Literature of the Germans From Russia Helping in Defusing Prejudices

Literatur der Deutschen aus Russland Hilft Vorurteile zu Entkraeften

Paulsen, Nina. "Literature of the Germans From Russia Helping in Defusing Prejudices." Volk auf dem Weg, February 2005, 16.

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

Eugen Warkentin, Pastor Edgar Born and Maria Tews Promoting Improved Understanding

For some years now, German-Russian journalist Eugen Warkentin, Pastor Edgar Born, Special Representative for Germans from Russia of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Nordrhein-Westfalien, as well as former teacher Maria Tews, have been presenting readings of German-Russian literature in order to bring recent German immigrants and indigenous Germans closer together. More than fifty times now they have crisscrossed Nordrhein-Westfalien and, using poetry, songs, prose excerpts, and historical insights, they have been promoting better understanding and communication.

During various occasions, such as meetings in Protestant education centers and community houses, in literature cafes, and during the action week "Arrived -- accepted" or the Ev. Church's project "House for Germans from Russia," they have presented the multifaceted nature of German-Russian literature. Their enthusiastic engagement arose from seminars of the Ev. Church concerning the problems of recent German immigrants, to which Eugen Warkentin has often been invited as a contemporary witness. Even before his own immigration, this journalist (who now lives in Dortmund and) worked several years for German-language newspapers in the Soviet Union and traveled throughout the country, always showed a very strong interest in the lives and works of German authors. He personally met and interviewed many of them.

Consistently placed at the center of these encounters between folks from the CIS and indigenous people are benevolent inquiry, mutual understanding, and the search for that which can bind people together. Local Germans often wish to find out why their countrymen even ventured to come here and why they tend to stick to themselves. Recent immigrants attempt to understand why the country of their ancestors and their yearning has become so strange and so cold toward them.

Texts of literature written in German in the Soviet Union often help in understanding the people and their times. "The literature of the German-Russians presents a contemporary witness for this ethnic group, which all too often has become an object of contention between cultures," says Warkentin. The 67-year-old author talks of the lives of authors -- each biography comprises personified history of the ethnic group. And he constantly emphasizes that preserving the German language was by no means a matter of course.

Edgar Born and Eugen Warkentin
During an Evening for Literature

Edgar Born masterfully presents poetry and prose texts, and he makes music. He presents authors spanning times and generations, from the beginnings during prewar times up through the present. "Always a hit are the poetry of Nora Pfeffer, particularly her "Ballade vom Besen [Ballad of a Broom]," poems by Wendelin Mangold and Lora Reimer, as well as the fables of Reinhard Leis. Pastor Born is always trying to stir up enthusiasm for something new," reports Warkentin.

Former teacher in the Siberian Altai region, Maria Tews, knows how to provide interesting glimpses into the works of German authors of that region and into the significance of the German-language press there. Simply because literature and German texts were scarce, newspaper clippings and literature sections from papers such as "Rote Fahne [Red Flag}" and "Neues Leben [New Life" tended to substitute for them.

These literary evenings tend to gather together a mixed audience and various age groups -- usually up to about 30 locals and immigrants. Often the questions come from the ranks of the locals. "Among the Aussiedlern [immigrants] it is not unusual to have contemporary witnesses report about, say, a personal meeting with Victor Klein, and a spontaneous recitation of a poem by this particular poet is recited from memory -- always a minor bit of proof that while German literature may have reached only a small portion of the ethnic group, it was definitely present."

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

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