Big Kraut Poses as Big Chief

"Big Kraut Poses as Big Chief." Pierce County Tribune, 28 July 1971, 1.

Dr. Karl Stumpp, Germany
The Krauts, Germans-from-Russia variety, had a big pow-wow at the Memorial Hall in Rugby, Monday, July 19, beginning at 8 o'clock. Actually it was a meeting of the N.D. Chapter of the National organization for Germans-from-Russia.

In many respects it was an unusual meeting. Presiding was Judge Ray Friederich, state president. And at the head table with him were three men with doctorates. The three, Dr. Adam Giesinger of Winnipeg, Dr. Joseph Heidt of Indiana, Dr. Karl Stumpp of Germany. The latter has spent about 50 years getting the history of the suffering and tragedies that these people have endured since first migrating to Russia a few centuries ago. The three are considered the outstanding authorities in the world on this particular ethnic group.

The distinguished visitors seemed pleased with the large crowd.

Dr. Stumpp said there were many more than at a similar meeting in Bismarck. Ushers and workers at the affair estimated the crowd at about 400.

Dr. Giesinger, who is a distant relative of John Giesinger in Rugby, said his grandfather homesteaded land in this area back in 1899. Later the family moved to Canada. He is a chemical engineer besides an author, lecturer and scholar.

Dr. Heidt, who has known Dr. Stumpp about seven years, introduced him. It was obvious that the mutual understanding and respect of the men ran deep. Both men were choked up after Heidt's introduction. Heidt served as a translator.

A few highlights of Dr. Stumpp's talk: there are now about 60,000 Germans from Russia living in free Germany; coming to America was the realization of a cherished dream; he has made numerous trips into Russia for records; helping to get news to families of the whereabouts, or whether alive or dead of members, has been a deeply moving and satisfying experience for him; so often he was greeted by a woman, "Do you know where my man is? Do you know where our men are?"; traveling in America made him realize how small Germany was; he was impressed with the American custom of opening a meeting with a prayer and the pledge to the flag. This isn't done in Germany anymore.

Dr. Stumpp revealed that he has worked for 40 years on a book, which when completed in about a year or so, will list virtually every German from Russia. It will run to 1,000 pages.

Dr. Stumpp said in 1904 there were about 300 "Mother" colonies of Germans in Russia. By 1914 there were 3500 (the addition of what he called "daughter" colonies).

The Germans had been promised by CZAR Alexander the First and by Catherine the Great: freedom of religion; the right to have their own schools and exemption from military service.

In 1971 the CZAR reneged on these promises and German youths were obligated to serve in the military which could means from 8 to 12 years.

In 1874 the great migrations to America, Canada and Liberia began. Dr. Stumpp said in 1921-22, 300,000 Germans in Russia starved. In 1932-33 there was a terrible famine. About 300 starved in the village of Lundau alone. Stalin took everything, especially all the land from the Germans (as well as others).

From 1928 until 1934, tens of thousands fled or were shipped to Siberia or Asia. One of the greatest sufferings was separation of families. The women and children didn't know where their menfolk were or if alive at all.

In 1941, a million were transported from their villages and homes in a single week.

Again in 1944, Dr. Stumpp said, 240,000 fled in an attempt to reach Germany. About 60,000 made it.

The years 1944 to 1955 were years of torment because families or parts of them could learn nothing about missing members. After Stalin's death in 1955, letters were permitted.

Dr. Stumpp was inundated with letters from people in Russia or Germany inquiring about members of their families. So great was this volume that reading was impossible. It was a Herculean task just to note postmarks.

Dr. Stumpp estimates that there are still about 1,846,000 Germans in Russia. Conditions are a little better for them now, but they are forbidden to have a church; anyone under 18 is forbidden to attend a church service; services are held in homes with locked doors, muted voices and drawn blinds. The worshippers risk arrest. "Worshipping is an exercise in heroism," Dr. Stumpp said.

MC Ray Friederich presented Dr. Stumpp with a little Geographical Center Monument replica. Also, because he was disappointed in not seeing Indians and buffalo, they put an Indian headdress on him and let people take his picture.

What with Dr. Stumpp's nose and all, he looked the part of an Indian Chief.

A mixed group directed by Mrs. Caroline Voeller sang about a half dozen German songs. To the Germans, these songs are little akin to the spirituals for the blacks. Mrs. Carl Weimer and Mrs. Clemence Volk served as accompanists.

Following the meeting, the ladies served coffee and kuchen.

Reprinted with permission of the Pierce County Tribune.

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