Odessa Book of Mourning
Walter, Gerhard. "Odessa Book of Mourning." Volk auf dem Weg, November 2006, 38.
Translation from the original German-language text
to American English by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
NOTE: This is a book review
The [translated] subtitle of this book is "Stalin's State
Terror against the Germans in the Regions of Odessa and Nikolayev/Ukraine
1928 to 1943."
The main title of the book alone, "Trauerbuch Odessa [Odessa
Book of Mourning]," allows the reader to guess that the misdeeds
committed under the Soviet Regime, especially those in the 1930s
and in these regions, will here not only be described, but also
evinced and proved via numbers and tables. This is a work that has
no equal of its kind. The research covers the life and death dates
of 8,750 people from nearly 50 villages in the Odessa area (Grossliebental
area, Glueckstal and Hoffnungstal colonist villages, the Kutschurgan
and Beresan colonist districts, as well as the Cherson area and
the cities of Odessa and Nikolayev).
The material forming the basis for this research required the processing
of a seemingly astronomically large number -- around 280,000 --
of archival records. The result is so comprehensive and informative
that it represents one of the most detailed lists of names of victims
of Stalinist terror.
The entire project must be credited to three researchers who during
the course of twelve years collected the research material, researched
it and analyzed it. They are Anton Bosch, the main author and editor
of the complete work; Anton Bertsch, who contributed his own research
to the project; and Michael Wanner, who tirelessly researched the
Beresan and Nikolayev regions.
It all started with Khrushchev's hesitant "climate of thaw"
during 1956, when, with his "disclosures," he allowed
some light to pass through a tiny slit into the darkness of the
unspeakable Stalinist past. At the time, he provided only partial
information about the cleansings within the Party, but intentionally
kept his silence on the millions of victims of the system that he,
too, had served. Solzhenitzin was the first to break through the
wall of silence, and thereby awoke the world public. He himself
was not shot, but persecuted and exiled.
During the following years, these three researchers gradually realized
that they wished to dedicate themselves to this topic. But a long
time passed before, under Gorbachev's "perestroika," the
first tentative attempts were made possible to learn from officialdom
of the lives and fates of family members who had "disappeared."
This information, however, proved to be rather meager and nearly
always falsified, a fact that came apparent after the fall of the
Soviet System and the concomitant dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Now the affected families would have the opportunity to receive,
upon request to the authorities, detailed and, finally, truthful
information on the whereabouts, the lives, and the documentation
of deaths (which usually occurred via shooting). Building on this
fact, the three researchers started their work in the area of mass
reprisals. When the "Historical Research Society of Germans
from Russia" was established, a process in which the three
played significant roles, it became possible to coordinate the work
on the topic. The results are now contained in this book.
The research was necessary in order to prove that the number of
those innocently condemned within the researched regions was many
times larger than reflected in official statistics. It was also
necessary to prove that these victims of Stalinism had in fact been
condemned innocently. Further, it was necessary to uncover the degree
to which the accusations and judgments had been without basis and
filled with lies; and the work was necessary to show -- as is inescapably
evident throughout this entire book -- the senselessness and brutality
of the Stalinist reign of violence against the German population,
even if it was partially provoked by Hitler's plans of conquest.
With this work, not only via tables, but via detailed text on every
village in the regions they studied, as well as via an appendix
containing data for nearly 9,000 innocent victims, whose number
is likely higher, the three authors have succeeded in creating a
memorial to the victims. For the affected families, it is a painful
memory, for their descendants it should stand as a warning so that
such things may never occur again.
The lists of names contain the following kinds of data, among others:
family name, first name, father's name, birth year and place, date
of arrest, and date of sentencing. The remaining 25 kinds of data
are available by request to the authors; there was just not sufficient
room for these in the tables.
This book is published in large DIN A-4 format and is hardbound.
It also contains a map of Transnistria, another one depicting the
GULag camps, as well as numerous photos. The text within the book
is supplemented with footnotes and printed in a very legible font.
A list of archival materials and a bibliography at the end of the
book provide the reader with resources that were discovered and
used in the book.
Translator's Note regarding availability of the book:
On his own web site, Gerhard Walter ends the above identical review
with the followoing statement:
The book has 273 pages and is immediately available at a price
of 20 Euros from:
As always, when calling from the US, replace the leading zero in
the above telephone numebrs with 011-49. Of course, this version
of the book is in the German language. -- Alex Herzog
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation
of this article.