Presentation on the occasion of the
25th Anniversary Convention of the Germans from Russia Heritage
Bismarck, North Dakota, July 12 - 16, 1995
"Role and Objectives of the Association of the Germans from Russia in Stuttgart"
By Ruth Klötzel, Head of the Office of Social Welfare, Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Rußland, Stuttgart, Germany
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear allied ethnic Germans and friends,
I have the privilege to send you our best greetings from our executive board, our chairman and our local headquarters of the Association of the Germans from Russia, in Stuttgart. Our chief executive officer, Mr. Anton Wangler, would have desired to be here today personally, but he had to accompany our chairman to the Altai-region on invitation from our Federal Government. "Islands of Hope" have been established throughout Commonwealth of Independent States, where political and economic circumstances require urgently-needed information and review by German advisors and officials.
Mr. Wangler's Regrets for Non-Attendance:
This change of schedule was a personal disappointment for him. He was anticipating to attend this event for more than half a year. He recognized that I would be able to well-represent our Association. My first response was to refuse. But, I could not refuse this invitation, due to our long-lasting friendship with our dear friend, Prof. Michael Miller. Thus, here I am.
I recognize this summer's historical significance for the United States and Canada, thus to convene with you as a guest is well-chosen:
You are celebrating your society's 25th anniversary during this
26th Annual Convention.
Our association of the Germans from Russia has now existed for 45 years in Stuttgart. The Second World War has ended since 50 years and we commemorate the deportation our our fellow ethnic Germans.
My Acceptance as Good-Will Ambassador:
During these 18 years that I have worked for our Association in Stuttgart, I have gained much respect for those "Volkesdeutsche" called Germans from Russia. I have a unique viewpoint as a "Reichsdeutsche", married for 40 years to Stefan Klötzel a German Russian "Kutschurganer" from Mannheim, Odessa district.
In the vision of our much pre-maturely deceased Joseph Schnurr, this relationship was the best precedent for an effective and fruitful cooperation for the benefit of our ethnic group. He was quite astute. I never encountered hinderances into being accepted.
History of our Founding Society:
The role and the objectives of the Association of the Germans from Russia.
The Association was founded on 15th April 1950 in Stuttgart under the name "Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Ostumsiedler" or Association of the Re-Settlers from the East. Founding chairman was Pastor Heinrich Roemmich, with Dr. Gottlieb Leibbrandt as speaker and chief executive officer. Further members of this provisional board were Prof. Unruh, Clemens, Kiefel and Rev. Wessels.
Six months later on 15th October, the first general assembly of delegates was held and the first official board was elected. The incorporating articles of Association were approved. The publication of a newsletter was approved. Election terms for general assemblies members were established. The organizational network was to be fully established, by founding regional and local chapters.
During the third general assembly of delegates, our Association received its present title name:
Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Rußland (Association of the Germans from Russia).
Our Mission with Goals:
Officially registered with the Registry of Associations serving public interests on a non-profit basis. The mission of our Association is expressed in the articles of Association. These goals presently include:
- promotion of family reunion.
- advice and support of the emigrants from Russia (Aussiedler).
- promotion of the linguistic, cultural, ethnic and religious identity of Germans (in the former Soviet Republic).
- promotion of the youth by linguistic, academic, professional, social and cultural integration.
- promotion of international ties between ethnic Germans at home and abroad.
- former homeland and their origins.
- support of research projects.
- support for the realization of human rights.
Our Mission Through Strategies:
The strategies of the articles are realized by:
- protection and representation of the social, economic, and political interests of our members and ethnic-Germans within the framework of the law.
- cooperation with authorities; other associations of our ethnic Germans "Volkesdeutsch" in Germany and abroad; the Council for the Culture of the Germans from Russia; universities organization of exhibitions showing history and culture.
- publications for collection, protection and care of the cultural heritage.
- setting up of memorials.
The Association is financed by the dues of its membership. In past years we were funded for cultural and social activities by the Federal Government and the State of Baden-Württemberg, our sponsoring state.
Following budget-cuts of the Federal Government, our financial support is now decreasing from year to year., We, therefore, depend on a stronger growth of our membership. Only with a larger membership will we be in a position to cover our costs and expenses.
Our Association is organized in all federal states of Germany. ("From coast to coast" as you would say in America). The board of our Association is elected every two years by the "general assembly of elected delegates", which is our most important body. The manifold tasks are executed by the local headquarter which consists of our chief executive officer and sixteen employees, some of whom are employed on a part time basis. The headquarter staff transforms and executes the resolutions of the board.
Our Association is organized into a network of ten regional and 130 local chapters. Further, we are working with approximately 300 honorary social workers, supporters and persons who have care for our cultural identity. These persons are trained by us through conferences for social and cultural concerns, so they can support our work locally.
Our Heritage Center as Unifying Focus:
Stuttgart is the city where our Association owns the "House of the Germans from Russia". Financed by membership donations and renovated by donated labor, this "heritage center" is an open house, where you should feel at home. Every day we welcome visitors, most of them are ethnic Germans, who are seeking our advice or are requiring our help.
Those of you who have already visited our "heritage center" could form their own views of the extent of our work. It was our great pleasure to welcome in our heritage center, a delegation of Germans from Russia tour members visiting from the United States on the historic occasion of the 24th "Bundestreffen" in Stuttgart, 1996. We hope, that further mutual meetings will continue.
The tasks and services of our Association is independent from governments, authorities and political parties. With no confessional restrictions and procedurally organized democraticly, our membership in the local chapters elect delegates, who then elect board members on the regional and federal level. A separate and distinct advisory council includes representatives of the different churches and various specialists, which advises the central board.
As previously mentioned, our Association is a non-profit organization. Financial reserves are utilized in accordance with the statuary articles. The Association's benefactor and supporters serving on the boards on federal, regional and local levels are contributors on a voluntary basis without remuneration. Our Association could not exist without their loving labors, for which we are very grateful.
Our Present Achievements:
The Association views a continuing mission for services for enhancing the political interests, the moral support and economic help, along with preserving the culture of the Germans from Russia all over the world. This includes ethnic Germans in the former Soviet Union.
Now to Highlight Our Achievements:
Through the never-ending efforts as a major priority, our Association succeeded in socially, economically and culturally integrating the Germans from Russia emigrants who have returned to Germany during the Second World War. Our Association contributed (by way of numberless requests, letters, phone calls, personal interventions with governmental and other authorities, contacts to politicans, the news media, national and international organizations) and took legal action for the creation of a "social climate", offering generous help and support for the integration of (1) those emigrants deported during and after the Second World War, (2) the emigrants from Russia of the past, and (3) those who arrive in our present days.
Generating International Awareness:
The Association will preserve this created environment by diligent work. It will adapt to new requirements to continue necessary efforts for ethnic Germans as refugees to return to their original homeland or "Islands of Hope", as an alternative in Eastern Europe.
The Association created important precedents for the reunion of families. It informed the German public and the world conscience, concerning the existence and the miserable situation of the German ethnic groups in the former Soviet Union.
Preservation of Cultural Heritage:
A high priority of the Association is the preservation of the cultural heritage of our ethnic group. Our "House of the Germans from Russia" is, as well, a cultural center. You can tour a "heritage museum" and a specialized research library, which is not yet completed.
The "Council for the Culture of the Germans from Russia" is another facet of our mission. Among its goals is the research of the cultural heritage unique to the Germans from Russia. The present chairman of the cultural council is Dr. Herbert Wiens. He is also a delegate to the governing board of our Association. Dr. Wiens revised, in cooperation with our Association, the history book Volk auf dem Weg: Germans in Russia and the Soviet Union 1763 to 1993. The 4th edition has been published, as well, as a bilingual brochure in German and Russian language, to further enable our countrymen in the former Soviet Union, who are not allowed or cannot emigrate for various reasons, to be acquainted with the history and the culture of our ethnic group and to improve their knowledge of German language.
On the out-reach of our Association, there are efforts to revive the international contacts which had been intensively groomed by our deceased member Dr. Hagin, through the International Association of the Germans from Russia and further efforts to deepen the contacts with organizations in the Commonwealth of Independent States which are recently possible.
The Impact of Our Past Visionary Leaders:
Many ethnic Germans in the United States and Canada still remember the name of Dr. Karl Stumpp. We owe him the historic book on emigration which is of utmost importance for the research of family origins. Further he is the author of significant books on our native country, which are important documents of the history and the fate of our ethnic groups. His particular concern was the research of the characteristics of the Germans from Russia in their historical, geographical and social context. He belongs to the outstanding personalities of our association.
Our esteemed Dr. Stumpp, during his lifetime, had not only honorary functions in the board as speaker, chairman, honorary president and editor; but he, as well, intensively fostered contacts with the various associations of the Germans from Russia in the United States and Canada, which he strengthened through repeated visits to the United States and Canada.
You may also recognize senior pastor Joseph Schnurr, the author of the book "The Churches and the Religious Life of Germans from Russia". He collected valuable material and has achieved recognition for our ethnical group as speaker chairman, editor and archival researcher. For numerous years, he was a member of our board.
These books are an invaluable source of information for our ethnic researchers. Memories of the old homeland become alive, and many things they only knew from oral-narrative are illustrated.
We also remember on this occasion: Superintendent Schleuning, Dr. Gottlieb Leibbrandt, Pfarrer Heinrich Roemmich, Gertrud Braun.
Monthly Publications Serve Important Link:
The most important and always up-to-date organ of our Association is the new journal Volk auf dem Weg which is published monthly and sent to our members.
Dwindling of Active Membership is a Social Concern:
Unfortunately, the number of our members does not grow in proportion as the number of recent emigrants grows and our increased work load. Today in the Federal Republic of Germany live approximately 1.5 million Germans from Russia. In the late sixties we had some 2,500 members. Now we have only 25,000 members. This may have related impact with the cuts in social benefits. A further reason is some of our ethnic Germans do not know, despite much public relation work that we exist. Or you will find the rationalized viewpoint: "We don't need the Association, so we save the membership dues."
Very often we experience that one "remembers" of our Association and our journal, when problems arise which can not be solved. Suddenly one recalls that one can telephone into Stuttgart and get some help.
The hesitation to join our Association has often adverse results. Deadlines expire if one has not attained knowledge obtained by reading our journal "Volk auf dem Weg". Our news publication informs our members on all aspects regarding matters of our ethnic group: politics, culture, social matters, youth, integration, church, meetings and functions of the local chapters, advertisements for missing persons and so on. The present editor is Johann Kampen, "Volk auf dem Weg" serves the solidarity between the members of the Association and the ethnic German groups.
In the pursuits of genealogical research, "Volk auf dem Weg" is very useful. We receive letters from the United States and Canada, and transverse from the former Soviet Union, requesting us to search for ancestors or relatives, and to place advertisements for missing persons. Genealogical research is a task that we do not systematically serve at present. Years ago, Dr. Stumpp was research co-ordinator of the Germans from the Black Sea, while Dr. Matthias Hagin was researcher to the Germans from the Volga. Both men died much too early.
As you soon appreciate, all family research is very time consuming. We have no funds to employ a full-time archivist-researcher. We could not find somebody who would volunteer to research archives and contacts on a voluntary basis. Nevertheless, we desire to increase effforts in family history research in the future.
Future Endeavors Include Our Youth:
Speaking of the future: discussing the various activities of our Association we should not forget our youth, the future of our ethnic group. The youth are organized with their own chapter under the name "Rußlanddeutsche Jugend" (RDJ). The chapter meets annually and is supported by the Association.
The Biennial "Bundestreffen" as People's Fair:
Since its founding, the Association has successfully organized 24 general assemblies. During the last two assemblies, for the first time, music groups from the former Soviet Union participated and joined us in arranging a folklore evening. On the occasion of the general assembly (Bundestreffen) of 1994, 50,000 Germans from Russia came to Stuttgart. This was the largest peaceful demonstration in the history of our Association. The assembly made a most favorable impression at highest circles.
May I take this opportunity to invite you to our next general assembly which will be held on 22nd June, 1996, in Stuttgart. We expect 69,000 to 70,000 ethnic Germans from Germany and abroad. You, dear fellow ethnic Germans in the United States and Canada, will be represented with an "American House". We look forward to welcome you in Stuttgart and are happy to invite you on that occasion to our "House of the Germans from Russia".
Inter-Contintental Co-operation as Mutual Benefit:
When we learn more about each other, our relations will be deepened. Perhaps you will decide to join our Association as a member, if you have not yet decided to do so much earlier. Now-a-days in a time full of struggles, we need the feeling of solidarity which makes us strong, which encourages us and which upholds us. A large number of members makes a strong Association which will be heard by the politicans and may enforce its requests.
Social & Political Recognition in German's Governance Policies:
In the past, we have gone through hard fights and we shall face future challenges for the benefit of our ethnic group. First, there was the fight for the recognition of the Germans from Russia as homeless refugees and a legislation allowing an economic and social integration into the West German Society. Then there were the requests for the reunion of families and exit permits from the former Soviet Union.
Our Visions and Our Achievements:
We owe all of our successes in the history of our Association to the untiring efforts of our board members, and all the others working in the regional and local chapters. They have sacrificed their leisure time besides their professional duties and have done what was necessary. Our emigrating countrymen can not be grateful enough for these efforts. With certainty there would have been no reunion of families, because there would have been no Association of the Germans from Russia. It should, therefore, be a point of honor to become a member of our Association.
There is much more to be reported, but you may now have an idea of the mission and the purpose of our Association.
Congratulations of North American Heritage Efforts:
We whole-heartedly congratulate you to your 25th anniversary convention and wish you success for your research projects and continued growth. We hope for further shared cooperation in future endeavors to our mutual benefit.
Thank you for your attention!
Reprinted with permission by Ruth Klötzel, Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Rußland, Stuttgart, Germany.