Germans From Russia Documentary Premieres Sept. 12

Herzog, Karen. "Germans From Russia Documentary Premieres Sept. 12." Bismarck Tribune, 13 August 2002.

"The Great Sauerkraut Triangle" may be far from Hollywood, but its citizens are rapidly acquiring a film history.

The third documentary on the Germans from Russia, North Dakota's most numerous ethnic group, particularly in south central and southeastern portions of the state, will premiere at 8 p.m. Sept. 12 on Prairie Public Television.

This third film concentrates on the craft of iron crosses, a centuries-long German tradition.

Prairie Public is a partner with the North Dakota State University Libraries in the creation of these documentaries, which chronicle the history, life and folkways of the immigrants who migrated from the steppes of southern Russia to America's prairies from the late 1800s to about World War I.

Timothy Kloberdanz, associate professor at NDSU, which houses the Germans from Russia Collection, said, about that group, "The Germans from Russia were a frugal people whose blacksmiths used wagon wheel rims and scrap metal to fashion markers for the graves of the dead."

"Yet the crosses are a distinctive and beautiful art form, with unbroken hearts of metal, brightly painted stars, endless circles, banner-waving angels, exquisitely formed lilies, and rose blossoms."

The documentary, "Prairie Crosses, Prairie Voices: Iron Crosses of the Great Plains," examines the history of the iron cemetery grave marker from Germany to Ukraine to the Great Plains of North Dakota and Canada.

Iron crosses, none quite alike, stand in many rural cemeteries; a survey was conducted recently to locate them with an eye toward preservation, due to a growing appreciation for the intricate iron work and for the culture of the Germans from Russia.

The first documentary on this group, "The Germans from Russia: Children of the Steppe, Children of the Prairie," premiered in 1999. It won the top prize for historical documentaries at the 1999 Telly Awards and a bronze plaque in humanities in the Columbus 47th Annual International Film and Video Festival.

The second was "Schmeckfest: Food Traditions of the Germans from Russia," also honored with a Telly Award.

"Prairie Crosses" offers a history of the migrations of this ethnic group, including their eventual settlement on the Great Plains, where they maintained their language and culture the longest.

Co-executive producers of the series are Bob Dambach of Prairie Public Television and Michael M. Miller, bibliographer of the NDSU Libraries. Dave Geck has been the videographer on all three documentaries, and Kloberdanz, an international expert on iron crosses, wrote and narrated the film. Major funding was provided by the North Dakota Humanities Council, NDSU Libraries and North Dakota Council on the Arts.

A video of "Prairie Crosses" is available for purchase by calling Prairie Public. Cost is $25 plus postage and handling ($4 in the U.S.).

Reprinted with permission of the Bismarck Tribune.

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