Emigration to South America: January 1909

coblenzAs I continue to research and compile passenger lists, I was alerted to a list documenting Josefstal residents leaving Bremen, Germany in January of 1909 and arriving in Rio de Janerio on February 13, 1909 aboard the SS Coblenz.  The lists do not list the place or origin, other than Russia.  But the names are obviously Volga German..and as I check various  records for Josefstal, we can reasonably be sure these folks are from Josefstal.

Most of these people will go on and settle in Argentina.

The details of those names are:

SCHMIDT, Johannes (38), Anna (36), Marie (12), Peter (10), Katharina (7 ¾), Johannes (5), Elenora (2 ½), Jakob 1 ½ )

WEICHEL, Georg (30), Magdalena (25), Katarina (6), Juliana (5) Gottfried (19)

UHRICH, Peter (32), Elisabeth (24), Peter (10), Katharina (8), Alexander (6), Anna (9 months)

STREMEL, Johannes (36), Anna (30), Adam (7 ½ ), Michael (5), Anna (3 ½), Margareta (6 mo.)

BREIT, Josef (30), Margareta (34), Elisabeth (8), Josef (6), Philipe (4), Pauline (8 mo), Magdalena (50)

GERK, Peter (38), Katharina (24), Magdalena (2 ½), Georg (4 mo)

WEICHEL, Jakob (42), Julia (28), Margarita (2 ½ ), Susanna (7 mo)

KERN, Johannes (22)


As I come across more information I will post and update the complete Josefstal passenger list.

Registros de imigrantes 1900 (janeiro)- 1909 (fevereiro) Family History Library International Film 1285697
Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro). Hospedaria de Imigrantes

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Josefstal Church Choir 1928

Josefstal choirJosefstalchoir 001This is a photograph that was given to me by Barbara Schaab.  It is a photo of the Church choir in Josefstal in 1928.

The photo was taken at the side door of the Catholic church in Josefstal.

My cousin, Alex Dreser, did up a helpful map of who is in the photo.

Located front and center is Father Johannes Falkenstein. A bio on him is available here.

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The White-Red Train: Experiences of a German-Russian Farmer in 1918

GRHS 001Note: The following article is a translation of an article that appeared in St. Peter’s Bote. The exact citation is unknown, but we are trying to track it down and will post that information here.  In the meantime, it mentions Josefstal and the villages around it. It is also available as a pdf here.

The White-Red Train
Experiences of a German-Russian Farmer in 1918
Translated by Michael Rempfer
Edited by Dr. Eric J. Schmaltz

Translator’s and Editor’s Note: This German-Russian farmer managed to leave the Volga Region for Germany in 1925, and from there to Canada with the help of the Volksverein [National Association]. This piece appeared in the German Catholic publication St. Peter’s Bote [St. Peter’s Messenger], established in February 1904 in Rosthern, then moved shortly thereafter to Winnipeg, and in September 1905 ending up in Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada.

In the summer of 1918 the Russian revolution was in high gear. We were living at Marienfeld near Saratov in the Volga region. The front wasn’t very far from us. One day there was a call for the farmers of the German villages to join together and march against the Reds.

That suited us just fine, and the teacher who was also village clerk took the matter in hand. Everyone was drummed up. Old and young they came, whoever was capable of holding a weapon was mobilized.

It was all bitterly earnest. Day and night the community leaders sat together and deliberated how best to come to grips with the campaign against the Bolsheviks. According to reports there was no longer any military in the city of Kamyshin on the Volga as the troops had gone to the west or south fronts. However, guns and ammunition had to be procured in order to be able to risk an offensive there. There were, of course, a few rifles in the village. We even had some ammunition, but neither would go very far to be able to equip our people, even in part.

Then a plan surfaced to obtain weapons and ammunition in the nearby Cossack village of Lebyasha, some seven versts [1 verst = 1.0668 km or 0.6629 mi.] east of Marienfeld, especially since the Cossacks were said to have joined the movement. The villages of Marienfeld, Avilovo, Erleibach and Josephtal with yet a few smaller settlements collectively took up this plan in order to attempt an assault on Kamyshin. Then the farmers hoped to find enough weaponry and munitions in Kamyshin to be able to mount a wider campaign against the Bolsheviks, for which they counted on the aid of Denikin’s White Army.

The proposition began in all seriousness. A kind of martial law was put into force; everyone was compelled to take part under threat of being shot to death. Many faces appeared very troubled and many, who had up to now been committed mostly to the sport of the matter, felt considerable disenchantment.

A delegation of the farmers was dispatched to the Cossacks at the village of Lebjascha to get arms and ammunition. They got there late at night. The village was quiet, as if abandoned, and there were no lights burning in the cottages. Finally, the farmers found an old Cossack sitting on a bench who was obviously waiting for them and knew why they had come.

The old man’s response was very depressing to us. He told us that the Cossacks had left because they foresaw a greater disaster to come. They didn’t want to go with us because they considered the cause to be lost. The old man advised us to go home in all haste and to give up the plan.

The delegation of farmers was seized with alarm then. They not only had fear of the Bolsheviks now, but also of the Cossacks, and they fled in the direction of their own villages. In the dark of night they raced across the fields seeing a Bolshevik in every rider and man afoot, and in their terror distinguished neither friend nor foe.

When the envoys were finally home and had informed the community leadership of the failure of their mission, the community of Marienfeld nonetheless enthusiastically resolved to risk the expedition and to be content with the ammunition and firearms at hand.

The next morning dawned and found all the members of the community gathered. Their deliberations were interrupted by the arrival of a freight train from the west which was completely filled with farmers. Loud shouts of hurrah resounded, and out of the confusing disorder of cheering it was learned that the occupants of this train had succeeded in capturing it and now would use it to carry out the planned campaign.

White flags on the individual cars proclaimed the political view of the happy masters of the train. These fluttering pennants and flags had been made from the white kerchiefs of the women, from bed sheets and pillowcases, and served the purpose very well. The residents of Marienfeld became curious about the cars, and they walked around the train. When some of the more audacious ones also wanted to look at the engine, the engineer begged to differ. But it came off badly for him when our farmers rebuffed him: “What? You would stop us from inspecting the train that we captured? Shut up and listen!” The engineer acquiesced and did exactly that.

Then all the able-bodied men of the village got on the train. It wasn’t possible to sneak away as there were lookouts all around the train. Anyone without a gun was told to arm himself with a pitchfork, scythe or threshing flail. Thus equipped, the gallant warriors were finally ready to depart. The curious engineer wanted to know where to go. The worthy farmers answered in miserable Russian that he should continue to advance to Kamyshin, which must be captured. His response of “Ne ponimanyu” (I don’t understand) finally produced a man who could speak Russian who made the instructions understood. Then things began!

Avilova, the next station lying three versts to the east, was reached quickly. The farmers stormed off the train and notified the station master that they had taken over the train and were now taking possession of the station. “Tolko na pari minuti” (Yes, but only for a few minutes), the railroad man said with a smirk.

In the end, he was only too right.

The farmers had barely stepped off the train when another train approached from the vicinity of Kamyshin. The Bolsheviks! The company began moving uneasily, commands rang out which resulted in the farmers lying down flat on the railway embankment. One lay behind the other, it occurring to no one to angle a guard at the ends of the line. It was a surrealistic sight. Only a few had firearms. Most bore scythes, threshing flails and pitchforks. Orders were issued that everyone should grab the weapon of anyone killed nearby.

Then their destiny approached.

Gunfire commenced, sounding all across the battlefield, and then was suddenly overwhelmed by a great boom. The Bolsheviks had fired a cannon across the Lavla at the farmers. The train overpowered by the farmers decamped with empty cars, and behind it raced the terrified farmers, who had lost all composure with the sight of the enemy and the thunder of the cannon. It was a disorderly flight. Meanwhile the Bolshevik artillery continued to fire into the fleeing mob of farmers.

Our narrator chose a path through fields and straw stacks to his home village, ran through it to the other side where he found an empty, oar-less boat in the Algofka River. With it and great effort, he saved himself across the river into the adjoining forest.

What happened then was immensely tragic. Those fleeing struggled to get back home to their villages, wives and children, took bedding and a sack of food and sought safety in the woods. As everything was then lost, everyone who was able to escape raced haphazardly in frantic fear across the fields. Soon forest and field were swarming with refugees.

Meanwhile, the ominous train of the Bolsheviks came closer and closer to the village of Marienfeld and finally came to a stop at the station. The Reds got off the train and began to loot and burn the deserted village wantonly. What there was to take was taken. All the grain was collected and loaded onto the train, crates of the community’s trade goods were pillaged and robbed of their contents.

The few farmers who had hidden themselves in the village were whipped as quickly as they were discovered and ultimately sent out to bring in those who had fled. The message these beaten emissaries had to deliver was short and to the point:

“Everyone must return home at once. Whoever is found still in the woods after one hour will be shot immediately.”

The poor farmers then poured back to the village in bunches. However, the homecoming was wretched. Marienfeld was put to the torch on three sides and in the middle. The flames blazed furiously and consumed everything within reach. Even the church collapsed in ashes. A terrible night followed during which the people had to battle frenziedly for their homes which the raging fires threatened to consume. The wailing of people, the bellowing of cattle and the groaning of the injured resounded horrendously throughout the stricken village.

When the other villages saw the smoke rising over Marienfeld and perceived the sinister glow of the flames in the night, they approached the Bolshevik train with white flags and begged for mercy. So the other collaborators were spared Marienfeld’s fate. Their villages weren’t burned, but they were plundered all the same.

This article appeared in GRHS (Germans from Russia Heritage Society) News Volume 2014, Issue 1 Summer 2014 Used with permission.

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Statistical Information on Saratov Province: Volume 11, Kamyshin Area, 1891: Ilavlin Volost

Sbornik1891 001

Сборникъ статистическихъ свљдљнiй по Саратовской губернiи.
Т. 11 : Камышинский уезд. – Саратов : Тип. Губерн. Земства, 1891. – 504 с. : портр. -

Statistical Information on Saratov Province: Volume 11, Kamyshin Area, 1891 Saratov Provincial Zemstva – 504 pages.

A series of books that came out in the 1880′s and 1890′s, providing statistical information and background of Saratov Province.  Volume 11, published in 1891, details the Kamyshin area and most of the Volga-German villages in that area. You can click on the link to the book on the photo or here.

Researchers might notice some similarities with the A. N. Minkh encyclopedia.

I have separated the pages dealing with Ilavlin Volost, covering the villages of Rosenberg, Unterdorf, Marienfeld, Josefstal, Erlenbach, Oberdorf, Neu Norka and Alexandertal.  A pdf of those can be found here.

An English translation can be found here


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Josefstal Fond at GAVO

001-217x300What is GAVO and what is the Josefstal Fond? GAVO is the Russian acronym for the Volgograd State Archive in Russia. A Fond is a Russian word for a File series.

In this case, Fond 270 is the Josefstal Fond. Originally part of the archives in Engels, the Josefstal Fond was moved to the State archives in Volgograd, probably in the 1960′s.

It is a Fond I have been privileged to consult extensively. I am putting the Russian version up here for those who might be interested.

And here is the English translation. Enjoy!

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Destruction of the Josefstal Church

Josefstal-Church-1937-001With most of their priests shot by 1937, and all of their Churches forbidden to operate, all that was left for the socialists in the USSR was to tear down the churches.

Soviet officials must have asked for permission to tear down the Church in Josefstal, by the content of this document. That it was deplorable condition may or may not be correct….after all…you could be shot if you have any public inklings toward religion and even it’s temples.

But no matter. Soviet officials documented the final days of the Catholic Church in Josefstal. Originally built in 1904 with the help of parish priest Alois Oks (Shot in Novosibirsk also in 1937), the Church was torn down as was requested.

Here is the translation of the document from the Josefstal “Secret” archives. (GAVO Fond 2659) (Thanks to Hugh Lichtenwald for the accurate translation)

To: The Josefstal German Soviet, Canton Erlenbach.

Excerpt Nr. 52 of the minutes of the meeting of the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of the Volga Germans, June 25, 1937.

Discussed: The request of the Erlenbach Canton Executive Committee concerning the demolition of the church building in Josefstal.

Decided: Considering the fact that the existing church building in the village of Josefstal, which according to records of the State Building Control, is “demormiert” (untranslatable word) and is quickly becoming so rundown that it will not be able to be used for cultural purposes by the village, it is permitted that the Erlenbach Canton Executive Committee dismantle (literally, clear away) the existing church building of the village of Josefstal and use the building materials for the construction of a cinema in the upper part of the village (“im Dorfe Oberdorf.”).

The Erlenbach KVK (Canton Executive Committee) is obligated to use the building materials for cultural purposes for the village of Josefstal.

Chairman: A. Welsch

Secretary: Schlegel

Correct: Director of the Allg.Abtl. (probably Allgemeine Abteilung–general/overall, Section/Department) of the Central Executive Committee of the ASSRdWD (Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of the Volga Germans).

A. Nuss

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Josefstal Newspapers in Soviet Times: “Stalins Weg”

Stalins_Weg_01-210x300Josefstal was made part of a large collective farm under Soviet rule.  Collective farms consisted of a number of villages that banded together.

Those collective farms often published newspapers filled with Soviet propaganda, and little “real” news.

This specific newspaper, was published by the Erlenbach Communist Party committee.

Many thanks to Alexander Spack for posting these online!

The following editions are available:

No. 56: 17 September 1936

No 58: 2 October 1936

No. 64: 3 November 1936

No. 2: 16 January 1938


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Josefstal: Emigration Passports

List of Volga German colonists who received passports for travel abroad to America
in the years 1886, 1890-1892, 1900, 1906-1909, 1912

The List is made on the basis of documents on delivery of passports for travel abroad which were kept in the State archive of the Saratov Region (GASO), in Fond Number 1, Office of the Saratov Governor. The package of documents for delivery of passports for travel abroad often included extracts from lists with instructions of structure of families leaving (and that who remained) and exact dates of birth. Studying of these documents can help investigating and connect family tree branches. – Igor Pleve




Alles Georg


Arnold Johann Georg


Arnold Johannes


Arnold Adam


Ballendir Johann


Bellendir Kaspar


Berin Katarina


Berin Alois


Wagner Johan Jakob


Gerk Johann


Gerling Josef


Holzmann Josef


Holzmann Johann Friedrich


Grenz Adam


Grinwald Philipp


Groo Johann Peter


Hubert Baltazar


Hubert Adam


Hubert Johannes


Domme Johann Georg


Domme Kristof


Sommer Josef


Kern Johannes


Kern Nikolaus


Kessler Johannes


Kessler Johann Adam


Kisser Elisabeta


Klein Michael


Polman Barbara


Rebing Josef


Rowein Jakob


Rochel Jakob


Rupp Johann


Simon Adam


Simon Josef


Fler Johann Peter


Schmidr Jakob


Eberle Johannes Peter


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Emigration to South America: October 10, 1908

WUERZBURG1By far the largest emigration of Josefstal residents took place in October of 1908. Over 200 boarded the SS Würzburg in Bremen, and took the long journey to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Most of these would make their way to Argentina, to such places as Santa Anita, Coronel Suarez and Crespo.

The names I just compiled, courtesy of Die MAUS, are:

ARNOLD, Andreas (38), Margareta (34), Eleonora (13), Elisabeth (10), Barbara (8), Marie (5), Andreas (2 ½ )

ROHWEIN, Jakob (28), Katarina (26), Eva (8), Jakob (6), Maria (3 ¼), Georg (10 m)

GÖRK , Johannes (29), Magdalena (20)

DREYESSER, Georg (24), Eva (24), Barbara (4), Josef (9m)

ROHWEIN, Alois (35), Elisabeth (35), Theresa (14), Peter (8), Johannes (5), Anna (3 ¾ ), Barbara (2m)

SOMMER, Josef (37), Margaretha (26), Eugenius (7 ¼ ), Elisabeth (6), Josef (4), Georg (2), Kaspar (5m)

SIMON, Georg (20), Eva (21)

BLATTNER, Johannes (40), Eleonora (41), Josef (5), Anna 1 ½ )

HOLZMANN, Jakob (37), Maria (36), Barbara (16), Josef (14), Adam (13), Johannes (11), Georg (9), Elisabeth (5)

SIMON, Andreas (40), Barbara (43), Clementina (15), Anna (8), Barbara (5 ½ )

KERN, Kaspar (27), Elisabeth (22)

SCHMIDT, Johann (29), Anna (25), Marie (5 ½ ), Margarethe (2 ¼ )

KERN, Johannes (26), Anna Elisabeth (17)

GERK, Martin (20), Elisabeta (20)

GÖTTE, Phillip (42), Barbara (41), Phillip (13 ½ )

BELENDER, Kaspar (50), Margaretha (50), Kaspar (31), Margaretha (31), Georg (10), Johannes (2 ½ ), Margareta (6m)

WAGNER, Jakob (28), Veronika (23), Jakob (1 ¾ )

HOLZMANN, Friedrich (34), Anna (33), Jakob (8), Georg (6), Josef (4)

KÄSS, Nikolaus (37), Barbara (37), Jakob (12 ¼ ), Konrad (5 ¾ ), Magdalena (4 ¼ )

SCHMIDT, Georg (38), Anna (37), Johannes (5), Phillip (2), Auguste (1m)

PFUNDT, Jakob (42), Elisabeth (37), Emilia (12 ¼ ), Jakob (8),    Magdalena (4), Anna (2)

SCHÄFER, Stefan (34), Margaretha (20), Kataryzna (8 ½ ), Andreas (1 ½ )

DOMME, Johannes (39), Eva (26), Kaspar (3 ½ ), Anna (1 ½ )

ARNOLD, Konrad (31), Susanna (27), Adam (8), Georg (6), Katarine (4), Johannes (1 ½ )

ROCHEL, Jakob (38), Anna (25), Johannes (12), Jakob (11 ½ ), Elisabeth (6m)

SCHMIDT, Adam (23), Anna (18)

HOLLMANN, Johann (37), Elisabeth (35), Josef (8), Georg (2)

ARNOLD, Johann (33), Katharina (30), Katharina (9), Barbara (7 ½ ), Regina (5), Jakob (6m)

GÖTTE, Johannes (25), Margarethe (25), Johann (6), Jakob (3 ¼ ), Marie (6m)

SCHMIDT,  Johan Peter (40), Elisabeth (36), Andreas (16), Marie (5), Georg (6m)

HOLZMANN, Josef (41), Anna (40), Anna (12 ¾ ), Katharina (10), Magdalena (8), Adam (6 ¼ ), Ottylie (4), Georg (9m)

HOLLMANN, Jakob (39), Katarina (40), Georg (12 ¾ ), Marie (4 ½ ), Katharina (5m)

GÖTHE, Adam (36), Elisabeth (31 ½ ), Margaretha (10 ½ ), Apolonia (6), Paul (4),  Josef (1 ½ )

GROO, Adam (52), Katharina (50), Adam (18 ½ ), Eva (15), Johannes (12 ½ )

BREIT, Lorenz (24), Anna (20)

BAUER, Johannes (39), Sophia (35), Georg (8 ½ ), Josef (6 ½ ), Marie (10m), Paul (17)

BLATNER, Josef (34), Anna Maria (24), Andreas (4 ¾ ), Katharine (3 ½ ), Josef (1 ¼ )

BLATNER, Georg (19)

DIESSER, Adam (30), Marie (28), Rosa (3m)

KERN, Konrad (45), Katharina (45), Regina (14), Ottilie (9)

GERK, Georg (40), Dorothea (38), Peter (15), Johannes (4), Barbara (8), Anna (1 ½ )

GERK, Johannes (62), Barbara (56)

KERN, Nikolaus (22), Barbara (20)

GERK, Georg (20), Margaretha (18)

HABERKORN, Georg (32), Katharina (18)

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Book of Remembrance: Josefstal Residents in Nizhny Tagil Labour Camp, Sverdlovsk Region

nizhnycoverFrom January 1942, to April, 1953, the city of Nischni Tagi housed a labour camp that saw more than 43,000 inmates go through its gates.

Dedicated to slave labour, inmates worked in the metallurgy combine, as well as road construction, hydraulic engineering, forestry and mining.

Banished to Siberia in the fall of 1941, most residents of Josefstal were sent to the Omsk region of Siberia.  After trying to survive for a year, the men were “mobilized” into a special “Worker’s Army”, aka slave labour. The labour camp located at Nischni Tagil was located in the Sverdlovsk region of the Ural mountains in Russia. Women were placed into separate camps.

It is estimated that almost 1/3 of Volga Germans would perish in labour camps.

There is more and more documentation available on what the camps were like.

The names here were taken from the book, Gedenkbuch: Gordoe terpen’e. Kniga pamiati sovetskikh nemtsev – uznikov Tagillaga.

Thankfully, the names in the book have been added to a web site, along with many photographs of the prisoner files.  That site is located at:  http://www.rusdeutsch.ru/?tagil=1

There were scores of such camps located throughout Siberia.

This particular camp housed only 9 or so residents from Josefstal, but thousands from other Volga German villages.

These are their names and information.
In their Memory.

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