"OST-WEST-DIALOG." Magazine for Germans from Russia, 1997, 33-35.
Perhaps the director of kolkhoz "Put' k Communism" Yakov Gettinger surpassed the authority delegated to him by the governing committee. When after completing a historical study, he insisted on building a monument in each of the three neighboring villages - Ivanovka, Sosnovka, and Matveevka, - monuments dedicated to the memory of Russians of German descent, victims of repression perpetrated by Stalin and his government. But who can blame him? Even today these three monuments are the only ones dedicated to German victims of Soviet repression in all the countries of the former Soviet Union outside of Russia. Today Yakov Gettinger resides in Germany. He still spends a lot of time researching the archives in hope of bringing to light the fate of his people in the former Soviet Union. The following article was written by him.
The idea of putting up monuments dedicated to the memory of my fellow Germans in Russia came to me a long time ago. As a teenager I had heard plenty of horror stories, told by the lucky survivors, describing the fate of Germans during the 1930's. When during the 60's the political situation became a little better, the officials were still reluctant to publicize the events of the thirties. Moreover, the official "rehabilitation" was carried out without any publicity. Such publicity was discouraged as it was deemed unproductive by the government. But among the people personally involved the interest in bringing the whole truth to light never subsided. Early 90's brought the first opportunity to do so.
I started out by collecting personal information about the victims, and never thought that the number of victims in the three villages would be greater than 50 or 60. The result of my investigation, however, revealed the following: during the 30's the number of German families in the village of Ivanovka was around 43, while Sosnovka and Matveevka each had 30. Each household had lost 2 or more of its members to the repression. The total for the three villages is 139 victims.
This number includes those who were sentenced to death by the government and executed, as well as those who lost their lives in other, no less horrific ways. For instance, young Germans, age 14 and 15, were subjected to mandatory labor in the mines. They were given no training and naturally a lot of them succumbed to accidents. I must note that this took place while the official policy mandated a period of training as well as the minimum age seventeen.
Now the late Daniel Schaber told me the following story: As a young man he was called to the harvesting in the North Kazakhstan. Later all these people, 32 persons, were sent to the timber cutting in Cheljabinsk. After one year only seven people were alive. The others died from cold, because in the first winter they were not given any warm clothes.
The people from all districts gave careful consideration to determine a choice of sites for the Monuments. Fortunately everybody came to the conclusion that it was a wrong place for Monuments near the cultural hall. It was better to put up the Monuments at the cemetery, where the bodies of our ancestors lay.
After the stones for the Monuments were found, we decided that only one side of stones must be engraved. The other three sides were left untouched. There was a simple concept to our project. On the engraved sides of the Monuments in Sosnovka and Ivanovka, the words of a famous German poet were inscribed. On Matveevka's monument the phrase from the Holy Scripture, "Nobody who sets hope upon God will perish" was carved. The three rough sides of Monuments symbolized harsh, barbarous conditions in which the Russian Germans involuntarily lived and died.
Nobody, who became the victim of Stalin's genocide against Russian Germans, should be forgotten. The old authorities tried to make everything appear in order, so people in the former USSR don't know about our innocent executed ancestors. The new authorities "kindly permitted" to publish these facts. For us it is not so important to repeat again and again that Stalin, Berija and old Empire are guilty. It is much more important to remember the names of all executed people. To remember everybody who were accused of preparations for "armed revolt", when there was only one or two hand guns in the whole village; anyone was charged with being a spy of English-Japanese secret service, when there was only one telephone in the village.
Here is the story about the rehabilitation of members of Dering's family. We learned about these facts from the documents received by Alvina Dering from regional authorities.
"It was discovered during the investigation that your father, F.F. Dering, was arrested on June 28, 1934. He was accused of being involved in anti-Soviet propaganda whose goal was to destroy the collective farms. He was sentenced to three years in jail."
"F.F.Dering was arrested again on 16 April, 1938 and was accused of being a member of a rebel group directed by German agency. He was sentenced to death and was shot on 16 October, 1938. His burial place is unknown."
"On September 18, 1962 the Tribunal of Turkistan Region issued a document recognizing that F.F.Dering was actually innocent. The official rehabilitation has been sent to your mother."
"Your uncle, T.F.Dering, was arrested on April 16, 1938 on the accusation of being an agent of German secret service in 1926. He was shot on October 26, 1938. His burial place is unknown. The document about his rehabilitation was sent to his wife on July 1, 1961."
"Your uncle, I.F.Dering was shot on October 13, 1938. . . The document about his rehabilitation was sent to his son G.I. Dering on July 19, 1962."
During War time when all people suffered immensely, German families suffered twice. The public opinion considered them the enemies. According to a Stalin decree, all German women whose children were at least three years old were immediately recruited to the so-called labor army. The authorities didn't care what could happen with these children. More often the children were given to the orphanages for upbringing.
Let all these crimes remain on the conscience of voluntary and forced killers. Near these Monuments we expressed only our sympathy, respect, gratitude and sorrow. The Monument in the Sosnovka village is visible from a long distance. Not only symbolical epitaph was placed there, but also a cross with bell on the high concrete supports. A cross is a symbol of our Christian religion, the bell reminds the people that they should have a compassion for others.
Our fellow-villager made a significant donation for this project. The children from the village helped in this task as well. The school children from the village, Ivanovka, interviewed all village homes and compiled the lists of people executed during the genocide. Of course, these lists were later supplemented and indexed; but each name immortalized on the Monuments in Sosnovka, Ivanovka and Matveevka became known, thanks to our young helpers.
Not only Germans live in our villages. Everybody voluntarily participated in the fundraising for the Monuments. People donated money and building materials. People from other villages asked for advice how to start the same project in their region.
We observe the Memorial Day for German victims of repression on 28 August. On 28 August, 1993, the mourning meetings and civil funerals took place in three villages. Although the official documents say "the places of burial are unknown", we decided to consider the cemeteries in the villages, where these people grew up and later were forced to exile, as the memorial places to remember them. I know that not all names of German victims have been found. To remember all these victims is our duty and probably the only way to really rehabilitate them.
It is very sad that our three modest Monuments are the only memorial places to commemorate the tragic fate of all ethnic Germans who lived in the former Soviet Republic (except Russia).
This is the way, by remembering our fellow villagers, we also give a tribute to thousands of other ethnic Germans who became victims of the Soviet totalitarism.
Translation from Russian to English by Natalya Kornfeld, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Libraries, Fargo
Reprinted with permission of Ost-West-Dialog