August 28, 1941 - Important Date in Germans in Russia History

Media Release
August 28, 2002

Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland, Stuttgart, Germany

Translation from German to English by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado

Whenever there is mention of a truly historically significant date for Germans from Russia, it can only be that of August 28, 1941. No other date has touched this entire ethnic German group so directly and so exclusively. It was on August 28, 1941 when a ukase by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR announced the total banishment of Germans in Russia.

There certainly occurred other numerous tragic events in the Soviet Union preceding and following that date. Two with the most serious consequences were the "October" Revolution of November 7, 1917 and the expansion of World War II into the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. However, the significance of these two dates differs fundamentally from that of August 28, 1941.

The October Revolution and the German-Russian war clearly affected all ethnic groups in the Soviet Union, but the ukase of August 28, 1941 was directed against one single ethnic group, namely, all citizens of the Soviet Union with German ethnicity.

Although naming only the Germans in the Volga region, who in 1941 made up about 27 percent of all Germans in the Soviet Union, the ukase in reality became a deathblow to all German-Russians. Even so, one should not forget that the campaign of persecution and annihilation of Germans in the Soviet Union had already begun long before August 28, 1941.

On August 28, 1941 the Soviet system finally, and quite openly, dropped all pretenses when, without any basis whatsover, it accused the largest homogeneous ethnic German group in the Soviet, the Volga-Gemans, of "concealing the existence of thousands upon thousands of subversives and spies in the Volga area" working on behalf of Germany, and when it deported them all to Siberia and Kazakhstan.

Following August 28, 1941, all who were recognized as Germans in the Soviet Union were forcibly banished. German party functionaries as well as German workers and farmers -- all were treated equally, all were exiled "in perpetuity." The designation "German" became the common Mark of Cain. There were no paragraphs distinguishing between "better" and "worse" Germans.

Part of the tragic history of the German-Russians is the fact that the world hardly took note of their fate. Even in Germany, efforts toward solving the problems of Germans in Russia only rarely appeared to be of any significance. And in the Soviet Union? Gorbachev, in 1987, referred to them as "our Germans." Only after realizing that his entire, gigantic land of the Soviet
Union offered no single place to contain two millions of "his Germans" did he begin to change his attitude. But the train of emigration by Germans in Russia back to the land of their ancestors had become unstoppable. They were the last ethnic group in Eastern and Southern Europe to have had, and continue to have, the opportunity to emigrate.

Today, Germans from Russia cannot and do not wish to believe that the German populace does not desire to have anything to do with their former brothers and sisters. They ascribe this problem exclusively one-sided reporting by the media and to inadequate information from politicians.

The Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland [loosely translated, "Cultural Association of Germans from Russia"] would be a poor trustee of its ethnic group if it did not continually point out the terrible fate of all those German-Russians who were driven from their homes. For us, August 28 is an annual occasion of great significance, when the Landsmannschaft reminds the
world emphatically of the fateful consequences of the war on the German-Russians, a fate which they incurred through no fault of their own.

The Landsmannschaft has little sympathy for official policies which do not agree with our understanding of this situation. We appeal to all democratic forces in Germany to assist us in the constant reappraisal of this terrible chapter of German and Russian history. Finally, we hope that even in the year 2002 we are not too late in tackling this issue.

Our appreciation is extend to Alex Herzog for the translation of the media release.

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