Following WWI and the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, Russia experienced mass starvation from 1920 to 1924 caused largely by a government policy of forced grain requisition.

When the Volga Germans resisted, they were completely stripped of all grain and mass executions were carried out. More than thirty percent of the Volga German population was deliberately starved before relief was permitted.

The cruelties against the Volga Germans was better revealed to the world in 1922 when a former Sheboygan resident John Hermann returned to Sheboygan, Wisconsin and told his story of survival and escape from Russia.

Source: Rajkumar Kanagasingam, author of "German Memories in Asia"

books.google.com/books?id=MrBi0ghiZN0C&dq=german+memories +asia

Following World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, Russia experienced mass starvation from 1920 to 1924 caused largely by a government policy of forced grain requisition.

When the Volga Germans resisted, they were completely stripped of all grain and mass executions were carried out. More than thirty
percent of the Volga German population was deliberately starved before relief was permitted.

Starting in 1921, the Volga Relief Society in America raised money and bought supplies for the starving Volga Germans.

The cruelties against the Volga Germans was better revealed to the world in 1922 when a former Sheboygan resident John Hermann returned to Sheboygan, Wisconsin and told his story of survival and escape from Russia. He left from Sheboygan, Wisconsin to his Volga German settlement in Russia just before the opening of the war and returned to Sheboygan after the Bolshevist atrocities to Volga Germans which made them impoverished and nearly dead.

His story was published in the Sheboygan Press on Jan 24, 1922.

The story went as - John Hermann, residing at 1018 N. Ninth street, returned to Sheboygan early last week with reports of conditions in the Volga river region of Russia which corroborate the wildest reports of correspondents abroad. Tall, haggard, careworn, his face furrowed by worry and privation and with eyes saddened by scenes of horror, Mr. Hermann has returned after an absence of seven years to his family circle, whose happiness knows no bounds.

Mr. Hermann who had been here several years, left Sheboygan in May 1914, starting on his return journey to Russia where he intended to settle his estate and divide it among his sons.

The World War made his return impossible and he was forced to stay in his native village. During the war, Mr. Hermann stated, the conditions were not bad. There was plenty of food and though extensive requisitions had to be filled to the government, they willingly complied, for the armies had to be fed.

As soon as the bolshevists came to power, their merciless rule was felt in the Volga river region. Hordes of them swooped down upon the hamlets and villages and ordered election of councils of government, consisting of twenty-four men and a president, which body was authorized to carry out their orders and instructions.

Every village naturally had a dissatisfied element, which was in sympathy with the bolshevist, and this element was elected into office. The wealthier people were barred from election. The bolshevists supplied the candidates for election and the citizens had no choice in the matter.

Through this council a systematic plan of impoverishing the Volga river region was carried out. Orders stipulating great quantities of corn and wheat were continually given and these orders had to be obeyed.

Tardiness of only one hour in the delivery of the demanded quantities meant either a fine of twenty "boots" of wheat (one boot being equal to about forty pounds) or if the officers were so inclined - death.

After a few months the conditions became deplorable. The supplies for man and beast were exhausted. Lack of fodder put the draft animals in poor condition.

Often the bolshevists demanded horses at a moment's notice and the least resistance upon the part of their owners meant death. Horses and wagons with driver were commandeered to haul away the grain and many of those unfortunates never returned to their native home.

A neighbor of Mr. Hermann's who begged to be excused from hauling some grain to the territorial headquarters twenty versts away on the ground that he had just then returned from an extensive trip and his horse needed rest was shot down where he stood. Then other inhabitants of the village were killed at another time.

Some of the inhabitants of the village Schaefer, where Mr. Hermann had his home, being unable to bear the tyranny of the invaders, revolted, dethroned the council installed by the Soviet and elected their own from the fair-minded citizenship. As soon as the news of this occurrence reached headquarters of the bolshevists, troops were sent to capture the village and the newly elected council was put on horses, taken to the neighboring village, Reinwald, where they were executed.

The crop in the year of 1920 was a good one, said Mr. Hermann. It was well able to sustain the population of the stricken country had not the demands of the bolshevists been so great.

Seeing that starvation would be certain if provisions were not made in time, Mr. Hermann conceived the plan of completely closing the chimney and fireplace in his home. This he filled with 36 boots of wheat. The hidden store saved the lives of his immediate relatives for a time. He would gladly have shared it with others had not fear of detection prevented him from doing so. A hint of the priceless treasure to the authorities would have meant certain death.

All grinding mills were destroyed by the bolshevists to stop private manufacture of flour. Driven by desperation, ingenious minds experimented with coffee mills with no mean result though others also used meat grinders to obtain a little coarse flour.

Most of the passenger trains were crowded so that many who were anxious to escape death, climbed aboard boxcars and made their way in this manner. Men and women alike huddled on the top of these cars hoping against hope to reach a more fortunate region. It so transpired that the wife of a friend of Mr. Hermann's gave birth to a child while riding on the roof of a boxcar, exposed to the elements and the winds.

The favorite pastime of the bolshevists was the use of these destitute men and women as a means of target practice and it was considered a feat to pick off one of those huddled forms from a moving train. Mr. Hermann is hardly able to realize that he survived the ordeal. Repeatedly taken from trains, forced to slave labor, and after numerous escapes from the clutches of the revolutionists, he finally reached Novo sew (New Russia) at the Black Sea. This place is about 800 versts distant from his native village and it took him nearly six months to traverse the distance.

He was successful in getting a job as stevedore on a tramp steamer and passing through the Aegean Sea down into the Mediterranean and Italy. Traveling through Italy and Austria Hungary he crossed into Germany where he found employment at Bremen and awaited the time when his relatives in Sheboygan could provide for his steamship passage.

He said to the Press by Telegram, "The people of Sheboygan do not appreciate enough the great quantities of food they possess. Smiles of contentment are upon the faces and the children know no want. But for the starving people in Russia, these smiles of plenty and contentment are no more.

Their eyes are turned to America and the hope that help will come gives them courage to battle another day against their enemy - death. Still, I do not see how any of them can live today, for they lack food, clothing and fuel. There is plenty of fuel, yes - but no one has the energy left to get it. With them it is a problem of conserving their strength to fight the hand of famine."

Source: Rajkumar Kanagasingam, author of "German Memories in Asia"

books.google.com/books?id=MrBi0ghiZN0C&dq=german+memories +asia

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http://www.pr-inside.com/volga-germa...es-r815211.htm