Two Hundred Years of Mass Immigration by Germans to the Black Sea Region

200 Jahre Masseneinwanderung der Deutschen in das Schwarzmeergebite

Bosch, Anton. "Two Hundred Years of Mass Immigration by Germans to the Black Sea Region." Volk auf dem Weg, December 2003, 24-25.

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

For Germans from Russia, the year that is about to end was dominated from the beginning to the end by the topic "200 Years of Mass Immigration by Germans to the Black Sea Region."

An auspicious start was served up by the "Historische Forschungsverein der Deutschen aus Russland e.V. [Historical Research Society for Germans from Russia]" by the production of its colorful wall calendar on this very topic. In April, in the Community House of Nuernberg-Langwasse, there followed an exhibit of 27 oil paintings of German-Russian personalities who had made impressive historical contributions to the development of Russia. The series of festivities was continued by a major event on September 20, put on by the Landsmannschaft, in the White Room of the New Castle in Stuttgart, continued via a series of further events (e.g., in Herzogenaurach) until, finally, even Odessa, the destination of all immigrants in the year 1803 and thereafter, was heard from via an invitation to an academic conference at the old Metchnikov University for anyone with name and renown.

Soaring high over the clouds inside a modern airplane, I reached Odessa within only three hours of flight after taking of from Munich. Enough time to be able to dedicate my thoughts to reflecting on the very difficult emigration of my ancestors from Frankfurt/Main, some from Ulm on the Danube, to Odessa. In my thoughts, I was moved to admire the immense difficulties and efforts of my ancestors, who needed at least two to three months before reaching their final goal, to which the then administrator and governor of Greater South Russia, the Duke Richelieu, had called them. More than 3,000 folks died on the journey.

Even my own forced "administrative relocation" from March to the end of May in 1944, which I had to experience as a 19-year-old and at the time looked on more as an adventure than anything else, appeared before my mind's eye. Under deadly circumstances, with constant cannon fire in our backs, our trek was forced to take up the dreadful journey into the [Polish] "Wartheland" and, later on, into the "Old Reich." All of these memories had been haunting me my entire life and, during this flight, broke into my thoughts very clearly once again. Only several years after the end of the War, when we Germans were branded as "Traitors of the Homeland" and interned in a forced labor camp in the North Ural, had I been able to realize the full extent of the tragedy of our group's dire fate.

Starting from 1994, this was now my fifth trip to the old homeland, but this time I was lured by a very special occasion to that city on the Black Sea, to our "Odaess," as we had called it for about 200 years. The venerable old Metchnikov University at Dvorykanskaya Street 2 (founded in 1865 as the New Russia University, and known to us as the institution where Konrad Keller, as an honorary member, in 1905 had published the first volume of his opus "Die deutschen Kolonien in Suedrussland [The German Colonies in South Russia]," available from the "Historischen Forschungsverein der Deutschen aus Russland") had invited to its city more than a hundred academicians from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and Switzerland, for an October 3 - 5 conference commemorating the 200th anniversary of mass immigration by German farmers to the Black Sea area. Attending from Germany were renowned academicians such as Dr. Eisfeld (Goettingen), Dr. Brandes and Meschkow (Duesseldorf), Dr. Neutatz (Freiburg), Dr. Stricker (Zurich), Bosch (Nuernberg), Heidebrecht (Stuttgart), and others.

The host country, Ukraine, was represented by some of its own well-known talents such as Shevtchuk, Seebold and Pobeda (Odessa), Kudryatchenko and Kutratyuk (Kiev), and others. The hosts were adept at managing the difficult logistical tasks and took care of their guests, some even privately, with their charming Ukrainian hospitality and organizational mastery.

Although for some unknown reason the Russian representatives had not been mentioned during the official welcome, that country was also represented by significant academicians such as A. German, Mrs. O. Litzenberger (Saratov), and others.

The conference was cosponsored by the Ukrainian government's Committee on Nationalities and by the Ministry for Culture, by the mayor of the city, by the Bavarian-German House, by the city's German Lutheran community, and by the German Embassy in Kiev. Each group's representative spoke some words of welcome on behalf of their organizations and thereby created a positive atmosphere for all visitors. During the opening day's plenary session, representatives of TV and the print media made for a rather chaotic press bustle. Eisfeld (Goettingen), Shevtchuk (Univ. of Odessa), Koehn (Bavarian House Odessa), and Laptev (Crimea) provided for smooth operating conditions within the three major conference sections: History, Culture and Art, and Ethnography, all of which were held separately due to the plethora of presentations.

In public places and on the streets, however, one did not perceive an image that this "important effort," as it was called in the welcoming remarks by the politicians, that is, even in-the-know Odessa residents were hardly aware of this "effort."

The motto of the conference, "200 Years of Immigration of Germans to the Black Sea Region," printed on a white banner that was hung rather obscurely behind two columns in the university foyer, was seen for only half a day and, from the second day on, the banner was inexplicably missing, never to be seen again.

The numerous presentations given to participants in the History section might be summarized under the heading, "Learning from the Germans." There was, however, a great disparity in the quality of the individual presentations that were intended to illuminate 200 years of shared Ukrainian-German history. A few presentations consisted merely of empty slogans, making it necessary for the concluding plenary session to decide on including only those worthy ones in a volume of the proceedings of the conference.

A real gem, provided to the visitors by the University Library, was an exhibit of rare books that, by order of Alexander I, were collected in the West from about 1818 onward. The University has a proud treasure of 117 volumes published in the 16th century in Nuernberg, the book printing center of that epoch. Among them is the famous "Schedel'sche Weltchronik," which is available to students and researchers in its original version and has found deep admiration by researchers in Germany.

A major sensation was caused by a presentation of Dr. Neutatz, in which he called on the academicians no longer to concentrate in their resarch on the Germans as the more successful colonists, with their rather "other" culture, but rather to look for what they had in common with Russians and Ukrainians. In other words, according to Neutatz, the Germans immigrants soon actually stripped off their own cultural vestiges and took on that of their Russian environment. Some academicians even proposed the dubious thesis that descendants of the immigrants had practiced witch hunts and frequently brought forth "bastard children." As might be expected, conflicted discussion ensued, whereupon one researcher suddenly distanced himself from his own theories and announced that he himself not only had no data for it, but that he had merely meant to pose it "provocatively" for discussion, in order to effect a "different way of thinking compared with classical research topics on the culture of the colonists."

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

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