Letters, Newspaper Articles Stories About German-Russians

Last Updated: 13 March 2002

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 Remmick.Home.Site.  Page 49


Letters, Newspaper Articles & Stories of German-Russians

The  following letters, newspaper articles and stories are said to be true, however,  I must state that I personally do not know, however,  I assume  the probablity of the letters, newspapers articles and stories are true.  If, you the reader, find them not to be,  please contact me:  RemMick@aol.com.  Thank you.  Judy A. Remmick-Hubert

I. Pre-Revolution Years

II.  Revolution, Bolsheviks  & German-Russians - 1918 to 1925

Jakob  and Emma, nee Zeiglof, Schweikert  and Children - abt 1929Schweikert

Jacob and Emma's Wedding Picture

See Schweikert Family

The tragic story of this family is not an isolated case.  Some say their story has been repeated more than a million times.  Their story was:

Left Only Eyes For Crying

 Jacob and his family were labeled as "Kulacks", enemy of the new USSR [Bolsheviks govt.], and Jacob was arrested and sent to the salt mines in Siberia. His crime was that he  was prosperous and owned a  blacksmith shop. After he was sent off in a train boxcar,  the local officials announced that anyone who was found selling or giving Jacob's wife and children food or clothing would  be arrested and sent off to Siberia.  His wife, Emma,  and children died a terrible death of starvation.  The last letter Emma wrote was:  "My daughters are so hungary they have nibbled off the ends of their fingers."  

Some twenty-nine years later when my grandmother, Christina, nee Schweikert, Hein read  her sister-in-laws, Emma's, letter to me,  I felt the horror of what had happen.  Then she showed me this picture.  She pointed at the two small girls.  They were  about my age in the picture. And I looked at the end of my fingers.  I tried to imagine how hungry they must have been to have eaten off the end of their fingers.

In 1955, the last letter arrived from Jacob who survived the Salt Mines for thirty-seven years.  He had been allowed to write to my grandmother two times a year.  We assume he died in 1956 because there were no more letters.


Letters Describing the Condition of the German Colonies  During the Early Bolshevik Years,  North Dakota Herold, Dickinson, N.D.

translated by Roland Wagner, 1198 Brace Ave., San Jose, CA 95125

E-mail:  Wagnerd@esuhsd.org

July 2, 1920

Report on the condition of the colonies in the Odessa district in the Summer of 1919.

We just received a letter from a representative of our Central Committee in Odessa, Mr. H. Thauberger. However, the letter was dated October 5, 1919. The reports in it deal with the time of the second Bolshevik terror and the ensuing government of Deniken. It provides a sad portrait of the Summer of 1919. Exactly what occurred in the Winter of 1919- 1920, during the third Bolshevik regime, is still unknown to us. Hopefully it is not too bad. The letter reports as follows:

The Bolsheviks have caused horrible damage in the colonies around Odessa. In Kleinliebental and Grossliebental, about 50 men were killed, in Selz 88. Those are only a few villages. On the other side of  Odessa, over to Nikolajew, it was just as bad. The worst of all was in Rastatt, where 78 houses were burned and 39 men were killed. Muenchen suffered little damage. Worms suffered much, and 33 houses were destroyed, including the schoolhouse, the pastor's quarters and the community building. Thirteen persons people were killed, including 3 women. Great losses were suffered in the wealthy district of Landau.  Landau itself had 14 victims, Speier 4; both had little damange to their buildings. In comparison, Katharinental and Karlsruhe were heavily damaged. In Katharinental 62 houses were destroyed and 70 men were murdered, in Karlsruhe 55 houses -- out of about 200 -- were burned and 58 men were killed. The wealthy village of Schoenfeld suffered especially heavy losses. The church was also heavily damaged. In addition, a steam-mill and seven steam threshing-machines were burned.  The losses in Schoenfeld alone were assessed at 15 million Rubels. In Sulz, only 2 houses were destroyed, but 25 men were shot as hostages.  In Steinberg 3 men were killed. In Krasna 22 farmsteads were burned. In all these colonies, the damage to industry was much greater. The bands that passed through, as well as the surrounding farmers, looted the farmsteads, businesses, and houses, usually without exception.  Whatever was moveable was carried off. The people live in empty dwellings, and there is nothing left to purchase. The people are waiting in hunger for supplies. The shortage of food and clothing has made the prices rise. A pair of draught-horses costs 100,000 Rubels. We have attempted to speed assistance for those in need in various ways, but by ourselves we can cover only a small portion of the damage that has been suffered by businesses everywhere.

The revolt was thrust upon the colonists very maliciously, and for one specific purpose. It began at Grossliebental -- a large colony 20 Werst from Odessa. In the second half of July, in the middle of the harvest season, a mobilization of ten age-groups ("Jahrgaengen") was ordered. Both the German and the Russian colonists refused to comply. The Russian farmers were left in peace, and not a hair on their heads was hurt. On the other hand, the German colonists were declared to be counter-revolutionaries, and it was decided that they should be punished. In order to carry out the punishment, the Spartakists, a pack of Austrian, Rumanian, and Baltic Jews who had established themselves in seats on the Central Committee, volunteered to take charge of the German colonists. Grossliebental was supposed to pay 200,000 Rubels, 30 of their best horses, and 65 of the wealthiest citizens -- their bourgoisie ("Burschui") -- to be taken as hostages. When these demands were not fulfilled by the Grossliebentalers, the Spartakists prepared an incident on Sunday morning, when several respected citizens, on their way to church, were seized and shot. The people's patience finally snapped.  The bells tolled loudly. The Spartakists rushed up and shot at the tower. But the residents of Grossliebental ran in from all sides with clubs, shovels, stones, sythes, and flint-locks. Within 10 minutes, 17 Spartakists lay in their own blood. One escaped and managed to hide himself. He was found the next day and taken before the war tribunal for the proper judgment, and he was legally shot. And now the struggle began of the Liebental district to ward off the masses of Red troops, which lasted scarcely a week before it ended because the colonists had run out of ammunition for their two cannons and their rifles, and they had to surrender their villages to the Reds. It happened likewise in Kutschurgan -- Odessa-Kischinew railroad -- and in Barasan -- on the Bug. Few colonists fell in open battle. Most were driven into their houses in the villages and then deceitfully shot. The offer of an armistice by the Reds had deceived most of the colonists. There is absolutely no doubt that if the colonists, who in many places were supported by the Russian farmers, had enough weapons and ammunition, the Reds would have lost the battle. We mainly have the French to thank for the fact that they lacked both. They wouldn't affirm our self-defense rule, and they declared candidly that they didn't trust the German colonists to have any weapons, with emphasis placed on the word "German." As a result, our self-defense organization was paralyzed. Now, we are busy reorganizing the defense force. However, the work is difficult and there are many disappointments, but we hope that we will still achieve something.

The schools are another source of grave concern for us: the German boys secondary school ("Realgymnasium"), which was established by the German government in our time, and the girls secondary school ("Lyzeum"). The Protestant communities have let these fall into ruins -- by a very narrow majority. Now the Central Committee has taken them over and saved them, until a special school committee can take them over on their own. There is a great shortage of qualified teachers, and even more so of school books and teaching materials.

-- The Dakota Free Press ("D.F. Presse")

Jan. 14, 1921

A Letter - Reports from Russia

Munich, Bavaria

(The following letter was received by Mr. Fred Weber, Mandan, from his friend Friedrich Weber, earlier from south Russia. -- editor)

Dec. 12, 1920.

Dear friend Friedrich. Happy new year! I received your letter of Nov. 20 with great joy. Although it has been a long time since you traveled from Russia to America, I still remember you quite well.

Throughout my entire life (I am now 34 years old), I have always studied. I completed the university shortly before the war and I was a lawyer in Odessa, and during the war I was an officer in the Rusisan army. I fled to Germany on January 25, 1920, from the Bolsheviks, who attempted to arrest and shoot me because I was a leader in the colonist uprising against the robbers. I traveled for an entire month until I reached Germany. It was frightfully wild back home. There are no words in the German language to describe the horrible situation in which we lived, from 1918 on. At first a law was passed, according to which the land that the colonists owned was taken and the owners sent to Siberia. Fortunately, this liquidation-law only dispossessed us, and the old government did not succeed in making us emigrate because the German power put down the shameful law. But that was all still bearable. The horrors first began with the Russian Bolsheviks. One would have had to experience things personally, or speak with a person who had lived for awhile in Russia in these latter times, in order to properly understand what the colonists had to endure.

In Sulz, on a summer day during the previous year, 35 men were murdered in a gruesome fashion. You may ask: for what reason? I answer you: because they owned 50 desjatin or more of land, and thus were declared to be fair game ("vogelfrei") by the Reds. At first the Bolsheviks demanded a contribution of one million Rubels. The amount was collected and turned over to them. Nevertheless, the Bolsheviks forced a group of men to be taken as hostages in the hands of the Tartars. At that time I appeared with colonists from the neighboring villages in order to drive away the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks opened fire on the captives and killed 35 men. Of our relatives, uncle Johannes Weber and Lukas Weber fell, the latter leaving behind a wife and 6 little children. My father was arrested in Odessa, but fortunately he got away from there. If you happen to know a cross-section of the well-off men in Sulz, then you would have a list of those who were shot. In addition, the colony was plundered and all the clothing was carried away. The Bender Chutor was burned, and the houses of Lukas Gabriel, Franz Stebner, and Anton Kupper were also totally destroyed.

All of the formerly well-off people in Russia have already become beggars. The land belongs to the government. The people must work it.  In return, the government provides the food, clothing, etc. There are no more marriages. After a month, the new-born babies are taken away from the mother and taken to a little children's establishment, where the pregnent women are probably also supposed to be taken. There is not supposed to be any more family life. The orphans in Odessa are not allowed to attend church any more, and praying is not allowed. Three Jewish women teachers instruct the children from the age of 3 until 7, so that their ties with their parents will be broken. The old lovingGod is abandoned. Their leaders, Lenin and Trotzki are venerated. Almost every day, wheat, barley, oats, corn and so on are delivered, without end, without money. For this, the villagers are given three containers of wagon-grease, a half sack of coarse salt, and a little tobacco. And it continues, and that is only the beginning, work and no eating. One must produce two pounds of butter each week per cow. Also the beds, and other normal furniture, have been taken and you cannot hide them. Many wagons full of women and mothers, from high and low social standing, were send to the Front from Odessa. There are Chinese and many other type of people there; they need women. Many are soon sent back, most incurably shamed. What this means is that means that the women from the cities have all been shamed, so now they take women from the countryside. This is the situation of our brothers in Russia, and there is no salvation for them anywhere.

For an entire year I have had no word from my father and my wife, about whether they are alive. My position here in Germany is insecure. I am forced to lead a sorrowful life here. I have no money, and I'm already without clothing. I work on an estate for my daily bread (one pound of bread per day). I must work the entire day, and now it is winter-time, spreading manure out in the fields. As a Russian citizen, I cannot get a position appropriate for an educated man because there is much unemployment in Germany. So I have no hope for a better position.  For this reason, Friedrich, I am requesting that you be so friendly and good-hearted as to make my friends aware of my situation, that they should assist me, until I return to the dear Heimat. If my wife were with me, I would gladly travel to America. I am very thankful for the dollar.

Many greetings to my friends, the Webers in America. Send my greetings to the daughter of uncle Brarmeier. Which one is she?

Yours affectionately, Friedrich Weber.

My address: Friedrich Weber, Munich, Kaiser Str. 23, 2 per address of Mr. Theo. Schmidt, Bavaria, Germany.

Sept. 30, 1921

The Starvation in Russia, by Richard Patzner (Reval).

Russia has become the land of catastrophic starvation. Everything heard from the Soviet Union deals with the terrible word "hunger," which is on everyone's lips. This horrible spector has mowed down thousands of despairing people, and it appears to now be reaching a peak which won't be surpassed.

The harvest yields in Russia have always been subject to great variation. In many years the fields are more intensively cultivated than usual, while in south Russia especially, where drought is a great risk, the yield may be doomed by the lack of rainfall. The Agricultural Department, which has calculated the harvest yields per Dessjatin in the fields for the last 20 years before the World War, provides us with an example in the south Volga district, where the harvest yields of winter rye have vascillated between 48 and 9 Pud. These variations are understandable since south Russia, for the large part, has no soil diseases and, in case no rainfall comes, a drought must ensue. The more intensively the soil is cultivated, the less vulnerable it is to drought.

 For this reason, the drought caused more devastation in Bolshevik Russia than in Tsarist times. The grain market at this time has ceased to exist, because the Bolsheviks have annihilated the large Russian landowners. The Bolshevik mismanagement was set in place. The redistribution of the land didn't result in the enrichment of the farmers. Horses and cattle were driven off and annihilated during the Civil War. Useless inventories ("tote Inventar") were abandoned to decay. The "Committes of the Village Poor" exerted frightful demands on the property owning farmers. As a consequence of all these factors, the harvest yields became smaller and smaller.

 The situation of the farmers became miserable. Since they couldn't be won over to the cause, they were turned into forced laborers for the Communist state. The foundation for the problems lay in the Communist doctrine itself, in the deepening starvation, the endless confusion, the blockade, and the total mismanagement. The farmers were thoroughly drained of their resources. They were forced by fire and sword to turn over their food supplies. The resources were stretched too thin. Only the Soviet power mongers imagined that these policies would prevent their own collapse. The forced expropriations were later repealed, and a more realistic tax was instituted, but by then it was too late.

 And what are the present consequences of the Bolshevik mismanagement? This Spring, throughout Russia, a fateful drought set in. The Soviet regime and its controlled press dismissed the seriousness of the situation in a casual, self-deceptive fashion. The Soviet dictators announced a "decree for a battle against the drought."  Naturally decrees cannot change the miserable situation. Now (at the twelfth hour), when the people are fleeing the starvation, the Bednota newspaper is reporting about commissions, measures and collections which are supposed to relieve the need in the areas where there is starvation. It is notable that in the Soviet press reports on the assistance efforts, they have nothing to say about the fruits of the so-called "paradise" that was created by the "benefactors of humanity."

The zones of starvation include the Volga district, especially the Gouvernements of Samara and Saratov in which the German Volga colonists dwell, the largest portion of the Don region, the northeastern part of Kuban and Terek, as well as parts of the Gouvenements of Woronesch, Simbirsk, Pensa and others, up to the northern Gouvernement of Wjatka and Perm. In short, all of south and central Russia has become a victim of the bad harvest.

The Bolshevik paper also includes a host of letters from the starvation regions, with much notable content. One farmer writes from the Wolk district in the Gouvernement of Saratov: "we have eaten half of our seed-grain. The summer crop can hardly be sown. Rye and winter-wheat have failed. The people are eating everything possible: acorns, grass and even dirt. Death is everywhere. The fallow fields are not plowed. If help does not come soon, our entire village of 2,500 souls will perish." --

Eda Bauer, from the Gouvernement of Pensa, writes: "in our district of Saran, most farmers don't have any bread. Whoever has a cow, eats grassalong with the milk, and whoever doesn't have one, eats only grass. Most of the horse-sorrel (a wild plant) has been eaten. For weeks at a time, a person lives only on that. The people are so weak that they collapse after twenty steps."

A property owner from the Gouvernement of Ufa writes, among other things: "our entire population of 14,000 souls in the community of Aktaschewskaya, district of Menselinsk, is starving, and is eating elm bark, linden leaves, and grass. Three-quarters of the summer fields remain unsown, due to the shortage of seed. The winter seed is hopeless. If no help comes, the fields will remain untilled because the horses can hardly move, and there is a shortage of seeds."

Nov. 4, 1921

Karlsruhe, South Russia

Praised be Jesus Christ! Dear children, Jakob and Eva, together with your children, we, your parents and grandparents, want you to know that we received your letter a week ago, and it made us very happy.

Dear children, you wanted to know if we were still alive and healthy.  Thanks be to God, we are still alive and healthy, but the sorrows which we have had to endure, and which we still endure, almost press us to the ground in our old days. And this year the harvest is so poor that there is hunger throughout the entire Odessa district. The bread would have lasted us through the year, if it hadn't been taken from us. And the clothing situation is very inadequate ("schwach").

Hieronymus is also living with us, with his family, so we are 17 people in the household.

We will write the remaining news later.

We send greetings to Sylvester and Sebastian, and their families, and also to Margareta and Michael and their children, also Joseph and Elisabeth and their children, brother Jakob and sister-in-law ("Geschwei") Eva. We are all right ("gesund") and with God's help fortunately came out of what you perhaps have already heard about. The land is divided, two Dessjatin per person, and no one is allowed to own more than two horses. All is confiscated.

Sister-in-law Eva, your brother Jakob lives in Karlsruhe with his family. Your parents and Joseph and B. (brother?) Wilhelm are dead, the others are still all right. Your uncle Gregor died just a short while ago. Also, a beautiful greeting ("schoenen Gruess") from Hieronymus and his family. They are also all right. Please send an answer soon.

Auf Wiedersehen!

Your parents, father and mother.

(The letter was passed on to us by Mike Schaefer, sent by Jakob Friedt, Mandan).

[Note: the writer refers above to "Vetter Gregor." Modern Hochdeutsch uses the word "Onkel" for uncle and "Vetter"for cousin; however, there is variation in kinship terminology by dialect and region. In the dialects in the Beresan colonies, "Vetter" often meant uncle, and "Vetterle" meant cousin. Consequently, there is ambiguityabout how "Vetter Gregor" should be translated].

March 10, 1922

Rastadt, South Russia

by Franz and Marianna Reisenauer

(The following letter came from Rastadt, direct to Mr. Joseph Reisenauer in Dickinson).

January 7, 1922.

A beautiful greeting from us, your brother Franz and sister-in-law Marianna and our 5 Reisenauer children, to you dear brother Joseph and sister-in-law Philippina and your Reisenauer children. We want you to know that we are still all right, and we also wish this for you from our hearts. We received your letter with great joy. As we read in your letter, it's not going badly for you in America. You wrote, asking if it was true, that father has died. Yes, it is true, he has died. We tried to write everything, but for now it can't be done, we will write you more later. Now we greet you all, brother and sister-in-law, sisters and brothers-in-law, all without exception. It is going poorly for us in Rastadt, so we can't report everything in detail. Everything is burned, and we have nothing more, no clothing, absolutely nothing. And with the food, it is as follows: until that which your letter brought [i.e., the money that was enclosed?], we had no more bread to slice ("Schnitzelbrot"). We haven't had any bread to slice for a long time, and there isn't enough to fill a person up. Among us all, far and wide, nothing was harvested last year, and the earth remains black. Now we send a request. There are many brothers and sisters, perhaps you could help us out with bread or with money or perhaps with clothing. We would be happy if we had your old clothing that you wanted to get rid of. Many people have received packages sent from America. We ask you all, without exception, don't deny our request, but rather help us, send us what you can, as best as you are able. We greet all of our friends and acquaintances. Help us with what you can. Money or bread or clothing.

We, Franz and Marianna, and our three children, Thomas, Veronika, and Rosa greet our brother Jospeh and sister-in-law Elisabeta Wetsch. Our other children are all married, but none of us have enough to eat, and none of us can help each other. Perhaps you can help us out, as soon as possible.

Now I close this letter and greet you all many times. Please answer soon.

Please help us and don't let us starve.

Florentine, born Reisenauer

(on the letter were 10,000 Rubels in postage stamps).

[Comment: it is not clear what this final editorial remark means -- perhaps postage rates in Russia after the Revolution had inflated to the point where it cost 10,000 Rubels to mail the letter? The editor states, literally, that the stamps were on the "letter" ("auf dem Brief"), rather than on the envelope, but it is difficult to determine how literally he should be taken. If the stamps were attached to the letter itself, the writer may have been attempting to reimburse her family for whatever aid they might send].

June 19, 1925

Katharinental, South Russia

by Valentin Haaf

May 17, 1925 --

Dear Herold!

Since one month has already passed since my last report, I will send another brief report to the dear Herold, so that those from the old Heimat can learn a little of events from here.

In my last report I promised that I would report the next time about the fire in the lower village during the time of flight ["Fluchtzeit," probably during the Revolutionary years].

Sylvester Fitterer's house was the first to catch fire, right next to the church. At that time it was the village store ["Konsumladen"], a new building, and it burned down; Klein's house, now [the property of?] Georg Dillmann, burned; the house of Michael Weiler, now Georg Dillmann, burned; of Michael Weiler, now Sebastian Bernhard, burned; of Johannes Butsch, now Thomas Butsch, burned; of Josef Butsch, now Stefan Bernhard, burned; of Jacob Deibele, now Adam Deibele, burned. On the other side of the lower village, near the church, the house of Butsch, now Stanislaus Deibele, burned; of Simon Kuntz, now Johannes Kuntz, burned; of Michael Haff, now Berhard Meier, son of Franz, burned; of Johannes Dillmann, now Eduard Butsch, burned; of Johannes Butsch, now Josef Butsch, burned. Further, in the so-called Schwanzengasse, the house of Georg Franz Janzer, now Konrad Bullinger, burned; of Karl Janzer, now Jakob Stroh, burned. On the other side the house of Johannes Hammel burned; of Rochus Janzer, now Thomas Janzer, burned. From there onward, in the Katzengasse, the house of Josef Bernhard, now Johannes Bernhard, burned; of Johannes Jochim, now Simon Jochim, burned; of Johannes Klein, now Franz Klein, burned; of Franz Steiner, now Stanislaus Steiner, burned; of Adam Jochim, now Michael Bernhard, burned; of Franz Beitenheimer, now Andreas Haaf, burned. These are the households that burned down during the time of flight.

The next time I will write about the persons who were killed during the time of flight, that is, shot and mutilated ["zerhackt']. I will list them all, with their names, their father's names, and families.

The harvest outlook might also be of interest. The winter-seeds did not yield well, since until now we have had only a little rain. Early in the year the outlook was very good for the winter seeding, but now the opposite is the case, and there is no hope unless we have especially good rainfall. The summer harvest yielded only about half of what we normally get with good rainfall.

The shortage of pasturage has already cost us many horses and cattle.

The last time many rainstorms came down, but not everywhere. Landau, Rohrbach, and Worms up to Beresovka had very good rain, so all the dams are filled with water. Nine men drowned near Nowaja Odessa in the Jelaniker valley, and two children drowned in Ankolajew, and some men supposedly drowned in Nikojew near Cherson. So too much rain fell in many places, but nothing in other places. There are places where the grain is already totally dried out, so that there is no more hope.

No further deaths have occurred since my last report. -- Marriages up to the present: Magdalena Bullinger, daughter of Peter, with a Rissling from Malach; Johannes Bernhart, son of Josef, with Margareta Deibele, daughter of Nikolaus, but no others. There have been many births, five in the last two days alone. That brings good times and much rain.

Now I send heart-felt greetings to my brother-in-law and sister, Simon and Maria Eva, along with the Kuntz family in Richardton, and also to my sister, Margareta, and the Boehm family in Mandan. We wish you all the best, and we are all right. I have not received any replies since my last report, but I hope to receive an answer soon. In my last letter I sent greetings to some acquaintances, but now I wait to find out who will think about me first, for which I now heartily thank you in advance. --- also, Adam Haaf, George's son, sends heartfelt greetings to widow Melina and the entire Haaf family, to Jakob Hoffmann, son of Georg, to Josef Lanz and to the sons and daughters of Ferdinand Mischel. He wishes them all God's best and asks for a little help, if possible, since he is burned out and his wife has suffered a stroke. He expresses his sincere thanks in advance to whomever will come to his assistance. He also requests that someone might send him their address. His address is as follows: Gov. Odessa, Post Landau, Kolonie (Filliage) Catharinenthal, Ad. Georg Haaf.

Also, friendly greetings from Nikolaus and Barbara Ebenal and their whole family from Muenchen, living at present in Katharinental, to Hieronymus Ebenal and his family, to Stefan Kessel, son of Michael, and his family, to Franz Kessel, son of Michael, and his family, to Franz Kessel, son of Franz and his family. He would have written them long ago if he had their addresses, and he asks them, if possible, to help him out of his need as much as they can, he thanks them thousandfold for all the help. His sisters in Muenchen have already received quite a bit. He is all right, with family. Address: Gov. Odessa, Post Landau, Kol. Catharinental, Nikolaus Franz Ebenal.

Nothing new has happened, but many of our youth have given themselves up to thievery. Everything possible has been stolen, meat, grain, butter, wheels from the wagons, and even the Mass wine from the pastor. It is not surprising since the youth have all this time on their hands, and it would be a great shame if all this free-time went to waste.

Tomorrow, May 18th, the "days of intercession" ["Bittage'] begin. May the dear Lord grant us fruitful rain and help us once again out of our misery. We will have a procession through the fields for three days and we will ask the loving God to help us and protect us from danger.

I would also like to know who is the editor of the Herold. Before the war it was Mr. Radolski. With best wishes to him and to all the readers,

Valentin Haaf, Katharinental, South Russia, Post Landau, Gov. Odessa (if former Katharinentalers want to send something to Mr. Haaf, so that he will continue to write reports from the old Heimat, we should collect a couple dollars and send it to him, so that he will not lose the heart, since all the people there are poor. Editor).

---End of  Roland Wagner's Translated Letters---

Are you looking for lost relatives who were sent to labor camps, if so, click here and to :   http://www.osa.ceu.hu/gulag/


One Man's Religious Quests & His Family's Survival

20 February  1923

Odessa, S. Russia

by Heinrich Koenig

from Donn Koenig  22 Oct 1999 to Remmick@aol.com

Background of Family: The letter was from Heinrich Koenig in Odessa, South Russia to  his cousin Jacob Koenig in Underwood, ND. The Koenig family  had been in Aleksanderhilf, and then Rosenfeld up until the time  Jacob had emigrated as a teenager with his parents in 1889.  Another member of the family had begun a carriage and wagon  factory in Odessa in 1876 which was still in operation in the 1920s.  They were forced to make gun carriages by the Bolsheviki during  the revolution.


An English translation of the letter:

"Odessa, 20 February 1923

My dear cousin Jacob,  To begin, hearty greetings and God's rich blessings. I got your  wonderful letter of the 8th of January. Its contents gladdened me.  What especially made me happy, dear Jacob, is that you have  taken up feather and ink so quickly and written. I am doing the  same, I have just read the contents of your letter. It is in some  ways true, as you write, it is in itself a self-sacrificing work, a  thankless work. Although you are desired, loved and praised,  you are however, also (--illegible--), and have dirt cast upon you,  and are slandered, even by one's very own brothers and that would  sometimes make me sad. I often ask myself the question "why?"  What for? What kind of lies has Satan again devised? Ah, such  thoughts busy my mind and often make life bitter for me, but when  I think of Jesus, what became of Him, the Master, I must then set  my mind at rest and say things are not so bad with you as they were for Jesus. Things were much worse for Him. And to be merely abused  is a long way from dying on the cross. Actually, although there is  great discontent, there is also a supernatural joy when sinners repent  and turn to God. Ah, how wonderful, how absolutely wonderful, dear  Jacob, to witness this. When an awakening occurs my heart is overcome with jubilation. One cannot find the words to thank the  beloved Master for everything. I am happy, happy from the bottom  of my heart, that God has blessed my efforts and indeed he has blessed them richly.

I have already written of the awakening in  Scharowo. After Christmas and up until recently 28 souls had  converted. I arrived in the colony of Waterloo on New Year's Day,  completely hopeless. I really knew very little of this German village.  I had actually wanted to reach Rohrbach, but came here. The brothers  discovered this and took me in. The work began and as of today 40  souls have converted. When I left it had been 32, however many others  also struggled and entreated. It was a great awakening. I have never  experienced such a thing. The Spirit of God had a powerful effect and reaped a great bounty from the hands of evil. The work lasted three  weeks and then I went back to my family. I was at home a week and  began work again. Indeed, among the Russians, many have converted,  many praise the Master. Whole families have become believers, as it  was with Cornelius.

But again I had to leave everything lay and think  about my family. It is hard to serve two masters and, as I've already  written, my worries are great and now, in the spring, they will become yet greater when we run out of supplies, and so I must now drop every-thing and concentrate on my family. It is also so difficult to work now.  One can hardly earn anything at all. One must have a great deal of  money, and then we would have no poor. But god helps and will not  leave us to perish. The taxes in Russia are staggering, many have  sold their last possessions and now lay on the cold floor so they will  not be thrown out of their apartment. Horrendous cost for water and living space, everything takes money, money, and still more money.  One must sell his last things to survive all this and to be able to pay  for everything. Dear Jacob, you have no idea how difficult life in Russia  is. Never, never could you imagine such a people. History has never  known such a thing. It is the Egyptian yoke on the children of Israel  all over again.

In all we are eight. Four children, a white girl, Marie, whom we took in  and a student Frederick, whom I took in from the Mennonites. The last  one (Frederick) was indeed starving and had taken to begging. I could  not witness this and so I took him in, and so he has been with us about  a year already and is studying medicine diligently. Thus we live together  and I care for my beloved parents as best I can with word and deed.

Shall I write you the sums which we had to pay? You will be  astonished. For the month of February we had to pay 225 million rubles  for water. We didn't need as much for bread as for water. Everyone else  gets water for free and we must pay a horrible fee. Also, all the other  taxes are great and if God will not help, then we are lost, we cannot  come up with the money. We had to sell our very last possessions.

Dear Jacob, it is very difficult for me to work under such conditions and  yet, indeed, God does provide happiness and the courage to work, but  the worries of the house are left to my dear wife when I go away on  missionary work. The situation in Russia is very difficult, especially  now, yet again, great hunger stands before my door and on top of this there are the horrendous taxes which hardly anyone can pay.

Well, dear Jacob, I also want to express thanks for the things which  we received. The children made good use of the various things They had  few clothes and then came help. Thanks be to God and you for every-thing, with all my heart, for the great love shown us. When can we ever  repay you for everything? We also had to pay 130 (rubles) in customs.

The beloved Father has allotted everything according to his judgment.  I have left everything to him. He has done everything well, the good,  beloved Father. All those in Russia must suffer. How lucky you are in  America. We would gladly send our pictures, so that you may become  acquainted with our faces at least once. But we can never seem to  manage to have our pictures taken. But they will be coming soon. My wife asks that you send your pictures and write a great deal about the  children and relatives.

I think that life in Russia will become worse. In  the end we must leave for America. Send us an affidavit and ship  passage and we will come soon and try to return everything as soon as possible.

Everything is in God's hands, and whatever he bids is good. Take care and once more, greetings from your grateful

Heinrich and Katharina Koenig

End of letter.

A note on the value of a ruble. During this timeframe there was  hyperinflation in Russia. As an example I have several registered  letter envelopes from 1922 and for a letter in March there were 10,000 rubles in stamps. By early May a registered letter had 30,000 rubles  in stamps on it. A currency revaluation occurred sometime before  July because a registered letter of 01 Jul 1922 had only 40 kopecks on it. By November of 1922 there were 70 rubles on an envelope.

Donn Koenig

Glen Burnie, MD

End of E-mail dated 22 Oct 1999-------


1 Jan 1922 by John Renner from  New Karlsruhe  / Odessa Village

This letter was written by John Renner, describing the murder of his  father, Gregor, by the Bolsheviks to his Uncle Joseph Renner. It was  originally written in German and translated years later by Joseph's son, John J. Renner.

This and other letters are  found at the following URL: http://www.pegasusmedia.com/users/erlei/letters.htm  in Valerie Imgram's Web Site QUEST FOR ANCESTORS - A Digital History and Photo Archive of Families from Beresan Villages,  South Russia

  • Web Site: http://www.pegasusmedia.com/users/erlei/
    • Spier /Odessa list of colonists
    • Sulz  / Odessa list of colonists
    • Letters:
      • 1 Jan. 1922 from John Renner, Karlsruhe/ Od - Talks about 27 Oct 1919 when 500 "bandits"  entered New Karlsruhe
      • 1 July 1928 from ValentineSchaaf - Spier / Od. - no rain and crops were failing, liestock was dying....
      • 7 Nov 1928 from Johan Schaaf , Spier / Od - death of a father and he and his family are without food.
      • 12 April 1999 from Selestina Renner Rau about the family history and what became of them - Germany
    • "We'll Meet Again in Heaven" - Germans in Russia Write Their Dakota Relatives (1925-1935) by Ron Vossler, UND: http://nd-humanities.org/html/vossler.html
      • Large Map of Glueckstal Colonies, S. Russia

  Judy A. Remmick-Hubert's Comment

Letters Cast Gloomy Shadows of the Past

The task of collecting the letters about the relationship between German-Russians and the  Bolsheviks  1918-1925  is not to arouse old  hatreds of any kind.  I am collecting letters which are part of the German-Russian history.  I believe it was Voltaire who wrote: "History is but a picture of crimes and misfortunes."  If this is true than this too would be just as true: Happy the people whose annals are blank," wrote Caryle in his book on Frederick "The Great" of Prussia.  The German-Russian, pages are not blank. Our history  written between 1918 to 1925 covers unhappy times - a Russian Revolution & a Civil War - which holds  a past full of pictures of  crimes, misfortunes and much more.  

I think it an honorable task to rescue from our German-Russian past  the letters that otherwise would fade into oblivion.  

"History is teachings from our forefathers,

who set each of  us on our own course into the future through each of their  own examples."

         sym      Hein. Genealogy            gr rose




Hubert Sym



Schweikert Genealogy