Henriette Götte Follows the “German Traces in the History of the Nikolayev Region”

During 2009 celebrations were held in the Nikolayev region to honor 200 Years of the German settlement of South Russia (the Black Sea area, which includes the Nikolayev region)

The Editors."Henriette Götte Follows the 'German Traces in the History of the Nikolayev Region'." Volk auf dem Weg, August-September 2010, 39.

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

It is the above date to which Henriette Götte dedicated her (Russian-language) brochure under the title “German Traces in the History of the Nikolayev Region.”

Central for her are the events that characterized festivities conducted on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of German settlements in South Russia [the authors must be equating the Nikolayev area with the Beresan region, where the first German settlements indeed took place in 1809, whereas German settlements in South Russia per se had taken place in the Odessa region before 1809, e.g., 1804 in the Kuchurgan region – Tr.]. The most important events were the exhibit “German Trace [sic] in the History of the Nikolayev region” of the homeland area of Nikolayev, which was held in the summer of 2009, and the international historical conference in Nikolayev on the topic “German Colonies in the South of Ukraine: from Settlement Times to the Present” in the fall of 2009, which was attended by historians and academics from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and Uzbekistan. The festivities were initiated by the Pedagogical University of Nikolayev and by the Institute for Culture and History of the Germans in Eastern Europe in Göttingen (Germany).

In the exhibit as well as during the conference, virtually all stages of German life in the Nikolayev area were illuminated. It was a first attempt by the museum staff [a museum in the Institute? – Tr.] to present the 200-year history of the Germans in Russia and Ukraine to a wider audience.

In the scientific-pedagogical library an electronic presentation of documents on the German theme was provided. Guests visited the former colonies Landau, Speyer and Karlsruhe. In the art museum they were able to view an exhibit by German artists. Everywhere in the region there were special days and festivals of German culture, and in Nikolayev the regional center for German culture was dedicated.

The extensive exhibit included materials from the homeland museums of Cherson and Nikolayev and numerous documents from private archives of German families who once lived in the Nikolayev region. In her richly illustrated brochure, Henriette Götte describes all ten display subs-sections of the thematically organized exhibit: settlement in the Nikolayev area beginning in 1809; religious life and school education; economic life and households; noteworthy personalities from science, architecture, and medicine; achievements of the colonists; consequences of WW I and the Revolution; repressions and forced collectivization; WW II and deportation; contribution of the Germans to the development of the economy and culture in Ukraine toward the end of the 20th Century; and cultural life of the Germans in today’s Ukraine.

The brochure cover pictures of the ruins of the Catholic church in the former German colony of Karlsruhe (today the Stepovoye settlement) in the Nikolayev area.    

The topic of her second brochure is “The Roman Catholic St. Joseph’s Church in Nikolayev” (in Russian), where her father was the very last organist. On March 28, 2009 a memorial plaque was put up at the site.

This brochure centers on the history of the church, which was built in 1794 using donations from members of the community. Between 1890 and 1896 yet another church building was erected, again financed with donations of community folks from Nikolayev and the surrounding area (including Landau, Katharinental, Neu Danzig, Schönfeld, among others). During Soviet times the church structure was put to unnatural uses (and from 1936 it served as a cultural center), clerics were repressed, and in 1933 Christian Sieke, the last priest there, was arrested. However, since the 1990s this St. Joseph’s Church has once again been opened to the Catholic community.

In 1925, at a highpoint of the witch hunts for church people, Leo Götte began a career as organist at St. Joseph’s Church. He was born to a teacher’s family in the Steinberg colony and received his very first instructions on piano and the organ from his father. In his younger years Leo was an altar boy, and by the time he was seventeen he was already playing the organ at St. Joseph’s Church. In 1928 he was arrested and held for a brief time, but was again allowed to act as the organist and as teacher of music and German at the German school in Nikolayev  In 1932 he was arrested again and accused of “contacts with clerics”, and then he was released again, but only after months of torture. He was again able to work until the church was closed in 1936. To avoid yet another arrest, he fled to Siberia. But there, too, he was arrested, this time being accused of being a “spy for Germany.” He was freed in 1956 and rehabilitated a year later. During the 1960s he worked as a musician in Irkutsk and Alma-Ata. In 1974 he emigrated to Germany, where he died in 2002.

(The cover of this brochure pictures the Catholic church in Nikolayev, as photographed during Eater night, 2007.)

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