You Came From
by Alex Leeb
Mover & Shaker Interview with
Alex Leeb by Rose Mary
"In the fall
of 1947, we received a letter from our parents in West
Germany. What had happened was that our father had crossed
the Iron Curtain during the night and gone to the place
where our mother was. After spending a week with one
another there, they both crossed the Iron Curtain and
returned to the place where our father was living. Shortly
after their reunion, our parents began to work through an
agent to bring my brother and me out of Romania so that we
might join them in West Germany. Our grandparents had to
hire a lawyer in Temeswar to provide us with the proper
papers to leave the country. A year went by, but nothing
happened—no word from the lawyer and no action from our
parents in Germany.
happened then, Alex? (RMKH)
grandmother was a religious person; she went to Mass
regularly and said her daily prayers.
One day her
prayers were answered. She had written to her sister in
Saskatchewan, Canada, asking her if she would consider
bringing our parents, who were living in West Germany, to
Canada. The reply from her sister in Canada was a
blessing. She agreed to bring them to Canada.
meantime, a new addition arrived in our family. Our sister
Anna was born in August 1948, in Germany. On October 30,
1948, our parents and our baby sister arrived in Quebec
City. After riding the train from Quebec City, they arrived
two days later in Lancer, Saskatchewan.
received the good news that they had arrived in Canada, we
all were really happy in Knees.
didn’t mind going to the lawyer again to change the
destination on the papers to Canada instead of West
Germany. After corresponding with our lawyer in Romania and
Canada, we departed for Canada on August 2, 1950. It was
difficult for John and me to leave our grandparents behind.
After we left
Romania and until we arrived Canada, we experienced many
document complications. We even spent some time behind bars
at the London Airport because we did not have Canadian
visas. The authorities contacted our parents in Canada and
told them they had to pay certain fees in order for us to
get a Canadian visa and to continue our journey. The fees
were paid and finally on August 19, 1950, we arrived by
train at Swift Current, Saskatchewan.
As we got off
the train, for the first in nine years, I saw my father
standing on the railroad platform. For the first time in
five years, I saw my mother standing beside our father and
our little sister whom we had never seen. It was a great
reunion for all of us."
You Came From
by Alex Leeb
Salomea Loeb and her son Anselm knew the meaning of hard
times. After the death of her husband, she and Anselm
sought employment, but work was scarce in Bessarabia. So
they traveled by foot and wagon westward to the Banat and
settled in the Village of Knees. Salomea worked as a maid
in the village and Anselm 16 at the time, worked as a
hired man for a farmer. He was persistent, had lots of
determination, and was not afraid of hard work.
In 1933, Anselm married Teresia Lay from Knees. Their
first child they named John, was born in October 1933.
Their second child, born on the 19th of February 1936,
they called Alexander (me). Apparently shortly after my
birth, my whole body was covered with boils. My skin was
red, my whole body was hot. I was told I cried
constantly. On the third day, a gypsy happened to be
walking by our house and heard me screaming. He stopped
and asked my father what's the matter was with his child.
My father explained the circumstances to him.
My father asked if he would like to take a look at the
child. The gypsy agreed and after examing my body, he
requested they bring me into the barn along with as many
blankets as possible. He laid me on a blanket, and
requested a pail with manure.
My parents were astonished when they observed the miracle
at the gypsys hands. The gypsy covered my entire
body with manure and wrapped me with the rest of the
blankets. The gypsy came by our place three more times
and gave me the same treatments. After one month the
manure had managed to suck the poison out of my blood.
The witch doctor said, if this hadnt been done now,
I wouldve died within a months time.
It was compulsory for children to receive their education
from grade one to seven. I attended school through sixth
grade in Knees. If a student wished to continue further
education, they would have to go to the city for high
school, colleges, or universities.
Our village population in Knees was about 3,000
inhabitants. Only ten per cent of the student population
would continue their education. The majority of the
students would likely go to Temeswar to further their
education. Temeswar the capital city of Banat, is only 28
Km from Knees. The other students if so inclined, would
learn a trade in the village. These trades were often
taught on the job barber, shoemaker, tailor,
blacksmith, and woodcraftsmen.
The population in Knees was about 3,000 inhabitants. Only
ten per cent of the student population would continue
their education. The majority of the students would
likely go to Temeswar to further their education.
Temeswar the capital city of Banat, is only 28 Km from
Knees. The other students if so inclined, would learn a
trade in the village. These trades were often taught on
the job barber, shoemaker, tailor, blacksmith, and
The oldest son would inherit the house and the farm. If
there were two or three sons in the family, the second
and third sons would learn a trade, or continue with
their education. When a son got married, they would live
with his parents, until they were able to build or buy
their own home.
The land owned by the farmers varied from 2 Joch (acres)
up to 50 Joch (acres). When a farmer had 30-50 acres, he
would then be considered in the higher class. When
a-tradesmen owned a few acres of land, they would have it
farmed by another farmer from the village. Farmers grew
vegetables, fruits, and grain, after the growing season,
vegetables, and fruits would be picked daily and sold at
the marked places in Temeswar.
The majority of the 3,000 inhabitants of Knees were
German, Romanian, Serbs, and Gypsies in that order. The
German population was 100% Catholic; The Romanian and
Serb were Orthodox. It was commonly believed that the
Gypsies had their own domination, which they believed in
"stealing." That their Gypsy saying was;
why work, if you can get it free."
An Experience of a Lifetime
September of 1943 was my first year in school. We were
taught all subjects including German and religion. After
school, we used to play soccer, other games, and playing
solders on the streets.
On August 23, 1944, Romania broke their Treaty Pact with
Germany and signed a Treaty Pact with Russia. Because of
this, it strengthened the Russian forces; allowing them
to walk through Romania just like Hitler went through
some of the European countries in 1939-40. With Romania
being on the Russian side, their plan was to go westward
into Hungary ahead of the Russians.
In 1944, the German soldiers occupied our village. In
spite of their presence, we would still have Romanian and
Hungarian soldiers pass through on any given day. The
German soldiers treated us well. 9 Km South of Knees, was
the village of Billed, the headquarters for the German
army, the population being all-German.
The German soldiers occupied the Town Hall. Our parents
were worried with the shooting going on, one of us might
be killed, but as small children we never looked at it in
such a perspective.
Early one day, we were playing by the street and observed
three wagons of soldiers entering the village from the
East. They did not appear to be either Hungarian or
Romanian soldiers. We were puzzled with the language they
spoke. After they had passed us, we ran inside the house
to tell our grandparents what we just had seen. We were
told not to go out into the street anymore and to stay in
the yard. As the wagons continued on into the village, we
witnessed them picking up a young boy off the street, to
direct them to the Town Hall. The boy was my cousin
Josef. When they turned the corner going towards the Town
Hall, he pointed the building to them. They released him
and he ran all the way home.
Immediately after he left the scene, there was machine
gun fire for a couple of hours. Seven Hungarian soldiers
occupied the building, four of them escaped to Billed
where the German soldiers were and three were killed. The
Russians had two casualties.
That same night, we knew the Russians would return.
Several families gathered together in one of the
neighbor's basement for the night. As the night
progressed, we could hear the Russian soldiers entering
he village, breaking into houses and taking the horses
from the barns.
With no communication with the outside world, we were
shocked when we experienced the takeover of our village
by the Russian soldiers. Our village was surrounded by
German soldiers on the South and West side of the village
and by Russian soldiers on the North and East. We were
playing on the street at the time when the shooting
began; a Russian soldier pulled me in the trench with
him. He made me pass the machine gun ammunition to him.
The sound of machineguns, the cry of people, to a
nine-year-old boy, that was one experience I will
remember for a long time.
The following two weeks, we experienced hard times. The
soldiers were raping women, as their children witnessed.
Cries of children were heard daily due to what was
happening to their mothers. A daughter of a 72-year-old
man was taken to the barn with her father. Her father was
tied up to a post and witnessed his daughter being raped
by twenty different soldiers The Russians tried to push
the Germans back towards Billed where their headquarters
A few weeks later, the Germans found that the Russians
were too strong for them. As the Germans slowly
retreated, only one German soldier held the Russians back
until the rest had retreated into Hungary and Austria.
After these incidents, our mother was afraid to be alone
with the children. She decided it was safer to be with
our grandparents, so we stayed with them.
A month later, the soldiers were gone and life was
getting back to normal. The children had to attend the
Romanian schools. They had to learn Romanian and Russian,
but not German. We found it hard at the beginning because
we didnt know how to speak Romanian or Russian. We
were well accepted by the Romanian students. I only
studied German in my first grade but German was spoken at
home. Because we were among Romanian children all day in
school, we learned the Romanian language faster than
The Introduction of Communism
A month after the Russian soldiers had left our village,
colonists from the Eastern part of Romania were brought
to the Banat area. Some of the local gypsies were
appointed as leaders of the Communist Party. They were
given the authority to do whatever they chose. They
demanded a head count of all German families in the
While attending Sunday Mass, they entered the church and
ordered the priest to have the church emptied in ten
minutes. Everyone in the church would be shot, if orders
were not obeyed. The following day the church was made
into a barn.
The houses, land, horses, cows, and wagons were taken
away from the German people. The colonists and gypsies
were given living accommodations, nine acres of land, one
horse, one cow, and one wagon. Most of the houses were
shared with German families.
It was hard for the German people to watch their
belongings being taken away from them. The land that was
developed by their ancestors in the 1700's and passed
down to them from generation to generation and suddenly
vanished in one day.
A month went by and we saw no work in the fields by the
new owners. The new colonist were inexperienced in
farming and failed to realize without actual labor,
nothing could grow. Soon they approached the German
farmers to buy their land back. Of course they
didnt have to ask twice, the German farmers were
happy to get their land back. The farmers paid a large
sum of money, for their previously owned land. The
farmers were happy and so were the Gypsies, except there
appeared a big problem. On Monday morning, the farmer
arrived to work his land, but there were two other
farmers who bought the same land. The person who sold the
land was nowhere to be found. It didnt take
the Gypsy very long to learn the Communist System.
"What is yours is mine and what is mine is
"Black Day for the
January 14, 1945
On January 14, 1945, the Donauschwaben men from the ages
of 16-40 and women from the ages 18-39 were herded into
boxcars, transported to Russia, and forced to work in the
Rumors were heard in the village, something might happen
to the German people. On January 14, 1945, at 11
oclock in the morning, two men entered our yard and
knocked at the door. Without giving grandmother a chance
to open the door, they had entered the house. There stood
two tall men with clubs in their hands, swinging them
back and forth. One of them took a piece of paper from
his coat pocket; we could see that it was a list of
people. Without asking any questions, he read the message
on the paper; You, Teresia Leeb, (my mother) are to
report to the town hall no later than 2 oclock in
the afternoon on this day January 14, 1945. We recommend
that you bring with you food and clothing for two days.
If you fail to report by 2 oclock your father must
take your place. Should he also fail to report, he then
will be taken as prisoner and will be shot.
After the two men had left, grandfather came in from
outside where he had been feeding the chickens. He asked
grandmother what did the two men want?
Grandmother had already started packing for my mother Teresia, as she told him the bad news.
[Published at DVHH.org by Jody McKim Pharr]