Seven Camps and One Emigration
Sieben Lager und
"Seven Camps and One Emigration." Berliner Zeitung, 28 August 2001.
Translation from German to English by Lillian Weigel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In 1766, Alexander Schwindt's ancestors traveled
to the Volga. With 246 other Hessians, they founded the "Kraft"
colony. The widely branched family lived in Wohlstand until the
Bolsheviks dispossessed them in 1929. In 1938 Alexander Schwindt's
grandfather, a farm functionary, was shot along with his son, as
a "people's enemy". Following the 1941 German attack on
the Soviet Union, Alexander himself, with all his relatives was
deported to a labor camp. First, 14 years later, after Adenauer's
visit to Moscow, the Russlanddeutsche's tie to the homestead lessened;
by then Schwindt had gone through seven labor camps, his family
was scattered from Kazakstan to the Baltics. Future efforts to breathe
new life into the German Volga Republic ended in repression; in
1974 he left for Germany.
The Schwindt Family chronicle belongs to the Stuttgart exhibition
"Life of the Russian-German Farmer". For refugees, this
biography is typical of the retrenchments that faced almost 80%
of today's more than two and a half million refugees that came to
Germany after 1990. On Sunday the exhibit will be at the National
Day memorial event where the 'renewed' Alexander Schwindt will be
present. Today it hangs in the French cathedral for a memorial service.
The occasion is the 60th Anniversary for the Russlanddeutsche of
the fateful decree of August 28, 1941. At that time, the Praesidium
of USSR Colonels ordered all Germans to be deported from the Volga
district. The resettlement of this most important settlement in
the Soviet Union was, according to local rumor, to prevent acts
of sabotage. Among the Russlanddeutsche there are thousands of "diversionaries
and spies", that the populace had not reported. So all Germans
were thought of as having collaborated with the Fascists. In succession,
about 360,000 Germans from the Volga district and shortly thereafter,
from all further European parts of the USSR, were transported to
Siberia, Kazakstan and northward. The German Volga Republic was
incorporated into neighboring Saratow and Stalingrad and in 1947
was officially dissolved. The German-Ukrainians also went through
deportation after the beginning of the war. The historian, Alfred
Eisfeld, puts the total deported up to 1945 at more than a million.
The worldwide condemnation of the collaboration was first called
to mind in 1964, and with Perestroika, the return of the survivors
to their settlements was made possible. Their property, however,
they could not repossess, and a new Autonomy of the Volga District
failed thanks to then President Yeltsin, who was not about to mediate
with the new Russian-majority population. Yeltsin designated two
Siberian rural districts with German settlements as a substitute:
Asowo and Halbstadt.
Along with the new Nationalism of the German Unified States (in
Russia) and the better employment chances in Germany, the rejection
of the Volga Republic is only one reason for the mass exodus of
Russlanddeutsche since 1989. Their incorporation into the workplace
here has stalled. At the same time, here, the German Republic distances
itself from the nationalistic state and leans toward European thinking,
seeking to prove itself to foreigners first, rather than to Germans.
They stress their will to integrate, and their usefulness, and look
at virtual natives as Russians.
The refugee functionaries dwell among us, and compare the exiled
bands of deportation to genocide, and soviet camps to fascist concentration
camps. Also, Sunday in Berlin, they stated one difference, "there
were no gas chambers in the Gulags", With this wanton comparison,
they have shocked Germany into uneasiness. And in Russia there is
little readiness to discuss the understandable demand of the Russlanddeutsche
that the Russians acknowledge them as the last victims of the wars,
and acknowledge their fifteen years of work in forced labor camps.
But what especially angered the Russlanddeutsche was a language
test, which the federal government instituted as a measure for each
entry permission. According to the refugees, they lost their mother
tongue through the closing of their schools, the forced assimilation,
and because of being undeservedly outlawed as fascists. For this,
they also demand an apology from president Putin. At the end of
National Day, they sing timidly, the German Hymn, eyes fixed on
the strange text.
Appreciation is extend to Lillian Weigel for translation
of this article.