A Childhood in Siberia of Refugees, Wolves and Kirghiz
Herzog, Johannes. "A Childhood in Siberia of Refugees, Wolves, and Kirghiz." Heritage Review 35, no. 4: December 2005, 31-41.
Translated by Alex Herzog
I was born in 1925 and spent the first eleven years of my childhood
in the village [of Vikentyevka] that I wish to write about.
The village was in the middle of the steppe, and the area was "as
flat as a Reibekuchen (potato pancake)," as they
say in the Rhineland, my current home. Most of the small houses
were built of mud. More precisely, straw was added to mud to keep
it from tearing apart, people kneaded it by stomping in it with
their feet, and then the mixture was put into forms to be dried
in the sun. Summers actually lasted only about two months, but during
that brief time, the sun burned mercilessly from the sky and made
the mud tiles as hard as rock. Mud was also used for the mortar
and for a kind of stucco, but in this case it was mixed with sand
and lime. Houses were covered with reed that grew in abundance on
the shores of lakes and ponds in the steppe. Naturally, all the
homes were single-level structures.
The gable of a home invariably faced the village street, and a low
wall and a small garden usually separated the home from the street.
Every summer all the homes would be whitewashed so that they always
looked fresh and neat. Even the low, walled fence, similarly made
of the muddy mixture, would be "stucco-ed" and whitewashed.
settles near Nadezhdinsk. (Courtesy Library of Congress Prokudin-Gorskii
The interior of the homes nearly always consisted of four spaces:
a front and a back room separated by the kitchen and a hallway.
The two rooms were heated from the kitchen fire, and a furnace-like
structure that reached to the ceiling extended out into those rooms.
Anyone coming inside during the cold winter would first go to the
furnace/oven to warm his hands before sitting down. Inside the kitchen,
a stove was permanently attached to a hole in the furnace. There
were no moveable metal stoves.
Fuel for heating and cooking consisted of straw and dried cow dung.
The dung was kept in the backyard all winter long, and in the spring
it would be spread out there and rolled flat with a six-sided stone
roller pulled by horses. After it was dried at least partially, it
was cut into slices, akin to peat, and these were spread out covered
to dry completely.
Except for the church and the school, there were few if any buildings
in our village that were made of stone. The church and school were
built side by side in the center of the village, and in front of
them was a spacious "plaza" on which we would play a
game we called Schlagball (rounders) on Sundays. Our two
village streets, very broad and of course unpaved, were connected
by cross streets. Between the parallel streets were some large gardens,
which as a rule were not fenced in.
The village was founded at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Its residents had come exclusively from German colonies in the Black
Sea area. My father came from Krasna, my mother from Landau, both
in the Odessa region of Ukraine. They were not deportees—instead
they had been attracted to move there by the Russian government in
a move to get the virgin lands there settled. My paternal grandfather,
a widower, moved to Siberia along with seven of his eight children,
while the eldest, already married, remained behind. The first leg
of the trip was made by train, all the way to Kustanay, the end of
the line. The rest of the way, well over a hundred kilometers [sixty
miles], across rocks and brush, had to be managed by horse-drawn wagon.
Even in my time, there were no real roads, merely beaten tracks which,
due to the sandy soil, were always deeply rutted.
Those new settlement areas were part of Siberia until the 1920s. Its
resettled residents consisted of Russians, Ukrainians and Germans,
while the native Kazakhs, whom we called Kirghiz, mostly lived as
nomads who roamed through the steppe along with their herds of cattle.
In our village it was said that the Kazakhs were serious horse thieves.
In fact, I personally know of a case when, during the time of collective
farms, some Kazakhs tried to rustle horses at night and were pursued,
caught, and beaten half to death before being handed over to the police.
The residents of our village were predominantly descendants of
original immigrants from Alsace and the Palatinate and therefore
spoke Alsatian or Palatinate dialects and were Catholic. Only one
man in our village spoke what seemed a very strange German to our
ears. My mother, who did not speak Russian, said, "He is a
Beschenzer," which, as my father explained, was a
corruption of the Russian word byezhenets, meaning "refugee."
During World War I, the Russian government had indeed deported Germans
from Volhynia to Siberia, but all except one had returned to their
original home villages after the war. Because these people were
all Protestant, several more who had stayed behind in the region
decided to live in the neighboring Protestant village of Maryinskoye.
From this observation the reader can see that the Volga-Germans,
who in 1941 would be deported en masse by the Soviet government,
were by no means the first to meet such a fate. In other words,
Russia already had a tradition of mass deportations.
Among my earliest memories, I can see myself and my brother, who
two years younger than I, in knee-length pants held up by suspenders,
wearing red "Kirghiz" hats, stomping hand in hand along
the sandy village street that was lined with Vogelknöterich
(an ornate, flowery brush plant up to about twenty inches in height),
and our mother, short, heavy-set, and round as a ball, yet very
agile, watching our progress. We were walking to school, where we
had unlimited access, despite the fact that neither of us was old
enough to attend. Our father, you see, was the teacher at the school—at
the time merely a single-room institution that indeed had only one
large classroom. As many as eighty pupils were crowded into the
rows of school benches, the little ones in the front and the bigger
ones in the back. Fourth grade was the final grade of compulsory
school attendance in those days.
Despite the large number of little people in the room, it was very
calm—each group was busy with its own assignment. We sat down
on an empty bench and each received a piece of paper and a pencil
to draw and scribble on. Three windows on each side of the room made
it airy and bright. The walls were covered with pictures and illustrations
of animals and plants, including also some scenes depicting people
performing seasonal farm work.
A large map was hung behind the teacher’s desk, and right next
to the door was a very large, high furnace that was fueled from the
hallway. A cupboard containing chalk, blank writing booklets, books
and a wooden pointer completed the furnishings. Jackets and coats
were hung on hooks in the hallway.
Pupils were clothed very simply: long or knee-length pants, single-color
shirts for the boys, knee-length dresses and aprons for the girls.
During winter, the children, just like the adults, would wear, if
they could get them, sheep’s pelts or fur jackets and the
requisite caps, also wool-lined jackets and hats with ear flaps,
sheep’s leather mittens lined with fur, and felt boots or—in
imitation of the Kazakhs—leather boots with wide leggings
that were usually covered with felt. During the spring thaw, boots
would be covered with rubber galoshes. Women suffered from the cold
much more than the men, for one thing because wearing long pants
was taboo for them. In place of a coat, they would wear a large
shawl draped about their shoulders. Although made of wool, the
Großhalstuch (large head scarf) still did not provide
sufficient protection against the cold.
During summer, children and younger people invariably went barefoot,
and the calluses on the bottoms of their feet would become so thick
that even the blazing hot sand would not bother them. Adults wore
leather shoes, often made at home or at best by the village shoemaker.
On the one hand, they simply did not trust the durability of city-made
products and, on the other hand, there was no money for them, except
perhaps for city shoes some women wore to church on Sundays.
The climate was always extreme. Summers were short, dry and hot, and
winters were long, very snowy and very cold. Since there was not a
single thermometer in the entire village, temperatures were simply
not measured. Sometimes, though, spit would actually freeze in mid-air.
During winter, the men had icicles on their eye brows and moustaches,
and it was very important to make sure that one’s ears and tip
of the nose were rubbed with snow lest they froze.
Children were taken to school on a horse-drawn sleigh, but otherwise
no one left the house unless absolutely necessary, perhaps to water
the animals or to go to the well to haul drinking water (which we
called Karamsel—a word that stems from the Russian
word koromyslov). At times, snow storms raged with such
intensity that you could not see your hands in front of your eyes.
It was not unusual at all for people not to leave the house for
days at a time. And because the barns were across the yard from
the house and the way there might be blocked by high snow drifts,
the animals would get several days’ of feed supplied at each
Sometimes we felt like bears during hibernation. There was only the
howl of the storm, and there was very little daylight—mostly
because either the shutters were closed tight or the snow banks reached
all the way to the eaves. As soon as things calmed down outside, we
knew that the storm was over, but now you literally had to shovel
your way to the outside. Once you left the house, you could immediately
sense the clear, bright winter day with its "three suns"—our
people’s term for the reflections from the atmosphere that invariably
occurred when it was extraordinarily cold and dry.
Life on the street reawakened, sleds glided across the snow, and horses
emitted high clouds of steam from their nostrils while trudging along
with long strides. There was no fear of breaking through the top of
the snow—it was simply frozen too hard. At last the animals
could once again be taken to the village well, the well handle went
up and down again, and bucket by bucket the water flowed into the
long trough. The entire area was covered with a thick layer of ice,
and people and animals had to tread carefully to avoid breaking a
During the coldest of winter nights, villages would occasionally
be visited by wolves that gathered in packs during mating time and
naturally sensed the availability of something to eat inside the
villages. But since all domesticated animals, including dogs and
cats, spent the night inside, the wolves more often became victims
than animals of prey. Usually a barn had an opening to the back
through which the animal dung would be thrown outside—it was
the so-called Mistloch (manure hole). During the winter,
however, that hole would be stuffed with a full sack and rammed
tightly shut from the inside. On hearing wolves howling near the
village, the farmer would place pieces of meat on the outside manure
pile, open the "manure hole" and wait inside the barn.
Of course, sometimes they waited in vain, but oftentimes the wolves,
driven by hunger and guided by their extraordinary sense of smell,
would approach the Mistloch closely enough to become an
easy target for shooting.
In any case, wolves became enough of a problem for the government
that it issued monetary rewards for their kill. In reality, to most
people the wolves became a danger only during the winter and when
they came around in packs.
My father, who not only taught the children of the village, but also
did anything and everything that required the ability to write and
to keep books, including those in neighboring villages, two or three
times a week, would leave the house in the afternoon and not return
until late in the evening. During the winter, my mother was always
quite troubled about this, even though she knew that he carried a
loaded shot gun in his sleigh. There were stories of men who had been
followed by wolves and torn from their sleds, so their guns would
certainly not be of any use. Still, my father always returned home
safe and sound.
Domesticated animals had more to worry about from the wolves. For
example, one rainy fall evening, one of our roaming pigs was missing,
only to be discovered the next morning, back in its pen, but covered
with blood and with one ear torn off. That ear was found a few days
later in someone else’s yard, thus making it apparent that the
pig had tangled with a wolf.
On another occasion I was awakened one summer morning by a horrible
squeal coming from a pig. I went outside and saw my father, hunting
rifle in hand, walking toward the garden. Suddenly he let out a loud
scream and waved his gun in the air. Right away the squealing stopped
as our neighbor’s sow, a piglet in tow, was running in a "pig’s
gallop" across our own yard. Father laughed and recounted that
he, too, had been awakened by the horrible squealing and, as he reached
the garden, he discovered a wolf trying to drag the pig off by its
ear while the little pig was simply following behind. At first the
wolf had not reacted to the sight of a person, but as soon as he saw
the rifle, he took off. Later that same day a few men decided to look
for the wolf, and they soon discovered it on an abandoned piece of
land and shot it. It turned out to be an old, sickly animal no longer
capable of hunting properly.
The sheep fared the worst from the wolves. Except for some of the
stronger rams, the wolves found easy prey among the sheep. On the
other hand, horses and cows, which were usually driven to pasture—horses
by night, cows by day—usually found a way to defend themselves.
They would form a circle, taking foals and calves into their midst,
and show any approaching wolves their hooves or even their horns.
The circle would break up only when a wolf somehow succeeded in getting
At dawn, the cows—even after collectivization one could keep
a private cow—whether part of the collective or not, were driven
to pasture in the steppe by a cowherd, who used the crack of a whip
or a prodding stick that had metal circles (like a key ring) attached
to its end. The cows stayed in the pasture till evening. Before being
gathered to pasture, the cows were milked, and whenever my mother
had overslept that ritual, I was the one who would drive our own cow,
sometimes through the entire village, so as to catch up with the rest
of the cows. When the cows returned in the evening, the village street
was filled with dust and with the sounds of loud mooing. Each knew
its own place, and usually the woman of the house was already waiting
for it, gave it water and then milked it again.
Children would stand at their front gate, ready to run because they
feared the community bull, which also returned home with the cow herd,
at times standing still, raising dust and growling loudly. The bull
respected only the cowherd’s stick, and anyone coming too close
might be lifted up on its horns. The bull had injured a few people
and had even attacked the cowherd, yet it was always forced to accompany
the herd. After all, the cows had to be serviced. The farmers gave
the cowherd strict instructions to keep an eye on any cow that seemed
"ready," so that they could predict the approximate time
for calving. Modern animal husbandry and especially artificial insemination
were completely unknown, and a cow that was ignored by the bull could
bring considerable loss because in the subsequent spring there would
be neither a new calf nor milk. As it was, in the winter, cows remained
"dry" for several months, that is, they produced no milk.
Just to make sure they would have a certain amount of milk on
hand during the dry spell, as soon as the first frosts came during
the fall, farmers would set buckets of milk out in the open to let
them freeze. The frozen clumps would then be stored in an unheated
space, and pieces could be broken off as needed. The freezing method
was also a favorite procedure for setting out provisions that might
be needed for travel during winter. Stores of what we called Maultaschen
and the Russians called pelmeni, that is, pockets of dough
filled with ground meat, would be cooked ahead, frozen outside,
and then stuffed into clean linen sacks and stowed into a sleigh
for the trip. Then in a travelers’ inn, which provided only
overnight stay and tea, the pelmeni, after they were boiled
in water, would provide a hot meal. Travelers also packed bacon
fat and bread.
Our only means of transportation consisted of horse-drawn wagon or
sleigh. Whenever my mother, who originated from the neighboring village
of Nelyubinsk, began to miss her parents’ home—which seemed
to happen a lot during winter—she would ask for a horse to be
harnessed and hitched to a sleigh, and then she would put me, heavily
wrapped, on the sleigh, grab the reins, and from there she practically
would have nothing else to do. The old mare, one of our three horses
prior to collectivization, blindly knew the way to my grandparents’
home. As soon as she stopped moving, we knew we had arrived at our
Except for the extreme cold, travel conditions were actually more
pleasant in winter than in summer. On the fairly smooth snow, a sleigh
did not shake and rattle nearly as much as a wagon or carriage on
the deeply rutted roads, and there was no dust. But as far as I was
concerned, any journey whatever had its positives, especially if it
lasted reasonably long. One day my father took me along on a trip
to the county seat some seventy kilometers away [over forty miles].
It was the first time I was able to see the forest with its tall,
dark conifers, which seemed quite mysterious to me. Along the way
we came upon some woodsmen and some men burning coal, and my father
stopped to converse with them. There was a distinct odor of resin
and smoke, there were dogs barking, and I had the opportunity to climb
around on stacks of logs.
Toward evening, father unhitched the horses, tied them to the wagon,
cleaned out a box and put hay in it for the horses to eat. We used
pelts and blankets to prepare a place under the wagon to sleep on
overnight. The night was clear, stars appeared in the sky, the horses
snorted, and the hay crunched audibly between their teeth. I think
you will never sleep as well as you can under the open sky.
The following day we reached the town we had been heading for. It
was merely a bunch of arbitrarily scattered wooden houses. We stopped
at the home of a Russian family, were welcomed and treated to warm
hospitality. While my father was making his errands in the town, our
host’s children and I went swimming in the town pond. It was
in the center of town, and not only the children swam in it, but also
geese, ducks, horses, cows, and pigs. Nobody had any concerns about
that. Neither did I, and it was that pond I missed the most after
We had neither a pond nor a waterhole, but only a few kilometers from
our village there were several lakes that had silty banks with lots
of reeds growing on them. Many species of animals, especially water
fowl, made their homes there. Among them, ducks, geese, snipes, and
plovers were brooding in such large numbers that it was very easy
for a child to find some eggs. Taking them from a nest was not considered
reprehensible, whether the eggs would be for eating or not. Sparrows
in particular were treated as nothing but pests and were hunted by
young and old alike. In contrast, swallows were fairly well protected
and, to keep us children from doing the swallows harm, we were told
that cows would give red milk if a swallow’s nest were destroyed
or a swallow were killed.
On the other hand, we had free reign to hunt what we called Springmäuse
(spring mice), which had their holes not only in the steppe and
in grain fields, but even in the village itself. They would emerge
in the evening and would leap away in long, kangaroo-like steps
During the spring, just before the larvae were about to hatch, we
always went to the moist areas near the lakes in order to seek out
the ubiquitous grasshopper eggs—they looked just like grains
of wheat—which would then be sprayed from a keg filled with
a liquid to prevent their further development. I cannot remember whether
this was of any help, but I do remember how much damage migrating
swarms of grasshoppers could inflict as soon as they were able to
Just as the summer grain seemed to reach its green and juicy condition,
there would be the terrible news of "grasshopper swarm approaching!"
Even dozens of miles away, they spread fear and terror before them.
All the men in the village would be notified, all other work would
be abandoned, and any and all wagons would be loaded with straw and
taken into the steppe where the grasshoppers were expected. Even those
stone rollers I mentioned earlier were taken to the fields. The wait
began, sometimes for naught because the grasshopper swarms, made up
of thousands and thousands of small animals just an inch or two or
more in length, at times would suddenly change their course or would
be forced elsewhere by the prevailing wind.
But when they did arrive where they had not been expected, there was
a sudden, hurried rushing activity. The grasshoppers approached in
a dark cloud, making a big buzzing noise, and the men knew that they
might attack a grain field. As soon as the swarm settled in a field,
the men would take the straw to that field, spread it over the feasting
insects, and then set fires at all ends of the field. A sea of flames
would erupt against the sky, and grasshoppers died by the thousands.
Where the straw could not reach, stone rollers were driven across
the grasshoppers to squash them. And still, all that effort sometimes
seemed like a mere drop in the bucket—a lot of grasshoppers
remained untouched, and after they lifted off to new flight after
a few hours, the field was completely bare. Many other fields would
be stricken before the truly Egyptian plague had passed.
Sometimes it happened that a swarm of grasshoppers would even attack
an entire village. That meant shutting all the windows or going out
to trample the pests. Whatever was unable to withstand their gnawing—leaves,
vegetables, lettuce—became a quick victim. Chickens tried to
peck at the grasshoppers, but they, too, would soon turn away in frustration.
Once the grasshoppers had departed, their oozy remains were swept
into the back yard, and the chickens would have at them again the
A fear similar to that of grasshopper swarms was that of wild fires
in the steppe. They were equally difficult to combat. I can still
well remember such a fire because it brought disastrous consequences
to the family of my aunt Annemarie. The incident took place during
the time of the collectives. The grain harvest had begun; horse-drawn
wagons were standing in a long line at the thrashing site to be loaded
with wheat that had to be taken many kilometers away, to a collection
site designated by the state. They did not return until the subsequent
day, and with them came the terrible news, "The steppe is burning!"
Every man had to join the firefighting effort, and so even the harvest
work had to be interrupted. On a high tree in front of our house I
was able to see high columns of smoke. Only after a few days was the
fire put out. Allegedly it had been started by a smoldering cigarette
that, as witnesses reported, had been tossed aside by Josef Gerhard,
the husband of my Aunt Annemarie. He was picked up by the gendarmerie,
taken to court and, despite professing his innocence to the end, was
sentenced to ten years of forced labor. For my aunt and her five children
this sentence meant nothing but abject poverty. Only a year later,
when an appeals court actually exonerated her husband due to lack
of evidence, she was dead.
By 1929, the collectivization of agricultural enterprises had
begun in earnest. It went hand in hand with de-kulakization,
that is, the expropriation of property and deportation of all farmers
who were considered to be rich. In our area, this included anyone
who had a few head of cattle and a few more horses than the average
farmer, whose homes were covered with tin instead of reed thatch,
and some of whom employed a farm laborer and day laborers during
My uncle Viktor was one of the first designated to be expropriated,
but before the state was able to act, he had sold his animals and
farm equipment—at laughably low prices, of course—had
stored the furniture with relatives for later sale, had taken his
family of seven and had left for his former home, Ukraine. His brother-in-law,
Uncle Emanuel, in similar peril, left along with Viktor, and so
did my aunt Marianne and several children. Her husband had already
been branded a kulak and had been incarcerated by the Bolsheviks,
and the family had already suffered expropriation, only forced expulsion
from the village awaiting them.
They had barely left when, one night, her husband surprised us by
knocking on our door. He looked dirty and full of lice, but he had
escaped prison and had fought his way all the way to his village,
hoping to reunite with his family. With the help of my parents and
other relatives he was provided with papers and money, and he followed
his two brothers-in-law, who had settled down in a tiny Ukrainian
town in the steppe, where nobody knew them. At the time there was
no such thing as "picture ID," and cooperation between
various "organs"—as we called the different organizations
that had been given police power by the state—had not yet become
effective, it was still possible simply to "disappear."
But by 1937, fate caught up with all three. Uncle Viktor—someone
had likely informed on him—was picked up by dark of night. The
other two, while on a Sunday excursion to visit relatives, had the
great misfortune of having their horse die on them, possibly from
colic, and for this they were accused of sabotage, and each was sentenced
to ten years in prison. Nothing was ever heard of any one of them
My maternal grandfather, a farmer and community scribe in Nelyubinsk,
seven kilometers from our village, had to employ a farm hand, for
one thing, because he had little time to spare for his farm and, for
another, because his own son was too young to manage the operation.
My grandmother, a very resolute woman who walked only with the help
of a cane as long as I can remember, and who kept tight control over
everything, including her husband, supervised the farm hand, who managed
the place as if it were his own. He was never exploited, and in some
ways he was more of an administrator than a mere farm hand. But none
of that mattered—anyone who employed someone else was considered
an "exploiter," and that made the threat of expropriation
very real in this case as well.
Grandmother was the first to sense the real danger, she insisted
on leaving and finally prevailed. During a very hot summer day,
the draft animals and the cattle were auctioned off. How the news
of this kind of auction made the rounds, I fail to understand to
this day, but gathered in our yard were dozens of lookers and buyers,
all from the surrounding area. A really exotic impression was made
by the Kazakhs in their padded or fur-lined coats, their fur hats
and their wide high boots from which felt lining could be seen protruding.
Their wives and girls were dressed in billowy, flowery pants and
red, blue and green byeshmets, a kind of half caftan with
long rows of silvery buttons and dangling gold and silver coins.
Long, black braids draped over their chests or their backs, all
the way down to their knees. One young female Kazakh was sitting
on the wall-like fence and was scratching her head with all ten
fingers, all the while crying out with pain. She had head lice which,
in this heat, must have been especially active and were torturing
her to the point of bleeding. Wagons were lined up on the broad,
dusty village street, and next to them lay their camels, casually
chewing their cud, with heads held high in the air.
In the afternoon, after everything had been sold, our people began
to prepare for leaving. Two horses that had yet to be taken to Kustanay
for sale there were hitched to a fully loaded wagon. Then came the
tear-filled good-byes from the neighbors and from second-eldest daughter
Mathilde, who, along with her husband, was to move into the family
home. I—about four or five years old, the eldest grandchild
and spoiled by grandparents, aunts, and my eighteen- or nineteen-year-old
uncle—was determined at all costs to go on this trip into the
wide world. I was allowed to go ride up on the wagon, and I was even
promised that we would go around the Russian village of Pavlovka,
where (I don’t remember why) my parents were living. But I soon
noticed that no one intended to keep that promise, because after only
about an hour’s travel we reached the first few houses of Pavlovka.
Kazakh camel driver. (Courtesy Library
of Congress Prokudin-Gorskii Collection)
Russian villages were different from German villages, both in the
way they were laid out and in the way the homes were built. There
was the usual broad village street with its large plaza and the
church and school, but the houses were scattered in a haphazard
manner and were generally accessible only via small footpaths. Most
of them were closed off to the outside via large wooden gates that
made it impossible to peer inside the yards. In front of each house
there was a wooden bench on which the babushki, the grandmothers,
usually warmed their old bones and kept an eye on the little children.
Several village dogs kept announcing our arrival until we turned
into my parents’ place. That was the end of my grand journey!
Any resistance and crying on my part came to no use at all—I
had to stay back.
It was especially difficult for me to say good-bye to my youngest
aunt, the fourteen-year-old Andelina, who was particularly close
to me and who, since she helped out a lot at our house, seemed more
like an older sister to me, although she always insisted that I
call her "Bas Andeline" (Bas is a dialect word
for "aunt"), she was otherwise a good buddy to me. I
was actually to see her again seven years later, when my father
saw himself forced to leave Siberia, too, to avoid getting thrown
into jail for political reasons. The closeness between us had not
changed, and to this day my aunt insists that it was she who raised
As far as I can remember, we spent only one summer in Pavlovka,
but I remember the place very well. I do not remember what kind
of work my father did there—I only know that we had many get-togethers
with the family of a physician’s assistant (except there was
no physician), who was the sole medical person far and wide. He
and his family lived in a large wooden house that was surrounded
by a neglected, overgrown garden and had neither a fence nor a wall
facing the street. A swing (kacheli in Russian) that was
suspended between two trees got much attention from us kids.
Firmly implanted in my memory as well is how the Communists removed
the cross from the top of the dome of the local Orthodox Church.
Observed by a throng of onlookers, a man climbed the dome and hammered
on the cross to loosen its base. Then he tied a long and thick rope
around the cross, and down below several men kept shouting "raz,
dva, vzyali" (akin to "heave-ho") and pulling
on it until it toppled to the ground with a loud noise and a great
thud. The throng of people remained generally silent, but many women
were crying, and in the end the dome looked as if it had been orphaned.
Toward the end of summer, we moved back to Vikentyevka, this time
into the home that had been left empty by Uncle Emmanuel. Although
it only had a front and a back room, a kitchen and a hallway, all
the rooms were larger, and the obligatory Vorhäusel,
a kind of enclosed front entry hall, seemed light and friendly and
large enough for a small table and few chairs, and sitting there
in warmer weather was very enjoyable. Across from the house there
was another building that contained the summer kitchen, a feed storage
room, and a horse barn that had stood empty since the beginning
of collectivization, since no one was allowed to keep horses privately.
In the backyard there was a barn, likewise empty. Attached to the
home was a stable for cows in which, since collectivization, at
most two cows and a calf could be kept and fed privately.
Soon, during the first winter after our return, there was an initial
attempt at breaking in through the cow barn. The number of cattle
rustlers had grown since the collectives had been established, and
every theft was generally blamed on the Kazakhs. Upon intensive consultation
with the neighbors, my father made a hole through the wall between
our back room and the cow barn and put a long pole through it that
reached all the way to the barn door and its suspended locks. With
the addition of a bell at the end in the back room, a greater measure
of security had been obtained; but thefts of cows, calves and sheep
Like so many in the village, my father was an enthusiastic hunter.
In the winter he would shoot wolves and rabbits, and in the summer
it would be wild ducks and snipes. The latter, after being plucked
and gutted, would be kept in a bowl of buttermilk to remove the
strong taste of wild game. During the fall it would be mostly Trappen,
birds related to cranes that reached as much as three feet in height
and which at that time of year had found their way from the Siberian
steppes into friendlier environs. Their places of gathering prior
to migration were well known to the hunters, who needed only a bit
of patience and good camouflage. Hunting was not conducted in a
very professional manner or in accordance with good hunting principles,
but it was usually very successful, thanks to the generous availability
Father would occasionally take up shooting practice. With charcoal
he would draw the outlines of a duck on the wall of the old barn and
then shoot from various distances, and count his successful shots.
I was allowed to watch, and I believe he enjoyed showing off his skills
to his offspring.
One cold winter day, my father, already dressed warmly, was sitting
on a chair in the front room waiting for a hunting companion. With
a book in hand, I had sat down next to him. Behind the stove was the
crib with one of my younger siblings in it and my grandfather, who
was completely deaf, sitting right next to it and using his foot to
rock the crib and at the same time letting the beads of the rosary
glide through his fingers. My father was holding the shotgun between
his legs, with its barrels pointing to the ceiling, and I happened
to ask him to explain to me how to shoot that gun. He put it on his
knee and explained how to cock and pull the trigger, but he had apparently
forgotten that there was a cartridge in one of the barrels. A shot
went off, and even our deaf grandfather reacted with a start; the
infant in the crib began to wail, and dust was dribbling down from
the ceiling. Father laughed, with some embarrassment, but his hunting
partner soon took off with him. He was probably very happy to leave,
because during the initial excitement he would certainly have had
a lot to hear from my mother, who was very impulsive and could curse
with the best of them. The paper hull of the cartridge would decorate
the ceiling for some time, at least until it was removed during the
Life became very difficult during the early 1930s. The year 1932
presented the Soviet Union with a severely failed harvest that had
similarly severe effects in our area, where in May there still were
patches of snow lying around, and the first frosty nights came as
early as September. Potatoes, onions, cucumbers, cabbage, even tomatoes,
pumpkins and melons seemed to be in good supply, but no fruit ripened
on any bushes or trees. Only certain kinds of berries resisted the
hard winter. To make up for some of the damage, folks would leave
a bit of a poisonous nightshade plant growing during weeding of
the potato plants because it would grow ripe berries (we called
them Schattebeerle—shade berries) that were sweet
and tasty and could be eaten raw or cooked, or used as stuffing
in baked goods such as knöpfle or in kuchen.
During the same year, not much grew, except grains—wheat,
rye, barley and millet—but of the little bit that was actually
harvested, "the Plan" (target quota) had to be "satisfied"
first, that is, a certain amount had to be delivered at heavily
reduced prices set by the State. Bad harvest or not, the Plan took
absolute precedence, and the shabby leftovers would then be distributed
among the farmers according to a complicated process that mainly
counted "days worked." In winter, the women would bake
bread with pumpkin mush and millet. As a State employee, my father
received three pud (about a hundredweight) of wheat flour
per month. In school I often traded my white wheat bread for the
slightly sweet, mushy bread of the farmer children.
During the summer of 1933, the entire Soviet Union was starving. Father,
for whom things were getting “hotter” by the day, journeyed
to the Ukraine during summer vacation, where he wanted to visit friends,
but also to "feel out the lay of the land." In order to
help our meager daily menu, he had the man who took him to the train
station in Kustanay bring back a bag of barley, which was a real luxury
the entire village was envious of. This kind of "luxury"
was available in State-run stores, but only in exchange for jewelry,
precious metals or foreign currency. He must have squirreled away
some meager savings from better days, or perhaps a relative from America
had sent us a few dollars—something, by the way, that, if found
out, might suffice to get someone sent to prison for ten years. In
any case, at least we now had our nightly milk soup with grains of
The general availability of milk helped all of the other villagers
to weather that summer of famine. It was especially the farmers who
were starving, simply because the government seemed to be of the opinion
that before "satisfying the Plan" they must have secretly
stashed away aplenty, and so for that reason, they did not deserve
any support. In the cities, people were given food ration cards—in
other words, the "worker class" was given preferential
On returning from his long trip, during which his suitcase had been
stolen, my father felt determined that he could not stay here much
longer. But in those days and times, moving was not as easy a matter
as might appear. Freedom of movement within Bolshevik Russia was pretty
much a "foreign concept," especially for villagers. Farmers
in particular were bound to the collective like slaves. For government
employees it was somewhat easier to get away, but if particular officials
declared specific persons as indispensable and refused to grant them
the appropriate work permits, they usually had no choice but to move
without those papers and to look for a different occupation. The scarcity
of teachers was rather severe in our area, and of the few there were,
one or the other would eventually land in jail as a "traitor
of the people." Naturally, my father’s status was considered
indispensable, and he was consequently denied the appropriate papers.
However, using one’s connections could always lead to get
something done. I believe my parents attempted to influence a particular
Party member from the rayon center (county administration)
who would come to our town regularly— I don’t remember
in what capacity—and who invariably stayed with us. He was
a German by the name of Schmidt, and his visits invariably stirred
up a remarkable state of anxiety in our household. Apparently he
had a great deal of power, and relying on him was therefore not
When Schmidt was around, the evenings in our front room were very
lively. Many people were there, and Schmidt usually drank more schnaps
than might have been good for him, and he would then pressure my
father to join the Party. Father would try evasion and excuses,
but since he was well aware that he had to deal with Schmidt with
some caution, he always promised to think about it. In contrast,
my mother would remark dryly that, as long as the Party consisted
of such boozers, her husband would likely not join it. This, in
turn, would cause my father to complain to her the following day
that her rash statements would eventually get him jailed. She, in
turn, assumed that, after drinking so much, Schmidt would forget
the next day what might have been said the night before. Whether
that was actually so, or whether she might just have enjoyed a certain
measure of leeway from Schmidt, he would always be given good hospitality,
and there were never any consequences.
This state of affairs continued for about three more years, and when
we finally "traveled," Father still had no papers. Later
on, in the Ukraine, he would work as an accountant, and only during
the occupation by German troops did he finally return to teaching.
Except for Tovarishch (comrade) Schmidt, we rarely had
"official State visitors," but much more often we had
people from the village come over, all with their various requests
that were usually accompanied with written materials or other documents
they needed to have translated into Russian. The church had been
shut down, and our Pater—which was what we called
our pastor—had fled a while back, so coming to our front room
even became a substitute for Sunday Mass, at least for the men.
That does not necessarily mean that they were engaged in prayer
or singing. On the contrary, they talked mainly about politics,
about agriculture and about everything under the sun, and I would
naturally listen carefully, and it would be very difficult to pry
me away from that front room. The tendency toward denouncing people
[one that was otherwise very common in the Soviet Union] must not
have been very strong in our village, because the adults would otherwise
have talked very carefully, at least with children around. It is
probable that in our village at that time there may not have been
even one single Communist!
At times we had overnight guests. Since we did not have enough
beds, we would simply prepare makeshift bedding on the floor of
the front room. If there were Kazakhs staying with us overnight,
my mother would send them to sleep in the kitchen. She had good
reasons for it. They preferred to sit on the floor, which they covered
with blankets or pelts and, they had hardly sat down when they would
break out a samovar in the middle of the kitchen and drink
their tea. Gradually, they would shed layers of their fur-lined
or cotton-stuffed clothing and talk and talk loudly amongst themselves.
The drinking of tea would last late into the night, and that samovar
had to be refilled. Sleeping would therefore have been nearly impossible
had this taken place in the front room. My mother also feared—not
without justification—that the Kazakhs had lice. In general,
they were friendly and cheerful—we just couldn’t understand
them. One of them taught me how to count in Kazakh: "Bru,
yegou, tartu (one, two, three)," which I have remembered
to this day.
One day another Kazakh man left a box at our house, and once I peered
inside to satisfy my curiosity, I discovered that it was filled with
books; but they were all in a foreign, indecipherable language, and
the pages were numbered from back to front. The mere idea that Kazakhs
might read books made me rather curious, since I had always heard
that they were "wild" and could neither read nor write,
whereas all of our people were capable of both, even if only haltingly!
Looking back now, I detect among Germans in Russia a certain measure
of arrogance toward non-Germans. For example, because the Russians
wore their shirts outside their pants and fastened them with a kind
of a belt, they were dubbed "the belted ones." A German
always stuffed his shirt inside his pants and held them up via a leather
belt with a buckle. German harnesses were always made of solid, thick
leather, whereas Russian farmers (due to poverty, possibly) often
used ropes; a German carriage was never allowed to squeak, because
the axles were always well greased; the Germans’ horses were
always larger and stronger than those of the Russians; common traits
of diligence, orderliness, punctuality and thrift were synonymous
with being German, even among the Russians—"thrifty like
a German!" All these were characteristics that gave the Germans
confidence and their occasional conceit, but among the Russians they
engendered strong respect, and even envy.
Marriages between Germans and Russian occurred "as close to
never" as can be imagined. Young people of the two nationalities
simply did not get to know each other, except perhaps for the men,
who might meet for business transactions. Mutual prejudices were carefully
maintained. Both the Germans and the Russians felt superior toward
the Kazakhs, and they let it be known. Today, the price for that attitude
is being paid in full, especially by the Russians, who are fleeing
Central Asian republics by the thousands simply because they face
pure hatred everywhere.
Because our family, even if only for a short time, lived in a decidedly
Russian village, and since my father did not hold any prejudices toward
the Russians, I also had a different opinion about them. I have particularly
good memories of our friend, the physician’s assistant, who
gave me inoculations against smallpox, and even though that "operation"
gave me a few days of fever, he very likely saved my life. During
the winter of 1930–31, a smallpox epidemic raced through our
village, but since smallpox inoculations were not yet mandatory, my
mother, possibly due to my complicated reaction earlier, had not had
my siblings inoculated, and people in our village did not generally
do anything about prevention anyway. For a long time, smallpox had
not seemed to be a serious peril, and so things came to pass as they
were bound to. Both of my siblings came down with smallpox. My brother
actually died of it, and my sister’s life was barely saved.
The disease struck nearly every family via the death of a child. I,
on the other hand, was there at other people’s sickbeds, not
having been infected, a living example of the benefits of inoculation.
Medical and veterinarian care was a very serious matter in itself.
There were neither doctors nor hospitals, the physician’s
assistant in Pavlov was overextended in every way possible, the
mending of fractures had to be left to nature or to the care of
elderly women, who would "attack" the problem with herbs,
salves and Brauchen (rituals with incantations), in other
words, they “talked to” the wounds or illnesses. At
times their rituals might even work amazingly well. For example,
if a person had warts—not a rare occurrence for kids always
walking barefoot—they were removed in a rather simple manner:
One of the elder ladies would tie as many knots into a piece of
yarn as there were warts, and then the yarn was hidden under a manure
pile or under the pig’s feeding trough. Custom had it that
the warts would be gone by the time the material had rotted. Indeed,
they had usually disappeared after a few weeks. Had faith helped
For severe burns or in the case of other accidents, means might at
times be employed that could bring more harm than good. Still, it
can be said that "care" by the so-called "experts"
that would later be loosed upon the public after they had just finished
training in mini-courses within the Soviet system probably did no
more, perhaps even less, good than the actions taken by the elderly
women. At least that was my experience concerning the healing of domestic
animals taken ill.
On one occasion, one of our pigs just started to lie around apathetically
in a corner of the yard and refused to take any feed. A man with the
resounding title of "veterinarian" was called to the scene.
He looked at the animal and ran his fingers across it, and his finding
was a swollen throat. He gave the pig a shot, but when there was no
improvement the next day, he examined the pig once more and discovered
that a potato had been lodged in its throat. So the poor animal was
pulled from its wooden structure—during the summer the hogs
were kept in wooden sties that were supported on poles—it was
stretched out on the ground, and the rest of us had to hold it down
while the "veterinarian" put a board under the pig’s
throat and beat it with a hammer with all his might, just hoping to
dislodge the potato. The poor pig squealed terribly and thrashed about
and ran as fast as it could, as soon it was released, back to its
pen. The procedure, in fact, had no effect whatsoever. The pig remained
sick and soon had to be slaughtered.
In our household the principle was "each man to himself, or
each woman to herself." Mother milked the cow, fed the pigs
and chickens, whitewashed the house inside and out, sewed dresses
and pants for the entire family, spun, knitted, mended, and took care
of the planting and harvesting of the garden—all in addition
to her normal household chores, like cooking, baking bread, laundering,
milking, and whatever came up on her agenda. Father, for his part,
would resole shoes, tan furs, make cooking and baking forms from tin,
and did the slaughtering chores—not the kinds of things a teacher
would normally do.
Slaughtering was done in the winter, generally shortly before
Christmas. The pig was supposed to have been killed before daybreak,
put into a brine inside a wooden trough, and its skin cleaned. Then
it would be suspended, with its head down on a ladder, and gutted,
upon which it would be left hanging outside in the yard for several
hours, to cool down. Meanwhile, the lungs, the liver, the heart
and pieces of meat intended for making sausage would be cooked and
put through a grinder. Depending on the kind of sausage, various
spices might be added liberally. There were thick slabs of bacon
fat, and lots of garlic—all of which could thoroughly spoil
my appetite. My own favorite was boiled pork—lean and tender.
The cleaned-out pig’s stomach would be filled with ground
meat, and then it would be cooked before it was put between two
boards that were kept together with heavy stones. Our people called
this Schwartemagen, since the Schwarte (rind)
and Magen (stomach) had been processed right along with
Father also took charge of making the various sausages. He would
use a cylinder-like Wurstspritze (sausage stuffer), a form
about twenty-five inches in length, fill it as much as possible
with sausage material, and stuff the material down into the form
with a kind of potato masher that fit snugly into the form, like
a piston. Then he would carefully take one of the intestine skins
he had just cleaned carefully and washed several times in warm water,
pull it over the sausage form, and push the meat into the skin.
Once the sausage was long enough, it was cut off and tied up. Several
sausages were then tied together into a bunch and hung over a piece
of wood. All sausages were smoked and then hung in a cool chamber,
with obvious care that mice could not reach them. Usually we prepared
liverwurst, blood sausage, and bratwurst, but durable kinds of sausage,
such as salami, which I would discover in Germany later on, were
not familiar to us.
The fresh meat would first be placed in salty brine, left there
for several weeks, and then smoked and hung up just like the sausages.
Considered a real delicacy were two-inch thick slabs of bacon fat,
which was usually cut into slices and salted on all sides (called
Salzspeck—salty bacon), placed in wooden boxes and
saved for later—it was not consumed until months later, and
by then the salt had made it yellow and tender.
If one is to believe the stories of the elders, at least until
the 1920s, people celebrated often and extensively. Besides the
Christian feasts of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, weddings and
name days in particular were also observed rather festively. I do
not recall any divine services, simply because our church was closed
by 1930, right after the cross had been removed, and it was later
used as village club house. Still, some Christian customs did continue
for several years. For example, between Holy Thursday and Easter
Sunday, some of the older boys would still go around swinging wooden
Rätschen (rattles) over their head and making a noise
like the rat-a-tat of a machine gun. Of course, we continued to
color Easter eggs, and around Pentecost the village boys committed
all sorts of impish tricks. For example, they would put straw all
over the path between the homes of courting couples, they might
place on a farmer’s roof a harrow he might have forgotten
to drag home from the fields, or they would empty the housewives’
cream container that had been left in their free-standing cellars.
These kinds of cellars were carved out of the ground and certainly
had a door, but they were never locked, just as house doors were
never locked, even if the owner might be away on a trip.
I remember presents at Christmas only from my mother’s stories.
Saint Nicholas did not play an important role in our set of customs,
but the Christ child certainly did, particularly in the role of
a threat to children. It would appear in the form of a white female
figure accompanied by Belzenickel (Beelzebub), a rather
shaggy male figure with soot-blackened face, a switch in one hand
and a chain in the other. I still remember that after I had been
told to recount my "bad deeds," he hit me with the switch.
He kept rattling a chain and seemed intent on stuffing me into a
sack until I promised, amidst loud wailing, to mend my ways.
I also remember traditional stories, that during the first Christmas
night, the animals received the gift of speaking like humans; and
one story in particular, that during such a night, a specific farmer
once heard his horses talking about taking their master to the cemetery
within the week. Horrified, he told his wife about it, and indeed
he died just a few days later.
New Year’s, which was not suppressed by the State due to
its “civil” nature, usually was welcomed with blasts
of gun shots. Late at night we would be awakened by these shots,
the parents would arise, light a kerosene lamp, and open the door
to the house. Some young men would come inside, recite a particular
saying, receive a shot of schnaps and a bite to eat, and
leave again. I can still remember the saying which, translated into
standard language (spoken in dialect, of course) was: "We
wish you a blessed New Year, a roll as big as a barn door, a kuchen
as big as a wagon wheel, so that the whole family will always have
I should note that, after there were no more priests, grandmothers
or aunts would administer "emergency baptisms" to infants,
and crosses would still be affixed to graves.
By summer of 1935, I had completed the elementary school grades in
my home village, and I was to attend the next higher level of school.
However, the closest German-language middle school was in the village
of Nadezhdinsk (in English, Place of Hope), a mere 180 kilometers
[about 110 miles] away. Attending the school alongside me was to be
my friend, Franz Zerr, a boy of small stature and with a hunchback,
who was a year or two older than I.
Tobol River. (Courtesy
Library of Congress Prokudin-Gorskii Collection)
In August, his father and my mother and the two of us boys took
off in a horse-drawn carriage. All day long we rattled across the
steppe before reaching the River Tobol, where we decided to spend
the night on its banks. Neither of us two had ever seen a real river,
and we were quite amazed over the clear water, the fish and the
river crab, which one could simply grab with the bare hand. As was
the custom, we slept underneath the carriage. Very early the next
morning we continued on, first crossing the Tobol, which at that
point was narrow and shallow. We reached Nadezhdinsk that same day.
Once enrolled in the boarding school, I found myself on my own
for the very first time in my life. Suddenly I was responsible for
making my own bed, brushing the dust off my clothes, and somehow
scrounging for my own breakfast and evening meals, whereas lunch
was always served at the school itself. We had silentium
(quiet time) every afternoon, and on Saturday evenings we had dances
in the school’s assembly hall. Having learned to play on the
harmonium (a reed pump organ), I was the one who had to play the
piano while the other school boys and girls danced to my meager
repertoire. To keep me happy, some of the girls would at times haul
me away from the piano to teach me the proper steps for the waltz
or the polka while a string duo consisting of mandolin and a guitar
played during my absence from the piano.
School was enjoyable and, as far as I can remember, there were no
Pioneer or Comsomol (Communist youth organization) meetings, not even
a demonstration on the occasion of the anniversary of the October
Revolution. My early routine was sadly disturbed only by the fact
that my friend Franz was taken home after only a few weeks of school.
His fragile nature was not able to take the rigors of the unusual
lifestyle at the boarding school.
The village lay next to a river, and when it had frozen over as early
as November, a skating rink about a kilometer in length [more than
half a mile] was prepared. Nobody had factory made skates—most
skates were homemade with a piece of wood and a piece of heavy wire
at the bottom, but such "minor matters" did not detract
from the enjoyment.
Around New Year’s time, a vacation period was scheduled, the
boarding school was closed, and the students went home. I had arranged
by letter to my father that in December he would travel to Kustanay
and wait for me there. There was neither a train nor a bus connection
for me, so I had to scrounge for a way to get there. Unfortunately,
I no longer have any memories about details of that horrendous trip,
but I still recall spending several night hours in the open cargo
area of a truck in bone-chilling cold and arriving as a clump of ice
at the travelers’ inn where my father was staying. Hot tea revived
my body and spirits, and in the morning we drove home by sleigh.
My schooling in Siberia effectively ended right then and there. Heavy
snow storms prevented a timely return to the boarding school, so after
a few weeks of sitting around doing nothing, I went back to my village
school in order—as my father said—to try not to forget
everything I knew. We were quite surprised when the eighteen-year-old
daughter of the school principal in Nadezhdinsk, Regina Schönfeld,
came to visit us one day! She told us that her father had suddenly
been "hauled away," arrested and, like so many others,
deported without benefit of any court proceedings. I assume now that
her and my parents had known each other. How else would she have been
able to reach our village and, in particular, our family? Subsequently
she was—on the recommendation by good friends, I assume—assigned
to my father as a teacher’s aid.
The ever-present threat of being grabbed by the GBU (the political
police organization) and the need for finding secondary schooling
for their children confirmed my parents’ intent on turning their
backs on the village of Vikentyevka and on Siberia as well.
Still lacking work papers and therefore dependent on pure luck, my
father began to prepare for our departure, and on August 6, 1936,
we said our good-byes to our village and, with whatever of our belongings
we were able to take along on the back of a truck, we drove toward
Kustanay. From there we traveled by train for five long days—including
three changes of train, which for a family with four children was
not a simple matter—and finally we reached Landau in the district
of Odessa/Ukraine, where we happily embraced grandparents, uncles
Now we had a kind of new life, with entirely new impressions, and
with them our small village in Siberia soon began to recede into a
faraway, unknown distance.
In Landau, we lived under Soviet rule for five years until, on June
22, 1941, the murderous war began between two pitiless dictators who
had rather different goals, but neither lagging behind the other in
horrendous atrocities. During early August of 1941, German troops
moved into Landau, followed a month later by the SS, which established
its headquarters here "for the protection of ethnic Germans
within Transnistria, the Romanians’ "Region of Interest"
(essentially the area between the Rivers Dnyestr and Bug).
That the Third Reich viewed the occupation of Ukraine as "final"
became rather evident by the mere fact that they established two
teacher education institutes to satisfy the requirements of the
German population. One was in Khortitsa, the other in Selz. I attended
the institute in Selz for nearly two years before our area would
be included in the "victorious retreat" of the Wehrmacht
and the onset of the evacuation of ethnic Germans. The students
of the LBA (Lehrerbildungsanstalt)
(Teacher Education Institute) were simply told to join the portion
of the Great Trek that took the population of the village of Selz
toward the West. Via Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland,
I ended up in Bavaria, and then back in Poland, where I was reunited
with my family.
During January of 1945, we escaped to Potsdam-Grube, I became a member
of the Luftwaffe, and two weeks later, I was assigned to the Netherlands
for basic training. Following action at the front and a stint as prisoner
of war, I ended up in the Rhineland region and was able to settle
down there. But that is yet another whole story.
About the Author and Translator
Subsequent to serving in the German armed forces and his capture
by the British, Johannes Herzog was released and lived in Königswinter
near Bonn on the Rhine. Here he continued pursuit of his studies
in education and undertook a teaching career. He later married Anneliese
Meyer and together they raised a family of four children. Eventually,
he rose to the rank of principal. He retired in 1989. Johannes is
fluent in German and Russian and has produced several translations
from German to Russian.
Alex Herzog is a second cousin of the author. He was born in 1938
in Lichtenfeld/Kuchurgan/Ukraine. He and his family also were evacuated
to Polish territory during the German retreat of 1944, when his
father was inducted into the German army. Alex’s mother managed
to retreat with the family to Berlin and eventually to West Germany.
The family was reunited and in 1953 emigrated to the United States,
thus avoiding the fate of many other relatives who were deported
to Siberia by the Soviets in 1945. Alex completed his education
in the U.S. with advanced graduate studies in mathematics. After
a long career with IBM, he retired in 1993 and began work as a freelance
and volunteer translator, primarily from German to English. Most
of his translations have been published by the Germans from Russia
Heritage Collection, and a few articles have appeared in AHSGR publications.
He lives with his wife Dr. Nancy Herzog, in Boulder, Colorado.
They have three children and seven grandchildren.
Reprinted with permission of Alex Herzog and Heritage