The late John Pappert was one of those Germans who took the roundabout way to make it to America. As the president of St.Louis’s German Cultural Society, he was in a perfect position to hold on to his heritage in a new land. Founded by displaced Germans like himself, the society is dedicated to the heritage of all Germans.
The route that Pappert’s ancestors took to come to St. Louis began in Southwestern Germany in the eighteenth century, when the empire of Austria-
Hungary issued a call: Come to our land. Their population had been decimated when German-Austrian forces defeated the Ottoman Empire in their area.People moved to Eastern Europe—to places like Romania, Hungary, and Serbia—and were called Danube Swabians.
“They were primarily farmers and craftsmen,” Pappert said in an interview in 2011. He might still be living there today if it wasn’t for World War II. Pappert, who was born in a village near the city of Timisoara, Romania, in 1937, saw his father drafted into theGerman army and killed on the Russian front in 1943. A year later, the Russians marched into Romania, and Pappert’s family was on the run.
““We left by wagon train and fled ahead of the Russian front,” Pappert said. For six years, Pappert’s family was in Austria as displaced people. But in 1950, they moved to St. Louis, where they had relatives who had immigrated here around 1900. Pappert became an engineer, got married, and had three boys. In turn, they presented him with four grandchildren. Pappert dedicated himself to the German Cultural Society, which traced itself to the St. Louis Chapter of the American Aid Association. Founded in 1945 to help German refugees from Germany and Eastern Europe, it turned toward preserving German heritage after the refugee crisis ended. In 1969, it adopted its current name.
It’s one of the stories from my book Beer, Brats, and Baseball: St. Louis Germans. It’s available in bookstores or from Amazon.com. Or you can get it sent to your house for less than Amazon by mailing a check for $21.50 made out to Jim Merkel to Jim Merkel’s Books, 4216 Osceola St., St. Louis, MO. 63116.
You can buy each of my other two books, the Second Edition of Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis’s South Side, and The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, The Schemers, and the Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch, for the same price. It’s the perfect Christmas gift.