They Failed to Extinguish Cultural Identity
Es ist Nicht Gelungen, die Kuturelle Identitaet Auszuloeschen
Paulsen, Nina. "They Failed to Extinguish Cultural Identity." Volk auf dem Weg, December 2004, 8-9.
Translation from German to American English by Alex
Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
On the occasion of the 240th anniversary of the founding of the
first German settlement on the Volga, the "Landsmannschaft
der Volgadeutschen [Landsmannschaft of Volga-Germans]" on October
15 gathered together their countrymen
from Hesse and other regions of Germany.
Among the guests of the event were, in addition to the locally prominent,
a group of Volga-Germans from Argentina who were making a trip through
Germany and Russia.
This particular traditional Day of Culture of the Volga-Germans
in the Citizens Hall of the Kassel Rathaus. Until now the gathering
had been held every two years in Buedingen, where at the time of
the original emigrations there had been a recruiting office and
a gathering station for those
leaving for the Volga region.
In a brief historical retrospective, the Society's president, Dr.
Alexander Huebner, honored the memory of the original emigrants
who at that time had embarked from Buedingen into an unknown future
and who "in their new home on the Volga would contribute significantly
to an economical upswing there. Those were true pioneers who knew
how to transform wild steppes into a blooming landscape by their
skills and untiring efforts ..."
Uwe Frankenstein, delegate to the [Hesse] legislature, praised
the "significant efforts toward integration" of the Germans
from Russia and paid tribute
to this historical fact: "Even though the history of the Volga-Germans
is infused with much suffering, it was impossible to extinguish
their cultural identity."
Dr. Robert Korn presented the newly published "Kalender der
[Volga-German Calendar]," and via an emigrants' song by Bernhard
von Platen (1733-1774) he also presented a brief historical glimpse
into the time of emigration to the Volga region.
Dr. Alexander Huebner, too, reminded the audience of the disadvantages
and discrimination suffered by the German settlers in Russia and
in the Soviet Union, ever more intense when relations between Germany
and Russia were in crisis mode. Yet despite all the sad chapters
in their history, the Volga-Germans have never lost their cultural
identity. "During the most difficult of
times and situations, we stuck together and attempted to solve our
problems in common," said Dr. Huebner, and he directed his
remarks toward the Landsmannschaft der Deustchen aus Russland who,
he said, "really worked hard on our
behalf. When we all come together, we can master any and all problems."
Ida Schaefer (of Kassel) recalled the gigantic cultural festival
Volga on the occasion of the 225th anniversary of the first German
settlement, for "at that time," she said, "hope for
justice was still alive." Moderator Frieda Dercho (from Osnabrueck)
reminded us of the Russian neighbors. "Without the support
of the Russian population during and after times of war the number
of victims among the German populations at many localities might
much larger," she said.
Author Dominik Hollmann (1899-1990) was celebrated as one of the
renowned Volga-Germans. His daughter Ida Bender (of Hamburg) spoke
of the life of
the man of literature, and she recited from his poems. For years
she had directed the German Club in Kamyshin/Volga that had been
founded by her father. She told how he dedicated his whole life
to the preservation of the German language and to the struggle for
equal justice for German-Russians. During the course of the evening
songs were intoned that had either been written or translated into
German by Dominik Hollmann.
Alexander Schwindt exhibited his by now famous model of a Volga-German
farmer's homestead, along with photos from the 1930s. Alexander,
80 years today,
was 18 at the time of deportation. In 1937, seven men of his Schwindt
clan were shot to death.
Artist Andreas Prediger (of Bad Reichenhall) had brought along new
works. With his brush and paint, he continues to still struggle
untiringly against forgetting the past. Painter Dshamalia Hergenreder
of Weimar won over friends of the arts with her romantic landscapes.
Isabell Kessler and Sllvestre Martin Prediger, chairs of two German
Clubs in Argentina, greeted the audience in the name of their Volga-German
countrymen in Argentina. In that South American country, where many
found a new home toward the end of the 19th Century and during the
20th Century, there are numerous German Clubs that work toward the
preservation of the German language and culture.
Lilli and Reinhard Uhlmann of the Historical Research Society of
Germans from Russia wore traditional garb of the Germans in Russia
that they had carefully introduced during the course of project
of the Society. Their tradtioinal
clothes include elements from all German-Russian population groups.
At the start of the cultural program, which followed the formal
presentations and memorials, the audience filled the room beyond
capacity. Waldemar Hein
tended to the musical accompaniment of the gathering. Viktor Petzer
of Hamburg (actor and founder of the German Theater of Kaliningrad)
had everyone in
stitches as he recited tales in dialect and comical verses as well.
A highlight of the program was the singing of beloved folk songs
such as "0 Susanna"
and "Wie die Bluemlein draussen zittern [Oh how the flowers
tremble outside]." During the latter song, the Argentinean
Hilario Guinder spontaneously
marched onto the stage and supported the Kassel Singers with his
Songs like "0 Susanna" were accompanied by lively dancing,
an occasion that
showed off the Argentinie guests as passionate dancers who demonstrated
the classical Hopsa-Polka "a la Argentina" or perhaps
even "a la old 'Volga-German."
The Kassel Dance Club "Schwarzgold [Black Gold]" stirred
the audience with modern dances. The children (ages 4 through 11)
and the other young dancers won the hearts of the audience with
Our appreciation is extend to Alex Herzog for translation
of this article.