Georg Hildebrandt Survived 17 Soviet Camps and Reached the age of 95 on June 27!

Georg Hildebrandt Ueberlebte 17 Sowietische Lager - und Wurde am 27. Juni 95 Jahre!

"Georg Hildebrandt Survived 17 Soviet Camps and Reached the age of 95 on June 27!" Volk auf dem Weg, July 2006, 34.

Translation from German to English by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado

Georg Hildebrandt, whose marriage was childless, with his best girl friends of three generations, at the Luise Ebert Senior Center in Heidelberg, shown here following the presentation of the Federal Cross of Merit on June 27, 2003 (l. to r.: Laura Wiens, Georg Hildebrandt, Marlis Lowka,Tamara Wiens)

In the past our readers have offered several different German names for the Russian word "Trudarmiya." They range from the literal translation, "Work Army," to "Death Camp." For example, the NKVD camp at Krasnoturyinsk has most often been dubbed "Extermination Camp."

The commemorative book ("Kniga pamyati") of the Internationaler Deutscher Kulturverband [International German Cultural Association], of an average number of inmates of 10,200, it lists the last names, first names, father's names, places of birth, birth and death dates of 3,461 German-Russians who died at Krasnoturyinsk during the wear years, most of them in 1942 and 1943.

The historian Hilda Riss, in her investigation into the fate of her countrymen, the Crimea-Germans, goes even further. In a contribution to the upcoming Heimatbuch (2007) of our Landsmannschaft, she documents the fact that of the 405 Germans, who in August of 1941, had been exiled from the Crimea to the Sverdlovsk region in the Urals, 49 men were taken to the camp at Krasnoturyinsk, of whom only one, Eduard Widmann, born in 1824 in Neusatz/Crimea, actually survived.

Another survivor is the Donetz-German Georg Hildebrandt, who since 1974 has been living in Heidelberg and had made painful acquaintance not only with Krasnoturyinsk, but during the course of 23 years of Stalinism had became aquatinted with 17 camps between Ukraine and the Far East. While at Krasnoturyinsk in 1942, he was also sentenced to three years and, in 1947, to an additional 5 years in prison.

Georg was born Isaak Hildebrandt on July 19, 1911 [slight mix-up of the birth date with the date of his award; Tr.], the son of well-to-do Mennonites in Kontratyevka in the Donetz region. The change of his first name, which he managed to make in Germany, is a story in itself. He had simply grown tired of nasty neighbors' snide remarks concerning his biblical name of Isaak and quickly decided to change it to that of his father instead.

In the following paragraphs, Georg Hildebrandt describes the stages in his life, here exclusively for "Volk auf dem Weg."

"Following the completion of a central school I worked on my father's farm. In the fall of 1929 we were dispossessed, and during March, 1930, the men were arrested, and the women and children were taken by militia to a Russian village. I escaped, for the first time, and took a correspondence course for technical drawing in Leningrad. During the fall of 1931 I escaped for a second time and learned that I had been sentenced in absentia to five years of forced labor. I changed my place of residence and worked in Krivoy Rog, Saparozhye, in the Urals, and in Mariupol.

During 1937/1938 nearly all men in my kinship became the victims of repression. I avoided arrest at first via another escape, to Krasnoyarsk in the faraway Siberia. Then came the war everyone and Krasnoturyinsk for me. There we existed like inmates behind barbed wire. Hunger was a constant companion, and my hands and feet kept swelling up. My friend and I began to draw [false] food stamps in order to get an additional bit of soup. We were caught and were taken into a camp that was bad enough, but not as bad as Krasnoturyinsk. In 1945, before completing my sentence, I was released and married Agathe Schmidt. But in 1947 I was arrested once again and exiled "in perpetuity" to Kolyma. However, in early 1952 I was released again and allowed to rejoin my family. On June 15, 1953, I was arrested for the fifth and last time. Via Magadan, Vladivostok, Chabarovsk, Novosibirsk and Sverdlovsk I reached the Urals, where my family had been exiled to.

From then on my life began to exist under a new star. First, I was taken to a hospital for tuberculosis patients, and in November of 1955 two parts of my left lung were surgically removed - in Moscow!

In 1961 I moved to Alma-Ata, where I was able to follow my occupation. In 1971 I was granted retirement status. And on November 16, 1974 we arrived in Germany ..."

Another new life now began for Georg Hildebrandt, one that was entirely taken up in processing his past. The result of this work he documented in his life opus "Wieso lebst du noch" ["Why are you still alive?"], available from the Landsmannschaft. The book was first published in 1990 by the publisher Bernhard Abend of Stuttgart. In the meantime it has been translated into English [and is available through GRHC; Tr.]. It is among a not so numerous German-Russian books that is talked about to this day. It presented its author with numerous adoring fans within and outside of his ethnic group.

Three years ago, on June 27, 2003, he was honored with the Federal Cross of Merit at the Luise Ebert Senior Center in Heidelberg, where he is among the most interesting of residents and receives loving care.

The Landsmannschaft and "Volk auf dem Weg" extend their best wishes to the celebrant, especially for better health, which he could really benefit from.

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller