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German Researcher to Visit

Pierceall, Jennifer. "German Researcher to Visit." Jamestown Sun, 6 October 1993.


A German researcher could help some area residents learn about family they never knew they had.

Peter Hilkes, an internationally-known German researcher and scholar, will discuss "Germans in the former Soviet Union" from 3 to 5 p.m. Oct. 12 at The Arts Center in Jamestown.

Since the Soviet Union dissolved five years ago, more than 600,000 ethnic Germans emigrated back to Germany, said Michael Miller, a bibliographer at North Dakota State University Libraries.

Hilkes will discuss problems the Germans from Russia have encountered with language, education and employment since they emigrated to Germany and how the German government is helping Germans who remain in Russia.

"I'm very excited about meeting with the people and talking with them on several issues, and about what's going to come in the future," Hilkes said.

Hilkes is traveling in the Dakotas and Canada because of the large number of Germans from Russia there, Miller said.

"We want them to be more aware of what happened to the people who were left behind, after their families came here," Miller said.

Thirty to 40 percent of the people in North Dakota are of German-Russian descent, Miller said.

Hilkes concentrates on Russian Germans in the Soviet educational system. He is a leading authority on the problems of integration, language, education and employment of Germans who emigrated back to the Federal Republic of Germany. He has traveled widely throughout the former Soviet Union, Miller said.

He will also speak about how the German government assists Germans still in the former Soviet Union, economically, socially and culturally. Because of the high number of immigrants, Germany has placed restriction on emigration from Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Miller said.

Many of the German families who live in the CIS have relatives living in the Dakotas, he said.

"There are a lot of Germans in North Dakota who don't even know they have relatives over there," Miller said.

For 50 years, German families living in the U.S.S.R. were forbidden by the Soviet regime to write to their families in America, Miller said.

"There were a lot of people who stayed in Russia before the war, and were sent to Siberia," said Art Bronz, of the James Valley Germans from Russia Heritage Society in Jamestown.

Since the Soviet Union broke, hundreds of Germans in Russia have written Miller trying to locate their American families.

"It's mostly people over there, trying to find their families over here," he said. "There's more interest over there in finding their relatives."

Miller said he has found many families for the German people in Russia - and many are living in south-central North Dakota.

Bronz said many members of the Germans from Russia society are interested in finding family members in Russia.

"Our main goal is to preserve our heritage," Bronz said. "We also do some genealogy."

The Jamestown group is one of the largest of the 27 chapters of Germans from Russia, he said. "We have quite a few members - about 150," Bronz said. "I think the Bismarck chapter might be a little bit bigger."

The international headquarters for the Germans from Russia is located in Bismarck, and holds research material for people trying to find out about their families, he said.

Miller said people need to do extensive research before contacting him to locate family members.

"They need to do some serious checking into their own heritage first," he said. They should try to find out which village the family members lived in.

The North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies and NDSU Libraries, the University of Mary, Dickinson State University and Germans from Russia Heritage Society are sponsoring Hilkes' talks. The North Dakota Humanities Council awarded a matching grant.

Reprinted with permission of the Jamestown Sun

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