A Successful Surprise for the President of the Federal Republic of Germany

Hardtke, Birgit. "A Successful Surprise for the President of the Federal Republic of Germany." Mitteilungsblatt, 16 December 2004, 1.

Translation from German to English by Dr. Elvire Necker-Eberhardt, edited by Dwayne Janke

Ingo Isert presents a comprehensive folder of information to the President of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Stuttgart. The president of the Federal Republic of Germany came to Stuttgart for his first official visit. This meant a special day for Ingo Isert, the federal chairman of the "Landsmannschaft der Bessarabiendeutschen." Now he could present the history of the Bessarabian Germans and especially the history of origin of the Köhler family.

Stuttgart, 9 o’clock in the early morning. Still everything is quiet and calm in the Konrad-Adenauer-Street. It is true that slowly and smartly police vehicles and personnel place themselves in front of the "House of History," but still nobody has a clue what high official is due to arrive shortly. A little before 11 o’clock, everything is ready. Escorted by 15 police motorcycles, the president of the Federal Republic of Germany, Horst Köhler, and the president of Baden-Württemberg, Erwin Teufel, arrive. The "House of History" is the second stop of the Federal President in Württemberg, and here a great surprise awaits him. Especially for this visit an exhibition and presentation about the Bessarabian Germans was prepared.

"Mr. President, repeatedly you mentioned in your interviews that 60 years of German, even European history, are mirrored in your life: wars, evacuation and always new beginnings...This is true for your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. And so I am particularly happy to present to you the history of the Bessarabian Germans in the history of the Köhler family."

Thus Ingo Isert welcomed the president of the Federal Republic of Germany. Ingo Isert is the federal chairman of the Bessarabian Germans and also the first chairman of the "Heimatmuseum" of the Bessarabian Germans and second chairman of the "Hilfskomitee of the Evang.-Lutheran Church of Bessarabia." The Prussian king brought Swabians, Frankonians and people from the Palatinate into Prussian Poland. The Austrian emperors called people into Galicia, the Austrian part of Poland mainly from the Palatinate and Hessians, but also Swabians. Then in 1813 the Russian Czar Alexander I asked Germans to move into his newly acquired Bessarabia. As a result, by 1842, 24 German mother colonies were established in a united settlement area in the south of Bessarabia.

"Your great-grandfather Georg Köhler and his family lived in Kolomea in Southeast Galicia. His son Jakob Köhler, like many Germans from Galicia, set out to find more favourable conditions and so arrived in Northern Bessarabia—in Ryschkanowka. The 3 sons of Jakob Köhler, including your father Eduard Köhler and a daughter, all had their own farm." A village plan of Ryschkanowka with the aforementioned farms underscored the family history. In short sketches, Isert described the time of Resettlement, which happened voluntarily, and the settlement in Poland where Köhler was born in Skierbieszów in 1943. After the Flight before the Red Army, some Bessarabian Germans came to Württemberg right away. The Köhler family was fleeing to Germany in 1944, then in 1959 to the West from the GDR, where some years were spent in refugee camps before they finally reached Ludwigsburg.

"And as you, Mr. President, were saying, you feel that Ludwigsburg is your home town ('Heimatstadt'). Ludwigsburg too has a special affinity to the Bessarabian Germans: The city of Ludwigsburg has accepted a sponsorship role for a Bessarabian German village and even has a street named "Bessarabienstraße" in which one Bessarabian German family still lives. The Bessarabian Germans are known to integrate into the local society and people without problems. Their mostly Swabian mother tongue surely aided much in this respect. But mostly they were helped by the ability which they constantly had to exercise, i.e. facing the conditions of a new environment and making the best of it. The result of this ability are university professors and government ministers, and—since the middle of 2004—also a president of the Federal Republic! May I present to you a compilation of documents with information about the Bessarabian Germans and about the Köhler families. It includes a list of descendants starting from your great-grandfather Georg Köhler, along with your wife’s main Bohnet ancestors in Württemberg and Bessarabia."

"For the first time I received a coherent presentation of my family history; that was a super surprise. You have given me great joy. We will meet again for sure; this has to be followed up. My daughter is studying languages and always wanted to write down our history. Now I know to whom she can turn to." In these words Horst Köhler, obviously moved, thanked Ingo Isert.

Also in the "House of History," the Golden Book of the city of Stuttgart was signed. For this occasion the desk of the first president, Theodor Heuss, was brought in from his memorial place on the Killesberg to the House of History. To his great surprise, the president afterwards met the members of the Herrenberg-Mönchberg men’s choir who presented him with a song. From 1973-1977 Köhler himself had sung in their midst.

"I was not good but I did sing here once," Köhler made fun. He hugged his old friends, placed himself in their midst and joined them in the song; "Wir wandern heut’ ins Schwabenland" (We are wandering into the land of the Swabians), all this spontaneouly unplanned.

Then they continued to the legislative assembly where 150 political, economy and church guests from politics, economy and the churches paid their respects to the president. And here, too, just as in the House of History, Horst Köhler did not speak as the head of state but as a one who came home. "It really is my eleventh inaugural visit in a state (Bundesland) but it is not a normal one. I simply enjoy being here. I feel at home here with you and that is what strengthens me. In one sense Baden-Württemberg is my home, my "Heimat."

Our appreciation is extended to Dr. Elvire Necker-Eberhardt for translation of this article.

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