"OST-WEST-DIALOG." Magazine for Germans from Russia, 1997, 33-35.
Perhaps the director of kolkhoz "Put' k Communism"
Yakov Gettinger surpassed the authority delegated to him by the
governing committee. When after completing a historical study, he
insisted on building a monument in each of the three neighboring
villages - Ivanovka, Sosnovka, and Matveevka, - monuments dedicated
to the memory of Russians of German descent, victims of repression
perpetrated by Stalin and his government. But who can blame him?
Even today these three monuments are the only ones dedicated to
German victims of Soviet repression in all the countries of the
former Soviet Union outside of Russia. Today Yakov Gettinger resides
in Germany. He still spends a lot of time researching the archives
in hope of bringing to light the fate of his people in the former
Soviet Union. The following article was written by him.
The idea of putting up monuments dedicated to the memory of my
fellow Germans in Russia came to me a long time ago. As a teenager
I had heard plenty of horror stories, told by the lucky survivors,
describing the fate of Germans during the 1930's. When during the
60's the political situation became a little better, the officials
were still reluctant to publicize the events of the thirties. Moreover,
the official "rehabilitation" was carried out without
any publicity. Such publicity was discouraged as it was deemed unproductive
by the government. But among the people personally involved the
interest in bringing the whole truth to light never subsided. Early
90's brought the first opportunity to do so.
I started out by collecting personal information about the victims,
and never thought that the number of victims in the three villages
would be greater than 50 or 60. The result of my investigation,
however, revealed the following: during the 30's the number of German
families in the village of Ivanovka was around 43, while Sosnovka
and Matveevka each had 30. Each household had lost 2 or more of
its members to the repression. The total for the three villages
is 139 victims.
This number includes those who were sentenced to death by the
government and executed, as well as those who lost their lives in
other, no less horrific ways. For instance, young Germans, age 14
and 15, were subjected to mandatory labor in the mines. They were
given no training and naturally a lot of them succumbed to accidents.
I must note that this took place while the official policy mandated
a period of training as well as the minimum age seventeen.
Now the late Daniel Schaber told me the following story: As a
young man he was called to the harvesting in the North Kazakhstan.
Later all these people, 32 persons, were sent to the timber cutting
in Cheljabinsk. After one year only seven people were alive. The
others died from cold, because in the first winter they were not
given any warm clothes.
The people from all districts gave careful consideration to determine
a choice of sites for the Monuments. Fortunately everybody came
to the conclusion that it was a wrong place for Monuments near the
cultural hall. It was better to put up the Monuments at the cemetery,
where the bodies of our ancestors lay.
After the stones for the Monuments were found, we decided that
only one side of stones must be engraved. The other three sides
were left untouched. There was a simple concept to our project.
On the engraved sides of the Monuments in Sosnovka and Ivanovka,
the words of a famous German poet were inscribed. On Matveevka's
monument the phrase from the Holy Scripture, "Nobody who sets
hope upon God will perish" was carved. The three rough sides
of Monuments symbolized harsh, barbarous conditions in which the
Russian Germans involuntarily lived and died.
Nobody, who became the victim of Stalin's genocide against Russian
Germans, should be forgotten. The old authorities tried to make
everything appear in order, so people in the former USSR don't know
about our innocent executed ancestors. The new authorities "kindly
permitted" to publish these facts. For us it is not so important
to repeat again and again that Stalin, Berija and old Empire are
guilty. It is much more important to remember the names of all executed
people. To remember everybody who were accused of preparations for
"armed revolt", when there was only one or two hand guns
in the whole village; anyone was charged with being a spy of English-Japanese
secret service, when there was only one telephone in the village.
Here is the story about the rehabilitation of members of Dering's
family. We learned about these facts from the documents received
by Alvina Dering from regional authorities.
"It was discovered during the investigation that your
father, F.F. Dering, was arrested on June 28, 1934. He was accused
of being involved in anti-Soviet propaganda whose goal was to destroy
the collective farms. He was sentenced to three years in jail."
"F.F.Dering was arrested again on 16 April, 1938 and was
accused of being a member of a rebel group directed by German agency.
He was sentenced to death and was shot on 16 October, 1938. His
burial place is unknown."
"On September 18, 1962 the Tribunal of Turkistan Region
issued a document recognizing that F.F.Dering was actually innocent.
The official rehabilitation has been sent to your mother."
"Your uncle, T.F.Dering, was arrested on April 16, 1938
on the accusation of being an agent of German secret service in
1926. He was shot on October 26, 1938. His burial place is unknown.
The document about his rehabilitation was sent to his wife on July
"Your uncle, I.F.Dering was shot on October 13, 1938.
. . The document about his rehabilitation was sent to his son G.I.
Dering on July 19, 1962."
During War time when all people suffered immensely, German families
suffered twice. The public opinion considered them the enemies.
According to a Stalin decree, all German women whose children were
at least three years old were immediately recruited to the so-called
labor army. The authorities didn't care what could happen with these
children. More often the children were given to the orphanages for
Let all these crimes remain on the conscience of voluntary and
forced killers. Near these Monuments we expressed only our sympathy,
respect, gratitude and sorrow. The Monument in the Sosnovka village
is visible from a long distance. Not only symbolical epitaph was
placed there, but also a cross with bell on the high concrete supports.
A cross is a symbol of our Christian religion, the bell reminds
the people that they should have a compassion for others.
Our fellow-villager made a significant donation for this project.
The children from the village helped in this task as well. The school
children from the village, Ivanovka, interviewed all village homes
and compiled the lists of people executed during the genocide. Of
course, these lists were later supplemented and indexed; but each
name immortalized on the Monuments in Sosnovka, Ivanovka and Matveevka
became known, thanks to our young helpers.
Not only Germans live in our villages. Everybody voluntarily participated
in the fundraising for the Monuments. People donated money and building
materials. People from other villages asked for advice how to start
the same project in their region.
We observe the Memorial Day for German victims of repression on
28 August. On 28 August, 1993, the mourning meetings and civil funerals
took place in three villages. Although the official documents say
"the places of burial are unknown", we decided to consider
the cemeteries in the villages, where these people grew up and later
were forced to exile, as the memorial places to remember them. I
know that not all names of German victims have been found. To remember
all these victims is our duty and probably the only way to really
It is very sad that our three modest Monuments are the only memorial
places to commemorate the tragic fate of all ethnic Germans who
lived in the former Soviet Republic (except Russia).
This is the way, by remembering our fellow villagers, we also
give a tribute to thousands of other ethnic Germans who became victims
of the Soviet totalitarism.
Translation from Russian to English by Natalya Kornfeld, Germans
from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Libraries, Fargo
Reprinted with permission of Ost-West-Dialog