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Eugenia Ginzburg: Journey into the Whirlwind

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Rezensentin: Hope Harrison

Buchcover von Eugenia Ginzburg: Journey into the Whirlwind, New York: Harcourt 1967.
Buchcover von Eugenia Ginzburg: Journey into the Whirlwind, New York: Harcourt 1967.

This is an extraordinary, beautifully written, moving memoir of a devoted communist who ended up in Stalin's Gulag. Although she endures physical and psychological torture in prisons, being transported to Siberia, and in the Gulag, Ginzburg's indominable spirit shines through. One essential factor that helps her to survive is to remember and recite Russian poetry and literature. This inspires other prisoners and even the occasional guard. Good luck and friendship with other prisoners aids her as well. Ginzburg keeps thinking there must be some logic to why people are taken from their homes and put in prisons and in camps. Eventually she comes to the conclusion that there is no logic, that anyone and everyone (including some of the top leaders of the secret police) can become ensnared in the paranoia of Stalin's communism. She never gives up on communism, however. Instead, she comes to believe that Stalin's method of rule has created the problems and that things will improve after he is gone. This book takes you inside the process of what it was like to be dragged into this terrible world of being indicted as "an enemy of the people." Ginzburg gives vivid descriptions of the various methods used in the interrogations. The interrogator makes it clear that she is guilty and needed to confess. She never does confess, since she is not a "traitor" or "an enemy of the people." She draws strength from her knowledge of the Decembrists' reformist uprising against Czar Nicholas I in 1825 and their ultimate release from prison in 1856. Ginzburg gives detailed descriptions of other prisoners she meets along her terrible "journey into the whirlwind" (Russians, Jews, Germans, communists, anti-communists, social-revolutionaries, Tatars, etc,), the friendships some of them developed, their secret methods of communication between prison cells, the exhaustion, fear, and hunger they felt, betrayals by other prisoners, and the sheer physical endurance necessary to survive. Somehow through it all, Ginzburg's writing is so beautiful and engaging that the reader doesn't want to put the book down. It is an unforgettable story and one of the best sources to give students and others the opportunity to learn about what it was like to be part of Stalin's brutal purges.

Informationen über die Rezensentin:

Hope M. Harrison ist Professorin für Zeitgeschichte an der George Washington Universität in Washington, DC. Sie ist die Autorin von Ulbrichts Mauer--Wie die SED Moskaus Widerstand gegen den Mauerbau brach. Sie unterrichtet über den Kalten Krieg, Deutschland nach 1945, Geschichtpolitik, und sowjetische Geschichte und Außenpolitik.

Bibliografische Angabe

Eugenia Ginzburg: Journey into the Whirlwind, New York: Harcourt 1967, in deutscher Übersetzung: Jewgenija Ginsburg, Marschroute eines Lebens, München: Piper 1989.