The Bessarabian Cross

Situated on the Street From Blankenrath to Walhausen/Hunsrück

Geisen, Werner. "The Bessarabian Cross." Heimatjahrbuch Cochem-Zell, 2006, 197-199.

Translation from German to English by Alex Herzog (Click here to view German text)

At the southwestern exit from town, on the left side of the Blankenrath-Walhausen Street, there stands a towering wooden cross. It tells of the suffering and life of a family that had repeatedly been transformed from resettlers to refugees.

The depiction presented by this cross departs from what we are familiar with hereabouts.

A concrete pedestal in the shape of a six-sided, cut-off pyramid, about a meter [ca. 39 inches] in height and with an average diameter of 1.3 meters [ ca. 52 inches] forms the base. From this, a cross rises that is 2.75 meters [ca. 9 feet] high, with a cross beam that is 1.5 meters [less than 5 feet] wide. It is a brown-colored 4-sided cross that measures (13x13 cm [4x4 inches]). Round, bullet-shaped decorations decorate three ends.

Mounted in addition to the bronzed Christ corpse with the inscription INRI are tools used in martyrdom, such as hammer and pliers (each about 1.5 feet long), a spear penetrating a sponge and a lance (each about 3.5 feet long), and even a small ladder made of wood.

On the front side of the concrete base there is a plaque with this inscription:

Rest, oh wayfarer,
And contemplate your soul!

Donated by the Josef Seifert Family

The Seifert family, whose ancestors had lived in Krasna/Bessarabia since 1815, were resettled from there in 1940. After ten years of meandering they discovered their new home here in Blankenrath. Grateful for finally being delivered from the stressed life and the dire needs of refugees, the family head, Josef Seifert in 1952 commissioned a cross to be fashioned, and it had to be exactly like several crosses in Krasna, a large village of Bessarabian-Germans. Soon after the cross was finished, it was dedicated during a religious ceremony.

The following is a newspaper story published by a reporter from Lower Saxony subsequent to an interview with Josef Seifert and his family.

From Bessarabia to the Moselle

“ Josef, you are carrying a heavy cross to Calvary!”

On a street with a thousand potholes that reaches from Hamelspringe via Bad Münder to the county seat, a truck laden with household things is trailed by a team of horses pulling a box wagon filled with straw. During previous days, rain showers had whistled across Süntel and Deister and had filled the potholes, but today the sun briefly sent its rays through the clouds, at least for a brief time. A new feeling of hope has entered the heart of the man driving the wagon and encouraging his two horses, Hans and Orlik, to hurry on, for Josef Seifert, a Bessarabian-German, is one of those who these days are wandering further westward in order to discover a new home. For ten years Josef Seifert has been searching for a home and for a home town! This morning his memory recalls that day of October 10 of 1940 when he was forced to leave Krasna in Bessarabia, the village of his forefathers, a village, just like the neighboring villages of Leipzig, Teplitz and Paris, that had existed for 125 years. Grandfather had been able to relate how his parents had once come there from the Black Forest, had dug out holes from the earth to live in until the time when German farming houses arose out of the ground. At that early time, when one was able to acquire 40 hectares of land for a liter of schnaps. 125 years, through four generations, they had resided on their ground, had worked hard and preserved, and never forgotten their mother tongue, their South German dialect. They had remained Germans until this very day.

However, October 10, 1940 marked the start of the Great Trek. Evacuees were: Grandfather Leopold Seifert; Grandmother Ludwina nee Weber, father Josef Seifert, mother Katharina nee Söhn, children Annemarie (the eldest, b. 3/1/1933), Lydia (b. 3/24/1935), and Radegunde (b. 8/29/1938). The first leg reached Galatz, the next one on the Danube to Belgrade, and from there to Pirna. In 1941 they were resettled in Wulfsidel (Polish name: Vilkovo) near Bromberg, were Josef Seifert would work 84 morgen [ca. 40 acres] of land. Son Josef was born here in January, 1942, but he died only two years later of chronic whopping cough. On 7/04/1947 Eduard was born.

After three years of work the hour of departure had come once again. On January 26, 1945 Josef Seifert harnessed Hans and Orlik to a wagon that would harbor his aged parents, his wife and the children, and westward he went. Further westward they proceeded through Germany, for weeks on end, with many a cold night spent on the snowed-in path. Frequently the wagon had to be shoveled free of snow drifts.

Twins were born and died, but son Stephanus, born on 04/13/1945, survived. The grandparents could no longer leave the wagon by themselves, so that Josef would carry them on his back to quarters and back. He will never forget Holy Week of 1945, when he was carrying his mother, who said, with a long cough: “Josef, you are carrying a heavy cross to Calvary. Leave us old ones by the wayside and continue on.”

The grandparents had grown weary. Grandmother died on Easter Sunday, and grandfather two days later. Accompanied by strafing fire from low-flying airplanes Josef buried both in Schneverdingen …

In the Lüneburger Heather area, the front finally passed over them. Then they proceeded via Hannover to Hamelspringe, the village in the Süntel river valley that for 4 years was to become the third home of the Seifert family. Another son was born, and he was also named Josef, but he too died of whooping cough within two years. Josef Seifert worked in agriculture, and his horses were housed in a padlock. It was summer, and workers were in demand. But then the winter came, and during the first days of December, when the paddock was snowed in, as Josef inquired where he could house his horses, he was told, “Slaughter them or sell them!” “Never!’ replied Josef.

Subsequently Josef had to go far into the Süntel valley to find fodder for Hans and Orlik. The potato cellar of his leased place became the horse barn, and during those days the German farmer from Bessarabia would use Hans and Orkel to haul wood in the Süntal and Deister valleys.

Here again he had not really found his home, and so, a few weeks ago he presented himself before the resettlement commission of Rhineland/Palatinate to ask for a new home for himself and for his horses. Although only small animals were allowed to be taken along during resettlement, he was given special exception -- Hans and Orlik were permitted to come along after the authorities had listened to the history of the two horses.

It is these and many other things Josef Seifert remembers at this hour of departure. At the railroad station of Springe he thinks first about his horses, then of his loved ones. County Zell on the Moselle will be the fourth home for these refugees. There, ships dock that need to be unloaded. Perhaps one could start a small hauling business there with Hans and Orlik.

But Josef Seifert was wrong – nothing came of the hauling business. Already at the debarking place in Bullay he experienced misfortune. Despite all preparations, his beloved horse Hans shied, panicked and broke a leg. Hans had to be put to death.

The refuges found quarters, at first, and for a brief time, in Löffelscheid, then in Blankenrath . After a while, Josef Seifert actually was able to acquire the “Hassiersch House” at Wallhausener Straße 16, from a gentleman by the name of Hackenbruch from the Eifel region. There was no work for Orlik, so he had to be sold and eventually landed in Gödenroth.

After Oma and Opa had died following their evacuation of October 10, 1940, the family now consisted of the parents, three girls and two boys.

To feed his family, Josef then worked as in various construction jobs. He died suddenly on July 30, 1960. His wife followed him in death on March 24, 1989. Both were buried in Blankenroth.

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

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