A Twenty-One-Year-Old Writes His Family History – A Review

Thiemann, Andreas. "A Twenty-One-Year-Old Writes His Family History - A Review." Westfalenpost, 4 February 2013.

Translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, CO.

Edgar Seibel of Hallenberg wants to write down his family’s history.

He is twenty-one years old and is already working on a third book publication. Edgar Seibel of Hallenberg [Germany], following up on a science fiction novel and a short-story collection, now wants to put into words the history of his family. Action locales, among others, include Russia and Afghanistan.

As Volga Germans, the grandparents were banished to Siberia. As a Russian soldier, father lost a leg in Afghanistan. And today, in Hallenberg in the Sauerland [a province of North Rhine Westphalia. – Tr.]. son Edgar is writing down the history of his family, By now he has composed two hundred pages, planning to add another two hundred. The title of his book is Volksgruppe unbekannt [Ethnic Group: Unknown].  This is to be the third major publication the twenty-one-year old is tackling. A science fiction novel entitled Odysee des galaktischen Krieges [Odyssey of the Galactic War], and the surrealist short story collection Psychodelia (Wagner-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-862790647-2) are already in print.  

Contact with North Dakota

In his day job, Edgar is employed as a specialist in media and information services. His work includes checking book inventories in a library. If everything goes well, however, Edgar will soon fly to America to enter an internship. “Via Facebook I discovered a history professor in the state of North Dakota whose major work centers on the difficult fate of the Volga Germans, and I would love to work in his Institute,” says Edgar, burning with desire for this task, which indeed represents a piece of his own life.

Twenty percent of the population of North Dakota, a state with 640,000 residents, has Volga German roots, as does the Seibel family. Using a recorder, Edgar interviewed his grandfather, who told him various things about the recent past. And, of course, the young author also has his own experiences to draw on. “As Germans in Siberia, we were marginalized, and here the same thing is happening to us, but now as Russians.” He had to quit secondary school because he could not adapt to the situation. In retrospect, he cites “identity problems” as the reason. Despite all that, the young man provides an impression of a pronouncedly intelligent, serious and conscientious person. For two years he worked on a correspondence course in writing and concluded it successfully with a certificate. Still, Edgar knows only too well that that piece of paper is hardly worth anything. He sees his real opportunity in North Dakota as an all the more decisive one. The topic of banishment is a diving force for him, and his father’s fate remains constantly before his mind’s eye. “In school in Siberia they called us Fascists,” remembers Konstantin Seibel, who along with his family emigrated to Germany in 1998. Prior to that, a Southern-German folklore group had provided this war invalid with a leg prosthesis, for which Konstantin Seibel will be grateful for the rest of his life.

Gymnasium Student in Winterberg

In Siberia there was never any possibility to integrate or assimilate, father Seibel explains why he wished to emigrate to Germany/. But even in the Sauerland they still feel like strangers. And within their own home the Seibels speak German and Russian, interchangeably, at will, and fluently.

Edgar’s younger brother Felix, is a student at the Winterberg gymnasium [a classical-curriculum high school], and he is an ace in sports. During the past year’s German youth championships, he placed third in skeleton [a winter sport using a small sled – Tr.], and his winner’s cups and plaques fill an entire glass display case.

Fifteen-year-old Felix was born in Germany, and he feels none of his family’s ambivalence about their homelands. He is truly part of a new generation.

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