Good-bye Forever to Kleinliebental
Abschied fuer immer aus Kleinliebental bei Odessa
By Unknown Authors
Heimatbuch 2001/2002, Landsmannschaft
der Deutschen aus Russland, Stuttgart, Germany, Pages 227 –
Translation from German to English by Alex
Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
Equally shaken and surprised on the morning of
June 22, 1941, our colony woke to the news of the onset of war.
Those who still had bad memories of the First World War were in
deep shock. All dreaded only the worst.
Beginning with the first day of war we noticed a
peculiar relationship toward us taking hold in Soviet authorities.
Also, we could not help noticing that in contrast to young men
of other nationalities, not a single German was being called to
the reserves. And it didn't take long until our Russian and Ukrainian
neighbors would give us a taste of their hostility against everyone
and everything German.
By September of 1941 it was not unusual for parents
whose student had skipped school to receive a letter that read,
"It has come to our attention that you are awaiting with
treasonous intent the arrival of the German troops…"
During the course of two operations in August and
September all men of our colony between the ages of 14 and 60
were dragged off to dig trenches. The front had already reached
the Dnieper River just north of us, and the sounds of war had
been clearly audible for some time.
We were waiting for even worse things to come and
at the same time needed to prepare for the upcoming winter. The
children, women, and older folks who had stayed behind, completed
the work of the harvest and stored up fodder for the animals.
Under the direction of our grandfathers we younger ones were putting
down winter seed. We worked very diligently, but the feeling of
dread and fear never left us for a moment.
And then came the 2nd of October 1941. We were about
to ride to the fields for our usual seed work when our village
was suddenly encircled by black-uniformed units. We were forced
to turn back. Soon thereafter groups of agitators appeared on
our village street. These were made up of teachers and members
of the Comsomol from neighboring Russian villages, led
by the secondhand dealer M.P. We all knew him well, because we
were among his customers. But now he was clad in the jacket of
a Communist Party Commissioner, and he looked too much like Stalin
My father had no reservations about meeting M.P.
since he had been helpful to the P. family in "the good old
times." "What are you planning to do with us?"
he asked innocently, but M.P. turned to him and rebukingly said
that he was not allowed to converse with us. The black-uniformed
men, however, were going from house-to-house informing all Germans
that they were to be ready to travel within 12 hours. They would
Some did not need that much time, so that by early
afternoon horse-drawn wagons began to appear on the street. M.P.
ordered them to unload. Every wagon was subsequently paired with
two uniformed men who grabbed the children, some bedding and a
few pieces of clothing and put everything onto the wagons. As
soon as a wagon was thus loaded, it was directed to move off toward
the railroad station of Haitchur, about 70 kilometers away. The
insufficient availability of wagons caused the whole procedure
to last, not 12 hours, but two whole days. Families whose turn
came toward the end had been able to prepare much better than
those at the beginning.
Many residents were convinced that we would all
be murdered since rumors were flying about that 700 German-Russians
ahead of us in the "Shirokaya balka" near Tchapliana
were shot and killed, and 200 others were burned alive in a barn
On the way toward Haitchur we rode through the German
colonies of Kankrin #6, Friedenfeld, Grossliebental and Viktorfeld,
which had all been evacuated ahead of us. Everywhere we saw abandoned
pets, dogs, all howling in a heartrending manner, and cows and
pigs walking around in vegetable gardens. We could see people
with hand-drawn carts dragging away stolen goods without being
punished. For all of us these were depressing sights that indicated
to us very clearly what might be going on in Kleinliebental.
Arriving at Haitchur we came onto a scene that I
might liken to the Day of Last Judgment. The entire rail station
sector of town, including many side streets, was overcrowded with
families sitting on the ground. They had been brought there to
be transported who knows where, but they were unable to continue
due to the lack of trains. There were families from the Kankrin
Colonies numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, as well as Friedenfeld and
Prasler. Soldiers were guarding this immense area.
When we were let off on the other side of the depot
close to the rail line, we met many people from our village. There
were no sanitary facilities, there was no water, and for food
we had only that which we had brought along. Later on we were
allowed to get a bucket of water from a remote community well.
We waited two days for a train. Not far from us
there were cannons. The artillerymen were wearing clumps of grass
on their helmets. Rooftops were crawling with soldiers peering
through binoculars. It looked as though the front was approaching.
In the late afternoon of October 5 a freight train
with all sorts and types of cars pulled up. It ranged from flat
platform cars to tilting coal cars. There was even a green passenger
car that was occupied by the crew. Our family was loaded onto
a freight car that had previously been used to transport horses,
which had left behind plenty of manure. The accompanying soldiers
felt sorry for us and allowed us to clean the railcar of manure.
They also helped us to "acquire" some boards for putting
together a scaffolding framework inside the car. In that way we
were able to arrange for 29 sleeping "berths" that had
to suffice for nine families.
Even after we had been on our way for a few days,
some still clung to the hope that we would soon be taken back
to our homes. The women put up a crucifix in the freight car and
pleaded with our Lord on the cross to protect us and lead us back
We continued eastward, yet after four weeks we still
had not even reached the Volga River. The train was held on sidetracks
much longer than it was actually underway. We received no food
provisions so we were left to scrounging for whatever we could
obtain during our stops. That usually consisted of wheat, potatoes
or beets, which we ate raw since there was no way for us to cook
or to bake. With time we fabricated a cooking stove out of a bucket,
and during the stops we were able to get out of the freight car
and do some cooking without stepping into excrement.
We crossed the Volga near Kubyshev, the former (and
today's) Samarov. From there on the train began to move faster,
so no longer were there any days of stopping on sidetracks. In
Ksyl-Orda in the region of Tchili eight freight cars were left
behind. We continued along the Turksib, past Chimkent, Chambul
and Alma-Ata, in the general direction of Siberia. In these freight
cars that were not fit for winter weather it became progressively
colder so that eventually we were able to stand it only under
On November 14 the train stopped inside a mountain
gorge. We were told to "get out of the train cars!"
We had reached Yangis-Tobe in the Semipalatinsk region. At the
time Yangis-Tobe had only a single rail station building with
a flat roof, so we had no choice but to camp outdoors under the
autumn skies. We had hardly anyone left who was an infant or had
become very ill, because most of them had died on the way. At
larger depots the authorities had opened the railcar doors, asked
about anyone who had died, and the bodies had simply been removed...
Contrary to orders by the rail depot officials,
we used railroad ties for a campfire and spent the night close
to it, under some sort of cover if possible. It was not until
the next evening when oxen-drawn sleds arrived for our transport
to Kopektyal, which was 136 kilometers from the rail station.
It took two days until we arrived at our destination of Kopekty,
where we spent the night in stables. We had been supplied with
plenty of straw.
Kopekty, just like many other places in the region,
was overcrowded with a great variety of people who had been banished,
evacuated or deported. It was the end of November, and a meter
of snow was already covering the ground. At this time of year
the landscape was of no other color than white. The entire valley
looked like a gigantic carpet into which the small city of Kopekty
with its flat rooftops had been embroidered.
In addition to native Kazachs and Tatars, residents
of Kopekty at that time also included Poles who had been deported
to the Asiatic Soviet Union in 1939 following the occupation of
Eastern Poland by the Red Army. Added to them were Volga-Germans
from Balzer, who had been transported there three months before
us. Even though not a single place to live was available, the
authorities somehow managed to "stuff" us into some
quarters. It was a room in which three families with a total of
13 persons were housed. The room did not even have a stove.
At first our most severe problems had to do with
a lack of heating materials. Everywhere in our new home area heating
was done by the use of cow chips. Since we had none, there was
nothing left for us but to trade our best things for them. But
what did we really possess? Well, we simply needed to be very
economical in the use of heating material. Since we also did not
have any foodstuffs, we made do by sharing and making soups from
the flour we had brought with us.
We were even hungrier than during the train trip
from Kleinliebental to Kopekty. Thus the most reliable helpers
the Bolsheviks had, namely cold and hunger, hit us with full force
even by December of 1941. The weaker ones, especially children
and the elderly, died very soon. Every day became a burial day,
and the funeral treks seemed to have no end. A son and a daughter
of my sister died of scarlet fever. No medical assistance was
In February of 1942 the Volga-German men were wrested
from their families and transported to work camps in Borovsk near
Solimansk. It was through these men that families in Ukraine were
finally able to receive information on the addresses of their
men who had been dragged off before the general deportations.
They also learned that half of the men who had been arrested in
September of 1941 had succumbed to famine, which was a fate threatening
the rest of us as well.
In October of 1942 deported German-Russian women
ages 15 to 55 were also mobilized into the working army. Only
mothers with children under eight years of age were allowed to
remain behind. (Editor's Note: In innumerable other reports
it is said that only those women whose children were under three
years of age were left alone. Throughout those reports age limits
between 16 and 45 are mentioned, which corresponds to a memorandum,
dated October 13, 1942, that was circulated by the leading party
and state organs of the Altai region.)
And so it continued through the remaining war years.
The final mobilization of women for the Trud Army took place in
February of 1945.
In most camps of the Trud Army, which were actually
subordinate to the Gulag system, chances for survival for German
women and men were considerably below that of camps that have
been written about by Solzhenitzin. Thus a total number equivalent
to double the normal capacity of the three large camps of Borovsk
died between November 1941 and January 1945. These three camps
held over 30,000 German-Russian men who were slaving away in a
factory producing gunpowder. By January of 1943 the entire capacity
of the camp was rotated through at least twice, meaning that at
least 60,000 of our fathers and brothers lie dead in the swamps
of Borovsk. Even today these same swamps still disgorge human
bones and smashed skulls (according to Gulag camp rules, the skull
of each person who died in the camp was to be smashed with a pointy
By January of 1943 the factory was finished and
was to be activated for normal operation. Moscow was awaiting
production for the war, yet reports from Borovsk stated that the
number of workers was entirely insufficient. Of the 65,000 to
68,000 or so men who had been dragged to the camps in Borovsk,
only about 5,000 remained by the beginning of 1943, and these
men were completely rundown. Moscow reacted with an immediate
investigation, which produced the information that funds slated
for the upkeep of the prisoners had in large part been embezzled.
As a consequence, three natchalniks were condemned to
death for it. Of course, the camps in Borovsk were no exception.
There were very similar camps in Kimpersei near Aktyubinsk, where
nickel ore was being mined; in Lovaya Lyalya in the Sverdlovsk
region (asbestos); in Nishniy Tagi, Chusovaya, Beresniki; in the
forests north of Solikamsk; in Nyrob and Krasznovishevsk; in Siberian
Tatarsk; in Kraznoshchekovo near Novosibirsk; in Kemerovo; in
Karaganda and the surrounding area; and in many other places.
The Soviet authorities, of course, had their reasons
for refusing to issue death certificates to the survivors of those
who had died in the camps. Many residents of the former Soviet
Union, perhaps most of them, still do not have the slightest idea
about what had been done to their fellow citizens.
In May of 1945 we heard the longed-for news that
the war was over, yet for us German-Russians the war was far from
being over. There was no end to our having to perform forced labor
or our suffering from hunger. With only 12 hours of warning we
were simply moved on to another place, always to one where there
was a lot to be done and nothing to be had. Even by 1946 most
men remained separated from their families, many had to wait even
decades to be reunited with their families, and few ever lived
to experience it.
In the fall of 1946, 2,000 German-Russian men were
forcefully moved from the camps in Berezniki into the Caucasus,
where on Ritza Lake in Georgia they were to erect a convalescent
home for the benefit of the Kremlin folks. Following the completion
of the dacha they were transported into the Tshelyabisnk region,
where they were to build an atomic reactor. Today not a single
trace remains of these 2,000 men. (Should any of them still
be alive today, the editors request that you please inform the
Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland, Raitelsbergerstr.
49, 70188 Stuttgart.)
They did not survive Project "Tshelyabinsk."
Others were forced to work in the uranium enrichment facilities
near Leninabad in Uzbekistan. They worked mostly without protection
against radiation, did not last very long and died mainly of cancer
of the blood. Other camps contained the men who were suffering
from having worked in the enrichment facilities. Despite the war's
end, death reaped a bountiful harvest as well in Glasov of the
Urdmurtic SSR in the northwest Ural region.
Even as of 1952, highly qualified German specialists
were moved from their factory jobs and forced to work as simple
helpers. At the same time, all German-Russian families who had
found residence in cities were simply moved to live in barracks
settlements outside of the cities. Only the death of Stalin on
March 5, 1953, marked the beginning of any kind of relief at all.
For example, we were now allowed to obtain things in a place eight
kilometers away without having to ask for permission from the
local army command, and our excursions were no longer accompanied
by mounted soldiers.
News of the edict by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR
of December 13, 1955, which finally lifted the army command's
authority over us, did not reach us until March of 1956. The local
command ordered us to appear individually, and we were shown a
green and a blue printed document for our signature. The green
document forced us to promise not to stay in our former home locales
any longer than 24 hours, and the blue one forced us to certify
that we would not demand compensation from the Soviet State for
any and all things confiscated from us in 1941. That's about the
way things remain today...
Our appreciation is extended to Alex
Herzog for translation of this article.