Gathering, Preserving and Presenting
Sammeln, Bewahren, Praesentieren
"Gathering, Preserving and Presenting." Volk auf dem Weg, April 2006, 20-22.
Translation from the original German-language text
to American English by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
"Giving history a new home. Emphasizing integration over identity."
With this motto, the "Museum fuer russlanddeutsche Kulturgeschichte"
[Museum for German-Russian Cultural History] in Detmold strives
to document and impart the cultural and historic experiences of
German-Russian immigrants in Germany. Not only in North-Rhine Westphalia
[NRW], but in all of Germany, it has, for about ten years, been
the only German-Russian museum and, since 2002 the project has been
managed by the "Museumsverein fuer russlanddeutsche Kultur
und Volkskunde" [Museum Society for German-Russian Culture
and Folklore." The main support agency before that, which also
continues to support the museum's activities today, is the Christian
School Support Society Lippe.
"Germans from Russia certainly deserve their very own museum.
In the Soviet Union we were unable to learn anything of our history.
Many did not deal with their family history or with the history
of their own ethnic group until they came to Germany. This regained
treasuring of memories must not only be preserved from oblivion,
but must also be placed into the consciousness and collective awareness
of the younger generations of Germans from Russia and their native-born
neighbors." This is how Dr. Katharina Neufeld, Director of
the Museum, describes the goal of the museum's initiatives.
|Dr. Katharina Neufeld, a Historian
who since 1998 has been the woman of expertise and the Director
of the Museum
Preserving History from Oblivion -- Finding Identity
In 1996, the museum in Detmold consisted mainly of a traveling
Otto Hertel (1919 - 1999), a teacher at the secondary school level
chairman of the Landsmannschaft of NRW. As a young teacher in a
gymnasium, he had begun to present in many German cities, by word
and image, the
history of the Germans from Russia. In 1988 he received support
German-Russian artist and sculptor Jakob Wedel, whose works have
significant part of the museum's materials.
During the erection (beginning in 1988) of the private Christian
August-Herrman-Francke school in Detmold, an exhibit space for the
planned museum was
built on the same site. In March, 1996, the "Museum zur Geschichte
Deutschen in/aus Russland" [Museum for the History of Germans
in/from Russia] was
formally opened. This project steadily expanded and developed in
years, thanks largely to the untiring engagement by [German] countrymen,
treasured not only the building up of German-Russian history, but
improvement of relations between Aussiedler and native residents.
|Wilhelm Friesen, teacher at the Christian
School and dedicated helper at the Museum
||"Fufkaya" -- the Soviet "uniform"
of the time of forced labor camps
In February, the "Museumsverein fuer russlanddeutsche Kultur
und Volkskunde, e.V." [Officially registered Museum Society
for German-Russian Culture and Folklore] was founded and took over
all projects toward research and maintenance of German-Russian history.
Besides Dr. Katharina Neufeld, chairperson of the Advisory Council
and Director of the museum, the board includes Helene Heidebrecht,
Andreas Gossen, Katerina Jabs, Eduard Thun, Peter Heidebrecht (representative
of the founding family Hertel) and Wilhelm Friesen.
"We are in need of bridges between the past, present and future,
and also between all of German culture and the German-Russian subculture,
which began its course in Russia over 200 years ago. These historically
and societally divergent cultural circles should merge into one
common unity" -- this is how Katharina Neufeld describes the
museum's mission of striving for indignity. It is worth mentioning
that native visitors are beginning to find a link in German-Russian
cultural history. Elder native residents, in particular, have been
heard to comment: "All of these things -- coffee grinder, butter
centiruge, washboard, spinning wheel, iron -- were also commonly
part of own ancestor homes ..."
As Katharina Neufeld explains, "It quickly becomes clear that
represents two German cultures that had been separated over two
and now are beginning to come back together. Although German-Russian
took a huge detour in its development within Russia, it is still
as part of overall German culture. We experience a similar feeling
visit native cultural museums when we come upon objects that we
with in our own ancestral homes."
Every Exhibit Itself Represents a Piece of History
"Gathering, preserving and presenting" -- that is how
Directress describes the three pillars of the museum's activities.
number of exhibits (50) has meanwhile grown to over 1,120 pieces
that are housed
in permanent exhibit in space covering 100 square meters [ca. 8,300
Primarily during the last few years the museum has been able to
numerous new exhibits; in 2004, for example, 154 objects were added,
and in 2005 it
was an additional 204 objects. The total material represents all
confessions, as well as numerous topics of German-Russian culture.
|This 'Oma' was created
by Katharina Dick. She wears a traditional Mennonite folk
costume of the late 1890's
The permanent exhibits consist of two departments. The first is
dedicated to emigration of Germans to Russia, and their lives there
until about 1917, responding to the question: "Why did Germans
emigrate to Russia?" The second portion deals with culture
and history of the past 100 years in Russia and in the CIS states
that ultimately moved Germans there to return to Germany.
Each object in the exhibits represents a bit of history in itself.
example, a wall clock that was built by the Kroeger factory in Russia;
a frying pan that had been made in Prussia and taken along to Russia
owners. As Katharina Neufeld explains, "There is one particular
finds our countrymen definitely pausing for; it is the 'fufaika,'
jacket worn by Trud Army-ists and known as the 'uniform' of those
forced labor. The first 'fufaikas' were given to German forced laborers
1943 in their work camps. At the time, they were simply taken from
Army members and distributed to forced laborers because the latter
warm clothes whatsoever."
Particularly remarkable is the art collection. There are works
Wedel (1931 -), Johannes Graefenstein (1923 - 2004), Heinrich Brocksitter
-), Michael Heidt (1909 - 2003), Ernst Dueck (1936 -) and Theodor
(1935 - 2004). Visitors are often are moved to tears when they see
works of art
such as "Der Weg des Leidens" [The Path of Suffering]
by Jakob Wedel, which
reminds the viewer of the banishment of German women in Russia during
The impressive exhibit "Troika," which Wedel finished
promptly for the
opening of the museum, stands for the wave of terror of the 1930s,
thousands of German-Russians fell victim. Numerous additional works
were donated by
hobbyists and model builders.
The museum's Directress says, "By now we have come far enough
that our space
has become very tight, forcing us to look for alternative venues.
astonishing how many treasures have been collected: old objects,
photos, documents, works of art, and others tell not only of the
individual families, but also of the entire ethnic group."
Especially representative are the old bibles. They were printed
after 1868 and, later, in Germany. Each of these yellowed, fragile
stands for the moving story of generations of families, because
it accompanied its
owners in all experiences of persecution. Among the bibles, there
ancient one stemming from remote Yakutin. As Mrs. Neufeld relates,
dekulakization during the 1930s, deportations in 1941, or the extraordinary
resettlement actions thereafter, bible always accompanied their
owners as the most
valued object they had."
Research and Integration go Hand in Hand
Museum exhibits are complemented by a collection of books on the
the Germans from Russia. The museum library, grown meanwhile to
objects, experiences continued growth from friendly institutions,
acquisitions. During the past three years alone, two thousand volumes
The library also contains more than 100 old and current maps of
settlement areas. One of the most valuable exhibit items is an atlas
Ev.-Lutheran communities in Russia during 1855. More than 99 newspapers
periodicals from Russia and Germany represent the history of the
press. Two examples
of rare finds include the "Russian Revue" (St. Petersburg,
1875 - 1888) and
the "Archive of Science" (Russia, 1841 - 1863), plus some
36 old and a few
contemporary Mennonite periodicals. The magazine "Unser Blatt"
(Moscow, 1925 - 1928) clearly comprises a rare treasure in all of
In addition to written materials and copies of documents, the archive
houses photographs (currently 5,000 digitalized images, in addition
numerous originals), ca. 50 video documentaries, and valuable documents
genealogy and autographs of German-Russian origin. In development
genealogical collection that is frequently consulted by family researchers
In addition to making genealogical information available, gaining
importance is the access to genealogical data for students who can
material here for reports leading to work toward school completion
graduation. The archives are, of course, available to scientists
Research and integration go hand in hand. Even beyond the scientific
development of exhibits, the museum workers (all volunteers!!) and
clearly prepared to develop an instructional concept on how to treat
and current situation of Germans from Russia. The result is intended
include assistance for students and teachers alike, as well as accompanying
media and working materials.
Public measures include presentations on the history of the Germans
Russia, which are usually delivered in communities, secondary schools
conferences by Dr. Neufeld.
Nothing Happens without Cooperation
|More than 1,120 exhibit pieces are
housed in the museum at Detmold
Without willingness toward cooperation, the activities of the museum
would hardly be possible. For that reason, the board of the Society
and the chairperson and museum director place special value on German-Russian
societies, visitors and clients, but also on native institutions
that can be of assistance to the museum. For assistance in its creation,
the museum is especially grateful to the Museum Office of Muenster,
and the Lippean State Museum in Detmold was also especially helpful
with difficult questions. Dr. Alfred Eisfeld, deputy director of
the North/East Institute, Department Goettingen, is available for
scientific advice. Also, the Museum Society has been working with
numerous German-Russian organizations, with the Landsmannschaft
der Deutschen aus Russland, the "Mennonite History Society,"
the German-Russian Society in Paderborn, and the club called Plautdietsch-Freunde.
Participation in conferences in Russia and Ukraine have led to contacts
with museums and archives in the various CIS states. The limited
funds of the museum, however, do not suffice for a more intimate
level of cooperation.
Thanks to its intensive public relations efforts, regulated operations
the museum, and the competent leadership of Dr. Katharina Neufeld,
enjoys ever increasing acceptance from the public. In 2004, the
visitors, largely due to a special exhibit in the Museum Court of
(North-Rhine Westphalia, County of Minden), exceeded 15,000, and
in 2005 the museum
was able to increase visitor numbers to 23,000 via exhibits in Paderborn
*Museum in the Marstall, Schloss Neuhaus and Municipal Museum of
Katharina Neufeld, particularly proud of these numbers, says "Over
German-Russian and native institutions were involved in this project.
constitutes further proof of integration opportunities and the capabilities
museum toward integration."
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation
of this article.