Issue 4/2014

Content Overview: English Titles and Abstracts:

  • Hermann Wentker: The German Green Party and Gorbachev. Metamorphoses of a Complex Relationship, 1985 – 1990.
  • Alexander Vatlin: An Offside World Revolutionary. The Commissar of the Bavarian Soviet Republic Tobias Axelrod.
  • Amedeo Osti Guerrazzi: “Merciless Actions against the Malicious Enemy”. Italian Warfare and Occupational Practice in Slovenia, 1941/42.
  • Tim B. Müller: Democracy and Economic Policy During the Weimar Republic.
  • Rainer Eisfeld: Theodor Eschenburg and the Robbery of Jewish Property during 1938/39.

Abstracts

Hermann Wentker: The German Green Party and Gorbachev. Metamorphoses of a Complex Relationship, 1985 – 1990

 

In their appraisal of Gorbachev and his policies, the Greens were shaped by a worldview which denied the existence of any serious willingness to disarm among the American leadership while simultaneously not allowing for an overall damnation of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev’s disarmament initiatives fitted into this worldview and were thus welcomed. Due to their hostility to modern industrial society and the market economy, the Green assessment of Soviet domestic policy under Gorbachev was dominated by scepticism with respect to his efforts at increasing economic efficiency and intensifying cooperation with the West. Additionally the Greens saw themselves and the Peace Movement as allies of Gorbachev, even though they did not notice that their importance for him lessened as of 1987. At the same time, only few Greens maintained grass-roots contacts in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. These Greens widely appreciated the grievances of the dissidents and the respective societies and understood that they were striving for the fulfilment of their consumption needs and even more for a democratic state under the rule of law. Other Greens, who, if at all, only dealt with the Eastern Block theoretically, wanted to continue discussion about a “Third Way” with the increasingly eroding Soviet regime even in 1989. All Greens were however surprised by the revolutionary developments in 1989/90, as they had underestimated the resilience of the nation state.

 


Alexander Vatlin: An Offside World Revolutionary. The Commissar of the Bavarian Soviet Republic Tobias Axelrod


In many portrayals, Tobias Axelrod appears as one of the leaders of the second, Communist, Bavarian Soviet Republic, even though little is known about his previous or later biography. The Moscow historian Alexander Vatlin has engaged in a biographical search through Russian and German archives in order to paint a more complete picture of the professional revolutionary Axelrod, which simultaneously sheds new light on his role in the Soviet Republic. Axelrod joined the socialist movement at a young age, took part in the 1905 revolution and was banished to Siberia, from where he fled abroad in 1910. In 1917 he returned to revolutionary Russia, but found no suitable duties there and was sent to Germany as head of a foreign press agency in early 1919. Once there, he quickly became embroiled in the Bavarian turmoil. After the bloody suppression of the attempted revolution by military Reichswehr and paramilitary Freikorps forces, it was probably due to political pressure from Moscow (insisting on his supposed diplomatic status) that he was not sentenced to death like his comrade Eugen Leviné, but instead to 15 years in prison. After a few months he was exchanged and returned to Russia. The unfulfilled and erratic life of a revolutionary who had lost the revolution ended in Stalin’s Great Terror in 1938: Following Stalin’s orders, the Military Collegium of the USSR Supreme Court sentenced him to death as a “counter revolutionary”. He was shot on 10 March 1938.

 


Amedeo Osti Guerrazzi: “Merciless Actions against the Malicious Enemy”. Italian Warfare and Occupational Practice in Slovenia, 1941/42

 

The means of warfare and the practice of occupation by the Italian armed forces between 1940 and 1943 have hitherto aroused little interest by scholars. For this reason, the legend until recently has survived that Italy may have been a country with a Fascist government, but waged no Fascist (i. e: criminal) war. With his article, Amedeo Osti Guerrazzi joins a group of researchers who reject this interpretation and are painting a new image of Mussolini’s soliders. Using the example of the elite “Granatieri di Sardegna” division of the Royal Army and Italian rule in occupied and partially annexed Slovenia, he shows that war crimes were practically a daily occurrence. This included random shootings, looting and rapes, which have remained unpunished. In the daily guerrilla war against the partisans, Italian soldiers similarly showed the lack of any humanitarian considerations; young, inexperienced and imbued with a propagandistically kindled feeling of cultural-racial superiority, they were ready to use any means necessary in order to hit the enemy as hard as possible. Osti Guerazzi points to the central role of the military leaders, who could be certain of the support of the Fascist leadership in Rome whenever they ordered drastic measures. One looks in vain for criminal orders emanating from the high command, but some instructions of the command posts in Slovenia evoke the Kriegsgerichtsbarkeitserlass (court martial ordinance) of the Wehrmacht high command which exempted German soldiers from punishment for the killings of civilians. While Osti Guerrazzi summarizes that the Italians did not wage a war of annihilation, their war was still similar to that waged by the armed forces of the German Reich in Italy after the Kingdom changed sides in September/October 1943.
  
                                                                                                                             


Tim B. Müller: Democracy and Economic Policy During the Weimar Republic

 

If research into the Weimar Republic is not so much guided by the search for national continuities, but rather by their investigation in international and transnational contexts, a democracy is revealed which exhibited no major differences to the other liberal and social democracies of the time. This is true just as much for the political institutions as it is for the political culture as well as the social and economic crises, challenges and possibilities. After the First World War, modern mass democracy was not only emerging in Germany. The present article places the economic policy of the Republic into its democratic horizon of expectation. Over and above economic stabilisation and productivity, the sources clearly reveal the enabling of democracy as a form of government and way of life as the political goal of economic policy. Analyses by economic historians have hitherto not revealed this political dimension. Here however, the perspective of the history of democracy as well as of political and economic thought is chosen in order to consider central actors within the Reich Economics Ministry. Their concepts and strategies were part of an international discussion about economic policy in the Western democracies. It was not structural exigencies, but rather individual political decisions which ended this democratic economic policy step by step since 1930, while other democracies extended and continued these strategies of economic policy – also with the participation of German émigrés from the Reich Economic Ministry. This article sees itself as a plea for an “optimistic”, non-teleological reading of the history of German democracy after 1918.

 


Rainer Eisfeld: Theodor Eschenburg and the Robbery of Jewish Property during 1938/39

 

A 2011 journal article based on newly-found archival sources showed that Theodor Eschenburg, one of the “founding fathers” of post-World War II (West) German contemporary history and political science, had been involved in a Jewish company’s “Aryanization” during the Nazi regime. Employed by the textile industry, Eschenburg had served as cartel manager from 1933–1945. The publication of the article was followed by an emotional and often polemical debate. The present documentation takes the debate back to the sources and presents further, recently discovered records which prove that, subsequently to the 1938 Anschluss of Austria, Eschenburg was also involved in the “Aryanization” of two Viennese Jewish firms. One of the former owners later perished in Theresenstadt. Eschenburg emerges as an example of a conservative non-Nazi (staatskonservativ, in his own words) who, even while maintaining personal contacts with Jews, assiduously placed himself at the service of the racist regime.

 

 




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