Ruse German Language School History and Development
In the second half of the 19th century, when Midhad Pasha vali was ruling, Ruse was a prosperous commercial, economical and cultural centre in the lower course of the Danube. The Danube port and Ruse-Varna railway track, built by Baron Hirsch in 1866, were the basis of the city’s economical and cultural prosperity. At the same time a mass of German speaking people, working in the field of trade, started to settle in Ruse. This German colony took a number of actions for their children to have their own school here, in Bulgaria. Thus, in September, 1883, Anna Vinter, sister of the first chief engineer in Ruse, founded the German Speaking School. At first, 50 German students were taught by four German teachers. However, the school’s popularity grew more because of the open Accounting and Trade Correspondence courses. The school was financed by the German School Board “Rustschuk”, the German Society “Concordia” and the tuition fees. In 1895, Theodore Vangeman, a gospeller, headed the German Paris and the German Speaking School as well. In 1896, at his request, forty Armenian orphans, who had survived the massacre in the Ottoman Empire, were accommodated in the school boarding house. A couple of years later, in 1903, the gospeller sheltered another thirteen children, whose parents had died in the Ilinden-Preobrajenie rebellion. In 1901, on his initiative and German resources, a modern school building was constructed on Borisova Street, in the centre of the city. In 1906, the Trade High School was opened and in February, 1909, it was recognised as such by the Ministry of Education.
In 1906, Theodore Vangeman left the headmaster’s chair and his church. Because of the constant lack of money, the school declined and in 1910, it was closed. Due to Dr Karl Virgenz, the new headmaster, appointed in 1911, and the German help, the school revived and reached its climax.
But the First World War destroyed everything at one blow. According to Thessalonica Truce from 1918, the classes stopped in October, 1919, and the building was evicted by the French troops. However, Germany did not give up the school. At the time, Germany was experiencing a post-war crisis but the restoration of the school was one of its main priorities. A huge part in the process was again covered by Dr Karl Virgenz who devoted his life to the school revival. He was the man who found the papers needed for Germany to convict France of illegal eviction in the International Court of Justice in the Hague. The money got was used for buying a property in Ruse and in just three months the new school building was erected. On 15th September, 1926, it was officially opened. 270 students were again taught in Deutsche Schule, Ruse. In the coming years, the building was completed and in 1928 the Trade High School was opened. It became a centre attracting not only students but their parents too. In 1932, the first twelve seniors passed their matriculation and got their diplomas from the only school of its kind amongst the German Speaking Schools abroad. Due to the hard work of the Deutsche Schule teachers, it grew to one of the best German Speaking schools out of the borders of Germany with 80% Bulgarian students. It had its own kindergarten, Primary School and Trade High School, recognised by the Ministry of Education as such on 25th June, 1929, Issue 921. The school had excellent equipment, including books and school aids delivered from Germany. It was financed by the Pestalotsi Public Company, subordinate to the German government in Berlin, and by the tuition fees. However, it was mainly financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany.
Deutsche Schule students were given excellent schooling in German, French and Bulgarian. Except for the languages, there were taught all the general subjects as well as Trade Accounting, Science of Commercial Articles, Law, Bulgarian and German Trade Correspondence, Stenography, Banking, etc.
Different extra curriculum groups were functioning at Deutsche Schule. These were folkloric dance club, a choir for Bulgarian and German traditional songs, a puppet theatre, yacht club, students` printing office, students` firm working according to the Bulgarian legislation, etc. There was a doctor working at the school – Dr Alexander Doganov who had graduated from the Munich University. He was one of the first pediatricians in Bulgaria.
In 1930, students started issuing their own newspaper, “Aufwarts”. Annually, they held charity campaigns and gave performances for the Ruse Community.
Deutsche Schule experienced a lot of vicissitudes throughout its history. It turned into one of the most elite schools for the Bulgarian students although it was open for the German colony needs.
In 1944, the school stopped working. Bulgarian Government closed it down. On 30th August, 1944, German teachers left Ruse. The authorities burned all the papers and possessions of the school in its yard. When Germany signed the pact for its capitulation, USSR took possession of the building. The Soviet Union ceded it to Bulgaria. Thus, the Deutsche Schule building became property of state.
In 1991, after the changes in the Bulgarian government, the wonderful idea for the German Language School revival was born. Ruse community deserved compensation for its needs of a German Language High School. That was the way for the City Council to fit the educational demands of German educational example. In the memories of people Deutsche Schule had a good reputation due to the educational quality, discipline acquired and last but not least, its glory to the most elite school in Ruse.
An Initiative Committee was crated in the City Council. Part of this Committee were Dimitar Volf, a qualified and distinguished teacher n German; Julia Angelova who was in charge of the Educational Department in Ruse; Plamen Ivanov – assistant chief of the Cultural Revival Committee, a teacher and currently headmaster of German Speaking School; members of the Educational Committee, etc. Mr Stoiko Dimitrov, headmaster of St Kliment of Ohrid Primary School gave a well-timed suggestion. He offered the building of the Primary School to provide a basis for building up the German Speaking School. The idea was supported by the Bulgarian-German Friendship Society in Ruse, as well as by the citizens of Ruse. Ruse Municipality, Bulgarian and German institutions and organisations such as Goethe Institute, the embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Ministry of Education, etc. showed their countenance too. Mr Johannes Rau, prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia State and Mr Wolfgang Clement, a member of the North Rhine-Westphalia government lent their moral and financial support.
Thus, the German Language School in Ruse was rebuilt on the basis of St Kliment of Ohrid Primary School where students of first and second grade were already taught in German. On 15th September, 1992, Bulgarian Official Gazette released Issue RD-14-59/08.09.1992 of N. Vassilev, Minister of Education where St Kliment of Ohrid Primary School became German Language School, Ruse. Some years later, in 2001, the Official Gazette released a new issue of the Minister of Education (RD-14-29/05.04.2001) where it was stated that the German Language School was named after Friedrich Schiller, a prominent German poet and playwright. His “Ode to the Happiness” which is the European anthem, became anthem of the school too.
At present, “Friedrich Schiller” School is the most experienced high school in Bulgaria in the field of elementary school foreign language teaching. There are about 90 teachers in the school, 17 of them teach German. A lot of teachers from Germany taught and are now teaching in the school. Some of them are Jurgen Hoffman, Birgit Petzold, Petra Petzke, Adelhide and Ursula Harder, Inge Mischeva, etc. The board of the school has ambitious aims and they are being successfully accomplished.
The school admits students of three different ages – at the age of seven, eleven and fourteen. When graduating, they have completed between 1690 and 1760 German classes. There are 50 classes with about 1200 students most of whom are studying in universities in Germany, Austria, the USA, Australia as well as in Bulgaria.
In 1999, “Friedrich Schiller” School became part of the Sprachdiplom system. When in 9th class, students pass an exam to become part of a special class to prepare themselves for a German Certificate Exam. The certificate is given for students` knowledge of German language. Because of the attained purposes, the school has won recognition by the embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, by German universities and a lot of other educational institutions.
A steady relationship is established with educational institutions in Germany and Austria. There is fulfilled an educational exchange with schools in Kevelaer and Hamburg, Federal Republic of Germany. This partnership is very useful. Our students, competently guided by their teachers, organise seminars and conferences where they discuss on the problems of the present day such as “Terrorism – threat to the future of Europe and the world”, “Anti-drugs campaigns”, etc. They also conduct researches of the social status of definite ethnical and social groups of people, the juvenile delinquency, the needs of the youth today, the ecological problems of the world, etc.
German universities take an interest in our students because of their excellent command of German and English as well as their background in all the general subjects. That is why, they are desired university and college students abroad.
German Language School offers a lot of extra curriculum activities which build up students` creativity and competitive power. They take part in the school choir, girls` troupe for Bulgarian traditional songs, a folkloric ensemble, dancing club, rock`n`roll club, drama troupe that performs plays in German and a puppet show with 7th- and 8th-grade students, etc. Students release the “Aufwarts” magazine twice a year. There are also a school radio and a small TV centre. The school concert is held annually in May.
German Language School has volleyball, basketball and football teams as well as a track-and-field athlete. Our sport teams and artistic classes are traditionally winners of Communal artistic and sports competitions. Thus, they prove our high-quality education.
The school prestige finds its roots on the educational exactingness as well as on students` self-training, on the high-level education of the general subjects, especially of German and English, the discipline and school order, on the achieved results in Chemistry, Physics, Maths, Biology, etc. competitions.
98% of our students proceed with their education in universities at home and abroad. In 2003, the school celebrated its 120-year anniversary commemorated with concerts, a round table conference about the German presence in Ruse from the second half of the 19th century to these days, debates between our students and students from German schools. There was also a meeting between seniors and students from the old Deutsche Schule.
In 2005, 200 years had passed since the death of Friedrich Schiller, our patron. It was commemorated with a series of activities.
German Language School wants to extend its partnership with Germany, with neighbour countries and other European countries. Its ambition is to be steadily integrated in the European educational system. Thus, we give our contribution to the fellowship, recognition and union of European youth by our educational politics. We hope that with our work we help and bring the European unification forward.
A thorough look at the history of the school may be found in “History of German Language School in Ruse City 1883 - 1944” by Nikolai Chakarov.