Southern California Chapter Hosts German Delegation

By Margaret Aman Freeman, Redondo Beach, California

Redondo Beach, California
August 1, 2003

On August 1, a sunny day at the banks of the Pacific Ocean, the Southern California Chapter, American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR)-International hosted an official delegation of the German government. Honored guests were: Jochen Welt, Federal Ministry of the Interior, responsible for matters related to repatriates and national minorities in Germany, Klaus Pöhle, director general of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, and Dr. Alexander Schumacher, Referent. They were accompanied by Dr. Hans Jürgen Wendler, Consular General of Los Angeles.

Jochen Welt is a member of the Deutscher Bundestag and is responsible for ethnic Germans in the former Soviet Union migrating to Germany. Since 1989, close to three million ethnic Germans have immigrated to Germany from Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Siberia, and other former Soviet states. His office is responsible for many economic, educational and cultural projects in the former Soviet Union.

The German entourage was greeted by the national colors of the United States and Germany prominently displayed as the dignitaries entered the driveway, setting the tone of mutual interest and respect. The reception for the delegation at the Freeman home in Redondo Beach included welcoming statements, a receiving line, a toast to our future of communication and cooperation, and a group picture.

Bob and Margaret Aman Freeman, as hosts, welcomed the group, and in conjunction with the Glückstal Colonies Research Association and the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, presented the delegation with copies of Glückstal Kolonien Geburten und Eheschließungen, 1833-1900, Glückstal Kolonien Todesfälle, 1833-1900.

Al Hart, president of the Southern California Chapter, AHSGR-I, extended a welcome on behalf of the Southern California Chapter and brought greetings from Ed Hoak, international president of AHSGR-I.

Bob Benson, president of the California District Council, AHSGR-I, welcomed the group on behalf of the California District Council and the California Chapters of AHSGR-I. Bob described the mission of AHSGR-I and followed with a review of the agricultural contribution of the early German Russian immigrants to California, and the movement of successive generations into the professions and business. The SOAR Project and its successes was also described and the successful North American program of village coordinators.

Bob asked the Germans to consider making archival records in Germany more accessible for research suggesting a corollary benefit of encouraging tourism into Germany. He invited the participation of these German guests at the upcoming Modesto Convention in 2004. In conclusion, Bob presented a bottle of Bogle, a wine from Clarksburg in Northern California, to each member of the delegation produced by a descendant of German immigrants to the golden state, California.

At this point, Arthur Flegel led the group in a toast to future communication and increased cooperation on our common goals, concluding with the singing of "Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit."

Arthur Flegel then used a large reproduction of the Stumpp map showing the settlement of Germans from Russia in the United States to illustrate the extent to which Germans from Russia descendants have spread out in our country.

He shared a handout he had created to describe the immigration to the USA by Germans from Russia 1850-1914, and he showed examples of various newspapers published by the Germans from Russia groups from Europe and Russia. He spoke of the founding of AHSGR, the formation of GRHS, the development of the Germans from Russia societies, the membership growth, our publishing ventures, and our future plans. He concluded with the idea that all of us in South America, North America, and east to Russia are still Germans from Russia ethnically and culturally.

Mr. Welt's talk in German, with the aid of an interpreter, centered on their people to people approach, the hope for future cooperation, and an awareness of each other's programs, and the future exploration of ways to work together he expressed gratitude for this beginning and the hospitality showed to them.

Present for the occasion were the hosts, Bob and Margaret Freeman, local chapter members: Al & Marion Hart, Dave and Barbara Horn, Gary & Betty Schlaht, Pastor Rhinehold Klein, out-of-town guests: Arthur and Cleo Flegel, Bob and Marge Benson, and out-of state guest, Ed Wagner of Oregon.

The group was in Washington, D. C., on July 28-29, 2003, where they metwith representatives of the federal government. On July 30, 2003, in North Dakota they met with Governor John Hoeven and staff. The German officials visited the North Dakota Heritage Center. They also toured the building of the Germans from Russia Heritage Society in Bismarck and met with GRHS President Al Feist and other dignitaries. The Bismarck-Mandan Development Association hosted the delegation at lunch.

At Strasburg, ND, they visited historic sites including the Lawrence Welk Homestead, Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, and the nearby iron cross cemetery meeting with Father Leonard Eckroth and local historian, Albert Feist. State Senator Robert Erbele hosted the group at the Lehr Tabernacle Campgrounds and at his Buffalo Ranch north of Lehr, ND.

On July 31, 2003, at North Dakota State University, Fargo, they visited the new Research Technology Park, the Northern Crops Institute, and the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection. Staff at Prairie Public Television met with them to discuss cooperative documentary projects on the history and culture of the Germans from Russia.

All in all, they had a very busy five days.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller