The Stony Path

Schleicher, Josef. "The Stony Path." Volk auf dem Weg, May 2009, 39.

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


It was not a look back into the mirror of history while fully engaged on the path toward the future, rather it was a well-founded signpost that was lacking for Walter Lange's ancestors when, in search of freedom and opposed to any form of violence from the state, they emigrated to Russia.

They, pious Mennonites and Templars, could not foresee what was awaiting them in the Empire of the Double Eagle and later of the Red Star, namely, a stony path. And that is the title of Lange's most recent book, "Der steinerne Weg. Die Geschichte einer Tempelgemeinde mennonitischer Herkunft in Russland" [translated title: /The Stony Path. The History in Russia of a Templar Community of Mennonite Origin/]. Therein the author succeeds in drawing a connecting arc from the pre-history of the Mennonite faith to the fate of individual members of the Templar Community itself.

But as early as in the 19th Century, the Community of Brethren, the Alliance Community, the Bridal Community and the Templar Community split from the Mennonite Church communities of South Russia. According to Lange, the newly formed communities, following certain disagreements, were forced to leave Tauria and to discover new areas to live in. Thus the families of the Brethren Community moved to the Kuban region and to Siberia, the Templars settled on the Kuma River in the North Caucasus region and there established the two villages of Tempelhof and Orbelyanovka, while the Bridal Community moved to Central Asia, and the Alliance Community to the Altai region.

For the reader who is exposed for the first time to the history of German-Russians, the book also presents "general material" -- a timeline and a brief history of the history of the Germans in Russia and in the Soviet Union. For the informed reader the book is a springboard to the familiar and also entirely new topic "Templar communities of Mennonite origin."

In the book we find detailed descriptions of resettlements and foundings of villages as well as expositions of various conceptions of faith. The "stony path" becomes particularly obvious in descriptions of the terror perpetrated by the Communist State that resulted in the destruction of the Tenplar Community, in forced collectivization, dispossessions, etc.

As of the 1930s, the number of invisible gravestones of the victims of terror begin to multiply, a terror that would find continuation in the deportations and forced labor episodes of war and post-war times. Walter Lange includes detailed lists of names.

However, people do not simply appear on and disappear from this earth without a trace. The lists of names of the first Templars as well as portraits of individual families, here also published by Lange, demonstrate that the stony paths of the ancestors were not simply stray wanderings after all.

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

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