This article appeared in Die Welt Post on 26 August 1920 with the title "Hochwichtige Kriegserfahrungen der Wolga-Deutschen" (Highly Important War Experiences of the Volga Germans). This English language translation was done by Richard Kisling.
A few months ago we received the first reports about a revolt in the large German colony of Warenburg on the Bergseite of the Volga River. We are now in a position to inform our readers of the details about the events in Warenburg. Pastor Schöning graciously placed the information at our disposal for publication. It was supplemented by statements from persons who recently came out of Russia.
The bodyguard of the present Russian government, known as the Red Army, originally consisted exclusively of volunteers. With the firther expansion of the Revolution on the borders of the empire in Siberia, the Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, and the Baltic (in which the [World War I] allies soon took part), the formation of a huge army became imperative. The government was forced to draft non-volunteers into the army and to order a general mobilization. First, in the late autumn of 1918, all of the former officers, noncommissioned officers, and sergeants were called up.
Many of these sought to escape but finally had to report, because the government threatened to retaliate against their close relatives. The general mobilization was implemented gradually by province and age group. As early as the autumn of 1918, several age groups were mobilized on the Bergseite of the Province of Saratov, which had precipitated uprisings in several German colonies. The German colonies in Samara Province [Wiesenseite] were especially known to the government as a counterrevolutionary element; as a result they delayed the execution of the mobilization decree until January 1919. All men between the ages of 18 and 45 were drafted.
This news reached Warenburg on January 3. The local soviet made the mandate of the Saratov German Bolshevik Commissariat known to the community at a town meeting. Those who attended were seized with deep indignation. Warenburg's soldiers gathered together and, after considering and discussing the situation, unanimously resolved not to follow the command of the commissariat. They made a solemn vow to each other to stand together to the end. An action committee of three people was elected. The leaders of the village council reported this occurrence to the district soviet in Seelmann and requested a dispatch of a unit of the Red Guard to carry out the mobilization. Seventeen Red Guards were sent from Seelmann, two of who had originally come from Warenburg. The insurgents found out in time and met the Red Guards with a squad of twelve men, with Peter Kaiser at their head. The two groups met outside the village. The Red Guards threatened to shoot. The colonists were equipped only with various farm implements; by that time all weapons had long been confiscated. They seized upon a trick and announced to the Reds that they were armed with bombs and would use them immediately. The Reds, thus intimidated, were taken prisoner. They delivered up a machine gun with five chests of ammunition, sixteen rifles, and over two thousand rounds of ammunition. Then they were locked up in Warenburg. Five of them, who had voluntarily entered the Red Guard, were killed by the enraged farmers on the way back to the village. In the meantime, the leadership of the local village soviet had telegraphed to Balzer (a nearby village) and asked for help. The commissariat there sent thirty-eight men, all volunteers and on horseback, under the leadership of the teacher, Schaufler.
On January 5 at 10:00 a.m., this unit approached the village. It had come by way of Achmat and Lauwe. As a precaution, Schaufler stayed behind in the latter village. The insurgents were forewarned by the sentinels they had established. In the square in front of the church, they set up the machine gun they had captured the previous day. As the Reds approached, a shot rang out from their midst. This was the signal for the Warenburgers to attack. They aimed the machine gun at the approaching Red Guards and mowed them all down. Only three wounded [Reds] escaped, and they spread the news of the uprising everywhere. Among the seriously wounded there was even a capitalist, who had joined the Bolshevik Army in order to thus save his wealth, but he died of his wounds.
The incidents in Warenburg were telegraphed via Achmat and Balzer to Saratov. The captured material this time amounted to one machine gun with five cases of munitions, thirty to forty rifles with rounds of ammunition, hand grenades, revolvers, and swords.
A regiment stationed in Saratov and made up of Latvians, Russians, and Hungarians was sent to Warenburg on a retaliatory mission. The Warenburgers had already received news about this and had quickly organized battle preparations. There were, in addition, two hundred men from the neighboring village of Preuss, who had arrived ready to help, armed with rifles and agricultural equipment. Both machine guns were set up in Warenburg, an dteh side streets were blockaded with harrows and other implements. At 9 o'clock the militia from Saratov arrived. Upon their arrival in the village, fire opened up from both sides. There were many dead and wounded on the side of the Reds. They had to pull back and continued the bombardment in front of the village. The gunfire lasted all day and into the night. Because it was frightfully cold, that is to say 26 degrees Reaumur, they pulled back by degrees to the nearest villages. Following this, the night remained calm for the most part. The next morning at 7 o'clock, the news spread that a regiment of support troops from Pokrovsk [Engels] was advancing with three field guns (cannons). Simultaneous with the arrival of the Pokrovsk troops, eighty-six men from the German Commissariat in Saratov also appeared. The Warenburgers saw that they were no match for this superior power; their will to resist weakened. The auxiliaries from neighboring Preuss marched off in view of this event. The position of the Warenburgers became untenable.
The Reds sent in an emissary right away that same morning at about 10 o'clock to ask whether or not the Warenburgers would surrender. The farmers wanted peace, which was assured them with the surrender of all of their weapons. At that point, the aforementioned regiment advanced into the village which was already surrounded by troops. After the [Red] prisoners, about ninety men, were freed by the Latvian regiment, the commander said, "Now we'll show them!" That was the signal for general plundering. All who had taken part in the uprising were taken prisoner. Seven men were shot immediately. About ninety men were killed in all. On Wednesday, January 8, Schulz, the investigating magistrate, came from Saratov, and the terrible trial began.
All who were under suspicion of participating in the uprising in any way were brought forth. About thirty men were placed on the mountain slope of the village and likewise shot. All their possessions were confiscated. The wives and children of those involved had to leave their homes just as they were. Homeless in the middle of winter, they sought shelter with friends and relatives. Damages of 1,300,000 rubles were levied against the colony. The sum that each had to pay individually was specified. Anyone who refused or could not raise the money was to be shot. The retribution was paid in two hours. About four to five million rubles were confiscated. The worst treatment was to those who had Schutzscheine [certificates of protection] from the German Empire. Five who had been sentenced to death escaped. A bounty of 10,000 [rubles] was placed on their heads. The systematic plundering of the village continued all that day and the following day. Many sheep, 380 horses, nearly 200 cows, camels, and other livestock, poultry, food supplies, and clothing were expropriated.
One of the fugitives, Wormsbecher, who had been at the head of the insurrection, was discovered and brought in on the 10th. He was terribly mistreated on the way back to the village, with a rope around his neck tied to a sled, which he had to run along side. He was to be hanged immediately. Wormsbecher was hanged on the large church square.
We further excerpt from the German [language] newspaper Nachrichten, the communist paper published in Saratov, the official account of the uprising.
Record of the Special Investigation Commission
Those present were Comrades Saranzev, Ostroglasov, Ebenholz, Schönfeld, Alfred Schutz, Eduard Schutz, Johann Zitzer, and Schulz Grab. Individuals were named with the distribution of duties: as Commander of all Troops Present and President of the Collegium, Comrade Nachalov and Comrade Ebenholz; as Investigative magistrates, the Commrades Eduard Schutz and Hermann Schutz; Director in Charge of Arrests, Comrade Zitzer; Deputy President, Comrade Schönfeld; Administrator of Finances, Comrade Reichert; Commander of Those Arrested, Comrade Ostroglasov; Secdretary, Alfred Schutz.
Because of their active participation in the uprising, [the following men] were judged and condemned to death by shooting:
Heinrich Gabel [Göbel]
Heinrich Michael Hartwig
Others who were convicted (but escaped):
Peter Kaiser (father)
Peter Kaiser (son)
The death sentences were carried out right after the arrests. The property of the condemned was confiscated, as was the property of Vladimir Wormsbecher, whose wife and children were able to keep only the absolute necessities, while the remainder was given over to the Committee for the Poor.
The assessment of 1,300,000 rubles, which was imposed on Warenburg, was apportioned in the following manner: Friedrich Schmall, 50,000 [rubles]; Alexander Bier, 50,000; and so on.
"Hochwichtige Kriegserfahrungen der Wolga-Deutschen." Die Welt Post (26 August 1920): 5.