can imagine that it is difficult to know where to get Rent Marks, and thus it is still continuing, one tax notification after the other so that you can not get a real start at all anymore. One is unable to purchase anything for oneself. Money is loaned by banks here, since no one has anything else, interest from 15% to 20%. Only big business men can afford that, who then can add that to the cost of their merchandise. It is a lot different with the farmer since what one has to sell amounts to very little compared with what one has to buy, mainly clothing, shoes, farm tools. Daily wages for craftsman are two or three times as high as before, and thus with all this added to the heavy tax burdens, it is almost impossible to get by. However, the civil servants of the state experience just the opposite. They have a good salary and feed is inexpensive. As far as the factory workers are concerned, things are not glittering. Wages are not that high but at least they can get by.
In the Gütterman plant in Gutach things look quite different from the way they were when you were there the last time, with what these developments consisted of before the war and the landholdings, businesses they bought, augmented by what they built last year, as far as Kollnau. In Gutach itself they bought up everything in the village and did a lot of building. In Bleibach the tile factory and a big saw mill where many people work, it is these gentlemen who have the money and exploit the lower classes and no one wants to take them on. They own in the billions. In 1924 Gütermann built an electric plant in Obersimonswald, an electric plant with a waterfall distance of 400 meters, all of which cost millions. It is the plant where the communities of the Elz Valley purchase their current.
Well, dear Brother, whatever else that might be new or that might interest you does not amount to much. As far as our family is concerned, things are all right. Four of our daughters are married now. Two others are at home at present. Our sons are about to outgrow me. The second oldest, Vitus is a mechanic and electrician. He worked with a store in Müllheim up there at Freiburg. He is here at present and wants to take a master craftsman examination. In Müllheim he worked quite a lot on radio apparatus, mostly in the health spa of Badenweiler. Well, you have a set like that yourself. You also have an automobile. We have not made it that far here and will not as long as we live. However, there are so many driving here that one is hardly safe anymore with a wagon on the highway. Timber is transported by truck. We have had electric lights for two years. Our son Vitus put it in at a time when we still had more money, and that was good. We have a dynamo machine attached to the mill and it works pretty well. It was supposed to be constructed for the community by Gütterman, but where was the money supposed to come from? Well that does not trouble us. It is sufficient for us.
Franz Joseph at the mill is not well up there in the Rhine Valley. He has been sick for a year now, due to lameness. Vitus died there too. Last week Franz Joseph's son died in Freiburg in a hospital of a long disease. He was 33 years old. Franz Zepp has leased the inn out. He should not have sold the Make Mill.
Almost all the old people in the village have died. The old mason Akzisor, old Mr. leis, everyone in the Eagle Inn is dead too. The old merchant Burger, the old man at the Maier farm, the farmer Resch, Mayor Hamm, and Sepp at the inn; farmer Gescheid, the old Dugenhauer at the Akleberg, died only last fall at the age of 65. The farmer Stefan, by the name of Vitus, died a year ago at age 63, and it goes on and on like that. I suppose we will have to go soon, too.
Well, dear Brother, I guess I ought to stop soon. I got completely carried away and forgot to tell you about all of my sons. Well, the third is somewhat sickly but has been doing all right for the last three years, so that he can work steadily. The fourth is helping out at the Hummels. His son Wilhwelm died in 1923 of a back trouble and this has been very hard for him. The fifth son in Kollnau is a carpenter apprentice learning carpentry, and the sixth is 15 years old.** Whether I will be able to make it possible for him to learn a trade at a time as bad as this, I do not know yet. Diker*** of the Winter Farm, in Colombus over there, wrote Trenkler, our brother-in-law. I read the letter and had to answer him. He writes that he would know of a good place for a young fellow 17 or 18 years old, which would be with a childless farmer, but Trenkler's boys are almost 40, and it would be some what risky business with strange people, as you well recognize.
Well, dear Brother, I want to conclude now,hoping that this letter will find you well. Many regards to your whole family. Write too whether you receive the letter. Benedict is still in Bleibach. I do not whether he will leave again, but I do not think so. Well, once again, best regards, from your brother,
&nb sp; Franz Anton
Since I wrote this letter eight days ago and did not mail it, I want to add a few patches which I forgot.
Last year was very rainy here, particularly the month of August and the beginning of September, so that it was almost impossible for the higher elevations to harvest the crops. Otherwise the crop was not bad. There were not many potatoes. However, there was a lot of fruit. The trees which our father planted yield a lot of fruit now. We have about 20 ____________ apples; one measure of this is 150 liters of apple wine.**** This winter we have had a little snow only twice, which stayed on the ground a day. What kind of summer will follow is uncertain. Well, let us hope for the best.
Well, once again, the very best regards to all of you. Do you not ever feel like coming to Germany again, or one of your sons?
* "Rent Mark' had to do with the way currency was backed; not backed by gold but by industrial holdings, according to translator. Also, see foot note, letter of 6 May 1923, on mark values.
**The sons: Second oldest, Vitus, born 1903, died 1966; the third, August, born 1905, died in WWII; the fourth, Franz, born 1906, now deceased; the fifth, Fritz, born 1907, whom we saw in Siegelau in 1974; the sixth, Georg, born 1910, who was operating the farm in 1965 and who died in 1973.
*** I think he refers to Franz Anton Resch in Columbus, Ohio, but do not understand the word or name "Diker." If it is a common noun, I do not find it in my German-English Dictionary.
**** "Rent Mark" had to do with the way currency was backed; not backed by gold but by industrial holdings, according to translator. Also, see foot note, letter of 6 May 1923, on mark values.