The White Terror International: Weimar Germany and the Russian Civil War

April 20, 2017

After the Russian Civil War had broken out, a pro-German wing of the Russian White movement appeared in contrast to the pro-Entente sentiment of the mainstream Russian Whites. It must have been difficult for these Russian nationalists to forgive General Ludendorff and the Germans for aiding the Bolshevik Revolution and overseeing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Yet, in these outspoken Russians’ eyes, Ludendorff and the Germans had only been doing their jobs compared to the Western liberal powers, with their pro-Bolshevik banks and their corrupt negligence of their Russian ally’s logistical needs.

From 1918 until 1923, this pro-German wing of the Whites, initially formed by an aging Vladimir M. Purishkevich upon his release from prison in 1918, would heavily influence the direction of the nationalist right in Weimar era Germany. The extent of this influence includes, but is not limited to, the fledgling NSDAP in the years before the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. It also includes the 1918 translation of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion into German, as well as helping Ludendorff engineer the Kapp Putsch of 1920.

In The Russian Roots of Nazism: White Émigrés and the Making of National Socialism 1917-1945, Michael Kellogg covers this subject in a more scholarly way than the book’s sensationalistic title suggests. For anyone interested in any of the events or personalities covered in this book, it is a highly recommended classic. The book’s scholarly tone is always cold, but never boring.

While Hitler himself insists in his autobiography that he became an anti-Semite in Vienna before World War I, Kellogg formidably argues that Hitler only gained his courage of conviction after reading The Protocols and meeting a mysterious clique of White Russians and their Baltic German allies. The book also presents some surprising quotes by Alfred Rosenberg and Hitler in praise of the Russian nation, if certainly not the contemporary Bolshevik government. However, other than describing the Russian connections of Hitler’s favorite of the National Socialists killed in the Beer Hall Putsch, the book leaves the reader somewhat in the dark as to why Hitler’s attitude toward the Russians changed after 1923.

Many of the figures described in the book demand their own biographies, but Kellogg is wise not to turn the book into one. Without a biographical focal point, the book coldly allows the distressed age itself to become the main character. The Russian Roots of Nazism even provides illuminating information on subjects that one would not expect from the book, such as the now-little-known ideas of Schopenhauer and Dostoevsky on the Jewish question.

Despite such wide range, the book never strays far from focus.  There are mistakes and omissions, as one would expect from an undertaking of such weight.  And those interested in a biography of any of the men described in the book will have to look elsewhere for personal information.  Still, whatever its limitations, The Russian Roots of Nazism is an excellent study of a missing piece of history.

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