Torn out by the Roots: The Recollections of a Former Communist

Synopsis

"The enemies of the people must be torn out by the roots," read a sign Hilda Vitzthum observed in a public building shortly before her arrest in 1938. Her husband, a Russian engineer employed in the construction of a huge steelworks in western Siberia, was an "enemy of the people," a member of the educated classes that Stalin saw as a threat to his regime. Not only would he be a victim of Stalin's madness; his whole family must be destroyed. Even though Hilda was an Austrian and, like her husband, a loyal Communist, her children were taken from her and she was condemned to forced labor.Torn Out by the Roots is Hilda Vitzthum's chilling reminiscence of her nearly ten years in Soviet labor camps-of privations and horrors of overwhelming enormity, mitigated by occasional kindness and humanity. It is a harrowing and moving story, all the more so for its simplicity and matter-of-factness.Although Hilda Vitzthum was allowed to return to Austria in 1948, she could not write about her experiences until the 1980s. Before then, she says, "no one would have believed me if I had told the unvarnished truth." The dissolution of the Soviet Union compels us to record, so none may forget, the human cost of the Stalinist experiment.The translator, Paul Schach, is a professor emeritus of Germanic languages at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a distinguished scholar who has published widely.

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