Family

One of the criminal acts of Hitler and the Third Reich was to confiscate the riches of the countries they were occupying. It was not the worst of the atrocities, but it was up there. By confiscating the food and money of these countries, the Nazis left the people in those countries broke and starving. Even as the Third Reich began to know they were losing the war, there was hope that they would go into hiding, re-group, and rise again. If that was going to happen, they were going to need money, and the only way to insure that was to begin mass confiscation and hiding of the riches of these nations.

Lake Toplitz was located in a very remote area of Austria, southeast of Salzburg. In modern day Austria, the area is appropriately called The Dead Mountains. Basically, if you’re looking for somewhere to get away from it all, Lake Toplitz is a good choice. During the war, the lake’s remoteness made it the perfect place for the Nazis to test weapons…including torpedoes. It was also one of the places the Nazi elite fled to when it came time to make their last stand. That fact, in and of itself, makes it a logical place to hide funds for a future comeback of the Third Reich.

In 1945, Hitler’s Germany had only a few more weeks before their horrific reign ended, found themselves stuck in the middle, being crushed by the Russian tanks coming in from the east, and the Americans and British from the north. As their fronts collapsed, the Nazis made several efforts to hide their stolen wealth and treasure. The practice of hiding the wealth is well known, because a lot of that hidden wealth has already been discovered in mines, underground bunkers, and hastily buried fortifications.

Everyone seemed to be looking for the buried treasure left by the Nazis. At one time, a pair of treasure hunters announced they found the location of a buried German armored train in the hills of Poland. Their claim seemed possible, so a search was held. In the end, it was determined that the “train” was nothing more than an ice covered rock formation. Still, the possibility of a treasure train is very real. Unfortunately, the big news about the “train” caused such a stir that another find was all but lost to the world.

There had been stories about plunder the Nazis may have hidden in the cold, deep waters of Lake Toplitz, as the Allies closed in. Reports came out that the lake held iron boxes full of counterfeit British currency and the printing plates to make more…a part of Hitler’s Operation Bernhard, which was a plan to wreck the British economy by flooding the world with fake bank notes. That report turned out to be true, when dive crews recovered several chests stuffed with counterfeit cash in 1959. The divers reported there were more chests stuck in the mud, but they were too deep to recover. More stories about Nazi plunder at the bottom of Lake Toplitz surfaced. The nephew of one German officer made the claim that the Nazis sank chests loaded with gold into the lake. Plates from the lost fabled Russian Imperial Amber Room, which had also been rumored to be on the Nazi gold train in Poland, are also thought by others to be on the bottom of the icy lake. Along with treasure there are stories of weapons components, ammunition, rocket fuel, and maps showing the locations of even more stolen Nazi loot.

There have been many attempts to salvage treasure from the bottom of the lake over the years, with most of them ending in death. The lake is deep and cold, and has many tangled trees and branches that can trap a person. In 1983 the Austrian government declared the lake had been completely searched and anything of value removed. That turned out to be a fake story designed to discourage treasure hunters. Biologists studying the lake have turned up more boxes of counterfeit currency, rocket parts, weapons, mines and even a torpedo since the government report. Later, photographs from a submerged bunker surfaced, showing boxes with Cyrillic lettering. These are what led to the speculation that the boxes might contain panels from the Amber Room. The exact location of the bunker has been hidden from the public.

I expect that people will continue to try to find the treasures, even though claims will most likely be laid upon them immediately after they are located. The people who find them will probably only get the recognition for the find, rather than the right to keep the treasure. Maybe with an attorney who is good enough, they will walk away with a finders fee.

My niece, Jenny Spethman has had a normal, average life by most standards. She has been a stay-at-home mom for much of her marriage, and has just recently started a part-time job at a law firm here in Casper, where she is a runner for the attorneys and legal staff there. This is an exciting time for Jenny. As any stay-at-home mom knows, being around kids for hours and hours every day, can bring a parent to the point of just wanting another adult to talk to. It wasn’t about the money really, although that comes in handy too. It was about doing something useful now that her children are in school…something new and interesting. I think that her new job is perfect for her, because there are so many new things to do, interesting people to be around, and legal procedures to learn.

Jenny’s exciting new job is something to celebrate, but there is so much more to Jenny. She is one of the strongest people I know. Jenny’s life hasn’t been perfect. She and her husband, Steve lost their daughter, Laila in 2010, and then gathered their strength and tried again, having their 5th child, Aleesia just 9 months later. After having three sons, they had wanted a daughter, and that made Laila’s passing more devastating. Nevertheless, they now have their rainbow baby in the form of daughter, Aleesia. Having another child after loss is a show of strength in itself, but that is not the only way that Jenny’s inner strength presents itself.

Jenny is a strong student of the Bible. She listens to God’s leading and receives revelations knowledge on so many matters of importance. Jenny is an early-riser, and loves to spend the early morning hours in Bible reading and Christian meditation on the Word. Her focus gives her strength on a daily basis. Jenny and Steve are united in their faith, and have learned to lean on God in all situations. Even with all they have gone through, it is often Jenny who is there to lift up others who are struggling, grieving, or just unsure what to do. We are all very proud of her strong, supportive ways, and we all count on her often. Today is Jenny’s birthday. Happy birthday Jenny!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

When we think of war heroes, civilians seldom come to mind. The reality is that there are many, many civilian heroes in any war. Each of those civilian heroes has their own reasons to take the actions they take. The one similarity is that most of them simply cannot continue to support a government that is committing the atrocities they commit, and so they have to take action, or they can’t look themselves in the mirror again. Sometimes, a change of heart comes because they see the cruelty of the country they live in. Other times, the change comes when they see that their countrymen are not even safe from their own government. Finally, completely disillusioned, they find themselves without alternative options, when they come face to face with the enemy within their own boarders.

Matvey Kuzmich Kuzmin was born on August 3, 1858 in the village of Kurakino, in the Velikoluksky District of Pskov Oblast. He was a self-employed farmer who declined the offer to join a kolkhoz or collective farm. He lived with his grandson and continued to hunt and fish on the territory of the kolkhoz “Rassvet” (Dawn). He was nicknamed “Biriuk” (lone wolf).

During World War II, the area Kuzmin lived in was occupied by the forces of Nazi Germany. In February 1942, Kuzmin had to help house a German battalion in the village of Kurakino. The German unit was ordered to pierce the Soviet defense in the area of Velikiye Luki by advancing into the rear of the Soviet troops dug in at Malkino Heights. Kuzmin had to do what he had to do…like it or not. On February 13, 1942, the German commander asked the 83 year old Kuzmin to guide his men to the Malkino Heights area, and even offered Kuzmin money, flour, kerosene, and a “Three Rings” hunting rifle for doing so. Kuzmin agreed, but he knew that with information on the proposed route, he could make a difference. He sent his grandson Vasilij to Pershino, about 3.5 miles from Kurakino, to warn the Soviet troops and to propose an ambush near the village of Malkino.

The plan was for Kuzmin to guide the German units through straining paths, through the night. He lead them to the outskirts of Malkino at dawn. When they arrived, the village defenders and the 2nd battalion of 31st Cadet Rifle Brigade of the Kalinin Front attacked. The German battalion came under heavy machine gun fire and suffered losses of about 50 killed and 20 captured. In the midst of the ambush, a German officer realized that they had been set up and turned his pistol towards Kuzmin. He shot him twice. Kuzmin died during the fight. He was buried three days later with military honors. Later, he was reburied at the military cemetery of Velikiye Luki. He was posthumously named a Hero of the Soviet Union on May 8, 1965, becoming the oldest person named a Hero of the Soviet Union based on his age at death.

When we think of a bank, we expect that they will have an unlimited amount of money to cover any withdrawals the public might care to make. That thought really isn’t accurate at all. Banks typically hold only a fraction of deposits in cash at any one time, and lend out the rest to borrowers or purchase interest-bearing assets like government securities. As normal banking procedures occur, the money placed in bank care by depositors is loaned out to other people, but then replaced plus interest. The cash flow in the bank normally rolls merrily along in deposits, withdrawals, loans, and payments…as long as nothing goes wrong that is.

The stock market crash of October 1929 left the American public in a panic, about the economy, the future, and the stability of the banks. People were spending less and so the investments and loans began to decrease, which lead to a decline in production and employment. The ensuing snowball effect was further compounded when the nation’s economic woes led to a series of banking panics or “bank runs,” during which large numbers of anxious people withdrew their deposits in cash, forcing banks to liquidate loans, and ultimately leading to bank failure. The largest collapse was New York’s Bank of the United States in December 1931. The bank had more than $200 million in deposits at the time, making it the largest single bank failure in American history. Wealthy people began pulling their investment assets out of the economy. Bankruptcies were becoming more common, and peoples’ confidence in financial institutions, such as banks, rapidly eroded. Many of those people never fully trusted banks again after that. Some 650 banks failed in 1929, and the number rose to more than 1,300 the following year.

The last wave of bank runs continued through the winter of 1932 and into 1933. By that time, Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt had won the presidential election over the Republican incumbent, Herbert Hoover. Almost immediately after taking office in early March, Roosevelt declared a national “bank holiday.” All banks were closed until they were determined to be solvent through federal inspection. Roosevelt called on Congress to come up with new emergency banking legislation to further aid the ailing financial institutions of America. The Banking Act of 1933 established the FDIC, or Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. It also separated commercial and investment banking, and for the first time extended federal oversight to all commercial banks. The FDIC would insure commercial bank deposits of $2,500 (later $5,000) with a pool of money collected from the banks. Small, rural banks were in favor of deposit insurance, but larger banks, who worried they would end up subsidizing smaller banks, opposed it. The public supported deposit insurance overwhelmingly. Many hoped to recover some of the financial losses they had sustained through bank failures and closures. The FDIC did not insure investment products such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds or annuities. No federal law mandated FDIC insurance for banks, though some states required their banks to be federally insured.

In 2007, problems in the subprime mortgage market precipitated the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Twenty-five US banks had failed by late 2008. The most notable bankruptcy was Washington Mutual Bank, the nation’s largest savings and loan association. A downgrade in the bank’s financial strength in September 2008 caused customers to panic despite Washington Mutual’s status as an FDIC-insured bank. Depositors withdrew $16.7 billion from Washington Mutual Bank over the next nine days. The FDIC subsequently stripped Washington Mutual of its banking subsidiary. It was the largest bank failure in US history. Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2011, which permanently raised the FDIC deposit insurance limit to $250,000 per account. The Dodd-Frank Act expanded the FDIC’s responsibilities to include regular risk assessments of all FDIC-insured institutions.

My nephew, Dave Chase, joined our family when he married my niece, Toni. Dave has a dry sense of humor, and is quite practical, which is completely opposite of Toni, who is more emotional, than practical…according to her mom, Cheryl. Dave and Toni love to banter back and forth, and it keeps the whole family laughing. They tease each other, and it can be quite entertaining. Still, it is teasing, and these two really bring out the best in each other.

When Toni and Dave met, Dave did not try to become a father to her son James, who has a dad. Wisely, Dave set out to become James’ friend. He won James over, and they are good friends. That has endeared Dave to the whole family! Dave also loves having 2 child pups. He loves taking them to the dog park in good weather especially, but they go no matter what the weather looks like…rain, shine, wind, or snow. If they can get to the dog park, Dave and the pups are going for a walk. Twice on the weekend days. Toni joins them on weekends. The whole family loves their dogs. The dogs must have the best of everything, including toys, beds, comfort, and…a maze in snowy weather to exercise and entertain themselves in! He loves to take the dogs kayaking too. No effort is to great to be undertaken for the sake of the dogs!

Dave has always been full of energy. My niece tells me that he hits the ground running the second his feet move from the bed to the floor. Dave hasn’t always loved the length and cold of the Wyoming winter, but he got a snow blower, and he loves to keep his driveway clear. Needless to say, when Dave awoke to some six to ten inches of snow on his birthday morning, he was excited and headed out to “play” with his machine…never mind that it’s still coming down heavily. While his snow blower has helped with his winter blues, he has managed to find another release in the form of an annual golfing trip to Phoenix with the boys. It is a trip that he plans every year and brags that “the head count keeps on growing.” While Dave is there he always heads to Chase field to catch a game with his little brother Dan and nephew Ty, always in the hope of seeing the Dodgers, but this last April 2019 he had to settle for the Cubs.

Dave and Toni took a trip…just the two of them, to Marco Island where they hit a different brewery every day, ate seafood every night, and had a great time all week including their last day there when they took a trip to Venice Beach. They learned how to shell for shark teeth at Venice Beach. They also “learned” how to lock their water, sunblock, beach towels and cell phones in the car while at Venice Beach, as well as how to lose their car keys in the ocean while at Venice Beach, and…they learned how to thank God for putting a little boy in the water that found their keys…30 yards from where they were looking for them.

They took a family trip to Escondido California, James got to go on this trip too. They all agreed that it was one of the best trips they have ever had. It exceeded all of their expectations. They went to the Miramar Air show, which made them feel very proud to be Americans, and to Cabrillo National Monument to name a few. Other than that trip, they took numerous overnight trips, saw a few concerts, watched the dodgers play, and of course, Dave made it to every home game for the Wyoming Cowboys.

Dave is good to his mother-in-law, Cheryl too. In winter, if the snow gets bad, Dave checks with her to see if anyone has shoveled her walk and if they haven’t, he will drive all the way across town to shovel for her! In the spring and fall he, along with the rest of her family, cleans her yard so it’s ready for the coming season. These are kindnesses she appreciates so much more than words can say! Of course, mostly Cheryl loves that he takes care of Toni. He has always seen to it she has a good car to drive, a lovely home to live in, and that all her needs and wants are met. He’s practical and good in his heart! He considers what is needed in the family, and helps bring those things to pass. To Cheryl, these are excellent qualities! I agree. Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My husband’s grandmother, Vina Hein was a remarkable woman. I was quite impressed with her work ethic. That might seem a funny thing to say about a woman who no longer worked outside the home, but she was, nevertheless, dedicated to he work…her home. For most of her life, she lived as a pioneer woman, because while her home had many things, and was a normal stick built home, it did not have an indoor bathroom, even though the bathroom was somewhat completed. Water was the main concern, as well water was used, and there is always the concern of a well running dry, I suppose.

Grandma was born on Groundhog Day, February 2, 1909. Of course, we all know that the ground hog has a 50-50 chance of guessing right concerning winter, and I personally think that the latest Punxsutawney Phil, maybe doesn’t have its act together. Todays prediction was for an early spring, but…time will tell. According to statistics, the groundhog saw its shadow in 1909, so that should have been six more weeks of winter. I have no idea what the winter ended up like in Montana, but knowing what Montana winters are usually like, In would be surprised if the winter ended early.

Grandma Hein saw many changes over the years of her life. From the early days of automobiles and airplanes to the more modern days of both before her passing. She saw telephones, and even the early days of cell phones. She was able to travel to the places where her children moved, and meet grandchildren, great grandchildren, and even 2nd great grandchildren. She lived a long and happy life, and yet we still never felt like she was with us long enough. Today, Grandma would have been 111 years old, but that would have been an unlikely birthday to have happened. Nevertheless, happy birthday in Heaven, Grandma Hein. We love and miss you very much.

I was thinking about Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved 669 Jewish children from the brutal activities, and almost certain death that was being dealt out by Hitler during World War II. Of course, Sir Winton wasn’t the only person who stepped up to help wage their own battle against the Third Reich. Many people in Nazi occupied areas took in families in desperate need. When word is the deportations to the ghettos came down, some parents had to make the horrible choice to give their children to friends and neighbors to “hide” them in plain site, raising them as their own, and everyone hoping to be able to return them to their own parents after the war. The problem was that so many of the parents were killed in the camps.

After the war was over, many of these children did not remember their parents. They were too young when they were given to people to care for. That created a new and almost more difficult situation. Some of the foster parents had fallen in love with the children in their care, and the viler knew no other family. Still, they were not their children. It was a heart wrenching situation. The other problem was that due to bombings, many of the homes housing these “hidden” children were gone, and they had no way to let anyone know where they had gone. That made it even more difficult to return the children. And some people couldn’t bear to part with the children anyway. That left parents devastated and without recourse.

Some children were reunited with their parents quickly and some took years…if ever. I wonder about the ones that took years, because of the immense loss they must have felt over so much lost time. You just can’t get that time back, and you can’t change whatever the children endured in their lives. Everyone just had to let go of the past and go forward, as best they could. There was no way to go back to their pre-war lives. Each had changed, some were forever missing, and some were lost to the horrific hatred that was Hitler’s Third Reich.

It is with great sadness that our family heard the news yesterday about our cousin, Larry Hein’s passing. Larry was the oldest child of my husband, Bob’s Uncle Eddie and Aunt Pearl Hein. Eddie passed away just three month and two weeks ago. Larry is dad to Dalton and Destiny, brother to Kim Arani, and brother-in-law to Mike Arani. It has been a rough few months for this family. My heart just aches for all of them.

Larry was born and raised in Forsyth, and never really thought about going anywhere else. I remember on the visits my husband, Bob and our family took to visit our Forsyth family, Larry loved spending time with his cousins. Grandma and Grandpa Hein has a ranch north of Forsyth, and the grandkids all loved to go out and play. There were three of the younger grandkids, Larry, Scott, and Kim Hein, and they spent as much time at their grandparents’ house as they could. It’s the normal way of kids, isn’t it. Whenever we went to visit, my kids couldn’t wait to play with their cousins. Even though Larry, Scott, and Kim were older than my girls, Corrie and Amy, they all played the kinds of games the younger kids wanted to play, and I always found that a sweet thing for those kids to do. I miss those days.

Larry was a mechanic in Forsyth, Montana, where he owned Hein Repair for a number of years now. He worked on just about anything that needed repair. He was a great dad, brother, and son. He was an asset to his community, and well liked by all who knew him. Yesterday, a heart attack took Larry from all those who loved him, and left an empty place in all our hearts. We are all now left to pick up the pieces of yet another heartbreaking loss in the family. My thoughts go out to this precious family. I am praying for comfort for all of them as they grieve this new loss and comfort each other on this sad time. Rest in peace Larry until we all meet again. We love and miss you very much.

His name was Sir Nicholas George Winton MBE, but in his early years, he had not been bestowed with such an honor as knighthood. That came about much later in his life. Sir Winton was born on May 19, 1909 in Hampstead, London, England. He was a British humanitarian, born to German-Jewish parents, Rudolph Wertheim (1881–1937), a bank manager, and his wife Barbara (née Wertheimer, 1888–1978) who had emigrated to Britain. His parents had moved to London two years before he was born. The family name was Wertheim, but they changed it to Winton in an effort at integration. They also converted to Christianity, and Winton was baptized. God had a plan for Sir Winton’s life, although he would not know that for years.

On the eve of World War II, Sir Winton knew what his calling had been, and he quietly set about orchestrating the rescue of 669 children, most of them Jewish, from Czechoslovakia. Sir Winton quickly found homes for the children and arranged for their safe passage to Britain. The operation was known as the Czech Kindertransport, which is German for “children’s transport, but it would not be called that right away. The transport was not a official operation, and was not sanctioned as such. He worked largely alone to set this up, and most people knew nothing about it for over 50 years, but the children did not forget the man they called the British Schindler, who had saved their lives.

Then, in 1988, he was invited to the BBC television program “That’s Life!.” It was a surprise party of sorts. Little did Sir Winton know, but his secret was no longer such a secret. Arriving at the show, Sir Winton was seated in a room full of people he did not know. Soon, the truth was told to him, and he found out that the “audience” was in fact a number of the children he had rescued all those years ago. The grateful children, now grown adults, wanted to reunite with the man who had saved then all those years ago. It was the British press who celebrated him and dubbed him the “British Schindler.” Sir Winton was brought to tears, as he looked around him at all of these people who owed him their very lives, but his story did not end there. In 2003, Nicholas Winton became Sir Nicholas George Winton MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), when he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for “services to humanity, in saving Jewish children from Nazi Germany occupied Czechoslovakia.” Then, on October 28, 2014, he was awarded the highest honor of the Czech Republic, the Order of the White Lion (1st class), by Czech President Miloš Zeman. The little German-Jewish boy, whose family converted to Christianity, and who always felt a love for humanity and those in need, had become a great man indeed. God did have a plan for his life, and Sir Winton had made God proud. Sir Nicholas George Winton MBE passed away peacefully in his sleep on July 1, 2015, at Wexham Park Hospital, Slough, Berkshire, England, at the age of 106 years, having lived a full life. After the war, Winton worked for the International Refugee Organization and then the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Paris, where he met Grete Gjelstrup, a Danish secretary and accountant’s daughter. They married in her hometown of Vejle on October 31, 1948. The couple settled in Maidenhead, England, where they raised their three children: Nick (born 1951), Barbara (born 1954) and the youngest Robin (1956–1962), who was born with Down syndrome. At the family’s insisted Robin stayed with them, rather than being sent to a residential home. Sir Winton’s son, Robin died of meningitis, the day before his sixth birthday. The death was devastating for Winton and he founded a local support organization that later became Maidenhead Mencap. Winton stood, unsuccessfully, for the town council in 1954, but later found work in the finance departments of various companies. His wife, Grete preceded him in death in 1999. Sir Nicholas George Winton MBE was a truly remarkable man.

Alec Todd Olsen came into our lives just under three months ago. Hardly enough time to really get to know him, but in the short little bit of time that he was with us, he snuggled his way deep into our hearts. His darling face, and his sweet smile captivated all of us. Alec was the first child of my grand-niece, Siara Olsen and her husband, Nick. He was long awaited and very loved. He was, as his mommy called him, a sweet little ray of sunshine, and everyone who met him would agree.

There was no doubt…Alec was a happy baby. He loved to smile at people, especially his parents, and to see people smile back at him. He was really starting to notice things going on around him, but his favorite thing to do was to snuggle with his parents…and usually fall fast asleep. Nevertheless, the ray of sunshine still radiated from little Alec.

Alec left us to go to Heaven on January 25th, when his little body could no longer fight RSV. It was a heartbreaking day for all of Alec’s family. When I visited his parents yesterday, was reminded of other parents who had lost children. The only way to put the look…is a parent’s heart and empty arms. It should never happen to any parent. Our kids are supposed to outlive us. There is no greater pain that anyone can go through, and my heart aches for these precious parents.

Of course, we know that Alec is in Heaven now, safe and healthy…and most of all happy. He would want his parents to know that they needn’t worry…if he could talk to them. And they know that too, but it is so hard to be the ones left behind to pick up the pieces. The pain will never leave. Anyone who has experienced loss knows that, and the reality is that you don’t get over this. Those of us, who love Siara and Nick, can only be there to support them, hold them while they cry, and just let them show us what they need, which they might not even know yet. You never get over this, you can only get on with it…life. Alec can’t come back, and we can’t go to him…yet, but he will be waiting when we can. Rest now sweet little Alec Todd Olsen, and know that we love and miss you very much, and we cant wait to see you again in Heaven. Siara and Nick, we will be here for you…whatever and whenever you need.

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