| Economy | Economic and Political Hardships in the Bolshevik Era |
I. Exact Name of the Village:
II. Population Count:
How many households have no [male] household head? 133
Census of Germans in the following years:
III. COUNT OF MIXED MARRIAGES
Farm Machinery Inventory:
Average daily agricultural production in 200 pound units/hectare:
Rations and Cash Paid per Workday:
Labour opportunities and relative standard of living, considering both in kind and cash income earned.
The wages earned were a lot less than the income necessary by the villages. One could, only in early years like 1933, buy the most essential items. It was especially difficult for big families with young children. This was even more true when the husband was sent away and the mother had to look after the children all by herself.
XI. Economic and Political Hardships in the Bolshevik Era:
Although the pressure on the German population to conform was felt from before 1929, it culminated in 1929-30 with the collectivization process. It started with the Germans because they were the smallest [numerically] and most easily intimidated of the populations that still had not forgotten the terror of Machno. The German villages were shown off as examples: they killed two “flies” with one swat. First, this way they could apply pressure to the non-Germans. Second, the hatred of the Ukrainian population against the Germans was deepened.This continued after World War I. When the first orders came for the Kulaks (richer farmers) to be expelled, the whole population was against it and wouldn’t let them go (rebelled?). Then, the Regime applied force and sent them to the Urals and Siberia. The first group was composed of 15 families (60 persons). The second group was sent in 1937-38 and it was comprised of 50 men who were arrested, one of whom died after a serious illness. Another man came back after 18 months. All the rest were never heard from again.
Additional description of the events directly before and during the war until freed by the German troops:
After the outbreak of war on 21 June 1941, the Soviet Government did not officially persecute the Germans. In reality, this meant only those without party status (but even those Germans who were among us and were Party members) were mistrusted and treated less favourably than those of other nationalities.
When the Front moved ever deeper into our country, there was a need to dig ditches to trap tanks. It was harvest time and at first only some workers were taken from the harvest fields. Soon, almost all workers were taken, and harvesting ground to a half. At first, there was much pressure to get the harvested grain to the railway stations to be loaded onto trains and hauled back. Later, no one paid attention to this. Large piles of grain lay at the stations and no one paid any attention to it. All energy was put into the digging of the ditches. In our area and the region around it, 6,000 men were working on the ditches. They had been taken from various regions beyond the Dniepr.
On the 16th of October our village administration received an order to evacuate everyone. The beef cattle, hogs, sheep and breeding horses of the collective farm had already been moved a week previously, but in a retreating direction. All work stopped. People were ordered to prepare to leave the village in the night, to cross the dam, and to reach the left side of the Dniepr in the morning. The reasons was that a large battle was to be fought in the arae of the village, during which everything would be destroyed. Four to five families shared each wagon in transporting their goods and their chilcren.
Strangely, there seemed to be no concern for the Russian population in the surrounding area; the evacuation order did not target them.
Some brought their families into neighbouring Ukrainian villages, some packed and went to the gathering place, and others were ready to go, but stayed where they were. On the morning of August 17, the military police urged people to go. No one wanted to, but eventually they went. So the evacuation became dragged out and slow; many could get away on the side in different directions. Some hid among cliffs and rocks and behind shelter belts in the field to return later, even if not immediately to their homes but to neighbourhing Ukrainian villages. Those who stayed in their own yards, ready tio travel, didn’t go at all. Because the police didn’t know that not all had left and weren’t really looking.
Most of the evacuees went to Burwalde, some to Insel Chortitza and only one wagon with two families reached the left bank.
On the 18th of August the German Army occupied not only our area but the whole right side of the Dniepr and Insel Chortitza, so that all the evacuees could return. No one was injured despite being in the rain of artillery fire at the Front (Burwalde and on Insel Chortitza). At home, there were victims over the next few days due to air raids by the Red Army. As well, an old woman and a boy died as a result of being hit by schrapnel.
We were saved by the lightening speed of the advance of the Germany army to the Dniepr, which brought the activities of the Communists to a sudden end, so that they could not carry out all their plans. They could not set fire to everything in the village (for which Benzine was held in storage) because they didn’t have enough time and they themselves barely escaped.
After what we had lived through, we could hardly grasp that we had been saved and were freed from Bolschevism. We received the German soldiers with joy and hospitality and took them into our homes.
Neuendorf, 15 February 1942.
Report by A. Thiessen:To make the population submit to the collectivization idea, they started so-called anti-kulaktivization. Those that it applied to, were put onto a wagon and were supposed to be led away to an unknown destination. But, the population took a stand against it, and didn’t let them go. The GPU came to arrest the household heads, but those who had been warned had already gone into hiding. Then, night after night trucks with police and GPU arrived, and the persecution began.
The men were arrested first and the other family members were sent later. Most of them perished in the Urals and Siberia. Only a small percentage returned. From our village alone, there were 15 families (60 people) who were exiled. They attempted to portray the the Kulaks as bad people. In my case, they set fire to my house which was located near to elevator where all the grain was stored. It was supposed to look like the house was set on fire by the Kulaks, then spread to the elevators and intended to harm the collective building.
To keep the population in line, one person or another was arrested from year to year without reason. Another tactic was to close the church and cancel the services. I was one of those who was arrested on 27 April 1935 and was sentenced to three years of hard labour. It turned into 4 1/2 years, because they didn’t let me go home after three years. It was only because of the agreement between Germany and Russia that I was permitted to return in 1939.
The worst time of my exile was the interrogation. Days and nights, without interruption, without sleep, I stood in front of my interrogator and a GPU man nearby. They tried many different ways to extract from me what they wanted to hear, not what I did. It was unbelievably hard. Nerves were so strained that many lost their sanity. There were articles on the table, guns were thrown into your face, the air was thick with commotion: noise, wrestling, hitting and swearing. That’s the way their investigation was conducted. I was led through secret passages and rooms until terrible shivers would come over me. Even in the cell, you weren’t free from the fear of the investigation. Once in a while, one or another of the cellmates would return from interrogation, completely beaten down and would report what happened to him. The most horrible things were reported. It was always about political crimes. One had to sign a paper attesting to having done something that you had never done – something that you had not even thought of doing. Or, you had to give information about others that would in turn cause arrest and exile of the persons revealed in the information-session.
I remember the conversation with Jacob Bergen of Einlage, with whom I was sent to Kazakhstan together in exile. One morning he told me, “one more night like this and we’ll all go crazy”. I tried to comfort him and said “I got three years, you 10, but we will be able to stand it and go home after the sentence is over”. I was fortunate and returned. But my friend, only God knows what happened to him.
“We were together in these horrible conditions for two months. Then, when we arrived in slightly better surroundings, I told him, “Not only have we endured these two months, but we haven’t gone crazy and we’re smarter. I think it is possible in this way we would stand the long time that’s still ahead of us”.
“Yes, dear friend” he said, ” we both think we’re still normal, but if we should meet a person who is really normal, would he find us normal?” But the life in the labour camp was not rosy. You got an easier job or task or if you were young and healthy, or if you had connections with home, or if you had received anything from home; then it could be bearable. But, if you were sick or old, or were not able to meet your quota, your rations were made smaller immediately and very often you died. It was terrible to observe. Under strong guard, they were dragging themselves to watch the emaciated frame of these men. From the job to the camp under the watchful eyes of the strong guard. As soon as the labour camp was in sight, they had to line up and march into the camp through the gate where they were met with mockery like no man has ever seen – all accompanied by sarcasm.
The second largest wave of repressions/arrests were in 1937/38 when the best 50 men of our village were arrested and exiled. At this time they took two of my brothers and one of their sons. They weren’t heard from again. As far as we know, my brothers died after serious illnesses. My brother’s son came back after 18 months.
Having experienced these circumstances and such fear, that only intensified when World War II started, we gratefully lived through the time of the German occupation of the Soviet Union, becoming free from the GPU via the German Army on August 18, 1941.
15 May 1942