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Goebbels, for example, spoke of the “furchtbarste Barbarei” of the Bolshevik “Untermensch”

¨ ¨
(“Die Rede von Goebbels in Nurnberg,” in Ausgewahlte Reden des Fuhrers und seiner Mitar-
beiten, 1937 [Munich and Berlin: Zentralverlag der NSDAP, 1937], 122).
Mutual Perceptions and Projections 423

Here it must be quickly noted that not all coverage of Nazi Germany in the
Soviet press and culture was structured by this binary. Moreover, the binaries
do not of course necessarily have much to do with actualities; they were simply
useful heuristic devices deployed by the two regimes for purposes of agitation.
Nevertheless, the Soviet binary I am adducing here was fundamental to its
image of Nazi Germany. In most of the Soviet press of the 1930s, Nazi Ger-
many was not a major preoccupation (in terms of editorials, lead articles, etc.)
until shortly before the Second World War. The central press was somewhat
parochial and preoccupied largely with such topics as sowing and harvesting
crops, production heroes, and construction projects, as well as the trials and
purges. To be sure there were foreign news bulletins and some commentary
on foreign affairs, both of which provided readers with a sense of the rising
menace of fascism, and that topic became a standard item in speeches by the
Bolshevik leaders. Also, at the show trials, the accused were generally alleged to
be involved in a conspiracy with fascist agents, but most of that was presented
in very general and formulaic terms.
In the press, there were three main kinds of treatment of Nazi Germany.
Firstly, there were news items that tended to minimize Nazism™s rising power
and signi¬cance, recurrently reporting some economic crisis dooming the Nazi
regime and widespread worker dissatisfaction there.81 An even more common
topic was the repressive character of the Nazi regime under such recurring
rubrics as “The Atrocities [zverstva] in Germany” or “Fascist Terror in Ger-
many.” Item after item reported mass arrests, con¬scation of the property
of leftists, beatings, torture, and imprisonment of dissidents in concentration
camps (particularly of communists),82 implicitly dissociating the Soviet Union
from such practices. Such reports periodically proclaimed triumphantly that the
Communist Party of Germany was, despite all, thriving in the underground.83
As in the West, however, much of the venom for representing the Nazis was
reserved for a second category of representation, caricatures, published espe-
cially in Krokodil, but also in places like Pravda. A typical one from Pravda
shows a bloated Nazi in jackboots, with hair protruding through his uniform
over his rear end, suggesting a bestiality that could not be covered up entirely.84
The caricature of the Nazi, that depicted him as sinister or more likely as
subhuman, presents somewhat predictable images. Consequently, our coverage
here does not deal with crude representations of the Nazis such as are found in
Krokodil, but rather with serious, theoretically informed analyses of the Nazi
regime that appeared in the Soviet press and in cultural products. The press
critiques of German fascism that most prominently and thoroughly contest its

E.g., “Golod i nishcheta v fashistskoi Germanii,” Pravda, July 6, 1935.

These two rubrics were actually in Izvestiia. Note: As early as 1933, the Soviet Union published

Hans Beimler, V lagere smerti “ Dakhau: Chetyre nedeli v rukakh korichnevykh banditov
(Moscow: Kooperativnoe izdatel™stvo inostrannykh rabochikh v SSSR, 1933).
E.g., “˜Govorit Krasnaia volna™ . . . Epizod iz germanskogo podpol™ia,” Vecherniaia Moskva, 27

July 1935.
Bor. E¬mov, “Chto napisano perom, to mozhno vyrubit™ toporom!,” Pravda, March 4, 1935.
Katerina Clark and Karl Schlogel

right to claim leadership in Europe were largely written by a fairly small num-
ber of highly cultivated Bolshevik and fellow-traveler intellectuals, most with
some association with the Comintern, a knowledge of German, and familiarity
with German culture “ Karl Radek, at one time head of propaganda in the
Comintern, who frequently published in Pravda or Izvestiia on the subject;
Mikhail Koltsov, the Pravda journalist, Soviet publishing magnate, head of the
Foreign Commission of the Writers Union (after it was founded in 1935),85
and Soviet emissary to the international antifascist movement; the Paris-based
writer Ilya Ehrenburg, likewise a Soviet emissary to the international antifascist
movement and special correspondent for Izvestiia; and Nikolai Bukharin, the
Party leader and from 1934 editor of Izvestiia. As one will recognize, all but
Ehrenburg in this group were purged some time between 1936 and 1938. After
approximately 1937“8 when the Soviet Union became decidedly less interna-
tionalist, the coverage shifted and became less sophisticated (factors bearing on
this shift include the demise of the Popular Front and of the Republican side in
the Spanish Civil War).
Soviet spokesmen were not however the main sources on Nazi Germany in
the press. That role was ful¬lled by Germanophone intellectual refugees from
fascism, some of whom had moved to Soviet Russia while others had relocated
to France, Switzerland, America, and other sites of the diaspora. After March
1933 a (largely pro-Soviet) selection of these exiles contributed many articles
and literary works to such central organs as Pravda, Izvestiia, Literaturnaia
gazeta, and Koltsov™s Ogonek. These exiles also had outlets in Moscow-based
German language periodicals, the newspaper Deutsche Zentral-Zeitung, and
the journals Internationale Literatur (Deutsche Blatter) and Das Wort (founded
1936), where they published a greater number of critiques and descriptions
of Nazi Germany. Generally the articles that appeared in Russian language
periodicals were translations of this material, often in abbreviated form.86
Additionally, many literary or publicity books by Germanophone authors were
published in translation, in some instances with huge print runs; several of these
texts became very popular with the Soviet reader.
Not surprisingly then, a great deal of overlap existed between the images
of the Soviet Union in the texts of the German and Soviet contributors. The
German texts generally included more speci¬c material on Nazi Germany, but
a relatively common line can be found in both sources.
The Soviet image of Nazi Germany was in large measure created both by
anti-Nazi German intellectuals and by highly sophisticated and cosmopolitan
Soviet intellectuals who associated with them. In that, then, both used a similar
catalogue of clich´ s, making it dif¬cult to ascertain what is speci¬cally Soviet

It is to be noted that the Foreign Commission™s predecessor, MORP (the International Society

of Revolutionary Writers), reported to the Comintern.
Internationale Literatur had a Russian-language version, as well as editions in French, English,

and, later, Spanish and Chinese.
Mutual Perceptions and Projections 425

about any image presented. The two categories of authors cannot in any case be
seen as absolutely distinct in that almost every German refugee in Soviet Russia
was a Communist (only Party members were granted entry, and then not all).
Moreover, before the Nazi takeover German leftist intellectuals were to a large
extent participating in the same ¬eld of discourse as their Soviet counterparts,
particularly those associated with the Comintern. Germans after all invented
Marxism, and German and Russian Marxists had always considered themselves
part of, or rival claimants for, the international Marxist movement. In the late
Weimar period, this Soviet-German discursive ¬eld provided the context for
some of the major Soviet statements on ideology and culture, right down to
Stalin™s canonical letter to Proletarskaia revoliutsiia of December 1931.87 Many
leftist intellectuals in both countries did not at that time regard Soviet culture as
a separate entity and saw themselves as part of a transnational, cosmopolitan,
and leftist culture. Also, as Karl Schlogel has shown in Berlin, Ostbahnhof
Europas, by the early thirties “Red Berlin” was essentially a city within a city,
a complete Communist world with even its own schools, and a world whose
citizens frequently shuttled back and forth to Moscow.88 Karl Radek, one of
the leading Bolshevik commentators on the Nazis, was ¬‚uent in German and
had spent time in Berlin in the early twenties.
The image of Nazi Germany was not, however, created exclusively within the
Communist-cum-Comintern world; several non-Communist German intellec-
tuals who lived in exile outside the Soviet Union were also in¬‚uential formula-
tors of the image of Nazi Germany presented in Soviet Russia. To some extent,
then, the “Soviet” image of Nazi Germany came from the German antifascist
intellectual milieu, though in Soviet versions this image had a marked Bolshevik

from class war to culture war: imagining germany
after the nazi takeover of power
An initial response of the Soviet Communists and their German sympathizers to
the Nazi takeover had been to write it off as a new phase in the development of
the class war. Nazism was represented as the inevitable outcome of capitalism;
by this account, as the bourgeoisie found itself ever more threatened by the
rising proletariat it had to resort to nationalist demagoguery and ever more
repressive means (send in the thugs).89 The Nazis, then, were the agents of big
capital. The underlying motive for their accession to power was seen as a desire
for class revenge against an increasingly uppity proletariat. This position was

I. V. Stalin, O nekotorykh voprosakh istorii bol™shevizma: Pis™mo v redaktsiiu zhurnala

“Proletarskaia revoliutsiia” (Moscow: Moskovskii rabochii, 1931).
Karl Schloegel, Berlin, Ostbahnhof Europas.

E.g., Frits Gekkert, “Chlen TsK kommunisticheskoi partii Germanii, “Chto proiskhodit v

Germanii?” Pravda, 12 April 1933.
Katerina Clark and Karl Schlogel

recurrently advanced in Party rhetoric and sources such as Pravda, but more
elaborated versions were in fact produced by German Communists.90
This analysis in class terms was largely abandoned in the era of the Popular
Front (from approximately 1935), when there was an attempt to set up a
transnational, transclass, and trans-Party bloc of opposition to the fascists.
Increasingly, another of the existing critiques of Nazi Germany, our subject
here, was foregrounded to provide the dominant image both in the literature
of the German exiles and in the of¬cial rhetoric and culture of the Soviet
Union. Ironically, however, this clich´ d contrast between Nazi Germany and
the Soviet Union that informed most Soviet accounts as well as that of the
antifascist emigr´ s could be seen as having been derived from Nazi accounts of
themselves, as well as from their actual practices. In particular, it could be seen
as taking off from points Hitler made in Mein Kampf and the many speeches
he gave both before and after acceding to power.
In both these sources Hitler obsessively identi¬ed the main impediment to
“the spirit of Germany” as what he called “Jewish Bolshevik internationalists.”
As if to con¬rm this, almost all the Soviet spokesmen used in the press to provide
intellectually respectable rejoinders to the Nazis were Jewish, as is true of the
ones listed above, and most of them were also Party members, an exception
being Ehrenburg. A large number of the antifascist German intellectuals who
published in Soviet-sponsored periodicals were also Jewish and, as mentioned,
many were also Communist.
When Hitler condemned “Jewish Bolshevik internationalists,” he typically
did so in the context of their, in his view, disastrous effect on the press and
in publishing. By his account, all too many intellectuals in general, and among
them writers most particularly, were themselves Jews and leftists, had been
published by Jews and leftists, or had been corrupted by the cosmopolitan
outlook of Jews and leftists. As a consequence, the German spirit was sti¬‚ed.
Hitler argued that German culture had to become more “healthy” and even
“primitive,” and for this reason this entire sphere “ the world of written texts “
needed puri¬cation.
But Hitler™s diatribes against written texts were not only on the grounds
of their “Jewish Bolshevik internationalist” bias. In Mein Kampf and else-
where, Hitler argued against the written text as the potential embodiment of
the German spirit, contending that oral utterances were always purer and more
effective than the written.91
Besides oral utterances, Hitler favored visual cultural forms (principally
architecture, and to a lesser extent sculpture, painting, and ¬lm)92 over a

For example, Georg Lukacs, Die Zerstorung der Vernunft. Der Weg des Irrationalismus von

Schelling zu Hitler (Berlin: Aufbau Verlag, 1954); Hans Gunther, Der Herren eigener Geist: Die
Ideologie des Nationalsozialismus (Moscow, Leningrad: Verlagsgenossenschaft auslandischer
Arbeiter in der UdSSR, 1935).
E.g., Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, 525“34.

A quali¬cation has to be made here. As two recent studies have shown (Linda Schulte-Sasse™s

Entertaining the Third Reich: Illusions of Wholeness in Nazi Cinema [Durham, NC: Duke
Mutual Perceptions and Projections 427

text-based verbal culture. In, for example, his “Kultur-Tagung” speech in
Nuremberg of 6 September 1938, he singled out architecture as the form that
most clearly shows how a work of art can “express the general will of the
period.” He pointed to “German architecture, sculpture, painting, drama and
the rest” as “documentary proof of a creative period in art,” “a new awakening
of our cultural life,” and contrasted them with what he dismissed as mere “lit-
erary phrases.”93 Hitler repeatedly juxtaposed the culture of the true German
spirit (to be found in architecture, sculpture, and so forth) with textual culture
that he saw as not only currently corrupted but in any case somewhat jejune. In
consequence, perhaps, written texts assumed not even a remotely comparable
importance in Nazi culture to that which they enjoyed in the Stalinist 1930s.
Hitler saw culture as a subfunction of ethnicity, or what he called “blood,”
a position Bukharin was particularly fond of belittling in his writings on Nazi
Germany. Blood was pronounced higher than the word, especially than the
printed word. Good (German) blood gave a person “inner value,” which in
turn “spoke” through music and the visual.94 Furthermore, Hitler insisted in
a speech in March 1935 in Saarbrucken, “Blood is stronger than all the paper
documents. What ink wrote will one day be blotted out by blood.”95 This is,
of course, an implicit reference to the various international treaties that Hitler
intended to ¬‚out, but its message applied as a general principle.
Hitler also de¬ned Germanness in terms of German blood, or in other words
putative ethnic identity. The anti-Nazi emigr´ s, by contrast “ and this was also
the Soviet position “ reckoned Germanness by command of German language
and culture, especially its written culture. This radically opposed stance on
written texts and literature was de¬ning for the Soviet image of Nazi Germany.
In the 1930s, both Germany and the Soviet Union laid claim to representing
a higher-order civilization as a mandate for their respective bids for world dom-
ination, but the “world” they sought to dominate was distinctly Eurocentric.
It could be said that the rivalry between the two powers was played out via
the soft underbelly of culture. But, actually, for them culture was not such a
soft underbelly. Both needed to claim legitimacy for their regimes, and hence


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( 115 .)