One of my pandemic projects has been working on a genealogy that traces my family and my husband’s family back for five generations. As I do my research I am discovering all kinds of interesting things.
One thing I’ve learned is that my great grandmother Margaretha Schellenberg Sawatsky was born in a village in Ukraine called Kamenka. It is referenced as being a Judenplan village. I was curious what that was.
According to the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Judenplan was a name the Mennonites gave to a project the Russian government initiated in Ukraine. Mennonite farmers were sent to Jewish settlements to provide training in agriculture. Six Mennonite villages were established for this purpose and one was Kamenka.
I found a map of Kamenka online and could clearly see the property that once belonged to my great-great-grandparents Johann and Helena Andreas Schellenberg. It appears the Mennonites lived at one end of the village and the Jewish families at the other end. The Mennonites had a school (Schule) and a cemetery(Friedhof) and a wood lot (wald) but there appears to be no school or cemetery or wood lot on the Jewish side of the village. The Mennonite homesteads all look much bigger than the homes of the Jewish families.
Source of Map– Chortitzu website
According to the encyclopedia article, the Jewish farmers were inexperienced in agriculture and the master farmers from the Mennonite colonies were tasked with teaching them how to cultivate their land, plant trees and properly pasture their cattle. I found a couple of articles online that made it seem like the Mennonite master farmers were well-received and benevolent. I find it hard to believe that there weren’t some problems with this plan. Weren’t the Jewish farmers resentful of being told their agriculture skills were inadequate? Would the Mennonite farmers not have appeared patronizing? I wonder if the program was successful in the long run?
I found a reference to the autobiography of Joseph Epp who apparently lived in what is called the “Hebrew Colonies” from 1860-1880 as a model farmer and advisor. He was in charge of Jewish-Mennonite relations.
The Epp autobiography is still in print and in his review of it Tim Fleming says of the Judenplan “Epp lived in the Judenplan where the Mennonites were to live as examples and model colonists to their Jewish neighbors. The Jewish settlers resented this greatly and relationships were often very difficult with fault on both sides.”
I find it interesting that my Mennonite great grandmother was born in what has been referred to as a Hebrew Colony. I wish I knew more of her family’s story there.
I have already written a story about my great grandmother Margaretha’s Sawatsky’s death which was unusual but it seems her birth and early childhood home were unique as well.