German Russians Remember the Dirty Thirties in Radio Program

12 April 2010

Organizers of the Dakota Memories Oral History Project, in cooperation with Prairie Public Broadcasting, will air a new radio program titled "The Dirty Thirties: German Russians Remember.”

The program will air on Wednesday, April 14, at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. and features a variety of stories about dust storms, extreme temperatures, grasshopper invasions and New Deal programs. The narrators grew up on the Northern Plains in the regions of South Dakota, North Dakota and Saskatchewan.

Mark Harvey, environmental historian and NDSU professor of history, has added scholarly commentary, discussing the environmental conditions on the Northern Plains during the 1930s. “The Dirty Thirties were an unsettled, difficult and enormously stressful period on the Great Plains. The huge dust storms wreaked havoc on the region's agricultural economy, society and fragile ecology,” Harvey said.

Listeners will learn about memories such as John Gross’ recollection of making hay out of Russian thistles in order for their cattle to survive. He remembers one year the drought was so extreme they didn’t have to hitch up a grass mower because there was no grass to cut. He attributes his family’s ability to stay on the farm during this difficult time to the help of his grandfather. "Many farmers lost their farms and were forced to move to cities such as Milwaukee and Lodi, Calif., to find work," he said.

Public interest in documenting and preserving German-Russian ethnic identity inspired the launch of the project in 2005. Since then, organizers have been traveling the Northern Plains, gathering stories and documenting family relationships and childhood memories of second and third generation Germans from Russia. Jessica Clark, recipient of the Germans from Russia History Doctoral Fellowship, coordinates the project and Michael Miller serves as director of the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection and the project.

The NDSU Libraries’ Germans from Russia Heritage Collection and Prairie Public provide major funding for the program. A CD of the radio program will be available for $15. To pre-order the CD, contact Acacia Stuckle, special collections associate, at 1-6596 or

The program can be heard on 90.5 FM in Bismarck, 89.9 FM in Dickinson, 91.7 FM in Devils Lake, 91.9 FM in Fargo, 89.3 FM in Grand Forks, 91.5 FM in Jamestown, 88.9 FM in Minot and 89.5 FM in Williston.

The Dakota Memories Oral History Project is a privately funded project sponsored by the NDSU Libraries’ Germans from Russia Heritage Collection. For more information, contact the NDSU Libraries’ Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at (701) 231-6596 or visit

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