Kindred Souls Do Not Remain Silent – In Memory of Ida Bender (born June 6, 1922, died November 12, 2012)

Domke, Antonina. "Kindred Souls Do Not Remain Silent – In Memory of Ida Bender (born June 6, 1922, died November 12, 2012)." Volk auf dem Weg, January 2013, 44-45.

Translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, CO.

Ida Bender (shown with a walking stick) on the occasion of a talk about Waldemar Herdt.

(Translator’s note: the original title listed the date of death as November xx. Rudolf Bender informed me that the actual date was November 12.)

It was the year 2008--our Association was still quite young. During an earlier meeting of some of our members they had decided to establish the Place of Encounter for German Russian Culture and History in the Adam Barracks Complex in Soest, and it became reality in May, 2007. Finally, in 2008 we officially (re-)established our Association there. Henceforth we would be able to broaden our horizons.

As I was searching for topics for a seminar which the Association of Refugees had asked us to conduct in its own rooms at the Adam Barracks Complex, I first “googled” the Internet, thinking I should be able to find something there about the German Russians. Best of all, it should be something that distinguishes us in a cultural sense. I soon hit upon a site called Wolgaheimat [Volga Homeland], which contained reports on German Russian poets and writers, including Dominik Hollmann, whose name I knew from my days at the German Theater in Alma-Ata. As I read about him, it became clear to me that our presentation must be about Dominik’s life and work.

However, would I be able to conduct the needed research that for the first attempt in my life I could deliver a presentation on a literary person of such greatness? I could not rid myself of serious doubts. So I continued to search the Internet for someone who could make such a presentation. I don’t remember the name of a man I came up with, but he replied with an immediate suggestion. However, our Association was still in its infancy, without sponsors, without visible external support, without donations, and we could therefore not come up with the required large honorarium
The good man also provided me with an E-mail address I could turn to, that of a grandson of Hollmann. Without realizing that I had already virtually visited this grandson, I did write to him, a Rudolf Bender, who managed web site Wolgaheimat, as I found out later. Who could have imagined that Bender and Hollmann could be related?

In due time Rudolf Bender wrote a few lines in return, sent me some photos, and as an aside mentioned that his mother, Ida Bender, nee Hollmann gave talks about her father and didn’t even ask for an honorarium. A few short weeks later we were all sitting on a couch at my house and began to prepare for the seminar.           

I should mention that Ida Bender had come fully prepared. We only had to put together a plan for how it would all take its course. We quickly became aware that this diminutive woman had so much energy, so many ideas, and such readiness for action on behalf of literature and history, that we might be able to arrange an entire fireworks of meetings.

Quickly, and during a period of four years, these meetings would not only open the eyes of the “native” population, but they also became a unique excursion into our own roots, our history, the experiences of our grandparents, peculiarities of the Volga German language [dialect], the traditions and customs of the last 250 years, and the world of ideas of our poets, writers and fighters for justice.

This small woman with the curly white hair, an angel-like figure with a calm and firm voice and great and wonderful heart, told us of so many things, they seemed like a whole new world.

She insisted on standing during her talks. As soon as she got behind the podium, all eyes expectantly turned toward her. Even in an occupational school meeting full of young people there was complete silence in the room when she read from her book. At times she would even forego the use of a microphone—but everyone still heard her.

Whenever Ida Bender came to Soest, we would sit at the table and within only two or three hours we would “give birth” to yet another seminar. Our association (= choir) loved to accompany her presentations with song, we read poems we had never read or heard before, and we enthusiastically took in the landscape of German Russian culture, like travelers who during our wanderings had chanced upon an oasis in a deserted land.

When we got up sufficient courage to record our CD “Ich schenke dir, Heimat, meine Lieder [I give you, Homeland, my songs],” Ida and Rudolf supported our project enthusiastically and financially. Without them we would never have finished it, and that CD dedicated to the memory of Dominik Hollmann would not exist. Its title mirrored our own feelings. Your homeland is in your heart no matter whether you go.

Ida Bender’s book Schön ist die Jugend…bei frohen Zeiten [Beautiful is Youth…During Good Times]” soon received much recognition in Soest and elsewhere. She conducted three readings here, and we were planning to present more…

Together we celebrated Ida’s 90th birthday [June, 2012 -Tr.] in Hamburg. It was a beautiful day, filled with joy, confidence, and the hope for getting together again soon. Nobody could foresee that it was to be our last time together.

The news of the sudden death of our good friend threw all of us into deep mourning. The finality of life—this concept was in no way part of Ida. So now she continues to live in each one of us—in every single member of our choir. “One forgets when one remains silent,” an elder journalist once said. We will not allow the name of Ida Bender to be forgotten.

Our ethnic group owes great gratitude to the person of Ida for her talents and her courage to write and to speak out.

Antonina Domke, on behalf of the Cultural and Historical Association of Germans from Russia, “Kultur-A-Z.”  

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translating and to Dr. Nancy Herzog for editing this article.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller