Germano-Phobia in the Russian Empire and in the
Krieger, Dr. Viktor. "Germano-Phobia in the Russian Empire and in the Soviet Union." Volk auf dem Weg, October 2006, 13-14.
Translation from the original German-language text to American
Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
NOTE: This is a continuation from the previous issue of Volk
auf dem Weg
Between the Wars
The February revolution of 1917 paved the way for the restoration
of civil rights to Russian citizens of German descent. In fact,
the law of March 20, 1917 on the Equality of Nations and Confessions
lifted all previous legal restrictions. The majority of German-Russians
demonstrated respect for the civil government - in strong contrast
with their relationship to the Bolsheviks
who would come into power soon thereafter. Due to their historically
established economic-social and spiritual-religious development,
the descendants of the original colonists were a predominantly agrarian,
but also nearly entirely literate population, with a broad tier
of prosperous farmers, and thus not likely to be won over to socialist
Still, the founding of the Workers Commune (an autonomous region)
in 1918, which in 1924 would be upgraded to the Autonomous Republic
of Volga-Germans ([a German acronym:] ASSRd-WD), led to a palpable
reduction of anti-German feelings of resentment in Soviet Russia,
that is, in the Soviet Union. Given the high economic and cultural
level of the German settlers, the new political powers were hoping
that they might signal important impulses toward the reconstruction
of the country. Close cooperation with Germany subsequent to the
Rapallo Treaty of 1922 -- in the face of bloody wartime clashes
that had finished only a few years back -- contributed to a positive
image of the largest Western European nation.
However, beginning with the early 1930's, a distinct change occurred
within the Soviet internal policy, namely, toward conservative,
pre-Revolutionary values and standards. In addition to the comprehensive
control exercised by the State over all economic, social and cultural
areas, an increasing isolation from foreign states was taking place,
which led to, among other things, the
concept of "enemy nations," implying that foreign states,
via their diaspora nationalities, might yield harmful influence
on the country. Primarily exposed to open and also subliminal accusations
of potentially harmful and espionage activities were ethnic minorities
such as Poles, Germans, Finns, Estonians, Latvians, Koreans, etc.;
and these conveniently served toward justification of mass arrests
and "prophylactic" deportations. As one can observe by
means of Table 1, they would, in disproportionate fashion, fall
victim to mass terror.
An NKVD report of 1937 shows that, during just the months of June
through August, the secret police was said to have discovered, among
the German population of the Odessa region alone, 49 Fascist diversionary
and insurgent organizations amounting ca. 800 participants. Allegedly,
these "agents of the Reichs-German espionage service"
intended to recruit 60 to 70 percent of the adult Odessa area Germans
into this anti-Soviet movement. In view of the actions carried out
four years later, the suggestions of that time toward "remedies"
for the deplorable state of affairs seemed rather moderate, namely,
it was deemed necessary that 5,000 "counterrevolutionary"
families might be resettled into the region.
Beginning with the grab for power by the National Socialists, and
with [Russia's] growing rivalry with the Third Reich, the old cliches
enjoyed renewed favor. Unmistakably a historic performance works
such as the movie "Alexander Nevski" (1938) were critically
acclaimed by serious Soviet historian like Michail Tichomirov even
prior to production. The turning away from
international, class-conscious ideology -- in the face of official
lip service toward it -- did actually evoke scattered individual
protests. For example, the leading theater critic and convinced
Bolshevik idealist, Vladimir Blyum (Blum), in a letter to Stalin
dated January, 1939, wrote quite frankly about "the socialist
patriotism, which here and there is beginning to take on features
racial nationalism. The people of our generations have been raised
within the struggle for internationalist ideas -- and we must not
give rise to feelings of enmity toward individual peoples or races."
However, such opinions no longer had any impact on the policies
of the Kremlin leaders. Even long before the war, in a climate of
hysterics toward class enmity, sabotage, "pests," and
espionage, the descendants of the colonists, mainly on the basis
of their linguistic-cultural relationship with the "capitalistic"
and, later, with "Fascist" Germany, were increasingly
deemed to be suspect. Numerous penal trials in the Volga-German
Republic, in Ukraine, in Siberia, Leningrad and Moscow against the
"agency of class enmity," "reactionary" Catholic
and Evangelical clerics or "bourgeois nationalistic groups,"
against "members of Fascist, anti-Soviet organizations"
or "Gestapo agents," not rarely associated with German
or Austrian emigrants, provided in the 1930s an early taste of what
Soviet citizens of German descent would have to get accustomed to
in the case of a German-Soviet war.
Table 1. Persons, Listed by Nationality,
Who Were Arrested in the USSR between Jan. 1, 1936 and July 1, 1938
||Number of Arrested, absolute
||Percent of Total Arrested (%)
||As Percent of Total Population of the
War with Germany
After the attack by the Third Reich on the USSR, the Soviet leadership
for a time believed to be able to count the enemy side by means
of class-struggle propaganda. Initially, propaganda models stemming
from the civil war were used, and great expectations were placed
in hopes for solidarity of "simple workers and farmers"
in Wehrmacht uniforms with Soviet soldiers. In their
speeches occasioned by the outbreak of the war, the then foreign
minister, Molotov, and Stalin himself, tried to paint a differentiated
image of the German population in the Reich and were evidently still
being led by the hope for solidarity of the proletariat. This is
evident from a radio address by Molotov on June 22, 1941: "This
war has been forced upon us not by the German people, not by German
workers, farmers and intellectuals, whose suffering we understand
very well, but by the clique of bloodthirsty Fascist powers in Germany."
Within this still somewhat valid international propaganda scenario,
the inhabitants of the Volga-German Republic in particular were
to play a not unessential role. Innumerable anti-Fascist gatherings
took place within the ASSRdWD during the first weeks of the war,
and nearly the entire adult population took part in them. Enacted
were appeals to Wehrmacht soldiers of various weaponry units, to
workers, to farmers and other "working tiers" in the land
of the aggressor. These appeals were sent immediately to the party
leadership in Moscow, they were printed in Soviet newspapers and
fliers and used in radio programs with propagandistic intent against
Germany. In a speech directed "to the working people of Germany"
on July 13, 1941, the chair of the Council of the People's Commissariat
of the Volga Republic, Alexander Heckman, spoke as follows:
"The working class Volga-Germans, united in their Autonomous
Soviet Republic, which constitutes a solid component of the Russian
Federation, have our own government on the basis of a democratic
constitution of the world. Take me, for example. A a weaver and
son of a worker, I lived in constant poverty during the Tsarist
regime. Under Soviet government I received an engineer's education
and rose to statesman, the chairman of the Council of the People's
Commissariat of the Republic. There are hundreds and thousands of
this kind of
example. The life of Volga-Germans is free, happy, and prosperous.
The life of the working people in Germany, under the rule of its
Fascist clique, is full of suffering and deprivation. In the name
of the peoples within the Republic of Volga-Germans, and on my own
behalf, I turn to the people of Germany with this appeal: point
your bayonets against those Fascist people eaters
Of course, this kind of stiff, schematic agitation, which often
degenerated to insults such as "The Big Bandit Hitler,"
"Fascist murderous gang," "Hitler, the black, bloody
dragon," "Hitler's blood-crazed gang," "Mein
Kampf, bible of the people eaters," never achieved their intended
goal among Wehrmacht soldiers or within the German Reich.
To be continued in the upcoming issue.
Fritz: a contemporary caricature by
the Deutschen der Kuenstlergruppe "Kukryniksy" (1942)
[Germans of the Artists Group "Krukryniksy"]. Rhymed
text lines [in Russian] are by Samuil Marschak ]
Our appreciation is extended to Alex
Herzog for translation of this article.