Arrival and German Russian Life: The Theme for 2009 at the LWL-Open-Air Museum at Detmold

Museum für russlanddeutsche Kulturgeschichte - Detmold

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

Detmold (lwl).  The day is April 1. The LWL-Open-Air Museum of Detmold has opened its doors for this year’s season. Through October the museum of the Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe (LWL) will be operating under the theme “Arrival - German Russian Life.” Twenty years after the opening of the “Iron Curtain” this year’s theme concerns itself with the arrival and life in Germany of Germans from Russia, as well as with their living conditions in Russia and the Soviet Union. Visitors to the open-air museum this year will also experience two large exhibit events, “PferdeStark [loosely: Strong as a Horse]” and “MuesumsAdvent.” During the “Lange Donnerstagen” [extended hours on Thursdays] visitors will for the first time be able to enjoy mild summer evenings at this museum.

The ever-changeable and eventful history of the Germans from Russia began in 1763 with the Manifesto of Catherine the Great, who was encouraging German working people to take up their work and to settle down in Russia. The theme for this year depicts the situation of the Germans from Russia through the present. LWL’s cultural spokesperson, Dr. Barbara Rüschoff-Thale, comments: “In confronting the visitor with this history, our open-air museum this season wishes to offer thought-provoking points, and concentrating next year, during the fiftieth anniversary of the LWL-museum’s founding, on the topic of migration. German Russian neighbors are now living all over Westphalia, with diverse experiences and life stories. The museum wishes to make clear that integration is an ongoing process. Migration is an immense strain on people, and those involved in it have varying opinions and views of life.”  

Germans from Russia in Detmold and surrounds have declared that they are ready to participate in the exhibit project. With photographic documentary portraits of the Aussiedler and of the residential conditions, the artist Martin Rosswog has illustrated the way they are living now. The Aussiedler did not only open their doors to us, but also themselves, as in numerous interviews they told us their life stories and those of their next of kin. It was in this way that project director Tanya Zobeley truly learned of their life in the Soviet Union, their resettlement, and their new life in Germany. Of her own impressions, Zobeley comments: “It was moving and impressive to be able to speak with these witnesses of the times, some of whom also had experienced deportation of  Germans to Siberia under Stalin. Equally exciting for me was to hear the viewpoints of the younger generation, who at best remember these times through stories they heard from their parents of grandparents.”

The exhibit presents memorabilia such as the last plates left from the grandparents’ dishes, a death certificate of a father long presumed to be lost without a trace, an e-mail photo of  parents’ graves in the Soviet Union – all of these deemed important enough to these folks to take them along on their emigration to Germany. Says Tanya Zobeley: “The presentation ties together life stories, photographs and memorabilia. This is genuine, living history of our times.” Like keys, memorabilia open up events and experiences of these Germans. Display boxes throughout the museum space and extensive supporting programs ranging from panel discussions to special guided tours to culinary specialties round out this year’s theme.

Toward the end of August, the 29th and the 30th, the ground at the open-air museum will be reverberating when over a hundred noble carthorses from across Europe will show off (as part of the “PferdeStark” exhibit). They will be competing among each other and, as part of  an exhibition offering, demonstrate all of their abilities. Numerous exhibitors will also be present to complement the horses. During the weekend of the Second Sunday of Advent (Dec. 4-6), the “MuseumsAdvent” program, just as in previous years, will provide a lightshow with lively atmosphere, Christmas music, and various Advent kiosks.

For the first time ever, between June and October, the LWL open-air museum is offering a “long Thursday” [Thursday with extended hours]” each week, staying open until 9 PM, as museum director Jan Christensen explains, “thus fulfilling a desire held for a long time by our visitors, namely, to be able to enjoy some mild summer evenings in the museum.”   

LWL-Open-Air Museum Detmold
Westphalian State Museum for Ethnic Lore
Krummes Haus
32760 Detmold

April 1 through October 31
Tuesday – Sunday and all holidays” 9 AM to 6 PM
Between June 4 and August 27:  open until 9 PM on Thursdays  

Source: Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe (LWL)

As part of the special exhibit “Angekommen. Russlanddeutsches Leben,” memorabilia such as these family portraits can be seen.  Photo: LWL/Hesterbrink/Pölert.

A G-R produced for this exhibit a replica of a G-R farmstead tot serve as a reminder of the old homeland.

The photographs by Martin Rosswog illustrate G-Rs’ current  living spaces and furniture.

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