Talking about international soul of our city we mean Jewish, Greek, French, Italian and definitely German heritage in Odessa! It is difficult to overestimate the contribution of the German community to life and prosperity of our city!
On arrival for his duty in Odessa, Duke de Richelieu found only a few tradespeople in the city. That is why it was decided at the level of the Russian Empire to engage foreign professionals by means of providing them with various benefits. Emperor Alexander I allowed Richelieu to resettle artisans arriving from Germany near Odessa and buy land for them. The first ship with immigrants arrived in Odessa in August 1803, and on board were 40 families. Starting from 1803 the coming German merchants took leading positions and established colonies right in the city: the Upper and the Lower ones!
The first Germans – military engineers– were building the city under the guidance of the engineer Kaiser. The defense barracks around Odessa were built by George Forster.
German villages-colonies started to emerge outside the city. Some names remained till today, e.g. Lustdorf (German for ‘a merry village’). Other settlements have the translated names: Bolshaya and Malaya Dolina (Großliebental und Kleinliebental), Mirnopolye (Friedental), Petrodolina (Peterstal). It is interesting that there were villages named after native places of the German settlers. In Odessa and Nikolaev regions one could find Munich and Mannheim, Strasbourg and Alsace. Nowadays all these settlements have quite different names.
German colonies quickly became unprecedentedly prosperous. It was not only due to well-known German hard-working nature, diligence and prudence, but to a great extent thanks to land use organization and social order of the colonies. Since then the Black Sea Germans have been called as ‘colonists’.
Soon two German churches appeared in Odessa – the Reformed church (today – Presbyterian church) in Pastera Street and St. Paul’s Cathedral in Novoselskogo Street which is called ‘kirkha’ by local people. These churches were not only religious, but also cultural and educational centres of the German community. Despite of their complicated architectural fate they remind local citizens of a German heritage in the history of Odessa, the ‘Pearl by the Sea’.
Even today the archives of Odessa keep the names of German citizens of honour that opened the first photostudio and the first pharmacy. The first German trade houses provided the citizens with expensive qualitative goods: musical instruments, books and music sheets, watches and sewing machines, paper and stationery, pharmaceutical and medical items, furniture, typographic machines, gardener’s tools, flowers, plants and bicycles.
Among German names there were both ordinary shop owners, architects, bakers and people holding key positions and even tycoons. Talking about bakers, it is certainly worth mentioning Bernhardt Liebmann. He was the owner of the luxurious building at the corner of Preobrazhenskaya and Sadovaya Streets. Café Liebmann offered its visitors local and foreign drinks, the freshest bread, pastries and special sweets for people with a sugar disease.
Farm machinery was manufactured at the factory of the colonists Restel and Gen (in the Soviet period known as ‘October Revolution Plant’). The high-end machinery of that time allowed the German colonies to take leading positions in grain production in the south of modern Ukraine and considerably contributed to the wealth of Odessa.
What a German without beer! One of the most famous brewers was a tradesman and a magnate Wilhelm Sanzenbacher. Wilhelm Santsenbacher’s brewery, based on his own summer house on the Malofontanskaya road (French Boulevard and Botanical Lane) in 1890.
By that time, Odessa was literally filled with European beers of local production, and therefore the founder had to work hard. Sanzenbacher applied the most expensive modern technology, including using on-site artificial ice. The company was equipped with a steam heating system. Extensive basements for storage and improvement contained 50 bottles with a capacity of 270-280 buckets, there were tanks for sludge for 15,000 buckets, etc. On the beer bottle label the following words were written:
‘A good remedy for griefs and illnesses’.
That beer was sold not only in Odessa, but throughout the Russian Empire. Unfortunately, Sanzenbacher factory which used to be Brewery No.1 in the Soviet times is nowadays ruined. The building was burnt under strange circumstances in 2007.
Santsenbacher’s son-in-law, Friedrich Ennie, was also one of the founders of the Kiev Brewery Partnership.
This German also earned his fame thanks to Odessa circus. At that time Odessa circus was the first stationary circus in Europe with the state-of-the-art equipment. The frame of the building made out of forged beams lined with wood and felt at the top allowed to sustain heat and improve the acoustics. Besides, steam heating was made which was also important. Yuriy Olesha wrote: ‘Velour paradise… a paradise of marble, steps, gold, frosted lamps, arches, corridors, echo, laughter, sparkling eyes, perfume and heels clicking’.
Talking about manufacturers, it is worth mentioning the Falz-Feins. They owned the House with the Atlants in Gogol Street. This family originates from Friedrich Fein, who moved to the Russian Empire in the 20s of the 19th century and was engaged in sheep farming. For generous donations during the Crimean War, the Germans from Odessa received hereditary honorary citizenship. Their surname is well-known not only in Odessa, but throughout Ukraine, because Friedrich Falz-Fein founded the famous nature reserve Askania Nova.