Das ungewöhnliche Schicksal einer deutschen Minderheit in
Sudosteuopa ist Thema des Buches. Diese Deutschen mussten nach einer
Sledlungsperiode von 125 Jahren Ihre Heimat verlassen und fanden
sich nach Umsiedlung und Flucht in dem Land wieder, aus dem einst
ihre Vorfahren ausgewandert waren. Ab 1814 wurden sie von Zar Alexander
I. in Bessarabien – heute Moldawien und Ukraine – angesiedelt.
1918 kam das Land zu Rumänien. In der Zwischenkriegszeit waren
die Bessarablendeutschen Teil der deutschen Minderheit in “Großrumänien”.
Nach dem Einmarsch der Roten Armee 1940 wurden sie aus ihrer Heimat
ausgesiedelt und 1941/42 im von der deutschen Wehrmacht okkupierten
Polen angesiedelt. Im Januar 1945 mussten sie dann nach Westen flüchten
und sich im geteilten Deutschland eine neue Existenz schaffen.
Im ersten Teil des Buches entsteht – im Sinne einer “kollektiven
Biografie” – ein Porträt dieser Gruppe von der
Auswanderung aus Deutschland bis heute. Im zweiten Teil wechselt
die Perspektive von der Gesamtgeschichte zur “Nahaufnahme”:
Anhand der Auswertung von zahlreichen blografischen Interviews mit
Bessarabiendeutschen aus drei Generationen werden die lebensgeschichtlichen
Erfahrungen bis zu den Zäsuren von Umsiedlung, Krieg und Flucht
rekonstruiert und die Integrationsverlaufe nach 1945 veranschäulicht.
Die Sozialwissenschaftlerin Ute Schmidt ist Privatdozentin am Institut
für Politische Wissenschaft der Universität Hamburg.
Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado, translator for GRHC, translated
the following text from German to English. Our appreciation is extended
to Alex Herzog for translation of this review.
The author emphasizes that this does not necessarily
present a complete history of Germans from Bessarabia, rather
it should be seen as a view from a different perspective.
With this study, Ute Schmidt's aims to demonstrate
by means of a concrete case - namely, the group known as Germans
from Bessarabia -- the role that historical, political, and cultural
traditions of country of origin, or, the role the mentality, behavioral
conditioning, and models for analysis conditioned by this history
and experiences, played in the process of integration after 1945.
Her starting point for this is a dual rupture that the "emigrants
by pact" were forced to undergo: Repatriation and escape
(1940 and 1945). In contrast with other refugees and deportees
who, in 1945, were aprubtly wrenched from their homes, the Germans
from Bessarabia, via their collective repatriation subsequent
to the "Hitler-Stalin Pact," were first forced to experience
a massive rupture in continuity even before their later escape
in 1945, a second catastrophical break in their lives.
In her investigation of the integration process
after 1945, the author first establishes the fact that the refugeees
and deportees did not represent a very homogeneous group. Secondly,
she points out the vast differences between the early German Federal
Government and the German Democratic Republic. In contrast to
conditions in the Federal Republic, the German Democratic Republic
met the topic of refugees and deportees with a lack of welcome
and even with a feeling of revenge.
Given their specific history of origin and migration,
the author submits, the Germans from Bessarabia actually presented
positive preconditions for integration. Since they could not consider
their situation after 1945 merely as a provisionary one, but a
permanent one, they had no choice under those circumnstances but
to create a new life for themselves, and as quickly as possible.
The first part of the book contains a description
of Bessarabia as a historical place, followed by a sketch of the
history of Bessarabia-Germans: origin of German colonists, relationship
with the Russian State, welfare committee, rescinding of colonist
status in 1871 and the concomitant loss of special rights previously
promised, cultural development following the revolution of 1905,
and the "proscription against language and assembly"
during WW I.
In further articles, the author describes devlopments
following the 1918 annexation of Bessarabia to Romania. New markets
had to be opened up. During the 1930s, the German Reich would
become an important buyer of agricultural products, especially
after Reichs-German firms had established contracts with an economical
association in Bessarabia and bought up oil products and soy beans
at guaranteed prices.
In the chapter entiled "Protestant Ethic,"
the author deals with the "Wernerschule" and the "Alexander-Asyl"
and their impact across the region. She dedicates special chapters
to the topic of pietism and to life with other nationalities.
Much space is taken up by descriptions of the
inter-war period in Romania: economic-social problems following
agrarian reform, the schools and attempts toward "Romani-izing."
The chapter "Political generations and splinterings within
the political life of Bessarabia-Germans" deals with the
new organizational entity called "German Ethnic Council for
Bessarabia" and with "renewal movements" appearing
in 1932, as well as subsequent splinterings.
The extensive chapter on "Repatriation"
deals with the negotiations between the governments of the German
Reich and of the Soviets, the make-up of the Repatriation Commission,
the mood of the German population during the time between the
occupation of Bessarabia and the arrival of the Repatriation Commission,
as well as the sometimes difficult negotiations with the Soviet
Commission on Property.
Of particular intesrest is the author's delving
into the conditions accompanying the repatriation events, which
she bases on heretofore unknown Soviet sources. Soviet documents
contain information concerning the composition of the Soviet Commission,
the transformation of German villages into collectives and sovchoses
as well as political cleansings and deportations following the
The chapter "Everyday life in the camps"
describes the first disappointments of the repatriates. Their
worst indignation was directed at the designation of the so-called
A and O-cases.
The author describes as precursors to the settlements
in the Warthe region and in Danzig-Westprussia the deportation
of Poles and Jews, also problems regarding assignments to farm
estates according to the principal of "natural restitution"
and the idea that individually resettled groups were not to meld
into a new tribe of "Warthe countrymen."
The subsequent chapter describes the refugee catastrophe
of 1945. Since an orderly retreat of German troops flooding back
into the home country was out of the question, it is natural that
the result was an indescribable state of chaos.
The author dedicates a special chapter to deported
civilians, because their history -- in contrast with that of prisoners
of war -- has thus far barely been looked at. She cites as examples
the fates of three women and supports this with excerpts from
The chapter entitled [translated title:] "Self-help
and Work -- Models for Integration of the Bessarabian-German Population"
begins with activities of the engineer from Sarata, Karl Rueb,
and with an organization he founded, the [translated title:] "Operation
Assistance for Evangelical Repatriates." The author emphasizes
this activity specially because Rueb established it as early as
July 2, 1945, that is, very soon following cessation of the fighting,
when no one was yet thinking of registering and taking care of
refugees and deportees. The cooperation of this self-help organization
and of government administrative bodies succeeded in paving the
way for 20,000 refugees, especially Bessarabia-Germans, resettling
in Northern Wuerttemberg and Northern Baden.
At this point, the "Assistance Operation
of Bessarabia-German Resettlers," founded in 1946, should
have received mention (cf. "Heimatkalender 2002, p. 222),
which at that time was the organization for our countrymen in
the North to turn to.
In August of 1946, Pastor Immanuel Baumann also
established the [translated title:] "Assistance Committee
for Evangelical-Lutheran Germans from Bessarabia and Dobrudsha,"
which in April of 1947 received official ecclesiastic recognition
from the EKD [Evangelical Church of Germany]. Purposes of the
Assistance Committee included "providing pastoral and divine
services, employment counseling, and help with establishing permanent
The author dubs Karl Rueb as a man of transition.
The [translated title] "Society for German Repatriates from
Bessarabia" he had founded -- a forerunner of the Landsmannschaft
-- elected Professor Kalmbach as its chair. In 1953, the "Landsmannschaft
of Germans from Bessarabia" was established [in West Germany,
tr.], and Dr. Otto Broneske became its first chairman.
The second part of the book presents and interprets
texts excerpted from 90 interviews of personal histories. These
interviews were conducted in the 1990s. The author points out
that the biographical stories of the Bessarabia-German interviewees
from 3 generations definitely meld into the materials set forth
in first half of the book. However, there is obvious emphasis
on contemporary subjective perceptions and interpretations by
the interview subjects.
The first presentations deal with the personal
lives of Generation I, that is, the so-called experiencing generation.
They reconstruct personal stories and experiences up to the rupturing
experiences of repatriation, war, and flight, and deal further
with the process of integration after 1945. The author also digs
into whether the previously acquired, so-called "cultural
estate" had any impact on the process of integration. Generation
II interviewees are divided into three categories: those between
old and new homeland, children of the war, and children of the
Generation III comprises the "consumer children"
born in the 1970s.
The author reaches the conclusion that, for the
interviewees, repatriation and escape on the one hand constituted
a massive and extremely painful life change, but that on the other
hand there was always an awareness of the inevitableness of a
process of social change and assimilation, as well as a readiness
to adapt to such a process. This basic attitude must assuredly
have been an important psychological factor in the post-war process
of integration. Despite repatriation and flight, Germans from
Bessarabia did not give up. Rather, as much as possible, they
decided to take control of their destinies.
A special chapter is dedicated to Bessarabia-Germans
in the Soviet occupation zone.
An integration concept agreed to with the Soviet
occupation powers envisioned an optimally quick process of assimilation.
The so-called [translated title:] "Central Administration
for German Resettles that had been established on a "zonal"
basis became fairly moot by 1948 and in 1949 was abandoned altogether.
Assemblies by countrymen were banned. Yet the Gessarabia-Germans
did maintain their spirit of community and specific mentality
much longer that the official SED [Communist Party] policy had
The author further makes clear that, in contrast
with developments in the old Federal Republic, countrymen in the
Soviet Zone were given the opportunity to settle as "new
farmers" on agrarian reform tracts of land and, thereby,
to tie back into their former agrarian lives. Agricultural collectivization
set in toward the end of the 1950s, when agricultural production
societies were formed. Many Bessarabia-Germans, however, considered
their entry into these societies as a third act of disownment.
In the conclusion, the author presents a summary
of the accomplishments of Bessarabia-Germans during the process
of integration and of specific characteristics of this ethnic
group. The fact that relations with today's residents of Bessarabia
are rather unencumbered is seen as further proof of the successful
integration into postwar Germany of the Germans from Bessarabia.
With this book, Dr. Ute Schmidt deals with a topic
that has heretofore been covered rather sparingly. Her focus is
on the integration of refugees and deportees. This scientific
study is, therefore, of interest not only to Germans from Bessarabia,
but should also be of benefit for other ethnic groups who experienced
a similar fate. For this work, created with much diligence and
expert information, Ute Schmidt deserves our gratitude, and the
book deserves broad distribution.