In Young Stalin, Simon Sebag Montefiore writes that Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler were both in Vienna at the same time (pp. 274, 275).

The year was 1913. Although they came incredibly close to meeting each other, they never did, even when Russia and Germany negotiated the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939.

Both men enjoyed walking in the park near the palace. Both saw the same street scenes, including Emperor Franz-Josef’s weekday carriage ride from the Schönbrunn Palace to his office at the Hofburg.

However, neither future dictator thought much of it. Hitler envied the Emperor’s position.  Stalin was disdainful of Franz-Josef such that he never spoke of him.

Stalin went to Vienna to meet with Lenin, with whom he had had editorial disagreements at Pravda (p. 268-269). His mind was on revolution, not exploring a beautiful capital city (p. 183).

He arrived in Vienna by way of Poland. It is interesting that, even then, he disliked the Poles and firmly opposed any notion of Polish independence (p. 271). It is interesting that he managed to convince Franklin D Roosevelt and Winston Churchill of the same at Yalta. It seems that Stalin persuaded them in his priestly way.

Neither Stalin nor Hitler had time for the Jews. Both saw the influence they had on Viennese culture. Hitler, as we know, found them repulsive and a people to be exterminated. Stalin, Montefiore says, found them too ‘mystical’ and culturally incomprehensible.

Meanwhile, many Russian Jews believed the Russian Revolution would benefit them. However, although the pogroms stopped, some Jews felt communism somehow would not and did not live up to their expectations. One of those who was disappointed was the artist Marc Chagall. As I wrote in June 2013:

Chagall had supported the Revolution because he believed it would be good for the Jews, liberating them from the urban ghettos and rural shtetls, putting an end to decades of pogroms.

He and his wife — whom he married in 1914 — left Russia for Berlin then moved to Paris. Ultimately, they settled in New York City.

His fellow Jews who stayed behind in Russia and the republics noticed that Lenin and Stalin exterminated, tortured or imprisoned anyone they considered an enemy — religion notwithstanding. The British journalist Ben Cohen wonders why more Jews did not see Stalin as ‘a monster’. The brief answer, he discovers, is that Stalin targeted people from every class, racial and religious group. No one demographic was singled out, whereas Hitler focussed primarily on Jews.

Even today, Russian Jews are divided on Stalin’s Doctors’ Plot — which, if true, would have dealt exclusively with Jews. It had started with physicians and would have ended in another Holocaust. Stalin felt that they were too intelligent a people. Along with this went his fear of Trotsky (Leon Bronstein); he was convinced the exile living in Mexico would attempt to stage a long distance coup. So, Stalin had him hacked to death in cold blood in 1940. Trotsky’s last words conveyed he knew the Soviet leader was behind it.

Cohen’s interviews uncovered either a denial of the Doctors’ Plot or a quiet gratitude that the autocrat died of a stroke in 1953 before he could implement it.

Back to who was in Vienna in 1913. Montefiore tells us that Josip Broz — the future Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia — was also there working as a mechanic. He did not meet either Stalin or Hitler.

Advertisements