Rousse Regional Museum of History
"All that I experienced afterwards had already been in Roustchouk". Elias Canetti
For the Training at the German School in Rousse (1926-1944)

Nadezhda Tsvetkova

Being the largest port town on the Danube and a center of the Danube vilayet (from 1864 up to the Liberation), in the second half of the 19th century Rousse turned into an important commercial, economic and cultural center, as well as a center for consulates of the European states. Since then dates back the settling of German-speaking groups of people, mainly related to commerce and the opening of various productions in the Danubian town. With time appeared the natural necessity for the children of foreign colonies, born in Rousse, to receive the chance to learn to read and write, and to study a number of classes in their native language.

In September 1883 in premises under rent on “Tsar Kaloyan” Str. Was opened the German School in Rousse. A great merit for this achievement is owned by the young teacher Anna Winter, sister of the first Head Engineer of the town Edward Winter. In the following decades the German School several times had to change its location, directors, teacher’s staff, financing methods, training programs. The First World War had a devastating effect over its existence, but after that it managed to rise again and it turned out to be one of the best German Schools outside of Germany. The studied materials for the compilation of a history of the German School in Rousse show that this revival was due to the activities of the German-Bulgarian Association for Cultural Proximity and to the German Academy in Munich, responsible for the spread of German language in Bulgaria. It was supported by the citizens of Rousse, which voted confidence to the competency of the school’s management and the program, conducted for the educational institution. A proof for this trust is the fact that out of 270 newly-recorded students in 1926, only 15 were Germans.

The studying of German language was starting in the kindergarten of the school, where the children were prepared to go to first grade. This was implemented through various games, songs, short poems. On the walls of the classroom there were large paintings with different images, which after a number of indications and descriptions unnoticeably turned into a story. In her memories for the first year in the German School, Lyubka Vasileva recalls: “The entire year there was a large painting hanging from the ceiling, depicting a family, where everyone was doing something – the grandfather was reading a newspaper, the father was fixing something, the grandmother was crocheting, the mother was cooking, a child was playing and another one was studying… All details of it were being described, and this was a good method for education, a lot of words were used, they were acquired and remembered forever”. According to the kindergarten teacher Otilie Matichka, a German of Czech origin, towards Christmas the children were advancing with such a speed that they were able to understand the short stories, which are told to them in German. The children themselves were successfully and with pleasure dramatizing in German “Snow-white” and “Little Red Riding Hood”. One of the favorite activities in the kindergarten was the daily drawing. In the memories the “tasks”, assigned by Mrs. Matichka to her pupils, are revived – for example, to draw on separate cardboards different fruits, which are later to be “placed inside” a basket. The teacher was directing what and how to be illustrated, and in the same time encourages the imagination of the little pupils.
In the four years of the elementary grades the students were learning to read and write in Bulgarian and in German at the same time. The education was again enriched with games, songs and rhymes, as well as it continued to be illustrated with pictures and tables on the walls of the classrooms. The only language, used for conversations, was German, so that children could be able to use in practice the studied words, and a lot of the teacher did not knew Bulgarian. There was a list of the students on a special board, and next to every name a dot was placed – black if Bulgarian speech has been heard, and red if it was talked in German. In the three junior high school classes were studied German and Bulgarian language, math, history, geography, natural history, writing, drawing, singing, gymnastics, manual training. Even nowadays, the already elderly alumni of the German School in Rousse remember the manual training classes, and the photos take them back to the weaving on small looms, the making of pyjamas, the knitting of scarves. In these classes the girls were studying embroidery and were making beautiful blouses by themselves with traditional Bulgarian motifs, which were becoming part of their official representative dress.

In the five classes of the higher course of the Commerce Secondary School was received an excellent preparation not only in all of the common education disciplines, but also in specific ones for the school – Bulgarian and German commercial correspondence, commercial erudition, accounting, commercial mathematics, stock-knowledge, economic geography, political economy, financial science, cooperative deeds, civil, commercial and maritime law, political arithmetic, Bulgarian and German stenography, typewriting (in Bulgarian and German), exemplary bureau, poster writing. The classes continued in the afternoon with lighter disciplines, like stenography and typewriting – everyday, except for Wednesday. Periodically, in the school were conducted contests in stenography and typewiriting – simultaneously with such being held in German. The requirements were absolutely the same for the Bulgarian and the German students, the results were sent to Germany and, depending on the achievements, the best ones received certificates (Urkunde). This small diploma turned out to be a good recommendation when applying for a job.

When telling stories about her student’s years in the German School in Rousse, one of the alumni (Lyubka Vasileva) recalls, that physics and chemistry in the 4th and 5th grade have been taught only for general information, and that in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades the stress was placed mainly on the commercial classes. “We were studying stock-knowledge, which was very important for us. We were making various experiments how to become familiar with the stocks, how to discover what type of textile we had…” French language was studied as a second language in the school. No matter what was the general result of the student through the years, everyone had matriculation on the upper-grade disciplines with written and oral exams. In addition to all that was told so far of the school program, it should be noted something more – the well covered physical education classes. In the morning, before entering the classroom, physical exercise were conducted in the yard for 15 minutes, “for refreshment” under the direction of a teacher. Twice in a week there were physical culture classes – in summertime in the yard, and in the winter – in the gym. In the single day that was free of afternoon classes – Wednesday – it was compulsory to train on the “Napredak” playground. Various competitions were organized there in athletics, dodgeball, etc., and the most active role in them was played by the French language teacher and a sportsman himself – Dr. Brikmann. In the end of every school year there were sport competitions held for achievements according to the age. They were considered in every relation to these, held in the same time in Germany. The results were sent to Germany and the winners from Rousse received the same awards as the German students.

The teachers of the German School in Rousse were excellent pedagogues, with a wide broad of knowledge, with interests in many fields of life. They worked in this direction with their students – maximum use of the time out of class for their physical strengthening, as well as for enriching the knowledge for the history and geography of Bulgaria, so that such interest to be cultivated subsequently towards Germany as well, whose language and culture they are studying.