A Digital History and Photo Archive for the Beresan District, Odessa, Russia


The Renner Family



Our Father, Michael Renner Christian Renner & Barbara Bernhardt, our Grandparents Great Grandfather, Johann Renner Angela Kiefel & Michael Renner
The Renner family came from Steinweiler, Rhinepalatinate, Germany.  In 1808, Johann Martin Renner and his son, Franz, left Germany to take up Catherine the Great's offer of free land, freedom of Religion, no taxes and no mandatory military service in Russia and became founding members of the colonies of Karlsruhe and Speier in the rich Beresan area of South Russia.   Martin, with his third wife, Annamaria Hatzenbühler settled in Karlsruhe while Franz moved to Speier, where he married Anna Maria Schmidt.

They built up their homes and farmed the land while suffering many hardships...intense winters they weren't prepared for and diseases that killed many...most survived only through their strong believe in Almighty God.

Over the course of the years, the family prospered, and the descendants of Franz Renner were some of the wealthiest families in Speier.   In time, they left the village and developed their own CHUTOR (a large, self-efficient family farming community).  Life was good in their paradise!  (At least for the time being...)


Selestina Renner

Frank Renner

Selestina Renner, Georg Renner, Leogadia Maier

Michael Renner & Cousin Anna Klein


In 1876 the feelings of the Russians towards the German settlers began to change...the Russians felt the Germans were outsiders, and resented how well the colonies were prospering.  Military exclusion was revoked, and the draft now included the Germans.  Many began leaving Russia for the US, Argentina and Canada.  The Homestead Act of 1862 provided the opportunity to claim free land in the US, and helped persuade many to immigrate into the United States.   The Black Sea Germans chose the midwestern states of Kansas, South Dakota and North Dakota because of it's resemblance to the flat lands of Russia they had left behind.


Peter Renner

In 1905, Jakob and Pius Renner, sons of Johann, established the Renner Chutor which was located near Bachmutt, about 80 to 100 miles from the village of Speier.  Johann Renner and his wife, Barbara Zentner, Pius Renner and his wife Margaret Hoerner, Jakob Renner and his wife Margaret Geiger, Philipp Renner and his wife Clementine Maier, Christ Berger and his wife Pauline Renner all moved to the Chutor.  They lived there until 1911 when Pius and Jakob Renner, and Christ Berger, decided they'd had enough with what was now happening in Russia, and began preparations to leave for the United States.  Jakob sold his holdings to his nephew, Peter Renner and his wife Anna Eckroth.



Jakob and Margaret Geiger Renner, Monica Renner and her husband Philipp Schaff, Pauline Renner and her husband Christ Berger, and Pius and Margaret Hoerner Renner came to the USA, arriving on the ship  "Brandenburg".  They reached Richardton, ND July 2, 1911 and settled.


Sometime after their arrival in the US, Jakob wrote back to his brother, Christian, telling him not to follow them over.  Life in the Dakotas was hard...they had severe winter months, and terrifying raids by the Indians.  He convinced his favorite brother,  Christian to stay in Russia where it was safer.   In 1918, Christian was arrested by the Russians, tortured in front of his family, and finally shot to death in the streets of Speier along with Peter Kuhn  and one other Kuhn brother as "enemies of the state."  The Russians felt that by making examples of the wealthier members of the community, it would scare the rest of the villagers into leaving Russia.  Jakob blamed himself for Christian's death, for it was his letter that kept him from following.


Grandfather Christian

Christian Renner was my grandfather, and Michael, his 10 year old son at the time (my father), watched the horrendous acts of torture bestowed by the Russians upon his father.  My father was haunted by this scene his entire life, and even though he also came to the US in 1952, still feared the Russians until the day he died in June of 1995.  Peter Renner (the husband of Anna Eckroth) had been arrested in 1937, and shot to death in 1938 just for being a German.  In 1941 the family was forced to move to Kazakhstan, and it wasn't until 1991 that they were allowed to emigrate into Germany.


My father left Speier that year:  his mother sent him off with a "doctored" set of papers making him older by two years.  He went off to Christina and Felsenburg and lived with his aunts and uncles for a short time before setting out on his own.  He roamed the Beresan area of South Russia until 1932 when he met Leogadia Maier and was married in Kramatorskaja.  She was the daughter of Karl Maier, a German, and a Russian woman, by the name of Serafima Schtschikalkin.   The marriage was a civil ceremony since he was Catholic, and she was Lutheran.   Two children were born to this union, Emma born April 1935, and Adolf born February 1937.  In 1941, Michael Renner was "told to leave the home" in Kramatorskaja...and the children were left behind with their mother.  My father entered into Germany in 1942, never forgetting the two children he left behind, and never heard of or saw again.  Although he remarried in Germany to my mother, and had the six of us, we always knew we had these two siblings that were lost.  Their picture was always hanging on our wall, and was placed into his hands when he died. 



This is the search undertaken by my brothers, my sister and myself....To find our half-sister and half-brother and/or their make our family complete.                                                                    

(picture of Emma and Adolf taken Sept. 23, 1939)

Emma & Adolf "Eddie" Renner


On the morning of January 22, 2003, I received a WONDERFUL message from Valentina Fromm, an employee of SCHNEIDER LLC UKRAINE TOURS, who had volunteered her services in the Ukraine to search for our missing siblings.  She had searched through two archives, visited a handful of villages in the Beresan area, made numerous phone calls and studied the documents I had made available to her through the internet.  Her message was informing me that she had SUCCEEDED in locating our siblings in the Ukraine!!  They are both alive and living in Kramatorsk, in the Donetz region, right where our father had left them!   We are told they were very excited to hear they had family looking for them!  Link to messages

In September of 2003, my sister and I plan to make the trip over to the Ukraine to FINALLY meet Emma  and Adolf and their families.   They have been a missing part of our family for over 60 years, and now God has seen fit to unite us!   Miracles DO happen!!



Special heartfelt thanks are given to Valentina Fromm and Robert Schneider of SCHNEIDER LLC UKRAINE TOURS for the tremendous role he and Valentina  played in making the connections that proved vital in locating Emma and Adolf Renner in the Ukraine.  Information on tours and research done in the Ukraine can be obtained by contacting Bob Schneider at: or you can click HERE to visit his website. 

May God Bless you both very richly!


Alex Renner Paul Renner Christian Renner Valerie Renner Ingram Angie Renner Petticrew Michael Renner






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Last Update:05/02/10
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