Heritage Review is the official publication of the North Dakota Historical Society of Germans From Russia. Heritage Review publishes scholarly articles on a variety of topics concerning the history and culture of Germans From Russia. We invite authors to submit articles for publication to the editor. As this Society is a non-profit organization, publication is our only recompense to authors.
Donations of books, family histories, diaries, original records, photographs and other items relating to German-Russians as well as gifts and bequests to further the work of the Society will by gratefully received. Address NDHSGR, Box 1671, Bismarck, ND 58501.
Published articles represent the views of the author and not necessarily those of the NDHSGR.
Heritage Review is published three times a year by the North Dakota Historical Society of Germans From Russia. Issues No. 1 to present are available. Please request a book list for prices.
Copyright © 1979 by the North Dakota Historical Society of Germans From Russia. All Rights Reserved.
(Photo:) Front Cover Photos courtesy of State Historical Society of North Dakota. Layout of cover done by Phyllis Hertz Feser. Top photo - home of David Mueller Sr. NW 1/4 Sec. 20 T123 - R66 in about 1894. Middle - Digging a well in Pierce County about 1910. Bottom - Breaking sod on Jacob Lehner's farm in Grant County, 1911.
Family histories continue to be compiled and published. Since the last issue of Heritage Review, the Society has been favored with copies from:
Joe D.M. Gross, Box 382, Freeman, SD. He published The Rev. Paul F. Gross Family Record and The David J. Gross Family.
Judith Armbrust Hondl, Dickinson, ND published The Family Tree of Anton Armbrust and Veronica Mischel.
Elroy N. Nathan, 2513 White Avenue, Chico CA published Wurzeln or Interrogatory Talk With Inquisitive Tommy.
Mrs. Ardella Strobel Bennett, 6832 Russel S. Richfield, MN wrote Adam Fritz - Offspring in America.
Delories Herman Fey, 1729 West Kent Avenue, Missoula, MT published The Brosz Family History 1861 - 1975.
We are delighted to receive a copy from you and express appreciation from the Society. We encourage others to write their family history. We have published many in Heritage Review and will continue to do so.
Gackle, ND is celebrating its Diamond Jubilee during the week of July 4. Indeed that is the reason the NDHSGR convention was set for the following week. Residents of Gackle are members of the James Valley Chapter. In commemoration of its Jubilee, Gackle will publish Gackle Diamond Jubilee Book. Contact Lenhardt Rivinius if you're interested. Fredonia, ND also has its Jubilee and will publish Fredonia Diamond Jubilee History Book. Contact can be made with Mrs. Raymond Burkle.
We need to make apologies for our mistakes - it seems in every issue. Herman Wildermuth of Yucca Valley, CA writes "We enjoy reading Heritage Review very much, but will enjoy it even more if we get the entire issue". Anytime pages are missing tell us, we'll send a replacement. We can, at least in part, blame the printer for the missing pages. But when we list an author incorrectly as we did in issue no. 22, we have to bear it all. The article "Germans From Russia Class At NDSU" (page 40) was authored by Timothy Kloberdanz. Sorry!!
In this issue we begin serializing "Aus Deutschen Kolonien im Kutschurganer Gebiet" by Johannes Brendel. The translator is Father Tom Welk of Wichita, KS. Father Welk was born "between Linton and Strasburg, ND". We've told you more about him in a footnote to the first installment. Parts of Johannes Brendel's writing have been translated, but no complete translation has appeared to date. We appreciate Fr. Welk's offer to the Society to publish it here.
Another first time contributor in this issue is Ingrid Rimland. She appeared in Fargo on a promotion tour of her book The Wanderers and was hosted by the Red River Chapter during her brief visit. Her talk was recorded on cassette tapes; copies are available from Michael Miller (see the footnote to her article).
Ronald J. Vossler made his initial contribution also. He is interested in a proposed Humanities and Public Issues project.
Other contributors are familiar to you. The names of Col. T.C. Wenzlaff, Rev. William Simpfenderfer, La Vern Rippley, and Paul Reeb have appeared many times before. Lester Seibold haa a follow up to his family history and history related to Germans from the Dobrudscha. Thank you very much gentlemen!!
This issue also has its first editorial. This one addresses the pros of the proposed name change from "North Dakota Historical Society of Germans From Russia to "German Russian Heritage Society." All members will have an opportunity to cast their ballot to decide whether to accept or reject the proposal for a name change. Giving every member a chance to vote is the democratic approach - an approach fostered by the Society. In any election there is always a problem - the outcome doesn't necessarily please everyone. We hope that you will continue to support the Society even if you aren't pleased with the vote. The aims, objectives, operations, and functions of the Society will remain the same under any name.
The readers are reminded that the Society has books for sale including Food 'n Folklore, Songs We Love To Sing, Folksongs Of Our Forefathers, and any others published since 1974. All previous issues of Heritage Review and Der Stammbaum are available. Write to headquarters for a list of the publications and the price of each.
"Lieder von Wanderen", a record album of German songs is in production, and barring unforeseen problems, will be available by convention time - July 1979. The album is being produced by the Tibor Brothers in cooperation with NDHSGR. Other performing artists include Joey Schmidt (a Napoleon native who appeared on Lawrence Welk's show), Tony Schaaf, and Rose and Julius Miller. The album will be available at area music stores and through NDHSGR. Price of LP will be $7.00, and 8-track and cassette tapes will be $8.00. Also add money for the postage.
Laurel Martin sent us information about the fate of the von Falz-Fein family, relative to a footnote to Col. Wenzlaff's translation of A. Prinz' article "The von Falz-Fein Family" in Heritage Review 19, December 1977. Laurel Martin states, "Some members of the family fled to Germany (after the Russian Revolution) and Friederich von Falz-Fein died in Bad Kissingen in 1920. Other members of the family went to Lichtenstein and Baron Edward von Falz-Fein lives there today."
One of our readers asked us to use words of greeting and farewell used by our parents and grandparents. So -- "wie gehts" and "Adje."
One of the important matters of business to be decided at the annual convention is the proposal to change the name of our Society to GERMANS FROM RUSSIA HERITAGE SOCIETY. Included with the mailing of the Heritage Review is a statement concerning the proposal to change the name which sets forth the contemplated advantages and disadvantages. Also included is a copy of the proposed Articles of Amendment of Incorporation. I urge that you study this matter very carefully so that you will be in a position to make your decision on this question.
If you are unable to attend the annual meeting, you may send your proxy so that your vote may be counted on this question. The proxy and the return envelope are also included in this mailing.
Five members of the board of directors will be elected at the annual meeting. If you know of anyone who is interested in becoming a member of the board, please see that their name is given to our secretary or to the president of your local chapter. The nominating committee will consider all of the names forwarded in this manner.
Thomas A. Wentz
WHY A NAME CHANGE?
Question: The name "North Dakota Historical Society of Germans from Russia (NDHSGR)... does it fully describe and serve the present function of the organization?
Perhaps you are finding yourself somewhat at a loss trying to make up your mind on which side of the name change issue you should let your sympathies fall? Especially understandable would this be if you are not familiar with the historical background leading to establishment of our Society in 1971. When the name was originally selected there existed a completely different set of circumstances than are present today. Hence, what appeared appropriate then no longer fits our needs today. This is why we are addressing ourselves to this matter of a name change for our Society. Some of us have looked at this problem, as it has been evolving, for several years, but more particularly in the past five years.
Now let me retrace the historical beginnings of our organization. It should be remembered that when the movement to create the Society got underway in 1970, it was initiated by people who were charter members of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR) with the intent to form a state chapter of an organization which was based in Colorado at the time. In other words, the ND organization was conceived to become an actual part of that organisation, or at least affiliated to it. Hence, it was natural that the title should bear the same name with perhaps only the amendation of a state name. Under these circumstances the choice was a natural.
In the meantime, the idea for affiliating with the purported parent organization fell through, due primarily to a different conception as to how the dues structure should be implemented. Later there arose also other divergent views on policy. However, in not too many years the North Dakota group became a viable and thriving organization in its own right. It became obvious that it could stand independently and apart from an attachment to another organization. Already at this early date the question of perhaps having selected the wrong name arose in the minds of some (ND) founders. To some the independent stance appeared as heretical, but instead it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The new group served the cultural needs of the Black Sea German-Russian segment well. This is primarily due to the fact that historically the Dakota Territory and the Canadian Prairie Provinces are the area where these people settled in strength. Memberships from many states, including foreign countries, started to fill the name files of the Society. Publishing historical writings, doing genealogical research, collecting cultural keepsakes, holding conventions, Schmeckfests, etc., all served to enlarge the membership rolls, but more expressly, mostly those residing within the geographic borders of North Dakota felt attracted.
Seven years later our group appears to have reached a crossroads situation. The extent of service to the membership, in fact membership capacity itself, seems to have reached a point of stagnation. Growth has stopped during the past two years. A lot of fertile territory lies in every direction from the Bismarck focal point. One reason for stagnation is that the first two words of the name have implanted a stigma of provincialism. Those living beyond the Society's geographic "ND" name caption have slowly become conscious of this. Even though they are people of the same ethnic heritage, there seems to have arisen a dissociation barrier away from other members of their own kinspeople who attach unto themselves a title designation as being of another political state. They do not relate intimately and well under the impression of being an "outsider". Some feel this is the reason no chapters have been organized outside the physical borders of North Dakota.
This is the picture which stands before our eyes today. With an open and objective mind, we need to take a long and serious look at this question to which we are today addressing ourselves. We need to know how to answer a series of questions. Who we are? Where we are? What we call ourselves? What we plan to do? And where do we plan to go?
First, the question who we are? The answer to this, on the surface, probably would appear simple to most of us who grew up among our ethnic group. On the other hand, this might appear different to our younger generation, especially to those of mixed ethnic heritage. Of course, in our dally living we communicate with various types of fellow Americans. How we address ourselves is important with reference to others getting a correct image of our people's ethnic background. Our attitude is important, whether it is chauvinistic, or is modest and matter-of-fact, or reproachful. Maybe we take one attitude for one part, and another attitude for the rest?
The historical facts are that our ancestral homeland was Tsarist Russia, not to be confused with the Soviet Union and present-day Communism. So, to say "Russian to describe part of our image, is conclusively correct. No man can make out of himself that which he is not. On this theme, I believe, a very fitting and good statement has been offered by a former NDHSGR board member. This person related to me that their "grandfather firmly believed that any person of a certain nationality (including his parents') retained that ethnic background no matter where fate (or the Good Lord) happened to put them on this earth. Hence, he (grandfather) was a GERMAN first and Russian second. Then when he came to America, he became a German-Russian American."
Second, the question where we are? The answer to this may also seem quite simple. Upon reflecting a bit on this, one might ask, "Do we really know?" The question is quite relative. One might better seek an answer to a more qualified question, "Where we are in relation to what?" It has been allegorically said that a White man and an Indian met in the woods one day. The White man indicated to the Indian that he was lost. The Indian expressed surprise for the Indian always knew where he was at in relation to his surroundings. The key point was that the Indian kept track and paid heed to where he had been. White man is known to have a habit of sometimes forgetting.
To know where we are, we must be able to recall our past. That is why genealogy and history are so important. To look back 100 years, or 200 years, is not enough. To fully comprehend our total ancestral drama, we need to make an attempt to discover as much as possible back to antiquity. Accepting this challenge will reveal the very essence of our heritage, and will stimulate a compelling purpose for our being in existence. But for the most part, we concern ourselves with our most recent heritage, the German-Russian aspect in the New World. So, to say, we are only belonging to North Dakota or the United States, is too restrictive as we are all a part of a much greater experience.
The name "North Dakota" (ND) is a political and geographical designation which has no ethnic or cultural significance for describing "Where we are?" Other ethnics live in this same geographic area. Our identity exceeds and reaches beyond any artificial state boundary. We live in many states and countries, and our common bond is our ancestral heritage before our forefathers came to the North American shore. Our name title needs to be all inclusive rather than exclusive. Our name should not be encumbered by having added to it the name of any political state. We cannot logically build a fence, or erect a wall, and say that beyond any artificial line is not part of us. Or say, they out there do not belong with us. Again I'd like to restate, we are "where fate (or the Good Lord) happened to put ...(us) on this earth." To say, we are a ND(HSGR) is perpetuating the same folly of the so-called White man in the eyes of the Indian. In this context we might ask, has it been so long ago since Dacotah Land was a U.S. Territory? Does the German-Russian northern neighbor forget so soon that his people actually first settled in the south part of the Territory? In his own small self-confinement, must White man again say, "I am lost?"
Third, the question what we call ourselves? The answer to this is without doubt the most difficult resolution to decide. It is not inconceivable that every person could conjure up his own individual preference, thus having as many ideas as there are people. Perhaps a book could be written on this question. But if we address ourselves to the basic criteria for a good name, the field of possibilities becomes highly narrowed. Let us look at some of the criteria.
For point one: a name needs to be functional, that is, brief and precise. It needs to be said like it is. It should be manageable for easy arrangement in various forms and places. Our present name does not meet this first criterion. It contains eight words, making it a tongue twister when expressed rapidly, and when said slowly, it almost becomes a sing song. Commercial bill boards, hand bills, display cases and entrance marquees, such as at conventions, cannot handle the required lettering of lengthy titles.
For point two: a name needs to be readily identifiable so as not to be erroneously taken for something else. It should fully reflect the institutional establishment it represents. It should not say more, nor less, than what is needed for clarity. Our present name does not meet this criterion either. The postal department has confused the Society with the State of North Dakota Historical Society. Also the "ND" portion of our title immediately gives the impression that activity is limited to intrastate. But some of the stationery letterheads indicate it is "An International ... organization." The intrastate impression is also contradicted by the fact that over 45% of 1978 total membership comes from outside the state of North Dakota. For a fact many of these out-state members are fully as active participants as within-state members. Published materials weigh heavily in favor of the out-state membership.
The above mentioned notation concerning the confusion with the State of North Dakota Historical Society is a problem that would be completely eliminated if the word "historical" were dropped from our title in addition to the "ND" portion. This word does not fully reflect or describe what our organization does or stand for anyway. By definition "history" deals with the recording and explaining of past events. History deals with the study and telling of the story of the past. But our Society is also interested in promulgating all the traditional customs and keeping them alive. We also stress the importance of recording current and up-coming events (i.e. genealogy). To mention just a few aspects of our living ethnic, there is cookery, singing, and dancing. The word which properly identifies these aspects of our Society's functions is "heritage". By definition this word means: "Something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor." Hence, history is also inclusive in the word "heritage", but heritage is not yet history because it is still with us. To pick the best word for our name, "heritage" is all inclusive, but "historical" only fills part of the bill. The better choice is only too obvious.
For point three: the dominant descriptive word within a name title needs to be in front because in alphabetizing a title the letter of the first word is used. In the library system this can be most helpful for the purpose of establishing consistent and uniform indexing under topic, subject and title. Not only is this consideration of value for the library card files, but also for reference catalogs and in published books and journals which contain individual topic and bibliographical indexes. Our present name does neither meet this criterion. Presently a research scholar would have to look under the letter "N" to find what our organization has to say about Germans from Russia, or as more commonly referred to historically, German Russians.
It might be of interest to note at this point that there is no consistency among historical writers on the word order our ethnic compound term should take. In recent years by a somewhat benign consent many of our people have started to call themselves "Germans from Russia." This is a result of a direct translation of the German "Deutschen aus Russland,' which is a term usage adopted by our ethnic kinspeople now living in the Federal Republic of Germany. Because AHSGR adopted this phrase for their title in 1968, it subsequently became part of our own Society's title.
Fourth, the question what we plan to do? This is the issue in primary focus which demands our immediate attention. It is an issue which some of us would perhaps rather not face. But even inaction is action in the same sense that consequences will eventually follow. For what we do, or fail to do today, will greatly determine what we shall see tomorrow. But before we can answer this question, we must ask the next question.
Fifth, the question where do we plan to go? This requires deep and serious contemplation. Each person must ask what is his or her pleasure to see happen in the future. As we look at our Society, its Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws, we must consider whether we are fully accomplishing the purposes and goals originally set forth? If we feel that the question of the name change issue has indeed a certain amount of validity, then we should weigh the factors and resolve the matter accordingly. Whatever the product of our joint deliberation, let us hope that the ultimate resolution will be best for the most.
Let me briefly re-state the points in favor of the name change to: GERMANS FROM RUSSIA HERTTAGE SOCIETY (GRHS). At least eight basic improvements would be accomplished as soon as the name is ratified and implemented. The benefits of eventual increased memberships and activities are inestimable.
(a) That there would not arise a conflict with the state and federal tax-exempt status of the Society.
(b) That the change would not affect the present bulk mailing permit and no postal dispatching interruption would result.
(c) That the various libraries would only need to make minimal changes in their records to accommodate the change.
As we go to press --|
Dr. Joseph S. Height passed away Friday, April 13, 1979.
Return Trip to Rumania
By: Lester G. Seibold, Cathay, North Dakota
At that time my Great Grandfather, Christian Seibold, and his family packed all of their earthly possessions and left for Canada. There were eight children at this time. Six boys and two girls. The ages were Fredrich, age 19, (my Grandfather), Johannes, age 16, Jacob, age 12, Anna, age 10, Wilhelm, age 8, Johann Georg, age 6, Christian, age 4, and Helene, age 1.
How can I fathom the desire he had to go to an unknown land? How can I grasp the motivation he possessed? What were all the circumstances that brought about this decision? I am impressed by the devotion of his wife and family as most of the children were very young.
Essentially, my trip is a return trip ... 92 years later. I feel compelled or driven to go. It is as though a message is being conveyed to me. Lessons of history are crying to be told - of toil, sacrifice, tears, of anguish, and despair - of hope and a better life.
My maternal Great Grandparents and Grandparents came also from Rumania (1902), so within me are the ingredients much the same as what they possessed. Today is my time to see, feel, hear, and understand what it is that made us up.
Time has erased I am sure, the physical marks of their presence in Rumania. I would be amazed to even find a grave marker. There would be things that remain much the same, the wind, the land, the sea, the mixed races of people in Rumania. Will there be any remaining evidence of the German colonies? The approximate location should be found - the Danube river, the forest where they hid during the war of 1877 - 1878. The crops that are grown and oh so much.
Dinner was now being served by three Rumanian stewardesses. They were very busy but seemed to go through unnecessary motions. They just had a poor system. Three young Rumanian men also served, apparently as attendants, but they did little and were more in the way than anything else. It was a good dinner with plenty of refreshments. There was a real traffic jam in the aisle as many had to go to the restroom while dinner was being served and while the trays were being gathered. Some tried to help with the trays but it only made matters worse. Most passengers were older people, some very old. It simply was too small a plane for so many people for such a long flight. I didn't realize it at first but this was my first encounter with communistic inefficiency. Everybody works, even as the three male attendants, who only got in the way. Poor English was spoken by the attendants.
The plane parked at a remote intersection on the field. We had to remain in the plane until a doctor came to see if we were all healthy. A bus then arrived to take us to the terminal. There were Rumanian soldiers at all points. Some had bayonets on their rifles. We had to go through the customary detection checks and then make our currency exchange. The passport was necessary at all points. No visa was necessary. The baggage was gone through then too. I had trouble locating one of my suitcases. Someone had tossed it off the conveyor and thrown it in a corner. I became quite concerned and told the Rumanian officer. Be simply said "Posto" and walked away. Finally I located it and as they were weary of going through baggage, they just cleared me through.
It is 6 a.m. at home now. Here it is 1 p.m. Our room at the Dorabanti Hotel is nice, clean, and the bathroom is also nice. This European city is old. One can still see the damage from the March 6, 1977 earthquake. I am just starting to get oriented. What a change!
The evening meal was on the tour. Mineral water was served with a cheese specialty - cheese covered with baked dough of some type. It tasted like Swiss cheese and looked like a fishwich. Their Rumanian national wine, plum wine, was served and it is very strong. The main course was served from a huge platter by the waitress. The course consisted of meat, potatoes, and carrots. We also had a salad dish and rolls. No water, coffee, or butter. Dessert was a fruit cake with grapes and sort of a gelatin material. The meat was old, cold, and tough. Not very impressive if you consider this was supposed to be representative of the Rumanian diet.
We walked about the city in the afternoon. It really takes you back many years, with a dash of modern things here and there. We have television in our room - black and white. They have one station which doesn't broadcast at all times.
I visited with our young guide about Rumania. I asked one young man what his salary was as a tour guide. Be became somewhat apologetic and said, "Not very much, $3.75 per day." He had to have six months training and pass an exam. He learned English by being fortunate enough to live close to people of the American Embassy who also had children his age. From playmates he picked up the English language. He also studied it in school and was a very good guide and interpreter. I inquired about the history of the German people in Rumania. There were Germans in Transylvania who still hold their ethnic heritage. They speak German, publish their own newspaper and maintain their own schools. The guide told us that the Germans are protected and permitted by law to exercise these freedoms. Independence and freedom was stressed by these young guides. (I will comment separately on the communistic state.)
The Rumanian people are handsome. One can see Greek and Roman traits. The city is quite dark at night. There are no flashing neon signs. No need to advertise! There is no wasteful use of energy. Even car lights and bus lights are on low beam at night. It gives about the same light as our park lights. The buses are loaded at all times of the day or night. They boast that crime is nonexistent and it is perfectly safe to walk at all hours. They remind Americans of crime in America in New York and other cities.
We were approached to exchange U.S. money for leu on the street. We could double our money and more but were warned not to deal with any street trader. They are expert con artists and if we get in trouble there is nothing the tour guides can do to help us. We were reminded to carry our passport at all times. If you lose it, there will be much delay and you will miss your night home.
At 9 a.m. we went on a city tour. I was a little more favorably impressed as we were shown the newer areas - new apartment buildings, etc. There are many new apartment buildings.
We toured a Greek Orthodox Church (built in 1859). We witnessed services that were being held at the time. They were all old people, kneeling on the floor, performing their rituals. The interior of the church had many icons and images of religious figures. Can you imagine a tour group coming through and witnessing services in a church in America?
We also saw more evidence of the earthquake and the repairs that were being made. The guides were boastful and proud of Rumania.
We bought our lunch and several items on our own. We ate in a cafeteria style sidewalk restaurant. Their food is heavy on bread and dairy type foods. They have no refrigeration. They also eat a yellow corn mush covered with a gravy. I tried some of each. It's a poor-man's diet. I also had a cream puff, I thought. It had sour cream. I also had a pastry type dish which looked like lefse. It also was covered with sour cream. They drink mineral water, wine, or Pepsi - all of it room temperature. I could only eat small portions of each. Salt is in powder form and in an open dish with each helping himself as needed, dipping in with a knife or spoon that he has been eating with.
Buying articles in stores is quite an experience. First you stand in line to order the item you want. The clerk gives you a slip listing the item and the price. Then you stand in line at the cashier clerk where you pay for the item and she stamps it paid. You then return to stand in line again to give the paid slip to the clerk and she then gives you your purchase.
On the street we were literally pestered with the street money changers. They wanted enough American money to go to Istanbul. They are not allowed to take any Rumanian money out of the country. The American dollar has world-wide purchasing power and they really go after it.
We spent some time at a museum of Rumanian buildings, homes, and articles from years ago. From the Dobrudja, we found a typical home just like the German homes we studied at NDSU. I got so taken in with that that we almost missed our bus. They scolded us about it.
In the evening we attended a show on Rumanian music and culture. I have it on tape. It was excellent. I was very impressed. Costumes, lighting, singing, and orchestration were all superb - truly professional. The dinner after the show was like all the rest. We had a dish something like pigs in the blanket. We had a good time with people we met. We were learning and experiencing so much.
We went on a tour of a monastery and several Greek Orthodox churches. All very interesting and very old. More interesting to me were the collective farms. They didn't comment much on them. I had to snap pictures while the bus was moving. Many thatched roof homes were in evidence, horses are used for much work. There were open wells with bucket and crank, women working in the fields and carrying loads. I am expecting to see the same in the Dobrudja region. We are going to Kiev, Russia tomorrow. We have to be ready by 4:30 a.m.
Upon returning to Bucharest we were subject to fumigation of all baggage and even washing our hands in solution. At Kiev there was a mix-up in Eldon's and my passport. They gave Eldon quite a hassle for a while until I came to match the picture on my passport and they found his passport. No one was detained for any length of time but these sort of incidents did make me nervous. I knew I was completely at their mercy and we were there as guests of their country. They were anxious to clear up the so-called misconceptions we had about their country.
They also gave us a tour on the Dnieper River. I had not realized the size of some of these rivers in Europe. They are capable of handling huge ships. It was a beautiful tour. Castles and monasteries are located near the shore, and we did tour one of them. Some old Greek Orthodox churches date back to the 11th century.
Before I forget, during the day, I took a tour of the city of Brasov and of Dracula's Castle. We again stopped by some very old churches. We also had about an hour and a half for shopping.
I simply wandered about several blocks in all directions to get a good impression of all the local scenes. There are trash cans in some of the alleys and I saw a man urinate in one of them as nonchalantly as could be. Crowds of people were going by and no one thought it unusual. Restrooms are almost non-existent. I did find one but it was so filthy on the outside that I did not go in. It was an underground arrangement.
They took us to the Olimp Resort which is about 40 kilometers south of Constanta. We got checked into our Hotel Amfiteatru and then we went to a German restaurant. I was just starving for a good sterile drink so had beer, spaghetti, and ice cream for dessert. Tomorrow will be a seacoast tour and a tour of Constanta. It should be very pretty. Our hotel overlooks the Black Sea. It is beautiful. The beach is very nice and clean. I anxious to get on it and into the Sea.
I am standing in front of what was "The Evangelische Gemeinde" in Atmagea, Rumania until the Germans living here were re-settled in Germany. It is now the church of an Eastern Orthodox congregation.
The church was partially erected in 1861. The last Lutheran service was held in the church on November 9, 1940. There was an earthquake in the area on the same day. The church survived this quake, as it had others, and pillaging by Turks, Russians, and Germans. It was also used as a lodging place by Rumanians and Bulgarians.
The village sign and the State Farm.
A view of Atmagea. The church is in center background.
Another view of the church in Atmagea. Note the stone fences. This photo is different from the one in the original Heritage Review
A street view of Atmagea. This photo is different from the one in the original Heritage Review.
A street view of Atmagea.
Ruins of buildings in Atmagea. These were occupied by the Germans during their residency. There are a number of these, separated from the portion of the occupied village.
Note the clay walls and thatched roofs.
Note the weaving of branches and clay.
Clay blocks have retained their size and shape against the ravages of nature.
A close view of the structural blocks used to construct the wall.
An adobe type of construction. This building was used as a shed by the Germans of pre-1940.
I am at an underground entrance to one of the houses that is in ruins. This photo is different from the one in the original Heritage Review.
This summer kitchen had a baked clay oven in the corner.
The baked clay oven. It is the only one of its kind we located in the area.
My brother, Rev. Eldon Seibold, is pictured with Mrs. Ecaterina Burcuishü. She is a German woman we met in Atmagea. This photo is different from the one in the original Heritage Review.
I am standing by the street signs 4 km south of Atmagea. This photo was not in the original Heritage Review.
The maps are not good when it comes to the smaller places. There are few road signs. Finding the villages I was interested in turned into quite a chore and more than once I wondered if we would find any of them. The car was not running right either. It was jerky and the engine was missing on several cylinders. When idling, the engine stopped completely several times. It just had to last! The first villages to look for were Cogealac and Tariverde and these we did find in the gentle rolling treeless plains of the Dobrudja. Huge fields of corn, sunflowers, and vineyards were there, all state farms. We had so much to accomplish. We decided to get in all we could at the northern most points and return to Cogealac and Tariverde later if need be. Of most interest was Catoloi where Grandfather Seibold was born. Again the road signs are not that good and we nearly missed the sign. A small obscure sign read: Catolai - 2 kilometers. Eldon was disgusted with me as he didn't believe these villages existed. A huge elevator complex was being built on the east side of town. The village is small. We took a picture of what looked like the oldest house in town. There also was a Greek Orthodox church in the center of town. We drove a little to the west of town on a hill and from that vantage point got a picture of the whole village. There was an open well nearby which was very large and deep to the water. Vineyards were also in the area and fields of hops. Between Catoloi and Tulcea are huge fields of hundreds of acres, all well kept. Industry is more evident, including smokestacks of a fish processing plant. Tulcea is a very nice city - large stores, the cleanest looking city of all Rumania. The Danube River flows right by with a large waterfront on which are stores, restaurants, and hotels. Huge ships sail right before you in this harbor city. We were impressed with Tulcea. We had dinner in one of the restaurants. The other side of the Danube was Bessarabia, Russia. We also shopped and bought some souvenirs.
The day was going fast and still so much to see and do. Atmagea and Ciucurova were next. Well, Ciucurova was on the map and we did find this village. Everything was all Rumanian and no evidence of German type homes anywhere. I knew this, but I still thought I could find something of identification. I could not in the short time we drove around. It is a rundown town of old fashioned characteristics of many years ago, Rumanian, though. we were looking for Atmagea and we should have come upon it before getting to Ciucurova. It was not to be found where our maps from the Historical Society of Germans from Russia indicated. We took a picture of a village we thought to be Atmagea. We returned to Ciucarova and asked, "where is Atmagea?" Atmegea? We received nodding of heads and gestures and babbling in Rumanian. The situation was getting worse. They were getting into an argument among themselves. I thought, "at least Atmagea is in the area." Finally an old man gestured that he would ride with us to get us on the right road toward Atmagea. Agreed! Well, we only went a short distance, and still not being sure of ourselves or his instructions, I asked an old man and his wife if he could speak some German. Yes, he could, a little. So here Eldon and I began to pick out bits of information. It was not on the main road. Well, we felt a bit more assured! Finally, we came upon a sign which said, Atmagea - 4 kilometers. It was on a dirt road which was being repaired. A detour ran through a ravine, a rutty, clay road which would be impassable in rainy weather by car. Then we saw a state farm which was located on the outskirts of Atmagea. Driving closer we could see the village nestled in the slope of a ravine. Some of the area surrounding was wooded.
Eldon spotted a church which he thought was Catholic. It had a square steeple before coming to a point with a cross. I said this had to be the Atmagea church. No other way! This was the village founded by Adam Kuehn in 1848. This was the Lutheran church which all Evangelical from the German villages in the area attended. Eldon insisted the interior was of Catholic characteristics. I just knew different. Looking around you could see the ruins and remains of the clay brick homes the Germans had lived in. Here was a treasure. My camera was clicking! I only hoped and prayed nothing was amiss with these pictures - the underground entrance, the baked ovens of clay, the roofs with branches and clay. What more could I seek? As I returned to the car for more film, there was an elderly woman on the road apparently waiting for me. I greeted her in English and she answered in English and then German. I told her who I was and that I was from America and then asked if that church was the original German Lutheran Church of the village founded by Adam Kuehn. She just beamed all over and said, yes, yes! In German she said, he was the first of the first. I asked if she knew of the Blumhagen and Seibold names. She said, yes, yes, the Seibolds were from Catoloi and the Blumhagens from Ciucurova. Eldon joined us at that point and I then said I would bring some papers from the car. When I returned I asked if she remembered Paul Traeger. Yes, yes, she had read his book! I asked if she still had it. She said no, it is all destroyed. I asked if she had any old papers of the village. She said she had none. I showed her Mother's translation of the Traegers book and she rattled it off in German and English like she knew it by heart. She motioned and gestured where families lived on the street. I asked for the location of the cemetery. She said it was out of town but there is nothing left to be seen. It is all destroyed. This was all unbelievable in the truest sense of the word. Truly this was the fulfillment of my trip. I had returned to the scene of the once hustling, bustling German life of my forefathers. She recalled how wonderful it once was. It was apparent that many fond memories were carried for generations.
We started for the Olimp Resort as it was getting late. But we knew the way, if only the car wouldn't break down. I simply have to comment on my thoughts. These German people really knew what they were doing. They came to the Dobrudja and picked the finest area of all Rumania. When they found something better, they went on to that. The German villages of Cogealac, Tariverde and Ciucurova are in prime farmland areas. You would swear that this is a dead ringer for the sweeping treeless plains of North Dakota. The climate is milder than in North Dakota. When they came to North Dakota, it's obvious what they were looking for. All the pieces are fitting together. I have seen it with my own eyes.
Rumanian historians give no record of this German habitation of the Dobrudja. The Rumanian history account given by the guides does not even mention them. The guides were well informed on all history of Rumania and were excellent. Our German ancestors were just a small group, going unnoted by the course of history. This very small group was identified and illuminated by one Paul Traeger who wrote of them. It is my good fortune that it was of my family background and of the people who settled our area of North Dakota.
So now we had two days yet on our own and I was looking forward to the return trip already. Eldon took the tour to the vineyard north of Constanta. It was near Cogealac and Tariverde. The famous Mirfatlar wine is made there. I just simply enjoyed myself as much as possible. A local artist was painting portraits in color and he did a pretty good job. I thought, why not have a portrait of me when I was in Rumania in 1977? So for a 100 leu, I was his model. It took about an hour and a half, but I rather enjoyed it. Crowds of people gathered and nodded in approval as he captured my features on paper. I had noted the young German man before me had tipped him generously when he was done, so not to be a tight American, I tipped him 25 leu. It was getting late in the day when Eldon returned. We again went to the Dutch restaurant. This seemed to be the best place for me to eat. I ordered chicken as I noticed others had chicken.
A German pair, playing a violin and accordion, went about the tables playing music for tips. They received our applause when they played the Blue Danube Waltz. They played a lot of Straus, Brahms, and really classical music. When they got to our table, I said, "Polka, polka." Other Americans nearby chimed in, "Polka, polka." They obliged by playing the Beer Barrel Polka. We joined in by singing. Everybody looked at the Americans.
It was Saturday evening and a bowling place was nearby so Eldon and I went bowling - in Rumania. Quite a bit different than Wonder Lanes at New Rockford, ND. They had automatic pin setters using strings attached to the pins. It worked remarkably well. The alleys were dirt, and so were the balls. When your time was up, the machine stopped whether you were done or not. They also had Las Vegas type slot machines. The Rumanians were so greedy for those machines, when I took my hand off the lever to reach for another coin, they grabbed it and played. I conceded to them after winning several small pots and losing about 15 leu.
The farewell dinner was that evening in the White Horse Restaurant, with entertainment. It was in the open air. The entertainment was amateurish but the novelty acts were cute. When anyone felt like it, they joined the performers on the stage with the dance. There were several Syrian women who got a lot of attention with their belly dance. It turned out to be quite a bash. At our table were people from Duluth, Minnesota, who had relatives in Rumania. A father and daughter joined them as guests. Casy Coban was the man from Duluth and his daughter, Donetta Wickstrom, who is a police woman on the Duluth force. We had a good visit with them as they knew much more about life in Rumania with quite a few relatives there.
We were returning via Amsterdam. We would be permitted to do some shopping.
How nice to be in free Europe - a large world trading center. Canals were
evident from the air, well-kept farms and yards. At the airport were wonderful
shops with wide selections of souvenirs and electronic devices, some with
features I haven't seen in the states. It was real nice to have this stop. We
left at 2 p.m. for New York and were scheduled to arrive at 3:30 p.m. Sounds
wonderful but really it was a 7-1/2 hour flight. We flew over England, Ireland,
Atlantic Ocean, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and down the coast to New York.
Quite a few people were dizzy and miserable during the flight. Well it had to
end sometime and the hours went by. When the wheels hit the ground at New
York, everyone cheered and clapped their hands. Some were singing God Bless
America and Glory, Glory Hallelujah. Custom check at JFK was fast and
efficient. Home again, home again, home again at last.
The German Colonies in The Kutschurgan Region
AUS DEUTSCHEN KOLONIEN IM KUTSCHURGANER GEBIET
By Johannes Brendel
Translated by Thomas A. Welk, C.PP.S.
Thomas A. Welk, C.PP.S.
Father Welk was born between Strasburg and Linton in 1942. He was brought up speaking German. Most of his educational training was in Ohio, receiving both Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Dayton. He was ordained in 1969 as a member of the Society of The Precious Blood.
The past nine years he has been at Kansas Newman College in Wichita as
Director of Religious Activities. There he teaches theology and swimming, and
is coach of the tennis team.
However, since World War I there has been a renewed interest in the agricultural Germans who emigrated east. Their development, the points of contact, the points of relationship with the German nation and with their ancestral origin have become of great interest and more numerous.
Of primary interest is Russia where there has been an overcoming of illiteracy, the bringing of Communism into the German village, along with the suppression and gradual destruction of the individual farm in favor of collectivization. This has brought about not just a change, but the termination of the German village as it was known before the war.
And therefore so much more valuable is a document which portrays for us the first time, and possibly even the last, the life and spirit of this disappearing village. The author of this book, Johannes Brendel, serves as an example of the intellectual trends which were representative of rural emigrant Germans before the war. His life history will make this point clear. He was born in 1874 in the village of Selz in the Kutschurgan region of the Ukraine, son of peasants. He had six brothers and three sisters. For one year (1881) he was in the Kirchenschule, where he sat on the high benches learning his ABC's, which he describes for us so clearly in part of his book. Later he attended the Landamtschule until 1886; in 1887 the Centralschule; and in 1888-89 the seminary in Saratov. In 1890-91 he was a teacher in the Chutor (hamlet) "Ambrose" without having a teaching certificate. Then he completed the teacher course in Grossliebental and worked from 1894-1899 as the regular teacher in the villages of Kosakowo, München and Elsass. Later he moved to Saratov where from 1909-1918 he was very busy operating a bookstore and writing and publishing his own text books. Of his books one is especially to be mentioned. This is a composition of German grammar in three parts for the German Volksschule. This was written with the collaboration of Professor A. Lonsinger, author of Nor net Lopper g'gewa (Don't Give up, an account of the German colonists on the Volga; Aberdeen, SD, 1911), and Hueben und drueben (Here and There). In the last years of his work in Saratov (1917-18), he was a member of the association of the Volga Germans, holding a position of leadership. Shortly before the outbreak of the Revolution he was drafted into the army. His unit was put in the garrison at Kusnezk on the Volga. There he busied himself in providing the countless Germans (mostly Austrian prisoners) support and reading materials. His business in Saratov the first German publishing house there. Later there were two others, but these were of a denominational nature: one Lutheran, the other Catholic. Brendel was known to be of a democratic persuasion. When, during the Czarist times, the "black one hundred" started agitating against his undertakings, accusing him of being a German propagandist, he was forced to give up his book store with the victory of Bolshevism.
In 1918 he settled in the German occupied city of Odessa. When communism also took over there, he was suspected of being a counter revolutionary and imprisoned for 7-1/2 months. From 1921-27 he worked as a vegetable gardener until he emigrated to the U.S. in 1927. There a new area of involvement soon presented itself, for in the prairie states of the west lived hundreds of thousands of Germans from pre World War I Russia. These people had their own newspapers. Brendel worked on one of these, the Dakota-Rundschau in Bismarck, North Dakota.
In the years after the war he busied himself copying the immigration lists which could be found in the regional office of Selz, in his homeland area, the Kutschurgan region. These comprise the appendix of the following book. Missing are the records of Strassburg, which disappeared during the Revolution. Unfortunately the family names, along with the place names, were so difficult to read that undoubtedly there are many mistakes in the copying, and certainly already in the records themselves the names were recorded inaccurately. Therefore, we wondered whether in the printing we should not leave out the names of the places of origin of the immigrants. We decided, however, to include them, since this book makes it possible for the German Russian peasants, and also for those in North America, to determine from which region their forefathers originated. Even a garbled name cen help. A comparison with the original records is of course impossible, since these are no longer accessible. Since the Germans in the Kutschurgan region are mostly from Elsass (Alsace) and to a smaller degree from southwest Germany, these immigration lists have much meaning for the Germans living in Alsace, in Germany, in the Ukraine, Canada and the U.S. For many immigrated Kutschurgans are living in North America, especially in North Dakota. May this book serve as a welcome bridge among the divided parts of such a great people.
The immigration lists may have particular value for the German Russian peasants, but the text is to a greater extent of even more interest for people of the German nationals. The historical parts present little new information about the immigration of the Germans to Russia. But it does give a more accurate historical picture of the origin and importance of the Kutschurgan settlement.
What Brendel writes about the folklore and customs of the people is more valuable, and not only for the particular setting of the Kutschurgan region, but for all of the German settlements in Russia (the Mennonites, though, have their own particular character). (Footnote: In this regard, this book fills a vacuum, for there is no recent literature regarding the Kutschurgan area. Professor Victor Schirmunski's book The German Colonies in the Ukraine: History, Dialect, Folk Songs, Folklore, Moscow 1928, treats the Kutschurgan only in passing. Other than that, the only materials to be considered are what the New Home and Farm Calendar for the German Settlers in South Russia, Odessa 1865-1915, 47 volumes, treats, especially the works of Fr. Conrad Keller in V. 39, 1907. And also by Fr. Keller there is an essay on the "The Kutschurgan German Colonies in South Russia" in the Deutsche Erde magazine, V. 7, 1908).
However, the greatest value lies in the book as a cultural reflection. What the author wrote, for example in chapter 16, "The Development of the Colonists," or in chapter 26 when he wrote critically about intellectual hollowness of the German Russian peasants before World War I, could only be written by one who knows the village from within, and not as an outsider. For only he can write about such things who still stands close to the world of the peasant. This proximity was especially apparent in the original version of the text, whose sentence structure and presentation of ideas was so cumbersome that it would have been very awkward reading for a German national. And so it was necessary to make a thorough stylistic revision of the text in order to simplify the construction and style without losing the particular flavor of the author. The overall structure of the book can then be given as such: CC1-3 contain the background history of the Kutschurgan settlement; CC4-16 the general character of the settlement and its development; 17-25 treat the economic conditions; 26-37 deal with the intellectual and educational conditions; and 38-48 contain cultural information. Yet, the individual sections blend together well so that it does not appear necessary to unduly tear apart the text through a sharp analysis.
Certified Political Economist
The invitation of Katherine in the year 1762, which was spread by Russian agents throughout western Europe in 1763, promised the immigrants the following privileges:
We find the following report, dated fall of 1803, of a well known journalist in the "News of the Odessa General Governor about the German settlements in South Russia, which primarily were located in the Black Sea area: On July 24, 1803 there was issued a decree by Alexander I to the military governor, General Lt. G.A. Bekleschov. It contained important instructions about the settlement of the coloni from various German provinces under the direction of Commissar Ziegler and Schuster. "I instruct you," he states in the decree, "to work with every means available to you so that the settlement might meet the goals which have been previously determined by the New Russian Welfare Office. Among the colonists there are many grape growers. In order to be able to use their knowledge and skills, they must be offered settlement in the Crimea. In order that it might be possible to give them the hilly part of the Crimea for developing vineyards, I am empowering you to purchase immediately the necessary land from the present owners, and to commission the civil governor to give the colonists in the Crimea his special attention and to provide them with every support necessary for establishing ideal vineyards."
Among the immigrants who settled in the Volga area beginning in 1764 were many who had never learned a profession, many who were weak and not capable of field work; others so fragile that they were incapable of work. Many had inherited from previous centuries genetic disorders, and others could not establish their home since they came without family. They all had believed they would find in Russia the land of milk and honey, where the roasted doves flew into one's mouth. After they realized that even here one had to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow, many again returned to their homeland. Others only stayed in Russia because their great poverty prevented them from returning. As a result, many became a burden for the government, did not develop the land, and could not even provide for their own basic needs. When a few decades later more western European immigrants were invited to Russia, greater care was taken and only those were allowed in who could be of use to the state with their working qualifications. The Internal Ministry Office submitted the decree to Czar Alexander I, which on February 20, 1804 received the highest approbation.
In this document it was first of all pointed out that there was little farmable land available for development for the German settlers on the Volga. On the Volga, then, it became necessary to settle the most possible settlers on a barely livable land. In South Russia, on the other hand, where the land was presently occupied, the question was of "settling a limited number of such immigrants who were to serve as a model in agricultural work and as artisans. If, therefore, the settlement of the peoples from foreign lands is to succeed, then the selection must limit itself absolutely to good and property owning landlords. For now the goal is primarily the settlement of the New Russian area. But since it is evident that here there is available very little state owned land, the places must be precisely determined where the immigrants are to settle before any new immigration is allowed, so that suitable crown lands can be pointed out, or land be bought from property owners. This is to ensure that the immigrants would not be delayed in getting settled down, and also not have to live a long time at the expense of the government and thereby also encumber great debts. Land which is designated for settlement is only to be settled with such immigrants who can find use for such land, namely, with good landlords, with people who can be trusted with establishing vineyards, mulberry trees, and other useful plants, and also who are experienced in animal husbandry, especially in the breeding and rearing of outstanding sheep herds, people who have all the necessary knowledge for a scientific agricultural development. Also allowed to come are village workers, namely tailors, cobblers, carpenters, smiths, potters, millers, weavers, and masons. All other artisan and laborers who are not capable of living on the land are not to be accepted, excepting when a certain number of laborers are needed for the cities in the south. According to this rule it is also not wise to attract people through a hard sell or any other means, or to establish special committees for colonization, or to appoint special agents. Instead of these, those who wish to immigrate to Russia are to come forward on their own to our ministers or other agents in order that they might obtain the passport, certificate, or other document from their magistrates or municipalities, wbich indicate that they are capable of making a living. Each one must have everything in order for his present government, whereby he is bound according to state or local law.
"Since it could be difficult for one or two families by themselves to make the trip to the border, the travelers can be met in Regensburg to expedite the immigration in groups of 20-30 families, traveling either on land or water, whichever is more convenient. Wagons or ships can be rented at the expense of the Russian government, and one of the immigrants is to be put in charge whom all are to obey on the journey. To give support, to group the families, to rent the ships and guides necessary for the transporting of the immigrants, to get a precise proof of their character and their personal conditions, the foreigner Ziegler can be appointed because of his experience and capability. Be is to be paid for his work in carrying out the above instructions in proportion to the amount of work he does. Several families, who have decided to emigrate, can choose one or more people to precede them and look over the land and acquaint themselves with it. The annual immigration of colonists from Germany is not to exceed 200 families, because for good reason no more can settle. It is therefore ordered that the agent in charge is each year to accept and get ready 100 to 200 families. Those who are from near the Russian border can manage their own immigration. The following is commanded of the ministers at the foreign courts: 1) that they make no payments in advance, except the amount for the ships and vehicles for those who are chosen, according to the guidelines outlined above; 2) that all who come forward for immigration, must present certificates or reliable witnesses that they have either the monetary means or possess property not less than 300 gulden and bring it along; those, however, who cannot bring such proof, are not to be accepted; for experience has shown that settlement by poor people progresses slowly and success is limited; 3) it is self-evident that the immigrants are to be people with families; unmarrieds are not to be accepted, except if someone takes them into their family; 4) families that consist only of husband and wife, are not to be accepted; for experience has shown that it is difficult for such to keep house and to succeed in getting ahead because they do not have the resources to hire laborers."
The following few lines present fragments from the life of our forefathers. From the individual portraits one can build a partial picture of what the typical life of the colonist must have been. From this one can see why the colonists were not able to achieve a higher level of development. If we want to portray peasant life and peasant customs, we can, of course, not survey the life of the village from the perspective of teacher, town-clerk, or merchant, all of whom are removed from the life of the peasant. We must take a look into the past by placing ourselves in their place, and living the way the Germans lived and in this way be able to see the reason why the development of the Germans failed and why their potential was not realized. Unfortunately, the regional archives of Selz and other areas were destroyed in the Revolution. Only a small part was left and leaves to us only limited material for study. The old timers must complete much of this study through oral presentation and so give the written records a living spirit.
Furthermore, the foreigners that surrounded the colonists also had a great influence on them. Also the Russian military, the wars in which the colonists participated, and, earlier, the Civil Wars and the Revolution all left their marks in great measure.
The Kutschurgan River widens into a lake in the area of the German colonies. This liman was called "Nitscher" by the colonists, which comes from the word "Dniester." It forms the west border between the colonies and the Russian and Moldavian (East Rumanian settlements). When the Germans settled here, and also during the first years of colonization, the liman was definitely smaller than it is now. A road led between garden and fields, which tied together the four villages lying on the liman.
Only in Mannheim and Elsass were there no such gardens, for the area was ill suited for them. Later on vineyards were planted.
Elsass and Kandel had the nicest, flattest fields. The fields of the other villages were hilly. Throughout the entire region winter wheat grew best, which the peasants also grew the most. Rye was planted very little, which, because of low prices, brought little income, and very little spring wheat was planted because it grew so poorly. Barley, oats and corn, on the other hand, were preferred crops for planting.
Each village at one time had a forest, of which today there is no trace. In their place were planted vineyards, which promised greater returns.
In each of these six colonies there are the nicest and most modern community buildings: churches and school buildings, which cost about a million rubles. The church at Selz alone came to 145,000 rubles, and all of the costs for these projects were borne by the colonists themselves. In 1811 the government allowed a church to be built in Selz, who