The Soul of the German Russians
By Dr. Joseph S. Height
September 23, 1973
Transcription of the tape of presentation at the North Dakota Historical Society of Germans from Russia Convention, Bismarck, North Dakota.
Transcription completed by Monica Dearing Sumner, Washington, 1991.
Mr. President, Judge Friederich, members of the board of this association, members of the society:
When Judge Friederich phoned me several weeks ago inquiring whether I would accept an invitation to Bismarck to attend this convention, I did not hesitate for a moment to accept. I'm glad to be in North Dakota. I'm delighted to be in Bismarck here tonight. I'm pleased and gratified to see so many of you here this evening, and you have to be really congratulated. This bodes good for the future of the society. There's more and more interest created. I wish to thank President Friederich for his bestowing this honor upon me to address you here tonight.
I've been thinking of Dr. Stumpp with whom I traveled last summer for ten days. And I've been in correspondence with him almost twice a week since he left here last fall. I'd like to express my public appreciation to him, my personal appreciation, for having helped me publish the book which appeared about two months ago. It was Dr. Stumpp who saw the book through the press to being. He tells me that he used to drop over there almost every day, asking the printer, "Are you getting on with Dr. Height's book? How are you doing?" He has taken a great interest in my work. I have collaborated with him in his book and the English parts of that book I translated for him. That book is now in the press. It's being printed right now and, as far as I can judge, it should be out, perhaps before Christmas. I’m sure the society will inform its members whenever that book becomes available.
I’m no stranger to North Dakota. I’ve been though this state several times in the last 20 or 25 years. In fact, it’s the road, the best road, in fact, the shortest road from Indiana to my native hometown in Saskatchewan. I also feel somewhat a native of North Dakota because my father, my grandfather, my uncles, pioneered, if not for very long, in this country, in North Dakota, for about five years, four or five years. And then they moved on to Saskatchewan where they found greener, I don’t know about greener pastures, they found blacker earth. So I feel right at home here. Your family names are familiar to me. I have friends and even relatives in North Dakota, along the Devil’s Lake and Rugby line.
So, I am pleased to be able to address you here tonight. I had at first thought of speaking about certain types of history of our people in Russia, but after I heard Colonel Wenzlaff, my good friend, I felt I would probably be just repeating perhaps much of what he had said. He did such an excellent job, such an excellent review of German history, of the Germans from Russia, that I am going to change my approach to my talk night.
There’s a certain step that I consider a sole portrait of the German Russian people. It so impressed Dr. Stumpp, particularly when he was here last summer, that so many of our people were tremendously interested in genealogy. He saw complete books, family histories, and so on. And he told me even those in Germany haven’t got this kind of interest. That’s why he feels that his book which is soon to come out will be considerable interest, of great interest, to very many of us. And I'm sure that the society here will publicize the book as they have publicized mine.
I would also like to take on this occasion he opportunity to thank President Friederich and the society for supporting my book financially, and also by promoting it, by advertising it, and helping me to distribute the book among the people f6r whom it was written, the Black Sea people.
You wouldn't be here tonight if you did not have what I like to call "ancestral piety", a feeling of reverence, a feeling of love, for your forefathers who came to this country and those who, of course, lived and died in the old country.
Every day there is a kind of ethnic awareness alive in this country. People are becoming conscious of their ethnic heritage. There is a kind of search for ethnic identity. And this is good. It would be a pity if in that melting pot we were all melted down to the same metal, whether it was base or precious. It would be a pity. The greatness of this country, in my opinion, and I'm sure you would agree with me, is its diversity, its great variety. And I think today more and more people are proud of the individuality as people V or as groups, as ethnic groups. After all is said and done, what is America? A nation of immigrants. For all of us have contributed something to the nature and essence of what we call America.
The Russian German people have contributed their part through some of their traditions. And I would like to review with you a little bit something of the character and internal essence of what is a German Russian or a Russian German.
Dr. Stumpp, in his book, THE GERMAN RUSSIANS, pointed out the four or five different qualities that he thought described the German Russian people.
He said they were industrious, hard-working. They were a people that were striving, trying to get ahead. They were people who were modest and unassuming in their general bearing and yet proud of their achievements. They were a people with a deeply religious soul. This characterized the Russian Germans whether from the Volga or from the Black Sea) deeply religious people. They were a people who were also a progressive people which is indicated by the fact that in Russia the most prosperous, the most beautiful villages were German Russian villages. This is already recognized by Czar Alexander 11 when he visited the colonies in the early pioneer period, around 1816 and 1817.
I would like just briefly, therefore, to supplement some of these words that Dr. Stumpp very briefly indicated in his book. I am impressed in my research of our forefathers. First of all, by one quality which characterizes every immigrant, namely the spirit of enterprise. After all, to uproot your- self from your homeland requires a good deal of courage, a good deal of determination. It's not an easy thing to do. When our people uprooted themselves from the banks of the Rhine they moved into the unknown, eighteen hundred and even up to two thousand and more miles. It is this spirit of adventure in the good sense, you have to have something of the spirit of adventure to leave your home for good. These people never had any hope of ever returning again after all. This spirit of enterprise was demonstrated ~ already in the exodus when they left Europe, left their homeland. It was demonstrated on that long and fateful trek from Germany, from the banks of the Rhine to the shores of the Black Sea and greater than that, of course, to the shores of the Volga.
Sometimes I think we have no clear conception of what such a journey meant. The evidence shows that this journey required three and a half to four months. Now, that's a long time on the road with your wife and family, in the summer, fall weather, rainstorm. It was very poor transportation. But that's a fact. It was a four month trip if you went overland. It was even longer if you took the water way, the Danube. Unfortunately, we don't have records of the dangers and hazards of the overland trip, how many people may have perished, died along the way. But the Danube journey was one of the most dangerous, fated journeys probably ever taken by immigrants.
When we come to consider it took them longer to go from home to Odessa than it took Columbus to cross the Pacific, It was more dangerous. I don't recall how many men Columbus lost on his three ships, but we do know that in 1817 1300 immigrants perished in the mouth of the Danube. And they were buried in reeds and grass, in mass graves.
This same spirit of enterprise, of course, was exhibited in the early Pioneer years. Imagine arriving from a vast steppe and not a home or a place to live. The Russians hadn't prepared anything for them. They put them up in these wattle huts. People had to literally dig in or die, dig or die dugouts made in the earth, covered with more earth for a roof for the shelter.
And then a couple years later there was a heavy death toll in some of those colonies. To start, cultivating must start, with wooden plows of the most wretched variety, the most wretched kind of wooden plow, must have taxed the strength of not only the horses but of the poor men who had to tear up that soil with these poor wretched plows. Now these people had hope, they had endurance and perseverance. In a few years, not very many years, they had established themselves in better homes. By 1822, they had invented a better plow, an iron plow. It didn't take too long to finally get the colonist houses of stone in many places. They got rid of these earth houses and built houses of stone.
I'm not going to go into the story of the progress through a hundred years of the development. I'll just point out a few things. They introduced new methods of farming, crop rotation, new breeds of cattle. The planting of trees was a great big enterprise. And around 1840 every German village could be identified by the bank of trees around the village, around the home.
Our German Russians had another characteristic. They were soul-minded, law-abiding people. There are many records in the villages, of village discipline, village order. But I assure you, it was no wild west in Russia. Our people didn’t develop a wild west, you know, gunslinging and killing, and so on. It was remarkable how calm people, despite all kinds of problems, lived even in the pioneer period. It was remarkably hard to relax. We don't think of it much. They were probably trying to drown their homesickness in vodka. But on the whole, there were no major crimes. In going through old records find that there was one case where two German colonists broke into the head office, the colonist office at Odessa, and stole some money. They were sentenced to life imprisonment in Siberia. This was a terrible, sever punishment.
But there is one thing that is remarkable about our people in Russia. Around 1840 a German colonist was convicted of murder, killed a man. A wall of grief and sorrow and shock went through all the German colonies from the Volga to the Black Sea to the Crimea. The colonists were stunned that any one of their number should have committed a serious crime, a crime like murder. It never happened before, it was the first time. Discipline was one of the strong characteristics of all the colonies. The mayor of the village strictly enforced the laws and the people had to obey. They were fined or given labor sentences, common labor. And through the decades this developed in the German colonists, men and women, of discipline, or order.
There were no youth problem. Obedience was taken for granted by the young people. There was no generation gap. Children knew their place.
Another quality which I find predominant and very significant in our German Russian people, basically they were a conservative people. This is indicated by the fact that they preserved their dialect and language almost pure, with the exception of some Russian words they added, for over 150 years, basically kept their mother tongue.
It is also indicated by the fact that those traditions which they brought with them from Germany, those customs were also faithfully restrained, one generation after the other. Whether it was they way they made sausage, the way they sang their folk songs, they way they danced, or celebrated their feast days or festivals. This was tradition, this was a ritual. The most amazing thing I discovered in my research was that the young people were responsible for preserving this culture. By young, I mean people in their teens, unmarried for preserving this culture. By young, I mean people in their teens, unmarried young people in their teens, late teens, or 18-20. They were the ones who kept up the festivals, the folk festivals, the folk songs. It was no the old people. Of course, they learned it from the old people, but they were the ones who kept them up from one generation to the other.
That may seem a bit amazing to us today that the bearers of tradition should be the young people. We usually associate tradition with the old. But the fact is that young people gathered on the street corners and sang their songs which they heard from their fathers. They learned these songs from one generation to the next. There was no generation gap as far as tradition was concerned.
The other thing that amazes me is the wealth of tradition. You
know, the colonists came from Germany. They were poor, I mean really
poor. They eventually had no money. They got loans, you know, they
were loans for getting established. But they were rich in one thing,
not only rich in the spirit, they had an interior wealth of tradition
and custom which helped them over the difficulties which they faced,
the hardships that they endured.
Another quality which I find most fascinating is that our people, by and large, were a very sociable people. They had to be, practically. After all, they were limited in their abilities, sort of an isolation from the Russian people. They formed kind of a compact, unified community. Their sociability, carried on over 150 years, is seen in the fact that they delighted to be in company. They loved company. It’s sort of a Russian German proverb, “If you don’t have company, you go to company.” Well, what about this? Well, it was a lively gay affair, unorganized, people got together to chat, talked, but they also sang, drank some wine, sometimes ate, told stories. They loved to tell stories.
It has struck me, again and again, among the older generation, hardly living any more today, not many. I’ve often been amazed about the gift of storytelling that many of our people had, men and women. It’s an art, you know. Not everyone can tell a story. But they were good storytellers. Maybe they became so good because they told their stories so often.
Well, this was pretty typical of our people, this art of storytelling. As far as the young people are concerned, they had one weakness, or shall I call it a strength. Now, our young people in Russia were probably the greatest pranksters and tricksters that you can imagine. They were always up to tricks. It was a form of amusement, I mean nothing harmful, like burning down somebody’s haystack. You were escaping boredom, you know, you had to do something. There wasn’t too much to do in these villages, I mean, there were no organized ball games or anything. It became much of a tradition that a prank was sort of fair play. You couldn’t take it out on anyone if they played a trick on you, as long as you didn’t do any damage or harm.
So, a typical trick might be for young people to break into somebody’s hen house and steal a couple chickens and maybe into a pantry and get a ham. And then have a party, a feed, a get-together and fry the chickens and have a little party. But the owner of this property was always invited. He was informed in the course of the meal where the chicken and the ham and the eggs came from. We, he put on a good face and enjoyed the compliments. He didn’t take it out them. it was sort of a democracy, you know, from a democratic level, “Okay, you played a trick on me. I may get back on you.”
And sometimes it backfired on these tricks. There was one good example of that in the colony of Strassburg, in Baden. The fellows from Strassburg had planned to steal some beef. You slaughter in the fall. They were going to steal some beef from a nearby town only about a half mile away, three quarters of a mile away, and they went somewhere, stole a few chunks of beef.
The boys of Baden, they didn't call them gangs, they were groups of fellows, had gotten wind of this plan of the Strassburg fellows and they took away the beef and substituted a freshly slaughtered whippet, a hunting dog. The Strassburg boys got it home, fried it, and cooked it, and enjoyed the meal until they found out that they were eating dogmeat, which led to the nickname for the Strassburgers which remains to this day, dog eaters.
Another thing that characterized our people was their love of laughter, and they had also a weakness for jibes and criticism or teasing. They loved to tease. Nicknames were so common that almost everybody in the community had some kind of nickname, most of them not in flattery.
There was a certain amount of opposition and rivalry between two
villages. This was caused, I think, largely by the fact that the
boys from one village would try to court the girls in the next village,
and those boys would send them back, so there was quite a bit of
animosity sometimes from village to village. It was pretty harmless,
it was expressed mostly in words, not in actions. For example, little
rhymes started circulating, ridiculing
some of the towns, usually one or two. There was one that was rather amusing.
There were six villages down in the Kutschurgan area, very close together. There was a windmill that was always whistling. In the morning it would start up with a whistle that could be heard allover the colony. (Here he tells rhyme in German.)
Now, there was a certain amount of rivalry between Lutheran and Catholic villages that were in the same colonies. The typical nickname for the Lutherans, given them, of course, but the Catholics was “(German phrase.)” But the enjoinder back for the Catholics “(German phase,) meaning they were illiterate, they had to use a cross to sign their name. Of course, they had nicknames for the Russian, you know, and the Russians had nicknames for the German colonists, potato eaters. The German said the Russians were cabbage eaters.
You see, our German Russian people didn't have the opportunity to buy amusement. They had to create it themselves and sometimes it was a little rough. They tried their best to create some amusement, particularly in the village.
Our people were a peace-loving people. In fact, that's one of the reasons why they left Germany. Because, as I said, there were wars and revolutions, and what have you. They came to Russia because they were promised peace. At least they didn't have to serve in the Army, but were given freedom from military service.
Our people did not like war. They refused to fight for Napoleon, during Napoleon's campaigns, Spain and so on. Young fellows just ran away. They are a peace loving people. They are people of whom it has been said, in Russia, that they opposed war because it was a waste of time and a waste of resources. It was not because they were cowards. They had shown enough courage in peace time without having to demonstrate it in war time.
There was a fine saying which was written on inscription in one of the colonies in Bessarabia, "Not with the sword, conquer with the plow, children of peace, heroes of work." And I think those words pretty well sum up the philosophy of the German Russian people: work, not war; plow, not the sword.
Now, I'm not going to depict our people as saints or anything of the kind. They had their weaknesses and I could spend a couple of hours just on go these. Our people were, not the women, I'm talking about the men, didn't want to go to war. But they didn't mind a darn good fight, you know, occasionally, in town on the streets, you know. In particularly they enjoyed altercation with the Russians. Those were the Russian peasants. Usually it took at least three to stand up against one (German) colonist. As it was pointed out by a German traveler who visited Russia in 1838, the Russian peasant was not a scrapper.
I've already pointed out that our people were religious. I should add, to fill out the picture, they were also quite superstitious. It was not the same thing as being religious. They had all kinds of funny beliefs about the weather, and about the crops, and all kinds of remedies for sicknesses and diseases and so on.
Practically every grandmother had at least 20 or 30 rhymes to cure practically anything, you know. But I don't know how seriously you took it. Frankly, I think it was just another kind of game, just another distraction. They made a few pennies, a few kopecks, for the service. It didn't give you any harm, a lot of it didn't do much good for some of the ailments, but they were very superstitious in many respects.
But that does not deter from the fact that they were a deeply religious people. The extent of evidence is impressive when you consider that even the smallest and poorest village had a very beautiful church. And the fact that the church was always in the center of the village, a landmark with a towering steeple pointing to heaven, indicated what philosophy these people had. On the other hand, when the Communists came in and lopped off the church steeples, cut off all the steeples, this, to our people, was a sacrilege and an obvious evident sign of an anti-religious, godless, act, the fact that they removed the bells, regardless of their significance.
There's another fact. After all, to hear the bells ringing three times a day through the village summoning people to work or to prayer, one of the joyful things, and now the villages were dead. There was no ringing of bells. The Sunday was observed by our people with an almost real and unorthodox due in Russia, whether Lutheran or Catholic. You could do no work whatever on Sundays of any kind except eating, which probably wasn't considered work. You were not permitted to use a needle, or hammer, thread. You were not permitted to sew on a button. This was considered desecrating a Sunday. Very many of our people in this country in the early years, in the pioneer period, were likewise very strict about Sundays..
I have a little story for you which combines, or at least illustrates, this point about being very religious on Sunday. Also with a bit of superstition about what could happen to you if you don't sanctify the Sabbath. I'm going to give this story in dialect form. And for those of you who don't understand my dialect which is Alsatian, I'll just briefly summarize a little bit about the story without giving away the whole point of it.
Trinity Sunday was considered by the Catholic people, and I believe also by the Lutheran people, to be the greatest Sunday of the year, Trinity Sunday, especially sacred. And on Monday, two men were out fishing, the Monday after Trinity Sunday, they go out fishing. And after trying for a few hours they had no luck.
One of them just started swearing his head off, you know, no luck, so he started swearing. The other man complained, said, "What are you swearing for? It won't do you any good." And all of a sudden a storm comes up. A very heavy thunderstorm, lighting storm. And the other man with him is very religious. He gets a bit frightened and confesses now to his friend, "You know, yesterday I sewed on a button."
The other man says, "What! You desecrated a Sunday yesterday, sewing on a button. You just desecrated Monday by swearing. Why did you do that?" And finally he says, "Throw those pants into the water, into the river, and get rid of that curse, the storm!" He does so and they had a good catch of fish. Then he was happy.
(Here he tells the story in German.)
Well, I suppose if you can get used to the dialect, the story's pretty funny. I'm sorry if some of you didn't get all of it. They say you can never translate a joke.
When I think of it, the old people had a whole repertoire of jokes. Many of them were a little crude, maybe, but our people were farmers and had no inhibitions really about, I wouldn't say obscene or blasphemous, jokes. I can give you a good example of that. Our people are pretty frank and outspoken and honest. I mean there was no pretense of being something that you aren't.
This is a true story about a Bishop who was the first son of a colonist to become Bishop of the diocese, which was the second largest diocese in the world. The Bishop retired from office around 1901 and retired in the Crimea, later in Odessa, because of his health. Later he came to the village of Selz. This was under the Communist domination. But he was no longer committed to exercise any Episcopal functions. He'd rather be a private individual. He was a stately man, six foot three, six foot four inches tall, and walked with great dignity down the streets. And people would bow to him, kiss his hand as was the custom.
And one day while he was at home, an elderly lady came to knew him quite well. And she started complaining about how much work she had to do, how hard life was. In particularly because she had to get up so early in the morning. The Bishop consoled her, I suppose, comforted her a bit. He told her about an old German proverb.
(Here he goes on to tell several stories in German.)
Our German Russian people were the most persecuted people in all of Russia in the last 160 years. Just about the saddest chapters in the history of our people is that after the pain, prosperity, wealth, beautiful homes, beautiful villages, everything started to crumble, everything started to fall by the power of the Communists and finally to disintegrate into nothing. This is a terribly tragic thing when you consider that all they had built up through their hard work, after all those years, to see everything go to ruin, every- thing destroyed.
The story of those 50 years under Communism has not yet been written. I tried in five chapters in my book to give some idea of what really went on. First of all, before the Communist revolution in World War I, there was already a certain Russian animosity against the German people. They were forbidden to speak German on the streets, to speak German in public, forbidden to publish their newspapers. At the same time, German colonists sons were fighting in the front, in the Russian army. Then came the revolution. Here was now where the Germans became the great enemy of the Communists. Why? Because so many German colonists and colonies were well to do.
They had horses, they had cows, they had sheep, they had nice homes. They had lots of grain, they had lots of food. So when the Russians started, rounding up food, breaking in to homes, the first ones to suffer were our people. They were robbed and plundered from attic to cellar so that in 1920 they didn't have enough seed to plant their crop. And, of course, you know what happened, the great famine that struck down millions of Russians and hundreds of thousands of Germans. That was just the beginning of their hard- ships and of their peril. When Stalin was in power he took away all their grain, all their cattle, all their goods, and made them slaves of a big collective institution.
Now, can you imagine our people who were free farmers, independent farmers, for 150 or more years, suddenly confronted by such a situation where they didn't own a cow, didn't own a horse. When you come to think of it, our German people in the colonies had beautiful horses, had fine cattle, and to lose all that.
But that was not yet the worst. The next came when Stalin decided to get rid of the kulaks, at that time, the rich men, anybody who owned two horses and a cow and a few acres of land, to get rid of the kulaks as enemies of the state. And how did they get rid of them? Not by proper legal process, by trial, by death sentence.
No, there was no trial. The kind of procedure was very simple for the Russians. They came, simply, into the house, and arrested the men. Always, but always, at night, at midnight, but never in the daytime. They'd haul the man out of bed, gave him 30 minutes, 25 minutes, to get dressed, get his clothes together, and enough food for two or three weeks. He was hauled off without having the opportunity to say goodbye to his sleeping children. The neighbors were not notified.
He was taken to the local jail. The next morning or very soon after, they'd get transportation on cattle cars, and he, with hundreds of others, were shipped to the unknown. Many of them never again returned. Their family never knew where they were, whether they were alive or dead. Many of them served for 15 or 20 years in slave labor camps to come back, their house ruined, to meet perhaps their family, if their relatives were alive.
And this was going on on such a vast scale allover Russia that it's estimated that 20 million people, Russians and others, were in the slave labor camps at the peak of Stalin's career. How many millions died? That's never been published of course in Russia, but a good estimation is that at least 15 million of these people died in those camps. This was one of the most atrocious, one considered the most disastrous and atrocious crimes against humanity in modern times.
You always think of Hitler's gas chambers. I'm not for a moment saying that isn't the most horrible, but Stalin did his crime against his own people, against his own nation. And the German people certainly had their, more than their share, of suffering in this period. But that was not the end of the road, of the long, long road of suffering, because after the war, when hundreds and thousands were cleaned out of Russia, leaving their homes behind, leaving their cattle behind, bringing the rest in their wagons the way the pioneers had come 120-140 years earlier. On another 3-month trek, some of them 2- and 3-months trek, trying to get back to Germany.
They had a loss of life on that road from disease, from cold and hunger, going through enemy territory, unfriendly territory, unfriendly countries and neighbors, and then, to make this long trek and find out that it was all in vain. Of the 300,000 that left the Ukraine to try to get back to Germany, only 70,000 made it. The others were caught by the Russian army under the promise that they would be sent back to their colonies. Not one was sent back. They were all sent to Siberia, to Central Asia, scattered, like the dust before the wind. All of our people in eastern Russia are very scattered, far and wide, over a territory twice the size of the USA, more than twice the size.
We had, in the Ukraine, maybe five and a half percent farmers. That was about the only thing around, grain farmers less than ten percent. At least eighty percent of our people are living in towns and villages, or cities and towns, as carpenters, craftsmen, truck drivers, and so on. They had to make quite a transformation. They no longer lived in individual communities where they have any kind of community at all. They had no churches for them available, and they no longer had their own school system.
So this has been a terrible blow to our people. However, they are
living a little better than they did under Stalin. They are no longer
starving. They're working hard for their living. Both the man and
the woman have to work to support a family. These are some of the
*** Here the tape was removed and a new one started. Please see Tape #33. A small portion was missed when someone at the convention changed tapes.) ***
The Soul of the German Russians
By Dr. Joseph S. Height
September 23, 1973
Transcription of the tape presented at the North Dakota Historical Society of Germans from Russia Convention, Bismarck, North Dakota.
Transcription completed by Monica Dearing Sumner, Washington, 1991.
(A small portion was missed when a new tape was put into the recorder at the convention.)
……the history of our people in Russia and our people in this country for present and future generations.
It would be a pity if, after another 50 years or so, if hardly anybody would be able to know or say much of anything about our people. It is all the more important because the Communists have, for the last 50 years, been making an attempt to erase and irradicate and obliterate the whole history of yours and my people in Russia.
There isn't a single Russian book published that ever mentions the German colonists of the Volga or the Black Sea. You can look up the biggest, best encyclopedia, and look up Odessa, and you won't find a single reference in that encyclopedia of 20 volumes. You won't find a single line about the German Russian people. The names of all the German villages and colonies in South Russia and on the Volga have been completely renamed. Even the former Russian names have been dropped. The German ones are no longer in evidence anywhere. There is evidence in the Ukraine, or South Russia, that gravestones were removed from most of the cemeteries for building purposes. In a large colony like Selz of 3,000 people, a woman who has visited this colony says, "Today, it is a pasture for cows."
Now, it seems pretty terrible when you contemplate that people who have spent their sweat, blood and tears for 160 years in a country and contributed so much to the economy of the country, that their very name should be obliterated for all time.
I, and I'm sure our society, feels a moral obligation to our ancestors who are dead, to our people who are still living, that the history of our people dare not be extinguished, mutilated, but must be preserved, if not in Russia, at least in the rest of the world, as much as possible.
And it is with this intention that I have published my book. It was with this intention. I could not bear to see that all of this history should go down the drain and perish. Therefore, we who are gathered here have a serious purpose. Everyone can do something to help preserve our history. Any document, any paper, any photo, any book, pertaining to our people should be made known to the Society and, if possible, eventually given to the Society. This should be done before it is too late. I know from various places that a lot of material has been lost and destroyed and forgotten and mislaid that would be very useful to us, if not in the near future but in future years. And after all, it is for the honor of our people and it is for the honor of the living generation today.
A great poet wrote the following four lines which I'm going to read to you in translation:
Happy the man who fondly thinks of his forebears
Who likes to tell the willing listeners the tale
Of their achievements and greatness
And is proud to see himself a link in the beautiful chain.
Another thought: Courtesy past and courtesy present depends upon your life! Your ancestors thank you, existing and striving. Your ascendants carry on your aspirations and yearnings. And between the two, you ought to preserve and enhance what you have inherited: A valuable link in the unending chain!
I thank you.
END OF TAPE.