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Above: Documenting the story of Herman Lehmann for her German TV audience, Gabriele Wengler (center) guides her small crew in filming author Scott Zesch at the Pioneer Museum.

Below: Scott Zesch, author of "The Captured," visits with location scout Paula Reynolds. Photos by Phil Houseal

Lehmann Paula Reynolds

Find out more about the documentary “Herman, the Apache: A German among Indians” that aired on ZDF-TV on Feb 21, 2016. Here is link with photographs, back story and the video documentary.


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Herman, der Apache:
A German documentary about a Texas captive

by Phil Houseal
Feb 17, 2016


It’s cool to play even a bit part in getting a film on the air. Even when it’s a made-for-TV film, in another language, airing in a country where we can’t watch it.

On February 21, Caligari Films will show Herman, der Apache. Ein Deutscher unter Indianern (Herman, the Apache: A German among Indians), a 45-minute German television documentary about brothers Willie and Herman, ages 8 and 10, who were taken from their family’s farm near Loyal Valley one afternoon by a tribe of Lipans in 1870.

Here is link with photographs, back story and the video documentary.

My column that ran in January, 2014, detailed my meeting with Fredericksburg resident Esther Lehmann, who is the daughter of Willie Lehmann and the niece of Herman Lehmann, and the last and only person who has lived with a Native captive. In May of 2015, I received this email about that Full House column:

Dear Phil,
As we currently producing are TV documentary for German TV on Herman Lehmann, German Immigrants and their relation to Native Americans. I really would like to get in contact with you. My name is Friedrich Steinhardt and I am producer and Munich based Film company Caligari Film.
Through our research for said film, we found your Full House page and the article about Esther Lehmann from last year January. Thanks to the Internet!

The credit from here really goes to Paula Reynolds. Even before moving to the Hill Country 10 years ago, the now retired teacher was fascinated with the Herman Lehmann story. Serendipity led her to a personal visit with Esther, Herman’s niece and the last living relative of any Native American captive.

Reynolds has visited Esther for years, taking her to lunch when she was able and getting her to tell and retell her story for a possible book. Reynolds spearheaded all of the contact with the German film crew, scouted locations, lined up shoots, and arranged interviews with descendants and local experts such as Scott Zesch, whose book The Captured: A True Story of Abduction by Indians on the Texas Frontier was used as source material.

When the production crew arrived in Fredericksburg last November, I was able to watch some of the filming and visit with Gabriele Wengler. She is the freelance director who came over with her two-man crew from Munich, Germany, to shoot the locations and interviews.

“Germans are very interested in the story of the immigrants,” Wengler explained. “It happened only 150 years ago. I think that those people went to a foreign country under such conditions is still fascinating for us. They didn’t know what to expect, or what a hard life they would have, especially tensions with the Indians.”

For that reason, the saga of Herman Lehmann is “very special.”

“For me, it makes a connection between immigrants and Indians,” she said. What she found through her research was that all the captives, after returning home, continued their affinity for the life of their captors. “I did not understand that for a long time. They saw so many cruel things, and the Indians killed their parents. But they still had an attachment with them and never said anything negative. I was looking at this as a kind of miracle.”

But that miracle modified following her filming and more research.

“I think at the end he had a broken personality,” she said of Herman Lehmann. “He could not integrate in the society he grew up in, and the other society was not like it was before. It was a tragic story.”

Filming his gravesite and other locations that figured in Lehmann’s life gave her a more balanced view of the story and clash of cultures.

“Herman had a kind of religious education, where you should not kill, and not hurt. And then suddenly it was the other way around, and normal to do those things. It shows how much you can form people in other directions.”

Sadly, Esther’s health prevented her from actively participating in the filming. I was fortunate enough to have grabbed some video of her in 2013, which the production team also used as source material.

It was Wengler’s first trip to Fredericksburg and only lasted three days, but she, like millions of others, fell in love with the Hill Country community. It remains fascinating to me that Texas still has the allure that draws interest from around the world, especially from nations that sent their sons and daughters to help settle it.

“I like the whole atmosphere,” she said, after shooting some scenes at the Pioneer Museum. “I really love the people; they are so friendly and so open. How they act in front of the camera, this I really love.”

“We tried our best and it will be interesting. We hope they like it.”