Tragedy of the Soviet Germans: A Story of Survival
By John Philipps, Richtman's Printing, Bismarck,
North Dakota, 1983, reprinted 1999, 184 pages, softcover.
Philipps opens his book with warm descriptions of German Russian
villages as they were at the peak of their prosperity. The struggles
of pioneering were over; the depredations of the Communists had
not yet begun. He writes a brief history of South Russia to help
us understand his experiences. This is the kind of personal book
many may prefer to read about German-Russian history.
John Philipps, who now resides in California, was born in Speyer in
South Russia in "the time of the Czar." He was probably
one of the more fortunate ones during the Communist takeover. He was
given training as an agriculturist and assigned to a job in a Machine
Tractor Station, a special kind of unit that provided and maintained
tractors and other machines for the collective farms in an area. That
is where he was when Hitler's armies swept into South Russia in 1941,
and he went to Germany with panicky refugees in 1945, just ahead of
the Russian advance. He was drawn into the German army, along with
Peter Pfeifer of Elsass, possibly a relative of North Dakota German-Russians.
In 1955, with the help of Alexandra Tolstoy, a Russian woman who also
helped others to get out of the clutches of the Communists, he migrated
to the United States.
Philipps was nervous about writing this book and says he omitted
names for fear of reprisals to families still living in Russia.
But he was a sharp observer and he understands where his personal
experiences fit into the larger historical picture. You may appreciate
knowing how it was from someone who personally lived during this
very difficult time. He attended a convention of the Germans from
Russia Heritage Society several years ago, and it was truly exciting
to see this German-Russian hero in the flesh.
Book review by Edna Boardman
Tragedy of the Soviet Germans
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