Celebrating Sixty Years of the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland and Thirty Years of Sponsorship by the State of Baden-Württemberg

Anniversary Celebration in the Liederhalle of Stuttgart

The Editors. "Celebrating Sixty Years of the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland and Thirty Years of Sponsorship by the State of Baden-Württemberg." Volk auf dem Weg, June 2010, 3-5.

Translation from the Original German-language text to American English provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
Getting together following the festive celebration were Stefan Mappus, Minister President of Baden-Württemberg and the perhaps oldest participant of the anniversary celebration, the by now 89-year-old chief editor of Volk auf dem Weg, Johann Kempen.
Adolf Fetsch, national chairman (left) and his deputy, Leontine Wacker, presenting the Golden Needle of Honor to Heribert Reich, Minister of the Interior of Baden-Württemberg

Under the aegis of Stefan Mappus (CDU [Christian Democratic Union party]), minister president of  Baden-Württemberg, the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of its founding and the thirtieth anniversary of continued sponsorship of the Association by the State of Baden-Württemberg.

Festive Evening of Celebration

The Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland was founded in Stuttgart on April 22, 1950 by German Russian representatives of the Ev.-Lutheran, Catholic, Mennonite and Baptist denominations, as well as by other personalities of the ethnic group.

Continuing to this day, as its national chairman Adolf Fetsch remarked in his speech, the Landsmannschaft has been doing full justice to its responsibilities to the Germans from Russia in this country [Germany] as well as in the countries of the former Soviet Union, a task that was cast by the founding fathers as its main obligation.

The Landsmannschaft, Fetsch continued, is by far the most significant organizations for Germans from Russia in all of Germany, one which is increasingly included in political decision-making on a national basis, and has, during these years, always the first to be consulted by those with political responsibility on matters of immigration and the integration of resettlers and late resettlers from the CIS.

As one of its most important successes, Fetsch cited the Association’s active participation in the task of the entire German society of providing a new home in Germany, following years of persecution and repression in the Soviet Union, to 2.8 million countrymen, and to help in a smooth process of integration.

Stefan Mappus

Around 800,000 of those 2.8 million people reside in Baden-Württemberg, that is, in the federal state where the Landsmannschaft itself is strongest in membership, and in a state which thirty years ago assumed the sponsorship of the Association.

It is also in part due to this partnership, as Leontine Wacker, deputy national chairman and actual chair of the state chapter, the Landsmannschaft noted, that it has been able to work on behalf of Germans from Russia to the major extent that it has always been expected of it.

Baden-Württemberg also happens to be the state where so many of the most important events of the Association take place. These include memorial celebrations, Bundestreffen, meetings of the national delegates, festive celebrations on occasion of the awarding of the German Cultural Prize of the State of Baden-Württemberg, and many other events.

It was thus quite natural that the Landsmannschaft would present Heribert Reich, Baden-Württemberg’s Minister of the Interior and long-time representative of the state for displaced people, refugees and resettlers, with its highest decoration, its Golden Needle of Honor.

Lord Mayor of Stuttgart, Wolfgang Schuster
Michael M. Miller
Dr. Alfred Eisfeld
Olga Martens

Minister President Stefan Mappus, the keynote speaker, then expressed his thanks and appreciation to the Landsmannschaft for its work on behalf of Germans from Russia. With its exemplary work particularly in the area of projects for youth it was demonstrating on a daily basis that it is not an organization about to go away, but one that is full with life and ideas.

Continuing, he said that he saw himself connected with the Landsmannschaft in a special way through its actions against lies and half-truths that bring discredit to the totality of Germans from Russia. Relying on his background of positive experiences gathered during his service as a representative to the state legislature, he made the following clear statement to counter frequently expressed biased judgments:”The Germans from Russia have been and continue to be a positive gain for the Federal Republic of Germany!”

Then he added: “We know very well what the roughly 1.5 million displaced people and immigrants and late resettlers have contributed to the development of our state!” And not of least important is it not to allow the fate of these people to be forgotten. And he pledged to work together with the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland toward a realization of the central goal of the “Center against Displacing People” adding, “it is our task to do everything that displacement of people and genocide will never happen again!”

In an earlier speech, Wolfgang Schuster (CDU), Lord Mayor of Stuttgart, had paid tribute to the work of the Landsmannschaft with the following comments:  “The work of the Landsmannschaft has been important and will remain important, but it will continue to bear fruit only if you remain engaged!” This work, he added, is irreplaceable, particularly at a time of increasing globalization, when many carry a deep longing for their homeland. Hardly anyone realizes this more strongly than the Germans from Russia, who lost their homes under such tragic circumstances.

Dr. Alfred Eisfeld, historian and deputy national chair of the Landsmannschaft, summarized for the guests of this celebration the history of our ethnic group, beginning with emigration to Russia some 250 years back, to the boom times the colonies experienced during the 19th Century, to the tragic march toward victimhood under the Stalinist regime of injustice, and to the problems and conditions of the present.

Pastor Anton Heinz

He summed up the latter in these words: “During the sixty years of existence of our Association, the majority of our ethnic group emigrated from areas of banishment in Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Central Asia to Germany. Most of them consider their immigration as a return to their historic homeland. Even if assimilation in this historic homeland is difficult for some, we must maintain in no uncertain terms: Here is our home, Baden-Württemberg is our sponsoring state, and Germany is our homeland!”

Words of greetings were also presented by the deputy chairman of the “International Association for German Culture” in Russia, by the vice-chairman of the Federated Union of European Ethnic Groups, Olga Martens, as well as by Michael M. Miller, Director and Bibliographer of the German Russian Heritage Collection at North Dakota State University in Fargo.

The festive evening was concluded with the traditional honoring of the deceased of the Landsmannschaft, delivered by Pastor Anton Heinz, and with the joint singing of the unofficial hymn of the Germans from Russia, “Großer Gott, wir loben Dich [Holy God, we praise Thy Name]”, and of the German national anthem.

Chairman of the “International Association for German Culture” in Russia, Heinrich Meier (2nd fr. right), with the deputy national chairman Waldemar Weiz (2nd from left), the chairperson of the Landsmannschaft’s Youth Association (JSDR), Elena Bechtold (right), her deputy Julia Scheidt, and JSDR board member Paul Gette

Homeland Evening

The second highlight of the anniversary celebration was a Homeland Evening organized by artist members of the Landsmannschaft from Baden-Württemberg under the direction of Marina Bauer, whose Stuttgart Chorus “Heimatklänge” opened the performances. Also performing were choruses from local and county chapters of Oberschwaben-Allgäu, Offenburg-Ortenaukreis, Pforzheim and Balingen-Reutlingen-Tübingen, as well as dance groups from Karlsruhe. Award-winning artists and candidates for the German Russian Cultural Prize of Baden-Württemberg had earlier presented a concert and formed the musical framework for the evening. These included the pianist Alexander Reitenbach and his colleague Marie-Luise Bodendorff, violinist Richard Polle and, at the end, the “Trio Amabile” with Alexander Reitenbach, Anne Rothaupt (violin), and Bettina Kessler (cello).

The guests were greeted by dance exercises for a “Volga German Wedding” under the direction of Jakob Fischer, along with the ensemble “Birkenhain” as well as a slide show on the history of Germans from Russia and their Landsmannschaft.       

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of these articles.

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