From Foe to Friend through Service

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by Leora Summers

What were the chances that these two would ever meet and become friends? It seemed very unlikely as many years ago, these two were on opposite sides of the Rhine River in Germany serving their countries during World War 2, with one being a 2nd Lieutenant in the 9th Infantry and the other, a member of Hitler’s Youth Army. With the passing of Bill Moore last month, I was reminded of an amazing story that I heard during a Caldwell Rotary Club meeting.

Guenther Tiebel joined our club in June of 1999 with Bill Moore and Les Summers as his sponsors. Bill and Guenther told the story of how Guenther was a soldier in Hitler’s Youth Army when he was a boy of just 16 years old, with him saying that at that time, Germany just scooped up their young men and blindly sent them out to fight, with little information about what they were fighting for.

With food running out and the Germans losing the war, Guenther’s Youth Army, on one side of the Rhine River, tried to surrender to Bill Moore’s unit on the other side. Bill’s unit, barely having enough food for their own, denied their surrender. Guenther’s unit was then taken by the Russians, where they spent a few months in a prison camp before being released.

With the war over, Guenther found that his home was taken by the Russians, and his family was displaced. Eventually he found out where his grandma and other family members were and joined them. His first job after the war ended was working on a farm, and was paid with all the milk he could drink, which saved his life, as he could not eat as he recovered from starvation due to the prison camp’s inability to feed their prisoners. He worked many other jobs until he made friends at the U.S. Consulate in Berlin and decided to go to the United States.

With very little money, Guenther moved his family to the U.S. in 1954. He took many odd jobs to get them all eventually moved out to Ontario to be with him. When he first got off the bus in Ontario, while walking to his sister-in-law’s house, he came upon a man beginning to dig an 8-foot deep ditch between two houses. He was immediately hired to complete that job, a job the man thought would take a few months to do. Guenther completed it in a week and a half and the man hired him for more work. From that first job, Guenther had a variety of many more in many different towns and states and a lot of them in department stores. That’s where the reconnecting with Bill Moore came in.

Bill’s Moore’s dad was Guenther’s first boss at the Idaho Department Store. Guenther took a job in 1961 in the Boise ID Store (10 Years) and later in the Nampa ID Store and through Bill’s dad, Bill and Guenther met and began a great friendship. Guenther moved on to many other department stores in and out of the state and always wanted to return to retire in Caldwell. Finally, Guenther did return to Caldwell to retire with his wife, Ursula, upon which he began a volunteer job as a Job Consultant with SCORE.

After his return, Bill Moore reconnected and asked Guenther to become a member of  Caldwell Rotary Club in 1999. His first meeting as a new member of the club was a very emotional one with him and Bill telling the story of their first encounter. Tears were shed and hearts were mended, not only Guenther’s and Bill’s, but others in the group who understood the impact of that first meeting in Germany and the friendship that had developed between the two men.

During a Rotary Christmas Blood Drive in Caldwell which Guenther organized in the early 2000s, Carole Munn noticed that Bill and Guenther seemed to have a very special friendship. She asked them about it and they told her their remarkable story. Bill and Guenther were now serving others together through Rotary. Bill and Guenther’s  unique story is a wonderful example of Rotary’s mission of “Peace through Service.” Those who were once foes were now friends working together for common causes. In 2007 Guenther moved to Nebraska to be closer to family, and joined another Rotary Club in that area. RIP Bill Moore and God Bless Guenther Tiebel! Until youmeet again!

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