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An Amazing Story
on September 30, 2012
"Dancing Under the Red Star" is an incredible story about Margaret Werner, an American woman who travelled to the Soviet Union with her parents in the early 1930's, where her father went to work in a newly built Ford Motor Co. factory. Her father, a German immigrant, had socialist sympathies and thought he was going to a worker's paradise, hoping to make a better life for himself and his family.
Upon arrival in the town of Gorky, and shown their humble and sub-standard apartment, they immediately knew this venture was not what they envisioned. The job at the factory was not what Carl Werner expected either. Some Americans returned home soon, but Carl Werner elected to stay, though he was openly critical of conditions at the factory. Maybe that is what got him in trouble, maybe it was just the fact that he was an American in Stalin's Soviet Union. Regardless, the Soviet secret police came for him in 1938, hauled him away, never to be seen or heard from again.
His wife and teenage daughter, left to fend for themselves, struggled mightily.
They moved to a smaller and even worse apartment, Margaret's mother found a humble job, and every day was a new struggle for survival. Margaret graduated high school, and having learned the Russian language, got a string of several good jobs.
Then the Soviets came for her, on trumped up charges of espionage. Margaret spent ten years in Soviet prisons and labor camps, determined to survive, where so many others gave up and let themselves die.
This book is written by Margaret's son Karl, though it is written in the first person, as if she is telling the story herself. While Karl is not a professional writer, he did a good job with the book, producing a very readable and compelling story.
The Stalinist purges and Gulag prisons are not news, but reading a first-hand account from the inside is both gripping and educational. Margaret Werner was an amazing woman, intelligent, talented, determined. Her story could be repeated by millions of the victims of the Stalin purges, but she is one of the few who survived to tell the tale.
This book is hard to put down, and is well worth reading.