NDSU Libraries publishes new book on letters
November 15, 2005
The NDSU Libraries, Fargo has published this new book, The
Old God Still Lives: German Villagers in Czarist and Soviet Ukraine
Write Their American Relatives, 1915-1924,
by Ronald J. Vossler and Joshua J. Vossler.
At least three of four ethnic Germans living within the Czarist
Empire did not immigrate to the United States. What happened to
these German-speaking villagers is the primary focus of this volume
of letters, translated from the German, as the co-authors indicate,
with an effort made to retain the distinctive wit and phraseology
of the writers.
Written by ethnic Germans to their American relatives and friends
between the years 1915 and 1924, these letters form, as the co-authors
indicate, a companion volume to "We'll
Meet Again in Heaven: Germans in the Soviet Union Write Their American
Relatives, 1925-1937", published in 2001. Together,
these two books and the over twenty two years of correspondence
included in them surely must comprise one of the most tragic odysseys
of suffering of any ethnic group.
The letters present an intimate glance into three very different
in the German villages in Ukraine: the final years of the Czarist
a chaotic interim period including both the Russian Revolution and
War; and the first years of Bolshevik rule, marked by a devastating
famine, caused, in part, by Lenins ruthless war communism policies,
his armed requisition squads removed grain from villages.
Some letters describe bloody episodes of almost unbelievable cruelty;
Bolsheviks, however, werent the only ones who used violence. If
the German villagers sometimes retaliated, like those in Grossliebental,
who in 1919 murdered twenty five communists, bludgeoning them where
stood with spades and pitchforks and hammers, for making unjust
Joshua Vossler, one of the co-authors, illustrated the text, including
front and back covers, with a series of simple, yet evocative drawings
hands, as well as envelopes and letters, which depict the elaborate,
archaic, Germanic script in which letters were originally written.
Arranged chronologically, the one hundred and fifty lettersthey
from five German language newspapers in North Dakota in which they
first published were written by, and sent to, people with names
common in the Central Dakotas including Boschee, Morlock, Wanner,
Dockter, Bender, Ketterling, Ackermann, Doerr, Kurtz, Bohlander,
Mindt, Wiest, Schoepp, Schaible, Wacker, Bauer, Kessler, Frank,
Rohrich, Wolf, Heinle, Stockburger, Hieb, Spitzer, Huber, Rueb,
Ammon, Schweigert, Rohrbach, and Wenz, among others.
These letters chronicle a substantial and on-going correspondence
between the ethnic Germans whod left Ukraine between 1873 and 1914,
and who sent much money, food, and clothing to those wishing that
they had left South Russia also. There are a number of surprising
revelations about the explosion of hatred of the German minority
in Czarist Ukraine during WWI, a hatred that continued under the
Bolsheviks, mainly because the German colonists in 1919 they now
have a deep respect for our fighting abilities, as one writer said---staged
an unsuccessful revolt against the murder, rape, and torture under
There is much in this volume to interest the general reader of
Russian history, as well as those of German from Russia ancestry,
who wish to learn more about villages which were the source of one
of North Dakotas most distinct, and most numerous, ethnic groups.
This book also is a valuable source of knowledge about the first
years of Bolshevik rulewhich were, in effect, a training ground
for genocidal policies, like using food as a weapon, and which culminated
in 1932- 1933 in Holodomor: one of the greatest human rights
tragedies of the twentieth century, starving both German villagers
and Ukrainians alike.
Cost of the book is $35 plus $4 postage payable to NDSU Library.
Mail to: Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, The Old God Still
Lives Book, NDSU Libraries, PO Box 5599, Fargo, ND 58105-5599. Website
to order book: library.ndsu.edu/grhc/order/nd_sd/still_lives.html.