Groundbreaking Actions Contributing Toward Reconciliation

Mit Grenzueberschreitenden Aktionen zur Versoehnung Beitragen

Paulsen, Nina. "Groundbreaking Actions Contributing Toward Reconciliation." Volk auf dem Weg, January 2005, 10.

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

Maraina Efimova
Gerhard Walter
The Historical Research Society of Germans from Russia Was Founded Five Years Ago

The building of cultural bridges will remain one of the central themes for the activities of the Historischer Forschungsverein der Deustchen aus Russland [Historical Research Society of Germans from Russia], stressed its chairman, Anton Bosch, in a reflection on the Project of the Year, "Gedenkstaette Friedhof Archangelsk [The Archangelsk Cemetery as Memorial]," which is dedicated to the contributions of Germans of that region, and to the victims of political repression during the 20th Century.

The Society's final meeting on November 20 in the Haus der Heimat in Nuernberg also included the celebration of a minor anniversary: Five years back, twenty like-minded people established our Society under the motto "Our home is our history, and history is our task."

The meeting featured, among others, Marina Efimova, Director of the "Regional German-Russian House" and her presentation on the groundbreaking project for a memorial on the former Lutheran cemetery in Archangelsk. As Marina stated, "Without the financial support of the Nuernberg people, this project would never have happened." She also presented a letter from Oleg Nilov, Mayor of the City of Archangelsk, to the Mayor of Nuernberg, Dr. Ulrich May.

The Russian-German House of Archangelsk had gained further partners in support of this project: Haus der Heimat of Nuernberg, the City of Nuernberg, and the City of Archangelsk. Nuernberg started the ball rolling on December 24, 2003 via a contribution of 1000 euros. By means of several interviews on the radio and in the press concerning the contributions of Germans ever since the founding of the city [of Archangelsk] in 1574, and concerning the suffering and victimization of German-Russians during the war, the energetic director succeeded in mobilizing that city's public toward the project.

During six successive Saturdays (subbotniks) the erstwhile severely neglected cemetery was cleaned up, and a memorial for the German-Russians was erected. Around a thousand residents of the city -- school children, students, soldiers, visitors of the German-Russian House, and others participated, primarily on a a volunteer basis. The city made available machinery and power equipment. Businesses provided construction materials and transportation at cost. For the dedication on August 28, 2004, the City of Nuernberg was represented by Erna Malygin of the Historical Research Society (VadW reported on this event in its October, 2004 issue). Six tablets of the memorial carry the permanently inscribed names of 64 families who contributed to the development of the City, and a central memorial tablet is dedicated to the memory of the terrible suffering of the German-Russians during the 20th Century.

"Our task is to find a path toward reconciliation and to put past statements into perspective," said Marina Efimova, adding that it was particularly during the 20th Century when the Germans' contributions and their victimization were -- through political maneuvering -- purposely not mentioned and erased from the memories of generations.

She expressed her own hopes by saying, "I view this project as the beginning of a beneficial cooperation between North Russia and South Germany, as a bridge between Nuernberg and Archangelsk." Around 12,000 Germans in the [Archangelsk] area are supposed to have been killed during and after the war years, a statistic that some members of the Research Society are questioning and making a subject of further research.

As ever, the Research Society works toward popularizing the history and culture of the German-Russian ethnic group, and its expert members continue to research and analyze them.

The Society's contributions during the past five years since it was founded are considerable, as seen in these publications: "Die deutschen Kolonien in Suedrussland [German Colonies in South Russia]" by Konrad Keller, "Die deutschen Kolonien an der Wolga [German Colonies on the Volga]" by Johannes Kufeld, the Almanach of 2000-2001 with its historical contributions by various Society members, "Russlanddeutsche Zeitgeschichte [Contemporary German-Russian History]" (2002 and 2003), "Handbuch Russlanddeustche [Handbook for German-Russians]" by Ulrich Mertens, and "Die Deutschen in Sibirien [Germans in Siberia]" by Viktor Bruhl. In preparation for publication is the title "Trauerbuch Odessa [Odessa Book of Mourning]," which is dedicated to the victims of mass repression during 1937-1938.

The Society's Calendar has been published since 2000. As Bosch stresses, "The Calendars, with their positive representation of our ancestors and the presentation of positive images of integration, are our contribution toward assimilation. The main theme of the 2005 Calendar -- locating and building bridges -- is to be treated even more deeply in the future. These calendars are selling well, not only among German-Russian immigrants, but even among indigenous Germans.

Bosch pointed to the fact that several good examples of good research being published privately "are going around us." Among these is the book "Lebende Ahnen [Living Ancestors] by Gerhard Walter, who is also a member of the Society. [Curiously, neither Nina Paulsen nor Bosch comments why a member is publishing privately. Tr.] In this book, the author, who was born in Germany, follows the tracks of his father, who was born in the Molotchna area and emigrated to Germany in 1923, all the way back to ancestors from Baden-Wuerttemberg. Bosch commented on this book: "A powerful work or research and an example for the way the pathways of the German-Russians developed." This exciting family chronicle came into being after eight long years of painstaking combing of archives in various countries in Europe.

Bosch stressed further that in the future we ought to concentrate strongly on topics that have been swept under the rug, relativized, analyzed only partially or devalued by political machination. An example might be the mass emigration from Baden-Wiuerttembeg during the 19th Century, or perhaps the entire subject of the Warthegau [Poland]. The whole story of banishment and exile of the 20th Century also contains a great number of unresearched topics. And as Bosch emphasizes, "we should also look at both sides carefully." By staying grounded in facts and doing conscientious research, German-Russian researchers will be able to place a few matters in the right light.

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