Book review by J. Otto Pohl, author of the book, Ethnic Cleansing in the USSR, 1937-1949.
Vossler, Ronald Julius. We’ll Meet Again in Heaven: Germans in the Soviet Union Write Their American Relatives. North Dakota State University Libraries, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, Fargo, North Dakota, 2001.
Ronald Vossler's new book is a valuable collection of primary
source material ignored up until now by most scholars. The bulk
of the book consists of English translations of letters written
by ethnic Germans in the USSR to relatives in the Dakotas. Spanning
the years 1925 to 1937, these letters provide first person views
of the ethnic German experience in the USSR. Among the traumatic
events dealt with in these letters are collectivization, dekulakization,
exile to labor settlements and the murder famine (Holodomor) of
1932-1933. The perspective of ethnic Ukrainians on the Holodomor
and the events that preceded it has received significant attention
from scholars in the last two decades. This book, however, is the
first systematic attempt to show these events through the eyes of
the large German minority that lived in Ukraine.
These letters are not comfortable to read. They depict some of the most horrible suffering inflicted upon one segment of mankind by another in world history. The brutality of the Soviet regime in collectivizing farms, deporting Germans labeled as "kulaks" to freezing wastes and forcibly removing every stalk of grain from Ukraine is graphically depicted in these letters. Collectively, these letters tell the story of the ethnic Germans in the USSR during the 1930s. It is a story that has received almost no attention in the US in recent decades. Vossler has provided a great service to historians by collecting, translating and collating these letters.
In addition to the letters themselves, Vossler provides an excellent introduction, index and explanatory notes. His son, Joshua Vossler has embellished the text with a series of finely executed black and white drawings. The volume as a whole provides a view of German life in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s. In doing so it also provides a powerful indictment of the Soviet system.