A Report on the Bessarabian-German Historical Commission
Baumann, Arnulf. "A Report on the Bessarabian-German Historical Commission." Mitteilungsblatt, June 2009, 8.
This translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
After the establishment of a "Bessarabian-German Historical Commission" was debated thoroughly during Board meetings of December 12, 2008 and January 1, 2009. It was deemed necessary to investigate thoroughly certain developments during the 1930s and 1940s among the Bessarabia Germans in Bessarabia, Poland and Germany, in order to arrive at a balanced description of that time, one that is based not only on report of personal experiences of contemporary witnesses, but also tested via research of available documentation. The primary purpose is to be able to present the members of upcoming generations with a reality-based picture of events. It was agreed that the Commission should have a maximum number of seven members.
During the convention of delegates of March 14, 2009, our national chair, Ingo Ruediger Isert, introduced the proposal for establishing a "Bessarabian-German Historical Commission," and he immediately named the following members: Retired Pastor Arnulf Baumann, D. Min. (chair); Dr. Horst Eckert; Retired High School Principal Heinz Fiess; Dr. h. c. Edwin Kelm; [the Society's] National Operational Director, Werner Schaefer; Dr. Kornelia Schlarb; and Private Lecturer Dr. Ute Schmidt. The delegates affirmed the proposal and approved the nominated members, in each case with overwhelming majority votes. By virtue of his office, the National President will participate in the [Commission's] deliberations.
The new commission began its work as early as April 4 and continued that work in a second meeting on April 28. An initial project was to design a questionnaire that contains essential questions and topics regarding the Nazi era, to be submitted to Bessarabia Germans. It comprises the following sections: "The 1930s in Bessarabia," "Evacuation Period,""Resettlement Period," and "Post-War Years." Just to give our readers a brief idea of the contents: Regarding the 1930s it lists questions about any influences from Germany itself, the development of the Nazi movement in Bessarabia and those who pushed it, the role of various institutions during this development (the church, the schools, the press, clubs and societies), competing ideas and directions, and biographies of some stand-out personalities. Questions regarding the Evacuation address the naturalization process, effects of direct experiences with National Socialism, and recruitment of Bessarabia Germans into the Fighting SS. Regarding the time of resettlement, questions cover living conditions in the transition camps, the process of resettlement, and decision methods leading to specific settlement. Likewise, there are questions on the reaction of Bessarabia Germans with the Nazi system, particularly the experiences of leading Bessarabian personalities. On post-war times, information will be sought about the after-effects from Nazi ideology, also about the reasons for taking on leadership positions by relatives of the earlier leadership echelon.
The next meeting of the commission is planned for early August. One important agenda item is how to plan and detail upcoming work. A significant task is to recruit people to work further on specific questions and a complex set of questions, and for this we are hoping to receive advice from experts who have already been involved with the relevant history in Southeastern Europe. We also need to clarify the exact final objective we are striving for. It is clear that the commission will not make any judgements about the past or about individual personalities. However, it must strive for a careful and grounded presentation which will consider as much as possible the conditions of the time. However, the commission should not produce its own publication. Rather, it intends to stimulate publications that would shed light on the period being looked into. Highly desirable would be a publication that is maximally accessible to a general audience but also satisfies the requirements of basic historical research. Certainly yet to be determined is: in which phases, in which time frames, and in what manner this might be attained. One further objective is a volume of documentation that collects the essential documents of the period, which will then make it possible for the reader to draw his/her own conclusions.
We are eager to ask for cooperation from our readers. we can easily imagine that among the many younger folks among us who are engaged in researching their family history, there will be those who are interested not only in the basic biographical data about their ancestors, but also in specific conditions under which their lives were spent. We can also imagine that there are students of history, and younger historians who, in the context of their work on essays and doctoral theses, might wish to address specific topics. In many localities in Germany that were the sites of transitional resettlement camps it may be assumed that there exist documents that cover at least some aspects of living conditions and the difficulties involved in the resettlement period. The commission is very much prepared to assist with any such projects. And we sincerely request the names of people who are interested (please send them directly to the undersigned -- see below) .
The commission is very much aware that it has assumed a difficult set of work, which will not proceed without emotions. But we are convinced that the time has come to take on this work. We feel encouraged, having had some successful recent conversations on such topics. It is apparent that it is necessary and possible to have reasonable discussions on them. We do hope, and ask for the support of our readers.
Arnulf Baumann, Director
Ingo Ruediger Isert, National Chair
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.