THE SOVIET 'GREAT PURGE' IN THE OPINIONS OF GERMAN EMIGRÉ WRITERS (1936-1939)
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A discussion of the evolving stand of the German anti-Nazi émigrés towards the 'great purge' in the Soviet Union in 1936-1939 is presented. To the mid-1930s the Soviet 'experiment' enjoyed the interest of leftist and liberal groups among the German intelligentsia. The achievements of the Soviet Union were confronted with the economic breakdown in the West and the growing political crisis in the Weimar Republic. After the NSDAP came to power, the German opponents of Hitler placed their hope in a change in the foreign policy of the Kremlin. Particular expectations were inspired by the conception of 'people's fronts', formally accepted at a Comintern Congress in 1935. Due to the above mentioned tendencies the political trials held in the Soviet Union became for the German refugees a test of ethical and world outlook stances. Many émigrés failed to tackle the moral challenge. In the name of preserving an illusory unity of the refugee milieu its members either avoided an open criticism of Soviet reality (Thomas Mann) or directly ( Bertolt Brecht, Heinrich Mann) or indirectly (Lion Feuchtwanger) defended the official interpretation of the trials. Another frequent stand was passive observation of the undertakings pursued by the Kremlin (Klaus Mann). The critics of the Soviet 'purge' (Leopold Schwarzschild), who regarded the events in Russia to be a confirmation of the impossibility of cooperating with émigré members of the German Communist Party, found themselves in a minority. Even communist dissidents (Arthur Koestler, Manes Sperber) did not openly criticise the Soviet Union until the signing of the Stalin-Hitler pact, i. e. after 23 August 1939.
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