29 August 2021

Alt Schwedendorf, 29 August 1942

To imagine the lives of our ancestors in Russia, we sometimes can turn to the modern art of the period. Photography was rare even into the early 20th century. Russian artists in the 1800s captured their world in strokes that coincided with the realism and impressionism art movements, leaving us with a soft, gauzy view of landscapes and life...even though we know it was probably anything but. 

“Hollyhocks in the Saratov Province” (Мальвы в Саратовской губернии), 1889.

“Rye” (Рожь), 1881.

“Noon. Herd in the Steppe” (Полдень. Стадо в степи), 1895.

Fast forward to 1940. The maps below are sections from both a 1941 Russian map and a 1942 German map of some of the German colonies near the city of Beryslav. Alt Schwedendorf (founded 1782) is shown in the green crosshair on the right side of the maps. To the north of it was Klosterdorf (1804),  to the south in the curve of the Dnieper River was Mühlhausendorf (1804) followed by Schlangendorf (1804) to the west along the river. 

In August of 1942, Dr. Karl Stumpp was in this area compiling information on what would end up being 99 detailed colony descriptions for the SS Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories (Reichsministerium für die besetzten Ostgebiete), or RMO. All in all, there are close to 300 colonies mentioned in the RMO documents and along with hundreds of maps, some detailed, some perfunctory

One such map was that of Alt Schwedendorf, drawn on 29 August 1942. 

This map struck me when first saw it because it didn't seem to be the quick sketch like all the others. There was some thought and even artistry put into it with unexpected details such as trees and the locations of the wells (nicely represented) and public fountains. And in the Dnieper, it shows what looks like someone in a boat...fishing. Truly one of the oddest maps in this collection, which was drawn on this day 79 years ago.