Vogt - Mennonitische Ahnenforschung

regarding the Russian refugees of German origin at Harbin/China 1931" Memorandum von B.H. Unruh 14. Sept. 1931

von Hermann Schirmacher

Memorandum regarding the Russian refugees of German origin at Harbin/China 1931, a letter from B. H. Unruh to the Office International Nansen

Source: United Nations Archives at Geneva https://biblio-archive.unog.ch/detail.aspx?ID=87715

Prof. Lic B. H. Unruh
Karlsruhe-Rueppurr, den 14. Sept. 1931

Dear Sir:-

Referring to my letter of August 28th and your favour of September 2nd I have the pleasure of enclosing a more complete report regarding the German-Russian refugees at Harbin and some other places in China.

I should be pleased exceedingly if you would be good enough to give this memorandum and its proposals a favourable consideration.

Yours faithfully

(B.H. Unruh)
Representative of the Mennonite

Major T.F. Johnson,
Office International Nansen
Pour Les Réfugies

Geneve .
Société des Nations


Prof. B.H. Unruh, 14. September 1931.


regarding the Russian refugees of German origin at Harbin/China

On account of the very severe political and antireligious measures taken by the Soviet-Government in spring 1929 the first German-Russian refugees crossed the Manchurian border and were placed at Harbin, supported by the German Consulate and the German society at Harbin as well as by charitable organizations of the Lutheran and Mennonite Churches in America and Europe.

The number of these refugees increased considerably by new arrivals in 1930. It was possible to bring part of this people to the United States under a special quota for qualified farmers, but as this quota was very limited there are still 1066 souls at Harbin at present. They consist of Mennonites, Lutherans, Catholics, Baptist and a few of other confessions.

Mennonites: Adults: 366
0-3 50
3-7 72
7-12 62
Total 515
(corrected Total: 550)

Lutherans: Adults: 244
0-3 50
3-7 62
7-12 49
Total 405

Catholics: Adults: 31
0-3 6
3-7 10
7-12 3
Total 50

Baptists: Adults: 31
0-3 3
3-7 5
7-12 5
Total 44

Other Confessions: Adults: 12
0-3 2
3-7 2
7-12 1
Total 17

Grand Total 1066

In other places of China there are some further small groups of refugees, who of course should be included in the future transports to Southern America and who would make the Total approximately 1200 to 1300 souls. With an average estimate of 5 souls for one family there are in China approximately 250 families of German-Russian refugees. At present it is impossible for these people to stay any longer in China as they run risk of being deported to Russia. As this of course would deliver these families to entire perishment, we are forced to transfer them to America.

Under the auspices of the Mennonite, Lutheran and Catholic Colonization Boards in Canada since 1923 to this British Dominion was brought a very great number of Russian farmers of German origin, who left their country as regular emigrants, and further about 1400 refugees since 1929 whom we call the "Moscow refugees". At present every immigration to Canada has been stopped and according to a cable from Bishop David Toews, the Chairman of the Canadian Mennonite Board of Colonization at Rosthern, Sask., which I received some days ago, the Canadian Government is not giving any hope for reopening immigration and therefore for the Harbin people there are no prospects for enter now.

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The same restrictions refer to the United States and perhaps also to Brazil where we were able to settle since 1929 about 2000 Mennonites, Lutherans and Catholics from the Moscow group mentioned above. At present on account of some restrictions regarding the immigration we are sending to Brazil only very few families. I am not quite sure that it would be possible to transfer refugees from Harbin to this country on a greater scale.

According to a cable of Professor H. S. Bender of the Mennonite Central Committee in the United States (Goshen, Indiana) this Committee recently is discussing a plan of settling the Harbin Mennonite refugees in Mexico, but no definite decision has been given yet. I am in constant connection with our Committees in the United States and in Canada and I shall not fail to keep the Hansen Committee informed regarding the developments of these matter. I beg to add that we came in touch with the Lutheran Board in the United States in order to cooperate with them in the Mexican Movement.

Dr. Sallet is on his way home and he will urge the Lutheran people to do their utmost for their brethren at Harbin. Prof. Keller at Geneva on his part is mobilizing the Federal Council of the Protestant Churches in America and no doubt this Committee will take also an active action to support the Mennonite, the Lutheran and the other organizations in the Harbin reliefwork.

In my opinion the best prospects for settlement are offered in Paragay in the Chaco, where about 200 km from Puerto Casado some years ago some thousand Mennonites from Canada founded by their own means the "Colonia Menno" consisting of about a dozen villages. This fact was the reason for the Mennonite Central Committee in the United States of considering the Chaco for settling nearly 2000 refugees from the Moscow group. Hear to the "Colonia Menno" has been founded the "Colonia Fernheim" also consisting of a dozen villages, which seem to make their life in quite a satisfactory way, of course on account of a greater support from various sources. Regarding this supports, rendered to the colonists in the Chaco as well in Brazil, I may say that it consisted of payment of transportation, special equipment and special living allowance for the first time.

To get an idea regarding the expenses in connection with the transportation of the Moscow refugees to Brazil and Paraguay I beg to put before you the following particulars:

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The full passage from Hamburg or Bremen to one of the ports in Brazil or to Buenos Aires was £ 13.10.- . For children the Passage was reduced or entirely free (for children under 3 years of age). The average amount per head we calculate £10.-

It must be said that the Transportation from the concerned ports to the destination in Brazil amounted, as far as I know, nearly £2.- per head, but the transportation from Buenos Aires to the "Colonia Fernheim" nearly £ 6.- per head.

Coming back to the transportation of the Harbin refugees to Southern America I must say, that there is very little hope that the Lutheran and Mennonite Board, even supported by the above mentionec Federal Council and some other Church-organisations would be able to finance this transportation to Paraguay, Mexico or Brazil. I think that the large accounts for transportation should come from some other source. I have been told at Berlin that the German Government on account of the present financial crisis in this country in no way would be in position to pay the transportation, especially for the reason that the full passage from China to the Chaco would make at least about £ 30.- to £ 60.- per head, based on a non reduced fare. The above mentioned number of refugees at Harbin and other places of China would make about 850 full passages; counting one full passage with the £ 55.- the whole transportation to the Chaco would make £ 47.250.- (about RM. 1.000.000.- ).

The equipment for the Moscow refugees, rendered by the "Bruder in Hot" in Germany under auspices of the German Red Cross, made RM. 350.- per family or about £ 17.- . For 250 families the equipment of this kind would make RM.100.000.- or £ 5 000.-.

Besides this account for first equipment the families of the Moscow group got a special living allowance of about £ 35.- per family in 1930, but in last spring this rate has been reduced to £ 25.- per family. This amount of £ 25.- x 250 are £ 6 250.- or about RM. 125.000.-

This rough calculation gives an amount of about RM. 1.200.000.- to RM. 1.300.000.- for the whole enterprise.

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If a cheaper rate for the transportation, could he granted by the support of the Hansen Committee this amount of course would be reduced proportionally.

Further I beg to state, that besides above mentioned support for transportation, equipment and living allowance, which represents the minimum of hulp to be granted to the refugees, there exists the absolute necessity of additional support in order to start more efficiently with the economical and cultural life of the settlements. This additional supports should be and could be rendered by the Church organizations. I am authorized to declare this on behalf of the Mennonite Central Committee in United States and of the Canadian Mennonite Board of Colonization.

Regarding the repaying of a part of the funds advanced by the Hansen Committee I should say that in view of the charitable character of the Mennonite organizations could not be given a formal guarantee to the Hansen Committee in this respect, but I think it could be found a scheme of gradual amortization of a part of the debt. In my opinion the same must be said regarding the Lutheran and other organizations.

In view of the fact, that these refugees are absolutely destitute and that the reconstruction of the economical life in the wilderness of the Chaco or in the primeval forests of Brazil or at some places in Mexico will demand some years, I suggest that this amortization plan should be extended at least to 15 or 20 years.

Respectfully submitted

(Prof. B.H. Unruh).

Representative of the Mennonite