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Russian-German Special Relations in the

Twentieth Century
German Historical Perspectives Series
General Editors:
Timothy Garton Ash and Gerhard A. Ritter
ISSN 0953-363X

Volume VI
Escape into War: The Foreign Policy of Imperial Germany
Edited by Gregor Schllgen

Volume VII
German Unication: The Unexpected Challenge
Edited by Dieter Grosser

Volume VIII
Germanys New Position in Europe: Problems and Perspectives
Edited by Arnulf Baring

Volume IX
Western Europe and Germany: The Beginnings of European Integration 19451960
Edited by Clemens Wurm

Volume X
The Military in Politics and Society in France and Germany in the Twentieth Century
Edited by Klaus-Jrgen Mller

Volume XI
Culture in the Federal Republic of Germany, 19451995
Edited by Reiner Pommerin

Volume XII
The Problem of Revolution in Germany, 17891989
Edited by Reinhard Rrup

Volume XIII
Science in the Third Reich
Edited by Margit Szllsi-Janze

Volume XIV
The Third Reich Between Vision and Reality
Edited by Hans Mommsen

Volume XV
The Divided Past: Rewriting Post-war German History
Edited by Christoph Klemann

Volume XVI
Towards an Urban Nation: Germany since 1780
Edited by Friedrich Lenger

Volume XVII
Germany and the European East in the Twentieth Century
Edited by Eduard Mhle

Volume XVIII
Britain and Germany in the Twentieth Century
Edited by Manfred Grtemaker
German Historical Perspectives/XIX

Russian-German Special
Relations in the Twentieth
A Closed Chapter?

Edited by

Oxford New York

First published in 2006 by
Editorial ofces:
First Floor, Angel Court, 81 St Clements Street, Oxford OX4 1AW, UK
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010, USA

Karl Schlgel 2006

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form
or by any means without the written permission of

Berg is the imprint of Oxford International Publishers Ltd.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Russian-German special relations in the twentieth century : a closed

chapter? / edited by Karl Schlgel.
p. cm. -- (German historical perspectives, ISSN 0953-363X ; 19)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN-13: 978-1-84520-177-7 (hardback)
ISBN-10: 1-84520-177-9 (hardback)
1. Germany--Foreign relations--Russia. 2. Russia--Foreign relations--
Germany. 3. Germany--Foreign relations--Soviet Union. 4. Soviet
Union--Foreign relations--Germany. 5. Germany--Foreign relations--20th
century. 6. Russia--Foreign relations--20th century. I. Schlgel, Karl. II. Series.

DD120.R8R85 2006

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN-13 978 1 84520 177 7 (Cloth)

ISBN-10 1 84520 177 9 (Cloth)

Typeset by JS Typesetting Ltd, Porthcawl, Mid Glamorgan

Printed in the United Kingdom by Biddles Ltd, Kings Lynn

Editorial Preface
Timothy Garton Ash and Gerhard A. Ritter vii

Contributors ix

Special Relations between Russia and Germany in the

Twentieth Century A Closed Chapter?
Karl Schlgel 1

Before the Great War: German Entrepreneurs in Russia

Russian Scholars in Germany. Two Types of Russian-German
Relations in the Decades before the First World War
Dittmar Dahlmann 11

Thomas Mann and Others: Russophilism and Sovietophilia

Among German Conservatives
Gerd Koenen 31

Berlin: Stepmother Among Russian Cities

Karl Schlgel 43

German Emigrants in Soviet Exile: A Drama in Five Acts

Carola Tischler 77

The Strange Allies Red Army and Reichswehr in the

Inter-war Period
Manfred Zeidler 99

Facing the Ostfront: The Other War in German Memory

Peter Jahn 119

Patriots or Traitors? The Soviet Government and the

German Russians After the Attack on the USSR by
National Socialist Germany
Viktor Krieger 133
vi Contents

Vot ona prokliataia Germaniia! Germany in Early 1945

Through the Eyes of Red Army Soldiers
Elke Scherstjanoi 165

Supervision and Abdication East German Intellectual

Life under Soviet Tutelage
Jens Reich 191

German-Russian Relations in the Early Twenty-rst Century.

Some Reections on Normalcy
Klaus Segbers 203

Index 217
Editorial Preface

The purpose of this series of books is to present the

results of research by German historians and social scientists to
readers in English-speaking countries. Each of the volumes has a
particular theme that will be handled from different points of view
by specialists. The series is not limited to the problems of Germany
but will also involve publications dealing with the history of other
countries, with the general problems of political, economic, social
and intellectual history as well as international relations and studies
in comparative history.
We hope the series will help to overcome the language barrier
that experience has shown obstructs the rapid appreciation of
German research in English-speaking countries.
The publication of the series is closely associated with the German
Visiting Fellowship at St Antonys College, Oxford, which has existed
since having been originally funded by the Volkswagen Stiftung,
later by the British Leverhulme Trust, by the Ministry of Education
and Science in the Federal Republic of Germany, and, starting in
1990, by the Stifterverband fr die Deutsche Wissenschaft, with
special funding since 2000 from the Marga and Kurt Mllgaard-
Stiftung. Each volume is based on a series of seminars held in
Oxford, which has been conceived and directed by the Visiting
Fellow and organized in collaboration with the European Studies
Centre at St Antonys College.
The editors wish to thank the Stifterverband fr die Deutsche
Wissenschaft for meeting the expenses of the original lecture series
and for generous assistance with the publication. They hope that
this enterprise will help to overcome national introspection and to
further international academic discourse and cooperation.

Timothy Garton Ash Gerhard A. Ritter

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KARL SCHLGEL Historian and writer, professor of Eastern

European Studies at the European University Viadrina, Frankfurt/
Oder. His main interests and elds of research are Russian cultural
history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, history of forced
migrations in East and Central Europe, cities and urban culture. His
many books include Moskau lesen (Berlin: Siedler, 1984) (English
translation London: Reaction, 2005); Petersburg 19091921. Das
Laboratorium der Moderne (Munich: Hanser, 2002); Berlin Ostbahnhof
Europas (Berlin: Siedler, 1998) (Russian translation Moscow: NLO,
2005); Im Raume lesen wir die Zeit. ber Zivilisationsgeschiche und Geo-
politik (Munich: Hanser, 2003). Among his honours and awards are
Sigmund-Freud-Preis der Deutschen Akademie fr Sprache und
Dichtung 2004; Lessing-Preis der Stadt Hamburg 2005.

DITTMAR DAHLMANN Professor of East European History

at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitt, Bonn. He has
published several articles on German entrepreneurs in pre-revolu-
tionary Russia and is the author of Die Provinz whlt. Russlands
Konstitutionell-Demokratische Partei und die Dumawahlen 19061912
(Cologne: Bhlau, 1996). His current research focuses on Siberia
and the socio-cultural history of football in Russia.

GERD KOENEN Writer and publicist in Frankfurt am Main.

He has published a series of books, the most well known of which
are Utopie der Suberung. Was war der Kommunismus? (Berlin: Fest,
1998); and Das rote Jahrzehnt. Unsere kleine deutsche Kulturrevolution
19671977 (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 2001). His most recent
book is Der Russland-Komplex. Die Deutschen und der Osten 19001945
(Munich: Beck, 2005).

CAROLA TISCHLER Teacher of history in Berlin. She has pub-

lished a monograph Flucht in die Verfolgung: Deutsche Emigranten im
sowjetischen Exil, 19331945 (Mnster: Lit, 1996), as well as several
articles on Germans exile in the Soviet Union. Her current research

x Contributors

focuses on lm history; she is editing the lm reviews of Wolfgang

Duncker and works on Soviet lm during the Thaw era.

MANFRED ZEIDLER Research associate at the Hannah-Arendt-

Institute for Studies in Totalitarianism at the Technical Univers-
ity, Dresden. He is author of Reichswehr und Rote Armee (Munich:
Oldenbourg, 1993); Kriegsende im Osten (Munich: Oldenbourg,
1996); and of numerous articles on military history, prisoners of
war, and German-Russian relations in the twentieth century.

PETER JAHN Director of the German-Russian Museum Berlin-

Karlshorst, which shows exhibits concerning Soviet-German re-
lations in the twentieth century, focusing particularly on the Second
World War. His most recent publication is Triumph und Trauma:
Sowjetische und postsowjetische Erinnerung an den Krieg 19411945
(Berlin: Links, 2005).

VIKTOR KRIEGER Research associate at the Research Centre

for the History and Culture of Germans in Russia, and lecturer
at the department for East European History at the University of
Heidelberg. His publications include Deutsche Prsenz in Kasachstan
zur Zarenzeit (Munich: Osteuropa-Institut, 1993), in addition
to articles on the history of the Russian Germans and on Soviet
nationality policy.

ELKE SCHERSTJANOI Research associate at the Institute of Con-

temporary History (Institut fr Zeitgeschichte), Munich-Berlin. Her
research focus has for several years been the history of the political
inuence of the CPSU on the SED, i.e. the USSRs inuence on the
GDR; and the mental developments in post-war relations between
East Germans and their occupiers.

JENS REICH Professor of Molecular Medicine at the Humboldt

University, Berlin. He was co-founder of the grassroots movement
Neues Forum in 1989 and served as MP (East Germany) during
German unication in 1990. He has published, in addition to his
professional specialization, several articles and books on that trans-
ition period.

KLAUS SEGBERS Professor for Political Sciences at the Institute

for East European Research at the Free University, Berlin. He is
Contributors xi

author of The Globalization of Eastern Europe (Mnster: Lit, 2000)

and editor of the three-volume Explaining Post-Soviet Patchworks
(Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001). He has given lectures at departments
of Columbia, George Washington, Harvard, Stanford and Oxford
Universities; in Moscow, Beijing and Shanghai; and at numerous
other institutes.
This page intentionally left blank

Special Relations between

Russia and Germany in the
Twentieth Century A Closed

Entire libraries have been written about German-Russian

relations in the twentieth century.1 That these were dramatic even
catastrophic relations is already clear in the titles of the books
dedicated to this topic: Community of Fate, Unholy Alliance,
War and Peace, The European Civil War, The Devils Pact.2
More rare is a neutral title such as that of Walter Laqueurs classic
study Russia and Germany, which was published over forty years
ago.3 The semantics of these titles invokes fateful, extra-historical
powers, hinting at ostensibly analogous and fatal networks of power
in the nineteenth century, at intrigue and diabolical actors. A vital
role is played by the souls of entire peoples, and again and again by
war. This indicates the difculty historiography has had in turning
the events into the language of histoire raisonne, but it also shows
that violence and war, the excesses of total power, were clearly the
dominant forces in German-Russian relations in the twentieth
That century is now behind us. The whole scenery, the actors, the
nexuses of power have been radically transformed. The division of
the world and Europe into East and West is history; the Soviet empire
no longer exists; Eastern Europe is free; Germany is reunited and
sovereign. There are no border or territorial problems between the
Federal Republic of Germany and the Russian Federation. Todays
problems are the ordinary problems typically seen between two
sovereign states. They have to deal with the problems of a world

2 Karl Schlgel

which not only evidently left the era of extremes behind in 1989,
but which also entered a new era on 11 September 2001: an era
with new borders and frontiers, with new dangers and enemies in
an entirely transformed network. But the questions arising from
this are not specically German, not specically Russian. They
affect Europe and the world as one entity.
We could now dene the current state of German-Russian re-
lations as normal. Part of this is that we can now, post festum, once
again delineate the history of our relations. We can do what was
impossible in the preceding decades. We have relatively free access
to archives and sources which had long been restricted. We can
carry the sometimes controversial debates across borders with-
out thought for the censors involvement. The ideological battles
are over, and the past is allowed to be as complex and complic-
ated in historical narratives as it actually was. Of course, we have all
become sceptical of grand narratives and of master narrators.
We are satised when the blanks are lled, and the overall image
is reassembled piece by piece. This is also the idea of this volume.
It is the product of a seminar held at the European Studies Centre
at St Antonys College in Oxford in 2002, and was extended by
three further contributions to complete the account. The most
important staging posts of German-Russian relations are visited in
chronological order. The aspects treated will not render our image
of these relations in the twentieth century entirely redundant, but
they will certainly elaborate and make more precise particular
features. The most signicant insight is perhaps that the networks
which could lead to the appearance of a special relationship have
been eroded. The capacity of total mobilization has exhausted
itself in an incomparably destructive and self-destructive process.
Negative Poland policies (Klaus Zernack) can no longer function
as the driving force in German-Russian co-operation after the end
of the German Reich and the Soviet empire. The contributions
in this volume take another look at the past from this post festum
Dittmar Dahlmann is concerned with the contributions and im-
pact of German merchants and entrepreneurs, as well as Russian
students and scientists, in the period before the First World War.
This includes prominent, even legendary, names: German ind-
ustrial leaders and businessmen such as Knoop and Wogau in the
Russian Empire; Russian students and poets such as Pasternak
and Mandelstam at German universities. Dahlmann sketches the
A Closed Chapter? 3

density of their relations by giving us a glimpse of their Lebenswelten

(lifeworlds): in clubs, schools, church communities, sports clubs;
participating in cultural life; their language skills and integration
in the host societies. Reading this sketch of student and academic
life in, for example, Heidelberg, or of the German merchants
milieu in Moscow, makes Dahlmanns theory that contacts were
never again this closely intertwined seem entirely plausible.5
Gerd Koenens chapter takes us beyond the First World War.
Contrary to popular opinion, which has it that before 1941 or 1933
the image of Russia was already clearly negative and in tune with
the standard clichs of the Nazi period anticipating Russians as
subhuman and Russia as Lebensraum in the East Koenen shows
that the image of Russia was much more nuanced and inconsistent.
For large swathes of the middle classes, and even some of the
national-conservative rightists, the image of Russia was deeply
inuenced by the spirit of Russian literature of the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries, particularly the works of Dostoevskii. Russia
was in many respects the place which offered hope for the salvation
and rejuvenation of an aging, decadent Western culture. Koenen
shows this through the examples of Thomas Mann and Eduard
Stadtler, and also Oswald Spengler. Koenen attempts to show their
perception or construction of a shared understanding between
German and Russian interests: the common ground in their
antipathy towards all things Western. Hitler had to break through
the knot of this positive German orientation towards Russia and
the East to clear the way for his Operation Barbarossa.6
Karl Schlgel focuses his contribution on a chronotop (Mikhail
Bakhtin) of German-Russian relations: on Russkii Berlin as a place
of intense encounters between Germans and Russians. For a short
time circa 1921 to 1924 Russian Berlin was the centre of the
anti-Bolshevik Russian emigration, yet at the same time it was
the main base for revolutionary Soviet Russia in Central Western
Europe. This differentiates Berlin from other cities of Russian
emigration such as Paris, Harbin, Prague or New York. Russian
Berlin seems like a microcosm of German-Russian relations; a
place of the mingling of clean and unclean (Ilia Ehrenburg),
where anti-Bolshevik emigration, Comintern pro-Soviet agitation,
the rightist terrorist underground, and scholars studying Russia
met and fought one another. Schlgel aims to point out that the
Weimar culture would have been unimaginable without the direct
and indirect impact of this Russian Berlin.7
4 Karl Schlgel

The Russian Berlin of the 1920s had its match in the German
Moscow of the 1930s. Carola Tischlers contribution describes
Soviet Russia as a refuge for German migrs after 1933. The
German community, particularly in Moscow, was comprised of
doctors, engineers, scientists, communists and anti-fascist migrs
and their families. Taken collectively, they were a strong group,
working in various structures of the Comintern and its front
organizations, publishers and newspapers. Their fates in the 1930s
shows in a markedly paradoxical manner the developments of
German-Russian relations during Stalins terror. In 1938 over 70
per cent of German migrs were victims of Stalins repression. On
the other hand, they were also affected by the consequences of the
Ribbentrop-Molotov pact of August 1939 and the resulting open
collaboration between the two totalitarian regimes. Their destiny
took yet another turn after Nazi Germanys assault on the USSR.
According to Carola Tischler, however, the often tragic experiences
of these migrs were not brought to light or reappraised in any
way for decades after their return to Eastern Germany. In this case,
as above, only 1989 brought radical change.8
The secret collaboration between the German Reichswehr and the
Red Army was always one of the topics which demonstrated the
ambivalence in German-Russian relations particularly dramatically.
Manfred Zeidler picks up this case again in the light of new archival
materials. He reconstructs the paradoxical situation that the joint
training and military manoeuvres intended to help ght the
entente actually aided armament and preparation for the German
war on the Soviet Union. It is one of the cruellest ironies of German-
Russian relations that many of the commanders of Operation
Barbarossa had experience of the terrain thanks to Soviet support,
and that the commanders of the Red Army, as German spies, fell
victim to the cleansing of the army leadership in 1937, which at the
very least facilitated German aggression against the USSR.9
Peter Jahn deals with the other war in the East and its traces in
the memories of post-war Germany, where the dimensions of the
genocide against Jews has now been widely acknowledged, unlike
German crimes against Russians, Poles and other peoples of the
East. Jahn assumes that the asymmetrical development of prejudices
from as far back as the nineteenth century was among the ideational
and mental prerequisites for the unprecedented dehumanization
of the war in the East: Russia as not belonging to Europe, inferior,
backwards, Asian; also the battle cry of dictatorship of Jewish
A Closed Chapter? 5

Bolshevism, Russia as Lebensraum and as Germanys India. Feel-

ings of superiority over Russia and the Russians had a high like-
lihood of acceptance by the majority in Nazi Germany. There is
no other way, says Jahn, of explaining the systematic killing of
commissars, the starvation of millions of Soviet prisoners of war
and the treatment of workers from the East. Jahn also asks why it
took so long in post-war Germany basically until the Crimes of
the German Wehrmacht exhibition rst opened (1995) and until
the forced labour compensations had been settled to start to fully
address the crimes committed in the East. Certain clichs and
attitudes could, according to Jahn, live on after 1945, when they
were reactivated within the transformed cold war frame, and West
Germanys inclusion in the struggle against communism and re-
militarization. A result of this, Jahn notes, is that there continue to
be gaps in current research pertaining to the war in the East.10
Viktor Krieger discusses a topic which could truly only be ad-
dressed with the aid of historical materials after the end of the Soviet
Union. The Russlanddeutsche (Germans from Russia), especially
along the Volga, were categorically, in one fell swoop, accused
of collaboration and disenfranchised. This had wide-reaching
consequences well into the post-war period. Krieger can demon-
strate that the Soviet leadership quickly gave up their initial differ-
entiation between Germans and Nazis and began the wholesale,
collective deportation of the roughly 800,000 collaborators: the
Russlanddeutschen. This was accompanied by the disintegration of
the rich cultural infrastructure, the destruction of the economic
base, and the total disenfranchisement and life-threatening dis-
Elke Scherstjanoi studies what the soldiers of the Red Army,
mainly young men, saw, felt and interpreted for themselves
and their relatives on their advance into Germany. Against the
background of available research on the perception of German
soldiers in Russia, she inquires into the perceptions of the Red
Army soldiers which are specic to the war. Her analysis is based
on anecdotes, memoirs, letters, diaries such things also exist
in Russia. The chapter in this volume offers an interpretation of
around 300 letters. The soldiers were particularly impressed by
the prosperity in Germany, the good roads, the sewerage systems,
the tiled roofs of the farmhouses, the furnishings; and also by
the reports from those freed from Majdanek and other camps.
But there are accounts too of soldiers satised by the victory, the
6 Karl Schlgel

retribution, signs of contempt for the Fritzes pleading for mercy.

Scherstjanoi also discusses why the mass rapes have always been
such a central topic in the West.12
Jens Reichs report reects on his own life experiences as some-
one with two lives: a rst life of about forty years under the Yalta-
umbrella; and a second of over ten years in re-unied Germany.
Reich explores the life experiences of his generation in Soviet-
dominated East Germany. His grandfather was deported to Siberia,
for reasons still unexplained, and died there. Reich describes the
double experience of brutal enemies and dear friends; of the
tanks in the uprising of 1953 and the departure of Soviet troops in
1992. These are experiences shared by many as evidenced by the
roughly one million Soviet soldiers stationed in the GDR over the
forty years, and the tens of thousands of students and scientists who
studied in the USSR. He is surprised that the decades of Russian
tuition had no noticeable long-term positive effect. Reich calls the
cultural afnity sometimes alleged to exist between the GDR and
Russian culture a myth. It would be more appropriate to talk of
disturbed communication between the cultural and intellectual
avant-garde of both countries.13
And nally, Klaus Segbers systematically discusses the future of
German-Russian relations as a dependent variable in the context
of global development. A new geopolitical landscape has emerged
in the post-Westphalian era, in the era following the cold war and
after 11 September 2001. The binary system of the cold war has
been invalidated; transnational ows of capital are more import-
ant than political decisions in old capital cities. Movements on the
capital markets carry more weight than traditional diplomacy. We
have to somehow come to terms with this increasingly insecure
world, which is not a new world order, and is also not dened
in a unilateral or neo-imperial manner. The consequences for
Germany and Russia are serious. For Germany, with its political
culture oriented towards consensus, with its dependency on
energy imports and the burden of its history, much is changing,
but always within the framework of European institutions. The
primary concern for Russia is the continued transformation of
the system. The integration of Russia into the world market via
the energy sector, i.e. oil and gas, is advancing at great speed; an
isolated development of Russia is barely conceivable. The new elite
want their achievements to be safeguarded: in other words, stability
and continuity. What consequences will this ultimately have for
A Closed Chapter? 7

German-Russian relations? For all intents and purposes, the outlook

is basically cloudless. All the issues which could be controversial
are of low-ranking signicance: the Russlanddeutsche question and
the repayment of debts have been dealt with; the looted art has
been stripped of its inated and symbolic signicance. According
to Segbers, specialists on Eastern Europe do still have work to do,
despite these more or less harmonious relations; but it is no longer
work on the special relations.14
One would be glad to concur with this analysis, despite the per-
turbation created by the talk of a Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis in con-
nection with the Iraq war. But even this changes nothing in the
fundamental nding that the nexus in which the drama of German-
Russian relations unfolded over the last century has disintegrated.
There are no special relations any more.
Nevertheless, this does not imply a lack of specic experiences
and traditions which have left their marks on the cultural memory
of the peoples and their elites. That there are roughly two to three
million people living in the Federal Republic of Germany whose
rst language is Russian; that there are once again Jewish commun-
ities, whose re-establishment is largely thanks to the immigration
of former Soviet citizens; that there is a more lively interest in all
things Russian in Germany than elsewhere all this is linked to the
past special relationship between Germany and Russia. It would be
strange to deny this.
Even if the generation of veterans from the Second World War
will soon no longer be with us and the horrors of the war in the
East will remain an enduring chapter in the memory of both
peoples with many aspects still to be addressed. The experiences
of those involved in the war the labourers from the East, the
prisoners of war from both sides belong to the negative cult-
ural capital which is sometimes as important as the positive. It is
similar for the post-war period, already on its way to becoming
history. The experiences of hundreds of thousands of Soviet cit-
izens who were stationed on German territory; of tens of thousands
of GDR citizens who studied and worked in the Soviet Union it
would be strange if these experiences disappeared without trace.
But perhaps less remains than we think; less than, say, from the
short Sturm und Drang period of the avant-garde in the 1920s.
Perhaps the devaluation of cultural capital in East Germany is
a tragic part of the collateral damage resulting from Germanys
8 Karl Schlgel

In all likelihood, we will have to return afresh to the First World

War in the history of German-Russian relations. The First World
War is perceived quite differently, even asymmetrically. In Russia,
the ultimate catastrophe of the war fell entirely by the wayside in
the midst of revolution and civil war and was largely forgotten. It
has no place in collective memory, whereas in Germany the war
and the disastrous peace treaty of Versailles became the source of
great resentment and a desire for revenge.
And one thing is certain. The happiest and most rewarding time,
never again matched in its productivity and density, was the n
de sicle. It has nothing to do with nostalgia or with an apology
for the Hohenzollern or Romanov empires and their rule over
Poland if we recall the density of economic cooperation, cultural
exchange and understanding of that period. The twentieth century
has done nothing other than destroy that massive block of intense
and natural cooperation to the very great detriment of not only
Russians and Germans, but also all Europeans. The standard of
relations established between Russia and Germany around 1900
has not yet been surpassed. Memories of that time survived even
the horrors of two world wars, and are only now being superseded
by something quite different the victory march of a culture with
its centre in America, bringing in its wake changes much more
fundamental than all the revolutions which have rocked Russia and

Translated from the German by Felicitas Macgilchrist


1. References in Karin Bock (ed.), Sowjetische Forschungen (1917 bis 1991)

zur Geschichte der deutsch-russischen Beziehungen von den Anfngen bis
1949 (Berlin: Akademie, 1993). The most detailed reference list is
found in Gerd Koenens West-stliche Spiegelungen. Gerd Koenen and
Lew Kopelew (eds), Deutschland und die Russische Revolution 19171924
(Munich, 1998), pp. 827934.
2. Gerald Freund, Unholy Alliance. Russian-German Relations from the Treaty
of Brest-Litovsk to the Treaty of Berlin (London, 1957); Sebastian Haffner,
A Closed Chapter? 9

Der Teufelspakt. Die deutsch-russischen Beziehungen vom Ersten zum Zweiten

Weltkrieg (Zurich: Manesse, 1988); F.A. Krummacher and Helmut
Lange, Krieg und Frieden. Geschichte der deutsch-sowjetischen Beziehungen.
Von Brest-Litowsk zum Unternehmen Barbarossa (Munich and Esslingen:
Bechtle, 1970); Ernst Nolte, Der europische Brgerkrieg 19171945,
Nationalsozialismus und Bolschewismus, (Frankfurt/Main and Berlin:
Propylen, 1987); Gnter Rosenfeld, Sowjetruland und Deutschland
19171922 (Berlin: Akademie, 1960); Gnter Rosenfeld, Sowjetunion
und Deutschland: 19221933 (Berlin: Akademie, 1984); Gerd Voigt,
Ruland in der deutschen Geschichtsschreibung (Berlin: Akademie, 1994).
3. Walter Laqueur, Russia and Germany: A Century of Conict (Boston,
Toronto: Little, Brown and Co., 1965).
4. The exhibition Berlin-Moskau attempted to give a comprehensive
overview. Exhibition catalogue, Irina Antonova and Jrn Merkert
(eds) (Munich and New York: Prestel, 1995). The most exhaustive
project to document German-Russian relations over centuries is
the Wuppertaler Project: Gerd Koenen and Lew Kopelew (eds),
West-stliche Spiegelungen. Russen und Ruland aus deutscher Sicht und
Deutsche und Deutschland aus russischer Sicht von den Anfngen bis zum
20. Jahrhundert. Wuppertaler Projekt zur Erforschung der Geschichte deutsch-
russischer Fremdenbilder. Reihe A: Russen und Ruland aus deutscher Sicht,
4 vols, Reihe B: Deutsche und Deutschland aus russischer Sicht, 2 vols,
(Munich: Fink, 1985 ff). Most recently: Gerd Koenen, Der Russland-
Komplex. Die Deutschen und der Osten 19001950 (Munich: Beck, 2005).
In the German Historikerstreit the interrelationship between the two
totalitarianisms still played a central role, cf. Rudolf Augstein (ed.),
Der Historikerstreit. Die Dokumentation der Kontoverse um die Einzigartigkeit
der nationalsozialistischen Judenvernichtung (Munich and Zurich: Piper,
1987). Hans-Ulrich Wehler, Entsorgung der deutschen Vergangenheit. Ein
polemischer Essay zum Historikerstreit (Munich: Beck, 1988); Helmut
Fleischer, Zu einer Historik fr die Geschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts.
Prliminarien, Perspektiven, Paradigmen, in Helmut Fleischer
and Perluca Azzaro (eds), Das 20. Jahrhundert. Zeitalter der tragischen
Verkehrungen. Forum zum 80. Geburtstag von Ernst Nolte (Munich: Herbig,
2003), pp. 50658.
5. See also Dittmar Dahlmann and Carmen Scheide (eds), . . . das einzige
Land in Europa, das eine grosse Zukunft vor sich hat. Deutsche Unternehmen
und Unternehmer im Russischen Reich im 19. und frhen 20. Jahrhundert
(Essen, 1998).
6. Gerd Koenen attempts a comprehensive overview in, Der
Russlandkomplex. Die Deutschen und der Osten 19001950 (Munich: Beck,
7. For more on the Russian Berlin cf. Karl Schlgel, Berlin Ostbahnhof
Europas. Russen und Deutsche in ihrem Jahrhundert (Berlin: Siedler, 1998)
10 Karl Schlgel

(in Russian: Moscow, 2005); Karl Schlgel (ed.), Russische Emigration

in Deutschland 19181941. Leben im europischen Brgerkrieg (Berlin:
Akademie, 1995); Karl Schlgel, Katharina Kucher, Bernhard Suchy
and Gregor Thum, Chronik russischen Lebens in Deutschland 19181941
(Berlin: Akademie, 1999).
8. Carola Tischler, Flucht in die Verfolgung. Deutsche Emigranten im
sowjetischen Exil 1933 bis 1945 (Mnster: Lit, 1996).
9. Manfred Zeidler, Reichswehr und Rote Armee. 19201933. Wege und
Stationen einer ungewhnlichen Zusammenarbeit (Munich: Oldenburg,
1993). Idem, Das Bild der Wehrmacht von Ruland und der Roten
Armee zwischen 1933 und 1939, in Hans-Erich Volkmann, Das
Russlandbild im Dritten Reich (Cologne, Weimar, Wien: Bhlau, 1994),
pp. 10524; Olaf Groehler, Selbstmrderische Allianz. Deutsch-russische
Militrbeziehungen 19201941 (Berlin, 1992).
10. Peter Jahn and Reinhard Rrup (eds), Erobern und Vernichten. Der
Krieg gegen die Sowjetunion 19411945 (Berlin, 1991). For more on the
image of Russia in the Third Reich, cf. Hans-Erich Volkmann (ed.),
Das Rulandbild im Dritten Reich. Gerd R. Ueberschr and Wolfram
Wette (eds), Der deutsche berfall auf die Sowjetunion. Unternehmen
Barbarossa 1941, (Frankfurt/Main, 1991); Omer Bartov, The Eastern
Front, 19411945: German Troops and the Barbarisation of Warfare (New
York: St. Martins Press, 1986).
11. Alfred Eisfeld and Victor Herdt (eds), Deportation, Sondersiedlung,
Arbeitsarmee: Deutsche in der Sowjetunion 1941 bis 1956 (Cologne,
12. Elke Scherstjanoi (ed.), Rotarmisten schreiben aus Deutschland. Briefe
von der Front (1945) und historische Analysen (Munich, 2004).
13. See the autobiographical sketch by Jens Reich, Wenn der Staat
bestimmt, in Kursbuch 148 (June 2002).
14. For more on post-Soviet contexts, cf. Klaus Segbers and Stephan de
Spiegeleire (eds), Post-Soviet Puzzles. Mapping the Political Economy of
the Former Soviet Union, vols 1-4 (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1995).

Before the Great War: German

Entrepreneurs in Russia
Russian Scholars in Germany.
Two Types of Russian-German
Relations in the Decades before
the First World War

This chapter presents two aspects of the relationship

between Russia and Germany at the turn of the century: business
history and intellectual history. At rst glance both elds do not
have very much in common, but as I will present business history at
least to a certain degree as cultural history, these two elds could
well be seen and dealt with together. Culture will be understood in
two ways: rstly as a way of life and the world one lives in (Lebenswelt
und Lebensweise), and secondly in the normal sense with science or
scholarship seen as a part of it.1
A good number of German merchants and entrepreneurs as well
as German scholars went to Russia at around the same time: in the
beginning of the eighteenth century under Peter I.2 Not all of them
stayed, and not all were successful or had an extraordinary career.
But a lot of them made it to the top, and became rich and famous.
Some were even the founding fathers of academic or merchant
dynasties, whose families lived in the Russian Empire for three and
more generations.3
In May 1877 the textile company of Ludwig Knoop & Co. cel-
ebrated its twenty-fth anniversary in Moscow. The founder and
director of the enterprise, Ludwig Knoop, at this time fty-six years
old, wrote about this event to his brother Julius:

12 Dittmar Dahlmann

The rst toast was on the Emperor. The second one was on me. Then,
after a break, T. Morozov was called out, came back with a dispatch from
the minister of nance, who notied him that at noon of this same day
the emperor had raised me to a hereditary baron. The applause was
endless, I am unable to describe my feelings to you, but I am sure, that
we are one and you feel like me. After this Baranov made a speech
which was beautiful and hilarious, at the end of it I was exhausted,
because my nerves could not endure any more and my whole body was

Knoop, born in Bremen in 1821, was made a nobleman because

of his contribution to the Russian national industry. Though
Knoop remained a citizen of his home town all his life, he received
this honour for the development of the Russian textile industry.
Like many of his German-speaking fellow-countrymen,5 he had
come to the Russian Empire in his younger years to make a fortune
in this country. The most famous example of course is Heinrich
Schliemann,6 who also owned a commercial house in Moscow. The
two men must have known each other, as the circle of German
entrepreneurs in Moscow was not particularly extensive, but un-
fortunately there is no evidence for this assertion.
Knoop stuck to his business, as did most of the other German
merchants and industrialists, so his name was long forgotten and
known only to a few specialists in Russian and Bremen history
until the end of the 1980s. Since that time of perestroika, when
historians in the declining Soviet Union discovered new elds of
history, business history has been a ourishing eld in Russia, as
have so many other elds: cultural and intellectual history, the
history of exile and so on.7
Among the inuential, rich and successful merchant or indus-
trialist families in the Russian Empire at the turn of the nineteenth
to the twentieth century we nd quite a number of German origin.
Besides Knoop we have in Moscow the following big names:
von Wogau, Zenker, Marc, Bansa, von Einem and Spies; and in St
Petersburg: Amburger, again the Spies family, Stieglitz, Knig and
Hammerschmidt. However, German merchants and entrepreneurs
were not restricted to the two capitals, for we can also nd them
in Lodz, Kazan, Saratov, Samara, Odessa and many other Russian
Those who were at the top at the turn of the century mainly had
come to Russia at the beginning or the rst half of the nineteenth
Before the Great War 13

century: Knoop, von Wogau, Marc, Spies and many others. For the
Germans the Russian Empire offered many opportunities for it was
a big country with just a few internal customs barriers in contrast
to Germany in the rst half of the nineteenth century and after
the end of the Napoleonic Wars it was a developing market.
In dealing with the German merchants and industrialists I will
focus on two examples: the Knoops and the von Wogaus in Moscow.
Their success was unique, but many others were also very successful.
Ludwig Knoop came to Moscow in 1840 when he was not yet twenty,
as the representative of an English company in Manchester which
belonged partly to one of his uncles, having lived in Manchester for
over two years before coming to Russia. After a couple of years he
married the daughter of a Baltic-German merchant and founded
his rst company in 1852.8
From the moment of his arrival he was a part of the German colony
in Moscow. According to the only general census of the Russian
Empire in 1897, 17,358 Germans of both sexes lived in Moscow.9
Although this was only 1.7 per cent of the citys total population, it
was the biggest colony of non-Russians, with more Germans than
Ukrainians, Poles or Jews. Most of them were Russian citizens, but
over 6,000 were not. More than two-thirds belonged to a Protestant
church over 14,000 with just 3,000 Catholics. Roughly 2,000
were economically self-sufcient as craftsmen, merchants, bankers
or industrialists.10
The Moscow Germans formed an important social group in the
second capital city of the Russian Empire. They inhabited a small
world of their own with newspapers, journals, churches, schools,
hospitals, clubs, restaurants with German food and beer, hotels,
book stores, all kinds of shops in particular doctors and so on. At
one time there was also a German theatre in the city.11 The famous
Baedeker described German life in Moscow and wrote: Theres no
need to worry about nding a German or German-speaking doctor
in Moscow, and in all of the pharmacies German is spoken.12
Besides the family the centre of German life in Moscow, or any
other Russian city, was the church parish and, closely connected to
it, the school. The other important social institution was the club,
i.e. the German club, Deutscher Klub in Moskau, which as a matter of
fact was not as German as its name indicated.13
There were four Lutheran and Reformed Church parishes in
Moscow, the oldest being Petri-Pauli and Michaelis. Both had high
14 Dittmar Dahlmann

schools (Gymnasia) which were founded in the seventeenth and

eighteenth centuries for boys and girls. The Gymnasia followed the
Prussian system and were open to everybody who could pay for it.
There were therefore many Russian and Jewish children at these
schools, in particular girls, since only a few Russian schools for the
higher education of the female sex existed at the time. Nearly all
German entrepreneurs sent their children to these schools, where
the language of instruction was mainly German, but Russian was
also taught, and nearly all Germans of this social strata were at least
trilingual: German, Russian and English, some even managing four
or ve.14
Nearly all German merchants and industrialists in Moscow were
active members of their church parishes as chairmen or members
of various boards and in various other functions. The same was
true for the schools, which also had their various boards. And it was
also true for the many charity organisations that existed either in
the churches or as separate institutions.15 Here again most German
industrialists were members and chairmen of these organisations.
Some hold these functions for ten or even twenty years. Church,
school and charity were closely related, with church and school
being particularly important for the life of the Moscow Germans,
or indeed for most Germans in the Russian Empire before and
after 1914. Many German industrialists donated a lot of money
to churches, schools and especially charities.16 This they had in
common with their Russian counterparts, mainly with those Russian
entrepreneurs who were Old Believers.17
But it was not church and school alone that bound the strata of
German industrialists together. Of equal importance was marriage.
As a general rule, until the third generation the Germans married
among themselves. The most famous example in Moscow was the
von Wogau clan. The families of Wogau, Marc, Ruperti, Bansa,
Hermann and Schumacher were woven into a net of relationships
by marriage. Moritz Marc, for example, was at the same time the
nephew and the brother-in-law of Karl von Wogau. Marriage of
course was not only a matter of love, but of economic and nancial
Nearly all German enterprises were primarily family owned,
either as a limited company or as a limited partnership, in some
cases as a limited partnership by shares. For this reason the newly
married husbands became partners in the business, and the wives
increased the familys prestige and inuence in business circles.19
Before the Great War 15

But the German industrialists and entrepreneurs in Russia by

no means lived exclusively among the Germans. On the contrary,
adaptation or acculturation to the Russian way of life was wide-
spread. Though the language spoken at home was always German,
the children learnt Russian from their nianias, the Russian maid
who normally stayed with a family not only for the rst child, but
for all the familys children. Even afterwards, when the last born no
longer needed a maid, she would often continue to live with the
family or had even become part of the family. This led to the use of
the Russian form of rst names, using diminutives and pet names.
It was also common to use the Russian form of address with rst
name and surname. Beginning with the third generation it was also
common to give children Russian rst names.20
Common in nearly all German families were certain Russian
customs and habits, as well as the celebration of religious and other
holidays. In the east corner of the living room or dining room
there would be an icon, and on New Years Day the orthodox priest
came to bless the house and the family. During the butterweek,
the week before the six weeks of fasting before Easter, meals were
prepared and Easter was celebrated in the Russian, and not in the
German, way.21
Most families tended to own or rent summer houses in the
countryside. Generally from late spring or early summer, until early
autumn, the whole family with all the servants moved to these sum-
mer houses. The head of the family, who had his business in the
city, only went out for the weekends, but by the turn of the century,
and in the years before 1914 when the trafc conditions became
better and some families had even bought a car, he would come to
the summer house every afternoon. As with Russian families it was
not only the immediate family who spent the time there, but also
the extended family, and sometimes close friends stayed for shorter
or longer periods.22
Some of the richer families organized their summer houses to
make up little colonies in the countryside, where they could visit
one another, stay overnight and have parties. The importance of
these summer houses or residences is shown by the fact that many
German entrepreneurs spent more money on these buildings,
gardens, etc. than on their houses or apartments in the cities.
Alfred Ruperti, for example, a member of the Wogau clan, spent
at least a million roubles on his summer villa, but only rented an
apartment, albeit large and comfortable, for the winter months in
the city.23
16 Dittmar Dahlmann

The two worlds Russian and German industrialists met out-

side the business world, mostly in the clubs. The two most famous
and most prestigious in Moscow were the English club (angliiskii
klub) and the merchants club (kupecheskii klub). The English club
was the most distinguished, noble and elegant one on Moscows
main street, the Tverskaia; the merchants club was close to the
club of the nobility in Bolshaia Dmitrovka. Club life was the realm
of men: dining, playing cards, reading and of course discussing
business were the main activities in the clubs. Women were only
admitted for social events: balls and social gatherings.24
Shortly before the turn of the twentieth-century sports clubs
became fashionable among Russian and German entrepreneurs:
rst horse-riding and lawn tennis, and later car racing. Hunting
was another activity that both worlds shared, fox-hunting in
The growing integration of the second and third generation
of Germans in Russia was manifested in the interest they had for
Russian theatre, music and literature. The younger generations
were more familiar with Russian authors Dostoevskii, Tolstoi and
Gorkii than with German ones. They admired the productions of
Konstantin Stanislavskii at the Moscow Artist theatre, together with
Russian ballet, music and painting.26
This world of culture is closely related to another eld that
German and Russian entrepreneurs shared the patronage of art
in general. Though more common among the Russian industrial
elite, their German counterparts also nanced literature, theatre,
music and painting.27
In the next part of this chapter I will describe the career of a
German entrepreneur in Moscow, namely Ludwig Baron Knoop,
one of the most successful German industrialists in Russia in the
second half of the nineteenth century, mentioned already at the
beginning of the chapter. His personal success story may seem
extraordinary, but there are at least another fty German entre-
preneurs who were similarly crowned with success.
Ludwig Knoop began his career in Manchester in the 1830s in
the de Jersey Company, which was partly owned by two of his uncles,
before going to Moscow in 1840 as a representative of the rm.
In 1843 he married the daughter of a Baltic-German merchant in
Moscow and four years later Ludwig managed to complete his rst
big deal when in 1847 he sold a fully equipped textile factory to Savva
Morozov, one of the richest and most inuential entrepreneurs in
Before the Great War 17

Moscow and a member of the Old Believers. Knoop did not only
sell the newest and best English machines, he also hired British
employees and foremen. This form of business became the basis of
Knoops overwhelming success. He was so convinced of the success
of this new factory that he refused any direct payment, instead
taking a 10 per cent share of the annual prots of Morozovs factory.
Over the next fteen years Knoop build another 153 factories and
in all of them held a share in the annual prots of between 5 and
15 per cent. Furthermore he provided the machinery for another
thirty factories, not only delivering the machinery and technical
know-how in the shape of British employees and foremen, but also
becoming the main importer of the cotton that these factories
In 1852 Ludwig Knoop founded his own company in Russia,
with the head ofce in Moscow and branches in St Petersburg and
Reval. Another ve years later, in 1857, together with Russian and
German partners, he founded the textile factory Krhnholm,
situated directly on the border of the province of Estonia, on the
banks of the River Narova, close to the city of Narva. The company
still exists it is now the biggest company in the whole of Estonia,
belongs to a Swedish company and is Estonias biggest exporter.29
But let us turn back to Ludwig Knoop in 1857. His four partners
in the founding of Krhnholm were three Russians, members of
the Moscow Old Believer community, and two Germans. The Rus-
sians were Aleksei and Gerasim Khludov and Kozma Soldatenkov.
Together with them Knoop also held shares in the Emil Zndel
company, another textile company in Moscow, and together with
members of the Shchukin family, again an Old Believer family,
held shares in the Danilovskaia factory. So Knoop had very good
relations with his fellow German nationals and with Russian Old
Believers in Moscow, and was well established in Moscow business
The capital of the Krhnholm factory was initially two million
gold roubles, later being raised to six million. It was, de jure, what
would be call in German a Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien, a part-
nership limited by shares. All the shares were either in the hands of
the founding members and could not be sold without the consent
of the others, or the shares were in the hands of members of the
Knoop family. Some sources indicate that two uncles of Ludwig
Knoop, the two who co-owned the de Jersey company in Manchester,
and Ludwigs two brothers Julius and Daniel, held shares in the
Krhnholm company.31
18 Dittmar Dahlmann

The rise of the Knoop company continued in the years that

followed. Ludwig Knoop and his wife, together with their three
daughters, returned to Bremen in 1861, while the three sons re-
mained in Moscow. The two oldest sons, Theodor and Andreas,
married two sisters in the Zenker family, daughters of a rich Moscow-
German banker; Johann, the third son, married in Bremen. The
three daughters married into Bremens entrepreneurial bour-
geoisie, the families of Wolde, Albrecht and Kulenkampff. The
Woldes owned a private bank; George Albrecht was the owner
of Joh. Langes Witwe & Shne, a well-established merchant and
shipowner family; and the Kulenkampff family is still an institution
in todays Bremen.32
Back in his home town, Bremen, Knoop built a luxurious family
seat on the banks of the River Lesum. Mhlenthal no longer exists,
but the surrounding park, known in Bremen as Knoops Park, still
gives an impression of the Knoops huge premises. Knoop had his
own telegraph station and an extra stop for the railway line. He
frequently travelled between Bremen, Moscow and Krhnholm by
train for as long as he was able to do so. His wife used to say, Father
thinks and dreams of cotton only!33
Let us now turn to the network of the Knoop family that was more
or less entirely based on family relations. Members of the family
were owners of the British company de Jersey which had branches
in Liverpool and Manchester. In addition to Ludwig Knoop, his two
uncles (his mothers brothers), later Ludwigs brother Julius, and
nally Julius two sons, Andreas and Ludwig Karl, were all partners
with their father in ownership of this company. Another son of
Ludwig, Johann Knoop, controlled the London trading house Wm.
Berkefeld & Co., from at least 1871, the de Jersey company holding
shares in it and in the London Banking House H.S. Lefevre &
Co. Knoops next English partner was Platt Bros. in Manchester,
where he bought most of the machinery. One of the directors was
E.W. Gromme, his nephew and the son of one of Ludwig Knoops
sisters; later Ludwig Knoop held shares in this company. Besides
this, Ludwig worked together with many English companies in
which members of his family or he himself had shares. These
were in particular: Mather, Platt & Co. in Salford, a textile plant;
John Musgraves & Sons in Bolton, a steam engine factory; Hick
Hargreaves & Co., another steam-engine factory, also in Bolton;
and seven other companies. At Musgraves the above-mentioned
E.W. Gromme was one of the directors and later Ludwig Knoops
Before the Great War 19

grandson Johann Ludwig Knoop also worked for this company.

For the supply of laboratory equipment, valves and pumps Ludwig
Knoop relied on two German companies: Keller-Dorian and A.
Buttner, although there is no evidence that he or members of his
family held any shares in these rms.34
In America the Knoop family founded the general commission
agency Knoop, Hanemann & Co. in 1863, with branches in New
York, Savannah, Charleston, New Orleans and Mobile. The com-
pany was founded by another relative of Ludwig, Gottfried Knoop,
together with another German, Hanemann. Ludwig and another
brother, Julius, held shares in this company; later on Julius son
Andreas and another relative from the side of Ludwigs mother
were also engaged by this rm. After Hanemanns retirement in
1875 the company changed its name to Knoop, Frerich & Co. Once
again the English de Jersey company was one of the main partners.
The primary function of Knoop, Frerich & Co. was to supply the
Russian House with raw cotton.35
In 1864, during the American Civil War, Ludwig Knoop founded
another company in Bombay to trade with cotton. For the same
reason, de Jersey & Co. and Knoop were again partners in the com-
pany of the St Petersburg German Julius Amburger, in Alexandria.
After Amburgers death in 1881, Ludwig Knoop invested 50,000
in the successor rm, Ernest Malleson & Co., and remained a
sleeping partner in it until 1891.36
The leading gures of the Knoop family enterprise were the two
brothers Ludwig and Julius, one in Russia and the other in England.
It is also apparent that those with capital among the members of
the extended family, former partners and even employees left it
invested in L. Knoop and Co. The companies of the two brothers
operated worldwide and supported one another.
In 1877 Ludwig was made a Russian baron, but the family was
more international and cosmopolitan both in its business affairs
and in its private life. Knoops sons received their commercial
training outside Russia, but this was also increasingly the case in
genuinely Russian entrepreneurial families from the middle of the
nineteenth century.
Marriages, as we have seen, were an important means to establish
business relations, though in the rst two generations of the Knoop
familys Russian branch, religion and national origin were the dom-
inating factors. It was only in the third generation that marriage
links with the Russian bourgeoisie were forged: two grandsons of
20 Dittmar Dahlmann

Ludwig Knoop married into important Moscow entrepreneurial

families: the Medvedevs and the Mamontovs.
The family remained the central but not the only base for
Ludwig Knoops business in Russia. As we have seen, he also had
very good connections to Russian entrepreneurs, in particular
Russian Old Believers. It can generally be said that Knoop was well
established within Moscow business circles and had many friends
among his Russian colleagues. The German economist Gerhart
von Schulze-Gvernitz, who visited Russia and Knoops factory
Krhnholm in the 1890s wrote that to a certain extent Knoop owed
his success to his stomach he frequently visited those places where
even in the second half of the nineteenth century a lot of contracts
were settled, the Russian traktir.37
For many years Knoop was the chairman of the Moscow stock
exchange and held various other posts within entrepreneurial
organizations, while his two sons in Moscow followed in their
fathers footsteps.38 Within a time span of twenty-ve years Ludwig
Knoop built up an entrepreneurial empire based mainly, but in
no way exclusively, on family relations. The network of companies
which he owned, or in which he held shares, was worldwide and
truly intercontinental: Europe, America, Africa and Asia. The
production was based in Russia; the supply of the machinery came
from England and partly from Germany; raw materials, mainly
cotton, came from the USA, Egypt and India, and during and after
the American Civil War from Russian Central Asia.39
The family empire continued to exist after Ludwig Knoops
death in 1894, until the Russian Revolution of 1917. Krhnholm,
after 1918/19 in Estonia, belonged to the Knoop family until 1939,
but the factory as such, as previously mentioned, still exists today.
Schulze-Gvernitz called him Russias greatest industrialist, and a
mixture of John D. Rockefeller and Sir Richard Arkwright.40 In any
case, he was one of the big European industrialists of the second
half of the nineteenth century, and although forgotten in the Soviet
Union for obvious reasons, Russian historiography nowadays deals
extensively with him and other great industrialists in Russia in the
nineteenth and early twentieth century.41
Knoop and his family empire constituted just one outstanding
example of a German entrepreneur in Russia who built up an inter-
national enterprise that had its centre in the Russian Empire. Yet
there were many other cases to show that not only was the econ-
omic relationship between Germany and Russia developing rapidly,
Before the Great War 21

but also that Russia was an integral part of the world economy and
that the process of what we now call globalization was well under
way in the decades leading up to the First World War, before being
interrupted by the great catastrophes of two world wars and the
division of Europe and the world, until the late 1980s and early
In the second part of this chapter I would like to show the intensity
and density of the relations between Germany and Russia in terms
of scholarly or scientic relationships at the turn of the twentieth
century. From the second half of the nineteenth century, when
Russias need for an intellectual elite was steadily growing, but could
not be satised by the countrys own universities, more and more
Russian students went abroad, partly with the support of the Russian
government and partly at their own expense.43 Their main interest
was not what some famous, but unusual, sources seem to indicate
philosophy and revolution, or vice versa but sciences, medicine
and architecture. Apart from Berlin, in particular after the 1870s,
and some universities close to the German-Russian border, most
students from Russia went to the technical universities: Karlsruhe,
Darmstadt, Munich and the Bergakademie Freiberg, famous in
Russia ever since Mikhail Lomonosov had been a student there in
the rst half of the eighteenth century.44
For obvious reasons Russian students founded clubs and unions,
but had one speciality: the Russische Lesehallen (reading-rooms),
where members could read newspapers, magazines and books,
have tea, and where from time to time balls and other social gath-
erings were arranged. As censorship was not as harsh in Germany
as in Russia and differed from state to state, they could also read
the illegal literature of Russian Social Democracy, the Socialist-
Revolutionaries or of the liberal opposition. One of the oldest
reading-rooms was founded in Heidelberg in 1862, named after the
famous Russian physician Nikolai Pirogov. Before the outbreak of
the First World War, there were Russian reading-rooms or clubs in
20 German university towns, including 6 in Munich, 5 in Dresden,
3 each in Berlin, Freiburg and Freiberg, and 2 in Heidelberg.45
Historical research has mainly focused on the revolutionary
aspects of Russian students in Germany, Bolsheviks being the
prime object of research. Not only in the East, but also in the West
the focus was on Lenin and the Bolsheviks in Germany, not on
the scholarly relations which developed at the turn of the century.
Those who came from Russia to study at a German university did
22 Dittmar Dahlmann

so for different reasons and with different motives, which were so

closely related to one another that it would be difcult to separate
them. Learning and scholarship, scholarship and revolution, and
revolution and learning were an inextricable tangle.46
And it was in these clubs, unions and reading-rooms where all
these people with all their ideas and ideals met, despite their differ-
ent world-views or ideologies, their different thoughts and aims.
For the intellectual elite from Russia it was mainly Heidelberg
University which they chose for their studies. The oldest university
in Germany was one of the academic and intellectual centres of
German philosophy, economics and law. Neo-Kantianism, political
economy and constitutional law were the main subjects of interest.47
One of the leading experts of constitutional law at the Ruperto-
Carola in Heidelberg was Georg Jellinek, professor of constitutional
law, whose works were widely known in Russia and had been trans-
lated into Russian. Many Russian law students attended his lectures
and seminars. Here they had a chance to discuss Russian law freely,
or the concept of a liberal constitutional state, which they wanted
to achieve in Russia. Among the students of Jellinek were Fedor
Kokoshkin, Bogdan Kistiakovskii, Sergei Svatikov and Mikhail
Kalantarov. The rst two were founding and leading members of
the Constitutional-Democratic Party in Russia in 1905.48
Kistiakovskii in particular had a very close relationship with Max
Weber and was his main source of information for the two famous
articles that Weber wrote in 1906 on the Russian revolution of
1905-6 Zur Lage der brgerlichen Demokratie in Ruland and
Rulands bergang zum Scheinkonstitutionalismus.49
These two Russian law professors who returned to Russia after
their studies remained in close contact with the German academic
world. Kistiakovskii either translated Webers rst article into
Russian or was the organizer of this translation, at least this is
my assumption.50 But he was certainly engaged in the translation
of Jellineks work into Russian. When his teacher died in 1911,
Kistiakovskii wrote a lengthy obituary in the journal Russkaia Mysl
entitled Georg Jellinek as a thinker and man (Ellinek kak myslitel
i chelovek).51
The close relationship between the German and Russian acad-
emic world can also be seen in the history of the Heidelberger
Russische Lesehalle. Most of the material that Weber used for his
two articles on the Russian Revolution he found there and it was
also the place where he met his informants, scholars like Bogdan
Before the Great War 23

Kistiakovskii and Sergei Zhivago. And when the Lesehalle celebrated

its ftieth anniversary in December 1912, three professors from the
university were invited to give public lectures on the relationship
between the German and Russian academic world: the Weber
brothers, Max and Alfred, and Gustav Radbruch, the famous legal
philosopher, later Minister of Justice for a couple of years in the
Weimar Republic. One of the leading liberal dailies in Russia,
Russkie Vedomosti, even published an article on Max Webers speech
at this event. It was actually planned to publish all three speeches
in one volume in Russian under the title Geidelbergskii sbornik.
All three lectures were delivered, as one eyewitness wrote, in the
typical way of the Russian students, Max Weber could begin his
talk only at around midnight.52 Weber then spoke for at least
seventy-ve minutes. There are no accounts about the length of
the discussion afterwards.53
Max Weber and Gustav Radbruch spoke about German-Russian
cultural relations. From all the three speeches only the manuscript
of Radbruchs lecture survived. He spoke about the different per-
ceptions of law in both countries. The Russians were, according to
him Juristen aus Freiheitssinn (lawyers due to a sense of freedom),
in contrast to the Germans who were Juristen aus Ordnungssinn
(lawyers due to a sense of orderliness). I think that this is a good
observation. The task of the Russian, Radbruch believed, should be
to develop this sense of freedom among the German too, and to
strengthen the pathos of the law.54
One of the most ambitious undertakings of cooperation between
Russian and German scholars was the journal Logos, founded in 1909
by the German philosophers Richard Kroner, Georg Mehlis and
Arnold Ruge, and their Russian friends Sergei Gessen (Hessen),
Nikolai Bubnov and Fedor Stepun. All of them had studied at
either Heidelberg or Freiburg university, or at both universities. In
the background of the journal, not mentioned as editors, operated
some of most famous German scholars: Max Weber, Heinrich
Rickert, Georg Simmel and Wilhelm Windelband.55
The journal was published in Russian and German editions,
which were not identical. While the German edition was published
in Tbingen at the famous Mohr/Siebeck publishing house, the
Russian edition rst appeared at Musaget in Moscow, a publishing
house owned by Hedwig Friedrich, another German entrepreneur
in Russia, at that time one of the most famous booksellers and
publishers, then at M.O. Volf (Wolf) in Moscow.56
24 Dittmar Dahlmann

Logos was one of the most ambitious undertakings of German

and Russian scholars and devoted to the mutual understanding
of nations, as was written in the draft by the aforementioned
editors in 1909.57 They held the view that each national culture
had its own values. This supranationalism, as they called it, should
be distinguished from a cosmopolitanism which annihilates the
individual peculiarities of historical development and also from
a narrow nationalism, which does not acknowledge the value of
a homogeneous mankind, bound together by culture in the
German sense of the word. The term used is Kulturmenschheit.58
Philosophy and culture were supranational, and although na-
tional cultures should be overcome by philosophical aspirations, by
no means should the different traditions of culture or civilization
be neglected. This was a different way to a united Europe, a philo-
sophically united Europe, bound together by ideas,59 not an econ-
omically united Europe bound together by the Euro. But this of
course is another story. We know that this programme of trans-
nationalism or supranationalism, this attempt to look for reason in
civilization or culture and the attempts to let philosophy become
practical, failed just a few years later, when the irrational triumphed
in Europa.
Many more aspects of this relationship between German and
Russian scholars, and German and Russian writers and artists, could
be mentioned here: Boris Pasternak as a student in Marburg in 1912
or Osip Mandelshtam who studied in Heidelberg two years earlier.
Also worth mentioning is the interest that the German intellectual
elite took in the writings and philosophy of Lev Tolstoi.60
Economic and cultural relations between Germany and Russia
in the decades before the First World War were very close, closer
then they are even nowadays. Many of these entrepreneurs and
scholars lived in two worlds, or in two civilizations, and acted as
intermediaries between the two countries and their cultures. They
were at home in Berlin and Heidelberg as well as in Moscow or
St Petersburg. After a war caused by ultra-nationalism and the
Bolshevik revolution, many German entrepreneurs in Russia and
many Russian scholars who had once spent the years of their study
in Germany had to leave revolutionary Russia and return home.
But exile is another story that should be told at another time.
Before the Great War 25


1. I will not deal with the long discussion about the concept of culture
and cultural history (Kulturgeschichte). It is different in the German-
and English-speaking world. In Germany the latest book is Ute Daniel,
Kompendium Kulturgeschichte. Theorien, Praxis, Schlsselwrter (Frankfurt
am Main: Suhrkamp, 2001).
2. Klaus Heller, Auslndische Kaueute und Unternehmer im Russischen
Reich bis zum Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts, in Dittmar Dahlmann
and Carmen Scheide (eds), . . . das einzige Land in Europa, das eine groe
Zukunft vor sich hat. Deutsche Unternehmen und Unternehmer im Russischen
Reich im 19. und frhen 20. Jahrhundert (Essen: Klartext, 1998), pp. 27
48; Viktor N. Sacharow, Von Nowgorod nach Petersburg. Deutsche
Kaueute in Russland von den Zeiten der Hanse bis zum Anfang des
20. Jahrhunderts, in Dittmar Dahlmann (ed.), Eine grosse Zukunft.
Deutsche in Russlands Wirtschaft (Berlin: Reschke & Steffens, 2000), pp.
1221; also published in a Russian version (Moscow, 2000); Dittmar
Dahlmann, Unternehmer als Migranten im Russischen Reich, in
Mathias Beer and Dittmar Dahlmann (eds), Migration nach Ost- und
Sdosteuropa vom 18. Bis zum Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts (Stuttgart:
Thorbecke, 1999), pp. 23544.
3. The most famous example is the Amburger Family. Erik Amburger,
Deutsche in Staat, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft Russlands. Die Familie
Amburger in St. Petersburg 17701920 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1986).
4. Adele Wolde, Ludwig Knoop. Erinnerungsbilder aus seinem Leben. Gesammelt
und fr seine Nachkommen niedergeschrieben von Adele Wolde (Bremen:
Schnemann, 1928; repr. Bremen: Hauschild, 1998), p. 44; cf. Dittmar
Dahlmann, Ludwig Knoop: ein Unternehmerleben, in Dahlmann and
Scheide (eds), . . . das einzige Land, pp. 36178; Stuart Thompstone,
Ludwig Knoop. The Arkwright of Russia, in Textile History 15 (1984)
no. 1, pp. 4573; Stuart Thompstone, The Organisation and Financing of
Russian Foreign Trade before 1914, Ph.D. dissertation, London University
(1991), chap. 5.
5. I use the terms German and German-speaking in more or less the
same sense: persons born in the German Empire (Deutsches Reich)
before 1806 or after this date in those states which were part of the
Deutscher Bund and had German as their mother tongue.
6. Joachim Mai, Heinrich Schliemann als Unternehmer in Russland
18461864, in Dahlmann and Scheide (eds), . . . das einzige Land,
pp. 34960; Joachim Mai, Ich gelte hier als der schlaueste,
durchtriebenste und fhigste Kaufmann. Heinrich Schliemann in
Russland, in Dahlmann et al. (eds), Eine grosse Zukunft, pp. 2025;
Igor A. Bogdanov, Dolgaia doroga v Troiu. Genrikh Shliman v Peterburge
(St Petersburg: Glagol, 1995).
26 Dittmar Dahlmann

7. Karl Eimermacher (ed.), Das historische Gedchtnis Russlands. Archive

Bibliotheken, Geschichtswissenschaft (Bochum: Lotman-Institut fr
russische und sowjetische Kultur, 1999).
8. Dahlmann, Knoop, pp. 3701.
9. Victor Dnninghaus, Die Deutschen in der Moskauer Gesellschaft. Symbiose
und Konikte (14941941) (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2002), p. 65.
10. Ibid., chap. 1.2 and 1.4.
11. Dittmar Dahlmann, Lebenswelt und Lebensweise deutscher
Unternehmer in Moskau vom Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts bis zum
Ausbruch des Ersten Weltkrieges, in Nordost-Archiv N.F. 3 (1994), pp.
12. Baedeker, Russland, 4th edn (Essen, 1897), pp. 2601, and 7th edn,
(Essen, 1912), pp. 25862.
13. Andreas Keller, Bildung und Wohlfahrt, Gesellschaften und Vereine.
Deutsches Leben in Moskau im 19. und frhen 20. Jahrhundert, in
Nordost-Archiv N.F. 3 (1994), pp. 89111; idem, Der Deutsche Klub
in Moskau 18191914, in Forschungen zur Geschichte und Kultur der
Russlanddeutschen 7 (1997), pp. 15164.
14. Dnninghaus, Deutsche in der Moskauer Gesellschaft, chap. 2.
15. Dahlmann, Lebenswelt und Lebensweise, pp. 15860; Dnninghaus,
Deutsche in der Moskauer Gesellschaft, chap. 2.
16. Ibid.
17. On the Old Believers in the Russian economy, in particular in
Moscow cf. Alfred J. Rieber, Merchants and Entrepreneurs in Imperial
Russia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982); Jo Ann
Ruckman, The Moscow Business Elite: A Social and Cultural Portrait of
Two Generations, 18401905 (DeKalb, Ill.: Northern Illinois UP, 1984);
Thomas C. Owen, Capitalism and Politics in Russia. A Social History of
the Moscow Merchants, 18551905 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1981);
Galina N. Ulianova, Old Believers and New Entrepreneurs: Religious
Belief and Ritual in Merchant Moscow, in James L. West and Jurii A.
Petrov (eds), Merchant Moscow. Images of Russias Vanished Bourgeoisie
(Princeton: Princeton UP, 1998), pp. 6171; Manfred Hildermeier,
Alter Glaube und Neue Welt: Zur Sozialgeschichte des Raskol im 18.
und 19. Jahrhundert, in Jahrbcher fr Geschichte Osteuropas N.F. 38
(1990), pp. 50425; V.V. Kerov, Konfessionalno-etnicheskie faktory
staroobriadcheskogo predprinimatelstva, in Ekonomicheskaia istoriia
Rossii XIXXX vv.: sovremennyi vzgliad (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2000), pp.
25464. In exile after 1917, one younger Moscow merchant wrote a
collective portrait of this world of the Moscow entrepreneurs: Pavel A.
Buryshkin, Moskva kupecheskaia (New York, 1954; reprinted Moscow:
Sovremennik, 1991).
18. Jurij A. Petrov, Deutsche Unternehmer in Moskau: Das Handelshaus
Wogau & Co., in Dahlmann et al. (eds), . . . das einzige Land, pp.
379409; Dahlmann, Lebenswelt und Lebensweise, pp. 14750.
Before the Great War 27

19. Dahlmann, Lebenswelt und Lebensweise, p. 146; Thompstone, Organisa-

tion, pp. 41618.
20. Dahlmann, Lebenswelt und Lebensweise, p. 144.
21. Ibid., pp. 1445.
22. Ibid., pp. 1456.
23. Andreas Ruperti, Erlebtes in Russland (unpublished), pp. 79; Walter
Marc, Lebenserinnerungen (unpublished), p. 59.
24. Dahlmann, Lebenswelt und Lebensweise, pp. 1556; Ruperti, Erlebtes, pp.
1821; cf. Joseph E. Bradley, Voluntary Associations, Civic Culture
and Obshchestvennost in Moscow, in Edith W. Clowes, Samuel D.
Kassow and James L. West (eds), Between Tsar and People. Educated
Society and the Quest for Public Identity in Late Imperial Russia (Princeton:
Princeton UP, 1991), pp. 13148.
25. Marc, Lebenserinnerungen, pp. 13-15; Ruperti, Erlebtes, pp. 27.
26. Georg Spies, Erinnerungen eines Ausland-Deutschen (St Petersburg:
Olearius, 2002), pp. 12930. The rst edition of the memoirs of one
of the leading gures among the German industrialists in Russia
in the interwar-period, mainly active in Rumania, was published in
Spiesssche Familienzeitung, Beilageband II (Marburg, 19261930).
27. Petrov, Deutsche Unternehmer in Moskau, in Dahlmann et al.
(eds), . . . das einzige Land; cf. Waltraud Bayer, Die Moskauer Medici.
Der russische Brger als Mzen 18501917 (Vienna: Bhlau, 1996);
Mikhail Gavlin, Rossiiskie Medichi (Moscow: Terra, 1996).
28. Gerhart von Schulze-Gvernitz, Volkswirtschaftliche Studien aus Russland
(Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1899), p. 96; Manfred Hildermeier,
Brgertum und Stadt in Russland 17601870. Rechtliche Lage und soziale
Struktur (Cologne: Bhlau, 1986) p. 528.
29. 75 Jahre: 18571932. Gesellschaft der Krhnholm-Manufaktur fr
Baumwollfabrikate (Narva, 1933), p. 13; Krengolmskaia manufaktura
1857-1907. Istoricheskoe opisanie (St Petersburg, 1907); Dahlmann,
Ludwig Knoop, pp. 3712.
30. Ibid., pp. 372-73; Jo Ann Ruckman, The Moscow Business Elite, p. 54;
Alfred J. Rieber, Merchants and Entrepreneurs in Imperial Russia, p. 210.
31. 75 Jahre: 18571932: Gesellschaft der Krhnholm-Manufaktur, pp. 27
8; Ustav tovarishchestva krengolmskoi manufaktury bumazhnykh izdelii
(St Petersburg, 1885); Erik Amburger, Das neuzeitliche Narva als
Wirtschaftsfaktor zwischen Russland und Estland, in idem, Fremde
und Einheimische im Wirtschafts- und Kulturleben des neuzeitlichen
Russland. Ausgewhlte Aufstze, ed. by Klaus Zernack (Wiesbaden:
Steiner, 1982), p. 114.
32. Wolde, Knoop, p. 57; Dahlmann, Ludwig Knoop, pp. 3767.
33. Dahlmann, Ludwig Knoop, p. 376; Wolde, Knoop, p. 57; Ulla Tesch,
Jutta Langer, Knoops Park. Eine historische Parkanlage in Bremen-Nord
(Bremen: Hauschild, 1999).
28 Dittmar Dahlmann

34. Thompstone, Organisation, pp. 41618; Dahlmann, Ludwig Knoop,

pp. 545.
35. Dokladnaia zapiska russkikh fabrikantov Ego Vysokoprevoskhoditelstvu
Gospodinu Ministru nansov (Rossiiskii Gosudarstvennyi istoricheskii
Arkhiv, St Petersburg, fond 560, opis 16, delo 509, p. 30 (reverse
side) no date [30 March 1877]; Amburger, Deutsche in Staat, pp. 142
3, 247; Thompstone, Organisation, pp. 41718; Dahlmann, Ludwig
Knoop, pp. 556.
36. Amburger, Deutsche in Staat, pp. 1423; Thompstone, Organisation, p.
417; Dahlmann, Ludwig Knoop, p. 55.
37. Schulze-Gvernitz, Volkswirtschaftliche Studien, p. 91.
38. Jurii Petrov, Russian-German Economic Relations in the Nineteenth
Early Twentieth Centuries. The Problem of Export of Human
Capital, in Hans Pohl (ed.), Competition and Cooperation of Enter-
prises on National and International Markets (NineteenthTwentieth
Century) (Stuttgart: Steiner, 1997), pp. 6571; Russian version in
Ekonomicheskaia istoriia. Predprinimatelstvo i predprinimateli (Moscow,
1999), pp. 6379.
39. Thompstone, Organisation, pp. 41618.
40. Schulze-Gvernitz, Volkswirtschaftliche Studien, p. 90; cf. Dahlmann,
Ludwig Knoop, p. 378 for other judgements on Knoop.
41. Klaus Heller, Neue russische Literatur zur Geschichte des privaten
Unternehmertums in Russland, in Jahrbcher fr Geschichte Osteuropas
N.F. 48 (2000), pp. 26472; Istoriia predprinimatelstva v Rossii, 2 vols
(Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2000).
42. Cf. the volumes on German entrepreneurs in Russia in footnotes 1 &
3 above.
43. Dittmar Dahlmann, Bildung, Wissenschaft und Revolution. Die
russische Intelligencija im Deutschen Reich um die Jahrhundertwende,
in Gangolf Hbinger and Wolfgang J. Mommsen (eds), Intellektuelle
im Deutschen Kaiserreich (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1993), pp. 145
44. Cf. Aleksandr A. Morozov, M.V. Lomonosov. Put k zrelosti 17111741
(Moscow and Leningrad: Izd. Akademii Nauk SSSR, 1962); Claudie
Weill, Convivialit et sociabilit des tudiants russes en Allemagne
19001914, in Cahiers du Monde russe et sovitique 32 (1991), 3, pp.
34968; eadem, La question des trangers: les tudiants russes
en Allemagne, 19001914, in Le Mouvement Social, 120 (1982) pp.
7794; Weill, Les tudiants russes en Allemagne 19001914, in
Cahiers du Monde russe et sovitique 20 (1979), 2, pp. 20325, cf. Robert
C. Williams, Culture in Exile. Russian Emigrs in Germany, 18811941
(Ithaca, London: Cornell UP, 1972), chap. 1; Botho Brachmann,
Russische Sozialdemokraten in Berlin 18951914 mit Bercksichtigung der
Studentenbewegung in Preuen und Sachsen (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag,
Before the Great War 29

45. Dahlmann, Bildung, p. 146.

46. Ibid., p. 147.
47. Cf. Hubert Treiber and Karl Sauerland (eds), Heidelberg im
Schnittpunkt intellektueller Kreise. Zur Topographie der geistigen Geselligkeit
eines Weltdorfes 18501950 (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1995);
Willy Birkenmaier (ed.), Heidelberg am Schnittpunkt russischer
Lebenslufe, in Russica Palatina 33 (Heidelberg 1999); ibid.,
Biographisches Lexikon des russischen Heidelberg, in Russica
Palatina 27, 2nd edn (Heidelberg 1998); Gesa Bock, Studenten des
Russischen Reiches an der Universitt Heidelberg (1862/631914),
unpublished M.A. thesis (University of Heidelberg, 1991).
48. Dittmar Dahlmann, Die Provinz whlt. Russlands Konstitutionell-
Demokratische Partei und die Dumawahlen 19061912 (Cologne: Bhlau,
1996), pp. 78, 359; Biographisches Lexikon des russischen Heidelberg, pp.
60, 64, 67, 133. Kalantarov and Svatikov nished their studies in
Heidelberg with a Ph.D. dissertation supervised by Georg Jellinek,
ibid., pp. 156, 161.
49. Wolfgang J. Mommsen and Dittmar Dahlmann (eds), Max Weber.
Zur Russischen Revolution von 1905. Schriften und Reden 19051912
(Tbingen: Mohr, 1988) (= Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe, vol. 10:
hereafter MWG 10), pp. 714, 284; Max Weber, The Russian Revolutions,
transl. and ed. by Gordon C. Wells and Peter Baehr (Cambridge:
Polity Press, 1995), p. 32, note 1; Susan Heuman, Kistiakovsky. The
Struggle for National and Constitutional Rights in the Last Years of Tsarism
(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, 1998),
pp. 27-29; B. Kistiakovskii in Heidelberg (18.4.190112.4.1911), in
Russica Palatina 33 (1999), pp. 80102.
50. Webers article Zur Lage der brgerlichen Demokratie in Russ-
land was published in a Russian translation Istoricheskii ocherk
osvoboditelnogo dvizheniia v Rossii i polozhenie burzhuaznoi
demokratii in Kiev by the publishing company I.I. Chokolov.
Kistiakovskii was born in Kiev and had lived there as a political activist
for the liberal movement together with his wife in 1904 and 1905
before he came to Heidelberg and became acquainted with Max
Weber, MWG 10, p. 78; Heuman, Kistiakovsky, p. 27.
51. Bogdan Kistiakovskii, Georg Ellinek kak myslitel i chelovek, in
Russkaia Mysl 32, 1911, pp.7786.
52. Paul Honigsheim, Max Weber in Heidelberg, in Ren Knig and
Johannes Winckelmann (eds), Max Weber zum Gedchtnis. Materialien
und Dokumente zur Bewertung von Werk und Persnlichkeit (Cologne:
Westdeutscher Verlag, 1963, 2nd edn 1985), pp. 161271, here p.
53. MWG 10, p. 7015; Willy Birkenmaier, Max Webers Rede zum
Jubilum der russischen Lesehalle, in Russica Palatina 21 (1992), pp.
30 Dittmar Dahlmann

54. Gustav Radbruch Papers, Handschriftenabteilung University of

Heidelberg, Heid. HS.3716. Cf. Gustav Radbruch, Briefe, ed. by Erich
Wolf (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1968), p. 31: letter from
Radbruch to Karl Jaspers, 29 December 1912.
55. Dahlmann, Bildung, pp. 1545 and pp. 2345; Rdiger Kramme,
Philosophische Kultur als Programm. Die Konstituierungsphase des
Logos, in Treiber and Sauerland (eds), Heidelberg im Schnittpunkt,
pp. 11949; Michail V. Bezrodnyi, Zur Geschichte des russischen
Neukantianismus. Die Zeitschrift Logos und ihre Redakteure, in
Zeitschrift fr Slawistik 37 (1992), pp. 489511.
56. Dahlmann, Bildung, p. 234, note 64.
57. Ibid., p. 154.
58. Ibid., pp. 1545.
59. Ibid., p. 155.
60. Edith Hanke, Prophet des Unmodernen. Leo N. Tolstoi als Kulturkritiker in der
deutschen Diskussion der Jahrhundertwende (Tbingen: Niemeyer, 1993);
eadem, Das spezisch intellektualistische Erlsungsbedrfnis Oder
Warum Intellektuelle Tolstoi lasen, in Hbinger and Mommsen
(eds), Intellektuelle im Kaiserreich, pp. 15871.

Thomas Mann and Others:

Russophilism and Sovietophilia
Among German Conservatives

On the evening of 21 June 1941 John Colville, private sec-

retary to Winston Churchill, noted that Churchill again and again
repeated what a pleasure it was to see Germany and Russia nally
ghting one another; and that this was perhaps the happiest evening
of his life. That pleasure was of course perfectly understandable
because at that time Britain stood with her back against the wall.
But it is interesting that Churchill did not speak about Hitler and
Stalin, or Nazism and Bolshevism, but about Germany and Russia.
So it was not just an acute danger but a longstanding nightmare
from which he was released.
What were the main motives which resulted in Barbarossa? In
German history after the Second World War, it has become quite
commonplace to regard Hitlers Ostraumpolitik and its racist prac-
tices of enslavement and extermination of the so-called Slavic
subhumans (Untermenschen) as a culminating point in a long-
established tradition of Russophobia and Slavophobia, which after
the 1917/18 revolution appeared to merge with the new tendencies
of anti-Bolshevism, sharpened by a virulent anti-Semitism directed
mainly against Jewish Bolshevism. Thus Russophobia, anti-
Bolshevism and anti-Semitism are widely regarded as a natural or
logical triad.
In this respect liberal- or left-minded German historians gen-
erally share the same perspective, as for example Ernst Nolte,
who constructed his notorious causal nexus between the rise of
Nazism to power in Germany 1933 and the acute moods of anti-
Bolshevism, Russophobia and anti-Semitism after 1917.

32 Gerd Koenen

In my view, having dealt for many years with German reactions

to the revolution in Russia after 1917, these are retrospective
interpretations to which I would strongly object. The special subject
of this chapter conservative Russophilism and Sovietophilia is
right at the centre of this discussion.
To come back to my initial anecdote about Churchill, I am fully
aware that the British view, in which Russia and Prussia have
always been under suspicion of a potentially fatal collusion, runs
much in the direction of my argument. But as I would also like to
demonstrate, this view is a little too harsh and too brittle.

There was an old afnity between Russia and Prussia, although in

terms of personal and cultural relations on the level of the two
ruling bureaucracies it was easy to nd rather strained relations.
Even Bismarck is said to have had a very sceptical view of Russia
after the social reforms of Alexander II in the 1860s. He sometimes
spoke about his nightmares of a red bureaucracy in power in St
Petersburg. But this did not essentially change his view of Russia as
a power that could never be domesticated or defeated by Germany.
It was therefore his raison dtat to never allow the newly formed
German Empire to engage in any serious conict with Russia.
The downside of such dominating Prussian policies of Rckver-
sicherung from Russia was a violent Russophobia among the liberal
and democratic forces, for whom the Russian Tsar was still the head
of the Holy Alliance, and stood behind all reactionary powers and
repressions in Europe, thus creating violent hatred which was later
transferred to the emerging Social Democratic Party. As is well
known, some of the ercest Russophobes in Germany (and later
in London) were Karl Marx and his inhibited General, Frederick
Engels, who longed for war with Russia as the signal for a European
revolution. But that is another story.

Around the turn of the century there was the rst major change of
the signposts, which of course was related to the change of German
imperial policies after Bismarck under Wilhelm II, towards inter-
national politics (Weltpolitik). For one thing there was a growing
mood of dissonance among the Prussian gentry against Russia, not
only because of the economic quarrels about the export of grain
and other agrarian goods, but also through general disappointment
and mistrust towards their fast-developing and industrializing
eastern neighbour. Added to that were Prussias military alliance
Thomas Mann and Others 33

with France, growing social instability (long before 1905) and again
the continual mounting German phobic and pan-Slavic tendencies
among the Russian public.
This mistrust and bad feeling were now systematically nurtured
by a whole class of Baltic migr intellectuals and ideologues, who
for more than a decade were the leading commentators within the
conservative press. Under the guidance of the rst ordinary pro-
fessor for Russian history at Berlin University, Theodor Schieman
believed that these tendencies of Russophobia had been system-
atically worked out. The central argument of Schiemann was that
Russia, because of its inner heterogeneity, would always be an
expansionist colossus, whose position would become more and
more hostile to Germany as her only serious rival on the Continent,
and also because of her massive inferiority complex. Schiemanns
strongest arguments were long quotations he took from the Russian
press, in which the nal battle between Germans (Teutons) and
Slavs was again and again evoked.
But Schiemann who in fact was never able to form a school
found after 1908 a potent rival in his former scholar Otto
Hoetzsch, who as a historian argued on a much more sound and
scientic basis, and revived the old admiration and aspiration of
German conservatives for a state-induced and state-controlled way
of industrialization, which he saw in full development in Russia.
It was specically the reforms of Stolypin after the Russian defeat
against Japan, and the Revolution of 1905, which Hoetzsch saw as a
demonstration that Russia was neither invincible as a potential foe
nor incapable of a dynamic development on her own. For him it
was clear that Germany and Russia were natural allies in a world of
rising imperialist tensions.
In fact it was much more Otto Hoetzsch who became the real
founder of German Eastern European Studies, rather than Theodor
Schiemann, so much so that in autumn 1914, months after the
outbreak of the First World War, Schiemann was replaced by his
rival Otto Hoetzsch as the chief commentator of Russian affairs in
the semi-ofcial conservative newspaper Kreuz-Zeitung.
The point of conict was very clear: Schiemann as a fervent
Russophobe had to argue in favour of peace, and even of a future
alliance with Great Britain. Otto Hoetzsch naturally argued against
a bold peace agreement with Russia, even at the cost of Austria,
which could have made Germany the hegemonistic power of central
and western Europe, and against the combination of forces of both
34 Gerd Koenen

modernized monarchies which could warrant a bright future for

Germany among the elite world powers. This became more and
more the mainstream opinion in the face of the protracting world

But we have advanced a little bit too quickly in following the major
tendencies of these times. When I write of the change of signposts
around 1900, this did not only refer to the conservatives, but also
and perhaps more importantly to the national-liberal middle spec-
trum of the bourgeois parties and to the leading representatives
of German industry. Take for example, Walther Rathenau the
young heir of the mighty electro-technical company AEG, who
later became an eminent writer, the organizer of German wartime
industry, and for a short yet decisive period in the early 1920s the
foreign minister of the Weimar Republic, who signed the treaty
of Rapallo in 1922 but was murdered soon afterwards. Rathenau
wrote in an early article in 1898 on the Trans-Atlantic Warning
Signals of a new entente on the seas between Great Britain and the
emerging United States of America: what is left open at the table
of this partie carre are the corners, which could only be occupied
by the Germans and the Slavs, who had already inherited the one-
time position of the Romans, i.e. France.
More astonishing than this rather sober strategic thought was
the tone, in which Rathenau spoke of Russia as a young giant,
whose feet covers half of Europe and half of Asia and whose breast
and head are shielded by the invincible palladium of his orthodox
faith. The great spectacle of current and future times, Rathenau
continued, would still be the battle between Russia and Britain
about world hegemony. He said, For us Germans, all signs point
to the East and to its ascendancy.
This view was of course not representative in all respects; but
it marked a characteristic change of traditional views within the
German bourgeoisie and middle class.

That change was not only induced by political considerations,

but also by the astonishing rise of Russia in the same period as
a cultural nation (Kulturnation). Besides the emergence of the
world-famous, often avant-gardistic Russian painters, musicians,
dancers and actors, there was also Russian literature, which
appeared, as Thomas Mann put it later, as a miracle of world
culture, and which early in his short novel Tonio Krger in 1904, he
labelled the holy Russian literature.
Thomas Mann and Others 35

This special note of devotion leads us into the heart of our

subject. The interest for Russian literature in Germany at this time
was not so much based on the mere artistic substance, but on the
philosophical and religious content of the social prophecies, which
were supposedly to be found here. Behind the Homeric gure of
the legendary preacher Tolstoi appeared the more modern, gloomy
and ambiguous gure of Dostoevskii who found his posthumous
position at the side of Nietzsche. Meanwhile a third gure appeared,
the juvenile proletarian autodidact Maksim Gorkii, whose stories
of barefooted heroes and naturalist-existentialist pieces like Night
Asylum caused a furore in German theatres.
This was an international phenomenon, but one which made
an especially deep impression on Germany in the pre-war, war
and post-war periods. To be more precise, it became an inherent
part of German ideology itself during these years. You can hardly
nd one important author or artist in Germany for whom in the
words of Alfred Dblin the meeting with Dostoevskii was not an
epoch-making event. More so, Russia became for many of them
an artistic dreamland, where a nave, believing, natural and gifted
people, cruelly treated and suppressed by their rulers, vacillating
between upheaval and faithfulness, formed together with its great
artists and poets the essential and true Russia, which had her
future still ahead of her.
If this was a form of romanticism, and it was, then it was already
quite a modern one. The people in this picture no longer bore
the shape of the old muzhik, but of the barefoot proletarian and
especially after the events of 1905 of the worker and the soldier.
Even the Social Democrats in Germany, who had been rather
mistrustful of the terrorist and anarchist movements in Russia in
the 1880s and 1890s, were now compelled to acknowledge that the
social uprising of 1905, in the words of Kautsky, had up to then
been the most explicit proletarian character of all revolutions.
It was Walther Rathenau, who in his pre-war writings in the
spirit of cultural pessimism (as in The Mechanization of the Mind,
1913) developed the metaphor of a migration of nations from
underneath, which was in his view also a migration from east to
west, a silent Slavization of Prussia and Germany. So you nd
at this time, the years before the War, a complete picture of the
great split between the old bourgeois West on one hand and the
young proletarian East on the other hand, the latter becoming
dominant after the War.
36 Gerd Koenen

Even though in August 1914 the First World War began with a
declaration of war against Russia, it had very little to do with any
specic Russophobia in Germany, and not even with direct conicts
between the two countries, but was thanks to the constellation of
powers in general. The rst round of war propaganda against the
barbaric or despotic tsarist regime, the Russian abomination
(Russengreuel) in Eastern Prussia etc., was rather utilitarian and
necessary to engage the wavering Austrians, to force the Social
Democrats into the War, and to denounce the Western powers as
helpers of the reactionary Tsardom. But the real hate propaganda
was reserved for the treacherous Brits, when they entered the
This war brought an incredible and spontaneous outburst of
verse and prose, endless literature, in which nearly every eminent
mind in the country took part. To speak about propaganda is an
understatement. It was an authentic intellectual production, in
which Germany as a nation reinvented herself in a substantialist
way as the country of the midst (das Land der Mitte) the midst of
Europe, the midst of the world, the midst of mankind.
But if you look closer into these so-called Ideas of 1914, they
were nearly exclusively developed in contrast to the Ideas of
1789 or to British utilitarianism. The War developed mentally
and intellectually into a conict between Germany and the West.
Every constituent notion of Western social and political thinking
was surpassed or overreached by a complementary German notion.
Civilization stood against culture, the individual against the
personality, the bourgeois against the Brger, formal citizen
rights against moral law, and so on. And very early on it was
commonplace, even among people of conservative or liberal
orientation, to speak about German socialism as the antithesis to
Western capitalism, not only as an exceptional measure in war-
time, but as a factual and higher mode of production and social
life in the future.
In this German war ideology, as we might call it, the ofcial tsarist
Russia was not a worthwhile antagonist, because it represented no
universal ideal. On the other hand there was an internal opponent
of this regime, namely the suppressed Russian people, who from
the mouth of its great poets and prophets represented a Russian
ideal of all-human importance. This distinction between the
people and the rulers could not be plausibly made in the face of
the Western democracies. Here in the West the battle lines were
Thomas Mann and Others 37

xed and established in the eld of political will and ideology

as well as on the battleeld. In the East, by contrast, everything
seemed possible. Germany could assign herself a liberating mission,
with her ideology of the individuality of the people which had
to be defended against the counterbalancing forces of the tsarist
autocracy or of Western democracy.
Moreover pieces of Russian thinking became an integral part of
the newly formed German ideology or German ideal, because
they (especially the writings of Dostoevskii) seemed to formulate
the sharpest antithesis to Western ideas. The classical text in this
regard was certainly Thomas Manns Reections of an Apolitical,
which centred on the problem of the German loneliness, and the
world-offensiveness of Germany (Weltanstigkeit Deutschlands).
The answer may be found in Dostoevskiis description of Germany
as the protesting Reich in its universal antagonism against Rome,
which was a metaphor for the Western world.
Thomas Mann worked for three full years on his text, nally
nishing in December 1917, just weeks after the Bolshevist takeover.
He referred emphatically to German-Russian congeniality, whose
real importance would be shown only after the War: What an
afnity these two national souls share in their relation to Europe,
to the West, to Civilization, to politics, to democracy! And
he continued: No! Whenever soul and mind should form the
basis and the legitimation of power politics and alliances, then
Russia and Germany belong together: their understanding . . . is
a necessity of world politics, if the union of the Anglo-Saxons will
prove permanent.
The text, nished on the day of the armistice between the
German and Bolshevik governments in Brest in December 1917,
closed with the exclamation: Peace with Russia! Peace rst with
her! And the war, if it is to continue, should go on alone against
the West, against the trois pays libres, against civilization, against
literature, politics and the rethoric bourgeois!
We have no method to objectively evaluate the reprentativeness
of certain opinions a representativeness, which Thomas Mann
has always claimed for himself because of his sensitivity for the
Zeitgeist, as he would put it. But one thing we can say for sure,
referring to the passages I have cited, it would have been absolutely
inadmissible to speak in such terms about any other enemy country.
Is not the Russian the most humane among human beings? Is
his literature not the most humane of all holy of humaneness.
38 Gerd Koenen

Like Thomas Manns attitude to the Russians after 1917, his

brother Heinrich couldnt and wouldnt ever speak about the
French. Heinrich Manns famous essay about Zola (1915) was a
metaphorical invocation of the value of an open and critical mind,
not a proclamation of spiritual afnity of two peoples. Thomas
Manns anger at the writings of his brother Heinrich was not
directed so much against the verbal text, but against the sub-text,
which appeared to him an act of literary subversion, opening the
doors to a spiritual invasion from the West.

The work of Thomas Mann was in any case quite characteristic of

the German reaction to the revolution in Russia in 1917. The
February Revolution, with the establishment of the provisional
government, had been quickly labelled as a British revolution on
Russian soil, whereas the radical opposition movements around
the Soviets and Lenins party were generally regarded with satis-
faction, as an expression of the real will of the Russian people for
peace and land. The Bolshevik seizure of power in November 1917
seemed moreover to be a victory of German weapons and peace
propaganda. And even the Bolshevik program of war communism
was taken by most German observers as an outbreak of a natural or
nave Russian egalitarianism and communitarianism. Even if it was
bound to fail, it could be regarded as a desperate attempt to gain a
hold on the disrupted economy, or even as a touching experiment
which later on could be pragmatically modied.
In the summer of 1918, after serious defeats on the Western
Front, strikes and mutinies, the fear of revolution and Bolshevism
suddenly gripped the ruling elites of the Reich, including the
military high command under Ludendorff himself, in the clearest
and even hysterical way, there was of course an acute change of
mood. But even in this period I cannot detect this triad of anti-
Bolshevism, anti-Semitism and Russophobia at work.

The strongest opponents of the Bolshevik-Spartakist upheavals in

January and March 1919 were in fact the majority Social Democrats,
who saw Bolshevism as a kind of Asian Socialism, or merely
despotism. Their fears about the possible total disintegration
of the German state and society, which now lay open to the East,
were so strong that they, together with parts of the catholic Zentrum
party and the Liberal Democrats, were nally ready to subscribe
the harsh peace conditions in Versailles.
Thomas Mann and Others 39

This led to a split with those active forces, who were organized
in early 1919 as an anti-Bolshevist League and fought in the
front line against the Spartakist uprisings. The central gure
was a Catholic activist named Eduard Stadtler, who had followed
the revolutionary developments in Russia as a prisoner of war.
He returned to Germany with the xed idea that in the event of
a political-military collapse it was absolutely necessary to defend
Germany against the wave of anarchist dissolution and moral
depravation coming from the East, with the spectre of hungry,
bare-footed, desperate soldiers Germans as well as Russians,
Latvians, Hungarians and Jews guided by fanatical agitators. He
also thought that an effective defence would only be possible if
the new German parties and authorities took up the spiritual and
intellectual contents and motivations of Bolshevism in a positive
way that of a German socialism which would be more organized,
civilized and constructive. It could be said that Stadtler (without
even knowing anything about Mussolini and his policies in 1919)
held a corporatist view of a social dictatorship, and in this respect
may be regarded as the gure of a German Mussolini manqu.
This type of activist and positive anti-Bolshevism was never
successful and in 191920 became part of the so-called young con-
servativism, which was not then intended as an activist movement
but as a strictly elitist grouping. It merged the Ideas of 1914 with
those of the so-called Jugendbewegung (youth movement). The real
spiritual leader was Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, who since 1905
had been the German editor for Dostoevskii together with the
Russian religious philosopher Dmitrii Merezhkovskii and as such
was in the forefront of the efforts to formulate the doctrines of an
integral nationalism. Sentences like Every nation is battling for
its own way of development, its place in the world, as a way to God,
or Every nation has its own socialism were the teachings which
Moeller allegedly took from Dostoevskii.
Moeller transferred the vague spiritual inclinations to the East,
which were predominant in the rst years of the Weimar Republic,
into a perspective of a German political and military breakout, out
of the system of Versailles and towards the young nations. This
was not only incompatible with the perspectives of a leading part of
the German military, the Reichswehr, but also of a large intellectual
current with many prominent gures such as Thomas Mann, who
in the rst years of the Weimar Republic was quite attached to
these young conservative groupings, until he revealed himself as a
40 Gerd Koenen

republican at the end of 1922 after the murder of Rathenau. Then

there was Oswald Spengler with his ideas of a Prussian socialism,
which under the conditions of a new Russian pseudo-morphosis
the Bolsheviks were in fact the heirs of the Petrinian reforms
could lead to a new combination of Prussia and Russia as the
focus of a new world civilization, an antagonist of the Declining
Add to this picture the ideologues of the Jugendbewegung like
Eugen Diederichs, who was the editor of the Collected Works of
Tolstoi in Germany before and during the War, and developed
his own ideas about the future fusion of the Germanic and Slavic
peoples, whose characters he described in terms of male and
female. Or Carl Schmitt . . . Or Ernst Jnger . . .
Were these young conservatives or, as they were also described,
revolutionary conservatives, predecessors of the Nazis? Yes and
no. Yes, because some of them were founding members of the Nazi
movement or became active participants. But many others were
ousted, like Otto Hoetzsch and his Osteuropa-Gesellschaft, which
in the 1920s and early 1930s had done a lot of serious scientic
research, often in partnership with Soviet institutions; or like
Eduard Stadtler, the former anti-Bolshevist activist, who was now
treated as a sectarian fascist. The Nazis themselves drew a clear
line between the so-called Ostorientierung (eastern orientation)
of the 1920s and their own Ostpolitik, which called for Lebensraum
im Osten (living space in the East) and for a denite change of
perspectives for German imperialism. And rightly so, since some
of the revolutionary conservatives of the 1920s were later to be
found among the military conspirators of 1944 who attempted to
assassinate Hitler, or even as members of the Red Chapel, the
Soviet-orientated spy organization, e.g. Arvid Harnack.

There were also strong Russophile leanings and inclinations

among the nationalist and anti-Semitic movements after 1918. Very
often, the chief ideologues were Baltic emigrants who stood in
close contact with the milieus of White-Russian emigrs. This was
true for Alfred Rosenberg as one of the leading ideologues of the
Nazi movement, as well as for Ludwig Mller von Hausen, who was
the German editor of the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
In these writings, Russia and Germany shared the common
destiny of having fallen under Jewish occupation, whose origins
Thomas Mann and Others 41

can be traced back to Wall Street or the City of London. Jewish

Bolshevism, especially in the gure of Trotskii, who was presented
as the true ruler of Russia, appeared as a kind of foreign domination
by Jewish revolutionaries who had mostly come from America, with
the clear mission to extradite the country to the Western nancial
capital. So the main strategic idea in these circles, and also in the
early Nazi party, was the common liberation of Russia and Germany,
as the two most anti-Semitic nations, from Jewish domination,
with the perspective of forming a continental bloc with strong,
dictatorial, national regimes against the victors of the First World
War, the powers of Versailles.
The same perspective was also to be found, in an even more
romantic and Russophile version, among the left, socialist wing
of the Nazi movement, represented by the Strasser brothers, or
Joseph Goebbels. As a student of German literature the latter had
grown up in an intellectual mood shaped completely by Nietzsche
and Dostoevskii. His early novel Michael, written in the fashion of
expressionism, is the story of a German and a Russian revolutionary.
And as late as 1925 Goebbels spoke and wrote about the common
battle of a seemingly more national-minded Soviet Russia with Nazi
Germany, which were both seen primarily as a front of the young
proletarian peoples of a mythically enlarged East against the old
bourgeois countries of the West.
It was Hitler, who after his return from prison, reversed all these
visions in his book Mein Kampf and proclaimed the change of the
thousand-year-old migration of Germanic peoples to the south
and west i.e. towards Rome back to the East. Germany should
no longer try to conquer world markets or faraway colonies, but
should acquire agrarian soil for the Reich and its human potential.
And here the fate itself shows us a huge empire to the East under
Jewish domination, which is bound to fall apart, since all Aryan
elites have been exterminated.
This manifesto in Mein Kampf never became a political reality, not
even in 1941, since the precondition of this battle for living space
was an alliance, or at least an arrangement, with Great Britain, and
the idea of a breakdown of the Soviet Union, caused by Jewish
domination under Stalins rule, had become thoroughly un-
convincing. Hitler had undone the tie of the former conservative
or nationalist eastern orientations in Germany, which could never
be spelled through in terms of real politics.
42 Gerd Koenen

The question remains: what has been the real impact of these
different, half leftist, half conservative eastern orientations in
Germany before and after the First World War, and the Russian
In the elds of ne arts, literature, music, lm or architecture,
they were part of the astonishing fertility and diversity of the
German culture in the precarious times of the Weimar Republic.
And as Karl Schlgel and others have shown, there was still a
strong element of personal relationship, be it in the sense of an
old, renewed familiarity or of a fertile new differentiation. Berlin
was in particular the meeting point of all the migrations and
inuences, the collisions and collusions between Germany and the
new Russia.
This was in a way a last salute to a whole era of rather dense
cultural relations, a desperate attempt to ignore or to overcome
the cultural and political drift or split which began to run through
the Continent. But the virtual possibility of an eastern orientation
enamed the fantasies and was, in sober retrospective judgement,
an element of the non-capacity and non-preparedness of the new
Weimar Republic to arrange with the changed world situation,
which was not so unfavourable and even potentially promising.
Germany could not decide between the factual socio-economical
and cultural integration to the West, and the seemingly deeper
and more promising prospects of an Eastern orientation. So this
became part of the revisionist complex of the Weimar years, a
moment of German irredentism of the time, or as the Hungarian
social philosopher Istvan Bib put it, of German hysteria.

Berlin: Stepmother Among

Russian Cities1

There is a valid reason why there is hardly a visible trace

of the hundred thousand refugees from the former Russian Empire
who ed to Germany during the years between the wars, as Berlin
became the capital city beyond the borders of Russia. Nowhere
was the situation of the Russian Diaspora so paradoxical, nowhere
was the dilemma of Russian emigrants shown as dramatically as it
was in Germany, where they sought asylum. The Russian emigrants
came into what had been the enemy country between 1914
and 1918; with the help of the Germans, Russian revolutionaries
were conveyed in a sealed train to Petrograd; with the peace of
Brest-Litovsk on 3 March 1918, Germany forced Soviet Russia into
signing a humiliating peace treaty. The Russian refugees came into
a country that had surprised the world on l6 April 1922 by opening
formal diplomatic relations with Russia in the Treaty of Rapallo,
thereby pulling the rug from under every claim of emigration
based on the representation of Russian interests. They came into a
country that from 1918 to 1933 was devastated by crises, civil war-
like conditions and separatist movements that differed little from
those from which the Russian refugees had just escaped. They were
migrs in a country that in 1931 itself became the source of a great
refugee movement, that started the Second World War in 1939, and
in 1941 launched its attack on the Soviet Union, in which Russians
were liable to be eliminated as sub-humans. There was no point
during the Russian Diaspora of the inter-war years when it was
not abundantly clear that emigration did not mean salvation, but
just one of the various forms of existence in the European Thirty
Years War; at no point in time during the Russian Diaspora was

44 Karl Schlgel

there such intense contact between Red and White Russia as in

Berlin, which at times represented a caravanserei both of migrs
and of the vanguards of Soviet Russia in the heart of Europe. The
splendour and misery of Russian emigration in Germany in those
years is characterized by this constellation.
There is hardly anything left of the once strong Russian com-
munity of the inter-war period following the rule of the National
Socialists, the Second World War and the subsequent partition
of Germany. There are generally few personal connections and
little continuity in life histories between the earlier migrs and
the second wave of those who did not return home, which took
place in the 1940s. This is even truer of those Soviet migrs of
the third wave of the 1970s and 1980s. Today there is a steadily
decreasing number of witness to those times.2 Documentary sources
have been damaged severely by war and the division of Germany.
We should be all the more grateful, therefore, for the few works
available that do deal with emigration.3 Of special value are those
documentary collections and anthologies which bear witness to the
intensity and fruitfulness of Russian Berlin as a nodal point of self-
understanding and of cultural exchange between Russians on both
sides of the borders, as well as between Russians and their German
surroundings.4 In the last decade a plethora of individual studies
of important aspects of life in German exile have been produced,
dealing with schools, the lives of church congregations, book and
newspaper publishing, the activities of scientic institutions, as
well as Russian theatre activity in Berlin.5 The Berlin Years play
an important role for almost all the Russian emigrants who were
temporarily in Berlin, and they represent an important source for
the reconstruction of Russian life in Germany.6 Naturally enough,
research concentrates almost exclusively on Berlin, so much so that
we have only scant knowledge of Russian life in the German Russian
provinces, above all in Munich, Dresden, Leipzig, Hamburg and
Wiesbaden. As might be expected, there is a difference between the
work of East and West German historians. Even though important
source materials on the white emigrants lay in East German
archives, historians concentrated almost exclusively on German-
Soviet cultural relationships, and treated the role of the emigrants
only as an aside.7
Those writing earlier works had at their disposal the archives
available in the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States.8
A quantitatively new situation has arisen with the opening up of
Berlin: Stepmother Among Russian Cities 45

the archives in the former Soviet Union and the amalgamation of

the East and West German archives. Thus collections are accessible
to us today that were handed over by migr organizations to the
Historical Foreign Archive in Prague and then taken in 1946 to the
Soviet Union, where they are for the most part stored in the State
Archive of the October Revolution.9 Another important source
awaiting examination are the so-called plundered records which
were spirited away into the Soviet Union after the War, of which only
a minuscule portion has been returned to Germany. These records
offer insight into life within the Russian migr organizations, such
as those of Ukrainians, Georgians, Azerbaijanis, Jews, Turks, White
Russians and others, as well as into their politics in the 1920s, the
1930s and during the Second World War.10
The estimates of the number of Russian emigrants living in
Germany during the inter-war period are very divided. Exact stat-
istics are hard to obtain for several reasons: rstly, not all refugees
registered themselves; secondly, ofcial data from various organiza-
tions and authorities are incomplete; and thirdly, the classication
of the refugees is frequently problematic.
At the end of 1918 there were approximately 1.2 million Russian
soldiers and ofcers in German prisoner-of-war camps. These
captives were supposed to return home after negotiations with the
German-Soviet repatriation commission, yet they were free to stay
in Germany if they so wished. The camps were seen by the differ-
ent sides as a recruiting base: the Soviet Government hoped to
increase the ranks of the Red Army through repatriation, just as
the White Russians hoped to add the POWs to Vrangels army in
southern Russia, and that of Iudenich and Avalov-Bermondt in the
eastern Baltic. The German government was interested in quick
repatriation, fearing dangerous sources of domestic political unrest
in the prison camps, while the representatives of the Entente for a
time blocked the process in the hope of strengthening the White
Armies. Some Russian prisoners of war indeed found their way back
to the front lines in the Russian civil war either on the side of the
Red Army and the German communists, or on the side of the White
Russians and the Germans Freikorps. And, as long as the Russian war
was undecided, Berlin was an outpost of that conict. The nego-
tiations that were opened in 1919 between Moritz Schlesinger and
the Soviet representative of the repatriation committee, Viktor
Kopp, which aimed at opening the way home for German POWs in
Russia, and which presupposed a de facto diplomatic recognition of
46 Karl Schlgel

Soviet Russia, were completed in July 1921. Some 15,000 to 20,000

Russian soldiers, who did not want to return home or had escaped
the attention of the authorities, stayed behind in Germany.11
Aside from the Russian prisoners of war, Germany harboured
refugees who had nished up in the territory of the German
Occupation Army in the East, and who streamed into Germany
proper after the collapse of the eastern front. Another wave of
asylum seekers reached Germany after the defeat of Vrangels
army in November 1920, then in spring 1921, with another wave
arriving via France throughout 1922. The refugees in Germany
were citizens of the former Russian Empire that had now been
broken up into many different sovereign states, such as Finland,
the Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and the Caucasian repub-
lics. Inasmuch as these people had not become citizens of the
newly-formed countries, they possessed only the citizenship of a
non-existent state. The overwhelming majority of the emigrants
thought of themselves merely as temporary refugees until the
downfall of the Bolsheviks from Russia. Scarcely anyone thought
that this provisional situation would acquire permanent status.
They saw themselves accordingly not as emigrants, but rather as
bezhentsy, i.e. temporary refugees. For years they remained unwilling
All estimates have to be seen against this background. For all the
imprecision of the total estimate, the course of Russian immigration
and emigration is quite clear. In May 1919 the German-Russian
Association for the Support and Encouragement of Reciprocal
Trade Relations estimated there were between 60,000 and 80,000
Russians in Germany. According to the calculations of the Russian
Delegation for Prisoners-of-War and Returning Migrants in
Germany there were around 100,000 refugees in 1919. In 1920
the American Red Cross in Germany declared the number of
Russians it supported to be 560,000. The inux of Russian refugees
reached its high point between 1922 and 1923. According to gures
provided by the League of Nations and the German Foreign Ofce
there were approximately 600,000 Russian refugees in Germany
in these two years, of whom some 300,000 had sought asylum in
Berlin alone in 1923.12 In Geneva the Refugee Inspectorate of the
International Labour Ofce put the number of refugees from
Russia for 1925 at 150,000, while the migr organizations own
estimate was approximately 500,000. For 1928 the numbers from
the Refugee Inspectorate continued to indicate around 150,000
Berlin: Stepmother Among Russian Cities 47

Russians in Germany, which by 1933 had decreased to 100,000.

The estimate of 150,000 Russians in Berlin in 1935 possibly reects
the self-interest of the Russian Trust in Berlin in boosting its
importance with inated numbers, yet it may be taken as a fact that
a considerable Russian community existed in Germany even after
1933.13 The later sharp increase of Russians in Germany after the
war against the Soviet Union was not, of course, attributable to the
inux of Russian migrs from other European countries, although
there were some, but rather to the circa 5.7 million members of the
Soviet armed forces captured by the Wehrmacht by the end of the
War, together with the two million slave labourers from the Soviet
Union. Out of these ranks were recruited General Andrei Vlasovs
volunteer units that fought alongside the Wehrmacht against the
Red Army.14
Denite caesuras are discernible in the migration pattern: there
are inuxes in 1919 and, above all, in 19223, and reverse move-
ments after 1923 and 1933. The greatest concentration of emi-
grants was in Berlin, but communities of several thousand Russians
were to be found in Danzig, Hamburg, Munich, Dresden, Leipzig,
and even in the traditional sites of Russian settlement in Germany:
Wiesbaden and Baden-Baden. Upon closer inspection the Russian
emigration is actually a migration of the people of Greater
Russia, in other words a multi-ethnic one involving a great number
of competing associations and organizations. After the Russians,
the Ukrainians, the Russian-Germans and the Russian Jews had the
largest communities.15
In Germany the interests of the emigrants vis--vis the German
authorities were represented up to the resumption of diplomatic
relations in 1922 by the Russian Delegation in Berlin, housed
at Unter den Zelten 16. After Rapallo this was transformed into
an Intermediary Ofce for Russian Refugees in Germany. The
Russian Delegation, headed from August 1919 by Sergei von
Botkin, the former Russian ambassador to Rome, although it had
never been recognized formally by the German government, was
the accepted de facto representative of Russian interests. As such,
it had the right to issue passports, personal identication cards,
notarizations, certications and the like. Needless to say, this all
changed after Rapallo. Soviet Russia had already decreed on 15
December 1921 that all emigrants would lose their citizenship if they
remained outside their home country for more than ve years, did
not report to a Soviet consulate, made no use of their right to vote,
48 Karl Schlgel

or were active in White Russian activities. After Rapallo migrs

lost their diplomatic protection altogether and the overwhelming
mass of them became stateless. They fell under the constraints of
the laws for foreigners with regard to such crucial activities for
everyday life as procuring a job, opening a practice, acquiring real
estate property, applying for welfare and social security, and, above
all, being granted freedom of movement. Although Germany
only joined the League of Nations in 1926, and despite fears of
mass immigration, in 1922 it adopted the plan developed by the
High Commisssioner for Foreign Affairs, Fridtjof Nansen, and
supported by forty nations, by which stateless Russian migrs were
granted the so-called Nansen Passport, with which they could
cross borders and, above all, get a job more easily.16 When Germany
left the League of Nations in 1934 the Russian emigrants lost their
protection from its Refugee Board, but in 1936 they found both
representation and compulsory organization in the reorganized
and Nazied Intermediary Ofce for Russian Refugees (there
were similar ofces for Ukrainians, Caucasians and Turkestanis).
However, the Intermediary Ofce (also known as the Political
Delegation) provided very vague and formal protection. Only state
programmes or the migr self-help organizations could be at all
effective against the poverty that had hit the emigrants especially
hard in the beleaguered Weimar Republic. On top of this is the
fact that the Russian refugees constituted only one part of the
refugee and migration movement that sought asylum in post-First
World War Germany. Thousands of Baltic and Russian-Germans,
above all from famine-riven regions on the Volga, refugees from
the border areas lost to Poland under the Versailles Treaties, as well
as from Alsace-Lorraine and the former German colonies, along
with tens of thousands of Eastern Jewish emigrants who wanted to
travel overseas all of these competed for the limited means of the
Republic available for relief.17 Under these circumstances, simply
nding food was extremely difcult. As far as we know, the general
observation also held true for the Russian community in Germany:
it may be described as an inverted social pyramid. An astute
observer wrote at the time: Being a Russian emigrant in Berlin was
to be a part of a pyramid, of which only the tip remained. The lower
and middle classes, made up of workers and farmers, craftsmen
and small businessmen, were missing. In their places there were
ofcers, civil servants, artists, nanciers, politicians and members
of the old courtly society.18
Berlin: Stepmother Among Russian Cities 49

This was especially noticeable by comparison with the average

cross-section of the population around the migrs. Vladimir
Nabokov wrote of the two main cities for foreign exile: In Berlin
and Paris the Russians built compact colonies with a cultural
coefcient that exceeded by far the cultural average of other groups
of foreigners in whose midst they found themselves, groups that
were of necessity less well represented.19 Although emigration was
a mass phenomenon, the proportion of members that belonged
to the educated and propertied classes was disproportionally high:
members of the professions, such as lawyers, doctors, journalists,
entrepreneurs and bankers, white-collar workers and civil servants
of the old state apparatus, members of the upper echelons of the
aristocracy and, after the evacuation of the White Army in 1920,
members of the ofcer corps in particular.

The Russian emigrants stemmed from the most diverse circles, but they
all found themselves in pitiful conditions, with no money, no clothing,
and most of them without any knowledge of the language of the country
in which they now found themselves, without the skills to pursue a trade,
and completely unsuited for the life of settlers in a foreign country.
In the face of this mass misery, it was rst and foremost a question of
satisfying the most urgent needs of these unhappy people, of supplying
them with food, clothing and shelter.20

There is a variety of reasons as to why Germany acted as a haven

for the Russian Diaspora, in spite of the instability, the civil war-like
conditions and the economic crisis. Many Russians were familiar
with Germany from before the War: quite a number of Russian
aristocratic families had familial ties to German noble families; the
pretender to the throne, Grand Prince Kirill Vladimirovich, for
example, temporarily made Coburg his seat. Numerous members
of the intelligentsia had studied in Germany and were familiar
with its academic world. This also holds true for the scholars and
scientists who arrived in Berlin in late 1922 after their forced exile
from Russia. Germany possessed a workable Russian typographical
base from before the War and was the obvious home for press and
publishing houses. More importantly, Germany was a cheap place
to live for foreigners during the period of high ination, especially
if they possessed hard currency. It was also a place where the
different factions of the political emigrants found their political
home: the anti-Bolshevist Left found that in the strongest party of
50 Karl Schlgel

European Socialism, the SPD; the Russian Right found kindred

souls in German monarchists and right-wing extremists. But above
all, Germany was regarded as the power with the most pressing
interest in the revision of the consequences of Versailles and in the
destruction of the resurrected Polish state. This seemed to accord
with the ambitions of the White Russian movement for a united
and indivisible Russian Empire. The split amongst the emigrants
into a German-friendly and an Entente-friendly camp is just as
signicant as the split between the Left and the Right.
Life in a foreign country could only be managed if the emigrants
helped themselves, individually and communally. For the individual
that often meant starting from scratch. With this in mind, specic
qualications such as the level of education, knowledge of foreign
languages or artistic experience could be of great importance.
The classied ads of any Russian newspaper in Berlin in the early
1920s testify to the initiative of the emigrants in keeping their heads
above water with restaurants, cafs, new and antiquarian bookshops,
translation bureaux, ballet schools, jewelry stores and fur shops, as
well as by working as secretaries, milliners, porters, taxi drivers or
casual labourers. For the other emigrants who came from well-to-
do families, the new situation meant a plunge into the abyss, unless
they had some hidden jewels sewn into their clothing to help them
over the initial penury. Even as successful an author as Vladimir
Nabokov had to take temporary jobs as a tennis teacher, private
tutor and a movie extra with Ufa in order to make ends meet.
The Russian guide book for Berlin that appeared at the high
point of emigration in 1922 enumerates the hundreds of essentially
short-lived organizations, large and small, that together constituted
the microcosm of Russian Berlin.21 Almost all of them were
represented in the Committee of Russian Public Organizations
and Institutions in Germany, which worked hand in hand with
the Intermediary Ofce. The committee members included Sergei
von Botkin as director of the Intermediary Ofce, Theodore von
Schlippe and Baron A. Vrangel on behalf of the Russian Red
Cross and the Rural and Urban Federation, as well as S. Smirnov,
E. Kogan, I. Gessen and Baron A. Krdener-Struve, representing
about another thirty organizations.22 A simple listing of these gives
a clear impression as to how diverse the professional interests and
activities were. The former members of the Russian Army were
represented through the Association of Mutual Support for the
Former Ofcers of the Russian Army and Navy or through the
Berlin: Stepmother Among Russian Cities 51

Central Union for Russian War Casualties in Germany, the Union

of Former Prisoners of War and Internees, the Federation of the
Former General Staff Ofcers or the Federation of the Former
Ofcers in the Preobrazhensky-Regiment and the Union of Russian
Airmen. Ofcials of the Russian Empire organized themselves in
the Berlin Federation for the Former Ofcials and Employees of
the Foreign Ofce or in the Federation of Former Russian Judges
and Court Ofcials. Members of the professions joined together in
the Berlin Federation of Russian Doctors (MD), the Federation
of Russian Journalists and Authors, the Confederation of Russsian
Lawyers in Germany, the Union of Russian Actors, The Union
of Russian Cinematographers Abroad, or the Union of Russian
Engineers in Germany. Scholars, scientists and students had their
own societies, such as the Russian Academic Group in Berlin and
the Federation of Russian Students in Germany. The economically
powerful emigrants formed the Union of Russian Merchants,
Industrialists and Financiers in Germany and the Union of
Russian Land Owners. The general welfare organizations such
as the Russian Aid of the German Red Cross, the Papal Welfare
Organization and the YMCA deserve especial mention.23 The most
important institutions for people in the Russian Diaspora were the
ones that could get them passports and residence permits, such as
the Russian Intermediary Ofce, as well as the charity institutions
that could help ease immediate distress through nancial support,
securing of accommodation in camps, out-patient clinics, sending
children into the country, or collecting money. They could also
provide assistance in the founding of small businesses or workshops,
and not least with the founding of educational or training insti-
tutions that facilitated the transmission and encouragement of
knowledge, science and Russian culture. Ensuring the education of
the younger generation in Berlin became increasingly more urgent
as the chances of a speedy return to Russia decreased, and the large
number of Russian student societies in Berlin reect this.
St Georges School was founded in Berlin-Wilmersdorf in Dec-
ember 1920 as a result of the decisive initiative of Johannes Masing,
a preacher from St Petersburg, and taking as its model the German
church schools in St Petersburg and Moscow.

This school will in the rst place provide refugee children from Russia
among whom there are, as is well known, many Russian-Germans
the guarantee of a sound German education. Secondly, it will offer
52 Karl Schlgel

German children whose parents have close ties to Russia and might
possibly emigrate there, the chance of a thorough education in Russian
language skills.24

The costs of the school were borne partly through donations and
partly through the Foreign Ofce. The other Russian school in Berlin
was the Higher Russian Private School of the Russian Academic
Society, founded on 10 February 1921 with the aim of educating
children of Russian emigrants according to the curriculum of the
old Russian high schools and in a nationalistic Russian spirit.
Initially it was housed in a private home and later moved into
public school buildings. The school was nanced through dona-
tions, but the bulk of the costs were covered by subsidies from the
Foreign Ofce. As a result of the shortage of funds, the two schools
planned to amalgamate and this ultimately took place in 1931,
the explicit reasoning being that this school will bring forth the
type of personality which, as a well-trained pioneer for political,
military, economic and cultural purposes, will be well-suited to
serve Germany in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. Despite the
protestations of the leading educationalists, the former emigrant
school became a German secondary school after 1933, which as an
Eastern school was given the task of imparting a solid knowledge
of the eastern countries.25 Beyond this, two Russian elementary
schools were set up in 1923, one in the Scheunen refugee camp
near Celle, the other in the Alexanderheim in Berlin-Tegel. The
YMCA started a technical school in 1923 in the former POW camp
in Wnsdorf/Zossen, in which the residents were taught practical
occupational skills.
The most signicant academic institution, however, was the
Russian Scientic Institute. This school owed its foundation to
the initiatives of a number of people and bodies, including the east
European historian, Professor Otto Hoetzsch, the Commissioner
for Refugees of the League of Nations, Moritz Schlesinger, the
Foreign Ofce and the Prussian Ministry of Science, Art and Public
Education; but its foundation was due above all to the active role
played by important scholars and scientists who had been expelled
from Soviet Russia in the autumn of 1922, and most of whom were
founding members of the Russian Academic Society.26 The institute
could count on approximately 500 Russians studying at Berlin
colleges, along with another 1,500 Russians planning to continue
their education there. Moreover, the Institute acted as a vigorous
Berlin: Stepmother Among Russian Cities 53

sponsor of public lectures, which initially took place in Schinkels

Academy of Architecture, and to which Russian scholars from other
centres of the Diaspora were invited. The result was an impressive
spectrum of talks from the elds of philosophy, history, law, art
history and the history of literature, with such prominent speakers
as Nikolai Berdiaev, Aleksandr Kizevetter, Vsevolod Iasinskii, Avgust
Kaminka, Petr Struve, Ivan Ilin, Iulii Aichevald, Sergei Gogel and
Boris Brutskus. The Institute possessed a superb library, especially
in its periodicals section. The work of the Institute was in constant
danger from shortage of funds, which were principally covered by
the Foreign Ofce, the request of which that the Institute should
refrain from political comment also sounded threatening. When
the National Socialists seized power the Institute was initially purged
of any non-Aryans and later cleansed of all employees from the
emigrant scene, until it was in all probability incorporated into the
organization of the Anti-Comintern.27 Berlin never succeeded,
unlike Prague and Paris, in establishing a real centre for Russian
intellectual life and scholarship.
One of the major accomplishments of the Russian Diaspora in
Berlin was the establishment of a publications centre. Russian
Berlin even exported books to Soviet Russia, while supplying the
rest of the worldwide Diaspora with newspapers and magazines,
and between 1918 and 1924 produced more books than Moscow
or Petrograd; eighty-six publishing companies published approx-
imately 2,100 to 2,200 titles.28 The most important of these comp-
anies were the Kniga publishing house that had been founded be-
fore 1914, together with Grzebin, Efron, Neva, Epokha, Petropolis,
Gelikon and Slovo. The lions share of their publications consisted,
though, of reprinted editions of Russian classics and textbooks
for children and teachers, but they did also publish some con-
temporary works by modern Russian authors, both migrs and
Soviet Russians, including Andrei Belyi, Vladislav Khodasevich,
Vladimir Nabokov, Ivan Bunin, Boris Zaitsev, Maksim Gorkii and
Isaak Babel. As publishing concerns, they nanced the bulk of the
editions, magazines and newspapers published in Berlin. Quite
a few of them succeeded in making newspaper and emigration
history, too, including the 22-volume Archive of the Russian Revolution
(19211937), started by Iosif V. Gessen, the opulently decorated
Feuervogel, edited by A.E. Kogan, or the Russian Book and The New
Russian Book, published by Ladyzhnikov and edited by Aleksandr
Iashchenko. The Russian publishers bookshops, such as Kniga
54 Karl Schlgel

at Kurfrstenstrae 79, Olga Diakova at Bayreuthstrae 45, and

Moskva on the Wilhelmstrae, formed communication centres for
Russian Berlin.
The vast number of Russian newspapers and magazines reected
the intellectual and cultural potential of St Petersburg on the
Wittenbergplatz, to quote the title of a 1931 work (in German)
of popular literature about emigration. This book also showed the
extent of the hectic search for identity of a community of despair
(R.C. Williams), its fractional and ethnic bickerings and the over-
whelming sense of helplessness. The need for critical analysis of the
past was as great as that for justication. Berlin became and that
in enormous temporal and spacial proximity the site of a Russian
process of remembrance, producing an extensive outpouring of
memoirs, research into, and analytical concern with, the immediate
past, but also the literary mythologization and demonization of
the Russian Revolution. There appeared (usually simultaneously
in German translation) the memoirs of the former members of
the ancien rgime such as the former ministers Sergei Sazonov and
Vladimir Sukhomlinov, then Nikolai Sukhanovs unique Sketches of
the Revolution and Sergei Melgunovs Red Terror in Russia 19181923,
along with the memoirs of numerous chamberlains and ladies in
waiting of the Tsars family. The rst attempts at historical analysis
and documentation outside the Soviet Union were undertaken
at the Russian Scientic Institute or at the Institute for Pogrom
Research. It was above all the newspapers that created the cohesion
of an extraterritorial community that had to survive without a
national infrastructure. They did this through analysis of the situ-
ation at home and beyond the borders, through a chronicle of
emigrant life, a calender of events, classied ads, emigrant gossip,
caricatures and debates that were carried out world wide from
Paris to Harbin. All of the intellectual and political migr factions
created their own mouthpiece: the Monarchists in the collections
The Double Eagle and the journal the Russia of the Future; the early
Fascists in The Summons and later in The Jew Eater; the Social Revol-
utionaries in Days; those friendly to the Soviets and those that
wanted to return home in On the Eve; the Liberals in The Helm; the
Mensheviks in Socialist Messenger. There was also a high number of
one-time newspapers.29 The outstanding Russian paper in Berlin
that most closely lived up to its claim of impartiality and objectivity
was a Russian daily called Rul, edited by the St Petersburg publicist
Iosif V. Gessen, which appeared from 1920 to 1931 in the Slovo
Berlin: Stepmother Among Russian Cities 55

Press that was supported by the Ullstein group. It is comparable

only to Segodnia in Riga and Poslednie Novosti in Paris. The translator
Arthur Luther summed up what a reader at the time might feel:

If you pick up one of the Russian newspapers published in Berlin and

look at the classied ads, youre tempted to believe that it was a Moscow
or Petersburg newspaper from the good old days: there are adverts
for theatre performances, concerts and cabarets; countless restaurants
recommend their international cuisine to the gentle reader: blini,
kulebiaka and the inevitable vodka with sakuska so go with it; Russian
doctors and lawyers announce when and where their practices are open
[..]. Its only when you look more closely at the addresses of these people
that you realize that youre in Berlin, and not in Petersburg.30

Long after Russian Berlin had passed its zenith, churches re-
minded people that the Orthodox Church had also been a pillar
of Russian emigrant life in Berlin. The rst is the St Nikolas and
St Helena Church in Berlin-Tegel that was built before 1914;
Mikhail Glinka, Vladimir D. Nabokov and Iulii Aikhenvald
are buried in its cemetery, near to which the Alexanderheim
used to stand. The other is the Cathedral of Christ Risen on the
Hohenzollerndamm, which was dedicated in 1938. The building
of a new church in the central area of the city, which had hitherto
been served by churches in temporary premises, became pressing
after the Embassy Church on Unter den Linden was handed over
to the Soviet Russians under the terms of the Treaty of Rapallo. In
the 1920s the orthodox Russians belonged to the overseas church,
coming under the jurisdiction of both Evlogii, Bishop of Paris, and
the Church of the Patriarchs back in Russia. The overseas church
under Bishop Tikhon won most of the battles with the supporters
of Evlogii, though. Tikhon, who pronounced the day of the Nazi
assumption of power to be also a day of celebration for the
Russians in Germany, succeeded from 1936 to 1938 in securing
for his church sole jurisdiction overseas, and after the invasions of
Poland and, later, the Soviet Union by the Wehrmacht it extended
its activities into the occupied territories.31
While the success of the humanitarian and intermediary organ-
izations for the emigrants lay in their ability to make life in exile
tolerable, the political organizations had a different agenda:
the justication of their existence consisted in their ability both
programmatically and practically to keep alive the hope of a return
56 Karl Schlgel

home. As long as the civil war lasted and its outcome remained
uncertain, a political line aimed at the armed overthrow of the
Bolsheviks seemed justiable. The isolation of Soviet Russia and
the promises of the intervening powers distracted attention from
the defeat of the White Russians. A crisis of the political parties
of emigration became unavoidable when Soviet Russia began to
be recognized by more and more members of the international
community. If we bear in mind that even in pre-revolutionary
Russia parties were inherently weak, and were then swept aside by
the Revolution at the very time when they had begun to play a
historic role, if we add to that the fact that those parties in exile had
inevitably lost their class-based and socio-cultural roots, then we see
how difcult indeed it is to talk of established parties in emigration.
It was much more a matter of varyingly loose organizations and
groups of individuals brought together by the common experience
of failure and personal endangerment in the struggle against
Bolshevism, little different from the revolutionary migr circles in
Europe before the War and the Revolution. A good number of the
party political leaders forced into exile after 1917 had had previous
experience of the bitter experience of exile. The anti-Bolshevik
consensus that seemed to form the common ground between
all parties in emigration was to prove itself under the pressure
of concrete decision-making as supercial and short lived. The
failure of the diverse attempts at unication by the parties of the
Diaspora in 1920, 1921, 1926 and 1930 is clear proof of this. What
could Miliukov and Kerenski possibly have in common with the
generals of the White Russian movement, or the exiled Mensheviks
Iulii Martov and Fedor Dan with the Petersburg Black Hundreds,
other than opposition to the new regime in Moscow? The spectrum
of political parties in exile appears to be a copy or continuation
of that of pre-revolutionary times, but it was really nothing but a
shadow of its former self, being more of an intellectual or cultural
phenomenon than one with real political clout. Its function and
its importance in emigration lay, or so it would seem, not in their
nature as political parties, but rather in the specic force of the
views and images of the Russian Revolution and of Soviet Russia put
over by the political groups in their individual countries of exile.
The real contribution that could be expected of the politicians of
emigration was not so much as to what extent they succeeded in
building up a party, but consisted in the analysis and self-analysis
they could offer, something which is possible for those excluded
Berlin: Stepmother Among Russian Cities 57

from the political struggle indenitely and condemned to stand

and watch day-to-day political skirmishes from afar. The chance of
any real political impact was granted only to those who discovered a
strong interest in Russian affairs in their new country of residence.
This meant that in Germany, in the medium term, the only Russian
emigrants who could play any real political role were members of
the dwindling minority that was willing to take part in a German
campaign against the Soviet Union, with all that that meant.
Whenever leading migr politicians came to Germany, they did
so because they could be sure of nding support for their goals,
as could those who had settled in Paris and London, the capital
cities of their former allies. The split in the Diaspora into pro-
German and pro-Entente inevitably became far less prominant as
the sense of alliance faded, with the socio-political afnity of the
political groups becoming far more important. That was true of the
Mensheviks who, as the largest party, took on the chairmanship of
the II. International, and was no less true of the monarchists and
the extreme Right, who found a lot of common ground with, and
strong support from, the reactionary vlkisch scene in the Weimar
Republic. In the years when Berlin was the centre of Russian
emigration, more or less all pre-revolutionary Russian party group-
ings were represented, alongside newer ones, such as the Smena
Vekh Movement, the Young Russians and the Eurasians.
The Mensheviks in Berlin joined forces with a cadre, some
of whose members had been expelled from Russia against their
will. They included Iulii Martov, Eva Broido, David Dallin, Rafail
Abamovich, Fedor Dan and Boris Nikolaevskii. Their Overseas
Ofce of the Social-Democratic Workers Party of Russia (Berlin),
together with the party HQ in Moscow, made up the central
committee. They could immediately reactivate the strong ties to
the German Social Democrats that had been made before 1914,
and up to 1933 constituted a sort of brains trust guiding the clearly
anti-Bolshevik Russian policies of the SPD. From 1921 to 1933
the Mensheviks published a weekly newspaper in Russian, with a
German edition, the Organ of Russian Social Democracy, appearing
simultaneously. The activities of the Mensheviks seem to have been
focussed on Germany, as in their advising the SPD. After their second
exile in 1933 many of them became pioneers of American research
on the Soviet Union and Communism.32 The other great party of
the Russian Revolution, the Social Revolutionaries, also found a
home in Berlin for a while. From 1919 to 1922 their Golos Rossii
58 Karl Schlgel

appeared there, to be followed from 1922 to 1925 by Dni, the most

important newspaper of the Social Revolutionaries in exile. Their
leaders Aleksandr Kerenskii, Viktor Chernov, Sergei Pokopovich
and Elena Kuskova all came from Paris or Prague to spend some
time in Berlin. The newspaper offers a good impression of Russian
life in Berlin at the time, and benetted from the collaboration of
some eminent Russian writers.33
This is even more true of Rul, the daily published in Berlin from
1920 to 1931 by leading members of the Constitutional Democratic
Party. Vladimir D. Nabokov, Avgust Kaminka and Iosif V. Gessen
made newspaper and cultural, rather than party, history during
these years. Nabokovs project of uniting in exile the divided party
of the Cadets, and his success in winning over Pavel Miliukov, the
left-wing leader of the cadets, ultimately failed not only because
of the assassination of Nabokov in the Berlin Philharmonic on 28
March 1922 by terrorists from the extreme Right, but undoubtedly
also because a liberal agenda for Soviet Russia seemed to be
anything but practicable for the forseeable future. The enduring,
essentially indirect inuence of the newspaper and its editor-in-
chief is ultimately greater than its party political activities.34
A new feature of the mainly traditional party landscape from
pre-revolutionary days was the emergence of those factions and
groupings that supported the establishment and consolidation
of Soviet authority and demanded that politicians in emigration
should proceed from the realities, instead of chasing old dreams
and hopes for the future. One such group was Smena Vekh, which,
roughly translated, means change of road signs. Its spokesmen
called for an acceptance by the Russian intelligentsia at home and
abroad of the new political order. They wanted to mobilize the full
potential of Russian emigrants for the benet of the motherland
and the building up of Soviet Russia, even calling on them to
return home. With Soviet nancial support the daily Nakanune
was published in Berlin from 1922 to 1924 by some of its leading
theorists, such as Iurii Kliuchnikov, Grigorii Kirdetsov, Sergei
Lukianov, Iurii Potekhin and Aleksei Tolstoi. Even though the call
for a return essentially fell on deaf ears, Smena Vekh is symptomatic
of the process of intellectual maturation that took place in post-
revolutionary Russia and in emigration, when a central issue was
the working out of a new modus vivendi what became known as
National Bolshevism between the new revolutionary power and
the remnants of the old, even imperial elites. Much the same is
Berlin: Stepmother Among Russian Cities 59

true of the Eurasians, whose main bases were in Prague and Soa,
but who also provoked interest and irritation in Berlin with the
publications and lectures of Petr Savitskii and Lev Karsavin. They
too read the Russian Revolution as a creative occurrence that had
pushed the unique quality of Russia, its being beyond Occident
and Orient, to a new synthesis.35 This tendency to view Bolshevism
as a genuinely national Russian phenomen was put forward as part
of the platform of the Young Russians, a movement founded in
1923 in Munich by Aleksandr Kazem-Bek, which, with the Italian
Fascists and the German National Socialists very much in mind, put
forward the notion of a modernized i.e. Soviet monarchy to be
radically different from the dreams of the representatives of the
ancien rgime. The Gestapo appositely summed up this movement
in the following way: Unlike all other anti-Bolshevist emigrant
organizations, the Young Russian movement does not view the
Soviet Union as the work of the proponents of the Bolshevik World
Revolution, but rather as nothing more than the continuation of
the Russian Empire under the leadership of a government that does
not meet with their approval.36 Many of the elements developed
by the Young Russians corporativeness, the third way between
liberalism and Bolshevism, and nationalism were reected by
political parties in the 1930s.37
It should also be mentioned, in order to complete the picture,
that there were short-lived contacts between Russian and German
anarchists in Berlin.38
The chapter on Russian emigration in Germany with the most
signicant consequences was, however, not written by the revol-
utionary Social Democrats or Russian liberals, but by the Right,
from the conservative to the extreme right wing. Even before
Berlin had become one of the major civies of emigration which
happened after Vrangels defeat in November 1920 it had become
an outpost of the Russian civil war, just like other European capital
cities. Attempts were made from Germany to rescue the imperilled
Russian royal family by playing on the family connections of the
Hohenzollerns. Protected by Oberost, counter-revolutionary forces
had joined together in an attempt to reactivate the alliance of the
German and Russian Empires that existed before the War against
the liberal West. After the ceasere and the collapse of the Eastern
Front in November 1918 they moved west under the protection of
German troops. In the eastern Baltic German Freikorps and Russian
civil war troops joined forces. Berlin brought them together, and it
60 Karl Schlgel

was there that their cameraderie was effectively forged during the
Kapp Putsch of 20 March 1920. After the insurrection was quelled,
the centre of anti-Bolshevist and anti-republican activities moved
to Munich, where fringe groups of Russian monarchists became
involved in the initial phases of the National Socialist movement.
As with the political parties in emigration, this part of German-
Russian history also essentially consists of the activities of individual
groupings and the collaboration of central gures of the Russian
counter-revolution, such as General Vasilii Biskupskii, Pavel Avalov-
Bermondt, Fedor von Vinberg, Petr Shabelskii-Bork, Sergei
Taboritskii, Nikolai Markov II and Grigorii Shvarts-Bostunich on
the Russian side, and Alfred Rosenberg, Max Scheubner-Richter
and Arno Schickedanz on the German, or, to be more accurate,
on the German Baltic side. Quite apart from its political defeat
in the civil war, the monarchist movement was devastated by the
execution of the Tsar and his family. Any possible resolution of
the question of succession was legally shaky and was, in any case,
attacked by rival groupings. All efforts to unify the monarchist
movement, or to present it as the legitimate voice of emigration,
failed. The monarchist congress that took place from May to June
1921 in Bad Reichenhall (Bavaria) under the title Congress for
the Economic Reconstruction of Russia, in which more than
a hundred representatives of many countries took part but
without the House of the Romanovs being represented was as
unsuccessful in bringing unity about as a later congress that took
place in Paris in 1926. There was not a single convincing and new
answer to any of the questions that had played a part in the downfall
of the Russian monarchy. And the major obstacle throughout was
that the monarchist camp itself, which had kept on hoping that
the news from Ekaterinburg would turn out to be wrong and that
the Tsar would turn out to have been saved by a miracle, was itself
divided. One pretender to the throne, Kirill Vladimirovich, a
cousin of Nicholas II, had, after emigrating via Finland, France and
Switzerland, taken up residence in Coburg, the seat of his wifes
family. In 1922 he declared himself to be Regent until such time
as the death of the Tsar and the Tsarevich could be conrmed,
and in 1924 he styled himself Emperor of all Russia. From the
very beginning this legitimist self-proclamation was attacked by
the supporters of Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich who, as former
Commander-in-Chief of the Russian troops, enjoyed a certain
popularity, among migr military circles in particular. But even
Berlin: Stepmother Among Russian Cities 61

the death in 1928 of Nikolai Nikolaevich, who was seen in certain

emigrant circles as the Russian Duce, did little to change the
hopelessness of the monarchist movement.39
Even through the strategic alliances between German and
Russian counter-revolutionaries, all striving for the restoration
of the old monarchies and of the status quo ante in Central
Europe, were entirely unsuccessful, some alliances were formed,
the aims of which seemed to go beyond mere restoration of the
two monarchies. They were united by: the experience of defeat;
the loss of their homeland; social deracination; the terror and
chaos they had witnessed and the search for the guilty ones. The
German-Russian war, the decree of the Entente with regard to the
Provisional government, the Russian October Revolution and the
German November Revolution, the collapse of the old order, the
stab in the back of the armies and the Treaties of Versailles: all this
was, in their eyes, the result of a massive conspiracy, primarily by
Jews, freemasons and their accomplices. The fact that prominent
revolutionaries in Russia and Germany were Jewish Trotskii,
Zinovev, Luxemburg, Liebknecht was viewed as conrmation
of this and brought about an alliance, within which radical anti-
semitism, anti-Bolshevism, and the struggle against the Republic
became more or less synonymous. The belief in the grand con-
spiracy that was behind everything was never expressed so forcefully
as in the forgery of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the text of which
appeared in Fedor von Vinbergs periodical Luch Sveta (Ray of
Light) from 1919 onwards, and which appeared as early as 1920 in
Berlin in Gottfried zur Beeks (pen name for Ludwig Mller von
Hausen) German translation.40 The working out of an anti-Semitic,
anti-Bolshevik and anti-bourgeois common denominator, under
which the Right of pre-war Russia and that in post-war Germany
could unite, now led to their direct cooperation in terrorist
activities: in the Kapp Putsch of 1920 and that of Hitler in 1923, and
in the murders of Walter Rathenau and Vladimir D. Nabokov in
1922. Their paths crossed again when the National Socialists came
to power.
Many Russian emigrants left Germany in 1933, or soon after;
among them were Simon Dubnov, Grigorii Landau, Semen Frank,
Leonid Pasternak, Roman Gul and Vladimir Nabokov. Many others
put their faith in the anti-Bolshevism of the new regime and did
not reject it until much later, as was the case with the philosophers
Ivan Ilin and Boris Vysheslavtsev. A good number offered their
62 Karl Schlgel

services as Russian National Socialists to various organizations of

the new order not always to their satisfaction, as the Third Reich
viewed the emigrants as moaners and schemers, an egoistical bunch
who needed watching and bringing into line. But a good many of
them collaborated with the Nazi authorities up to the bitter end,
while dozens of those who had once sought refuge in Berlin were
later hunted down and killed all over Europe this was the fate of
Mikhail Gorlin and Raisa Bloch in Paris, and of Simon Dubnov in
Riga, to name but three.
For the majority of the emigrants the onset of Nazi rule merely
meant that life went on, with community activities, functions, balls,
anniversaries, job-hunting and the like. Even Russian Jews in Berlin
were long unaware of the seriousness of their situation. In 1936
the Russian Intermediary Ofce was reconstituted under the
direction of General Biskupskii, above all, in order to sort out the
rival emigrant organizations. It also meant that it had to accept
a number of language directives, such as those issued after the
signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in August 1939 and the
invasion of Poland, under which they had to agree that the pact was
entirely in the interest of the Russian people.41
The decisive turning point did not, of course, come until the start
of the German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. Now
many emigrants saw themselves presented with the opportunity to
return home and to turn the slogan of the anti-Bolshevik struggle
into deeds alongside the Wehrmacht, the SS and the Special
A good number of emigrants collaborated with the Germans in
order to work towards this goal. Russian emigrants in countries
occupied by the Wehrmacht reported to the Russian Intermediary
Ofces in Paris, Warsaw and Brussels, took the oath of loyalty to the
Third Reich (as Generals Golovin, Kusonskii and von Lampe did)
and then reported to their units, while suspicious or uncooperative
members of the emigrant community were harassed and sometimes
even imprisoned. The attitude of the German authorities to the
emigrants was, though, inconsistent and ambivalent: on the one
hand the emigrants were needed, on the other hand they were
regarded as unreliable after all, it was Hitlers watchword that
none but Germans should be allowed to bear arms.42 The deploy-
ment of Russian emigrants was therefore subject to various limita-
tions: emigrants of the rst generation and former members of
the Red Army found it difcult to agree on things, some German
Berlin: Stepmother Among Russian Cities 63

organizations had great suspicion of the Russians as such, while

the competing plans of the Germans lacked uniformity. The idea
of forming a Russian Liberation Army under General Andrei
Vlasov, who had been captured in July 1942, was postponed time
and again because of German anxiety about arming foreigners,
and it was not deployed until spring 1945. Emigrants from the
inter-war years joined the Vlasov army and the Wehrmacht as
translators, specialists and commanders of Russian voluntary units;
about 1,500 Russian emigrants from France joined the Wehrmacht,
while ca. 1,200 from Germany were assigned to it as translators.
As a precautionary measure lists were put together of emigrant
experts who would be able to take part in the administration and
reconstruction of the occupied territories. Hundreds of Russian,
Ukrainian, Georgian and other emigrants worked as translators
in the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories, the
Organizations Todt and Speer, in German counter-intelligence
and the Reich Propaganda Ministry. Senior ofcers from the
White Russian emigration (Generals Arkhangelskii, von Lampe,
Dragomirov, Golovin, Kreiter, Cossack atamans Abramov, Balabin
and Shkuro) joined the Vlasov movement, as did representatives of
new organizations that had only been formed in exile, but this too
was not without its problems, as the suspicious Gestapo followed
the emigrants every step.43
Some of the leading representatives of emigration who collab-
orated with the Wehrmacht were captured after the victory of the
Red Army in the East, deported and tried in Moscow or Kharkov,
and subsequently executed.44 Those who could ee to the Western
zones of Germany after the War disappeared in the second wave of
The double liquidation of Russian life in Germany could very
easily lead one to think that there is not a trace of it left, apart from
the remarkable survival of the odd individual like Fedor Stepun.
But, in fact, both the fatal and the inspirational inuences of
Russian Berlin were of a mediating nature. To understand them, we
again have to look at certain special features of the transit camp,
as Russian Berlin was called.
Berlin was an outpost in the European theatre of crisis, but also
a refuge and a safe haven in the civil war. Here, as in no other place
in Europe, Red and White faced each other on foreign soil.
Sovdepien, as the emigrants contemptuously referred to Soviet
Russia, had a massive population in Berlin, with around 3,000
64 Karl Schlgel

people being employed by the embassy and the trade mission alone,
and there was about the same number of White Guards, as they
dubbed the refugees. In Berlin there was, though, a considerable
amount of overlap of the various social circles formed from within
the Soviet Embassy on Unter den Linden and Charlottengrad, as
the area of the west occupied by the Russian emigrants was termed.
Around both of these poles groups of politically highly active
people were formed, which did come into contact at a distance
with each other, but which generally distrusted and opposed
each other. The recognition of Soviet Russia by Germany turned
Berlin into the gate to the West for those travellers with the red
passport, and in the 1920s a never-ending stream of Soviet citizens
poured into the capital, sometimes enjoying the option of being
able to stay indenitely, or for ever. Berlin became the great centre
of communications between Russians at home and abroad. In their
newspapers and clubs the two camps crossed on the cultural
level over the demarcation lines that separated them politically.
Scarcely one of the great names of Soviet and Russian literature was
missing from the writers for Russian newspapers and periodicals
in Berlin: Mark Aldanov, Arkadii Averchenko, Andrei Belyi, Sasha
Chernyi, Vladislav Khodasevich, Marina Tsvetaeva, Don Aminado,
Ilia Erenburg, Sergei Esenin, Maksim Gorkii, Georgii Ivanov,
Aleksandr Kusikov, Lev Lunts, Vladimir Maiakovskii, Vladimir
Nabokov, Vasilii Nemirovich-Danchenko, Nikolai Otsup, Mikhail
Osorgin, Boris Pasternak, Boris Pilniak, Larisa Reisner, Aleksei
Remizov, Igor Severianin, Ivan Shmelev, Ivan Sokolov-Mikitov,
Aleksei Tolstoi, Boris Zaitsev, and many others. Russian Berlin
offered the two entrenched camps a social space in which the pure
and the impure, White and Red, could meet again. The series
of productions in the House of the Arts and the list of authors
writing for New Russian Books bring out the uniqueness of this social
world.45 Berlin was a transit station in which old acquaintances
could see each other again, even see each other for the very last
time, as was the case with Lev Shestov and Mikhail Gershenzon, and
with Boris Pasternak and his parents. Berlin became the cramped
site for the struggle to have the Russian culture of emigration and
the culture of Soviet Russia internationally recognized. Both Soviet
and emigration artists took part in the 1st Russian Art Exhibition in
the Van Diemen Gallery, and for many of them Berlin marked the
starting point of their international careers; these included Natan
Altman, Aleksandr Arkhipenko, Aleksandr Arnshtam, Ksenia
Berlin: Stepmother Among Russian Cities 65

Boguslavskaia, Pavel Chelishchev, Naum Gabo, Boris Grigorev,

Vasilii Kandinskii, Anton Pevsner, Ivan Puni, Marc Chagall, Serge
Charchoune and David Shterenberg.46 Berlin offered a Russian-
speaking cultural world that could support not only numerous
Russian theatres and cabarets, but also offer an appropriate
reception for the visiting performances of the Moscow theatres of
Tairov, Meierkhold and Stanislavskii; it even managed to fascinate
the cultural elite of the capital, as so notably happened with Iakov
Iuzhniis cabaret The Blue Bird.47 The appearances of Russian
stars of world-wide renown, such as Sergei Diagilev, Igor Stravinskii
and Vladimir Horowitz, were major cultural events.
How, then, did the presence of a large Russian community and
growing interest in the Soviet Union manifest itself in Berlin?
The entire Russian world remained a sort of superstructure
on an unchangingly autochtonic base. Berliners had been a little
surprised by things, and initially had by no means been unfriendly,
at times even downright helpful, but they essentially took little
notice of the invasion from the East, and just got on with their lives.
They were fully occupied with their own problems, the economic
collapse and the galloping ination. The contact between the two
worlds was limited to the visits that Berliners made to the theatres,
concerts, cabarets and speciality resaurants, on the one hand, and
to those, on the other hand, of the Russians to the daunting brick
building that housed the main police station, where they had to
queue up to extend their visas and renew their ID cards. There
were probable contacts of a commercial, and certainly of a political
nature. Entry into the Russian and German artistic worlds by the
other side was, in any case, very haphazard, and the two worlds just
got on with their own lives.48
But intellectuals such as Alfred Polgar and Carl Einstein saw the
Volga owing through Berlin and were fascinated by the magic and
colour of the Russian theatre in the midst of Berlin. Thomas Mann
gave a lecture in the House of the Arts. Generally the Russians
seemed to look down on their Berlin surroundings, often sensing
as Belyi did that something was going to happen in Berlin akin
to what they had already experienced in Petrograd and Moscow.
Many Soviet intellectuals found themselves conrmed in their
opinion that they were witnesses to, and actors in, a superior social
experiment, while the representatives of aristocratic Russia looked
down with irritation, if not contempt, on the petty-bourgeois and
plebeian Berlin of ofcers widows and backyards. The endangered,
66 Karl Schlgel

multi-facetted Berlin of the 1920s and 1930s nds its most subtle
literary treatment in the novels and short stories of Vladimir
And how did the Germans react to the Russians? With anecdotes
about Charlottengrad, as Charlottenburg was called, and about the
Nepsky Prospect, which was the ironic name (by analogy with the
Nevskii Prospect in St Petersburg) given to the Kurfrstendamm,
which seemed to be overrun with Russians. Soviet Russia was rst
and foremost a topic of debate for the extreme Left, which saw
the emigrants merely as a bunch of failures and reactionaries, and
treated them accordingly by keeping them under observation
and by the use of bands of thugs. One group of those of a Russo-
phile disposition, mainly conservatives, came to view emigrants as
sources of information on, and representatives of, the good old
Russia, while another conservative Russophile group engaged in
top-secret military cooperation with the Soviet government. Thus
in Berlin in the 1920s we meet in this conned space not only
Georgii Chicherin, the Peoples Commissar for Foreign Affairs (and
former student of the Friedrich Wilhelm University, now Humboldt
University), but also Karl Radek being greatly in demand in his
Moabit cell, as well as the White generals. But we also meet incognito
generals of the Red Army such as Mikhail Tukhachevskii, who
are visiting the Republic to engage in secret negotiations with the
Wehrmacht, or to take part in training exercises.50 Berlin becomes
a place of astonishing alliances and meetings. At the receptions
of Soviet Ambassador Nikolai Krestinskii we nd not only Ernst
Jnger and Carl Schmitt, but also the representatives of Weimars
Cultural Bolshevism. In the Caf Leon on the Nollendorfplatz
Maiakovskii and Esenin, poets of the new Russia, encounter the
poets of the lost silver age. More or less simultaneously Oswald
Spenglers Decline of the West, Gustav Landauers Twilight in Europe
and Nikolai Berdiaevs The New Middle-Ages are published here.51
Friends of the New Russia gain new members from the middle
classes, such as Albert Einstein, Paul Lbe, Bernhard Kellermann,
Leopold Jessner and the publisher Ernst Rowohlt, while Moeller
van den Bruck sees in Dostoevskii and Merezhkovskii the key to the
riddles of modernity. The simultaneity of the historical experiences
of collapse and revolution that people had made in their individual
rooms, as it were, causes those who get to know each other in Berlin
to see each other as contemporaries, as fellow tenants of a home in
time (Ilia Erenburg).
Berlin: Stepmother Among Russian Cities 67

Where this sort of things happens the interchange of roles is

inevitable and a rm sense of identity is threatened with dissolution.
Who is who? In Russian Berlin you could reach out and touch
the efforts by each side to inltrate the other, to learn all about
it, to nd out what was going on and, if possible, to make use of
that information oneself. Part of the emigrant discourse was the
suspicion that whoever was of the contrary opinion had to be an
agent of the Cheka, while those who did not side unambiguously
with the German arch-conservatives had to be working for the
Entente or World Jewry. The grey area between yesterdays world
and that in which people are looking for somewhere to settle
down is full of speculators, those who deal in forged papers and
documents, con men, and real and imaginary agents. Only in a
world in which things have become so uncertain can the claim of a
woman with the name Anastasia to be the Tsars daughter be taken
seriously, causing the overheated imagination of the crowd to run
wild for years.52 Russian Berlin of the inter-war years becomes the
barometer that keeps us informed about the state of subterranean
currents, and becomes the probe by which we can read what will
happen when it emerges from its dormancy.


1. First published in German in Karl Schlgel (ed.), Der groe Exodus:

Die russische Emigration und ihre Zentren 1917 bis 1941 (Munich: Beck,
1994), pp. 23459, 40711 (notes). English version see Yearbook of
European Studies, 13 (1999), pp. 23565; translated by Keith Bullivant
and Geoffrey Giles.
2. The St Petersburg female writers Vera Lure and Tatiana Gzovskaia
come to mind, as does the late Nina Berberova.
3. Written entirely from eyewitness accounts: Hans von Rimscha, Der
russische Brgerkrieg und die russische Emigration 19171921 (Jena:
Frommann, 1924) and von Rimscha, Ruland jenseits der Grenzen. 1921
1926. Ein Beitrag zur russischen Nachkriegsgeschichte (Jena: Frommann,
1927). From a historical point of view: Hans-Erich Volkmann, Die
russische Emigration in Deutschland. 19191929 (Wrzburg: Holzner,
1966). Still unmatched in breadth and wealth of material: Robert C.
Williams, Culture in Exile. Russian Emigrs in Germany, 18811941 (Ithaca,
68 Karl Schlgel

New York, London: Cornell University Press, 1972). Fundamental for

certain aspects: Walter Laqueur, Deutschland und Ruland (Berlin:
Propylen, 1965). Recent, with important source material: Bettina
Dodenhoeft, Lat mich nach Ruland heim: Russische Emigranten in
Deutschland von 1918 bis 1945 (Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern: Lang,
4. Lazar Fleishman (ed.), Russkii Berlin 19211923. Po materialam archiva
B. I. Nikoaevskogo v Guverovskom institute (Paris: YMCA Press, 1983);
Fritz Mierau (ed.), Russen in Berlin 19181933. Eine kulturelle Begegnung
(Weinheim, Berlin: Quadriga, 1988).
5. Franz Basler, Die deutsch-russische Schule in Berlin. 19311945. Geschichte
und Auftrag (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1983); Klaus Wiese, Von der
Emigrantenschule zur nationalsozialistischen deutschen Ostschule (Berlin,
1986); Michaela Bhmig, Das russische Theater in Berlin 19191931
(Munich: Sagner, 1990); Thomas R. Beyer jr., Gottfried Kratz and
Xenia Werner, Russische Autoren und Verlage in Berlin nach dem ersten
Weltkrieg (Berlin: Berlin-Verlag Spitz, 1987); Claudia Scandura, Das
Russische Berlin 19211924: Die Verlage, in Zeitschrift fr Slawistik
32 (1987), 5, pp. 75462, and eadem, Das russische Berlin 1921
1923: Die Zeitschriften, in Zeitschrift fr Slawistik 33 (1988), 4, pp.
51522; Alexander Schwarz, Russische Emigranten im deutschen
Film: Fallstudien zu Josif Ermolev und Ivan Mozuchin, in Wiener
Slawistischer Almanach 30 (1992), pp. 15395; on the Russian Scientic
Institute cf. Gabriele Camphausen, Die wissenschaftliche historische
Rulandforschung in Deutschland 18931933 (Frankfurt am Main, New
York: Lang, 1990); Gerd Voigt, Otto Hoetzsch 18761946. Wissenschaft
und Politik im Leben eines deutschen Historikers (Berlin: Akademie, 1978);
on the church Kte Gaede, Russische Orthodoxe Kirche in Deutschland in
der ersten Hlfte des 20. Jahrhunderts (Cologne: Stenone, 1985); Gernot
Seide, Die Geschichte der Russischen Orthodoxen Kirche im Ausland von der
Grndung bis in die Gegenwart (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1983).
6. Particularly informative are: Roman Gul, Ia unes Rossiiu, vol. 1: Rossiia v
Germanii (New York: Most, 1981); Vladimir Nabokov, Sprich Erinnerung,
sprich. Wiedersehen mit einer Autobiographie (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1984);
Iosif V. Gessen, Gody izgnaniia: Zhiznennyi otchet (Paris: YMCA Press,
1979); Ilja Ehrenburg, Menschen, Jahre, Leben, Autobiographie, vols 1-2
(Munich: Kindler, 19625); Simon M. Dubnov, Kniga zhizni (New York,
7. A summary is provided by Deutschland-Sowjetunion Aus fnf Jahrzehnten
kultureller Zusammenarbeit. Zum 50. Jahrestag der groen sozialistischen
Oktoberrevolution (Berlin: Humboldt Universitt, 1966). Exceptions
to the rule are Botho Brachmann: Russische Sozialdemokraten in Berlin
(Berlin: Akademie, 1962) and Gnter Gorski, Die antisowjetische
Emigration (Ph.D. dissertation, Halle, 1987).
Berlin: Stepmother Among Russian Cities 69

8. Cf. Dodenhoeft, Lat mich nach Ruland heim, pp. 31022; Williams,
Culture in Exile, pp. 3869. For newspapers damaged in the war, cf.
Walter Andreesen, Berlin und die russische Literatur der 20er Jahre,
in Staatsbibliothek Preuischer Kulturbesitz, Mitteilungen 15 (1983), pp.
1314. For exile newspapers etc., cf. Russian National Library and
INION in Moscow.
9. The collection in the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF,
ex-CGAOR) is particularly good. Cf. in especially ff. 6007, 5815, 5859,
5774, 5908, 6006 and 5853.
10. For information on the trophy archive, cf. George Clark Browder,
Captured German and Other Nations. Documents in the Osoby
(Special) Archive in Moscow, in Central European History 24 (1991),
4, pp. 42443; Jan Foitzig, Zur Situation in Moskauer Archiven,
in Jahrbuch fr Historische Kommunismusforschung 1993, pp. 299308;
Wolfgang Form and Pavel Poljan, Das Zentrum fr die Aufbewah-
rung historisch-dokumentarischer Sammlungen in Moskau ein
Erfahrungsbericht, in Bundesinstitut fr ostwissenschaftliche und inter-
nationale Studien, Information aus der Forschung 7, 1992.
11. Cf. Wilhelm Doegen, Kriegsgefangene Vlker. Bearb. in Verbindung
mit Theodor Kappstein und hrsg. im amtlichen Auftrage des Reichs-
wehrministeriums von Wilhelm Doegen, 6th edn, vol. 1: Der Kriegs-
gefangenen Haltung und Schicksal in Deutschland (Berlin: Politik und
Wirtschaft, 1921); Moritz Schlesinger, Erinnerungen eines Auenseiters
im diplomatischen Dienst, ed. and intr. by Hubert Schneider (Cologne:
Verlag Wissenschaft und Politik, 1977).
12. Volkmanns calculations have not yet been superseded. He based
his gures on statistics from the German Interior Ministry, and on
information from von Rimscha, the German consul in Copenhagen,
and the Papal Welfare Organization for Russians in Germany
(Volkmann, Die russische Emigration, pp. 57). Cf. also Dodenhoeft,
Lat mich nach Ruland heim, pp. 810. Williams estimates there
to have been 60,000 Jews in the Jewish Diaspora (Culture in Exile, p.
13. The statistics for the 1930s come from the Bureau for Refugee Affairs
in the Reich, Osoby Archive, f. 7, op. 1, d. 386, 1.43. Dodenhoeft
gures (1932: 60,000; 1933: 50,000) are based on reports for the
FO, Nansens ofce and the League of Nations, and are way below
these. Nash Vek of 19 March 1933 claimed there were 8,320 Russian
emigrants and 3,000 members of the Soviet Russian colony.
14. On the Vlasov Movement, cf. Catherine Andreyev, Vlasov and the Russian
Liberation Movement: Soviet Reality and Emigr Theories (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1987); Joachim Hoffmann, Die Geschichte
der Wlassow-Armee (Freiburg im Breisgau: Rombach, 1984). On the
Soviet workers and POWs in Germany: Reinhard Rrup (ed.), Der
70 Karl Schlgel

Krieg gegen die Sowjetunion 19411945. Eine Dokumentation (Berlin:

Argon, 1991), pp. 140, 108 ff.
15. The gure of 50,000 Ukrainians in Berlin alone is probably too
high, cf. Frank Golczewski (ed.), Geschichte der Ukraine (Gttingen:
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1993), pp. 237 and 329. Schmidt
estimates there to have been 120,000 Russian and Baltic Germans,
of which half remained permanently in Germany. See M. Schmidt,
Wolgadeutsche Emigranten im Deutschen Reich zwischen 1917 und 1933
(MA thesis, Freiburg University), p. 42.
16. On the legal question: J.M. Rabinowitsch, Die Rechtslage der
staatenlosen russischen Emigranten in Deutschland, in Osteuropa 3
(1927/28), pp. 61725; Volkmann, Die russische Emigration, pp. 2945;
Alexis Doldenweiser, ber die Rechtslage russischer Flchtlinge in
Deutschland, in Columbia Collection, box 12, folder 2.
17. Volkmann, Die russische Emigration, p. 8. On Germany as a transit stop
for Jewish emigrants, cf. Trude Maurer, Ostjuden in Deutschland 1918
1933 (Hamburg: Christians, 1986).
18. Wipert v. Blcher, Deutschlands Weg nach Rapallo. Erinnerungen eines
Mannes aus dem zweiten Gliede (Wiesbaden: Limes, 1951).
19. Nabokov, Sprich Erinnerung, p. 281.
20. Internationale Rundschau der Arbeit, 1928, quoted in Volkmann, Die
russische Emigration, pp. 1213.
21. Spravochnik-Almanakh pod. red. G.V. Franka (Berlin: Argonavty,
22. Cf. Volkmann, Die russische Emigration, p. 15 and Dodenhoeft, Lat
mich nach Ruland heim, pp. 36 ff. The internal papers of many of
these associations were deposited in the Prague Historical Foreign
23. The archives of the Red Cross were lost in the Second World War.
On the activities of the YMCA, cf. Kenneth Scott Latourette, World
Service: A History of the Foreign Work and World Service of the Young
Mens Christian Associations of the United States and Canada (New York:
Association Press, 1957).
24. Quoted in Wiese, Von der Emigrantenschule, p. 44.
25. Ibid., pp. 73, 96.
26. On the Russian Scientic Institute, cf. Camphausen, Die wissenschaft-
liche historische Russlandforschung, pp. 5660; Voigt, Otto Hoetzsch, pp.
178 ff.; Dodenhoeft, Lat mich nach Ruland heim, pp. 89114.
27. Cf. Dodenhoeft, Lat mich nach Ruland heim, p. 110.
28. Cf. here Williams, Culture in Exile, p. 137 and Gottfried Kratz,
Russische Verlage in Berlin nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg, in Beyer et
al., Russische Autoren und Verlage, pp. 39150.
29. A less than complete overview of newspapers and magazines that
appeared in Germany is contained in Postnikovs bibliography and
Berlin: Stepmother Among Russian Cities 71

catalogue; see Sergei P. Postnikov, Politika, ideologiia, byt i uchenie trudy

russkoi emigratsii 19181945: bibliograia iz kataloga i biblioteki R.Z.I.
Arkhiva, pod red. G. Blinova, vols 1-2 (New York: Ross, 1993). Cf. also
the memoirs of Gul and Gessen.
30. Arthur Luther, Russen in Deutschland, in Illustrierte Zeitung, No.
4080, 1922, p. 111.
31. The evaluation of the overseas church after 1933 and up to 1941,
in particular, in the work of Gernot Seide, Kte Gaede and Werner
Gnter, Aus der Geschichte der Russisch-Orthodoxen Gemeinde Baden-Baden
(Baden-Baden, 1982) is highly controversial.
32. On the Mensheviks, cf. Williams, Culture in Exile, pp. 185 ff; Leopold
Haimson (ed.), The Mensheviks from the Revolution of 1917 to the Second
World War (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1974); Sozialistische
Revolution in einem unterentwickelten Land? Texte der Menschewiki zur
russischen Revolution und zum Sowjetstaat 19031937 (Hamburg,
1981); Georg Decker, Erinnerungen und Aufstze eines Menschewiken
und Sozialdemokraten, ed. by Werner Plum (Bonn: Friedrich-Ebert-
Stiftung, 1980); Andr Liebich, Les Mensheviks en exile face lUnion
sovitique (Qubec: CIEE, 1982).
33. Cf. here Marc Jansen (ed.), The Socialist-Revolutionary Party after
October 1917. Documents from the P.S.-R. Archives (Amsterdam: Stichting
Beheer IISG, 1989), pp. 641757.
34. On the cadets: William G. Rosenberg, Liberals in the Russian Revolution:
The Constitutional Democratic Party, 19171921 (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1974). Cf. also Williams, Culture in Exile, pp. 1817.
On Rul cf. the memoirs of Gessen and Gul.
35. On National Bolshevism and Smena Vekh: Mikhail Agursky, Ideologiia
natsional-bolshevizma (Paris: YMCA Press, 1980); Amory Burchard, Die
Literaturbeilage der Berliner russischen Tageszeitung Nakanune (1922
1924) als Spiegel der Zeit (MA thesis, Berlin 1993); Hilde Hardeman,
Coming to Terms with the Soviet Regime: The Changing Signposts Movement
among Russian Emigrs in the Early 1920s (De Kalb: Northern Illinois
UP, 1994). On the Eurasians: Otto Bss, Die Lehre der Eurasier. Ein
Beitrag zur russischen Ideengeschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts (Wiesbaden:
Harrassowitz, 1961); Leonid Luks, Die Ideologie der Eurasier im
zeitgeschichtlichen Zusammenhang, in Jahrbcher fr Geschichte
Osteuropas N.F. 34 (1986), pp. 37495.
36. Cf. Nicholas Hayes, Kazem-Bek and the Young Russians Revolution,
in Slavic Review 39 (1980), pp. 25568; John J. Stephan, The Russian
Fascists: Tragedy and Farce in Exile, 19251945 (New York: Harper &
Row, 1978); Dodenhoeft, Lat mich nach Ruland heim, p. 231.
37. On the Russian National Freedom Movement (ROND) and the
Russian National and Social Movement (RSND).
38. Cf. Williams, Culture in Exile, p. 238.
72 Karl Schlgel

39. For differences in the monarchist camp, cf. ibid., pp. 16080, 20221;
Dodenhoeft, Lat mich nach Ruland heim, pp. 16870; Volkmann,
Die russische Emigration, pp. 613.
40. On the Russo-German connection in Munich in particular, cf.
Laqueur, Deutschland und Russland, pp. 99 ff.; Williams, Culture
in Exile, pp. 85 ff.; Henri Rollin, Lapocalypse de notre temps (Paris:
Gallimard, 1939); Rafail Sh. Ganelin (ed.), Natsionalnaia pravaia
prezhde i teper: istoriko-sotsiologicheskie ocherki, chast I (St Petersburg:
Institut sotsiologii Rossiiskoi Akademii nauk, Sankt-Peterburgskii
lial, 1992), pp. 1249, 13050.
41. Dodenhoeft, Lat mich nach Ruland heim, p. 261, quoting Novoe
Slovo of 27 August 1939. The lack of awareness of the emigrants
emerges very clearly in the comments on the events of 1933 in Nash
42. Cf. Dodenhoeft, Lat mich nach Ruland heim, pp. 270, 282 on
declarations of loyalty and collaboration.
43. On contacts between the rst-generation emigrants and the Vlasov
movement: Sergej Frhlich, General Wlassow: Russen und Deutsche
zwischen Hitler und Stalin, ed. by von Edel von Freier (Cologne: Markus,
1987), p. 240; Wilfried Strik-Strikfeldt, Gegen Stalin und Hitler. General
Wlassow und die russische Freiheitsbewegung (Mainz: von Hase & Koehler,
1970), pp. 165 ff.; Hoffmann: Die Geschichte der Wlassow-Armee, pp. 39
ff.; Dodenhoeft, Lat mich nach Ruland heim, pp. 27695.
44. On the trials of collaborating emigrants, cf. Vladimir Komin, Belaia
emigratsiia i vtoraia mirovaia voina. Uchebnoe posobie (Kalinin: KGU,
45. On the House of the Arts, cf. Thomas R. Beyer jr., The House of Arts
and the Writers Club, Berlin 19211923, in Beyer et al., Russische
Autoren und Verlage, pp. 938, as well as the memoirs of Ehrenburg
and Gul and the collection by Mierau.
46. On this rst exhibition, cf. the catalogue of Stationen der Moderne. Die
bedeutendsten Kunstausstellungen des 20. Jahrhunderts in Deutschland, ed.
by Michael Boll (Berlin: Nicolai, 1988), pp. 184215; Jrn Merkert
(ed.), Naum Gabo: Ein russischer Konstruktivist in Berlin 19221932.
Skulpturen, Zeichnungen und Architektenentwrfe, Dokumente und Archive
aus der Sammlung der Berlinischen Galerie (Berlin: Nishen, 1989);
Eberhard Steneberg, Russische Kunst in Berlin 19191932 (Berlin:
Mann, 1969).
47. Cf.. Bhmig, Das russische Theater.
48. Nicholas Nabokov, quoted in ibid., p. 261.
49. Cf. Brian Boyd, Vladimir Nabokov, vol. 1: The Russian Years (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1990) and Andrew Field, Vladimir Nabokov:
The Life and Art of Vladimir Nabokov (New York: Crown, 1986).
50. On Chicherin and Litvinov as students in Berlin, cf. Brachmann,
Russische Sozialdemokraten. On the collaboration between the German
Berlin: Stepmother Among Russian Cities 73

Army and the Red Army, cf. Manfred Zeidler, Reichswehr und Rote Armee
19201933. Wege und Stationen einer ungewhnlichen Zusammenarbeit
(Munich: Oldenbourg, 1993).
51. On Schmitt and Jnger as guests at Krestinskiis receptions even
after 30 January 1933, cf. Armin Mohler, Die konservative Revolution
in Deutschland 19181932. Ein Handbuch, 3rd edn (Darmstadt:
Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1989), p. 50.
52. Serious research into this grey area stands in inverse ratio to the
enormous popular interest of the day, which was met by an outpouring
of trashy and detective stories, such as Essad Bey, Das weie Ruland.
Menschen ohne Heimat (Berlin: Kiepenheuer, 1932); Wladimir Orloff,
Mrder, Flscher, Provokateure. Lebenskmpfe im unterirdischen Russland
(Berlin: Brckenverlag, 1929); Grigorij Bessedowskii, Den Klauen
der Tscheka entronnen (Leipzig, Zrich: Grethlein, 1930); Tamara
Solonewitsch, Drei Jahre bei der Berliner Sowjethandelsvertretung (Essen:
Essener Verlagsanstalt, 1939). And there were, of course, the host of
lives of the Tsars daughter Anastasia, that went on into the post-
Second World War period.

Bibliographical note

Since this research on Russian Berlin has been done,

a lot of new works research guides, bibliographies, anthologies,
monographs, memoirs have been published. The results of my own
research project of the 1990s are materialized in a series of books:
Karl Schlgel (ed.), Russische Emigration in Deutschland 19181941
(Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1995); Karl Schlgel, Katharina Kucher,
Bernhard Suchy and Gregor Thum (eds), Chronik russischen Lebens
in Deutschland 19181941 (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1999). There
are two studies dedicated to prominent sites and personalities of
the Russian migr community in Germany: Johannes Baur, Die
russische Kolonie in Mnchen 19001945. Deutsch-russische Beziehungen
im 20. Jahrhundert (Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz, 1998), and Christian
Hufen, Fedor Stepun. Ein politicher Intellektueller aus Ruland in
Europa. Die Jahre 18841945 (Berlin: Lukas, 2001). I tried to bring
together white and red Russian Berlin in the monograph Karl
Schlgel, Berlin Ostbahnhof. Russen und Deutsche in ihrem Jahrhundert
(Berlin: Siedler, 1998), in Russian: Berlin. Vostochnyi vokzal. Russkaia
emigratsiia v Germanii mezhdu dvumia voinami, 19181945 (Moscow:
Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie, 2005).
74 Karl Schlgel

The most important change in migr research concerns the

opening of the Russian archives. The publishing of research guides
and aids, and the publications of edited primary sources, brought
particularly impressive new insights. This new access to archival
material still fairly inaccessible for many other elds had a clear
impact on the research on migr affairs. The most important les
are in GARF, where the bulk of the Russian Foreign Historic Archives,
originally based in Prague, have been preserved since 1945. See
the series of Gosudarstevnnyi arkhiv Rossiiskoi federatsii. Putevoditel,
starting with vol. 1: Fondy gosudarstvennogo arkhiva Rossiiskoi federatsii
po istorii Rossii XIX nachala XX vv., red. S. V. Mironeko, Gregori L.
Friz (Moscow: Blagovest, 1994); Problemy zarubezhnoi arkhivnoi Rossiki.
Sbornik statei (Moscow: Russkii mir, 1997); also Russkoe zarubezhe
19171991. Katalog izdanii iz fonda biblioteki-archiva (Moscow, 1992).
Particularly helpful are: S.P. Postnikov (ed.) and S.G. Blinov (red.),
Politika, ideologiia, byt i uchenye trudy russkoi emigratsii 19181945.
Bibliograia iz katalog biblioteki R.Z.I.A., vols I-II (New York: Norman
Ross, 1993).

Very impressive is the progress made in publishing encyclopaedias

dedicated to general issues regarding the history and culture of
the Russian migr community: Russkoe zarubezhe. Zolotaia kniga
emigratsii. Pervaia tret XX veka. Entsiklopedicheskii biogracheskii
slovar (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 1997); Literaturnaia entsiklopediia
russkogo zarubezhia, 2 vols (Moscow, 1997); Valentin Bulgakov,
Slovar russkikh zarubezhnykh pisatelei, red. Galina Vanchkova (New
York: Norman Ross, 1993). Pisateli russkogo zarubezhia. Literaturnaia
entsiklopediia russkogo zarubezhia 19181940 (Moscow: ROSSPEN,
1997); Zarubezhnaia Rossiia 19171939, vol. 2 (Sankt-Peterburg: Liki
Rossii, 2003); Wojciech Zalewski, Evgeni Gollerbach, Rasprostranenie
russkoi pechati v mire. 19181939 gg., Spravochnik (Sankt-Peterburg:
Rossiiskaia natsionalnaia biblioteka, 1998). On New Russian Berlin
see the valuable guide Das neue Russische Berlin, ed. by Partner fr
Berlin Gesellschaft fr Hauptstadt-Marketing (Berlin, 2001).

Russia abroad, as remembered and reected in memoirs and

diaries is one of the most relevant sources for any research.
Scholars nd indispensable aid in Rossiia i rossiiskaia emigratsiia
v vospominaniiakh i dnevnikakh. Annotirovannyi ukazatel knig,
zhurnalnykh i gazetnykh publikatsii, izdannykh za rubezhom v 1917
1991 gg., 4 vols (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 20032005); Svodnyi katalog
Berlin: Stepmother Among Russian Cities 75

periodicheskikh i prodolzhaiushchikhsia izdanii russkogo zarubezia v

bibliotekakh Moskvy, 19171996 gg. (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 1999);
I.L. Polotovskaia, Materialy dlia bibliograi informatsionnykh resursov
russkogo zarubezia (Sankt-Peterburg: Nestor, 2002); David Arans,
Russkie knigi za rubezhom 19801995 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennaia
Publichnaia Istoricheskaia Biblioteka Rossii, 2002); Literatura
russkogo zarubezhia vozvrashchaetsia na rodinu. Vyborochnyi ukazatel
publikatsii 18861990, fasc. I, part 1 (Moscow: Rudomino, 1993).

The cultural heritage of Russian emigration has been the subject

of many exhibitions in Russia as well as abroad, for instance Nikita
Struve, Soixante-dix ans dmigration russe, 19191989 (Paris: Fayard,
1996); Russkii Berlin. Das russische Berlin 19181941. Izdanie k
vystavke Russkii Berlin 1918-1941 v Gosudarstvennom muzee 1327
maia 2003. Representative documents are published in Russkaia
voennaia emigratsiia 20-kh40-kh godov. Dokumenty i materialy, vols
III (Moscow: Geia, 1998); Politicheskaia istoriia russkoi emigratsii
19201940gg. Dokumenty i materialy (Moscow: Vladox, 1999); Iu. N.
Sukharev, Materialy k istorii russkogo nauchnogo zarubezhia, vols III
(Moscow: Studiia TRITE Nikity Mikhalkova, 2002).

Many conferences in recent years have dealt with various aspects

of migr life: Russkie bez otechestva. Ocherki antibolshevistkoi
emigratsii 2040-kh godov (Moscow: Izdatelskii tsentr RGGU,
2000). The outstanding contribution of Russian Jews is analyzed
in many articles in the multi-volume series Michail Parkhomovsky
(ed.), Evrei v kulture russkogo zarubezhia. Sbornik statei, publikatsii,
memuarov i esse, 9 vols (Jerusalem, 19922004). New light is shed
on the spectacular exile actions of the Bolshevik government
in 19921/22: Vysylka vmesto rasstrela. Deportatsiia intelligentsii
v dokumentakh VChK-GPU (Moscow: Russkii put, 2005); M.E.
Glavatskii, Filofoskij parokhod: god 1922-i. Istoriogracheskiie etjudy
(Ekaterinburg: Izdatelstvo Uralskogo universiteta, 2002). Specic
groups of migrs academic, ethnic, artistic, etc. are the subject
of special studies: Hauke Janssen, Russische konomen in Deutschland,
19101933 (Marburg: Metropolis, 2004); on literary circles:
Amory Burchard, Klubs der russischen Dichter in Berlin 19201941.
Institutionen des literarischen Lebens im Exil (Mnchen: Otto Sagner,
2001); Brian Boyd, Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1990); Thomas Urban, Nabokov in Berlin
(Berlin: Proylen, 1999); Dieter E. Zimmer, Nabokovs Berlin (Berlin:
76 Karl Schlgel

Nicolai, 2001); Daniela Rippl (ed.), Vladimir Nabokov Sein Leben in

Bildern und Texten (Berlin: Alexander Fest, 1998). Kultura russkoi
diaspory: Vladimir Nabokov 100. Materialy nauchoi konferentsii Tallinn-
Tartu, 1417 ianvaria 1999 (Tallinn, 2000). In addition to the well-
known studies of R.C. Williams and Erich Volkmann, based on new
archival materials: Leonid Pasternak v Rossii i Germanii. Iz muzeinykh
i chastnich sobranii Moskvy, Vejmara, Marbakha i Oksforda (Moscow:
Pinakoteka, 2001); Claudia Weiss, Das Russland zwischen den Zeilen.
Die russische Emigrantenpresse im Frankreich der 1920er Jahre und ihre
Bedeutung fr die Genese der Zarubezhnaia Rossiia (Hamburg and
Munich: Dllig und Galitz, 2000). On the political scene: Andr
Liebich, From the Other Shore. Russian Social Democracy after 1921
(Cambride, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997); Claudie Weill,
tudiants russes en Allemagne 19001914. Quand la Russie frappait
aux portes de lEurope (Paris: LHarmattan, 1996); Istorichskaia nauka
rossiiskoi emigratsii 2030-kh gg. XX veka. Khronika (Moscow: Airo-
XX, 1998); G.S. Starodubtsev, Mezhdunarodno-pravovaia nauka
rossiiskoi emigratsii, 19181939 (Moscow: Kniga i biznes, 2000);
on the problem of raising children in the new environment
abroad: Deti russkoi emigratsii. Kniga, kotoruiu mechtali i ne smogli
izdat izgnanniki (Moscow: Terra, 1997). Lazar Fleishman, V tiskakh
provokatsii. Operatsija Trest i russkaia zarubezhnaia pechat (Moscow:
Novoe Literaturnoe obozrenie, 2003); Oleg Zinger, Moskau Berlin
Paris. Das Leben eines Malers (Leipzig: Reclam, 1995).

For new evidence on the relationship and cooperation between

Russian migrs and some German milieus, especially the right
wing: A.V. Okorokov, Fashizm i russkaia emigratsiia, 19201945 gg.
(Moscow: Rusaki, 2002); Artem Lysenko, Golos izgnaniia. Stanovlenie
gazet russkogo Berlina i ikh evoliutsiia v 19191922 gg. (Moscow:
Russkaia kniga, 2000); Iurii Tsurganov, Neudavshiisia revansh.
Belaia emigratsiia vo Vtoroi mirovoi voine (Moscow: Intrada, 2001);
and especially Michael Kellogg, The Russian Roots of Nazism. White
migrs and the Making of National Socialism, 19171945 (Cambridge,
Cambridge University Press, 2005).

German Emigrants in Soviet

Exile: A Drama in Five Acts

Act 1: Exposition the Route to the Soviet Union

The principle of granting political asylum was rmly

anchored in the Bolshevik consciousness. Many had themselves
own from the persecution of the tsarist empire and found refuge
in other countries of Europe. As early as March 1918, the All-Russian
Central Executive Committee had ordered by decree that persons
who were persecuted for political reasons in their home countries
would be granted asylum. This decision was codied in Article 21 of
the Soviet Constitution of July 1918. For the Bolsheviks, naturally,
political reasons meant revolutionary activity, as a constitutional
amendment of 1929 made clear. The punishment threatened,
however, had to be unusually high in order for the right of asylum
to go into effect. The new Soviet constitution of 1936 recapitulated
the requirement regarding the asylum law.1 The guarantees in
this law had already gained signicance in 1919 with the defeat of
revolutionary uprisings in Hungary and Bavaria, when a number
of the participants ed to Soviet Russia to escape persecution in
their homelands. In the course of the twentieth century, more
than 10,000 revolutionary ghters were welcomed in the USSR as
political emigrants by the International Red Aid of the USSR (MOPR
SSSR) founded in 1922. 2 Most of these emigrants came from
Poland, Bulgaria, Latvia, Germany and Rumania.3
Although some of the refugees stayed quite some time in the
Soviet Union, the goal was not to grant permanent residence, but
rather to take the persecuted away from the action for a period of
time. They were often sent to recuperate and were armed with new

78 Carola Tischler

revolutionary enthusiasm, and in some cases with new documents,

in order to take up the ght again in their former countries. Some
also completed classes at the Lenin School in Moscow, founded
in 1926. The school focused particularly on the German section,
since the Bolshevik revolutionaries still set their hopes on the
German proletariat as Marx had in spite of the defeat of the 1923
Hamburg Uprising.
With the transfer of power to the National Socialists in 1933
the Soviet position of only granting asylum to those facing a long
prison sentence or even the death penalty did not initially change.
Since the Soviet leaders, like those of the German Communist
Party (KPD), succumbed to the erroneous view that the National
Socialists would only be in power for a short time, a mass emigration
of those communists at risk was not regarded as desirable. Quite
the contrary, both the Russian and German communist parties
expected the revolutionary fervour to escalate in Germany, i.e. the
cadres were needed in the country. Not long thereafter, however,
the KPD leadership changed its mind. As the annihilation of the
Communist Party progressed and the leaders themselves left the
country, it was recognized that the emigration of Communist Party
members should be supported.4
Acquiring entry permission to the Soviet Union was difcult, due
to the visa requirement and the slow bureaucratic wheels of the
Soviet Foreign Commissariat but not hopeless. In the end, the
asylum policy of the Soviet Union at least as it pertained to the
emigration of Communist Party members was not as restrictive
as was suggested by contemporary opinion and, consequently,
also for a time in academic literature.5 The propaganda of the
Soviet Union itself helped propagate this image since the fear
that events in Germany could lead to mass migration to the Soviet
Union did not only worry the ofcials of the foreign ministry.
Economically speaking, the Soviet Union was not in a position to
offer accommodation and subsistence to a large number of German
refugees. The great movement of foreign skilled labourers mainly
from Germany, but also from America who were recruited in the
industrialization period following 1929, had shown that it was not
sufcient to merely offer a job; it was also necessary to offer living
conditions and wages at a level that would meet the expectations
of workers from the West. The cost of the negative message from
disappointed workers returning to the West was higher, from the
Soviet Unions perspective, than the benets gained from the
German Emigrants in Soviet Exile 79

foreign labour. But a housing shortage as well as a hard currency

shortage continued to dominate the Soviet economy. In addition,
the economic and social isolation of the Soviet Union from the
early 1930s had an effect on opinions. This development, taken
together with immigration pressure from Germany and the overly
burdensome Soviet bureaucracy, led to the perception that Soviet
policy was restrictive.
This was indeed what the largest group by far of immigrants
from Germany, the Jews, experienced. And although the Soviet
Union as a country was not of much interest to German Jews who
wanted to leave their home, the scant employment opportunities in
Germany and other Western countries to which they could emigrate
kept the USSR as an option. As they had generally not fought for
revolutionary change, they were denied the status of political
emigrants in the USSR. Apart from the special case of a group of
about sixty doctors and their family members, who were granted
admission through the intermediation of the Commissioner for
Health, Kaminskii, no Jewish organization succeeded in persuading
the USSR to receive a large number of refugees.6
In contrast, a number of individuals Jews and non-Jews alike
succeeded in seeking asylum in the Soviet Union by other means
than through the party. In most cases they already had professional
connections with Soviet institutions or advocates who had contacts
to prominent or inuential Soviet gures. Thanks to the earnings
from their activity, especially in the areas of science and culture
which they promised to the USSR, they obtained entry visas and
were assigned occupations corresponding to their education. On
this basis, mathematicians, physicists, medical practitioners, music-
ians, architects and others made their livelihoods in the Soviet
Union. The exact number of such people is not known, but it may
have been around a hundred.
By far the largest group of emigrants was made up of KPD mem-
bers and their families. The requirement that only those threatened
with a death or prison sentence could have the status of political
emigrants was soon abandoned. In addition the rule that one could
emigrate only with the permission of the Central Committee lost its
validity with the break-up of the party structure. KPD members took
various routes to the Soviet Union: writers, for example, stayed in the
country after participating in the Writers Congress of 1934; those
involved with theatre stayed after the Theatre-Olympiad; tourists
looked for a job at their own expense and requested emigration
80 Carola Tischler

permission ex post; children of illegal workers in Germany were

sent alone to the Soviet Union; and Party functionaries particip-
ated in conferences or congresses and were assigned new tasks.
Entreaties to the Red Cross by simple Party members and their
families were approved and visas were prepared through the
diplomatic ofces of other countries. For Party functionaries,
the Comintern regulated the formalities. The numerous people
who had worked in the most diverse institutions before 1933 and
became emigrants against their will also deserve mention. These
included many German technical experts, who had been attracted
to the expanding Soviet market during the world-wide Great
Depression and no longer wanted to return to Nazi Germany. All in
all, the biggest German communist exile colony arose in the Soviet
Union in the rst three years after 1933. Based on estimates, the
KPD representation at the Comintern suggested there were about
4,600 emigrants in mid-1936. In contrast, the estimated number
of exiled communists in the remaining European countries at this
time amounted to only 2,000 people.7

Act II: Plot Development the Years of Settling in,

1933 to 1936

Although the instructions to the MOPR called for the

new emigrants to be housed in the provinces as much as possible,
the majority ultimately remained in Moscow. The housing situation
was very tense here, but the capital offered the most employment
possibilities for the Germans. Germans working in the provinces in
the 1930s were primarily those who had come as skilled labourers
and had no desire to return to Germany after 1933.8
Some of the Germans living in the USSR in the 1930s had already
seen the country through participation in congresses, tourist
trips or work assignments in the 1920s and had thus developed
some insight into the lifestyle. For most, however, this was their
rst contact and thus it entailed some adjustment difculties.
The positive image of the workers and farmers state, created
by the KPD and the supportive press, had to be reconciled with
the realities the emigrants met: poor living conditions, rationed
food supplies and long queues at the food shops, stray children
and old beggars, a different culture leading to different behaviour,
unbelievable bureaucratic difculties and, last but not least, a
German Emigrants in Soviet Exile 81

totally foreign language. Naturally, adjusting to all of this required

enormous effort. The writer Hedda Zinner, who had come to
Moscow together with her husband, Fritz Erpenbeck, from their
exile in Prague early in 1935, wrote the following in one of her
rst reports about the mood on the 1 May holiday: It is lovely to
wander through the streets and look at the shops. They are also all
dressed up and decorated. The colourful displays of goods are not
advertisements in our sense. What for anyway? If someone wants
to buy something, they do it anyway . . . In her account of her time
in exile, which was written in the German Democratic Republic
before 1975, but could only be published after 1989, she added
this passage:

I wrote these lines back then simply in the intensity of the moment.
Today I ask myself if anyone believes, can believe, the accuracy of these
observations. Those windows covered in red paper, with the production
targets of the plan, photos of the best workers, adorned with portraits of
Lenin, Stalin, Marx and Engels, were ugly, hiding the scarcity. But I didnt
think of them this way. It would be wrong to accuse me of immediately
justifying to myself the deplorable state of affairs I encountered. If one
presumes such an attitude, it would be responsible for everything. But
such simplications are not correct. I came from capitalist countries
and had often enough stood in front of beautiful, extravagant displays,
intended to lure in shoppers. But I often couldnt buy anything in these
countries, although I was hungry. In the Soviet Union there wasnt
much, but what there was, you could buy in plenty. Thats why the shop
windows, which had nothing to do with shop windows in the usual sense,
seemed pleasant to me.9

There was hardly anyone who wanted to leave the country at that
time. The persecution in Germany made a return home impossible
and the restricted employment options in most other migr
countries made them untenable alternatives. Moreover, in spite of
all the difculties mentioned, the Soviet Unions trump card was,
on the one hand, the manifold employment possibilities which
were offered to Germans and, on the other hand, the tremendous
enthusiasm in the 1930s for building socialism that had infected
most of them. All the problems that had to be overcome could, in
many cases, be rightly blamed on the backwardness of the tsarist
The housing question was resolved for the different emigrants
in various ways. The Comintern owned an out-of-service hotel in
82 Carola Tischler

the centre of Moscow, the legendary Hotel Lux, which was used as
housing quarters for its leading functionaries.10 Other colleagues
could live in another hotel on Gorkii Street which was also owned
by the Comintern. In addition the MOPR, which maintained its
own emigrants house for approximately 200 people, also rented
rooms in many Moscow hotels in which emigrants lived on a short-
or even long-term basis. In general, various places of work also
owned the houses adjacent to their business. It was very difcult
to nd accommodation on the normal housing market due to the
overcrowding of the city. Finding a permanent room in a communal
apartment even a very small one was a great stroke of luck. In
the worst cases, people could live in rooms which became available
for short periods, and hence had to adjust to a year-long nomadic
existence. To relieve the situation dachas (summer houses) in the
area surrounding Moscow were used, which were unoccupied in the
summer months, but which, to some extent, became permanent
living quarters. The majority of Soviet citizens fared no better,
which eased the emigrants acceptance of the situation.
The international focus of the communist movement did indeed
open up opportunities for the emigrants, which would not have been
available in other countries of emigration. Alone the Communist
International, including its afliated sub-organizations, offered a
diverse eld of activities, not only for its leading functionaries. The
enormous amount of paper that the Comintern produced required
the maintenance of an extensive editorial, writing and translation
apparatus. The same structures existed in the Communist Youth
International, the International Revolutionary Theatre Alliance,
the International Red Cross, the International Workers Assistance
Organization, the International Agricultural Institute and the Red
Union International, all of which had their headquarters in Moscow.
Whereas at the Lenin School, cadres were educated for illegal
activities, the Communist University of the National Minorities of
the West prepared the communist emigrants for activities in the
lower and middle party echelons.11
The emigrants could also utilize their education and experience
at the State Radio Committee, which since 1929 had been produc-
ing, among other programs, a German-language program, or at
the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute, which dealt with the international
research and publication of works of the classical Marxist writers.
The German section of the Publishing Association of Foreign
Workers (VEGAAR) offered the group of German-speaking
German Emigrants in Soviet Exile 83

writers publication and employment opportunities, as did the two

exile periodicals published in Moscow: Das Wort and Internationale
Literatur. In addition, the existence of a German-speaking national
minority in the Soviet multi-ethnic state meant that several German-
language newspapers were published in the USSR (in Moscow:
Deutsche Zentral-Zeitung; in Leningrad: Rote Zeitung), and that the
migr plan to develop a German-language National Theatre in
the capital of the German Volga republic could be pursued.12
For those who had already worked in this system of communist
organizations in Germany, nothing much changed apart from the
location. The foreignness of the country was at rst more difcult
for the family members who had also emigrated, although they were
the ones who adjusted more quickly to daily life. The existence of
the German minority mitigated many problems. German publica-
tions were part of this, but the German Karl-Liebknecht-School in
Moscow, for example, also played a role: in the 1930s almost a third
of the school was composed of emigrant children (and teachers).
Furthermore, German was one of the most widely taught foreign
languages at that time. The Ernst Thlmann club for foreign
workers had also already existed since the beginning of the 1920s
as an emigrant social club. Frequented for a time mainly by skilled
labourers, in the 1930s it became the meeting place of the German
emigrant community in Moscow.
Integration into Soviet life took different forms, depending on
personality, acquaintances and working environment. In addition,
the level of political involvement differed drastically. The usual
procedure in the communist movement of transferring to the party
of the respective country of residence did not apply initially to KPD
emigrants because of a halt on new members by the Communist
Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in force since 1933. Hitherto,
foreigners had always managed to join the CPSU, but in 1935,
when several of these foreign party members were stigmatized as
spies, saboteurs or class enemies in the spree of arrests after
the Kirov murder, disquiet arose more than anywhere within the
Comintern. Those accused had, after all, been recommended to
join the CPSU and now those who had proposed them fell under
suspicion. This led to the inspection of all party members in the
echelons of the Comintern in all foreign communist parties.
A commission decided for each country whether to support a
transfer to the CPSU after the lifting of the ban on new members.
At the same time, in March 1936, the secretariat of the Comintern
84 Carola Tischler

announced a resolution on political emigration, stating that a

great number of emigrants should leave the Soviet Union: namely
those who had travelled into the country without permission from
the Central Committee or those who faced no particularly severe
persecution in their home country; but above all those who had
made themselves suspicious to the Party in one way or another,
whether through complications with their daily lives, which was
seen as a lack of loyalty to the country, or through membership of
earlier factional groups.13 The inspection of the KPD, which was
carried out by a commission chaired by Walter Dittbender, took
several months during 1936. In the autumn, Dittbender produced
a list of people who should be sent back to Germany. They included
in part the three groups mentioned above, but also trustworthy
members of the German Communist Party. In this way the KPD
hoped to strengthen the shattered KPD in Germany. The vigour of
the Great Terror, however, meant that these plans were derailed by
subsequent events.

Act 3: Climax the Terrible Years of 1937 and 1938

Although individual German emigrants had already

been arrested in the years prior to 1936, the German migrs rst
became aware of the Stalinist Terror with the rst show trial in
August 1936. Initially it was primarily the party leadership which
panicked as a result of its connections to the accused in these show
trials, of whom ve were members of the KPD.14 It was the period
in which meetings were taking place across the whole country
pursuing excessive vigilance of the enemies.15 At this time, most
people including the German KPD exiles were convinced by
the ofcial communiqus. And if someone else was arrested, the
recriminations of the Peoples Commissariat for Internal Affairs
(NKVD) were legitimized. If someone or indeed a loved one
was arrested, this was explained as an error due to the threatening
or complicated situation which would soon be cleared up. Little
by little, as the situation deteriorated, the truth came out, among
emigrants as well, that the Terror was unjustied.
The huge operation, which was carried out at the same time as
the show trials, targeted quite specic groups of citizens, such as
specic nationalities or former people (byvshie liudi) who were
potentially ill-disposed to the Soviet regime. The latter included
German Emigrants in Soviet Exile 85

former landowners or wealthy farmers, tsarist ofcials, White

ofcers, social revolutionaries and mensheviki, as well as clergy. The
reach and the means of its implementation had the effect, however,
that more or less every group of citizens felt threatened by the Terror.
The outwardly observed arbitrariness of the arrests, seemingly to
full quotas, also induced fear among German emigrants and in
consequence social fragmentation and denunciation. Party life was
disrupted; the emigrant community which had functioned as a self-
sufcient group was fractured and ultimately almost annihilated by
the Terror. With the decrease in arrests in the summer of 1938, over
70 per cent of the German emigrants had been directly affected by
the Terror.16
It was as far as we can tell today primarily two letters from the
central administration of state security of the NKVD, and one dir-
ective, which led to the arrests of the Germans. The rst directive,
dated 14 February 1937, was targeted against the suspected or real
Trotskyites.17 An outline of the foreign organizations of the German
Trotskyites is attached. The second directive, dated 2 April 1937,
concerns the February-March assembly of the Central Committee
of the CPSU, and predicts fascist activity on USSR soil.18 It also refers
to the imminence of the so-called German operation. NKVD direct-
ive number 00439, of 25 July 1937, required that lists be compiled
of those Germans who were currently working, or had previously
worked, in armaments factories, factories with armaments divisions
or in railroad industries; they were then to be arrested within ve
days. This included emigrants who still held German citizenship.
Political emigrants with Soviet citizenship and this would have
been the majority at this point were explicitly excluded. Three
aspects of the directive, however, pointed to particular dangers for
the emigrants. For each German emigrant with Soviet citizenship
a memorandum regarding clarication of the issue of arrest was
to be prepared by August after evaluation of the incriminating
evidence. Moreover, at the same time, a record was to be prepared
of all Germans working in other industrial areas, in the agricultural
sector or for the Soviet authorities. And nally a passage of the
directive refers to the danger of becoming involved that involved
everyone: In the course of the investigation newly uncovered
German agents spies, saboteurs, and terrorists of Soviet or foreign
citizenship are to be arrested immediately, irrespective of their
professional position.19 Directed at rst at Germans who possessed
German citizenship, this decree increasingly targeted the Soviet
86 Carola Tischler

Germans and their associates as well, so that in time more than

70,000 people were caught and imprisoned by this operation.
For the German anti-fascists who fell under the wheels of the
Soviet Terror, the situation was incomprehensible for they felt a
strong empathy with this socialist country. But the inability of the
anti-fascist exiles to reect on these events later is also inexplicable.
Most emigrants, whether affected by the Terror or not, later found
a home in the GDR. A return to Germany during the Terror years
was contemplated by very few emigrants as far as we can ascertain
today. On the contrary, a conspicuous number attempted to parti-
cipate in the Spanish Civil War. This seemed to be the perfect
escape from the Soviet Terror for the communists who could not
abandon their ideals.
For the family members left behind mainly women and children
imprisonment also meant harrowing separation. Jkel, who as the
successor of the imprisoned Dittbender acted as KPD spokesman
for the political emigrants, formulated the sentiment in a report to
the party leadership as follows:

The mood of a part of the comrades has been unusually aroused. They
have been shocked and depressed by the many arrests. If one meets
another, he says, Youre still alive? If the comrades in our ofce come
and count their contributions, they say: Ah, your membership list is
shrinking too! How many left? Still a dozen? and Now youre open
just two days a week? Were amazed that you havent already closed

If accommodation was linked to the husbands job, wives often

had to look for another place to live. Many also lost their jobs or
had to accept less desirable and badly paid work. Support payments
from the Red Cross were discontinued, and the affected could hope
for little help from the KPD. Many had to sell the few belongings
they had brought with them from Germany or had acquired over
the years. Wives of those arrested could count on the solidarity of
other prisoners wives as well as, in some cases, the wives of the
non-arrested. Only a few separated from their imprisoned partners.
New partnerships, which were sometimes embarked upon, were
primarily for the security which this offered both the children and
themselves. The queues in front of the Moscow prisons in which
the relatives waited hours or days for, initially, information about
their loved ones and, later, in order to make payments, are well
documented. German political emigrants were also in the queues,
German Emigrants in Soviet Exile 87

just as some endeavoured to visit their husbands in the camps.

Many also wrote despairing letters to the German diplomatic
ofce, or more often to the Soviet authorities, in an effort to
prove the innocence of their relatives.21 Although petitions were
usually unsuccessful, they at least had the effect of confronting
despondency with action. For some the situation was so difcult to
bear that they went mad or committed suicide.

Act 4: Turning Point the Years of German-Soviet

Friendship, 1939 to 1941

With the signing of the German-Soviet non-aggression

pact in August 1939 and the subsequent division of Poland after the
invasion of German, and somewhat later Soviet troops, Germany
and the Soviet Union became neighbours. At the same time the new
friends agreed not to become involved in the domestic politics of
the other country in Germany the communist persecution con-
tinued, and the USSR carried on determining for itself its treat-
ment of German emigrants. There was no special cooperation
between the law enforcement agencies of the interior ministries of
both countries, aiming, for instance, for the extradition of German
anti-fascists from the USSR. On the contrary, in Germany there was
no desire for the return of active communists or Jewish emigrants;
politics was entirely aimed at expelling such groups of people from
Germany or isolating them from society. Nevertheless, the pact
caused the German Ambassador in Moscow, Friedrich Werner
Count von der Schulenburg, to concern himself anew with the re-
lease of citizens of the German Reich. In addition to the roughly
3,500 returnees from Russia, who were registered in Germany
after arriving from the USSR from 1934 until the autumn of 1939,
several hundred Germans were also sent back to Germany from
Soviet prisons after February 1937.22
The forced expulsion of foreigners who had had their visas
revoked took place from early 1937, predominantly in the border
regions or areas with particular registration systems. The second
directive of April 1937 contained instructions on this topic. The local
NKVD administration were told by the central administration:

to carry out, over the course of half a year, operative and preventative
measures, in order to remove from the USSR all German and other
88 Carola Tischler

foreign citizens, who are suspected of whatever scale of espionage or

counterrevolutionary activity. The German citizens who are to be
removed from the USSR and, if necessary, to be forcefully imprisoned
and deported, include all German citizens registered with the militia
except political migrs, whose cases will be dealt with separately.23

After the signing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact there were still almost
500 German citizens on the list of prisoners which the German
representation in Moscow had compiled. Schulenburg hoped the
new circumstances would bring about an accelerated release of
these people. An increasing number of Germans were deported in
the rst months of the pact period, who were now since Poland
no longer existed delivered directly to the German authorities;
among them were, as in previous years, anti-fascist emigrants, who
were immediately taken into protective custody in Germany. The
German diplomatic service, although it had received instructions
not to issue such people entry visas into Germany, did not want to
hamper the overall process. Also, for some people, the embassy had
no precise data and could not therefore produce an assessment
in line with the Gestapos directives. From 1939 to 1941, besides
approximately a thousand free returnees, about 350 people were
deported from Soviet prisons to Germany.
In foreign affairs both countries also adapted themselves to
the new circumstances, which for the USSR meant an end to its
anti-fascist propaganda. The KPD leadership was involved in the
decision-making processes as little as the Comintern they were
merely to execute what the Soviet party leadership demanded. It is
clear that the new line, which led many doubtful leftists in Western
Europe to break with the Soviet Union for good, threw the KPD into
confusion over it legitimacy. It worked hard at its communiqus, in
order to save at least part of its anti-fascism, but it had to give in to
the pressure passed on through the Comintern leadership. After
month-long discussions the KPD managed to force itself to nd a
political platform which was to guide further political orientation.24
The objective of this document was to exploit the ofcial friendship
between both countries, in order to anchor the KPD in Germany.
It shows the completely incorrect assessment of the situation in
Germany by the exiled leadership of the KPD, which since the
arrest of leading KPD functionaries in France in September 1939,
and the start of the Second World War, had been controlled from
Moscow. The KPD also hoped to re-strengthen its position within
German Emigrants in Soviet Exile 89

the Comintern, which had been declining continuously since 1933.

Both objectives failed.
The only success the KPD had during this pact period was in
carrying out political training sessions. Since the beginning of the
Terror, an independent German party life could no longer exist.
The fear was too great that the people one met would be arrested
a short time later, or that gatherings could be interpreted as fascist
espionage networks. Now, in 1940, the party leadership once again
called together its emigrants living in Moscow and the surrounding
area. These training courses were aimed at reinstating those Party
members who had been dispersed and made insecure through the
Terror. They were to be prepared for later tasks in Germany, even if
the KPD thought a return to Germany was impossible at this point.
Additionally, it appeared necessary to explain the Soviet policies of
the period to the emigrants.
Naturally there was also great confusion among the simple KPD
emigrants about the Hitler-Stalin Pact. Some thought it was a
tactical manoeuvre of the Soviet Union in order to keep itself at
least at rst out of the world war. In this case, the pact seemed
justied to them, in that it served to protect and strengthen the
USSR. Others believed in an actual convergence of the two pol-
itical systems. Those who were active as anti-fascists, be it as writers
or as editors for newspapers, magazines or radio, had to tone down
their comments anti-fascist opinions were no longer popular.
Instead, they wrote primarily about internal Soviet themes or
produced translations. Some could adjust themselves well to the
new situation; others fell into a creative crisis. But the demand
for German teachers increased, since the contacts between both
countries was quickly re-intensied after years of disagreement in
all areas economics, science and culture.
The new relationship had the effect that a few emigrants took up
their connections to their families in Germany again, whether by
means of the normal postal service or by transmitting a message via
those travelling between the countries. In addition, contact to the
German embassy in Moscow was no longer forbidden. The KPD did
want to restrict such relationships, but it had no way of controlling
them, let alone eliminating them. A few wives of arrested KPD
members tried to return to Germany. But it was not only the German-
Soviet relationship that played a role in this. A decree from late
1939 which was provoked by the Soviet-Finnish winter war was the
key trigger. The Soviet Union had so far been able to stay out of the
90 Carola Tischler

Second World War, but the refusal of Finland to comply with Soviet
demands after signing an assistance and trade agreement with the
USSR, provoked the Red Army assault on Finland in November
1939, and as a result the war. In this context all those who did not
possess Soviet citizenship were evacuated from Moscow (and other
large cities). The Soviet authorities even presented some German
emigrants with the decision either to participate in the evacuations
or to return to Germany. Since the people had lived in the Soviet
Union long enough to recognize that life in the province would be
much more difcult for them than in Moscow, several opted for
the second alternative.
The changes resulting from the new foreign policy situation
certainly had signicant effects on the life of the German emigrants,
but even more so did the internal political situation, marked by an
abatement of the Terror. Some historians speak of this time as the
rst thaw. In December 1938 Ezhov was relieved of his function
as Commissar for Internal Affairs by Beriia. Shortly afterward it was
conceded that mistakes had been discovered in the arrests. Among
the thousands set free at this time were many Germans. The NKVD
released imprisoned German emigrants mostly in the months
from December 1938 to April 1939 and November 1939 to March
1940.25 Although individual people were still arrested during this
time, the release of prisoners contributed to the feeling that the
Terror was over, in spite of the fact that these people were required
to remain silent regarding their imprisonment. Nevertheless, a
whole set of details about the prison conditions and the unjustied
recriminations began to emerge. Most of them applied directly to
the KPD for renewed Party membership. After initial delays and
insecurities, the KPD leadership re-established Party membership
in most cases. Those who still had imprisoned relatives could
continue to believe in an apparent mistake that would soon be
cleared up. How could they return to Germany in this situation?

Act 5: Catastrophe the Years of German-Soviet War,

1941 to 1945

For German emigrants the German Wehrmacht attack

on the Soviet Union in June 1941 was double-edged. On the one
hand, it re-established the old positions of the anti-fascists. On the
other hand, the emigrants were the same nationality as the country
German Emigrants in Soviet Exile 91

that once again was being bitterly fought by the Soviet Union. The
emigrants were confronted with this dichotomy again in the Wars
Along with the external threat, the internal Terror escalated
again, although this time it was more focused than in the 1930s
and was above all concentrated against potential opponents of the
system. Across the board Soviet citizens of German nationality were
suspected of collaboration with the Germans, which led nally to the
break-up of the German Volga Republic and to the deportation of
the German minority to Siberia and Central Asia.26 Those German
emigrants who were still in Moscow and were not suitable for war-
related work were also caught up in the wave of deportations.
Many emigrants above all children, women and the elderly had,
however, already left Moscow for the east in the huge evacuation
that was initiated soon after the War began. Approximately 14 to 19
million Soviet citizens were on the move in the initial months, up
to 10 million were ofcially evacuated and up to 9 million left their
homes on their own initiative.27
Also affected by arrests, especially in the early months of the
War, were persons of German nationality. While the emigrants
distinguished themselves from the Soviet Germans, the Soviet
authorities saw no reason for a difference in treatment, and a number
of emigrants were arrested, primarily in the days immediately after
the beginning of the War and in the middle of September. The KPD
had been informed about forty-two cases by the end of December
1941, of which a large number were women.28 Information on this
subject that has come to light indicates that it was mainly relatives
of prisoners or those who had once been imprisoned themselves
who were affected by the new repression. They were classied as
socially-dangerous elements.
The treatment of these prisoners in the prison camps in which
many of the German emigrants were held also deteriorated.
Germans were no longer allowed to perform special work, which
could have made their difcult lives easier; and they were not set free
throughout the duration of the War even if their prison sentence
was over. Sometimes they were separated within the prison camps.
There was also a danger that for triing reasons they would be sent
to the detention room or, in extreme cases, even be subjected to
a new trial. All of these measures persisted while the course of the
War was uncertain. After the situation on the war front had become
less tense, the special treatment of the imprisoned Germans was
relaxed once again.
92 Carola Tischler

In addition to the arrests early in the War and the intensication

of the prison regime, there was a third threat aimed at Soviet
Germans, but which affected individual emigrants being drafted
into the Trudarmiia, the labour army. In February 1942, the State
Defence Committee, the highest governing body during the War,
ordered the mobilization of all German males between seventeen
and fty years of age, who had resettled in the Soviet Union they
were too be labourers for the duration of the War. They built new
railway lines and factories, worked in the forests or in the mines;
they were housed in camps and received the same food as prisoners;
refusing to work meant the death penalty. In the autumn of the
same year a decree widened the pool of people to include women
between sixteen and forty-ve years of age, and men between fteen
and fty-ve. Other nationalities with links to Germany, such as
Romanians, Hungarians, Italians and Finns, as well as Chinese,
Koreans, Greeks, Calmucks or Crimean Tatars, were included in
the mobilization. The number in the labour army amounted to
about 400,000.29 For those affected, there was barely any difference
between these workers and the prisoners. They were sometimes
located in the same camp complex. However, for the German anti-
fascists, a signicant difference did exist, since workers could be
freed from their situation with the help of the Comintern, whereas
prisoners could not. It was primarily young emigrants who had
resettled who were now called to the labour army. Registering with
the KPD meant the KPD could organize a release via the Comintern.
The prerequisite was that the emigrants were classied as cadre
reservists. It is not known how many emigrants were affected by the
call to the labour army. Not all recalling the experience of the
Terror years would have appealed to the German Party for help.

Life in Siberia and Central Asia during the evacuation or the

deportation was hard for all Soviet citizen or German alike. The
only advantage was that they were at least far from the combat zone.
But climate, food, life and working conditions were so unusual
and the feeling of being isolated so widespread, that many tried
to return to Moscow. For part of the Comintern, who were likewise
evacuated in the rst winter to Kuibyshev (todays Samara) and
Ufa, this endeavour succeeded by early 1942. Bit by bit all those
needed to work were ordered back to Moscow. The Germans had
been eager to participate in the anti-fascist movement since the
beginning of the War. After early reservations among the Soviets
German Emigrants in Soviet Exile 93

they were also integrated into the propaganda system. Above all,
the German emigrants radio stations made a signicant impact.
Foreign service was expanded signicantly and the Comintern
established its own broadcast stations.30 Emigrants wrote articles
for pamphlets, worked as translators for prisoner-of-war problems
or as anti-fascist teachers in camps for prisoners of war. They were
even trained as parachutists in order to work underground in
Germany. They wrote and spoke to German soldiers and to the
German public over the radio, over loudspeakers in the trenches
and through books or prisoner-of-war newspapers with the aim
of ending the War. They were decisively involved in the activity of
the National Committee of a Free Germany, which was founded in
mid-1943 at the instigation of the Soviet Union.31 And they turned
their face to Germany,32 by training their own comrades who had
survived and been dispersed by the Terror, as well as new cadres
from the masses of German prisoners of war, for tasks in Germany.


The Stalinist Terror would be replaced for the German

emigrants by the Nazi Terror which was committed during the
War on Soviet soil. The neglect of the Terror years, however, is
among the congenital defects of the GDR. The members of the
three initiative groups which arrived in the Soviet Occupation
Zone (SOZ) at the end of April 1945 from Moscow, were not the
only ones who determined the politics of the early SOZ/GDR.
But they found themselves in a disproportionately strong starting
position and attained decisive positions little by little during the
tumultuous times when power in the Party was decided. They knew
the Soviet mentality and ruling techniques and had better contacts.
They required those returnees who came to the GDR from camps
and exile, especially after Stalins death, to keep their experiences
secret. And they themselves were unable to learn from the mistakes
of Stalinism. This suppression did not fracture the GDR. But the
failure to reappraise the damage whether the reappraisal was
marked by coming to terms with the Terror or by the survivors
silence and sense of guilt at a time when the immediate threat was
over, was a symbol for the systems lack of credibility.

Translated by Megan Harris and Felicitas Macgilchrist

94 Carola Tischler


1. Cf. Iurii Felshtinskii, K istorii nashei zakrytosti. Zakonodatelnye osnovy

sovetskoi immigratsionnoi i emigratsionnoi politiki (Moscow: Terra, 1991),
pp. 1516.
2. The MOPR (Mezdunarodnaia organizatsiia pomoshchi bortsam
revoliutsii) or International Red Aid was a solidarity organization
afliated with the communist movement, which above all provided
material and moral support to political prisoners and their families in
capitalist countries. Cf. James Martin Ryle, International Red Aid 1922
1928: The Founding of a Comintern Front Organisation (Atlanta, 1967);
for the German Red Aid (Rote Hilfe), see the detailed dissertation
by Nikolaus Brauns, Schafft Rote Hilfe! Geschichte und Aktivitten der
proletarischen Hilfsorganisation in Deutschland (19191938) (Bonn:
Pahl-Rugenstein, 2003).
3. Cf. Galina M. Isaeva et al., Moskva internatsionalnaia (Moscow, 1977),
pp. 989.
4. This and the following details are based to a large extent on the
research for my 1996 Ph.D. dissertation, Carola Tischer, Flucht in
die Verfolgung. Deutsche Emigranten im sowjetischen Exil 1933 bis 1945
(Mnster: Lit, 1996); for new literature on exile in the USSR see the
bibliography in Simone Barck (ed.), Jahrhundertschicksale. Frauen im
sowjetischen Exil (Berlin: Lukas, 2003), pp. 24857.
5. Cf. Tischler, Flucht in die Verfolgung, p. 20.
6. Cf. Carola Tischler, The Emigration of German-Jewish Physicians to
the Soviet Union after 1933, in Susan Gross Solomon (ed.), Soviet-
German Medical Relations between the Wars (Toronto, in print).
7. Cf. Tischler, Flucht in die Verfolgung, p. 97.
8. On this topic see in particular the regional study by Wilhelm
Mensing, Von der Ruhr in den GULag: Opfer des Stalinschen Massenterrors
aus dem Ruhrgebiet (Essen, 2001). As an example of technical workers
in Moscow, see Sergei Zhuravlev, Malenkie liudi i bolshaia istoriia.
Inostrantsy moskovskogo Elektrozavoda v sovetskom obshchestve 1920-ch
1930-ch gg (Moscow, 2000). (German translation under the title Ich
bitte um Arbeit in der Sowjetunion. Das Schicksal deutscher Facharbeiter im
Moskau der 30er Jahre, Berlin, 2003).
9. Hedda Zinner, Selbstbefragung (Berlin: Der Morgen, 1989), p. 12. On
the difculties with the truth of German writers who lived in Soviet
exile, cf. Anne Hartmann, Traum und Trauma Sowjetunion: Deutsche
Autoren ber ihr Leben im sowjetischen Exil, in Dagmar Herrmann and
Astrid Volpert (eds), Traum und Trauma. Russen und Deutsche im 20.
Jahrhundert (Munich: Fink, 2003), pp. 143200.
10. Cf. Ruth von Mayenburg, Hotel Lux (Munich: Piper, 1978); Arkadi
Vaksberg, Htel Lux: Les parties frres au service de lInternationale
German Emigrants in Soviet Exile 95

communiste (Paris: Fayard, 1993). Nowadays the Lux is a synonym

for Soviet exile, although as a temporary residence for leading
functionaries of all communist parties (pied--terre of the world
revolution), it only played a minimal role in the German exile of the
11. Research on the Comintern has produced an abundance of new
knowledge since the opening of the Comintern archives in 1991,
which is reected in numerous Russian publications (of materials),
and also in the publications of the corresponding countries. It would
be presumptuous to name a selection. Representative writings on
this topic can be found in the contributions and suggestions in the
Jahrbuch fr Historische Kommunismusforschung (1993 ff.) which since
2000/2001 also contains the International Newsletter of Communist
Studies. A long-term research project for the digitalization of the
Cominterns inventory has recently been completed: www.comintern-
12. A good overview of the numerous artistic and political activities
is still offered in the in other respects outdated volume: Kunst
und Literatur im antifaschistischen Exil, vol. 1 (I/II): Exil in der UdSSR
(Leipzig: Reclam, 1989). New research above all on the Marx-
Engels-Lenin Institute Stalinismus und das Ende der ersten Marx-
Engels-Gesamtausgabe (19311941). Contributions to Marx-Engels
research, N.F., Special vol. 3 (Berlin, 2001); on theatre: Peter Diezel,
Hier brauchen sie uns nicht: Maxim Vallentin und das deutschsprachige
Exiltheater in der Sowjetunion 19351937. Briefe und Dokumente (Berlin,
2000); on lm: Gnter Agde, Kmpfer: Geschichte eines Films und seiner
Macher (Berlin, 2001) as well as the journal Filmexil: Filmexil Moskau
(Berlin, 2004); and on radio: Carola Tischler, Funk in Fesseln: Der
deutschsprachige Rundfunk aus Moskau zwischen revolutionrem
Anspruch und staatlicher Reglementierung (19291941) in Karl
Eimermacher (ed.), West-stliche Spiegelungen. Neue Folge. Deutsche und
Russen im 20. Jahrhundert (Paderborn, in print).
13. The text of the resolution is printed in Peter Huber, Stalins Schatten in
die Schweiz. Schweizer Kommunisten in Moskau: Verteidiger und Gefangene
der Komintern (Zurich: Chronos, 1994), p. 407.
14. These ve people were Fritz David, Alexander Emel, Hans Stauer,
Valentin Olberg und Nathan Lurje. None came from Germany, but
all had been active in Germany in the 1920s and had consequently
been transferred in part into positions of much responsibility in the
KPD. The party chairmanship of the KPD was held provisionally by
Wilhelm Pieck after the arrest of the chairman Ernst Thlmann. After
the power struggles of the years 19335 a new Central Committee was
elected at the Brussels Party conference of the KPD in 1935. They
consisted of Ernst Thlmann (nominally), Fritz Heckert, Wilhelm
96 Carola Tischler

Pieck, Wilhelm Florin, Walter Ulbricht, Franz Dahlem, Paul Merker

as well as the candidates Herbert Wehner and Anton Ackermann.
15. An example of German exile is the protocol of a party meeting of
German-language writers. See Reinhard Mller (ed.), Die Suberung.
Moskau 1936: Stenogramm einer geschlossenen Parteiversammlung
(Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1991).
16. Report by Paul Jkel Material zur Information, 29 April 1938, in
Luitwin Bies, Deutsche Emigranten in der UdSSR. Two Documents,
in Marxistische Bltter 5, 1992, p. 53.
17. On the terrorist, saboteur and espionage activities of the German
Trotskyites, being carried out on the orders of the Gestapo on the
territory of the Union of SSR. The wording is printed in: Reinhard
Mller, Herbert Wehner Moskau 1937 (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition,
2004); cf. also idem, Menschenfalle Moskau. Exil und stalinistische
Verfolgung (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2001).
18. On the increasing activity of German spy organizations and special
arrangements of the fascist party (the foreign and foreign policy
section of the Anti-Comintern, on the intelligence service of the
Schutzstaffeln, etc.) on the territory of the USSR; cf. Nikita Okhotin
and Arseni Roginski, on the history of the German operation of the
NKVD 19371938, in Jahrbuch fr Historische Kommunismusforschung
2000/2001, pp. 89125, here p. 95; in Russian: Nakazannyi narod.
Repressii protiv rossiiskikh nemtsev, ed. by Memorial and Goethe Institute
Moscow, Moscow 1999, pp. 3575.
19. The command appears in Reinhard Mller (with assistance from
Nataliia Mussienko), Wir kommen alle dran. Suberungen unter
den deutschen Politemigranten in der Sowjetunion (19341938),
in Hermann Weber and Ulrich Mhlert (eds), Terror. Stalinistische
Parteisuberungen 19361953 (Paderborn: Schningh, 1998), pp.
20. Bies, Deutsche Emigranten, p. 53.
21. See also Reinhard Mller, Menschenopfer unerhrt Eingaben
und Briefe deutscher Emigrantinnen an Stalin, Molotow und
andere, in Barck et al. (eds), Jahrhundertschicksale, pp. 2653.
22. Cf. Hans Schafranek, Zwischen NKWD und Gestapo: Die Auslieferung
deutscher und sterreichischer Antifaschisten aus der Sowjetunion an
Nazideutschland, 19371941 (Frankfurt am Main: ISP, 1990).
23. Okhotin and Roginski, To History, p. 100.
24. See Tischler, Flucht in die Verfolgung, pp. 1457.
25. Ibid., p. 157.
26. Cf. the chaper by Viktor Krieger.
27. Cf. Manfred Hildermeier, Geschichte der Sowjetunion 19171991
(Munich: Beck, 1998), p. 634.
28. Namensliste ber den Verbleib deutscher Parteimitglieder, 30 December
1941; SAMPO-BArch: NL 4036/517, p. 8.
German Emigrants in Soviet Exile 97

29. Cf. Tischler, Flucht in die Verfolgung, pp. 1867. For the extensive
literature on the labour army, see the chapter by Viktor Krieger.
30. Cf. Carola Tischler, Von Geister- und anderen Stimmen. Der Rund-
funk als Waffe im Kampf gegen die Deutschen im Groen Vater-
lndischen Krieg, in Karl Eimermacher (ed.), West-stliche Spiegel-
ungen. Neue Folge. Deutsche und Russen im 20. Jahrhundert (Paderborn:
Fink, 2004).
31. Cf. Jrg Morr, Hinter den Kulissen des Nationalkomitees. Das Institut 99
in Moskau und die Deutschlandpolitik der UdSSR 19431946 (Munich:
Oldenbourg, 2001).
32. A decree from the Secretariat of the EKKI of 15 December 1942
obligated the leading party functionaries to fully turn their face to
Germany in their work; to primarily concentrate their energy on
multi-faceted practical help for the reconstruction and strengthening
of the party at home, the party organization and the party leadership.
SAPMO BArch, NL 4036/542, p. 70.
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The Strange Allies Red Army

and Reichswehr in the Inter-war


As the subject of this chapter is very diverse, only the

most important aspects could be singled out, giving preference to
an accentuating and more thesis-like presentation of the theme as
opposed to a very differentiating one. Despite the wish to do justice
to the German and the Russian side, the German perspective will
after all prevail. Not least this has to do with the way one looks at
the subject and sees the historic importance of the issue largely in
its function as part of the secret German rearmament before 1933.
Admittedly, this may run the risk of reducing the subject too much
to a piece of German history and particularly of German military
history within this epoch.
First a few general remarks about the historical context of the
subject. Looking at the rather eventful German-Russian relations,
the period in question here, i.e. the time between the wars, belongs
to the cooperative side of those relations. The other side, the
confrontational one and uppermost in our general conscience, will
be dealt with in other chapters.
If we look at German-Russian relations between the creation of
the German nation state in 1871 and its re-establishment in 1990,
we see a constant sequence of confrontational and cooperative
phases, of cold or hot war, even war of extermination, and strong,
even intensive economic-technical cooperation, down to military-
strategic collaboration. We have therefore rarely known any-
thing like non-dramatic inter-state normality, perhaps with the

100 Manfred Zeidler

exception of a period during the Empire, but a constant series of

extremes in one or other direction. Both countries are unable to
feel or behave indifferently towards each other but always take a
rm stand, and the changes in their relations are usually caused
by external circumstances. Since German unication in 1990, the
relationship is clearly moving in the direction of cooperation again
political, economic and, to a lesser extent, military.
The emphasis in this contribution is on the relations, in particular
the military ones, during the years of the Weimar Republic from
1919 to 1933. Before, however, we should consider the situation
before and after the historic dates which dene our period. What
were things like before and after? Lets have a brief look at the
military, and only the military, relations between both countries
before 1918 and after 1933.

German-Russian Military Relations during the Empire

and the Third Reich

During the epoch of the Empire, i.e. between 1871

and 1918, there were two distinct periods, starting with the long
period of peace prior to 1914. During this time, we see military-
diplomatic attach relations as were common in the European
world of states before 1914, i.e. relations with a good number of
personal contacts, with regular reciprocal ofcers exchanges,
even after the deterioration of political relations in the 1890s.
The same applies to the other great German power, the Austro-
Hungarian Empire. Young ofcers frequently travelled within their
own armies before starting their general staff duties in order to
improve their knowledge of languages. A prominent example was
Erich Ludendorff, who travelled to Russia in 1894 immediately
before taking up his duties at the Great General Staff (Groer
Generalstab) and reported on this three months stay in his later
military memoirs.1 The Russian side also had a number of well-
known military staff of the First World War, who had spent time
in Germany or other European countries before 1914.2 According
to the old military and dynastic bonds in both armies, sister units
existed, as the legendary Alexander-Regiment in Berlin (named
after Tsar Alexander I of Russia) and its Russian counterpart, the
King Friedrich-Wilhelm von Preuen Regiment.
The Strange Allies 101

During the decade before the First World War Russias military
structure showed some conspicuous similarities to the German
system, especially in respect of the central military apparatus. After
losing the war against Japan in 1905 the general staff was released
from its subordination to the Ministry of War and, following the
Prussian-German example, became an independent institution
immediately placed under the Emperor.3 The right of direct report
was introduced for a considerable number of inspectors for each
branch of the services, and for the heads of military districts, who
were similar to the German Generalkommandos and were simult-
aneously governor-generals over their respective regions. To sum
up it can be said that, as in Germany, the Russian system suffered
from a multiplicity of ofcers with access to the throne and a lack
of communication and coordination among them.4 Under the
Chief of Staff, General F. F. Palitsyn, a proteg of the Tsars uncle
Grand Duke Nicholas, from 1906 on German military thinking,
especially in the operational eld, exerted considerable inuence
on the younger Russian staff ofcers who were graduating from the
imperial general staff academy at this time.5
The years 1914 to 1917 represented a phase of military conict
in the overall context of the First World War, whilst maintaining a
sufciently active diplomacy to achieve an armistice in December
1917 and a peace agreement in March 1918, the Treaty of Brest-
Litovsk, with Russias new Bolshevist regime.

Moving on to the Third Reich after 1933. Nazi Germany saw three
very different phases: the years 1933 to 1938 were a time of very
fast-moving political alienation which, with the beginning of the
Spanish Civil War in 1936, turned into a kind of cold war, i.e. a state
of political tension and a growing propaganda war on both sides.
There was no longer sufcient trust to sustain national security-
relevant military cooperation, and military relations reverted to
routine or restricted attach liaison meetings.6
The years 1939 to 1941 were a period of intense economic rela-
tions of strategic signicance and a considerable transfer of military
technology from Germany to Russia.7 These were not so much
due to the neutrality and non-aggression pact of 23 August 1939,
but began with the Frontier and Friendship Agreement (Grenz-
und Freundschaftsvertrag), dated 28 September of the same year,
following the joint occupation and separation of Poland. Never
before or after did Germany and Russia have such close economic
relations as during this short period between 1939 and 1941.8
102 Manfred Zeidler

Finally, the years 1941 to 1945, as is well known, were marked by

an uncompromising and total war of extermination lasting nearly
four years, during which there was a complete inability to even
begin to apply politics and diplomacy as was done during the First
World War.

The Weimar Republic Period 19191933: Outline and


We are now coming to our actual core subject the

period of the Weimar Republic from 1919 to 1933. As mentioned
at the outset, this subject, German-Russian military relations at this
time, can, like most issues, be looked at from different angles. Two
particular perspectives offer themselves which should be outlined
One can look at it in the traditional sense of political and diplo-
matic history as part of German-Soviet relations. This was the older
research perspective of the 1950s and 1960s with its main interest
in aspects of foreign and revision policies, particularly in view of
the common opponent, Poland. Its emphasis was placed on the
actual peak period of the Rapallo policy during the rst half of the
1920s and the main players on the German side were General von
Seeckt and ambassador von Brockdorff-Rantzau.9 It concentrated
therefore on a period during which the exclusive German-Russian
revision policy was at its climax, but military relations were poor
and of relatively little use.
And thats the other view one can look at this cooperation as
part of the secret German rearmament before 1933 and therefore
see it in a more military and arms-historical context. This tends to
be the perspective of later research, not least due to the availability
of source material as at least to German researchers diplomatic
les of the foreign ofce were at our disposal earlier than military
records from the Reichswehrministerium (German armed forces
ministry). This perspective, which is also the authors one, puts the
main emphasis on the productive phase of secret German armament
in the late 1920s and early 1930s when Stresemanns Locarno policy
was prevalent and the actual peak time of the Rapallo diplomacy
was long gone.10 The revision policy played a much lesser role in
this later phase of German-Soviet relations than it did during the
height of Rapallo. In fact, both powers rather moved away from
The Strange Allies 103

each other politically, whereas military relations only now reached

their climax and their greatest intensity. It can indeed be said that
only Locarno and its political and economic effects on Germany
brought military relations with Russia to full fruition. Later in
the chapter I will further discuss this quasi dialectic connection
between the Locarno policy and the German-Russian relations in
the economic as well as the military eld.

The question of the viewing perspective is interlinked with a look

at the historical verdicts of later times. This particular example of
German-Russian military cooperation before 1933 demonstrates
how greatly the historical evaluation is inuenced by day-to-day
politics and the political orientation of the time in this case the
verdict over the signicance of cooperation by both parties.
Let us now consider the few ofcial voices from the National
Socialist era, which are clearly depreciatory. The Nazis maintained
the ofcial historical myth that the Weimar Republic was pacist
through and through, pacist to the very bone and had Germany
disarmed in accordance with the dictates of the Entente. National
Socialism then took the sole credit for bringing Germany back to
political and military power after 1933, almost from nothing. The
secret rearmament efforts of the Republic were therefore ofcially
tabooed or simply denied. Cooperation with the Soviet state in
this eld was regarded, as Grings permanent secretary Milch
expressed it internally, as a toy of no great use which had more
political than of military signicance.11
The two German sciences of history after 1945 also show that
both the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic
Republic passed largely minimizing judgements about the value
and the signicance of this cooperation.12 The identical verdicts,
however, were guided by very different interests. Whereas the
GDRs main interest was to exonerate the Soviet state its own
political and ideological model by denying any Soviet connection
with German militarism, the West German post-war historiography
above all tried to refute the Rapallo myth forced by Britain,
France and the USA after 1945 a legend which aimed at bringing
Rapallo, with its implications of revision policy, into a continuous
line with German expansion endeavours between 1914 and 1939,
and very much stressed the military component of German-Russian
relations at the time. The young Federal Republic, with its wish
to become integrated in the West, saw Locarno, i.e. Stresemanns
104 Manfred Zeidler

policy of peace and dtente vis--vis the West, as the far more
important and desirable historical point of reference than Rapallo.
The GDR, however, celebrated Rapallo as the rst successful
example of the Soviet policy of peaceful coexistence, but almost
completely tabooed its military aspect.13
The Anglo-American science of history was the rst after 1945
to have access to German documents and without doubt laid the
groundwork in this eld. At the same time, however, it mystied
German-Russian military contacts by, for example, painting a highly
exaggerated picture of secret German arms production in Russia.14
Not included in this are the excellent landmark studies of Hans W.
Gatzke, John Erickson and Francis L. Carsten.15
Not until the years of perestroika, with a new assessment of their
own national history, did Russian historians begin to touch on this
highly delicate and long tabooed topic.16

Military Relations 19201933. Underlying Foreign and

Military Policies.

As it is a well-known subject, only a brief summary of the

foreign policy basis for military relations of the time is necessary.
Both powers came off badly from the 1919 Versailles peace treaty.
Their joint anti-Versailles revisionism brought them together
and gave rise to the slightly romantic idea of a German-Russian
companionship of misfortune (Schicksalsgemeinschaft), a term
coined by Karl Radek, the Germany expert of the Comintern and
one of Moscows secret emissaries during his early contacts with

The world and with it the Entente will unquestioningly see the growing
of a German-Russian community of interests. Whatever the future has in
store, either along revolutionary or counterrevolutionary lines.

Karl Radek wrote this in the autumn of 1920 for a brochure pub-
lished in Germany.17 At that time Moscow was still hoping for a
revolutionary variant of the German-Russian unication in the
shape of a proletarian class alliance resulting in a Soviet-Germany.
At the same time, the German bourgeois-conservative elite was
still holding the reverse hope that, by conjuring up the general
threat to Europe through Russian Bolshevism, the Entente would
The Strange Allies 105

make military concessions to Germany. However, the Spa confer-

ence in the summer of 1920 conrmed the prohibitory provisions
of Versailles, thereby crushing these hopes and leading to a
complete U-turn in favour of cooperation with Soviet Russia. Two
statements of General von Seeckt from the rst half of 1920 clearly
illustrate this. The rst dates from January 1920 and declares: We
are prepared to be the bulwark against Bolshevism, in our own
interest which is also that of the Entente. For this it should allow us
the necessary arms.18
The second, only shortly after, reads: Only a rm union with
Great Russia will allow Germany to regain its world hegemony.
Even if the powers of the Entente ght this with all available means,
our mutual interests will eventually bring about German-Russian
unication by natural force.19
Further development took the path of, in Radeks terminology,
the counterrevolutionary variant of the German-Russian alliance,
i.e. it was based on opposite political doctrines. For Moscow this
meant stressing very highly vis--vis its imperialist competitors from
the Entente the political differences of Germany as a bourgeois-
capitalist and therefore potentially imperialist state in order to
avoid an anti-Soviet alliance of the European powers. The military
vacuum Germany represented in the centre of Europe due to
its disarmament in accordance with Versailles was seen as highly
dangerous by Moscow and it did not hesitate to demand openly
and plainly from Germany a resolute rearmament programme in
contravention of the terms of the peace treaty.
Neither serving the allies to win points, nor hope for help from
the League of Nations, this tool for the systematic humiliation of
Germany would regain the countrys national greatness although
only factors of power: dollars, dreadnoughts and aeroplanes could
achieve this. This was written in Pravda in the autumn of 1926,20
in the style of the German-national opposition, was addressed to
Berlin and therefore opposed Stresemanns dtente policy vis--vis
the Entente powers. In other words: Germany must rearm so that
Moscow could reap a twofold advantage:

1. To keep tensions up as high as possible on the imperialist

2. To participate in the German rearmament efforts and use them
for its own military gain.
106 Manfred Zeidler

In this connection its only necessary to touch briey on military

policy basis for such cooperation. In the military sector, the main
reasons (for an alliance) were the rigid arms limitations as laid
down in Part V of the Treaty of Versailles, which only permitted
Germany a poorly equipped regular army of 100,000 men. This
meant almost inevitably losing contact with the international
development of military technology.
The point is that both countries were basically complementary.
Germany was defeated in military terms and politically humil-
iated, but remained a great power as far as industry, science and
technology were concerned. The Soviet system was victorious and
successful in maintaining its self-esteem vis--vis the others but was
greatly weakened economically and underdeveloped in science
and technology. The German potential was there but remained
unexploited because of political handcuffs. Russia had the political
freedom of action but lacked the potential to make use of this
Both countries faced the need for a new military start under
difcult structural conditions, as well as changed political circum-
stances. We therefore see that there are sufcient structural reasons,
independent of governments of varying party-political colours or
individuals on both sides, to sustain the cooperation in the military
eld as well and thereby achieve stability and constancy.21

Military Relations 19201933: Methods of Cooperation

We now come to the practicalities of military coopera-

tion between 1920 and 1933, and its development during this
time span. As mentioned earlier, two time phases can be clearly
First, the early Rapallo phase of military cooperation from the
rst secret contacts in 1920 to about 1925/26: this phase includes
the year 1923, the year of major crisis for the Weimar Republic which
began with the occupation of the Ruhr area by French and Belgian
troops. Germany, unable to defend itself with its small 100,000-
strong army, and without allies, nds itself in a desperate political
and security situation. In February a military delegation under
the chief of the clandestine general staff of the Reichsheer, the
so-called Truppenamt, General Mayor Otto Hasse, went to Moscow
for talks with his Soviet counterpart, Army Commander Pavel
The Strange Allies 107

Lebedev, and his deputy Boris Shaposhnikov, in order to examine

the possibility immediate military aid for Germany. A second
delegation headed by the chief of staffs of the Army Ordnance
Ofce (Heereswaffenamt) followed three months later and inspected
the Russian armaments industry. In the summer of that year, the
German attempt to win Moscow over for a security alliance in case
of a Polish attack on the Reich failed. Moscows intermediary, the
chief of the Soviet air combat forces, Arkadii Rozengolts, advised
German chancellor Cuno, during a top secret meeting in a private
Berlin at, that Germany was far too weak in military terms at
present to be considered by Moscow as an alliance partner. Both
countries together would have to become strong again before an
open confrontation with the Entente could be risked.22 This phase
is characterized by the lack of success in most economic-military
undertakings to produce arms under concession mostly for two

1. Lack of nancial resources.

2. Serious problems with private sector partners called in by the
German side because they followed their own commercial
interests. Just one example was the aircraft manufacturer
Junkers with a branch near Moscow which never really went
into production because of economic problems, and went
bankrupt as early as 1925.23

The second phase is the Locarno phase of military cooperation

after 1926: this phase is typied by a fairly successful cooperation
in the areas of arms development and testing as well as training
of military cadres. Arms trials at the German test sites aircraft in
Lipetsk, tanks in Kazan, chemical weapons in Sikhanii near Volsk
on the Volga reached their peak in 1930 and 1931.24 The same
applied to the extensive exchange of ofcers from both armies.
One reason for this success was probably because any cooperation
was purely between government bodies, mostly military, to the
exclusion of all private sector partners, which created a structural
symmetry between all parties involved. Another reason was the closer
connection sought by German political and military bodies after
1926, and in particular the end of the long-lasting rivalry between
the Foreign Ministry and the Army Command (Heeresleitung),
which put German arms policies on a much broader footing than
108 Manfred Zeidler

The Locarno Policy and Military Relations

How did this new quality of military cooperation become

possible? The answer, as already mentioned, can be found in the
keyword Locarno, quite the opposite to Rapallo which stood
for political alienation of the two countries. Locarno furthered
military relations by loosening the Versailles terms and thereby
considerably improved the German chances of rearmament. In
practice this meant:

1. By clearing the Ruhr area in the summer of 1925, Germany

regained its old arms industry centres in the west of the
2. The liberating terms of the Paris aviation agreement in the
spring of 1926 enabled Germany to at least develop military
aircraft even if production was not yet possible.
3. At the beginning of 1927, the Inter-allied Military Control
Commission withdrew from Germany where it had meticulously
supervised the various stages of German disarmament since
4. A fourth vital point is the economic consequences of Locarno
for the Reich.

The Dawes Plan of 1924 led to a big inow of capital into the
country and therefore a brief but stormy period of prosperity in the
late 1920s. This also widened the nancial operating possibilities
of government institutions which showed not least in the increase
in public budgets. The arms budget alone, which nearly doubled
between 1924 and 1928, demonstrated the increased room for
manoeuvre for the armed services ministry in the eld of material
arms projects. Expenditure of the Army Ordnance Ofce for
military research and development orders grew even more than
the overall arms budget, with an increase of over 10 per cent of
the reported budget total up to 1932.26 This enabled the placing
of large development orders for new arms within the framework of
the so-called 1st armament programme, projected since 1927,27
and intensive technical and tactical trials at test centres in Russia
A similar development can be seen in trade relations between the
two countries. Here it is the great legal and economic agreement
(Rechts- und Wirtschaftsabkommen) of October 1925 that opened
The Strange Allies 109

up opportunities for economic exchange which would have been

unthinkable during the height of Rapallo, because of Germanys
inability to accommodate loans for any Russian trade.28
Regardless of the anti-Locarno rhetoric of its ofcial foreign
policy, Moscows leadership understood at last that this development
brought its country more advantages than disadvantages, e.g. access
to international money and capital markets via Germany. With
Berlin acting as the eastern agent of Wall Street, as Werner Link
put it,29 a bit of prosperity found its way to Moscow in the shape
of government-secured German loans, and notably increased its
ability to buy civil and military know-how abroad.
Locarno had considerably widened the range of action for econ-
omic and military cooperation for both sides, though mostly on the
German side, without a relaxation of the Versailles limitations to an
extent that Germany would have been no longer forced to realize
its rearmament projects in an exclusive partnership with Moscow.

Results of Cooperation and Military Benets for

Both Sides

If one has to answer the question about results and benets for
both partners it can must be said that Germany clearly had the
bigger advantages. For years Germany was able to test prototypes
of combat aircraft and tanks, developed since 1926 on the basis of
secret contracts with industry, in concealed test areas in Russia and
to further develop them to mass-production standard. This alone is
an invaluable advantage, but the same applies to personnel in that
a small but solid and highly qualied core of experts was formed.
Of the nearly 200 ofcers who were trained to be pilots or aircraft
observers at the Lipetsk ight centre near Voronezh, more than
thirty became generals in the air force or other branches of the
armed forces during the Second World War. The much smaller
training and test centre for the tank force at Kazan also produced
at least fourteen future generals.30 Of those who undertook one
or more visits to the Red Army before 1933, almost all the leading
gures of Adolf Hitlers army can be found, including: Blomberg,
Brauchitsch, Fromm, Harpe, Keitel, Krebs, List, Manstein, Model,
Olbricht, Speidel, Sperrle and Student.31 Even the two German
post-war armies, the Bundeswehr and NVA, the East German Army,
had high-ranking ofcers with personal experience of cooperation
110 Manfred Zeidler

between the Reichswehr and the Red Army, such as the rst air force
inspector of the Bundeswehr, General Josef Kammhuber, and his
deputy, Major General Hermann Plocher, both of whom received
their ight training as young Reichswehr ofcers at Lipetsk.32
One point must be emphasized again: the arms objectives of the
Weimar Republic could not be of a quantitative nature. Production
of arms in appreciable numbers was impossible because before 1933
the Republic was lacking in the wherewithal political will, freedom
of action and nance. So the main aim was to do what was possible
at the time and create the capability for Germany to arm itself and
thereby give future governments with the right preconditions the
chance to set up modern armed forces in a short time; in other
words, to open up an option for the future. Not pilots but teaching
staff, not stockpiles of arms but prototypes was the order of the
day. To have over a hundred qualied ying instructors available
became of vital importance when setting up the air force after 1933;
more or less the same applied to the tank force. In addition, there
was the priceless tactical and organizational experience gained on
Russian ground. A German aviation expert said in a review after the
War: When Hitler came to power he just needed to press a button.
The designs, the tests and the models were ready. Hitler only had
to order the series.33 This may be slightly overstated but one thing
is correct: when the rst German ghter planes and tanks started
being mass-produced as early as 1934, and the rst air force wings
and tank divisions were equipped a year later, this was the result
of the arms development and military personnel planning which
began with the rst armament programme of 1927/28, and could
never have reached its goal so quickly without the Russian test and
training centres.
Far less successful was the cooperation between the navies of
both countries because the German naval command, the so-called
Marineleitung, which was independent of the army command, the
so-called Heeresleitung, had chosen different foreign partners to
achieve its own secret armament objectives.34 Another reason was
the political and psychological reservation of the Germans because
of the ongoing political trauma within the German Navy following
the Revolution in November 1918.

In the authors opinion, the long-term benets for the Russians

were more modest. Unlike the Germans, the Russians pursued
quantitative armament objectives and tried, among other things,
The Strange Allies 111

to channel as many of their own ofcers through the joint training

courses which occasionally led to tension between the partners.
The Red Army, of course, participated in the German technical
and tactical experience gained and had liaison ofcers in all the
German Army establishments on Russian soil, but the technical
benet for their own arms development was rather limited. A few
technical components were borrowed for tank construction but,
on the whole, Soviet tank development of the most successful types
was based on American models. The famous T34 was a further
development of the American Christie tank, whereas the Soviet
model T28, which was based on the German so-called big tractor
and was tested in Kazan, had already proved to be a technical dead-
lock during the Finland war and was no longer produced from as
early as 1940.35 Coincidentally, the German successor model, the
Neubaufahrzeug, suffered the same fate. It should be remembered
that Germany, after years of prohibition, rst had to catch up
on international development, particularly where tanks were
concerned, but also with other arms, before being able to offer
anything noteworthy to others.
One area from which the Russians had especially hoped to prot
was the study of the German general staff service and the training
system for highly qualied military personal.36 The large majority
of the about 100 ofcers involved in these activities, however, fell
victim to the bloody army purge in the late 1930s, which meant that
most of the experience gained was lost. Only a few, such as the later
marshals Shaposhnikov, Timoshenko and Meretskov, lived to see
the Second World War.

The Political Minimum Conditions for Cooperation

and its Decline after the National Socialist Seizure of
Power in 1933

This last section deals with a central political question:

what were the political minimum conditions for an alliance of this
kind where both partners gained a great deal of knowledge about
their respective army structures and therefore presented a national
security risk? Why did these conditions exist up to 1933 and why no
longer afterwards?
As mentioned earlier, the German Locarno policy moved the two
countries apart politically. Even then, in 1926/27, a few voices could
112 Manfred Zeidler

be heard in Moscow, for example Nikolai Bukharin, cautioning

against the German partner which had, by joining the Entente-
dominated League of Nations, openly moved into the imperialist
camp and was now beginning to follow an active imperialist policy.
Military relations nevertheless survived this German swerve to the
West and became even more intense due to the aforementioned
after-effects of Locarno. What were the political conditions for this
First of all the fact that the Locarno pact of October 1925 was
extended towards the East by the so-called Berlin agreement of
24 April 1926, in which both countries afrmed their reciprocal
neutrality in case of controversy with a third party and, in addition,
agreed never, even in peacetime, to join a boycott coalition against
the other party. Even more important was the fact that only a year
later, in 1927, a serious in Moscows view even war-threatening,
conict between Soviet Russia and England and France broke
out and the contract passed the crucial test. Contrary to fears
on the part of the Soviet government, the German government
resisted the temptation to exchange its neutrality in this conict
for concessions of the Western powers in vacating the Rhineland.
In particular Stresemanns engaged vote against any ideology
of crusade towards Soviet Russia during the League of Nations
June session in 1927, and his subsequent speech in the German
Reichstag (Gallia quo vadis?), in which he pleaded for the idea of
peaceful coexistence, impressed the Soviet leaders.37 These events
had shown that the neutrality of Germany, the new member of the
League of Nations, had been maintained in a real conict with
the two leading powers of the League which in turn secured the
minimum basis for the German-Russian relationship in terms of
foreign and security policy.38

The change of power in Germany in 1933 was certainly not a

reason per se to regard this basis as no longer existing. Hitlers
anti-communist and anti-Soviet rhetoric was interpreted in Moscow
as mainly internal- and election campaign-motivated a view
that seemed to be conrmed by the new chancellor in his policy
declaration of 23 March 1933 when he said before the Reichstag
that the ght against communism in Germany was a purely internal
matter which does not affect political relations with other powers
to which we are bound by mutual interests.39 This statement of the
new government seemed to conrm the basis for the relationship
The Strange Allies 113

which had been underlined only in December 1932 by Hitlers

predecessor, General Schleicher Moscows great white hope at
the end of the Weimar Republic, like Seeckt had been during its
early years and the Soviet foreign minister, Maksim Litvinov.40
In addition, Moscow was hoping for the positive inuence of
President Hindenburg and of the new defence minister General
Blomberg, who were both seen as guarantors for unchanged
good relations between the two countries. Training and tests were
therefore still carried out at the German establishments in Russia
during the summer of 1933. Only in August 1933 did Moscow
request the immediate dissolution of all German test centres,
having called back its course participants at the general staff in
Berlin a month previously.41 Russia had obviously granted the new
regime in Germany sufcient time to afrm in no uncertain terms
the basis of their mutual partnership regarding security policy.
Moscow had expected something like a binding statement from
Hitler that the anti-Soviet and expansionist aims of the National
Socialist movement, as could be read in Mein Kampf or in the
ofcial party pamphlets of NS chief ideologist Alfred Rosenberg,
were of no signicance for German-Russian relations.42 As such a
signal was not forthcoming from Berlin and, on the contrary, anti-
Soviet propaganda and violent attacks on Russian establishments
in Germany were on the increase, the Soviet leadership revised
its initial assessment of Hitlers anti-communism and began to
recognize its fundamental character. Only now did Moscows
leadership seem certain that the continuation of a relationship of
such security and political relevance could no longer be justied
with this German government. Germany now continued alone on
the path of military rearmament, made possible not least by the
general equality of armament rights which had been achieved by
the Schleicher government at the Geneva disarmament conference
in December 1932.43 Consequently, the Soviet government changed
its foreign policy in the autumn of 1933 and sought reconciliation
with the powers of the League of Nations which Germany had left
in October 1933. Moscows propaganda also took a U-turn and
noisily condemned the German revisionism as dangerous and
peace destroying, having encouraged it enthusiastically for the
past decade.44 Nevertheless, the Soviet leadership continued to
use the personal contacts between the militaries of both countries
for a political re-approach. Moscows deputy defence commissary,
Mikhail Tukhachevskii, tried as late as October 1935, when his
114 Manfred Zeidler

country had ofcially long taken the line of the Litvinov policy
of collective security of the anti-Fascist alliance with the Western
powers, to explore the ground at an informal meeting at the
Moscow residence of ambassador von der Schulenburg. If Germany
and the Soviet Union still had the same friendly relations as they
used to, we could now dictate peace to the world, Tukhachevskii
is said to have uttered, according to notes made by a German
diplomat, and then expressed his great hope that Germany and
the Soviet Union will nd each other again.45 This was the same
Tukhachevskii who, only six months before in a sensational Pravda
article, had painted German rearmament in the most alarming
colours and branded it as a danger to world peace.46
Moscows leadership now started a dual-track, half-open, half-
secret probing and lobbying policy between Germany and the
Western powers which ultimately culminated in the Hitler-Stalin pact
of August 1939, followed by the frontier and friendship agreement
of September that year, with its many subsequent contracts up to
1941. Unlike before 1933, however, there was no longer any feel-
ing of trust between the two partners. The only political basis was
Germanys position of power on the European continent after
military victories over Poland and France which made the German
Reich and the Soviet Union immediate territorial neighbours and
demanded contractual clarication of their relationship. What
happened now was what politicians and the military could only
dream of during the Weimar Republic era: the joint revision of the
last territorial Versailles relics by way of military force.
This phase, lasting a good twenty months, changed abruptly into
a German war of aggression and extermination on 22 June 1941
a war which is still unique in history. Adolf Hitler pointed his
military tool, the German Army, the Wehrmacht, against the one
power which, by its willingness to cooperate with the political and
military revisionism of the Weimar Republic, had helped create the
basis for this tool.
Not the rst time, but never before in such a dramatic and
spectacular way, did history demonstrate that mutual state relations
only based on revisionist aims of power politics sooner or later
become a menace to peace an experience that may be a warning
not only for Germany and Russia but for the whole community of
The Strange Allies 115


1. General Ludendorff, Mein militrischer Werdegang. Bltter der Erinnerung

an unser groes Heer (Mnchen: Ludendorffs Verlag, 1937), pp. 302.
Another example for the Austro-Hungarian Army was Alfred Redl,
who spent a year in Kazan on the Volga in 1899/1900, before taking
up his duties at the well-known Evidenzbro of the Imperial and Royal
(k.u.k.) general staff in Vienna, where he became the most famous
of all Russian spies. See Georg Markus, Der Fall Redl (Vienna and
Munich: Amalthea, 1984), pp. 4952.
2. See Wladimir A. Suchomlinow, Erinnerungen (Berlin: Reimar
Hobbing, 1924), p. 345; Aleksej A. Brussilow, Meine Erinnerungen
(Berlin: Militrverlag der DDR, 1988), p. 41.
3. A.G. Kavtaradze, Iz istorii russkogo generalnogo shtaba, in Voenno-
istoricheskii zhurnal, 1972, 7, pp. 8792. See also Suchomlinow,
Erinnerungen, pp. 2056.
4. Allan K. Wildman, The End of the Russian Imperial Army, vol. 1: The Old
Army and the Soldiers Revolt (MarchApril 1917) (Princeton: Princeton
UP, 1980), pp. 656. It must be mentioned that by Sukhomlinovs
politics of reunifying military leadership under the War Ministry
after 1909 some of this institutional privileges were abolished.
5. See B.M. Schaposchnikow, Das Hirn der Armee (Berlin: Militrverlag
der DDR, 1987), pp. 11920. Also S.N. Kozlov, V.M. Smirnov, I.S. Baz
and P.A. Siderov, O sovetskoi voennoi nauke (Moscow, 1964), p. 170. At
the same time a pro-French orientated school of military thinking
existed within the Army.
6. Dean S. MacMurry, Deutschland und die Sowjetunion 19331936.
Ideologie, Machtpolitik und Wirtschaftsbeziehungen (Cologne and Vienna:
Bhlau, 1979).
7. Heinrich Schwendemann, Die wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit zwischen
dem Deutschen Reich und der Sowjetunion von 1939 bis 1941. Alternative
zu Hitlers Ostprogramm? (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1993).
8. See Manfred Zeidler, German-Soviet Economic Relations during the
Hitler-Stalin Pact, in From Peace to War. Germany, Soviet Russia and the
World, 19391941, ed. by Bernd Wegner (Providence and Oxford:
Berghahn Books, 1997), pp. 95111.
9. Cf. Herbert Helbig, Die Trger der Rapallo-Politik (Gttingen:
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1958).
10. For this new approach see Gaines Post, The Civil-Military Fabric of
Weimar Foreign Policy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973);
also Michael Geyer, Aufrstung oder Sicherheit. Die Reichswehr in der Krise
der Machtpolitik 19241936 (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1980).
11. Quoted in Herbert Molloy Mason, Die Luftwaffe. Aufbau, Aufstieg und
Scheitern im Sieg (Vienna and Berlin: Paul Neff, 1976), p. 125. See
116 Manfred Zeidler

also David Irving, Die Tragdie der Deutschen Luftwaffe. Aus den Akten
und Erinnerungen von Feldmarschall Erhard Milch (Frankfurt am Main:
Ullstein, 1975), p. 62.
12. See Manfred Zeidler, Reichswehr und Rote Armee 19201933. Wege und
Stationen einer ungewhnlichen Zusammenarbeit (Munich: Oldenbourg,
1993), p. 22.
13. Ibid., pp. 223. The rst scholar from the GDR who dealt with the
topic in more detail was Gnter Rosenfeld, Sowjetunion und Deutschland
19221933 (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1984), pp. 26778. One of the
leading East German specialists on military history focused on the
theme, but not until the end of the GDR in 1989, see Olaf Groehler,
Selbstmrderische Allianz. Deutsch-russische Militrbeziehungen 19201941
(Berlin: Vision-Verlag, 1992).
14. Gerald Freund, Unholy Alliance. Russian-German Relations from the Treaty
of Brest-Litovsk to the Treaty of Berlin (London: Chatto & Windus, 1957);
Arthur L. Smith, The German General Staff and Russia, 19191926,
in Soviet Studies 8 (1956/57), pp. 12533.
15. Hans W. Gatzke, Russo-German Military Collaboration During the
Weimar Republic, in American Historical Review 63 (1958), pp. 565
97; John Erickson, The Soviet High Command. A Military-Political History
19181941 (London: Macmillan & Co, 1962); Francis L. Carsten, The
Reichswehr and Politics 1918 to 1933 (London: Oxford UP, 1966). See
also G.H. Stein, Russo-German Military Collaboration: The Last
Phase, 1933, in Political Science Quarterly 72 (1962), pp. 5471.
16. The following are a collection of Russian works, articles and doc-
uments on the topic from the last decade: B.M. Orlov, V poiskakh
soiuznikov: Komandovanie Krasnoi Armii i problemy vneshnei
politiki SSSR v 30-ch godakh, in Voprosy istorii, 1990, 4, pp. 4053;
A.A. Akhtamzian, Voennoe sotrudnichestvo SSSR i Germanii
19201933 gg., in Novaia i noveishaia istoriia, 1990, 5, pp. 324; S.A.
Gorlov, Sovetsko-germanskoe voennoe sotrudnichestvo v 19201933
godakh (vpervye publikuemye dokumenty), in Mezhdunarodnaia
zhizn, 1990, 6, pp. 10724; idem, Moskva-Berlin, 19201933 gg. Voenno-
politicheskie otnosheniia mezhdu SSSR i Germaniei i stanovlenie sovetskoi
voennoi derzhavy v period Rapallo. Dissertatsiia na soiskanie uchenoi stepeni
kandidata istoricheskikh nauk (Moscow: MGIMO MID RF, 1993); S.A.
Gorlov and S.V. Ermachenkov, Voenno-uchebnye tsentry Reikhsvera
v Sovetskom Soiuze, in Voenno-istorichskii zhurnal, 1993, 6, pp.
3944, 7, pp. 414, 8, pp. 3642; S.A. Misanov and V.V. Zacharov,
Voennoe sotrudnichestvo SSSR i Germanii v 19211933 gg. (Moscow:
Voenno-politicheskaia Akademiia, 1991); V.V. Zacharov, Voennye
aspekty vzaimootnoshenii SSSR i Germanii 1921iiun 1941 gg. (Moscow:
Gumanitarnaia Akademiia Vooruzhennykh Sil, 1992); Iu.L. Diakov
and T.S. Busueva, Fashitskii mech kovalsia v SSSR: Krasnaia Armiia
i Reikhsver. Tainoe sotrudnichestvo 19221933. Neizvestnye dokumenty
The Strange Allies 117

(Moscow: Sovetskaia Rossiia, 1972), British edition: The Red Army and
the Wehrmacht. How the Soviets Militarized Germany, 192233, and Paved
the Way for Fascism (Loughton: Prometheus Books, 1995); Reichswehr
und Rote Armee. Dokumente aus den Militrarchiven Deutschlands und
Rulands 19251931, ed. by F.P. Kahlenberg, R.G. Pikhoia and L.V.
Dvoinykh (Koblenz: Bundesarchiv, 1995); N.E. Eliseeva, Nemtsy
veli i budut vesti dvoinuiu politiku. Reikhsver glazami komandirov
Krasnoi Armii, in Voenno-istoricheskii zhurnal, 1997, 2, pp. 308.
17. Karl Radek, Die Auswrtige Politik Sowjet-Rulands (Hamburg: Carl
Hoym Nachf., 1921), p. 73.
18. Quoted in Friedrich v. Rabenau, Seeckt. Aus seinem Leben 19181936
(Leipzig: v. Hase & Koehler, 1941), p. 252.
19. Hans Meier-Welcker, Seeckt (Frankfurt am Main: Bernard & Graefe,
1967), pp. 2945.
20. Quoted in Helmut Grieser, Die Sowjetpresse ber Deutschland in Europa
19221932. Revision von Versailles und Rapallo-Politik in sowjetischer Sicht
(Stuttgart: Klett, 1970), p. 167.
21. Zeidler, Reichswehr, p. 46.
22. Ibid., pp. 708. See also Rolf-Dieter Mller, Das Tor zur Weltmacht. Die
Bedeutung der Sowjetunion fr die deutsche Wirtschafts- und Rstungspolitik
zwischen den Weltkriegen (Boppard: Boldt, 1984), pp. 11036.
23. Ibid., pp. 8997; Olaf Groehler and Helmut Erfurth, Hugo Junkers.
Ein politisches Essay (Berlin: Militrverlag der DDR, 1989), pp. 28
42. Almost the same happened with the other prominent partner
of the German military, the specialist for chemical warfare and
disciple of Fritz Haber, Hugo Stoltzenberg; see Rolf-Dieter Mller,
Die deutschen Gaskriegsvorbereitungen 19191945. Mit Giftgas zur
Weltmacht?, in Militrgeschichtliche Mitteilungen 27 (1980), pp. 269.
24. Zeidler, Reichswehr, pp. 171207.
25. Geyer, Aufrstung, pp. 1935; see also idem, Deutsche Rstungspolitik
18601980 (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1984), pp. 1317.
26. Manfred Lachmann, Zu Problemen der Bewaffnung des imperialistischen
deutschen Heeres (19191939) (Leipzig: Ph.D. dissertation, 1965), pp.
27. See Geyer, Aufrstung, pp. 199200; H. Sperling, Rolle und Funk-
tion des Heereswaffenamts beim ersten Rstungsprogramm der
Reichswehr, in Militrgeschichte 23 (1984), pp. 30512; Michael Geyer,
Das Zweite Rstungsprogramm (19301934), in Militrgeschichtliche
Mitteilungen 17 (1975), pp. 12572.
28. Werner Beitel and Jrgen Ntzold, Deutsch-sowjetische Wirtschafts-
beziehungen in der Zeit der Weimarer Republik (Baden-Baden: Nomos,
1979), pp. 6573.
29. W. Link, Amerika, die Weimarer Republik und Sowjetruland, in
Der Westen und die Sowjetunion, Gottfried Niedhart (ed.) (Paderborn:
Schoeningh, 1983), pp. 79104 (quotation, p. 94).
118 Manfred Zeidler

30. Zeidler, Reichswehr, pp. 3023.

31. Ibid., pp. 20817.
32. Ibid., p. 303.
33. Gerhard Hubrich, Zwischen den Meilensteinen der Luftfahrt (Steinebach:
Zuerl, 1969), p. 78.
34. Werner Rahn, Reichsmarine und Landesverteidigung 19191928.
Konzeption und Fhrung der Marine in der Weimarer Republik (Munich:
Bernard & Graefe, 1976), pp. 17185.
35. Zeidler, Reichswehr, pp. 1978.
36. Diakov and Busueva, Fashistkii mech, p. 103.
37. Gustav Stresemann. Vermchtnis. Der Nachla in drei Bnden, ed. by
H. Bernhard, vol. 3 (Berlin: Ullstein, 1933), pp. 151, 1667; also
Grieser, Die Sowjetpresse, p. 182.
38. Zeidler, Reichswehr, pp. 1523.
39. Quoted in Max Domarus, Hitler, Reden und Proklamationen 19321945.
Kommentiert von einem deutschen Zeitgenossen, vol. I, 1 (19321934)
(Munich: Sddeutscher Verlag, 1965), p. 236.
40. See Akten zur deutschen Auswrtigen Politik (ADAP), Series B, vol. XXI,
Doc. no. 229.
41. Zeidler, Reichswehr, pp. 28791.
42. ADAP, B, vol. II, 1, Doc. no. 176.
43. Hans-Jrgen Rautenberg, Deutsche Rstungspolitik vom Beginn der Genfer
Abrstungskonferenz bis zur Wiedereinfhrung der allgemeinen Wehrpicht
19321935, (Bonn: Ph.D. dissertation, 1973).
44. As an example see Karl Radeks Pravda article from 10 May 1933, in
Dietrich Mller, Karl Radek in Deutschland (Kln: Wissenschaft und
Politik, 1976), pp. 26972.
45. ADAP, C, vol. IV, 2, Doc. no. 383, annex.
46. See M. Buchsweiler and J.L. Wallach, Menetekel. Der sowjetrussische
Marschall M. Tuchatschewski warnt im Mrz 1935 vor deutschen
Agressionsplnen (ein miachtetes und vergessenes Dokument), in
Tel Aviver Jahrbuch fr deutsche Geschichte 13 (1984), pp. 35165.

Facing the Ostfront: The Other

War in German Memory

Before discussing the German recollections of the war

in the East, two preliminary comments should be made: only the
development of West Germany will be considered; that of East
Germany will not. The way the War was seen in East Germany is
an interesting subject in itself, but its strong identication with the
Soviet Union would require an analysis of the Soviet ofcial history
too. German will therefore imply West German in this chapter.
Secondly, there has been quite a development on the subject
of the war in the East and the way it is remembered in the last
ve to ten years. The generation of those who lived and fought
in the War are nearing the end of their lives now, so last chances
to ask questions sometimes meet with these mens wishes to free
themselves from long silence and taboos. At the same time pro-
fessional historiography is increasingly discovering that war and
the German occupation of the Soviet Union as a subject. Things
may be seen differently in ve years time.
In order to understand the discourse about the War in post-
war Germany, and the public consensus on what should and what
should not be discussed, it will be useful to summarize some central
facts of the war in the East, all the more so as the West European
and American focus on the Second World War is different from
that in Central and Eastern Europe.
But before doing so, I will go back yet another step: the Germans
and it is their perspective we are interested in did not invade
a terra incognita in June 1941 for the Nazi leadership, as well as
most of the people, had a distinct and detailed idea of Russia
and the Russians. And it is these traditional and common ideas

120 Peter Jahn

which determined alongside the incisive experience of the War

itself shared by millions the content and forms of the collective
memory after 1945.
Popular images of the Russian national character were wide-
spread in Germany before 1933. Looking back to the nineteenth
century these images were predominantly Russophobic, even if
certain groups in German society had a positive attitude towards
Russians. Three main aspects can be identied. Russia and the
Russians were seen:

1. As foreign, not belonging to the progressive European culture.

2. As backward, inferior; this idea was commonly associated with
a stagnating Asiatic society.
3. As potentially threatening, and naturally expansive.

Bolshevist rule and its ideology of global revolution by the pro-

letariat had been added to traditional Russian expansionism in this
Under Nazi rule these images were made more aggressive, were
combined with anti-Semitism to Jewish Bolshevism and with the
Lebensraum ideology, to justify an imperialism directed towards
Eastern Europe culminating in the idea of the Ukraine as a German
In the biological, racist concept, inferior people, among them all
Slavic people and especially the Asiatic Russian Slavs in addition,
infected by Bolshevism were denied any right to exist. This con-
cept developed by Hitler and Rosenberg was in its strict form only
held by a minority, but parts of it and the idea of a competition
of ethnically strong and weak nations was shared by the majority.
Even Christians, for whom a racist biological concept of society was
unacceptable, saw no right for an atheist state to exist.
When in 1940, after Poland and France had been defeated and
the war with Great Britain had ground to a stalemate, the political
and military leadership in Germany began to plan the war against
the Soviet Union, these ideas were transformed into military
orders, forming the basis of a warfare that ignored existing inter-
national law. Soviet political ofcers, Kommissars, were to be shot,
atrocities against the civilian population were to be punished only
exceptionally, the murder of political and economic representatives
of the Soviet Union and of the Jewish population by SS and police
forces in the occupied territories was planned on a large scale. With
Facing the Ostfront 121

these actions close cooperation with the Wehrmacht was assumed

and later realized. Eventually a scheme was designed that would
lead to the planned starvation of around 30 million people, mainly
in the industrial areas of the Soviet Union.
The attack devised as a blitzkrieg lasting no more than four
months turned out to become a horrendous war lasting four years,
resulting in the unconditional surrender and provisional end of
Germany as a nation. The Soviet Union lost 25 to 30 million people,
more than half of them civilians. Of the total 6 to 7 million German
dead, at least 70 per cent were killed as soldiers on the Eastern
Front or died as refugees in the East at the end of the War.
It does not t into the standard British or American view of the
War, but even after the Normandy landings the Third Reich gave
priority and they had to give it in their military and political logic
to the ghting in the East, where the Wehrmacht was nally
defeated by the Red Army.
But this war in the East was characterized not only by tank and
infantry battles on a massive scale. Particularly in the rst year, 1941,
when victory seemed close, military operations included a policy
of exterminating prisoners of war and civilians against political
ofcers of whom thousands were murdered; against hundreds
of thousands who were murdered as alleged partisans; indirectly
against huge numbers of the population as they were denied food
(in Leningrad alone 800,000 people starved, and were meant to);
against Soviet prisoners of war, of whom 2 out of 3 million starved
up to May 1942, as they were regarded as unnecessary mouths to
feed. Later POWs were needed as labourers as victory had not been
won in a few months, but as Russians were still regarded as animal-
like Untermenschen a further million died in German camps. Up to
the end of 1941 even before such genocide was ofcially ordered
500,000 Jews were murdered on Soviet territory, and a further
one and a half million by 1944.
Considering the scale of these crimes and the suffering of the
victims, it seems only natural to regard the Germans as the culprits.
Direct and indirect responsibility for Nazi crimes, particularly the
relationship between individual guilt and collective responsibility,
are well documented and will be discussed further in this chapter.
In my view it is distorting the facts to simply characterize such
enormous crimes as committed in the German name. Beside
the responsibility which can only be assessed individually (and
can rarely be fully reconstructed), beside the individual extent to
122 Peter Jahn

which soldiers carried out the policy of occupation, submission

and annihilation on behalf of the Nazi regime, we have to look at
the specic experiences of the majority who fought there that is
of around 10 million German and Austrian males if we want to
explain the various ways to grapple with this past in the decades
after 1945. Apart from the question of responsibility we have to
acknowledge that these men were collectively traumatized, too. For
years they were exposed to extreme physical and emotional stress
that is difcult for us to comprehend. Their war biography was
characterised by exhaustion, hunger, lth and vermin, illness, fear
of death and mutilation, the experience of their fellow soldiers
deaths on a huge scale, by the necessity to conform to their group
in order to survive, humiliations by their superiors and later, after
defeat by the enemy, nally by being made prisoners of war.
It sounds a paradox, but the intensity of the trauma in addition
to the fact that it was the common experience of practically a whole
generation raised under the inescapable norms of male toughness
prevented people from being aware of it. To feel sympathy with
your fellow soldiers or with yourself was an idea that seemed
inappropriate you felt sympathy with a crying child or with a dog
that had been run over, but not with yourself.
For the immediate post-war period, the years 19459, up to
about the time of the establishment of two the German states, it
is impossible to assess the way Germans came to terms with the
War. Besides the fact that most people simply had to ght for their
survival, that for 2.5 to 3 million prisoners of war in the Soviet
Union and their families at home the War was not yet over, that
many peoples minds were still heavily inuenced by Nazi ideology,
there were just no public announcements that were not ltered by
the censorship of the Allied occupational forces, so that witness
statements cannot be taken to reveal the true German view. War
was a subject of public discussion but it often had a strong moral-
izing undertone. The Nuremberg trials and the subsequent edition
of forty-two volumes of evidence an excellent compilation of
sources on Nazi crimes not least about those committed in the
Soviet Union offered a chance to grapple with the most serious
of war crimes. These books could be found in almost any public
library in Germany, but they were not read. Nobody wanted to be
confronted with the facts.
The Nuremberg trials set an example in a quite different sense,
as a central element in the defence of the accused members of the
Facing the Ostfront 123

Wehrmacht was the assertion that they had known little or nothing
of the criminal plans and actions, let alone taken part in them.
A deep gap between the Nazi leadership and the Wehrmacht was
built up, an idea which was seemingly proved by the bitter struggle
between Hitler and the generals about operational and later even
tactical questions. This view was supported by an impressive number
of purely military accounts of the war in the East written by former
generals under the direction of Franz Halder and commissioned
by the Historical Division of the US Forces. At that stage, cold war
military expertise was more important than military ethos.
But even among the weak West German left there were strong
tendencies to deny the part ordinary people had played in the Nazi
regime. In an intellectual magazine called Der Ruf Alfred Andersch
was outspoken about the generals role as war criminals, but cleared
the soldiers of all charges, as they had to obey.
So we nd memoirs written by former generals, and purely mil-
itary accounts, as the rst uncensored publications on the War in
early 1950s Germany. Ten years later popular historiography of
the war in the East reached a peak with Paul Schmidts (a former
press ofcer in Ribbentrops Ministry of Foreign Affairs) book
Unternehmen Babarossa published under the pen name Carell. This
book, of which several hundred thousand copies had been sold by
the 1990s, has strongly inuended the popular image of the war in
the East.
In the course of the 1950s more and more autobiographical
accounts of that war, and of the time as prisoners of war, appeared.
It is remarkable how many doctors and clergymen were among the
authors. This does not tell us anything about the quality of these
books, but it does tell us something about the emotional needs of
the reading public. In retrospect, people preferred to be reminded
of the sensitive doctor or clergyman, able to help body and soul,
rather than of the armed soldier entering a foreign country as an
enemy. Taking into account that around 10 million German and
Austrian soldiers fought in the East, of whom at the most 3 million
were taken prisoner, the fact that 50 per cent of all publications
deal with captivity is in need of an explanation.
The Second World War played an important role in ction, espe-
cially in the popular mass literature of the 1950s, and it is the war in
the East that is the central subject. Individual authors Bauer, Kirst
and Konsalik, for example achieved print runs of up to a million.
Interestingly enough the genres of autobiographical and ctional
124 Peter Jahn

literature are integrated: ctional texts claim to be based on facts,

while in non-ctional texts there are ctional passages.
Even more readers were reached when accounts of this type were
published in special magazines after about 1954 covering roughly
thirty pages, these magazines were undemanding with respect to
time and intellect. Indeed, they are still on sale in large numbers
at newsagents and department stores even today. In German lm
productions of the 1950s, the war in the East played an important
role, too, whereas with television starting its development in the
mid-1950s, it more or less stayed away from the subject. With the
exception of one enormously successful serial about a German
prisoner of war escaping from Siberia, there are rather serious doc-
umentaries instead.
It is not easy to sum up these many early publications which have
dominated the collective memory until now. Of course, with no
censorship to manipulate the public, there is a wide range of views:
the memoirs of Helmut Gollwitzer a clergyman and an active
opponent of the Nazi regime covering ve years as prisoner of
war, show a very different attitude to the war in the East and the
Russians, from those held by the novelists Josef Martin Bauer and
Heinz Konsalik, who also wrote about prisoners of war, but who
had both been authors of Nazi propaganda publications about the
Soviet enemy before 1945. In spite of all the differences there is a
main theme, a preference of subjects and even conclusions.
The predominant point of view is that of soldiers and prisoners
of war, not of civilians, least of all of women who were confronted
with the violence of out-of-control Soviet soldiers. The German
soldiers and prisoners of war see themselves as defenders of their
country, as people who are critical of the Nazis and merely defend-
ing their homes against an attack from the East. The fact that this
defence took place on Soviet territory most of the time is not
questioned; politics in most cases are not touched on. There are
practically no Nazis among the soldiers at the front, if at all, merely
naive youngsters soon to be set right by hard facts. Mass murder
committed by Germans is only rarely mentioned, and in the few
short accounts it is depicted as an abhorred crime of the others,
the Nazis. Accordingly, the typical German soldier is the best soldier
of the Second World War, who hates war but at the same time does
his duty for his country, for his family and for his mates.
Whereas the communist regime is rejected without exception as
inhuman, the characterization and judgement of Russians is far
Facing the Ostfront 125

more varied. Mostly however we nd a perspective which shows the

population as the communist regimes victims in order to justify
the Germans actions. Often the Russian national character, a
term that is used uncritically, is regarded as suitable to the political
regime or the regime is even seen as just an ideological variation
of a strong government suitable to historically deep-rooted Russian
The stereotypes of the Russian character, handed down from
one generation to the next and sharpened by National Socialism,
were in most cases kept in the post-war period. According to
them typical Russians are represented as intellecually simple,
but physically and emotionally strong people. As an ambivalent
characteristic they are said to be childlike as long as they obey,
they are not dangerous. But their vigorous emotional outbursts
can be destructive, especially when they occur en masse. This is
exemplied by the Soviet soldiers who are described time and again
as Asiatic (with the connotation of being primitive belonging to
nature rather than to civilisation). So Konsalik writes: and then
they attacked . . . like ants, earth-coloured, crawled out of their
holes, their dugouts . . . Tatars, Mongolians, Kirghiz and Kalmucks
. . . they stormed towards us. With another author, Thorwald, the
killing of German civilians is mostly attributed to Kalmucks, Tatars,
Caucasians, Siberians stirred up by propaganda and primitive,
simple-minded people who in their poverty and backwardness
do not esteem human life as much as people in highly civilised
countries do.
As far as intelligent Russians are presented, they may appear as
positive characters: as elderly, powerless people of the times of the
Tsar or as educated women, above all doctors, or as negative char-
acters, that is as fanatic and dangerous communists. As a recurrent
positive character you will nd the old woman, the babushka, often
as offering help to an exhausted German soldier or prisoner of war.
Here a real experience has been taken up, whereas most of the
aforesaid characters are heavily inuenced by old clichs.
All this reveals a strong resemblance to publications of the
National Socialist period as well as to private material (letters from
the front or diaries). To put it drastically, the image of Russia and
the Russians in the years 1941 to 1945 was maintained with only
slight modications for many years after the War, the only aspect
left out being the anti-Semitic component. In Nazi publications the
vicious commissar seen in the centre of all Bolshevist crimes had
126 Peter Jahn

always been a Jew. Now the term Asiatic served a similar purpose,
thereby of course again taking up Nazi stereotypes. For a majority
of Germans the negative stereotype of Bolshevist-Asiatic hordes
threatening Europe was seemingly conrmed by the painful
experience of excesses of violence committed by uncontrolled
Red Army soldiers in the last months of the War, by contact with
Stalinist repression and by hunger suffered in Soviet prisoner-of-
war camps.
To what extent these images made public in texts and lms re-
ected the images people had in their minds cannot of course
be assessed exactly, as we have to acknowledge huge differences
in the indiviual attitudes. The few public opinion polls though
that of Sodhi and Bergius of 1953 and those of Wolf in 1959 and
1964 show basically the same results. Sodhi and Bergius list as
the seven Russian qualities named most often: brutal when drunk,
unpredictable, primitive, loving their home country, modest, cruel
and kind to children. The list continues again named by more
than 50 per cent with stubborn, lacking individuality, instinctive,
dirty. At least later polls show that the very emotional, very hostile
classications gure less prominently.
The view of the war in the East as outlined here, a view formed in
the 1950s that saw the war as a defence of the German population,
that saw atrocities almost exclusively on the Soviet side, that saw
German soldiers as well as civilians only as victims, a view that, with
only minor modications, kept using the old, deadly image of the
enemy, of the primitive, barbaric Russians this view could lead to
the assumption that Germans at the time generally still adhered to
Nazi ideology, since the conquest of Lebensraum and the annihila-
tion of Jewish Bolshevism were central elements of this ideology.
Although a lot of what had happened between 1933 and 1945
was played down and whitewashed, the criminal character of the
Nazi dictatorship and the fact that it had ruined the German state
were widely accepted, above all in the political sphere, but by and
large with most of the people, too. But of the regime that had to be
criticized, the war in the East was cut off and so the things people
had done in this war could be regarded as justied.
The majority realized that the Nazi leaders had been criminals,
but in the East Germany had been defended, so the war should
have been won. A substantial majority of Germans therefore saw
themselves as victims of both the Nazis and the Soviets, the latter
being worse.
Facing the Ostfront 127

This character of the war memory was conforming to the pol-

itical needs of the early Federal Republic seeking acceptance, and
was therefore reinforced by its politicians. At this time, when there
was no afuence as yet and democratic participation was not really
attractive for most Germans, the image this society had of itself
was largely based on rejecting the communist threat from the
East. And this collective warding off of the red ood helped the
conservatives to stay in power, because the Social Democrats who
at that time had not yet abandoned all Marxist ideas could thus
be denounced as untrustworthy. This invocation of the red threat
offered another justication for the war in the past, which was now
seen as a legitimate defence of Western civilization.
The establishment of a new German Army, explained exclusively
by the possibility of Soviet attack, could also prot from this new
positive interpretation of the war in the East. This became obvious
and practical when former ofcers and veterans organizations
were lobbying, demanding the release of any ofcers sentenced
to imprisonment as war criminals by the Western Allies, and the
restoration of honour for the Wehrmacht and their actions in
the Second World War, as a prerequisite to their cooperation in
forming the Bundeswehr. They were granted both, the restoration
of honour being given by President Eisenhower himself, although
he knew better it was nothing but a political tactic.
It would be misleading though to explain the justication of the
war in the East as being mainly in the interests of the government
and conservative groups; it was instrumental for them and they
reinforced it, but at the same time it answered the emotional
needs of a majority of the population, as 10 million soldiers of the
Wehrmacht had experienced the war as a decisive part of their
lives and as a time of enormous suffering. Whereas the genocide
of the European Jews had been committed by a limited number
of people, the war of annihilation in the East was fought by the
mass-organization Wehrmacht. Not every single soldier, let alone a
majority, took an active part in atrocities, but the identication with
the Wehrmacht, normally accepted as part of peoples own lives,
forced them to whitewash the past. After the trauma of defeat, with
Germany being split into occupational zones, and the founding of a
new state, there was a strong demand for continuity, for something
one could identify with across the changing political scene. So in
this situation, justifying the war in the East that had taken up old
images of the Russian enemy served this purpose. When the war
128 Peter Jahn

could be legitimized by both the recent political confrontation and

the old image of the enemy, what the Wehrmacht did and what the
individual did most people did not differentiate between the two
could be dissociated from the Nazi regime. If there had been any
sense in the Wehrmachts struggle against the Soviet Union beyond
National Socialist ideology and interests, the suicidal continuation
of the war until May 1945 could be justied.
The dominant view on the war at the Eastern front of the 1950s
and 1960s has been described in detail here, because not only had
there been a broad consensus in the German public on this subject,
but also some features of it are still relevant today. The tendency
to justify the war has become less relevant in the ensuing decades,
but the discussion about an exhibition of crimes committed by the
Wehrmacht, which has played a major role with the German public
in the last seven years, has proved just how many people are still
inuenced by this view. At the same time the very existence of this
exhibition, as well as the acrimonious discussion, reveal that the
image of the war in society has undergone important changes, with
the memory focusing on different aspects. This has been brought
about by various factors.
The setting was provided by the change in East-West relations, or
levelling-out: since the second half of the 1960s the Soviet Union
was no longer seen exclusively as the threat. The decisive phase was
the years 1985 to 1989, characterized by Mikhail Gorbachevs policy,
by serious proposals for disarmament, perestroika and glasnost. In
1989 and 1990 when the confrontation ended, relief was mixed
with gratitude for the denite acceptance of German unication.
With the fear gone, it was easier to view the Soviets not only as the
enemy, even in retrospect. Then the results of critical research on
the subject were at last noticed by people outside the inner circle
of specialized historians.
Non-apologetic, critical resarch on the war in the East had
developed slowly, beginning in the 1960s. This might partly be
explained by the fact that German military documents were in
American hands up to the second half of the 1950s. But this is not
a far- reaching explanation as even material that could be studied,
such as the published Nuremberg documents, were not used. It is
remarkable that in the 1950s only two projects on the war years were
initiated with public support: an extensive publication of documents
on the expulsion of the German population from Eastern Europe;
and a series of detailed investigations on the situation with German
Facing the Ostfront 129

prisoners of war. Both works are in themselves results of serious

historical analysis, but the political implication is quite obvious.
Germans were the victims and the victims of German aggression
were not a subject of German historiography. (The choice of the
subjects shows some opportunism towards the Western Allies, too:
there was no comparable investigation on the 500,000 Germans
who died in air raids.)
Interestingly enough the initiative for research on the close
connection of Hitlers intentions and the Wehrmachts aims in the
East was not taken by historians of a liberal or leftish university
background. They would identify the subject with the mass of
apologetic literature published so far and turn their backs on it.
The rst important studies were written by Andreas Hillgruber, who
had worked on German warfare and its connection with National
Socialist ideology. A programmatic title of one of his articles is The
nal solution and the German empire in the East as the core of the
racist programme of National Socialism.
An essential part of dismantling the myth of a politically neutral,
at all times honourable Wehrmacht, was achieved by an institution
that was far from the universities and was not expected to have
done anything quite like it. The Institute for Military History of
the Bundeswehr, for many years under the direction of two liberal
historians, Messerschmidt and Deist, analyzed the close relation
between the Nazi leadership and that of the Wehrmacht before
1939, and the racist war of annihilation against the Soviet Union in
many detailed works. The main study of the planning and execution
of the attack on the Soviet Union was published in 1984.
In the 1980s, thirty years after the end of the War, some more
studies on specic aspects were published: on the planned death
of more than 3 million Soviet prisoners of war in German camps;
on the activities of the operational groups of the SS and the police
behind the lines and their close cooperation with the military;
and on forced labour, especially the Soviet Ostarbeiter in German
factories. Until now the public has received these results piecemeal;
in the 1980s they were known only to a few specialists and some
committed teachers.
Independent of professional historiography local initiatives dev-
eloped in many places in the 1970s. People started to ask questions
about their own relatives during the years 1933 to 1945 and often
came upon the fact that they had been prisoners of war and forced
labourers. They often got support from the Protestant Church
130 Peter Jahn

and the unions. The change in the attitude to the War became
very obvious with President von Weizsckers speech on the 40th
anniversary of the German capitulation. Conservative Weizscker
carefully considered Germanys military and political defeat and
then characterized it in spite of all the losses and pain as lib-
eration, as the only chance for a new beginning that could not have
been achieved alone. The vigorous protest of conservative circles
also showed that his position was not a common one.
In 1991 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the German
assault on the Soviet Union, a documentary exhibition was shown in
Berlin that for the rst time presented the ndings of professional
historiography on the War and on the various complexes of crimes
in the East to a wider public. The positive reactions even in the
conservative press could be taken as an indication that the war in
the East was now seen as an essential part of Nazi crimes. Further
development seemed to conrm this assumption. The exhibition
turned out to be a forerunner of a museum in Berlin-Karlshorst that
became the rst permanent institution to remember this war and
its crimes. In the euphoric early 1990s the museum was founded in
1995 as a joint venture between the Federal Republic of Germany
and the Russian Federation, so far a unique project.
Also in 1995, a privately initiated exhibition, A war of annihila-
tion, crimes of the Wehrmacht, opened and was positively received
in Hamburg and Berlin. It was not considered sensational though,
as it presented in its centre the participation of the military in
a quite simplied way a statement that was taken as a starting
point rather than as a result in the academic discussion as well as
in the aforementioned exhibitions. But the provocation suceeded
in other places where the exhibition was shown and polarized the
public, so that the Wehrmachts part in Nazi crimes became an
issue for a broader discussion. On the one hand this (and later the
subsequent totally revised version) confronted a large number of
people with hard facts. For the majority the idea of the Wehrmacht
staying clean was no longer acceptable. But on the other hand
the exhibition, with its intention to polarize, has made a number of
conservatives, who had started to see things more critically, go back
to their old positions claiming that the Wehrmacht had fought an
honourable war, defending Germany against communism. The
controversy stabilized this position for a minority.
The survival of this kind of memory is a receding problem. It is
more difcult now to make people realise the dimension of the
Facing the Ostfront 131

damage done by the German invaders, above all by the military, in

Eastern Europe. The crime characterizing the nature of National
Socialism the genocide of the Jews has taken such a singular
position in our Western discourse that any discussion of crimes
committed in the Soviet Union focuses on the Holocaust, although
that was only part of them. The many millions of Soviet prisoners
of war and of Polish and Soviet non-Jewish civilians who became
victims of racist murder, are rarely seen alongside the Jewish victims.
To fully grasp the nature of National Socialism it is necessary to
widen our perception and realize that the planning and partial
execution of the murder of up to 30 million Slavs categorized as
Untermenschen forms an essential part of the Nazi regime just as the
Holocaust does.
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Patriots or Traitors? The

Soviet Government and the
German Russians After the
Attack on the USSR by
National Socialist Germany

Instrumentalizing Volga Germans for Propaganda at

the Beginning of the War

After the Third Reichs attack on the USSR the Soviet

government still believed for a short while that it could inuence
the enemy ideologically with the rallying cries of class struggle. In
speeches at the outbreak of war both Molotov and Stalin endeav-
oured to create a more nuanced image of the German popula-
tion within the Soviet Empire and allowed themselves to be led
by the hope of proletarian solidarity. This was heard clearly in a
radio speech by Molotov on 22 June 1941: This war is not forced
upon us by the German (germanskii) people, not by the German
(germanskimi) workers, farmers and intellectuals, whose suffering
we sympathise with, but from a clique of bloodthirsty fascists rulers
in Germany.1 Even Stalin was provisionally in favour of a balanced
view of the War, although he had already provided the War with
its prex patriotic in his speech on 3 July: In this great war we
will nd true allies in the peoples of Europe and America, and
also among the German people, who are enslaved by the fascist
In this scenario of internationalist propaganda, still valid at that
time, the German minority was to play a signicant role in the Soviet

134 Viktor Krieger

Union. Countless meetings of anti-fascists took place during the

rst weeks of the War in the Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic
of the Volga Germans (ASSRVG), in which almost all the adult
German population took part. In these meetings appeals were
made to the soldiers in all branches of the Wehrmacht, to workers,
farmers and other members of working classes in the land of the
aggressors. Knowledge of these appeals was immediately sent to
the party leaders in Moscow, was published in Soviet newspapers
and was used as propaganda against Germany in the form of iers
and radio programs. A direct speech was given to the working-class
population of Germany by Alexander Heckman, the chairman of
the Council of Peoples Commissars of the Volga Republic, on 13
July 1941:

To the working population of Germany. The fascist rulers of Germany,

with the bloodthirsty animal Hitler at the helm, who have enslaved a
number of European peoples, have stretched their bloody actions to
the USSR . . . In these decisive struggles with the German fascist monster
and the further strengthening of the friendship between people of all
nationalities with the Russian people . . . The working Volga Germans,
united in the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, which is a solid
territory of the Russian Federation, have their own state government
based on the most democratic constitution in the world. Take me for
example, I as a weaver and the son of a worker lived in constant need
under the Tsar. Under the Soviet power I was educated as an engineer
and rose to be a statesman, to be the Chairman of the Council of Peoples
Commissars of the Republic. There are hundreds and thousands of
such examples. The life of Volga Germans in the Soviet land is free,
happy and prosperous. The life of working people in Germany under
the rule of the fascist clique is one long nightmare, full of suffering and
deprivation . . . In the name of the people of the Republic of the Volga
Germans and in my own name I call on the German people (germanskii)
to turn their bayonets on the fascist cannibals, help the people to rid
their soil of the aggressors!3

Similar information and articles appeared in July and August of

1941 in several central Soviet newspapers.4 Taken together these
appeals aimed to unmistakably signal that there was a consequent
difference between the fascists, i.e. the enemy and the simple
working Germans, regardless of the country in which they lived.
The international solidarity of the workers should persevere. This
observation appeared to be important for the Soviet Union at the
Patriots or Traitors? 135

time and the message was also treated as signicant by the media.
However, a rational public debate was missing, which often lead to
such name-calling as rst bandit Hitler, fascist band of murderers,
Hitler, the black blooded dragon, fascist cannibals, the Hitler
group, gone mad from blood and Mein Kampf, the Bible of the
cannibals. This kind of vocabulary had already become established
in the mainstream of Soviet society during the 1930s through the
process of exposure and of banishing the Trotskyites along with
other supposed peoples enemies, and thus it was brought back in
the rst days of the War for contemporary propaganda purposes.

Changes in Soviet War Propaganda

On the eve of military conict with the Third Reich

romantic images of the future war as a struggle against the
property owners and capitalists, in which the Soviet troops were
received by the working masses with enthusiasm, and hordes of
proletarians in soldiers uniforms would rush to the side of the Red
Army, was not only in the minds of the normal soldiers but also in
the thoughts of the political leaders. Such dreams were fed by the
experience of similar encounters in the Soviet-Polish War and on the
annexation of the Baltic States and Bessarabia in 193940. Even the
campaign against Finland, with its many losses and the clear refusal
by Finnish civilians and those belonging to the military to support
the liberation from the yoke of imperialism, changed little in this
stance.5 The offensive Soviet military doctrine, according to which
the enemy should be defeated on his territory, with a destructive
blow and few own (Soviet) losses (maloi kroviu, moguchim udarom),
stood in vivid contradiction to the harsh reality: in the process of
the rst two months of the War the Wehrmacht had stormed up to
Kiev and Dnepr and hundreds of thousands of soldiers and ofcers
had fallen. By the end of August 1941 1.5 million Red Army soldiers
had been captured or had disserted to the Germans under the
inuence of Wehrmacht propaganda.6 Added to this, noticeable
signs of local collaboration with the enemy were coming to light in
the occupied areas.
The following events contributed signicantly to a radicalization
of war propaganda. During the retreat from the recently annexed
areas, employees of the Peoples Commissariat for Internal Affairs
(Narodnyi Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del NKVD) executed thousands
136 Viktor Krieger

of prison inmates and several military personnel, who had been

under arrest.7 Russian authors estimate the number of arbitrarily
shot inmates of the prisons to be exactly 9,817 people, of whom
2,464 came from prisons in the region of Lvov (Lviv). There were
cruel executions on the evacuation march, such as the head of the
prison in the town Glubokoe ordering up to 600 prisoners be shot
in a wood.8 The Nazis made propaganda gains after the discovery
of this mass murder. In the rst statement from the Moscow foreign
affairs ministry on the subject, the allegation was labelled a libellous
accusation, whose only purpose was to distract the public from
their own sins.9 The reports and portrayals of German atrocities
in the Soviet media were aimed initially at the criminalization of
Wehrmacht personnel. Whoever expressed the slightest doubt
about the credibility of such reports was dealt with immediately
by the secret police. This happened to the well-known anti-fascist
director and theatre manager Bernhard Reich, who portrayed
German soldiers in his plays as thinking people and not solely
as idiots, robbers or animal-like beings, and thus contradicted
the ofcial propaganda. Reich was sentenced to several years in a
labour camp on a charge of anti-Soviet propaganda.10
The fate of Heinrich Hoffmann from the village of Rosental in the
Volga German Republic serves as one of the countless examples of
German bestiality and was even temporarily taken into the martyr-
dom ideology of Soviet heroes. Initially the army newspaper, Boevoi
natisk, reported his heroic death on 5 August 1941. On 24 August
the central newspaper Komsomolskaia Pravda published a photo
of Hoffmanns bloody Komsomol book with the description of a
fearless ght and spine-chilling account of the cruelty of Hitlers
soldiers. As a Soviet German who had courageously fought against
his fascist blood brothers and had given his life for the party and
for Stalin, Hoffmann at rst appeared to be a suitable symbol for
the embodiment of Soviet patriotism. In his name soldiers began to
swear revenge, but in the midst of the deportation of Germans from
the USSR, which began shortly thereafter, he was forgotten.11 That
is why this Volga German was not included in the canon of Soviet
heroes together with such names as Zoia Kosmodemianskaia,
Aleksandr Matrosov or Musa Dzhalil, although at rst his case
followed the normal pattern of Soviet hero-making. The appeal for
greater Russian patriotism, together with a more or less discernible
anti-German sentiment, now clearly promised a better chance of
success in mobilizing the masses. A German hero, even with the
Patriots or Traitors? 137

prex Soviet or Volga, no longer suited the freshly indoctrinated

ideological direction.
The agitation and propaganda organized by the Soviet leadership
in the rst few weeks of the War proved neither to be effective for
the mobilization of the Soviet peoples, including the Russians, nor
was it a good way to inuence the enemy. During his meeting with
William Averell Harriman, the representative of the US President,
at the end of September 1941, Stalin is reported to have said, We
know that the people do not want to ght for a world revolution,
they also wont ght for the Soviet powers [. . .] Maybe they will
ght for Russia.12 After the failure of the rst attempts to inuence
the advancing enemy with the sentiments of class struggle and
international solidarity between workers and farmers, the ofcial
propaganda quickly became an uninhibited torrent of hate and
cruelty. German was increasingly used as a synonym for fascist,
which was to have fatal consequences for the Russian Germans.13
The ASSRVG with representatives in the Supreme Soviet of the
USSR and in the Russian Federation, and with workers in the
state and party apparatus protested against this U-turn, which
went against their formal constitutional rights. The existence of
a recognized Soviet German minority with vested rights of auto-
nomy certainly presented an obstacle for the war propaganda, with
its characterization of the Germans as two-legged animals, can-
nibals and rabid dogs.14
On the other hand, as in the First World War, the military leader-
ship attempted to blame their failure on, among other things, the
existence of treasonous activities of the German population in
regions near the front.15 On 3 August 1941 a battle update from
the war council of the Southern Front arrived in the headquarters
of the Supreme Command of the Soviet forces:

1. The acts of war on the Dnestr have proven that the German pop-
ulation shot on our retreating troops from windows and gardens.
Furthermore it has become clear that the German troops invading a
German village on 1 August were welcomed with salt and bread. In
the immediate surroundings of the front there are many settlements
with a German population.
2. We are asking the local authorities to give orders for the immediate
removal of this unreliable element.16

Whether this message reected the real situation or an invented

story from the twilight world of spy hysteria, is in this case of
138 Viktor Krieger

secondary importance. This telegram carried Stalins note, Tov-

arishchu Beriia. Nado vyselit s treskom Comrade Beriia. Out with
them with a bang, and pointed to another entry: The Peoples
Commissar [i.e. Beriia] has been informed of this, 25/08/1941.
With that the fate of the Russian Germans was sealed and on the
very same day Beriia presented a draft for the decision to resettle
the Germans currently living in the Volga region.17 One result of
this draft was the decision by the Council for Evacuation and the
War Council of the Southern Front to deport 53,000 Crimean
Germans on 15 August. This was thinly veiled by ofcially calling it
an evacuation.18

The Deportation of the German Minority

Stalin, supported by his colleagues in the politburo, had

by 26 August 1941 ordered the resettlement of the Volga Germans.
This was camouaged as a decision by the central committee of
the Communist Party (Vsesoiuznaia kommunisticheskaia partiia
(bolsheviki) VKP(b)) and the Council of Peoples Commissars
(CPC), i.e. the government. In this top-secret decision, to which
only a close circle of party and state leaders were privy, there was no
evidence of guilt on the part of the German minority. The directive,
comprising nineteen articles and written in an emphatically factual
fashion, gives the impression of an orderly planned resettlement.
The regions of Altai and Krasnoiarsk, the areas of Omsk and
Novosibirsk, as well as Kazakhstan, functioned as reception areas.
The complete plan was entrusted to the NKVD.19 The secretly
formulated party and government decision to liquidate a Soviet
republic which was rmly anchored in the constitution did, however,
require permission, if only for a purely formal legal blessing from
the state apparatus. Thus, the decree, Pertaining to the re-settlement
of the Germans in the Volga District, which was supposed to give
the whole operation legitimate grounds, was signed two days later
on 28 August, by the head of state, Mikhail Kalinin, in the name of
the President of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. This decree was
only published in the News of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and in the
local press.20 Through a further decree on 7 September 1941 the
annexation of the territory of the Volga German Republic into the
bordering regions of Saratov and Stalingrad followed.21 Contrary
to the internally recorded government and party decisions, hefty
Patriots or Traitors? 139

accusations against the Germans were raised in the ofcial decree

on 28 August 1941. They were accused of harbouring thousands
and tens of thousands of saboteurs and spies who on a certain
German signal would carry out bomb attacks. On the basis of this
allegation, the German minority was declared an enemy of the
Soviet state and was resettled in the eastern parts of the country.
On 9 September 1941, Serov, the leader of the German opera-
tion and a deputy of the Peoples Commissar of Internal Affairs,
reported to his boss Beriia that at this time four (!) agents from
the German secret service were active in the area. As an example
of the anti-Soviet sabotage in the Volga German Republic such
grotesque evidence was brought forward as torn pictures of the
Soviet leader, of destroyed private gardens or fruit plantings.22
This did not however stop the secret police in the service of the
Bolshevik leadership from retrospectively discovering the presence
of thousands of traitors to the fatherland among the deported
Germans. In the ensuing weeks, the NKVD began a witch-hunt
for the Germans to catch, isolate and deport those who remained

Because the registration of the Germans in the town of Tula did not
occur with the involvement of the military authority, an undercover
operation to track down all the Germans currently resident in the
town and territory is being carried out with the help of the housing
department. On top of that the same work is also being done by
special departments in industry and in the authorities [. . .] and by the
undercover informants of the operative department of the NKVD. This
work should be nished by 27 September this year [1941].23

Over the next few months the exile of other groups of the German
population, who did not enjoy the status of autonomy for
example, from the Ukraine, the Trans and North Caucasus, from
the towns of Moscow or Gorkii followed as a result of the secret
decision taken by the state committee for defence (Gosudarstvennyi
Komitet Oborony GKO), on the orders of the Council of Peoples
Commissars, under the command of the NKVD and the various
war councils of the individual army fronts. The complete German
operation was carried out under a press and publicity blackout.
According to ofcial gures, by the end of 1941, 799,459 people had
been resettled from the European territories of the Soviet Union
to Kazakhstan and Siberia, including 444,115 Volga Germans.24
140 Viktor Krieger

Cultural Destruction and Economic Plundering

The measures taken by the state and party leadership

according to the resolution on the deportation were clearly directed
at the complete and total eradication of every trace of German life
in the Soviet Union.25 Immediately after the publication of the
decree on 28 August 1941, the dissolution of the national cultural
institutes in the independent republic began. On 30 August the
nal edition of a German language newspaper was published
with a hurried translation of the decree. Teaching in the German
language was immediately forbidden; all German educational
institutes in villages and even in towns such as Marxstadt and
Balzer, where Germans were the absolute majority, were forced to
close. The wave of disbanding also affected cultural institutions
such as the German State Theatre in Engels and the theatres in
Marxstadt and Balzer, the German state teacher training college,
the teachers institute and the technical colleges, the state folk
schools of the ASSRVG, the Philharmonie with its symphony
orchestra and German state publishers. The writers and composers
association, the organization for the ne arts and other cultural
organizations were disbanded.26 Even writers of German origin
were immediately rejected from the Soviet writers association.27
In order to fully eliminate the memory of the former inhabitants,
the Supreme Soviet had at its disposal the decree from 19 May 1942
on the Russication of German place names. Some places already
had both German and Russian names, so from then on only the
Russian name was to be used. The others were given mainly patriotic
Soviet names: the town of Balzer became Krasnoarmeisk, which
means member of the Red Army; one of the oldest and biggest
Volga German settlements, Mariental (founded in 1766), mutated
into Sovetskoe; Jost was renamed Oktiabrskoe. Where there were
inhibitions due to abiding ideological reasons, the renaming was
slightly more restrained: the former capital Engels was allowed to
keep its name, which it had only been given in October 1931, while
with Marxstadt, only the rst half was to remain the revealing
German sufx of -stadt had to go.28
The systematic method of destroying national cultural instit-
utions and the erasing of the memory of the over 175-year-long
history of the Volga Germans is best illustrated in the example of
the museums, archives and libraries. The central museum of the
ASSRVG was founded in 1925 in Engels (at the time still called
Patriots or Traitors? 141

Pokrovsk). Alongside numerous linguistic, ethnographic and

folkloric expeditions in the 1920s and 1930s for the research
and conservation of the intellectual and material culture of the
Volga Germans, the collection also grew thanks to state purchases
of contemporary art, as well as gifts. All in all, it owned 5,400
exhibition pieces in 1940.29 After the dissolution of the Volga
German Republic, it did not take long before the museum was
closed and other organizations moved into its rooms. The museum
of local history in Engels was founded after the central museum was
re-proled, i.e. cleansed of everything that referred to its German
inhabitants. After the War, the director of the museum, I. Struin,
made an informative statement on the fate of the exhibition pieces,
collections and magazine provisions:

Up to 1946 the exhibition pieces and treasures of the museum were

laid chaotically in a shed, where many were damaged because of
dampness. In this time [between 1941 and 1946] the museum changed
its residence many times and three directors came and went [. . .] With
the exception of 1936 no full inventory list remains, no description, no
records. Because of these conditions many valuable exhibition pieces
were damaged, rotted or fell into the hands of thieves.30

The central library of the ASSR of the Volga Germans was dis-
solved in a similar fashion. The library, founded in 1918, also
housed alongside the scientic, educational and aesthetic literature
in German, Russian, French and other European languages,
testimonials of the history and culture of the Volga Germans and
other geographical groups of Germans in Russia and the USSR. A
considerable number of these books, which were collected over
many years, were destroyed due to inappropriate storage; selected
works were conscated. About 3,500 valuable publications, mainly in
Western European languages from the sixteenth to the nineteenth
centuries were selected in 1943 by a delegation from the University
of Saratov to be taken to their academic library. A further part of
the collection, which had no direction connection to the German
Russians, was strewn across the country in different libraries in an
attempt to top up their foreign language sections. Books with the
stamp of the central republic library of the ASSRVG in Engels, can
be found in the state libraries of Moscow and St Petersburg, in
lending libraries in Volograd, Karaganda, Novosibirsk, Almaty and
dozens of other towns.31
142 Viktor Krieger

The fate of the collections of documents from the central state

archives of the Volga German Republic was not as tragic as that
of the documents from other national institutions. The 1,475
items and the 320,195 records which were registered on 1 January
1941, provide an invaluable source of the socio-cultural, religious,
demographic, economic and political development of the German
population on the Volga during the Tsarist Empire and after the
October Revolution in 1917.32 In the process of only a few days,
the archives comprising 10,000 bundles of paper from agricultural
and industrial rms, authorities and institutions were conscated.
Numerous scripts were lost for ever in the ensuing chaos. As far as
can be ascertained, the papers were not intentionally destroyed.
Russians and Ukrainians comprised about a third of the total
population in the territory of the ASSRVG, while in the capital,
Engels, they formed an absolute majority, so in many cases it was
impossible to cleanly separate the documents by nationality. A
branch of the Saratov regional archives was created for the safe
keeping of such documents. Despite the losses suffered, the archives
managed to keep a considerable collection of documents on the
history of the Volga Germans. However, the collection remained
closed to the public and academia. Those who wanted to research
in the archives were immediately thought to harbour anti-Soviet
sentiments. Until the end of the 1980s it was forbidden to refer to
Soviet publications in the library in Engels; even during the period
of perestroika all mention of the archives and their catalogues were
missing from reliable reference books.33
In addition to the cultural destruction, the Soviet state also
economically ruined the citizens of German origin. The August
ukase led to a wave of conscations of private, collectivized and
state wealth. Those who were deported were only allowed to take
some food, bed linen and clothes with them. Their household
contents, preserved food, tools, animals and their cultivated land
fell into state hands. After the deportation alone in the eleven
southern cantons the following wealth of the German kolkhoz
lay fallow: 908,600 hectares of farmland, 333,102 houses with
outbuildings, about 120,000 cattle, more than 120,000 sheep and
goats, almost 20,000 horses and approximately 1,500 camels.34 In
order to give this widespread dispossession the appearance of an
ordered resettlement project, the government passed a bill on 30
August 1941 issuing guidelines for the repossession of the wealth
from the kolkhoz and the collective farmers, who were resettled
Patriots or Traitors? 143

as a result of a special decision.35 These guidelines even foresaw

compensation for the Germans, which given the property they
had forcibly abandoned could have only been felt as mockery:
once in the new settlements a percentage of the conscated cattle
were to be replaced in type or remunerated according to state
prices; no member of the family was to receive more than 3 double
hundredweight of corn. Further, the law foresaw cheap credit for
the building of houses in the new colonies. City inhabitants were
allowed to sell their households or contract others to do so on their
behalf. Nonetheless the actual economic situation of the kolkhoz in
Siberia and Kazakhstan, the complete concentration of the lands
resources on the war effort, and a rapid currency depreciation
reduced these modest promises to waste paper.36
A large-scale ethnic redistribution was taking place by 3 Sept-
ember 1941, as the deportation was in full swing, the government
of the USSR decided to send 44,744 Russian and Ukrainian families
from the Zaporozhe, Kursk and other territories to the recently
vacated homes and businesses. The repopulation continued slowly,
although more orders soon came from the government to facilitate
the acceleration of the repopulation of the evacuated areas.
However, at the beginning of 1945 the population in the former
German cantons was still only 2035 per cent of the pre-war level.
A considerable part of the deserted houses and business premises
fell into disrepair; parts were scavenged during the War for heating
or they served the new inhabitants as replacement stones for other
buildings. Many countryside villages were never resettled after the
deportation of the Germans.37

Germans as Second-class Citizens

The breach of law (Benjamin Pinkus), which the Soviet

government committed by dissolving the ASSRVG and the resultant
deportations, was not only disastrous for the Russian Germans in
the elds of politics, culture and economics, but it also lead to grave
reductions to their civil rights.38 In contrast to their totalitarian
opponents in Germany the Soviet Union had not anchored the
discriminatory legal norms regarding ethnic communities in the
law.39 Through this skilled move the Bolshevik leaders were able
for decades to deny the huge suppression, initially of the Russian
Germans, and later of other nationalities.
144 Viktor Krieger

A complicated web of discriminatory regulations was soon in

place resulting from the internal party decisions and the secret
police briengs. A decisive role in this process was played by the
department of special settlements (Otdel Spetspereselenii OSP),
which had been formed by 28 August 1941, was directly subordinate
to the central apparatus of the Peoples Commissariat of Internal
Affairs (NKVD) and was solely concerned with the organization
of the expulsions, followed by re-accommodation in Siberia and
Kazakhstan.40 The state government must have recognized the
growing gulf between, on the one hand the persecution of the
former Kulaks because of a class principle, however vague, for
which the Department for Work and Special Resettlement of the
Main Camp Administration (Glavnoe Upravlenie Lagerei GULag)
was responsible, and on the other hand, the currently implemented
repressions on an ethnic basis. The head (nachalnik) of this
authority, a major in the State Security, Ivan Ivanov, and his eight
co-workers became very active in the period that followed in order
to instruct their subordinates in the correct way of dealing with the
Germans who had by now been expelled from the brotherly Soviet
peoples and were under the charge of the Interior Affairs Ministry.
In numerous round robin letters to the district departments of the
NKVD, Ivanov told them over and over again: seek and disclose
the fascist agents among the resettled Germans; track down every
expression of discontent; force the Germans, irrespective of their
family status and professional or academic qualications, to work
in the kolkhozes and sovkhozes; and scrutinize their whereabouts
within their designated areas.41
The party and government decision from 26 August 1941, along
with other regulations, ensured that the resettlement of the Germans
was only possible in small countryside villages or small district
towns. Finding accommodation or moving to a regional town, an
industrial area or even a major city was strictly forbidden. Added to
this, the deportation soon also affected those Germans who lived
in the eastern areas of the Soviet Union. Many had been there for
generations; their mass deportation had never been intended. On
16 August 1941 the central committee of the communist party of
Kazakhstan decided upon the deportation of Germans from the
regional centres of the republic and henceforth they were banned
from occupying any leading posts in the party, the soviet or in
industry. A few days later the registration of Germans living in
regional centres and industrial zones began. They were rounded up
Patriots or Traitors? 145

and banished to countryside settlements in the region of Molotov

(Perm), Cheliabinsk, Sverdlovsk and Chkalov (Orenburg) in the
Urals. The forced resettlement from the large towns in the Soviet
Republic of Uzbekistan followed in January 1942.42
For the national intelligentsia and professionals this was the
beginning of a fatal development with devastating results which
reached their low point when they were forced into the labour
camps. Clearly all these measures were aimed at the destruction and
humiliation of the political and cultural elite among the German
Russians. What sort of professional future could be expected for
the 212 doctors, teachers, actors and a further 452 state employees
from Engels, the capital of the Volga German Republic, on the
Siberian collective farms, specically in the territory of Kansk, in
the Region of Krasnoiarsk? As city dwellers they arrived with little
food and could not even hope for a meagre compensation for their
conscated cattle or wheat. Very few were successful in nding
employment in the district centre; most were defenceless against the
hard physical farm labour and were already starving by December
1941.43 In the district of Oiashino, in the territory of Novosibirsk,
574 of the 1,300 Germans t for work were professional experts,
among whom were 66 professors, their assistants, librarians and
teachers, 47 doctors, 22 engineers, and 120 accountants and chief
accountants. Professor Werner, head of the chair for microbiology
at Saratov University, was forced to do simple work in the Gorn
Kolkhoz in Novosibirsk, and the gynaecologist (Dr) Wilhelm was
sent to the Kolkhoz Voroshilov to do general work.44
The mass deportation from 1943 to1944 led to a drastic increase
of the number of people with limited civil rights. In accordance
with a decree of 9 January 1945, special military headquarters
were created in areas where the deportees were sent in order to
observe and control them. In the designated areas the Germans,
along with other deportees, were required to register themselves
and any change in the number of family members (through death,
escape, birth, etc.) within three days; they were unable to leave
their place of residence without permission from the commandant.
The regime of special colonies was tightened with the adoption
of the decree from the presidency of the Supreme Soviet of the
USSR on 26 November 1948, which stated that the banishment of
the punished people was to be permanent and envisaged the
sentence for escaping from the special colonies as twenty years
forced labour in a penal camp.45
146 Viktor Krieger

Germanophobic Propaganda and Hostility among the


The August decree was never mentioned by the Soviet

mass media, the printed compendium of laws and the academic
literature both during and after the War; only the scarcely available
News of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR published it. The regime
could not face the disgrace of admitting that a people, despite years
of ideological inuence, was entirely comprised of enemies of the
Soviet Union. Obscure claims of ten thousand spies and saboteurs
among the Volga Germans also did not appear particularly believ-
able. Numerous party and Soviet ofcials in the central authorities
and in the places of deportation were told through ofcial chan-
nels the reason for the disbanding of the Volga German Republic.
A directive letter from the central committee of the communist
party of Kazakhstan to the leading ofcials in the regions and
districts, dated 4 October 1941, repeated the claims of the August
decree and called on the party organization to sharpen protection
of socialist property, increase vigilance and keep the newly arrived
refugees under constant surveillance.46
A wide stratum of the Soviet population learned of the political
dangers of their new neighbours through word of mouth. Through
indirect slander the Bolshevik rulers were able to safeguard their
own history, to continue praising the equal Soviet family of
nations and to denounce the policy of national suppression in
fascist Germany.47 In addition, the extensive deprivation of rights
and the defamation of Soviet citizens of German descent sent out
signals which made clear that the propagation of national hate,
chauvinistic remarks and every type of discrimination would not
be prosecuted by the law. We are allowing too much humanism to
reign over these fascist scoundrels, said a district party secretary in
the territory of north Kazakhstan, and with such an opinion of the
German deportees he was not alone.48
Calls by the central committee of the VKP(b) on the twenty-
fourth anniversary of the October Revolution show the remains
of the slogans of international solidarity: Our greetings to the
German people (germanskomu), who groan under the yoke of
Hitlers national socialist mob we wish them victory over the
bloodthirsty Hitler.49 The constantly worsening conditions on the
front, however, removed the last ideological blinkers. The clearest
example of this change is the order from the supervisor of the
Patriots or Traitors? 147

head ofce for political propaganda for the Red Army, L. Mekhlis,
which on 10 December 1941 ordered the replacement of the
slogan Workers of all Countries, Unite with Death to the German
Occupiers in all military newspapers. He justied this change by
claiming that the international proletarian slogan had disorientated
many in the armed forces in the face of the assignment to destroy
all German occupiers.50
The immense suffering of the civilians and the complete destruc-
tion of areas around Moscow, which became apparent upon their
rst recapture during the ght for Moscow, immeasurably increased
Germanophobic hysteria in the mass media. On the whole, however,
the destruction was the result of merciless Soviet war policy. On
17 November 1941 Stalin ordered, in command No. 0428 from
the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander, the destruction
of all human settlements and housing within a 40-60 km radius
of the German front. The arsonist commandos, who were formed
especially for this purpose, began with a systematic destruction of
the basics for survival, so that the German conquerors should freeze
under the open skies. On 25 November the operatives of the Fifth
Soviet Army alone reported the destruction and burning of fty-
ve settlements.51 The concerns of the Soviet population who fell
under the German occupation were not taken into consideration:
The Soviet arithmetic is simple to send one German and with
him a hundred Russians to ruin is a heroic action. But if one spares
the life of one German along with a hundred Russians that is bad;
that amounts to treason.52
Molotovs diplomatic notes of 25 November 1941, On the out-
raging bestialities practised on Soviet prisoners of war by German
authorities, and of 6 January 1942, On the general plundering,
the thefts from the population and the dreadful bestialities of the
German authorities in the territories under their occupation, in-
creased the countrys desire for pogroms. The main aim of the
Soviet mass media was the propagation of hate against the enemy
within as programmatically announced by the famous author
Aleksei Tolstoi in a Pravda appeal on 28 July 1941. Supporting him
in this regard were a whole host of famous authors, such as Leonid
Leonov, Mikhail Sholokhov, Ilia Erenburg, Konstantin Simonov et
al. Poems such as Simonovs Kill him or Surkovs I hate obviously
served to raise ghting lust in the troops. Ilia Erenburgs pamphlets
and articles even described the Englishman Alexander Werth,
not particularly known for his sympathy towards the Germans, as
nothing short of propaganda for a race war.53
148 Viktor Krieger

Uncountable articles in flyers and newspapers, books and

magazines, radio programmes and lms discriminated primarily
against Germans (i.e. not against the enemy or the fascists).
Violent feelings were propagated, clearly poisoning the relations
between the population of all other nationalities and the Russian
Germans, especially since the Soviet authorities made no effort to
differentiate between Russian Germans and the attacking nation.
The picture of the enemy as including the domestic Germans was
soon scientically supported. The administration of the central
archives of the NKVD published a collection of sources on German
espionage in tsarist Russia. The documentation allegedly veried
that Russian citizens of German descent, including farmers, all
professionals, entrepreneurs, high-ranking public ofcials and
ofcers, had en masse carried out activities as German agents. Such
accusations appeared repeatedly in the detailed foreword of the
collection, which promptly appeared as a book in its own right.54
This reporting, naturally without any critical screening, served as
the basis for the writing of further works on German espionage
in Russia during the First and the Second (current) World Wars,
which eventually ran into several hundred thousand copies.55
Not only the secret police but also many literary gures proted
from the stirring up of resentment against their fellow German
citizens. In early 1943 the literary scholar Aleksandr Dementev
wrote the book The reactionary role of the Germans in Russias history
(printed in Leningrad, circulation 10,000 copies, during the siege
of the city). A year later a collection appeared providing the worst
possible descriptions of the local Germans in the works of classical
Russian literature, which Dementev had carefully selected and
supplied with a disparaging commentary. Similar to the pattern
of anti-Semitic propaganda, the planned publications were full of
prejudices, suspicion and slander of every type.56 The well-known
author Pavel Bazhov had been publishing his malicious caricatures
of Tales on the Germans (Skazy o nemtsakh) in several newspapers since
August 1941. These later appeared as brochures and books for
mass circulation. He was helped by the use of the most primitive
clichs and common stereotypes in his works, in order to underline
the clear intellectual and moral superiority of the Russian masters
and workers in contrast to the German administrators, miners and
professionals, who had been active in considerable numbers in the
iron industry in the Urals since the beginning of the eighteenth
Patriots or Traitors? 149

A growing antipathy and bitterness against Germany, German

culture and language increased constantly as the war continued
with its human and material war victims. Local NKVD authorities
reports reect the hopeless situation of the German Russians.

A completely irregular relationship, even antagonism, has arisen among

some leading specialists in economics, the kolkhoz director, produc-
tion managers, and the district party and soviet regarding the accom-
modation and employment of the specially resettled Germans [. . .]
Instead of nding accommodation for them, the director of the salt
works behaves towards them coarsely, calls them parasites and swears
crudely about them [. . .]. In the district of Sharipovo the chairman of the
kolkhoz Proletarian Work, Komisarenko, explained in a conversation
about supplying the refugees with bread, all Germans should die of
hunger, I will not give them any bread [. . .]. The female collective
farmer Churilova explained to the German Schmidt, Why did they
bring you here to our district, it would have been better if they had
killed you back there. You are traitors, you should die of hunger, or
be sent out into the cold, so that you fascists can feel it [. . .] Of the
7,396 children only 2,403 go to school. This can be explained by the fact
that the majority of children do not own shoes, warm clothes or school
equipment. Children older than the age of twelve do not go to school
because they must work in the industry or go into service. Also the lack
of knowledge of the Russian language plays a part [. . .]. In the schools
in some districts the German schoolchildren are thoroughly terrorised
by their Russian peers and called fascists. That is why they stop going
to school.58

Similar incidents were also recorded by the security services in

other territories, to which deported Germans were sent. The re-
sponsible party and Soviet organizations did not, however, see t to
take any measures in the face of such grave disrespect of Soviet law.
Indeed, expressions of discontent at the living conditions in the
new location, or complaints about national discrimination, were
often dismissed and punished as anti-Soviet agitation, propaganda,
or as slander against the actions of the party and government.59

Forced Entry into Labour Camps and Terrorization by

the Secret Police

As a result of the secret decision of the Politburo of

the VKP(b) on 31 August 1941 entitled On the Germans living
in the Ukrainian SSR, all men between the ages of sixteen and
150 Viktor Krieger

sixty were conscripted into military construction units.60 The acting

leader of the NKVD, Chernyshev, reported the creation of thirteen
construction battalions with a total of 18,600 men by 3 September
1941.61 On 8 September 1941, Stalin signed directive No. 35105
of the Peoples Commissariat for Defence, which stated: In the
military, including military academies, military colleges and agencies
of the Red Army, soldiers of German descent are to be sifted out
from the reserves and the command corps and sent to construction
troops in the central military zone. Only a few soldiers of German
descent were to be retained on special recommendation from their
superiors.62 Ofcers were sacked from the Army without the usual
transfer into the reserves and sent to remote areas, while the rank
and le had to continue their service in labour battalions. At the
beginning of 1942 there was an almost total transferral of German
military personal into labour camps.63 Thus the foundations were
laid for the forced labour of Russian Germans.
The next stepping stone towards special treatment of the
German minority was the widespread deportment of youths, men
and women to labour camps, which had been operating since
early 1942. These were disguised by the ofcers and later by the
authorities as trudovaia armiia or trudarmiia: work army. Ofcially
these measures were called mobilisation of the workforce, although
the commander in the camps headquarters GULag, General
Lieutenant Nasedkin, openly admitted in an internal lecture that
the forced admission of Germans to the labour camps was above
all seen as a measure of repression and punishment towards this
national minority.64 Because Stalins regime apparently wanted to
keep the civil rights of those deported to a minimum, recruitment
of construction troops for the construction battalions was out of
the question. At the same time they made use of a clever trick:
because it was technically impossible to lawfully pass judgement
on all adult Germans in such a short time, to legally send them to
a punishment camp, a new category of GULag was created the
trudmobilizovannyi nemets work mobilised German, which meant
that these forced labourers never appeared in GULag statistics.
The majority of Germans found themselves in work camps as
a result of the top-secret resolutions of the GKO from 10 January
(No. 1123), 14 February (No. 1281) and 7 October (No. 2383)
1942. Further mobilization followed over the coming months and
years, which in the face of the exhaustion of the human potential
yielded considerably smaller contingents. The legal status of those
Patriots or Traitors? 151

mobilized can be characterized as a mixture of that of camp in-

mate, construction worker and military personnel, although the
camp-inmate characteristic was the most dominant. That can
be seen primarily by the fact that the distribution of food and
clothes was carried out according to normal GULag regulations.
A further similarity with the GULags is revealed in the role of the
NKVD to keep the mobilized German troops and labour columns
under surveillance, and to enforce strict order and discipline.
Furthermore, these Germans were isolated from the normal work-
force, were accommodated in barracks and were deprived of
their freedom of movement. As with GULag prisoners, they were
assigned the most strenuous physical jobs and unskilled work,
such as railway and industrial construction, coal and oil extrac-
tion or wood cutting. Their forced conscription by the local war
commissariat and their subordination to military courts gave this
group the appearance of military recruits. The existence of party
and Komsomol organizations at the sites albeit with severely re-
stricted authority and the envisaged wages in accordance with the
salary scale of their civilian careers ultimately suggested the survival
of some elements of civil rights. The same fate awaited healthy men
of other minorities who were capable of work, whose motherland
was at war with the USSR. The GKO resolution of 14 October 1942
(No. 2409) proclaimed these regulations for Soviet citizens of
Finnish, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Italian or Rumanian descent. All
in all during the War, no fewer than 350,000 of the approximately
1.12 million Russian Germans who came under Soviet jurisdiction
were sent to forced labour camps.65
A speciality of this conscription was its absolute inclusiveness:
alongside the simple workers and farmers, the entire intellectual
and functionary classes of the Russian Germans found themselves
in the camps. This included deputies from the Supreme Soviet
of the USSR and from the Union Republics and Autonomous
Republics; ministers and government ofcials; party, economic
and Soviet specialists; professors and lecturers; writers and doctors;
teachers and engineers; ofcers and judges from the Volga German
Republic. Numerous German and Austrian emigrants from the
Sudetenland were also threatened with this forced recruitment
and some of them endured years in labour camps.66
The highest concentrations of German workers were those
on construction sites for industrial buildings and penal camps
that specialized in tree felling. Thus on 1 January 1943, on the
152 Viktor Krieger

construction site of the Cheliabinsk cabin collective of the NKVD

of the USSR, there were 27,783 trudarmiia workers; on the site of
the Bogolov aluminium plant, a further 12,683, and in Ivdellag,
12,266 people, the latter two sites belonging to Sverdlovsk region.
Miserable living and working conditions, the pitiless coercion
and a feeling of the impunity of the camp leaders and managers
rapidly produced a large number of deaths and cases of serious
illness among these Germans. According to ofcial statistics in
1942, 12,047 members of the forced labour force died on NKVD
projects alone, or 10.3 per cent (117,429) of Germans who up until
1 January 1943 were registered there. Due to complete physical
exhaustion, a further 8,073 people were demobilized, of which the
majority subsequently died.67
In the labour camps all contact with conscripted Germans
other than the most necessary was strictly forbidden, rules that
were consistent with the treatment of prisoners. But as they were
being used toward the members of a particular nationality who
according to formal legal grounds did not belong to the category
of prisoner they took on a racist undertone. This can be seen
from the many instructions and orders which denounced close
contact with the German forced labourers and doled out hard
punishment to offenders. Above all, relationships with Russian
women were subject to repressive measures because of intimate
contact with one of the mobilised Germans the Kolkhoz secretary
for the organization for non-contracted workers in Ivdellag lost her
position and was expelled from the communist youth organization.
A female doctor had to tolerate public denunciation because on
a few occasions she met one of the German forced labourers in
her own at, and that was contrary to the strict regulations of the
building authority of Cheliabinsk iron and steel combine, which
forbade relationships of any sort between personnel and the
mobilised German workforce.68
In addition to military supervision, Soviet secret police played a
major part in the suppression of these Germans. Representatives
of the secret police were to be found in the work places and were
called the notorious Operative-Cheka Department (Operativno-
Chekistskii Otdel OChO). The OChO acted mainly autonomously
and were territorially subordinate to the district administration of
the Peoples Commissariat for Internal Affairs and the operative
administration of the GULag central. In April 1943 the NKGB
(Peoples Commissariat for State Security) was formed from the
Patriots or Traitors? 153

ranks of the NKVD. Supervision of the German labour force essen-

tially remained the responsibility of the NKVD. Only in the case of
suspected espionage and serious legal or economic wrongdoing did
the NKGB assume the investigation. A massive wave of repression
seized the Russian Germans: by July 1944, 8,543 forced labourers
were arrested on the grounds of attempted escape, alleged acts of
sabotage and counter-revolution, and also because of self-mutilation
and intentional weight loss. Of these, 6,392 were sentenced to
many years imprisonment and 526 to death.69 In the majority of
cases the punishment was handed down by a special council of the
Peoples Commissar of Internal Affairs thus circumventing proper
criminal jurisdiction.
The terrorization of forced labourers served many purposes;
on the one hand it was an important method of intimidating
them and making them compliant in particular the intellectuals,
professionals, the former civil servants and leaders of business.
The ruination of the national elite reduced the Germans to a
weak-willed, disposable mass. On the other hand the number of
convicted or exposed counter-revolutionary organizations among
the Germans had to be large enough to provide a raison dtre for
every single Chekist to secure their job and spare them from being
sent to the front. And last but not least, credible evidence of the
Germans treacherous and criminal activities had to be discovered
in order to support the deprivation of their rights retrospectively.
An analysis of the early commemorative books of the victims of
political repression in the territory of Sverdlovsk indicates that
during the years 1941-45, the German minority received a fth of
all convictions, although their employment rate during this time
hovered between a mere 3 and 4 per cent.70
The search for the suspected connection between the German
minority and political, intelligence and military posts in the
Third Reich was the focus of attention right from the beginning:
dozens of secret processes with hundreds of accused were aimed
at confirming the existence of Hitlers 5th Column in the
USSR.71 In June and August 1942, on the construction site of the
Cheliabinsk iron and steel combine, the OChO arranged two trials
of the recently arrived trudarmiia workers counterrevolutionary
and mutinous organizations. The leaders of one of the groups of
conspirators was Jakob Mller, the rst party secretary of the canton
of Krasnoia, in the Volga German Republic from 1938 to 1941, and
Wladimir Hartmann, the chairman of the executive committee of
154 Viktor Krieger

the same canton. The second organization was supposed to be led

by Theodor Trautwein and Alexander Root, the second and third
party secretaries of the same canton of Krasnoia. In the investiga-
tion papers a case was made that since the beginning of the 1930s
the ringleaders had been spying for Germany and had actively
taken part in preparations for an armed revolt which was to take
place just after the start of the War. According to the confessions
of the accused, only the well-timed resettlement of Germans had
stopped their treacherous plans. In the labour camps they began
preparing for an uprising which was to take place at the approach
of the German Army, this time expected as far as the Urals. Of
the fty-one Germans prosecuted, of whom many were in groups
economic, soviet and party of middle and lower rank, twenty-
four were executed, the rest receiving many years imprisonment.
In the years between 1943 and 1945 dozens more former German
intellectuals and leading groups from the Volga German Republic
were criminally prosecuted at the camp in Kransnoiarsk.72 In this
and in many other cases the state security used forced confessions
to implicate the former leaders of the ASSRVG in treason and
subversive activities. Its aim was to discredit and, where possible,
to criminally prosecute them, in order to legitimize Stalins regime
retrospectively, the disbanding of the Volga Republic and the
repressive measures taken against citizens of German descent.73
The following secret trial is easily the most important among
the hundreds of cases against German forced labourers during
the War and in the early years after it. It is concerned with the del-
egates to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and the last head of gov-
ernment of the Volga German Republic, Alexander Heckmann,
the third secretary of the territorys party committee, Heinrich
Korbmacher, the former Peoples Commissars Friedrich Fritzler
(farming), Johannes Maier (nance) and other leading economic
and soviet ofcials, who served their time at the construction site
of the Bogoslov Aluminium works of the NKVD. They were found
guilty of heading a counter-revolutionary organization in the
former Volga German Republic and of arranging an uprising in
collaboration with the German Wehrmacht, behind the back of
the Red Army. Heinrich Korbmacher was the rst to be arrested,
on 24 April 1944; Alexander Heckmann followed on 22 May and
the others by early July. The Chekists of Sverdlov were clearly keen
to complete their assignment from the Moscow headquarters
of State Security and to fabricate from these people the alleged
Patriots or Traitors? 155

command centre of the mutinous counter-revolutionary organ-

ization. By means of torture, these prominent Germans were forced
to admit their formation of an anti-Soviet organization in the
former ASSRVG and of planning to carry out extensive sabotage.
On top of that, they were accused of preparing this expanded
underground organization for an armed uprising against the Soviet
powers following an attack from Nazi Germany.74
The investigation, which lasted more than a year, the prisoners
contradictory statements and the particular importance of this
case led the Deputy Peoples Commissar for State Security, Colonel
General Kobulov, to order the Moscow NKGB headquarters to
take on further investigations from 4 November 1945.75 The case
became the responsibility of the department assigned with particu-
larly important investigations on behalf of the NKGB of the USSR.
Heckmann, Korbmacher, Fritzler and Maier were transferred to
Moscow. Everything pointed to a large-scale show trail, with public
condemnation of the treason committed against the socialist
homeland by the Volga Germans and, by association, by all the
Russian Germans. However, for such a plan to work, credible con-
fessions and trustworthy evidence was needed. With mere personal
confessions the risk of public condemnation was far too great if the
evidence was to be based on mere personal confessions, particularly
as during their stay in Moscow prisons the accused had distanced
themselves from their previous confessions made under duress.
The careful investigation took over six months and included ofcial
visits to Sverdlovsk and Krasnoiarsk, where dozens of previous and
new witnesses were questioned. Everything which could be related
in any way to this process the rich state security archive, current
and closed investigations, extensive personal indexes etc. was
subject to meticulous examination.
These far-reaching inquiries revealed nothing new and no
trace of any rebellious group or fascist dissidents could be found.
The nal indictment therefore declared that the membership
of Korbmacher, Heckmann, Fritzler and Maier to an anti-Soviet
rebellious group could not be proven.76 They were then simply
charged with anti-Soviet propaganda with nationalist tendencies
and on 9 August the special council sentenced each to four years
imprisonment. As later investigations from the Khrushchev period
proved, this and other group punishments could only be carried
out by drastically violating the legitimate laws of the time. Most of
the people involved were later pardoned after they had died.
156 Viktor Krieger

From 1945 and 1946, the labour columns were steadily disband-
ed and members of the German special contingent were transfer-
red to the permanent staff of rms or construction companies
where they had been employed during the War. They still did not,
however, enjoy the same rights as normal Soviet citizens and were
instead given the status of special settler as were almost all of
the remaining Germans in Siberia or Kazakhstan. If their nances
permitted, their families were allowed to join them. Or, if their
managers and the special commander agreed, they could return to
the place from whence they had come.


Under the pretext of collaboration, the Stalinist leader-

ship declared the Russian Germans state enemies and banished
them to the eastern territories of the country. Without exception
they were deprived of their rights, primarily to enable the patriotic
mobilization of the Soviet society for the Great Patriotic War.
Sent east and subject to the special regimes of the NKVD, they
had to work principally on construction sites, in pits or doing hard
physical labour on the land, and were barred from all intellectual
work or positions of responsibility. In contrast to other nationalities
the state leadership ordered the forced admission of every German
man, woman and youth into labour camps. Soldiers and ofcers
of German descent were sifted out of the military and also sent
to labour camps. Ofcial Germanophobic propaganda stirred the
ames of national hatred; personal insults and abuse relating to
nationality remained unpunished.
Attentive observers quickly recognized the fatal connection
between the unbridled hatred of the Germans and the ever-
growing xenophobia. The well-known literary scholar Sergei Bondi
had already said in July 1943: I really regret the anti-democratic
tendencies that one sees every day. Look at national chauvinism.
From what is it evoked? Most of all through the mood of the
army, which is anti-Semitic, anti-German and against all national
The fateful ideological developments of the post-war period, with
its greater Russian chauvinism and its anti-Western slogans, the ght
against the so-called rootless cosmopolitans and grovellers to the
West, is hardly imaginable without the groundwork and clichs
Patriots or Traitors? 157

laid and tested during the War. The fate of the Russian Germans
clearly shows that the Soviet totalitarian regime was fully able to
embrace racist measures of suppression, despite internationalist lip
service and the rhetoric of class struggle.

Translated by Catherine Venner


1. Dokumenty vneshnei politiki. 19401941, vol. 23, book 2 (2). 2 marta

1940 22 iiunia 1941 (Moscow, 1998), pp. 7645. German version in
Gerd R. Ueberschlger and Wolfram Wette (eds), Der deutsche berfall
auf die Sowjetunion.Unternehmen Barbarossa 1941 (Frankfurt am Main,
1991), p. 271.
2. Quoted from I. Stalin, O velikoi Otechestvennoi voine (Moscow, 2002),
p. 15. In German, Josef Stalin, ber den groen Vaterlndischen Krieg
der Sowjetunion, 3rd edn (Moscow, 1946), p. 13. Here the different
meanings of the two Russian words nemetskii and germanskii should be
explained. Nemetskii means belonging to the German Volk in the ethnic
sense. Germanskii, apart from describing the old Germanic tribes,
serves in relationship to the state as a national feature and as such has
a political nature.
3. Povernite Vashe oruzhie . . . (Ispolzovanie povolzhkikh nemtsev v
kontrpropagande na naselenie i vooruzhennye sily Germanii letom
1941 g.), in Voenno-istoricheskie issledovaniia v Povolzhe, 2 (Saratov,
1997), pp. 27494, here pp. 27983.
4. Povernite oruzhie protiv bandy gitlerovskikh ubiits! Golos krestian
Respubliki nemtsev Povolzhia, in Pravda 194, 15 July 1941; the same
in Krasnaia zvezda 164, from 15 July 1941; Silnei beite prokliatykh
izvergov: pismo Konrada Geringera iz kantona Kukkus, Respublika
nemtsev Povolzhia, in Krasnaia zvezda 202, 28 August 1941.
5. See also V. Nevezhin, Sindrom nastupatelnoi voiny. Sovetskaia propaganda
v predverii sviashchennykh boev, 19391941 gg. (Moscow, 1997), p. 67;
V. Tokarev, Sovetskoe obshchestvo i polskaia kampaniia 1939 g.:
romanticheskoe oshchushchenie voiny, in Chelovek i voina.Voina kak
iavlenie kultury (Moscow, 2001), pp. 399 ff.
6. Ortwin Buchbender, Das tnende Erz. Deutsche Kriegspropaganda gegen
die Rote Armee im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Stuttgart, 1978), pp. 60 ff.; Hartmut
Schustereit, Vabanque (Herford and Bonn, 1988), p. 73.
158 Viktor Krieger

7. Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, vol. 4: Der Angriff auf
die Sowjetunion (Stuttgart, 1983), pp. 7812; Bogdan Musial,
Konterrevolutionre Elemente sind zu erschieen. Die Brutalisierung des
deutsch-sowjetischen Krieges im Sommer 1941 (Berlin and Munich, 2000),
pp. 2009; Alfred M. de Zayas, Die Wehrmacht-Untersuchungsstelle.
Dokumentation alliierter Kriegsverbrechen im Zweiten Weltkrieg, 7th
expanded edn (Munich, 2001), pp. 32735.
8. A. Kokurin, N. Petrov, GULag: struktura i kadry. Statia deviataia,
in Svobodnaia mysl 5, 2000, pp. 10924, here p. 110; Evakuatsiia
zakliuchennykh iz tiurem NKVD SSSR v 1941-42 godakh, in Voenno-
istoricheskii arkhiv 2, 1997, pp. 23253, here p. 252.
9. Pravda, 14 July 1941.
10. A selection of documents from the investigation is to be found in
Vernite mne svobodu. Deiateli literatury i iskusstva Rossii i Germanii
zhertvy stalinskogo terrora. Memorialnyi sbornik dokumentov iz arkhivov
byvshego KGB (Moscow, 1997), pp. 30420.
11. Wir nehmen an ihnen Rache fr dich, Genosse!, in Nachrichten
(Engels) No. 203, 29 August 1941; David Wagner, Das Komso-
molmitgliedsbuch Nr. 12535944, in Bis zum letzten Atemzug, vol. 2
(Alma-Ata, 1972), pp. 17181.
12. Quoted from B. Nikolaevskii, Tainye stranitsy istorii (Moscow, 1995),
p. 204.
13. E. Seniavskaia, Psikhologiia voiny v XX veke. Istoricheskii opyt Rossii
(Moscow, 1999), pp. 26379.
14. A typical example is the wordplay of the title in the main article
Besposhchadno istrebliat fashistskoe zvere, in Pravda, 3 January
15. After heavy defeat during the First World War, in mid June 1915,
10,000 Russian citizens of German and Jewish descent from the
Baltic States, Poland, Volynia and the Ukraine were accused of
collaboration with the advancing German and Austro-Hungarian
troops and forcibly resettled by their governments at the suggestion
of the military authority. Cf. Ingeborg Fleischhauer, Die Deutschen im
Zarenreich (Stuttgart, 1986), pp. 5079; S. Nelipovich, Nemetskuiu
pakost uvolit i bez nezhnostei . . . Deportatsii v Rossii 19141918
gg., in Voenno-istoricheskii zhurnal, 1997, 1, pp. 4253; Frank Schuster,
Der Krieg an der inneren Front. Deutsche und Juden im westrussischen
Kriegsgebiet whrend des Ersten Weltkriegs 19141916, MA thesis
(University of Gieen, s.a.), available online: http://www.uni-giessen.
16. Izvestiia TsK KPSS, 1990, 9, p. 195; in German in Alfred Eisfeld and
Victor Herdt (eds), Deportation, Sondersiedlung, Arbeitsarmee: Deutsche
in der Sowjetunion 1941 bis 1956 (Cologne, 1996), pp. 545.
17. Organy gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti SSSR v Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine,
Vol. 2, book 1: 22 iiunia 31 avgusta 1941. Sbornik dokumentov
(Moscow, 2000), p. 521.
Patriots or Traitors? 159

18. A. German and A. Kurochkin, Nemtsy SSSR v Trudovoi armii (1941

1945) (Moscow, 1998), p. 29.
19. The text of this directive can be found in A. German, Istoriia Respubliki
nemtsev Povolzhia v sobytiiakh, faktakh, dokumentakh, 2nd rev. edn
(Moscow, 2000), p. 22933.
20. Vedomosti Verkhovnogo Soveta SSSR 1941, No. 38; Bolshevik and
Nachrichten (Engels), No. 204, 30 August 1941, also published in
German in Eisfeld and Herdt (eds), Deportation, pp. 545.
21. Vedomosti Verkhovnogo Soveta SSSR 1941, No. 40. German translation in
Eisfeld and Herdt (eds), Deportation, p. 72.
22. German, Istoriia Respubliki nemtsev, pp. 2402.
23. Deportatsii narodov SSSR (1930-e 1950-e gody), Part 2: Deportatsiia
nemtsev: sentiabr 1941 fevral 1942 (Moscow, 1995), p. 116.
24. Ibid., pp. 1712.
25. These are primarily presented via the example of the Volga Germans,
because for the rst time in the history of the USSR such actions took
place in relation to a titular nation and with such excess. Lessons in
the native language, and German educational and cultural institu-
tions outside the ASSRVG had already been extensively forbidden or
disbanded during the 1930s.
26. A. German, Gorod Engels stolitsa respubliki nemtsev Povolzhia
(Nekotorye siuzhety iz istorii goroda 20-30-kh godov), in Soobshcheniia
Engelskogo kraevedcheskogo muzeia, fasc. 5: Nemtsy v Saratovskom Povolzhe
(Saratov, 1997), pp. 4655; E. Erina, K istorii nemetskogo gosudartst-
vennogo pedagogicheskogo instituta, in Rossiiskie nemtsy na Donu, Kavkaze
i Volge (Moscow, 1995), pp. 33645.
27. Apparat TsK KPSS i kultura. 19531957: Dokumenty (Moscow, 2001),
pp. 4545.
28. Karte der ASSR der Wolgadeutschen/Beiheft (Gttingen, 1997), pp. 27,
29. N. Malova, Otdel sotsialisticheskogo stroitelstva Tsentralnogo
muzeia ASSR nemtsev Povolzhia i ego ekspozitsiia 19311941, in
Soobshcheniia Engelskogo kraevedcheskogo, pp. 13945; E. Fleiman, Iz
istorii kraevedeniia v Avtonomnoi respublike nemtsev Povolzhia
(19181941), in Rossiiskie nemtsy na Donu, pp. 22332.
30. Quoted from Malova, Otdel sotsialisticheskogo stroitelstva,
p. 144.
31. N. Popkova, Pervye itogi rekonstruktsii fonda Tsentralnoi biblioteki
ASSR NP, in Kraevedcheskie chteniia. Doklady i soobshcheniia IV VI
chtenii (Saratov, 1994), pp. 1924.
32. E. Erina, Sudba arkhivov nemtsev Povolzhia v gody voiny s
fashistskoi Germaniei v 19411945 gg., in Nemtsy SSSR v gody Velikoi
Otechestvennoi voiny i v pervoe poslevoennoe desiatiletie 19411955 gg.
(Moscow, 2001), pp. 52533.
33. Gosudarstvennye arkhivy SSSR. Spravochnik, Parts 1 and 2 (Moscow,
160 Viktor Krieger

34. V. Kherdt (Victor Herdt), Etno-demograficheskie protsessy v

Saratovskoi oblasti v 1940-e gody, in Rossiiskie nemtsy na Donu, pp.
21122, here p. 215.
35. The text of this instruction is printed in Deportatsiia narodov SSSR, pp.
36. Viktor Bruhl, Die Deutschen in Sibirien, vol. 2 (Nrnberg, 2003), p. 28
37. Kherdt, Etno-demogracheskie protsessy, pp. 21519; O. Skuchaeva,
Novye raiony Saratovskoi oblasti v gody Velikoi Otechestvennoi
voiny: migratsionnyi aspekt, in Nemtsy SSSR, pp. 11524; A. German,
Nemetskaia avtonomiia na Volge. 1918-1941, Part 2: Avtonomnaia Res-
publika 19241941 (Saratov, 1994), pp. 3208 (Pokinutaia zemlia).
38. Beniamin Pinkus and Ingeborg Fleischhauer, Die Deutschen in der
Sowjetunion. Geschichte einer nationalen Minderheit im 20. Jahrhundert
(Baden-Baden, 1987), pp. 32138.
39. An extensive analysis of the national socialist term vlkische Ungleich-
heit (racial inequality) and the principle of privileges which stems
from it, as well as the theoretical grounding and practical use that can
be found in Diemut Majer, Fremdvlkische im Dritten Reich. Ein Beitrag
zur nationalsozialistischen Rechtssetzung und Rechtspraxis in Verwaltung
und Justiz unter besonderer Bercksichtigung der eingegliederten Ostgebiete
und des Generalgouvernements (Boppard am Rhein, 1981) (Schriften
des Bundesarchivs, vol. 28).
40. The statute of this department is printed in Lubianka. VChK-OGPU-
NKVD-MGB-MVD-KGB. 19171960. Spravochnik (Moscow, 1997), pp.
41. More in Viktor Krieger, Personen minderen Rechts: Ruland-
deutsche in den Jahren 194146, in Heimatbuch der Deutschen aus
Ruland 2004 (Stuttgart, 2004), pp. 93107; L. Oberderfer, Deport-
irovannye nemtsy v Zapadnoi Sibiri (19411944 gg.): Deistvitelnost
i pravovoi status, in Sibir v XVIIXX vekakh. Problemy politicheskoi i
sotsialnoi istorii (Novosibirsk, 2002), pp. 187200.
42. Krieger, Personen minderen Rechts, pp. 99100.
43. Head of the local department of NKVD in Kansk (Krasnojarsk
region), Zabludovskii, to head of OSP, Ivanov, 17 December 1941, on
the accommodation of 1,500 Germans from the town of Engels, in
Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Rossiiskoi Federatsii (GARF), f. 9479, op. 1,
d. 85, l. 230.
44. Bruhl, Die Deutschen in Sibirien, p. 46.
45. L. Belkovets, Spetsposelenie nemtsev v Zapadnoi Sibiri (19411955
gg.), in Repressii protiv rossiiskikh nemtsev. Nakazannyi narod (Moscow,
1999), pp. 15880; L. Burgart, Nemetskoe naselenie v Vostochnom
Kazakhstane v 19411956 gg. (Ust-Kamenogorsk, 2001); V. Zemskov,
Spetsposelentsy v SSSR. 19301960 (Moscow, 2003). Among the affected
Patriots or Traitors? 161

peoples were Chechens, Karachays, Germans, Ingush, Kalmucks,

Crimean Tatars as well as Greeks, Turks, Iranians and Kurds from
the Trans-Caucasus, and Armenians, Greeks and Bulgarians from the
46. Iz istorii nemtsev Kazakhstana. 19211975. Sbornik dokumentov (Almaty
and Moscow, 1997), pp. 1024.
47. See for example the leading article Semia narodov SSSR edinyi
nerushimyi lager in Pravda, 29 December 1941.
48. Iz istorii nemtsev . . ., pp. 1078.
49. Pravda, 31 October 1941.
50. Russkii arkhiv: Velikaia Otechestvennaia. Tom 176: Glavnye politicheskie
organy Vooruzhennykh sil SSSR v Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voine 19411945
gg. Dokumenty i materialy (Moscow, 1996), p. 91.
51. Vygnat nemetskikh zakhvatchikov na kholod v pole. Prikaz
Stavki Verkhovnogo Glavnokomandovaniia 17 noiabria 1941 g., in
Istoricheskii arkhiv 1993, 3, pp. 14850; Skrytaia pravda voiny: 1941 god.
Neizvestnye dokumenty (Moscow, 1992), pp. 21314. Cf. the German
translation of this order and its interpretation in Christian Hartmann
and Jrgen Zarusky, Stalins Fackelmnner-Befehl from November
1941. Ein verflschtes Dokument, in Vierteljahrshefte fr Zeitgeschichte
48 (2000), pp. 667-74.
52. Recollections of a Russian migr, R. Neratova, V dni voiny: Semeinaia
khronika (Sankt-Peterburg, 1996), p. 149.
53. Alexander Werth, Ruland im Krieg 19411945 (Munich and Zurich,
1965), p. 16.
54. Nemetskii shpionazh v tsarskoi Rossii. Sbornik dokumentov (Moscow, 1942);
Off-print of the introduction, I. Nikitinskii and P. Sonov, Nemetskii
shpionazh v Rossii vo vremia voiny 1914-1918 gg. (Moscow, 1942).
55. See e.g. I. Nikitinskii and P. Sonov, Nemetskii shpionazh v tsarskoi Rossii
(Saratov, 1942); I. Nikitinskii, Gitlerovskii shpionazh (Moscow, 1943).
56. A. Dementev, Reaktsionnaia rol nemtsev v istorii Rossii (Leningrad,
1943); idem, Russkie pisateli v borbe protiv nemetskoi reaktsii i agressii,
in Velikie idei patriotizma v tvorchestve russkikh klassikov (Leningrad,
1944), pp. 3975. I am grateful to Sergei Nelipovich (Moscow) for
this reference.
57. P. Bazhov, Skazy o nemtsakh (Sverdlovsk, 1943); ibid., (Cheliabinsk,
1944); ibid., (Moscow, 1945); V. Cherepov, P.P. Bazhov i khudo-
zhestvennaia kultura Sverdlovska 1941-1945 godov, in Ural (Ekaterin-
burg), 2004, 1; the text is available online:
ural/2004/1/cherep6.html The majority of these Germanophobic
tales still exist in many editions. Only lately have Russian academics
begun to tackle critically this chapter in writing history. V. Liapin,
Nemetskie oruzheiniki na Urale, in Deutsche auf dem Ural und
in Sibirien (XVIXX. Jh.). Nemtsy na Urale i v Sibiri (XVIXX vv.)
(Ekaterinburg, 2001), pp. 13842.
162 Viktor Krieger

58. ber wirtschaftliche Unterbringung und Arbeitseingliederung

der Sonderumsiedler, die in der Region Krasnojarsk angesiedelt
sind, 25 May 1943, in GARF, f. 9479, op. 1, d. 133, l. 3302, 337.
59. German, Nemetskaia avtonomiia, pp. 314-19.
60. Nemtsy SSSR, p. 48.
61. Mobilizovat nemtsev v rabochie kolonny . . . I. Stalin, Sbornik
dokumentov (1940-e gg.) (Moscow, 1998), p. 52.
62. I. Shulga, Iziatie iz riadov Krasnoi Armii voennosluzhashchikh-
nemtsev v gody Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voiny (19411945 gg.),
in Nemtsy Rossii v kontekste otechestvennoi istorii: obshchie problemy i
regionalnye osobennosti (Moscow, 1999), pp. 34758.
63. A typical example is the fate of an experienced military pilot, First
Lieutenant Viktor Fuchs. In September 1941 he was recalled from
active service for no reason and sent together with a further twenty
ofcers of German descent to the town of Magnitogorsk, where they
were set to work with spades and shovels on the construction of a
railway. Their protests had the support of the military prosecutor of
the district, which brought about a postponement. Fuchs worked for
some months as leader of the construction department of the local
school for civil aeronautics, until he was removed from his position
and forcibly conscripted to a labour camp at the beginning of 1942,
V. Fuchs, Pogrom. Dokumentalnaia povest o prestupleniiakh sovetskogo
rezhima zicheskom unichtozhenii nemetskoi natsii v SSSR s 1930-kh godov
i do kontsa stoletiia (Krasnoiarsk, 2001), pp. 15771.
64. Lektsiia nachalnika GULaga V.G. Nasedkina, prednaznachennaia
dlia slushatelei Vysshei shkoly NKVD SSSR, 5 oktiabria 1945 g., in
GULag (Glavnoe upravlenie lagerei). 19181960 (Moscow, 2000), pp.
296315, here p. 310.
65. Viktor Krieger, Verweigerungs- und Protestformen der Ruland-
deutschen im Arbeitslager (19411946), in Ralph Tuchtenhagen
and Christoph Gassenschmidt (eds), Ethnische und soziale Konikte
im neuzeitlichen Osteuropa. Festschrift fr Heinz-Dietrich Lwe zum 60.
Geburtstag (Hamburg, 2004), pp. 14579; idem, Nekotorye aspekty
demogracheskogo razvitiia nemetskogo naseleniia 1930-kh 1950-
kh godov, in Nemtsy Rossii: sotsialno-ekonomicheskoe i dukhovnoe razvitie
18711941 gg. (Moscow, 2002), pp. 47092.
66. Carola Tischler, Flucht in die Verfolgung. Deutsche Emigranten im
Sowjetischen Exil 1933 bis 1945 (Mnster, 1996), pp. 18693; Barry
McLoughlin, Hans Schafranek and Walter Szevera, Aufbruch
Hoffnung Endstation: sterreicherinnen und sterreicher in der Sowjet-
union, 19251945 (Vienna, 1997), pp. 57885; lists of members of
the Communist parties of Germany (131 members), Austria (74),
Finland (7), Hungary (76), Rumania (57), Czechoslovakia (Sudeten-
land Germans, 44 members) were handed over from the control
commission of the Komintern to the NKVD with the request that
Patriots or Traitors? 163

these members of the party be excluded (as party reservists) from

recruitment to the trudarmiia, or that those who had already been
called up be released, 20 November 1942, in GARF, f. 9479, op. 1, d.
107, l. 84106.
67. Calculated according to card indexes in GARF, f. 9414, op. 1, d. 1172,
l. 116.
68. Krieger, Personen minderen Rechts, p. 103.
69. GULag v gody voiny. Doklad nachalnika GULaga NKVD SSSR V.G.
Nasedkina. Avgust 1944, in GULAG (Glavnoe upravlenie lagerei) . . ., pp.
27296, here pp. 2856.
70. Calculated according to Kniga pamiati zhertv politicheskikh repressii.
Sverdlovskaia oblast, vols 13: AB, VD, EI (Ekaterinburg, 1999
2001); Klaus Segbers, Die Sowjetunion im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Munich,
1987), p. 244; G. Kornilov, Uralskoe selo i voina (Ekaterinburg, 1993),
p. 38; G. Malamud, Mobilizovannye sovetskie nemtsy na Urale v
19421948 gg., in Repressii protiv rossiiskikh . . ., pp. 12845, here p.
71. For more information on the procedure of NKVD/NKGB by means
of the example of a region deep in the hinterland, see Andreas
Decker, Stand Hitlers 5. Kolonne im sowjetischen Hinterland?
Zu Einsatz und Verfolgung deutscher Agenten im Ural whrend des
Zweiten Weltkrieges, in Jahrbcher fr Geschichte Osteuropas 52 (2004),
3, pp. 42131.
72. Alexej Gau, Wir blieben Kommunisten, in Neues Leben (Moscow)
25 January 1989, p. 7.
73. Viktor Krieger, Patrioten oder Verrter? Politische Strafprozesse
gegen Rulanddeutsche 19421946, in Karl Eimermacher and
Astrid Volpert (eds), West-stliche Spiegelungen Neue Folge: Russen und
Deutsche im 20. Jahrhundert, Vol.1: Verfhrungen der Gewalt. Russen und
Deutsche in den beiden Weltkriegen (Munich, in print).
74. Details of this case are to be found in the State Archive of the Admin-
istrative Authorities of the Territory of Sverdlovsk (Gosudarstvennyi
Arkhiv Administrativnykh Organov Sverdlovskoi Oblasti, GAAOSO),
f. 1, op. 2, d. 28234, toma 1, 1a, 2, 3, 4 (criminal case A. Heckmann,
H. Korbmacher u.a.).
75. Orders from Lieutenant Usmanov, leader of the investigation team
of the NKGB authority in Sverdlovsk, on the handing over of the
inquiry into A. Heckmann and others to the NKGB, 4 November
1945, in GAAOSO, f. 1, op. 2, d. 28234, tom 1, l. 244.
76. Indictment on 12 July 1946, which was conrmed by the acting
Minister for State Security, Ogoltsov, in GAAOSO, f. 1, op. 2, d.
28234, tom 1a, l. 1847.
77. Vlast i chudozhestvennaia intelligentsiia. Dokumenty TsK PKP(b)-VKP(b),
VChK-OGPU-NKVD o kulturnoi politike 19171953 gg. (Moscow, 1999),
p. 491.
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Vot ona prokliataia Germaniia!

Germany in Early 1945 Through
the Eyes of Red Army Soldiers

In January 1945, the Red Army started the nal phase of

the Soviet Unions Great Patriotic War, leading large military units
to eastern Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia. More than 3 million
Soviet soldiers fought for what was ofcially called the nal and
complete victory over Hitlers Germany. It was a dynamic ght,
involving heavy losses, but with an edge of triumph. Most of the
soldiers were setting foot on German soil for the rst time. For
them, it was not merely enemy territory, it was the soil of their main
adversary, the site where the enemy was moulded, had its most
important reserves and where its people had their dwellings. The
aim was, as Stalin said in his order of the day on 1 May 1944, to deal
the wounded German beast [. . .] a deathblow in its very own lair.1
This Feindbild (concept of the enemy Other) of the wild animal
developed from traditional concepts.
What could the mainly young men on their advance through
German territory have been feeling? What did they discover? What
value did they give their discoveries? How did the perception of
the Other in this specic military context develop, and what
differences can be seen between this and, for example, the German
troops perceptions during the Blitzkrieg? What did the Red Army
soldiers see in the Germans, apart from the beast? How, and how
much, were their perceptions politically guided? In brief, what did
individual Red Army soldiers experience in the spring of 1945;
these soldiers who considered themselves in later years, long after
the War, as liberators, having liberated even the Germans?

166 Elke Scherstjanoi

To answer these questions, we need more than anecdotal stories

and memoirs. Sources as close to the actual events as possible are
necessary. But authentic statements of individual perceptions and
assessments were not collected in the Soviet Union in such a way
as could be used by todays research. In addition, this particular
historical context was not the subject of academic discussion after
the War. There were few depictions, memory was unproblematized,
and the politically unfavourable was stigmatized. This meant
there was little reason to keep such sources, even in private family
archives. To study Russian soldiers experiences in Germany, as
a comparison accompanying the research and discussion of the
German Wehrmachts experiences in Russia,2 entirely new sources
were necessary. Diaries and letters from the front seemed to be the
most promising.
Contrary to popular belief, the Workers and Peasants Red
Army (RKKA) did frequently write diaries. However, very few of
the notes, often written in shorthand or a secret language, have
been preserved, and those that have are privately owned.3 A great
deal of Soviet military mail, on the other hand, has survived in
archives. An initial analysis of approximately 300 letters indicates
what the victors were reporting home about a defeated Germany
in the spring of 1945.4

Writing from the Lair

The beasts lair offered unique materials. Most of the

Red Army soldiers had been relishing the prospect of marching into
Germany and the idea of fair and bloody retribution. They wanted
to be there when Hitlers Germany capitulated. Nevertheless,
Germany and the Germans were by no means the main topic of
the letters, even after the soldiers had arrived in the lair. Most of
the letters ignored this topic, or mentioned it only in passing. The
largest portions of the soldiers letters were still devoted to family
issues and to their own health. From March/April 1945, they started
reporting more about this foreign world, but only immediately
preceding and after the victory were some letters and only some,
not all dominated by descriptions of what the soldiers had seen in
Germany. German life was not, therefore, particularly interesting
to the soldiers, or, to be more precise, they did not express any
particular interest in it in their letters.
Vot ona prokliataia Germaniia! 167

The analysis shows signicant variation in the extent and detail of

the letters descriptions, and also in their evaluations. The historian
cannot clearly demarcate these as differences in perception, nor as
differences in evaluation, since subjective perception and evaluation
can only appear in letters through a screen of subjective intended
and possible formulations. Also, due to insufcient details about
the letter-writers, it was impossible to ascertain the effects of age,
life experience, exposure to war and the front, nationality or
education on their perceptions of this foreign world. All the same,
some initial general insights could be gained into the processes
of perception towards the end of the War, in areas inhabited by
The intensity and diversity of the ground troops observations
depended primarily on the character and speed of their march,5 on
the distance covered between battles, and on the amount of time
spent in one place without coming under re. It was impossible to
discover the civilian aspects of the foreign territory during actual
hostilities, even when this was house-to-house ghting in residential
areas. It is absurd to differentiate, in this phase of the War, between
soldiers in the rst line of attack and those following, because the
formations and type of combat were constantly changing. Inter-
estingly enough, there are no specic differences between the non-
commissioned soldiers and the ofcers, nor striking characteristics
among the Guards regiment letters. The most perceptive observers,
who also gave the most exhaustive accounts of German civilian
life, were to be found among the scouts and those politically re-
sponsible in all arms of the services. Assiduous reporters were also
among those in the general combat troops who had relatively safe
positions, for example, the telephonists who also tended to be the
best informed.
The Red Army soldiers descriptions and portrayals are almost
always judgemental, often unwittingly so. It is noticeable that the
formulations and metaphors used in the letters among all ranks
are often the same as those utilized by the propaganda machine. It
is not always clear whether this politically acceptable language was
only drawn upon in order to please the censor, or if the meanings
had indeed been accepted and internalized. The one does not
exclude the other. And this does not apply equally to all topics.
The use of such formulations tended to decrease, just as it would
in peacetime: available interpretations are brought into play more
frequently at the beginning of an extended observation of the
168 Elke Scherstjanoi

Other, and only over time does a new, independent interpretation

and evaluation slowly develop.
The majority of the Red Army soldiers could not have acquired
these predispositions from rst-hand experience. On the other
hand, there were practically no insights left over from the pre-
war educational programmes. Knowledge about German culture,
science and lifestyle, which was conveyed through the Soviet edu-
cational system or through cultural contacts, played almost no role
in observations from 1945, and when they did, it was only to show
the dramatic changes. The latter were also emphasized for the
combatants via political-ideological channels soldiers newspapers,
Communist Party and Komsomol meetings and radio broadcasts. It
is, once again, unclear to what degree the letters adhered to these
guidelines for reasons of security. It seems as if they thought the
ideological interpretations were correct and sufcient, at least at
the time of their observations. They must have had a great deal of
resonance with the soldiers own experiences.
There is, of course, the possibility that the victors had selective
perception. To put it another way, were there things the Red Army
soldiers wanted to see and to interpret in particular ways? Were
there certain phenomena that they unconsciously ignored, that
they simply did not want to know? In most cases, this will never be
claried. Nevertheless, it can be claimed that the initial perceptions
of German civilian life were, without exception, seething with hate.
This explicable, comprehensible hatred determined the soldiers
insights into the Other and dominated their basic attitude towards
the Germans until the end of the war, if not longer.
Interestingly, this hatred towards enemy Germany and its pop-
ulation did allow observations which modied the sweeping judge-
ments. The soldiers began to differentiate among the Germans
before the end of the War. It was generally ideologically trained
observers who, as communists, took recourse to class differences.
After closer examination of civilian life they began once again to
discriminate between poor and privileged Germans; between
those who beat up foreign workers and those who did not; between
those who cowered in basements and those who escaped in good
time. These more subtle observations can be seen in several letters
before the ofcial change, in mid-April 1945, of the Soviet attitude
towards the Germans. This does not, of course, question the power
of the party and state/military leaders to set the agenda. Rather,
there is a feeling that the rst careful moves away from the simple
Vot ona prokliataia Germaniia! 169

equation German = fascist were made in a general agreement

with ofcial interpretations. Nevertheless, there were still many
elements in the German civilian world from which the letter-writers
continued to distance themselves.

German Prosperity

The rst thing the Red Army soldiers thought worth

mentioning on their advance into eastern Prussia was the quality
of the streets. They noticed that even unimportant roads linking
small villages were in excellent condition. The sewerage system in
rural areas caught their attention too. Descriptions of these aspects
were generally given without particular evaluation, in the midst of
accounts of their march. Agriculture was usually next on the list,
many noticing the wealth of livestock and the good equipment. The
farms seemed to be protable and the buildings were numerous,
big and solid. Some letter-writers saw all the villages and areas as
equally rich, and did not notice any really poor homesteads. An
explanation for this could be the overwhelming impression given
by the whole region, or by the writers supercial observations.
This initial view of the agricultural conditions alarmed the Red
Armys political leaders. They decided early, in February 1945, to
offer explanations to stop false conclusions being drawn about
social conditions in Germany. Perhaps a private farm on a manor
estate in eastern Prussia is indeed richer than a kolkhos. And a
backward person may well draw the conclusion that he supports
private agriculture and is opposed to the socialist form of economic
relations, said the head of the Political Administration of the
Second Belorussian Front, Lieutenant General A.D. Okorokov,
raising the subject of potential dangers ahead. He called for
energetic measures against such voices and recommended that the
Soviet press portray eastern Prussia as a reactionary nest.6
But the soldiers were not swamped with political economics.
Instead, a press campaign was started, whose basic message was
that German riches and prosperity were the direct result of the
fascist raid through Europe. In the letters, possessions signalizing
wealth were said to have a foreign country of origin. Many products
even apparently had the ofcial marks of Soviet factories. This
interpretation also began to be part of the descriptions of German
homes. It was mentioned in so many of the letters that a certain
170 Elke Scherstjanoi

amount of consensus must be deduced. The soldiers discovered

Yugoslavian carpets, French curtains, furniture from the Crimea,
Russian silk and other stolen goods. What they took from us,
they have simply left here with their own things, was one soldiers
comment on the large number of livestock. In the houses, they
found Soviet-made chairs, beds, soap, cologne, matches, textiles and
much more. Another wrote: If you look closely at the furnishings
in the rooms of any German, youll nd many of our Russian goods.
Chairs, spoons, tablecloths, and many other household goods. They
stole all this from the territory they had occupied in our country
and brought it home. And now they dont know what to do with it.
A young artilleryman wrote home at the end of March 1945: Its
probably interesting for you to discover what kinds of farmhouses
they have here. I have to tell you, they lived well here, with quality
livestock, quality furniture. The houses are of brick. But the Fritzes
got it all for free. If you go in the house, you see that everything
is looted and stolen. This view of things was corroborated by the
rules for dividing the booty found on Polands freed territory
between Soviet and Polish institutions. Consumer goods and works
of art in German homes were conscated by the RKKA only if they
were looted from the territory of the USSR or her allies [. . .] or
if they were brought in from Germany. All other goods lie within
the jurisdiction of the Polish administration.7 What could be more
convenient than nding stolen goods everywhere?
Although there can be no doubt about the character of the
German policy of conquest and occupation as an economic pil-
lage, there is a question mark above the actual impact this had
on private households in eastern Prussia and Silesia. Some foreign
products were without doubt purchased through normal market
relations before the War. But the result of the successful ofcial
interpretation of observers, which would admittedly have been
unacceptable without vivid recollections of German pillaging raids
throughout the Soviet Union, was that Red Army soldiers saw it all
as scandalous proof of German greed.
Soon the soldiers began to come across their fellow Russians
who had been transported to Germany to work. Their fates were
also offered in the letters as terrible proof of German exploitation
and cruelty. Everywhere there are Russians and Poles who are
returning from slavery. They tell terrible stories, wrote one young
captain to his girlfriend in February 1945. In one or two cases, this
can be seen as a concession to the censors, but we know from later
Vot ona prokliataia Germaniia! 171

memoirs that such descriptions were often used as an illustration

of the view of German afuence as exploiters or racist afuence.
That the former foreign workers were now the bosses was reported
home with relish.
Particularly worthy of mention for the letter-writers were the
grand palaces perfect examples of the looting and exploita-
tion. They were magnicent buildings, where the walls shine like
marble, where silk net curtains have gold edging, and when you
lie down to sleep, you sink into the bed, like into the sea. Now I
am also sitting in the estate of a rich German, wrote a twenty year
old to his parents at the end of January 1945. There are divans,
sofas, silk everywhere, and the oor shines like a mirror. Such
afuence was despised not only because it was looted wealth; it was
also the nobilitys wealth. This could well have been the rst time
most of these soldiers and ofcers came into contact with the class
None of the letter-writers suggested that they were thinking of
cultural values when they entered this elegant world. Most would
have felt like the twenty year old mentioned above: Just imagine
a soldier who has never seen anything like this now feels like hes
in charge of it all. It isnt surprising, because he has a hard journey
to get there, and with his hard work he earned the right to be lord
of all these treasures. Only later, almost at the end of the War, did
some of the more educated letter-writers recall information from
school about cultural/art history, and begin to compare.
The rst phase of this acquaintance with German prosperity
paid in the letters at least little attention to economic efciency,
because businesses were shut down and many destroyed. The
theory that Red Army combatants in Germany were immediately
impressed by the efcient infrastructure and the exemplary business
organization is certainly questionable. Even if the sources of these
testimonies are open to criticism, the letters are, nevertheless, the
more authentic documents. The hatred of the Fritzes and the ush
of victory in the spring of 1945 allowed a certain amount of respect
in only one regard: the Germans furious, never-ending defensive
ght. Only the continuous perceptions of German behaviour, living
and working conditions once the ghting ended enabled members
of the Red Army to move away from a militant view of the enemy.
But in early 1945, German prosperity merely prompted Red Army
soldiers hatred, disgust and destructiveness. The assertion that
both ofcers and regular soldiers were anxious to explore the
172 Elke Scherstjanoi

strange and delicious world of bourgeois decadence and ignored

the warning not to be diverted by the seeming riches of the west,
must be severely qualied for the period before May 1945.8
These letters show that the soldiers initial reaction to the afu-
ence of Germany was considerably inuenced by the timing:
these rst contacts occurred at exactly the same time as the rst
insights into the worst aspects of Nazi rule prisoners of war and
extermination camps. Political propaganda seized upon this, of
course, but an organized multiplication of those experiences was
hardly necessary. Reports from Majdanek and other camps were
already known in east Poland in the summer of 1944. New horror
stories from Auschwitz or Warsaw spread like wildre and gave a
whole new tenor to the perception of Germanys prosperity. The
wealth per se was still desirable, but after the shocking awareness
of these German crimes it was considered in unanimously negative
terms. It was rejected as wealth acquired like that. At the same time,
soldiers letters seem very believable when they say that they would
be ne without all this prosperity, if only they could get home
quickly. Mum, when you go into any house, everything you could
want to eat is there but its all so strange and you just dont want
any of it. I would live from potatoes alone if I could just come
home, said one young medical orderly, who had been a farmer on
a kolkhoz before the War.
It was not to be expected that the letters would describe organ-
ized looting and pillaging as it is generally against ones uncon-
scious ethical barriers to commit such a thing to paper. The
peaceful normal world should nd out as little as possible about
this sort of violence in the soldiers daily life at the front, even if
this normal world explicitly supports a craving for revenge. Even
so, Red Army letters did include hints of ill-gotten gains. German
civilians sudden ight offered the conquerors relatively easy access
to all the private possessions of eastern Prussia: in empty ats, in
train stations, on the streets. What was not immediately consumed,
made to disappear into the units soup kitchen for many soldiers
this was the start of a period of feasting or taken by the commanders,
was simply too tempting to be left as unclaimed property, and was
picked up and hauled along for the journey. Particularly attractive
were small valuables such as watches, jewellery and souvenirs, and
often items with a high practical value, such as warm clothing and
sturdy shoes.
Vot ona prokliataia Germaniia! 173

On the one hand, the letters indicate that there were soldiers who
had scruples; others found enemy belongings simply repulsive. But
in many cases, it was real necessity which drove the soldiers to rag-
collecting and looting. The Soviet Union was in desperate need
of supplies, and many soldiers immediately thought of sending
packages home. By 1945 these, in addition to the soldiers meagre
incomes, would become one of the most important sources of new
products for families.9 Most desirable were durable, pretty textiles
and luxury foodstuffs which had become rare. The kolkhozes had
barely even seen black tea during the war; coffee and chocolate
were unattainable.
The Red Army soldiers voracity for representative booty, and
also for rare products and simple items for daily use is therefore
explicable. More difcult to explain is the almost reckless way
they helped themselves. As they continued their advance through
Germany, the soldiers made an increasing number of comparisons.
They came to urban, and therefore wealthier, regions which
had, admittedly, suffered much greater damage but at the same
time, they met large numbers of German refugees. Here they also
discovered poverty, for example by looking at the others footwear.
One captain and party organizer wrote to his wife at the end of
March 1945: The whole of Germany is walking on wooden soles.
This footwear with wooden soles is not even only for indoors, they
are also shoes for going out. And if it isnt wooden soles, then some
sort of substitute. You meet this substitute at every turn. And he
notices that: The majority of Germans are starving, in the true
sense of the word. They are living from paltry rations and have
absolutely no way of getting anything else. But this sort of message
was an exception in the letters. And such observations apparently
rarely led to feelings of sympathy among the soldiers in early
Some questions about the perceptions of German wealth remain
unanswered. The analysis of individual views does, however, move
the focus towards contexts which have thus far been neglected. It
suggests that certain attitudes were set in place by the almost un-
impeded access to strangers personal effects in the rst days of the
conquest of German territory, which had dramatic effects on the
numerous subsequent encounters with the German population.
At this later stage, not only unclaimed possessions were taken, but
goods were forcibly stolen and people were coerced into handing
them over. The characters with this predisposition irrespective of
174 Elke Scherstjanoi

rank and education seem to have been fully intoxicated by the

situation, and this fostered the criminal quality of their attitudes.
The military leadership of the Red Army spoke, in this context,
of barakholstvo, a word for which there is no adequate English
counterpart. The root is barakhlo (junk, plunder, unnecessary stuff)
and stands for collecting junk, which on the one hand refers to
senseless impediments to their march, but on the other hand
alludes to the unfavourable impression made by the troops. Both
of which should, in the eyes of the troops leaders, be stopped.
Whether the military leaders found additional reasons to curb the
troops raids is unknown.
According to ofcial Soviet reports from the Berlin area, soldiers
in the thrall of their victory also bought goods at extortionate
prices. At rst they indulged in treats such as beer. Some quality
possessions were also bought for booty at prices way over the
market value. This behaviour shows the degree to which not only
rare products, but also the honest purchase of such products were
lacking after many years of abnormality. And it apparently betted
their victorious mood to be able to throw money around without
reserve. In letters home, where every kopek was necessary, this was
understandably not mentioned.

German Scenery

Despite war and destruction, the letters often refer to

nature and living conditions something that is universal to all
invading armies, and is interpreted as the expression of a longing
for normality. In most cases, comments in the Red Army letters
on the weather and rst impressions made by the surroundings
also seem to full two functions. Firstly, they describe important
survival conditions, and secondly, the soldier indicates generally
subconsciously that he has retained civic ways of perceiving, or at
least still recalls their structure. Peter Knoch spoke of a contrasting
experience of destruction and nature which belongs to daily life
at the front.10
During their advance on German territory, the early melting
snow with its inhospitable dampness and then the beautiful spring
of 1945 offered the soldier suitable writing topics. Often in passing,
sometimes in comparison, he would comment on the weather and
recall how spring would blossom around his home at this time.
Vot ona prokliataia Germaniia! 175

I know that its hot where you are, spring is on its way, sowing time is not
far off. Here, spring is well under way. The trees are sprouting, the grass
is getting green on the pastures and roads, the winter grain on the elds
is like velvet. You can hear the birds cooing in the grove all day long.
The evenings are wonderful, warm and quiet. Soon the lilac will bloom.
Thats what its like here in May. But, you know, Zhenia, spring doesnt
have the same effect on people here as it does at home. Everything is

So wrote one soldier who had gone to the front as an eighteen-year-

old volunteer, to his sister. In the main, however, they were short,
sometimes stereotypical formulations, which could nevertheless
signalize civic behaviour.
At the start of the battles the soldiers, bitter and triumphant,
realized that German towns and villages were burning. Auto-
matically, youre pleased to see Germany in such a state, wrote
one artillery captain to his mother, one month before the major
offensive. Finally, it is experiencing for itself the old Russian
proverb: He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword. Now
its paying for everything it did to us.
For many Red Army soldiers the advance was their rst taste of
foreign lands. Im seeing German towns and villages. Id never have
thought I would see all this, one twenty-year-old Muscovite wrote
home at the end of January. Some letters reveal how exciting this
aspect of the conquest was for the soldiers. Occasionally, thought-
ful moments would occur, tied to short escapes from military life
for instance, a short trip into safe territory. We drove out towards
a small hamlet [. . .], which was one kilometre from the sea. It was a
disappointment you couldnt see the sea at all, and the countryside
was nothing like countryside near a sea just some elds, a dam . . .
was one majors description of his rst contact with the Baltic Sea in
January 1945. But the hard ghting and rapid marches prevented
the vast majority of soldiers from seeing such sights. Also, the letters
do not allow a nal judgement on how preoccupied the soldiers
were with the tourist aspects of the victory march. Scenery was a
topic that was low on the list of priorities to write about. According
to a soldiers logic: as a survivor, one can describe it all much more
accurately, whereas a dead mans perceptions are of no interest to
anyone anymore. Often they would hint at their surroundings and
promise more descriptions later.
It is probable that the War did not only take most soldiers abroad
for the rst time; for many of them, especially the younger soldiers,
176 Elke Scherstjanoi

it was also the rst time they had ever left their home regions.
Someone who had been at the front a long time had seen a lot
of Otherness. Unfortunately, the letters discovered here offer no
way of differentiating between the perceptions of a soldier with
more experiences of the Other, and a young recruit who went
directly to enemy territory from his home. The accounts in the
letters are generally too meagre to be able to formulate from them
culturally specic questions regarding the perception of Germany
as an-Other world (from an apolitical perspective). By and large,
descriptions of German scenery, towns and details of settlements
found their way into the correspondence of the particularly keen
and experienced writers.
Nevertheless, unprejudiced observations of even apolitical issues
were difcult. The enemy villages were, at rst, not only different
but distasteful. It was the same time as the loud calls for retribu-
tion. An observer who enjoys the view of ruined enemy settlements
will not develop much curiosity for its attractive features. Every-
thing here, beginning with the earth itself and nishing with the
planted forests, the houses, everything here is dismal, and calls
for retribution in the name of our home, according to one letter
of a volunteer, born 1913, who had gone from the Caucasus via
the Crimea and Ukraine to Eastern Prussia. And in another: How
foreign it all is here, the earth and the wood and even the sky. And
even the air seems different. It all smells like Prussia.
Only very slowly and with the increasing number of relatively
peaceful occasions for observation, did Red Army soldiers develop
the ability to discover unknown habitats and landscapes. Houses
made of stone, beautiful villas, tiled roofs, castles and palaces, the
Baltic Sea, beautiful mountain scenes. Every now and then they
discovered peculiarities of ordinary buildings: the construction
and function of cellars, the location of elds around the houses.
As soon as they were billeted, they could take a closer look. We
arent ghting now, wrote one twenty year old just before the end
of the War. Were near an old port, living in nice ats and in a very
civilized way, like in a health spa. The village, a town really, where
the owners of the urban factories and plants lived before us, is very
pretty. Instead of fences they have planted bushes, and theyre
interwoven so nice and tight that theyre much more secure than
a fence. In another letter, the same author writes: The houses
are made of stone and all are sinking in greenery. Climbing plants
are growing up the walls, and their pretty blossoms are blooming.
Vot ona prokliataia Germaniia! 177

There are also big trees growing along the streets. So, when you
walk along a road, its like walking through a tunnel.
The conquerors displayed fairly typical ways of perceiving for-
eign worlds, similar to those shown both for peacetime and also
for other more open peoples, more accustomed to travel: what
fascinates one person, repulses another. And so one soldier at the
end of March thought that

for the Russian eye this kind of life is boring, it just about suits the
Germans; its not for us. The roofs are dull, high and pointed. Or take
the animals: there are only colourful cows. The houses are all alike [. . .].
What else: the roads are good, the countryside is nice. But there is no
place for my soul here. It leaves me cold, and I say, let it be pretty all
around, the further I travel, the more I look with my heart back to you
and to Russia.

A conspicuous amount of time was devoted to describing the

cities. To have been in Berlin was a special event that one certainly
had to write home about. Apparently the army leadership organized
trips to Berlin for the troops as soon as the ghting was over. Seizing
a car was also no problem for the victors, and so many soldiers
found their way in groups to and through Berlin. The accounts of
these drives or walks through the ruined capital were extensive.
They generally began by declaring that Berlin had been utterly
All the soldiers wanted to see with their own eyes the streets and
buildings of the Reich capital they knew so well from the press and
lms, and which had such a close association with Nazi rule: Unter
den Linden street, the Brandenburg Gate, the Victory Column
and the Reichstag. The letters reect a mental mix of victorious
euphoria, contempt for the vanquished enemy, the joys of life
and hopes for peace. That the centre of Berlin had only houses
of four or ve stories was apparently remarkable. One announced
triumphantly that the Berlin underground was no match for
the Moscow metro. For one historian the Reichstag was once a
majestic and beautiful building, but for a lawyer it seemed like
a huge, dismal building, nothing attractive, a dome on the roof
and two, three bronze gures on horses in military poses. Whereas
the relatively rare observations of German towns and scenery
began to be described more often and more comprehensively from
late April 1945, descriptions of Berlin not only differed in their
178 Elke Scherstjanoi

celebratory language and in their embedding within news of the

victory, they were also the rst peacetime letters and were now
clearly more descriptive. They were based on perceptions free from
the psychological pressures of conict. This rst ush of emotions
was, therefore, accompanied by the start of a normalization of
communication, i.e. Berlin became interesting simply for its city-
ness. It presaged the new, peaceful dimension of future observations,
as the soldier became an individual tour guide for the family.

Fritzy and Frauy

Little can be discovered about German civilians from

Red Army soldiers letters. However, this is precisely an indirect
indication of the sparsity of friendly encounters, since the topic
violence against civilians places the soldiers under an even
stronger culturally enforced reluctance to describe than the topic
of looting. In addition, it was vital that evidence of misconduct
did not fall into the hands of enemy propaganda. Censorship in
all armies of the world bans such information. Some of the letters
analyzed did, nevertheless, offer starting points for a historiographic
trail. It cannot reconstruct the treatment of the defeated there
are other, more meaningful sources for that but it does indicate
the victors changing mentality.
Ofcially the soldiers inexhaustible hatred at the start of the
offensive was aimed at all Germans without exception. Within units,
ceremonial personal commitments were made to be unrelenting in
avenging all the suffering. But in great measure the rst contact
with the nemtsura, the German lot, was indirect rather than direct.
The rst thing they came across was deserted homes.
Going into enemy homes, which had only recently functioned
normally, was one of the great attractions of capturing German
living space. It gave the intruder a chance to thoroughly examine
German public life: how they lived, dressed and slept, what they
ate, what they read and which pictures they hung on the walls.
It offered an initial window on the enemys particularly vulnerable,
intimate living conditions, which may well have recalled memories
of the intrusion of German soldiers into Soviet citizens lives. The
hate-lled drive into the German private sphere made the objects
in that foreign world appear as witnesses of an abhorrent life. As
the letters show, during such forays the theme of German looted
Vot ona prokliataia Germaniia! 179

goods was soon joined by the theme of kitsch. Both themes led
to contempt and unrestrained destructiveness. Firstly, there was
the question often articulated in the letters of why these well-
off Germans had wanted to take the very last possessions from the
poorer Russians. From this perspective the destruction of German
living space could be seen as justied revenge.
The second aspect was a more general non-military phen-
omenon of encountering the Other: the foreign culture is
ridiculed. But also in this case the intruders aloof and arrogant
attitude had been drastically exacerbated by the War. Outbursts of
hatred were especially noticeable when the idiosyncratic, foreign
world suddenly exposed its militant side, for instance when angel
gurines and frills were discovered in German bedrooms next to
a portrait of the man of the house wearing his uniform.11 Hitherto
unknown items from the Western world, such as pornographic
pictures, often had a repellent effect. They aroused the curiosity of
many soldiers, but violated their sense of morality. The newspapers
and especially the magazines are full of pictures of naked men and
women in all sorts of poses and positions. Thats the most popular
literature, wrote one young captain and war correspondent to his
girlfriend in February. The extent of this rejection is not clear. But
there is no reason to attribute it to un-modern prudishness.
Overall, that the rst encounters with Germans was via their
abandoned homes seems only to have intensied the victors hatred.
This not only prolonged recognition of the enemys humanity, it
stimulated the kind of thoughts which made an understanding
more difcult. Even later, after the soldiers had made direct
contact with the inhabitants, they not only destroyed the foreign
furnishings, but also made a point of dirtying them with rubbish.
When the Red Army met German civilians, the latter found
themselves in a terrifying, hopeless situation, making them seem
even more abhorrent and repulsive. They seemed to be frightened,
hysterical, stupid, tired and often dirty gures. That the most
helpless among them as a rule were also the poorest was not
immediately clear, or relevant.
One letter from early February 1945 reads:

Were walking through dozens of towns, hundreds of villages, and every-

where its the same scene: the roads are lled with Germans; German
women, children, men dragging themselves along, pushing little carts
with stuff they could grab at the last minute. In most cases, they threw
180 Elke Scherstjanoi

away all their possessions, leaving them behind in the houses they had
lived in peacefully just a few hours ago, not imagining that the wave
of war could reach them; believing war was a trip to foreign countries,
devastating for other peoples, bringing suffering for women and
children of any nationality, just not the German.

At rst, the majority of descriptions of groups of refugees were

lled with hatred. An older soldier (born 1904) told his sister at
the end of February that that they were evening the score with the
Hanses and Fritzes; their despicable wives [the German word Frau
written in Cyrillic] and snake-like brood are running as far as the
eye can see. But I dont think they will get far. Well follow them to
the ends of the earth.
For all the soldiers the hour of reckoning had now arrived. One
political ofcer born in 1906, previously a worker in a factory,
ghting at the front since 1941 from Eastern Prussia wrote to his
wife in early February 1945:

Their homes are burning, their possessions are in ruins, their cattle is
running around unsupervised, and they themselves are homeless. And
you want to say to every one of them: There, thats what you get for
making us suffer; thats what you get for the suffering of my family, and
hundreds of thousands of other families. And thats for the deaths of
many hundreds of thousands of Soviet people, for the deaths of our
wives and children, who you didnt regard as human, treated worse
than animals, and ruthlessly annihilated. You look at these monstrous
products of humanity with disgust, whether they are men, women
or children. The men were the direct executors of these crimes; the
women helped them, if not physically then morally, and the children
were preparing themselves to commit just these same crimes as their
fathers; considering themselves from birth onwards as something
superior. Theyre dragging themselves westward, not knowing whats
awaiting them, or where they will end up. They look pitiful, but there is
no sympathy for them.

At home many were waiting for exactly that news. You can feel the
satisfaction the Germans have now (at least here) understood
what war means, said another soldiers letter.
Here a central problem concerning the attitude towards the
enemy civilians is emerging: how much should one take revenge,
what do they deserve? The military leadership of the Red Army
spread the message that beating an old woman to death in the
back of beyond will not speed up Germanys downfall.12 Political
Vot ona prokliataia Germaniia! 181

ofcers were also quick to point out the psychological consequences

of unchecked demonstrations of hatred.13 Although the effect
was primarily seen in terms of a dramatic destruction of military
discipline, the terrible ramications for civilian society must have
been clear to at least some of the elites. The rst attempt to counter
this was with newspaper articles which highlighted the difference
between the inhumane conduct of German occupation and the
Red Armys honourable task: we are not German, we do not beat
women and children!14 And more than a few soldiers adopted the
formulation. There is no sympathy for them. Quite the opposite,
you look at them with contempt, and they only keep their lives
because we are not the Germans and dont ght against women
and children. But this often sounded like an incantation; the
effect is difcult to ascertain. The formulation was more probably
the expression of a boundary around those forms of retribution
deemed acceptable, i.e. other than killing.
At rst, the activities at the front offered the soldiers plenty of
opportunities to justify to themselves or to others the killing of
civilians or prisoners. The suspicion of diversion or of resistance
to the looting was sufcient. From January to March 1945 ofcial
retribution took on the form of mass detentions and deportations.
If you could only see how frightened the imprisoned Fritzes look
around, declared one soldier in February. Another triumphantly
wrote: And how pitiful they are now, they even say hello to us.
Due to the internalized taboos mentioned above, the letters tell us
practically nothing about more distasteful actions. On the contrary,
there are blatant lies, suggested for instance by the letter of an
older captain, born in 1900. He writes to his daughter: Now the
German population is experiencing what the Russians had to live
through during the occupation. The only difference is that we do
not see dead civilians on the roadside; no ridiculing of children,
women or the elderly.
The largest number of individual killings and crimes were,
according to Zeidler, in Warmia in eastern Prussia, the regions
to the west and south of Warmia, Danzig, western Prussia and
eastern Pomerania.15 The high point of arbitrariness was in the
rst two months of the offensive. At this time the soldiers desire
for retribution was particularly compelling, and a great mass of
disoriented German civilians were stuck between the fronts. The
Red Army leaders had in no way prepared themselves for the
specic matters of organization and discipline needed during the
182 Elke Scherstjanoi

temporary occupation of enemy territory. There were no ofcial

instructions for the occupying troops, leaving the door wide open
for individual undertakings and arbitrary acts of reprisal.16 Calls to
rein in vengeful feelings were lost in the wind if revenge could be
taken with little or no interference.
Specialist literature refers to the negative effects of punishment
battalions consisting of criminals who abused the situation, deserted
and travelled onwards in groups, murdering and looting.17 The
extent of such desertion is, however, unclear. The feeling of being
the boss was also enjoyed by many of the disciplined Red Army
soldiers, who did things by the book. Several letter-writers share
these sentiments. Their power over foreign lives and property was
felt to be justied: it gave them carte blanche to do whatever they
liked, unrestrained by political or moral appeals. Easily available
alcohol helped.
For long-term active soldiers already used to violence, the rst
encounters with Germans only served to exacerbate the troops
mood in a very unfortunate manner. It is the nature of a deep
hatred, screaming to humiliate the Other, that the avengers can
see nothing positive in their victim. Both resistance and accom-
modation, or ingratiation can increase the hatred. Whether they
looked away or greeted deferentially, whether they were slow to
help clear up or keen to work, whether they hid diversionists or
offered everything from their hideouts to the soldiers German
civilians were repugnant to the conquerors. When you meet these
women and all sorts of Ottos and Friedrichs they mumble Good
comrade! [The German written in Cyrillic as Kut Kamerad] And
you feel surprised and angry, admitted one letter-writer in late
February 1945. And in early March one Guards ofcer and editor
of a divisional newspaper wrote to his relatives:

Oh, how repulsive they all are. You cant imagine. Especially here in
Prussia. To understand it properly and feel it, you have to have seen
this land and these people. Dull and disgusting. On the outside human,
but really animals ready for real baseness. It could make you sick how
agreeable and servile, but its clear it is all an act, and the main thing is,
it is their cowardice that makes them like this.

Another commented in late March:

The Germans are acting all humble towards us. This example shows
how far the German nature has fallen: [. . .] When a German woman
Vot ona prokliataia Germaniia! 183

was asked where any remaining German soldiers could be found, she
showed them where the Germans soldiers actually were. In general there
are, as well as the German spies, many who betray their own people. Of
course, there are also those who walk by and look away or down. You can
feel the helpless rage.

Non-violent contacts also remained highly distanced. The Fritz

women and Fritz children were watched with cool curiosity. In
early February, a political ofcer wrote to his sister whose husband
had fallen at the front:

The old, the women and the children look at us in fear and with pleading
eyes. They feel their guilt towards us and beg for their lives. No, we dont
touch them, we dont ght them. We are just satised that they now
nd themselves in the same position that our people were in from 1941-
1942, and that they are frightened of us. Russian soldier is good they
say, as if from one script. Of course, if we dont kill them, which they
have earned after all, then were good.

Another ofcer near Berlin noted on 1 May: On the streets there

is one long chain of carts, laden with belongings, covered wagons
lled with possessions, with children. They all have tired, fright-
ened, timid faces. Now is the time that they feel what war means.
Pity occurred very rarely, at diverse times, and was very dependent
on the situation.
A silent exception was apparently made for small children. We
do know of cruelty towards children from German eyewitness
reports, especially early on during the Soviet advance into Germany.
There was no special treatment for young girls and boys over about
twelve years of age. However, many witness statements mention
leniency towards, and help for, smaller children. Whether female
soldiers acted in a less vengeful or more caring way has not been
studied. Attitudes of timorous gender solidarity and motherliness
have been shown.18 For a few soldiers at the front, seeing children
was a premonition of the end of war and destruction. In the
villages and towns we are passing through, I always watch the small
children, and imagine how they compare to Svetlana, wrote one
father of a four year old to his wife in April 1945.19
Extreme forms of violence, and a manifestation of the terrible
brutalization of Red Army troops, were the cruel executions of
female military personnel and rape of female civilians. Those alive
during the War, as well as politicians and historians, have been
184 Elke Scherstjanoi

extremely busy with these aspects.20 Particularly in the West, they

were and are the most salient themes in the public discussion
of guilt during the War.21 In Russia the topic is still taboo.22 This
is not the place to go into historiographic work or the political
instrumentalization of memory. The phenomenon of war rape
requires more lengthy discussion, but here we will point only to a
few of the most compelling problems.
It is doubtful whether the Red Army soldiers excesses, which can
in no way be described as individual cases,23 were caused by troops
lengthy enforced celibacy. This explanation was articulated not
only by the German Wehrmacht, who added racist commentaries, it
also resonated with many victims of the violence. Even today, some
academic descriptions suggest this reason. And the argument can
be found among male and female Soviet participants in the War.
The Soviet leaders later attempts at justication are often referred
to. They, however, only utilized the combat soldiers natural
need for a bit of distraction to avoid admitting weaknesses in
the political leadership. Last but not least, the recent war in the
Balkans conrms that sexual excesses are not only the prerogative
of men who have been in the eld a long time.
The idea that violence against women escalated in 1945 because
the Stalinist USSR frowned upon sexual passions, as if the men
could nally give their desires free rein under the pretext of
retribution on enemy territory, is patently absurd.24 This sort
of theory is based on political prejudices and indicates a lack of
knowledge of Soviet life. A further one-sided explanation is the
one spread among the victors that German (and other) women
freely offered themselves to the victorious soldiers, either for
personal advantage, or ridiculous! as a military diversion. The
latter develops a warning given at that time by the RKKA leadership
that German women infected with venereal disease were offering
themselves en masse as prostitutes in order to weaken the enemy.
There are many indications that rape was used in this as in other
wars, irrespective of the complex reasons in each individual case
primarily to satisfy a desire for violence and power. It was a ritual
of humiliation, a form of pay-off, known also in modern patriarchal
societies. The idea, based on biologistical assumptions, that a
universal male hatred of women was escalating, seems nonsense.
On the other hand, the theory that the longing for retribution
was exacerbated by German claims of superiority, and was
therefore directed mainly at German women, seems plausible.25
Vot ona prokliataia Germaniia! 185

The suggestion that ofcial directives ordered the destruction of

German womens racial arrogance is not only unproven, but also
questionable.26 An order of that kind was unnecessary to sanction
physical violence and public humiliation as a kind of society-wide
violation via the weakest of the defeated, the traditional victims of
such rites.
But an obligation arises from this idea that one primary motive
can explain the excessive ritualized violence: we must look at
the complex motivations for signs of change or displacement
resulting from the transformation of violence. Historical research
to date has neglected the search for variations in the extent and
characteristics of the rapes. Naimark also treats all rapes from 1945
to 1946 as motivated by basically the same grounds. Soldiers letters
do not mention rape, but they do suggest that the blind hatred
decreased throughout the advance. They suggest the theory that
the observation of civilian lifestyles, even if they are the enemys,
has an overall pacifying effect. The number of violent acts against
women only decreased slightly in the spring of 1945 but remained
extremely high. Towards the end of the War, however, the motives
become more normal, the actions less excessive. The trend was
away from brutal public humiliations and beatings towards the
still violent collection of traditional patriarchal victors rights,
i.e. towards actions which avoided public places, but could still
prot by the presence of a few other victims or perpetrators. The
moment of sexual desire also only began to take on importance as
the conquest progressed. Presumably the perception of house and
home, of motherliness and housewifely care recalled memories of
familial harmony and female intimacy. Later, in peacetime, with
troops movements constrained by the barracks, another motive
arose for many soldiers to prove their manliness. At the same time,
intimate relationships developed with regular non-violent contact.
These were, however, often based on one-sided dependency. But
all that is part of a new topic everyday life under peacetime
occupation which generates different attitudes than does life at
the front.
It is possible there were soldiers in early 1945 who had not seen
attacks against innocent civilians with their own eyes. How much
suffering and pain theyve caused us, and yet Ive seen no cruelty
or malice directed from the Russian soldiers towards the enemys
elderly or women, said one letter home. But by the end of the
War no Red Army soldier could claim to know nothing about
186 Elke Scherstjanoi

the excesses towards German civilians. Nevertheless, Lev Kopelev

summed up correctly in 1976, after the majority of German
reviewers had highlighted only the parts his war memoirs relating
to Eastern Prussia, and of those primarily the accounts of Soviet
brutality (which he could understand):

But is it possible that the blind brutality of the avenger and the crimes
of the scoundrel can absolve, or even just slightly rehabilitate, those very
criminals whose terrible deeds led to the calls for revenge in the rst
place, and who supplied the very arguments used by the most merciless
preachers? Back then, in the winter of 1945, many in the army were just
as surprised and distressed as I was, and condemned the vengefulness
and other base instincts emerging from four years of war in a few soldiers
during our advance from the Volga to the Oder. As we also condemned
the cruel passions which pour out in the delirium of a victorious assault.
Many others countered the rape and plunder much more effectively
than did I.27

The attitudes of the Red Army soldiers in the spring of 1945

towards Germany and the Germans ranged from the deepest hatred,
contempt and disgust to a certain shapeless respect for particular
including military achievements. This is not surprising. Much
more surprising is that the distorted image of Germany and the
Germans built up during the War lost its cruel elements relatively
quickly after the end of the War. This was probably due to the
eastern victors lack of racist Feindbild. They saw in the enemy Other
an animalized human; one who is disciplined and hard-working,
but is nevertheless also enraged, ignorant, greedy, arrogant, evil
and fanatical. This historically anchored image of a wild animal
apparently remained so sketchy and supercial that it was soon
dismantled through personal encounters after the Red Army
victory and in peacetime.

Translated by Felicitas Macgilchrist


1. Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, Befehl des Obersten Befehlshabers Nr.

70, 1 May 1944, in J. W. Stalin, ber den Groen Vaterlndischen Krieg
Vot ona prokliataia Germaniia! 187

der Sowjetunion (Berlin: Verlag der Sowjetischen Militrverwaltung in

Deutschland, 1945), p. 117.
2. See, for example, Hans-Erich Volkmann (ed.), Das Russlandbild im
Dritten Reich (Cologne: Bhlau, 1994); Omer Bartov, Brutalitt und
Mentalitt. Zum Verhalten deutscher Soldaten an der Ostfront, in
Peter Jahn and Reinhard Rrup (eds), Erobern und Vernichten: Der Krieg
gegen die Sowjetunion 19411945 (Berlin: Argon, 1991), pp. 18399;
idem, Von unten betrachtet. berleben, Zusammenhalt und Brutalitt
an der Ostfront, in Bernd Wegner (ed.), Zwei Wege nach Moskau: Vom
Hitler-Stalin-Pakt zum Unternehmen Barbarossa (Munich and Zurich:
Piper, 1991), pp. 32644, English edition: Bernd Wegner (ed.), From
peace to war: Germany, Soviet Russia and the world, 19391941 (Published
in assoc. with the Militrgeschichtliches Forschungsamt Potsdam,
Berghahn, 1997); Peter Jahn, Russenfurcht und Antibolschewismus:
Zur Entstehung und Wirkung von Feindbildern, in Jahn and Rrup,
Erobern, pp. 4764; Peter Jahn and Ulrike Schmiegelt, Foto-Feldpost:
Geknipste Kriegserlebnisse 19391945 (Berlin: Elefanten Press, 2000);
Thilo Stenzel, Das Russlandbild des kleinen Mannes: gesellschaftliche
Prgung und Fremdwahrnehmung in Feldpostbriefen aus dem Ostfeldzug
(19411944/45) (Munich: Osteuropa-Institut, 1998); Wolfram Wette,
Die Wehrmacht: Feindbilder, Vernichtungskrieg, Legenden (Frankfurt am
Main: Fischer, 2002).
3. See Wladimir Gelfand, Deutschland-Tagebuch 19451946: Aufzeichnungen
eines Rotarmisten, ed. and comm. by Elke Scherstjanoi (Berlin: Aufbau,
4. Elke Scherstjanoi (ed.), Rotarmisten schreiben aus Deutschland. Briefe von
der Front (1945) und historische Analysen (Munich: Saur, 2004) describes
the difculties of collecting and analyzing these sources, hence it
is omitted here. The letters analyzed are those which reached their
addressees. Writing conditions, aims and problems with the censor
are described. The quotes that follow are from the letters cited in the
5. The perceptions of air force and navy personnel were generally less
6. Lecture by A.D. Okorokov at a meeting of political workers of the
Second Belorussian Front and the Central Political Organization of
the RKKA, 6 February 1945. Extract in Scherstjanoi, Rotarmisten, pp.
7. Directive from the Military Council of the First Belorussian Front,
10 February 1945, in Scherstjanoi, Rotarmisten, pp. 11213.
8. Norman M. Naimark, The Russians in Germany. A History of Soviet Zone
of Occupation, 19451949 (Cambridge and London: Belknap Press,
1995), p. 69.
9. At the end of the War a private soldier was receiving depending on
length of service approx. 175190 roubles pay per month; a sergeant
188 Elke Scherstjanoi

approx. 500 roubles (excluding supplements). The average wage

of a worker in the centrally managed Soviet industries was approx.
570 roubles. The average price of 1kg of wheat-our in the Soviet
Union in 1944 was 162 roubles, 1kg of beef 244 roubles. (M.P. Zinich,
Ispytanie i velichie naroda, in Velikaia Otechestvennaia voina 1941-
1945, kniga 3: Osvobozhdenie (Moskva, 1999) p. 348-62.
10. See Peter Knoch, Kriegsalltag, in Peter Knoch (ed.), Kriegsalltag.
Die Rekonstruktion des Kriegsalltags als Aufgabe der historischen Forschung
und der Friedenserziehung (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1989), pp. 22251, here
p. 230.
11. No letter mentions that photos or other evidence of brutality against
the inhabitants of occupied territories were found in German homes.
The Red Army soldier Fedor Zverev claims to have seen such evidence
in over 100 German houses. Text of the interview in Helke Sander
and Barbara Johr (eds), BeFreier und Befreite. Krieg, Vergewaltigungen,
Kinder (Munich: Kunstmann 1992; Frankfurt am Main: Fischer,
1995), p. 123.
12. Okorokovs lecture, 6 February 1945.
13. Manfred Zeidler cites German sources for the Red Army leaderships
measures, from January 1945, for strengthening discipline, controlling
excessive alcohol consumption and stopping wanton destruction,
plundering and assaults on the elderly or women. Kriegsende im Osten.
Die Rote Armee und die Besetzung Deutschlands stlich von Oder und Neisse,
1944/45 (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1996), pp. 15560.
14. Highlighted by an item in the Krasnaia Zvezda, 9 January 1945.
15. Zeidler, Kriegsende, p. 153.
16. A.P. Jakushevskii, Protivnik, in Velikaia Otechestvennaia voina 1941
1945, kniga 4: Narod i voina, pp. 24180, here p. 271.
17. Lev Kopelev, Khranit vechno (Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1975); interview with
Kopelev in Sander and Johr, BeFreier, pp. 1356.
18. Swetlana A. Alexijewitsch, Der Krieg hat kein weibliches Gesicht (Berlin:
Henschel, 1987; Hamburg: Galgenberg, 1989).
19. That the child-loving Russian was neither clich nor a myth of post-
war East German ideology is shown by Wolfgang Engler by means
of school essays from early 1946. Wolfgang Engler, Die Russen
kommen: Wie die Ostdeutschen Krieg und Nachkrieg erlebten und
welche Folgen das hatte, in idem, Die Ostdeutschen. Kunde von einem
verlorenen Land (Berlin: Aufbau, 1999) pp. 313.
20. Instead of a lengthy, nuanced discussion here, see Erich Kuby, Die
Russen in Berlin 1945 (Munich: Scherz, 1965).
21. The extraordinary amount of interest can be partially explained by
the enduring socio-cultural reserve concerning the topic sexuality
and violence. What could be more fascinating than the process
not yet completed of freeing society from this taboo? Norman M.
Vot ona prokliataia Germaniia! 189

Naimark, in his book, also makes rape the central dominant problem
for The Russians in Germany.
22. The Russian ambassador in London reacted strongly to Antony
Beevors book Berlin: The Downfall 1945 (London: Viking, 2002).
He was particularly opposed to the claim that Red Army personnel
had sexually assaulted the Russian women they had just freed from
concentration camps. Em Barban, Eshche odno padenie Berlina,
in Moskovskie Novosti, 1 July 2002, p. 14.
23. Although no serious institution in Germany questions the extent of
sexual crimes against German women at the end of the War, there
is no halt to efforts to document the number of women who were
raped. The exact number is apparently extremely important in
order to even begin to understand the dimensions of the social and
political ramications. (Sander and Johr, BeFreier, pp. 4673). None
of the calculations is methodically persuasive. The numbers game
contributes no new knowledge.
24. Such is Beevors argument, Berlin, p. 32.
25. Naimark, The Russians in Germany, p. 114.
26. This apparently appeared in a Soviet yer ascribed to Ilja Ehrenburg.
Lev Kopelev, contemporary and philologist wrote: I saw and read this
so-called Ehrenburg-Flyer for the rst time here in West Germany
after 1980 [. . .] It is a fairly primitive collation of various quotes from
Ehrenburgs wartime essays, plus several sentences (calls for murder,
for rape destroy the racial arrogance) which Ehrenburg could
not have written, neither morally nor linguistically; they are written
in such an atrocious Russian, and seem to have been translated from
another language. None of my acquaintances and comrades can
remember a yer of this sort. It seems that only the German troops
knew of its existence and it was probably an attempt by Goebbels
cadres to strengthen the Wehrmachts resistance. (Cited in Bernhard
Fisch, Ubej! Tte! Zur Rolle von Ilja Ehrenburgs Flugblttern 1944
45, in Geschichte-Erziehung-Politik, 1997, 1, p. 22).
27. Lev Kopelev, Chemu istoriia nauchila menia, in idem, O pravde i
terpimosti (New York: Khronika Press, 1982), pp. 516, here p. 6.
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Supervision and Abdication

East German Intellectual
Life under Soviet Tutelage

From time to time I need to reect on my life. Not

my personal life, this is not the place, but my life as a citizen in a
European country. The Berlin wall came down fteen years ago,
and with it communism fell in all of eastern Central Europe. It may
sound blasphemous, in view of all the turbulent events during the
1990s and in the new millennium, if I say that I still perceive my life
as consisting of two parts: forty long winters of personal discontent
and eternal hope under the umbrella of the Yalta agreement of
1945, as compared to a short, quiet, slightly boring life thereafter as
a citizen free of oppression and without permanent circumspection
under the stern gaze of Big Brother.
I was a few months old when Hitler invaded Poland and my
family did not hear from my father for years. He served as a doctor
in the medical corps of the Wehrmacht. I was three years old when
my mother decided to leave inner Germany and to return with us
children to her homeland of northern Bohemia (she had been
a Czechoslovak citizen until 1939), to get away from the Allied
bombers. I was four years old when I overheard the adults in my
family whispering in the parlour rumours of unspeakable atrocities
being committed behind the Eastern Front. I was six years old
when we were forced to leave Bohemia because we were ethnic
Germans. The same year I survived with my mother and sister two
major air raids (Plauen and Halberstadt). We saw scores of corpses
and felt hot restorms brought about by hundreds of burning
houses. Afterwards, in search of shelter in the nearby forest, we had
to crouch in a ditch by a eld whilst being attacked by a low-ying

192 Jens Reich

British plane. We saw the victorious armies. First the Americans,

who distributed chocolate to the children. Later they retreated and
the Red Army came in fullment of the occupation lines agreed to
at Yalta. I was ten years old when the German Democratic Republic
was formed under the banner of an anti-Fascist and peaceful
Germany the fourth German Republic after 1871, 1933 and West
Germany of 1949. It was claimed in would be a much better one
than any of its predecessors and contemporaries.
I was brought up with the conviction that the Soviet hegemony
over Eastern Europe was not legitimate, but would last forever.
My parents did not say this explicitly, but their conviction was
unmistakable. My father had become weary from all he had seen
and experienced himself, and only wanted to live in peace and work
at the hospital, where he became the head physician. I had to learn
to organize my life under the circumstances, which was normal for
a high-school student in East Germany. We were under permanent
pressure to improve grades in order to be admitted to further
professional training; we had to compensate for not belonging to
the privileged working class. These efforts inevitably included
lip service to the prevailing ideology. It is not without a feeling
of shame today that I reread the essays I wrote on the worldwide
peace movement against US imperialism and its West German
accomplice. We had to write this, tongue in cheek, knowing that all
this was propaganda, perhaps not without factual foundation, but
anyway blind to the sins of our own camp.
We studied Marxism-Leninism at high school and university.
We reproduced the basic tenets of this partly philosophical, partly
socio-economic world-view. But there was always a hidden thought
at the back of ones mind: They say that . . . Marxist philosophy was
a criticism of everything except of itself. Likewise, any critique of
political economy of socialism was prohibited, or allowed only in a
subservient mode, called constructive. All this marked the fallout
from dialectical to dogmatic materialism. What remained of a one-
time intellectual adventure was only hollow formalism. Until well
into our mature intellectual and professional lives we had to rattle
the castanets, and nearly everyone did it with a bored expression
on their faces.
I have early reminiscences relating to Russia as a child, in those
rst years after 1945. The rst recollection is from early 1945, when
a stream of refugees passed through northern Bohemia, where I
lived with my mother and sister in the house of my grandparents.
Supervision and Abdication 193

Nearly every night we had people as guests for the night, who then
headed westwards. Once there was a boy, somewhat older than me
and therefore condescending, who told me pompously that they
were eeing from the Bolshevists, who would rape all the women.
It was the rst time I had heard the word Bolshevists and did not
know what raping was, but his description lled me with a deep
horror. Months later the impression I got was exactly the opposite.
It was after my father had been released from the army medical
corps, returned home and opened his practice. His consulting
room was inside our apartment. Patients used to wait in the hall.
I once saw a Russian ofcer there together with a gure under
a blanket. The ofcer was the interpreter, and when my mother
who helped as receptionist asked him why his comrade was hiding
under the blanket, the ofcer said, Hes got venereal disease hes
so ashamed. A rapists being ashamed a paradox!
Another incident, Mother stood and I stood in a long queue
outside the bakery awaiting the bread delivery when a Russian
Army patrol came past and approached a child sitting sideways in
a pram. The queue froze with fear. One of the soldiers, however,
tenderly stroked the childs hair and asked him with amiable
naivety (I can still hear it): Nu kak tebia zvat, milyi moi, Vitiok shto-
li? (He perhaps had a son by the name of Vitalii at home). The
queue relaxed and smiled not all Russians were as bad as their
reputation. However, some time later, a squad came into our home
and arrested my grandfather (who was seventy-ve) and took him
to a camp in Siberia. The reason for this is to this day unknown. He
died in the camp some time later of typhoid. An aunt of mine living
a few streets away was brutally raped and some months later gave
premature birth to a girl, who was severely handicapped and died as
a child. By contrast, months later again, when as a schoolboy I was a
passionate chess player, the teacher took our chess group to a match
with a soldiers team at the Soviet garrisons headquarters near the
town; we played in a tournament and were spoilt with candies.
Another more lasting inuence than these early recollections were
the regular visits to our at of a pensioner, a very old man, who had
lived a long time in Russia even before the revolution of 1917, and
kept an unbelievable number of boxes with index cards of Russian
words and Russian grammar. He liked to invite children and play
fascinating quiz shows, with Russian riddles, songs and sketches,
which I can still recall today. For me this made an early and deep
imprint of the Russian language and literature, and it shielded me
194 Jens Reich

against the absolutely listless dislike of the Russian language that

prevailed at school, where Russian was soon to become our rst
and only foreign language.
These are my early impressions of the Soviet Union and so they
remain very ambivalent. Brutal enemies and nice friends at the
same time. Stalin as a symbol of terror, later on Brezhnev as a
symbol of utter stagnation, and nally Gorbachev as the saviour.
Tanks mercilessly crushing the uprising of June 1953, and in 1992
friendly Russian military units waving goodbye to Germany, where
a million of them had camped for more than forty years.
Following the advice of my father, I chose medicine as my pro-
fession. He said that this is something where one can do satisfying
work and remain a decent person, at least more so than if one went
into humanities. Ideology is an outside etiquette when you give a
patient an injection, but it is the deep foundation of your activity
when you translate belles-lettres. As a doctor you have to just close
your inner ear and pay lip service, but as an intellectual you have to
listen attentively and lie. To this day I still have doubts whether this
was the right strategy. At least by the late 1970s it became obsolete
and tended towards intellectual cowardice.
What I have described is the outline of a typical intellectual bio-
graphy of somebody living outside of the ruling nomenclature
in the German Democratic Republic. This was of course not the
only possible type of biography, as there were others who identied
themselves with the political system, learned to believe in nearly
every political or ideological tenet, and had therefore a broader
range of choice of activity and future profession. And there was
also a third group, probably the most numerous one, which chose
neither to believe nor to disbelieve. They chose to lead a simple life,
respecting the powers that be, mastering the problems of everyday
life. However, conicts of decision with such an attitude could
arise when the system demanded more than just silent tolerance
when they were invited, for instance, to become an ofcer of
the Volksarmee, an army whose strategic goal was to occupy West
Germany if the opportunity should arise. Or, more seriously, the
decision to shoot into the air (accepting punishment afterwards)
or to shoot at a Grenzverletzer (violator of the border), when one was
only a conscripted soldier, called up to defend the fatherland of
socialism at its western border.
According to my experience these general types of intellect-
ual conicts and biographies were similar in all East European
Supervision and Abdication 195

countries. It made a difference, however, whether or not a country

was a historically stable nation. Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria and
Hungary were established nations. East Germany was not. Neither
were, as it turned out after 1990, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.
This made a considerable difference in terms of intellectual
education. Young people in a stable nation state sought a position,
in terms of their country, to bring it forward as a socialist state or
to liberate it from occupation (even those who were not occupied
in a literal sense). People of my age from, say Hungary or Poland,
irradiated an air of rm natural identity with their own country. I
used to feel slightly uncomfortable in their presence with my split
attitude towards my own nation, aware of their unspoken contempt
for this miserable specimen of Germany called GDR. I felt this,
but it would have been useless to say it. You just were East German,
irrespective of whether you distanced yourself from it or not. In
particular people from my profession (biomedicine) displayed an
attitude of slight condescension towards us East Germans. They
could overcompensate the relatively miserable state of their uni-
versities and research laboratories by applying for and getting
grants and working trips to the West. East Germany, as a rule,
did not allow us to accept such offers, only a politically reliable
minority, the so-called Reisekader (with travel passport). I think it is
justied when I generalize by saying for adherents of the ruling class
as well as those in more or less outspoken opposition, irrespective
of age and educational status, there was a perceptible climate of
mutual uneasiness between East Germans and the neighbouring
inhabitants of the socialist camp. I am convinced that this un-
easiness has not disappeared with the epochal change of 1990.
For young people in states without a stable national identity there
were more options, as it were, than being patriotic and against or
in favour of the ruling class. East Germans could aspire towards
reunication of their nation, or could reject this as a hostile takeover
by the West. Both contradictory attitudes have been cemented by
the events of 1989 and what followed. Nowadays one can easily
nd among young students at Humboldt University in Berlin those
displaying an ostisch (Eastern) attitude, with nostalgic memories
of a period that they only know from hearsay, in deance of the
other very outspoken unied, Western- style, liberal students at
the same seminar.
Young people in Yugoslavia were still more complicated in their
national allegiance. They had the choice to develop a Yugoslav
196 Jens Reich

identity, or a national feeling below that federation, maintaining

Slovenia, Serbia or Croatia, against Titos nation. Or they might
defend this federal solution. In some cases there were other
cultural conicts in parallel or beyond the national problem,
religious tradition for instance. Religion was certainly less of an
issue for most young East Germans, as this country, if anything
other than godless, was loosely secularized Protestant. Relations
between the few Catholic GDR citizens and Catholic Poles tended
to be again somewhat strained by a very different tradition and
historic memory.
A third dividing line was the historical fate of the state where we
lived. Young people from East Germany had to somehow come to
terms with Germanys role in the world wars of the twentieth century,
the German occupations of other countries, the annihilation of
their peoples and the extermination of European Jews. The three
options here were: to accept all this as a horrible legacy for which
one, even if obviously innocent as an individual, had to bear
liability; to deny it by saying that anti-fascist resistance of ones
parents also included oneself as the victors of history; or again
indifference towards the historical past. Young people in other East
European communist countries had it easier if their countries had
been victims, as Poland had. It was more complicated if they had
cooperated with Nazi Germany in some way or other, like Hungary
or Rumania.
All these cultural features allowed for modication of the basic
intellectual set-up and for a rich panel of cultural identities. Of
course, this is still a rough classication. But in my experience, it
served us well if you happened to meet somebody from one of those
countries and found yourself in a discussion about fundamental
convictions and opinions.
The Soviet Union was an exception. The majority of educated
ethnic Russians cultivated a feeling of belonging to a colonial empire
with a mission to civilize, not unlike Britons in the nineteenth
century. They used to display an air of superiority over the score
of nationalities which had already belonged to the empire for cent-
uries. And they tended to extend this feeling also to the third-world
countries under Soviet inuence or hegemony, and even, though to
a lesser extent, somewhat uncertainly, to the nations newly acquired
after 1945. Their was a clear distinction between nashi (ours) and
the others, in a possessive sense, combined with the conviction that
we help them all (and some are ungrateful). Elements of this were
Supervision and Abdication 197

perceptible even among those ethnic Russians who were sceptical

or critical of the ofcial politics. Doubts in this respect could be
counted as an exceptional attitude of self-denial. I could not but
admire or envy this cultural self-assertiveness, which rested, among
others, on a highly conscious feeling of the immense richness of
the Russian language (which indeed is a prodigy of emotional and
intellectual diversity). This self-assurance was so compact that it
could, rather paradoxically, result in a slightly paternalistic, but
nevertheless appreciative attitude towards the subjugate cultures
of those numerous Uralic, Siberian, Middle-Asian and Trans-
Caucasian nationalities. I think this obvious conviction and self-
image has been deeply hurt by the events that followed the decay
of the empire after 1991 in the countries of the near abroad
(again, difcult to translate this peculiar blizhniaia zagranitsa, being
another expression of a subconscious conviction of who belongs
to us). Millions of ethnic Russians had to take a step back into the
second echelon, where they had once been the masters, and many
others were forced to emigrate back to home and poverty in Russia.
The obvious popularity of Putins policies in the Chechen conict
testies to the deep offence and insult inicted by the loss of the
Only the Jewish community seems to be free of this feeling of
frustration. Deeply Russian in their cultural outlook as they are,
the eternal persecution and oppression of them in Tsarist and
then Stalins times prevented most of them to share that feeling
of colonial dominance. Let me add as an aside at this point (vio-
lating my headline) that as a German who lived in the second
half of the twentieth century I had the rare privilege to meet,
during my working visits in the intellectual and academic research
community of Russia, hundreds of Jews in everyday life and
develop closer friendship with scores of them. We could live with
them, completely at ease, without boot-licking philo-Semitism or
deploring anti-Semitism, without this permanent mutual mistrust
against exaggerated esteem that nowadays (after the Nazi crimes)
makes the mutual attitude of Germans and Jews (Israelis) so stiff
and inhibited. Jews are a peculiar brand in Russia (or should I
say, they were?) after centuries of persecution and compressed
isolation, those Ashkenazim of the East, many of them (but not all)
charming in their vivid sense of humour and intelligence.
The Greater-Russian paternalistic cultural attitude towards the
neighbouring cultures did not always work. I have not only the
198 Jens Reich

proud Caucasian peoples in mind, who were never subdued. I

include the East Europeans, Balkans and Baltics, Poles, Czechs
and Hungarians who managed to shake off the hated supremacy
at the historical moment of glasnost and perestroika, when the
Soviet Union appeared to be prepared to grant liberty and a new
possibility of living together with equal rights.
The failure of the Russian culture to make a lasting impression
on her subject nations and ethnicities was obvious long before the
actual collapse of the empire. The most striking testimony to this
is the refusal of the subjects to adopt Russian as the language of
trafc and cultural exchange. About 10 million East Germans now
between the ages of thirty and sixty-ve have received ve years of
intensive school instruction in Russian. About half of these, when
receiving some form of higher education, had ten to twelve years
of teaching, but you will have difculty to nd anybody (outside
the former nomenclature or those with some special intellectual
leaning or education) who can say at least a few words in Russian or
read a few lines on a poster. The absence of the Russian language
in the public sphere of the former Eastern bloc is a remarkable
example of negative achievement, and I hasten to add that I think
it is neither a political nor cultural obstruction alone that produced
this result after two generations that have been instructed three
times a week. East Germans in particular, by contrast to most of the
other peoples, were not particularly hostile against Russians. They
even appreciated Russian cultural events such as music and circus,
and accepted somewhat ironically the party-ofcial nickname the
Friends. I know of incidences where the rural population fed
the poor starved soldiers of the Soviet occupational army as they
begged for food at the barb-wired garrison fences. I rather tend
to think that didactic incompetence played a role here, combined
with political propaganda imbued even in the elementary stage of
learning the foreign language. At any rate, the Soviet Union is an
empire that did not exert lasting cultural inuence in her satellite
A stark contrast to the German phenomenon of not being able
to speak a word in Russian are the peoples who actively refuse
Russian for antipathetic reasons even though they understand
and even could speak it well enough. An example: we are close
friends with a family in Warsaw. We always had our most joyful
conversations in Russian because they learned idiomatic Russian
by being deported for more than a decade to Kazakhstan when
Supervision and Abdication 199

Stalin annexed Eastern Poland in 1939. And yet our friend Michal
repeatedly asked me to speak English if we were together on public
transport. He felt uneasy speaking Russian, as the anti-Russian
sentiment was (and is) so widespread in his country and in Eastern
Europe in general. It sometimes borders on the ridiculous. I
remember a visit in Lithuania in the 1990s when I was invited to
a very joyous festivity of Baltic (Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian)
universities, with wonderful costumes, brilliant vocal music and
the merry dances of the students. Those nations speak completely
different languages and young students as well as the dignitaries
addressed each other through the microphones in clumsy English,
although I am convinced that nearly all of them would have
understood Russian and could speak it uently, if not idiomatically
correct. Still more astonishing is the adamant refusal to speak
Russian in certain regions of mid-Asia or Trans-Caucasus. Stalin
forced the Cyrillic script on them (after Lenin, who introduced
the Latin alphabet) so that only specialists can now read the old
books and documents written in Persian or Arabic letters. Now the
new generation eagerly discards the Cyrillic script as well, and this
has the consequence that they have to start again. Many years ago
I visited the university library of Ulan-Bator in Outer Mongolia. It
consisted of thousands of volumes of Russian scientic literature
and of countless textbooks and review journals translated from the
English into Russian (the famous referativnye zhurnaly). Within a few
years nobody will be able to read modern technology in Cyrillic.
And for a long time they will not have the vital information in
their own new language, and hardly have enough money to buy
literature in English. Hopefully the Internet will be able help them,
but the renunciation of Russian seems to be irreversible.
It is sometimes asserted that the GDR period brought a renewed
close relationship between the Russian and German cultures. I
think this is a myth. There are certain intellectual circles that had
intimate connections, for instance several prominent writers. But
this was against backdrop of mutual non-awareness. The best Soviet
lms were shown and acknowledged over the years, but without
making a really lasting impression on what was produced at the
same time in Poland, Hungary or GDR (except perhaps in certain
intellectual circles I mean the lms by Tarkovskii, Riazanov,
Mikhalkov and others). The Russian avant-garde from pre-Stalinist
times was a historical phenomenon, and was not presented in the
ofcial representation of culture. Still more insignicant was the
200 Jens Reich

inuence of the near West (from the viewpoint of the Soviet

block) on Russian culture. Taking Germany as an example, the
Russian theatre community remained unimpressed within their
antiquated Stanislavskii-Meierkhold tradition at a time when
during the late 1950s East Germany, very paradoxically, hosted the
world-renowned avant-garde theatre of the time: Bertolt Brechts
revolutionary theatre style was scarcely noticed or known in the
Soviet Union. The famous modernized rendering of Chekhov and
Gorkii at the West Berlin Schaubhne was only known in Moscow in
the 1990s when it was already long gone in Germany. Until the late
1980s modern German literature ended, for the average educated
Russian, with Heinrich Bll and Erich Maria Remarque; even
Thomas Mann was hardly read, and neither was Gnter Grass. The
young West German moviemakers of the 1970s were not admitted
into the Soviet Union by the authorities and were hence known at
best to the few Reisekader of the cultural establishment. The Frankfurt
school of philosopher-sociologists, Theodor Adorno in particular,
were unknown to all the Russian intellectuals I have met over the
years. The world-famous artist and painters schools originating in
Dresden and Leipzig (before some emigrated to the West) failed
to exert any inuence on Russia. The numerous brilliant Soviet
performers of classical music were highly appreciated in East
Germany, but the special East German performance culture of
baroque music (Bach, Handel etc.) was not appreciated in Moscow.
I can add many more examples of mutual non-attention and could
provide similar ones from the other Eastern bloc countries. I blame
neither the Russians nor ourselves for this lack of mutual interest,
for each culture is indeed free to adopt whatever it nds suitable
from another one. I just wish to point out that the intimate political
and economic connection of East Germany and Russia did not bear
fruit in the cultural sphere. And I think one can say much the same
for the other East-European countries. The ofcially prescribed
exchange among the brother nations was not sufcient to create
a spontaneous nearness and mutual acknowledgement as it did
during the nineteenth century.
To my mind this cultural alienation among the East European
peoples, not only in their attitude towards the Russians but also
mutually, explains why we became so foreign to each other after the
end of that period. Once again taking East Germany as example, in
principle we had enough people who were professionally close to
the Soviet Union. We had tens of thousands who graduated each
Supervision and Abdication 201

year or became doctors in the Soviet Union. Moscows Lomonosov

University ranked perhaps three or four in popularity for GDR
students. There are hundred of thousands of East Germans who
lived in the Soviet Union and in other Socialist countries, learnt
their languages, married, and travelled widely in the Balkans, in
Poland, or in the Soviet Union. Nevertheless I was compelled to
feel regret when witnessing the complete overnight severance of
all this after 1990. I am no exception, of course. My professional
obligation necessitated a complete switch from Russian to English,
from Russia to Western Europe and the US. Most of my friends at
the institutions of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, and the Soviet
universities, are now in America or Western Europe, or if they did
not manage this now live very modestly if not miserably in their
It appears to me to be a precondition of close cultural exchange
between two nations that a relationship of mutual affection should
develop, slightly mockingly, towards each other a type of attitude
that the Italians and Austrians have now adopted, after centuries
of enmity. Such an emotion never developed in the Eastern bloc,
neither towards the centre nor among themselves, during half
a century (sometimes more) of living together in the camp.
Whenever I meet people with affection towards the culture of
Russia or of other Eastern countries they usually are from the West,
although (or because) they have much less shared experience
with these cultures. Perhaps it is the distance that makes it easier
to come together, without all those prejudices in mind that have
been formed during the period under the Empire. There is a
stark contrast of how the one-time colonial powers (Britain and
France for example), after all atrocities and arrogance of colonial
history, could remain cultural centres in intensive contact with
their former subjugates, whereas the Russian Empire disintegrated
with all her underlings vehemently trying to disown each other. I
state this with regret, despite having done exactly the same myself.
Perhaps a future generation will do better.
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German-Russian Relations in
the Early Twenty-rst Century.
Some Reections on Normalcy

Before addressing the topic of Russian-German relations

directly, some context is necessary. If we take these bilateral relations
as our object of interest, i.e. our dependent variable, we have to look
for factors dening and shaping them. In this case, I see basically
three groups of factors: the global context; the specic fabric of
Germanys external relations; and the structure of Russias foreign
policy. I will examine them in this order before nally addressing
the bilateral dimension.

The Global Context

The rst aspect is the general context of global politics.

We are living in an environment which is new in many ways. We are
living in a post-Westphalian, but also in a post-cold war world. In
a sense, the post-9/11 landscape reinforces, rather than produces,
these new features.
Westphalian and cold war language still dominates most private
and public discourses on global and world politics. But it is no longer
linked to a context that can be sufciently described in these terms
because the macro structure has undergone signicant changes.
The Westphalian political system is no longer in place, even though
its formal relics nation states are still around and active. The
binary cold war system has crumbled or has been overcome.
States and governments do not control many processes of global
politics any more. The basic activities are represented and may

204 Klaus Segbers

be described as ows (of capital, communication, entertainment,

images, goods and services, people) rather than as organized ex-
changes. The container state is still around, but the containers
have lost many or most of their black-box attributes. There are
multiple processes going on inside the domestic sphere, increas-
ingly blurring the boundaries to the external world. There are
many linkages between internal activities and the outside, often
bypassing national governments.
Moreover, the currency of politics has changed. Military power
still matters sometimes as has been demonstrated most recently
by the US-led campaign against Iraq in 2003 and by the measures
imposed on Yugoslavia by the West in the 1990s. Nevertheless,
this is hardly an appropriate, and certainly not the only tool to
achieve the main players goals in global times. The armed forces
of the only remaining classical world power, the US, can still
alone or with allies inict considerable harm on one or two
state adversaries and thereby deny them certain options: Saddam
Hussein was forced out of Kuwait and, in the second round, out
of power, similar to Milosevic who was forced out of Kosovo and
subsequently out of power. But this is no guarantee for positive
solutions, i.e. for effective and sustainable reconstruction, as both
cases aptly demonstrate. In the Middle East, the US has not been
and is not able to enforce an acceptable and durable solution. The
currency of military power, when applied to a very complex world,
cannot produce adequate outcomes.
In this new context, transnational capital ows are more relevant
than national budgets; transnational cultural images and discourses
are challenging national identities; strategies of access and denial,
of inclusion and exclusion are more decisive than guarding national
borders. In such an environment, a new cartography of power and
access is urgently required in order to overcome the old standards
of mapping. New tools for spreading inuence and for dominating
the nodes of webs and networks are emerging. The nodes and hubs
of ows, cascades of power tools, new centralities in patchworks are
at least as important as conquering the capitals of states. Stalins
well-known question about the number of the Popes divisions
looks outdated. What matters today is the inuence in, and over,
rating agencies, content producers and images.
Shown below is a list of six attributes of global politics which are
characteristic of the new inter- and transnational context after the
Westphalian and the cold war systems:
German-Russian Relations 205

1. The game of global politics is a multilevel game. Relevant

actions, interactions, and ows take place and have effects on
different levels at the same time: the global, the international,
the transnational, the national, the regional, the societal and
the individual. This complicates the problem of intentionality.
The likelihood of unintended consequences of an action on
one level is multiplied by the linkages between many levels. In
addition, the levels cannot be isolated from one another.
2. Many more relevant actors are involved in global politics than
in international politics at any time before in the last hundred,
fty or even fteen years. These actors are related to the spheres
of the state, the market and the social and societal context.
Important cleavages are public v. private, and state v. non-state.
Who are the relevant players? States still play an important role
as regulators, and especially as the target for public expectations.
But this role is diminishing and changing. State actors have to
locate themselves in a colourful picture containing many other
players. Additionally, there are international organizations,
international regimes, transnational corporations, NGOs,
regional players (supra- and sub-state), the media, domestic
structures and interests, and individuals from George W.
Bush and Bill Gates to Jrg Haider and Mohammed Atta. Or
Mother Theresa.
3. While the playground of world politics is becoming much more
colourful, the relative strength of different groups of players
is shifting depending on the game and on the availability
of hard and soft resources. The decisive power currencies of
all kinds of players are much more diverse than merely seeing
the military as the core element of hard power. Asymmetries
between the diverse players can be extreme the relations
between Al Qaeda und the US or between Falun Gong and the
Chinese authorities are just two examples.
4. There are no clearly delineated boundaries between the
domestic and the external spheres of politics any more. The
global environment can have a decisive impact on domestic
constellations. Domestic structures and coalitions produce
significant changes in the transnational landscape. Even
rather sophisticated concepts like second image reversed, two-
level games and the internationalization of domestic politics
look slightly outdated today. To put it bluntly: the problem is
not so much one of linkages between the domestic and the
206 Klaus Segbers

international spheres, but rather the vanishing of the markers

between those realms.
5. The nature of interactions is increasingly difcult to monitor,
to control and to govern. Diplomats may talk about many
things, but their impact on capital markets is limited to say
the least. The impact of satellites transmitting content into dif-
ferent cultural settings can rarely be predicted and is difcult
to regulate. Many capital and content ows are difcult to
organize and cannot be regulated effectively at least not by
the traditional instruments and strategies inherited from the
Westphalian and cold war settings.
6. The very concept of regulating and controlling processes
and developments is in crisis. Regulation requires a clear con-
ception of the relevant players interests and resources, viable
mechanisms for monitoring, sufcient funding, tools for
impacting on the players involved, and incentives for relevant
players to accept governance mechanisms. First and foremost,
however, it requires a clear stipulation of what should be reg-
ulated and how it should be regulated. There is much talk
about global governance but very limited clarity about how this
should be done.

In reality, we have a patchwork of parallel, co-existing and com-

peting norms, tools and systems of governance. The very term
governance is in crisis. What is needed is fresh thinking about
new concepts which are more appropriate for the early twenty-rst
century concepts of moderating and of navigating. To moderate
processes does not mean to change their direction, but to inuence
the intensity and the pace of their development. To navigate trends
and currents is even less of an engineering concept: here one just
tries to move in or among the currents of processes, the sources
and driving forces of which are beyond anyones control.
One could add that the very style of doing politics is itself chang-
ing. The increasing mediatization of political agendas, in the form
of info- and poli-tainment, and permanent election campaigns
under intense media scrutiny, is producing a growing legitimacy gap
between citizens/voters expectations and the ability of politicians
to produce acceptable outcomes. Additionally, ad-hocism is
becoming the dominant mode of politics, i.e. the consistency of
politics is decreasing.
German-Russian Relations 207

This list gives a brief impression of what is new in global politics,

compared to both the Westphalian and the cold war systems. The
new qualities of these attributes have not been designed and did
not come to bear in 1989 or 1991, or in 2001. But those years and
the events related to them symbolize the changing currents at a
deeper level.
My basic prediction is that these new attributes will be present
for quite some time certainly beyond 2010. We should not expect
any player or institution to restore some sort of higher order in the
game of global politics. The world is not unilateral or neo-imperial
whatever degree of military powers the US may reach. It is also
obviously not a UN-regulated world either. We have to live in, and
cope with, this kind of an insecure environment, at least for the
coming decades.

Germanys Foreign Relations: Factors and Patterns

The second of the dening factors is Germanys external

relations. Several aspects are relevant here. First, Germanys post-
war development was decisively on the side of strengthening
and expanding civilian elements of modernization. Most of the
investment and energy from state and from private sources focused
on technology, and on economic and social improvement. Military
aspects were, if not quite neglected, never the centre of attention.
This was, of course, partly due to constraints imposed by the Allies
after the Second World War. But it was also because there was a
fairly broad domestic consensus for this pattern of development.
Later, the term Zivilmacht was coined for this.
Second, there was a specic policy style developed by economic,
social and political actors for doing politics: corporatism. Compared
to other European countries, Germanys post-war development
was remarkably consensual, despite the fact that there were serious
economic and social adaptations to be implemented. The coal, steel
and ship industries declined. Despite substantial state subsidies to
assist these industries to adapt to changing technologies and market
opportunities, they eventually crumbled. Even so, there were few
mass protests and little social unrest directed at these changes.
The reason for this was corporatism. In tripartite negotiations, the
government, trade unions and industrialists associations nally
arrived at mutually acceptable solutions and carried them out. This
208 Klaus Segbers

was the core of the so-called Modell Deutschland (German model),

providing the formula for successful post-war development.
Third, there was a high degree of dependency on imported energy
resources, which has been a constant factor. The competitiveness
of the German coal industry decreased in the 1960s and 1970s.
The rst serious move of OPEC in the early 1970s made it clear
to everyone how dependent Germany was on importing oil and
gas. For the rst time, the country of the Autobahnen had empty
highways, because of the energy crisis.
Currently, Germany has to import 78 per cent of its energy
resources, a signicant amount: 98 per cent of all mineral oil
resources are imported, 82 per cent of natural gas, and 55 per cent
of coal (see Figure 1).
Fourthly, Germany distinguishes itself through the signicant
role of societal actors. This is especially true regarding the role of
the German regions, the Bundeslaender. All of them have their own
representation in Brussels, many of them in other countries too, as
far as away Asia. Also, the role of all kinds of NGOs in generating
and maintaining transnational activities and links is important.




Mineral Oil Natural Gas Coal

Figure 1. Germanys energy resources, 78% of which are imported. Source:

Verbundnetz Gas AG, 2003
German-Russian Relations 209

The fth and nal factor is the role of history. For decades,
historical legacies connected to the inter-war years and the Second
World War constituted signicant constraints formal and informal
on Germanys sovereignty and on actual foreign protocol. This
limitation was lifted only by the 4 plus 2 treaty in 1990.
But in the period before, and especially after, reunication, these
limits have been gradually disappearing. Germany is politically
sovereign though of course economically shaped by globalization
as are all other global actors. The consequences of German reun-
ication, feared by many, could almost be disregarded. No new
assertiveness has developed. While the country is still deeply
embroiled in domestic problems, partly related to reunication,
but also to demographic developments and to embedded social
brakes hampering adjustment to changing conditions, the actual
foreign policy turned out to be surprisingly pragmatic. This is a
case where the notorious word normalization really makes sense.
These ve factors and conditions produce a foreign policy
which is bound to be integrationist and institutionalist. Zivilmacht
corporatism the logic of being a trading state, the relevance of
non-state players and the consequences of reunication all point
in the same direction: it is real, and legitimate, to have particular
German interests. But they will be pursued primarily by working
in and through European and other institutions. In this regard,
it is not easy to identify Germanys specic concerns. Germanys
foreign policies are pretty much European.
Nevertheless, it is possible to attempt to list the relevant German
interests. First, and by far the most important, are European issues:
institutional reforms, enlargement embedded in a new institutional
setting, the stability pact although, even now, Germany is violating
it for the third year in a row. And managing and regulating migra-
tion, as an important all-European issue.
Second, and due to more or less common demographic trends
and to globalization, social systems health, pensions, and taxes
have to be reformed and adapted efciently, preferably in a
European context, to avoid intra-European competition (the race
to the bottom).
Third, the undeniable global role of the US has to be set into a
web of global institutions. This is not directed against US interests
per se. It is the result of Germanys positive experiences with rules
and institutions. And it is also a strategy of safeguarding against the
unilateral execution of dubious policies resting on unfounded and
unconrmed assumptions.
210 Klaus Segbers

Russias Foreign Policy: Shaping Factors

The Russian Federations (RF) external politics in gen-

eral and external behaviour in particular, are dependent on two
groups of factors: transformation, i.e. the accelerated systemic
changes that started in the mid-1980s; and globalization with all
its implications. While there are many issues that can be and are
disputed in detail, there can hardly be serious doubt that these
variables precluded a consistent Russian foreign policy (the same
goes for domestic politics, of course). In the natural absence of
coherent national interests though not of groups and people
claiming to represent them we have to talk about the external
behaviour of many regional, economic and bureaucratic groups
rather than of a foreign policy of the state.
The single most important link to the outside world has long
been energy. While oil and gas are indispensable for domestic
economic development and social stability, they also provide an
overwhelming part of the hard currency income for the exporting
companies as well as for the state budget. Only with these revenues
was it possible in the period after the nancial crash in 1998 to
largely overcome the notorious virtual economy. Also, the growing
middle class proted from the energy-dependent economy, in
addition to income from Western aid programs and NGO support.
At the same time, the high degree of dependency on energy exports
made the country vulnerable for the volatile developments of the
world energy markets.
In any case, the linkages between the RF and the global economy
became even stronger. This remains one of the most important
reasons for the fact that an isolated development of Russia is no
longer possible.
Furthermore, Russias external behaviour is embedded in a dom-
estic context. It cannot be understood or explained without that.
Here, several developments are relevant. First of all, compared to
the early and mid-1990s, most of the relevant players now dene
their preferences differently. Instead of looking only for short-
term advantages, they see their prosperity depending much more
on medium- and long-term calculations and developments. Time
horizons have become much longer, a process also encountered
in other regions and historic precedents undergoing rapid and
sometimes violent transformation. Those shifting interests are what
the late economist Mancur Olson has described and predicted
as the conversion of roving into stationary bandits.
German-Russian Relations 211

Only when, and if, this conversion takes place possibly the most
important variable of transformations can one expect that reliable
forms of cooperation will appear, and that conditions will be ripe
for a relative increase in stability. No formal institutionalization for
a state based on the rule of law (Rechtsstaat) is conceivable with
short time horizons.
The result is, among other outcomes, an increasing degree of
saturation in most of the important groups of the business and
political elites. These groups are, in turn, becoming rather inter-
ested in securing in legal terms what they had previously
The visible tendencies toward longer time horizons and toward
stabilization found their expression in something which may be
called a new equilibrium, symbolized by Putin. Here, we dene
Putin rstly as a phenomenon signalling exactly this tendency,
then as a person. This new equilibrium signied by the Putin phen-
omenon produces a visible acceleration of institutional changes.
There was progress in central-federal relations, in the hardening
of budget constraints, in new tax and customs regulations, in the
new land code, and in the introduction of reforms in the banking
sector and the kommunalnoe khoziaistvo. By and large, we may expect
the continuation of institutional changes because they are in the
interests of the relevant political and economic players, and also of
the increasing middle class.
At the same time, these dominant tendencies toward stabiliza-
tion by no means indicate a political, economic and social develop-
ment free of conicts. There are always players who perceive
themselves as being treated unfairly. Unsatised groups are not
silent bystanders. This is especially dangerous when there are
signicant gaps between the political clout and the material base of
players, as is the case with many of the so-called siloviki. The Yukos
affair is a colourful demonstration of this.
So while the general tendency is still directed toward global
integration and internal stabilization, there is no guarantee that
the fragile boat will not be rocked by someone, and that the rocking
could not last for some time.
What does this mean for Russias external behaviour? First of
all, domestic concerns matter most. Foreign issues follow later,
rmly xed on back benches. By far the majority of the rhetoric
regarding the CIS, the integration of former Soviet states, unions
with Belarus and similar dark corners of the failed empire are for
domestic consumption. So they are certainly meaningful, serving
212 Klaus Segbers

the interests of groups speculating with the sentiments of certain

generational groups, but their external relevance is limited. The
same goes for geopolitical machinations, often fuelled by potential
Eurasian, Asian or Chinese alliances and similar myths.
The hard facts are that, after a hard time of hostile rhetoric, the
seemingly irresolvable topic of NATO enlargement was dropped
immediately once the issue was settled in Brussels. Similarly, the
seemingly insoluble topic of Kaliningrads border regimes of the
EU approaching the East has been settled. After 9/11, the Russian
government, hardly known for sympathy towards US hegemonic
ambitions, hastened to declare support for the alliance against
terrorism. There were no objections against the deployment of
US troops in Central Asian countries. During the Iraq crisis, the
Russian position was, on the one hand, rmly institutionalist, but
at the same time, balanced more so than the German position
during the 2002 election campaign. And so goes, and ows, the
story of Russian intransigence.
Still, this does not mean that there are no risks for Russian ex-
ternal relations and, consequently, for the domestic landscape.
Prices on world energy markets are notoriously unstable. Russian
domestic development is highly dependent on these volatile
markets. Political instability in the Balkans, in the Trans-Caucasus
and in Central Asia may have an impact on Russia. The future
external orientation of the US and the tools of that policy are, to
put it mildly, unclear. China is being perceived, at least in Russia,
as a dynamic, vibrant neighbour, even a potential competitor. And
other, sometimes neglected, factors such as the digital/informational
divide are important for domestic developments and transnational
linkages of Russia.

Bilateral Relations

But what does all this mean for Russian-German re-

lations early in the twenty-rst century? These relations are, as I
tried to show above, pretty much shaped and even determined
by factors producing an integrationist, institutionalist, pragmatic
German external policy, and a gradually changing, increasingly
stable Russia. Both countries are primarily inward looking, in terms
of the agendas of their elites and the interests and outlooks of their
German-Russian Relations 213

First of all, and most importantly, there are no signicant bilateral

problems. For the rst time since the Second World War, bilateral
relations are basically cloudless. The issues which are debated tend
to be of a technical nature.
Let us have a brief look at the issues. The topic of the Russian-
Germans has virtually been put to a rest. While the infamous clause
in the German constitution granting citizenship to almost everyone
who can somehow prove that there were German ancestors is still
valid, working procedures have been introduced guaranteeing
that no more than about 100,000 persons per year enter Germany.
This has somewhat reduced the signicance of the mathematical
miracle that the continuing outow of Germans since the early
1990s (up to 200,000 persons a year) did not signicantly reduce
the number of persons declaring themselves German.
The notorious debt question has also been put to rest. The con-
solidation of the Russian state budget, achieved primarily due to
a high income from exporting energy to world markets, provided
enough cash ow to guarantee punctual repayments of debts to
private and state lenders.
The much overplayed issue of Beutekunst reconstitution of art
objects taken away during the Second World War has basically
been stripped of unnecessary symbolic value. This problem can
mostly be solved by following a reasonable tit-for-tat strategy.
So are there no problems at all? Well, almost none. Some tasks
remain, for instance the multilateral ones. Perhaps the most import-
ant task is to combine the implementation of the next round of EU
enlargement with the design of a realistic status for the Russian
Federation. The implementation of the Schengen regime is just
one example of what remains to be done.
Also, the overdue redenition of NATOs mission and the open
question of an independent European security policy identity
cannot be completed without somehow bringing Russia into the
picture (together with Ukraine).
What about the prospects for future bilateral relations? With
regard to politics, there are hardly any highly contested topics to talk
about. The most relevant issues are the conditions for investment
in Russia and, to some extent, the civil society interactions. More
difcult issues like the prospects for Chechnia and the Russian
governments behaviour there, drug trafcking and organized
crime are being mentioned, but they do not block or impede
progress in other elds.
214 Klaus Segbers

What about the economy? Here are some statistics:

German-Russian trade in 2001: 24.8bn (+ 17%)

Germany: Russias most important trade partner beyond the CIS
(10% of Russian exports, 12% of Russian imports).
Germany: 18% of all foreign investment in Russia ($6bn, incl
$1.5bn foreign direct investment). The fth largest investor
after the US, Cyprus, the Netherlands and the UK!
German rms: biggest business community in Moscow (1,173
representations (+30%), 1,352 joint ventures).

Finally, a look at relations between social players and societies is

appropriate. A robust texture of transnational relations is, in global
times, an important condition of a stable and prosperous bilateral
fabric, as are other indicators.
The rst thing that comes to mind here is the by now rather long
history of town-twinning. Similarly, there is an increasing number
of partnerships between professional associations, universities,
institutes, NGOs, and just people. Last but not least, there are
an increasing number of comparatively and regionally qualied
experts on Eastern Europe in Germany. They have something to do
the role of stereotypes is still (too) high, in schools and textbooks,
in the media and in public discourses in general.


All these factors point in the direction of, if not harmo-

nious, then at least conict-free bilateral relations. At the same
time, one should see that the relative importance of Russia in the
German public discourse has been declining, already for some
time. This reects the post-cold war situation, and the less conict-
ridden transformation of Russia since 1998.
In terms of policy recommendations, I would list the following.
Stability remains an important aim of Western policy. In combination
with ongoing institutional reforms, especially in the economic
realm, this is the best that can be expected. The rule of law will
gradually become more relevant, but it cannot be imposed from
abroad. Still, economic and political players should never hesitate
to point out that, and why, arbitrary decisions as apparently in the
Yukos case are detrimental for blooming external relations.
German-Russian Relations 215

Germans and others must learn, and accept, that Germany

does not have a special role in and for Russia and Eastern Europe.
Germanys participation is required, but as part of European
unity. There is no special relationship. Also, democracy cannot
be imported like Swiss cheese. Not because Russians are unable
to practice it, but because internal conditions have to be ripe for
Western-type forms of representation. The same is true for social
capital and for civil society development.
Western policy-makers and societies, and especially the media,
should also be prepared for shifting at least some of their
attention away from the state-to-state level of interaction toward
the transnational, and toward more societal interactions. Finally,
we have to accept and not only for Russia that politics are
increasingly inconsistent. The degree to which decisions can be
implemented in a directed and organized way must be permanently
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Abramov, 63 Bloch, Raisa, 62

Abramovich, Rafail, 57 Blomberg, Werner von, 109, 113
Adorno, Theodor, 200 Boguslavskaia, Ksenia, 65
Aichevald, Iulii, 53, 55 Bll, Heinrich, 200
Albrecht, Georg, 18 Bondi, Sergei, 156
Aldanov, Mark, 64 Botkin, Sergei von, 47, 50
Alexander I, 100 Brauchtisch, Walter von, 109
Alexander II, 32 Brecht, Bertolt, 200
Altman, Natan, 64 Brezhnev, Leonid I., 194
Amburger, 12 Brockdorff-Rantzau, Ulrich Graf,
Julius, 19 102
Aminado, Don, 64 Broido, Eva, 57
Andersch, Alfred, 123 Brutskus, Boris, 53
Arkhangelskii, Alexei P., 63 Bubnov, Nikolai, 23
Arkhipenko, Aleksandr, 64 Bukharin, Nikolai, 112
Arkwright, Sir Richard, 20 Bunin, Ivan, 53
Arnshtam, Aleksandr, 64 Bush, George W., 205
Atta, Mohammed, 205
Avalov-Bermondt, Pavel, 45, 60 Carell, Paul, 123
Averchenko, Arkadii, 64 Carsten, Francis L., 104
Chagall, Marc, 65
Babel, Isaak, 53 Charchoune, Serge, 65
Bach, Johann Sebastian, 200 Chekhov, Anton P., 200
Baedecker, 13 Chelishchev, Pavel, 65
Bakhtin, Mikhail, 3 Chernov, Viktor, 58
Balabin, 63 Chernyi, Sasha, 64
Bansa, 12, 14 Chernyshev, Vasilii V., 150
Bauer, Josef Martin, 123, 124 Chicherin, Georgii, 66
Bazhov, Pavel, 148 Churchill, Sir Winston, 31, 32
Beek, Gottfried zur, 61 Colville, John, 31
Belyi, Andrei, 53, 64, 65 Cuno, Wilhelm, 107
Berdiaev, Nikolai, 53, 66
Bergius, Rudolf, 126 Dahlmann, Dittmar, 2, 3
Beriia, Lavrentii, 90, 138, 139 Dallin, David, 57
Bib, Istvan, 42 Dan, Fedor, 56, 57
Biskupskii, Vasilii, 60, 62 Deist, Wilhelm, 129
Bismarck, Otto von, 32 Dementev, Aleksandr, 148

218 Index

Diagilev, Sergei, 65 Grigorev, Boris, 65

Diakova, Olga, 54 Gromme, E. W., 18
Diederichs, Eugen, 40 Gul, Roman, 61
Dittbender, Walter, 84, 86
Dblin, Alfred, 35 Haider, Jrg, 205
Dostoevskii, 3, 16, 3541 passim, 66 Halder, Franz, 123
Dragomirov, Vladimir, 63 Hammerschmidt, 12
Dubnov, Simon, 61, 62 Handel, Georg Friedrich, 200
Dzhalil, Musa, 13 Hanemann, 19
Harnack, Arved, 40
Ehrenburg, Ilja, 3, 64, 66, 147 Harpe, Josef, 109
Einem, von, 12 Harriman, William Averell, 137
Einstein Hartmann, Wladimir, 153
Albert, 66 Hasse, Otto, 106
Carl, 65 Heckmann, Alexander, 134, 154,
Eisenhower, Dwight D., 127 155
Engels, Frederick, 32, 81 Hermann, 14
Erickson, John, 104 Hillgruber, Andreas, 129
Erpenbeck, Fritz, 81 Hindenburg, Paul von, 113
Esenin, Sergei, 64, 66 Hitler, Adolf, 3, 31, 40, 41, 61, 62,
Evlogii, Bishop, 55 10914 passim, 120, 123, 129,
Ezhov, Nikolai, 90 1346, 146, 153, 165, 166, 191
Hoetzsch, Otto, 33, 40, 52
Frank, Semen, 61 Hoffmann, Heinrich, 136
Friedrich, Hedwig, 23 Hohenzollern, 8
Fritzler, Friedrich, 154, 155 see also Wilhelm II
Fromm, Friedrich, 109 Horowitz, Vladimir, 65
Hussein, Saddam, 204
Gabo, Naum, 65
Iashchenko, Aleksandr, 53
Gates, Bill, 205
Iasinskii, Vsevold, 53
Gershenzon, Mikhail, 64
Ilin, Ivan, 53, 61
Gessen, Iosif V., 50, 53, 54, 58
Iudenich, Nikolai N., 45
Gessen (Hessen), Sergei, 23
Iuzhnii, Iakov, 65
Glatzke, Hans W., 104
Ivanov, Georgii, 64
Glinka, Mikhail, 55
Ivanov, Ivan, 144
Goebbels, Joseph, 41
Gogel, Sergei, 53 Jahn, Peter, 4, 5
Gollwitzer, Helmut, 124 Jkel, Paul, 86
Golovin, 62, 63 Jellinek, Georg, 22
Gorbachev, Mikhail, 128, 194 Jessner, Leopold, 66
Gring, Hermann, 103 Jnger, Ernst, 40, 66
Gorkii, Maksim, 16, 35, 53, 64, 200
Gorlin, Mikhail, 62 Kalantarov, Mikhail, 22
Grass, Gnter, 200 Kalinin, Mikhail, 138
Index 219

Kaminka, Avgust, 53, 58 Kreiter, 63

Kaminskii, Grigori, 79 Krestinskii, Nikolai, 66
Kammhuber, Josef, 110 Krieger, Victor, 5
Kandinskii, Vasilii, 65 Kroner, Richard, 23
Karsavin, Lev, 59 Krdener-Struve, Baron A., 50
Kautsky, Karl, 35 Kulenkampff, 18
Kazem-Bek, Aleksandr, 59 Kusikov, Aleksandr, 64
Keitel, Wilhelm, 109 Kuskova, Elena, 58
Kellermann, Bernhard, 66 Kusonskii, Pavel I., 62
Kerenski, Aleksander, 56, 58
Khludov Lampe, Aleksei von, 62, 63
Aleksei, 17 Landau, Grigorii, 61
Gerasim, 17 Landauer, Gustav, 66
Khodasevich, Vladislav, 53, 64 Laqueur, Walther, 1
Khrushchev, Nikita, 155 Lebedev, Pavel, 107
Kirdetsov, Grigory, 58 Lenin, Vladimir, 21, 38, 81, 199
Kirill Vladimirovich, Grand Prince, Leonov, Leonid, 147
49, 60 Liebknecht, Karl, 61
Kirov, 83 Link, Werner, 109
Kirst, Hans Hellmut, 123 List, Wilhelm, 109
Kistiakovskii, Bogdan, 22, 23 Litvinov, Maksim, 113, 114
Kizevetter, Aleksandr, 53 Lbe, Paul, 66
Kliuchnikov, Iurii, 58 Lomonosov, Mikhail, 21
Knoch, Peter, 174 Ludendorff, Erich, 38, 100
Knoop, 2, 13 Lukianov, Sergei, 58
Andreas, 18, 19 Lunts, Lev, 64
Daniel, 17 Luther, Arthur, 55
Gottfried, 19 Luxemburg, Rosa, 61
Johann, 18
Johann Ludwig, 19 Maiakovskii, Vladimir, 64, 66
Julius, 11, 1719 Maier, Johannes, 154, 155
Baron Ludwig, 1120 passim Mamontov, 20
Theodor, 18 Mandelshtam, Osip, 2, 24
Kobulov, Bogdan Zakharovich, 155 Mann
Koenen, Gerd, 3 Heinrich, 38
Kogan, A.E., 50, 53 Thomas, 3, 31, 34, 379, 65, 200
Kokoshkin, Fedor, 22 Manstein, Erich von, 109
Knig, 12 Marc, Moritz, 1214
Konsalik, Heinz, 1235 Martov, Iulii, 56, 57
Kopelev, Lev, 186 Marx, Karl, 32, 78, 81
Kopp, Viktor, 45 Masing, Johannes, 51
Korbmacher, Heinrich, 154, 155 Matrosov, Alexandr, 136
Kosmodemianskaia, Zoia, 136 Medvedev, 20
Krebs, Hans, 109 Mehlis, Georg, 23
220 Index

Meierkhold, Vsevolod, 200 Pilniak, Boris, 64

Mekhlis, L., 147 Pinkus, Benjamin, 143
Melgunov, Sergei, 54 Pirogov, Nikolai, 21
Meretskov, Kirill, 111 Plocher, Hermann, 110
Merezhkovskii, Dmitrii, 39, 66 Prokopovich, Sergei, 58
Messerschmidt, Manfred, 129 Polgar, Alfred, 65
Mikhalkov, Nikita, 199 Potekhin, Iury, 58
Milch, Erhard, 103 Puni, Ivan, 65
Miliukov, Pavel, 56, 58 Putin, Vladimir, 197, 211
Milosevic, Slobodan, 204
Model, Walter, 109 Radbruch, Gustav, 23
Moeller von der Bruck, Arthur, Radek, Karl, 66, 104, 105
39, 66 Rathenau, Walther, 34, 35, 40, 61
Molotov, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich, Reich
133, 147 Bernhard, 136
Morozov Jens, 6
Savva, 16, 17 Reisner, Larisa, 64
T., 12 Remarque, Erich Maria, 200
Mller, Jakob, 153 Remizov, Aleksei, 64
Mller von Hausen, Ludwig, 40, 61 Riazanov, Eldar, 199
Mussolini, Benito, 39 Rickert, Heinrich, 23
Rockefeller, John D., 20
Nabokov, Vladimir, 4966 passim Romanov, 8, 60
Nansen, Fridtjof, 48 see also Alexander I, Alexander
Nasedkin, Victor, 150 II, Kirill Vladimirovich, Grand
Nemirovich-Danchenko, Vasilii, 64 Duke, Nicholas II, Nikolai
Nicholas II, 60 Nikolaevich, Grand Duke,
Nietzsche, Friedrich, 35, 41 Peter I
Nikolaevskii, Boris, 57 Root, Alexander, 154
Nikolai Markov II, 60 Rosenberg, Alfred, 40, 60, 113,
Nikolai Nikolaevich, 60, 61, 101 120
Nolte, Ernst, 31 Rowohlt, Ernst, 66
Rozengolts, Arkadii, 107
Okorokov, A. D., 169 Ruge, Arnold, 23
Olbricht, Friedrich, 109 Ruperti, Alfred, 15
Olson, Mancur, 210
Osorgin, Mikhail, 64 Savitskii, Petr, 59
Otsup, Nikolai, 64 Sazonov, Sergei, 54
Scherstjanoj, Elke, 5, 6
Palytsin, F.F., 101 Scheubner-Richter, Max von, 60
Pasternak Schickedanz, Arno, 60
Boris, 2, 24, 64 Schiemann, Theodor, 33
Leonid, 61 Schinkel, Karl Friedrich, 53
Peter I, 11 Schleicher, Kurt von, 113
Pevsner, Anton, 65 Schlesinger, Moritz, 45, 52
Index 221

Schliemann, Heinrich, 12 Struin, I., 141

Schlippe, Theodore von, 50 Struve, Petr, 53
Schlgel, Karl, 3, 42 Student, Kurt, 109
Schmidt, Paul, 123 Sukhanov, Nikolai, 54
Schmitt, Carl, 40, 66 Sukhomlinov, Vladimir, 54
Schulenburg, Friedrich Werner Surkov, Aleksej A., 147
Count von der, 87, 88, 114 Svatikov, Sergei, 22
Schulze-Grvenitz, Gerhart von, 20
Schumacher, 14 Taboritskii, Sergei, 60
Seeckt, Hans von, 102, 105, 113 Tarkovskii, Andrei, 199
Segbers, Klaus, 6, 7 Theresa, Mother, 205
Serov, Ivan A., 139 Thorwald, Jrgen, 125
Severianin, Igor, 64 Tikhon, Bishop, 55
Shabelskii-Bork, Petr, 60 Timoshenko, Semyon, 111
Shaposhnikov, Boris, 107, 111 Tischler, Carola, 4
Shchukin, 17 Tito, Josip, 196
Shestov, Lev, 54 Tolstoi
Shkuro, Andrei, 63 Aleksei, 58, 64, 147
Shmelev, Ivan, 64 Lev, 16, 24, 35
Sholokhov, Mikhail, 147 Trautwein, Theodor, 154
Shterenberg, David, 65 Trotzkii, Lev, 41, 61
Shvarts-bostunich, Grigorii, 60 Tsvetavea, Marina, 64
Simmel, Georg, 23 Tukhachevskii, Mikhail, 66, 113,
Simonov, Konstantin, 147 114
Smirnov, S., 50
Sodhi, Kripal Singh, 126 Vinberg, Fedor von, 60, 61
Sokolov-Mikitov, Ivan, 64 Vlasov, Andrei, 47, 63
Soldatenkov, Kozma, 17 Vrangel, Pjotr N., 45, 46, 50, 59
Speidel, Hans, 109 Vysheslavtsev, Boris, 61
Spengler, Oswald, 3, 40, 66
Sperrle, Hugo, 109 Weber
Spies, 12, 13 Alfred, 23
Stadtler, Eduard, 3, 39, 40 Max, 22, 23
Stalin, Iosif Vissarionovich, 4, 31, Weizscker, Richard von, 130
41, 81, 93, 133, 1368, 147, 150, Werner, 145
154, 156, 165, 194, 197, 199, 204 Werth, Alexander, 147
Stanislavskii, Konstantin, 16, 200 Wilhelm, 145
Stepun, Fedor, 23, 63 Wilhelm II, 32
Stieglitz, 12 Williams, R.C., 54
Stolypin, Pjotr A., 33 Windelband, Wilhelm, 23
Strasser, Gregor und Otto, 41 Wogau, von, 2, 1215
Stravinskii, Igor, 65 Karl von, 14
Stresemann, Gustav, 102,103, 105, Wolde, 18
112 Wolf, 126
222 Index

Zaitsev, Boris, 53, 64 Zhivago, Sergei, 23

Zeidler, Manfred, 4, 181 Zinner, Hedda, 81
Zenker, 12, 18 Zinovev, Grigorij, 61
Zernack, Klaus, 2 Zola, Emile, 38