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Displaced Person: A Girl's Life in Russia, Germany, and America
     

Displaced Person: A Girl's Life in Russia, Germany, and America

by Ella E. Schneider Hilton
 

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In her moving and deeply personal memoir, Ella E. Schneider Hilton chronicles her remarkable childhood—one 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.

Though told with charm and humor, Ella's life reads like a

Overview

In her moving and deeply personal memoir, Ella E. Schneider Hilton chronicles her remarkable childhood—one 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.

Though told with charm and humor, Ella's life reads like a suspense novel. On the day that Germany invades Russia, Ella's father is arrested in Kiev by Soviet authorities, never to be heard from again. Fluent in German, her mother provides for her two children and mother-in-law by assisting the occupying forces. When the city is about to return to Russian hands, the family flees to Germany by freight train. Food is scarce and Allied bombings take her grandmother, but young Ella retains her indomitably inquisitive spirit. Her mother marries a widower to survive, and the family immigrates to the United States as the indentured servants of a "host family" in Mississippi, where they pick cotton and live in poverty. Puzzled by segregation, Ella learns about the Holocaust and realizes that her father was probably Jewish. Throughout her ordeals, she never relinquishes hope or sight of her goal of education.

Poignantly and freshly rendered, this is a tale of determination. It is the 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 searches for faith, knowledge, and a place in the world.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807128787
Publisher:
Louisiana State University Press
Publication date:
01/28/2004
Pages:
260
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.04(h) x 1.05(d)

Meet the Author

Ella E. Schneider Hilton lives in Virginia. Now retired, she was a teacher and worked for the U.S. Department of the Army for eighteen years.

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