Peter Demant

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Peter Demant
Born Peter Demant
(1918-08-22)August 22, 1918
Innsbruck, County of Tyrol, Austria-Hungary
Died December 11, 2006(2006-12-11) (aged 88)
Moscow, Russia
Pen name Vernon Kress
Occupation Novelist, short story writer, essayist
Language Russian
Nationality Austrian, Soviet, Russian
Period 1991–2006
Notable works "Zekameron of the 20th Century" ("Зекамерон XX века"), a memoir
“My First Life” ("Моя первая жизнь"), a memoir
Spouse Irina Veсhnaya

Peter Demant (in Russian – Петр Зигмундович Демант) (literary pseudonym – Vernon Kress (in Russian – Вернон Кресс) (August 22, 1918, Innsbruck, Austria – December 11, 2006, Moscow, Russia) was a Russian writer and public figure.


Peter Demant was born to an assimilated Jewish family.[1][2] His mother, Paula Schweizer-Demant (1896–1941) in her youth was a famous writer Peter Altenberg's intimate friend.[3] Peter Altenberg dedicated two books to her: "Nachfechsung" (1916) and "Vita ipsa" (1917).[4][5][6][7] Yet in 1917 she married a doctor and a career military officer in the Austro-Hungarian (later – Austrian) army, Siegmund Demant (1887–1942), and moved to Innsbruck, Austria, and later to Natters. Zigmund Demant was born in Ternopil (now in the Ukraine) to a family of a local lawyer, Moritz Demant, who moved to Czernowitz not later than 1898[permanent dead link], and was working there as a financial adviser (Oberrechnungsrat[permanent dead link]). Zigmund Demant was studying in Czernowitz, Bukovina (currently Ukraine,[8] and in the Vienna university from 1914. He appeared in a novel "Radetzky March" by Joseph Roth (1932).[9][10][11] His sister, Charlotte Eisler-Demant (1894–1970) was married to a composer Hanns Eisler. Demants were leading bohemian lifestyle. Their close friend was ballerina Grete Wiesenthal.[12] In 1919 Demants settled in Czernowitz in the Greater Romania by then.


Peter Demant spent his childhood and youth in Czernowitz. He studied at a German secondary school, then at the Universities of Brno, Czechoslovakia, and Aachen, Germany. In 1939, when North Bukovina became part of the Soviet Union, he worked at the local museum of Natural History.

On June 13, 1941, he was arrested by the NKVD and on June 18 he was exiled to Siberia[13][14][15] along with his family, which perished on the way: mother Paula and his mother's second husband Arthur. Later, during the German occupation his father Dr. Siegmund Demant, his new wife, Gisela, and an infant daughter, Gerda, perished in a Nazi concentration camp too.[16][17][18][19] On the way to Siberia Peter Demant escaped, but was caught 5 months later, accused of spying for Austria, and sentenced to 10 years in a hard labor camp, plus additional 5 years of exile.

Although being freed in 1953 on an amnesty, the KGB made him work as a loader in the seaport of Magadan in the vicinity of Siberian peninsula Kamchatka, for 23 years. Peter possessed two University degrees, knew several languages, and had technical skills that were at the time scarce in that region, but the KGB did not factor these facts into their decision. While staying in Siberia Peter kept a Post Restante address and was in touch with his sister Erni-Zita Rauchwerger in Israel and with many of his friends who supplied him with the latest books, musical records and news of the world and family. Eventually Peter was allowed to return to European portion of the Soviet Union, to the Crimean region.

Peter then married Irina Vechnaya, and therefore was able to leave Crimea for Moscow, where his wife resided. All the charges against him were dropped in 1991, and he was able to travel abroad. He traveled throughout the world – Far East, Africa, Middle East, he repeatedly visited surviving members of his family – his sister Erni-Zita in Ramat Gan, Israel, and his niece – Erni's daughter, Dr. Tamar Erika Ben-Ami in the United States.

Peter Demant was named an honorable member of the Russian society “Memorial,” dedicated to recording and publicizing Soviet Union’s totalitarian past and human rights abuses.

Literary works[edit]

  • “Aunt Sarah’s Mirror” ("Зеркало тети Сары"), a novel
  • “Montana’s Gold” ("Золото Монтаны"), a novel
  • “In Passing” ("Мимоходом"), a memoir
  • “My First Life” ("Моя первая жизнь"), a memoir
  • “My Three Steamships” ("Мои три парохода"), a memoir
  • "Zekameron of the 20th Century" ("Зекамерон XX века"), a memoir
  • Short story and essay collections: “Idol” ("Идол"), “Terekhov’s Career” ("Карьера Терехова"), “Siberian Mirages” ("Сибирские миражи")


  1. ^ Joseph Roth "Radetzkymarsch": ''der jüdische Regimentsarzt Dr.Demant''. Retrieved on January 24, 2012.
  2. ^ Der jüdische Regimentsarzt Dr. Demant. Retrieved on January 24, 2012.
  3. ^ As it is evident from the correspondence between Peter Altenberg and Paula Schweizer (Ricarda Dick: Peter Altenbergs Bildwelt)
  4. ^ Briefe an Sidonie Nádherný von Borutin, 1913–1936, Volume 2 (стр. 306). Retrieved on January 24, 2012.
  5. ^ Biography of Peter Altenberg. Retrieved on January 24, 2012.
  6. ^ Peter Altenberg. Retrieved on January 24, 2012.
  7. ^ Peter Sprengel "Geschichte der deutschen Literatur" (стр. 252). Retrieved on January 24, 2012.
  8. ^ List of Czernowitz Gymnasium students in 1903 (''Siegmund Demant, 18 years old, from Ternopil'' – p. 54). (January 29, 2008). Retrieved on January 24, 2012.
  9. ^ Participation in Cultural and Public Life. Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook (2003) 48 (1): 348—376. (January 1, 2003). Retrieved on January 24, 2012.
  10. ^ Emotionen und Habitus von Offizieren im Spiegelbild schöner Literatur. (PDF) . Retrieved on January 24, 2012.
  11. ^ Ingrid Kästner: "Der Regimentsarzt Dr. Demant in Joseph Roths "Radetzkymarsch"". Das Bild des jüdischen Arztes in der Literatur. Hg. v. Albrecht Scholz u.a. Frankfurt/Main 2002, S. 92—101
  12. ^ Paula Demant and Grete Wiesenthal (picture). Retrieved on January 24, 2012.
  13. ^ First life by Peter Demant (Ukrainian:Перше життя Петера Деманта)[dead link]
  14. ^ "Czernowitz – Siberia – Israel" by Margit Bartfeld-Feller (Маргит Бартфельд-Феллер "Черновцы—Сибирь—Израиль"). (September 21, 2005). Retrieved on January 24, 2012.
  15. ^
  16. ^ List of the Jews from Bukowina who perished in Transnistria. (December 24, 2011). Retrieved on January 24, 2012.
  17. ^ History of the Jews in Bukowina. Retrieved on January 24, 2012.
  18. ^ "The Yad Vashem Museum" in Jerusalem: personal card of Zigmund Demant.
  19. ^ Site of "The Yad Vashem Museum": List of Jews pershed in the Transnistr concentration camps (in Romanian); in the same list is his wife Gisela and his daughter Gerda.

External links[edit]