Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 18

THE WILL
TO SURVIVE
How faith, hope and miracles
kept Gunther Skaletz alive
Gunther Skaletz, 90, attributes the strength in his life to his faith in God and advice his mother drilled into him as a
youth, which he still lives by today: "Never forget to pray. Keep your faith, your courage and never give up."

by Heather Berry | hberry@ruralmissouri.coop

at another hotel. "Sadly, the town was eventually wiped out like Berlin," says
Gunther, who in the spring of 1944 was drafted into the German Army.
The teenager immediately was sent to the front lines. Four months later
unther Skaletz vividly recalls the day in April 1943 when his father sent
him away from his home in Poland. He had arranged for his 16-year-old he was seriously injured and taken as a prisoner of war by the Russians. The
son to apprentice at a fine hotel, in hopes he would one day become a enemy made Gunther and others help dismantle a German munitions factory.
Gunther says one day he overheard a conversation between two soldiers who
master chef. So Gunther left his father, mother, sisters and brother with
didn't know he understood Russian. "They said when we finished, we'd all be
all his worldly possessions in a cardboard box, and took the train south.
shipped to Siberia - which meant we would die," he says.
If all went according to plan, he would be home for a visit by Christmas.
That day did come in September 1945. Remaining prisoners were loaded
"The next time I saw my family, it was 1959. I was 32," says Gunther, 90,
into train cars. Gunther says the train traveled at night, "so we wouldn't know
noting his apprenticeship had been at a hotel in the town of Auschwitz.
Otto Kleinert, the hotel's owner, was to serve as the boys guardian, employer where we were." One evening, there was an explosion in the locomotive. While
and mentor. Each day he had Gunther attend school from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. then the guards ran toward the commotion, Gunther and another man jumped from
the car in hopes of escaping.
work in the hotel kitchen afterwards.
"We could hear bullets fly past our ears as we lay in the ditch," he recalls.
"Then came April 28," recalls Gunther, staring into the distance as if replayThe two trekked across Poland, eventually parting company so they wouldn't
ing a movie in his mind. "It was a Sunday ..."
draw attention. For weeks, Gunther approached farmers at night for food,
The hotel was raided by the Gestapo. The owner and his
sleeping in foxholes and barns during the day.
wife hadn't arrived yet that morning, so the staff was takEventually the 17 year old chose Helmstedt, West Germany to call home,
en to the basement and "interrogated in a very inhumane
where he walked the streets, trying to formulate a plan for a life on his
manner," recalls Gunther. "They took anything of value we
own. The British police helped him locate a job as a dishwasher at a hotel.
had and called us 'dirty people, traitors and undesirable
Gunther saved his money and studied French, with the goal of heading
Jews.' And we had no idea why they were questioning us."
Lake Ozark
to culinary school in Switzerland, which he did.
Hours later, the captives were thrown into trucks and takAfter five years, Gunther graduated with a master's degree in culien to the dreaded Auschwitz concentration camp.
nary arts. He worked at hotels in Frankfurt and eventually met and
"As we drove through the gates, I saw a sign at the entrance:
married his wife, Elaine. The two immigrated to America in the '60s,
'Arbeit macht frei' (work will make one free)," says Gunther.
and Gunther took a position at a posh New York City restaurant.
The young man soon learned there was no such thing in the
While he served many dignitaries during his career, Gunther and his
Nazi regime. He and his coworkers were separated according to
wife became friends with President Lyndon B. Johnson. After hearing his story,
gender and age, and Gunther was put on hard labor helping build roads.
Gunther says knowing he was an innocent prisoner and the faith he had in the president made Gunther promise to write a book one day.
"It was a painful process to relive," Gunther says, noting he started "Life on
God is what carried him through the months ahead.
"I welcomed each day, for it proved that I had made it through another Both Sides of the Wall" in 2006, finishing it five years later.
Gunther came to Missouri in 1976 and took a position with Tan-Tar-A in
night," Gunther says.
During the first six months of Gunther's banishment to the camp, his boss, Osage Beach. He later moved on, settling in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, where he
Otto, tried negotiating the release of his employees. Otto had relinquished own- retired in 1994.
Nearly three decades later, the couple returned to the Lake of the Ozarks to
ership of his hotel, casino and an inn to the Nazis as well as his rights to ever
be closer to their daughter as Elaine battled a life-threatening illness. Gunther
own other properties. In turn, Gunther and most of Otto's staff, were released.
"I was 16, homeless, but free, albeit briefly," he recalls. Gunther was imme- says Elaine lost her battle in July at the age of 74.
Today his study walls are lined with items signed by dignitaries around the
diately told by Hitler's SS that he would be going to Germany to continue his
world. Daily journals kept for years line shelves of his library. Keepsakes from
education in Berlin, but that he must join the Hitler Youth.
The teen again worked for Otto, but this time at a Berlin hotel the man only family remind him of his home country. And then there are the boxes of letters
managed. Air raid sirens and the sound of explosions were part of Gunther's from those who've read Gunther's inspiring book.
"I share my story at schools, churches and clubs," says the sharp-minded
new world, but that changed one night when the skies lit up over the city.
"It was Nov. 22, 1943," recalls Gunther. "Flames filled the skies for miles as 90 year old. "If there's one thing I can leave with anyone, it's what my mother
always told me: 'Never forget to pray. Keep your faith, your courage and never
planes bombed Berlin. It was hell on Earth."
With his new apprenticeship again cut short by the bombing, the lad used give up.' "
a train ticket provided by the Red Cross to head home for Christmas. But he
You may write to Gunther at 340 Grandview Drive, Lake Ozark, MO 65049.
stood on the train platform waiting for hours and the train never came.
Again, his mentor, Otto, left the war-torn rubble of Berlin for the town of Signed copies of his book are available directly from Gunther for $27 plus shipMagdeburg, Germany, arranging for Gunther and the others to work for him ping. Proceeds benefit students in the Lake area who plan to attend college.

G

18

RURAL MISSOURI | MARCH 2018



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - March 2018

Contents
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - Contents
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 4
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 5
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 6
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 7
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 8
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 9
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 10
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 11
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 12
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 13
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 14
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 15
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 16
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 17
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 18
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 19
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 20
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 21
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 22
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 23
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 24
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 25
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 26
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 27
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 28
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 29
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 30
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 31
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 32
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 33
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 34
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 35
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 36
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 37
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 38
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 39
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 40
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 41
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 42
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 43
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 44
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 45
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 46
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - March 2018 - Cover4
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202112
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202111
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202110
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202109
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202108
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202107
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202106
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202105
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202104
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202103
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202102
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202101
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202012
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202011
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202010
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202009
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202008
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202007
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202006
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202005
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202004
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202003
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202002
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/202001
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201912
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201911
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201910
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201909
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201908
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201907
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201906
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201905
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201904
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201903
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201902
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201901
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201812
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201811
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201810
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201809
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201808
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201807
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201806
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201805
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201804
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201803
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201802
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201801
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201712
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201711
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201710
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201709
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201708
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201707
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201706
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201705
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201704
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201703
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201702
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201701
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201612
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201611
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201610
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201609
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201608
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201607
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201606
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201605
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201604
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201603
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201602
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201601
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201512
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201511
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201510
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201509
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201508
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201507
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201506
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201505
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201504
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201503
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201502
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201501
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201412
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201411
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201410
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201409
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201408
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201407
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201406
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201405
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201404
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201403
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201402
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201401
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201312
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201311
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201310
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201309
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201308
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201307
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201306
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201305
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201304
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201303
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201302
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201301
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201212
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201211
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201210
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201209
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201208
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201207
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201206
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201205
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201204
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201203
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201202
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201201
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201112
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201111
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201110
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201109
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201108
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201107
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201106
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201105
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201104
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/videotest
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201103
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201102
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201101
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201012
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201011
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ruralmissouri/201010
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com