October 8, 1936 Something New From the Old Wendish Homeland

As I was translating one of the many articles which my grandfather, Rev. Gotthilf Birkmann, submitted to the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt during the 1930’s, that are now in the Birkmann Blog on the Wendish Research Exchange website, I spotted this article immediately following his in the October 8, 1936, issue of that paper. Mr. Proske, the publisher and editor of the Volksblatt does not identify the source, but quite evidently he is quoting from what must have been a periodical from Germany, perhaps one to which Proske subscribed. This particular account of a major Wendish festival in the old country, whether it was one of a kind or an annual event, will be of interest to current readers. Worthy of note is that German people, by and large, in 1936 were still optimistic that Adolf Hitler and his Fascist Party would provide them desperately needed economic and social recovery and not yet aware of his full agenda.

Something New From the Old Wendish Homeland

Whoever believes that the Wendish language and Wendish culture perhaps have no more place in the new Germany is greatly mistaken. The Wendish language and Wendish singing still resound today in the Wendish countryside, just as they did formerly. There are still large Wendish cultural events as well. No German is able or permitted to take away from the Wends their cultural activity. The Fuehrer of the German people, Adolf Hitler, himself said that he is not even thinking about forbidding the cultural activity of the Wends.

            Thus the federation of students in conjunction with the Domovina (Federation of the Wends) arranged a very important festival on Sunday, August 16, in the open air at the old fortress of Proschwitz in the administrative district of Kamenz. The festival was begun with musical renderings by a Wendish band directed by senior teacher Melzer.

After that, all the people sang the Wendish national anthem, “Rjana Łužica – Beautiful Lusatia,” resounding powerfully. Then Wendish singing clubs sang, “Hory Modre – Blue Mountains” and “Domčk mej luby – My Dear Homeland” under the direction of teacher Paul Jenke. [Titles written in Wendish and German.] After that, the leader of the Domovina, teacher Paul Redo, greeted the Wends who had appeared from far and wide at the festival. Wends had come by the thousands. That is surely proof enough that the Wends, despite all resistance, are intent upon paying attention to and keeping their mother tongue and the culture inherited from their forefathers. But the leader of the Domovina also greeted most warmly the German guests who had appeared in large numbers. One can tell from that that also the Germans have an appreciation for the work of the Wends.

The high point of the festival occurred in the performance of the Wendish drama, “Palikawa – The Dragon.” In it the land of the Wends is threatened by a frightful palikawa. The Wends try to defend themselves, but they can be freed from the palikawa only by a pure virgin—The reader will learn to know a full account of this drama in the next report.

The Wendish band struck up again at the end. The leader of the Domovina, teacher Redo, once again thanked all who had contributed to the singing at the festival and exhorted all Wends to stand together faithfully in good times and in bad. A threefold “Heil!” to Fuehrer Adolf Hitler and the joint singing of the German national anthem closed the official day of the festival. In the evening, the Wendish young people gathered again in the halls of the surrounding villages for a joyful dance.


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