One of the most attractively situated restaurants in West Berlin is Nikolskoe, a Russian blockhouse that stands, together with a small church with an onion-shaped cupola, on a height above the Havel and provides its guests, as they dine on wild boar and other specialties, with a fine view of the Isle of Peacocks and the landscape of Mark Brandenburg on the other side of the water. The house, built in 1819, was the gift of the Prussian king Frederick William III to his son-in-law, the later Russian czar Nicholas I, and his wife Charlotte and was modeled after a blockhouse in St. Petersburg in which the king and the young married couple had spent happy hours. Charlotte promptly installed her coachman-in-ordinary, Ivan Bockow, in Nikolskoe, and he was soon dispensing schnapps, and later food, to the local peasantry, a practice that has continued. The church, St. Peter and Paul, was built in the Russian style by August Stüler and A.D. Schadow in 1837.
In the nineteenth century Nikolskoe was more than a symbol of royal kinship; it was in its small way a reminder of a political-military relationship, the collaboration between the Russian and Prussian monarchies in the liberation of Germany from Napoleon Bonaparte. A more concrete commemoration of that comradeship in arms was the exchange of personal adjutants between the sovereigns, a custom begun before the war was over. These officers were attached to the royal and imperial suites and served as military plenipotentiaries, reporting directly to their respective sovereigns rather than to their foreign offices or war departments. They had considerable latitude in foreign affairs, so much so that Bismarck, when he was in charge of Germany’s foreign relations, constantly complained that the military plenipotentiary in St. Petersburg was privy to information that he did not always divulge to the embassy staff and that, since he was not bound by instructions from the Foreign Ministry, there was always the possibility that he would contradict or undermine its policy. Nevertheless, the exchange continued, despite the vagaries of diplomatic relations, until the very eve of the First World War.
Between the two governments intimate relations were almost as continuous. From 1815 to 1854, Prussia, Austria, and Russia were allies in everything but a formal sense, bound together by ideological affinity and opposition to the more liberal Western powers. Although the Crimean War brought an estrangement, when Austria signed an alliance with Russia’s adversaries and Prussia remained neutral, this lasted only until 1863, when Prussia’s assistance to Russia in suppressing the insurrection in Poland effected a reconciliation between Berlin and St. Petersburg. As Bismarck subsequently plotted the course that led, by way of war with Denmark, Austria, and France, to German unification, he received valuable backing from the Russians. Thereafter, in the dangerous years that were the legacy of almost a decade of violence, Bismarck regarded the tie with Russia, renewed and formalized in 1881, as the best assurance against yet more violence, which would, he said in 1883, “place the survival of the European order in jeopardy.”
By the influence it gave him in Russian counsels, the Russo-German alliance stabilized conditions in southeastern Europe, where war between Russia and Germany’s other ally Austria was, in the early 1870s, always imminent, and in Russia itself it erected a barrier against revolutionary Pan-Slavism and the possibility of its allying with French republicanism in a general assault upon the European system. The Russian connection was Bismarck’s reinsurance treaty, as it was indeed called in its last incarnation, and when his successors allowed it to lapse after 1890 Europe’s rapid slide into bipolarity, confrontation, crisis, and war demonstrated how important it had been. That importance should not, of course, be exaggerated, but after the collapse of three great empires and the destruction of the old European balance, Germans may be forgiven for having believed that their troubles began when the great pilot was dropped and his system abandoned.
It was not surprising then that some Germans should dream of its restoration. Among German intellectuals, for example, there was no great disposition to follow the counsel of the historian and philosopher Ernst Troeltsch, who in 1922 challenged his fellows to try to overcome the gulf between Germany and the West by cultivating the ideas of natural law and humanity that had been implicit in the Enlightenment but had never taken root in Germany. The passions engendered by the war and the Versailles Treaty discouraged that sort of thing, while encouraging the notion, advanced in Thomas Mann’s wartime book Reflections of an Unpolitical Man, that an enlightenment that was defined in political terms, as in the West, was alien to the German soul, and the related view, spread by reactionary thinkers like Arthur Moeller van den Bruck and Oswald Spengler, that the West was the home not only of a liberalism that encouraged everything that was flabby and corrupt but, in Spengler’s words, of “the frightful form of soulless, purely mechanical capitalism, which attempts to master all activities and stifles every free independent impulse and all individuality” and of modern science, which was its handmaiden.1
In contrast, many German intellectuals were fascinated by the great experiment that was being made in what had been the Russian Empire, some because they fancied, like Hermann Hesse, that the best hope for an exhausted and demoralized Europe lay in “a turning back to Asia, to the source, to the Faustian Mothers and will necessarily lead, like every death on earth, to a new birth,”2 others because the raw energy of the new Bolshevik state attracted and repelled them at the same time. Recalling his mood in 1919, when he served as a volunteer protecting the Baltic lands against Bolshevik incursions, Ernst von Salomon wrote:
Over there, a burning compulsion, a mad will, a divine fanaticism, a unique faith that holds the disarrayed hordes of soldiers and peasants in an iron hand, gives the forlorn a mission, hammers the tatterdemalions into heroes, and transforms the abandoned into conquerors…. We were stragglers, behind us no people, no Reich. We lay here now in this foreboding darkness; we sought an entry to the world, and Germany lay somewhere behind us in the fog,…while over there in the secret gloom hid that unknown, that formless power that we half admired and half hated.3
The forging of the new Russian tie was, however, the work not of intellectuals but of men who were quite devoid of mysticism or poetic sentiment or even historical sentimentality, the diplomats and the soldiers. As Sebastian Haffner points out in his concise but pregnant essay on the Russo-German relationship between the world wars, it was these eminently practical men who were in a real sense the godfathers of the Bolshevik state, because, when they realized that Germany could not win the First World War by military means alone, they devised the plan to transport the Bolshevik leader Lenin from his exile in Zurich through Germany and Finland to Russia, counting on his ability to seize power (which, incidentally, meant the destruction of the regime that had been Germany’s friend and ally during most of the nineteenth century) and withdraw Russia from the conflict. This alliance with Bolshevism was the beginning of a long and tortured relationship, which Haffner calls a pact with the devil for both sides, by which he means, I suppose, one whose benefits in the end had frightful material and moral costs.
The first fruits of the new relationship were mixed for both partners. Lenin was doubtless, as Haffner says, “the German secret- and wonder-weapon, the political atom bomb of the First World War,” and Russia was indeed knocked out of the conflict, but this did not bring total victory, not least of all because Ludendorff’s desire to build a new empire in the East at the expense of the Bolsheviks diverted German energies from the task of winning the war in the West. On the other side, the ties of the Russian revolutionaries with Germany made the creation of the Bolshevik state possible in the first place and, as Haffner takes pains to point out, saved the Soviet Union from complete isolation in 1918. But when, in March 1918, Germany successfully demanded at Brest-Litovsk that Russia give up the Ukraine, as well as its Polish and Baltic territories and Finland, this alienated much of the Russian population from the Bolshevik leaders and doubtless added to the passion and suffering of the civil war. If the Bolshevik leaders clung to the German alliance, it was because they were convinced that it was only a question of time before revolution would triumph in Berlin and lay the ideological basis for a healthier alliance. But the November Revolution in Germany ended not in a socialist state but in a bourgeois republic, and no amount of Bolshevik subversion inside Germany could alter that result. In the end, the Bolsheviks accepted this cheerfully enough and in order to remake the Russo-German alliance sat down with the same people who sent Lenin to St. Petersburg, the diplomats and the soldiers.
The fact that they and the Germans were outcasts in postwar Europe made that a logical thing to do. When the Bolsheviks attended their first international conference, the omnium-gatherum arranged by Lloyd George at Genoa in 1922, they were confronted with the possibility of a condominium of the other powers to exact from them the repayment of czarist debts and other concessions that would place their economy under foreign control. On their side, the German delegation, led by Walter Rathenau, was persuaded by the coolness with which its members were treated by their host that it was going to be subjected to new demands for reparations. It was not hard for the Soviet foreign minister Chicherin to persuade Rathenau that they would both benefit from a pact of friendship, which was promptly concluded at Rapallo on Easter Sunday and had an effect almost as startling as that of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, blowing the Genoa Conference to smithereens.
There were no military clauses in the Rapallo Treaty, but the soldiers had been in touch for some time. In 1921 the German War Ministry had received a request for assistance in building up the Soviet armaments industry, and General von Seeckt, the chief of the army command, had for some time had a special unit studying possibilities of cooperation with the Red Army. From these beginnings, there evolved an elaborate system that enabled the Germans to evade the arms clauses of the Versailles Treaty by sending officers to the Soviet Union for tank and aircraft training and provided the Red Army with new airfields and armaments and poison gas factories and the additional benefit of tactical instruction from German specialists. Sebastian Haffner, who has a penchant for paradox, writes that not only was “the German Wehrmacht that almost dealt a death-blow to Soviet Russia in 1941…trained in its decisive ranks in the Soviet Union between 1922 and 1933” but, while “the Russians let the Germans develop and master in their own land the weapons with which they would almost conquer the country, the Germans in the same years were the teachers of those who would later vanquish them.” Those possibilities did not, of course, occur to the German and Soviet officers who were by the end of the 1920s conducting joint war games and staff exercises, and it is more likely that in the back of some of their minds lay the dream of future collaboration against Poland, “a conception,” Haffner says, “that continued the old Prusso-Russian tradition.”
The accession of Hitler, whose anti-Bolshevism was deep and of long duration, put an end to these connections, to the regret of those who had tied them. When the military arrangements were terminated at the end of 1933, Marshal Tukhachevsky said in a farewell speech to his German associates, “Don’t forget that it is your policy that divides us, not our feelings—the feelings of friendship that the Red Army has for the Reichswehr—and reflect always on the thought that you and we, Germany and the Soviet Union, can dictate world peace if we only walk together!”—a sentiment that, Haffner says, probably cost him his life three and a half years later.
The severance of the Rapallo tie, which had been confirmed by the Berlin Treaty of 1926, was resisted by German diplomats and led to a stormy scene between Hitler and Rudolf Nadolny, his ambassador in Moscow, in which Nadolny argued that now that Germany had left the League of Nations the Moscow connection was essential to protect Germany’s rear from collective pressures from the West. Hitler is reported to have cried angrily, “As far as I am concerned this conversation is finished!” and Nadolny to have retorted, “As far as I am concerned, it is only beginning!”4 but it was the Führer who prevailed.
And yet, almost as if the Teufelspakt had a mysterious self-renewing power, its abrogation was only a temporary one. Hitler was aware that, before he could achieve his goal of winning Lebensraum in the East for the Thousand Year Reich, he had three fundamental tasks: to prepare Germany for war, which meant casting off the shackles of Versailles; to bring Germans living in contiguous territories “home to the Reich” and to push Germany’s borders south and east to embrace Austria and the Sudetenland, thus increasing Germany’s striking force; and to extend Germany’s indirect control over the glacis that stretched from the Reich’s new borders to the Soviet frontier. It is a sign of what Haffner calls “Hitler’s astonishing political aptitude” that he accomplished nearly all of this without serious opposition and was balked in the end only by Poland’s refusal to cooperate and Great Britain’s decision to abandon the policy of appeasement and to pledge support for Polish integrity. It was this disruption of his plan that led Hitler back to Moscow.
The Soviet Union, meanwhile, had escaped political isolation by joining the League of Nations in 1934 and following a policy of collective security. This was received with little gratitude and much suspicion in the West. After Hitler seized Austria in March 1938, a Soviet proposal for a meeting of the United States, British, French, and Soviet governments to concert action to meet new aggression was cold-shouldered by the British government on the grounds that it could not make commitments for contingencies that had not yet arisen, and later in the year, when Britain and France yielded to the German rape of Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union was neither consulted nor invited to the Munich Conference. When the French ambassador shamefacedly informed the Soviet government of the content of the Munich agreement, the vice-commissar for foreign affairs said to him, “My dear fellow, what have you done? For us, I see no other consequence but a fourth partition of Poland.”5
The points were then set for a convergence of the two dictatorial powers. How it was achieved and what happened thereafter is the subject of Anthony Read’s and David Fisher’s new book, which does not, to be sure, add much that is startling to a story that is reasonably well known but is so firmly based upon a close reading of the secondary literature and printed documents, as well as upon archival soundings and interviews, and is told with such a sense for the essential drama of the story that it is easily the most comprehensive and the most interesting history of the Nazi-Soviet Pact that we possess.
In the first part of their story, Read and Fisher place as much emphasis upon what was going on in London as they do upon developments in Berlin and Moscow, and this is appropriate. Anyone who was in England in 1938 and the beginning of 1939 will remember the groundswell of opinion that rose against the appeasement policy of the Chamberlain government and the angry speeches in the House of Commons by people like Churchill, Lloyd George, and Eden calling for a speedy alliance with the Soviet Union to stop Hitler before he involved Europe in another war. These demands acquired a new urgency after the extension of the British pledge to Poland in March 1939, for it was difficult to see how that could be implemented, if it should prove necessary, without Soviet military support.
After two months of leisurely soundings in Geneva and Paris and elsewhere, Chamberlain and his foreign secretary, Lord Halifax, finally agreed in late May to open negotiations for an Anglo-Soviet mutual assistance pact, and the prime minister gave the House of Commons to understand that full agreement would be achieved at an early date. Yet Read and Fisher point out that at the beginning of August, when questions were raised in Commons about lack of progress, Chamberlain airily reminded members of how long it had taken to negotiate the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1903, the Entente Cordiale of 1904, and the Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907. “The present negotiations with the USSR,” he added, “have been going on only four and a half months. What do you expect?”—a statement that elicited from the heavens an ominous flash of lightning and an enormous thunderclap, followed by a deluge that filled the ancient Westminster Hall next to Commons with eighteen inches of water.
Given Chamberlain’s ingrained suspicion of Russia and his secret conviction that Hitler might still be amenable to reason (his attempts to reactivate the appeasement policy are well documented by the authors), the foot-dragging in London is understandable; and it should of course not be forgotten that negotiations were always complicated by the refusal of the Polish and Romanian governments to consent to the stationing of Soviet military units on their soil, which the Soviets argued was the prerequisite of an effective defense against German aggression. But these things aside, what is astonishing after fifty years is what Read and Fisher call Halifax’s “blasé unconcern” over the possibility that the negotiations might collapse because of their slow pace (“This will not cause me very great anxiety,” he said in July, “since I feel that, whatever formal agreement is signed, the Soviet government will probably take such action as best suits them if war breaks out”) and his blindness, which was matched by Chamberlain’s, to warnings from the French and, via Washington, from members of the German resistance that the Russians were negotiating with Hitler as well. Such reports were waved away by the prime minister with the words, “I cannot bring myself to believe that a real alliance between Russia and Germany is possible.”
In this spirit, the British acted as if they had all the time in the world and when, after many hesitations, they sent a military mission to Russia to see whether an agreement might be worked out, it was headed by officers of no great distinction without authorization to sign anything and sent by an elderly cargo and passenger steamer called The City of Exeter, capable of a maximum speed of thirteen knots. This was hardly likely to impress Stalin, who had by this time decided to settle with the more energetic Germans, who had a schedule to keep, Hitler’s plan for the destruction of Poland, Operation White, having a jump-off date of September 1.
One may ask, of course, whether Stalin’s mind had not long been made up and whether the British procrastination did not merely confirm it. One can only guess about this, but Read and Fisher do not disagree with Haffner’s hypothesis that Stalin was persuaded that a Soviet-Western mutual assistance pact would not deter Hitler from attacking Poland and would merely involve the Soviet Union in war, on its own soil, since the Poles were adamant about allowing Soviet units to cross their borders, and with inadequate allies, since the French would sit behind the Maginot line and the British had only two divisions ready for overseas service. On the other hand, a nonaggression pact with Germany would bring peace, at least for a time, together with a generous share of the lands between Germany and Russia (half of Poland, the Baltic states, Finland, Bessarabia, Bukovina), and the possibility that Hitler would, after his Polish campaign, be diverted to the West. Stalin’s apparent indecision was probably tactical, designed to get the highest possible price from the Germans.
As for Hitler, a renewal of the Devil’s Pact (and that is what it was, for the negotiators discovered that the Berlin Treaty of 1926 had never been formally abrogated) might shock Britain and France into reneging on their pledge to Poland and, if not, would assure Soviet neutrality and a steady supply of needed raw materials during whatever hostilities ensued. The territorial price was not important, since the Führer intended to take back everything he gave. On August 11, 1939, he told the League of Nations commissioner in Danzig, Carl Burckhardt,
Everything I am doing is directed against Russia. If the West is too obtuse to grasp this, then I shall be forced to come to terms with the Russians and turn against the West first. After that I will direct my entire strength against the USSR.
The second half of The Deadly Embrace is devoted to the story of the fulfillment of that promise, and it is essentially an account of the gradual realization by the man who boasted to the Politburo in August 1939, “I know what Hitler’s up to. He thinks he’s outsmarted me—but actually it’s I who have outsmarted him!” that all of his calculations had gone awry. Stalin had never dreamed that Hitler would be able, after the Polish campaign, to drive his Western foes hors de combat so quickly or that, before a definitive peace with Britain was achieved, he would contemplate, as his policy in Eastern Europe seemed to indicate, an attack on the Soviet Union. (Had he not written in Mein Kampf about the folly of engaging in two-front wars?) Nor had Stalin imagined, as he began to exploit the territorial gains of the pact by attacking Finland, that the Red Army’s inadequacies and need of basic reform would be demonstrated for all the world to see.
After the Winter War in Finland, Stalin seems to have believed that the German army would have an easy task in a trial by arms with the Soviet Union; and because he did so he took a leaf out of the British book and sought to appease his frightening partner, protesting feebly but in the end acquiescing as Hitler systematically undermined the strategical advantages that the pact had brought by guaranteeing Romania, asserting his ascendancy over Hungary and Bulgaria, and sending troops into Finland and the Danube lands, thus winning control over all the approaches to Russia. In the end the man so often praised for his realism seemed to withdraw from reality, refusing to believe well-informed reports from his own and foreign intelligence sources concerning the date of the coming German attack and, even when hostilities had actually begun, holding back orders to the front because he couldn’t believe Hitler would attack without issuing an ultimatum that would enable him to negotiate for peace terms. On June 22, 1941, as German armor sliced its way into Russia, all his illusions crumbled, and he must have realized the time to pay for the Teufelspakt had arrived. Hitler’s realization of that fact was more belated.
That the dreadful Soviet price (20 million Soviet citizens died before the war was over) was not compounded by political collapse and enslavement was the result of the material and military assistance that came from the West, and Steven Merritt Miner has written an intelligent and absorbing account of one aspect of that story, the evolution of British policy toward the Soviet Union from the beginning of the war until the conclusion of the Anglo-Soviet Pact in 1942.
He begins with an account of an often forgotten episode in this tale, the internal debate in the British cabinet during the Winter War in Finland of the advisability of aiding the Finns, either by sending troops across Norway and Sweden to Finland, an operation that might incidentally disrupt supplies of Swedish iron ore to Germany, or, alternately, stirring up subversive activity in the Caucasus and bombing Soviet oil supplies in Baku. All of this was debated earnestly until the slenderness of Britain’s resources struck home and it was realized, as a chiefs of staff report stated, that “there was no action we could take against Russia which would bring about the early defeat of Germany” and that military operations against the Soviet Union would be ineffective and might cause complications with other powers, like Turkey. The adroit diplomacy of the Soviet ambassador in London, Ivan Maiskii, who at the height of the debate suggested trade talks, gave birth to the idea that this might be the way to limit the export of Soviet raw materials to Germany. After the Germans seized Denmark and Norway, the military option was dropped, and a trade treaty became the end of British policy, pushed vigorously by the Churchill cabinet, which dispatched Sir Stafford Cripps to Moscow to lay a basis for it.
Cripps was a devout Christian, a socialist, and a believer that Stalin’s policy was largely the result of the behavior of capitalist states toward the Soviet Union and could be changed if a serious effort were made to restore his confidence and trust. It seems never to have occurred to him that the Nazi-Soviet Pact was based on the common interest of the two partners at the time of its signature and that Stalin would be disinclined to weaken it and annoy Hitler by an agreement with Britain.
When his efforts failed to move the Soviets, Cripps convinced himself that this was so only because his own government was not being generous enough in its expressions of friendship. In a conversation with Stalin in July 1940, he disregarded his explicit instructions and suggested that it might be a good idea for Stalin to encourage a union of the Balkan states after the war.
In October, in a draft agreement that he submitted to the war cabinet, he proposed that “a real effort to change Soviet policies” would require that Britain guarantee to consult them in the postwar European and Asian settlement, agree not to join any anti-Soviet alliance after the war, recognize their “de facto sovereignty” (a highly ambiguous term) in the Baltic states and other territories that they had occupied, “arrange to supply them with articles they require and we can spare…should they be attacked,” and guarantee that they would not be attacked from Turkey or Iran and that Baku would not be bombed. “All of these points should be surrendered,” Miner writes, “in return for what the Soviets already claimed they were pursuing, namely genuine neutrality. In closing [Cripps] emphasized that, for fear of German reprisals against the USSR, the matter must be kept secret.” This was not only maladroit diplomacy; it was a reversion to the appeasement of the mid-1930s with a different beneficiary.
Moreover, although nothing came of it at the time, it was this spirit that animated the policy of Anthony Eden when he became foreign secretary after the outbreak of the Russo-German War and after the British government had extended its promise of support to the beleaguered Soviet regime. Eden wanted to negotiate an alliance that would remove all the suspicions of the past and create an effective partnership in the war and beyond, but as he set about negotiating this he soon had the feeling, experienced by others who were forced to treat with Stalin and Molotov, of playing on a cloth untrue, with a twisted cue and elliptical billiard balls, with people who had been trained to regard those conditions as normal. Startled by the lack of any Soviet gratitude for the aid given in their time of trial, Eden was disinclined to set any price or conditions for Britain’s alliance and instead followed the Cripps line of trying to buy friendship by yielding to Soviet demands, although these had a tendency to multiply with every concession.
This worried Winston Churchill, who pointed out that the Soviets had little right to special treatment, since “they entered the war only when attacked by Germany, having previously shown themselves utterly indifferent to our fate, and indeed they added to our burdens in our worst danger.” But at a time when the Red Army was carrying the brunt of the war and public and parliamentary opinion was clamoring for closer ties with the Soviet Union, Churchill did not feel strong enough to dig his heels in. Thus Eden was permitted to go his way, promising to raise no difficulties about Soviet sovereignty in the Baltic lands, a goal that Stalin had pursued with remarkable consistency, and making other concessions that would trouble the postwar relationship of the Grand Alliance. This was foreseen by the United States under-secretary of state Sumner Welles, who wrote in April 1942 that the British position on the Baltic lands was “not only indefensible from every moral standpoint, but likewise extraordinarily stupid,” since it would only lead to “new additional demands,” such as “eastern Poland.”
Out of deference to such sentiments and to Franklin Roosevelt’s belief that no territorial settlements should be made until the end of the war and because to yield on the Baltic would be a violation of the Atlantic Charter, the British concessions were not written into the Anglo-Soviet Treaty of May 1942. The Soviets agreed to a postponement of the territorial discussions because a sudden reverse in their military fortunes in May made it seem more important to them to secure a promise of a second front in 1942. But they lost nothing by accepting a treaty that was silent on the subject of frontiers. They had good memories and could always, if need be, cite the verbal promises made to them by official representatives of the British government.
A comparison of the negotiation of the Nazi-Soviet Pact with the British pursuit of a Soviet agreement in the years 1940–1942 would seem to indicate that Adolf Hitler had a far better understanding than Stafford Cripps and Anthony Eden of the fact that cooperation with the Kremlin was most successful when limited to those questions upon which the Soviets felt agreement was in their own interest and that, in addition, relations were most effective when they were conducted in a calm and unsentimental manner. Aside from this, Miner, perhaps with an eye to future developments, suggests that two of the additional lessons from the British experience were that “unilateral gestures by the West designed to win Soviet confidence by sacrificing Western interests or principles were hopelessly naive” and that, if Moscow took any notice of such gestures, it ascribed them to weakness or the irrepressible pressures of public opinion.
In view of current tendencies in Germany, all of this has a new relevance. In June 1954, in a speech before the Rhine-Ruhr Club in Düsseldorf, the prewar chancellor Heinrich Brüning criticized Konrad Adenauer’s foreign policy as being too dogmatic and too Western and called for a return to the policy of Rapallo and Berlin, which would permit a balancing between East and West and the benefits that would accrue from that.6 With strong parliamentary and public support, Adenauer rejected this as outmoded Realpolitik, but today Brüning’s advice is much in vogue, and Arnulf Baring has written a book called Our New Arrogance,7 in which he describes the pervasiveness of the view that an improvement of relations with the Soviet Union would permit a healthy Lockerung, or loosening, of ties with the United States. Echoes of Hesse and Salomon can be heard these days among intellectuals, and in last year’s Römerberg Conversations, an annual meeting of writers and artists in Frankfurt, the theme “Has European Culture Abdicated?” elicited much talk about a renaissance coming from Mitteleuropa, if not from the lands beyond. To the distress of the State Department, Foreign Minister Genscher has gone to Moscow on his own volition, and we learn from The Wall Street Journal that the same kind of businessmen who followed in the wake of the diplomats and soldiers in the 1920s are now going to the Soviet Union in hordes and returning with happy faces. All in all, it is perhaps not too fanciful to sense that a strong East Wind is fluttering the napkins on the tables at Nikolskoe.
March 30, 1989
Oswald Spengler, Briefe 1919–1936, edited by Anton M. Kontanek and Manfred Schröter (Munich: 1963), p. 203. ↩
Hermann Hesse, “The Brothers Karamazoff, or The Downfall of Europe,” in Eugen Weber, ed., Paths to the Present (Dodd, Mead, 1960), p. 227. ↩
Ernst von Salomon, Die Geächteten (1930; new edition, Reinbek bei Hamburg, 1962), p. 50. ↩
Rudolf Rahn, Ruheloses Leben (Düsseldorf: 1950), pp. 83–84. ↩
Robert Coulondre, De Staline à Hitler: Souvenirs de deux ambassades, 1936–1939 (Paris: 1950), p. 165. ↩
Heinrich Brüning, Die Vereinigten Staaten und Europa: Ein Vortrag (Stuttgart: 1954). ↩
Arnulf Baring, Unser neuer Grössenwahn: Deutschland zwischen Ost und West (Stuttgart: 1988). ↩