Cover image for Displaced person : a girl's life in Russia, Germany, and America
Displaced person : a girl's life in Russia, Germany, and America
Hilton, Ella E. Schneider, 1936-
Publication Information:
Baton Rouge : Louisiana State University Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
xviii, 260 pages, 12 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Added Author:
Format :


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E184.R85 H55 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In this moving and personal memoir, Ella E. Schneider Hilton chronicles her remarkable childhood - that took her from the purges of Stalinist Russia to the refugee camps of Nazi and postwar Germany to the cotton fields of Jim Crow Mississippi - before granting her access to the American dream. On the day that Germany invaded Russia, Ella's father was arrested in Kiev by Soviet authorities, never to be heard from again. Fluent in German, her mother provided for her two children and mother-in-law by assisting the occupying forces. When the city was about to return to Russian hands, the family fled to Germany by freight train. Food was scarce and Allied bombings killed her grandmother, but young Ella retained her inquisitive spirit. Her mother married a widower to survive and the family emigrated to the US as the indentured servants of a host family in Mississippi, where they picked cotton and lived in poverty. Puzzled by segregation, Ella learnt about the Holocaust and realized that her father was probably Jewish. Throughout her ordeals, she never relinquished hope or sight of her goal of education. story of a girl caught up first in the maelstrom of World War II and then in the complexities of southern culture, adjusting to events beyond her control with resiliency as she searched for faith, knowledge and a place in the world.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Hilton, born in Kiev in 1936 to a family of Volga Germans (emigrants from Germany to Russia at the end of the Seven Years' War in 1763), lost her father shortly before the Nazi invasion in 1941. Was he deported to Siberia? Was he Jewish? Young Ella learned not to ask questions. Her mother worked as a translator for the occupying German army until the battle of Kiev, when she and her family joined the other Volga Germans heading for refugee camps in Germany. They spent the remainder of WWII in barracks and bomb shelters. "Displaced persons" after the war, the family feared repatriation to the Soviet Union, but with Lutheran Church sponsorship, they ended up in indentured service in rural Mississippi, from which they emerged, finally, in 1952, as "Real Americans." While this history fascinates, Ella's child's-eye perspective makes her story richer and more gripping. Watching her mother "lose" their identity papers while they were in the Nazi deportation camps during WWII and reinvent the family as Polish born, Ella learned that everyone lied-about where they came from, whether they were married, etc.-and that no one outside the family was told more than they needed to know. Ella learned that "Real Germans" would always treat refugees as inferiors, even after losing the war. Arriving stateside in 1952, she learned her beloved Tyrone Powers movies had lied about how America really looked. And sitting in a segregated Southern schoolroom, she learned, finally, that those real Germans killed millions of Jews. Fans of memoir will fall in love with Ella's story; it brims with wonderful detail on every phase of her life. Photos. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved