Germans from Russia Heritage Collection director works on documentary in South America

22 March 2012

Fargo, North Dakota

Michael Miller, director and bibliographer at the NDSU Libraries’ Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, and Bob Dambach, director of television at Prairie Public Broadcasting, traveled in February to Argentina and Brazil to work on a new documentary telling the story of the Germans from Russia in South America. Many German Russians immigrated to Argentina and Brazil at the end of the 20th century at the same time when families were immigrating to the Dakotas, the U.S. and Canada. In Argentina, there are more than one million Volga Germans.

Miller and Dambach visited people with Black Sea, Bessarabian, Volhynian, Mennonite and Volga German ancestry as potential interviewees. They visited many locations in the state of Entre Rios and south of Buenos Aires, Argentina. In south Brazil, they visited Curitiba, the Mennonite German village at Witmarsum, as well as the states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grand do Sul, which have many German settlements. “The days in Argentina and Brazil were truly amazing and unforgettable,” Miller said. “I was impressed how I could speak in the German language with many people. There are wonderful comparisons of the German-Russian foods and recipes including Kuchen. The cemeteries featured the beautiful wrought-iron crosses similar to what we see in central North Dakota.”

The experience also made a significant impression on Dambach. “The things that impressed me most were the people and the landscapes. The people we met in Brazil and Argentina were tremendously friendly, helpful and sincerely interested in their Germans from Russia heritage. The mingling of three or four languages seemed to be no hindrance to communication,” he said. “The landscapes in Argentina reminded me of taking a trip across North Dakota with the flatlands morphing into gentle hills as you travel west. Our route in Brazil brought back memories of traveling through central Pennsylvania with its photogenic valleys revealing themselves as we traveled westward. The people and the landscape were truly amazing.”

The new documentary of Prairie Public’s award-winning Germans from Russia Documentary Series is projected for completion in 2014. Prairie Public videographers, Dambach and Miller plan to return to Argentina and Brazil in 2013 for filming and interviews. For further information, go to and

Michael Miller interviewing Leopoldo Bach, age 85, at Colonia Johannesdorf, Brazil on Feb. 11, 2012.
Bob Dambach and Michael Miller standing by a wrought-iron cross at the Volga German cemetery in San Jose, Argentina, on Feb. 19, 2012.

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