Friedrich Ritter

In Memory of his Death (1934). Excerpted from Otto Klett’s Jahrbuch 1956.

Enßlen, Otto. "Friedrich Ritter." Mitteilungsblatt, June 2010, 8-10.

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

He was born on March 3, 1864, in Eupatoria on the Crimean Peninsula in South Russia. His father, Friedrich Ritter, along with his wife Friederike, nee Lämmle, had migrated to Crimea from Böllstein near Heilbronn (Germany) in 1860 and worked as a shoemaker on a large rural estate belonging to a German noble. Due to the general mobilization for the German-French War of 1870-1871, his father, a German citizen, was forced to return to Böllstein, and so it was that little Fritz got to know his original homeland for the first time. He remained there and attended public school until 1876. Then his parents and family emigrated to Crimea a second time. Following a call by King Karl I, the Ritter family moved to Romania in 1882 to work land that had been assigned to them in Tariverde in Dobrudzha.

In 1884 Friedrich Ritter (jr.) married Maria Schigurski. The marriage produced six children: three sons – Friedrich, Gottlieb and Karl, and three daughters – Friederike, Rosine and Elisabeth. After his wedding he moved to Turkey, where he operated a farm. For reasons of climate and health he lasted only two years there and returned to Tariverde. There he soon assumed a leading role in community life. In 1982 he was elected to a five-year term as mayor of three communities (Tariverde, Cogealac and Elanschisma). In 1898 he was elected to the county council, of which he remained a member for twenty years. He finally took on the office of vice-president. In 1924 he became a representative to the agricultural council of Konstanza (Constanta). One of his most important achievements was the prevention of passage of the so-called "minority law" of 1906, by which the colonists would have been stripped of all citizens’ rights. To help him accomplish this feat he served as a delegate of the Dobrudzha Germans with King Karl I and was given special receptions by the then President Brätianu and by the opposition leaders Carp and Sturdza. For his achievement on behalf of his chosen homeland, the king awarded him the "Golden Medal" and the Order "Degree of Cavaler." His popularity at court also stemmed from the fact that he was frequently invited to dinner whenever the royal family took up its summer recreation residence in Konstanza.

Ritter was also a genuine linguistic genius. In addition to his native Swabian dialect, he spoke fluent High German, Romanian, Russian, Turkish and Bulgarian. All this came to good use for him with the colorful ethnic mixture that existed in the Dobrudzha region. Then, in 1928, he became lord mayor (Primera de Centru) over an entire region that comprised twenty locales with a very diverse mix of nationalities and with its official seat in the market center of Cogealac.

During this term of his various offices the new Ev.-Lutheran church was built in Tariverde, where he had already built a public school in 1892. His family and the relatives of his three brothers Gottlieb, Karl and Philipp formed an extended clan that exercised continual influence over community life. Despite his intense involvement in public service he never neglected his farm in any way. During the course of some years his prudent and frugal manner of operating saw his property grow to 100 hectares (ca. 270 acres). Even the quality of the products of his agricultural operation was recognized repeatedly by the agricultural ministry. For example, he was awarded gold and silver medals for his achievements in wine production and a silver medal for horse breeding. In May of 1934 the Ritters were able to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary in the company of their widespread clan. Pastor Wildermuth, using the Bible passage "I will carry you in your old age, I will bless you, and you will be a blessing to others!" delivered an impressive festive sermon which was rounded out with the singing of the church choir. Following the wish of the celebrating groom the attendees then sang the second verse of the hymn "Nun danket alle Gott (Now thank we all our God)," which goes like this (in rough translation): "May the ever giving God bless our lives with steady and happy hearts and pure peace, and continue to keep us in His grace, yes, deliver us from all our needs, here and beyond."

Indeed the couple had gracefully aged to a pair of white-haired people, but also blessed through mutual love and devotion. Peace and contentedness marked their home. One seldom finds such great lights in this world, like true oases in the desert. These old folks were still celebrating together, caring for each other just as they did during the first day after their wedding, and they still used the same pet names for each other.

However, very soon after this anniversary, on July 18, 1834, the husband met his death rather unexpectedly, but clearly caused by the diabetes from which he had suffered for some time. Under participation by German and Romanian personalities in public life, as well as a large mass of people from near and far, he was taken to his final rest in the cemetery of Tariverde. The life of a deeply religious man, who had put all his energies in the service of his ethnic group, his community, his state and especially his family, was over. Would that our ethnic group might bring forth more men of Ritter’s stature.

His wife followed him in death after the resettlement to the Reich, as did his daughter Elisabeth, married to a Strom, and his eldest son Friedrich, who at the end had been community curator in Tariverde. Sons Karl and Gottlieb are still alive and are living in the town of Miltenberg on the river Main, both in their own homes.

Well, this by no means concludes the record of the life work of the deceased. The following event testifies to the great esteem he enjoyed in higher circles of society. In 1932, the then Reichsbank President Dr. Hjalmar Schacht had come to Bucharest for financial discussions. Afterwards he traveled around the Dobrudzha region and included an observation tour of the village of Tariverde. Accompanying him were Labor Minister Raducanu, a friend from his student times, and Finance Minister Magearu. Arriving in Tariverde, Raducanu said to Dr. Schacht: "Here I am going to introduce you to a real, true German," and Dr. Schacht replied, "Well, the name Ritter alone tells me that."

In this context it is interesting to observe that the well-known German author and journalist Richard Bahr reported in his book "Deutsches Schicksal im Südosten [A German Fate in the Southeast]." Among other things one reads as follows:

"The original purity of the customs of the Dobrudzha Germans begins to loosen a bit in their daily proximity with all those strange ethnic peoples. In Tariverde, there is still a guardian who watches over such purity, namely , the 'old' Ritter, a figure that reminds one  in many a  facet of 'Father Kühn' in Armadzha. Ritter, too, has moved extensively. As a child he returned from Crimea to his original Swabian homeland when a rumor spread that they might otherwise lose their German citizens’ rights. For a few years he attended the village school in Böllstein in the Upper Mahrbach region. Then they returned to Crimea, and from there moved to Dobrudzha and the village of Tariverde. Since colonial society had discovered the Dobrudzha Germans and sent its itinerant preachers there, they allowed themselves to be talked into the idea that it was their national duty to move to Asia Minor to settle near the rail line of the Bagdad route. They sold everything, moved away, and lost everything. Rich in experiences, but with empty pockets, they returned to Dobrudzha to begin from scratch.

As if by a miracle, they experience fortune again. The Ritters seem to have the most attractive farm property. They have a comfortable guest room richly equipped with carpets and runners, in which even an unexpected guest is warmly welcomed. In a modest, but patriarchal form they practice true hospitality. We meet father Ritter and his son as they are walking to church on Pentecost Sunday, 1934. The maypole has been put up. It is said, 'We wish to maintain the old German customs, of course.' During our introduction, the elder Ritter calls to his son Gottlieb: 'Have Emilie (his daughter-in-law) go home and tell mother what needs to be prepared.'

Later we sit in the comfortable living room drinking Turkish coffee, fruit-flavored liquor and 'Dulceata,' a sweet canned dish the Swabian housewives have learned to imitate skillfully as they learned it from its Romanian inventors. Conversation is lively, with everyone taking part, including the women. Old man Ritter has many questions and is quite able to tell his own stories. His expressiveness is that of an educated man, and his vocabulary is greater than that of a common farmer. Ritter thinks that the settler had it best during Turkish times. Even though they had no genuine political rights, they also had no serious obligations, including, especially, military service. Also, the Turks’ honesty was very moving. One could do or not do on the fields however one wanted. Commenting on the first Hohenzollern noble, he opines: "Yes, in those times, under King Karl the First, the German colonies were still respected. Everyone had great respect for them."

For decades Ritter has headed the Tariverde administration. Now that it has been politically consolidated with Cogealac, he is called the "Grand Primer," which means "Old Mayor." It is casually humorous, but also typically German, this title-consciousness of the common people. For example, the "Primera" (a Romanian word) merely a common village mayor, is always spoken of as "Mr. Primera," a simple teacher becomes "Mr. Teacher," and the chairman of the Church Council is referred to as "Mr. Curator." Even when one meets these honoraries as they return from work in the fields, clothed simply in shirt, pants, suspenders and straw hat, they are addressed by these titles. This actually does not seem to apply to Ritter himself, who has grown beyond any such minor vanities. He possesses a natural kind of tact and he usually smiles, somewhat ironically. He is a truly wise man, and it shows in how, with a level of influence that appears to reach far beyond his own residence, he reminds everyone to strive for unity, always to unity among all peoples. Men of Ritter’s ilk are rather rare."   

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

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