30th Heimatbuch of the Landsmannschaft - an Important Milestone of our Cultural Heritage

Das 30. Heimatbuch der Landsmannschaft - ein Wichtiger Meilenstein Unseres Kulturellen Erbes

Vonk, Hans. "30th Heimatbuch of the Landsmannschaft – an Important Milestone of our Cultural Heritage." Volk auf dem Weg, March 2006, 30.

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

In 1976, the German-Russian [residency] applicant Frieda Froehlich commented in her application form: "I have lost my home and am now seeking help from Bonn." She had indeed lost her home in Volhynia during the course of the war and had spent eight of her best years, innocently condemned, in Siberian prisons and penal camps. One of several tens of thousands of German-Russians during the 1970s, she had been allowed to emigrate to Germany because she was born a German in 1928 and, as a German, had been discriminated against between 1945 and 1956. And as a German, Frieda Froehlich was seeking a new home. She was totally convinced that only Germany could be that home for her.

Today, we are joined not only by Spaetaussiedler (relying on paragraphs 4 and 7 [of the German Constitution - Tr.]), but also by their families (paragraph 8). Germans, Russians, Ukrainians, Europeans, Asians -- most of them were born after 1945, they all speak a very different German, or they speak Russian much better than German. And the question as to what their real home is states itself also very differently for them than for those Germans from Russia who have been here in Germany for decades.

Several authors of the newest Heimatbuch of the Landsmannschaft, the Heimatrbuch 2006, also address this question. For example, the prime minister of our sponsoring state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Guenther H. Oettinger, in his words of welcome states, among other things: "With this 30th edition of their Heimatbuch, [the Landsmannschaft] has succeeded in reminding of 'the other home' and its cultural heritage, but at the same time it turns its view forwards."

Adam Fetsch, chair of the Landsmannschaft, also addresses the concept of Heimat in his contribution "The Difficult Path of Germans from Russia toward their Home," and in his appeal to the public, to politicians, and to citizens, he culminates this concept in one emphatic point: "Accept us, and give us the home of which we have been robbed. We do not wish to go back. We wish to find our new home here."

What their other home was like is viewed differently by representatives of the old and of the new Ausssiedler-generations. The older ones emphasize more strongly their persecution during the War and under Soviet camp control, while the younger ones remember a certain rebirth of German culture in the Soviet Union around the time of the KSZE-Conferences during the 1970s.

The first group is represented by Anton Bertsch, Johann Kampen and Kornelius Neufeld. A. Bertsch reminds us of 95 Germans, exiled to Norilsk in the Far North to die there. J. Kampen, by means of a questionnaire he used on personal friends, analyzes their experiences around the time of the lifting of military control over the Germans, and K. Neufeld once again deals with the fate of German Trud-Armyists under various commandants.

In contrast, new sounds emanate from titles such as "My Greatest, most Favorite Passion," or "Between the Rise and the Fall of German-Russian Folklore in Post-War Times" by Nina Paulsen. A similar tenor is heard in Egon Andris' "Even in Times of Misery and Wailing, Love of Sport was never Desirable," and in "Theater: a Place where one Learns to Die" by Rose Steinmark. The longest contribution in this Heimatbuch, one that with its many pictures has something for everyone, is dedicated to the Festival of German Culture, October 23-26, 1990 in Alma-Ata.

Contributions to our Heimat-books that are of rare value include articles such as "Religious Life of Germans in Siberia from 1946 to 2000" by Dr. Viktor Bruhl, or "The German-Russian Sole of the White Rose" by Nina Paulsen. Dr. Bruhl provides a plethora of little known data about registered and non-registered religious communities, and Nina Paulsen introduces us to Alexander Schmorell, a German-Russian victim of National Socialism.

Dealing with the topic "German-Russian Literature" is the longtime, "Second Man of Soviet-German Rebirth," Hugo Wormsbecher, in his introduction to his own almanac "Heimatliche Weiten {Expanses of Home]." Stories were contributed by Dr. Ilona Weiget ("The Loaf of Bread"), Gottlieb Erich ("Wolves") and Mina Kerbel ("Trampled by War").

This Heimatbuch presents special significance via its 60-page index of places and names in all of the Heimat-books of the Landsmannschaft thus far. This enables the reader to recognize very quickly in which volume he can look concerning a place, a person, or a specific topic he might be interested in. In a sense, this presents a bibliography that should be owned by any German from Russia who is interested in "the other Heimat."

Hans Vonk

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