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A Conflict of Three Cultures: Germans from Russia In America

A History of the Jacob Roemmich Family

By Herman Roemmich

58 pages, includes bibliographical references and index, 1991.

Däs, Nelly and Huber, Philipp. "Remembering Pastor Heinrich Römmich and Theodor Römmich." Volk auf dem Weg, May 2012, 21.

German


"Volumes would be required to do justice to the hardships, deprivations and tragedies these people endured in their quest for a new life and freedom... " comments the author, Herman Roemmich. Yet, in this one volume he succeeds in describing a very staunch family, the Roemmichs, who, despite the anguish they endured through several generations of displacement from their German homeland, were determined to maintain pride in their native heritage.

The author carries his account of the Roemmich family back to the year 1515, when the name made one of its early appearances in the person of Andreas Romich. Still earlier versions were apparently Remigius or Romigius, followed by such variations as Romig, Rommich, Remig, Remich, Rumisch, up to the prevailing present-day American spelling of Roemmich or German spelling of Römmich.

Tracing his lineage through the three cultures that primarily shaped its character--German, Russian and American--the author points with pride to the strength of spirit that, in each generation, overcame adversity and produced many outstanding leaders of their time.

Prompted in the 1760's by Catherine the Great's promises of religious, economic and cultural freedom, many Germans left their homeland for the fertile Black Sea region of Russia, where they determinedly preserved their ethnic identity by maintaining their own German schools, culture, and language. But changing times brought changing rulers--and broken promises. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, Czarist attempts to "Russify" the German colonists fomented the unrest that led to their next exodus, either back to Germany or to the new land of America. This emigration continued through the early twentieth century and resulted in the extensive German-Russian population of the United States.

The author details interesting facets of life as a son of hard-working, pious German-Russian immigrants on a central North Dakota farm. A typical Sunday is nostalgically recounted, from Saturday night baths to Sunday morning chores, to church, to lunch hour social, to church, to supper, to chores, to church--with the native German dialect humming through it all. In a time and place where large families were often the key to coaxing a living out of the and, these early settlers nevertheless did not forget the value of education, and it is not surprising that college graduates and advanced degrees abound in this industrious family group.

"Roemmich's nicely researched and written family history vividly portrays one family's experiences within the context of the great events of Europe and America. It is family history which anyone would enjoy reading." --John E. Bye, Archivist, North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, North Dakota State University Libraries

"This is a worthwhile publication both for the general reader and the concerned scholar. For the average reader it is an excellent model of how family history can be recorded carefully, but with a degree of attractiveness. The dates, and places are all there, but woven together in a manner which places the parts in an insightful perspective. Anyone working on a family history could learn from this volume." --Fr. William C. Sherman, Editor, Plains Folks: North Dakota's Ethnic History

"This book contains valuable information and reference books concerning the experience of the Germans as they migrated from southwestern Germany to south Russia along the Black Sea. From there the trek is followed to North Dakota, where the Roemmich family spent its days and witnessed the assimilation of its youth into the American mainstream. Beautiful family pictures as well as some maps and documents of an official nature amplify the offering. Readers will find the experience of the Roemmichs to be typical of the ordinary family of Germans from Russia." --Dr. LaVern J. Rippley, Professor, German Department, St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN

About The Author

A first generation American of German-Russian heritage, Dr. Herman Roemmich grew up between two cultures, that of his tradition-minded immigrant parents, who never learned to speak English, and that of the new world, where bright, ambitious North Dakota farm boys had their eyes on broader horizons. Dr. Roemmich earned an academic scholarship to Jamestown College (ND) in 1933, graduating as a teacher. He earned his master's degree in history at the University of Colorado (1941), followed by a doctorate degree at the University of Washington (1949). In Germany Dr. Roemmich visited his uncle, Pastor Heinrich Rommich, a noted pastor and educator, who charged him with the responsibility of completing the family history he had begun. German municipal and state archives yielded valuable information on the author's subject, as did the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (Lincoln, Nebraska), the Germans from Russia Heritage Society (Bismarck, North Dakota), and the North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, North Dakota State University Libraries (Fargo, North Dakota), where Michael M. Miller, Germans from Russia Bibliographer, encouraged Dr. Roemmich to devote his retirement time from San Diego State University (CA) to preparing his research papers for publication.


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