Tragedy of the Soviet Germans
Book review by Edna Boardman, Bismarck, North Dakota
Philipps, John. The Tragedy of the Soviet Germans. Bismarck, North Dakota: Richtman’s Printing, 1983.
Philipps opens his book with warm descriptions of German Russian
villages as they were at the peak of their prosperity. The struggles
of pioneering were over; the depredations of the Communists had
not yet begun. He writes a brief history of South Russia to help
us understand his experiences. This is the kind of personal book
you may prefer to read about German-Russian history.
John Philipps, who now resides in California, was born in Speyer
in South Russia in "the time of the Czar." He was probably
one of the more fortunate ones during the Communist takeover. He
was given training as an agriculturist and assigned to a job in
a Machine Tractor Station, a special kind of unit that provided
and maintained tractors and other machines for the collective farms
in an area. That is where he was when Hitler's armies swept into
South Russia in 1941, and he went to Germany with panicky refugees
in 1945, just ahead of the Russian advance. He was drawn into the
German army, along with Peter Pfeifer of Elsass, possibly a relative
of North Dakota German-Russians. In 1955, with the help of Alexandra
Tolstoy, a Russian woman who also helped others to get out of the
clutches of the Communists, he migrated to the United States.
Philipps was nervous about writing this book and says he omitted
names for fear of reprisals to families still living in Russia.
But he was a sharp observer and he understands where his personal
experiences fit into the larger historical picture. You may appreciate
knowing how it was from someone who personally lived during this
very difficult time. He attended a convention of the Germans from
Russia Heritage Society several years ago, and it was truly exciting
to see this German-Russian hero in the flesh.
to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested
by contacting Michael