Dr. Sebastian Pauli
Associate Professor, Mathematics and Statistics
Child of the Revolution
by Wolfgang Leonhard
I first read this book when I lived in a divided city. The Berlin wall had not yet come down.
This autobiographical work gives insight into the inner workings of
the Soviet Union of the Stalin era. It tells the story of an idealistic person who becomes more and more disillusioned by a regime that claims to work towards his ideals.
Thirteen year old Wolfgang Leonhard and his mother, a communist,
leave Germany for Moscow in 1936 to escape Nazi persecution. In Russia, Leonhard is selected for special training to become one of the Soviet Union’s political elites. He returns to Germany in 1945 with Walther Ulbricht and other German communists to lead the Soviet occupied zone of Germany to socialism. But when it becomes inevitable that East Germany will follow the Soviet model, and not take an independent route to socialism, he flees to Yugoslavia, and later to the West.
I am fascinated by the mechanisms of control that were used in communist Soviet Union to produce a population, and particularly the "apparat", so utterly loyal to the system. A book of this type and about this period will likely not be written again, as few people from that era are still alive to speak out about it. While there are many scholarly works about the Soviet Union and Stalinism, this book shows the human side of one person’s intellectual struggles to reconcile his beliefs with the methods used to maintain a repressive regime.