Rempel, Gerhard Jakob (1885-1937)
Gerhard Jakob Rempel: engineer and mill owner; born on 20 March 1885 in Rosenthal, Chortitza Mennonite settlement, South Russia, to Jakob G. Rempel (1860-1922) and Katharina (Sawatzky) Rempel (1864-1960). He was the eldest of seven children. On 23 July 1917, Gerhard married Aganeta Koop (3 August 1893, Einlage, Chortitza, South Russia – 30 September 1988, Calgary, Alberta, Canada), daughter of Peter A. Koop (1865-1936) and Anna (Loewen) Koop (1867-1915) of Einlage and granddaughter of Abraham J. Koop, founder of the A. J. Koop Factory of Einlage and Schoenwiese. The couple had two children, Anna and Jakob. Gerhard was arrested on 4 August 1937 and executed on 26 December 1937 in Odessa, Ukraine.
Gerhard grew up in Chortiza, likely completing Zentralschule there. He was baptized on 1 June 1910 in Gruenfeld and remained a firm Christian for the rest of his life, being part of a church whenever possible. He studied engineering in several areas of Germany, including Chemnitz, Saxony. There he likely attended the Königliche Gewerbschule (Royal Mercantile College; now the Chemnitz University of Technology). In 1913, he returned to Russia to work at the A. J. Koop factory in Einlage as a design engineer.
Rempel continued to work for the Koop Factory in Einlage and was part of the design team that built the first tractor ever produced in Ukraine. He worked with two other engineers, A. A. Unger and Kornelius Johann Pauls. Planning for the tractor began before 1914, and production of the “Zaporozhetz 1” proceeded rapidly despite reservations Gerhard had about the wheel design.
In May of 1923, the “Zaporozhetz 1” was awarded a gold medal at the first All-Russian Agricultural Exhibition. Some of the engineers who had worked on the project were offered more prestigious positions, and Rempel was transferred to Factory Communar in Zaporozhye to work as a designer engineer. Work continued on a second model of the tractor.
Meanwhile, Gerhard continued his work on various agricultural machines, including a grain tractor/seeding machine that received a gold medal at the International Exhibition in Libau, Latvia. He was appointed chief manager of the technical bureau of a large factory that produced seeding machines in Zinovjewst (Kirovograd). The Rempel family moved from Einlage to Zaporozhye in 1925, presumably following Gerhard’s promotion, and then in 1929 to Kirovograd.
When the purges began, Rempel came to the attention of the Soviets. In 1933, he was arrested and jailed in Odessa for participating in “counter-revolutionary organizations.” He was released on 22 May 1934 after 13 months in jail because of a lack of evidence. He was able to obtain a position in Kharkov as an engineer in the Ukrainian Scientific Exploration Institute of Agricultural Machinery, and the family moved there in 1934.
In Kharkov, Gerhard and his family lived in an apartment while Gerhard worked in the Institute, which produced combines and repaired military aircraft. In 1937, two commissioners arrived at the factory to inspect the work; although one of them was pleased with it, the other feared that the non-Russian engineers and workers might eventually betray the Soviet Union. Gerhard was accused of spying for Germany and plotting to create an independent Ukraine. He was arrested in August, convicted on 25 December 1937, and executed the next day.
Gerhard Jakob Rempel was a skilled and dedicated engineer whose work and life greatly contributed to the society in which he lived. Remaining faithful to the end, he left a legacy of commitment for his family and friends to follow.
GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 6.00 ed. Fresno, CA:, 2009: #146860.
Huebert, Helmut T. 1937: Stalin’s Year of Terror. Winnipeg, MB: Springfield Publishers, 2009.
Rempel, Anna. Family history (unpublished). In the possession of Anna Rempel, Calgary, Alberta.
Shevelyev, Mark. "Wer entwarf den ersten Traktor." Der Bote (17 April 1996): 5, 12, translated by Vitalius Martens; with responses: (15 May 1996): 5, 7 and (15 June 1996): 9, 12.
Shevelyev, Mark. "Rempel’s Wheel." Auto ZAZ News (7 April 1998); translated by Anna Rempel.
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MLA style: Huebert, Susan. "Rempel, Gerhard Jakob (1885-1937)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. May 2009. Web. 20 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/rempel_gerhard_jakob_1885_1937.
APA style: Huebert, Susan. (May 2009). Rempel, Gerhard Jakob (1885-1937). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/rempel_gerhard_jakob_1885_1937.