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Escape by Troika: The World War II Chronicle of a Bessarabian German

By Oskar Zimmermann, as told to Worth Lawrence Nicholl, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo, North Dakota, 2003, 242 pages, softcover.


The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection is pleased to publish this historically significant book, Escape by Troika: The World War II Chronicle of a Bessarabian German. There are excellent descriptive maps, many photographs, genealogy chart, and selected bibliography.

The Preface is written by Dr. Worth L. Nicholl, History Teacher, Social Science Department, Century High School, Santa Ana, California. Dr. Nicholl writes: "Based on Oskar Zimmermann's diary, which he kept from January 17, 1945, through the end of the war, and his personal recollections, this book tells the story of his forced exile from the vanished but beloved homeland of Bessarabia. Oskar wandered first to the Third Reich, then to occupied Poland, to West Germany, to Canada, and finally to California. But like Homer's Odysseus, whose heart was always in Ithaca, Oskar always had his heart in Kaschpalat, his little farming village in Bessarabia that he left in 1940, when he was but twelve. Using his diary as the beginning point, Oskar recorded his story in German for Dr. Nicholl, who then translated it and researched the historical background from the sources listed in the Selected Bibliography."

The author writes in the Dedication: "This book is dedicated to the millions of German civilian refugees who fled from the Eastern Front in early 1945. It is especially dedicated to the ones who never made their escape, who died and were unable to share their stories, such as Aunt Else Franz and Uncle Friedrich Zimmermann, my father's siblings, who were captured during the flight and lost their lives in Soviet captivity. To my parents, my mother Olga and my father George, for taking care of our family, especially during the war and at the end when fleeing towards the West. To my wife Waltraud, who was only seventeen when she escaped the communists. She left behind her parents and relatives in East Germany, and escaped along through West Berlin before the Berlin Wall was erected."

Chapters in the book include: 1) Bessarabia, Beloved Homeland; 2) Kaschpalat, My Little Village; 3) Events of 1937 - Our Last Normal Year; 4) The Final Years of Our Homeland; 5) The Russians Come - And We Prepare to Leave; 6) Resettlement in Hitler's Germany; 7) We Are Colonists in Occupied Poland; 8) Boy Soldier of the Third Reich; 9) Our Flight Out of Poland; 10) We Cross Eastern Germany; 11) Escape by Troika; and 12) Gronau - Home: Waiting for the Americans. The Conclusion is: After the War: I Immigrate - to Canada, then to California.

George Zimmermann's home place in Kaschpalat, 1938. The barn was made of adobe; the other buildings and the cellar were of shell-stones, found only in the Black Sea area; the roof tiles were made of cement. Oskar Zimmermann grew up here.
Top: Grandfather Zimmermann's threshing combine was shared with his three sons - George, Friedrich and Gerhard. August, 1933.

Bottom: They placed the threshing combine on the hill behind their vineyard. On the left is Grandfather with his one-horse carriage; Oskar is standing on the running board. Uncle Friedrich is holding his hat towards the sun. On the other side is the field kitchen; the temporary stove was of adobe. The high straw hut in the background on the left was also temporary, for storage of drinking water and food, and for a quick resting place for father and the uncles.

We had to walk from the Lindenhof to the railway station for our trip east to Poland. Since Grandfather Johann was the oldest, he led the way.
Here we are far ahead of almost all of the refugees fleeing the Eastern Front. March, 1945.

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Escape by Troika: The World War II Chronicle of a Bessarabian German

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North Dakota State University Libraries
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
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