Why are you still alive?:
A German in the Gulag

By Georg Hildebrandt Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo, North Dakota, 2001, 267 pages, softcover.
The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection is pleased to publish this most important book, Why are you still alive?: A German in the Gulag. The popular book was published in 1993 in the German language, Wieso Lebst du Noch?: Ein Deutscher im Gulag. Georg Hildebrandt was 91 years of age in July, 2002.

Many Germans died in Siberian detention camps during Stalin's dictatorship. As Germans, they were declared as public enemies and after 1941, they were accused of collaborating with the Fascists. Georg Hildebrandt's biography revives this story. He documents what happened with an amazing memory and precision. His biography is a shocking document of the Germans in the former USSR.

Dr. Erich Franz Sommer writes in the preface: "Testimonies were only rarely given by German camp inmates; more rarely yet, by those German colonists who experienced themselves forced collectivization in the Volga region, in the Ukraine, and in the Caucasus, and on the Crimean peninsula, and who have survived decades of resettlement in Siberia and Central Asia.

That is why this biography and the report of suffering by the Ukrainian-German, George Hildebrandt, are of documentary value. He speaks not only for himself, he speaks also vicariously for those whose cries and prayers in prisons and in detention camps fell silent without finding an ear. George Hildebrandt's report, which I can confirm from my own experiences, recalls a chapter of the Soviet Union's past with which people are still trying to come to terms and, as far as this is possible, the Kremlin cannot be indifferent towards revising it."

About the Author

My name is Georg Hildebrandt. I was born on 19 July 1911, in the German village of Kondratjevka, Ukraine, the second of five children. My forefathers came to Russia in 1778. After finishing junior high school in 1927, I worked on my father's farm. In March 1929, Stalin began to collectivize agriculture, the ruin and destruction of many millions of farmers, Russian and German alike. Very early one morning in March 1930, militia and secret agents of the state police occupied our entire town. All men and boys from 16 years of age were arrested and jailed. I was among them. This was my first arrest. I began forced labor in road construction in Konstantinovka. In fall I fled to my relatives in Madestovka, where I took a correspondence course for technical draftsman until spring 1931. A series of arrests, imprisonment, and even one escape followed taking me through several labor camps including that of the infamous Kolyma. In 1952, I was prematurely released from a concentration camp to remain forever exiled in Kolyma. However, in 1953, I was arrested for the fifth time in my life and transported to the Urals. The journey took me through Magadan and the prisons of Nakhodka, Vladivostok, Chabarovsk, Novosibirsk, and Sverdlovsk, where I arrived to reunite with my family already living there in exile. Immediately after my arrival, I was admitted to the hospital for tuberculosis patients. I had contracted the highly communicable disease in one of the prisons. In 1955, in Moscow, I had to undergo surgery to remove two sections of my lung. In February 1961, I went to Alma-Ata where I pursued my profession. I retired in 1971, and was able to emigrate with my family to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1974.


"Why are you still alive?" That is the cynical question of a KGB officer to the author. Georg Hildebrandt, who, as a German Russian, had to suffer persecution and detention camps during Stalin's dictatorship, describes in minute detail his path through life. An odyssey begins already for this 20-year-old as a technical draftsman, which leads him to the Urals and to Siberia to end up in the notorious detention camps of Kolyma. His fate, which one could avoid only by escape or suicide, represents that of thousands of fellow-sufferers.

"Imaginative, sympathetic readers should have strong nerves for this book. Hildebrandt's book is for everyone."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Frankfurt, Germany

Related Articles:

NDSU Libraries publishes German-Russian who survived Gulag in Siberia, Russia

"Order of Merit Awarded to Georg Hildebrandt." Volk auf dem Weg, May 2003, 21.

Review of the book by Edna Boardman

Review of the book by Katie Funk Wiebe

Book review by Dr. Lawrence Klippenstein

Review of the book by Richard Kisling

Georg Hildebrandt displaying his book in the German language. (June, 2001)
Georg Hildebrandt's paternal grandparents in the garden of their home in the village of Jekaterinovka; Left: Maria Hildebrandt, born on 24 March 1863, died on 4 April 1938; Right: Isaak Hildebrandt, born on 16 December 1859, died on 20 January 1920; Photo from about 1917/1918.
Georg Hildebrandt identifies where he was born in Ukraine and other locations where he lived in Russia. (June, 2001)

Why are you still alive?

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