The end of Black Sea German Colonies
Das Ende der deutschen Kolonien am Schwarzen Meer
Excerpts from a book by A. Bosch and J. Lingor
Auszuege von einem Buch von A. Bosch und J. Lingor
Bosch, A. and J. Lingor. "The end of Black Sea German Colonies." Volk auf dem Weg, April 1994, 5-7.
Translation from the original German to American English by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
A map of "Transnistria," Autumn, 1941
According to a census of 1939, as many as 1,600,612 Germans lived in the Soviet Union. This number probably did not change appreciably by the outbreak of war [between Germany and Russia; Tr.] on June 22, 1941. The most horrible wave of terror during prewar times had come to an end in 1938. Yet, for those in power in Moscow, Hitler's surprise attack on the Soviet Union served as a welcome occasion to drag out a list of grievances against the Germans that they had kept -- just in case it might be needed -- at least since 1934. The Supreme Soviet needed only to affix a signature to the bottom of a ukase that condemned the Volga-Germans to forced deportation and, thereby, would serve as leverage against all Soviet citizens of German nationality.
On August 28, 1941, the date on which that particular ukase was not only announced, but indeed carried out immediately, about three-quarters of Germans residing in the USSR found themselves under Soviet rule, while the other one-fourth -- mostly in the Ukraine -- were under German control. For them all, in one way or another, this marked the beginning of a vale of sorrows, which the Volga-Germans and the Germans from the Caucasus region and from Crimea had to embark on as early as 1941. The battle of Stalingrad occurred in 1943, after which it was the turn of the last group of Germans who, beginning in February of 1944, were taken from Transnistria [see map; Tr.] to go "home to the Reich," as the saying went, officially as well as in a much more mocking manner. At the time, Transnistria was that part of Southwest Ukraine which Germany had ceded to its allies, the Romanians. [Today, Transnistria is a somewhat different stretch of land and "country" altogether; Tr.] German residents of that particular area came under the control of the so-called "Volksdeutschen Mittelstelle [Ethnic-German Central Command Area]" or "Vomi."
On February 3, 1944, the Staff of the Reichsfuehrer's SS in Odessa received notification that no plan for transport [away from the region; Tr.] for the Germans of Transnistria, about 134,000 in number, had yet been arranged. However, SS-Brigade Leader Hoffmeyer had indeed made the necessary preparations for transport to Bessarabia as soon as the military situation might make it necessary. Hoffmeyer, it should be added, was the Director of the Vomi.
By Sunday, March 12, a radio message reached all military "leaders" in Transnistria announcing that the Russians had crossed the northern part of the River Bug. This caused the invocation of the so-called "alarm level IV," which signified immediate evacuation. Hardest hit were the German colonies in the Beresan region, which were closest to the Bug and therefore had to move as soon as possible. These included the villages of Johannestal, Karlsruhe, Katharinental, Landau, Muenchen, Rastatt, Rohrbach, Speyer, Sulz, Worms, Waterloo I and Waterloo II.
In contrast, Germans in the Kutschurgan Valley (Baden, Elsass, Kandel, Mannheim, Selz, Strassburg) should have had a little more time [these larger villages and the rest of Kutschurgan being quite a bit father west; Tr], even though they did not know the exact dates when they might have to evacuate. They were running around, excitedly, and speaking of the misery to come and, like others in such a situation, considering themselves in a helpless state. They would undertake the most unimportant things, none of any consequence, even though an incredibly great deal of preparation had to be accomplished during a very short time. Day and night they slaughtered, fried, and baked, they gathered the most basic clothing and food supplies and packed up everything. It should be mentioned that it had rained for an entire week, which had made the roads totally soft and muddy, which would cause wagon wheels to sink down to their axles in mud.
But they had no choice. Getting ready they must, and nobody wanted to or was allowed to stay back.
Residents of Rohrbach near Odessa,
prior to the Great Trek
The Kandel folks were the first in the Kutschurgan Valley to be ordered to leave, and the night of March 18 to March 19 -- the last one they would spend there -- was filled with agitated tension. No one was able to sleep, and even the children, infected by the parents, would walk around crying and agitated.
March 19, 1944, the feast of St. Joseph, was a Sunday and for Catholics a holiday of obligation to boot. None of those who lived through that day and are still living today will ever forget that day. It was the saddest and blackest day in the 136-year history of Kandel -- the day we had to leave our beloved Kandel forever.
Everybody was up early on that March 19. The wagons, loaded earlier, and the teams of horses stood ready by five o'clock in the morning so that the journey could begin at six o'clock, to proceed in a southern direction toward Ovidiopol. Leaving proved to be difficult, and the number of tears that flowed was not measurable. Not only children, the older folks and the women, but even "hard" and mature men were crying. Many were unable to look back -- everyone's heart was crushed thinking about the village, the school, the church, and the parental home.
Today we speak of those times, of "home." But at that time we felt that "home" was not merely a State or even a political administrative system. Rather, to us it really meant the home, the house in which our parents, in which we, were born and grew up -- the piece of soil we were so closely tied to, the school, the church, even the liman and, not the least, the feeling of belonging together. All these feelings made parting our beloved home village so very hard.
Still, what would have awaited us had we stayed? Who of us could possibly foresee that this journey would be just the beginning of many that lay ahead of us?
|Raphael and Katharina Dauenhauer
of Landau in the Odessa
Region, along with their children Raphael, Katharina, Anton, Johann, and Evor
during their escape to Germany during the spring of 1944. Photo: E.
Dauenhauer, Joseph-Priller Str. 22, 86159 Augsburg. ]
During that first day, our trek advanced very slowly and only with great effort. The cows, driven in a group as we left, soon scattered and, despite the general confusion, soon found their proper owners, as if wanting to go the long journey along with them. The roads, softened by continuous rain, made progress very difficult. The wagons, which were already overloaded, provided space only for children and elderly people, while the others were forced to walk -- which in the mud and with their relatively poor footwear was not an easy matter.
Only with great difficulty and effort did our trek reach Troizk, where we stayed overnight. Already there were difficulties with the locals -- Troizk had many Russian residents who had fought for the Red Army during the civil wars of 1918 - 1923 and were now sympathizers of the partisans opposing the German occupation.
During the evening of the second day we reached Franzfeld, whose residents had just left their village early that very day. Here we felt very much at home, especially since cellars, storage bins and sheds were still filled with various foodstuffs. We stayed in Franzfeld two days before moving on to Ovidiopol and the ferry across the Dnyestr liman. About noon of March 22 we reached the ferry crossing, where ten motorized ferries, each capable of carrying 20 wagons, were in operation.
We did not pause on the other side, the town of Akkermann, and continued for our next night's stay in Monashe. The following day our trek reached Sarata, we then proceeded to Tatarbunar, where we took on more feed for the horses, and then we were moving on toward Bolgrad and through various Bessarabian localities such as Kholms, Kirnicki, Vasilyevka, and others. We stayed overnight in some of them. Our further journey via horse-drawn wagons took us past Vulkaneshti toward Reni and, on Saturday, April 1, we stopped in Tatar-Anamur (Cismikoy). Due to severe weather in the Carpathian Mountains, including snow, rain, and icy roads, we were unable to continue and stayed temporarily in the same village -- having received a friendly reception by its Bulgarian inhabitants -- until April 17. Meanwhile, on April 5 the village experienced a very unusual snow storm that lasted until April 13. On April 9 we celebrated our first Easter away from home.
In the meantime, elderly people and pregnant women were taken to the city of Galatz via military medical trains. The day after, when everyone believed they had been brought to safety, Galatz was bombed, and for a long time we did not know about their fate. Indeed there were several wounded and dead during the bombing raid of Galatz.
During the early morning of April 17 we were finally able to continue, initially back toward Vulkaneshti, and then via Gabanossa and Pilnea to Kabul and, across the bridge over the River Pruth, on to Kagul. Following one overnight stop we continued on Romanian soil via Adyud, Cayuti, Bacau, Piatra, Gergheni, Gehin, until we came to Dej (pronounced Dehzh). This railroad center was part of Hungary at the time, but would be ceded to Romania in 1945. Here we had to pause for an entire week to make the necessary preparations for dissolving the trek. We received an order to gather provisions for ten days and to make our way toward the awaiting cargo railroad cars. After baggage had been transported to the depot, a Wehrmacht Commission confiscated the horses, even issuing corresponding receipts. Many a farmer shed bitter tears on having to take leave of his horses, which had not only served him loyally in the Kutschurgan Valley, but had also brought bis family to this place across 2,000 kilometers [1200 miles].
Only a few hours after this procedure, the train took off toward Budapest and passed the stations of Naska Bystritza (Alt-Sohl), Povaza Bystritza (Neu-Sohl), Bohumm, Orlova, Ostrau, Ratibor, Oppeln, Brieg, and Bratislava, toward Litzmannstadt [Polish name:] (Lodz).
There our people had eight days "free" for baths, "delousing," etc., and passed through the so-called "locks" [entry procedures]. Having completed these steps on May 28, 1944, we were transported to a rural county seat of Jarocin in the Warthegau.
All in all, we had been on the road for 70 days, many of us having passed half of the 2,000 kilometers on foot. Many of our countrymen did not reach their designate destinations.
On June 5 we who were being resettled were met by representatives of surrounding communities and taken to various quarters. This date clearly marks the definitive end of existence of the German communities of the Black Sea region. We, who had lived together until then were now being scattered, first across only one county in the then Warthegau, but eventually across the whole world. And now we were neither collective workers nor free farmers, but instead, temporarily employed agricultural workers, obligated to work in surrounding farms, that is, Polish farms that since 1940 had been operated by German farmers from Bessarabia, Bukovina and Western Ukraine.
Source: "Entstehung, Entwicklung und Aufloesung der deutschen Kolonien am Schwarzen Meer" [Formation, Development and Elimination of German Colonies in the Black Sea Region]" by A. Bosch and J. Lingor.
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.