Heimatbuecher - Center Piece of the Landsmannschaft

Heimatbuecher - Herzstueck der Landsmannschaft

"Heimatbuecher - Center Piece of the Landsmannschaft." Volk auf dem Weg, March 2009, 10-11.

This translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado

Right on time, on the first Sunday of Advent, members of the Landsmannschaft [in Germany] was be able to pick up their [latest] Heimatbuch from their mail boxes. Thirty-two volumes have been published thus far. They constitute a process of documentation that is respectable and a treasure trove for researchers. For more than fifty years the Landsmannsachaft has steadfastly adhered to its original concept, namely, a Heimatbuch series that is based on academic rigor and provides entertainment as well. Any one volume is a balanced mix of contributions that are based on solid sources, memories written down by contemporary eye witnesses, village stories, reports of personal experiences, and pro traits of stand-out personalities of German-Russian history.

Our members demonstrate their appreciation for the work and energy associated with the publishing effort, as well as the historical significance of the Heimatbuecher, by the generous donations they have given year in and year out, for without these donations it would long ago have become impossible to continue the series. This is all the more worth remembering because the Heimatbuecher comprise the core piece of the Landsmannschaft as such, which has dedicated itself for more than fifty years to the preservation and documentation of the history and culture of the Germans from Russia.

As ever, the history of our ethnic group, which has been deeply marked by the events of the past centuries and, particularly, through developments of the Twentieth Century in Germany and in the Soviet Union was pushed to the limits of its existence, continues to demonstrate gaps that must be filled in. And for years to come, one of the most important instrument toward attaining this goal* *will continue to be the Heimatbuecher of the Landsmannschaft -- assuming the continued benevolent support from its membership. 

A Fifty-Five-Year Tradition

The first ever Heimatbuch appeared fifty-five years ago simply because numerous country folks asked for it. The first two volumes, entitled "Heimatbuch der Ostumsiedler [Heimatbuch of the Eastern Resettlers]" (1954, 1955) leaned on the tradition of the Bauernkalender [Farmers' Calendars] that had been published in the German-Russian colonies. The statement that appeared in the introduction of the Heimatbuch 1954 continues to remain fairly relevant to this day: "May this Heimatbuch go out for the first time to our country folks scattered all over the Federal region, as a greeting, a memory, as instruction, and not the least as a reminder of holding fast to our fathers' heritage and our ever closer connection amongst us who have experienced a similar fate."

That fate -- nearly 250 years of heights and depths -- is, as ever, at the center of the Heimatbuecher. The first one, in 1954, began with an overview of the subject of German-Russians and with brief looks into the individual settlement areas. Further editions up to and including 1967-1968, rich with photos and carefully worked-up maps, concentrated on the history and culture of the various settlement regions. Even so, each volume had a special emphasis that was illuminated in special detail: The Volga region (1955): Odessa (1956); Saporozhye, Grosslienethal (1957); Dnyepropetrovsk, Kronau, Orloff (1958); Siberia, Central Asia, Volhynia (1959); Crimea, plus an extensive Emigration Index (1960); Caucasus (1961); Volhynia and City-dwelling Germans (1962); German-Russians Overseas (1963); Volga, Churches, Schools (1964); Today's Situation, Literature, Folklore (1965); Resettlement and Banishment (1966); Farms and Homes, Culture (19671968). Individual articles contained excepts from our history, reported on mores, customs and dialects as they were brought from Germany by our forefathers and passed along as a valued treasure from generation to generation.

Two issues of the Heimatbuch series were published in 1969 and in 1972 under the title "Die Kirchen und das religioese Leben der Russlanddeutschen [Churches and Religious Life of the German-Russian]" (with a separate Catholic and an Ev.-:Luth. part). The Catholic part was written by Joseph Schnurr, the then spokesman of the Landsmannschaft, and he also edited the Ev.-Lutheran part and also assured extensive photographic documentation. 

The Heimatbuecher of 1973 to 1998 documented certain topical period of developments in German-Russian history. Among other key topics were the following: Famine, Deportation (1973 - 1981); the Volga Region, with a map of the ASSR [Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic] of Volga-Germans (1982 - 1984); History, Literature, Current Interest (1985 - 1989); War and Peace, Return (10901991); Homeland Germany, Trud-Army (19951996); Deportation, Memories of Youth (19971998).

Two Volumes for the 50th Birthday

In 2000 the Landsmannschaft celebrated its 50th anniversary. The two-volume Heimatbuch 2000 drew up an overall picture of the ethnic group from its very beginnings and across all depths and heights until its re-migration to Germany. "With its informative contributions and interesting experiential reports, the 25th Heimatbuch of the Landsmannschaft of Germans from Russia demonstrates how lively the history and culture of this ethnic group continues to be to this day. Relatives of the generation who lived through it all made sure that remembrances of the old homeland and the awareness of their valuable cultural heritage continue to be kept alive," wrote Erwin Teufel, the then prime minister of Baden-Wuerttemberg, the sponsor state of the Landsmannschaft in his introduction.

In subsequent issues the Landsmannsachaft kept succeeding again and again in keeping alive the remembrances of the dark past and the hopeful new beginnings as well. This was true not only for the Heimatbuch 20012002, which had as its central theme the sad topic of sixty years of displacement, but also for subsequent Heimatbuecher for 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 20072008. In these volumes there is growing emphasis on aspects of post-war life of Germans in the former USSR.

The Current Anthology Volume

As a special volume published under the title "Von der Autonomiegruendung zur Verbannung und Entrechtung [From the Founding of Autonomy to Banishment and Loss of Rights]," the Heimatbuch 2009, published under the leadership of the well-known German-Russian historian Dr. Alfred Eisfeld, places two periods into focus that for this ethnic group were of special fateful significance: the year 1918, with its events in the emerging Soviet Union, and the horrible years between 1941 and 1948, during which innocent Germans became victims of the Stalinist regime and eventually mourned hundreds of thousands of deaths. In addition to historians from Germany, researchers from Russia also participated in this project.

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