Comparing Censorship Under the Germans and under the Russians

    February 2011            
Search the Jewish Magazine Site: Google


Search our Archives:

» Home
» History
» Holidays
» Humor
» Places
» Thought
» Opinion & Society
» Writings
» Customs
» Misc.


Censorship in the Federal Republic of Germany, Censorship in the Soviet Union

an essay by Mark Aizikovitch

Twenty years ago, I came from Ukraine via London to Germany. I was taking part in an exchange program; a British artist was in Moscow for a year and in return I was in the British capital for a year. A Russian friend from Berlin had told me, “Come to Berlin, here you can stay.” I was surprised. For I had heard from my father, a war veteran, “The Germans will never be reasonable toward the Jews.” In the first years, we often asked ourselves whether our decision was the right one. Because I did not yet understand life in Germany, I titled my first CD “Der Fremde”, “the stranger”. Today I feel like a stranger when I return to my former home country to give concerts or visit friends there.

Before the war…

There was no real democracy or freedom of expression in the Soviet Union. Anyone who criticized the Communist Party or articulated any ideas of his own was in big trouble and, basically, his career was over. Arno Lustiger’s highly recommendable “Rotbuch: Stalin und die Juden” (Redbook: Stalin and the Jews) shows what this form of “democracy” meant for us Jews. In the early phase of the Soviet Union there was initially a greater measure of freedom than one realizes today; and Vera Schmidt, Director of the International Psychoanalytical Association in Moscow, who is almost forgotten today, was able to realize her “children’s home laboratory” with state support; its repression-free upbringing was based on Freud’s theories. Sigmund Freud was published at state expense and could be found in all larger libraries. Of course there were also many problems, which Lustiger’s work deals with in detail, but overall the feeling of setting off for new destinations was powerful and found many friends in the West, as well. The “fellow travelers” in the United States, for example, and many renowned Jewish personalities, including Einstein, sympathized with the new system. Today this topic is taboo in East and West alike.

Under Stalin this changed very rapidly; funding for a Vera Schmidt was cut off. And Freud disappeared from public libraries. It started with this form of censorship and later became very bloody. The Moscow Trials of 1937-38, with their forced confessions and torture methods, solitary confinement and sleep deprivation, public exposure and humiliation, were no longer distinguishable from medieval witch trials. Denunciation was widespread, and with it fear.

After Stalin’s nonaggression pact with Hitler in August 1939, suddenly the word “fascism” was taboo; it was stricken from the state press. And in Moscow, swastika flags waved during the negotiations, not a good omen for the Jewish population. After Hitler’s troops attacked the Soviet Union, Stalin initially played deaf. He didn’t want to believe what was reported to him, even though Leopold Trepper of the Rote Kapelle (red choir) and Richard Sorge in Japan had long since divulged Hitler’s plans to the Soviet secret intelligence agency. Now suddenly Stalin needed the Bund, Association of Jewish Fighters again, and its leaders Henryk Erlich and Wiktor Alter, who had disappeared in prison after the partition of Poland, were suddenly “exhumed”, because the military situation was disastrous. When the United States entered the war in December 1941, the Soviet Union had strong allies again and could do without the Bund. So it liquidated Erlich (“suicide” in prison, a theme of its own) and Alter, because they could have borne witness to Stalin’s crimes, treason, and incompetence. Jewish conspirators and Jewish doctors were blamed again for Stalin’s death, and the Party considered deporting the entire Jewish population to Siberia.

...and after the war

The turnaround under Khrushchev, the turn away from Stalinism and the exposure of his crimes, was very halfhearted, and anti-Semitism lived on under the disguise of “anti-Zionism”. If one spoke at the university of Sigmund Freud, one could pack one’s bags; he was considered bourgeois-decadent to anti-Communist, while in the West his work was defamed as sleazy, Jewish, or unscientific. As a student at the end of the 1960s, I discovered his works only by chance, in the private library of a professor. Freud, the discoverer of the unconscious, repression, childhood sexuality, and the Oedipus complex, may be a kind of litmus test for freedom of expression and scientific approach. One need not adhere to his theories, but one must be able to talk about them and examine them in order to form one’s own judgment.

Of course, violence doesn’t play the same role in censorship in Germany that it did in the Soviet Union. Everything is subtler here. Television and other media manipulate opinion. The well-known literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki had good reason to refuse the Television Prize; and his biography, his nonconformity, and his acute sensitivity for content between the lines vouch for his incorruptibility.

Of course, there was no real change in the USSR after Stalin. And in the Federal Republic of Germany, there was a frightening continuity of personnel with Nazi Germany. Dr. Norbert Podewin’s “Braunbuch” (brown book), published in the Edition-Ost-Verlag, documents this well. The classical armchair perpetrator Hans Maria Globke – commentator and co-author of the 1935 Nuremberg race laws – became Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s State Secretary, to mention only one of the most conspicuous examples; former members of the Nazi party became state premiers or Federal Chancellor or had careers in Germany’s secret intelligence services, police departments, justice system, universities, businesses, and press.

A current case of censorship: the Ketzerbriefe 157/158 from Ahriman-Verlag

This year I heard from a friend about a case of censorship; at issue are the Ketzerbriefe 157/158 from Ahriman-Verlag. I bought the periodical and found that the accusations against it have no substance.

A large number of renowned Jewish authors publish with the Ahriman-Verlag. The famous British-Jewish historian Hyam Maccoby, for example, on the historical Jesus and his mythologization at the hands of St. Paul – a thorn in the side of a Church State. Efraim Zuroff on his profession as Nazi-hunter – a provocation in a republic that accepted legal succession to the Third Reich. But the autobiography of the aforementioned Leopold Trepper is also to be found here, Bernard Goldstein’s report on the armed uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto, and many other authors with a Jewish background, like Arthur Rosenberg, Arnold Sherman, Ervin Varga, and Iosif Grigulevic.

The Ahriman-Verlag invokes Sigmund Freud, among others. As long as psychoanalysis in Germany leads an inconspicuous life in the university ivory tower, no one has a problem with it. Freud’s central scientific discoveries, as I already mentioned, are no longer discussed here. They are misrepresented or not mentioned or attributed to his biography. That his Jewish descent naturally played a role in the development of psychoanalysis is clear and has already been addressed by the American historian Peter Gay – who was born in Berlin as Peter Fröhlich and at the age of 16 fled from the Nazis to the United States.

But when a publishing house seriously begins replacing academic secretiveness with empirical findings, then the democratic fun is over. For the Federal Office for the Investigation of Youth-Endangering Media, the bone of contention was a series of autobiographical reports and empirical observations on childhood sexuality and a psychoanalytical study by a young psychoanalyst on the topic of “pedophilia”, which were printed in this recommendable issue of the Ketzerbriefe 157/158. So this endangers youth! But these ladies have no problem with the publicly fostered ideology of the virgin birth and original sin, with which children in state religious instruction are already indoctrinated. Instead they operate with defamations, for in the eyes of a Ms. Monssen-Engberding or a Ms. Hild, a person is apparently already pedophile if he reports on Freud’s central discovery from his own experience. The text here neither describes, nor excuses, nor recommends pedophilia, which is rightly a crime, nor does it question the legal age of consent. If we follow this interpretation, then Freud’s works, too, belong on the list of writings that endanger youth. But of course the ladies from the Office for the Investigation of Youth-Endangering Media don’t have the chutzpah for this – the courage to make themselves publicly ridiculous or to line up with Goebbels and the Nazis, who in April 1933 “consigned to the flames” Freud’s works. Instead, they rely on secretiveness, working behind the scene; even speaking about this censorship or making it public is under threat of punishment: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing.” On December 2, behind closed doors, a body of twelve persons confirmed this scandalous censorship and now the small but high-quality Ahriman-Verlag will have to invest a lot of money and precious time in a legal dispute to restore the constitutional right to freedom of expression, which has been trampled upon here. This censorship is political, in the tradition of German fascism.

This issue of the Ketzerbriefe was dedicated to the Jewish film director Roman Polanski, who was under arrest in Switzerland at the time. The censorship here is against a publishing house that has given numerous Jewish authors publicity and an intellectual home. Censorship is the odorless variant of book burning, a precursor of violence. I have protested against it to the agency.

I have now lived for 20 years in the Federal Republic of Germany. I want to live in a free country where one can say what one thinks is right. And can quarrel about it. Censorship, anti-Semitism and violence should never gain a foothold on German soil again.


from the February 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

Please let us know if you see something unsavory on the Google Ads and we will have them removed. Email us with the offensive URL (