Schönchen, Russia
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Parish at Schönchen

The following information regarding the parish at Schönchen and the priests who served the parish is from Die Kirchen und das Religiöse Leben der Russlanddeutschen [The Churches and Religious Lives of the Russia-Germans]. Bearbeitung: Joseph Schnurr. Stuttgart: Landmannschaft der Deutschen aus Rußland, 1972, and from "Lebensbilder rußlanddeutscher Märtyrer: Bischöfe und Priester" [Portraits of the Lives of Russia-German Martyrs: Bishops and Priests]. by Anton Bosch. The North Dakota State University Libraries: Germans From Russia. (, both translated by Steven Grau.

From the information provided the following chronological listing of religious service in the Schönchen parish can be created.

Mar 1803 - 24 Feb 1806Fr. Ferdinand Maitre (Mätr)
25 Feb 1806 - 5 Oct 1807Fr. Franz Cornet (Korne)
~1808Fr. Joseph Caffasso
10 Feb 1814 - 31 Dec 1820Fr. Georg Schneylin
1866 - 1869Dean Balthasar Kraft (Administrator)
1869 - 1910Georg Leibham
~1909 - 1910Alexander Eberhardt
1911 and 1912Alexander Staub
1913 -?Dötzel, Georg
1928Curate Peter Riedel

Additionally, in The German Colonies on the Volga: The Second Half of the Eighteenth Century, by Igor R. Pleve, we are told that by 1777, the Volga Catholic colonies were organized into seven parishes: Kamenka, Semenovka, Schuck, Schönchen, Brabander, Preuss, and Mariental, but only six Catholic priests to serve them. By 1786, only four Catholic priests served the Volga colonies.

Parish at Schönchen (Paninskoje)

Source: Die Kirchen und das Religiöse Leben der Russlanddeutschen [The Churches and Religious Lives of the Russia-Germans]. Bearbeitung: Joseph Schnurr. Stuttgart: Landmannschaft der Deutschen aus Rußland, 1972. Translation by Steven Grau, 2006.

Year of formation of the settlement: 20 Jun 1767. Origin of the settlers: ? Population: 1773 - 188, 1859 - 1507, 1912 - 3860, 1926 - 2890.

Year of formation of the parish: ? From 1803-1820 Schönchen was supported from the mission station Katharinenstadt. Until the First World War Solothurn belonged as a branch to Schönchen. Parishioners: 1887 - 4550, 1909 - 6172: Schönchen - 2769, Solothurn - 3403, 1919? - 3194.

Chronological sequence of the clergymen: Balthasar Kraft (No. 115) 1866-1869, Georg Leibham (No. 119) 1869-1910, Bitkewitsch about 1901 in Schönchen or Solothurn, Alexander Eberhardt (No. 254 [255]) ?-1910, Georg Dötzel (No. 264) 1913-?, Peter Riedel (No. 277) 1928.

Church: The parish church was very slow to be built; 1903 - after a twenty year construction time the church was still not totally finished. The neoclassical church was of stone.

Sacristan and religion teacher (1914): Ph. Exner.

115 Kraft, Balthasar, Dean, * 1842 in Blumental on the Molotschna, † 5 Apr 1895 in Seelmann. Entered 1861 into the seminary (diligent, talented pupil). Ordination as Priest: 26 Mar 1866. From 1866-1869 Administrator in Paninskoje (Schönchen). From 1869-1873 Parish Priest in Landau; "in Landau his position was not easy ... and generally at the time the religious lives of the Beresaners were in a bad way". After recovering from a bad cold he came by request to Rohleder. From 1880-1895 he was Parish Priest and Dean in Seelmann from 1880-1885.

119 Leibham, Georg, * 1845 in Landau, † 31 Dec 1910 in Paninskoje (Schönchen). Entered 1856 (year of the opening of the seminary) into seminary. Ordination as Priest: 11 Jun 1867. From 1867-1869 in Landau. From 1869 until 1910 in Schönchen. He received for his longstanding activity as religion teacher at the secondary school at Wolsk in the Volga district high honors - the golden breast crucifix and two decorations.

255 Eberhardt, Alexander, * 1874 in Karlsruhe, † ?. Ordination as Priest: 28 Oct 1901. He was the first of several pupils who at Kasitzkaja [Brabander] took Holy Orders. Came on 30 Sep 1902 as Vicar to Rownoje [Seelmann]. About the year 1909 Parish Priest in Paninskoje [Schönchen]. It has been established that from 1910-1914 Parish Priest in Solothurn (Wittmann).

264 Dötzel, Georg, * ? in Vollmer, † ?. Ordination as Deacon: 26 Dec 1901. Ordination as Priest: 22 Nov 1902. Was appointed on 28 Apr 1903 as the Vicar in Jelschanka [Husaren] and on 1 May 1904 transferred as Parish Administrator to Göttland, where he ministered until 1913. 1913 he came as Parish Priest to Paninskoje [Schönchen].

277 Riedel, Peter, Curate, * 1880 in Susly (Herzog), † ?. Ordination as Subdeacon at Großwerder: 23 Dec 1901; Ordination as Priest: 1903. From 3 Jul 1903 until 8 Sep 1906 Vicar in Katharinental (the decision of the Bishop took place already on 29 May 1903). On 1 May 1904 appointed in the same place as Parish Administrator. It has been established that from 1911-1914 in Marienfeld. 1924 allegedly still in Marienfeld (Mariinskoje), Deanery Jekaterinoslaw. 1928 Parish Priest in Schönchen.

The following clergy with service at Schönchen were also found in the text although they were not specifically enumerated under the description of the Parish at Schönchen.

5 Fr. Caffasso, Joseph, * 29 Dec 1776 in Castelnuovo in Italy, † ?. On 24 Oct 1804 gave up the process of Holy Orders and came on 19 Oct 1807 to Raskaty (Rohleder), where he worked a year, and then moved to Paninskoje (Schönchen). He was a deeply moving preacher.

6 Fr. Cornet (Korne), Franz, * 29 Mar 1768 in Limal, Belgium, † 4 Apr 1844 in Tarnopol. Entry into Holy Orders: 12 Jun 1805. From 25 Feb 1806 - 5 Oct 1807 in Paninskoje (Schönchen), from 8 Dec 1807 - 10 Feb 1810 in Kamenka [Bähr], from 22 Jun 1808 - 8 Aug 1808 in Tonkoschurowka (Mariental) and from 2 Feb 1810 -Sep 1820 in Raskaty (Rohleder).

18 Fr. Maitre (Mätr), Ferdinand, * 7 Mar 1736 in ?, † 5 Sep 1815 in Saratow. Entry into Holy Orders: 29 Sep 1754. From Mar 1803 - 24 Feb 1806 in Paninskoje (Schönchen).

29 Fr. Schneylin, Georg, * 3 Apr 1780 in Elsaß [Alsace], † 8. 6. 1837 in Tarnopol. Entry into Holy Orders: 13 Jul 1808. From 10 Feb 1814 - 31 Dec 1820 in Paninskoje (Schönchen).

207 Staub, Alexander, Curate and Dean, * May 1870 in Katharinenstadt, † 1961 in Alt-Maikuduck, Karaganda. Ordination as Priest: 20 Mar 1894. From 1894-1895 Parish Administrator in Otrogowka (Louis). 1895 transferred as Vicarius Exp. [?] to Christina and 1897 taken as Administrator to München in the Beresan District. 1898 he was transferred as Curate to Kamenka [Bähr] and appointed acting Dean of the Kamenka Deanery (on 1 Apr 1901 Dean). Here he built the beautiful and large church. 1904 he was also Administrator of the Pfeifer Parish Church. 1906 he came as Curate to Zug, where he still worked in 1914. 1911 and 1912 he also supported Paninskoje [Schönchen]. Allegedly he was also in Kamenka [Bähr] in 1908.

253 Bitkewitsch, * ?, † ?. Ordination as Priest: ?. Was active 1901 in or around Schönchen as Pastor (Seelsorger).


  1. The description of the parish at Schönchen and the biographical information of the clergy has been translated from the German text of the source above.
  2. For information about the organization, Landmannschaft der Deutschen aus Rußland, see:
  3. Joseph Caffasso, Franz Cornet (Korne), Ferdinand Maitre (Mätr), and Georg Schneylin were Jesuits.
  4. The entry for Solothurn in the source above states that Solothurn separated from the parish at Schönchen and was elevated to an independent parish in 1900/01.
  5. Blumental (1822) was a mother colony in the Molotschna or Prischib District in the Taurien region south of Jekaterinoslaw / Dnjepropetrowsk.
  6. Bähr / Kamenka (1765), Brabander / Kasitzkaja (1767), Herzog / Susly (1766), Husaren / Jelschanka (1765), Katharinenstadt (1766), Louis / Otrogowka (1766), Mariental / Tonkoschurowka (1766), Pfeifer / Gniluschka (1767), Rohleder / Raskaty (1766), Schönchen / Paninskaja (1767), Seelmann / Rownoje (1767), Solothurn / Wittmann (1767), and Vollmer / Kopenka (1766), and Zug / Gattung (1767) were all Volga Mother Colonies.
  7. Karlsruhe (1810), Katharinental (1817), Landau (1810), and München (1809) were Beresan Mother Colonies in the Beresan District in the Beresan River valley, northeast of Odessa.
  8. Christina (~1860) was a Beresan Daughter Colony east of Voznesensk.
  9. Wolsk (Volsk or Vol'sk) is a Russian town above Saratov on the Volga River where its connects with the Bolshoy Irgiz.
  10. Göttland (1823) and Großwerder (1832) were colonies in the Mariupol or Grunau District, north of Berdjansk, in the eastern part of the Jekaterinoslaw / Dnjepropetrowsk region.
  11. Marienfeld / Mariinsk, Mariinskoje (1869) was a colony in the Taurien region south of Jekaterinoslaw / Dnjepropetrowsk.
  12. Jekaterinoslaw / Dnjepropetrowsk is a city in the Ukraine.
  13. Tarnopol is a city in western Ukraine, located on the Seret River.
  14. Saratow (Saratov) is a Russian city on the Volga River. Until 1941, Pokrovsk, known today as Engels, and located just across the Volga from Saratov, was the capital of a separate German republic. At the outbreak of World War II, the Volga Germans were exiled to Siberia and Kazakhstan, and few ever returned to the region. Beginning in the 1980s, many emigrated to Germany, but the Roman Catholic St. Klementy Cathedral on Nemetskaya Street (seat of the Diocese of Tiraspol, founded in 1848) is a reminder of Saratov's German past, though it now functions as a movie theater.
  15. Karaganda (Qaraghandy) is a province in Kazakhstan.
  16. Seelsorger is usually translated as "Pastor" but a more accurate, and literal, translation might be "one who cares for the soul."

Parish Priest Peter Riedel

Priest of the Diocese Tiraspol-Saratow

* 1880 Herzog
† 3 November 1937 Solowez-GULag

Peter Riedel was born 1880 in the German Catholic community Herzog in the Volga district into a farming family. After a successful conclusion at the seminary at Saratow, he subsequently graduated from the Theological Academy at St. Petersburg. He was ordained as Subdeacon in the parish Großwerder on 23 Dec 1901 and 1903 ordained as Priest. From 3 Jul 1903 until 8 Sep 1906 he was active as Vicar in Katharinental and on 1 May 1904 he was appointed Parish Administrator. From 1911 until 1914 Riedel was Parish Priest in Marienfeld, allegedly also still until 1924, 1928 he was appointed after that as Parish Priest in Schönchen on the Volga.

On 18 Aug 1930 he was arrested by the secret police because of the alleged group conspiracy of the German Catholic clergy in the Volga district and spent time in the prison at Jaroslawl. On 20 Apr 1931 he was convicted by a committee of the secret police (OGPU) to the maximum penalty. His death sentence was canceled for the time being and changed to a 10 year concentration camp imprisonment. He spent time after that in the concentration camp at the notorious Solowezki Islands. 1937 Riedel was in the camp repeatedly accused and on 9 Oct 1937 in accordance with a decision of a special Troika of the secret police (NKWD) of the Leningrad district sentenced to death and on 3 Nov 1937 executed in the prison on the Solowezki Islands by shooting.

Source: "Lebensbilder rußlanddeutscher Märtyrer: Bischöfe und Priester" [Portraits of the Lives of Russia-German Martyrs: Bishops and Priests]. by Anton Bosch. The North Dakota State University Libraries: Germans From Russia. ( Retrieved 2 Dec 2006. Translated by Steven Grau, 2006.


  1. The biographical information of the clergy has been translated from the German text of the source above.
  2. GULag is an acronym for Glavnoe Upravlenie Ispravitelno-trudovykh Lagerej or Chief Directorate of Corrective Labor Camps.
  3. St. Petersburg had several name changes in the twentieth century: St. Petersburg (1703-1914), Petrograd (1914-1924), Leningrad (1924-1991), St. Petersburg (1991-present).
  4. Jaroslawl (Jaroslavl, Yaroslavl) is a city in Russia on the Volga River 282 km northeast of Moscow.
  5. OBPU is an acronym for Ob'edinennoe Gosudarstvennoe Politicheskoe Upravlenie or Joint State Political Directorate. The OGPU was responsible for the creation of the GULag system.
  6. A Troika was a commission of three people employed to supplement the legal system with a means for quick punishment of anti-Soviet elements.
  7. NKWD is an acronym for Narodny Kommissariat Wnutrennich Djel or also NKVD, Narodnyi Kommissariat Vnutrennikh Del, meaning People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs. The NKVD is best known for the Main Directorate for State Security (GUGB), which succeeded the OGPU and the Cheka as the secret police agency of the Soviet Union.
  8. The Solowezki Islands are a group of islands consisting of six inhabited larger islands and several uninhabited smaller islands in the White Sea. The islands lie about 530 km north of St. Petersburg and 160 km south the polar circle. When Alexander Solschenizyn coined the term Archipelago Gulag, he thought of the archipelago Solowki. The prison camp there was Russia's first large prison camp, the model of the Soviet prison system.

Terri Dann and Denise Grau

Revised Friday, 25-Sep-2009 20:37:31 CDT