Intersecting Paths of Destiny
Schicksalswege Kreuzen Sich
A Book Review by Josef Schleicher
Buchrezension von Josef Schleicher
Schleicher, Josef. "Intersecting Paths of Destiny, a Book Review." Volk auf dem Weg, April 2005, 43.
Translation from German to English by Alex Herzog, Boulder,
Cover of the book
In Laatzen near Hannover, an elderly man is looking at displays
in the exhibit "Volk auf dem Weg: Geschichte und Gegenwart
der Deutschen aus Russland [People on the Move: Past and Present
of the Germans from Russia]" by the Landsmannschaft. Pointing
to a specific picture, he says: "Here, in Solimansk, I was
part of the Trudarmy..." For the guided tour, I had brought
along the book "Vergessene Schicksale [Forgotten Fates]"
by Anton Bayr, and along with Josef Singer (which is how my partner
in conversation had introduced himself) I was leafing through it.
Then the man said, "I mean, I was in these camps during the
war. Afterwards I was taken farther away, to Vorkuta."
So many victims of the Stalinist regime of terror landed in those
Among them was Anton Bayr, born in 1927 in Lower Austria. Without
a single shot during his brief stint in the Wehrmacht, he was captured
the Czechs in May of 1945 and put into a camp in the woods, later
to the Soviets and, during a trip lasting weeks, freighted to Solimansk
Western Urals. There, under the worst conditions, he was forced
to do all
sorts work one can imagine. Among other things, he did tree felling,
production, construction work, and snow shoveling. On the Kama River
forced to load and unload transport ships, and he worked in a cellulose
In addition to extremely primitive quarters, life was made even
the long, frosty winter nights and starvation rations, which were
enough for survival.
Immediately next to the camp in which Bayr stayed the longest,
another camp that housed Volga-German women. They and their families
exiled as early as September, 1941 and deported to the Urals, to
Kazakhstan. Next to the camp for Volga-Germans there was yet another
that contained former soldiers of the Red Army who had to atone
having been in German prisoners of war camps.
During a journey to the Urals in 1999, Bayr made contact with Edwin
longtime champion of the autonomy movement for German-Russians and
rehabilitation of the victims of Stalinist repression, in Solimansk.
also met with other former exiles. Their moving life stories were
and authentically documented in the book "Vergessene Schicksale."
That trip to the Ural region awakened in Anton Bayr many memories,
put to paper sixty years after the end of World War II. Using a
diary he had
kept in secret, he describes in detail his two-and-a-half year prison
in the Urals. This highly interesting documentation he complements
historical research and the recounting of the life stories of German-Russians
had met in the Urals, and also of Kalmuks and of Crimean Tatars.
This book, "Vergessene Schicksale," which contains many
photos, is written
impressively and in terse language by a witness of the times. It
to his former fellow sufferers as well as to the current generation,
intended as a terrible illustration of the things that war and dictatorship
Anton Bayr. "Vergessene Schicksale. Ueberlebungskampf in sowjetischen
Lagern -- ein Kriegsgefangener erinnert sich [Forgotten Fates. Struggle
for Survival in Soviet Camps -- a Former Prisoner of War Remembers.]"
Waldemar Weber Verlag, Augsburg, 2005. Illustrated. Hardcover in
color. ISBN 3-9808647-4-X. Available in bookstores and from the
Waldemar Weber Publisher, Norderndorfer Weg 20, 86154 Augsburg,
Germany. Tel.: [from the US:] 011-49-821-4190431 and 011-49-821-4190433;
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation
of this article.