This translation from the original German-language text to American
English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
Excerpt from "Die Deutschen in der Dobrudscha" [The Germans in Dobrudscha] by Traeger, as Revised by Rudolf Rueb
TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: There are spots in this report where the author speaks of times "to this day," which in my opinion probably mean pre-WW-II times, because given the passage of time and conditions in what used to be "The Dobrudscha," the statements simply do not appear to make sense in today's times.
The first Germans stepped foot in the Dobrudscha region in 1841. At the time, cultured Europe knew very little of this corner of the world on the lower Danube. There were no cities that might make its name better known. Konstanza at that time was merely a semi-decayed, one-horse town with only a few residents.
It was the autumn of 1841 when a small number of families from the Bessarabian colonies of Beresina and Leipzig had traveled straight to Mecin, where they spent the winter and, during the subsequent year, settled down in the village of Akpunar, which was inhabited by Turks.
These families, however, were only a small portion of the considerable number that were leaving the German colonies of Bessarabia at that time. By far the majority of these, but only after a long while of wandering and looking around, and after several temporary stays in widely scattered places, had finally found their way to Dobrudscha. Oral tradition has it that they had tarried here and there, sometimes longer, at times only briefly, in the Moldavia area and in Muntenia, even on the Bulgarian side of the Danube. Some of the Bessarabian colonists continued their wanderings all the way to Hungary, only to return to Muntenia, and finally finding refuge in Dobrudscha as well.
Only one settlement that was established in Muntenia at that time has been kept up to this day. For decades it served as an important transit point toward Dobrudscha and has therefore taken on greater importance in the history of the German Dobrudscha settlements. We are speaking here of the colony of Jakobsohnstal, situated about six kilometers [4 miles] north of Braila.
At the time, what exactly drove those German farmers to leave their Germans villages, which, on all accounts, had developed well, to take up the migration path and to go into the unknown?
While there is solid information available about the later periods of Germans leaving Russia and even the move to Dobrudscha, the reasons for the question of the early migration are not so easily available. External events, serious political and legal measures by the Russian government making themselves evident, as they might in subsequent times have been the basis for emigration -- these did not exist at that time. And it can hardly be assumed that the colonists left the Russian Empire simply because they felt uncomfortable there. From various oral traditions it became apparent that the main point was the question of land availability. On the surface this might sound disconcerting and not easily understandable. In these unlimited areas, to which only recently people had been invited to populate them -- why should they lack space, or room? Still, it is a fact that soon after the initial settlements a certain lack of land availability did come about, namely, via certain regulations issued by the Russian government. These regulations intended that the land originally ceded to the settlers could not be sold or divided up by the original owners or by their heirs. The law of inheritance called for the youngest son to receive such lands, and the elder sons were therefore excluded from paternal property, so that in the mother colonies, for those sons excluded from paternal lands there was nothing left than to rent or to buy acreage beyond the original lands.
German migration to Dobrudscha occurred in three phases: the first between 1841 and 1856, the second wave between 1873 and 1883, and the third period between 1890 and 1891.
The First Settlement Period
The original settlement in 1842 in the Turkish village Akpunar should, as mentioned earlier, be considered the first settlement by Germans in Dobrudscha. A number of them continued on toward the South and settled near Harsova, where they remained quite a few years. Later they moved onward to the settlement of Kataloi.
Around the same time, a first large wave of emigration by Germans was taking place, including mostly laborers, tradesmen, and employees of sea-going concerns. It was through Tulcea that the founders of the colony of Malcoci, the oldest of the still existing settlements, had wandered. They had come from the colonies of the government district of Cherson.
The next-oldest of the still existing colonies is Atmagea, which was founded in 1848 by farmers who had lived in Akpunar. There, when they turned to a regent in Babadag for this very purpose, the newcomers were assigned acreage to settle on. The latter was a Greek who had studied in Berlin and there had learned to value German diligence and competence. To gain arable acreage, forested land had to be cleared. As in Malcoci, here also, each became owner of as much land as he could clear and turn into farming. For that sort of [transformed] land, he would receive from the Turkish government a certificate of ownership, the so-called "Tapiu-Note."
During the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1854, more unrest and movement was visited upon the colonies of South Russia. The people feared the general induction into the military. Once again, individual groups moved from many German settlements and went directly to the Dobrudscha. Only two settlements of that time continue to exist to this day: Kataloi and Ciucurova. Here, too, anyone could own as much land as he could clear, provided it did not already have an owner. Immediately after their founding, both colonies experienced great influx from Jakobsohnstal, from which a portion of residents had been driven away by heavy flooding.
Kataloi and Ciucurova signify the end of the first period of the founding of German colonies in the Dobrudscha.
The Second Settlement Period
The year 1871 brought drastic changes to the German colonists. The committee that had been founded in 1818 expressly as their own and highest organization for taking care of the German colonists was dissolved, and the colonists were put on the same footing as all other underlings of the Russian Empire. What ranked the most was the loss of at least one previously granted right, namely, their exemption from military service. This provided the impetus toward a new large wave of emigration.
While previous arrivals had all settled in the northern part of the Dobrudscha, the new immigrants went farther south. Thus the nearly concurrent emergence of Kogealak, close to the midpoint between Konstanza and Babadag; also, a settlement that remains mostly German to this day, Tari Verde, close to the national highway two and a half kilometers [ca. 1.5 miles] east of Kogealak; and a third one, Fachria, three kilometers [ca. 1.8 miles] north of the rail line Konstanza - Cerna - Voda.
During the spring of 1876, around thirty families from the Bessarabian colony of Krasna arrived in the Dobrudscha. They first settled in the large Tatar village of Karamurat (Ferdinand I) and founded a German settlement that to this day remains one of the most impressive German colonies.
Another German colony was founded in the early 1880s, 28 kilometers [ca. 17 miles] north of Karamurat. It was called Cololia. Its founders had come from the Cherson government district and it later experienced more growth from Malcoci.
Following the War of 1878-1879, families from older colonies in the North settled in Anadolchioi near Konstanza. In 1880, the colony of Horoslar (Cocos) was founded within a village that had been abandoned by the Tatars. Part of the settlers had come directly from Bessarabia, another part from Jakobsohnstal. During the subsequent year, 15 kilometers [ca. nine miles] north of Konstanza, the German colony of Cogealia was founded in a village inhabited solely by Tatars. These settlers were all Schwabian families from Cherson.
The Third Settlement Period
Yet another strong movement toward emigration swept through the German colonies -- one stronger than all earlier ones. The secluded national life of the German colonists was again being threatened, they became increasingly less sanguine about life in the Tsarist Empire. In 1891, local German schools were removed from their own autonomous administration, and the Russian language was declared the prime language of instruction.
Thousands of German colonists at that time left the Russian steppes and emigrated to America. Some portion again turned toward the Dobrudscha, encouraged by the Romanian government and influenced by the German-friendly minister Karp. Consequently, during the years 1890 and 1891 a series of new colonies emerged, partly in already existing locales, and also in newly founded ones.
The largest of these still in existence is Kobadin. Sarighiol (Albesti) was founded in 1890. Among its settlers were several from German colonies in the Caucasus. For a time, Sarighiol was the largest settlement of those years. Neue Weingaerten (Viile-Noi) came into existence in 1892. Its founders had come, in part, directly from Russia, and in part from the existing German colonies in the Dobrudscha.
This particular colony comprised the last of the German settlements that came into existence directly from migration. The influx of larger groups from Russia had thus ended.
The Emergence of Daughter Colonies, 1893 - 1939
Still, the end of emigration from Russia did not mark the conclusion of the emergence of new German settlements in the Dobrudscha. A whole number of further colonies were founded during subsequent years and into the most recent times. However, their founders no longer came via the Danube. Simply put, these were the daughter colonies of the German Dobrudscha settlements.
In 1892, around twenty families from the old neighboring colonies of Amagea and Ciucurova moved in search of land in the South. They were able to obtain residence in the Turkish village of Mamuslia (Caescioarele), which had been destroyed during the war. Since nearly all of these settlers had been born in the Dobrudscha, they soon received twenty-five hectares [ca. sixty-five acres] per family, with a payback period set at thirty years. However, this was the only one of all the daughter colonies that experienced positive development and provided its founders the opportunity to settle down on their own new properties. All other settlements [attempts at establishing daughter colonies] had one thing in common, namely, that they did not succeed in obtaining private property. In one or another the situation may not exactly have been a bad one, but throughout it was more or less a dependent and insecure one.
During the course of the years following the World War [the author probably means WW I - Tr.] another strong wave of migration from Bessarabia can be observed, and these arrivals nearly always settled in existing German colonies.
The following should be included in the list of daughter colonies: Karatai, Alakap, Sofular, Agemler, Mangeapunar, Telchirghiol, Gross-Pallas, Bratianu, Ciobancuis, Ali-Anife, Bezargic, and Karali. And from all of the German settlements, the German "element" continually spread out to numerous locales all over Dobrudscha. In some places there are only a few individuals, in others perhaps one or several families who made a home for themselves in a completely strange environment.
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.