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To Keep the Memory Alive

By Nicole Mohn

Die Erinnerung lebendig erhalten

Von Nicole Mohn

From the Wendiger Zeitung / Nuertiger Zeitung, December 15, 2004 issue (via
a website)

Translation from German to American English by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado


Subtitle: Former Bessarabia-Germans wish to transmit knowledge of the old home country to younger people, too.

BEMPFLINGEN. Nearly 200 years ago, about ten thousand Germans, most of them Schwabians, started off on their journey to the East. They were seeking a new future in Bessarabia, the fertile Russian hill country. Of this ethnic group which in 1940 was transplanted to Poland and sixty years ago tried to flee from the Russians back into the original home of their forefathers, most Germans today know very little. Even their own descendants hardly know of the roots of the forefathers. The Landsmannschaft of Bessarabia-Germans, under their new national chairman Werner Schaefer, is trying to keep alive the history of its families. To that effect the Landsmannschaft issued an invitation to an informational evening at the Jakob Weimer-Haus last Monday, the topic being everything about Bessarabia.

Schaefer had expected perhaps eighty people to attend, but over a hundred interested folks came to the Evangelical Community House in Bempflingen. Among them there were few from the younger generation, but there were some interested non-Bessarabians. All listened intently to the illustrated report by the national chair.

Schaefer was visibly pleased that the hall was filled to capacity. "We would like to attempt to awaken interest, particularly among the younger generation of descendants, in the origins of Bessarabia-Germans," he declared. Many no longer have an opportunity even within their own families to be informed about life in the area near the Black Sea measuring about 45,000 square kilometers; because their grandparents are often no longer around, these young people know neither their customs and culture nor their history. Hardly anyone is aware of where and how their people lived. In comparison to the large ethnic groups of Silesians and Sudenten-Germans, the fate of the nearly 93,000 Bessarabia-Germans who first were transplanted to Poland in 1940 and then fled to Germany trying to escape the war's front tends to recede into the background. But with the new First Man of State, Federal President Horst Koehler, himself a descendant of Bessarabia-Germans, this ethnic group has moved back into consciousness.

Among Bessarabia-Germans, a look into the past is by no means a bitter one. Schaefer clearly states that his organization, which for the most part dedicates itself to research and retention of its old customs and mores, yet even today actively assists its old home country with donations, clearly distances itself from those who place [reparation] demands on Poland. Even the concept "Landsmannschaft" is to be removed from the organization's name within the year, Schafer announced: "It still has some negative connotations." The structure of the group is also supposed to change: assistance organizations, museums and Landsmanndaschft are all to be grouped together into one overall organization.

In addition to a speech on the history of Germans from Bessarabia, the longtime highest-ranking man in the organization and today's honorary national chair, Dr. h.c. Edwin Kelm, illustrated the work of the assistance group and its activities in the former Bessarabia, that is, in today's Moldavia and Ukraine. The gathering also offered many a welcome opportunity to exchange ideas with old acquaintances and to become familiar with the newest printed and video materials.

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