Hamburg at the Barricades

Editorial Note


Berlin, October 1923 (Berlin v oktyabre 1923 goda) was first published by the M.O.P.R. (International Organisation for Revolutionary Fighters' Aid), Moscow 1924, as an appendix to Hamburg at the Barricades.

Hamburg at the Barricades (Gamburg na barrikadakh) first appeared in the journal Zhizn no. 1, 1924 although without the last chapter. Extracts were printed in Izvestia no.40, 1924 (under the title 'Hamburg - Free City') and in Molodoi Leninets, 25 and 29 October 1924 (under the title of 'Barmbeck in Struggle'). It was first issued in book form by M.O.P.R. in 1924 in the edition referred to above. Further extracts were later published in Molodoi Leninets, 27 February 1926 (under the title 'Hamm') and in the book In the Battles for the World October published in Moscow in 1932 (under the title 'Elfriede from Schiffbek'). A film entitled Hamburg based upon the book was made at the V.U.F.K.U. studios in 1926 with script by S.Schreiber and Y.Yanovsky and directed by Ballyuzek.

The sketches that make up In Hindenburg's Country were first published in Izvestia nos.185,187, 194, 201 and 227, 1925. Not included in this series were 'Frau Fritzke', 'Slippers', and 'He a Communist and she a Catholic' which first appeared in the book version of the sketches entitled In Hindenburgs's Country: Sketches of Contemporary Germany (V. strane Gindenburga: ocherki sovremennoi Germanii) published by Pravda, Moscow 1926. 'In the Ruhr - Under the Ground' was not included in this edition.

'Milk' was first published in the newspaper Gudok no.258, 1925.

All these works have been reprinted in various collections of Larissa Reissner's writings published subsequently in the USSR namely, the Sohranie Sochinenii (in two volumes but by no means a complete edition) of 1928, the Izhrannye Proizvedeniya of 1958 and the Izhrannoe of 1965. 'Junkers' has been omitted from the last two editions. A short passage in'Krupp and Essen' referring to Karakhan's diplomatic work in China has been cut out of the two postwar editions.

A German translation of Hamburg at the Barricades (Hamburg auf den Barrikaden: Erlehtes und Erhörtes aus dem Hamburger Aufstand 1923) was published by Neue Deutsche Verlag of Berlin in 1925 but without the last chapter. In 1926 the same publisher issued a collection of the author's work entitled Oktober with the translator given as Eduard Scheimann. This included the Hindenburg sketches with the exception of 'In the Ruhr - Under the Ground' and 'He a Communist and she a Catholic' and contained a special preface to In Hindenburg's Country which was given the subtitle 'A Journey through the German Republic 1924'. Oktober was re-issued in 1910 with some of the contents slightly re-arranged. A further collection in German translation, that included the Berlin and Hamburg sketches as well, was published by Dietz of Berlin in 1960.

By far the most detailed, though incomplete, bibliography of Larissa Reissner's work and critical articles on her can be found in Sovetskie Pisateli: Prozaiki, volume 7 part 2, Moscow 1972, pp. 65-83.

The texts used for the translations in this edition are as follows:

Berlin, October 1923 in Izbrannoe 1965
Hamburg at the Barricades (except 'German Mensheviks After the Rising') in Zhizn 1924
German Mensheviks After the Rising' in Izbrannoe 1965
In Hindenburg's Country, Preface to the German Edition; Oktober 1926; 'Krupp and Essen', "The Barracks and a Cobbler's Wife','An Iron Goss',' In the Ruhr - Under the Ground','Ullstein' and'Junkers', in Izvestia 1925; 'Frau Fritzke', 'Slippers' and 'He a Communist and she a Catholic' in Sobranie Sochinenii 1928; 'Milk' in Izbrannoe 1965
'Larissa Reissner': K. Radek, foreword to L. Reissner, Sobranie Sochinenii, Moscow 1928
'A Most Absurd Death': V. Shklovsky, Gamburgskii Schet, Moscow, 1928
'In Memory of Reissner': B. Pasternak, Stikhotvoreniya i Poemy, Moscow 1965
'In Memory of Larissa Reissner': L. Sosnovsky, Lyudi Nashego Vremeni, Moscow 1927
German words in the original Russian text have been translated in parenthesis.

Identities in 'Hamburg at the Barricades'

Radek, in his article printed in the appendix to this volume recounts the peculiar circumstances in which Hamburg at the Barricades was written. Because of the police persecution of Hamburg communists and insurgents Larissa protected the identity of most of the participants she writes about referring to them by initials only. The first German edition was even less specific, using only X. or 'a comrade' to denote individual fighters. The personal anecdotes about K. and the scene of the respite in a Barmbeck pub were also omitted from that edition presumably for security reasons.

Of the three men who formed the effective staff in Barmbeck, T., C. and Kb, only T. is identified in later Soviet editions as Ernst Thälmann. Ruth Fischer in her Stalin and German Communism (New York 1948) names the leader of the unsuccessful assault on Von-Essen Strasse police station as Hans Botzenhardt, the man referred to by Larissa as C. Kb could possibly be Hans Kippenberger, the head of the Communist Party's military organisation in and Kippenberger's account of the Von-Essen Strasse attack and of the course of the rising as a whole (see A. Neuberg: Armed Insurrection, London 1970) suggests that Kippenberger might have been the unnamed leader whom Radek tells us Larissa checked her material with when she returned to Moscow early in 1924; for Kippenberger had taken refuge there and wrote his own account in May of that year.

The leading figure in the rising at Schiffbek was, according to one later account, Fiete Schule: possibly he is Larissa's S.

Richard Krebs's memoirs (Jan Valtin, Out of the Night, Toronto 1941) unfortunately shed no clear light on any of these figures. The other published memoirs of an insurgent (W. Zeutschel, Im Dienst der Kommunistische Terrororganisation, Berlin 1931) are, according to Ruth Fischer, excessively romanticised and unreliable in detail although their author did himself take part in the Von-Essen Strasse assault under the alias of Burmeister.

Some more recent scholarly works appear to be unhelpful. Heinz Habedank's monograph Zur Geschichte des Hamburger Aufstandes 1923 (Berlin 1958) concentrates on the supposedly decisive role of Thälmann, and also of Stalin (sic), but does not once mention Kippenberger's part let alone that of any other particular individuals. Werner T. Angress in his Stillborn Revolution (Princeton 1963) is exclusively concerned with how the order for the rising came to be given. He also states incorrectly that Larissa Reissner was an eye-witness.

As an antidote to the invariably inaccurate and trite footnotes that Larissa's life and work has provoked in the available material on early Soviet history and literature we append to this, the first English edition of her writings, a selection of more considered appreciations made by distinguished friends and contemporaries.

In 1937 the poet Osip Mandelstham remarked that Larissa was lucky to have died in time: all the people in her circle, as he put it, were being 'destroyed wholesale' by then. At her funeral on 11 February 1926, the coffin was borne by Radek, Boris Volin, Enukidze, Lashevich, I.N. Smirnov and Pilnyak. Four of them were murdered by Stalin's bureaucracy some ten years later while Lashevich, like Larissa, 'died in time'. Hermann Remmele, the communist leader referred to in Berlin, October l923, Lev Sosnovsky, the writer of the final appreciation included in this volume and Karakhan, the Soviet envoy to China alluded to in 'Krupp and Essen' were also shot in that slaughter. And as Hans Kippenberger stepped off his train in Moscow in 1936 he was arrested as a 'Reichswehr agent' and executed.

I would like to record my thanks to the following people who in different ways have given valuable assistance, advice and encouragement in the production of this book: John Archer, Patrick Goode, Colin Ham, Iwan Majstrenko, David Zane Mairowitz, Hermann Müller, Ann Pasternak Slater, Anthony van der Poorten and Anita Wisniewska.

I have also with great personal sorrow to acknowledge the unique contribution made to this and earlier jobs by my mother, Winifred L. Chappell, whose unexpected death I learnt of as this book was in the final stages of preparation. Over a period of years she readily brought the mind of an unusually versatile linguist and dedicated teacher to bear on any fine point of translation, though always offering any suggestion with the great prudence and modesty so natural to her.

May I also take this opportunity to express my appreciation of the courteous and helpful way the staff at the library of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, London, and the British Library have treated my requests and queries.