Sunday, May 31, 2009

Vasily Grossman's Letters and Notebooks

The book A Writer At War consists of extracts from Vasily Grossman's family letters (preserved by his daughter and step-son) and notebooks (preserved in RGALI: the Russian State Archive for Literature and the Arts). Their private nature removes any doubt that they are primary sources of Grossman's true observations. They provide insurmountable problems for deniers. Here is one example.

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The letter from which this extract was taken was written to his wife whilst on the journey from Kiev to newly liberated Berdichev, where his mother was one of the Germans' victims:
Dear Lyusenka, I reached my destination today. Yesterday I was in Kiev. It's hard to express what I felt and what I suffered in the few hours when I visited the addresses of relatives and acquaintances. There are only graves and death. I am going to Berdichev today. My comrades have already been there. They said that the city is completely devastated, and only a few people, maybe a dozen out of many thousands, tens of thousands of Jews who lived there, have survived. I have no hope of finding Mama alive.
If deniers still wish to claim that Grossman's account of the genocide in Kiev and Berdichev, written at the time of their liberation, is totally false propaganda, they will have to explain this second extract, in which Grossman describes mass rapes perpetrated by his own side in Schwerin:
Horrifying things are happening to German women. An educated German whose wife has received 'new visitors' - Red Army soldiers - is explaining with expressive gestures and broken Russian words, that she has already been raped by ten men today. The lady is present...

Women's screams are heard from open windows...

A story about a breast-feeding mother who was being raped in a barn...the hungry baby was crying the whole time.
Why would Grossman lie, in his private writings, about Berdichev, about the murder of his own mother, but tell the truth about these rapes, which are damaging to the image of the Soviets?


d. said...

Mr. Harrison: I saw your link on rodoh re: Rumkowski. Did you know that there was a further exchange in the letter section between witnesses?

Jonathan Harrison said...

I didn't. Thanks for the clarification.

d. said...

No, thank you for initially linking to the letters. I forgot how great a read Commentary is.