Open Wound: The Genocide of German Ethnic Minorities in Russia and
the Soviet Union, 1915-1949 and Beyond
Der Genozid an Russlanddeutschen 1915-1949
By Samuel D. Sinner
With forewords by Dr. Gerd Stricker and Eric J. Schmaltz. Germans
from Russia Heritage Collection, North Dakota State University Libraries,
Fargo, North Dakota, 2000, 353 pages, hardcover and softcover. English and German text.
Undoubtedly, the twentieth century - the so-called "century of
progress" - was an unprecedented era of blood and mass murder. The
Nazi and Soviet genocides killed tens of millions. Samuel Sinner,
a Ph.D. student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a specialist
in modern history and languages, has just finished the first full-length
study published in America on the genocide of ethnic German groups
in the Soviet Union.
The Open Wound, a dual-language volume in English and German,
carefully and critically examines the available statistical data
from Soviet archives released after Glasnost relating to the number
of Russian Germans who perished under the Soviets. Based on these
and other archival sources from Germany and America, Sinner concludes
that between 1915 and 1949, about one million Russian Germans needlessly
perished under the last Russian Tsar, Lenin and Stalin. The deaths
resulted mainly from mass deportations, executions, man-made famines,
and enforced labor in the Gulag. The book also presents numerous
gripping eyewitness accounts from Russian-German survivors and genocide
victims. These first-hand reports present heart-rending and often
near-apocalyptic scenes of mass death and near complete extermination.
The Open Wound recognizes that the Russian Germans were
not the only ethnic group which suffered in the Soviet Union. Unfortunately,
nearly every ethnic group, including the Russian majority, was repressed
under Lenin and Stalin for a variety of reasons, including the volatile
combination of political ideology and traditional racial conflicts.
This shows that the recent genocidal events in Bosnia are merely
the repetition of an old theme. Sinner is himself a Russian German
and so concentrates on his own group, telling its tragic story.
His work assembles the vast scientific statistical documentation
on the mass death of the Russian Germans, but also puts a human
face on the repression.
Many Russian Germans will discover in this book the names of familiar
ancestral villages, as well as those of their own families and relatives.
Non-Russian Germans who read the book will also identify with
and be touched by a suffering that reaches across ethnic lines and
which can be humanly understood and felt. The silenced victims of
starvation, shooting and death by forced labor are given a voice
to speak again, telling us their story. This book makes known their
suffering, ensuring it is never forgotten by relatives nor by the
The book is introduced by two lengthy and copiously documented
essays totaling 65 pages by the world-renowned Slavist and historian
Dr. Gerd Stricker of Zollikon/Zurich Switzerland and the historian
Eric J. Schmaltz, a Ph.D. candidate at the History Department of
the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Samuel Sinner is completing doctoral studies in Modern Languages
at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His dissertation will be
on Peter Sinner, Volga German author and Stalin victim. Sinner received
his Master of Arts Degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
in 1998, with his major field of German language and literature.
The American Historical Society of Germans from Russia publishes
in 2000, "Letters from Hell: An Index to Famine Letters from Die
Welt-Post, 1920-1925; 1930-1934," compiled by Samuel Sinner. He has
prepared other major articles, presentations and translations on
the Germans from Russia.
Great Famine - Genocide in Soviet Ukraine
of the book by J. Otto Pohl
for German American Studies Newsletter, volume
21, number 2, June, 2000