On Jan. 23, 1943, my uncle, Frank Ebner Gartz, (photo in uniform, above) reported to the draft board in Chicago to start his training for WWII. So began the correspondence between him and family & friends, comprising almost 300 letters going both ways. I’m posting many of these World War II letters, each on or near the 70th anniversary of its writing. To start with his induction, click HERE.

This blog began in Nov., 2010, when I posted a century-old love note from Josef Gärtz, my paternal grandfather, to Lisi (Elisabetha) Ebner, my paternal grandmother, and follows their bold decision to strike out for America.

My mom and dad were writers too, recording their lives in diaries and letters from the 1920s-the 1990s. Historical, sweet, joyful, and sad, all that life promises-- and takes away--are recorded here as it happened. It's an ongoing saga of the 20th century. To start at the very beginning, please click HERE.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Out to Sea

12/30/1910 First page of letter
from Josef to Lisi on  F. Missler stationery
Once Josef arrived in Bremen, and his path to America seemed clear, he wrote to Lisi. Not only had Friedrich Missler,  probably Bremen's most successful ticket agent, given thousands of passengers a brown, canvas wallet like the one in which I found Josef’s diary, he also provided stationery emblazoned with “F. Missler” and the agency's address at 30 Bahnhof Strasse [literally: Train Station Street], proving Missler was a marketing wizard of his day. Many descendants who have these wallets have mistakenly thought "Missler" was the name of the ship pictured and researched in vain to find it.

Here’s the first page of Josef’s letter to Lisi, written on Missler stationery. If you look closely, you can see the date at the start of the letter (the date is first and the month follows in Roman Numerals).
30/XII 1910
December 30, 1910

Dear Lisi,

I want to tell you that I have arrived in Bremen happy and healthy. Now I want to tell you about my nightmare trip.

At this point Josef describes his misadventures and narrow escapes, which have already been shared in previous posts, so I’ll skip over that part and start with Bremen:

Thank God I am here, and I thank our Lord God again many times for the good thoughts he gave me. But such a trip! I thought it would undo me!

Missler Emigrant Hall, Bremen, 1907
Perhaps this is where Josef sat with his new-found friends
We’re sitting here at F. Missler, and already it’s going a bit easier because each person [fellow travelers he’s met] makes the other happy, and so we are getting along fine.

Tomorrow, December 31, 1910, we’re going to board the ship, as long as we remain healthy. Every day we are checked by a doctor, and up to now, I am completely healthy. Many people, who got sick on the trip, have already been here in Bremen for eight weeks. One woman, who had eye inflammation [probably trachoma--pink eye] has already been waiting here four weeks. She’s finally received authorization to depart for America.

With heartfelt greetings, I end my letter. Please, dear Lisi, tell me in your first letter what you have heard of my colleagues.

With greetings to all,
Gärtz, Josef, Bremen

We must look to his diary now, to see into the heart and mind of a young man, his written emotions  a reflection of what thousands of others must have felt at this point in their journeys, as he travels the final leg that will transport him to an unknown land and future.

Friedrich der Grosse, ship that brought Josef Gärtz
to America. Thanks to Norway Heritage for image
December 31, 1910

Early Saturday morning at 4 am, we saw a doctor who looked us in the eyes and inoculated the left hand with four shots. At 7a.m. we took a two-hour train to the ship. We boarded the ship at 10:30 a.m., and at 11:30, it departed directly for America.

Throngs at the Port of Bremen. Not the era of Josef's
departure, but gives a sense of the kind of crowd
 he describes. 
(From the collection of Maggie Land Blanck)
I was moved by sadness, joy, and fear as the mighty colossus pulled us far out over the waves of the great sea. Everyone on land waved after us with their handkerchiefs as they wanted to share with us a last and friendly farewell. They know such a trip deals with life and death, and we’re never certain if we’ll see each other again.

Josef truly rang out the old on New Year’s Eve, 1910, departing from everything familiar -- and hoped to ring in 1911 with a new life in America. But first he had to endure the harsh winter crossing over the frigid, stormy Atlantic seas.


Jasia said...

Great post, Linda! The post cards and photos were a nice addition too. I can hardly wait to see what happens next on Jozef's voyage. My maternal grandmother made the trip from Poland (via Bremen) to Ellis Island in 1913, so not long after your Jozef. I'm sure I'll be imagining her trip was similar to Jozef's...

Linda Gartz said...

Thanks so much for your comment! I can imagine the hope and fear (Gee--sounds like "Little Town of Bethlehem") that accompanied all the millions emigrants who boarded those ships.

Unknown said...


If Grandpa Jozef could spend a day with you today he would be brimming with pride as to the rewards of the hardships he endured.

Linda Gartz said...

What a sweet thing to say! They could never have imagined that their words, written so long ago, would be available to the whole world with the click of a mouse (only a "squeak" of such would be imagined in their time.) They did live to see a man land on the moon--perhaps a greater leap of technology from their late 19th century lives than even we have seen in our lives. But all is moving exponentially fast! What will the world be like 100 years hence?

Kerry Scott said...

Wow, to leave on the eve of a new year...that must have been something.

I'm digging how these line up to exactly 100 years ago. We live in such a different world now, but starting over is still...starting over.

Linda Gartz said...

Thanks, Kerry. It was the centennial that compelled me to get this blog started this year. And as to your comment of "starting over" reminds me of your post of changing careers -- something I've done too. It's empowering!

Margel said...

Linda- I really enjoy your blog. It feels like Josef is writing to me. To have such a wonderful family resource is amazing. Thank you so much for sharing it, and your photo choices add so much.

Linda Gartz said...

That's a wonderful testimonial -- to say you feel Josef is writing to you. I love these first person accounts because they transport thoughts and feelings across the ages. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

Candace George Thompson said...

I'm an OCWW member, sat behind you at the personal essay sessions last fall. I'm finding your posts and site entertaining and instructive as I work on the story of my own career Air Force family. Looking forward to talking with you at a future meeting. Congrats on such a professional and creative blog, and also on your Persimmontree story. Cheers! Candace

Linda Gartz said...

Hi Candace,
Thanks so much for the positive comments. I'd love to talk with you about your project.
I'm not sure I'll be at the Jan 6th- 20th meetings, but will definitely be at 1/27 on blogging! See you soon.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Linda,
When I first read "North German Lloyd" and "Bremen" in your posts, I thought of my late father who served that line and the Bremen as Purser (or Asst.) for a couple years before the WWII until requesting a transfer to the NYC sales office. But, that was surely the "Bremen IV", the fast, two-stacker ex-1928, depicted also in your story. Nice job, Linda! Henry

Linda Gartz said...

Bremenhaven -- or Port of Bremen-- was the port from which thousands made their way to America. Sounds like your dad had a lot to do with keeping the business in business -- and thereby helping immigrants get to America.

Kathy Reed said...

I absolutely love your blog (and thanks for posting on mine). When I was searching blogs for the "Ancestor Approved" Award, I wanted to give it to you -- but someone else had beat me to it. I'm going to read every post. You seem to have struck a nerve since you already have 45 followers on a relatively new blog. Congratulations.