Russian Germans in bad Bergzabem: When Home Exists
Only in Memories (Rußlanddeutsche in bad Bergzabem: Wenn Heimat
nur in der Erinnerung ist ein Leben Swischen Zwangsarbeit und Zwangsumsiedlung
-Rußland- Deutscher Gottlieb Prick hat in Bergzabem Seine
Letzte Station Erreicht)
Stahler, Anja. "Russian Germans in bad Bergzabem: When Home Exists Only in Memories (Rulanddeutsche in bad Bergzabem: Wenn Heimat nur in der Erinnerung ist ein Leben Swischen Zwangsarbeit und Zwangsumsiedlung – Rsland – Deitscher Gottlieb Prick hat Bergzabem Seine Letzte Station Erreicht)." Die Rheinpfalz, 23 July 1994.
Translation of German to English complete by Alice Morgenstern,
After a life of forced labor and deportation, Russian German, Gottlieb
Frick has finally come to Bad Bergzabern.
After three tedious years, his ancestors traveled from Württemberg
to their new home in Russia. It took Gottlieb Frick three hours
to get from Moskau to Bad Bergzabern. The Russian German has been
living there for the last nine months.
He is the descendant of emigrants who left the Kingdom of Württemberg
in 1815 to settle in the Russian empire. Reasons for doing so were:
the raids of Napoleonic soldiers, crop failure, high taxation, lack
of arable land and religious quarrels.
A delegation of Württemberg citizens turned to Tsar Alexander
I, who he stayed in Vienna after the Napoleonic wars. They asked
him for permission to settle in his country. The conditions were:
Religious freedom, exemption from military service and free land
for the farmers. The Tsar agreed, and 3,000 families started on
their journey in tow boats down the river Danube to the Black Sea.
They aimed for new homes in the Trans-Kaukasus-region.
The winter was spent in Odessa, where they found many Germans already
there. They learned that the Tsar had forbidden them to continue
their journey to the Kaukasus, as the land was supposed to be too
wild and too dangerous for settlements. But the pioneers were obstinate
and finally in 1817 reached Tiflis (Georgia) in the fall. Conditions
proved to be extremely hard at first. Diseases, like malaria, and
wild animals diminished their number. But in the end the farmers
prospered in 22 villages: Helenendorf, Alexanderdorf, Katharinenfeld,
Rosenfeld etc. They raised cattle and cultivated wine, fruit and
Youth in the Kaukasus
Gottlieb Prick was born in Traubenfeld, a small place (now Aserbeidschan),
in 1925. His father died when he was nine, but the family was comparatively
well off. They spoke German at home and at his school. Russian teachings
only began when he attended the 7th form.
In 1941, he was a lathe-turner's apprentice in Tiflis by then.
His life changed completely. On October 8th, the " Sttatsverteidigungskomitee”,
the Committee for the defense of the State, had decided on the deportation
of the Germans from the Kaukasus region. They were to be transferred
to Siberia and Kazakhstan. They also had to sign a paper saying
they would not come back to their old homes.
In November the family arrived in North Kasachstan, the region
of Kustanai. At first they lived in the Roman Catholic German village,
Pridoroschnoje, near Tobol. Then Gottfried had to join the workers'
army, in order to build railway tracks near Ulanowsk (Wolga), for
one year. Afterwards, they worked five and a half months in Workuta,
next to Archangelsk at the Arctic Ocean. There he had to endure
temperatures of -40 degrees centigrade and fierce blizzards.
When he was on leave he got released from forced labor by paying
500 rubels. He remained in Kasachstan, got married in 1949 and from
1956 to 1989, he lived in Tschu in the South. Then he moved to Slavgorod,
Altai. The German newspaper there printed his memories about the
forced labor camp.
In 1993 he and his wife found a home in Bad Bergzabem, Germany,
where Gottlieb's sister already lived. The Fricks have 3 daughters.
Although Gottlieb is glad to have come to Germany, he maintains
that his Kaukasus village remains his true home. As a deeply religious
man he finds comfort in his faith. He, his wife and his sister attend
the Mennonite services at the 'Deutschhof’, regularly. "You
can take away everything from a man, except his faith," he
The Circle has closed
Pia Frick, Gottlieb's wife, has come to live in that very place,
Bergzabem, that her great great grandfather Anton Jager had left
in 1807 to find a new home in the Ukraine. She had not known anything
about her family history before 1989: A cousin, aged 87, came to
see the Pricks in Slawgord and he knew where the family had originally
come from. Great was their surprise then, because the Fricks had
already decided to emigrate to Bad Bergzabem, where Gertrude Liske,
one of Gottlieb's sisters was already living.
Das läßt sich nicht vergessen
You can never forget that one morning all the Germans had to leave
their Kaukasian villages: Helenendorf, Alexanderdorf, Elisabethta1,
Rosenberg, Georgsfeld, Annenfeld, Katharienenfeld, Eigenfeld, Gninfeld,
Traubenfeld and many others. They were only permitted to take along
the most necessary personal belongings. Everything else, especially
their animals they had to leave behind, but still they had no idea
that they were gone forever.
They had to wait at the railway station, which was far too small
for the thousands. Only the following day ~ they were packed into
the trains. During the night they had no light except for a candle,
and they tried to console each other by singing old German Hymns
("SO nimm denn meine Hände..."). Their first stop
was Baku, at the Caspian Sea, and they had to enter a steamer, which
was far too small for 3000 passengers and 500 soldiers to guard
In Krasnowodsk, they had to stay over night on the bare and dirty
ground together with Germans from other parts of Russia. Freight
trains took them east to Taschkent, Kisil-Orda, Aktjubinsk. It was
the beginning of November and very cold. Many of the old people
and the children died on the way. Exhausted, they got from the train
to Tobol station (Kustanai). The Kasachs had been told that Nazis
prisoners of war were coming, but they proved to be helpful and
friendly and gave the newcomers tea and Lepjoschki (flat bread made
Gottlieb Frick ends his story saying, "War has cruel things
in store for everybody, but it is twice as bitter if you lose not
only your house, but your home, also. It is a fate that did not
only strike Germans but other minorities as well. For us, however,
it was even harder, as we were considered to be Fascists, although
we were of German origin only.
Will there be people who will understand what we have gone through?
Will we ever get our old home back again?"
Our appreciation is extended to Alice Morgenstern for
translation of this article.