In 1812 Czar Alexander I invited German settlers to establish themselves in Bessarabia and promised them land and civil rights. The immigrants came predominantly from Southwest Germany and Prussia. Over the course of a 125-year settlement history, the Germans in Bessarabia developed a prospering, organized community, one steeped in local autonomy and a religious pietist primed ethic. As a small minority in a colorful variety of ethnic and religious communities, they lived in peaceful neighborliness among Moldovans, Russians, Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Jews and other groups. During World War I they barely escaped deportation to Siberia. In 1918 Bessarabia came under Romanian sovereignty. As a result of the German-Soviet nonagression agreement («Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact» 1939), 93,500 Germans from Bessarabia were evacuated in 1940 and resettled mostly in occupied Poland in 1941/42. In early 1945 they had to flee and create a new life for themselves in a divided Germany.