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Galuna MALINOVA

The Case of the German Teachers' Anti-Soviet Organization within the Odessa Pedagogical Institute

(Year 1934)

 
In the 1930s one of the main charges was collaboration within the underground national anti-Soviet organizations. In the history of Odessa and our whole region the German Colonists played a large role and many villages carry German names. The Chekists 1 did not spare their power, one German case after another arose, many confessed and received their "terms" (at first a 10-year term) or a bullet (to his death). The authorities did not leave anyone out: uneducated collective farmers, teachers, clergymen, students, teaching staff at higher educational institutions and factory workers all became German spies and terrorists.
 
In one of these cases (NR 15879-P) after having seized a group of defendants, a trial occurred in 1934. The main charge was directed against instructors of the German Department of the Odessa Pedagogical Institute. Prominent scholars, right up to the internationally known Leningrad academician, V. M. Zhirmunskiy, were involved.
 
At the beginning of 1934 the Odessa District office of the GPU 2 declared that "the German-Fascist counterrevolutionary organization, having the goals of propagating insurgent cells, isolating the German population from sovietization, carrying out sabotage activities, and preparing for armed revolt against the Soviet Government" had been eliminated.
 
The leaders of the organization were professors of the teachers college Robert Karlovich Mikvits, Alfred Nikolaevich Schtrem, director of a department of the Central Scientific Library and employee of the archeology museum Herbert Danilovich Schteinvandt. Also prosecuted in this case were scientist and son-in-law of the well-known Odessa professor and inventor I. Yu. Timchenko, Frants Frantsevich Mazur-Mazov, teachers of Odessa universities and schools Frants Petrovich Adler, Wilhelm Mikhajlovich Fritz, Albert Ivanovich Raikh, Eduard Gotlibovich Beitelspacher, Sebastian Iosifovich Ungemach, Otto Yakovlevich Tsvikker, Herman Ivanovich Bachman, Edgar Ludvigovich Trompeter, and cost-clerk of the factory, "Red Signal" Albert Emmanuelovich Fichtner. The case was lead by investigators Brinner, Nilov, Schperling, Schaev, Markevich and others. The sentence, passed on 26 February 1934 by a three-judge panel of the OGPU, was relatively light, 3-5 years in forced labor camps.
 
However, the story does not end here. Many of those convicted were given additional terms and died while in internal exile. This tangle unwound further. and further as arrests were revived in 1937-1938, the overall number of persons involved in this case reached 100, and 19 of those were executed. Among the latter was a 24-year old teacher Edith Edmundovna Folmer-Konel'. The overwhelming number of those charged were Germans, however Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Ryabinin-Sklyarevskiy a scientific employee in the regional archive, having worked there from the time it was founded, was caught up in their group. A former officer, he received 10 years in a forced labor camp, from which he did not return.
 
In 1941 in Leningrad Viktor Maksimovich Zhirmunskiy was arrested a second time for involvement in this case. The first time the Leningrad District OGPU arrested him on 25 February 1933 as a participant and leader of a counterrevolutionary fascist organization that supposedly existed among the students and creative workers of Leningrad. Zhirmunskiy was under arrest until 22 March 1933, then was freed, but had to sign a statement that he would not leave (the city). On 20 April 1933 they closed the case against him because they could not ascertain guilt. Essentially they did not interrogate Zhirmunskiy and did not charge him with anything. This story was repeated in 1941. Very likely, the absurdity of the charges was too obvious, and the fame of the scientist was too great. By the end of his life Academician Zhirmunskiy was an honorary doctor of four universities, including Oxford, and a member-correspondent of four academies of science.
 
Almost all of these people are rehabilitated, but several of the interrogators have been convicted. On 25 December 1968 the Odessa District Court acknowledged that all participants in the German case were repressed groundlessly and repealed the decision of the three-judge panel "for failure to prove the charges."
 
But let's take a look at the faces of the "extras" and acquaint ourselves with the arguments of the investigation.
 
The investigation attributed the initiative for formation of the organization to the German citizen George Leibrandt, a native of the village of Torosovo in the Tsebrikovo area of the Odessa District, who went to Germany in 1918. There he finished theological studies, while at the same time he studied philology and history. Leibrandt made trips to the USSR in 1926, 1928, and 1929. While on these trips he was mentioned as a doctor of philosophy, a post-graduate student and professor of history for Leipzig University, an employee of the Institute for the Study of Foreign Germans (Deutsche Ausland Institute) in Stuttgart.
 
We note that G. Leibrandt remains a personality that has not been figured out to the very end. As fate would have it he was the first foreign researcher in the Odessa District Archive and, most likely, was one of the reasons for the tragic participation of A. A. Ryabinin-Sklyarevskiy.
 
The official purpose for Leibrandt's trips was to study the history of the development of the German colonies of the Black Sea coastal region and to gather historical information about them. In 1928 he traveled over the German colonies of Odessa, the Crimea, and Caucasus. He spent some time in Rostov on the Don, in German colonies of the Donetsk District, in the Republic of the Volga Germans and in the German colonies of Azerbaijan. He expressed the opinion that the inhabitants of these colonies appeared to be prosperous, and at times even rich people, but they were dissatisfied with the Soviet government and considered that the policies followed by it were illegal. Leibrandt called these claims groundless and declared once that the German colonists here live much better than the peasants of Germany. He did not permit himself any anti-Soviet statements while he was on these trips.
 
As a result of Leibrandt's work, a book has been published in Germany about the German emigrant movement.
 
In 1929 Leibrandt arrived in the Soviet Union already not as a representative of the "Deutsche Ausland Institute" but as a member of the committee which was engaged in the publication of an encyclopedia about Germans living outside of Germany. According to those arrested, those drawn into this case, he offered to cooperate in this publication with several Odessa scholars, including Schtrem, Mikvits, Schteinvandt, and Tauberger. Schtrem promised Leibrandt an article about the dialects of the German colonies. Schteinwandt was to have readied a bibliography of works about Russian Germans. Mikvits declined to have any part in the encyclopedia thinking that in Germany one would not find support for scholarly collaboration from the USSR. It is interesting to note that up to the time of his arrest Mikvits had noted the "Soviet sympathies" of Leibrandt, who from his side echoed about Mikvits, not completely approvingly, saying that one works "according to Marxist methods".
 
Before his departure back to Germany Leibrandt displayed nervousness, suspecting he was being shadowed by the OGPU. At the same time he said he had received a good position in the Berlin Archive, and he boasted that he had taken out of Odessa such archives and bibliographic publications about the German colonists, that would never be here any more. Specific archive materials Leibrandt named included manuscripts about the savings-bank business in the German colonies, writings of Prokhanov about the Bessarabian colonies, three church chronicles beginning from 1825, a history of the Melitopol' German colonies for a period of 100 years, an arhive of the newspaper "Odesser Zaytung" for the years 1859-1914 and others.
 
In 1928-1929 Leibrandt visited the regional archive where Ryabinin-Sklyarevskiy was officially introduced to him and where Ryabinin-Sklyarevskiy acquainted him with archival documents. On that visit Leibrandt had official permission from the Central Archive Directorate in Moscow and was accompanied by representatives of the District Executive Committee and a diplomatic agency. But it was this very meeting with Leibrandt that was one of the points of the incriminating charges against Ryabinin-Sklyarevskiy when he was arrested in 1937. The investigation maintained that he was recruited by Leibrandt to be an employee of the "Deutsche Ausland Institute". Even though Ryabinin-Sklyarevskiy did not agree to the charge, he received his ten years.
 
During the rehabilitation of those charged in the German case the personality of George Leibrandt was studied very scrupulously: Many archives in Moscow and the Ukraine were questioned. The super-secret "Special Archive", where materials captured in war are stored was interrogated by investigators. It was established that according to documents of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NSDAP 3 and the Ministry of Eastern Occupied Territories 4 a certain George Leibrandt, Doctor of Philosophy, passed through as a reviewer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1931, as a chief of a department of NSDAP in 1934-1935, as chief of the Eastern Department of NSDAP in 1940-1941, as chief of the First Main Department of the Ministry of Eastern Occupied Territories in 1941-1943, and as the author of anti-Soviet articles.
 
However, all the secret records underscored that they were not able to identify one mention as a nazi official with our "extra". Actually, there is a great similarity though in one of the French counterintelligence documents as it indicated that Leibrandt received his title of official in America (this is a small, but material difference!).
 
On the other hand the investigation was able to ascertain that "our" Leibrandt removed archives from the USSR by completely lawful means, having permission from the Special Commission. Of course, he displayed enterprise, but that was a period when the Soviet government sold off not only the archive documents, but even the valuables of the Hermitage.
 
Information about criminal activity in archives within the USSR by the "Deutsche Ausland Institute" was not discovered.
 
I assume that Leibrandt the historian and Leibrandt the Nazi are one and the same person (one of the witnesses, true quoting someone else, maintained that during the war Leibrandt visited his home village in the uniform of an SS officer). None the less it is evident that he joined the Nazi Party a long time after his last trip to Odessa. How handy would it be for him to use linguistic methods to prepare sabotage and armed detachments? However, they even accused them of this.
 
It is hard to judge people that have spent time in the torture chambers of the OGPU, but facts are facts: the first to talk &endash; and very soon &endash; was Mikvits. He slandered himself and many others, including Zhirmunskiy, Schtrem and Ryabinin-Sklyarevskiy (many witnesses maintained that relations between him and Schtrem were unfriendly, something like a scientific rivalry). Schteinvandt, Bachman, Frits and others amplified on what he had said. Mikvits testified that in 1929 he belonged to a counterrevolutionary organization of a pan-German orientation. Leibrandt was involved in it and about 20 people were drawn into it. In the words of Mikvits the immediate objective of the organization was recruitment of people with anti-Soviet feelings within the local working intelligentsia, who would then spread nationalistic propaganda among the Germans in the USSR while simultaneously carrying out intelligence activities in the political-economic and military areas. In the rough notes of the investigator, "He (Leibrandt) gathered information about the condition of the German villages and drew out information, inimical in its content." It is not known how or why Mikvits came up with the name of the academician Zhirmunskiy (it is possible he was prompted by the investigator), none the less he declared that Zhirmunskiy promised to work for Leibrandt and he learned about this first-hand from Leibrandt. The facts are that in 1926 in the structure of the Odessa Commission for the Study of Local Lore there was organized a German Section, which had been drawn in to the collaboration of the founder of Soviet Germanic philology, V. M. Zhirmunskiy &endash; then professor of Germanic philology at Leningrad University. Zhirmunskiy took an active part in the work of the section, visited in Odessa together with his assistant Schtrem, made an extensive scholarly expedition among the German colonies of the Ukraine trying to enlist the local intelligentsia, particularly the teachers, into the work of studying the local lore.
 
In "The Herald of the Odessa Commission for the Study of Local Lore for the Ukrainian Academy of Science" for 1929 there was published a report by V. M. Zhirmunskiy with an account of tasks and methods of studying local lore that included the following points: history of the colony, a new country, dialects, folk songs and folk art. Published in the same edition were works of R. K. Mikvits, one time chairman of the German Section, about the compiling of a map of the German settlements in the Ukraine; H. D. Schteinvandt about the Russian and Ukrainian influences on the songs of the German colonists; and A. N. Schtrem about the development of German folk songs in the Ukraine. This map often will be mentioned by investigators as proof of spy activities by Mikvits, but many years later Zhirmunskiy in the process of rehabilitation would give a positive view of Mikvits' character.
 
Mikvits needed Ryabinin-Sklyarevskiy in order to carry out Leibrandt's task to gain admittance to the informational fund of the German occupational troops which was located in the regional archive, however he was not able to do this.
 
Besides the collection of information Mikvits was entrusted with a peculiar task for a scholar: damaging agriculture by means of acts of sabotage.
 
But the most important specific task was the sabotage of the teaching process. It was to be carried out, according to the wording of the investigation, in the following manner: 1) in the selection of nonconforming material (anti-revolutionary aims in which the revolutionary character as such was negative); 2) in the excessive over-emphasis of German literature; 3) in the presentation of Ukrainian or Russian works and their critique only in the German translation &endash; it was their aim to hinder the German children from becoming familiar with the building socialistic culture of brotherly peoples (by ignorance of the language); 4) in the exaggeration of attention to German bourgeois literature and ideologies.
 
"I insisted on conducting special courses in German history in German schools with the aim of separating the youth from the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and drawing them closer to Germany…" confessed Mikvits. "I also carried out sabotage activities while compiling literature textbooks instruction in the fifth, sixth and seventh grades in German schools. During selection of works depicting the present-day Soviet system I chose material that largely ignored of the role of the Communist Party."
 
Here is how Mikvits characterizes the scientific-sabotage activity of Schtrem: "As a specialist in the German language he carried out a line of purism in German which was expressed for the most part in the proscription of widely used sovietisms and in striving to replace them with new translated terms. This work had the aim of separating the development of the German language (as used by the Germans living in the USSR) from the development of the languages of other brotherly peoples living there and in that way hamper interaction. Schtrem was the author of textbooks and curriculums on language for the German schools. Here he carried out the following sabotage work. In old textbooks (before 1932) teaching was conducted strictly by the inductive method. He continued this line several years although he knew that the teachers using this method could not teach, and he in general did not give them the possibility of mastering the language. From this there resulted a twofold sabotage result: first it delayed the children from mastering the language and lowered the literacy, and second the government [was drawn] into unproductive expenditures in as much as the teachers, as a rule, did not use these books. In examples within the last edition of the books he tried to force through politically incorrect settings (for example, the selection of quotations from Lenin and presentation of them in such a way that the actual idea was completely distorted). Schtrem completely spoiled joint work with the German Republic so that in 1933 separate language textbooks were published for the two republics… Through students he had recruited he ingeniously gathered intelligence on questions of political and economical nature, which he would then pass along to the consulate. Carrying out directives of the nationalistic organization to hamper the education of young Soviet scientific personnel Schtrem frustrated the advancement of assistants at the faculty he managed. This achieved two objectives: first, the members of the organization working in his faculty were the only scholars under the previous regime in the Ukraine and for that reason were irreplaceable, and second, the advancement of new young, Soviet-minded scholars was held back. Schtrem, against the opinion of the social organizations of the institute, put forward nominations which did not measure up either by their social origin or by their personal character."
 
Herbert Schteinvandt gave the investigation "valuable" testimony. The fact is he was a secret employee of the OGPU and committed his so-called malfeasance, that is, not having informed the Chekists about the presence of a counterrevolutionary organization. In the bill of indictment the investigator demanded his execution, but Schteinvandt received five years in a forced labor camp. But he was then arrested a second time in the Ukhto-Izhemsk camp (1938) in connection with "in the process of the first case's investigation he did not relate all the crimes committed and concealed his accomplices."
 
Again Schteinvandt confesses, "One of my tasks was to report to OGPU about political attitudes within the German intelligentsia in Odessa… However, having given my permission to be a secret employee of the OGPU, I decided to not report anything that would compromise those people who were close to me, for I stood on my nationalistic positions. I made a signed statement about collaboration only to escape the repression." Later he recounted his rerecruitment, "My spy work was directed towards conducting nationalistic propaganda amongst the German colonists, toward the creation out of their ranks people able to carry out subversive work like destroying cattle, damaging agricultural implements, and actively battling against collectivization.
 
In the beginning of 1939 Schteinvandt was brought back to Odessa to continue the investigation there. And while there he made a unexpected turn &endash; he repudiated all previously given statements: "The statement I gave in the interrogation on 15 October 1938 and my personally written statements that were included in this case I categorically disclaim. I gave these statements because of the fact that unlawful methods were used against me during conduct of the investigation. While working as a secret employee of the OGPU I gave exact and truthful information about the actions of all persons known to me, principally about the Germans. I was never engaged in counterrevolutionary work or espionage. I was told that if I did not confess completely I would be executed, and my family would be brought under repression."
 
Later the unexpected occurred: by a decree of the UNKVD for the Odessa District H. Schteinvandt was freed from custody on 31 October 1939. We remind you that at the end of the 1930s there was massive repression being committed &endash; and suddenly this fortunate outcome! It is thought that his collaboration with the OGPU played a role.
 
In his memoirs published in 1993 Odessa professor S. Borovoy speaks very respectfully about Schteinvandt, in his opinion a distinguished author of a bibliographic account of Odessa periodical publications during the revolutionary period. In the words of Borovoy, not long before the war Schteinvandt was enlisted as a scientific worker in the Archeology Museum, continued to work there during the years of the occupation, and he did much to prevent the removal of the Odessa museum's valuables to Romania. Not long before Odessa was liberated Schteinvandt, along with his family as "volksdeutsche" or ethnic Germans left for Germany.
 
Herman Ivanovich Bachman teacher at the Tsebrikovo German School also gave detailed evidence in relation to the ideological offenses of Zhirmunskiy and Schtrem. In his words, in his 'supposedly scientific travels' Zhirmunskiy associated with kulaks 5, preachers, and individual teachers, who assembled the youth and organized singing of nationalistic and religious songs. Bachman personally took pictures of the old homes in the colonies and mud-huts of the poor peasants and sent them back to Leningrad.
 
Under the guise of scientific work Professor Zhirmunskiy carried out nationalistic agitation. Addressing the youth, who were assembled for singing songs, he would emphasize the value of the old German songs which reflect the genuine German spirit. He pointed out the connection between the German colonists and the German people in Germany as being one family. Several teachers, including Bachman, spread these ideas through the students and peasants, kindling nationalistic sentiments.
 
In order to depict Bachman's self-exposure it is advisable to avail ourselves of the language in the record of proceedings.
 
"As a result of my influence Freze organized a Local Lore Cabinet which had an anti-Soviet nationalistic orientation and later it was shut down as being ideologically harmful. In this cabinet were hung portraits of old religious kulak activists and Mennonites…
 
As author of textbooks, reviews and literature on the cultural area I engaged in sabotage again. The facts are these:
  1. In language textbooks for 1932 I used a selection of apolitical examples for illustration of grammatical materials and exercises that distracted the students away from class-consciousness.
  2. I reviewed textbooks of Mikvits and Schtrem, in accordance with previously agreed upon coordination, superficially and did not give them a proper grade, which resulted in these textbooks being published not ideologically uniform.
  3. In theoretical literature work in the magazine "Schturmshrit" I built formalism, that is, I over-emphasized form in the breakup of form and content. I wrote stories and in them left out class struggle."
Calling the famine of 1933 an "aggravation in nourishment" the cautious Bachman characterized his sentiments in the instruction guide thusly, "Although in Nikolai-pole 6 and in all the neighboring German villages no one died from starvation, and I do not even know that any Mennonite Germans swelled up from hunger, there were only isolated incidents of severe shortages with a few slackers. But constant conversations arose and were supported about the general famine of the population."
 
It was in this same spirit that other confession statements were given. Mathematics teacher assistant professor Raikh: "In accordance with Mikvits's instructions while lecturing on mathematics I promoted among the Ukrainian students German nationalistic ideas. I would make an exaggeration relative to recommendations of German literature, propagandizing that this or any mathematics problem can best be solved in German literature. I also strongly persuaded the students to study the German language."
 
Schtrem stood the firmest of anyone, although even he confessed: I recruited, and engaged in sabotage and spy activities. But Schtrem's confession did not entail any new deaths.
 
In his works he "forced through nationalistic and anti-Soviet propaganda." Schtrem attributed systematic writing to a number of such works "Teaching of the German Language in the First and Second Concentrations" and "A Program of German Language and Literature for the First and Second Concentrations", which were published in 1931-1932 and were intended for teachers. "What was criminal" was the fact that in them the necessity for purity of the German language and literature as a means of unification of people of German nationality was accentuated, that they talked about the struggle with the influence of the Russian language, "confusing individual elements of the German vocabulary", that it pointed to "a necessity for vigilant protection of the German language as a instrument in national defense." Schtrem confessed that he "sprinkled into the textbooks extracts from printed works, which from external appearances would not be considered anti-Soviet, however their deeper ideas and concrete conditions might be interpreted in an anti-Soviet manner." Besides, according to the words of Schtrem, he was an initiator of orthographic reforms, "the substance of which was directed at a separation in the development of the German language in the USSR from the language of the proletarian masses in Germany and at complicating its use by publications in Germany and vice versa."
 
The only one that did not confess his guilt was O. Ya. Tsvikker, a teacher at an agricultural mechanization technical school. For this in the bill of indictment his social danger was emphasized and suggested a sentence of up to ten years in a forced labor camp. He was given three years.
 
"The leaders of the organization", Mikvits and Schtrem, received five years each. They did not return to Odessa. Mikvits died while in internal exile before the war, and Schtrem in the fall of 1944 in the village of Mordino, in Komi ASSR, where his wife Alma Yakovlevna Schtrem went to be with him.
 
In 1968 she handed in a statement concerning the rehabilitation of her husband. During the interrogation, A. Ya. Schtrem swore that all scientific work that she and her husband did was done jointly and no anti-Soviet ideas were pursued. And what is more they were criticized severely in the foreign press where they did not term Schtrem a German, but a Jew.
 
It is necessary to say that up to this time the textbooks that Schtrem and Mikvits were editing were undergoing a literary and political examination, and the teachers of the Odessa Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages L. A. Sushko and L. I. Sukhovetskaya came to the following conclusions:
  1. Textbooks did not contain elements of nationalism, praising of fascism, or belittling of the role of the Communist Party.
  2. There were no situations in the textbooks, which could be used in an anti-Soviet spirit.
  3. In Mikvits' textbook one encounters the borrowing of words from the Russian language, and for that reason one cannot come to the conclusion that the author of the textbook avoided the effect Soviet terms in Russian had on the German language.
 
Very favorable testimony was given about Schtrem by his disciple, Ya. Ya.
Neydorf, who in 1968 was the manager of the foreign language chair of the OGU 7. He confirmed that Schtrem made use of phrases that were popular among the student population: "We loved his lectures, usually saturated with a large number of interesting examples. Schtrem was an active worker of Soviet science, he published a line of books and systematic teaching handbooks, mainly on questions of teaching German grammar, in the years he served he was considered a prominent specialist in this area." Neydorf was acquainted with Schtrem's confessions, in which Schtrem termed his works acts of sabotage, and here is Neydorf's reaction: "I cannot confirm that these words are actually Schtrem's words in as much as they do not correspond to the facts". "I never heard that Schtrem in his lectures or in intercourse with students 'forced through nationalistic views,' that he praised German Fascism, or expressed sympathy with it. On the contrary, Schtrem always condemned fascism. I remember Schtrem very well and how he was an active participant in the public life of the institute… His judgement always was sound and politically consistent. Schtrem's arrest in 1933 was for us, his students, an inexplicable surprise".
 
Neydorf also gave this objective testimonial about Mikvits: "In contrast to Schtrem, lovingly associating with the youth, Professor Mikvits conducted himself in a reserved manner and separate from the students. He avoided the students and did not take part in any of the public life. Mikvits's lectures on the history of German literature were full of substance, clear in purpose, with references to the opinions of Marx and Engels about this or that German writer.
 
I never heard that Mikvits in his lectures or published works forced through anti-Soviet feelings and elements of nazism.
 
Mikvits's "declaration" was recently made known to me… In my opinion, just like Schtrem's confession is forced.
 
Neydorf also had similar kind words for the other participants in the German case.
 
Finally, we cannot pass over in silence Academician V. M. Zhirmunskiy's letter to the Odessa District Procurator. Having lived through two arrests because of absurd charges Zhirmunskiy demonstrated in it high-principled human qualities (do not forget &endash; this case is occurring in 1968, with the thaw finished, the notable philologist Yu. G. Oksman expelled from the Writers Union, is being subjected to interrogations and searches. Zhirmunskiy writes, "Already while he was a university student Schtrem displayed notable scientific abilities in the area of linguistics and was retained in my department as a post-graduate researcher. At that time I had undertaken work on the study of the dialects of the German settlers in the Soviet Union… This question, which was producing much scientific interest because up to that time these dialects had never been studied. …I organized yearly summer expeditions in which I was accompanied by my pupils, the foremost of whom was Schtrem, who in this work displayed great scientific abilities and untiring energy. The reports produced in the Scientific Research Institute after these expeditions received high grades from specialists (Academicians L. V. Shcherby and V. F. Shishmareva) and opened up for him opportunities for independent scientific work.
 
"In 1927 A. Schtrem moved to the Ukraine as a teacher in the Pedagogical Technical School in Khortitsa in order to have the opportunity to study the German people's dialects in continuous interaction with the local population. His pedagogical work in Khortitsa was conducted at a highly systematic scientific level. He published a book on the German language in Kharkov, "Teaching the German Language in a Dialectal Environment" (1929), in which he first stated and worked out the question about methods of teaching orthography, pronunciation, and grammar of the literary language of the students in their native language, which is the local dialect… I saw in Schtrem a young scholar-linguist, highly qualified, an enthusiast of his work, having the promise to become a major researcher and having already largely realized those hopes which were entrusted to him by his teacher.
 
"In expeditions I often discussed with him the most varied and general questions and always considered that he was a man with Soviet views, an active participant in the building of a new Soviet culture. By birth he was a Leningrad German from a family that is strongly Russianized, without any signs of specifically German national chauvinism… His pedagogical and scientific work among the Germans of the USSR he considered a part of overall Soviet cultural works. I was very astonished when I found out about his arrest and would hope that a new investigation of the circumstances of his case would bring about his political rehabilitation."
 
But the extraordinarily capable young linguist was not able to realize all the hopes of the noted academicians as he was sent to the forests of Komi ASSR. It is doubtful that his abilities would be very useful there. He died prematurely. And if his wife would not have devoted herself to his memory it is possible that he would still be waiting in line for rehabilitation.
 
So the Odessa OGPU completed a crushing defeat of the German scientific study of local lore in the Ukraine. However, this same fate befell the study of local lore in general.
 

Notes

1. Chekist is the popular term for a special police agent from the NKVD or KGB. The term comes from the initials of an early name for the organization, called the Special Commission, or Ch. K.

2. In 1934 the predecessor organization to the NKVD, later the KGB, was the GPU (State Political Directorate). The OGPU was the GPU at the republic level, in this case the Ukraine. UNKVD was the Ukrainian NKVD.

3. Expansion for NSDAP is unknown to the translator, but possibly relates to the National Socialist (political) Party.

4. Literal translation of the Russian would be the Ministry of Affairs for the Eastern Territories.

5. The Soviets defined a kulak as a rich farmer that exploited other people's labor.

6. There are several villages this could fit spelled variously as Nikolaipol, Nikolaipolskoye or Nikolajpolje, several of which were Mennonite, and at least one Evangelical.

7. OGU most probably expands to the Odessa State University.