60th Anniversary Rally in Berlin
"60th Anniversary Rally in Berlin." California District Council Report, Spring 2002.
On August 26, 2001, almost 3,000 participants attended the central
rally of the Germans of the former USSR on the plaza in front of
the Reichstag building at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. They held
up for 6 hours on the hottest day of the year, which was about 97
degrees in the shade, and listened to their spokespeople, to government
advocates and to their eyewitnesses who managed to survive the consequences
of the notorious August 28, 1941 decree of the Supreme Soviet, and
now can report about it.
Visitors to the parliament building could hardly believe that these
people were from the CIS, because the media have reported so much
negative information about the German Russians. Other Germans probably
thought this was a religious gathering, because it isnt every
day in Germany that one can witness Grosser Gott wir Loben
dich being sung and Lords Prayer being repeated in an
outdoor public setting!
Two exhibitions, People on the Move: the German Russians
Path of Destiny and German Russian Forced Laborers in
Chelyabinsk in the Ural Mountains, with their combined length
of more that 50 yards, were clearly visible from the government
buildings and left a lasting impression. More than 20 German Russians
with placards protested against the ignorance and disregard of their
fate, and against the measures that restrict Spaetaussiedlern
from finding a place in Germany. Some of the placard texts visible
in the photographs that accompany this article include:
I survived the Trudarmee. I am here alone. Let
my children return.
Complete rehabilitation of the German Russians has never
My father died in the Trudarmee. His grave is
The majority of the Spaetaussiedlern dont understand
why one family member is permitted to come, but not others: why
the mother is considered a German, the father a Russian, the child
a Kazakh; that the dialect of the Volga Germans is less German
than Koelsch, the dialect of Koeln [Cologne], which
can hardly be understood in the rest of Germany. Government representative
Jochem Welt conveyed greetings from the federal government, and
he reiterated the words of Interior Minister Schily, who spoke on
June 2, 2001 at the Bundestreffen in Stuttgart: the conditions for
entering Germany and the immigration quotas would remain unchanged.
He could not promise the repeal of the language tests, but he did
pledge to support improved participation of spouses in government-sponsored
language courses. He read a Biblical passage two days later at the
German-Russian ecumenical thanksgiving service at the French Cathedral
that stands on Berlins Gendarmenmarkt.
Erica Steinbach, President of the Association of Expellees
(the several million Germans who lost everything at the end of World
War II when they were expelled from East and West Prussia, Pomerania,
Silesia and other eastern regions), described that forced
labor was the daily bread of the German Russians. She called
on influential politicians to support the German Russians and to
stand up against the deterioration of their situation.
Dr. Alfred Eisfeld, from the Institute for Eastern European
Research in Goettingen who is well known to most German
Russians, having distinguished himself for 25 years through his
numerous publications marked the milestones of the German
- The first mass deportations of 1915.
- The October Revolution of 1917, when the Bolsheviks measures
were directed at farmers, the class to which most Germans in Russia
- Collectivization, which also hit middle class German farmers
- The terrors of the 1930s, when many household fathers were liquidated.
- June 22, 1941, when Hitlers army invaded the Soviet Union.
- The decree of August 28, 1941 from the Supreme Soviet, which
bore the benign title Regarding the Resettling of the Germans
who live in the Volga Rayons. Actually, all Germans were banished,
provided they were not already in exile or living under German occupation.
- A further decree on November 26, 1948, which established the
injustice in perpetuity and introduced new punishments. They threatened
20 years prison for attempting to leave authorized areas. Penal
camps in exile!
- The half-hearted concessions in 1955, 1964 and 1972, which were
only tentatively communicated and were so unevenly implemented that
the outcome was of little real value.
Dr. Eisfeld noted that there was no compensation in sight then,
nor is there now. And there is still no apology from Putin for the
unjust treatment of the German Russians, in spite of the recommendation
for this by the Duma in Moscow. He appealed to the government in
Berlin to maintain their support for the Germans in the CIS, and
to have patience with the Spaetaussiedlern [who are
still arriving at a steady rate of almost 100,000 per year].
A sidebar in the newsletter described the Landsmannschaft
der Deutschen aus Russlands traveling exhibition:
The exhibition People on the Move: the German Russians
Path of Destiny has been shown in 39 German cities. The program
includes opening events with lectures, films, musical performances
and opportunities for German Russians to interact with local Germans.
There are discussions about the problems of integration, school
programs, readings of German Russian authors, celebrations in the
town squares, church services involving local congregations and
This is viewed as a successful way in which to reduce prejudice
against German Russians and increase the level acceptance among
Germans. Integration of German Russian youth stood at the center
of many of these introduction events. For the years 2002 to 2004,
one hundred additional communities have expressed their interest
in hosting this exhibit.
Reprinted with permission of California District Council