Selz Residents in World War I and their End in World War II

Bosch, Anton, February Pages of the 2016 Calender published by the Historischer Forschungsverein der Deutschen aus Russland.

During the initial part of the First World War, around 300,000 [?] German Russians were fighting on the Western front against Austrian-German troops. By 1915 they were thrown into the Russian-Turkish front. Many settlers from around the Selz colony died in the fighting or became prisoners of war, doing forced labor on farm estates in Germany.

The Russian Civil War of 1919 hit the Selz people especially hard when during early August the farmers attempted a three-day stand against General Grigori Kotovski’s Bolshevist cavalry regiment and finally lost. The Bolsheviks took revenge by massacring 111 men and women of Selz.
In 1922 Lenin’s land reform law ordered that all farmers of the Selz community be disowned and the land be re-distributed to all residents, including women and children, so that each person received 1.5 to 2 hectares [ca, 4 to 5.5 acres].
In 1926, as part of Lenin’s so-called “[Ethnic] Roots” policy (korenisziya in Russian), the Soviet government proclaimed the Selz area as the German National Rayon “Friedrich Engels” and to be governed by Spartakists from Germany and Austria.  [According to explanatory comments from historian/translator Johannes Herzog of Germany, Lenin’s policy was an attempt to unify the country by calling for national pride by all ethnic nationalities.  Stalin later rescinded the policy entirely. – Tr.]
The process of establishing the collective farms classified the settlers into three categories: those in Class 1 were sentenced to years in prison; those in Class 2 were deported to the White Ocean in the Far North; and those in Class 3 were expelled from the community.
During the time of the Great Terror of 1937/1938 the population was reduced by 15 percent. This great loss caused the government to keep the results of a 1939 census secret. During the winter of 1939/1940 Soviet tanks massed in Kutschurgan villages to form a spearhead against Romania or, in reality, for the “re-conquest” of Bessarabia and its “re-connection” with the Soviet Union.
During early August of 1941 the German air force staged air attacks on Selz, Kandel and Baden, two people lost their lives. Explosive and fire bombs destroyed homes and stables. In two villages, livestock also became victims of the air attacks. The residents hid in cellars and camps for several days, until on Sunday, August 10, Romanian soldiers and a mounted officer arrived from the South and marched first into Kandel, then into the other villages, and declared their sovereign rule over the settlements. They were followed immediately by an SS-unit arriving on foot. Within two weeks, the SS identified all leaders of the collectives, leaders of village soviets [councils], village activists, as well as children from mixed German-Jewish families and executed them in secrecy. Relatives later discovered their corpses in cornfields and clay dugouts. The villagers were horrified by these acts of cruelty and expressed their dismay openly. After the Red Army’s return, Soviet newspapers reported that in Selz alone 47 Soviet citizens had been executed [before the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, ethnic Germans and other minorities were considered by the Soviets to be Soviet citizens – Tr.]. Despite great efforts to research these victims, we were able to identify only 17.
Between August and October, 1941 the Romanians repeatedly attacked Odessa and the Selz colonist area. They became a plague for the farmers. The front line reached all the way to Mannheim. After the Red Army gave up Odessa on October 16, the Kutchurgan area was incorporated into the Romanian province of “Transnistria.”
From 1942 on, the villages came under political administration by Police Commissariat 23. The villagers restored their churches as much as possible, and religious services held by Catholic military clergy from Romania were permitted, but only under military supervision. Once again the language of commerce was German, and school instruction was conducted with the help of textbooks imported from Germany. In Selz, a teacher’s training institute was established and led by pedagogues from Germany. In the spring and summer of 1942, the entire population was given medical examinations, and young men were beginning to be inducted into the Wehrmacht. By late summer of 1943, death certificates for those who had fallen “for the Führer, the People and the Fatherland” started arriving in Selz area homes.
A March 12, 1944 announcement ordered the population to prepare for “administrative resettlement.” The people of Kandel, initially heading toward Franzfeld, were the first to leave. Other villages followed soon. The Selz people’s turn came only six days later. Because the authorities had abandoned the Selz residents, they wandered around for days until some men discovered a ferry near Mayaki. [Translator’s note: Selz lies east of the Dniester River’s estuary to the Black Sea, called the liman, which is more than ten miles wide near Selz. Mayaki actually lay to the West, across the liman. Ferries were the only means of moving west at that geographical point. My family crossed the liman on such a ferry from Ovidiopol on the East to Akkerman on the western side. AH.]

After two thirds of the people and wagons had reached the western side successfully, a Soviet artillery grenade hit the ferry and sank people and horses. 76 other wagons and 450 Selz residents were captured and sentenced to life in labor camps, while the women and children were deported to the northern Urals.  (Cf. HFDR-Kalender, March 2006.)
Following a flight of ca. 1,000 kilometers [600 miles], the Kutschurganers reached Hungarian towns, from which they were transported by train to the Central Immigration Office (EWZ) in Litzmannstadt (Lodz). Subsequent to a so-called “Entschleusung” [processing] they were resettled in the Wartheland [area of western Poland occupied by Germany].
The formerly unified village communities of the Selz colonist district thus ceased to exist. It was the end of their 136-year history.
Dr. Anton Bosch, Nuremberg

[Caption and Quote:]

Photo caption on text page: Steam kettle for powering the threshing machine, Kandel 1930. Photo from Anton Bosch / Joseph Lingor, Development and Disbanding of the German Colonies on the Black Sea, p. 54, 1990.  

Cemetery photo: Graves of fallen German soldiers in the cemetery at Baden/Kutschurgan. Autumn, 1941.

“Suffering in common with thousands of other human beings is totally different from the suffering of individuals.”
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenyev (1818 – 1883), noted Russian author.

Notable February Events:


25 years ago: as part of the law regarding contingency refugees, German Consulates begin to accept applications for resettlement from Russian Jews.


110 years ago: The German-language newspaper “Deutsche Volkszeitung [German People’s Newspaper]” is published in Saratov (until 1916).


80 years ago: Anna German (Hörmann), singer, is born in Urgench, Uzbekistan.


130 years ago: Vladimir (Yulyevich) Wiese, oceanographer and polar explorer, is born in Zarskoye Selo.


20 years ago: New version of the law covering designation of locales for residence of late resettlers.


130 years ago: Max Vasmer, slavist and publisher of “Zeitschrift der deutschen Philologie [Magazine for German Philology],” 1924, is born in St. Petersburg.


120 years ago: Vladimir (Rudolfovich) Vogel, composer in Switzerland, is born in Moscow.


20 years ago: German cosmonaut Thomas Reister returns to earth after 180 days on board of the Russian “Mir,“ stayed in space longer than any other non-Russian

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation and to Dr. Nancy Herzog for editing of this article.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller