Village Report for Neuendorf
Chortitza Colony, Russia, 1942

| Village Name and Location | Population Count |
| Count of Mixed Marriages | Germans in Mixed Marriages |
| Origins | Education | Cultural Life |
| Health and Welfare | Church Records |
| Economy | Economic and Political Hardships in the Bolshevik Era |

see also: Marriages ~ Banished Persons ~ Abducted Persons
Persons who starved to death ~ Red Army Personnel ~ Persons Murdered

I. Exact Name of the Village:

German: Neuendorf
Russian: Schirokoye
During Bolschevik era: Schirokoye
Region: Chortitza (10 km)
District: Zaporozhye (30 km)
Military region: Dnjepropetrovsk (70 km)
Postal Station: Chortitza (10 km)
Train Station: Chortitza (10 km)
Founded: 1790

II. Population Count:

  Germans Ukrainians Russians Jews Others Total
  pre Jun '41 now pre Jun '41 now pre Jun '41 now pre Jun '41 now pre Jun '41 now pre Jun '41 now
Persons 1712 1631 68 24 - - 1 - - - 1781 1655
Families 368 399 18 7 - - 1 - - - 387 406

How many households have no [male] household head? 133

Census of Germans in the following years:

1918 - 1000 Germans
1920 - 1536 Germans
1923 - 1350 Germans
1930 - 1500 Germans
1936 - 1700 Germans
1941 - 1712 Germans
1942 - 1631 Germans
Note: Many emigrated to North America

III. COUNT OF MIXED MARRIAGES

6 couples
  • Non-German males in mixed marriages: 0
  • Non-German females in mixed marriages: 1
  • Jews in mixed marriages: 0
  • Number of children from mixed marriages1: 2

IV. LIST OF GERMANS IN MIXED MARRIAGES

  • German men:2 294
  • German women:2 450
  • German children:3: 885 (454 boys and 431 girls)

V. ORIGINS

The village of Neuendorf was established in 1790 by the new settlers from Danzig, Germany. They were all Mennonites. Under the rule of Catherine the Great and the Czar's administrator, Georg von Trappe, they were invited to come to Russia to live. They were promised many privileges and rights. In 1786 they sent the deputies, Jacob Hoeppner and Johann Bartsch from Danzig to Russia in order to look for land where they could settle. After the deputies' return, many started the move to Russia. They left in 1788 and by July 1789 were in the Chortitza Region. In the next year, 1790, some of these immigrants established Neuendorf.

VI. EDUCATION

Language in the last years:

Until 1938, German was used as the official language. After that, school was only taught in Russian, and German was only used as a second language. From the 5th grade onwards, there was only one hour of instruction in German. In addition, Ukrainian was used as an official language. At present, German is the language of instruction.

School Grades, Records of Attendance, instructional materials, classrooms, subjects taught, etc.

The school had 10 grades. The first four grades were just regular school, but in the 5th grade students were started on subject-specific classes. The school year was usually from September until June. Since 1936, school attendance was compulsory, although even before the war, Germans had compulsory attendance. The school attendance is good.

But, of course we have absolutely no teaching materials. Only recently, has each child had their own slate and stylus.

See Attached report (missing)

Enrolled children:

237

Teachers:

Eight teachers - all German: Heinrich Roy, Peter Klassen, Mrs. Elsa Martens, Eugen Blatz, Andreas Strohm, Miss Helena Krahn, Mrs. Katzenstein (nee Ens), and Miss Maria Hildebrand

Total who are German: 8

Total who are not German: 0

Number of Illiterate Germans:

Two: a girl of 25 and a woman of 21.

Language at Home:

German, and to be precise, Low German.

VII. CULTURAL LIFE

Cultural Life:

A ten room/class school, a kindergarten that is closed now, a club that is also closed. Now grain is kept in the club. The church was used during Bolshevik times, partly as a kindergarten and partly as a grain elevator.

Libraries

There was a Bolshevik library containing mostly Russian books. The people read eagerly, and are very keen to re-establish a library with good German books.

Projectors and Associated Equipment:

There were two film projectors, but the district commissioner confiscated them.

Existence and Nature of Electrical Power:

It is high-voltage - 220

Choirs:

At this time there are two church choirs: one for the youth and one for adults. As long as the church was open, there were two choirs. They would like to organize different clubs (vereins), but they always fell apart in the summer and resumed in the winter.

Orchestras:

In Soviet times there was an orchestra, but the instruments were taken away by the Soviets when the war started. There was also a piano.

Physical Education and Social Life:

Earlier, some physical education activities were done in the club. In Chortitza there is a Christian women's club that meets once a month, where women gather to talk and do handiwork.

Miscellaneous:

Wedding games have not been played in the past year. Previously, the weddings were beautiful family celebrations.

VIII. HEALTH AND WELFARE

Number of Doctors, Nurses and Midwives:

In the village, there is a maternity home where a midwife works. She also helps the medical assistants. The nearest hospital is 10 kilometres away. In Chortitza, the maternity home employs two nurses. The midwife, Miss Helene Wiebe, is well-educated in her specialty and also sets broken bones. The nearest dentist was in Zaporozhye. The Chortitza region presently has no dentist.

Health Conditions:

The health conditions are satisfactory. No epidemic illnesses. There are eye illnesses (trachoma) and many women are suffering because of the heavy work. [Tr. note: Other information suggests that there were no cases trachoma left in Southern Russia by 1942.]

IX. CHURCH RECORDS

At this time, yearbooks containing birth and marriage registers, death registers, confirmation and lists of children, personal books, chronicles on congregations and pastors, annual reports, minutes, lists, etc. are missing.

The church books were all taken by the Bolshevists at the time of flight and have vanished without trace. There is a slim chance that they may still later be found somewhere in storage on the left side of the Dnieper. Other church materials also were lost when the churches were closed.

X. ECONOMY

Land in hectares:

  • 6,038 hectares in 1918
  • Today, 4,000 hectares are in in the Collective
  • Farm size - 150 hectares [taken to suggest the average parcel or farm size]

Number of farms in 1918:

200. Of these, 45 were full farms of (65 desiatines), 16 were half farms (32 desiatines), and the others were occupied by "beiwohner" (about 18 desiatines).

At this time there are 300 collective farms.

Average size of a farmer's land:

.5 hectare

Food Supply for People and Livestock:

At least 70% of the population has not got enough bread until the new harvest. But, they got a total of eight kilograms of flour per person. A big mistake was made in the fall when they promised to give 3 kilograms per workday. Now, many families planned according to that and when they only received 1.5 kilograms, it was not enough. Many have butchered a little piglet. Approximately 70% of the people have a cow. The animals had difficulty surviving the winter. The horses are fed better, but the cows only get straw. At this time, the cattle go in the pasture which would have been more bountiful if there had been irrigation. In this year, because there are fewer cattle there should be enough.

Water Supply:

250 wells - 200 of which are potable. The average depth is 8 metres.

Livestock Inventory

  In the Collective Privately Owned Animals abducted in the war
horses 208 - -
cows 12 270 94
sheep 178 44 800
pigs 8 90 430
goats - 70 -
hens - 3,000 -
ducks and geese - 50 -
beehives 73 25 -

Inventory of Fowl:

3,050

Fruit Orchards, Vegetable Gardens, Vineyards, and other land under cultivation:

  • Fruit: 35 hectares
  • Vineyards: 10 hectares
  • Vegetables: 22 hectares

Condition of Homes and Yards in the Village:

The older houses are still built of fired bricks, but the new ones are only built of dried clay and straw bricks. Some of the roofs are covered with rooftiles and some with shingles, but most with straw. The yards and houses are neglected. The houses need repair work. In the yards, all the fences have disappeared. The trees are neglected. Many barns were torn down during the Bolschevist time. Usually, each family has two rooms and one kitchen; but there are families with only one room.

Especially critical is the absence of clothing and bedding.

Public Buildings, Furnishings, and their Condition:

There are two well-built school buildings -- they just need some repair. There is one club, but it has been used for grain storage. One church was used during the Soviet time as a kindergarten (at one end) and for grain storage (at the other end). Today it is used as a church again.

Industry and Production:

In the collective farms, there were specialized mills for grinding grain and corn. It was worked by six men. The mills are attended to by collective farm members. One dairy with four workers - that's where the milk from six villages was processed into butter. The butter was delivered to the farm manager.

Road Conditions:

There are no finished roads. The streets in the valley seem bottomless because the water cannot drain off. The streets on higher ground are dryer. Neither streets nor sidewalks are paved. In the surrounding villages there are only field roads, except for the cobblestone road that runs between Zaporozhye and Dnjepropetrovsk. The streets leading to the cobblestone road have the foundation laid - they simply need to be paved. In spring and fall the rains make the street virtually impassible and seemingly bottomless.

Connecting roads need to be built between the individual yards and the streets. Sidewalks and fences also need to be built.

Farm Machinery Inventory:

  • 4 threshers
  • 20 mowing machines
  • 12 drillers
  • 35 drill plows
  • 24 iron harrows
  • 60 wagons
  • 25 iron harrows
  • 36 .... harrows [text smudged in original]
  • 50 weed plows

Average daily agricultural production in 200 pound units/hectare:

  < '18 '31 '32 '33 '34 '35 '36 '37 '38 '39 '40 '41
Wheat 9.8 6.7 2.3 12.3 2.4 9 16.5 9 9 14 10 10.5
Barley 8.7 5.5 7.2 9 3.3 5.5 13 9.8 5.2 14.6 14.5 1.8
Oats 7.9 3.3 5 8.9 2.9 5.2 14.7 13 10.1 16.1 14.9 8
Rye 8 6.4 6 7.8 3.5 9.7 9.6 6.4 10.6 9.9 10.7 10.4
Corn 12 8.7 16.5 17.4 7.2 9.3 24.4 10.8 17.1 17 13.6 16.2

Rations and Cash Paid per Workday:

  '31 '32 '33 '34 '35 '36 '37 '38 '39 '40 '41
Grain (kg) 1.7 1.1 8.2 .4 2.4 7.0 2.6 2.5 3.0 1.5 1.5
Potatoes (kg) - - .2 - .4 .3 - - - - .5
Cash: Rubels .50 .63 .42 .51 .53 7.83 1.72 2.02 2.06 2.26 1.93

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:

Starved:

 19211933/34Total
Men4-4
Women---
Youth <18---
Total4-4

Banished and not seen again:

  '29 '30 '31 '32 '33 '34 '35 '36 '37 '38 '39 '40 '41 Total
Men 1 24 1 1 1 - 2 1 13 41 - 4 - 89
Women - 18 2 - - - - - - - - - - 20
Youth (<18) - 11 3 - - - - - - - - - - 14
Total 1 53 6 1 1 - 2 1 13 41 - 4 - 123

Murdered or Abducted:

 MenWomenYouthTotal
Murdered by Machno Army (1918-June 1941) 7 1 3 11
Murdered in World War II - 1 1 2
Abducted since June 1941 22 12 11 45
Abducted and Returned 2 1 3 6

Examples:

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.

See attached Report

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.

Tina Berg

Neuendorf, 15 February 1942.


Notes:
1. These children are included in the current population counts above.

2. In mixed marriages, only the German partner is counted; the children are included above.

3. All persons 18+ are counted among the men and women, even if unmarried.



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.

Report #2: Report of the Principal of the German School of Neuendorf, about the Work of that School

  1. Teaching Staff
    In this school all eight German teachers are working and have taken the necessary pedagogical training. Four of them have worked for 20 years and more and were educated in the time of the Czars. The other four trained in the Soviet schools and have taught for 3-5 years. All the teachers took part in a camp where they were taught how to teach current political thinking to children. It was held in Chortitza from 30 March to 16 April.

    Individual Staff Information

    1. Heinrich Fey. Principal teacher. Home room teacher for the 4th grade and subject teacher for Language and Mathematics. Taught for 24 years, 10 of them in the Soviet schools.
    2. Eugene Blatz. Teacher for 2nd grade. Taught for 25 years, 12 of them in the Soviet School.
    3. Andreas Strohm. Homeroom teacher for 3rd grade and subject teacher for language and mathematics. Taught for 20 years, 10 in the Soviet school.
    4. Helene Strohm. Class teacher for 2nd grade. Taught 20 years, 15 in the Soviet school.
    5. Peter Klassen. Religion and Geography teacher. Taught four years, one in the Soviet school.
    6. Elsa Martens. Subject teacher for Language. Taught two years.
    7. Marie Hildebrandt. Teacher for first grade. Taught two years.
    8. Katharine Katzenstein. Teacher for 4th grade. Taught six years.
    In the above named school, teachers working there for their first year are the following: P.Klassen, A. Strohm, E. Martens, K. Katzenstein. The other four teachers are: H. Fey (11 years), E. Blatz (4 years), M. Hildebrandt (5 years), and H. Strohm (6 years).

  2. Student Statistics

    The school presently has eight classes for grades 1-6, of which grades 2 and 4 have two parallel classrooms. There are a total of 237 students (130 boys and 107 girls). Individual classroom breakdown is as follows:

    Grade/
    Classroom
    Total
    Students
    BoysGirls
    1271413
    2a261313
    2b281810
    3351322
    4a291712
    4b271611
    5442618
    621138
    Total237130107

    The lack of writing materials, books and scribblers (notebooks), etc. makes instruction very difficult and weans the children from homework. With only a few exceptions, the teaching is good; the behaviour of the students during classtime is satisfactory.

  3. Interior of the School

    The individual classrooms are roomy and bright and are completely satisfactory for a genuine school. Floors and windows need to be properly painted. The school furniture is somewhat out of date and not quite suited to the students. The living arrangements for the teachers are very primitive. Most teachers live in one (or at most two) small room that the owner of the house isn't using. In future this needs to be remedied -- there are possibilities.

  4. Of Note in the Soviet School

    The language of instruction was Russian, a language quite foreign to the students; at the same time, the Ukrainian language also needed to be learned, which was held to be the class language. Imagine a child of 9-10 years of age who is supposed to master two completely unknown languages; the student doesn't learn to differentiate the two langauges. He often didn't know at the end of the class whether it had been a Russian or Ukrainian class. For the teachers, as well, it was very difficult to try to successfully teach both languages.

    The mother tongue was tolerated only as a subject and beginning in the fifth grade. The education of teachers in Soviet Institutions was specialized, i.e. they were trained in only one subject. They could not teach another because they hadn't learned it. The knowledge of students was of geat variety, but nothing was systematic. The student learned many things, that no matter what vocation he chose he wouldn't have opportunity to use his education, and what he really needed he hadn't received during his school time. He had to acquire that on his own, often with much effort.

    Discipline in the school was under criticism, for every means to educate and nurture the children to become real human beings was strictly forbidden.

15 May 1942
s/ A.R. Thiessen, Neuendorf
Schroeder, Mayor

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Translation by Anna G. Rempel, Dora Epp, Helen Friesen, & Erna Goerzen
Transcription, editing and html by Judith Rempel, JR Solutions
21 November 1999