Stahf, Michael Peter

Profession: 
Clergy
Biography: 

Pastor Stahf was born 13 September 1861 in Katharinenstadt. He served the parish in Grimm from 1890 to 1910. From 1910-1918, he was in Dorpat and Riga. In 1919, he escaped to Germany. He died 28 June 1933 in Berlin, Germany. His wife was Alma. She died in Germany in 1946.

The following is taken from the memoirs of Alma Stahf. It is a description of the festival of Kerb, a two day celebration held in Grimm each year, formerly a church consecration of our ancestors.

Preparations began about two weeks before the festival. Every household had some ready cash--from selling harvest produce, wages, or handicrafts--the proceeds had to distributed for acquisition of winter clothing, shoes, and household goods. First of all, the festival began with a thorough, and enormous, housecleaning. Everything inside and outside the house as straightened up, things that might have been neglected in the summer during all the hectic work.

And then the baking and roasting. Even if you did not expect visitors, you still had your hands full, for the shepherds --herders for the hogs and cattle -- came in the fall to aufheben (settle up), as it was called. That consisted of a certain amount of money, harvest produce, bread, and cakes.The shepherds arrives with large baskets, and it always remained a mystery to me what they finally did with all the loaves of bread and cakes: Strüsselkuchen and Latwergekuchen -- cakes frosted with thickened watermelon juice. Only the tiniest portion could be enjoyed fresh. The remainder was probably dried for zwieback, or perhaps it was sold.

And then the celebration began. My husband, Pastor Stahf, always arranged it so that he had to preach Kerb Sunday in an associated church, because on this one Sunday the service would not have had the usual high attendance, due to the festival. On the whole and almost without exception, the pastors inveighed against the celebration of Kerb.

I wasn't quite happy with that, because it seemed so natural and almost delightful that there was at least one festival in the year when people were permitted to indulge harmlessly in pure exuberance. However, I was wrong, for the joys here were not as harmless as I had assumed. It was often more an unrestricted enjoyment of life that degenerated into wild drinking with the worst consequences. People who had a somewhat larger living room rented out their home as a Kerb house, and since there wasn't sufficient musicians in Grimm, they contracted with some band from a neighboring village -- and then the party began! It consisted exclusively of dancing, drinking, and probably even some worse things. It lasted two days. We would have had to tie up the young people if they weren't supposed to have been there, for no promise to stay away from the dancing would have been kept. We really would have given in to them cheerfully, too, allowing them to romp once a year to their heart's content, if the consequences had not been so terrible. In the twenty years of my life in Grimm, beyond the innumerable serious brawls, three murders were ascribed to Kerb, and many illegitimate children, not acknowledged by their fathers, came into the world nine months later.

Source(s): 

- Schnurr, Joseph. Die Kirchen und das religiöse Leben der Russlanddeutschen – Evangelischer Teil (Stuttgart: AER Verlag Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Rußland, 1978): 173.

Volga Colonies: 

The Rev. Michael Peter Stahf. Courtesy of Die Kirchen und das religiöse Leben der Russlanddeutschen, p.173.