Ethnic Germans in the Soviet Union: The People of Chortitza, 1939-1949
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During the Second World War, Nazi and Soviet governments had distinctly different ideologies as well as different reasons for targeting the Soviet Union's German population for relocation. While the Soviets saw ethnic Germans as a national security threat, the Nazis desired to use them to pursue plans for racial social engineering. Using Einwandererzentralstelle and International Red Cross Tracing Service records, the case study of the inhabitants of the ethnic German settlement of Chortitza explore key moments in the population's navigation of the Second World War from Soviet deportation to German occupation to resettlement and life in post-war Germany. These moments reveal that ethnic Germans had continuously shaped their ethnic identity during their time in Russia and the Soviet Union. In the 1920s and 1930s, ethnic Germans began to adapt their German culture to the surrounding Ukrainian and Russian ways of life in an effort to lessen chances of deportation by the NKVD. This malleable ethnic identity became especially fluid during World War II as ethnic Germans struggled to survive the war. Evidence of changes in their ethnic identity include being noticeably different from Germans living in the Reich. Therefore, to an extent, their ethnicity was invented and dependent upon circumstances (varying borders, loyalties, and survival). Their collective identity became instrumental in successfully navigating war as a village unit. As their identity became manipulative, ethnic Germans used their German ethnicity as well as their Soviet roots to survive the war. Therefore, this master's thesis argues that the Chortitza Germans had agency to highlight their ethnicity as Germans or to emphasize their citizenship as Soviet-Germans depending upon whose control (Nazi or Soviet) they fell under. Using the Chortitza Germans as a case study enables us to look beyond Soviet and Nazi ideology to show how ethnic Germans struggled to fulfill Nazi or Soviet expectations in order to escape dire consequences.
World War II
Weidemann, Erika Lee (2016). Ethnic Germans in the Soviet Union: The People of Chortitza, 1939-1949. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from