Hamm, Gerhard Christian (1883-1937)
Gerhard Christian Hamm: engineer and inventor; born on 22 April 1883 in the village of Chortitza, Chortitza Mennonite settlement, South Russia, to Christian and Maria Hamm. His first wife was Katharina Rempel, with whom he had two children, one of whom died in childhood. Katharina died in 1920, and on 9 July 1923 Gerhard married Anna Koop. The couple had one child, a daughter who survived to adulthood. Gerhard was arrested in April 1937 and executed on 17 September of that year in Dnepropetrovsk.
Gerhard grew up with his parents and siblings in the Chortiza settlement of Russia. In 1900, he worked in a factory in Halbstadt, and from 1905-1907, he studied at a technical institute in Germany. When his studies ended, he returned to Russia and worked as an engineer, first in Halbstadt and then in Berdyansk. In 1909 he started work in the A. J. Koop factory as a design engineer, and he later worked as an engineer at the Abram J. Koop Factory in Schönwiese. He continued to work at the same place even after it was taken over by the government and renamed Factory “Kommunar.”
In addition to his work at the factory, Hamm played an active role in the district committee of the Union of Metal Workers. In 1923, he was awarded a gold watch for outstanding performance, and in 1930, he was sent to Germany and the United States to gather information about and experience in using a conveyor system invented in the United States, intended to improve combine design. Together with his friend, Peter Dyck, as well as Kornelius Pauls and others at the Factory Kommunar, he worked to design and build the first combine ever used in the Soviet Union. For this accomplishment, after examination by the head of the Soviets, Mikhail Kalinin, the engineers and the factory itself received the Order of Lenin on 3 September 1931.
On 8 April 1937, Gerhard and 10 of the other leaders from the Factory Kommunar were accused of being enemies of the people and were arrested and jailed in Zaporozhye. The specific accusation against Gerhard was that he had taken part in a counter-revolutionary diversion organization. When the arresting officials came to take Gerhard away, they first asked him to hand over the Order of Lenin, making him an ordinary citizen.
For some time, Gerhard’s wife, Anna, was able to visit him every week to bring food and clean clothes. Sentencing of the accused prisoners took place on 16 September, and they were executed on 17 September in Dnepropetrovsk. Anna Hamm was also arrested and sentenced to ten years’ exile in Siberia. On 6 May 1958, Gerhard was declared “rehabilitated,” since there had been insufficient evidence to convict him. His photograph is now displayed in the pyramid of pictures in the Dmitri Yavornitzki Historical Museum in Dnepropetrovsk of victims of atrocities committed at the hands of the Soviets under Stalin.
Gerhard Christian Hamm was a dedicated and inventive worker, able to use his many skills to improve the lives of the people around him. His work as an engineer helped to bring new technology to the farmers of Russia, easing the difficulties of their work, and his involvement in the community was a model for others to follow. Despite the tragic end to his life, he left a legacy of commitment for future generations.
Huebert, Helmut T. Mennonite Estates in Imperial Russia, 2 vols. Winnipeg, MB: Springfield Publishers, 2008: v. II.
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APA style: Huebert, Helmut T. and Susan Huebert. (March 2009). Hamm, Gerhard Christian (1883-1937). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/hamm_gerhard_christian_1883_1937.