Artur Schwiermann had $48 to cross the country. Gas alone should cost $60.

Harrowing beginnings

"I was born in Essen, Germany. I was baptized at the age of 10. My mother was a member of the church, but my father wouldn’t let me join when I was 8 because he said it was a lifelong commitment and he wanted us to know what we were committing to.  I also had to join the Hitler Youth when I turned 10. I lived two lives, one with my family’s religious values and another in the Hitler Youth as long as it didn’t interfere with my beliefs.

At age 16 I joined the German Air Force. By the time I was 17 I was officially “killed in action.” The officials made a mistake somehow. Before I was 18 I was in Russian prison camp doing hard labor for five years. In seven years I never had a chance to attend a church meeting or meet another member or read scriptures."

P.O.W. under Russian control

Artur surrendered to the Americans when the war ended. The Americans turned him over to the Russians who were American allies in World War II. The Russians threw the former German soldiers into hard labor prisons.

"The first winter we slept in the open in the snow in forty below temperatures. In the camps the water was infected with typhoid. They guards started bringing in coffee to drink." He drank the typhoid infected water. He told Heavenly Father, “I did my part. I hope you do your part.” "We worked fourteen hours a day. The only reason I survived was my strong belief. In my daily prayers I asked for another day, then another month, then another year. I promised if I survived I would never miss a church meeting. To this day I have 100% attendance."

He never got typhoid fever. He came out of the prison camp with tuberculosis. He’d gone from 176 pounds to 96 pounds. The doctor told him he’d lose ten years off of his life. Artur just turned 88 years old.

"She must have liked the way I stepped on her toes"... 

He met his wife, Ingrid, at a church dance. She was five years younger and attended a neighboring branch. She asked him to dance during a girl’s choice song. Artur says that although he had two left feet, “She must have liked the way I stepped on her toes.” They were married two years later in 1951. 

He worked as an apprentice at Siemen’s in Germany, learning how to make circuits. In 1953, he and Ingrid came to America for a better life. They settled in Pittsburgh, but work was hard to come by. He worked during the day making fifty cents an hour and at night as a janitor for the same wage. In between, he would take classes to learn English.  Eventually he became a washing machine repairman and then worked in an electrical repair shop. 

Ingrid’s parents had settled in California by then and her father was very ill so they made the decision to pack all their belongings and move out there to help. The night before they left they went to a sacrament meeting when one of their friends in the ward pulled Artur aside and asked how much money he had to make the trip. The answer was $48. Gas alone to cross the country would cost $60. His friend, Brother Simmons wondered what would happen if he got a flat tire. Artur said, “God is never going to let that happen to me.” 

“Let’s not challenge the Lord,” Brother Simmons said, and handed him $400. Artur and Ingrid drove straight through to save money on motels, eating lunches they had packed and brought with them; they made it cross-country on $36. The next day Artur mailed back the $400. “I was the only one who ever paid him back.”

He found work as an elevator repairman and was in the elevator business for four decades. Many of the buildings he serviced were owned by Jewish people. One Jewish man said to one of Artur’s customers, “How can you let a German work on your elevators?” Artur’s customer said, “He’s not a German. He’s a Mormon!” Artur work in the elevator business for forty years included servicing the Los Angeles temple elevators for ten years.

Artur loves California.

He lived in the San Gabriel Valley until moving to Mission Viejo seventeen years ago. “When I moved here, I got the greatest calling. When I was 79, they asked me to be in the nursery. I used to spoil them. They didn’t want to go home after church with their mothers.”

Artur, you can easily tell, is happy with his life. He says only ten percent of prisoners survived the Russian prison camps. “The only reason I am here is because of the gospel. That gave me the strength and there was always someone to talk to. I consider myself to be the miracle kid on the block. I got cancer and they told me I had a thirty percent chance of surviving. Then I had a blackout and a seizure while I was driving. There was no scratch on me or the car. The gospel is the main thing driving my life.”

He’s very proud that his grandchildren have gone to the temple. His grandson fell very ill on his mission and had to come home until the doctors could figure out how to make him well. Last month, he flew out again to finish his mission in Columbus, Ohio. Artur says what he’s most proud of in his life is that his grandson is returning to finish his mission even after rebounding from an illness against very bad odds. “He feels like I do. Impossible is nothing.”

Artur and his grandson Grant Drivas

Artur and his grandson Grant Drivas

Artur was 76 years old and still cycling

Artur stays busy and active. He bought a bike to go on a 50 mile bike trip to San Diego with his ward. He was 76 years old. Over the next 11-12 years, he put 11,100 miles on his bike. This past February he decided he wanted to reach 12,000 miles on his bike, so in 84 days, he put on another 1000 mles. 

His advice to young people is “Hold on to the gospel. Don’t deviate. It isn’t worth it. You don’t have to repent if you don’t get into trouble.”

Artur’s perfect day:

“To me every day is perfect. I‘m a few days away from 88. Very few people make it that far. I want to make it a few more days and be at the airport when my grandson comes home from his mission.”