The Landsmannschaft der Deutschen
By Franz Udsselmann, former Chairman of the Landsmannschaft
"Die Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Rußland
"Die Deutschen in der UdSSR - einst und Jetzt,"
Globus Special, Verein für das Deutschtum im Ausland e.V.
(VDA), Berlin, Germany, no date, page 104.
When the German troops retreated from the Soviet
Union in 1943/44, an estimated 350,000 German-Russians were
resettled and naturalized to the former Warthegau by an order
of the German-occupying authority.
After the occupation of East Germany, approximately
250,000 persons were seized by the Soviets and taken back to
the Soviet Union. Approximately 100,000 people were seeking
refuge in western occupied zones. However, even in the western
occupied zones German-Russians were at first not safe from the
swift action of Soviet repatriation commando units because the
Western Allies had committed themselves in an agreement to extradite
to the Soviets those Soviet citizens who were in their occupied
In the first postwar years German-Russians were
not permitted to disclose their identity even in the western-occupied
zones; they had to disappear to avoid being seized by Soviet
repatriation commando units.
This was relatively easy because German-Russians
have, as a rule, typical German standards and had been born
in settlements with German names that also exist in Germany
as for example Karlsruhe, Kandel, etc. Approximately 30,000
German-Russians emigrated from West Germany primarily to the
U.S., to Canada, to South America and to Australia for fear
of the Soviets and for economic reasons. After the breakdown
in 1945, the churches cared for the needs of displaced persons
A few denominational relief agencies cared for
the German-Russians and their needs at that time. Only after
the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany did well-known
representatives of German-Russians and some relief agencies
decide on 22 April 1950, to organize associations for resettlers
from the East. Dean J. Schleunig, pastor Heinrich Roemmich,
Dr. Karl Stumpp and Dr. Gottlieb Leibrandt were among the initiators.
The "Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Ostumsiedler" was
established as Landsmannschaft at the assembly of federal delegates
on October 15, 1950. In a big announcement in the Paulskirche
in Frankfurt, the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland
turned to the German public for the first time and demanded
of the Federal Government to attempt the release of those ethnic
Germans who were detained in Soviet labor camps. In addition,
they requested equal treatment of displaced persons from the
Soviet Union with all other ethnic displaced persons.
The appeal made to the Federal Government to
support the release of our fellow ethnic Germans did not go
unnoticed. Back then, from September 9 to 13, 1955, we could
follow in the press and over the radio how decisive and persistent
Dr. Konrad Adenauer spoke up in Moscow for the freedom of our
of countrymen. Final equality with other displaced persons could
only get pushed through after lengthy negotiations and decisions
at the highest courts. The reason is a different social order
and the resulting different legal systems in the Federal Republic
of Germany and the Soviet Union.
The Landsmannschaft is a registered society located
in Stuttgart; its charitable status is recognized. It operates
with many volunters and only a few full-time employees.
It maintains chapters in all states and in some
dozen local branches. They attend to material, cultural and
social integration by assisting in establishing a social structure
for Aussiedler but also by educating persons concerned and by
granting legal aid.
The Landsmannschaft pursues and promotes the
research of history, culture and the present situation of the
ethnic German minority in the [former]USSR and publishes the
research results in the news media. Discussions and contacts
with politicians, scientists, organizations likewise serve to
spread knowledge of our work and our intention. Also, our newspaper
Volk auf dem Weg serves as a voice of our society.
Recently, the "Arbeitskreis zur Erforschung des
europäischen und außereuropäischen Russlanddeutschtums" (Study
group for the research of European and non-European Russian-Germanism)
was established within the Landsmannschaft. The Landsmannschaft
sees itself also as representative for those Germans living
in the [former] Soviet Union who are denied self-representation.
It supports the reunification of families, the immigration beyond
family reunification and attaining national and individual rights
of ethnic Germans in the [former] Soviet Union.
Franz Usselmann was chairman of the board of
the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland, Stuttgart, Germany
Reprinted with permission of the Verein für
das Deutschtum im Ausland e.V.
Translation from German to English by Claudia
Müller, Halle, Germany