Memories of Pastor Schumacher’s Tenure in Krasna, 1936-1940

Riehl, Max. "Memories of Pastor Schumacher's Tenure in Krasna, 1936-1940." Mitteilungsblatt, September 2012, 11.

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

In the bishopric city of Iaşi [German spelling: Jassy] several grievances and complaints were received from Krasna regarding the pastor, along with the request to replace him with a new, German-speaking priest. The hope was for the assignment of one of the newly ordained priests who were originally from Krasna. The wait was becoming rather long, but then came the surprising news that a priest from Germany would be coming to Krasna. Because of his “loose tongue,” Father Wilhelm Schumacher had come under pressure from the National Socialist authorities, and he had been advised to leave Germany. He did so immediately and landed in Iaşi.

Father Schumacher was more of a U-boat captain from World War I than he was a priest. The man who had grown up in the Cologne area was coming to a farming village that still seemed to be back in the 18th Century. There was one telephone in the entire village, but no radio, no cinema, and no functioning clubs for sport, music, or theater. There was only the one church choir, which was singing hymns from the 17th Century, namely, the ones the settlers had brought along. With strong spirit and creativity, he started his priestly post in Krasna. After he had been there but a few weeks, the choir could no longer accept all interested comers, and from that church choir emanated a theater group, groups for folk singing, cooking, and crafts, and even a brass instrument group – and they used all of the classrooms and the church for meetings and rehearsals.

Romanian administration officials came to look at this rather enviously and insinuated that Father Schumacher was a spy for Germany. Without warning, the use of classrooms by these groups was reduced heavily, and already scheduled performances were cancelled. To gain independence from the chicanery of the authorities, a plan was hatched calling for the construction of a building for the village youth that was to enable further development of the above groups. Administration officials lacked the means to prohibit construction on church property, and Father Schumacher took care to receive permission from the bishop of Iaşi for constructing on church-owned property a home for various youth activities. Via individual conversations with the more well-healed farmers of Krasna he made sure of an eventual yes-vote for the construction of “Unser Heim [Our Home].” Still, there were passionate opponents to such construction. Tirelessly, the pastor used a sweet approach mixed with the whip of threats and pleas that came close to extortion to potential donors of building materials. Officially, all donations were given by free will and in approval of the project. These free-will contributions were negotiated in back rooms to correspond to the size of the donor’s farm property, and they had to be given as donations. For bachelors sixteen years or older, and for those not able to give donations, voluntary community service was arranged so that all were able to make their contributions. To keep the costs down, Father Schumacher personally tracked the community service hours. Nearly all required work was performed under his military-like “command.” All the while before the project was finished, opponents who considered the building a pure waste remained unconvinced of its usefulness. Many would have preferred to send the pastor to the wasteland, and they were encouraged by administrative officials to ask the bishop to transfer the pastor. But beginning with the day of the dedication, with many guests present, with the parade through the village, and with the theater performances in the new “home,” and with the numerous words of praise, the voices of those critics of wasted funds fell silent. But while the criticism stopped, a new kind of hatred, mixed with envy of success, set in, and the pastor faced the danger that his visa for his stay as pastor might not be renewed.

The pulsating life in the “Home” gradually waned via more and more new demands by the administrative authorities, and by September 1, 1939, all preparations for a “Krasna – 25 Years” celebration were banned under threat of punishment. The “Home” was no longer to be used, and the church choir was not allowed to hold its rehearsals in it. In Poland, the thunder of cannons was being heard, and hatred for anything German increased dramatically. The suspicion that Father Schumacher was spying for Germany was voiced at several hearings, so much so that he had to weigh carefully any words he was about to utter, in order not to come under further suspicion. Any other intentions and plans by Schumacher, which much earlier had met with the approval of the authorities, could no longer be carried out. An ongoing project to use the mill to supply electricity to the church, the school, and the parish office had to be cancelled. Also cancelled were talks about constructing a water line from a source in Tarutino via Krasna to Arzis and Sarata. It was the beginning of the end, which culminated with the resettlement [in late 1940].

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

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