Sponsored by the Michigan Family History Network
I recently commenced a project to learn a little more about the IRO and the DP Camps in Germany circa 1948-1951. My interest originates from myriad memories of visiting several DP Camps with my father who was employed by the IRO from roughly 1947 until late 1950 when he was recalled to active duty in the U.S. Army and sent to Korea. Dad initially went alone to Germany. The rest of our family consisting of Mom, my two sisters, and myself joined him in at IRO headquarters in Bad Kissingen in early 1948. I was five years old at the time, but pretty alert and aware of everything or so I thought. I never saw Dad's office or knew exactly what he did at this time for the IRO other than it involved food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and relocation for thousands of refugees and displaced persons. I do know he was under a lot of stress and sometimes would be gone for days and weeks at a time when we lived in Bad Kissingen.
We lived in two diffferent places in Bad Kissingen. First, we were in a hotel for several weeks and then a private home on a tall hill overlooking the city. Bad Kissingen did not have the bomb damage suffered by so many other cities and villages. It was a beautiful view. There were plum and apple trees in our yard. We were there for almost a year. Our next door neighbor had been a dog handler and sergeant in the Wehrmacht during the war. His surname was Zübe, and he had a very large and ferocious German Shepard named Rolf. It took many months for Herr Züber to become friendly with the Americans next door which occurred only after his teenaged daughter, Frieda Dicka Züber, was hired by my parents as our governess. It took several weeks and lots of help from Frieda before Rolf and I became friends to where he would let me into their home when I went over to visit.
After Bad Kissingen we moved to an incredible home, almost a castle, on the outskirts of Rosenheim in Bavaria a few kilometers Southeast of Munich. Dad rented this enormous home for something like $75.00 a month from the family of a Nazi general who supposedly had died or been killed in the war. It was a palatial three story stone and brick with gardens and numerous statues and fountains in the vast front yard. It also had a live-in staff of four Polish DP's consisting of two husband and wife teams. The men took care of the yards and gardens, and the women took care of the cooking and cleaning. I think they were paid something like $15.00 a month for each couple plus room and board. The older of the two men was a master wood carver who taught me a little of his art. I recall my mother once being furious with this fine old man when he tried to convince her it was a waste of time to mow the grass because it would just grow back. She didn't buy it and he thought the argument was hilarious after she went storming back inside.
In Rosenheim, there was a large DP camp a few hundred yards from our back door across the potato fields. I am not certain, but I think this may have been the Stephankirchen subcamp of Dachau, one of 123 or so Dachau subcamps, during the war. I have read that the Stephankirchen subcamp housed slave labor for the nearby BMW plant. One of the things I hope you can help me with is to verify the name of this dp camp just outside Rosenheim, I think to the West. I am not certain, but I also think dad's IRO office at this time was located somewhere in or just outside Munich.
Among many, many vivid memories of Rosenheim, I very clearly recall seeing numerous Polish people every day who lived at this camp who would stroll and idle in the neighborhood park which was in front of our home. I made friends with many of them. My mind was also permanently imprinted with observing hundreds of displaced persons swimming and bathing nude in the muddy water filled bomb craters surrounding the DP camp. This was during the warmer days in the summer of 1949. I had a bicycle at that time, and I would often ride over to this camp to meet and talk with new friends, helping them learn English although this was forbidden by my parents. By then my German was becoming almost fluent with our nanny Frieda Züber's help. My sisters and I were prohibited from speaking English at home for almost two years in order that we learn to speak German. I guess it worked.
Later, during the summer of 1950, we moved to the village of Marbach ('am Neckar) which was about 20 kilometers north and a little west of Stuttgart. I am not certain where Dad worked at this time other than I know it was still for the IRO and that he was definitely not happy with his job. I seem to recall his office was located somewhere in or near Ludwigsburg perhaps at a large motor vehicle pool he showed me a couple times.
In any event, I recall Dad was pretty disgusted with the dishonesty and flagrant stealing and cheating done by his co-workers with the IRO, and that this had something to do with the changes in his job locations. I also remember overhearing him talking with Mom about how the people he worked with, including his immediate boss, were flagrantly stealing and selling cars, food, and other stuff on the black market, and how they had threatened him when he wouldn't go along. This was the first time and only time I ever saw my father with tears in his eyes. Here was a man who was a highly decorated Major with the 191st Tank Battalion during WW II, who had seen three straight years of combat including four contested beach landings. He thought these IRO people should go to prison, and he was totally frustrated. There was nothing he could do about it after he was slam dunked by higher-ups when he tried to blow the whistle. There is no question he was happy to go back into the Army even though he knew he was headed to a war zone, although as a Lt. Colonel this time. Incidentally, the 191st Tank Battalion was among the first on the scene liberating several of the Nazi concentration camps in Bavaria. This experience profoundly affected Dad, hence his leaving the Army and joining up when the IRO was formed.
If you do happen to know the names of the Rosenheim dp camp or more information about the pilfering problems with the IRO, I hope you will share.
Sincerely, F. Randall Waltz, III
Waltz and Associates
Attorneys at Law
308 East High St., Suite 302 Jefferson City, MO 65101-3237
FAX (573) 634-4216
Randy's photo gallery
City archive - Stadtarchiv
Stadtarchiv Rosenheim, Max-Bram-Platz 2A, 83022 Rosenheim, Tel.: 08031/36-1439
United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration Archives Record Group: PAG 4 Box 25: Area Team 1069: Rosenheim
The Red Cross Tracing Service has amazingly discovered that my father was kept at Rosenheim, and presumably worked at or around a BMW plant at Stephankirchen. I want to be able to chronicle his incredible odyssey for his sons and grandchildren and for generations to come. If you could shed any light on Rosenheim or ANYTHING that might relate to his plight I would be forever grateful. His name was Nikolaj (or Nick) Abbay (or Abbaj) Born 1923. Captured 1939. Liberated 1945. He passed away in 1984. He was a good man. Peter Abbay Phone (323)462-6445.