Two Hundred Years of Mass Immigration by Germans
to the Black Sea Region
200 Jahre Masseneinwanderung der Deutschen in das Schwarzmeergebite
Bosch, Anton. "Two Hundred Years of Mass Immigration by Germans to the Black Sea Region." Volk auf dem Weg, December 2003, 24-25.
Translation from German to English by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
For Germans from Russia, the year that is about to end was dominated
from the beginning to the end by the topic "200 Years of Mass
Immigration by Germans to the Black Sea Region."
An auspicious start was served up by the "Historische Forschungsverein
der Deutschen aus Russland e.V. [Historical Research Society for Germans
from Russia]" by the production of its colorful wall calendar
on this very topic. In April, in the Community House of Nuernberg-Langwasse,
there followed an exhibit of 27 oil paintings of German-Russian personalities
who had made impressive historical contributions to the development
of Russia. The series of festivities was continued by a major event
on September 20, put on by the Landsmannschaft, in the White Room
of the New Castle in Stuttgart, continued via a series of further
events (e.g., in Herzogenaurach) until, finally, even Odessa, the
destination of all immigrants in the year 1803 and thereafter, was
heard from via an invitation to an academic conference at the old
Metchnikov University for anyone with name and renown.
Soaring high over the clouds inside a modern airplane, I reached Odessa
within only three hours of flight after taking of from Munich. Enough
time to be able to dedicate my thoughts to reflecting on the very
difficult emigration of my ancestors from Frankfurt/Main, some from
Ulm on the Danube, to Odessa. In my thoughts, I was moved to admire
the immense difficulties and efforts of my ancestors, who needed at
least two to three months before reaching their final goal, to which
the then administrator and governor of Greater South Russia, the Duke
Richelieu, had called them. More than 3,000 folks died on the journey.
Even my own forced "administrative relocation" from March
to the end of May in 1944, which I had to experience as a 19-year-old
and at the time looked on more as an adventure than anything else,
appeared before my mind's eye. Under deadly circumstances, with constant
cannon fire in our backs, our trek was forced to take up the dreadful
journey into the [Polish] "Wartheland" and, later on, into
the "Old Reich." All of these memories had been haunting
me my entire life and, during this flight, broke into my thoughts
very clearly once again. Only several years after the end of the War,
when we Germans were branded as "Traitors of the Homeland"
and interned in a forced labor camp in the North Ural, had I been
able to realize the full extent of the tragedy of our group's dire
Starting from 1994, this was now my fifth trip to the old homeland,
but this time I was lured by a very special occasion to that city
on the Black Sea, to our "Odaess," as we had called it for
about 200 years. The venerable old Metchnikov University at Dvorykanskaya
Street 2 (founded in 1865 as the New Russia University, and known
to us as the institution where Konrad Keller, as an honorary member,
in 1905 had published the first volume of his opus "Die deutschen
Kolonien in Suedrussland [The German Colonies in South Russia],"
available from the "Historischen Forschungsverein der Deutschen
aus Russland") had invited to its city more than a hundred academicians
from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and Switzerland, for an October 3 -
5 conference commemorating the 200th anniversary of mass immigration
by German farmers to the Black Sea area. Attending from Germany were
renowned academicians such as Dr. Eisfeld (Goettingen), Dr. Brandes
and Meschkow (Duesseldorf), Dr. Neutatz (Freiburg), Dr. Stricker (Zurich),
Bosch (Nuernberg), Heidebrecht (Stuttgart), and others.
The host country, Ukraine, was represented by some of its own well-known
talents such as Shevtchuk, Seebold and Pobeda (Odessa), Kudryatchenko
and Kutratyuk (Kiev), and others. The hosts were adept at managing
the difficult logistical tasks and took care of their guests, some
even privately, with their charming Ukrainian hospitality and organizational
Although for some unknown reason the Russian representatives had not
been mentioned during the official welcome, that country was also
represented by significant academicians such as A. German, Mrs. O.
Litzenberger (Saratov), and others.
The conference was cosponsored by the Ukrainian government's Committee
on Nationalities and by the Ministry for Culture, by the mayor of
the city, by the Bavarian-German House, by the city's German Lutheran
community, and by the German Embassy in Kiev. Each group's representative
spoke some words of welcome on behalf of their organizations and thereby
created a positive atmosphere for all visitors. During the opening
day's plenary session, representatives of TV and the print media made
for a rather chaotic press bustle. Eisfeld (Goettingen), Shevtchuk
(Univ. of Odessa), Koehn (Bavarian House Odessa), and Laptev (Crimea)
provided for smooth operating conditions within the three major conference
sections: History, Culture and Art, and Ethnography, all of which
were held separately due to the plethora of presentations.
In public places and on the streets, however, one did not perceive
an image that this "important effort," as it was called
in the welcoming remarks by the politicians, that is, even in-the-know
Odessa residents were hardly aware of this "effort."
The motto of the conference, "200 Years of Immigration of Germans
to the Black Sea Region," printed on a white banner that was
hung rather obscurely behind two columns in the university foyer,
was seen for only half a day and, from the second day on, the banner
was inexplicably missing, never to be seen again.
The numerous presentations given to participants in the History section
might be summarized under the heading, "Learning from the Germans."
There was, however, a great disparity in the quality of the individual
presentations that were intended to illuminate 200 years of shared
Ukrainian-German history. A few presentations consisted merely of
empty slogans, making it necessary for the concluding plenary session
to decide on including only those worthy ones in a volume of the proceedings
of the conference.
A real gem, provided to the visitors by the University Library, was
an exhibit of rare books that, by order of Alexander I, were collected
in the West from about 1818 onward. The University has a proud treasure
of 117 volumes published in the 16th century in Nuernberg, the book
printing center of that epoch. Among them is the famous "Schedel'sche
Weltchronik," which is available to students and researchers
in its original version and has found deep admiration by researchers
A major sensation was caused by a presentation of Dr. Neutatz, in
which he called on the academicians no longer to concentrate in their
resarch on the Germans as the more successful colonists, with their
rather "other" culture, but rather to look for what they
had in common with Russians and Ukrainians. In other words, according
to Neutatz, the Germans immigrants soon actually stripped off their
own cultural vestiges and took on that of their Russian environment.
Some academicians even proposed the dubious thesis that descendants
of the immigrants had practiced witch hunts and frequently brought
forth "bastard children." As might be expected, conflicted
discussion ensued, whereupon one researcher suddenly distanced himself
from his own theories and announced that he himself not only had no
data for it, but that he had merely meant to pose it "provocatively"
for discussion, in order to effect a "different way of thinking
compared with classical research topics on the culture of the colonists."
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.