The First German Community School in Dobrudzha Village

Hartmann, Michael. "The First German Community School in Dobrudzha Village." Mitteilungsblatt. March 2011, 9-11.

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

[Translator’s Note: as indicated in the second sentence, this article appears to have been taken from an unspecified Yearbook of the Bessarabian Germans – Tr.]

Until 1939, outside of the city of Constanza, no other community in Dobrudzha had been able to boast a fully built and equipped German community school. How general instruction was held from the beginnings of Dobrudzha German settlements until the resettlement can be seen in this Yearbook. Naturally, the settlers cared about the schooling of their children, but what they were able to muster could never really be considered sufficient. Furthermore, there was the fact that children were obliged to attend state-operated schools.

During the time between the two World Wars, the need for their own community schools became apparent to the German villagers. However, German communities in the Dobrudzha were often simply too weak to be able to support their own regular schools. In Constanza, the important harbor city, conditions for keeping a German community school going were much different from those out in the villages.

Still, the community which, despite all possible roadblocks and difficulties, was to be the first to establish a fully-built and fully-equipped German community school was Kobadin, for the most part due to the initiative and driving force of Pastor Herbert Hahn.

Kobadin, the most progressive German community in this settlement region, realized a work of genuine communal cooperation. At the beginning of the school 1939/1940 year, 182 German boys and girls were finally able to move into friendly and beautiful classrooms that their parents had been able to equip with much love, effort, and great sacrifice, and they were thus able to turn their back on the Romanian state-run school they had been forced to attend before that. How glad and happy their eyes gleamed they were taught in their mother tongue in all their classes, and how proud and happy were the three teachers who had been given this high and responsible task. Elected as permanent official state employees by the community, and confirmed by the Country’s Consistory as well as by the state supervisory authority, were: 1. Michael Hartman as rector and preacher, 2. Albert Klett as teacher, and 3. Miss Mathilde Schink as teacher. Added also was a Romanian teacher from the Romanian state school for instruction in Romanian language classes. Thus, on the one hand, a friendly relationship was established with the state school and, on the other hand, a neutral and beneficial attitude was assured from the state’s supervisory authority for the time of the annual final exams. According to national public school laws, a non-state-run school was required to conduct successful year-end exams in all classes and in all subjects, and in the Romanian language three years in a row before it could be given final sanction by the state. With gratitude for the achievements of our children and with great joy over the success they had earned, we were able to announce to our community, as early as the end of the very first year, official recognition for our school by the district consistory in Bucharest, and the country’s educational council in Hermannstadt.

Forgotten were the initial reservations that had surfaced during those early meetings and counsels concerning the establishment of our own German school -- for a time these had actually led to a cessation of activities toward its realization. Here, too, there had been those who did not want to hear of sacrifices for the benefit of the community. It had not been easy to convince especially the better-endowed folks that the children were children of us all, and that we were all obliged to preserve and develop this precious gift that is bestowed on a people. The presbyters and many other righteous members of the community who, along with their diligent and open-to-everything-new wives, had always made sure that the effort would meet its rightful conclusion. So it finally came as no surprise to anyone that, in the end, no one refused to remit the corresponding church and school taxes.

The successes of the school, and the gratitude of parents who gladly declared themselves ready to pay even higher amounts toward maintaining the school at all costs, proved to be the best reward for our many efforts.

And now a few comments regarding how the calculation of the formula for the amount of contributions was done: Expenditures for church and school, that is, pastor’s and teachers’ salaries, building maintenance, lighting, heating, repairs, rounding out the school equipment, the school library, etc., had been estimated at 280,000 lei. This required amount was reduced by a donation of 20,000 lei and another contribution coming from a 14 percent share of community income, 15,000 lei, and the rest would have to be raised by the community. The presbytery was concerned that social hardships be avoided and that families with many children might not be burdened overly much. Still, there was no avoiding at least an initial requirement of a per-schoolchild tax of 100 lei, which was found to be too high. So how would the key calculation be determined? That would eventually be accomplished with three key points in mind:

     1. A per-family tax of 300 lei (widows being assessed half of that amount)

     2. An assessment covering mobile and immobile properties

     3. A per-child tax of 100 lei

Nothing further needs be said regarding pint #1. Regarding the tax on mobile and immobile properties, the following rules applied: Each hectare of land would be assessed 15 lei, equivalently per cow, horse, three sheep, wagon, plow, sowing machine, and each threshing machine. Vineyards were assessed at a triple rate. Mills were assesses at the rate of that for 200 hectares, one tractor, and one threshing machine, businesses at twenty to sixty hectares, trades people at ten to 30 hectares. The required information for these calculations was decided on by the presbytery and confirmed by community representatives and the district consistory. All lists and books were kept according to ancient Siebenbürgian custom and usage. Here my own experiences in Siebenbürgen came to good stead. Even if I was practically solely responsible for the calculations and official business considerations, the presbytery took over the more important task of collecting the assessments. To their credit, it must be stated with gratitude that by the time of our resettlement, that is, by November of 1940, four months before the theoretical final accounting, all church taxes had been collected, and excess collections had been used to the benefit of many families in need of assistance. 

The efforts of our teaching team were, naturally, not limited to school instruction. Waiting also to be served were the youth as well as the newly established brass chorus (twenty-four strong!) in need of instruction and direction. And there were the community organizations and the church community itself who could not do without our assistance. There were the choirs and the gymnastics people (the mixed choir and the gymnastics troop demonstrating remarkable achievements). There also were folklore evenings, adult courses, feasts and celebrations, lay theater productions, arrangements for church services, and other ethnic events for which the brass band was always a fixture -- all these were visible signs of community collaboration. Here, too, one could see the power of community which, left to its own devices, but with exemplary unity, can attain achievements one might not have thought possible. Still, all these achievements on behalf of the school and of cultural endeavors, were possible only because in the community of Kobadin there was a considerable number of men and women who were conscious of their responsibilities toward their children and were willing to pay the sacrifices that needed to be assumed with such courage and openness that in 1938 they were able to accomplish the building of their own German school. I am filled with pride that I, even for a brief time, was able to serve my community with my knowledge and abilities to maintain -- in an outpost as it were -- German ways and customs and to defend against foreign attacks against them.

The general respect that the achievements of the Kobadin community enjoyed even on the outside was demonstrated by a visit from the Resident of Constanza, who was especially pleased with our brass chorus and who promised broad support. Different great communities of the Dobrudzha, such as Cogealac, Tariverde, Fachria, and others were inspired and eager to emulate the example of Kobadin. This was shown by the many inquiries for how to prepare for and bring about the establishment of other local German schools. Afterwards, the agricultural school of Kobadin, a dream project of our district leader, Joh. Menyes, ould also become a reality. All conditions for a successful development were present. However, the gigantic political upheavals would finally bring all our great plans to naught.

Today we live scattered all over the entire world. We are faced with the same situation as that of our forefathers, who paid dearly for their achievements in our former homeland. However, if we can act, anywhere we find ourselves, not as receivers, but as givers, we can thank our parents, who gave us a real German upbringing. We shall never forget this, especially when we think of our old homeland.

Evangelical-Lutheran Community School in Kobadin

 Appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for the translation of this article

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