Concerning Places of German Russian Memories in Germany

This articles reports on a special project of the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland.

Eisfeld, Dr. Alfred. "Concerning Places of German Russian Memories in Germany." Volk auf dem Weg, March 2010, 2.

Translation from the Original German-language text to American English provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado

With its brochures Aussiedler in various Federal states, the Landsmannschaft has for years attempted to document the fact that these Aussiedler are not just here, but that they have indeed arrived. For the Aussiedler of the last twenty years this evidence is just as important as it is for their native neighbors. And with this particular generation of Aussiedler a certain trend can be noticed that has been known for a century: integration is proceeding successfully, especially for their children, and adults, too, do not consider themselves as being in the Diaspora.

The Marian Church at Büdingen, in which numerous emigrants were married in 1766.
“Here Lie Twenty-two German Russian Refugees – 1930” - memorial at the cemetery in Mölln (Schleswig-Holstein)

Societal and cultural integration for those Germans from Russia who arrived between WW I and toward the end of the 1960s was so successful that by the second generation only few traces of the German Russian part of their family biographies have been passed on. Out countrymen who came later still retain memories of their immediate past. Of course, they also experienced other influences and internalized them at least partially, and they brought them along to Germany. This should be no surprise, given the fact that they had lived between one and three generations longer in surroundings of a different culture and language. Concurrent with the process of integrating, that is, with the absorption of information and conditions of the new surroundings, a certain distance to the past also develops. One’s identity begins to change, and with time, Germans from Russia cease to be recognizable as such.

Still, getting to know those places in Germany that carry memories for German Russians should be of interest not only to historians and those given to nostalgia. Among these one can count not only concrete locales, but also events, situations and persons that played a role in the lives of Germans from Russia. Putting together information on these and making it accessible to the public is the goal of the Landsmannschaft’s initiative entitled “Russlanddeutsche Erinnerugnsorte in Deutschland [Places of German Russian Memoires in Germany].”

Not everyone needs to agree that the church in Büdingen in which a great number of emigrants to Russia were married is a place of German Russian memory in Germany, but for the descendants of those couples it certainly is. The legendary Ulmer Schachteln [the “boxy” ships that were used to transport German emigrants from SW Germany down the Danube toward the Black Sea – Tr.] began their journey in Ulm, and the spot where they took off is still recognizable today. A memorial stone in Mölln [in N. Germany – Tr.] reminds us of the refugees of 1929. Who besides family members still remembers the grave sites of Landsmannschaft pioneers such as Benjamin Unruh, Johannes Schleuning, or Heinrich Roemmich? Where did the representative to the Russian Parliament, Ludwig Lutz, find his final resting place?

What do we connect with the Bellevue Castle in Berlin? Today it houses the offices of the German Federal President, Horst Köhler, who stems from a family of Bessarabian Germans. Few might still remember that, following World War I, several German Russian associations had their offices in this castle, and that famine assistance for Russia emanated from there. One could also think about Stuttgart and the German Ausland-Institut [Foreign Institute], also about the research center of the Mennonites in Weierhof and about their ancestors.

Many an elder countryman will also remind himself painfully of 1945, of a camp in central Germany from which the journey to Siberia or Central Asia was forced on them. Others might rather remember the memorial in Berlin-Marzahn, or those memorial stones erected in recent years where flowers are laid on the Day of Mourning, August 28, 1941 [when the Supreme Soviet issued its infamous decree to deport the Volga Germans – Tr.].

We can all document these places of memory together. And this is how it might happen: a simple digital photo, including the name of the photographer and the date of the image.

Regarding buildings we would need information on their location, the time of its establishment and events or functions of the building as they relate to German Russians.  Half a page of commentary text should suffice. Also please to be added is the address of the sender so that questions might be directed to the right person. Regarding specific persons, the required information would be a photo and date of the photo, a brief bio and a brief dedication. For writers and scientists/historians a list of their most important publications should be added. For musicians it would be desirable to have information about their works and the places where they practiced their art. For those of the fine arts, we would be interested in a portfolio of photos and an overview of the exhibits where these works can be viewed, also a list of catalogs and a reproduction of a particular piece of art.                    

These and other data may be sent to the national office with the notation “Erinnerungsorte [Places of Memory].” Our committee on culture will assume the tasks of analysis and preparation for publication.

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

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