in Russian and Eurasian History "The Intelligentsia Meets
the Enemy: Educated Soviet Officers in Defeated Germany, 1945"
Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History
Volume 10, Number 3, Summer 2009 (New Series)
E-ISSN: 1538-5000 Print ISSN: 1531-023x
The Intelligentsia Meets the Enemy:
Educated Soviet Officers in Defeated Germany, 1945
In lieu of an abstract, here is
a preview of the article.
She Is, Accursed Germany!”
Major Lev Kopelev entered East Prussia on a Ford truck. There
were no markers, so he had to distinguish the border himself:
“It had already been agreed upon earlier: as soon as we
crossed the border, we would mark it in an appropriate fashion. Having
stopped precisely on the line according to the map, I commanded,
‘Here is Germany, get out and relieve yourselves!’
It seemed witty to us, standing right next to the cuvette, to mark the
initial entry into enemy territory in precisely this way.”
Germany welcomed Vladimir Gel´fand, the commander of
a mortar platoon, in an ungracious manner, “with a snow
storm, ferocious wind, and empty, almost extinct villages.”
The war correspondent Vasilii Grossman entered German
territory toward evening. It was foggy and rainy, and the
“scent of forest rot” was in the air.
“Dark pine trees, fields, farms, service buildings, houses
with sharp edged roofs” stretched out along the highway.
“There was great charm in this scenery,” Grossman
wrote, “the small but very thick woods were nice, with
bluish-gray asphalt and brick roads running through them.”
His notes might seem like those of a tourist if not for the reference
to the huge sign on the shoulder of the road: “Soldier, here
it is—the lair of the fascist beast.”
The commander of a cannon platoon, Lieutenant Boris Itenberg,
crossed the border of East Prussia in the region of Gumbinnen on an
armored train. He saw Germany, “this accursed
country,” for the first time on 25 March 1945.
Three weeks later, Lance-Corporal David Kaufman crossed the
German border: “From Birnbaum to Landsberg runs a narrow
highway with trees planted accurately alongside it. Approaching
Schwerin, a wide placard across the road read: ‘Here was the
border of Germany.’ Here...
Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 10,
3 (Summer 2009): 629–82.
The Intelligentsia Meets the
Soviet Officers in
Defeated Germany, 1945
She Is, Accursed Germany!”
Lev Kopelev entered East Prussia on a
Ford truck. There were no markers, so he had to distinguish the border
“It had already been agreed upon earlier: as soon as we
crossed the border, we
would mark it in an appropriate fashion. Having stopped precisely on
the line according
to the map, I commanded, ‘Here is Germany, get out
and relieve yourselves!’ It
seemed witty to us, standing right next to the cuvette, to mark the
entry into enemy territory in precisely this way.”1
Vladimir Gel´fand, the commander of a mortar platoon, in an
“with a snow storm, ferocious wind, and empty, almost extinct
Vasilii Grossman entered German territory toward evening. It was foggy
rainy, and the “scent of forest rot” was in the
air. “Dark pine trees, fields,
farms, service buildings, houses with sharp edged roofs”
stretched out along
the highway. “There was great charm in this
scenery,” Grossman wrote, “the
small but very thick woods were nice, with bluish-gray asphalt and
running through them.” His notes might seem like those of a
tourist if not for
the reference to the huge sign on the shoulder of the road:
“Soldier, here it
lair of the fascist beast.”3
am grateful to the participants in the
workshop “Fascination and Enmity: Russian–German
Encounters in the 20th Century
and the Idea of a Non-Western Historical Path” (Berlin,
1–2 June 2007) for
their valuable comments on the first version of this article. I am also
grateful to Susan Rupp, who produced a translation of this not-so-easy
translate text; to Terence Emmons, who read and corrected the
to Dietrich Beyrau, who generously checked the German terms in the
special gratitude goes to Paul Werth for his efforts in editing the
English-language version of this article. And, as always, it was very
and pleasant to work with Michael David-Fox, Peter Holquist, and
on preparing this article for publication.
vechno (Moscow: Terra-Knizhnyi klub, 2004), 1: 102.
Gel´fand, Dnevniki, 1941–1946 (militera.lib.ru/db/gelfand_vn/05.html,
accessed 4 June 2009), 28 January 1945.
voiny, ed. E.
Korotkova-Grossman (Moscow: Pravda, 1989), 447.
commander of a
cannon platoon, Lieutenant Boris Itenberg, crossed the border of East
in the region of Gumbinnen on an armored train. He saw Germany,
country,” for the first time on 25 March 1945.4
Lance-Corporal David Kaufman crossed the German border:
“From Birnbaum to
Landsberg runs a narrow highway with trees planted accurately alongside
Approaching Schwerin, a wide placard across the road read:
‘Here was the border
of Germany.’ Here was Germany. I
involuntarily felt anxious crossing
this unseen border. Tiled roofs of settlements reddened welcomingly
clear winter crops on the brilliant and green backdrop of a spring
serenity of the morning smoothed over the emptiness of the villages and
ugliness of the ruins. It introduced a certain simplicity to the
tidy landscape, the small pine groves, rolling hills, the even,
entered Germany along the same highway: “Outside
Birnbaum there was a
control-admission point (KPP). A large arch read, ‘Here was
the border of
Germany.’ ” Everyone who in those days traveled on
the Berlin highway read yet
another inscription, made with tar by some soldier on a half-destroyed
closest to the arch, in huge curved letters: “Here she is,
ended the war not in Germany but in Austria. For the men in his unit,
there was no difference between Germans and Austrians:
“The army could sense a
German. We didn’t know German well enough to distinguish
between Prussian and
Styrian dialects. We knew too little about world history to assess the
of Austria within the Great German system… . The soldiers
to admonitions about the difference between Germany and Austria and
believe a word of it.”7
article was written on the basis of letters, diaries, and memoirs of
servicemen who ended the war in the territory of the Third Reich. The
of them, Evgenii Plimak, a sergeant-major and translator for army
turned 20 in 1945; the oldest, the already well-known writer Vasilii
was 40. The majority were between the ages of 22 and 34, with ranks
lieutenant to major.8
were not “typical”
representatives of the Soviet officer corps. First, the majority came
Moscow; second, they had either completed
S. Itenberg, letter
to his wife, 25 March 1945, in the personal archive of B. S. Itenberg.
zapisi (Moscow: Vremia, 2002), 1: 216 (13 April 1945). The
discussed here was in Brandenburg.
mai 1945: Zapiski voennogo perevodchika. Izd. dop. (Moscow:
pisatel´, 1967), 32.
“Zapiski o voine,” O drugikh i o sebe (Moscow:
Vagrius, 2005), 99.
Kaufman was a lance-corporal
but occupied an officer’s appointment.
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 631
interrupted their studies in institutions of higher education, and
third, many of them could communicate in German—some
haltingly, some excellently. For several of them, work with the enemy
military profession: they were either translators or propagandists.
perceive the Germans as individuals rather than en
masse. Whether they
did so in practice is another matter. All of them were Soviet intelligenty
the new generation, if not born under Soviet power, then having grown
it, typical and at the same time not altogether typical products of
engineering. Almost all of them were Jews. Vladimir Gel´fand
and Evgenii Plimak
were a little bit different from the others.
Gel´fand, a “provincial”, only
managed to complete high school, dabbled in poetry, and what is more
kept a diary rare for its candor and naïveté.
Plimak managed to finish only
nine years of schooling, although he also took four years of foreign
correspondence courses in Moscow. He also read Heinrich Heine in the
detailed source analysis, we may note that most of the texts—diaries,
notebooks, and letters—were
written directly on the heels of events
in which the authors participated and which they witnessed, and that
reflect both the events and the authors’ relationship to them
at the time better
than do later texts. One should note that letters are a less
“frank” source than
are diaries, as they were written with an eye to the military censor.
question of memoirs is more complicated. Thus
Slutskii’s Notes about the
War was published in 2000, although they were written in
1945; he gave them
to friends to read at that time. Despite all the literary
“reworking” of the
text (although the Notes was not intended for
publication), this in any
case makes errors of memory less likely. “Everything
I’ve said … is the
unadulterated truth,” Plimak naively asserted in 2005,
adding, however, “as it
appears to me over the expanse of more than half a century.”9
needs to explain that in 1995 and 2005, when the author was working on
memoirs, that he saw the “unadulterated truth”
through the prism of the
intervening years and in a somewhat different way than he had in 1945.
all beyond the natural errors of memory.) In contrast to the
historian Plimak, the writer Anatolii Rybakov (Aronov) was clearly
the truth, having defined the genre of his memoirs as
believe that despite
all such reservations, and even given the inevitable aberration of
the changes experienced in the postwar years by the memoirists
these memoirs remain a rather reliable source. Several authors, such as
Kaufman, clearly relied on diary entries from the war years. But beyond
in addressing subjects proscribed in the Soviet period—in
particular, the brutalities that
accompanied the Red Army’s penetration of Germany—authors
had no memoir tradition on which to
draw. They could not repeat,
Plimak, Na voine i posle voiny: Zapiski veterana (Moscow:
Rybakov, Roman-vospominanie (Moscow: Vagrius,
even unwittingly, established
clichés, as was often the case in tales of exploits or
they wrote about what they actually remembered, although, of course,
hardly rely upon the accuracy of dialogues and details of these or
decades later. In some cases—and we shall see this in the course
of later discussion—the accuracy of later memoirs or
stories is confirmed by the diary entries of other witnesses of the
the texts and stories serving as the basis for this article, I have
the “image of Germany” and the perception of
Germans held by these individuals
in 1945. I propose that the war on German territory and the occupation
Germany became a mirror in which the image of the victors themselves—of Soviet
of the Soviet people, the product of a quarter century’s
development of Soviet
This image, distorted by extreme
circumstances, was reflected in the accounts of witnesses to and
in the events in question. The authors of these texts, Soviet officers-intelligenty,
were themselves reflected in the “German mirror.”
The “portrait of an epoch” that they recorded
inevitably became their
self-portrait. What did they bring with them to Germany? What
did they want?
Naturally, like all Red Army fighters, above all they wanted revenge.
18 June 1944, Kaufman wandered around the
center of Gomel´, a city “that was once
beautiful.” “Now only a few pine trees
and parts of signs remained: ‘–otel,’
‘Passage,’ ” he wrote in his diary. He
concluded with a sort of citation: “Remember these ruins and
anger. They flee, tossing aside all their property and
possessions… . Germany
is burning, and for some reason it is gratifying to observe this evil
spectacle. A death for a death, blood for blood. I don’t pity
these haters of
mankind,” Gel´fand wrote on the day he entered
Marxist Kopelev was against the division of Germany, the destruction of
industry, against any sort of “un-Marxist,
un-proletarian” vengeance. He
thought that it was “only” necessary to shoot a
million and a half people,
including all those in the SS and Gestapo and the pilots who bombed
proposed that approximately the same number of active members of the
should be sentenced to long periods of imprisonment in camps. Simple
members, soldiers who participated in the occupation, leaders of the
Youth, and so forth, according to Kopelev, should be sent to various
for three to four years to restore what the Nazis had destroyed. One of
women he worked with, appalled by Kopelev’s cruelty, asserted
that he hated the
Germans so much because he was a Jew. The rock-hard internationalist
zapisi, 1: 204.
1941–1946, 28 January 1945.THE
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 633
responded that he hated not the
Germans but the fascists.13 This conversation
took place in 1942 and therefore had an abstract character. Crossing
into Germany in 1945, the first thing Kopelev did was to express his
scorn by urinating on German soil.
wrote to his wife from Gumbinnen that, on the one hand, he felt bad
“broken furniture and dishes, but on the other hand, when you
remember how they
burned and destroyed our Russian property, you want to exact vengeance
this furniture, because it’s German furniture, because Fritz
sat on it!” (25
recalled the particular impact of Ilya Ehrenburg’s
publicistic work in cultivating hatred toward the Germans.
“Like Adam and
Columbus, Ehrenburg was the first to enter the country of hatred and to
name to its inhabitants—Fritzes.”14
day before entering German territory, Kaufman led a Communist Youth
(Komsomol) meeting of intelligence operatives with the theme,
“On the behavior
of Soviet fighters in the lair of the beast.” This was done
at his own
initiative, even before the “foundational” article
by Grigorii Aleksandrov
appeared in Pravda.15
operatives, however, responded to
Kaufman’s humanistic speech without enthusiasm. One of them
advised him to read
Ehrenburg. “Our boys were neither evil nor cruel, but they
had struggled so
long to get to Germany, and such a feeling of vengeance and ill-will
their hearts, that, of course, they wanted to go on a rampage and
burn, swagger maliciously and merrily, unburden their hearts like Razin
Pugachev. This desire was constantly fed by slogans and poems, and
by Ehrenburg’s articles.”16
Ehrenburg came from Sergeant-Major Nikolai Inozemtsev, who on
routine decree to stop the arson, the destruction of property, rape,
on,” recalled the formula coined by Ehrenburg, “to
leave everything to the
was not alone. “The politics
vechno, 1: 286–87.
drugikh i o sebe, 19.
1945 Pravda published an article by the party
ideologist G. F.
Aleksandrov, “Comrade Ehrenburg
Simplifies,” which marked a shift in policy
with respect to the German population. The article read, in part:
Ehrenburg writes in his articles that there is no Germany, only a
gang.’ If one accepts the point of view of Comrade
Ehrenburg as correct, it
follows that the entire population of Germany should share the fate of
Hitlerite clique.” The article was printed at the personal
order of Stalin.
Aleksandrov’s article was taken very negatively by many
According to Ehrenburg’s memoirs, never in his life had he
received such warm
letters, and on the street strangers shook his hand. In their letters,
openly took a stance against the new line of the Central Committee. A
Major Kobyl´nik wrote to Ehrenburg: “You write
correctly that Germany is one
enormous gang. It’s necessary to remind the Germans and
everyone in general,
that they should look on the East with fear for a hundred
years.” See Il´ia
Erenburg, Liudi, gody, zhizn´ (Moscow:
Sovetskii pisatel´, 1990), 2:
385, 442–43. People feared that their right to vengeance
would be taken away.
Samoilov, Pamiatnye zapiski (Moscow:
Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia, 1995),
Inozemtsev, Frontovoi dnevnik, 2nd ed. (Moscow:
Nauka, 2005), 210.634
of the Great Patriotic War, the work
of thousands of political workers, taught hatred of the German in
all its variants”
was a general feeling. It was also established from above. The print
newspaper of the army in which Elena Kogan served appeared on 9
under the heading, “Be afraid, Germany; Russia is coming to
everyone thought as Major
Slutskii did: “Our anger and our cruelty didn’t
require justification. It
wasn’t the time to speak of right and truth. The Germans were
the first to
cross the line between good and evil. For that they would be repaid a
whom, precisely? Officers who thirsted for revenge met some Germans who
“not that sort.” The first
“ordinary” Germans that Kaufman met in Miedzychod
(Birnbaum), two kilometers from the German border, turned out to be two
musicians with their wives, one of whom was paralyzed and was
transported in a
carriage. They had remained in Miedzychod because they had been unable
leave. Kaufman talked with them about music; because the Soviet officer
understood little German, they used snatches of the melodies of Brahms
Tchaikovsky as “communication.” “Then
they were ordered to leave. They went,
old-fashioned elderly men, skinny, in caps and fall coats, carrying
on a sled the carelessly tied remnants of their belongings and
the sick old
woman. Germany’s woe—a
before my eyes, and I swore to myself
to offend neither the women nor the children of my enemy.”21
unit in which
Grigorii Pomerants served moved westward “along the path of
commanded one of the Russian armies in World War I): Tilsit, Gumbinnen,
Stallupönen. At one point Pomerants saw the naked body of a
15- or 16-year-old
girl on a rubbish heap. “Although suddenly an entire layer of
hatred toward any
German was stripped away from me, and although I remember
that dead girl to
this day, at the time I turned away, I did not think it through and
had done this, they (from whom a world evil
emanated) or we? And
if we, then who [precisely]?”22
relatives of some
of our protagonists were killed; some were spared misfortune. V. N.
entire family perished (despite his Slavic name, he was Jewish). He
Ehrenburg from “accursed Germany”:
look at these human-like creatures and am
literally amazed by their dimwittedness. They neither know
about nor believe
the brutalities in Russia perpetrated by their kin. They
can’t conceive that
have killed a child, and they supposedly are
unaware of the existence of the “gas chamber.” When
I present them with the
destruction of my family at the hands of their
O drugikh i o
O drugikh i o
1: 209–10 (7 February 1944).
Pomerants, Zapiski gadkogo utenka (Moscow: Rosspen,
THE ENEMY 635
accursed kin as proof, they direct
their gaze at the ground, murmuring that they aren’t guilty
of all that.
Talking with them demands a great deal in terms of my nerves and my
but not to trouble their accursed tribe—if one may speak
bluntly—was impossible; it was necessary at least to
why and for what reason we had come. When I showed them illustrations
frontline newspaper of the trial of the murderers of Majdanek, they
their noses away
and tried to change the
conversation to another subject… . One needs hellish
strength of will and
patience to bear all this and restrain oneself.23
agreed with the
propositions of Ehrenburg’s article, “Knights of
Justice,” published in Krasnaia
zvezda on 14 March 1945, that Soviet soldiers should not
kill children and
should not, and we do not, do that, since
we are better than they are and were raised in the Soviet spirit. But
make them understand and feel what we, our wives, children, and old
lived through and are living through? I understand that the expression
for an eye” does not need to be taken literally… .
But we should abase them in
some way, put them on their knees in such a way that remaining among
is worse than being under the earth. It seems to me that this would be
just. In this way, we would be avenged for everyone and everything.24
it was unclear how exactly to do
this. Rogov’s letter to Ehrenburg was dictated by just this
avenge those who perished and the impossibility of violating
one’s own self, of
becoming like those who poisoned women and children in the gas
desire for vengeance was replaced by incomprehension and confusion,
also because there were already enough avengers on hand who were not
by vacillation and doubt.
already addressed the bacchanalia of robbery, rape, and murder of
that accompanied the invasion of Germany by Soviet forces.25
researchers have relied primarily on German sources or Soviet official
documents. Norman Naimark writes that “today, when
interviewing veterans of the
Soviet Military Administration in Germany or veterans of the East
campaign, one gets the overwhelming sense that former Soviet officers
anxious to forget the behavior of their fellow soldiers (and their own
indifference to it at
N. Rogov to I. Ehrenburg, 21 March 1945, in Sovetskie evrei
Erenburgu (Jerusalem, 1993), 196.
Naimark, The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet
Occupation, 1945–1949 (Cambridge, MA: Belknap,
1996); Richard Overy, Russia’s
War (London: Penguin, 1998), 260–62; Antony
Beevor, The Fall of Berlin,
1945 (New York: Viking, 2002), published in the United
Kingdom as Berlin:
The Downfall, 1945 (London: Penguin, 2002)—quotations
are from the U.S. edition;
Catherine Merridale, Ivan’s War: Life and Death in
the Red Army, 1939–1945 (New
York: Metropolitan Books, 2006), 301–28.636
Ten years after the publication of
Catherine Merridale writes, “set in a culture of
almost total denial, [Leonid]
Rabichev’s article and Kopelev’s book are, to date,
among the only discussions
of this question in Russian.”27
point of fact, several officers not only recorded the unexpected
Soviet soldiers but also tried to explain it. Unfortunately, the
texts considered here, with the exception of Lev Kopelev’s
book, were published
after the appearance of Naimark’s book and therefore were
unavailable to him.
Nor, however, does Catherine Merridale mention them. In Russian
the theme of the atrocities of the Red Army in Germany remains taboo.
Russian historian of the new generation, Elena Seniavskaia, refers to
revenge” as “psychological breakdowns”
(which in itself is true for a
significant number of Soviet troops). She insists, however, that these
exceptions rather than the rule. As proof, she cites the memoirs of one
veteran. “We showed no mercy to the fascists who came at us
with weapons in
their hands,” recalls the former artillerist and
Hero of the Soviet Union G.
Diadiukin. “But we didn’t touch those who laid down
their weapons, who
surrendered. I never saw an instance in which unarmed people were dealt
severely. That was against our spirit. And that goes without saying for
civilians.” Seniavskaia concludes, “The humanism
and magnanimity of the victors
were one of the most important manifestations of the moral superiority
Soviet troops, who in this Patriotic War were defending profoundly just
against the Hitlerite aggressors, robbers, and murderers.”28
is no doubt about the justice of the goals for which the Soviet
fought. But the issue of humanism and magnanimity is far more
not that the issue of the atrocities of the Red Army with respect to
civilian population is not discussed, but it simply is not acknowledged
society, much less by politicians. Thus, in a letter to the British
the Russian ambassador in London called
accounts of Red Army soldiers’ rape of German women, and even
liberated from the camps, in Antony Beevor’s The
Fall of Berlin, 1945 “an
obvious lie and insinuations.”29
times are changing, and Beevor’s book
was published in Russian translation in Moscow in 2004.30
us return, however, to the testimony and
reflections of direct participants in the events.
in Germany, 85.
War, 425 n. 49. The reference here is to Leonid Rabichev,
spishet,” Znamia, no. 2 (2005), available
magazines.russ.ru/znamia/2005/2/ra8.html, accessed 4 June 2009.
Seniavskaia, 1941–1945. Frontovoe pokolenie:
issledovanie (Moscow: Institut rossiiskoi istorii
RAN, 1995), 80–81. We
note that it is as if the author was not much disturbed that the
by her as an addendum to the book contradict her conclusions.
25 January 2002.
[Antony Beevor], Padenie Berlina, 1945, trans. from
English by Iu. F.
Mikhailov (Moscow: ACT; Tranzitkniga, 2004)THE
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 637
having stated that “our cruelty does not
have to be justified” (see above), contradicted himself by
cruelty was too great to be justified. But it can and should be
happened in East Prussia? Was such brutality by our people—violence,
and inevitable? We wrote and screamed for sacred vengeance. But who
avengers and whom did we avenge? Why were there among our soldiers so
bandits who in massive numbers raped women and girls spread
out on the snow
and in gateways, who killed unarmed people, who destroyed everything
couldn’t carry away, who defiled, who burned? And who
just to destroy. How did all that become possible?” Kopelev
was able to convince the population of Germany that the coming of the
meant its general destruction. One must admit that our soldiers did not
overturn that conviction,” Kaufman carefully noted in his
war took on prominent, personal forms,” Slutskii wrote about
the soldiers of
the Red Army who entered Austria and did not want to believe that the
were in any way different from the Germans. “A German was a
German. They had to
‘give it to him.’ And so they began to
‘give it’ to the German.”34
most striking description of the massive pogrom to which East Prussia
subjected was left by Lev Kopelev. Kopelev traveled through the
German villages of Gross Koslau and Klein Koslau. He was certain that
were the result of the fighting, or that the Germans had burned the
themselves. A soldier explained to him with “lazy
malice”: “They told us: this
is Germany. That means beat and shoot to have vengeance. But where can
the night, and where can we put the wounded?” However, the
proved to be only the entry to hell. Ahead were Naidenburg and
Kopelev’s task was to clarify the “political and
moral mood of the enemy population.”
At first, however, he encountered only corpses. The first was the body
elderly woman in a torn dress: between the legs of the corpse was an
city telephone; the killers had tried to force it into her. One of the
soldiers, who had rushed from house to house in search of loot,
the woman was a spy, that “they caught her with a
Oranienbaum, near Berlin, Kaufman stopped soldiers who were planning to
German for maintaining ties with the enemy. It turned out that the
drunken soldiers mistook a radio receiver for a walkie-talkie. The
was frightened to death, was released.36 The first
living German whom
Kopelev and his comrades met was an old woman looking for her daughter.
Kopelev’s commander had feverishly seized a collection of
“trophies”; they had
drugikh i o sebe,
vechno, 1: 12.
1: 210 (10 February 1945).
drugikh i o sebe, 99.
vechno, 1: 103–6.
already loaded the car with an
upright piano, tapestries, pictures, and things discovered in
abandoned houses, and he did not want to transport the old woman. He
that the old woman was a spy who was confusing them and wanted to lead
somewhere and that she should be shot. Kopelev grabbed the
with the pistol, but while the officers struggled, a soldier
shot the old woman.37 Efforts to find
anyone else alive were unsuccessful; in what appeared to be an
they found traces of a hurried robbery and a dying woman with stab
her chest and stomach; next to her lay a dagger with an engraved
daggers were made by skilled soldiers.38
picture in Allenstein was about the same.39 A more lapidary
description of the East Prussian “pogrom” comes
from Nikolai Inozemstev who,
judging from the notes of the publisher of his diary, crossed out part
cities, traces of short-lived battles on the roads, groups of captured
(they surrendered in large groups, fearing they’d be shot if
they did so
individually), corpses of men, women, and children in apartments, lines
carts with refugees, scenes of mass [illegible], raped women
villages, hundred and thousands of abandoned bicycles on the road, an
mass of cattle, all of them bellowing (no one was there to feed the
give them water)—all these were “battle
scenes” of the offensive by an army of
avengers, scenes of the devastation of Germany which compelled the
Germans and their children to renounce the struggle with Russia.40
is echoed by Efraim Genkin, who was in East Prussia at the same time.
image of our ‘penetration’ continues to horrify me.
The soldiers turned into
some sort of wild beasts. The fields were strewn with hundreds of cows
been shot, on the roads pigs and chickens with their heads cut off. The
were pillaged and burning. Everything that couldn’t be
carried away was broken,
destroyed. No wonder the Germans ran from us like the plague! There was
civilian population. All this was depressing and repellent.”41
was not the case everywhere. Lieutenant Zeilik Kleiman’s unit
German village in which nearly all the residents—that is, women
Kleiman wrote home on 3 February 1945 that
141–46. Kopelev draws a truly apocalyptic picture. Meanwhile,
Michael Vik, a
German Jew, for whom the advance of the Red Army brought not freedom
the move from one persecuted category of the population to another,
that Kopelev understates the “scale and duration of the
Kenigsberga: Svidetel´stvo nemetskogo evreia [St.
Potsdam: Nemetskii forum vostochnoevropeiskoi kul´tury,
dnevnik, 209. The portion of the citation removed (and
signaled by the
ellipses) contains illegible words.
pis´ma: Sbornik pisem i dnevnikov evreev perioda Velikoi
Otechestvennoi voiny (Moscow:
Tsentr i Fond “Kholokost,” Mik,
2007), 281–82 (note from 25 January 1945).THE
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 639
are behaving in a cultured manner,”
although “a girl of around 16 complained that a soldier had
hit her in the head
with a pistol.” The lieutenant summoned the soldier, whose
entire family had
been shot by the Germans; and in so far as his knowledge of German
told the local residents about this, as well as how Germans ran over
with tanks and bashed the heads of nursing infants on the stove.
“If not today,
then tomorrow we’ll be in battle again. There we’ll
beat the German again. But
to dirty your hand on a defenseless woman—we’re not Germans.”
A week later, Lieutenant Kleiman died in battle.42
and his comrades, in contrast, were particularly disturbed that a
battalion was fighting them: “We beat them soundly, and the
those German women, declared themselves the avengers of their husbands
perished on the front. I don’t know what was done with them,
good-for-nothings should have been punished mercilessly. Our soldiers
for example, stabbing them in their reproductive organs and so forth,
simply would have exterminated them.” After several days he
satisfaction, “The women from the enemy side have not
appeared since the body
of one of them was impaled on a stake and sent back naked to the German
personal experience and stories of those who experienced German
suffered under the Nazi regime were most significant in inculcating
“Which one of us, having lived through the first winter of
the war, will forget
the bluish wash basin in the children’s camp,”
Slutskii wrote, “where on iron
hooks the Germans left accurate loops, here they hanged Pioneers, the
students of schools outside Moscow.”44 “I
found out and I want
everyone to find out what the Germans really are,” wrote
Vladimir Tsoglin, a
private and intelligence operative in a mortar regiment from
his mother and sister in the summer of 1944. “They are not
people, they are
worse than beasts. Can people actually burn other people in houses,
pouring gasoline on them? I don’t know what I’ll
find farther on, moving along
the territory seized by the Germans in ’41, but what I have
seen so far is
enough to warrant destroying them like rabid dogs.”45
was often, however, explained by something else as well—by
curiosity, laziness. Tolstoyan Platon Karataevs were no longer
the front. Cruelty toward the civilian population did not emerge
that” and was not a consequence of merely crossing the German
border. It was
rather the direct continuation of cruelty toward the enemy. German
“set the tone” with their inhumane treatment of
prisoners of war. The
“response” of Red Army soldiers and the civilian
population alike was no less
Sbornik pisem i dnevnikov evreev perioda Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny,
1941–1946, 21 February and 26 February 1945.
drugikh i o sebe, 21–23.
records in his notes several events
that particularly struck him. In the winter of 1941, staff officers
of 40 captured Germans out of curiosity. They took the overcoats from
remaining prisoners and transported them farther in the open bed of a
When the soldiers heard something in the bed rattling around
potatoes,” they threw the bodies of those who had frozen to
death out of the
truck and into the snow. On 20 February 1943, at Michurinsk station, as
Slutskii recorded with protocol-like accuracy, local residents
watches, rings, and other valuables with prisoners driven mad by thirst—Romanians,
Italians, and Yugoslavian Jews from a work battalion—for
a lump of frozen snow covered with horse urine and saturated with coal
Dozens of corpses were piled up on the platforms next to the echelon of
prisoners. One can only be amazed that the prisoners had managed to
hold on to
some of their valuables.
officers, having seized their first prisoner, brought him with them for
weeks. The relationship was completely friendly; the German was amusing
awful in any way. Then the question of sending him to the army staff
headquarters arose. They killed the German, having first let him eat
No one wanted to walk the eight kilometers in the snow to staff
incident may have served as the basis for a poem by Slutskii:
it to me!Did I christen the Germans’ children?I’m
nor hot to their loss!I feel bad for none of them!I feel bad onlyThata
twirledon the harmonica.
were constantly being killed, perhaps more at the end of the war than
beginning, perhaps because there were more prisoners then.47
troops killed while drunk, from fear, out of vengeance, and for no
all. The commander of a corps reconnaissance unit kept a prisoner from
as a personal driver. He liked to go see his mistress at the medical
station in a trophy Volkswagen with a “trophy”
chauffeur behind the wheel. When
the higher command discovered the unaccounted-for prisoner at
the chauffeur was shot to avoid unnecessary explanations.48
the hospital at Graudenz, one of the wounded German officers was shot
he had an “SS mug.”49
drugikh i o sebe,
zapiski, 267, 272, 273, and 274–75.
Na voine i
posle voiny, 29–33. Plimak
recalls how in January 1945, a tank-driver of a T-34, driven insane by
stress he had experienced, crushed a column of prisoners of war under
treads, which his comrade-in-arms observed with curiosity (19).
vechno, 1: 183.THE
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 641
Vladimir Tsoglin, people’s “hearts had
turned to stone.” As he wrote to his sister from East Prussia
on 14 February
1945: “And if you say some time, ‘Listen, soldier,
you don’t need to finish off
that Hans, let him rebuild what he destroyed,’ he would look
up from under his
raised brows and say, ‘Aren’t you a Russian? They
stole my wife and daughter
from me.’ And he’d shoot. And he’d be
right.”50 Tsoglin himself
regretted that they took so many prisoners, since they had
“so bloody many of
them already” (ikh
i tak do
our view, vengeance
was obviously not “symmetrical.” It did not always
depend upon the personal
experience or personal tragedy of a given Soviet soldier. The
losses experienced by one or another soldier in the Red Army were not
determining factor. What determined the outcome was the
his attitude toward life—his
own and that of others—his
(and not only military) experience, and his culture.
Kopelev’s younger brother
disappeared without a trace at the start of the war, and his close
were killed in Kiev at Babi Yar. Yet it was precisely Kopelev who, in
opinion of his superiors, professed “bourgeois
Churkin’s wife and sister died in the Leningrad Blockade, and
both of his sons
and two brothers perished at the front. His entire family was lost. It
seem that he should and could think only of vengeance. In January 1945,
city of Hindenburg, he and his comrades spent the night in a wealthy
owner of which for some reason had been unable or unwilling to flee:
were met by the (superficially polite)
owner, a young, interesting man of 30–40, and his still very
full-figured, tall, sympathetic wife. He was a powerful bureaucrat; the
was probably a housewife. Their two young girls attended a classical
school. Their apartment, which was rather large, occupied the
first and second
floors. The apartment was very comfortably furnished: expensive rugs,
curtains, expensive furniture. The parquet floor, diligently polished,
reflected like a mirror. Apparently, the girls lived on the second
standing piano and nice washstand stood against the wall. Five fellows
platoon and I were to spend the night on the second floor. We arranged
ourselves on the shiny parquet floor. I remember how chunks of melting
from our boots stood out on the parquet. Such puddles, bogs. Even now I
somehow awkward, as if ashamed.52
mother, 3 April 1945. Tsoglin did not have especially warm feelings for
who had been freed from German camps either: “Among them, of
course, are those
who scarcely see freedom. If I were the commander, I would kill them
Vasil´evich Churkin. “Dnevnik opolchentsa 88-go
artilleriiskogo polka 80-i
strelkovoi Liubanskoi divizii Vasiliia Churkina, zapis´ ot 29
g.,” in S. V. Kormilitsyn and A. V. Lysev, Lozh´ot
Sovetskogo Informbiuro (St.
Petersburg: Neva, 2005). Also available at
militera.lib.ru/db/churkin_vv/index.html, accessed 4 June 2009.642
Germans had killed the entire family of Militiaman Churkin, who
for the front in June 1941, yet he felt awkward about the mud left on
parquet of a German home!
the killing of prisoners in the last months of the war 40 years later,
(already Samoilov) wrote, “The war imposed the obligation to
kill the enemy.
They convinced us that we had the right to kill: kill the German! The
course, took the obligation as a right. Their argument was:
didn’t the Germans,
the SS, the Gestapo behave worse? For a Russian person, nothing could
with the Gestapo. We won because we were better, more moral. And the
part of the army did not make use of the right to kill.”53
may be the case, but where did this minority—clearly not a
one, judging by the scale of robberies and killings in territory
Soviet troops—come from? Who
were these people, completely unlike
either the ideal Soviet or the ideal Russian as described in Russian
(true, not in all cases—“Peasants”
and “In the Ravine”
by Chekhov or “The Village” by Bunin do not at all
depict Platon Karataevs and
peasants like Dostoevsky’s Marei). Did the transformation of
occur only as a result of the war?
his Moscow childhood and youth in the 1920s–30s, Kaufman
wrote about the
demographic, social, and psychological changes experienced by the
to the city in the early ’20s and celebrated its
victory with plunder. The imprint of plunder lies on a whole
is not the place to discuss how a people, plundered by the social
with unsystematic plunder. We’re speaking here only of the
of plunder. A morally disordered city that participated in the
of the expropriators,” lost normal moral understanding and
allowed the terror
of the ’20s, the destruction of the church and cultural
treasures, of their own
national traditions, and allowed the wild forms of collectivization and
the life of
the residents of his multi-apartment house, of these new city dwellers
lost the norms of village morality and had not acquired new ones—that
life whose fundamental characteristics were “drunkenness,
theft, illness, and frequent deaths”—Kaufman
unexpectedly draws a connection to
wartime events: “The city’s lower depths of the
’30–’40s emerged out of these
families and produced the future criminalized soldiers of the Great
kids whom the devil didn’t take, who then abundantly indulged
Prussia and Pomerania, avenging themselves on anyone for their hungry
24.THE INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 643
Pomerants, after the fact, also tried to
account for what happened in 1945. “I don’t know
what the decisive impetus was
for the pogrom with which the war ended: a discharge of nerves after a
role played out? The anarchic spirit of the people? Military
the road to Berlin whirls the gray down of feather
wasn’t Ehrenburg on whom misfortune rained down then; it was
printed in the frontline newspaper, when Slavs burned and devastated
German cities. The wind then buffeted clouds of down (in my memory it
and not gray), and this white down shrouded the victory from top to
down was a sign of the pogrom, a sign of an unleashed will that
strengthens, burns… .
German. Avenge. You are an avenging warrior. Translate this from
language into profanity (in which the whole army spoke and
thought)… . Kill the
German and then take the German woman. There you have it, the
celebration of victory.56
where were the
officers and generals during this “soldier’s
holiday?” Why did they not stop
the disorders? “But their own thinking was essentially no
different” (A oni
tozhe dumali po-maternomu). Here we encounter an unexpected
inequality,” almost à la Berdiaev: earlier, too,
officers could not always
restrain Cossack or peasant anarchy. Thus in Izmail Suvorov’s
warriors slaughtered everyone when the Turks came out to surrender. But
was still a sense of nobleness, there was the honor of the nobility.
like Marei were good when they were kept in hand. And the nobles
them. But the revolution stripped off the upper stratum.” Now
if officers were
different from the rank-and-file soldier, it was often in a negative
“less patience, more condescension.”
“Such officers … in cases of mass rape
establish order in the line.”57
was not just a
metaphor. Leonid Rabichev recalls how in February 1945 in East Prussia,
Army fighters, having overtaken a column of refugees, and
forgotten about responsibility and honor and the German subdivisions
retreating without a fight, flung themselves in the thousands upon
girls. Women, mothers and their daughters, lay to the left and right of
highway and before each of them stood a chortling armada of muzhiki
their pants pulled down. Those covered with blood and losing
were shoved aside, and the children throwing themselves to help were
Guffaws, snarling, laughter, cries and groans. Their commanders, their
and colonels stood on the highway, and some laughed while others
more precisely, regulated. This was in order that all their soldiers
exception participated. No, this was not collective responsibility, and
all revenge on the cursed occupiers. This was hellish, fatal group sex.
gadkogo utenka, 170–71.
all-permissiveness, the impunity,
anonymity, and cruel logic of a maddened crowd. Shaken, I sat in the
the truck, my driver Demidov stood in line, and Flaubert’s
appeared to me, and I understood that war cannot justify everything [voina
daleko ne vse spishet].
A colonel, the one who had just been directing, can’t
himself and gets in line too, while a major shoots the children and old
are witnessing this in hysterics.58
truth, the picture
drawn by Rabichev (who became a professional artist after the war) does
inspire great confidence. We know from documents and memoirs about the
number of group rapes, one of which Rabichev probably witnessed, and it
altogether possible that some officers “kept order in
line.” But that thousands
simultaneously participated in such an action and moreover did so in
daylight on the shoulder of a road and under the leadership of senior
one more of a Bosch painting extrapolated to 1945. It is even less
a colonel “stood in line” behind rank-and-file
soldiers. Colonels behaved
Los´ev, the staff commander of a rifle regiment, sent his
lieutenant into a cellar where Germans were hidden to select and bring
woman. The lieutenant carried out the order, and the lieutenant-colonel
the woman who had been brought to him. The punishment was not very
Los´ev was demoted in rank.59
Dubovik, the commander of an
artillery division who took part in collective rape, escaped with a
scare: the commander of the political section of the division tried to
him with a “party matter,” but the army political
section dropped the case and
ordered that all papers related to it be destroyed.60
fellow officers learned to manage
things without the use of direct force: in June 1945, Major Nikitin
ordered the mayor of the city of Gera to send “two
broads,” one for him, the
other “out of generosity” for the translator
accompanying him. The order was
different answer than did Pomerants as to why officers did not stop the
force against the civilian population. “Our generals and
officers, feeling that
that the army shouldn’t be allowed to kill every German
without punishment, did
not have the internal right to stop the killing, since the slogan
always the same—‘Kill
the German!’ An army of resistance and
self-defense had imperceptibly become an army of ferocious vengeance.
our great victory began to turn into a moral defeat that imperceptibly
“Voina vse spishet.”
arkhiv: Velikaia Otechestvennaia. Bitva za Berlin (Krasnaia armiia v
poverzhennoi Germanii) 15,
pts. 4–5 (Moscow: Terra, 1995), 246.
gadkogo utenka, 82.
voine i posle voiny, 41–43.
to the publication of Aleksandrov’s article in Pravda
on 14 April 1945.
See n. 15.
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 645
Of course, not
all officers were indifferent to what
their comrades-in-arms did. Kopelev was told that the commander of the
division, Colonel Smirnov, personally shot a lieutenant who,
in a gateway,
“formed a line to a German woman held on the
ground.” Kopelev sat in military
prison with a battalion commander, a senior lieutenant of the guard,
Nikolaev from Gor´kii. Nikolaev had shot a sergeant, a
cavalier of the Order of
Glory, who had tried to rape an underage girl. The sergeant was drunk,
aggressively, and reached for his automatic. Nonetheless, he was
best intelligence officer in the regiment and was presented for a
of Glory; and the senior lieutenant was charged with exceeding the
necessary self-defense.64 Elsewhere,
an argument between a “captain-marauder” who
pointed out the justice of revenge
and cited the reliable Ehrenburg, and a senior lieutenant-sapper, one
“severe youths of the great war.” The sapper also
relied upon internationalist
clichés in the press, but as if he was really convinced of
what he said: “How
can one speak of revenge on the Germans? That is not our ideology—to take revenge
a people.” Marauders, he said impassionedly, should be shot
on the spot.65
who was ultimately responsible for the moral decline of the army (at
active part) in 1945? Kaufman’s answer is simple and wholly
in the spirit of
the “children of the 20th Congress”: Stalin.
Although the military devastation
of Germany was advantageous for Stalin, its “moral
destruction” was not. “This
destruction would signify the victory of the idea of freedom and the
of satisfying in our state’s domestic policy the hopes to
which the war gave
birth for the Russian nation… .
[B]y introducing organized forms of marauding and force, Stalin created
something like national collective responsibility of amorality [nechto
natsional´noi krugovoi poruki amoralizma], and
reduced the idea of
internationalism to phraseology once and for all, in order to deprive
nation of the moral right to the realization of freedom.”66
also in retrospect, wrote that the
command specially approved of pillaging—“
‘sacred revenge’ should have distinguished
the Soviet people from foreigners.”67
knew about the
use of force against the civilian population in Germany. The
leadership of the
People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD) informed him
about this in
sufficient detail. Thus Beria reported in a secret
communiqué of 17 March 1945
that “many Germans are declaring that in East Prussia all the
German women who
remained in the rear were raped by Red Army soldiers.” As if
an assertion by the Germans, Beria also brought forth concrete
confirming that they were not groundless. Germans spoke of group rapes
Soviet soldiers of all females, from underage girls to old women. The
outrageous case was the one recorded by the
operational-military group of the
NKVD in the township of Spaleiten. NKVD employees noted
vechno, 1: 149, 340.
and Lev Kopelev, My zhili v Moskve: 1956–1980 (Moscow:
during the filtration of the civilian
population that 3 women and 12 children had cuts across their right
These were the marks of a collective suicide attempt.
one of the women recounted, on 3 February, when advance units of the
entered the town, Red Army troops dragged her out in the courtyard,
was raped in turn by 12 soldiers; other soldiers at the same time raped
neighbors. That same night, six soldiers entered the cellar and raped
front of their children. On 5 February there were three rapists, and
day eight drunken soldiers not only raped women but beat them as well.
officer recorded the testimony of the woman: “Under the
influence of German
propaganda about how the Red Army torments Germans, and having seen
tormenting of them, we decided to kill ourselves, so on 8 February we
right wrists of ourselves and our children.”68 According to
account of one of the local residents, two German women who had been
several times killed themselves in the attic of his house. Around ten
were registered in connection with the evacuation from the frontline
the city of Grants on 18 and 19 February. “Suicide by
women, has become more widespread.”69
a decree from Stalin about changing the relationship toward
German POWs and
the civilian population followed only a month later, on 20 April. It
it was necessary “to treat the Germans better” and
explained: “A more humane
attitude toward the Germans will make carrying out military operations
territory easier and without a doubt reduces the Germans’
was Stalin, but enough “human material” was
required to create “collective
responsibility of amorality.” War, especially such
war, does not make anyone better; however, one should not forget the
quarter-century of violence and the glorification of violence, the
the part of the population that supported it—in
to its own people. The “later” Samoilov (Kaufman)
contended that the “people of
Germany might have suffered even more, were it not for the Russian
lack of spite, the lack of vengefulness, love of
one’s children, warmth, the absence of a feeling of
superiority, the remnants
of religious and internationalist consciousness in the very thick of
soldier masses.” He also remarked that “the innate
humanism of the Russian
soldier showed mercy to Germany in ’45.”71
this judgment seems more likely a
tribute to the Populist tradition of the Russian intelligentsia than a
reflection of reality. It is completely contradicted by his description
new urban environment of the 1920s–30s.
report from L. P. Beria to I. V. Stalin and V. M. Molotov about the
dishonorable behavior of soldiers of the Red Army in Lubianka:
1939–mart 1946 (Moscow: Mezhdunarodnyi fond
“Demokratiia”; Materik, 2006), 503.
arkhiv: Velikaia Otechestvennaia: Bitva za Berlin,
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 647
Kopelev—who was one of
the first in
the Russian literature to describe the marauding violence and the
peaceful residents committed by fighters and commanders of the Red
who tried to oppose it and was sentenced to ten years in the camps for
“bourgeois humanism”—nonetheless did
himself from his comrades-in-arms.
The battle goes
outside the city [Allenstein]. And we collect trophies—Beliaev,
with me and a petty thief sergeant and other marauders. We are all
The general at the station, ordering the collection of suitcases, and
lieutenant sapper, who believes in internationalism, and the tank
chased out of the unit, and all those who cross there, who crawl along
in black patches of explosions, and those who storm
Königsberg, who shoot, die,
shed blood, and those in the safe army reserves who drink, build up
courage, and pinch broads—we are all
and base, brave and cowardly, good and cruel… .
We are all together, and there is no way and no time
to get out of it. And glory is not separate from shame.72
Kopelev, Kaufman, and Slutskii tried, to
one degree or another, to oppose the wave of senseless violence. This
illogical, given the principle of “repayment,” in
light of the fact that they
were all Jews.
all the authors of the letters, diaries,
and memoirs that have served as the sources for this article were Jews.73
Soviet Jews, who had had the chance to join the new
majority. They made use of that chance, too, in most cases not even
about what was happening to them—and
what was happening to their people.
Grossman, who belonged to another generation, was an
exception. He was born
and spent his childhood in the “Jewish capital” of
Berdichev, where his mother
lived and was killed by the Nazis.74
vechno, 1: 146.
this article, I did not make any particular selection of memoirs by the
origin of their authors. Evidently, such a notable predominance of Jews
the authors of frontline diaries and memoirs is explained to a
degree by the higher level of education of Jews in comparison with
other nationalities. Thus, in accord with the USSR census of 1939, of
residents those (of both sexes) with a secondary-school education among
268.1, among Ukrainians 82.1, among Russians 81.4; those with a higher
education among Jews were 57.1, among Russians 6.2, and Ukrainians 5.1.
1,000 men those with a higher education among Jews was 69.5, among
Ukrainians 8.8. In absolute numbers, there were more Jews with a higher
education than Ukrainians, and only 3.5 times fewer Jews with a higher
education than Russians, even though Russians outnumbered Jews by 33
Vsesoiuznaia perepis´ naseleniia 1939 goda: Osnovnye
itogi, ed. Iu. A.
Poliakov et al. (Moscow: Nauka, 1992), 57, 86.
works on “Jewish themes” came out under that name
in two volumes in Jerusalem
in 1985 and were reprinted in 1990. See also John and Carol Garrard, The
Bones of Berdichev: The Life and Fate of Vasily Grossman (New
Kaufman recalled that in his early
childhood his father told him various stories from the Bible and tried
instill in him a “spirit of nationalism.”
These efforts were, however,
unsuccessful: “little of the nationalist developed in me,
although I wasn’t
without a feeling of national pride and self-esteem.”75 “In
didn’t have a people,” the grown-up Kaufman lightly
The spirit of
was alien, incomprehensible, and distant from me. By
conviction I was an
internationalist, and in spirit … also. Yet something
brought me close to this
people. I was certain that if some sort of misfortune befell them, I
abandon them and that I would boldly accept any suffering with my
Yet still that people was distant from me.
The expansive Volga song touched my heart more than the doleful and
heartrending songs of my people. The language of my people is not my
their spirit is not my spirit, but their heart is my heart.76
contrast to his
father, who “didn’t make a judgment about the
nation, but simply belonged to
it,” Kaufman judges the “Jewish nation.”
He judges it as an outsider, from the
perspective of “Russian Jews,” who are more Russian
than Jewish, who no longer
go to synagogue but do not yet attend church—although
later a significant number of them
the issue of Jews and his father many years later, Kaufman
wrote: “I speak of his [emphasis added—O.B.]
practiced the Jewish religion, didn’t know the Jewish
language, and didn’t
feel like or consider himself to be a Jew.” He identified
himself as a “Russian
of Jewish origins;” he was a Jew “by the formula of
Tuvim”: his kinship with
Jews was defined not by the blood which runs through veins but by by
that flows out of them. Kopelev felt obliged to declare his
Jewishness by the
“cruel, mass antisemitism” in the USSR. Kopelev
spoke about this subject in the
1945, as well as later, he professed internationalism.
He explained antisemitism, whose growth from 1942 on Kopelev could not
ignored, as the natural exacerbation of class and national
during the war, which were complicated “by the necessity of
national and more
particularly great-power patriotic propaganda, which was both a
tactical and a
in the camps he firmly believed in the
“approaching communism and in eternal Russia.” In
1948, Kopelev’s friends in
1: 47 (29 November 1935).
Deutsch Kornblatt, Doubly Chosen: Jewish Identity, the Soviet
Intelligentsia, and the Russian Orthodox Church (Madison:
Wisconsin Press, 2004).
Kopelev, My zhili v Moskve, 190: an interview for
German television on
26 June 1979.
vechno, 2: 196–97, 16.THE
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 649
(a special camp in which scientific
research work was carried out), Dmitrii Panin and Aleksandr
criticized him for not wanting to recognize himself “as a Jew
above all,” and
they did not agree with Kopelev’s self-definition as a
protagonists observed any sort of Jewish traditions. Itenberg told his
that on Red Army day there was “red wine and roast pork
especially fond of).” A month later, he wrote: “The
food now is very good,
roast pork with potatoes predominates, and I
don’t need anything else.”82
in his diary a memory about a simple joy at the front: “We
spent the night …
having stuffed ourselves with pork and having
drunk our fill of milk.”83
grandfather and especially his great
grandfather, who abandoned his family and went to die in
would have spun in their graves having learned how their non-observant
descendant violated custom.
of them, of course,
knew about the Nazis’ extermination of the Jews. Many lost
Itenberg’s grandfather remained in Gomel´ to guard
their home, not believing
stories about German brutalities. The house was saved, but his
noted the terrible story of the Łódź ghetto
in his diary.85
also knew about the extermination
of the Jews. But as he acknowledged himself, this did not deeply affect
was both a “Russian” and a resident of the capital
through and through: “The
army Russian ‘we’ also affected my initial
understanding of the genocide. It
was spoken about as if of someone else’s sorrow. I, too, saw
it as someone
else’s sorrow. I thought of those who had perished as shtetl
is, those who weren’t like me. I felt bad for
them, of course, but as if for someone else.” Pomerants hoped
that the majority
of urban, Jewish intelligenty had managed to
evacuate. In general, in a
war where millions of people were dying, there was no point in
by nationality among those who perished. It already “got to
him” when he was
returning from Germany, in Majdanek, “near a mass of
children’s shoes heaped in
a pile”: he “felt for those who perished as for his
own children and for the
first time fully experienced the words of Ivan Karamazov about little
who weren’t guilty of anything.”86
one instance General
A. D. Okorokov said to Kopelev, with respect to the denunciation
him after his trip to Naidenburg and Allenstein (see below):
“But you’re a Jew after
all. How can you love the Germans so much? Don’t you know
what they’re doing to
the Jews?” Kopelev answered, “What do you mean,
‘love’? I hate the fascists,
but not as a Jew—I
haven’t had occasion to
pechali (Moscow: Slovo, 1991), 46.
letters to his wife, 26 February and 16 March 1945.
1: 208 (4 February 1945).
interview, April 2007.
1: 208 (10 February 1945).
gadkogo utenka, 158.650
think about that very often—but
as a Soviet person… . As a person from Kiev and Moscow, but
all as a Communist. That means my hatred could not be expressed in
women, in marauding.”87
the fall of 1942, when Kopelev asserted that it would be necessary to
shoot a million or a million and a half Nazis to “tear out
all the roots of
Hitlerism,” a coworker ascribed his cruelty to the fact that
he was a Jew and
therefore hated all Germans.88
1945, he was obliged to demonstrate that he, a Jew, was faithful to
the internationalist doctrine of the party. He apparently did not
the party had changed doctrine, even though its adoption of a new state
was a clear reflection of this change: as of 1 January 1944, the Soviet
woke up to the sounds not of the
“Internationale” but to the music of
so unusual for his environment that the denunciation of him, directly
by his superior and written by someone who considered him a friend,
as a child Kopelev was raised in the family of a German
perhaps as a provocation—Kopelev’s
immediate superior, Zabashtanskii,
described his trip to Majdanek and asserted that the tap of the gas
turned not by Hitler or Goebbels but by ordinary Germans, since only
liquidated at the camp. Having exploded with anger about this
speculation on corpses,” Kopelev spoke of “his
kin” shot at Babi Yar in Kiev
and about how in Oster they hanged everyone with his family name; and
regard to his only brother, who had disappeared without a trace,
that he died in battle, “because if he was captured, then he
was gassed there
in Majdanek.” “But I hate all fascists and I
can’t hate an entire people.”90
genuine Soviet people. The problem was that the conception of
a genuine Soviet
person had changed. Not everyone managed to notice this.
protagonists had occasion to discuss the “Jewish
question” with Germans.
Itenberg, who did not pass up a chance to practice his German and often
with prisoners, asked them: “Why do Germans dislike
Jews?” “And a 36-year-old
Fritz, a gardener by trade, began to talk to me about it with
enthusiasm and to
my joy I understood [by “to my joy,” Itenberg meant
that he could make sense of
the German]: ‘When Hitler came to power, the majority of
factories, and other commercial establishments were owned by Jews, and
all that, they began to shoot the Jews and put Germans in their
place.’ Is that
close to the truth?” This is how Itenberg wrote his parents,
as if trying to
find a “materialist” explanation for the
Nazis’ extermination of the Jews.91
vechno, 1: 163–64.
295–97. About the death of Kopelev’s relatives, see
Kopelev, Utoli moia
letter to his parents, 13 August 1944.THE
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 651
half a year after the end of the war,
recorded a conversation he had had with a German woman whom he had
picked up on the street.
She spoke of
with contempt—she acquainted me with race theory. She
prattled on about red,
white, and blue blood. This irritated me, and everything within me
The ignorance of this and other younger German women roused my
which I hastened to tell her. I even tried to convince her that all
the same blood, red and hot, wherever they were from, and that fairy
about some sort of “noble Aryan blood” were a
complete fabrication and the
obscurantism of talentless fascist theorists of the Rosenber [sic] type
But she couldn’t understand this.92
the race question, however, did not prevent Gel´fand from
making an effort
(this time, unsuccessfully) to seduce the woman.
officers were surprised to encounter living German Jews in Berlin and
outskirts. In Berkenwerder, Kaufman met four German Jews:
“Their fate was
awful. However, the vitality of these Jews was striking. They say that
2,000 Jews are hidden in the outskirts of Berlin.” The next
day he met another
Jewish family—actually, a
mixed family. He was surprised to see that
the Jewish wife continued to wear the yellow star with the word Jude
it. When he asked why, she answered that it was a
“good thing now.” Thus Kaufman concluded,
“A sign of shame had become a kind of
passport for them.”93
the end of April
1945, the staff of the corps in which Anatolii Aronov served was based
Wilhelmstrasse in Berlin. On the very first day, the major noticed a
woman in dark glasses, a black overcoat and black scarf” in
staring fixedly at him. The next day the woman made a decision, went up
Aronov and held out to him a scrap of paper with a Star of David drawn
“Having recognized” the Soviet officer as a Jew,
she decided to “reveal
herself.” The worn-out, graying woman who appeared old in
fact turned out to be
16. In 1940, her family had been deported to Poland. Frau Kreber, with
girl had learned to play the piano, hid her in the pantry of her
five years. The girl wanted to hang herself, but it was not possible to
without exposing her music teacher. Her hope for the future was tied to
relatives who lived in America. Major Aronov never saw her again.94
Berlin, Elena Kogan
met Doctor Bruk, a dentist. He lived under an assumed name,
and his former
student and assistant Käthe Häuserman and her sister
helped hide him. The
piquancy of the situation lay in the fact that
Häuserman now worked as an
assistant to another dentist, Professor Blashke, Hitler’s
spent time in postwar Berlin with the Rischovsky
Dnevniki 1941–1946, 23 November 1945,
Podennye, 1: 218 (24 and 27 April 1945).
mai 1945, 177–78.652
family, German Jews, and
surreptitiously “exchanged kisses” with their
eldest daughter, Elsa.96
But the meeting of German Jews with their
brethren did not always bring happiness or even understanding. Michael
noted that the senior lieutenant-translator of the command was ashamed
Jewishness and tried to hide it. He responded to the Jewish
attestations of Vik
and his family by stating, “Everyone knows that Hitler killed
all the Jews; and
since, despite that, you’re still alive, that means you
collaborated with the
of our protagonists discussed the liquidation of the Jews. Nazism was
absolute evil; for most people the time had not yet come to think about
origins, essence, and politics. Only Kaufman, in the context of his
about Hitlerism as the apotheosis of Bürgertum,
of the petty bourgeoisie, logically deduced the motives for
destruction of the Jews: “The Burger hates the Jewish
destroys all the Jews. The Burger considers himself and his wife the
well-ordered Burgers in the world. Hitler screams that only a
Burgers is fit to exist on earth.”98
an obvious attempt to wound this “nation
of Burgers,” Kaufman, “for fun,” told
Germans he met around Berlin that he was
a Jew: “They were terribly glad, as if I weren’t a
Jew but a rich uncle who was
also about to die.”99
seems what worried
our protagonists most was not the Germans’ attitudes toward
“everything was clear”—but
the attitudes of their fellow
countrymen, their comrades-in-arms, as the purported internationalism
Soviet people began to evaporate before their eyes (if it had ever
beyond the confines of a narrow circle of the urban intelligentsia).
the exception of
Grossman, Boris Slutskii was undoubtedly the most worried about the
Jews and the Jewish question. He recorded the “story of the
about his travels in occupied territory, including what was most bitter—how
former coworkers, neighbors, acquaintances, and even his brother-in-law
(Gershel´man was married to a Russian woman) not only did not
want to give him
refuge but tried to hand him over to the Germans. Gershel´man
survived, of course, because he was helped by a wide variety of people.
However, his conclusion—that
“those who helped me were ten times
greater in number than those who sold me out”—was
not very inspiring. This was in part
because in the story Slutskii recorded that those who helped were far
being ten times greater in number, and in telling the story of his
an officer he barely knew, although a Jew, Gershel´man should
have reached the
“correct” conclusion. What was important was
something else: Gershel´man’s
many other stories of this sort, most of them with a sad ending—undermined
certainty in the “internationalism” of the Soviet
people. Before the war,
1941–1946, 17 and 19 October 1945.
1: 218 (17 April 1945).
(23 April 1945).THE
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 653
Gershel´man, in his own words, had
completely forgotten that he was a Jew.100 He
was reminded of it during the war, and not only by the Nazis.
clearly recognized this. “In Austria I ran into a different
attitude of the
Russian toward the Jew,” he wrote right after the optimistic
Gershel´man’s story. He then tells the story of a
Viennese Jewess, who was hidden
for two years by Styrian peasants out of “peasant
decency” and pity for her
three-year-old son. “She was a colorless woman, with slack
skin and dull reddish
hair. It always seemed to me that there couldn’t be any
between cheerful Odessans and the rickety Litvaks, that one group came
swarthy victors of Canaan and the others from poor Philistines weakened
slavery.” Here is her story: “I often listened to
the radio and knew the Red
Army well. I waited for you. In my entire life I had made love to only
And now I have to sleep with every soldier who passes through the
his first request.”101 The story is
not very unusual
for those days. It is interesting (if that term is appropriate for such
story) not in itself but for the interpretation that
Slutskii gives to it. The soldiers compelled the woman to sleep with
at all because she was Jewish. It is unlikely they concerned themselves
details, since the woman spoke German. For them, she was Austrian—German—and
do with them what one liked. Yet Slutskii clearly, painfully sensed how
Russians’ attitude toward Jews had changed (or appeared
clearly during the
tried to find a
rational explanation for this. In his words, the “Russian
an inarguable fact: he fought more than anyone, better than anyone,
faithfully than anyone.” Moreover, the state decided to play
the patriotic card
(which could easily become the nationalist card). “The war
brought us the wide
dissemination of nationalism in its basest, aggressive chauvinistic
Slutskii noted. “The calling up of the spirits of the past
proved a dangerous
procedure.” A variety of peoples of the Soviet Union met one
another during the
war. These included the illiterate or barely literate residents of
or the Caucasus mountains, who did not understand Russian and were
handle military technology. “The peoples … became
acquainted with one another.
They did not necessarily improve their opinion of one another after
was internationalism, then it became
internationalism minus the Fritzes; now the shining legend
that ‘there weren’t
bad nations, but bad people and classes’ was finally
destroyed. The minuses had
become too numerous.”103
occupied a special
place on this scale of mutual antipathy, which with time was
transformed into a fighting comradeship. It seems that this
hostility to comradeship affected the Jews least. Grigorii
Pomerants’s Order of
the Red Star was stolen in the hospital (in the officers’
drugikh i o sebe , 107–17.
There was probably “nothing
in this. The order fetched 10,000 rubles on the black market. A
“Russified Bashkir,” however, came up to him and
began to explain that it was
perhaps not Pomerants himself who deserved such an insult but Jews in
The captain heard from senior officers with whom he lay in the same
unit that after the war there would be an “anti-Jewish
there were no Jews on the front, “but in the rear, the Fifth
thousand Jews on the front had a distinct feeling that the military
their people was inadequate, that what had been done was
Slutskii noted, as if agreeing with those who accused the Jews.
anger were directed at those who brought attention to this, and through
self-sacrifice some sought to make up for the absence of their timid
compatriots at the front.”105 This was a
“Jewish complex,” not alien to Slutskii himself. He
explained the absence of
Jews in the infantry by noting, first, that they had a higher
and, second, that from 1943 on the infantry was filled with peasants
liberated regions, where Jews had simply been obliterated. These
infantrymen gave in more easily to Nazi propaganda, given the
absence of Jews
at the front. At the same time, Jews made up a significant share of the
artillery, sapper, and other technical units, which were overwhelmingly
proletarian in composition. This encouraged the development of
certain types of units. Antisemitism “gradually declined to
nothing” in the
officer corps as well, where Jews were valued as staff officers,
political workers, and engineers.106
these were entirely logical mental conclusions; for example, no
testified to “philosemitism” in
“proletarian” technical units, no
of the attitude toward Jews among officers were made. One thing was
“proletarian internationalism” was shaken; and
Slutskii, a major in the Red
Army and a Communist, did not want to reconcile himself to this at all.
and sharp observer in him starkly coexisted with the quasi-Marxist
While clearly presenting a picture of the destruction of European
independent of the class status of those being killed,
Slutskii still related
the following story: “One of the few Jewish men who returned
[Yugoslavia—O.B.], the son
of a rich merchant, gave his property
to the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. It was said that his
vehemently. This example characterizes the existence of two currents in
contemporary Jewish life—the builders of
its destroyers.”107 In actuality,
Jews in 1945 were not divided by
the issue of one’s attitude toward capitalism. They were
divided into two
unequal parts: those who survived and those who did not. The former
were in the
drugikh i o sebe, 122.
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 655
A sense of the
“inadequacy of the military
achievement” of Jews, which tormented Slutskii, had no real
attitudes, which grew stronger at all levels of Soviet society during
could be explained in a number of ways, but not by the absence of Jews
front. Official data from the Ministry of Defense puts the number of
among Jewish servicemen at 142,500. In absolute numbers, a larger
contribution” to victory was made by Russians, Ukrainians,
Tatars, whose numbers exceeded the size of the Jewish population. It
kept in mind that less than one-third (30.2%) of the Jewish population
territories not occupied by the Nazis during 1941; and exactly the same
proportion (30.2%) lived in territories seized by the Nazis in the
June through August of that year. The overwhelming majority of
the latter were
killed. Another 39.6 percent of Soviet Jews were located in territories
occupied between August and November 1941. How many of those managed to
evacuate is not known. The Nazis also seized territories with a
Jewish population later, in 1942. Overall, the losses of the Jewish
(including those who lived in territories annexed by the USSR in
totaled 2,733,000 or 55 percent of the entire Jewish population of the
June 1941. This accounts for over 10 percent of all demographic losses
USSR during the Great Patriotic War. Considering that more than half of
Jewish population was exterminated by the Nazis, our calculations
Jews who perished at the front constituted over 6 percent of the
Soviet Jewish population.108 Jews were not
“timidity,” judging by the number of those
decorated with orders and medals
during the Great Patriotic War. Their number reached 141,502 people; by
measure, Jews were surpassed only by Russians, Ukrainians, and
Slutskii overcame the Jewish “military complex”
later, although not in prose,
but in verse. His well-known poem was entitled, “About the
don’t plant any crops,Jews do deal in their shops,Jews
go bald,Jews grab more than they’re owed.
F. Krivosheev, ed., Rossiia
i SSSR v voinakh XX veka: Poteri vooruzhennykh sil (Moscow:
OLMA-Press, 2001); Vsesoiuznaia perepis´
naseleniia 1939 goda, 57; M. Kupovetskii, “Liudskie
naseleniia v poslevoennykh granitsakh SSSR v gody Velikoi
voiny,” Vestnik Evreiskogo universiteta v Moskve,
no. 2 (9) (1995): 152,
table 9; Mordechai Altshuler, Soviet Jewry on the
Eve of the Holocaust: A
Social and Demographic Profile (Oxford: Berghahn Books,
Otdela po uchetu i registratsii nagrazhdennykh pri Sekretariate
Verkhovnogo Soveta SSSR o kolichestve nagrazhdennykh ordenami i
za vremia Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny [15 maia 1946 g.],
arkhiv Rossiiskoi Federatsii (GARF) f. R-7523, op. 17, d. 343, ll.
document was presented by L. S. Gatagova.656
Jew’s a conniving bastard;He’s not much
good in the army:Ivan in a trench doing battle,Abram doing trade at the
heard it since I was a child,and soon I’ll be past any
can’t find a place to hidefrom the cries of: “The
Jews, the Jews!”
Not a single
deal have I pulled,never stolen, and always paid,but I bear
this accursed bloodwithin me like the plague.
From the war I
came back safe,So as to be told to my face:“No Jews got
killed, you know! None!They all came back, every one!”110
revanche” in Germany occurred unexpectedly, although
participants in the action
themselves were the last ones to think of it in precisely these terms.
Kogan was part of the group that was tasked with finding Hitler, or
remained of him. After the discovery of the remains, for a time she
Hitler’s teeth, which were placed in a box that had held
perfume or cheap
jewelry (there was no safe on hand). Not for a moment could she take
off the box, which contained the only incontrovertible proof of the
the burned body discovered in the courtyard of the Reichskanzlerei,
and of Hitler. Kogan was annoyed that she had to
drag around the box with Hitler’s teeth under her arm the
whole time; it was
examination of Hitler’s body was carried out under the
supervision of the
chief forensic expert of the First Belorussian Front,
in his worst nightmare the Führer, who
expended so much energy on the extermination of the Jews, could not
foreseen that his burned corpse would be opened up by a Jew with the
name of Faust, and that a Jewish woman would drag his teeth around
arm and, moreover, would be annoyed that they interfered with her
the capitulation of the Third Reich.
Slutskii, Stikhi raznykh let: Iz neizdannogo (Moscow:
pisatel´, 1988), 121. Translation from Boris
Slutsky, Things That Happened,
ed. and trans. G. S. Smith (Moscow: Glas, 1999), 185.
mai 1945, 171–73.
MEETS THE ENEMY 657
26 December 1944, Stalin approved a
decree for organizing the receipt and delivery of packages from Red
soldiers, sergeants, officers, and generals from active fronts to the
rear. The sending of packages was permitted not more than once a month
following amounts: for a rank-and-file soldier and sergeant 5 kilos,
officers 10 kilos, and for generals 16 kilos.113
the decree was obvious: the possibility of sending home
“trophies” was supposed
to serve as a stimulus for the campaign in Europe. It was, among other
a means of countering German propaganda, which posed the question:
on foreign soil?” It also drew the attention of Red Army
troops “to the
imagined and real advantages of European life.”114
saw the decree, which appeared on “crossing into German
equivalent to an “approval of marauding.” Viewed
from another perspective, this
decree, which in Churkin’s estimation was “no
good,” was justified by the fact
that “every month the German soldier was allowed to send home
a package of 16
kilograms from the territories they had seized.”115
the war by means of the ‘package campaign’ deeply
nauseates me. Was it
necessary, in avenging the scoundrel, to resemble him?”
noted that a “revolutionary leap” in terms of
marauding took place after the authorization of sending
what he had
seen the night after the taking of Gumbinnen, from which the German
had fled, Efraim Genkin wrote on 22 January 1945, “Our
people, like a horde of
Huns, threw themselves on the houses.”
is burning; down from feather
pillows flies in the air. Everyone, from the soldier to the colonel,
goods. In a matter of hours, wonderfully furnished apartments, the
homes, were destroyed and now look like a dump, where torn pictures are
up with the contents of broken jars of jam… . This picture
and horror in me… . It’s vile to look at people
digging in someone else’s
goods, greedily grabbing everything they can get their hands on. At the
time, the stimulus to this, to a certain degree, is the permission to
packages back home. It’s vile, disgusting, and base!!! This
is just like the
Germans in Ukraine.118
arkhiv: Velikaia Otechestvennaia. Prikazy narodnogo komissara oborony
2–3 (Moscow: Terra, 1997), 344–48.
drugikh i o sebe, 35.
opolchentsa, 6 February 1945.
1: 211 (20 February 1945).
drugikhi i o sebe, 96.
281. Genkin, however,
also saw a “second side” of the matter:
“Crucified German city! It answered for
the torments of thousands of our Russian brethren, turned into ashes by
Germans in 1941.”658
interpreted the decree completely
differently, having seen in it a just rendering of accounts:
“Now there is a
directive: you can send packages from the front, so I’ll do
so at the first
opportunity when I can send something. Now the time is over when
Germany were stuffed to overflowing with our Russian things, now
it’ll be the
other way around. Women with simple Russian names—Nina, Marusia,
Tonia, and many others—will receive
beloved husbands, fiancés, and friends; they will rejoice in
the victories of
the Red Army and curse our enemies.” He wanted to get to
Prussia as quickly as
possible, while “there were still some trophies
there.”119 The first
city that Itenberg reached was Gumbinnen. It was several days after
units had seized it. Considering what has been discussed above, there
little in the way of trophies there. According to Itenberg, all that
in the houses were the “skeletons of furniture.”
The upholstery had been
expertly cut off.120
Gel´fand had no doubts about the
“package” decree: “No one prevents anyone
taking and destroying what the Germans had stolen from us earlier. I am
completely satisfied.” Gel´fand was taken aback
only by the barbaric attitude
of his comrades-in-arms (with whom, by the way, he had a very
relationship) toward classical German culture. His company
commander smashed a
bust of Schiller and “would have destroyed Goethe as well if
I had not ripped
it from the hands of this madman and buried it, having wrapped it in
“Geniuses cannot be equated with barbarians,” the
commander of the platoon
mused, and to destroy their memory is a great sin and disgrace for a
days later, instead of relaxing Gel´fand had to spend his
bags of superfluous trophy goods—it
wasn’t possible to carry it
all.” He was a successful marauder; and dozens of watches,
which served as
small change, passed through his hands. Most did not work, but for the
they were still valuable.122 The command
approved of the
seizure of goods and pillaging. As soon as
Gel´fand’s unit established itself
on the west bank of the Oder, the command gave orders to
“check the houses.”
Gel´fand’s take consisted of a fountain pen, a pack
of playing cards in a case,
a regular watch, and a silver watch chain. True, the watch he found was
immediately taken by the commander of the neighboring company.123
describes a similar, though larger-scale picture of the
“expropriation of the
expropriators.” Not far from Berlin, in Strausberg, already
at the very end of
the war, the commander of a reconnaissance company ordered soldiers
trucks crammed with goods to place trophies on the ground and return to
units. A group of officers, having lain in wait for the return
letters to his wife, 18 January and 10 February 1945.
interview, April 2007.
February and 1 March 1945.
MEETS THE ENEMY 659
of the rank and file from their
looting campaign, dug into the pile of overcoats, suits, underwear,
accordions and began tying up the better items into packages. Colonel
Savitskii, who was the most senior in rank, could not carry away
that caught his eye and on top of this ordered that the biggest
sent to him. The effort to palm off a smaller instrument on him was
unsuccessful, as Savitskii had counted up all the buttons on his
accordion and had found that it had more.124
together with alcohol, were the hardest form of currency among the
a villa outside Berlin where Grigorii Pomerants and his comrades were
quartered, there were no clocks left, aside from a two-meter-tall
clock. “We’ll publish a law so that smaller clocks
aren’t produced,” Ruth, the
owner of the villa, joked bitterly, “because your guys stole
all the rest.” One
of Ruth’s friends complained about the Soviet Militärfrauen
girls]. “The male soldiers robbed her in a
straightforward fashion: they grabbed food, wine, and watches. But the Militärfrauen
immediately figured out where she hid the jewelry, felt the matreshka
the teapot, and uncovered everything.” Frau Ruth teased
Pomerants “about the
dictionary of the Russian soldier”: Ring, Ohr, Rad,
Wein [ring, watch,
were the “blue chips” of the exchange market.
from well-to-do families of the USSR first had the opportunity to try
things that were ordinary for Europeans only in Germany, even if they
have seen them before. Gel´fand learned how to ride a bicycle
on the outskirts
of Berlin on 22 April 1945, as he noted precisely in his diary.126
highly valued by the victors. There were not enough for everyone, and
these trophies one had to go head to head. Itenberg, already
demobilized at the
end of 1945, left for home with a bicycle, although he did not quite
get it all
the way back: he went by steamship; and courteous German machinists
fixed it up
on the tender, from which it was taken. Itenberg had no doubt that
had stolen the bicycle.127
little luck with trophies. His only booty was a set of dinnerware. It
buried by residents who had fled, but Red Army troops
discovered the hole and
dug it up. Itenberg wrote to his wife: “Even I
didn’t stand firm and took for
myself ten plates, six of which were the same, with a wonderful
crystal carafe and five wine glasses, one of which was broken; then I
another two little cups with little plates—all
Bavarian china (the best china in the
world)… . To send the china in a package is senseless—it
would break. So we’ll wait until the end
of the war and then we’ll fill the carafe with wine and drink
from the wine
dishes, unlike the bicycle, made it home.
gadkogo utenka, 164, 167.
Dnevniki, 1941–1946, 25 April 1945.
interview, April 2007.
letter to his wife, 10 April 1945.660
continued to “squeeze” things out of the
civilian population until the last days of the war.129 Pillaging and
drunkenness ruined the aesthetic of victory. Pomerants recalled his
impressions of early May 1945: “One of the greatest victories
in the world.
Everything rejoices and sings in one’s breast. And sharply
breaking through the
rejoicing is shame. A world capital. Groups of foreign workers bunched
corners, returning to France, Belgium, and before their eyes—what shame!
Soldiers are drunk, officers are drunk. Sappers with mine detectors
garden beds for buried wine. They also drink methyl alcohol and go
accuracy of Pomerants’s recollections is confirmed by the
diary entries of
other witnesses and participants. Grossman’s impressions of
nature of the victory,” the general rejoicing—the
rifles bloomed with flowers, like the trunks of spring trees”—were
ruined, as he acknowledged later, by the fact that many of those who
were “living dead men”: “they’d
drunk up an awful poison from kegs with a
technical mixture in the Tiergarten—the poison
began to act on the
third day and killed mercilessly.” A great victory, and at
the same time the
atmosphere of a flea market: “Barrels, piles of manufactured
leather goods, wine, champagne, clothes—all this they
lugged on their shoulders.”131
May 1945 in Berlin, Captain Efraim Genkin noted that he learned not to
surprised and that “there are no pretty words to be
written,” perhaps because
“everyone was drunk” around him.
“Everyone and everything.” The captain, who
had been fighting almost from the beginning of the war, was one of the
experienced not only the happiness of the victory but also its shame:
is crucified. Crucified like Prussia, Pomerania, Silesia, like all of
where the Russian boot has managed to step… .
Berlin is crucified. Terribly crucified. I can’t
even write about it.”132
“Everything is on fire,” he wrote in Schwerin.
“Looting is in full swing… . An
old woman has thrown herself from a window of a burning building. We
house, there’s a puddle of blood on the floor and in it an
old man, shot by the
looters. There are cages with rabbits and pigeons in the empty yard. We
their doors to save them from the fire. Two dead parrots in their
Grossman went to the famous zoological garden, where fighting
had taken place.
He saw the bodies of marmosets, tropical birds, and bears.
1: 222 (21 April 1945).
gadkogo utenka, 167.
Grossman, A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army
ed. and trans. Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova (London: Pimlico,
The publishers of his notebooks of the wartime period (Gody
which appeared at the end of perestroika, did not
risk or could not
print these entries and several others by Grossman. The full text of
notebooks has not been published in Russian in post-Soviet Russia
note, at the same time, that the publishers of the English translation
Grossman’s “Notebooks” seemingly did not
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 661
The body of a gorilla that had been
killed was in a cage. “Was it dangerous?” he asked
an onlooker. “Not, it only
snarled loudly. People are dangerous.”134
Tears of Trojan Women
who have addressed the theme of
mass rapes perpetrated by Soviet soldiers and officers in Germany note
this theme was taboo in the Soviet/Russian literature:
“Neither in memoirs nor
in histories of the period is the issue of rape treated as a proper
subject [of rape] has been so repressed in Russia
that even today veterans refuse to acknowledge what really happened
onslaught on Germany terroritory.”136
is nothing surprising in this. It was
not just a question of prohibitions. “You know, I
don’t feel bad for the
Germans at all, let them shoot them and do whatever they want with
Nikolai Safonov said to his friend Nikolai Inozemtsev at the end of
1945. “In any case nothing can be compared to what they did
to us, since it had
governmental organization and scope. But it’s shameful that
all these rapes
lower the dignity of the army as a whole and each Russian
Safonov perished on 6 April 1945.137
thinking of the army’s honor in 1945, veterans worried about
it, too. Those who
survived did not want the acts of rapists to darken the memory of the
these “upright youth of the great war” (strogie
iunoshi velikoi voiny).
In conversations, war veterans were not very forthcoming, apparently
because the interviewer was a foreigner.138
undoubtedly may be explained not only
by fear (after August 1991 there was not really anything to fear) but
reluctance to “hang out dirty laundry,” even if the
discussion was about a time
long past. Maybe it was precisely because veterans did not want to
bright image of the victory. After all, victory in the Great Patriotic
considered perhaps the only indisputably all-national value in Russia.
cannot change the
past, however, and the only means to “overcome” it
is to “accept” and explain
it. Therefore, diaries and memoirs are of particular interest, as they
written in the heat of events, in which the authors are not looking
back at a
developed tradition and do not fear “effacing” the
victory. This also applies
to veterans who gradually freed themselves from the Soviet system of
did not consider themselves obliged to follow the official version of
Several of them, both during the war and many years later, strove not
describe, but to explain what had happened.least
did not mention—that
they had been published in the original language, even if with several
See the review by Frank Ellis in Journal of Slavic Military
1 (2007): 137–46.
voiny, 457. Subsequently from this note grew the story of
“Tiergarten.” See Vasilii Grossman, Neskol´ko
pechal´nykh dnei (Moscow:
Sovremennik, 1989), 277–302.
in Germany, 85.
Fall of Berlin, 1945, 31.
dnevnik, 210, 218.
in Germany, 85; Merridale, Ivan’s War, 319–20.662
The problem of
rape is one of the central issues in
the writings of the intellectuals we have been examining.
Pomerants, they were capable of feeling “for the victor and
for the defeated
unfortunate women.” Drinking with a chance acquaintance in a
German town, “in a
house full of German women,” Pomerants remembered lines from
castle-walls had sunkTroy in dust and ashes lay.
the “joy of the Achaens” with the “tears
of the Trojan women,” Pomerants was
simultaneously filled with “rejoicing and horror.”139 Thereafter, in
memories about the war in Russia—more accurately
final stage—there remained
only the “joy of the Achaens” and
rejoicing. The majority preferred not to recall the “tears of
tried rationally to explain the absence of any discernible struggle
rapes, the numbers of which grew sharply when the army entered Austrian
territory. Austrian villages that looked large on the map turned out to
collection of houses scattered on hills, separated from one another by
and valleys: “Often, one could not hear a woman’s
cries from one house to
another.” In most farms and little villages there were
neither garrisons nor
commanders. At the same time, Austrian women, having been deprived of
“were not too resistant.”
above all other factors, it was fear—universal and
women to put their hands up on encountering a soldier, and that forced
to stand at the door while their wives were raped.”140 Slutskii
led an improvised investigation in the settlement of Sichauer, on the
Styria and Burgenland. He questioned six girls who had been raped,
one who had been raped six times in three days. The “flirt
seemed proud that she had been raped only once because she cunningly
kitchen gardens, described what happened in a single phrase:
“they hunt us like
rabbits.” Soldiers knocked at the door in the middle of the
night; if it was
not opened, they broke the glass and raped women “right in
the common bedroom.”
“They could at least have driven the old ones into another
room,” the victims
complained. Girls did not spend the night at home but instead slept in
haystacks. They waited with dread for the fall, when it would get cold.141
seconds Slutskii, except that the event he describes took place not in
a village far from the eyes of the command, but ten kilometers from
young girl, Helga. Seventeen years old. She had been raped five times
soldiers. The women asked that they not touch her anymore—she
drugikh i o sebe, 101.
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 663
it. What a horror! She herself asked
me about it. I spend all day with old men, broads, and their children,
protecting them from all sorts of encroachments.”142
recorded a similar story. In Berlin, he met a large German family. The
girl, by her account, had been raped by roughly 20 soldiers in front of
mother. In a state of despair, the girl proposed that
Gel´fand live with her, since
he was an officer and then the others would not touch her. Her mother
requested this for her daughter.
the city of Forst (in Brandenburg), while searching for an apartment
billeting, Pomerants discovered an old woman lying in bed in one of the
“Are you sick?” “Yes, your soldiers,
seven of them, raped me and then shoved in
a bottle; now it’s painful to walk.”143
Allenstein, Kopelev met a woman with a bloodied bandage on her head,
with her 13-year-old daughter. The girl had “blond
braids,” she had been
crying. “A short little coat, long legs, like on a foal, on
her light colored
The woman constantly tried to turn back; the
girl pulled her to the other side. According to her mother, two men
daughter and she herself had been raped by “very
many,” and then they were
thrown out of their house. But what worried the woman most at that
that soldiers had beaten her 11-year-old son: “He’s
lying there, in the house,
he’s still alive.” The girl, sobbing, tried to
convince her mother that her
brother was dead. The only thing Kopelev could do for them was to
to a collection point under the guard of an older soldier who, learning
had happened, cursed the “bastards and
wrote about the “horrible things” that happened to
German women. In Schwerin,
some of the victims tried to complain to the military authorities: the
of a woman who was raped by ten soldiers; the mother of a young girl,
a soldier from a signal command attached to the army staff. The face,
hands of the girl were bruised; one eye was swollen. The rapist was
fat-faced, sleepy. He seemed not very frightened of punishment,
good reason. Grossman observed that the commandant questioned
him without much
enthusiasm. In another case, a nursing mother was raped in a barn. Her
relatives asked the rapists to take a break, as the baby needed to
was crying the whole time.145 In a
German women cried and pleaded for a Jewish officer with whom they felt
safe to remain on duty. The paradox lies in the fact that the Jewish
entire family had been killed by the Nazis, and he was living in the
home of a
Gestapo agent who managed to flee but left his family behind.146
1: 222 (21 April 1945).
gadkogo utenka, 163.
vechno, 1: 144–45.
Writer at War, 326–27.
left a note with the parents of a raped
and wounded girl of 15 or 16 years—a bullet had
passed close to
her heart—addressed to
“any commander or fighter of the Soviet
army,” with a request to get the girl to a medical station.
It was the only
thing he could do to help, as the corps staff was moving forward. A
he spoke with a 40-year-old woman who had been subject to gang rape.
advised her to hide for two to three days until the commandant
which in no way guaranteed security, as the experience of those days
suburb of Berlin in the last days of war, Pomerants heard much that was
impartial from the owner of the villa in which the editorial board of
division’s newspaper was quartered and in which he served.
“Those who didn’t
believe in Hitler’s propaganda were the ones who remained in
Berlin—and look what
got.” She herself “got” a night with the
commandant of a staff division, having
been presented with a pistol as an order. “Generally a pistol
acted as an
arrest order in Moscow. Frightened women submitted. Then one
of them hanged
herself. She’s probably not the only one, but
that’s one I know about. At the
time, the victor, having gotten his, was playing in the courtyard with
He simply didn’t understand what it meant to her.”148
noticed “many crying young women” on the streets of
Berlin. “Evidently, they
suffered at the hands of our soldiers,” he concluded (the
last phrase was
omitted in the Soviet publication of his notebooks). No special efforts
required to come to that conclusion. “Monsieur, I love your
army,” a young
Frenchman told Grossman, “and that’s why
it’s very painful to see their
behavior toward girls and women. It will be very harmful to your
were the rapists, these “bastards and bandits”?
Slutskii believed that there
was a distinct “group of professional cadres of rapists and
marauders” in the
army. “They were people with relative freedom of movement:
officers, those from the rear.” Discipline progressively
declined in accordance
with movement across Europe, “but only here, in the Third
Reich, did they
actually fall upon blond broads, their leather suitcases, their old
wine and cider.”150
the army, those from the rear were unloved, if not hated. Pomerants
fires in the cities of East Prussia seized by Soviet troops:
“The Slavs shot
automatics at the crystal they couldn’t shove in their kit
bags and set the
rest on fire [i
wasn’t directed against the Germans. There were no Germans in
the city. It was
troops from the rear, who were loading up bags with trophies. The
hatred of the
soldiers was turned against those who got rich in the war. If not me,
one! Destroy everything!”151
voine i posle voiny, 20–21.
gadkogo utenka, 164, 166.
voiny, 456; Grossman, A Writer at War,
drugikh i o sebe, 100–1.
gadkogo utenka, 162.THE
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 665
In any army
there is service in the rear. And it is
not necessarily the case that only bad people serve there. It is
clear, even judging only by the testimonies considered in this article,
military personnel in forward units were dominant among the rapists.
soldiers who perpetrated terror among the female residents of Sichauer
among whom Slutskii carried on “educational
work,” “not according to law but
according to a sense of humanity,” were the most ordinary
rank and file of the
Red Army, in no way distinct from the others.152
literature’s explanations for this behavior of Red Army
soldiers toward German
women, with its focus on revenge and denigration of the
“superior race,” are partially
accurate. The party organizer of the unit in which Pomerants served
1942: “Where’s my wife now? Probably sleeping with
a German.” Then he added,
“Just you wait, when we get to Berlin we’ll show
those German women!”153
these explanations are anecdotal. Thus, according to Antony Beevor,
ensured that Soviet society depicted itself as virtually asexual. This
nothing to do with genuine puritanism: it was because love and sex did
in with dogma designed to ‘deindividualize’ the
The regime clearly wanted any form of
desire to be converted into love for the Party and, above all, the
Leader.” Beevor points to the “dehumanizing
influence of modern propaganda,”
which included “the Soviet state’s attempts to
suppress the libido of its
people.” As a result, “most ill-educated Red Army
soldiers suffered from sexual
ignorance and utterly unenlightened attitudes toward women.”154
would suggest that no
propaganda has ever succeeded in suppressing
people’s “libido.” More than
enough “libido” had built up for hundreds of
thousands of soldiers, deprived
for years of contact with women. When finally they had desirable and
defenseless women in their power, they did not fail to take advantage
In this case drunkenness served not as the cause, as Beevor writes, but
accompanying element of the rapes.155
there was no “sex education” in
Russia before or during the Soviet regime, Russian men courted women
families, and it never occurred to anyone that love for the Great
replace love for a woman. Stalin was, of course, a villain, but he
understood that children are not the result of love of the Party. Thus
soldiers treated German women “inappropriately” not
because they did not know
how to “treat a woman.” They simply did not
consider that necessary. For them
German women were beings of a lower order, the spoils of war. The
has captured the masses is becoming material strength,”
ironically. “Marx stated that completely correctly. At the
drugikh i o sebe, 103.
gadkogo utenka, 120.
Fall of Berlin, 1945, 32.
of the war, masses were taken with
the idea that German women from 16 to 60 were the rightful spoils of
victor. No sort of Stalin could stop the army.”156
were made to stop the army at the end of April. When Slutskii
had happened in Sichauer to the command, he was actually listened to.
wrote: “The time was now past when my signals about attempted
interpreted as slander on the Red Army. The issue now concerned the
loss of Austria.” Moreover, “stern” and
“definitive” telegrams began to arrive
from Moscow. “But even without them, the innermost elements
of party spirit, of
developed internationalism—which you can
never escape—and of
were boiling up,” wrote the incorrigible Communist and
it proved difficult to overcome the inertia of permissiveness, despite
imposition of very severe measures. If in Vienna relative order was
established, it was much more complicated to control troops in the
In the region of Krems during the week of 26 June to 3 July 1945,
women were raped and “up to 17” civilians were
injured. The instigator, or the
one “designated” as such, was shot. This
“educational measure,” probably
“driven home” to his comrades-in-arms, had little
influence on them. The
“removal” of cattle, birds, and other property from
the population, as well as
rapes, continued. Women working in the fields were often raped.158
that a significant number of women became pregnant as a result of rape,
provisional government of Styria had to allow abortions “for
ethical reasons in
proven cases of rape,” thus suspending the existing
law that criminalized the
artificial termination of pregnancy.159
to Pomerants’s memoirs, stern telegrams from Moscow, even
orders from Stalin
himself, had no effect. Soldiers and officers cooled down only around
after the end of the war. “It was like after an attack, when
166. “[W]omen, well-dressed urban women—the
girls of Europe—were
the first tribute
we took from the vanquished” (Slutskii, O drugikh i
o sebe, 44).
drugikh i o sebe, 103.
pis´mo politicheskogo sovetnika po delam Avstrii E. D.
narodnogo komissara inostrannykh del SSSR V. G. Dekanozovy k dokladnoi
o politicheskikh nastorniiakh v g. Vena i v sovetskoi zone okkupatsii
in Die Rote Armee in Österreich: Sowjetische
Besantzung, 1945–55. Dokumente
/ Krasnaia Armiia v Avstrii: Sovetskaia okkupatsiia,
ed. Stefan Karner, Barbara Stelzl-Marx, and Alexander
Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2005), 300, 304. Half a year later,
robbery and rape continued to be noted, and after a year and a half the
of criminality among soldiers of the Soviet occupying troops in Austria
still rather high. At the end of 1946, according to information from
Austrian Ministry for the Interior, in the course of a month 562 crimes
committed by Soviet troops, compared to 38 by Americans, 30 by the
23 by the English. “These data were clearly compiled
tendentiously,” G. N.
Molochkovskii, a TASS correspondent in the Central Committee
Propaganda and Agitation, stated. “However, Soviet commanders
acts of undisciplined behavior by Soviet troops and violations of the
committed by them.” See Die Rote Armee,
vremennogo pravitel´stva zemli Shtiriia vsem otdelam
zdravookhraneniia o regulirovanii
voprosov preryvaniia beremennosti po sostoianiiu zdorov´ia
osnovaniiam, 26 maia 1945 g.,” in ibid., 606–8.THE
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 667
surviving Fritzes weren’t killed but
were given cigarettes. The plunder stopped. The pistol ceased being the
of love. A few necessary words were mastered and agreements
peacefully. And the incorrigible descendants of Genghis Khan began to
They got five years for a German woman, for a Czech woman—ten.”160
The epoch of violence had ended. The era of
first time the theme of love between a
German woman and a Russian officer appeared in literature was
in the novel of
the established Soviet writer Iurii Bondarev, The Shore (Bereg,
The hero of the novel, Lieutenant Nikitin, having established a
with the beguiling Emma, “understood that something unreal
was happening to
him, something despairing, akin to betrayal, to a crime committed in
sleep, an impermissible violation of something, as if he were
crossing over and had crossed over an unspoken forbidden border, which
several reasons he had no right to cross.”161
romantic story of
Nikitin and Emma was inspired by many real
“stories” that had taken place between
Russians and Germans. True, the reality, as is its wont, was rather
prosaic. There was little romance in it, and much more
“prose” of the hungry
Gel´fand met “two pretty German girls”
outside the mess hall of his unit. The
girls began to compliment Gel´fand on his looks (rather than
vice versa!). Soon
the mother of one of the girls, who “happened” to
be nearby, came up and began
to show her photographs to Gel´fand and two of his
colleagues. The matron
evidently was playing the role of souteneuse. The
lieutenant was still
so naive that he did not understand what was going on.
Gel´fand, intrigued by
this meeting, “ate lunch without appetite,” wrapped
his pastries up in a
newspaper, and gave them to the girls. “They were very
hungry, although they
didn’t show it. But I guessed it, and when one took my
package in her hands and
guessed what was in it—she
happily jumped up, expressing her
gratitude.” When a colleague of
Gel´fand’s gave the girls chocolate,
won over in such a way that it’s impossible to convey even a
part of the
delight that transformed these little figures unrecognizably.”162
time, “the loss of
innocence” of Gel´fand’s naive virgin did
not happen. Half a year later, not a
trace of his naïveté remained. He wanted to take
“abundant pleasure” in the
caresses of a new acquaintance, the student of a hairdresser, the
Margot. “Just kisses and embraces” were not enough
for Gel´fand. He
“anticipated more, but I was not bold enough to demand and
insist. The girl’s
mother was pleased with me,” he wrote. “And why
shouldn’t she be! I brought
gadkogo utenka, 166.
thelib.ru/books/bondarev_yuriy/bereg-read.html, accessed 4 June 2009.
1941–1946, 15 May 1945. 668
candies and butter, sausage, and
expensive German cigarettes to the altar of trust and good will of her
relatives. Even half of these goods provided sufficient basis and right
to do whatever I wanted with her daughter in front of her mother, and
latter would say nothing, since foodstuffs today are dearer than life
even of such a young and nice sensitive girl like the tender beauty
Ruth Bogerts, the widow of a merchant and owner of the villa
occupied by the
divisional newspaper, invited her women friends over so the Russian
would not be bored. They arranged musical evenings at the villa, and
the whole crowd went for a stroll.” Obviously, the
women’s interest was completely
pragmatic: they got defense and the chance to be fed. When the merry
went strolling, the neighbors glanced at them through the gates of
“where they waited with dismay for the next robbery or act of
Pomerants fell in love with one of the hostess’s friends,
Frau Nikolaus. Once
he set off to her house as a guest, in order to make a declaration of
woman did not show much enthusiasm, but when Pomerants
“carefully embraced her
around the shoulders” she did not resist: “She had
a six-month-old baby who
needed to eat; she needed to feed him, and I had brought canned
such “purchased love” did not satisfy Pomerants,
who wanted a “spiritual
response”: “I tried to explain what a joy it was to
emerge from the cloud of
hatred and to meet such a kind, intelligent woman here in Berlin, who
same poems I loved.” (Frau Nikolaus kept a volume by Heine,
who had been banned
by the Nazis.) Pomerants felt let down by his poor understanding of
which prevented him from expressing the whole depth and
sincerity of his
feelings. The matter ended when he peacefully fell asleep to the great
satisfaction of the hostess.164
half a year, Gel´fand’s relationship with women
generally, and German women in
particular, underwent a significant evolution. Like the majority of
people of his generation, he “missed” the
“normal” period of falling in love
and the possibility of acquiring a “normal” sexual
experience. Now he wanted
terribly to make up for all this, both at a romantic and a
“Completely in vain I dream of love, even with a German
woman, if only she were
smart, beautiful, and with a good figure, and most important, if she
devotedly. Things didn’t go farther than dreams of this:
embraces, kisses, and
two- to three hour conversations. I still hadn’t found a
girl. Those who were tender were stupid, or if passionate then
third group was ugly; a fourth didn’t have good figures.
girls were proud and susceptible to all the subtleties of
wrote in June 1945.165
26 October 1945.
1941–1946, 3 June 1945.THE
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 669
downfall was accomplished—with a German
and in far from romantic circumstances. Gel´fand settled in
the apartment of
the regimental commander when his unit relocated. He occupied himself
collecting books that he sent to the USSR. At the same time, he read
books “dealing with sexual impotence and other
matters.” The “threat of always
remaining sexually incapable frightened me like never before, and I
matter what to use my last days in the city to help myself, having made
to myself to be persistent to the end, overcoming my shyness and
problem was solved unexpectedly easily: he noticed from the window a
girl, a blonde with just a hint of auburn in her hair, walking down the
street.” Gel´fand went out on the street and,
“without prolonging the conversation,
proposed that she come into the house.” He seemed not to have
threatened her or
offered her food. Nonetheless, after a playful conversation the girl
come in and soon the couple got down to business. The story of
downfall could serve as a subject for a beginner in psychoanalysis. The
time he had to overcome a feeling of repulsion—and not at all
because his partner was German. The woman smelled “like a
dog” (soap was no
less a deficit item in postwar Berlin than was bread or chocolate).
this did not stop the lieutenant, and he asked the woman to undress:
It was time for
to undress—I felt impatient. I drew in my imagination the
form of this treasure
that was just now being revealed to me for the first time. In my memory
arose pictures by famous and unknown artists, photographs, and even
pornography I saw once long before—all this blended together
for me into a
generalized conclusion about the appearance and character of
“that.” Even in
the worst case I could not disfigure my dream in such a way that she
seem to me as marvelous and smooth, as was everything in a woman. But
was my surprise, my disappointment and shame, when instead of my
imagined image I saw something different, real, reddish, protruding,
ugly to the point of loathing.
sexual partner had a “small figure, with bug bites,
scratched, with not yet
fully developed but already pendulous breasts.” Why the woman
got into bed with
the lieutenant who had hailed her remains unclear. In any case, when a
came at the door and the cook suggested it was time to eat (the cook
that Gel´fand had brought in a girl and said that he was next
in line), the
German woman refused food even though she was very hungry, saying,
serve everyone, that’s no good. I’d rather stay
successes with Russian girls were less evident. Having received the
affront, he nonetheless wrote in his diary: “German women
weren’t for me,
either ideologically or morally. There were good-looking, even
among them, but they couldn’t touch me truly and stir my
thoughts and feelings
18 July 1945.670
of love. They didn’t refuse caresses,
or indeed anything at all.” “Having picked
up” “two Frauleins,” with a friend
one time, Gel´fand in the end dropped them, since he was
repulsed by “their
made-up lips, their put-on airs, and especially that they fell in love
the once naive and persnickety lieutenant with time even stopped being
squeamish about the services of a prostitute from Alexanderplatz,
“brows were drawn on, pomade was caked on her lips, and she
smelled of mold and
eau de cologne. She wasn’t without beauty, but the hand of an
artist removed all her freshness and attractiveness.”168
he still longed for something “grand and pure.” For
Gel´fand such pure love was
represented by Margot from Welten (discussed above)—indeed despite
morality of the Soviet officer, he clearly preferred her to his Russian
girlfriend. When he was with the “wonderful
Margot,” then “here there were no
amiable slaps in the face, nor pinches, nor such
‘caresses’ as with the Russian
Ninochka, but only tenderness—shy, feverish,
childlike, simple and pure.”169 This was in
contrast to the
pretty but dissolute Nina, who was “four years older than the
German woman and
not as fresh and innocent. She curses, saying ‘she is already
used to it’ … but
she’s Russian. But what is most important … she
isn’t taken yet—a very rare
situation among Russian girls. They’re all
‘wives’ or ‘PPZh,’170
pursued Margot for a fairly long time, and he put up with her repulsive
mother, who in turn put up with the lieutenant only because he brought
soap.172 Summing up his
amorous adventures, Gel´fand
wrote at the end of 1945:
studying in school I was shy, uncommunicative, timid, and my female
took any interest in me. I wasn’t lucky in love. Over the
course of the war, I
became better acquainted with love and pleasure, but I never
experienced one or
the other, although very many women—I can’t
remember most of them now—were hot
for me. I first became intimate with a woman only after the war, in
only because she wanted it. I slept with five women after that time,
whom were in Berlin, two in Welten. One of the five was the prostitute
Alexanderplatz, another had gonorrhea (it’s surprising that I
infected!), the third was repugnant, the fourth … I
don’t want to talk about
her. And in only one case was it a woman who stayed in my mind and was
liking. Such is “love.”173
26 July 1945.
16 October 1945.
25 October 1945.
pokhodnaia zhena (mobile
field wife), as steady lovers were
called in the army.
1941–1946, 26 October 1945.
MEETS THE ENEMY 671
also was first intimate with a woman
in Germany. Before that, though, there was romantic love. The future
philosopher kept a photograph of Letti (Charlotte Schultz) from
even published it in his memoirs. But he lost his innocence in the arms
altogether different woman, Anni. It happened in Gera, where, the
recall, Major Nikitin demanded that the local burgomeister
him “two broads.” One of them, obtained in the
end for the major’s translator, Sergeant Plimak, was Anni.
His loss of
innocence did not, however, happen right away. Although she had already
for a considerable time as a prostitute—who
else could the burgomeister have
was not a professional. At least this is what she said. She fled the
Berlin with her eight-year-old daughter for Gera, where her relatives
Her husband had disappeared without a trace on the Western front. There
work, and Anni began to trade on her body. The first night, the two of
only talked: the sergeant was not able to overcome his youthful
in parting he gave the lady an impressive bundle of marks
prisoners. This good turn was not forgotten, and a week later the lady
the “debt” and took the initiative herself. The
romance continued for three
weeks, until Anni, having received news that her house in Berlin was
story did not end
there, and the sergeant continued to go back and forth between Lotti
A quarter-century later, having read Dostoevskii’s The
compared his situation in retrospect with that of Prince Myshkin, who
and forth between Nastas´ia Filippovna and Aglaia Ivanovna.
True, the passion
in any case did not reach the tension it did in Dostoevskii’s
novel, and in the
end the sergeant parted with both German women and ended up happily
the translator Masha. Also, in contrast to Prince Myshkin, he
ended up not in
an insane asylum but in the philosophy department of Moscow State
late 1940s was only slightly better.175
German territory, the vigilant command demanded an end to
“intimate relations with
Polish and German women.” At an educational Komsomol meeting
in one of the
subdivisions, the Komsomol member Bushuev appealed not to
besmirch the honor
of the soldier-liberator “on the hems of dirty German
of officers and soldiers, however, had the completely opposite opinion
German women: “in our humble Soviet prewar experience we had
never seen such
young, available, affectionate, well-groomed German girls, who smelled
were dressed in the ‘foreign style,’ ”
Major Anatolii Aronov recalled. In
Reichenbach, where the future author of Children of the Arbat
stationed with his corps staff, efforts by the command to limit
Na voine i
posle voiny, 34–38, 41–49.
52–53 and 5–9.
19-i Armii o merakh po ukrepleniiu politicheskoi bditel´nosti
distsipliny ot 26 fevralia 1945 g.; Iz doneseniia politotdela 205-i
divizii ob ukreplenii voinskoi distsipliny, poriadka i organizovannosti
podrasdeleniiakh ot 8 aprelia 1945 g.,” cited in Seniavakaia,
pokolenie, 206, 209.672
relations between the soldiers and
the local population—especially females—were
unsuccessful: “In Reichenbach there were many single women,
and they longed for
the men no less than we did for the women.” In most short
sometimes also rather extended—romances not a small role was played
by the fact that the cavaliers could feed their girlfriends. The ladies
a piece of bread, spread with butter, on the plate and ate it with a
knife as if eating a second course. Such refinement pleased our
But the issue did not concern good manners; the
women were hungry.
also fell in love—something to
which he was generally quite inclined.
But this particular period was not reflected in his diary.
“For many days I
haven’t written a word. During that time—a trip to
impetuous romance with Eva Maria, then the transfer from Berlin to
and little Inga with the big blue eyes. I catch myself thinking about
more and more often. Sometimes—in moments of
this for? And then there’s the same wish—no, not to
possess a woman!—but to own her
heart, to come to her each night with a soul full of kisses.”178
Kaufman’s Leipzig romance found reflection in his poem
“Lands Nearby” (Blizhnie
strany), which he defined as “Notes in Verse.” Of
course, a poem can hardly
serve as an historical source. Poems do not convey facts but rather
mood. Kaufman is describing here a moment when it does not matter that
girl likes the Führer” while at the same time she
likes Russia and doesn’t like
the English at all. It is also completely unimportant that she has
brains, since the “epoch of comfort and everyday
life” has arrived.
In this Leipzig
near the stationI have a pretty good gal.Her little room
smells of soap.Her clothes smell of peppermint.We sleep together and
drink together(Inga likes Russian vodka), And the neighbor already
the old lady behaves tactfully(The old lady likes Russian vodkaAnd meat
along with it). I gossip with my gal,Somehow I chatter in German,
cases and articles.We’ve almost gotten used to each other.179
1: 225 (4 September 1945).
Samoilov, “Blizhnye strany,” in Izbrannye
proizvedeniia, 2 vols.
(Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1990), 2: 23.THE
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 673
But let us
return from verse to prose. The most
reliable key to a woman’s heart, much less her body, in
Germany in 1945 was
still not gallant manners, but chocolate and cigarettes. Or butter and
these “two whales,” as David Samoilov wrote.
“Two holy ideals,” at the mere
mention of which “creamy Cupids” (slivochnye
shone in the eyes of a German matron.180
Things and People
first impressions of Soviets in Germany
were not of people but of the things that they had encountered very
ever. “For the first 20–30 kilometers beyond the
Oder we didn’t encounter a
single civilian. All of Germany was ready to be saved from frightful
retribution, from which they anticipated there was no escape.”181
luxury of the
situation was indescribable; the richness and elegance of all the
striking,” as Gel´fand recorded his first
impression produced by everyday
German material culture.182
Gumbinnen, Itenberg saw “destroyed homes;
furniture that had been tossed out; roadways accurately planted with
libraries with new, unread books; and many other little things that
spoke to a
life that was unbelievably good, the life that these parasites
enjoyed… . Everything
was left in the houses. The furnishings were especially striking: what
they lived! What else did they need?! They wanted
war, and they got it.”183
feelings were experienced by many
Soviet soldiers, who discovered this “unbelievably
good” life: Why did the
Germans attack Russia? What had they needed?
attention was drawn to the kitchens, sparkling with “hellish
filled with things of which neither he nor his colleagues even
knew the use.
Elena Kogan writes about a “most comfortable”
kitchen, “glistening with
a small house in Landsberg, “sitting astride the
war’s path”: “On the shelves was an
undisturbed row of beer glasses. The
ceramic skirt of the sly auntie set on the buffet puffed out. This
knick-knack was given to the owner on her wedding 32 years
earlier.” Two horrific
wars had raged, but the pottery auntie with the slogan on the apron: Kaffee
lob ich mir (“Coffee
what I love”) was intact.”185
who was also
in Landsberg, “was struck by the detailed
organization of daily life, which
was evident in all the trivial details of custom, in a thousand things,
abandoned regalia and knick-knacks. At the same time, so few books! On
is an old watch, which always chimes something like a Cracovienne.
pictures on the walls. Portraits of people in dress uniforms
1941–1946, 30 January 1945.
letter to his wife, 25 March 1945.
mai 1945, 33.674
and without them. Under one of them
was the inscription: Gefallen
Vaterland am 27 März 1918 (Perished
the Fatherland on 27 March 1918). There was also the usual beer stein
grösste Feind des Menschen WohlDas ist und
bleibt der AlkoholDoch in der Bibel steht geschriebenDu sollst auch
Kogan saw the
same traditional row of beer steins and the usual earthenware
a gilded shoe, suggesting one drink from it—”from
these cheery knick-knacks that are
given as wedding gifts”—in
an apartment on the outskirts of Berlin
in which she spent the night in early May.187
various instructive or humorous inscriptions became a sort of symbol of
for the Russians, a symbol of banality and Philistinism (meshchanstvo).
Operators of frontline film chronicles invariably shot them.188
a slave of things,” Kaufman philosophizes.
thing is not simply an object of daily life. No! Things instruct,
their philosophy, things profess a truth. Oh, the flat, wooden,
philosophy of things! Their sermons are printed in thorny Gothic script
corners of a German residence. A towel, a stein, a shelf, walls, a
a plate all sermonize. They have their views on happiness, on love.
Der Liebe ist, Wenn zwei Personen Auf Erde
Himmel wohnen! 189
and self-satisfied things, just like their owners. They, too, were
their homes. And they are given over to demolition, like their houses,
ugliest thing in the world—Germany.190
conversation with a beautiful 35-year-old woman, the wife of a horse
She was very upset that soldiers had taken her things. “She
sobs and right
after that calmly tells a story about how her mother and three
1: 216–17 (13 April 1945). In the original citation, the word
to have been misplaced, appearing just before Alkohol.
Both the rhyme
and the syntax suggest that the word order presented here is correct.
basis the translation would read: “Drink has been and will
remain / The
greatest enemy of man / But the Bible does command us / To show love
our enemies.” I wish to thank Alexander Martin for his advice
on this score.
two people on earth live in heaven.
1: 217 (14 April 1945).THE
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 675
sisters died in Hanover in the
American bombing. And with relish, she relates rumors about the
of Göring, Himmler and Goebbels.”191
emphasize the attachment, the devotion of Germans to things. Not far
Berlin, which was about to fall any day, Kaufman met Ukrainians,
Dutch, and French, liberated from the captivity of
“labor” slavery, and Germans
leaving the battle zone. If the French were hungry, they were still
but the “Germans, in contrast, had a terrible look. Since
they had never been
oppressed, however, they hadn’t forgotten about things and
dragged them along
with antlike persistence.”192
assistant to Hitler’s dentist, Käthe
Häuserman, supposedly refused to leave
burning Berlin and fly to Berchtesgaden, because she had buried her
the ground not far from the city. They had to be saved, even if the
Pariserstrasse in which she lived was burned down.193 The story is
very believable. Elena Kogan took it seriously, however,
because it accorded
with her image of Germans’ attitudes toward things, of their
Gel´fand, who later got used to the “indescribable
luxury” and elegance of
German property that had initially delighted him, writes with contempt
after the end of the war: “Now it’s time in Germany
for rain and tears. The Germans
snivel about food, about goods, about the good old days when everything
snivel” not about freedom but about
himself, however, gave due attention to German
“goods” and was a frequent if
not constant visitor to the black market on Alexanderplatz. In
Germany, the material situation was still better than in the USSR.
results for one market day: “For 250 marks I bought a Rasier
electric razor), got two pairs of women’s slippers
cheap (for 100 and 200 marks)—I’ll
send them to mama. Women’s clothes were
being sold at reasonable prices. However, I was swindled on a coat. In
morning, when I looked at it carefully, it turned out to have so many
that you couldn’t even make pants out of it.”195
it was easier to
achieve a revolution in Russia because ‘things’
never were the master there,”
Kaufman reflected. “I don’t think in Russia there
was ever such close attention
to everyday life [byt], such a dominance of
according to Kaufman, was the environment that nurtured
Nazism: “Hitlerism is
the philosophy of the brutal Philistine [filosofiia
who reached a manic level in his self-regard, self-infatuation,
envy. It is a sort of pathos of banality and nothingness, a monstrous
of instincts, a wallowing in the filth of his ‘I.’
This is the logical end of
1: 222–23 (23 April 1945).
Berlin, mai 1945, 178–79.
Dnevniki, 1941–1946, 14 August 1945.
1: 217 (14 April 1945).676
any sort of Philistinism. The
well-ordered German Burger
had to come to this.” Kaufman ended his ponderings with a
phrase reflecting the persistent yearning for world revolution:
“And all the Burgers
of the world will come to the same if we don’t
suppress them, if we don’t
wipe them off the face of the earth.”197
all the sources
discussed in this article strove to emphasize the low intellectual
Germans, as opposed to their material culture. They emphasize
the absence of
books in homes, the weak knowledge of literature or the reading of
literature. Itenberg asked a prisoner of war, a 36-year-old gardener,
he knew of the writer Feuchtwanger.” It turned out that
Fritz” had not heard of this writer (one could have expected
as much, since the
works of Feuchtwanger were banned by the Nazis). Yet, Itenberg noted
indignation, “he had finished the eighth grade.”198
and everywhere,” Gel´fand noted. “But
what do they read? I was interested in
the content of the books they read—not
a single internationally known author;
even Goethe was hardly found. Every sort of schlock.”199
seen a concert
by actors in Kremmen, Gel´fand concluded that the general
“characterize the whole style of contemporary theater art is
vulgarity.” He was
especially unpleasantly struck by the number “A Bathing
Woman,” in which the
actor “not only represented all parts of the female body but
to the indescribable delight of the public, to mime the bulge of her
being washed and several times to draw a towel between her legs to
impression of a woman drying her private parts.” In another
number a “dog”
pissed on a bouquet of flowers given to it, while the public squealed
delight. “The characteristic attribute of the German
spectator,” the lieutenant
concluded, “was love for all sorts of cheap effects and
laughter. Therefore, the affectation and clowning of the artist is more
accessible to the public than a serious and thoughtful
recalled the submissiveness, fear, and servility of the civilian
the Third Reich once the Red Army arrived. There were no cases of
speak of, and it was extremely rare to encounter even efforts of the
to preserve its dignity. Kaufman recalls an old woman who
to speak to the Soviet soldiers who planned to spend the night in the
Miedzychod (Birnbaum) and refused to leave the house. Another old
by someone to die in the semi-basement of a detached house in one of
on the approaches to Berlin, called the Russians bandits. She had
to lose. “The rest were servile,” he wrote in his
afraid; they’re cowardly. For some reason, they’re
all stupid, dull-witted,
like statues, which I had not anticipated, given my earlier opinion of
(17 April 1945).
letter to his parents, 13 August 1944.
1941–1946, 14 November 1945.
1: 209 (5 February 1945); also in Samoilov, Pamiatnye zapiski,
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 677
them,” Gel´fand noted with
In Austria, “whole villages were
topped with white
rags. Old women put their hands up when they encountered
someone in a Red Army
uniform.”203 In Landesberg, Elena Kogan was struck
by the fact that “every single person—both adults and
children—had white armbands on their left sleeves. I
imagined this could happen—that a whole country would don white
armbands of capitulation—and I don’t remember reading about
such a thing.”204 In Berlin, Germans
“all as one” also wore white armbands. On 28 April
1945 on the streets of
Berlin it was already “noisy and crowded with
people.” The Germans “no longer
feared us and all strolled along the streets.”205
population strove to adapt to new circumstances and new authority.
are the sort of people who are willing to serve anyone as long as they
marmalade and food [shmama],”
wrote V. N. Rogov with conviction.206
in the house where Kaufman and his comrades were staying, a group of
children appeared, led by a lady of around 50, a certain Frau
they asked to be “registered,” they were told that
this would be possible only
when the command arrived. But the German women and their children,
wailing and tears,” repeated the request of their leader.
already had experience in dealing with Soviet soldiers or had heard
about the way they dealt with women. As a matter of fact, Kaufman sent
the basement of the house until the normal occupying authorities
Friedrich approached Kaufman with the suggestion to select several of
younger women to satisfy the “small needs” of the
soldiers. Evidently, this was
a proposal to pay for defense of the group. Kaufman broke off the
Nonetheless, tribute from the vanquished was taken in any case: an NKVD
with the army who soon appeared, having confirmed the presence of
took with him one of those hidden in the basement, a “girl of
prettiness.” Kaufman recalled her name, Eva-Maria Strom.207
the submissiveness of the German population in territories
occupied by the Red
Army as a manifestation of the German love for order, their recognition
rules of the game.” “In the Baltics, one
couldn’t go out on the street after it
get killed. In Germany—go
ahead. Once they had lost [the war], that
was it, game over.”208
yet another key concept that was always associated
with Germany and the German national character in Russia (and not only
Our sources also remarked upon this traditional German trait.
1941–1946, 3 February 1945.
mai 1945, 32.
Dnevniki, 1941–1946, 28 April 1945.
interview, April 2007.678
which had just been seized by the Red
Army, Kopelev was struck by two well-groomed ladies who had set off in
of a store where they could use their ration cards, since all the
closed or destroyed on their own street. He directed them to go home
and wait a
day or two until order was restored in the city. Until then,
he warned, they
could be killed or raped. The older of the two women could not believe
“But that’s impossible. It’s not
allowed!” The younger one couldn’t understand
why someone would do such a thing. “For no reason at
all,” Kopelev tried to
explain, “because among the soldiers there are many who have
become cruel, who
want revenge… .
robbed, killed, and raped in our country.” The older one
again refused to
believe it: “It can’t be.”209
these women, the sensible, rational
world turned out to be not at all like it seemed. Order was
And it was impossible to believe that. Yet for all that it was striking
the German postal system worked right up to the end. On 18 April, in
one of the
homes left by the residents, Kaufman found that day’s issue
3 May 1945, Elena
Kogan spent the night in the apartment of an older couple in Bisdorf on
edge of Berlin. They owned a chandlery shop, set up in their house. It
almost the first night for Kogan in normal conditions after four years
A traditional German assemblage of things was in the room:
“On the table
freshly cut flowers in a vase, a parrot in a cage, in a frame on the
saying ‘Himmel, bewahr uns von Regen und Wind und
von Kameraden, die keine
sind ’ (Heaven protect us from rain and wind and
from unfaithful friends),
photographs of a boy, then a soldier—the
son of the owners, who disappeared
without a trace on the Eastern front.”211
the morning, the
host unexpectedly asked the lodger whether he could go to the dentist.
answered in the affirmative, “War is war, but people have to
get their teeth
pulled.” It turned out that it was not a toothache: the owner
simply had made
an appointment two weeks earlier to visit the dentist that morning, 4
“Fresh flowers in a vase, cut in the garden the day after the
fall of the city,
a visit to the dentist three days afterward. How is that?”
Kogan asked. “The
selfish attraction to equilibrium, stability, regularity? Was this not
in Hitler’s seizure of power?”212
is easy to see that
the “image” of Germans—their
traits as depicted in the diaries,
letters, and memoirs of Soviet officers—was
mostly written in established
stereotypes manufactured in both Russian literature and Soviet wartime
Philistinism, banality, conformism, soullessness, the love for order.
also clear that officers judged Germans in part by external attributes.
time, whether sooner or later, officers began to notice that individual
did not always fit the stereotypes: the old musicians from Birnbaum,
vechno, 1: 148.
mai 1945, 92–93.
93.THE INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 679
and music Frau Nikolaus, the
poisonous Frau Bogerts, the “good old gals” Inga
and Margot. What had seemed to
be impossible—ordinary relationships with Germans—developed
gradually. Although it was already 20 years after the end of the war,
Kogan wrote that at the front she rarely came across captured German
whose psyche “was thoroughly saturated with
Nazism.” Much more often they
resembled ordinary people.
the day of Berlin’s capitulation, Grossman noticed a couple
on a bench at the
zoological garden, a wounded German soldier embracing a girl, a nurse.
didn’t glance at anyone. The world did not exist for them.
When after an hour I
went past them again,” Grossman wrote, “they were
sitting in the same way. The
world didn’t exist; they were happy.”213 This is a
perspective on the world—not Tolstoi the
but Tolstoi the writer. After all, the Germans had killed
Grossman’s mother; he
was the first to write about the Nazi liquidation camp (“The
Treblinka”), about the perishing of Ukrainian Jewry
(“Ukraine without Jews”).
Yet he had not lost the ability to see the Germans as people.
last German city in which Elena Kogan spent any considerable time after
of the war was Stendal. She liked many of the city residents, and the
phenomenon in those conditions
generally wasn’t in evidence.” The town was
undamaged, and life in it went on
women dug in their gardens.
The old-fashioned hairstyle and lengthened
the skirts made them look like their contemporaries to the
east… . German
children played in the square, and—which never ceased to amaze
us—they never cried or made a ruckus, even if they
playing war. The old women sat in mourning clothes in the square—perhaps already from the time of World War I,
in the entryways—and old men on chairs they’d brought
out; in the windows of the houses
women loomed, finished with housework and watching what was going on in
street… . Peaceful, staid life as if nothing had
happened… . The volcanic
crater of war, it turned out, could be extinguished instantly after the
may seem paradoxical, but in occupied
Germany, as in other European countries not notable for their
regimes, Soviet soldiers received a dangerous taste of freedom.
from the period of the foreign campaign carefully considered the
influence of Europe on the Russian soldier. It was very important to
‘our people’ were bringing back with them to the
homeland,” the political
worker Slutskii testified: “Athenian pride in their land or
with an inside-out
Decembrism, with an empirical as well as political
mai 1945, 188–90.
drugikh i o sebe, 55.680
of a new Decembrism were not
groundless. It was not just the striking difference in the material
life, which dealt a fatal blow to propaganda about the advantages of
system. Ruth Bogerts once said to Pomerants: “Your broadcasts
are like ours.
They’re not interesting to listen to. We preferred the
carelessly remarked that in the rear in the USSR all the radio
taken away. “Oho,” Ruth said,
“You’re even less free than we are.”216
first, the Soviet command progressively limited the possibility of
between Soviet soldiers and Germans, then forbade it altogether.
order, issued in early August 1945, created a real storm in
Gel´fand’s soul. At
first, soldiers were “forbidden to speak with Germans,
forbidden to spend the
night with them, to buy from them. Now the last thing has been
forbidden to us—to appear in a
German city, to walk on its streets, to look at its ruins,”
the lieutenant complained.
“Now it’s time to relax a little, to see what we
had never seen before—the world
to learn what we knew so little about and had no clear image of—life, morals,
customs abroad, and finally, to see people, to talk, to travel freely,
a tiny share of happiness (if there is such in Germany).”
I want,” he summed up, “is freedom! Freedom to
live, think, work, the freedom
to enjoy life.”217 That was
precisely what his superiors feared.
Some others (although perhaps not so many) also wanted the freedom to
think. In any case, many expected changes after the war. “The
perfect type of
person for our time is the Decembrist type; but a Decembrist who has
power,” Kaufman wrote on 26 December 1945, on the eve of the
of the Decembrist Revolt.218
did not happen. What happened was a hardening of the regime and a
decades-long “cleansing” of the memory that
contradicted the official Soviet
and post-Soviet canon of the history of the Great Patriotic War and of
Army’s campaign in Europe. However, “another
memory,” as the texts we have
considered here show, continued to exist. “A culture of
complete denial” not
only of Red Army bestialities in Germany, but also of other aspects of
history of the Great Patriotic War not established in the official
nothing more than a historiographical myth. Unfortunately, over the
nearly half a century after the end of the war, Soviet veterans could
not—and many did
want to—tell the
“whole truth” about the past. Now, sadly,
there are very few left, and human memory is not the most reliable
information, especially if one turns to it 60 years later. The
texts that have
been published up to the present time, however, indicate that the
“personal sources” on the history of the war, texts
written without concern for
internal or external
1941–1946, 9 August 1945.
1: 226 (26 December 1945; 14 December 1825 by the old calendar). THE
INTELLIGENTSIA MEETS THE ENEMY 681
censorship, is far greater than one
could have recently imagined. I would suggest that further searches in
and state archives—especially when historians gain
access to the materials of the military censors—will bring many
sources” allow one also to look in a new way at the history
of the Soviet
intelligentsia, including its Jewish part. The Bolshevik
yielded fruit, including those that its creators did not anticipate. A
very thin layer of educated people, capable—despite
thought, of reflection, and of a
critical perspective of the reality that surrounded them, had appeared
USSR. It is difficult to make broad generalizations on the
basis of a few
voices “standing out from the chorus”; however, in
my view, Soviet people
clearly were intellectually much freer, observant, and daring in their
conclusions than is generally believed. At
least some of them were.
striking that despite an upbringing in the Soviet spirit of class
hatred and in
the “science of hatred” taught to Soviet people—especially Jews—by the Nazis in
war years, despite the Nazis’ killing of their relatives and
protagonists, Soviet intelligenty,
remained humanists. The lines of a
well-known poem by David Samoilov (Kaufman), “Recalling Our
write about these “guys”—”That
in ’41 they became soldiers / And humanists
not poetic metaphor.219
the exception of
Anatolii Aronov, who had a past of arrest and exile, none of the
authors of the
texts analyzed had any “disagreements” with the
Soviet regime before the war.
With respect to the history of Soviet Jews, more specifically the
the Jewish intelligentsia, one can assert that Jews continued to be
Soviet people. In contrast, the Soviet regime ceased being exemplary,
to an ever greater degree a hybrid of communism and nationalism—something
that appeared distinctly during the war. Consequently, in part thanks
taste of freedom they received during the campaign in Europe, but to a
degree as a result of the politics of the Soviet regime in the postwar
many of them remained just as exemplary, but now in an entirely new way—as
lieu of a
postscript, let us say a word about the sources, as well as the
our article (in alphabetical order). Anatolii Naumovich Aronov (pen
Anatolii Rybakov) (1911–98) became a very popular writer. His
Sand (1979) was the first book published in the USSR to
address the theme
of the Holocaust. His novel Children of the Arbat appeared
in the perestroika
period (1987) and enjoyed resounding success. After
the war, Vladimir
Natanovich Gel´fand (1923–83) finished university
in Molotov (Perm´) and for
more than 30 years he taught history and social studies in a vocational
one can only wonder if he ever told his students about his military
Before the war, Efraim Isaakovich Genkin (1919–53) had
already completed the M.
V. Lomonosov Institute of Chemical Technology and the K. E.
Izbrannye proizvedeniia, 1: 58.682 OLEG
of Chemical Defense in Moscow. Other
details of his biography and the cause of his early death are unknown.
(Iosif Solomonovich) Grossman (1905–64) wrote the great novel
the manuscript of which was seized by the KGB in 1961 and published
after his death (in 1980). Nikolai Nikolaevich Inozemtsev
(1921–82) was an
economist, contributor to the journal Kommunist and
the newspaper Pravda,
a member of L. I. Brezhnev’s group of speechwriters, member
of the Academy of
Sciences, and director of the Institute of World Economy and
Relations of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. He belonged to the
contingent of the party. Boris Samuilovich Itenberg (born 1921) earned
doctorate in history and became a professor and author of many works in
history of revolutionary populism and Russian liberalism. He lives in
David Samoilovich Kaufman (his pen name was David Samoilov)
(1920–90), a poet
and translator, was a cult poet of the Russian intelligentsia
1970s–80s. Elena Moiseevna Kogan (pen name Elena Rzhevskaia)
(born 1919) is a
writer living in Moscow. Lev Zinov´evich Kopelev
(1912–97) was a literary
scholar, critic, and memoirist, a professional Germanist, and
dissident. He was
imprisoned from 1945 to 1953, was stripped of his Soviet citizenship in
and died in Germany. Evgenii Grigor´evich Plimak (born 1925)
has a doctorate in
history and is a philosopher living in Moscow. Grigorii Solomonovich
(born 1918) is a publicist, cultural critic, and dissident. He was
from 1950 to 1953 and lives in Moscow. Boris Abramovich Slutskii
one of the most popular Soviet poets in the 1950s and the author of
uncensored works published after his death.
Translated by Susan Rupp
Russian Academy of
ul. Dm. Ul´ianova,
Elke Scherstjanoi "Ein Rotarmist in Deutschland"
"Von Siegern und Besiegten"
Allgemeine "Hinter den Kulissen"
Erste /TV/ "Kulturreport"
Zeitung "Besatzer, Schöngeist, Nervensäge,
KulturRadio "Deutschland-Tagebuch 1945-1946. Aufzeichnungen
Zeit "Wodka, Schlendrian, Gewalt"
Allgemeine "Aufzeichnungen im Feindesland"
Zeitung "Ein rotes Herz in Uniform"
Kritik "Aufzeichnungen eines Rotarmisten vom Umgang mit den
"Auf Berlin, das Besiegte, spucke ich!"
- Das Buch von
Gregor Thum "Traumland Osten. Deutsche Bilder vom östlichen
Europa im 20. Jahrhundert"
Avis "Set med en russisk officers øjne"
Zeitung "Das Tagebuch des Rotarmisten"
Volkszeitung "Das Glück lächelt uns also
Neue Presse "Erinnerungspolitischer Gezeitenwechsel"
Nachrichten "Das Kriegsende aus Sicht eines Rotarmisten"
Rundschau "Ich werde es erzählen"
"Rotarmisten und Deutsche"
Radio ART: Hörspiel
"Tagebuchaufzeichnungen eines jungen Sowjetleutnants"
Tagesspiegel "Hier gibt es Mädchen"
Zeitung "Bitterer Beigeschmack"
Kultur "Krieg und Kriegsende aus russischer Sicht"
Zeitung "Die Deutschen tragen alle weisse Armbinden"
"Deutschland-Tagebuch eines Rotarmisten"
Berlin "Das Unvergessliche ist geschehen" / "Личные
Zeitung "So dachten die Sieger"
Times Deutschland "Aufzeichnungen aus den
Tagblatt "Ehrliches Interesse oder narzisstische Selbstschau?"
Presse "Ein Rotarmist in Berlin"
Kurier "Aufzeichnungen eines Rotarmisten ungefiltert"
"Tagebuch, Briefe und Erinnerungen"
Zeitung "An den Rand geschrieben"
Neueste Nachrichten "Hier gibt es Mädchen"
Info. Forum Zeitgeschichte "Features und Hintergründe"
Kultur "Politische Literatur. Lasse mir eine Dauerwelle
"Watching the krauts. Emigranten und internationale Beobachter
schildern ihre Eindrücke aus Nachkriegsdeutschland"
Nyheter "Det oaendliga kriget"
"Des jungen Leutnants Deutschland - Tagebuch"
Deutschland "Berlin, Stunde Null"
"Aufzeichnungen eines Rotarmisten"
Rezension "Das kriegsende aus der Sicht eines Soldaten der
Zeitung "Erstmals: Das Tagebuch eines Rotarmisten"
Osnabrücker Zeitung "Weder Brutalbesatzer noch ein
Landeszeitung "Vom Alltag im Land der Besiegten"
Argument "Wladimir Gelfand: Deutschland-Tagebuch 1945-1946.
Aufzeichnungen eines Rotarmisten"
Archiv: Zeitschrift für das vereinigte Deutschland
"Betrachtungen eines Aussenseiters"
Gesellschaft/Frankfurter Hefte "Von Siegern und Besiegten"
Museum Berlin-Karlshorst. Rezensionen
Rezensionen. Die Literaturdatenbank
"Ein siegreicher Rotarmist"
Kulturradio "Ein Rotarmist in Berlin"
варiант" для ветеранiв вiйни / Комсомольская
правда "Нулевой вариант" для ветеранов войны"
Nyheter. "Vladimir Gelfand. Tysk dagbok 1945-46"
"Tysk dagbok 1945-46 av Vladimir Gelfand"
"Vittnesmåil från krigets inferno"
(ST) "Solkig skildring av sovjetisk soldat frеn det besegrade
Dagblad "Krigsdagbok av privat natur"
Bradfor "Conference on Contemporary German Literature"
Foreign Rights, German Diary 1945-1946
"Dagbok kastar tvivel över våldtäktsmyten"
Kultur "Under våldets täckmantel"
Tidningen "Krigets vardag i röda armén"
Radio "Är krigets våldtäkter en
Tidningar "En blick från andra sidan"
Kultur "Den enda vägens historia"
Kultur "Det totalitära arvet"
"Rysk soldatdagbok om den grymma slutstriden"
Posten "Till försvar för fakta och
& Munin "En rödarmist i Tyskland"
"Das deutsch-russische Soldatenwörtebuch" / Театр
"Русско-немецкий солдатский разговорник"
Radio "Journal am Mittag"
Zeitung "Dem Krieg den Krieg erklären"
Tageszeitung "Mach's noch einmal, Iwan!"
- The book of
Paul Steege: "Black Market, Cold War: Everyday Life in Berlin,
Телеканал РТР "Культура"
"Русско-немецкий солдатский разговорник"
Аргументы и факты "Есть ли правда у
"Russian-German soldier's phrase-book on stage in Moscow"
Утро.ru "Контурная карта великой войны"
РТР "Культура": "Широкий
формат с Ириной Лесовой"
Berlin-Karlshorst "Das Haus in Karlshorst. Geschichte am Ort
- Das Buch von
Roland Thimme: "Rote Fahnen über Potsdam 1933 - 1989:
Lebenswege und Tagebücher"
Buch von Bernd Vogenbeck, Juliane Tomann, Magda Abraham-Diefenbach:
"Terra Transoderana: Zwischen Neumark und Ziemia Lubuska"
- Das Buch von
& Malte Zierenberg: "Damals nach dem Krieg Eine Geschichte
Deutschlands - 1945 bis
- Lothar Gall
& Barbara Blessing: "Historische Zeitschrift Register zu Band
276 (2003) bis 285 (2007)"
Gedächtnis "Erinnerungen an meine Cousine Dora aus
- Das Buch von
Ingeborg Jacobs: "Freiwild: Das Schicksal deutscher Frauen 1945"
Бiзнес "Двічі по двісті - суд честі"
"Красная армия. Встреча с Европой"
sovietici in Germania (1944-45)"
in Russian and Eurasian History "The Intelligentsia Meets the Enemy:
Educated Soviet Officers in Defeated Germany, 1945"
- Das Buch von
Pauline de Bok:
"Blankow oder Das Verlangen nach Heimat"
- Das Buch von
Ingo von Münch: "Frau, komm!": die Massenvergewaltigungen
deutscher Frauen und Mädchen 1944/45"
Buch von Roland Thimme: "Schwarzmondnacht: Authentische
berichten (1933-1953). Nazidiktatur - Sowjetische
государства "Миф о миллионах изнасилованных немок"
Alexander Häusser, Gordian Maugg: "Hungerwinter: Deutschlands
humanitäre Katastrophe 1946/47"
Schilling: "Jahresberichte für deutsche Geschichte: Neue
Folge. 60. Jahrgang 2008"
Piskorski "WYGNAŃCY: Migracje przymusowe i uchodźcy w
"Heimat ist dort, wo kein Hass ist"
of Cold War Studies "Wladimir Gelfand, Deutschland-Tagebuch
1945–1946: Aufzeichnungen eines Rotarmisten"
"Евреи на войне. Солдатские дневники"
Корреспондент "Победа благодаря и вопреки"
"Сексуальное насилие в годы Второй мировой войны: память, дискурс,
Эхо Москвы & RTVi "Не так" с Олегом Будницким: Великая
Отечественная - солдатские дневники"
Llc "Person im Zweiten Weltkrieg /Sowjetunion/ Georgi Konstantinowitsch
Schukow, Wladimir Gelfand, Pawel Alexejewitsch Rotmistrow"
- Das Buch von
Jan Musekamp: "Zwischen Stettin und Szczecin - Metamorphosen einer
Stadt von 1945 bis 2005"
of safety "Ladies liberated Europe in the eyes of Russian soldiers and
officers (1944-1945 gg.)"
греки "Павел Тасиц"
- Вестник РГГУ
"Болезненная тема второй мировой войны: сексуальное насилие по обе
- Das Buch von
Jürgen W. Schmidt: "Als die Heimat zur Fremde wurde"
"Евреи на войне: от советского к еврейскому?"
Museum Seelower Höhen "Die Schlacht"
- The book of
Frederick Taylor "Exorcising Hitler: The Occupation and Denazification
"10 дневников одной войны"
book of Michael Jones "Total War: From Stalingrad to Berlin"
Buch von Frederick Taylor "Zwischen Krieg und Frieden: Die Besetzung
und Entnazifizierung Deutschlands 1944-1946"
"Wie sind wir Westler alt und überklug - und sind jetzt doch
Schmutz unter ihren Stiefeln"
Будницкий: "Архив еврейской истории" Том 6. "Дневники"
Sandin "Är krigets våldtäkter en myt?"
Jones: "El trasfondo humano de la guerra: con el ejército
soviético de Stalingrado a Berlín"
Das Buch von
Jörg Baberowski: "Verbrannte Erde: Stalins Herrschaft der
fur Geschichtswissenschaft "Gewalt im Militar. Die Rote Armee im
"Tysk dagbok 1945-46"
book of Michael David-Fox, Peter Holquist, Alexander M. Martin:
"Fascination and Enmity: Russia and Germany as Entangled Histories,
Сенявская "Женщины освобождённой Европы глазами советских солдат и
офицеров (1944-1945 гг.)"
Raphaelle Branche, Fabrice Virgili: "Rape in Wartime (Genders and
Sexualities in History)"
"Хоть бы скорей газетку прочесть"
"10 миллионов изнасилованных немок"
"Еврейский Марк Твен. Так называли Шолома Рабиновича, известного как
Nathalie Moine "La perte, le don, le butin. Civilisation stalinienne,
aide étrangère et biens trophées dans
l’Union soviétique des années 1940"
Buch von Beata Halicka "Polens Wilder Westen. Erzwungene Migration und
die kulturelle Aneignung des Oderraums 1945 - 1948"
Jan M. Piskorski "Die Verjagten: Flucht und Vertreibung im Europa des
истории. ХХ век. Гефтер. "Антисемитизм в СССР во время Второй мировой
Janatovsky "The Crystallization of National Identity in Times of War:
The Experience of a Soviet Jewish Soldier"
еженедельник Украина-Центр "Рукописи не горят"
/ CD-s / E-Book von Niclas Sennerteg "Nionde arméns
undergång: Kampen om Berlin 1945"
Michaela Kipp: "Großreinemachen im Osten: Feindbilder in
deutschen Feldpostbriefen im Zweiten Weltkrieg"
газета "Женщины на службе в Третьем Рейхе"
Поліщук "Зроблено в Єлисаветграді"
Museum Berlin-Karlshorst. Katalog zur Dauerausstellung / Каталог
Schnabel "The life and times of Marta Dietschy-Hillers"
музей и центр толерантности. Группа по работе с архивными
"ЦЕНА ПОБЕДЫ: Военный дневник лейтенанта Владимира Гельфанда"
/ eBok: Anders
Bergman & Emelie Perland "365 dagar: Utdrag ur kända
Jan M. Piskorski "Die Verjagten: Flucht und Vertreibung im
Europa des 20. Jahrhundert"
von Miriam Gebhardt "Als die Soldaten kamen: Die
Vergewaltigung deutscher Frauen am Ende des Zweiten Weltkriegs"
Tabarelli "Vladimir Gelfand"
Martin Stein "Die sowjetische Kriegspropaganda 1941 - 1945 in
Quarterly "Philomela’s Legacy: Rape, the Second World War,
and the Ethics of Reading"
Historisches Museum "1945 – Niederlage. Befreiung. Neuanfang.
Zwölf Länder Europas nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg"
"Дневник лейтенанта Гельфанда"
"The rape of Berlin" / BBC Mundo / BBC
O`zbek / BBC
Brasil / BBC فارْسِى "تجاوز در برلین"
deníku rudoarmějce: Probodneme je skrz genitálie"
Telegraph "The truth behind The Rape of Berlin"
Service "The Rape of Berlin"
"Mrzačení, znásilňování, to
jsme dělali. Český server připomíná
paměti sovětského vojáka"
"Termina a Batalha de Berlim"
"Podignula je suknju i kazala mi: 'Spavaj sa mnom. Čini što
želiš! Ali samo ti"
stupri in Germania, 70 anni fa"
러시아군, 2차대전때 독일에서 대규모 강간"
"SPOMENIK RUSKOM SILOVATELJU: Nemci bi da preimenuju istorijsko zdanje
- Múlt-kor "A
berlini asszonyok küzdelme a szovjet erőszaktevők ellen"
"El drama oculto de las violaciones masivas durante la caída
Berlin "Landsberger Allee 563, 21. April 1945"
Político "70 anos após fim da guerra, estupro
alemãs ainda é episódio pouco
Charlas Nocturnas "70 aniversario del fin de la II Guerra Mundial: del
horror nazi al terror rojo en Alemania"
drama oculto de las violaciones masivas durante la caída de
"BBC: El drama oculto de las violaciones masivas durante la
caída de Berlín"
de Paraguay "El drama de las alemanas violadas por tropas
soviéticas hacia el final de la Segunda Guerra
"The drama hidden mass rape during the fall of Berlin"
Luận "Trần Lê - Hồng quân, nỗi kinh
hoàng của phụ nữ Berlin 1945"
rozhlas "Temná stránka sovětského
"Cerita Kelam Perempuan Jerman Setelah Nazi Kalah Perang"
Monde "Nỗi kinh hoàng của phụ nữ Berlin năm 1945 mang
tên Hồng Quân"
"Дилетанты. Красная армия в Европе"
واقعيت ها "تجاوز در برلین"
Fim da Guerra e o início do Pesadelo. Duas narrativas sobre
Gossip "PER NON DIMENTICARE…….. LE PORCHERIE
Германия "Я прижал бедную маму к своему сердцу и долго утешал"
Nicholas Stargardt "The German War: A Nation Under Arms,
Das Buch "Владимир
Гельфанд. Дневник 1941 - 1946"
служба "Изнасилование Берлина: неизвестная история войны" / BBC Україна
"Зґвалтування Берліна: невідома історія війни"
"Олег Будницкий: «Дневник, приятель дорогой!»
Военный дневник Владимира Гельфанда"
"Владимир Гельфанд. Дневник 1942 года"
Việt "Lính Liên Xô 'hãm hiếp
phụ nữ Đức'"
"ЦЕНА ПОБЕДЫ: Дневники лейтенанта Гельфанда"
Furtado "Soviéticos estupraram 2 milhões de
mulheres alemãs, durante a Guerra Mundial"
Дубина "«Обыкновенная история» Второй мировой войны:
дискурсы сексуального насилия над женщинами оккупированных территорий"
музей и центр толерантности "Презентация книги Владимира Гельфанда
музей и центр толерантности "Евреи в Великой Отечественной войне"
Сидякин & Би-Би-Си. Драма в трех действиях. "Атака"
Сидякин & Би-Би-Си. Драма в трех действиях. "Бой"
Сидякин & Би-Би-Си. Драма в трех действиях. "Победа"
Сидякин & Би-Би-Си. Драма в трех действиях. Эпилог
Труд "Покорность и отвага: кто кого?"
Издательский Дом «Новый Взгляд» "Выставка подвига"
Katalog NT "Выставка "Евреи в Великой Отечественной войне " - собрание уникальных документов"
Вести "Выставка "Евреи в Великой Отечественной войне" - собрание уникальных документов"
Радио Свобода "Бесценный графоман"
Вечерняя Москва "Еще раз о войне"
РИА Новости "Выставка про евреев во время ВОВ открывается в Еврейском музее"
Телеканал «Культура» "Евреи в Великой Отечественной войне" проходит в Москве"
Россия HD "Вести в 20.00"
GORSKIE "В Москве открылась выставка "Евреи в Великой Отечественной войне"
Aгентство еврейских новостей "Евреи – герои войны"
STMEGI TV "Открытие выставки "Евреи в Великой Отечественной войне"
Национальный исследовательский университет Высшая школа экономики "Открытие выставки "Евреи в Великой Отечественной войне"
Независимая газета "Война Абрама"
Historia "El lado oscuro de la victoria aliada en la Segunda Guerra
USA "El drama de las alemanas: violadas por tropas
soviéticas en 1945 y violadas por inmigrantes musulmanes en
НГ Ex Libris
"Пять книг недели"
Брестский Курьер "Фамильное
древо Бреста. На перекрестках тех дорог…"
"ProScience: Олег Будницкий о народной истории войны"
Проскура "Запiзнiла сповiдь"
"ProScience: Возможна ли научная история Великой Отечественной войны?"
"Владимир Гельфанд. Дневник 1941 - 1946"
Nabi Saw "Kisah Kelam Perempuan Jerman Setelah Nazi Kalah Perang"
истории в школе "«О том, что
происходило…» Дневник Владимира Гельфанда"
«НЕУБЕДИТЕЛЬНЕЙШЕЙ» ИЗ ПОМЕТ: (Высокая лексика в
толковых словарях русского языка XX-XXI вв.)"
Landesmuseum Brandenburg "Zwischen Krieg und Frieden" / "Между войной и
газета "Там, где кончается война"
"Женщины освобождённой Европы глазами советских солдат: правда про "2
миллиона изнасилованых немок"
"Военные изнасилования — преступления против жизни и личности"
газета "Дневник минометчика"
газета "ИСПОДЛОБЬЯ: Кризис концепции"
"A Esquerda a história e o estupro"
book of Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann, Sandrine Kott, Peter Romijn, Olivier
Wieviorka "Seeking Peace in the Wake of War: Europe, 1943-1947"
"Berlin Rape: The Hidden History of War"
Prático "Crimes de estupro na Segunda Guerra Mundial e
dentro do exército americano"
радіо "Насильство над жінками під час бойових дій — табу для
RBB "Geschichte in den Wäldern Brandenburgs"
Beier gewidmet "Lehren – Sammeln – Publizieren"
вестник "Искажение истории: «Изнасилованная
de guerra: o que acontece com mulheres em zonas de conflito, como
Accion "QUE LE PREGUNTEN A LAS ALEMANAS VIOLADAS POR RUSOS,
NORTEAMERICANOS, INGLESES Y FRANCESES"
Libre "QUE LE PREGUNTEN A LAS ALEMANAS VIOLADAS POR RUSOS,
NORTEAMERICANOS, INGLESES Y FRANCESES"
"Какими видели европейских женщин советские солдаты и офицеры
NewConcepts Society "Можно ли ставить знак равенства между зверствами гитлеровцев и зверствами советских солдат?"
- 搜狐 "二战时期欧洲，战胜国对战败国的妇女是怎么处理的"
Эхо Москвы "Дилетанты. Начало войны. Личные источники"
Журнал "Огонёк" "Эго прошедшей войны"
Уроки истории. XX век "Книжный дайджест «Уроков истории»: советский антисемитизм"