History Culture German Russian History
Lost Like a Grain of Wheat, the Village
of Karlsruhe Lies in the Endless Expanse of North Dakota
Verloren wie ein Weizenkorn Liegt das Dorf
Karlsruhe in der Grenzenlosen
"Lost Like a Grain of Wheat, the Village of Karlsruhe Lies in the Endless Expanse of North Dakota." Suedeutsche Zeitung, 9 December 2004, 286.
Translation from German to American English
by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
An entire large-format photo book by Richard Besserer and Stephan
Wenz (Info Verlag, Karlsruhe [Germany], 19.80 Euros) is dedicated
to the people of Karlsruhe in the U.S. State of North Dakota. In it
the people are clearly in the foreground, with the sparse local ambience
as the backdrop. Their doorbell signs carry names that could easily
be found here on the right bank [of the Rhine]: Leier, Boehm, Thomas,
Klein, Mack, Schiele.
In fact, 200 years ago, they were neighbors, before the watchmaker
Johann Wechinger of Karlsruhe happened to come upon a prized letter
from Tsar Alexander I and he, alongside many other countrymen, emigrated
via Vienna toward the Black Sea region with the aim of cultivating
the southern provinces of the Tsarist empire. What attracted Wechinger
was as Manfred Koch discovered within the city archives the promise
of unhindered doings and dealings within the Russian Royal Empire.
That was in 1804. Five years later, sixty Karlsruhe families took
off via Saxony and Warsaw toward the East, they spent the winter
in Odessa, and then established a settlement called Karlsruhe. As
the German General Counsel of Odessa stated at the time: "The
villages give off an air of prosperity, spacious farm properties,
beautifully stone houses, blooming gardens and vineyards."
But seventy years later things had become so bad for the Germans
in Russia that immigrants became emigrants - 300,000 left for the
United States. There they gave their [new] villages names such as
Mannheim, Strassburg, Elsass, Rastatt, Worms, or Karlsruhe. As one
journalist wrote, the German-Russians contributed to America more
than any other group of immigrants, because by introducing winter
wheat they transformed the prairie to the granary of the world.
A hundred people now reside in Karlsruhe, North Dakota. Their portraits,
including that of rail inspector Kenny Gefroh (shown in the picture),
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.
to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested
by contacting Michael