History Demands the Whole Truth

Zur Geschichte Gehoert die Ganze Wahrheit

Paulsen, Nina. "History Demands the Whole Truth." Volk auf dem Weg, January 2008, 12-13.

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

Michael Wanner, The new chair of the HFDR

Annual Meeting of the HFDR

During the most recent annual meeting in early December of the Historischen Forschungsverein der Deutschen aus Russland [Historical Research Association of Germans from Russia] in the Haus der Heimat in Nuremberg the [then] chair, Anton Bosch, took critical stock of the association's eight years worth of activities.

Under the motto "Heimat is History and History if Heimat," the HFDR was founded in 1999 by people of similar views, as the "historical arm" of the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland. Its chair, Anton Bosch, has acted as its driving force throughout. Meanwhile, several publications on the history of the Germans from Russia have appeared, and other projects have been realized. Due to health reasons, Anton Bosch has withdrawn [from his leadership position]. Elected as the new chair of the research association was Michael Wanner, who has been doing intensive research work for years and was among the initiators for founding the association eight years back.

As ever, at the forefront of the association's activities has been the search into and analysis of the dark and unknown aspects of German-Russian history, while placing high value on researching the archives in the regions of origin. The association and individual members maintain good relationships with other research groups in Moscow, Odessa, Kiev, Dnyepropetrovsk and Archangelsk.

Given the many common aspects of the history of both great peoples, which continue as before to experience changeable effects, the history of the Germans in and from Russia must, according to Bosch, be viewed critically, from a Russian as well as a German viewpoint. It is harmful and even dangerous [he adds] to interpret this history one-sidedly or to fail to mention uncomfortable facts.

A Remarkable Balance Sheet

All these years the members of the association seriously attempted to orient their work according to this thesis. In the meantime, eleven books have appeared which deal with different time periods of German-Russian history, among them the "Handbuch Russland-Deutsche" by Ulrich Mertens, six volumes of "Russlanddeutsche Zeitgeschichte" [G-R Contemporary History] with articles and archival documents, "Die Deutschen Kolonien in Suedrussland" [German Colonies in South Russia] by Konrad Keller, "Die Deutschen Kolonien an der Wolga" [German Colonies in the Volga Region] by Johannes Kufeld, as well as "Die Deutschen in Sibirien" [The Germans in Siberia] by Dr. Viktor Bruhl. For the series "Russlanddeutsche Zeitgeschichte," Anton Bosch and Michael Wanner did major research work for several years, by request of the research association, for the "Trauerbuch Odessa" (2006) and for "Trauerbuch Odessa - 2" (second, expanded edition) [Mourning Book Odessa - v. 2], which appeared toward the end of 2007. Ever since 2000, the association also has been issuing a calendar that covers events and personalities of German-Russian history and builds cultural bridges.

During the past years, the HFDR also was able to realize other plans. Among these is the portrait gallery of prominent German-Russians, painted by the German-Russian artist Johannes Niederhaus (of Paderborn). With the project "Traditional Folk Garb of German-Russians," members Lilli and Reinhardt Uhlmann, using stories passed on orally, plus very detailed research, defined a traditional garb with which all German-Russians can identify. Under the theme "200 Years of Immigration of Germans to the Black Sea," exhibitions of German-Russian personalities were organized in Nuremberg and Herzogenaurach (2003), and numerous presentations were given on immigration of German-Russians to the Black Sea area, the history of Germans in Russia, in the USSR and in Ukraine, as well as their displacement during World War II.

A highlight of these years was the ground-breaking project "Gedenkstaette Friedhof Archangelsk" [Memorial Cemetery of Archangelsk] (2004) on the former Lutheran cemetery in Archangelsk, which is dedicated to the contributions of Germans in the region between the 16th and 19th Centuries, and the victims of the 20th Century. As an extension of the project, Anton Bosch and Erna Malygin traveled to the Archangelsk region during the summer of 2007 and did further research in the local archives. From a cooperative effort of the Pomorian Lomonosssov University at Archangelsk (the Teaching Chair for History) and the German Red Cross, a "Trauerbuch Archangelsk" [Mourning Book] is to become reality. Additionally, the HDFR (Erna Malygin) and the Lomonossow University at Archangelsk (Prof. Dr. Michael Suprun) are to take care of a school museum in Novodvisnk.

In the Archangelsk region, on the infamous Solovski Islands, and in other GUlag camps, tens of thousands of banished and otherwise mobilized German-Russians, plus German POW's, lost their lives. This theme is to be the central point of the research work in the next three years.

Anton Bosch

Anton Bosch - the Driving Force

Remaining grounded on the facts and doing conscientious research, in this way "it is indeed the German-Russian researchers who can shed the proper light on several matters." It is with this motto that Anton Bosch, the driving force of the association, motivated other association members. All of his life Bosch was interested in historyand for that reason once again sat through formal education classes, and in 2001 he concluded his studies at the Erlangen-Nuremberg University on the subjects of history, Slavic studies, recent and most recent history, the title of his thesis being "Magister Artium." His research concentrated on cultural and church history during the Stalinist times of the 1930's.

Anton Bosch personally experienced the suffering and misery of his ethnic group. In 1944, the then ten-year-old had to leave his home village of Kandel by horse and wagon. Then came Wartheland, another escape toward the West, the journey back to Siberia, childhood years in a work camp in Udmurtia (Western Urals), life as an electrical mechanic, director of an electric power plant and later chief engineer for supplying power to Karaganda, and, finally, the resettlement in Germany. During the 1960s Bosch spent a lot of effort on behalf of reuniting families and supported German-Russians eager to go to Germany.

From 1974 on, he and his family have been living in Nuremberg, where he spent 23 years in an electric company. Here, too, the integration of his fellow countrymen became one of his main concerns. At first he worked as a volunteer in social affairs for the Landsmannschaft, and for many years he chaired the local and county chapter Nuremberg-Fuerth. With some interruption, between 1977 and 1991 Bosch was a member of the national board of the Landsmannschaft, chair of the cultural council of the Landsmannschaft (1987 - 1991) and vice-chair of the Association of Displaced Persons in the Nuremberg-Fuerth region.

For his extraordinary achievements in the area of researching the history of his ethnic group as well as his great care for the culture and traditions of German-Russians, Anton Bosch in 2004 was awarded the Golden Pin of Merit of the Landsmannschaft.

To the question, "Why are you still digging around in the archives?" Bosch has a clear reply: "These archives tell us much that is unfamiliar and surprising. The things that are hidden in Russian and Ukrainian archives are our responsibility for the future. History demands the whole truth."

In this way the research association, now with its new chairman, desires to take up topics in the future, too, especially those topics that have been committed to silence or have been worked on only in gaps.

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