A delegation headed by Michael M. Miller from North Dakota State University, Fargo, attended the Bundestreffen in Stuttgart on June 18, 1994. Participants in the delegation came from California, Oregon, Colorado, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Washington, D.C.
At the Bundestreffen and in the towns of Offenburg and Weingarten, the delegation gave a program entitle "American House for the Black Sea Germans," which included a slide presentation prepared by Prof. Miller on the history and culture of Black Sea Germans living in North Dakota and America.
American speakers were Dr. Shirley Fisher Arends of Washington, D.C., author of The Central Dakota Germans: Their History, Language, and Culture, who presented a brief history of the Russian-Germans in United States. John Philipps of Fallbrook, CA, talked about his new book, Die Deutschen Bauern am Schwarzen Meer. Margaret Freeman spoke on the Village Research of AHSGR and GRHS in North America, and Michael Miller shared the stories of locating families in Germany and Russia with their North American relatives through letters.
In Stuttgart at the Bundestreffen, Prof. Miller was the only American part of the official program called the Feuerstunde. He presented the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Rußland with an American flag that had flown over the United States capitol. The American flag was a donation to the American delegation by Congressman Toby Roth of Wisconsin, a native of Strasburg, ND, of Catholic Black Sea German ancestry. Pro. Miller's presentation was quoted in the Stuttgart newspaper as presented in an American Swabish accent.
The Bundestreffen, attended by 45,000 individuals, began at 9 a.m. and continued until midnight. Representatives of various churches and other organizations had booths where they shared information about their activities. There were three large rooms (size of football fields) for the gathering and visiting of the returnees. In each room, long tables were set up with the names of each colony. The American group was given a booth in the room for the circa 1940 returnees. There was much visiting and greeting of friends and family, and even sharing of information in writing and by computer. Another large room was used by the group that had been relocated in Siberia, Kirghizstan and Kazakhstan. A third large room was the youth, and in the evening they had their own series of bands for musical entertainment. The chicken dance was popular there too!
Additional meetings in Stuttgart were at Haus der Heimat des Landes Baden-Württemberg, Heimatmuseum der Deutschen aus Bessarabia, and the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland. The American delegation hosted a special dinner of appreciation at the Holiday Inn Crown Court in Stuttgart for those who welcomed us so warmly in Stuttgart.
In Offenburg, the Americans met with recent German-Russian emigrants and received a warm welcome from Dr. Barbel Buchele, social worker of Caritasberband Offenburg. With the help of emigrants, she organized a surprise for the American group with an original Kazakh meal, monti. The dinner included other German-Russian specialties with a Kazakh flavor. There was also a Kazakh chert put up for the evening, with maps and displays inside showing the travels of our fellow Germans from Russia. The evening continued with poems, music provided by a couple on an accordion and a balalaika with people singing and dancing.
On June 21 the group met again with local returnees where the Americans presented their program, and at the end of the evening the Americans introduced themselves in their (frequently) halting German. Among others, a class from a local school made up of mostly returnees' children attended as a group.
In Weingarten the group toured the Basilica, as well-known Rococco building, and attended a special Mass. They visited and "Anlager," the group of apartment units in which the emigres are initially placed. There are six or eight units in a building, and each unit has three bedrooms, a community kitchen and a community bathroom. Each family is allotted a bedroom, so a room can be used by anywhere between two to eight people.
The head of the local chapter, Ida Jobe, a relative of John Philipps, provided a good reception in that community. That evening meeting with the returnees was well attended as was the previous time in Offenburg. The American delegation was pleased to have recent emigrants from the former Soviet Union join their brothers and sisters at the gathering in Weingarten, Germany.
The Americans also toured Elsass, visiting ancestral villages with Prof. Jean Schweitzer as a guide. It was a learning experience to see the beautiful Elsass, home of many of the participants' ancestors.
The American delegation found many Germans from Russia in Stuttgart, Offenburg and Weingarten searching for their American cousins. Often they came up to members of the delegation with treasured pictures they had carried with them through the years in Siberia or Kazakhstan, and gave the pictures to the Americans as an aid in finding their relatives.
Sharing the American experience was enjoyable for the Americans also. Our Russian and German cousins were unaware of our early years on the North American plains, living in sod houses, the drought, the hail, and the wind that has made farming such a precarious livelihood. Reference was made to the Homestead Act of 1862, the development of the railroads, and the necessity for citizenship, along with the isolated living patterns on the American plains to meet the requirements for land. There was much interest also in the Swabian dialect used by many of the Americans.
Plans were made for an American House for the Black Sea Germans at the Bundestreffen in June, 1996. North Dakota State University is exploring a tour to Odessa and the former Black Sea and Bessarabian German villages before the 1996 Bundestreffen, with the American delegation returning from Odessa to Stuttgart. For further information about NDSU-sponsored tour, write to Michael M. Miller, NDSU Libraries, P.O. Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108-6050.
About the authors of the article...
Margaret Freeman lives in Redondo Beach, California. She is coordinator of the Glückstal Colonies Research Association. She served on the board of Directors of AHSGR.
Michael M. Miller is the Germans from Russia Bibliographer, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo. He compiled the annotated bibliography, Researching the Germans from Russia.
Reprinted with permission of the Journal of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia.