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Raisa Orlova, Memoirs, trans. Samuel Cioran (New York: Random House, 1983), 12“13.
Sheila Fitzpatrick and Alf Ludtke

In Germany, during the Nazi period as well as before and after, the impor-
tance of close family bonds was generally self-evident.36 Most of the time,
therefore, people were not moved to af¬rm their signi¬cance. The exception
occurred in wartime, when soldiers™ letters from the front “ not just in the Ger-
man case, but also in the Soviet and probably that of every other belligerent “
strongly af¬rmed the importance to them of the family tie. Most of the rank
and ¬le had, in fact, encountered the Nazi regime as profamily, at least profam-
ily as a reproductive unit. Interviewees from working-class families emphasize
that marriage and starting a family became viable again from the mid-1930s.
At that time more and more males (but also females) found wage work. They
were reemployed or employed for the ¬rst time since the bleak years of unem-
ployment and depression, not the least in new or expanded centers of industry
such as building of aircrafts, trucks, tanks, and ships, which heavily relied on
the armament program of the Nazi government. Statistical data corroborate
such individual recollections: in the mid-1930s the proportion of the popu-
lation that was married returned to the levels of the prewar period and late
Both Nazi propaganda and social policies heavily stressed the importance
of family for the German Volk and, thus, German empire for its presumed
grandiose future. Still, at least in the short run the result of such pressuring
(accompanied by such social policies as granting ¬nancial support for young
families) was no more than the return to “normality” as far as marriage and
birthrates are concerned.38 In fact, at the same time divorce became somewhat
more common, though the change began prior to 1933. Between 1928 and
1938 there was a steady, moderate increase in the divorce rate, from 58 to
72 per 1,000, but in 1939 it shot up to 89 per 1,000. In agrarian regions
of the country the increase was higher, regardless of confession: Protestant
Mecklenburg and Catholic Bavaria, for instance, did not differ much. Still
this change cannot be taken as an indicator of diminishing wishes, efforts, or,
in particular, concrete practices of bonding as nonlegalized cohabitation.
In the Soviet Union, the importance of family bonds was a more problematic
issue, given the early Soviet rhetoric against the “bourgeois patriarchal family”
(which meant, by extension, the family per se) and its oppression of women and

Gabriele Czarnowski, Das kontrollierte Paar: Ehe- und Sexualpolitik im Nationalsozialismus

(Weinheim: Deutscher Studien Verlag, 1991); Dagmar Herzog, ed., Sexuality and German
Fascism (New York: Berghahn Books, 2004.
See interviews from the Ruhr area, a center of heavy industry, in “Die Jahre weiss man nicht,

wo man die heute hinsetzen soll”: Faschismuserfahrungen im Ruhrgebiet: Lebensgeschichte
und Sozialkultur im Ruhrgebiet 1930 bis 1960, ed. Lutz Niethammer (Berlin and Bonn: Dietz
Verlag, 1983); Landerrat des Amerikanischen Besatzungsgebietes, ed., Statistisches Handbuch
von Deutschland, 1928“1944 (Munich: F. Ehrenwirth, 1949), 47“55.
Cf. Landerrat des Amerikanischen Besatzungsgebiets, ed. Statistisches Handbuch von Deutsch-

land, 1928“1944 (Munich: F. Ehrenwirth, 1949), 47, 63; Statistisches Bundesamt, ed.,
Bevolkerung und Wirtschaft 1872“1972 (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1972) 96; cf. 102“3.
Energizing the Everyday 283

VERA FLEISHER39 grew up in a small town in the Urals, daughter of a priest. “I
was a rather good student, but there was no opportunity to further my education
[in Akhansk]. Our social origins weighed on me and my brothers and sisters like
a stigma. And all of them, one by one, left Akhansk. We had relatives in Perm;
whoever could, settled there. My older brother was studying in the pedagogical
institute. He was in charge of a detskii dom [children™s home] and he wrote to
me: ˜Come. You can ¬nish high school here and then you will be able to continue
your studies.™ So in December 1924, I left Akhansk for Perm.”
Vera completed school and teacher™s college, became a teacher, and married a
doctor. Keeping up contact with her parents was dif¬cult “ “It was like having a
tie with an ˜alien element™” “ but nevertheless she continued to correspond with
them. A few years after her marriage, “I made up my mind to risk going to my
parents, to visit them. A very sorry sight greeted me: Mama was seriously ill. She
was paralyzed. . . . At the time, my little sister . . . wasn™t yet ten. Mama was ¬fty
when she was born. And so my sister, of course, was neglected. You can well
imagine what sort of girl she was “ wild, you could say “ she ran around with
peasant kids.”
At her father™s request, Vera took her sister, Lenochka, home with her. “I
remember when we were on the train, the other passengers asked: ˜Is this girl from
a detskii dom [orphanage] . . . ?™ she was so badly dressed, you know. . . . When
we arrived, the very ¬rst thing I did was to take the girl to a beauty parlor; they
¬xed her up. Then I went to the store and bought her a dress, a coat, shoes. The
girl was transformed. I could show her to my relatives.”
Vera™s father was arrested in 1937 and died shortly thereafter, out of contact
with his family. “Mama™s life turned out to be even more tragic. We couldn™t
be with her. You see, I was expecting my second child. . . . In December 1937,
I received a telegram: ˜Mama has died.™ Here™s what happened: she died in the
arms of that woman who took care of her. She gave birth to and brought up, as
best she could, seven children. Yet she died in the arms of someone else.”

children. 40 Although such rhetoric was ¬rmly dropped by the mid-1930s and
had in any case always been contradicted by Soviet legal and administrative
practice (which made families ¬nancially responsible for the welfare of their
members, until such distant time as the cash-strapped state could assume these
responsibilities), some popular sense persisted that too conspicuous or assertive
insistence on the importance of family could be construed as anti-Soviet. The
regime strongly endorsed the family as a reproductive unit in connection with

Vera Konstantinovna Fleisher, “Daughter of a Village Priest,” in A Revolution of Their Own,

85“100, passim.
On the Soviet family, see Kurt Geiger, The Family in Soviet Russia (Cambridge, MA: Har-

vard University Press, 1968) and Wendy Z. Goldman, Women, the State, and Revolution:
Soviet Family Policy and Social Life, 1917“1936 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
Sheila Fitzpatrick and Alf Ludtke

the ban on abortion, restrictions on divorce, and encouragement of childbearing
of the 1936 law. At the same time, the regime also gave considerable propa-
ganda weight to the Pavlik Morozov story, which in its propaganda (mythical)
version was a morality tale of a son who understood that his duty to the state
was greater than his duty to an erring father and therefore denounced him;
and during the Great Purges of 1937“8,41 there was of¬cial encouragement
for wives and children of arrested “enemies of the people” to repudiate them
We might conclude from all this that while there is little if any reason to
conclude that family bonds were generally weakened in Nazi Germany, such a
conclusion might legitimately be drawn about Stalinist Russia. As it happens,
however, we do have some additional evidence to adduce on attitudes to the
family, namely, the postwar Harvard Interview Project on the Soviet Social
System (Harvard Project), which asked respondents exactly this question, that
is, whether family bonds had grown stronger or weaker after the Revolution.
The majority of respondents in all social classes but the peasantry said they
had grown stronger (citing the importance of mutual support in dif¬cult con-
ditions). A slight majority of peasant respondents said they had grown weaker
but attributed this to the practical circumstance of geographical separation of
family members after collectivization.42
The Soviet case is not so clear-cut because in the 1920s and early 1930s
the state™s acceptance of de facto marriage and the easy availability of divorce
undoubtedly weakened the institution of marriage, although state policy on
this matter was reversed in the mid-1930s. Many couples with long-standing
de facto marriages and children married formally only on the outbreak of
war, to regularize the legal and bene¬ts situation when the man went away
to ¬ght. The Soviet press of the 1930s is full of stories of fathers who had
abandoned their families and were hiding from their wives™ demands for child
support payments (though the point of publishing such stories was to vilify the
delinquent men). At the same time, we have some countervailing evidence from
the 1937 Soviet census, which shows that a very high proportion of all men
identi¬ed themselves as married (this presumably includes de facto marriages).
The proportion was slightly lower for women as a result of war- and upheaval-
related gender imbalance in key age groups: even so, the absolute number of
women declaring themselves married was greater than the absolute number
of men, suggesting that women were more inclined than men to interpret
cohabitation as marriage.43

On the Pavlik Morozov myth, see Catriona Kelly, Comrade Pavlik: The Rise and Fall of a Soviet

Boy Hero (London: Granta Books, 2005).
Alex Inkeles and Raymond Bauer, The Soviet Citizen: Daily Life in a Totalitarian Society (New

York: Athenaeum, 1968), 211“16.
Iu.A. Poliakov et al., eds., Vsesoiuznaia perepis™ naseleniia 1937 g. Kratkie itogi (Moscow:

Akademia nauk SSSR, In-t istorii SSSR, 1991), 82.
Energizing the Everyday 285

Of course, ¬gures like the Soviet ones re¬‚ect only the external side of fam-
ily life. For the internal side, one possible indication of a weakening of bonds
would be a demonstrated propensity of family members to denounce each other
to the authorities. Such “reporting” did happen in Germany “ however, not
only under the Nazi dictatorship. Parental demands that the state assume cus-
tody of an unruly son or daughter regularly occupied Berlin police and welfare
authorities in the 1920s.44 In the early 1920s in the areas of allied occupation
“good Germans” were expected to denounce and, often, harass those who
apparently “collaborated” with the enemy; Communists were encouraged to
report to the Party on “comrades” who might be “traitors,” whether kin or
not.45 Still, people in their semipublic chats in pubs or at coffee tables were
scandalized by such cases when they became known, re¬‚ecting a sense of trans-
gression: the informers had violated the neighborhood™s (or the community™s)
line of respectability and social honor.46 Memoirs and oral recollections con-
¬rm both the durability of bonds revolving around household and family and
their limited impact on individual behavior and attitudes, since they sometimes
feature spouses or siblings engaged on opposite ends of the political spectrum
(for instance, one son being active in the Rote Front Kampferbund before 1933,
while the other was a member of a local SA unit). 47

In the Soviet Union, despite the Pavlik Morozov myth, denunciation of close
family members seems to have been rare in the 1930s, even though the practice
of denunciation in general was ¬‚ourishing.48 We can only speculate on the
reasons for this, but one likely reason is that when the regime punished an
individual “ as a kulak, enemy of the people, or whatever “ it generally directly
punished the whole family or household, and indirectly punished or put at risk
a broader family group (including ex-spouses and children living apart from
the punished person), who could be considered guilty by association. (In the
real-life Pavlik Morozov case, the family was no longer one household because
of a nasty divorce that pitted Pavlik and his mother against his father.) But even
divorce or acrimonious separation did not produce many denunciations in the
1930s, though this was to change after the war, when the 1944 law restricting

Kerstin Kohtz, “Vater und Mutter im Dialog mit der Berliner Jugendfursorge in den 1920er
¨ ¨ ¨

Jahren,” SOWI Sozialwissenschaftliche Informationen 27 (1998): 113“18.
Michael Ruck, Die freien Gewerkschaften im Ruhrkampf 1923 (Cologne: Bund Verlag, 1986);
Gerd Kruger, “Straffreie Selbstjustiz: Offentliche Denunzierungen im Ruhrgebiet 1923“1926,”
SOWI Sozialwissenschaftliche Informationen 27 (1998): 119“25.
Swett, Neighbors and Enemies, 214“31.

See the recollection of Theo Pirker, born 1922 in Munich, about his brothers in Martin Jander,

ed., Theo Pirker uber Theo Pirker (Marburg: SP-Verlag N. Schuren, 1988), 25“7; cf. recollec-
tions from the Ruhr area, especially Alexander von Plato, “Ich bin mit allen gut ausgekommen”
in “Die Jahre weiss man nicht, wo man die heute hinsetzen soll”: Faschismuserfahrungen im
Ruhrgebiet, ed. Lutz Niethammer (Berlin and Bonn: Dietz, 1983), 31“65.
Fitzpatrick, “Signals from Below: Soviet Letters of Denunciation in the 1930s,” in Accusatory

Practices: Denunciation in Modern European History 1789“1989, eds. Sheila Fitzpatrick and
Robert Gellately (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 103“5.
Sheila Fitzpatrick and Alf Ludtke

access to divorce increased the incentive for spouses desiring divorce to blacken
each other™s names.49
During the Great Purges, wives of arrested “enemies of the people” were
sometimes forced to make a public statement repudiating their spouses, and
the same kind of thing happened in some schools with the children. At the same
time, completely opposite practices were much more widespread: for example
spouses and children (and also parents and other relatives) standing in line
to get news of the arrested person and send him (her) parcels and money;
wives petitioning the authorities for their husbands™ release, testifying to their
blameless character. The latter practice was standard procedure for wives, and
so understood by the authorities, who did not take punitive action in response
but treated the requests quite respectfully, even though they were rarely (in
the late 1930s) successful.50 The point here is that the authorities™ response to
wives™ (or mothers™ or children™s or occasionally husbands™) petitions clearly
conveyed an assumption that the existence of such family bonds was natural
and to be expected.
It should be noted that implicit in this whole inquiry is the assumption
that family bonds are sources of support and that any weakening of them
makes individuals mentally vulnerable and prone to loneliness. Yet, families
are not necessarily harmonious but often the source of pain, distress, and
hardship; they may be rent with anger to the point that the family is incapable
of offering support to its members and escape may seem highly desirable.
Such sti¬‚ing family situations have often been discussed in societies facing both
commodi¬cation and individualization of social and cultural relationships (see,
for example, novels and memoirs of bourgeois life, but also the scienti¬c focus
on “nerves” and individual psychology in Britain, France, and Germany in
the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries). In ages of upheaval, we hear
less of them. The “sti¬‚ing family” motif is very rare in Soviet memoirs and
literature and, on the German side, less frequent for the Nazi period than
Where intergeneration family con¬‚ict existed in Nazi Germany or the Soviet
Union, it was relatively easily resolved: given the external forces supporting the


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