Extracts From an Address by the German Ambassador to the Soviet Union (Schulenburg) Before the German Wehrmacht Academy, November 25, 1937 (1)
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No. 610


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The task assigned to me comprises such an enormous amount of material that it is simply impossible to give a completely clear picture in a lecture of one hour. I shall therefore attempt, in conclusion, to summarize for you in a few short sentences what I have explained to you in detail.

The Soviet Union emerged from the World War and the subsequent interventionist and civil wars with two convictions. I do not want to offer any opinion as to whether these convictions are justified by the facts. Undoubtedly they are at the root of all political activity of the Soviet Union.

The first conviction is that Imperial Russia owed her defeat in the World War to the lack of an adequate war industry. This conviction was strengthened by the belief which is widely held in the East that the superiority of the western European peoples is due to the possession of the machine.

The second conviction, born partly of respect, partly of fear, is that of the fearful strength of the German people.

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The second conviction derived from the World War, that of the strength of the German people, at first exerted a lesser influence upon the policy of the Soviet Union. Germany was unarmed, encircled by enemies, and at the time of the Weimar Republic [zur Systemzeit] was not unfriendly toward the Soviet Union. This situation has completely changed since the assumption of power by National Socialism and since the rebuilding of our armed forces. There is no doubt that the Soviet Union has since then been dominated by a strong fear of us. It was this fear that led to the Soviet-French and the Soviet-Czech mutual assistance pacts. It was this fear that caused the enormous increase in Soviet armament expenditures that I described to you above.

Although the Soviet Union has at its disposal numerous submarines, a great number of tanks and planes, it ought not to be forgotten that the young Soviet industry is still ill prepared for the demands of the greatly increased armed forces and that the Soviet Union has reverted to the old Russian principle of operating on the basis of quantity and not of quality.

For some time the observer has noted with astonishment that a Soviet patriotism is again being cultivated, which seems to contradict the internationalist aspirations of Communism. There can be no doubt that this revival of nationalist sentiment among the people is only a measure to strengthen the defensive spirit of the nation and is therefore also part of the rearmament effort of the Soviet Union.

The above-mentioned things are evident at once to the attentive observer. It is not so clearly discernible where the new wave of terror sweeping over the Soviet Union has its origin and what its aim is. Most observers believe that all older party members, who experienced the prewar era and the period of pure Communism, as well as all who still have any connections with foreign cultures either because they are living as foreigners in the Soviet Union or because they have relatives abroad-are to be removed or rendered harmless. The purpose would be to see to it that the Soviet citizen is deprived of any chance to make comparisons, so that even the slightest improvement in his almost unbearable situation must appear to him as a huge gift from the "mighty" Stalin. Whether this opinion is correct or not, only the future can tell. There is, however, no doubt that the wave of murder and persecution that is still unspent has gravely shaken the organism of the Soviet State and is weakening the political prestige of the Soviet Union. It would be unwise to assume that this downward development must be permanent. Today the Soviet Union is politically and economically heading for a depression. As for what may come tomorrow, we shall have to wait and see.

(1) These extracts are from the revised text of the lecture.Schulenberg's speech, which ranged all over every aspect of the Soviet scene, is much too bulky (40 typed pages) to be printed in its entirety. The conclusion, translated here, summaries his point of view. Back

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