[Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Migrations of Our Germans

richard benert benovich at imt.net
Thu Apr 20 11:18:18 PDT 2006

I've been following this discussion and agreeing with most of what's been 
said.  But a few points bear mentioning.  One major reason given by various 
German historians for the migration out of Poland into Volhynia was the 
Polish Rebellion of 1863 against the Russian government.  German farmers in 
Poland tended to be conservative and reluctant to take up arms in the Polish 
cause.  So, apparently (I've never read of any concrete examples), their 
Polish neighbors started to take it out on nearby ethnic German farmers. 
This, along with promises of land in Volhynia, probably encouraged them to 
get out of Poland.  A similar thing apparently happened after a similar 
Rebellion in 1830, but I've seen little info on that.  Incidentally, my 
great-grandfather, Samuel Patzer (a pastor), is alleged to have been killed 
by the Russians for doing some legal work for the partisans (probably during 
the 1863 Rebellion).  Whether Samuel was pro-Polish or was just shanghaied 
into helping them we don't know.

Also, Jerry mentioned that among the problems for Volhynian Germans in the 
1880s and 1890s was an "inability to own land".  I think the word "own" 
should be read "acquire".  Private property was OK, but some Russians feared 
the spread of German land ownership in this frontier province, thinking it a 
prelude to a German takeover (similar in some ways to current fears of a 
Mexican takeover of the Aztlan--the southwest U.S.).  Hence, several laws 
were passed restricting the purchase of NEW land by Germans.  Even though 
difficult, I suspect that some land acquisition still went on, in spite of 
the laws.  We need a historian to look into this.

Finally, concerning the matter of returning to Germany, quite a few thousand 
Volhynian Germans did return after about 1905 up into the 1920s.  There was 
heavy recruitment carried out by a "Fürsorgeverein für deutsche 
Rückwanderer" and an "Arbeiter Centrale" before the war, trying to get 
seasonal workers to come to the aid of German agriculture.  For those who 
read German, Oliver Günther has an article on this which used to be on Irene 
Kopetzke's website (www.wolhynien.de), but which I can't find now.  The 
article is entitled "Die Rückwanderung von Wolhynien nach Deutschland bis 
1918".  Can anyone give directions for finding this?  Interestingly, Günther 
says that so many laborers were leaving Volhynia before the war that big 
German landowners were getting upset and so was the Russian government. 
This at the very time when SOME Russian officials (the military type) were 
getting nervouser and nervouser about German landowning in the border 
provinces.  Other officials were concerned that the German landowners were 
losing the seasonal workers they needed!  History is never simple.

How many of those who returned to Germany in these years were landless 
workers and how many were (small) landowners is an interesting question.  We 
do know, thanks to the work of Nikolaus Arndt and others, that perhaps 7,000 
(or more?  I've forgotten) Volhynian Germans left for the Baltic provinces, 
invited by some big German landowners there between 1907 and 1910 or so. 
These would have then gotten back to Germany in 1939-40 when Germans were 
evacuated from the Baltics, just weeks or months before those resettled from 
Volhynia, as a result of the Hitler-Stalin agreement.

Sorry this got so long....

Dick Benert
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jerry Frank" <FranklySpeaking at shaw.ca>
To: "Mike McHenry" <maurmike1 at verizon.net>; 
<ger-poland-volhynia at eclipse.sggee.org>
Sent: Wednesday, April 19, 2006 7:35 PM
Subject: Re: [Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Migrations of Our Germans

> Some of them did migrate back, in particular to East Prussia.  Others
> went to work for the industry that was also sprouting right where
> they were - the sugar plants in Kutno, the cloth production
> facilities in Lodz and Zyrardow, etc.  But for many others, farming
> was in their blood and the opportunity for cheap homestead land in
> central North America was more attractive than working in industry.
> Jerry Frank - Calgary, Alberta
> FranklySpeaking at shaw.ca
> At 07:26 AM 19/04/2006, Mike McHenry wrote:
>>I recently read a history of Germany 1845-1945 by Holborn. Germany had
>>rapidly industrialized in the latter part of the 19th century and up to 
>>Unemployment was low and some cases labor shortages. Why didn't our 
>>migrate back to Germany?
>>                                         Mike
>>-----Original Message-----
>>From: ger-poland-volhynia-bounces at eclipse.sggee.org
>>[mailto:ger-poland-volhynia-bounces at eclipse.sggee.org] On Behalf Of Jerry
>>Sent: Wednesday, April 19, 2006 8:02 AM
>>To: marlo; gpvjem; rlyster at telusplanet.net
>>Cc: ger-poland-volhynia at eclipse.sggee.org
>>Subject: Re: [Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Migrations of people--Germans to 
>>At 03:47 PM 17/04/2006, marlo wrote:
>> >Would you be able to help us understand why my husbands maternal
>> >grandparents
>> >moved from the area of Lubben Kreis Rummesburg in Pommern to Volhynia in
>> >1871 and than left to come to US in 1888?
>> >My mother-in-law was born in Volhynia and was only 6 years old when they
>> >emigrated and she only said they came to US because they would have been
>> >killed if they had stayed there in Volhynia
>> >or Russia as she referred to the area?  I
>> >don't know what profession her father was but they went directly to 
>> >Berrien
>> >County MI
>> >and became fruit farmers.
>> >Any help?    Margaret
>>The Gartzes, Girschewskis, Ottos, Gitersonkes, some Schultzes and
>>others indeed migrated from Rummelsburg to Volhynia and then later to
>>Manitoba and Berrien County, MI.  I have less detailed information
>>about circumstances in that region but I would suggest that the
>>reasons were probably similar to that for those from Russian
>>Poland.  They wanted to better their lot in life and that opportunity
>>appeared to be available in Volhynia.  Other Volhynian Germans not
>>from Pomerania also went to these same places.
>>There may have been some fear of staying in Russia c.1888 and
>>certainly freedoms were already being eroded but I'm not sure that
>>the fear of death in the 1888 time frame was a strong reason for
>>migrating.  Many Germans continued to remain after that in Volhynia
>>without facing death.  Others first went to Manitoba, didn't like the
>>cold, so they moved on to Berrien County.  Again, the move to North
>>America was motivated first by the eroding freedoms (for example the
>>enforcement of using Russian in the schools instead of German,
>>inability of the Germans to own their land, and conscription into the
>>Russian army) and secondly the opportunities in North America.  They
>>were drawn to the prairies of both Canada and the States by cheap
>>homestead land.  I'm not sure what specifically brought them to Berrien
>>Jerry Frank - Calgary, Alberta
>>FranklySpeaking at shaw.ca
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