German Propaganda Archive Calvin University


Background: Signal was a bi-monthly Nazi propaganda periodical published in two dozen languages. I’m translating this interesting article from May 1943, since it is the first prominent Nazi use of the term “Iron Curtain.” Goebbels used the same term in a February 1945 article titled “The Year 2000” and he is often improperly credited with originating it. In this article, the point is that mass starvation has occurred, and will occur, in the Soviet Union, but the world will not know the details.

The source: “Hinter dem eisernen Vorhang,” Signal, 1. May 1943, p. 2.

Behind the Iron Curtain

There is a dark secret that those who should know, namely the leading politicians in London and Washington, mention only indirectly: That is the conditions in the unoccupied part of the Soviet Union.

He who has listened in on the interrogation of a Soviet prisoner of war knows that once the dam is broken, a flood of words begins as he tries to make clear what he experienced behind the mysterious iron curtain, which more than ever separates the world from the Soviet Union. We will never forget the Volga boatman from around Samara, who told us with tears in his eyes that his wife would certainly starve because she was too sick to work and thus received no food rations. Nor will we ever forget the tall Siberian farmer with his disheveled blond hair who reported that somewhere along the banks of a river far to the east of the Urals, ten thousand or more workers and farmers were driven to build some sort of industrial plant from bare earth, sleeping in open fields.

Behind the iron curtain only one god wields the whip. His name is hunger. This is the weakness in English and American calculations. They fear that the time will surely come when starvation in the hinterlands of the Soviet Union will also affect the fighting power of the Soviet army. Times’s Moscow correspondent reported that at the central market in Moscow, an egg costs 75 rubles, a quarter liter of milk nearly a hundred rubles, a kilo of potatoes far more than 100 rubles. It may be assumed that the average male Soviet worker earns 400 to 500 rubles, the average woman 250 rubles. The Moscow correspondent of the Daily Mail reported on 12 January 1943 that a pound of honey in Moscow costs the equivalent of 10 English pounds. “Scraps of meat torn from bad-looking carcasses are sold for four pounds.” An egg costs 12 shillings, a cup of milk 21 shillings. Time comments dryly: “Ration cards are no help if there is no food to buy.” The Soviets admit that 1,500,000 people starved in Leningrad. The Daily Mail correspondent writes: “The rations for a large part of the population is less than the bare minimum necessary to maintain the nation’s health.” The situation will doubtless worsen this winter, and many believe that those Russians who do not work in war industries face a dark spring.” Time reports that there was never coal for heading during this past winter. One had to depend on wood that one gathered in the forests. The population has had no medical care for a long time. All doctors, as Time reports from Moscow, have been called to serve in the Soviet army. “No more than one person in a hundred was able to buy any kind of clothing during the last years. The Russians line their coats with newspaper to protect against the cold, and use newspapers at night in place of sheets, which cannot be found.”

These are all facts that we take from sources friendly to the Soviet regime. Their significance is clear from the conclusion that Time was forced to make: “Twice in the last twenty years (beginning of the 1920s and 1930s) the Russian people experienced severe famines. Millions of Russians starved in the winter of 1932/1933. This was the result of the policies of the Soviet government, which exported foodstuffs in order to buy machinery for the armaments industry, and which now produce the Soviet army’s war material.” Naturally, this American magazine concludes that the third severe famine, which has already killed millions of people in Soviet Asia, will not greatly diminish the masses of the Soviet Union. One senses, however, there is deep concern behind these figures. That concern is so deep that the New York magazine did not even note how much this confirms the European claim that the Soviets were willing as early as 1932/1933 to sacrifice millions of people in order to build their military machine, which could only have an offensive purpose.

The smallest estimates of the number of people who staved after the October Revolution is about 35 million. The lowest estimates for the years 1931-1933 are 7-8 million. Back then, however, the Soviet Union had at least a partially functioning domestic system. The second famine occurred during peace time. We have no way to estimate how many millions of people may stave in the coming winter. If one takes the figure of 1.5 million that Time gives as the official Soviet statistic for the winter 1931/42 in Leningrad alone, one can get an idea. Here the Soviets rule. On their territory millions are buried, of whom one knows nothing — be he friend or foe. Each can figure out for himself what this means for the Soviet military leadership.

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