Ehrenburg in “Красная звезда”

During the Great Patriotic War, the Red Army newspaper “Красная звезда” (Red Star) provided one of the main modes of communication from writers on the war front to those laboring on the home front. As with the other nations engaged in the war, the paper became on of the most effective mediums for developing a narrative for those behind the war effort to rally behind.

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“Kill”, as it appears in the July 24, 1942 edition of the Red Star

 

In 1942,  A Красная звезда  journalist Ilya Ehrenburg wrote an article simply titled “Kill”. This article was intriguing to me due to extreme bluntness with which it is written, considering the credentials that Ehrenburg had as a voice for socialism in western Europe, and his experience as a journalist from the Spanish Civil War. Ehrenburg’s article comes across as a warning of the immorality and the backwardness of Hitler’s forces, going as far as to say that they are not “human beings”, ending with this warning:

“The Germans are not human beings. From now on the word German means to use the most terrible oath. From now on the word German strikes us to the quick. We shall not speak any more. We shall not get excited. We shall kill. If you have not killed at least one German a day, you have wasted that day … If you cannot kill your German with a bullet, kill him with your bayonet. If there is calm on your part of the front, or if you are waiting for the fighting, kill a German in the meantime. If you leave a German alive, the German will hang a Russian and rape a Russian woman. If you kill one German, kill another — there is nothing more amusing for us than a heap of German corpses. Do not count days, do not count kilometers. Count only the number of Germans killed by you. Kill the German — that is your grandmother’s request. Kill the German — that is your child’s prayer. Kill the German — that is your motherland’s loud request. Do not miss. Do not let through. Kill.”

(Krasnaya Zvezda (No173 [5236]) 24 July 1942)

In 1942, Ehrenburg also gave a speech in Moscow that commanded the same vengeful spirit that was evident in his newspaper article. This speech (In Mass Culture in Soviet Russia pp. 401-405) defends the morality of the Soviet people while aggressively utilizing dehumanizing language against the “Hitlerites”, as he compares the actions of the Nazi’s on the front to those of wolves. The speech invokes the names of Dostoevsky and Chaikovsky of he rants about the cultural desecration and physical destruction of the Soviets at the hands of the German army.

These snippets of anti-Fascist vengefulness and anger that Ehrenburg shows in his wartime works emerge in force when the tides of war eventually shift, and the Soviets take the war to the Nazis. Accounts from the Eastern front show the viciousness that the Soviets leveraged against the Nazis as they made their way to Berlin.

 

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4 thoughts on “Ehrenburg in “Красная звезда”

  1. What a powerful counterbalance to all of the wartime songs and poems that focused on the humanity and suffering of the experience! Thanks so much for writing about this — Ehrenburg’s articles (he was a war correspondent – like Grossman and Simonov) say so much about the dehumanizing potential of total war. Hard to imagine that he will be one of the leaders of the “literary Thaw” under Khrushchev in a few years!

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  2. Great post! It was really interesting to read about a newspaper and speech. It is really interesting to read something on the anger people had for the Germans instead of just the sadness of leaving people behind. Anger can be just as powerful as hope and it was really interesting to read something about that.

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  3. This is intriguing. I knew Hitler was evil, but it fascinates me to see how his evil is depicted throughout the world during the WW2 era. I thought you did a fantastic job describing this article. Great job!

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  4. I found this very interesting. Most of the other literary pieces are about pride in the state and national unity, but this one is much more blunt and straightforward. I feel that the context of the war is very important when reading this article.

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