The Soul of the German Russians
By Dr. Joseph S. Height
September 23, 1973
Transcription of the tape of presentation at the North
Dakota Historical Society of Germans from Russia Convention, Bismarck,
Transcription completed by Monica Dearing Sumner, Washington,
Mr. President, Judge Friederich, members of the board of this association,
members of the society:
When Judge Friederich phoned me several weeks ago inquiring whether
I would accept an invitation to Bismarck to attend this convention,
I did not hesitate for a moment to accept. I'm glad to be in North
Dakota. I'm delighted to be in Bismarck here tonight. I'm pleased
and gratified to see so many of you here this evening, and you have
to be really congratulated. This bodes good for the future of the
society. There's more and more interest created. I wish to thank
President Friederich for his bestowing this honor upon me to address
you here tonight.
I've been thinking of Dr. Stumpp with whom I traveled last summer
for ten days. And I've been in correspondence with him almost twice
a week since he left here last fall. I'd like to express my public
appreciation to him, my personal appreciation, for having helped
me publish the book which appeared about two months ago. It was
Dr. Stumpp who saw the book through the press to being. He tells
me that he used to drop over there almost every day, asking the
printer, "Are you getting on with Dr. Height's book? How are
you doing?" He has taken a great interest in my work. I have
collaborated with him in his book and the English parts of that
book I translated for him. That book is now in the press. It's being
printed right now and, as far as I can judge, it should be out,
perhaps before Christmas. I’m sure the society will inform
its members whenever that book becomes available.
I’m no stranger to North Dakota. I’ve been though this
state several times in the last 20 or 25 years. In fact, it’s
the road, the best road, in fact, the shortest road from Indiana
to my native hometown in Saskatchewan. I also feel somewhat a native
of North Dakota because my father, my grandfather, my uncles, pioneered,
if not for very long, in this country, in North Dakota, for about
five years, four or five years. And then they moved on to Saskatchewan
where they found greener, I don’t know about greener pastures,
they found blacker earth. So I feel right at home here. Your family
names are familiar to me. I have friends and even relatives in North
Dakota, along the Devil’s Lake and Rugby line.
So, I am pleased to be able to address you here tonight. I had
at first thought of speaking about certain types of history of our
people in Russia, but after I heard Colonel Wenzlaff, my good friend,
I felt I would probably be just repeating perhaps much of what he
had said. He did such an excellent job, such an excellent review
of German history, of the Germans from Russia, that I am going to
change my approach to my talk night.
There’s a certain step that I consider a sole portrait of
the German Russian people. It so impressed Dr. Stumpp, particularly
when he was here last summer, that so many of our people were tremendously
interested in genealogy. He saw complete books, family histories,
and so on. And he told me even those in Germany haven’t got
this kind of interest. That’s why he feels that his book which
is soon to come out will be considerable interest, of great interest,
to very many of us. And I'm sure that the society here will publicize
the book as they have publicized mine.
I would also like to take on this occasion he opportunity to thank
President Friederich and the society for supporting my book financially,
and also by promoting it, by advertising it, and helping me to distribute
the book among the people f6r whom it was written, the Black Sea
You wouldn't be here tonight if you did not have what I like to
call "ancestral piety", a feeling of reverence, a feeling
of love, for your forefathers who came to this country and those
who, of course, lived and died in the old country.
Every day there is a kind of ethnic awareness alive in this country.
People are becoming conscious of their ethnic heritage. There is
a kind of search for ethnic identity. And this is good. It would
be a pity if in that melting pot we were all melted down to the
same metal, whether it was base or precious. It would be a pity.
The greatness of this country, in my opinion, and I'm sure you would
agree with me, is its diversity, its great variety. And I think
today more and more people are proud of the individuality as people
V or as groups, as ethnic groups. After all is said and done, what
is America? A nation of immigrants. For all of us have contributed
something to the nature and essence of what we call America.
The Russian German people have contributed their part through some
of their traditions. And I would like to review with you a little
bit something of the character and internal essence of what is a
German Russian or a Russian German.
Dr. Stumpp, in his book, THE GERMAN RUSSIANS, pointed out the four
or five different qualities that he thought described the German
He said they were industrious, hard-working. They were a people
that were striving, trying to get ahead. They were people who were
modest and unassuming in their general bearing and yet proud of
their achievements. They were a people with a deeply religious soul.
This characterized the Russian Germans whether from the Volga or
from the Black Sea) deeply religious people. They were a people
who were also a progressive people which is indicated by the fact
that in Russia the most prosperous, the most beautiful villages
were German Russian villages. This is already recognized by Czar
Alexander 11 when he visited the colonies in the early pioneer period,
around 1816 and 1817.
I would like just briefly, therefore, to supplement some of these
words that Dr. Stumpp very briefly indicated in his book. I am impressed
in my research of our forefathers. First of all, by one quality
which characterizes every immigrant, namely the spirit of enterprise.
After all, to uproot your- self from your homeland requires a good
deal of courage, a good deal of determination. It's not an easy
thing to do. When our people uprooted themselves from the banks
of the Rhine they moved into the unknown, eighteen hundred and even
up to two thousand and more miles. It is this spirit of adventure
in the good sense, you have to have something of the spirit of adventure
to leave your home for good. These people never had any hope of
ever returning again after all. This spirit of enterprise was demonstrated
~ already in the exodus when they left Europe, left their homeland.
It was demonstrated on that long and fateful trek from Germany,
from the banks of the Rhine to the shores of the Black Sea and greater
than that, of course, to the shores of the Volga.
Sometimes I think we have no clear conception of what such a journey
meant. The evidence shows that this journey required three and a
half to four months. Now, that's a long time on the road with your
wife and family, in the summer, fall weather, rainstorm. It was
very poor transportation. But that's a fact. It was a four month
trip if you went overland. It was even longer if you took the water
way, the Danube. Unfortunately, we don't have records of the dangers
and hazards of the overland trip, how many people may have perished,
died along the way. But the Danube journey was one of the most dangerous,
fated journeys probably ever taken by immigrants.
When we come to consider it took them longer to go from home to
Odessa than it took Columbus to cross the Pacific, It was more dangerous.
I don't recall how many men Columbus lost on his three ships, but
we do know that in 1817 1300 immigrants perished in the mouth of
the Danube. And they were buried in reeds and grass, in mass graves.
This same spirit of enterprise, of course, was exhibited in the
early Pioneer years. Imagine arriving from a vast steppe and not
a home or a place to live. The Russians hadn't prepared anything
for them. They put them up in these wattle huts. People had to literally
dig in or die, dig or die dugouts made in the earth, covered with
more earth for a roof for the shelter.
And then a couple years later there was a heavy death toll in some
of those colonies. To start, cultivating must start, with wooden
plows of the most wretched variety, the most wretched kind of wooden
plow, must have taxed the strength of not only the horses but of
the poor men who had to tear up that soil with these poor wretched
plows. Now these people had hope, they had endurance and perseverance.
In a few years, not very many years, they had established themselves
in better homes. By 1822, they had invented a better plow, an iron
plow. It didn't take too long to finally get the colonist houses
of stone in many places. They got rid of these earth houses and
built houses of stone.
I'm not going to go into the story of the progress through a hundred
years of the development. I'll just point out a few things. They
introduced new methods of farming, crop rotation, new breeds of
cattle. The planting of trees was a great big enterprise. And around
1840 every German village could be identified by the bank of trees
around the village, around the home.
Our German Russians had another characteristic. They were soul-minded,
law-abiding people. There are many records in the villages, of village
discipline, village order. But I assure you, it was no wild west
in Russia. Our people didn’t develop a wild west, you know,
gunslinging and killing, and so on. It was remarkable how calm people,
despite all kinds of problems, lived even in the pioneer period.
It was remarkably hard to relax. We don't think of it much. They
were probably trying to drown their homesickness in vodka. But on
the whole, there were no major crimes. In going through old records
find that there was one case where two German colonists broke into
the head office, the colonist office at Odessa, and stole some money.
They were sentenced to life imprisonment in Siberia. This was a
terrible, sever punishment.
But there is one thing that is remarkable about our people in Russia.
Around 1840 a German colonist was convicted of murder, killed a
man. A wall of grief and sorrow and shock went through all the German
colonies from the Volga to the Black Sea to the Crimea. The colonists
were stunned that any one of their number should have committed
a serious crime, a crime like murder. It never happened before,
it was the first time. Discipline was one of the strong characteristics
of all the colonies. The mayor of the village strictly enforced
the laws and the people had to obey. They were fined or given labor
sentences, common labor. And through the decades this developed
in the German colonists, men and women, of discipline, or order.
There were no youth problem. Obedience was taken for granted by
the young people. There was no generation gap. Children knew their
Another quality which I find predominant and very significant in
our German Russian people, basically they were a conservative people.
This is indicated by the fact that they preserved their dialect
and language almost pure, with the exception of some Russian words
they added, for over 150 years, basically kept their mother tongue.
It is also indicated by the fact that those traditions which they
brought with them from Germany, those customs were also faithfully
restrained, one generation after the other. Whether it was they
way they made sausage, the way they sang their folk songs, they
way they danced, or celebrated their feast days or festivals. This
was tradition, this was a ritual. The most amazing thing I discovered
in my research was that the young people were responsible for preserving
this culture. By young, I mean people in their teens, unmarried
for preserving this culture. By young, I mean people in their teens,
unmarried young people in their teens, late teens, or 18-20. They
were the ones who kept up the festivals, the folk festivals, the
folk songs. It was no the old people. Of course, they learned it
from the old people, but they were the ones who kept them up from
one generation to the other.
That may seem a bit amazing to us today that the bearers of tradition
should be the young people. We usually associate tradition with
the old. But the fact is that young people gathered on the street
corners and sang their songs which they heard from their fathers.
They learned these songs from one generation to the next. There
was no generation gap as far as tradition was concerned.
The other thing that amazes me is the wealth of tradition. You
know, the colonists came from Germany. They were poor, I mean really
poor. They eventually had no money. They got loans, you know, they
were loans for getting established. But they were rich in one thing,
not only rich in the spirit, they had an interior wealth of tradition
and custom which helped them over the difficulties which they faced,
the hardships that they endured.
Another quality which I find most fascinating is that our people,
by and large, were a very sociable people. They had to be, practically.
After all, they were limited in their abilities, sort of an isolation
from the Russian people. They formed kind of a compact, unified
community. Their sociability, carried on over 150 years, is seen
in the fact that they delighted to be in company. They loved company.
It’s sort of a Russian German proverb, “If you don’t
have company, you go to company.” Well, what about this? Well,
it was a lively gay affair, unorganized, people got together to
chat, talked, but they also sang, drank some wine, sometimes ate,
told stories. They loved to tell stories.
It has struck me, again and again, among the older generation,
hardly living any more today, not many. I’ve often been amazed
about the gift of storytelling that many of our people had, men
and women. It’s an art, you know. Not everyone can tell a
story. But they were good storytellers. Maybe they became so good
because they told their stories so often.
Well, this was pretty typical of our people, this art of storytelling.
As far as the young people are concerned, they had one weakness,
or shall I call it a strength. Now, our young people in Russia were
probably the greatest pranksters and tricksters that you can imagine.
They were always up to tricks. It was a form of amusement, I mean
nothing harmful, like burning down somebody’s haystack. You
were escaping boredom, you know, you had to do something. There
wasn’t too much to do in these villages, I mean, there were
no organized ball games or anything. It became much of a tradition
that a prank was sort of fair play. You couldn’t take it out
on anyone if they played a trick on you, as long as you didn’t
do any damage or harm.
So, a typical trick might be for young people to break into somebody’s
hen house and steal a couple chickens and maybe into a pantry and
get a ham. And then have a party, a feed, a get-together and fry
the chickens and have a little party. But the owner of this property
was always invited. He was informed in the course of the meal where
the chicken and the ham and the eggs came from. We, he put on a
good face and enjoyed the compliments. He didn’t take it out
them. it was sort of a democracy, you know, from a democratic level,
“Okay, you played a trick on me. I may get back on you.”
And sometimes it backfired on these tricks. There was one good
example of that in the colony of Strassburg, in Baden. The fellows
from Strassburg had planned to steal some beef. You slaughter in
the fall. They were going to steal some beef from a nearby town
only about a half mile away, three quarters of a mile away, and
they went somewhere, stole a few chunks of beef.
The boys of Baden, they didn't call them gangs, they were groups
of fellows, had gotten wind of this plan of the Strassburg fellows
and they took away the beef and substituted a freshly slaughtered
whippet, a hunting dog. The Strassburg boys got it home, fried it,
and cooked it, and enjoyed the meal until they found out that they
were eating dogmeat, which led to the nickname for the Strassburgers
which remains to this day, dog eaters.
Another thing that characterized our people was their love of laughter,
and they had also a weakness for jibes and criticism or teasing.
They loved to tease. Nicknames were so common that almost everybody
in the community had some kind of nickname, most of them not in
There was a certain amount of opposition and rivalry between two
villages. This was caused, I think, largely by the fact that the
boys from one village would try to court the girls in the next village,
and those boys would send them back, so there was quite a bit of
animosity sometimes from village to village. It was pretty harmless,
it was expressed mostly in words, not in actions. For example, little
rhymes started circulating, ridiculing
some of the towns, usually one or two. There was one that was rather
There were six villages down in the Kutschurgan area, very close
together. There was a windmill that was always whistling. In the
morning it would start up with a whistle that could be heard allover
the colony. (Here he tells rhyme in German.)
Now, there was a certain amount of rivalry between Lutheran and
Catholic villages that were in the same colonies. The typical nickname
for the Lutherans, given them, of course, but the Catholics was
“(German phrase.)” But the enjoinder back for the Catholics
“(German phase,) meaning they were illiterate, they had to
use a cross to sign their name. Of course, they had nicknames for
the Russian, you know, and the Russians had nicknames for the German
colonists, potato eaters. The German said the Russians were cabbage
You see, our German Russian people didn't have the opportunity
to buy amusement. They had to create it themselves and sometimes
it was a little rough. They tried their best to create some amusement,
particularly in the village.
Our people were a peace-loving people. In fact, that's one of the
reasons why they left Germany. Because, as I said, there were wars
and revolutions, and what have you. They came to Russia because
they were promised peace. At least they didn't have to serve in
the Army, but were given freedom from military service.
Our people did not like war. They refused to fight for Napoleon,
during Napoleon's campaigns, Spain and so on. Young fellows just
ran away. They are a peace loving people. They are people of whom
it has been said, in Russia, that they opposed war because it was
a waste of time and a waste of resources. It was not because they
were cowards. They had shown enough courage in peace time without
having to demonstrate it in war time.
There was a fine saying which was written on inscription in one
of the colonies in Bessarabia, "Not with the sword, conquer
with the plow, children of peace, heroes of work." And I think
those words pretty well sum up the philosophy of the German Russian
people: work, not war; plow, not the sword.
Now, I'm not going to depict our people as saints or anything of
the kind. They had their weaknesses and I could spend a couple of
hours just on go these. Our people were, not the women, I'm talking
about the men, didn't want to go to war. But they didn't mind a
darn good fight, you know, occasionally, in town on the streets,
you know. In particularly they enjoyed altercation with the Russians.
Those were the Russian peasants. Usually it took at least three
to stand up against one (German) colonist. As it was pointed out
by a German traveler who visited Russia in 1838, the Russian peasant
was not a scrapper.
I've already pointed out that our people were religious. I should
add, to fill out the picture, they were also quite superstitious.
It was not the same thing as being religious. They had all kinds
of funny beliefs about the weather, and about the crops, and all
kinds of remedies for sicknesses and diseases and so on.
Practically every grandmother had at least 20 or 30 rhymes to cure
practically anything, you know. But I don't know how seriously you
took it. Frankly, I think it was just another kind of game, just
another distraction. They made a few pennies, a few kopecks, for
the service. It didn't give you any harm, a lot of it didn't do
much good for some of the ailments, but they were very superstitious
in many respects.
But that does not deter from the fact that they were a deeply religious
people. The extent of evidence is impressive when you consider that
even the smallest and poorest village had a very beautiful church.
And the fact that the church was always in the center of the village,
a landmark with a towering steeple pointing to heaven, indicated
what philosophy these people had. On the other hand, when the Communists
came in and lopped off the church steeples, cut off all the steeples,
this, to our people, was a sacrilege and an obvious evident sign
of an anti-religious, godless, act, the fact that they removed the
bells, regardless of their significance.
There's another fact. After all, to hear the bells ringing three
times a day through the village summoning people to work or to prayer,
one of the joyful things, and now the villages were dead. There
was no ringing of bells. The Sunday was observed by our people with
an almost real and unorthodox due in Russia, whether Lutheran or
Catholic. You could do no work whatever on Sundays of any kind except
eating, which probably wasn't considered work. You were not permitted
to use a needle, or hammer, thread. You were not permitted to sew
on a button. This was considered desecrating a Sunday. Very many
of our people in this country in the early years, in the pioneer
period, were likewise very strict about Sundays..
I have a little story for you which combines, or at least illustrates,
this point about being very religious on Sunday. Also with a bit
of superstition about what could happen to you if you don't sanctify
the Sabbath. I'm going to give this story in dialect form. And for
those of you who don't understand my dialect which is Alsatian,
I'll just briefly summarize a little bit about the story without
giving away the whole point of it.
Trinity Sunday was considered by the Catholic people, and I believe
also by the Lutheran people, to be the greatest Sunday of the year,
Trinity Sunday, especially sacred. And on Monday, two men were out
fishing, the Monday after Trinity Sunday, they go out fishing. And
after trying for a few hours they had no luck.
One of them just started swearing his head off, you know, no luck,
so he started swearing. The other man complained, said, "What
are you swearing for? It won't do you any good." And all of
a sudden a storm comes up. A very heavy thunderstorm, lighting storm.
And the other man with him is very religious. He gets a bit frightened
and confesses now to his friend, "You know, yesterday I sewed
on a button."
The other man says, "What! You desecrated a Sunday yesterday,
sewing on a button. You just desecrated Monday by swearing. Why
did you do that?" And finally he says, "Throw those pants
into the water, into the river, and get rid of that curse, the storm!"
He does so and they had a good catch of fish. Then he was happy.
(Here he tells the story in German.)
Well, I suppose if you can get used to the dialect, the story's
pretty funny. I'm sorry if some of you didn't get all of it. They
say you can never translate a joke.
When I think of it, the old people had a whole repertoire of jokes.
Many of them were a little crude, maybe, but our people were farmers
and had no inhibitions really about, I wouldn't say obscene or blasphemous,
jokes. I can give you a good example of that. Our people are pretty
frank and outspoken and honest. I mean there was no pretense of
being something that you aren't.
This is a true story about a Bishop who was the first son of a
colonist to become Bishop of the diocese, which was the second largest
diocese in the world. The Bishop retired from office around 1901
and retired in the Crimea, later in Odessa, because of his health.
Later he came to the village of Selz. This was under the Communist
domination. But he was no longer committed to exercise any Episcopal
functions. He'd rather be a private individual. He was a stately
man, six foot three, six foot four inches tall, and walked with
great dignity down the streets. And people would bow to him, kiss
his hand as was the custom.
And one day while he was at home, an elderly lady came to knew
him quite well. And she started complaining about how much work
she had to do, how hard life was. In particularly because she had
to get up so early in the morning. The Bishop consoled her, I suppose,
comforted her a bit. He told her about an old German proverb.
(Here he goes on to tell several stories in German.)
Our German Russian people were the most persecuted people in all
of Russia in the last 160 years. Just about the saddest chapters
in the history of our people is that after the pain, prosperity,
wealth, beautiful homes, beautiful villages, everything started
to crumble, everything started to fall by the power of the Communists
and finally to disintegrate into nothing. This is a terribly tragic
thing when you consider that all they had built up through their
hard work, after all those years, to see everything go to ruin,
every- thing destroyed.
The story of those 50 years under Communism has not yet been written.
I tried in five chapters in my book to give some idea of what really
went on. First of all, before the Communist revolution in World
War I, there was already a certain Russian animosity against the
German people. They were forbidden to speak German on the streets,
to speak German in public, forbidden to publish their newspapers.
At the same time, German colonists sons were fighting in the front,
in the Russian army. Then came the revolution. Here was now where
the Germans became the great enemy of the Communists. Why? Because
so many German colonists and colonies were well to do.
They had horses, they had cows, they had sheep, they had nice homes.
They had lots of grain, they had lots of food. So when the Russians
started, rounding up food, breaking in to homes, the first ones
to suffer were our people. They were robbed and plundered from attic
to cellar so that in 1920 they didn't have enough seed to plant
their crop. And, of course, you know what happened, the great famine
that struck down millions of Russians and hundreds of thousands
of Germans. That was just the beginning of their hard- ships and
of their peril. When Stalin was in power he took away all their
grain, all their cattle, all their goods, and made them slaves of
a big collective institution.
Now, can you imagine our people who were free farmers, independent
farmers, for 150 or more years, suddenly confronted by such a situation
where they didn't own a cow, didn't own a horse. When you come to
think of it, our German people in the colonies had beautiful horses,
had fine cattle, and to lose all that.
But that was not yet the worst. The next came when Stalin decided
to get rid of the kulaks, at that time, the rich men, anybody who
owned two horses and a cow and a few acres of land, to get rid of
the kulaks as enemies of the state. And how did they get rid of
them? Not by proper legal process, by trial, by death sentence.
No, there was no trial. The kind of procedure was very simple for
the Russians. They came, simply, into the house, and arrested the
men. Always, but always, at night, at midnight, but never in the
daytime. They'd haul the man out of bed, gave him 30 minutes, 25
minutes, to get dressed, get his clothes together, and enough food
for two or three weeks. He was hauled off without having the opportunity
to say goodbye to his sleeping children. The neighbors were not
He was taken to the local jail. The next morning or very soon after,
they'd get transportation on cattle cars, and he, with hundreds
of others, were shipped to the unknown. Many of them never again
returned. Their family never knew where they were, whether they
were alive or dead. Many of them served for 15 or 20 years in slave
labor camps to come back, their house ruined, to meet perhaps their
family, if their relatives were alive.
And this was going on on such a vast scale allover Russia that
it's estimated that 20 million people, Russians and others, were
in the slave labor camps at the peak of Stalin's career. How many
millions died? That's never been published of course in Russia,
but a good estimation is that at least 15 million of these people
died in those camps. This was one of the most atrocious, one considered
the most disastrous and atrocious crimes against humanity in modern
You always think of Hitler's gas chambers. I'm not for a moment
saying that isn't the most horrible, but Stalin did his crime against
his own people, against his own nation. And the German people certainly
had their, more than their share, of suffering in this period. But
that was not the end of the road, of the long, long road of suffering,
because after the war, when hundreds and thousands were cleaned
out of Russia, leaving their homes behind, leaving their cattle
behind, bringing the rest in their wagons the way the pioneers had
come 120-140 years earlier. On another 3-month trek, some of them
2- and 3-months trek, trying to get back to Germany.
They had a loss of life on that road from disease, from cold and
hunger, going through enemy territory, unfriendly territory, unfriendly
countries and neighbors, and then, to make this long trek and find
out that it was all in vain. Of the 300,000 that left the Ukraine
to try to get back to Germany, only 70,000 made it. The others were
caught by the Russian army under the promise that they would be
sent back to their colonies. Not one was sent back. They were all
sent to Siberia, to Central Asia, scattered, like the dust before
the wind. All of our people in eastern Russia are very scattered,
far and wide, over a territory twice the size of the USA, more than
twice the size.
We had, in the Ukraine, maybe five and a half percent farmers.
That was about the only thing around, grain farmers less than ten
percent. At least eighty percent of our people are living in towns
and villages, or cities and towns, as carpenters, craftsmen, truck
drivers, and so on. They had to make quite a transformation. They
no longer lived in individual communities where they have any kind
of community at all. They had no churches for them available, and
they no longer had their own school system.
So this has been a terrible blow to our people. However, they are
living a little better than they did under Stalin. They are no longer
starving. They're working hard for their living. Both the man and
the woman have to work to support a family. These are some of the
*** Here the tape was removed and a new one started. Please see
Tape #33. A small portion was missed when someone at the convention
changed tapes.) ***
The Soul of the German Russians
By Dr. Joseph S. Height
September 23, 1973
Transcription of the tape presented at the North Dakota
Historical Society of Germans from Russia Convention, Bismarck,
Transcription completed by Monica Dearing Sumner, Washington,
(A small portion was missed when a new tape was put into the recorder
at the convention.)
……the history of our people in Russia and our people
in this country for present and future generations.
It would be a pity if, after another 50 years or so, if hardly
anybody would be able to know or say much of anything about our
people. It is all the more important because the Communists have,
for the last 50 years, been making an attempt to erase and irradicate
and obliterate the whole history of yours and my people in Russia.
There isn't a single Russian book published that ever mentions
the German colonists of the Volga or the Black Sea. You can look
up the biggest, best encyclopedia, and look up Odessa, and you won't
find a single reference in that encyclopedia of 20 volumes. You
won't find a single line about the German Russian people. The names
of all the German villages and colonies in South Russia and on the
Volga have been completely renamed. Even the former Russian names
have been dropped. The German ones are no longer in evidence anywhere.
There is evidence in the Ukraine, or South Russia, that gravestones
were removed from most of the cemeteries for building purposes.
In a large colony like Selz of 3,000 people, a woman who has visited
this colony says, "Today, it is a pasture for cows."
Now, it seems pretty terrible when you contemplate that people
who have spent their sweat, blood and tears for 160 years in a country
and contributed so much to the economy of the country, that their
very name should be obliterated for all time.
I, and I'm sure our society, feels a moral obligation to our ancestors
who are dead, to our people who are still living, that the history
of our people dare not be extinguished, mutilated, but must be preserved,
if not in Russia, at least in the rest of the world, as much as
And it is with this intention that I have published my book. It
was with this intention. I could not bear to see that all of this
history should go down the drain and perish. Therefore, we who are
gathered here have a serious purpose. Everyone can do something
to help preserve our history. Any document, any paper, any photo,
any book, pertaining to our people should be made known to the Society
and, if possible, eventually given to the Society. This should be
done before it is too late. I know from various places that a lot
of material has been lost and destroyed and forgotten and mislaid
that would be very useful to us, if not in the near future but in
future years. And after all, it is for the honor of our people and
it is for the honor of the living generation today.
A great poet wrote the following four lines which I'm going to
read to you in translation:
Happy the man who fondly thinks of his forebears
Who likes to tell the willing listeners the tale
Of their achievements and greatness
And is proud to see himself a link in the beautiful chain.
Another thought: Courtesy past and courtesy present depends upon
your life! Your ancestors thank you, existing and striving. Your
ascendants carry on your aspirations and yearnings. And between
the two, you ought to preserve and enhance what you have inherited:
A valuable link in the unending chain!
I thank you.
END OF TAPE.