Born in Neu-Baden, Odessa
Geboren in Neu-Baden, Odessa
About the Author
Eva Kiefer was born on September 9, 1909, in Neu-Baden, Odessa, and died on March 12, 1994, in Koblenz-Guells. We received this article from her son Peter Kiefer, who in his office as chair of the local organization in Koblenz continues to be active in the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland.
My ancestors go directly back to Schwabia, those of my husband to the area of Weissenburg in North Alsace. At the beginning of the 19th century they settled as farmers in the area near Odessa. In March of 1869, when my father Wendelin Schlosser was merely six weeks old, he moved with his parents from Baden in Ukraine further north into the steppes, where a new settlement with the name Neu-Baden had been founded. (At the time the Baden settlement had existed for 50 years on the Kutchurgan-Limanski, a tributary to the Dnjestr River.) The South-Ukrainian Black Sea steppe was settled quite sparsely; there were few Russian villages and baronial estates, i.e., farms of the Russian agricultural nobility. Thus it was relatively easy to move out of the mother colonies and establish daughter colonies.
Customs and mores from the old home, the mother tongue and religion were carefully maintained and preserved. There was hardly any mixing, by marriage or otherwise. The German and Russian villages kept to themselves and so did the Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran ones. That is why I still speak the dialect preserved by my ancestors. It consists of components from a variety of dialects that were brought together from Mother's and Father's sides and passed on within the family and villages.
In my village school I had been a good student and was able to continue to one further stage of schooling. However, 1917 brought about not only the Soviet October Revolution and thereby the end of the Tsarist regime, but also the forceful transformation of political, economical and spiritual life, reaching even as far as the German settlement areas.
For years my father had been village mayor and, among other things, made sure that the position of village teacher was filled every year. After the regional administration had failed to approve a teacher for the autumn of 1921 to spring of 1922, he publicly spoke up at a community council meeting and dared to voice his doubts about the Soviet policy on schools. He was imprisoned for four months, beaten half to death, and in September died of complications from his mistreatment.
When the Bolsheviks had taken up power and had more or less established their Soviet system, all private property, particularly privately owned land, was put under state control. Many farmers were persecuted as "kulaks" and chased away.
In 1930 I married into the village of Alexanderfeld, but within my church community. Only two years later my husband Ludwig was condemned as the son of a kulak and banned for four years to a work camp. His banishment took him to the estuary region of the Petchora River (Barent Lake), to work in the woods felling trees and then in the infamous coal mining area of Vorkuta. Two of his brothers were condemned to work camps in 1938 and were lost without trace. Subsequent to my husband's return -- our first two children had both died at about two years of age -- we were forced to make a living essentially as illegals (lacking residence and work permits).
Following the occupation of parts of Ukraine by the German Army we were able to return in 1942 to our property in Alexanderfeld, which by now was quite dilapidated. Being at home we were now able to take care of ourselves, at least making sure that hunger, our worst evil to that point, became a thing of the past. Gradually and haltingly, the village was able to revive cultural aspects of life, including church services, school, and feasts such as weddings and consecration of the church.
In the spring of 1944, our German villages began to be evacuated ahead of the approaching front. On two huge treks we were moved in a northwesterly, upriver direction along the Danube and resettled in the Warthegau, reaching the county of Wollstein southwest of Posen [today called Poznan]. Families on the trek traveled on via horse-drawn wagons that, except for seating for children and the elderly, there was hardly any room on them for our possessions. And after three months of arduous trudging on foot and on muddy roads with frequent rainfall, we received an order from the accompanying Wehrmacht soldiers. The wagons and animals were to be left at a collection center, and the rest of the transport toward the Warthegau would be on freight train. In the Warthegau, Polish residents were simply driven from their properties to provide living space for the "resettlers." January of 1945 then brought the further order for everyone to evacuate the Warthegau to move on westward toward the "Old Reich."
Together with my children Peter, Anton, Emma and Hans, I took flight via Bentschen toward Germany; my husband had been temporarily inducted to dig trenches and therefore was not with us at the time. However, he was able to locate us along the path of our far-flung flight, near Berlin and Jueterbog. On February 25, 1945, I gave birth to our son Wendelin in the Jueterbog hospital. Only eight days following the birth we continued further westward. We reached Himbergen west of the Elbe; my siblings, along with their families, remained on the eastern side of the Elbe.
In accordance with the Allied agreements of Yalta and Potsdam, the Soviet Union had the right to take back their prisoners of war nationals and any civilian nationals. Commissioners of the Red Army searched for Russian citizens in all regions controlled by the Allied troops. Transport trains from collecting camps were put together and took them eastward.
It was from one of these collection camps, though guarded by Soviet soldiers, that we successfully escaped to Hannover in the fall of 1945. We were registered as refugees from Poland in order to avoid danger of being deported again.
According to the provisions of a quota agreement covering the occupied zones, we came to the Rhineland-Palatinate area in 1950. In the agricultural part of the county of Koblenz our family of nine, including my mother, were given two rooms to live in. In 1960, taking advantage of a loan provided by a law granting financial compensation for losses during the war, we were able to move into a house we had built.
And this is how my siblings fared:
-- Agatha, sister, b. 1897, died in 1974 in Karaganda, Kazakhstan. Married to Wendelin Leopoldus, who was "resettled" 1930-1936, arrested in 1938 and eventually disappeared without trace.
-- Rochus, brother, b. 1899, condemned in 1945 to 20 years of work camp and banished to the Urals. Settled in Karaganda following the general amnesty of 1955. Immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, in 1962 along with wife and children. Died 1973.
-- Valentin, brother, b. 1901, died in Siberia in 1959.
-- Albina, sister, b. 1903, died 1964 in Koblenz.
-- Barbara, sister, b. 1906, died 1962 in Koblenz.
-- Antonius, brother, b. 1911. Severely wounded as soldier of the German Army, assumed to have died in a Hungarian field hospital.
-- Ida, sister, b. 1913. Deported from a collection camp east of the Elbe to the Soviet Union in 1945. Condemned to 20 years of work camp in the Urals, settled in Karaganda in 1955 following general amnesty. Immigrated with her only daughter to West Germany in 1982 and currently lives in Wolfsburg. Her husband Michael Leibhan starved to death in 1939.
Of my husband’s six brothers, he himself died in Germany in 1973, two had been banished to a work camp in 1938 and disappeared forever. A younger brother was a German soldier and captured by American forces; in 1976 his wife and three children were permitted to emigrate from Kazakhstan to join him. Two younger brothers still live with their families in Central Asia, and another younger brother immigrated to West Germany along with wife and son from Aktyubinsk, Kazakhstan, in 1989 at the age of 79. My mother-in-law, Katharina Kiefer, nee Krafft, was taken to the East from a collection camp near Teichrode, immediately condemned and later given amnesty. She died in 1972 in Aktyubinsk.
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.