Sunday, November 15, 2015

Book Review

Why Are You Still Alive? A German in the Gulag 
by Georg Hildebrandt
I purchased this book recently, and it's one of those publications you cannot put down until complete.  The experience cannot be briefly explained; when you read this book you will be deeply moved.  Everyone should take the time to read this incredible experience to further appreciate how fortunate we are today.
Georg Hildebrandt was of German from Russia heritage who endured and surprisingly survived the terrors of life as a Soviet prisoner.  Georg was a descendant of immigrants who accepted Catherine’s invitation to relocate to Russia. Little could they foresee that the third and fourth generations would experience terrible suffering. Georg was Mennonite, being raised to love peace, without hatred and rancor.
Germans were labeled as criminals by the Soviet government, 800,000 – 900,000 were exterminated. Liquidation of Germans began after the October Revolution. Germans were gathered into groups and forcefully scattered throughout the entire Soviet Union. The intention of these acts was to force them to lose their language and ethnicity.

Georg grew up in the village of Kondrajevka, near Kramatorsky and Konstantinovka.  March 1929 the village was occupied by party workers, militia and secret agents of the OGPU.  Families were separated, and all men and boys 15 years and older from 12 families out of the 33 farms in the village were arrested and jailed. This was to be Georg’s first arrest.
Georg managed to survive several relocations and much physical abuse.  He was fortunate to have received early education and draftsman training.  These skills were valued at the various prisons and saved his life numerous times.  Food was scarce for all prisoners; illness was common and man’s inhumanity to man was staggering.  Traitors were everywhere and would commit hideous crimes to promote their own welfare and profit.
1942: Georg and other prisoners were forced into the Trud Army. The workers army was kept behind barbed wire like criminals.  Germans who had not died as a result of the Soviet bloody wave of destruction from 1937-38, were confined in horrific conditions; many deaths occurred each day.
1949: Georg and others were transported to East Siberia.  Fifteen men were put in each train compartment, which was designed for six to eight at most. The train stopped at Sverdlovsk, where the prisoners were loaded onto trucks referred to as the Black Raven.  Eventually after much discomfort the surviving prisoners were taken to a camp in Kolyma.  Georg was assigned to work in the carpentry shop.
One day, criminals gambled for the “head of any resident” from the barracks in which technical and office workers lived.  Later in the evening one of the prisoners was sitting at a table near the door with his fur lined cap on his head. A criminal rushed into the barracks and smashed his head with an ax. The criminal then ran to the guard tower and yelled, “I have chopped off someone’s head.” These were common everyday events.
1953: Georg completed his prison time.  He requested permission to relocate to the Urals where his family was living- denied.  He was appointed honorary head of the Bureau for Rationalization and Inventions (BRIS), devising a system to reward productive workers with increased pay.
In February, he was diagnosed with cavernous lung tuberculosis, seriously ill. He was transported to the Urals to join his family, the first odyssey of his life found a happy ending. The second odyssey had a different nature, the time from 1953 until emigration to Germany in 1974. The goal of a second book was not to be fulfilled.
Georg was asked by the wife of a deceased fellow prisoner why her husband had not been willing to share details of life as a prisoner.  George explained that the situation had been bad, very bad. Perhaps her husband kept silent in order not to expose himself to suspicions, and the cruel memories could not be comprehended by someone who had not gone through this hell. Rumors in Germany and other countries promoted the idea that conditions were not bad for political prisoners. It was false information.

(Submitted by Dee Hert)

Future Meeting

The December party will be held on Saturday, December 12th at 11:00 am at the Springville Presbyterian Church.We'll have German food and an ornament exchange. A $10 limit is suggested. Their new pastor is a German from Russia.

2016 AHSGR Convention

Plans are underway for the 2016 AHSGR convention which will be held at the Concord Hilton Hotel, in Concord, California, July 14-16, 2016. The hotel is conveniently located in the San Francisco Bay Area’s East Bay and is adjacent to Interstate 680.  It is accessible via the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) from the Oakland and San Francisco International airports.  The hotel offers complimentary round trip shuttle service to and from the Concord BART station thus making it easily accessible to the entire Bay Area including San Francisco.  Conveniently located across the street from the hotel is a shopping center with a second larger one within a one mile distance.  The world famous Napa and Sonoma wine country is a short 30 minute drive from the Hilton.  The venue offers an opportunity to visit and enjoy a world class tourist destination.

The program’s theme is “Before the Storm” which will focus on the evolution and life of the colonies in the Volga, Black Sea, and Volhynia areas of the Russian Empire.  Speakers have been invited from Russia, Germany, and South America.  In addition, topics will focus on:
  • Village Area Discussions
  • Using AHSGR and on-line resources for genealogical searches
  • Use of DNA in genealogical research
  • Education and welfare systems in the villages
  • Contributions by the colonists to agriculture, manufacturing, and the economy
  • Village governance systems
  • Churches
  • Architecture
  • Differences between the Black Sea and Volga villages
  • German Russians in the army
  • German Russians in Siberia and Kazakhstan
  • German Russian emigration
  • German Russians in California
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Developing  memory books
  • Story Telling Contest
  • Youth Program
  • Research room with access to the internet and AHSGR books and archival materials
  • Two all-day tours to the wine country and  San Francisco.

Room rates are $119.00 per night for a single or double room and $134.00 for a room at the Hilton Executive Level.  Executive Level rooms are on a private key controlled floor with enhanced amenities, access to a private lounge, complimentary breakfast, and an evening manager reception. Parking is $7.50 per day with in and out privileges.  Handicapped parking is free.  Reservations may be made by phone (925-827-2000, use the code AGR) or on line (

Address:  Hilton Concord, 1970 Diamond Blvd., Concord, CA  94520 (Phone: 925-827-2000)

Plan on joining other AHSGR members in Concord  July 14-16, 2016.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Center for Volga German Studies

The Center for Volga German Studies announces the following locations for the CVGS 250th Anniversary seminar series. 
Note the two events coming up next month in California and Colorado. Please join us for one or more of these events:

Fort Collins, Colorado (14 November 2015)
Fresno, California (21 November 2015)
Minneapolis, Minnesota (5 December 2015)
Austin, Texas (6-7 February 2016)
Scottsdale, Arizona (27-28 February 2016)
Leavenworth, Washington (27-29 April 2016)
Hays, Kansas (4 June 2016)
Fort Collins, Colorado (23 July 2016)
Sheboygan, Wisconsin (24-25 September 2016)
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (27-30 October 2016)

The 2-day events in Austin and Scottsdale are designed specifically for those interested in genealogy.             
For additional information about each event, please check the website:

Thursday, October 22, 2015

German American Society of Utah


Join us on the German National Day of Mourning (Memorial Day) as we pay tribute to the German

prisoners of war who died in Utah. The German Chorus Harmonie provides the music for this annual


Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 10:00 am

Ft. Douglas Cemetery – 32 Potter Street (corner of Wakara & Chipeta, U of U Campus)


Come and enjoy lunch and some entertainment that’s sure to help bring in the spirit of the season!

There is no cost, but we welcome your donations to help cover our expenses.

Saturday, November 28, 2015 at 2:00 pm

LDS Douglas Ward Building (German Speaking Ward) – 721 South 1200 East, SLC

RSVP to Baerbel Johnson at 801-520-7012

Weihnachtsmarkt Fundraiser

Imported goods from Germany arrive just in time for Christmas gatherings with family and friends.

Come early for lunch and help support our organization in raising operating funds for the year.

Saturday, December 5, 2015 from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm

All Saints Episcopal Church – 1710 South Foothill Blvd., SLC

Christmas Concert

Holiday memories will come alive at the annual Christmas Concert performed by the German Chorus.

Harmonie, the Kinderchor, and special musical guests.  This event is free, and is a fun family tradition.

Friday, December 11, 2015 at 7:00 pm

All Saints Episcopal Church - 1710 South Foothill Blvd., SLC

On the Lookout

Dee Hert is looking for youth programs- of particular interest are organizations that focus on youth and providing them valuable education.
  •  For example, the 4-H organization has a youth program and are very active in creating a healthy environment.  They also offer an excellent newsletter.
Please keep your ears and eyes open for such organizations. Her goal is to take the best from each organization and put it to good use with the GR community.

Try Out This Site


Germans from Russia
The local chapter of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR) invite you to attend the Christkindlmarkt, at This is the Place Heritage Park
December 3, 4 and 5, 2015
Thursday, December 3rd: 11:00 am - 8:00 pm
Friday, December 4th: 11:00 am - 9:00 pm
Saturday, December 5th: 10:00 am - 9:00 pm
This Is The Place Heritage Park
(2601 E. Sunnyside Avenue SLC, UT 84108)

In an effort to promote this unique heritage, of the Germans from Russia, we are participating with the Christkindlmarkt and plan to sell unique Christmas items made in Russia, along with sweet treats.

This is an event for all 3-5 year old children. We will be learning how German 
children celebrate Christmas through stories, crafts, songs and yummy treats.
We invite you to bring your children or grandchildren to spend this time with
us while you go and enjoy the fun of Christkindlmarkt.
  • When: Thursday, December 3rd12:30-2:00 pm
  • Where: This Is The Place Heritage Park 
  • Smoot Hall Building
  • Cost: $15 per child
Space is limited, so please RSVP by contacting  
by November 24th.

We will also be visited by the Salt Lake City Christkind and even St. Nicholas!

Sunday, October 18, 2015


Dee Hert has a form from Brent Mai for the German Russian censuses. For some reason I was not able to link it on this blog, but thought you'd like to know about it. He has a new census--Kolb 1834.  Brent has done a lot of work for the GR community.  I am personally very grateful for the resources I've been able to purchase to aid me in my research.

Watch These Dates

Next chapter meeting is Saturday,October 24, at 10:00 a.m. at the Sandy Library.  You are welcome to arrive early.  Dee Hert is planning a genealogical meeting, so let her know your areas of interest.

Family History Library classes, floor B-1.  Thursdays from 10:00 to 2:00

October 29, Russian Language and Handwriting
Nov 5, Russian Research: Resources and Documents
Nov 12, Germans from Russia Research: Resources and Documents
Nov 19, Jewish Research in the Russian Empire: Resources and Documents.

All classes will be of great value to any of us who do research.  The topic may not be in your immediate area but we can always learning something of value.  If there is great interest the classes will continue, if not they may not be repeated or continued.  Please come and support us if at all possible.

Monday, August 3, 2015

More Pics From Billings

Our Intermountain Chapter president, Dee Hert, with her husband, Darrell.

Alton and Eleanor Sissell are new members of our chapter, and serve as staff at the LDS Family History Library is Salt Lake City, Utah.

Kenneth and Annette Reynolds, chapter and AHSGR members.

Below, Ron Brott and Sharon White, who both put in many hours serving as Village Coordinators for AHSGR.

Congratulations, Pat and Shirley Ansley

We are so proud of these two!  They received a special award at the AHSGR Convention in Billings, Montana, for the beautiful newsletter they put together each month for our Intermountain Chapter. Lest I get the information wrong, please check back as I update this post with more details...

August Meeting 2015

You are invited to attend the Intermountain Chapter meeting where you will hear from those persons attending the recent AHSGR Convention in Billings, Montana.

Saturday, August 8 
Sandy Library, 18100 Petunia (1300 South), Sandy, Utah
10:15 AM

Feel free to come a bit early as they often allow early access to the room. Remember, only bottled water allowed.

AHSGR Convention, Billings, Montana

What a wonderful convention.  It is always great to reconnect with people who share a common love for ancestors and our heritage.  As you can tell, there was plenty to keep us busy. Even if you don't polka, it's fun to listen to the music and watch others share their talent.  As always, the Intermountain Chapter had an awesome basket for the Silent Auction.  Thanks Billings!

Consider These Resources

Here is a description of a series of books that might aid you in locating the parish where a person's ancestors could
have attended church before emigrating to Russia and where some records might exist about them. This reference is from a posting on GER-VOLGA by Jerry Goertzen, 21 Nov 2010.

In his message Jerry wrote, "I usually use the German Guides to Parish Registers, by Kevan Hansen.  This was a series of books of all the German Kingdoms, etc. that show the Districts, Kreis and the Church Parishes for the different religions.  They also show the villages that belong to each Parish.  The series has completed 33 of the proposed 55 Volumes."

These books may be ordered from several sources including (some of the volumes) from Amazon. Jerry suggested ordering from Family Roots Publishing, . There you will find:

"A primary FRPC focus is on the publication of the Map Guide to German Parish Registers. This series stands currently at fifty and will reach fifty-five. Volume 50 - Map Guide to German Parish Registers, Pomerania II, is now
shipping. Please note that In addition to the Map Guides, we now distribute a large number of Germanic genealogy-related guides printed by other publishers, posted under the category of Foreign - Germany."

"The volumes are available in SLC at the Family History Center. I'm pretty sure they cannot be obtained via inter-library loan or from your local Family History library (when I last tried the answer was no). I used several of the volumes when I was in SLC for the AHSGR convention and found them useful for what I wanted (something to help me focus my search for my own family records). The volume titled Grandduchy of Hessen (Map Guide to German Parish Registers, Volume 1)"  Paperback - 2004  was very useful ($34.95 + shipping from Amazon.) They use to only be available in hardback for about $90 so paperback is a welcome change."