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Virtually unknown today, Edwin Erich Dwinger (1898-1981) emerged as one of the most popular German authors in Nazi Germany thanks to his firsthand accounts of his encounter with Russia in the years 1915-20. He very nearly single-handedly produced the knowledge that Germans had of the Soviet Union on the eve of Germany's 1941 invasion--otherwise German readers relied on accounts of Napoleon's campaign 129 nine years earlier. (1) Together Dwinger's books sold some two million copies, making him a rich man, financially stabilizing the renowned Eugen Diederichs publishing house, and feeding Dwinger's thwarted ambition to compose the literary epic of National Socialism's victory in World War II. Along with the "SS bard," Hanns Johst, who also saw himself as a new "Homer" in the Third Reich but was more faithful to Nazi ideals, Dwinger indicates how determined Nazi Germany was to aesthetically represent both the war and the Holocaust in eternal literary monuments that were to edify the new world capital "Germania" that Hitler envisioned. Indeed, Dwinger came quite close to imagining the local conduct of race war, although the victims he cast in his book, Death in Poland, were German, not Jewish, and the perpetrators Poles rather than Germans. (2) His relationship with Russia was more complex, however. A resolute anti-Communist, he could not help but admire the Soviet Union, which he by turn took as a model for Germany's regeneration in the wake of its defeat in World War I, as the fundamental foe of Western civilization which only a nationalist Germany could vanquish, and finally as a ferocious twin of National Socialism whose similarities to the Third Reich made it more dangerous and more invincible. He returned again and again to the Siberian ground where as a prisoner of war he had been caught "between White and Red." He was never certain whether to destroy Russia or to save it. He pleaded the case of the anti-Bolshevik General Andrei Vlasov at the end of World War II; Vlasov's willingness to serve the Germans recalled Dwinger's own wartime service fighting the Bolsheviks under the "White" general, Alexander Kolchak, in the Russian Civil War. As it was, there was little either general could do in the face of the Red Army's impending victory. Dwinger traveled through many of the contradictions of National Socialism, conceiving of Germans both as a horribly betrayed and as a powerfully vengeful nation and imagining the catastrophe of his Siberian experience both as the premise for post-World War I German politics and the logical if unavailing end point of those politics in World War II. The son of a Russian mother and a German naval officer, and fluent in Russian, Dwinger joined the German army in 1915 but was almost immediately shot off his horse and captured by the Russians. He endured two years of Siberian imprisonment in Totzkoje before fleeing in the confusion of the Revolution. He was later recaptured by anti-Bolshevik forces, whom he joined and with whom he shared the disaster of retreat and defeat. Imprisoned in a camp, this time by the Bolsheviks, Dwinger finally succeeded in escaping and returned to Germany in 1920. It was not until the following year when the last of the surviving German prisoners of war, whose characters Dwinger sketched in his novels, were repatriated. It was this unusual experience of being a prisoner of war, watching the Revolution, fighting in the Civil War, and returning to postwar Germany that formed the basis of his trilogy, "The German Passion," which appeared over the course of the years 1929-32 and recapitulated with each volume the increasing hold of National Socialism on the German imagination. Dwinger's plainspoken account of individual suffering in war gave way to an obsessive concern for Germany's national tribulations; at the same time, his horror in the face of the Civil War in Russia amalgamated into astonishment at the revolutionary energies mobilized by the Bolsheviks, whom he wan

June 22
Slavica Publishers, Inc.
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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