My father, Ludwig Eberhardt (also known by his European folks as Lajos Eberhardt), was a law-abiding German from the Banat, Austria-Hungary (now in Romania). During the latter part of his life, my father resided in Honduras, where he became naturalized citizen, and modified his name to Luis Ludovico Eberhardt. He became well known as “Don Luis”and was highly respected for his integrity.
Ludwig Eberhardt graduated from a technical academy in Romania, thereafter he became a machinist and metal worker. He designed and manufactured a variety of mechanical and metal works, including ornamental wrought iron gates. Wherever he resided, he owned and operated work shops. During his lifetime he had the satisfaction of teaching the trade he loved, to many, many apprentices; and he created many beautiful and lasting designs, samples of which can still be found in Honduras.
During World War II, at the approximate age of 49, under the assumption that Ludwig Eberhardt was an enemy of the United States of America, he was arrested, and then deported along with other Germans and Italians from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, to the United States where they were interned at Camp Kenedy, Kenedy, Texas. Subsequent to his arrest, the Honduran government confiscated all of his property. Reparations were never made!
While in Camp Kenedy, the internees were required to work on hard labor work details, including the digging of huge holes in the ground. During his internment my father was also asked to teach the trade, particularly welding, to others, which he did. He was also an outstanding accordion player (he played polkas, waltzes, etc., masterfully; and being a Danube-Swabian, one of his favorites was Blue Danube). I recall that my father told me that when he was at Camp Kenedy he had the opportunity to play the accordion and to teach others to play it as well. My father was multilingual, (he spoke German, Hungarian, Rumanian and Spanish fluently; and to some degree, English and three other languages), he had the ability to communicate with most people that he met. These things may have had a somewhat soothing effect in his misfortune.
My father was released from internment in May 1946, after which he returned to Honduras, to begin a "new" life. After almost five years of his productive life was dissipated he had nothing left to come back to! While he was interned at Camp Kenedy, Texas, at least two of his sons, from a previous marriage in Romania, died in Siberia, along with two of his nephews and his niece’s husband. Apparently all were killed by the communist Russians. These tragedies must have been most devastating to my father. Due to the situation behind the Iron Curtain my father lost contact with his European relatives forever. It was not until recently that I was able to finally locate some of the descendants of his family.
The traumatic experiences of having been deprived of his liberty, of having lost everything he had, the years taken away from his life, the death of his children, etc., was something my father would not forget for the rest of his life! Frankly, he never fully recovered from these tragic experiences. This was his sad story, and often he would bring it up in his conversations. Frequently my father referred to Camp Kenedy as a “Concentration Camp,” probably because such was the perception of those who were taken there, even though the technical term may have been “Internment Camp.” There is much more to the story of my father's life in internment. The remainder of his story must wait until I have collected the official documents relating to this aspect of his life from the National Archives, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the State Department of the United States.
In November of 1953 (before the Cuban Revolution), after a short visit to Miami, Florida, my father and my mother planned to spend their honeymoon in Havana, Cuba. Little did my father know that Germans remained on the black list of the Cuban government, even though the war in Europe had ended more than eight year earlier. Thus, initially my father was denied entry into Cuba! A discriminatory situation reminiscent of his 1941 experiences. Fortunately however, my mother’s father, the Ambassador of Honduras in Cuba at the time, was able to use his diplomatic influence to gain access for my father to Cuba. Approximately six years later I was born.
While I was attending college, from time to time one or more or my professors
would briefly discuss the time period, World War II, when the Germans and
the Italians were expelled from Honduras. Each time this subject
was broached, I was saddened to think that my father had been one of these
unfortunate people! Some would even recall that several of those
expelled were Germans Jews! I was but 12 years old when my father
passed away; but I remember my father mentioning the Fontana family, an
Italian family whose house was not far from ours, in Honduras, and a Dr.
Eibuschitt (not sure of the spelling) as having been with him in Texas.
This doctor, made a tattoo on my father’s arm in remembrance of his sufferings
through both World Wars. Some other surnames gathered from recollections
of other family members included: Appenzeller, Hanns, Berkling, Mermann
(Mermann was released from internment due to a health problem), Arwed Shindeimeister
(returned to Honduras, where he died), Enrique Fash (returned to and died
in Honduras); Rudolf Feldman (did not return to Honduras).
I think my father would have approved my telling of his story, even with the limited information at my disposal. When I was a kid, he told me, “You are my hope!!!”. I can only hope to have come at least a little close to his expectations!
At the bottom of this photograph, my father wrote, “Sali del Campo Kenedy”;
that is, “I came out of Camp Kenedy”. On the back of the photograph he
wrote, “Prisionero de Guerra en Kenedy, Texas, U.S.A.”, which translated
means, “Prisoner of War in Kenedy, Texas, U.S.A.” (Recently I learned that
the official title for civilian internees was “Internee of War”); and then
he added, “Nos llevaron > 1941-1946 Mayo < Regrese”; that is, “They
took us 1941; I returned May 1946.
Below is a photograph of my father's family. I am the boy in the middle of the photograph.
Updated February 25, 2002