The Landsmannschaft der Deutschen
By Franz Udsselmann, former Chairman of the Landsmannschaft
"Die Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Rußland e.V."
"Die Deutschen in der UdSSR - einst und Jetzt," Globus Special, Verein für das Deutschtum im Ausland e.V. (VDA), Berlin, Germany, no date, page 104.
When the German troops retreated from the Soviet Union in 1943/44, an estimated 350,000 German-Russians were resettled and naturalized to the former Warthegau by an order of the German-occupying authority.
After the occupation of East Germany, approximately 250,000 persons were seized by the Soviets and taken back to the Soviet Union. Approximately 100,000 people were seeking refuge in western occupied zones. However, even in the western occupied zones German-Russians were at first not safe from the swift action of Soviet repatriation commando units because the Western Allies had committed themselves in an agreement to extradite to the Soviets those Soviet citizens who were in their occupied zone.
In the first postwar years German-Russians were not permitted to disclose their identity even in the western-occupied zones; they had to disappear to avoid being seized by Soviet repatriation commando units.
This was relatively easy because German-Russians have, as a rule, typical German standards and had been born in settlements with German names that also exist in Germany as for example Karlsruhe, Kandel, etc. Approximately 30,000 German-Russians emigrated from West Germany primarily to the U.S., to Canada, to South America and to Australia for fear of the Soviets and for economic reasons. After the breakdown in 1945, the churches cared for the needs of displaced persons and refugees.
A few denominational relief agencies cared for the German-Russians and their needs at that time. Only after the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany did well-known representatives of German-Russians and some relief agencies decide on 22 April 1950, to organize associations for resettlers from the East. Dean J. Schleunig, pastor Heinrich Roemmich, Dr. Karl Stumpp and Dr. Gottlieb Leibrandt were among the initiators.
The "Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Ostumsiedler" was established as Landsmannschaft at the assembly of federal delegates on October 15, 1950. In a big announcement in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt, the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland turned to the German public for the first time and demanded of the Federal Government to attempt the release of those ethnic Germans who were detained in Soviet labor camps. In addition, they requested equal treatment of displaced persons from the Soviet Union with all other ethnic displaced persons.
The appeal made to the Federal Government to support the release of our fellow ethnic Germans did not go unnoticed. Back then, from September 9 to 13, 1955, we could follow in the press and over the radio how decisive and persistent Dr. Konrad Adenauer spoke up in Moscow for the freedom of our of countrymen. Final equality with other displaced persons could only get pushed through after lengthy negotiations and decisions at the highest courts. The reason is a different social order and the resulting different legal systems in the Federal Republic of Germany and the Soviet Union.
The Landsmannschaft is a registered society located in Stuttgart; its charitable status is recognized. It operates with many volunters and only a few full-time employees.
It maintains chapters in all states and in some dozen local branches. They attend to material, cultural and social integration by assisting in establishing a social structure for Aussiedler but also by educating persons concerned and by granting legal aid.
The Landsmannschaft pursues and promotes the research of history, culture and the present situation of the ethnic German minority in the [former]USSR and publishes the research results in the news media. Discussions and contacts with politicians, scientists, organizations likewise serve to spread knowledge of our work and our intention. Also, our newspaper Volk auf dem Weg serves as a voice of our society.
Recently, the "Arbeitskreis zur Erforschung des europäischen und außereuropäischen Russlanddeutschtums" (Study group for the research of European and non-European Russian-Germanism) was established within the Landsmannschaft. The Landsmannschaft sees itself also as representative for those Germans living in the [former] Soviet Union who are denied self-representation. It supports the reunification of families, the immigration beyond family reunification and attaining national and individual rights of ethnic Germans in the [former] Soviet Union.
Franz Usselmann was chairman of the board of the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland, Stuttgart, Germany
Translation from German to English by Claudia Müller, Halle, Germany