In a different way

It was three years ago – such a long time? – that we published a World War II German colloquial dictionary for the Soviet army which prepared the soldiers for the speech situations of a victorious Soviet attack advancing in Germany. The most peculiar thing with this dictionary was that it was not published around 1943-44 when such situations seemed highly probable, but on 29 May 1941, that is almost one month before the army of Germany, at that time on friendly terms with the Soviet Union, unexpectedly invaded the USSR.

A few weeks ago was the seventieth anniversary of the German invasion. For this occasion, as we hoped and also wrote about, lots of new documents were published on the Russian web. Among other things, a seemingly insignificant German article from the 21 November 1941 issue of Ostfront, posted by one of the participants of a Russian historical forum.

The article reinforces the existence of the phrasebook, and that it was already in the hand of the Red soldiers at the beginning of the German attack. Thus it refutes the often cited, but far-fetched objection that “yes, a dictionary like this was printed already in 1941, but they wanted to distribute it only in 1942, by the time Stalin would have felt the country quite prepared to attack Germany”.

Originally everything was different…
Already in May 1941 a colloquial dictionary was made for the Soviet army

Berlin, 21 November [1941]

Among the few belongings of the Soviet prisoners of war the German soldiers find again and again a pocket book, the wording of which leads to interesting conclusions. It is a colloquial dictionary which, as you can read on the front page, was published already in May 1941 for the Soviet army, and which was compiled “for the military purposes of an offensive against Germany”. The instructions of the book make it clear how the Bolshevik leadership imagined this offensive. For example, in one place it says that the Bolshevik paratroopers reach the ground in front of Berlin, and they attack on Germans. “Stop!” they command first, and then “Throw away your weapons, or else we shoot you!” Another chapter deals with the organization of transportation. The Bolshevik soldiers request information from the local German population on streets, bridges and other routes. Further guidance can be found also on the interrogation of prisoners.

Perhaps the millions of captive Bolsheviks can take use
now in the German captivity of this colloquial dictionary, whose purpose was obviously imagined in a different way by Stalin.

Soviet POWs, 21 September 1941 (Bundesarchiv)

German POWs on the Sukharevka in Moscow, 1944

3 comentarios:

languagehat dijo...

Of course, Stalin knew perfectly well a war with Germany was coming; he was, however, positive it wouldn't happen before 1942 at the earliest.

Studiolum dijo...

This is what many are debating now (I mean serious historians, not the Suvorov/Rezun kind of), by pointing it out that although since May 1941 Stalin verbally (and even that only in a narrow circle) spoke about an inevitable war in 1942, but he was in fact preparing for a “preventive war” already in the summer of 1941. The publication of this colloquial dictionary shortly before the planned offensive is one of the proofs.

languagehat dijo...

Well, I haven't seen the debate, but since Stalin knew perfectly well the USSR wasn't yet ready to take on Germany (which is why he was eager for the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact to happen), it would surprise me greatly if he had any idea of attacking Germany in 1941. I would bet money that the booklet is simply preparation well in advance, something Stalin was good at. He liked to have his ducks in a row. (Look how long it took him to make use of the death of Zhdanov!)