In the Footsteps of the First Colonists

Schleicher, Josef. "In The Footsteps of the First Colonists." Volk auf dem Weg, December 2011, 38.

Translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, CO.  Editorial assistance provided by Nancy A. Herzog, Ph.D.

In Eggebek (in June) and Prinzenmoor (in July), both in Schleswig-Holstein, our traveling exhibit “Volk auf dem Weg” [“A People on the Move”] attracted the attention of numerous visitors, not least thanks to the fact that it was complemented via informational placards on the story of the Huber family.

A series of events have been staged by the interest group “Plaggenhacke,”whicht is dedicated to the start of colonization in the duchy of Schleswig. Among these events were: a number of dedications of memorials in Friedrichsfeld and Prinzenmoor, presentations at the Landsmannschaft’s exhibit, excursions to the colonist area, and the coining of a colonist shilling. Participants in the anniversary celebrations included original residents as well as descendants of colonists now residing in Denmark and in the US, plus some members of the Volga German families Huber, Gomer, Schwarzkopf and Wittmann.

Between 1761 and 1765, around 1,200 families left their war-torn and poverty-stricken Southern German homeland and moved to [then] Danish Schleswig. They had answered the invitation issued by King Friedrich V that promised each person willing to resettle an arable (and inheritable) plot of leased land, together with a house, a lot, animals, and agricultural equipment, plus twenty years of freedom from taxation and a hundred gulden in travel money. Coming to Schleswig were around 4,000 Southern Germans, scattered across 571 individual farms in forty-seven colonies within heath and moor areas.

However, because the Danish government was in individual cases not able to keep its generous promises, many colonists left the “promised” land and either went back to their original homelands or headed toward Russia. It was thus that the ancestors of the Huber family, among many others, eventually landed in the Volga region.

Robert Huber was born in 1937 in Balzer in the Volga area. Four years later, the Hubers, like all other Volga Germans, were robbed of their homeland. They landed in Kazakhstan, where the parents were taken to a work camp, and Robert and two of his siblings landed in a children’s home. Only after six years would the family finally get together again. In 1992, Robert Huber, his wife Katharina, and their children Alexander, Katharina and Olga, arrived in Albersdorf in Schleswig-Holstein via the transit camp Friedland and Neumünster. Thanks to their industrious nature, they quickly succeeded to take root in their new (old!) homeland. Robert found a job and assisted later-arriving relatives and countrymen in their search for work or residence, as well as visits to officialdom.

Today Robert and Katharina are retired and live in a two-family house they had built with Valentina, their eldest daughter [who seems to be missing in the above list of returnees from Russia – Tr.]. Robert worked hard toward speedy integration of many Germans from Russia. Daughter Valentina, too, added to the fine reputation of the Huber family because thanks to her intensive work in the musical arena, cultural life in Albersdorf took on new energy, and under her direction the women’s choir of the small locale would eventually be counted among the elite choirs in the state.

By coincidence, Robert was able to continue in Schleswig-Holstein the family history research he had begun to put together before coming to Germany. After intensive research in archives he discovered that his ancestor Ludwig Huber, who was born in Käfertal near Mannheim, together with his wife and three children, had gone in 1762 to be a colonist in the then Danish duchy of Schleswig. But, just like so many other colonists, he would soon take on the long journey to the Volga region, where he arrived in Balzer on March 28, 1766. His son Christian Huber (1760 – 1812) continued the Huber clan, and the latter’s great-grandson Robert eventually researched the history of the eight generations that followed. He wrote three books about it and put together an impressive family tree.

Translator’s Note: the GRHC web site contains a translation of a previous article about SW German people settling in the Schleswig area, and it includes a translation of the text on this memorial. – AH

Robert Huber holding his family tree.
Christian Winkel, director of the interest group “Plaggenhacke,” and Heinrich Wittmann, descendant of Volga Germans, pictured at the colonist memorial stone in Friedrichsfeld.

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translating and to Dr. Nancy A. Herzog for editing this article.

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