The 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 world.

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.

Related Articles:

The Great Famine - Genocide in Soviet Ukraine

Review of the book by J. Otto Pohl

Society for German American Studies Newsletter, volume 21, number 2, June, 2000

The Open Wound

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