Wednesday, September 19, 2007

No holds barred

Father, kill the German!
Nesterova, 1942

In a couple of weeks we will be in Moscow. I will wipe this damned city off the face of the earth, I will dig an artificial lake on its place. The word “Moscow” will become extinct.

Adolf Hitler about Moscow

“Kill the German” – this a phrase from Ilya Ehrenburg’s article published in Red Star millitary newspaper in 1942. This article and leaflet based on the text is probably the most controversial piece of all Soviet WW2 propaganda.

The article had several extracts from letters of dead German soldiers with description of violent treatment of Soviet prisoners. The article ended with a call to kill Germans, which quite resembled the Nazi anti-Jewish and anti-Soviet propaganda:

“Now we understand the Germans are not human. Now the word “German” itself has become the most terrible curse. Let us not speak. Let us not be indignant. Let us kill. If you do not kill the German, the German will kill you. He will carry away your family, and torture them in his damned Germany. If you have killed one German, kill another. […] Do not count days. Do not count miles. Count your kills. Kill the German – that’s what your old mother calls for. Kill the German! – begs the child. Kill the German – cries the native land. Never miss. Never fail. Just kill!”

Antony Beevor (a famous British historian and author of “Berlin - The Downfall. 1945” book) attributed Ehrenburg's message as a motivating factor for the violence against German civilians which according to his sources took place as Soviet troops advanced through Nazi occupied territory toward the end of the war - thus encountering a great deal of criticism in Russia. The Russian ambassador to the UK denounced the book as "lies" and "slander against the people who saved the world from Nazism." O.A. Rzheshevsky, a professor and President of the Russian Association of WWII Historians, has charged that Beevor is merely resurrecting the discredited and racist views of neo-Nazi historians, who depicted Soviet troops as subhuman "Asiatic hordes" (citation from Wikipedia).


Anonymous said...

"according to his sources"

I didn't realize the violence against German civilians, including an estimated two million rapes, by the Red Army was a matter of dispute outside of the "my country right or wrong, but never wrong" chauvinists that you will find in any country. Or perhaps even such luminaries as Solzhenitsyn and Kopelev were just making it up.

andrej said...

I was wondering, whether you know, where this poster was published or presented? As for all Posters on your blog it would be a nice to know of their circumstances of appearence.
I believe there is a big difference, if such a poster is being displayed on every corner of the streets of, say, Moscow or just at some art gallery or exhibition.

Keep up the blog. I really enjoy the coming together of design and history/politics.

deckhand said...

These events happened a long time ago. Let us pray they will never happen again. With more information available, every day...such as this poster...we no longer should be blind to the suffering of the Russian and Ukrainian civilians during WW2. The Nazis had to be stopped. Thank you.

Martha said...

Being a jew, Erenburg, who, as many Jews, had first participated in the revolutionary movement, lived in Paris and soon became an anti-Bolshevik. He narrowly escaped Stalins terror in the thirties, and, forced to stay in Russia, had to say things like this to save his own skin.
It is, in fact, not even certain that it's Erenburg who said these words.

Alexander Zakharov said...

Andrej - yeah, i didn't mention it clearly. The poster was printed as a leaflet first and then published in large format.

SBFNRA said...

To all the Russian and German apologists here...

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact or the Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was signed in Moscow in August 1939. Its secret annex divided the independent countries of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania into spheres of Nazi and Soviet influence, anticipating "territorial and political rearrangements" of these countries' territories. All were subsequently invaded, occupied, or forced to cede territory by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, or both.

Then of course there was the massacre of 15,000+ Polish Officers and Cadets in Katyn Forest in 1940 by the Russians.

In other words "a plague on both your houses."

Alexander Zakharov said...


It's true. Thanks for the right comment.

Anonymous said...

"Antony Beevor attributed Ehrenburg's message as a motivating factor for the violence against German civilians"

very clever...but the german army killed over 20 millions Russian (I do know almost nobody in Russia who does not have at least one great-father killed in this war) : I think it is a really more convincing factor for the violence agains German civilians...Historian had better to live not only with historical material (like Ehrenburg's message) but also with real people...

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