A Visit With the Germans From Bessarabia

Ein Besuch bei den Bessarabien-Deutschen

"A Visit With the Germans From Bessarabia." Volk auf dem Weg, March 2003, 10.

Translation from German to English by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado

Note to the Reader: please see the Translator's notes (numbered, in order, within the translation of the article itself) I have inserted following the translated article, but preceding the translation of the sidebar. A.H.

A project called "Museum der Russlanddeutschen [Museum for Germans from Russia]," begun years ago, but put on ice due to urgent problems requiring more urgent attention, has been revisited by colleagues in the Landsmannschaft.

Hoping to try to look into what might be possible, a small delegation from the Landsmnnschaft der Deutschen aus Russland earlier this year made its way to the Haus der Bessarabiendeutschen [House of the Germans from Bessarabia], which happens to be located at Florianstrasse 17 in Stuttgart, only a few meters from the national headquarters [of the (G-R) Landsmannschaft]. They found success and experienced great astonishment -- hardly able to believe what they had found. The extent to which that small Landsmannschaft (Note 1) for Germans from Bessarabia has been able to collect and catalog specific items for its archive and its museum is more than astonishing. Even more remarkable is the fact that its chair, Edwin Kelm, depends solely (Note 3) on volunteers to get the work done.

The immediate result of the talks between representatives of both Societies was the establishment of a plan for cooperation, which eventually will culminate in the creation of a Museum for Germans from Russia. We shall continue to report on this matter.

[Upper picture:]
A typical display case containing everyday useful items, in the Museum der Landsmannschaft der Bessarabiendeutschen (see Notes 1 and 2)

[Lower picture:]
The "delegations" of the Germans from Bessarabia and of the Germans from Russia (from left to right, each row) -- front row: Leontine Wacker (a vice chair, LM for Germans from Russia), Edwin Kelm (national chair, LM for Germans from Bessarabia -- see Note 1), Waldemar Neumann (also a vice chair, LM for Germans from Russia); -- back row: Hugo Adolf (responsible for Bessarabian Aid), Prof. Sigmund Ziebart (managing national director of the LM for Germans from Bessarabia -- see Note 1), Ingo Isert (Curator of the Heimatmuseum [for Germans from Bessarabia] -- see Note 3), Adolf Fetsch (a vice chair the LM for Germans from Russia), Waldemar Axt (volunteer managing director, LM for Germans from Russia).

Translator's Notes:

In an email to Michael M. Miller, Ingo Isert, Curator of the Heimatmuseumder Deutschen aus Bessarabien, made specific corrections to what he citesas some erroneous terminology used by the author(s) of the originalarticle:

Note 1: While it is correct to use the term Landsmannschaft for the corresponding organization for Germans from Russia, the Germans from Bessarabia do not call their organization Landsmannschaft. Instead, they use the term Volksgruppe [Ethnic Group].

Note 2: In the caption, the correct name for the museum should be "Heimatmuseum der Deutschen aus Bessarabien [Heimat-Museum for Germans from Bessarabia]," which also should not contain the word Landsmannschaft. [I have found the word Heimat to be fairly untranslatable.]

Note 3: Ingo Isert notes that the word "solely" should be replaced with "primarily."


The history of Bessarabia, an area between the rivers Dnyestr, Danube and Pruth and the Black Sea, is filled with significant historical changes and events. In 1934, according to Knaur's Konversationslexikon [Knaur's Conversational Lexicon], Bessarabia, at that time part of Romania, measured 44.422 suqare kilometers and had 2.865 million residents. 83,000 of those
were Germans, who [at least their ancestors ... AH] between 1814 and 1842 had followed the call of Alexander I, had settled in Bessarabia, and had founded 24 colonies in the administrative district of Ackermann alone. The names of these colonies, Borodino, Tarutino, Leipzig, Kalm, etc. were given in memory of various battles against Napoleon I.

The Republic of Moldavia, which in 1991 became the successor state to the Moldavian SSR, today takes up the largest part of the former Bessarabia.

The Scythians inhabited Bessarabia during antiquity. For centuries to come, it would be an object of desire for various nations, so it was variously controlled by Romans, Goths, and Ottomans (Turks). Those who were involved in fighting over it were Eastern Teutons, Western Goths, Huns, Bulgarians, Avarians, Hungarians, Petchengens, Kiev Russians, and the Ottoman Empire. It was given the name Bessarabia during the 14th Century, after it had been conquered by a ruler-prince called Bessarab.

Toward the end of the 15th Century, it was conquered by the Ottomans, and in 1812 it was ceded to Russia, as part of the Peace of Bucharest.

As of 1856 Bessarabia belonged to the Principality of Moldavia, but in 1878 it was partially reconquered by Russia. In 1918 it was occupied by Romania and in 1940, as a consequence of the German-Russian pact of August 23, 1939, it was occupied by the Red Army. In 1941 the German Wehrmacht placed it once again under Romanian power, only to be reconquered by the Soviet Union in 1944.

Today's Republic of Moldavia measures 33.8 square kilometers, with 4,264,000 inhabitants (cf. Fischer Weltalmanach 2003 [World Alamanac 2003]). Nearly two-thirds of them are Moldavians; Ukrainians, Russians, Gagaus and Bulgarians bring up the rear. The capital is Kishinyev. Other cities familiar to our readers are Tirsapol and Bendery.

Johann Kampen

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