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American Who Spent Time In Soviet Prisons Dies

March 29, 1985

DETROIT (AP) _ Victor Herman, who spent 18 years in Siberian exile because he refused to give up his identity as an American, has died at the age of 69.

Herman, who died Monday at Providence Hospital after a heart attack, wrote a book on his experiences, ″Coming Out of the Ice,″ that was the basis for a CBS-TV movie broadcast in 1982.

Herman was 16 when his father took the family to the Soviet Union to take a job at an auto plant in Gorky.

There, he developed into a skillful athlete and pilot, setting a world parachute jump record in 1934. Despite official pressure, Herman refused to renounce his U.S. citizenship and claim the record for the Soviet Union.

In his book, Herman said that decision was responsible for his arrest in 1938 for ″counter-revolutionary activities.″ He spent most of the next 18 years in prisons and in exile in Siberia, where he endured beatings, starvation and a constant struggle to survive, he said.

After a brief period of freedom in 1948 during which he married his wife, Galina, a gymnast, he was again exiled to Siberia.

In 1956, Soviet officials sent him to a labor camp in the southwest part of the Soviet Union. Herman returned to the United States in 1976, and his Soviet-born wife, her mother and the couple’s two daughters followed.

Herman filed a $10 million suit against Ford Motor Co. in 1978 over his imprisonment, alleging his father had been sent to the Soviet Union as part of Ford’s plan to build an auto plant there. Ford denied the claim.

He and the company had agreed to seek mediation of the case, said his attorney, Robert Greenstein. A hearing is scheduled for next month, said his sister, Rebecca Kemsley.

Besides his wife and sister, Herman is survived by two daughters. No services are planned.

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