are you still alive?:
By Georg Hildebrandt Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, North
Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo, North Dakota, 2001, 267 pages, softcover.
A German in the Gulag
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
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
"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
Libraries publishes German-Russian who survived
Gulag in Siberia, Russia
of Merit Awarded to Georg Hildebrandt." Volk auf dem
Weg, May 2003, 21.
of the book by Edna Boardman
of the book by Katie Funk Wiebe
Book review by Dr. Lawrence Klippenstein
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)