Books and films

Hitler's BasementHitler's Basement: My Search for the Truth, Light, and the Forgotten Executioners of Ukraine's Kingdom of Death.
Who murdered tens of thousands of Odessa's Jews in WWII? How was this terrible secret kept hidden for over three quarters of a century? And what connects those questions to a small town on the North Dakota Prairie?

Hitler's Basement--which has been called "a thriller"--"a detective story par excellence"--and a "wild read and ride"--provides the answers, as well as offering startling new perspectives on the Holocause in an isolated region of Ukraine that Hitler called Transnistria.

The fast-paced narrative carries the reader deep into an ethnic labyrinth of guilt and memory to discover links between Soviet terror in the 1930s and the Holocaust in Transnistria, and how relatives of a German'speaking minority who didn't immigrate to the prairie became cogs in the Nazi machinery of death. In a shicking twist, the author traces two shadowy executioners to America, to his own Dakota hometown and, finally, to the edges of his very own family.

Wedding in the darkness: three accounts from collectivization and the Great Terror.
Life in Soviet Ukraine during the 1930s, as drawn from scholarly evidence and eyewitness reports.

The old god still lives. Ethnic Germans in Czarist and Soviet Ukraine write their American relatives.
By Ron Vossler and Joshua Vossler. (2006)
Companion volume to We’ll meet again in heaven: consists of a historical introduction to the period and includes several hundred letters to the Dakotas during the WWI era, and ensuing civil war and Russian revolution.

Not until the combine is paid and other jokes from the oral traditions of the Germans from Russia in the Dakotas

We'll meet again in heaven: Germans in the Soviet Union write their American relatives: 1925-1937.
Introductory historical overview of the period and several hundred translated letters from Soviet Ukraine to the Dakotas.

Lost shawls and pig spleens: folklore, anecdotes, and humor from the oral traditions of the Germans from Russia.

Why I never called Death the river, and other voices from the Valley of Hope: a prairie album.
A series of fictional voices of Germans from Russia pioneers telling of life on the prairie.

Dakota Kraut: collected notes on how I learned to love my accent and ancestry 1983-2003.

Horse, I am your mother.
Signed first editions of Ron Vossler’s first book of short fiction.

Common and not so common threads.
By Alma Woehl Engelhart. (2003)
Ron’s mother recounts anecdotes from a life growing up poor in the Great Depression.

Dinosaur Cafe.
The setting of these stories is a Macondo-like small town on the prairie, where miracles can and do happen in a backwater of history, which is actually the battle zone of the human heart, in conflict with itself.

From the title piece, in which a shadowy artist creates murals of a paradoxical richness on the ceiling of a small town cafe; to the plaintive monologue of an elderly farm-woman standing in the way of a plow which threatens the graves of babies she has sworn to protect; to the marvelous powers of an overworked faith healer: these stories, shaped from the lore, superstition s, and history of the Dakota Germans, reveal the intense inner world of an unknown ethnic group working out its destiny on the American immensities of the prairie.


Germans From Russia Food Pantry.
Three award-winning documentary films about food traditions of Germans from Russia on one DVD.

Schmeckfest: Food Traditions of the Germans from Russia
Recipes from Grandma’s Kitchen, Vol. 1
Recipes from Grandma’s Kitchen, Vol. 2

Two award-winning documentary films on one DVD.

Children of the Steppe, Children of the Prairie
Prairie Crosses/Prairie Voices

Heaven Is Our Homeland (DVD)
Award-winning documentary focused on the overall history of the Glueckstalers, a group
of Germans from Russia from four villages that supplied the bulk of the immigrants to the Dakotas.

We’ll Meet Again in Heaven (DVD)
Award winning documentary focused on the letters from, and the hard fate of, friends and relatives of the Germans from Russia who didn’t immigrate to the Dakotas from Ukraine.

Prairie Spass - Humor CD
Based on a fellowship study, this CD is an examination, partly scholarly, partly fun, of the folk humor of Germans from Russia. It includes some examples of humor, with German dialect, primarily punchlines for jokes, with accompanying translations in English.




My own ethnic background is Dakota German, commonly known as the Germans from Russia; my grandparents were born in Ukraine; and I grew up on the edges of a dying, yet extremely rich, ethnic culture as transplanted from the steppe to the Dakota prairie. Much of my writing draws, in one way or another, on this past---the past on the prairie, and the past on the steppe—as it informs, as it shapes, as it still lives in our American present. I believe in the credo of the great American novelist William Faulkner: “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”

I also believe that art, that writing, is the highest form of human expression; that although man is a mystery, not only to others, but also, often, to himself, or herself, we should be occupied in exploring this mystery, in writing, in art; I believe that it is through local and regional art that we speak to others who know nothing about us, that we even speak to ourselves; in becoming better known to others, and ourselves, we delve further into the mystery that is man.


Here is a copy of my two page resume.



Speaking and presentations



Over the past twenty years, I have been active as a humorist on topics German, as a public humanities speaker, and also as a visiting scholar—and sometimes all three of those categories at once---at colleges, universities, writers’ conferences, public festivals, family reunions, and celebrations across the prairie region, the United States, and also several Canadian provinces. I have also been interviewed about my books, films, and stories on various radio and television programs, including on North Dakota Public Radio.

My speaking topics have included the humor and the history of Germans from Russia, life in the former ethnic German villages in Soviet Ukraine, letters sent from German villages in Soviet Ukraine to the Americas in the 1920s and 1930s, various immigration topics, genocide against the ethnic Germans in Ukraine, and as a guest writer and panelist at literary conferences, I have given presentations on literature, writing techniques, as well as giving readings from my own fiction and non-fiction.

I am a free-lance writer, former University writing teacher, and humanities scholar, whose publications have appeared in scholarly journals, magazines, newspapers, and anthologies, as well as on public education and humanities web sites. Translations of my work have also been published in Ukraine and Germany.

Ev Albers of the North Dakota Humanities Council has called my Larry Remele fellowship presentation on Germans from Russia humor, “the most popular program we’ve ever had,” and calls my research and translation of hundreds of letters from Germans in the Soviet Union to their Dakota relatives in the 1920's and 30's, “remarkable.”

The recipient of a variety of writing awards and research fellowships, I am also the author of seven books and three national award-winning documentary film-scripts. My most recent book of fiction Why I Never Called Death the River, and Other Voices from the Valley of Hope, which is set in an imaginary North Dakota township, has been described by a reviewer as “destined to become a classic of regional literature” and a “well-crafted literary triumph by a native son.”

My most recent scholarly publication, a collection of translated letters along with a brief history, is The Old God Still Lives: German Villagers in Czarist and Soviet Ukraine Write Their American Relatives: 1915-1924; my most recent film, “We’ll Meet Again in Heaven,” draws upon his research into the collectivization era in Ukraine, to chronicle the decade of starvation and terror in the Soviet Union that was the sad fate of the German minority who did not immigrate to America, like their relatives in Dakota, and elsewhere; this film will be aired upon public television stations across the United States.

My memoir collection—Dakota Kraut: Or How I Learned to Love My Accent and Ancestry—has been chosen as one of the top twelve memoir books by the “Read North Dakota” program, whose purpose is to promote and celebrate literature created in and about North Dakota.

I live in East Grand Forks, Minnesota.

I am willing to discuss speaking topics, times, and terms, tailored to your events, festivals, family reunions, and conferences.




Current projects



The following manuscripts are in various stages of completion:

Fellowship of the (Sausage) Ring: This is a eight page meditation on the role of Dakota German ring sausage, or Wascht, in my life.

From Hell to Breakfast: Memoir of A Missing Father This memoir--which begins with the line “The first time my father died”---is the account of a man I never knew, but came to understand through my research. It follows my father’s life, amid frequent brushes with death, from his prairie childhood, to the French village where his infantry company was captured during WWII, and ends with a first, and final, visit with him.

Communist East Dakota: How Twenty Years Teaching at a Midwest University Turned Me into a Republican. This irreverent book---a Hunter Thompsonesque account of a fictional adjunct teacher perched on the lowest, dung-smeared rungs of a backwater Prairie University —portrays an academic Don Quixote, who after discerning the deep Marxist bias prevalent in American higher education, wages a humorous battle against the dark forces of left-wing propaganda that pollutes both his colleagues’ and students’ minds.

A number of my books have been completed in cooperation with Michael Miller and the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at the North Dakota State University Libraries. Visit their site for more information on the Germans from Russia.



Purchase information

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Web design and images by Joshua Vossler