Ilya Grigoryevich Ehrenburg (Russian: ????? ???????????? ????????? IPA: [??l?ja gr???gor??v?t? ?r??n?burk]), January 27 [O.S. January 15] 1891 (Kiev, Ukraine) ? August 31, 1967 (Moscow, Soviet Union) was a Jewish Soviet propagandist, writer and journalist whose 1954 novel The Thaw gave name to the Khrushchev Thaw.
Life and work
Ehrenburg was a revolutionary as a teenager, a disenchanted poet in his youth, writing Catholic poems despite his Jewish background, a follower of Lenin on arrival in Paris, who then became an anti-Bolshevik and sensitive journalist.
Later on he was hired to write Soviet propaganda, while occasionally defending his views with boldness against Stalin or government mouthpieces. Ehrenburg was a public figure during his time. He a was prominent member of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee.
Ehrenburg is well known for his literary writing, especially his memoirs, which contain many portraits of interest to literary historians and biographers. Together with Vasily Grossman, Ehrenburg edited The Black Book that contains documentary accounts by Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union and Poland.
He died in 1967 of prostate and bladder cancer, and was interred in Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, where his gravestone is adorned with a a reproduction of his portrait drawn by his friend Pablo Picasso.
Apparently Alan Furst - considered by many America's premier writer of espionage fiction - found much of Ehrenburg's life and work so riveting that he modeled the central character in his 1991 novel "Dark Star" ISBN 0375759999 on the Russian writer. Addressing the degree to which fact and fiction sometimes overlap, Furst said, "(a particular character) was modeled on a number of people, although I've written about many people who did exist. Andre Szara in "Dark Star", for example, is based on the Russian writer Ilya Ehrenburg" (Boston Globe interview, June 4, 2006). Six weeks later, in another interview, his comments were rather more qualified: "None of my characters are meant to be representations of real people. But in fact, in "Dark Star," the lead character is a Russified Polish Jew, a foreign correspondent for Pravda. So are we talking about Ilya Ehrenburg? Not really. But he's like that." Finally, we're left to decide if that's a yes or a no.
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One of the major controversies surrounding Ehrenburg is that during World War II he exhorted Soviet troops to kill the Germans that they encountered, as they advanced. Ehrenburg allegedly authored a leaflet entitled "Kill," which was circulated among the soldiers on the Eastern Front:
"Now we understand the Germans are not human. Now the word 'German' has become the most terrible curse. Let us not speak. Let us not be indignant. Let us kill. If you do not kill a German, a German will kill you. He will carry away your family, and torture them in his damned Germany. If you have killed one German, kill another."
Some historians attribute Ehrenburg's message as a motivating factor for the violence against German civilians that took place as Soviet troops advanced through Nazi occupied territory toward the end of the war. "???? ?????" literally translates as "kill the German man".
Other historians challenge Ehrenburg's authorship of the infamous "Kill" leaflet. Their arguments are based on the absence of known original Soviet copies of the leaflet from archives and an article by the alleged author in the Krasnaya Zvezda dated November 24, 1944 in which Ehrenburg explicitly denies his authorship of the "Kill" leaflet. (German) A few historians even claim the "Kill" leaflet to be a fabrication of the Nazi Propagandaministerium, invented to strengthen the German resistance during the final months of the war.
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