NSU German professor translates memoir, ‘Flight from the Red Hell’

Image of Ginny Lewis book cover next to her head shot

ABERDEEN, S.D. – A new memoir offers a first-hand account of a German man’s life under the Bolshevik Revolution – and it might never have been published without the work of Northern State University’s Dr. Ginny Lewis.

Lewis, NSU professor of German and literary scholar, translated “Flight from the Red Hell” into English. Now, the memoir – a tale of Heinrich Neuwirt’s survival amidst hardships such as famine and imprisonment – has been published by Peter Lang Publishing.

The manuscript made its way into Lewis’ hands through a connection to the NSU Germans-from-Russia Cultural Center, located in Northern’s Beulah Williams Library. Cultural Center donor Larry Gunst learned of Neuwirt’s manuscript from his daughter, Helga Neuwirt. Gunst brought the manuscript to the attention of NSU Library Director Robert Russell, who approached Lewis about translating it.

At first, Lewis didn’t have time to take on such a huge endeavor, but she recognized the historical significance of the story and was eventually able to work it into her schedule.

“The narrative of Heinrich Neuwirt's life provides many significant insights into the fate of the Russian Germans who remained behind in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution and subsequent Soviet control of the country,” Lewis said. “‘Flight from the Red Hell’ is unique because we are not dealing here with the confessions of a Soviet citizen trying to purge himself of western ideals; rather, this writer managed to escape to the West and reflect critically on his decades as a Soviet citizen, and report from the perspective of a free citizen of the West on the traumatic experiences he was subjected to under Stalin.”

Lewis, who has worked at Northern for 15 years, earned her Ph.D. in Modern German Literature from the University of Pennsylvania in 1989. "Flight from the Red Hell" is her fifth book-length translation. The memoir is available for purchase here.

About Northern State University

Northern State University is a student-centered institution that provides an outstanding educational experience, preparing students through the liberal arts and professional education for their future endeavors. A regional university, Northern offers rigorous academics; diverse civic, social and cultural opportunities; and a commitment to building an inclusive environment for all points of view. Northern also offers a broad-based athletics program, sponsoring 15 NCAA Division II intercollegiate varsity sports that compete in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (NSIC). The university strives to enrich the community through partnerships such as its Educational Impact Campaign, which opened a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; new athletic and recreation fields; and, soon, an on-campus regional sports complex. With the $55 million campaign, NSU has been the recipient of more than $120 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions