The Extended Batke Family with Link neighbors

The Extended Batke Family with Link neighbors
Pictured in the photo: (Back row, standing, left to right) Herman Fredrick, Anna Batke, Henry Batke, Sr., Selma Batke, Henry Robert Batke, William Batke and Arthur Engler. (Front row/sitting, left to right) Donald Fredrick, Robert Fredrick, Katherine Batke Fredrick, Ruth Batke, Edwin Batke, Katherine Reck Batke, Jerald Batke, Edna Kwiatkowski Batke, Mary Batke Engler and Elaine Engler. Taken c1940, possibly to celebrate Henry and Katherine’s 30th wedding anniversary, October 22, 1940. Photo courtesy: Don Fredrick.

About Henry Batke and Katherine Reck

Heinrich Batke, the son of Martin Batke (c1848-b1912) and Anna Lock (1848-1939) was born in Chortitza, Russia on September 7, 1877. Also in Russia, Catharina Reck was born on October 14, 1890. Her parents were John Reck and Renata Shirk. Henry and Katherine married in Russia on September 22, 1910. On July 13, 1912, Henry, his wife and seven month old daughter, Katherine, sailed from the Port of Bremen, Germany on the ship Pallanza. They traveled to Quebec City, Canada arriving on July 28, 1912. They immediately left on a special Canadian Pacific Railroad train to Saskatchewan, Canada. The Batkes homesteaded in Lydiard, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan between 1913 and 1918. On October 3, 1917 Henry Batke became a citizen of Canada. Due to England's sovereignty over Canada, he became a British citizen. Finding farming in Canada difficult, on December 7, 1921 the Batke family, now also including Mary, William and Selma, left for Yellow Pine, Alabama. After the birth of Anna and much hardship in Alabama, the family moved to St. Joseph, Michigan where children Henry, Ruth and Edwin were born. Henry, a furniture maker in Russia, became a machine operator at the 1900 Corporation, a fore-runner of Whirlpool, in St. Joseph. After Henry's death on April 7, 1949, Katherine Reck Batke married Gustav Schmeichel in 1959. Katherine Reck Batke Schmeichel died at the Claremont Nursing Home in Benton, Michigan on October 28, 1979.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Henry Batke Jr., Letter to the Editor, 1955

Trip to Russia

The News-Palladium:

Smear by innuendo is a fair description of the reference in The News-Palladium of March 2 to my trip to Russia some three years ago. The inference is that because I visited in the Soviet Union for approximately three weeks, 2,500 Whirlpool workers should dump this (UE) union.  I visited Russia, as my friends know, because I was curious about the country the whole world is wondering about.  I hope to visit China and Germany someday and I trust that this will not be interpreted as an endorsement of Chinese or German policies.

In short, I hope to continue to travel where I please and vote as I please as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.

I am deeply disturbed as are others that the newspapers should use my trip to another country to smear a union.  This union has been part of our community for the past 14 years and has contributed greatly to the well being and prosperity of the twin cities and surrounding communities.

714 Vine street,
St. Joseph, Mich.

This letter to the editor appeared in The News-Palladium, Benton Harbor, Mich., Saturday, March 5, 1955, page 2.  Unfortunately, I am unable to locate the March 2 article referred to in the above Letter to the Editor.

This was the period of McCarthyism.  The following short summary from Wikipedia outlines the issues of the time:

McCarthyism is the political action of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. The term specifically describes activities associated with the period in the United States known as the Second Red Scare, lasting roughly from the late 1940s to the late 1950s and characterized by heightened fears of communist influence on American institutions and espionage by Soviet agents. Originally coined to criticize the anti-communist pursuits of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, "McCarthyism" soon took on a broader meaning, describing the excesses of similar efforts. The term is also now used more generally to describe reckless, unsubstantiated accusations, as well as demagogic attacks on the character or patriotism of political adversaries.

During the post–World War II era of McCarthyism, many thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies. The primary targets of such suspicions were government employees, those in the entertainment industry, educators and union activists. Suspicions were often given credence despite inconclusive or questionable evidence, and the level of threat posed by a person's real or supposed leftist associations or beliefs was often greatly exaggerated. Many people suffered loss of employment, destruction of their careers, and even imprisonment.

Some Background from Henry Batke Jr.'s nephew, Don Fredrick
A Response to the Posting of the above Newspaper Article
August 11, 2010

"This is interesting.  Now that you have found the article and are sharing it on your blog, Here is a little background.   Maybe I should entitle my comments below, did McCarthyism come to St Joe in Uncle Henry Batke’s case?

"I remember something of the events behind the letter. While in family gatherings before and after his visit to Russia, Henry Batke Jr was known by the family Batke clan to hold forth on his views on the US government, Russia, religion, and unions.   I was a high school student at the time of all of this in a conservative - ultraconservative St. Joseph where I simply was too naive to register real understanding of all that was going on that was coming from him.  Today we can all say as the result of genealogical studies, I’m speculating, that as Germans from Russia we can understand his and our own interest in Russia.  Perhaps he visited family members in his visit to or from Russia. Aunt Anna Batke Pesko might know.

It's important to know that behind the letter he wrote, uncle Henry was a bombardier on a B-17 over Germany who brought to the whole Batke family clan a pictorial history book of WWII after he returned from his tour of duty--and more.

(By the way, it was last Sunday 8/8/10 when 7 B-17's of the 8000+ manufactured at the local Bomber manufacturing plant at Willow Run Airport flew over the Ypsilanti Willow Run airfield at an airshow that spurred memories of Henry.  I saw them and remembered the Henry Batke experience. Thanks to son Mark who invited me to view that airshow.

The Pictorial WWII History from Henry Batke Jr contained vivid pictures of bombing runs by the US Air Force which Henry explained in detail to family members.  In his favor, I admired his military service, was mesmerized by his description of bomber attacks over Germany as described especially to family members and was mystified by what became his singular views about the soviet union during the cold war (1947-1991 according to Wikipedia).  He was a reader, a thinker, and found little sympathy within the immediate and extended family for some of his views based on war duty during WWII and his Russia trip in the '50's.  Before I left to go away to junior college, I remember being able to ask him with others of the family some details of his thinking which he was always willing to share. He anticipated the 1960's in the mid 1950's by his views, one could say, because he saw the horrors of war from 30,000 feet from the bombsight which was his tool for directing pilots at pre-bomb release time and apparent reaction to the war and the tragedies common in the headlines.

Because my father Herman worked for 43 years in a union environment at 1900 Corporation and Whirlpool, I understood the need for unions as well as heard of both management and union problems.  In my corporate consulting and teaching life and because I was a student of W Edwards Deming, I have been ready to discuss both sides of the union and anti-union issue.  It was W Edwards Deming who implored American industry managers and union workers to work together.  Deming insisted that "the system" errors were 70% the fault of management, not because management had to work with unions, but because they failed to make the system work well for both sides.  Needless to say, unions and management relationships are no less controversial today.

The letter below reflects Uncle Henry Batke’s unfulfilled dream of going to both China and Germany.  Unlike uncle Henry, I was not only able to go to the Taiwan version of China but actually serve the Lutheran Church in Taiwan for nearly 5 years there to both learn and teach.  I was also actually able to visit Hong Kong with my wife Barbara, a stone's throw from China.  Last year Barbara and I visited Germany, if only at an airport on the way to Rome.

Unfortunately, Henry mentioned little of what he experienced in Russia that I concretely remember today.  I would recommend that parents urge children of this generation to experience both Russia and China and study these languages as part of the future despite what people may think and because of the benefits of studying first hand other people and their cultures.  I will always value Uncle Henry's experience and point of view as controversial in a city like St. Joseph in the post WW II and cold war periods of our country's history.

It is hoped that someone will find the Mar 2 1955 article in the News Palladium and share it."

Don Fredrick
PS. Thanks Elaine for placing Henry's letter on your blog.

A Response from Roger K. Smith to Comments made by Don Fredrick via Email
August 12, 2010

Don, you are right on, regarding your comments about Uncle Henry.  I do agree 100% with you regarding the facts about Henry, and his timing for traveling to Russia.  He and I have had numerous discussions about that trip, later in life, and the Palladium Article.  My Father too was very involved with Henry regarding the "attitudes" in the area over the trip.

I do remember the War Time albums that  "Hank" had....very nicely cared for and preserved....all of his Military Years......interesting to have him talk about his involvement.