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|Author:||Carolyn [ Mon Jun 13, 2011 5:37 am ]|
|Post subject:||Hoffnungstal, Bessarabia|
German name: Hoffnungstal
Russian name: Nadjeshdowka
Ukrainian name: Nadezhdivka
* From Catherine to Khruschev by Dr. Adam Giesinger (page 118)
* The Emigration from Germany to Russia in the Years 1763 – 1862 by Karl Stumpp (page 523)
* Auswanderung Aus Schwaben Nach Russland 1816-1823 by Dr. Georg Leibbrandt (Chapter 19, copy available at the GRHS)
* Bessarabian Heimatkalender) Jubilare, 1964 (pp. 137-138), 1848 History, 1967 (pp. 35-36), jüngste Mutterkilonie,1967 (pp. 27-35), Gründerfamilien,1967 (pp. 37-39), Humor aus Hoffnungstal, 1973 (p.141), 135 Jahre alt, 1977 (p.16), Kirche als Umschlagsb, 1977
* See two books by Rudoph Hofer on the village of Hoffnungstal
* See two books by Albert Eisenbeiss on the village of Hoffnungstal (His Familien- und Sippenbuch has fabulous info on all the village families)
1848 village history: http://grhs.org/vr/vhistory.htm
* Available in the St. Pete records
* Some partially indexed records available at: http://www.odessa3.org/collections/bess/
* Available in the Black Sea German-Russian Census Vol. II
|Author:||morbeus [ Mon Jun 13, 2011 6:45 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Hoffnungstal, Bessarabia|
A companion publication to
"Familien- und Sippenbuch Hoffnungstal Bessarabien" by Albert Eisenbeiss
is apparently to be published by GRHS. It is not related at all to the Hoffnungstal, Odessa Parish
|Author:||Carolyn [ Mon Jun 13, 2011 7:28 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Hoffnungstal, Bessarabia|
Thanks Murray! Yes, I know that Curt & Jim were working on this. I sent them some Schott info to include.
|Author:||Carolyn [ Mon Jun 13, 2011 7:40 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Hoffnungstal, Bessarabia|
History of Hoffnungstal, Bessarabia
By Carolyn Schott (Originally published in my family history book, The Schott Family of Hoffnungstal)
The village of Hoffnungstal, Bessarabia, was the last mother colony created in Bessarabia. It was initially founded in 1842 by 25 families from the estate of Karlstal, part of the Freudental parish near Odessa. These families had first settled there between 1806 and 1819, but in 1841 after many years in this settlement, they were expelled possibly due to the sale of the estate.
After leaving Karlstal, they lived for the winter in the Swiss-settled village of Schabo. This may have been intended as a temporary solution or possibly the government wanted them to settle there permanently. However, the existing Schabo villagers objected to this for a number of reasons, including the number of German families (there were only 18 farmsteads available and 25 German families), religious differences, and disagreement over which land would be allotted to the new villagers.
Instead, the Welfare Committee decided in 1842 to settle the displaced villagers on the last available parcel of land, “Number 9,” in Bessarabia. (When Bessarabia first opened for settlement, a large influx of German families who had previously settled in Poland came there. Emigration from Poland had stopped by 1839, leaving this one piece of land, which was designated for German settlements, still open in 1842.)
This land was in the valley of the Karadai Stream. At first the settlement was known only as “Number 9.” In 1843, the new villagers, hopeful that they could settle in and prosper in this new place named it Hoffnungstal, or Hope Valley.
From 1842 – 1848, 57 additional families joined the colony. These 82 families filled up the planned complement of settlers for this village.
The first 25 families got loans of 100 rubels from the Welfare Committee, which had to be paid back, interest-free, in 10 years. Subsequent colonists (including the Schott family) received land, but had to rely on the capital that they brought with them. When the settlers first arrived the steppe was bare of housing, forests, or crops. Using the nearby stone quarry, they built their homes.
The Karadai is surrounded by alternating hills and valleys, and the site of Hoffnungstal was considered one of the most beautiful in Bessarabia. Hoffnungstal was located about 5.5 miles northeast of the German parish village of Klöstitz, four miles southwest of the Russian village of Nicolaijewka, about five miles east of the German village of Borodino, about 11 miles from the German village of Beresina (which would later be very important because of its railroad station), and 10 miles south of the estate and market village belonging to the Russian Countess Mansir.
Hoffnungstal was spread out for 3 kilometers, lying north to south along the Karadai. There were two main streets running north/south, one on the east side of the stream and one on the west side. The farmsteads or “Hofs” of the 82 families were situated on either side of the Karadai Stream. Each farmstead had four acres along the Karadai, which usually included a vegetable patch and fruit trees for household use. Across the road, the remainder of the farmstead included about eight acres. A gate from the street led into the farm courtyard, which was surrounded by the family home and barns. Homes in Hoffnungstal were generally 22 feet wide (but of varying lengths) and consisted of at least six rooms.
Within the eight-acre farmstead was included the yard, threshing floor, straw and haystacks, potato and vegetable gardens. The largest portion of the yard was filled with cultivated grapes used for making wine.
In the center of the village, the marketplace lay to the west of the Karadai. To the east of the Karadai were the church, school, village administration building, and cemetery. The part of the village north of the center was commonly called the “Oberdorf” or “upper village”, and the part of the village lying south of the center was the “Unterdorf” or “lower village.”
Hoffnungstal grew and prospered over the years. Beginning as a village of 82 families in 1848, the village had a population of 743 in 89 families by 1859. In 1900, the population was 1160; by 1940 at the time of the Umsiedlung there were over 2,000 people living in the village. This growth was primarily from births in the existing village families – due to very strict village regulations, it was practically impossible for someone from outside the village to purchase land in Hoffnungstal. The local code called for the next of kin to have first rights to purchase land. Next in line was a member of the colony, and lastly was a German from another colony. Through the 1800’s, no one from outside the village was able to purchase land or property. After 1900, a few families from other German villages and only two “foreigners” (probably Russians, Rumanians or Jews) owned land in Hoffnungstal.
The land available for farming also grew. The village was initially granted about 14,000 acres of land. In 1897, they bought another 675 acres. In 1899, they purchased another 1100 acres from Countess Tolstoi. They also leased a great deal of land from the Princess Gagarin.
The rolling hills surrounding Hoffnungstal made transport in and out of the village difficult, especially with heavily loaded wagons, but the soil was very rich and good for many crops with little need to fertilize it. The Hoffnungstal farmers practiced crop rotation, but due to the richness of their soil, didn’t need to let the ground lay fallow in alternating years. The land supported a number of different crops – in 1940 the crops grown included wheat, barley, oats, corn, soybeans, potatoes, rye, castor beans, millet, sun flowers, rape, mustard, flax, beets, watermelons, and pumpkins.
“The people of Hoffnungstal were real farmers, plain, firm but open-hearted, just and hospitable . . . Land, land, was the password of the farmers of Hoffnungstal . . . To buy or rent more land was always the aspiration of Hoffnungstalers, since they had pride in farming. Their machines had to be modern and in good repair in order to carry on the work of growing grapes and grain . . .” (Hoffnungstal Heimatbuch, p. 29-30). This hunger for land drove many Hoffnungstalers in the 20th century to immigrate to the U.S., Canada, Crimea, the Caucasus, West Siberia, and to Brazil in search of new opportunities to develop their own land.
Commercial buyers bought wine directly from the farmers, however, grain had to be hauled to the market by the farmers themselves. The farmers of Hoffnungstal usually hauled their grain either to the train station at Beresina (about 11 miles) or to the county seat of Akkerman (56 miles). To get the best profit, some farmers hauled their produce to the large harbor city of Odessa (90 miles), however, this port was lost after WWI when Bessarabia (including Hoffnungstal) was annexed to Rumania, while Odessa continued as part of Russia. A co-operative was formed to handle marketing the farm produce. With Hoffnungstal’s main business as agriculture, and the marketing of the produce in German hands, the village was considered one of the most economically sound in Bessarabia.
Hoffnungstal farmers also raised animals. Sheep were popular for their low expense and large income from wool, cheese, and lambs. Some milk cows and beef cattle were maintained, although profits from cow’s milk were small and the primary market for beef cattle was in Odessa.
However, the pride of the Bessarabian farmer was the Bessarabian horses. “In Bessarabia the horse is like family . . . love and care are given to the horse ahead of all other animals.” (Diary of the Village Assessor of Hoffnungstal, Hoffnungstal Newsletter 3-3.) Farmers often owned large numbers of horses as this was a measure of their reputation and village standing.
Careful attention was paid to maintaining a good breed, and the favorite color to breed for was black. The horses were based on the old Arabian pure-breeds. “The last breeding stallion from the upper village, a beautiful animal, was auctioned off for 63,000 Lei. This horse was taken to Germany with a few other especially selected horses.” (Hoffnungstal, p. 31) [Editor’s Note: This was approximately $10,000 and probably occurred about 1940. This price would put the horse in the category of an exceptional stud of National Champion status.]
Hoffnungstal also had several mills used for making flour and oil. The first steam driven mill was built by Friedrich Schott in the late 1800s. (He later sold the mill to finance his family’s immigration to America.) Farmers from many of the surrounding villages came to Hoffnungstal to use the mills.
Although the main occupation in Hoffnungstal was farming, there were many craftsmen in the village as well. Sometimes they practiced their craft as a sideline; sometimes it was their main occupation. In 1940, the primary trades represented included metal workers, blacksmiths, carpenters, cartwrights, shoemakers, harness makers, mill owners, and game keepers. There were also individuals who were coopers, tailors, brick makers, quarrymen, land surveyors, night watchmen, roofers, and midwives. There was also a butcher, a beekeeper, a truck garden farmer, a cistern finisher, and a gravedigger. “Roaming” craftsmen, who did work on a commission basis, included watchmakers, sewing machine repairman, pots and pans repairman, and a knife grinder. Moldavians often were hired as cattle herdsmen and Russians did sheep shearing on a seasonal basis.
Hoffnungstal’s economic connection with the village of Beresina was especially important, because the train station was in Beresina, as was a source of wood for Hoffnungstal’s carpenters and wagon makers.
At first, there was no schoolhouse or teacher in Hoffnungstal. Children attended school in a farmhouse and the teachers were those farmers who were knowledgeable in reading and writing. In 1858, the schoolhouse was built. The main subjects were reading, writing, arithmetic, and the Lutheran catechism. The schoolbooks used were primarily the Bible, the hymnbook, and a catechism. Instruction in religion was the primary purpose for education and Hoffnungstalers had little use for additional education.
“The people of Hoffnungstal gave all of their energy to . . . farming; they . . . valued culture very little. When someone advised a farmer to send his son . . . to the “Werner School,” he would . . . ask very sharply “What shall my Robert become? A teacher? No, no that will never happen. He has to work and learn how to become a farmer.” (Hoffnungstal Heimatbuch, p. 29-30). [Editor’s Note: The Werner School, in the large town of Sarata, had a four-year program for training teachers – essentially it offered a range of subjects similar to a high school and junior college.]
Leopold Roßmann was the main teacher in the Hoffnungstal school from 1874 until 1916. Until the late 1890s, he was the only teacher in the school despite having a large number of students. Even in 1905, there appear to have been only two teachers for 330 students.
In the 1890s the Russian government passed a law requiring that school be taught in Russian. In 1896, the Hoffnungstal school received a Russian teacher in addition to Herr Roßmann, however, it’s questionable whether the students learned very much since they probably spoke little or no Russian.
Herr Roßmann was a strict disciplinarian and well respected, almost to the point of fear, among the young and old of Hoffnungstal. He enjoyed music and sang with a strong voice in church services. As teacher, he also served as sexton. The sexton’s duties included reading the Sunday service (since Hoffnungstal shared a pastor from the parish church at Klöstitz), leading the choir, and arranging for baptisms and burials usually in the absence of the pastor.
Herr Roßmann was also extremely conservative and resistant to change. When a new hymnbook was introduced in Bessarabia, in most places it was easily accepted. However, Herr Roßmann led Hoffnungstal’s resistance to this new innovation and they continued with the traditional hymnbook up until the Umsiedlung in 1940. (Which caused no end of troubles for the bookbinder in Sarata, as the books were no longer published and therefore extremely difficult to find and order new ones when these were required.)
For years there were attempts to introduce schoolbooks other than the Bible into the school. (The new ABC book had colorful pictures of a rooster on the front cover and Little Red Riding Hood on the back cover.) While these were finally accepted during the tenure of Pastor Julius Peters, the village’s resistance caused one pastor, Reverend Burkhardt, to leave the parish.
Leopold Roßmann’s conservative influence was felt long after his death. Whenever one of his successors tried to introduce something new, the typical response was: “This will not be done. Our old teacher Roßman would have never thought of this, and what he has done, and what he has said, was good and right and still is; we will not change anything; we will leave everything as it is.” (Hoffnungstal Heimatbuch, p. 32) This continued until the late 1930s, when the last sexton-teacher of Hoffnungstal, Emil Wernick, was able to introduce some changes such as reviving the church choir, introducing a Ladies Aid Society and starting a youth fellowship.
The village of Hoffnungstal was always staunchly Lutheran. Although several of the initial settlers were Catholic, they soon joined the Lutheran church. Up until 1918, there was a group of Separatists led by Michael and later Samuel Aipperspach, but that group eventually died out. At the time of the resettlement, there were no Baptists, Adventists or followers of any other sect because “the people of Hoffnungstal had no love for religious fanatics.” (Hoffnungstal Heimatbuch, p. 27)
The school house also served as the prayer house or chapel until the Hoffnungstal church was dedicated on October 16, 1905. As part of the parish of Klöstitz, Hoffnungstal shared their pastor. The local sexton-teacher was responsible for many of the daily pastoral duties in the village. Confirmations and weddings were presided over by the pastor at the church in Klöstitz, but if you wanted the pastor (rather than the sexton) to give a funeral service, you had to arrange for his transportation, picking him up and returning him home by wagon.
From 1879 – 1915, the Klöstitz parish was served by the Reverend Julius Peters. Reverend Peters was well-known by the German settlers in Bessarabia and was sometimes called the “Vicar of Bessarabia” since he often helped out by serving in other parishes when they did not have a pastor. He was of middle stature, with a friendly face and glasses. He was faithful right up until the end of his life as he died in the pulpit while holding an evening Lenten service.
“One can truthfully say that the people of Hoffnungstal were diligent church goers, and when worship services were held by the pastor, the church was usually filled to overflowing.” (Hoffnungstal Heimatbuch, p. 32)
Memories of life in Hoffnungstal include much hard agricultural work. But there are also many stories of dances in the fall on the empty threshing areas with the musicians playing “zippy” dance music, the young men and women flirting, and the children playing at the edge of the dance floor. The upper and lower villages each had their own “Kameradschaft” or youth group who competed against each other. Each youth group had their own three-man band that would play for dances. And it was frowned on for a young woman from one youth group to marry a man from another!
Special favorites were the Mayfest and Easter. For the Mayfest, two huge trees or poles would be set in front of the church and decked out with glittery tinsel. For Easter was the traditional “Eierlesen” or Easter Egg game.
It was the custom that one went to the Easter Egg game at the festival square on the second day of Easter. There, under a flag, were four rows of fifty eggs laid out. Every ten eggs, there was a hard-cooked, colored Easter egg. The rows were aligned with the four compass points - north, south, east, west. The state flag would have been raised next to the Bessarabian flag.
The procession was led by a band, four young men, and eight girls in gaily colored traditional costumes and carrying egg baskets. The procession was accompanied by the villagers.
Each egg gathering group consisted of two girls and a young man. The young man gathers the eggs and put them in one of the girls’ apron. The other girls had to put the eggs in their baskets. At each colored egg, the gathering would be interrupted and the band would play a dance. The goal was to gather all the eggs as quickly as possible and throw the last egg over the flag. The group that first managed to do this was the winner. Afterward, everyone went to the community center where late into the evening one celebrated, sang and danced.
(Source: Bessarabian Newsletter 4-1. Written by Friedrich Ernst; Contributed by Armin Flaig; Translated by Carolyn Schott)
Another story of holidays in Hoffnungstal:
My Grandma Schott told me a lot of stories about Hoffnungstal and its school and church. I heard these stories many times as my Grandmother Schott dearly missed Hoffnungstal and told me much about it and its activities. The second day of Easter was always Monday and a day for visiting and having fun and eating. They always had a large community dinner with Bread Birds, braids of bread, kuchen, pigs in the blanket (made with pork) and Fleisch Blachenda (meat and potatoes wrapped in dough and baked), homemade noodle soup, and Schlitz Kechla. And they had the best homemade wine made from their home-grown grapes and sipped on this all afternoon, played games, and later danced all night. They all brought their leftover Easter eggs and together made an egg and potato salad.
Then 40 days after Easter they had their Mayfest or Holy Day (Ascension Day). The day started with church in the morning and lots of singing, then a large dinner. With real potato strudel (stretched dough filled with cubed potatoes and chopped onions baked in the oven). They served a small dough soup called “Settle” soup and kuchen. This is a meatless dinner. That’s how the old time Lutherans did the day. In the evening they danced and sipped on their red eye and they had a good family time.
My grandmother never worked on Ascension Day, and always felt we missed much by not keeping these days for God and family. She also told how they cooked in a large fireplace. They also smoked their meat in it and had a hanging oven in it.
I have an Easter egg that came from Hoffnungstal that my grandfather (4 times back) first got in his Easter basket…[it] is the size of a goose egg and is glass with a cross and crown painted on it.
(Source: Dennis Schott, 2001)
Compared to other colonies, Hoffnungstal had relatively few epidemics in its history. Cholera claimed a number of lives in 1855. Also diphtheria, typhus, smallpox, and flu occasionally swept through the colony. Still, even without epidemics, the overall health situation in Bessarabia in the 1800s was bad. In addition to epidemic diseases, the dusty conditions in the field and roads caused a number of respiratory and lung diseases. The lack of sanitary conditions and prenatal care caused many women to die in childbirth.
Medical care was primitive. Most medical care was done in the home and based on prayer and home remedies. Although settlers started arriving in Bessarabia around 1812, the first doctor did not arrive until 1830. Up until the 1900s, the few doctors were located only in the largest towns. For example, in 1860, the nearest doctor for Hoffnungstalers would have been in Tarutino, approximately 16 miles away.
Typical of frontier communities, communication and transportation services were also fairly primitive. With the opening of the Bender-Reni rail line in 1878, the mail began to be delivered daily to Leipzig. Someone would pick up mail destined for the Tarutino post office; from there, nearby villages could pick up their mail. Prior to this, mail arrived only weekly and had to be picked up from as far away as Sarata (about 45 miles) or Kauschani. Tarutino also received a telegraph office in 1877, and a telephone office a few years later.
In 1940 came a major turning point in the history and life of the Bessarabian villages, including Hoffnungstal. In 1918, as part of the Versailles Treaty after WWI, Bessarabia had been annexed to Rumania. In June 1940, Soviet troops demanded the Rumanian evacuation of Bessarabia and as part of the Hitler-Stalin pact, the German settlers would be re-settled to Germany.
Although the villagers could not know what would lie ahead for them, it was immediately clear that their position had changed. All schools were closed and hospitals were seized by the Russian authorities. Traffic was restricted on the roads and all private travel by train was forbidden.
Taxes for 1940 had to be paid again in full, even if they had previously been partly (or even fully) paid. Since the Rumanian Lei was declared overnight to be invalid currency, the taxes had to be paid in material goods (grain, etc.) An (arbitrarily determined) amount from the 1940 harvest had to be handed over to Russian authorities. Often there was alleged contamination of the grain, and the villagers were forced to hand over additional amounts.
The Russian authorities nationalized many businesses including banks, companies with more than 20 workers, book and printing shops, electric facilities, schnapps and wine distilleries. In addition they took over all the schools, hospitals, drugstores, movie theaters, museums, and hotels throughout Bessarabia. The German villagers faced this all with resignation saving all they could of the possessions that still remained.
On September 15, 1940, the German Resettlement Commission arrived in Hoffnungstal to begin assessing the villages in the area for resettlement. The assessment continued probably until the end of October. The Commission went door to door through the village, assessing the contents and property of each family. The villagers would only be allowed to take a small number of possessions with them – the rest they were to leave to the Russians and they were to be reimbursed when they had returned to Germany.
Women, children, and the elderly would travel by truck. The men would travel with the horses and wagons. Those traveling by truck could take only carry-on personal items. Those traveling by wagon could take one wagonload of possessions per family. Each family was officially allowed to take some livestock, limited to two horses or oxen, one cow, one pig, five sheep or goats, and some poultry. However, at least in the case of Hoffnungstal and no doubt in other villages as well, the villagers were not allowed to take livestock with them due to “transportation” problems. The cherished Bessarabian horses were sold or later requisitioned for a German cavalry unit.
The villagers could not take with them any currency or cash except for 2,000 Lei [Editor’s Note: Probably about $3 U.S.] per person, plus the proceeds of any documented sales of personal property. No gold or silver in ingot or dust could be taken, and gold or silver in watch chains, wedding bands, etc. was limited to 500 grams per adult. Weapons, binoculars or any items of military origin were forbidden (except hunters were allowed to take one gun). Manufactured items or store-bought clothing were limited. Family photos could be taken along, but no other photos, documents, or printed items could be taken. No engine or electrical-powered devices could be taken, nor any seeds, seedlings, or grape vine cuttings.
On September 26, a farewell service was held in the Hoffnungstal cemetery, and on October 1 the families of Hoffnungstal began leaving their home of almost a century. First the women, children, and the elderly from Hoffnungstal’s east street left. (The east street families included most of the Schott families living in Hoffnungstal – descendents of Adolf and Johann Georg Schott.)
They went by truck to the Danube harbor at Reni, then by ship to Semlin near Belgrade. After spending two days in a refugee camp at Semlin, they went by train through Vienna to the Sachsen area of Germany to a refugee camp near Chemnitz.
The men from Hoffnungstal’s east street left on October 2 by horse and wagon. At the border between Bessarabia (now Russian-occupied) and Rumania, all the wagons had to be unloaded for a customs spot check. All bags, pillows, etc. were opened and checked. Then everything had to be packed up again and loaded back on the wagons. They crossed the Pruth River on a shaky bridge, headed for the harbor at Galatz.
At Galatz, the luggage was unloaded and stored. (The Hoffnungstalers would not see these possessions again for two years!) Wagons and horses were handed over to the German military to be used as a cavalry unit in the Balkan campaign. The men, along with their carry-on personal possessions, took a ship up the Danube to rejoin their families at the camp near Semlin, then later to the refugee camp near Chemnitz.
The Hoffnungstalers living on the west street (including a couple of Schott families – those descended from Christian Schott) followed the same journey about a week later, with the women and children leaving on October 9th, and the men leaving on October 15th. They also ended up in the refugee camps near Chemnitz.
About 50 people from Hoffnungstal had been too sick to travel by regular truck – these people were transported by ambulance or special trucks to Semlin along with sick people from other Bessarabian villages. In many cases, their families, waiting for them in Chemnitz, never saw them again, (raising some questions even today about exactly what happened to them).
The camps at Chemnitz were gymnasiums, factory halls, and restaurants converted for the purpose of housing refugees where everyone slept together in big rooms with many cots. Many of the young men were drafted into the German army, the Wehrmacht. Other men were assigned to work in the factories – difficult physically as they performed hard labor on meager rations, and difficult emotionally for those used to being outdoors working their own fields or working as independent craftsmen.
Prior to resettlement, each person had to pass the “Citizen-Harmonization” process. This consisted first of a physical examination and then a race-political examination given by the Nazi Immigration Office and the National Security Service. This involved proving their German ethnicity so they could be declared “racially useful and politically dependable.”
The areas of West Prussia and Posen/Warthegau in northern and western Poland had been directly annexed to Germany. By the first part of 1941, the SS had expelled close to 400,000 Poles from their property in these areas, intending to settle ethnic Germans, including the Bessarabian refugees, there. Many of them dying en route, the uprooted Poles were sent to the “General Government” area in the central and southern part of Poland, which was now occupied and administered by the Nazis.
With these lands in northern and western Poland available, most of the former Bessarabians were resettled and left the refugee camps fairly quickly. The village of Hoffnungstal was originally intended to be re-settled in the province of Danzig-West Prussia. However, the process was delayed and the people of Hoffnungstal ended up remaining in the refugee camps for about two years. Still in the refugee camp in 1942, the village of Hoffnungstal was the only one of the Bessarabian mother colonies unable to celebrate the centennial of the founding of their village in their homes.
The people of Hoffnungstal were told that the delay was due to the death of their mayor, Immanuel Aipperspach. However, coincidentally, during this same time the Nazis were re-shaping their settlement policies. Anticipating Nazi victory, they were planning for the “Re-organization of Europe” which included settling the General Government area with ethnic Germans. In late 1942 and 1943, more Poles were expelled from the Zamosc-Lublin area, many of them being sent to concentration camps or conscripted for labor.
The Hoffnungstalers were then given the choice of remaining in refugee camps for the rest of the war or being settled further east than the other Bessarabians, in the General Government area nearer the war front. Unaware they had become pawns of the Nazi settlement policies and desperately wanting to leave the refugee camp, the people of Hoffnungstal along with another Bessarabian village agreed to be settled in the district of Lublin/Zamosc in Poland in December 1942 – a small group of 4,000 ethnic Germans in the heart of Poland, surrounded by Poles with good reason to hate and fear anything German.
What mixed emotions the Hoffnungstalers must have had as they settled into their new homes and became more fully aware of their situation. Relief that they were out of the refugee camps and able to work again as farmers and craftsmen. Justified in taking over these Polish farms, as they had left behind their own long-established and prosperous farms with the promise that they would be compensated for what they’d left behind. And yet what dismay they must have felt knowing that the Poles had been forced from their homes and were now working for the German farmers as day laborers in what once were their own fields.
The Poles, terrified by the expulsions by the Nazis and probably fearing that they would soon suffer the same fate as the Jews, formed partisan resistance units and struck out at anything German – making no distinction between the SS and the Bessarabian Germans whose only motivation was to be able to farm and work their own land again.
For the one and one-quarter years they lived in this area, the German villagers were constantly terrorized by Polish partisans setting their homes on fire by night and other violent acts. All men 18 – 65 years old kept a nightly watch and rarely got a full night’s sleep.
The attacks got so bad that the Germans asked the district SS commander to send the women and children to safety in Germany and the men would enlist in the army where they could “at least see the enemy in front of them” – they never knew which direction a partisan attack would come from. The SS commander told them to stop their complaining, sling a gun onto their backs and get behind their plows. After all, they were “front-line farmers.” An especially tragic set of attacks in June 1943 resulted in a large number of deaths in just one or two nights.
In 1944, the Russian army was advancing and the partisan attacks became even more brutal. Finally, in March 1944 the women, children and elderly were sent west for safety to refugee camps near Lodz. The men were required to remain in their Zamosc homes to fight and start that year’s crop. Finally in July, the front was advancing too quickly and the men headed toward Lodz with whatever possessions they could put in wagons. Many of the men of Hoffnungstal either died or were imprisoned by the Russians during the flight to Lodz. Those that made it to Lodz were either drafted into the army or into labor battalions to build entrenchments.
The last chaotic flight to escape the advancing Russian army occurred in January and February 1945. Leaving most of their possessions behind, they fled with whatever was available – wagon, some trucks, or on foot – toward Germany. Fifteen of the people from Hoffnungstal died during “Die Flucht” (The Flight) ahead of the advancing war front. Another 23 people either disappeared while fleeing or may have been overrun and captured by the Russian army. (Although the specific fates of all of these people are not known, some are known to have been deported to Siberia.)
Although the majority of the 2,088 Hoffnungstalers who were re-settled survived, after WWII they were scattered throughout Germany and were no longer a unified community. With the post-war division of Germany into East and West, many families were also separated by these political barriers.
Visits to Bessarabia, as part of the Soviet Union, were officially impossible until 1993 when Ukraine took over this territory (although some clandestine visits may have occurred). In particular, the site of Hoffnungstal was used as a restricted military area by the Russians and was therefore off-limits. Sometime after the Germans left, the Russians flattened the village (possibly using the deserted village for target practice during their training exercises) as well as the cemetery gravestones and set up a military base and power station nearby. (It’s also possible that the village buildings were already damaged from an earthquake that occurred soon after the villagers first left in 1940.) The only structure that remains standing today (in 2001) is the schoolhouse, which was taken away from its original location to be used as part of the power station.
In 1994, former residents of Hoffnungstal now living in Germany erected a memorial stone at the site of the former Hoffnungstal cemetery. In 1996, they returned to add a copper plaque with an inscription to the top of the memorial stone and held a service dedicated to the memory of their former home.
[A couple of notes since I originally wrote this. In 2001, there was one building standing in Hoffnungstal, but I couldn’t swear to it being the old schoolhouse. Sometime between 1996 and 2001, the copper plaque was stolen from the memorial stone. The ex-Hoffnungstalers now living in Germany subsequently put up a cement/stone memorial that was standing as of 2008.]
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