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A Story of Lilia

Village Coordinators - 

Denise Grau

Kevin Rupp

Colony Movement
Population of the Village

SUBMITTER'S NOTES: I had some time ago, requested my cousin Lilia's life story so that I could put it on my web page. It is a great story, and she is such a warmhearted person, and very special to me. I cherish her letters to me, and yes, some day I wish to visit her in Germany. I wanted to keep her sentence structure as close to her written word as possible since it reminds me of my father and mother's usage of the English language. This is a sad story and it grabbed my heart. I hope it interests you. - Thelma Kinderknecht Mills


This is a true story of my cousin from Mariental. I want to begin this story from the very beginning of my search for my Kinderknecht relatives from Mariental & Louis, Russia. Our father told us that he was born in Mariental, Russia, and came to America when he was 9 years old, with his parents, sister, and brothers.

What I didn't know, though, and it made me feel so sad when I discovered among my mother's things, a piece of paper with all of the information needed to join AHSGR and GRHS. She had written the addresses down, and the cost to join each organization. If I had only known, I would have paid her dues for her. Why didn't I know of her longing? (Her ancestors, the Weigel's, were from the village of Herzog.) My guilt and sorrow overwhelms me at times when I think of how she would have enjoyed these wonderful organizations. She would have read the publications from cover to cover! And I'm sure would have looked forward to receiving each one with as much anticipation as I do now. She apparently wasn't able to scrape the money together and wouldn't ever ask us children, as we all had families to provide for. But most important of all, that piece of paper was the beginning of my intense interest into our family genealogy. I joined both organizations, bought many, many books, had Dr. Pleve do some research for me in Russia, wrote hundreds of letters, had my search information listed in CLUES, joined the electronic German-Russian e-mail lists, became a Village Coordinator, created a web page, and have been pestering my relatives, almost losing their friendship in some cases, while trying to fill in the blanks, in my efforts to re-light the lamps of our ancestors.


In May of 1994, AHSGR member Laurin Wilhelm (while searching for his relatives) received a letter from a women in Germany named Lilia Kimmerle, who was looking for relatives in Canada. She told him that her aunt, Elizabeth Kessler, born Kinderknecht in 1894 in Mariental, with her husband Phillip Kessler, had emigrated to Canada about 1917-1921. She wrote that about 17 or 18 years ago, her father, Aloiysus Kinderknecht, born 1909 in Mariental, received a letter sent to him in the Altai Region of Siberia from his sister Elizabeth from Canada. The letter contained pictures of her daughters Maria and Berta, and a photo of her husband Phillip - who was 71 years old at that time. So Lilia began her search with those pictures. She was also looking for her cousin, Leo Schamne (Pastor of a Catholic Church in Canada). His mother, Katharina Schamne, nee Kinderknecht, was the sister of Elizabeth, and of her (Lilia's) father Aloiysus. She did not know their address, as her father, Aloiysus, had died in 1986 in Siberia. She longed to tell them about their grandfather and grandmother, Hans, and Amalia Kinderknecht.

Lauren Wilhelm sent a letter back to Lilia, telling her about me, and told her that my father, Anton Kinderknecht, had also been born in Mariental. We (Lilia and I) were so very excited to be able to communicate with each other (usually through Mr. Wilhelm, as Lilia could not read or write in English, nor could I in German). Many letters were exchanged over the years - I have a collection of beautiful birthday and Christmas cards received from her.


During this time I had posted e-mails, requesting information from anyone in Canada having information on Berta and Maria, on the electronic e-mail Lists, GR-HERITAGE, AND GR-GENEALOGY, and to my amazement, I received an e-mail from Don Wick in Canada telling me that he believed I was looking for his Kinderknecht relatives there in Canada. After checking, I agreed and hurriedly sent Lilia's address and told him that she was desperately looking for them. He told me that there was a postal strike at that time, and he would not be able to write just yet. So I hurriedly (wanting Lilia to get this surprise before Christmas which was drawing near) sent her a letter giving her his address, explaining about the postal strike. This letter (quickly) was transcribed over the internet by a person whose name I lost two years ago when my computer crashed. I would like to include him in this story if he would remember the letter and get in touch with me. What a wonderful Christmas Lilia and I had that year! Her relatives did began to communicate with her, and Lilia did get to visit her relatives in Canada. They had a great visit, so much to talk about and remember. But now a sad note - her cousin Maria` 1 died several months after that visit. Lilia still keeps in touch with her 85 year old cousin still living in Canada.

Lilia, also in her efforts to find her relatives and ancestors, received a book from the library called "The Migration of Germans to Russia", from 1763-1890, written by Karl Stump. But there were few names of Mariental people listed in it. It told her that the first migration to Mariental was from Rheinhalt-Pfalz (that lies entirely in the vicinity of the French border) in 1763. Her father had told her that the Kinderknecht's were some of the very first Germans to emigrate to Russia in 1763. Lilia wrote to Karl Stump, asking why so few were mentioned in his book. He answered that from 1763-1765, the lists of those departing are in the archives in Moscow and he has now received access to them, and is now pursuing a second book about the migration.

Lilia knew that from Mariental, many families migrated to Canada and the USA. Her father told her that his two sisters: Elizabeth Kessler (nee Kinderknecht in 1889 in Mariental) with husband Phillip Kessler, and their children; and Katharina Schamne with her husband and two sons, migrated in 1921 to Canada. Elizabeth and Phillip lived until the 1970's and the children of my cousins, Maria and Berta still live in Canada. Katharina died enroute to Canada, but her husband and two sons, Leo and Peter Schamne, must still be alive today somewhere in Canada. Leo Schamne was or still is today a priest of a Catholic Church in Canada. At the time my father's sisters migrated to Canada, they already had relatives living there on the Kinderknecht, Schamne, and Kessler sides.


According to her father, there were three Kinderknecht's living in Mariental. They were - Anton, Michael, and Joseph.

Michael was Lilia's great grandfather. His father was Hubert. Michael's son Hans (Johannes) was born in Mariental on 2/2/1868, and died on 3/25/1945 in Siberia. He was Lilia's grandfather.

Lilia's paternal grandparents: Hans (Johannes) and Amalia Kinderknecht, had many children, but they were all older than her father Aloiysus. Six died as children in Mariental, and Alexander, Michael, and Peter lost their lives in the Russian Revolution.

Han's and Amalia's children that lived, were all born in Mariental.

Daughter Katharina b. 1888 d. 1920/21 in route to Canada married Schamne - two sons, Leo (5) & Peter (3)

Daughter Elizabeth b. 1890 married Phillip Kessler - children Maria & Berta son Aloiysus b. 5/21/1909 d. 1996 in Siberia married Frieda Brungardt - children Lilia & Jurgen daughter Amalia 6/20/1911

Son Aloiysus b. 5/21/1909 d. 1996 in Siberia married Frieda Brungardt - children Lilia & Jurgen

Daughter Amalia 6/20/1911


Now I am writing to you about my maternal grandparents side. My mother was born Frieda Brungardt on 8/27/1914 in Herzog, Russia. Frieda's father was: Adam Brungardt, born (?) in Herzog. All the Brungardt's were very intelligent, learned, well-to-do people. They owned and operated schools, banks, and big business in Saratow, Engels, Marxstad (changed from Katharinenstadt), Herzog, and Mariental. The father of my mother (also called Adam Brungardt) did not return from his business one day. To this day, it is not known to where he disappeared. That was in 1921. The government had been harassing him. Maybe they killed him - or did he leave the country? I do know that my great grandfather had brothers. One was called Balthasar Brungardt, born 1845 - died 1923, but where he died, I do not know.

My grandmother (the mother of my mother) was called Elizabet Brungardt, nee Robert (INSERT #8). Her father was called Phillip Robert, and a brother of Elizabet was called Johannes Robert. But they had all disappeared already at the beginning of the Russian Revolution. My mother had only one sister, Eleanora Brungardt. She died in Russia. My grandmother Elizabet lived in Marxstad (next to Mariental). Marxstadt was a city and Mariental was a big village. Then in the year 1938, my grandmother Elizabet was arrested (see official documents: document A, document B), sentenced to 10 years and was deported to Siberia (Kalima) into the Gulag. For those 10 years no one knew where she was. Then in 1948, she was set free and died in March 1948 of stomach cancer at age 59 1/2 years. More than that I do no know of mother's relatives. My mother did not know the relationships on both sides of the family very well, because they were all very rich people in Mariental, Herzog, and Balzer.

At the beginning of the revolution in Russia, they were hunted and shot. A few escaped to Canada and the USA, and a few died in prisons in Siberia. So my mother "sort of knew" of the fate of all of her relatives. One of the Brungardt's was studying outside the country, maybe Germany. He was either an uncle or a cousin of my mother's.

My mother married my father Aloiysus Kinderknecht, (son of Johannes and Amalia) in 1934, and moved to Mariental where I and my brother (Jurgen) was born.


For a larger photo of the map click HERE


From an earlier letter:

Lilia writes in September 1994 that they finally were able to come out of the Altai Region of Siberia. See map of Altai area listed above - and also for more information and history of the area, search for the Altai Region, or go to the following URL:

They have been living in Germany for about three years. She was born on 7/25/1936 in Mariental, Russia, and was deported to Siberia in 1941. So she had to have lived in Siberia for about 50 years!

She writes - "Your grandfather (Joseph, brother to her grandfather Johannes) was on the right course when he departed for the USA. My grandparents, parents, and us children must suffer greatly while struggling to make it through the Revolution, and the wars, especially WWII - 1941 to 1945. We Germans in Russia were treated very badly with the outbreak of the war. We were degraded, driven out, and deported. Generally the Russians wanted us Germans in Russia entirely annihilated. So great was their hatred for us Germans that they deported everyone to Siberia, where many, many children and older people died enroute. The men and women alike had to endure forced labor. We suffered much but we endured in spite of it! The German culture was cared for and maintained - and that was almost impossible!"


Dear Thelma, I have not written you a letter for so long, but today I am writing you a thick letter. I have been busy gathering clothing from the local Germans, and also from our clothing and other things, to send away. I have sent 5 large packages at 10 to 15 kilo to Siberia for the acquaintances and neighbors there. (The German-Russians, and also the Russians.) These people live in great need and it gets so very cold in the winter. I know what it is to freeze, that's why I have sympathy toward those people and help them in whatever way that I can. I and my family here in Germany have the necessities for living, even though we have no money for luxury nor vacations, but we can live without those. I wanted to complete the project with the packages to Siberia and then I can write in peace. I have a small job for a little side income that I still need. I go twice a week, at four hours each time, in a house of older people. I cook for them, do laundry, iron, and put things in order. Our three children ( a daughter, two sons, and seven grandchildren) live not so far. Our oldest son lives 350 km away from us; the daughter lives 50 km; and the last son lives in a neighboring house next to ours.


I know that we had a nice big house and a big garden. In that house lived my grandparents, Hans and Amalia (nee Kessler) Kinderknecht. Also, my father, Aloiysus, my mother, Frieda, my brother, Jurgen, and I. My grandfather was in the garden often, the grandmother with us children. My father worked at MTS as an auto-mechanic. My mother worked in a grocery store. During this time, we were not bad off. Then in 1940, grandmother Amalia died. My mother then could not work and stayed home with us children.


My parents were so young and had to suffer so much. First, the arrest of the mother of my mother, then the death of the mother of my father, then into the abyss of 1941, being thrown out of their house and exiled to Siberia. I only saw how everyone ran here and there and how they cried. From the Order Out of Homes dismissal, to prepare for the exile, the authorities allowed only 24 hours.

So they packed the main things, warm clothing, something to eat, bed clothes, and utensils for eating. House, household, cattle, garden, and everything that goes with living had to be left standing and lying where it was.

In the evening of this day, August 28, 1941, came a wagon with two horses and two police, and my parents loaded up that which they were permitted to take. My grandfather preferred to die in the yard. He could not say farewell from the house, cows, goats, pigs, and chickens. The whole day before, he was lying in the cemetary and saying farewell to his parents, all those who had died, those murdered during the revolution, children, brothers, sisters, and his recently deceased wife. He wanted to die too, but mother and father carried him into the waiting wagon.

At the train station, all of the people were loaded into a cattle car. Every family selected a spot in the cattle car to keep together. On the floor lay lots of straw. Every family received a pail to use as a toilet. At stations, this pail was emptied, and that is how it went for almost two months, until we arrived in Siberia. In the middle of the boxcar stood a stove of steel. It was heated with wood and coal to give warmth. Outside it was already snowing and it was very cold. At every station, my parents go outside - mother to clean the toilet pail and father looks for something warm to eat in the train station. There were many deaths - little children and old people. These had to be buried at train stations without formalities, and the burial papers were sent to the relatives later.


Then in October, we came to a station in Siberia. Such terrible cold! There the Russians were awaiting us from the Russian villages, and they took us to their houses. It was commanded them to do this. They had to take us in. There in the little house were eight children and two adults, no father (he was at war). We were forced to live with the family. It was better than being outside. Our few clothing we had to share with them, or they simply took them from us. Converse we could not. We knew no Russian, and they knew no German. They were not friendly to us. Yes, the war was begun by the Germans. To them it was the same - Germany and we - the main thing being that it was the Germans who started the war. As it turned out, in Russia we were always German, and now here in Germany, we are Russians. We are a people on the road. Because our ancestors emigrated to Russia, we, and now our children, and maybe generations to come, have to do penance and atone for it. Our great, great, great grandparents had to suffer much throughout their lives. Never a sure place to settle down. One hardly builds up a little, then one is chased off, then go forward, and again begin all over again. Our people have never yet received an inheritance from ancestors. Each generation must fend for itself, to be able to manage their own lives. No help can be expected from parents because the parents never had anything themselves.

But now back to 1941. It is October, and yes, we have arrived in Siberia and had to live with Russian folks. Then later in October, my father, Aloiysus, was recruited into forced labor (Trudarmee). My mother (Frieda) worked in the Kolchase (Collective) with cattle. I, my brother, and our grandfather (Hans) were in the house with strangers and could not converse with each other.

In August of 1942 (almost a year later) we got a little house. Mother (Frieda) and grandfather (Hans) had to all but get down on their knees to enter through the door. We children could manage it though. In 1943, they recruited (took) our mother, at 28 years of age, into forced labor in the Tiaga, to fell trees and push them into the river. Therefore, we were now with our grandfather only. I had to go to school September First, 1944. Everything was in Russian.

In March of the year, 1945, our grandfather died because he let us eat whatever might be allotted to us. He wanted to keep us from dying, and in so doing, died himself.

During this time, mother was arrested, because she came to us to bury our grandfather. She was not supposed to leave her place of work. So she was arrested and sent to prison for 10 years. Then I and my brother were put in an orphanage.

My father, upon his release in the year of 1947, came looking for us in the orphanage. Where our mother was, we did not know, nor even if she was still living. The officials would not tell my father either. He could not know if she was still alive. There was a German women with a small daughter. My father went to live with her and got us out of the orphanage. My father then moved his new family to a village (still in Siberia). My father and stepmother worked in the Kolchase (Collective) while building a little house for us. We children went to school and had to learn everything in Russian. German was seldom spoken, because it was forbidden. Only at home a little German was spoken. We lived very poorly, had no clothing, and hardly enough to eat. My father and stepmother had three children together, therefore they are my siblings.


At 19 years of age, I left home to go to a small city in Kazakstan, (not so far away). There I learned to work as a bookkeeper and there I learned to know my husband, Kurt Kimmerle. About a wedding there was no mention. Therefore no wedding, no food, no drink to our health - there was nothing. He just took me into his parent's home and there we lived. There we had our three children. I worked as a bookkeeper, and my husband worked in construction. My in-laws (Kurt's parents) both died there in Kazakstan.


In the year, 1992, we were permitted to immigrate to Germany with the whole family. With our children and also, the grandchildren. We again had to leave everything behind - house, garden, furntiure, and household belongings. Only with our suitcases did we go to Germany. So again, from the beginning, once again. To Germany we have come only with hope. One, though, must be honest, the German Government has received us well. We have an apartment and some used furniture. We received some help here to again build up, and we are not doing badly. I and my husband do not have jobs. We are too old for a job, and still too young for Social Security. But we are doing OK. Our daughter works in the garment industry, one son works in the construction business, and the other son is studying here in Germany to become a mechanic. Also, here in Germany is my brother, Jurgen (57 years old), my brother, Waldemar (40 years old) with his family. Still in Siberia is another brother, Hans, 45 years old, and a sister, Elvira, 50 years old. But they will be coming to Germnay also. From the Kinderknecht side of the family, I have only yet in Siberia, one cousin named Alexander Kinderknecht, and a female cousin, named also Lilia, who is 50 years old. But they will be coming to Germany also. In 1941, only two families with the name Kinderknecht, were deported from Mariental to Siberia. My grandfather (Hans) with my father and family, and then my grandfather's cousin. All of the other Kinderknecht's had migrated to Canada and the USA.

My mother, Frieda, came back from prison in 1955, and came to me - to my family in Kazakstan. She later had an apartment. She never married again, and she came with my family to Germany, where she died in 1996 and is buried here in Germany.

My father died in Siberia in 1986. The family of my father (also the stepmother), my brothers and sisters with her, all of my families I have called into Germany from Siberia in the year of 1994. Therefore, all of my siblings, my stepmother, our children and their families, we all live here in Germany in one city. We all have a roof over our heads, have food to eat, drink, clothes to wear, and are doing well. (Although we are not accustomed to luxury.) But one day one hopes to be accepted as Germans and not thought of as Russians.

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