Michael Geyer
Passions of War
Part 5 (concluding part) of “States of Exception: The Nazi-Soviet War as a System of Violence,
1939-1945” is below: To read the complete Chapter including footnotes, click here.
     • To read Part 1, “Nazi-Soviet War as a System of Violence,” click here.
     • To read Part 2, “Operation Barbarossa,” click here.
     • To read Part 3, “War by Any Means,” click here.
     • To read Part 4, “Extreme Violence,” click here.
Michael Geyer
Michael Geyer is the Samuel N. Harper Professor of German and European History. His research and teaching focus on twentieth-century German and European history, with a sub-focus on multinational history and the history of humanitarian movements. Geyer has written on a wide range of topics, including the history of the German military, resistance movements during the Third Reich, the politics of memory, religion, the culture of death and sacrifice, and German intellectual history.
By the Author, Michael Geyer
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The conflict that ended in 1945 is often described as a 'total war', unprecedented in scale and character. Volume 3 of The Cambridge History of the First World War adopts a transnational approach to offer a comprehensive and global analysis of the war as an economic, social and cultural event.
5. Passions of War

We noted above that the Soviet leadership immediately radicalized the war into an all-out war of defense, that the propaganda apparatus as well as hard-core cadres were ready for this kind of a war and enacted it. However, this does not explain yet how the majority of the population was made to fight – the regime’s approach was one thing; compliance and cooperation of the majority of Soviet citizens in this project another one altogether.

The cadres of totalitarian violence, after all, formed only the inner core of a destructive movement that still had to draw in less radical layers of society – including many victims of Stalinism. Propaganda, even good propaganda, does not simply work because it is there. It needs to be appealing and those addressed by it need to react to its message. Most did, in the end, respond to the call; most did fight, and fought hard and brutally, breaking the Wehrmacht’s back. Why? One explanation focuses on political religion.

“Today it is fashionable,” wrote the former paratrooper Grigorii Naumovich Chukhrai in 2001, “to remember that when we went to fight we yelled ‘For the Motherland, for Stalin!’ I went through the whole war and just cannot remember that cry. I remember curses [mat]. But the main point is not what we yelled when we attacked – many of us really were Stalinists.”

This son of a communist, a party member himself, who fought in an elite unit took his own experience pars pro toto for Soviet soldiers in general. At the same time, however, his recollections – full of deserters, people who wound themselves to escape fighting, and people who try to get away from heroic frontline service by getting into a “Red Army song and paratrooper dance ensemble” – undermine these claims at universality.

He meets a heavily wounded soldier, son of a kulak, who spent much of his life under false identity, hated the collective farms, and thought that Stalin was a demon or, quite possibly, the antichrist himself (“instead of toes he has grown hoofs”). In this episode clashed two cultures – the urban Bolsheviks and the rural civilization they abhorred.

It illustrates the huge diversity of the Soviet fighting forces, who were “divided by everything from generation to class, ethnicity, and even politics.”  Young fought next to old, victims of Stalinism next to its beneficiaries, women next to men, barely literate peasants next to literati, anti-Semites next to Jews, Kazakhs next to Russians.

The list of differences could go on and include differentiation according to rank, front, and arms that typically stratify combat experience and type of motivation in any modern army. How might Soviet soldiers of such immense diversity have shared a single motivation? How could we ever think of them in the collective singular?

First we need to take a step back from the assumption that “the Soviet soldier” fought in the first place. In a combat situation, fighting is only one of many options, and not the most likely one, given the trauma of killing and the danger to life and limb this choice entails. Indeed, the other main choices – flight, submission – were real problems of the Soviet fighting forces.

At the beginning of the war, millions opted for submission. The tally of Soviet soldiers taken prisoner by the Germans was, indeed, staggering. “Never in modern European military history had an army in the field lost such a high proportion of its men with so little resistance.” Whether one interprets this phenomenon as motivated by the hopeless military situation or as a result of anti-Stalinism, or as a combination of the two – the fact itself is plain enough.

As the war went on, the likelihood of submission decreased. The majority of Soviets who became POWs did so during the catastrophic year of 1941. After the victories at Stalingrad and Kursk in 1943, only a small minority (4 percent of the total) surrendered. Nevertheless, we still speak of a mass phenomenon – 181,000 soldiers during the years 1944 and 1945.

Those who argue for a thoroughly “Bolshevik Ivan” should find at least this number – over 400 per day in 1944 – hard to explain. That disgruntlement with the regime might have played a role is suggested by individual examples of soldiers who repeatedly refused to fight and who were also on record as disconcerted about the Soviet order.

Consider the POW who explained that   the “motherland was no longer mine from the first days of the October Revolution.” Or take the peasant from Vynnitsia region in the Ukraine who disliked the collective farm, grumbled about the hard service in the Red Army, the poor food, and the bad uniforms (he liked the German equivalents better).

He also thought it would be best to let the political leaders fight it out among themselves and leave “the people” out of it – it made no difference to him whether Stalin or Hitler ruled the state. He surrendered to the enemy in September 1941 and became a POW, only to run away from camp, return home, and live until 1944 on occupied territory. In April 1944 he was drafted back into the Red Army, deserted in October of the same year, was caught and put into a penal unit, where he served until a wound took him out of action in January 1945.

At the very least, the large numbers of prisoners imply a lack of combat incentive on a mass level, as Martin Malia has pointed out – “they could not have been taken prisoner in such numbers had they had any strong motivation to fight.” It might be misleading, however, to stress motivational and, hence, ideological factors when trying to explain existential choices on the battlefield.

“Combat and soldiering,” Merridale notes, “do not depend on a single emotional impulse.” There were many factors “pushing” Soviet soldiers to surrender in 1941 – including, for some, the lack of attraction of the Soviet system. All were affected by the hopeless battle situations, many mistrusted the propaganda of their own side about German brutality, and all were faced with the apparent military and technological superiority of the Germans. Most Soviet citizens had learned to arrange themselves somehow with the Soviet system – a system which allowed only few to “belong” in any uncomplicated way.

Why not assume that one would find an arrangement with another dictatorship as well? Such reasoning was well known to the regime and its propagandists – and they had a straightforward answer. “I don’t say it will be pleasant under the Nazis,” states one potential collaborator in the 1943 movie She Defends the Motherland, “but we’re accustomed to that. Don’t try to scare us. Did you see them hang everyone? Oh, sure, maybe the Communists and the Jews. Enough of this rotten Red paradise!” The movie’s heroine shoots the traitor point blank: “While we live, we fight.”

Surrender became less frequent already by late 1941, and even more so after the victories at Stalingrad and Kursk in 1943. One reason were the threats from one’s own side. Another was the recovery of the Red Army. But giving up also became a poor option because the German mistreatment of POWs soon became known to the troops through one of these peculiar processes of mass communication where rumor and the reports of escapees went hand in hand with official propaganda. By “ill-treating and starving our prisoners to death,” noted one commander in 1942, “the Germans are helping us.”

The Soviets added their own incentives. In 1941, the military press reported extensively on what Soviet soldiers could expect when becoming POWs, often based on the reports of those who had escaped from this hell.  More force- fully, commanders used “friendly fire” against “deserters” and “traitors” as a matter of course from the very start of the war.

Order No. 270 of 16 August 1941 further increased the pressure. Commanders and political workers who “gave themselves over to the enemy” were considered deserters, “whose families are liable to arrest as families of deserters, who have broken the [military] oath and betrayed their country.” If recovered, these “traitors” were to be shot on the spot.

All other soldiers were told to fight no matter what in encirclement and to demand the same from their commanders, if necessary by force of arms. The families of soldiers who “gave themselves over” were to be denied state aid and welfare payments. Further legislation ruled that grown-up members of the families of those POWs who were sentenced to death should be deported for five years.

Flight was another option used frequently. Soviet soldiers retreating through their home regions in the Don area took this opportunity to slip away and return to their villages or to major cities such as Khar’kov, Bogodukhov, or Belgorod. Whenever a region was liberated by the Red Army, the NKVD got busy finding these people. In 1943, the agency temporarily arrested 582,515 soldiers, among them nearly 43,000 who had left the field of battle on their own, 158,585 who had gone AWOL, and 254,922 who did not hold proper documents. Another 23,418 were arrested as deserters.

During similar operations in the first three months of 1944, the NKVD arrested 8407 deserters, followed by 87823 in July and August. The flood of desertion of the first months of the war might have become a trickle of “a few hundred a month” after Kursk, but they added up to sizable numbers nevertheless.

Many of them had slipped away to German-held territory because their own side had increased the cost for flight backward, behind the own lines, from the first days of the war. In July 1941, the Main Administration of Political Propaganda of the Red Army directed commanders to “explain every day” to their subordinates that “to abandon a position without order” was a “crime.” Officers should consider the use of “drastic measures” to enforce discipline –    a reiteration of the rights they had since 1940.

Two days later, the Special Sections received the right to shoot deserters on the spot “if necessary.” Not surprisingly, such signals led to physical and verbal abuse and “arbitrary executions.” By October 1941, the NKVD alone had shot 10,201 deserters, 3,321 of them in front of their units. At around the same time, Stalin pulled back, blaming those instituting his directives for “the substitution of repression for educational work.”

It soon turned out, however, that “education” had little impact on the tenacity of soldiers confronted with Wehrmacht attacks. A year later, thus, the regime returned to violence as an encouragement. Disorderly retreat without explicit order was now threatened by immediate execution through the so-called blocking detachments, introduced by Stalin’s Order No. 227 of 28 July 1942 (“Panic-mongers and cowards should be exterminated on the spot!”).

They were a resurrection of an institution from the Civil War; that might explain why individual commanders had introduced them ad hoc even before this order – they were part of their military repertoire. However, both the blocking units and the penal battalions introduced by the same order were also, and quite explicitly, modeled on a German invention, which Stalin found worth emulating because it made soldiers “fight better.”

The tactic of relentless counterattack also relied on violence against one’s own. It was not unusual for young, inexperienced commanders overwhelmed by their responsibility to kick subordinates hiding in trenches savagely, trying to abuse them into action. Others used the stronger argument of the handgun: “Right away, our company commander warned us that, if we lay down, he would shoot all of us, and he really did shoot some. After that, we never tried to lie down again.”

Stalin and his deputy Lev Mekhlis, on their part, used the threat of violence to encourage the newly instituted commissars on 20 July 1941 charged with enforcing “with an iron fist revolutionary order” against “panic-mongers, cowards, defeatists, deserters.” “Remember that the war commissars and the commanders carry complete responsibility for instances of treason and betrayal in their unit.”

A German summary of experience gained “in the East” reported on the results: “The attacking infantry leaves its positions in compact groups   shouting ‘Hooray!’ Officers and commissars follow, shooting at those who lag behind.” No wonder that the kill ratio between the opponents was so uneven – it took between two and four dead Soviets to kill one German.

Combat motivation, however, went well beyond sheer coercion. Soviet soldiers fought for a variety of reasons paralleling the wide variety of people who made up the Red Army. These motivations often coexisted and reinforced each other, or soldiers shifted from the one to the other. Some of them are not specifically Soviet. The German army – and, following it later, the U.S. army as well – even made a tactical doctrine out of the knowledge that people kill more readily if motivated by a concrete social unit – the famous “primary group.”

The Red Army was no exception and the affective bonds to comrades in battle are a staple of memoirs, novels, films, and poetry written for and by frontoviki. The Soviet replacement system – at least during the periods and the sections of the army where rotation of forces was implemented – was favorable to the development of such ties, which easily transformed into hate once the object of affection was killed, maimed, or captured.

Losses were horrendous. In 1941 much of the existing army was annihilated on the frontiers – only 8 percent survived this ordeal. After mobilization and horribly costly defense battles, the Red Army went on the offensive in the winter of 1941–2, again producing heavy casualties, which were exacerbated by the renewed defeats in the summer of 1942. A new buildup followed in 1943 which created the army which would destroy – again with much blood – the German Wehrmacht and fight its way to Berlin.

The focus on “irrecoverable losses” (killed or missing in action, died of wounds or disease, POWs, noncombat losses), moreover, obscures a much larger fluctuation of personnel in the armed forces. While the years 1941 and 1942 account for nearly 57 percent of the “irrecoverable” category, the vast majority of the “sick and wounded” (70 percent) fell into the years 1943, 1944, and 1945 – making for a rather equal distribution of total losses during all of the full years of war (1942, 1943, 1944).

Soviet officers, in particular of rifle and penal units, report “that their regiments routinely suffered about 50 percent casualties in each and every penetration operation they participated in, regardless of the year of the war.” The extraordinarily high casualty rates did not destroy emotional ties to comrades, but – similarly to the German case – enhanced them.

Under the conditions of life-and-death struggle, it did not take long to connect to a comrade in arms, and his or her injury or death was traumatic and provoked anger and grief. “Frontline life makes people close very quickly,” as one soldier put it.

The constant destruction of people near and dear to the soldiers transformed the primary group into a more extensive, “imagined” community of warriors– some of them still alive, the majority of them already dead, slaughtered by an inhuman enemy. Moments of intense bonding before battle – waiting for the morning, sharing food and drink, and preparing to fight – resembled quasi- religious experiences of collective effervescence among men and women, many of whom would soon be dead.

But even if soldiers were killed, the memory of such hours lived on and gave the survivors a sense of belonging, purpose, and reason to fight, kill, and die. It was within this emotional conjuncture that the symbolic representation of the Homeland (rodina) unfolded.

Rage was also a powerful incentive to kill – both on the field of battle and between engagements. Revenge for fallen comrades went hand in hand with vengeance for or on behalf of civilian loved ones. “You have asked me to bump off two Germans for you,” wrote a soldier home. “Please be advised that your request has been fulfilled.”

Hate propaganda allowed such sentiments to shift from the concrete to the universal, from friends and loved ones to the country at large. “My soul is full of hatred against the fascist monsters, and I have pledged to take revenge for the atrocities they have committed against our people.”

Such rage could lie dormant and break out suddenly when triggered by a confrontation with enemy atrocities. Vladimir Tendriakov relates a disturbing episode that illustrates how the benevolent feelings of soldiers toward a young German captive could suddenly shift to aggression and cruelty when his unit stumbled upon the remains of two of their scouts who had been covered with water and frozen to death. The same soldiers who had shared food and drink with the German the night before – in a scene reminiscent of the bonding between soldiers celebrated in much of wartime literature – now mete out the same punishment to this representative of the foreign “monsters.”

Under the influence of a constant barrage of hate propaganda – which distributed the news of German atrocities against civilians and linked it to the barbarous nature of a dehumanized enemy– such experiences of rage and grief for fallen comrades blended over into the impulse to defend the loved ones from the impending danger, which in turn gave way to a more generalized impulse to defend women and children, home and hearth.

These highly charged emotions were shared not only with a close circle of frontline friends, but also in organized meetings devoted to grieving atrocity and celebrating revenge. This was not merely or entirely a “cultural” or “imaginary” affair, either, once soldiers could see with their own eyes what had happened on territory they liberated from German occupation.

“However much they write in the papers about atrocities,” wrote an officer to his wife, “the reality is much worse.” Interactions with locals were crucial in motivating revenge.  “They took a cow and a duck from me, took away my chickens, and cleaned out the trunks in my home. Damned robbers!” complained a sixty-six-year-old woman to the soldiers who had liberated her town and added, “Kill them, boys!”

The result of this multifaceted process of learning about and from the enemy was that Soviet soldiers quickly realized “that we weren’t dealing with human beings but with foul beasts, drunk with blood.” A former information officer remembers this intermingling of propaganda and reality during his own “learning curve.”

At first, he naively expected the German working class to rise up against fascism in order to “defend the first Worker- and Peasant-State.” The small number of German deserters and POWs during this early phase came as a huge disappointment, followed by increasing rage in response to reports of German conduct in the occupied territories. Once the Red Army was on the offensive, this foundation of anger was massively rein- forced as the real scale of barbarism and destruction became apparent. This officer remembered the deep impact of letters by Ostarbeiter, who asked for revenge.

Other letters were read as well. Already in 1941, the relentless counterattacks of the Red Army sometimes led to temporary and small-scale victories, which yielded not only enemy corpses, but also their letters and diaries. The propaganda apparatus selected some exemplars which displayed despair or reports about hunger and cold (showing the enemy as weak), or those with descriptions of war crimes and clear expressions of an arrogant, callous, and racist Nazi worldview.

This work continued throughout the conflict and was recognized as a major tool to “stir up the hatred of the troops and the population . . . towards the enemy.” It became an important means to fuse the diverse human beings who made up the Red Army into a violent collectivity. Wartime propaganda skillfully linked individual examples of victimized women (with all of their connotations in a patriarchal society) with more generalized images of “Mother Russia” (or, more literally, “Mother Homeland” – Rodina mat’) – symbols which resonated with nationalism as well as with religious iconography (the Holy Virgin, like Mother Russia, was traditionally dressed in red).

The similarities of this symbolic strategy to German wartime propaganda are striking – both tried to mobilize soldiers to fight with appeals to higher values and beliefs, civilization, and the defense of women and children. Similar reasons might have been at work – the knowledge that the ideological commitment of rank-and-file soldiers to (National) Socialism was uneven and often sketchy. Stalin admitted as much to a Western diplomat: “The population won’t fight for us Communists, but they will fight for Mother Russia.”

Despite the massive recruitment effort at the front, the Party never drew the majority of soldiers into its ranks. Only about one-quarter of the personnel were “Communist” – that is, either a Party member or a candidate in 1944 – a share which might have risen to around 30 percent by war’s end. The more specialized the branch of arms and the higher the rank, the higher the incidence of membership. As many as 80 percent of officers were Communists or Komsomol members; artillery, tank troops, engineers, and air force had up to 40 percent Communists in their ranks – with submariners topping the list with 56 percent. By contrast, the vast majority of the foot soldiers – 90 percent as of 1944 – were not in the Party.

Given the substitution of fighting capacity for “political maturity” in admissions during the war, the ideological commitment of many of these “young communists” was in doubt. Even for self-professed ideological warriors in elite units Stalinism meant many things, most of them not connected to the Supreme Commander himself:

The crucial point is that our multi-national motherland was dear to all of us, as were honor and dignity, ours and that of our parents, our girls, our friends, who did not wish to be slaves of the Germans. We knew how many sacrifices industrialization had cost our parents, and it hurt us when all of this was destroyed.

But clear ideological commitment was secondary. After the initial confusion of 1941, fear and hate, anger and revenge, entangled as they were with a con- fused but potent mix of leader cult, socialism, nationalism, religion, and love for those near and dear, drew larger and larger sectors of Soviet society into the killing process. The cadres of totalitarian violence who had been ready for this war all along were no longer alone. During “deep war” (Ilya Ehrenburg), when – after the battle of Stalingrad – peace “had been put out of mind ... and was . . . unimaginable,” these emotions became widely shared.

Once Soviet forces entered enemy territory they became overwhelming. Attempts by the military leadership to channel the aggression away from civilians and onto the battlefield (largely in order to maintain discipline and operational order) were bound to fail. “To tell the truth,” as one staff officer wrote, “many of our soldiers understand only with difficulty such a line, ... especially those whose families had suffered from the Nazis during occupation.”

The determined resistance of the Wehrmacht only made things worse. Meetings with titles like “How I will take revenge on the German invaders” or “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” did their part to psyche up the troops further. In the resulting rampage, the resistance of a few could not stop the cruelty of the many. And while Stalin played down and justified Soviet cruelty, it was clear enough to more far-sighted Soviet observers that these passions of war could only undermine the politics of victory.

6. States of Exception

One has to understand the soldier. The Red Army is not ideal. The important thing is that it fights Germans – and it is fighting them well, while the rest doesn’t matter.

The rest did matter, notwithstanding Stalin, because what Stalin leaves out tells us what kind of war the Wehrmacht and the Red Army were fighting. Hatred and revenge, a sense of invincibility and superiority, the dehumanization of the enemy – these emotions are common in war. But it is the exception that these passions of war take over – not a battle, but an entire war; not units of an army or even an army, but entire nations – and become the very reason for war. Explaining this exception became the main issue, and the main argument was that in both armies and in both regimes the exception was not some excess, but a state or a condition.

Throughout the essay, we were struggling with this very basic observation. We were grappling with the best way of describing and making sense of the phenomenon, because it seemed to us a more productive way to approach the conduct of war than the thick description of the “ideology” or, alternatively, the practice of war that prevails in historiography. In this context, we made a special effort to explore the different social roles and places of the passions of war. No doubt, more detail in describing these emotions and their respective vocabularies would have been useful.

But it seemed to us more important to demonstrate that the passions of war made up very different military societies. Again a rather simple observation seems apt. The striking thing about the    Red Army was the extraordinary energy of mobilizing ever new soldiers into ever new armies (and the propagandistic effort invested in generating this mobilization) – and the fervent, overbearing, death-defying appeals and the sheer relentlessness and recklessness and, not to forget, the terror that went into this effort. There was no lack of propaganda, no lack of indoctrination, no lack of terror on the German side. All this is well documented.

But if the Ostarmee was driven by passions, it was the passion of “sticking together through thick and thin” as the proverb goes in victory and defeat. Also, their passion remained highly disciplined, “cold” if you wish, notwithstanding recurrent panics and acts of mindless hot-headed and sadistic cruelty.

This discipline was one of   the main reasons that German soldiers and the security apparatus were so extraordinarily lethal, and that they had a much greater chance of survival than their Soviet counterparts, and that, even in retreat and even in defeat (until they faced, or rather could not bear facing, their women at home), they thought they had an edge, were superior.

What stands out is the sense of a “community of fate” that formed in victory in the face of a strange land and a society the soldiers had learned, and propaganda had taught them, to suspect, if not hate, and coalesced in retreat and defeat. The compact nature of the German military community and its self-centered emotional makeup stands   in stunning contrast to the quicksand nature of Soviet mobilization and the ideological overdrive of its propagandists.

Both regimes had violent prehistories; both saw extralegal brutality as the normal state of affairs in a world of class war or the survival of the racially fittest, respectively; both were shaped by and shaped themselves in the projection of deadly enmities; both dictatorships, too, could not count on the cooperation of all of their subjects, who were neither completely Nazified nor thoroughly Bolshevized. War was the “space of experience” that radicalized soldiers.

The unfettering of violence, however, was the prerequisite of this process and it was intimately tied to the understanding of war as a civil or, if you wish, societal war. We see in this war what happens when legal and moral constraints are removed and, indeed, when unrestraint becomes the order of the day.

Unrestraint liberates brutality, and in turn the rumor of cruelty, even if it is random rather than systematic, spreads like wildfire, setting in motion   a spiral of violence that, once unleashed, is only stopped in utter defeat. Unrestraint, we discover, is a learning process – both in the sense that it is responsive to purported or real (but always mediated and rumored) actions of the enemy and that ways and means of unrestrained conduct themselves are worked up, picked up, and taught. Cruelty can be learned and, sadly, it can be improved on. And, yet again, the ways of mediation and the learning processes differ in the two regimes.

This way of approaching “barbarization” seems to us so productive because the process of mediation, the moments of innovation, and the ways of consolidating unrestraint into conduct differed between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army, possibly even from one army or front to another, and certainly between the military and security forces. It is common to all that unrestraint breaks   the mold of experience and tradition – even in “traditionally” violent societies or political movements.

What we see in the Nazi-Soviet war is a liberation of violence and, thus, a savage dynamic of cruelty – that even soldiers, observing themselves, noted with a great deal of astonishment.  But then we must account for the differences as well. The question is how to get at it. Is it good or bad intentions, deterioration of conditions, habitualization of hatred? The question of difference turns us back to the issue of the radicalization of war one last time.

The one element that channels this dynamic is the horizon of expectations – and here we disagree with all those who think that dictatorships or, as it were, totalitarianisms are all the same because they all are extremely violent. We also part ways with those historians who think of genocide as a matter or military or war culture. In a state of exception, the question is “who decides” – and what this decision might entail. In war this question amounts to asking what kind of peace the combatants thought feasible.

The long and the short of it is that National Socialism never contemplated peace with and for its enemies, certainly not for Bolsheviks or Jews, but neither for Russians or Poles. The National Socialist regime pursued their subjection or extermination, quite literally radicalizing, returning to the roots, of war as life-and-death struggle. The alternative of extermination or self-destruction was there all along as a fatal world picture, but it became the key to the German war plan.

This is why we think of the Holocaust as an integral part of the war the Third Reich fought and why we think it must not be artificially separated from the eradication of the social institutions of Stalinism and the spoliation of the Soviet Union or, for that matter, of destruction of the social fabric of Polish society. Holocaust and destructive war were not identical, but they fall into the same spectrum   of radical violence.

The Soviet Union also did not make peace with fascists before and after the war, although it was caught in odd compromises. But it was surely ready to make peace with Germany and the Germans. What Stalin and so many communists could not figure out – and this was the animus of much of their war making and surely the conundrum of their peacemaking – is why the Germans of all peoples were so resistant to (their) revolution. After all, it had been their idea in the first place.