A Trip to North Dakota/USA, Part 1

Nitschke, Klaus. "A Trip to North Dakota/USA, Part 1." Mitteilungsblatt, May 2009, 12-13.

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

A Country to Which Many Bessarabian-Germans Emigrated

My father's family comes from Beresina/Bessarabia. In 1999 I wrote a history of the Nitschke family, from its immigration to Bessarabia all the way to current times. With the help of family history researchers Dale Wahl and Mike Rempfer, both of the US, I recorded the entire clan, including the current generation of the Nitschkes that stems from Beresina, including the current generation. During this process, it came apparent that around two turns of a century ago (1890 - 1899), a large number of Nitschke families emigrated from Beresina to North Dakota in the US, and among these were families of the siblings and the uncle of my grandfather Johann Georg Nitschke. 

L. to R.: Family History Registry Entry; The Germans from Russia Heritage Society [HQ]

Upon their request, I provided a copy of this extensive family history to the  America's Heritage Association for Germans form Russia (Germans from Russia Heritage Association) in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Around 2003/2004, Dr. Leland Elhard of Bismarck asked me for permission to translate the Nitschke Family History, which I granted him. In the translated product he also included the family history of Larry and Shirley Nitschke of Jamestown, ND.

In 2006, Shirley Nitschke took up Internet contact with me and reported about the [translated] book. The Larry Nitschke family was planning a trip to Germany, and they indeed visited us in Guestrow in October of 2006. Their family was very pleased with their trip to Germany and with my family. We took them to see Guestrow, Rostock and the Mecklenburg countryside. At the time I provided Shirley Nitschke with additional material on the family history.

A short time later we received an invitation for a return visit in North Dakota. We were asked to plan the dates of our visit so that we could participate in the July 19-21 "International Convention of the Germans from Russia" in Bismarck.

Dr. Leland Elhard had planned for me to participate in a convention workshop on the Nitschke family history (/Open Conversation with Klaus Nitschke of Guestrow/).

On July 26, 2007, my wife Elke, my son Kevin and I flew to North Dakota.

In Bismarck we received a very warm welcome by Leland and Valerie Elhard and were able to stay in their home on the Missouri River in Bismarck. Dr. Leland Elhard immediately discussed with me the procedure for the meeting and introduced me to the translator of the family history, Vita Moore, who also showed strong interest in the book. During the next few days, Valerie showed us some sights of North Dakota, such as Fort Abraham Lincoln with its Indian Village, and Roosevelt National Park in the Badlands.

Then came Thursday, July 19. The international convention of Germans from Russia took place in the Ramkota Hotel Bismarck. As we registered, and in the hallways, we met many people who had come from many states, including Texas, Canada, Washington, Minnesota, California, Kansas, etc. One big room had been made into a library, in which all sorts of literature on Bessarabia and other Russian areas, as well as lists of immigrants of Germans, were exhibited.

 From our name tags, participants were able to see that we had come from Germany, and they conversed with us.  Some spoke German in a Schwabian dialect, and they were pleased that they were able to converse with us in German, since many are no longer in command of the German language.

At 2:30 PM the workshop on the Nitschke Family History began, the room filled with people, and Dr. Leland Elhard opened the workshop by introducing us and making some introductory remarks.

L. to r.: Dr. Leland Elhard, Klaus and Kevin Nitschke during the Presentation, Worskshop Attendees

I had previously prepared a PowerPoint presentation, but it was in German. I presented our family history to the attendees, and my son Kevin took on the part of translator, because my own English was insufficient. He managed this job very well -- a few passages were indeed difficult to translate. My wife Elke took on the job of photographer. The presentation was followed by a period of discussion, during which we were overwhelmed with questions and explanations. There was great interest in the family history, and many wanted to know how things in Bessarabia were later on. In great detail we had to describe the resettlement, the settlement period in Poland and the escape in 1945, and the subsequent resettlement in Germany.

They were unfamiliar with many aspects, particularly the settlement period in Poland and the process of escape a the end of World War II. It ended up as a very informative afternoon, with great attentiveness and a very friendly welcoming spirit from the audience.

After the event we drove to Jamestown with Leland and Shirley Nitschke. The immigrant Nitschkes settled mainly in the region around Jamestown, Jud, Ashley, and Alfred. Even today there are still some large farms that are owned and operated by Nitschke families.

We became acquainted with Jamestown and with some other family members, and we attended a Baptist service. Larry and Landon Nitschke then introduced us to even more Nitschke families, among them the Kenneth Nitchkes, who operate a huge farm in Jud. In a home for the elderly in Jamestown we visited Georg Nitschke, 93 years old at the time, and a cousin of my father's, the son of Wilhelmina (my grandfather's sister) and cousin of my grandfather, Christoph Nitschke. Both were immigrants from Beresina. Unfortunately a real conversation with Georg was impossible, since he had just suffered a stroke. He still spoke German well and could certainly have told us some things about the immigration to America.

(To be continued)                 

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

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