Stalin and the Germans

Stalin und die Deutschen

Siemers, Wilhelm. "Stalin and the Germans." Volk auf dem Weg, March 2007, 14.

This translation from the original German text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado

(Translated) SUBTITLE: New Insights into the Stalinist Power System

Half a century after his death, historical interest in Josef Stalin is on the rise. The opening of archives that had been closed for a long time has made possible a renaissance in research on Stalin. Russian historians in particular are attempting to present the Stalinist system in a more differentiated fashion. German historians, too, are starting in on this work, for as Juergen Zarusky, publisher of a collection of contributions, "Stalin and the Germans," states, Stalin is a German problem, too.

That Stalin exercised considerable influence on Germans is clear: toward the end of the 20's of the previous century Stalin was the leading figure of the international Communist movement, which had its strongest branch in Germany. During World War II he became the arch enemy of Adolf Hitler, and in the end Stalin was the great victor of the War and was able to extend Soviet rule into German territory. He then used the German Democratic Republic as a tool for his own interests against the Westen powers. Many Germans, prisoners of war and those who were forcibly deported, experienced Stalinism in its country of origin. For Stalin, the prisoners incorporated an element of secutiry against West Germany.

Only after his death in 1953 did the then German Chancellor Adenauer, during his Moscow trip in 1955, reach an agreement to allow German prisoners of war [in Russia] to return to their homeland. Still, the well-known fate of persecution, forced deportation, and death was experienced not only by the German minority in the Soviet Union, but also by the victims of the National-Socialist war of destruction. Those who willingly or had been forced to participate in any way in the "Great Patriotic War" with Germany would be discriminated against and, some, criminalized in the Soviet Union.

The entanglements between Stalin and Germans caused something like a "German branch" to exist in research into Stalinism, editor Juergen Zarusky of the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich points out. The book presents new contributions to research. In putting together the essays, Zarusky concentrated on two aspects: the story of the relationship between Stalin and the Germans, and the problems involved in comparing the dictatorships. The gain in new insights in these contributions is attributable to the fact that German and Russian historians have been able to work with new sources and were therefore able to come up with a differentiated picture of Stalin, of Stalinism and the Germans.

This balanced look at history is the more welcome since in Russia the public image of Stalin as a positive figure to identify with appears to be on the rise. During a survey in February of 2006, 47 percent of all Russians thought that Stalin had played a positive role in the history of Russia, and only 29 percent of all Russians pointed out Stalin's negative role.

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

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