David P. Boder Interviews Dimitri Odinets; October 4, 1946; Paris, France

  • David Boder: [In English] Paris, September the 4th, 1950 . . . excuse me . . . Paris, October the 4th, 1946, at Grand Hotel. This is apparently the last interview in Paris. The interviewee is Professor Dimitri Michailovitch Odinets, ah . . . a professor of history, of Russian history, and educator, a former director of . . . ah . . . gymnasium, a professor of several universities and at one time a member of the cabinet of the Ukrainian regional government. He will talk to us in Russian. [Pause]
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Dimitri Michailovitch kindly tell us first of all, briefly, your so to speak, official occupations of your official career, let us say beginning with the year 1912. Only, so to speak, in brief factual remarks. Let us begin with the time when we both worked together at the Dimitriev Gymnasium in Petersburg on the Novski Prospect. And you were at that time our professor of the Psycho-Neurological Institute as well, isn't that so?
  • Dimitri Odinets: Yes.
  • David Boder: How old are you now, 62?
  • Dimitri Odinets: Sixty-two years.
  • David Boder: Sixty-two years. Now then, just in a few words: let's begin with 1913 and proceed.
  • Dimitri Odinets: Beginning with the year 1912 I was at first a teacher in a number of gymnasiums in Petersburg, afterwards the director of the gymnasium in the name of Stolpzow,—a gymnasium for boys, which was fully accredited. I also was [at the same time] a professor of the Psycho-Neurological Institute. Also professor of the Raev Superior courses of Women. Since the time of the February Revolution, 1917, I was commissioned by the Central Interim—protem government to go to Kiev to become the minister [envoy] on all Russian affairs, that is to defend the Russian people from possible Ukrainian chauvinism.In July 1917, the Provisional government for which Professor Odinets worked passed a law stating that national minorities, such as the Ukrainians, were recognized as a having a right to national autonomy. Thus Professor Odinets was concerned above all, as he said, with combating right wing Ukrainian chauvinism, which would have led to the formation of a separate state.1
  • David Boder: Proceed.
  • Dimitri Odinets: . . . In my role as minister of all great Russian affairs I remained for about a year and resigned after election of Skoropadsky as Hetman of the Ukraine—a man of definitely rightist and reactionary views.The Skoropadsky government, which had been sponsored by the German occupiers of Ukraine during World War I, fell with the defeat of Germany on November 11, 1918. Following this, rival groups of various political persuasions struggled for power. During this time, some 100,000 Ukrainian Jews were murdered in pogroms by Ukrainian nationalist extremists, White Army anti-communist forces, and Poles.2 After this I was elected chairman of the Union for the Rebirth of Russia of its Southern committe. At this post I lived through in Kiev about twelve revolutions, one government succeeding the other. Finally at the end of 1920 at the approach of the Bolsheviks to Kiev I left on foot from Kiev to Odessa, on foot because then the railroads did not function. And finally in 1920 at the beginning of the year, after having become a machine gunner trained in an English machine gunners' school I left Odessa as a member of a military contingent with the purpose to fight our way through abroad. From our division of about 3,500 men about 36 remained alive. By the end of 1920, the Red Army fully controlled southern Russian, including Ukraine.3
  • David Boder: Through what kind of armies did you have to break through?
  • Dimitri Odinets: . . . Through the Bolshevik armies . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Dimitri Odinets: . . . Approximately 36 men. In Rumania I was interned but in about a month or two together with my compatriots, who were also interned we were released and found ourselves in Serbia. From Serbia, where I was for some time director of a gymnasium of the Russians in Belgrade, I went over to Warsaw and from Warsaw I finally got to Paris, where I remained all this time. My activities in Paris consisted of the following: together with my friend Dimitriev, we founded in Paris the "Russian Peoples University."In the aftermath of the defeat of anti-communist forces, some one million refugees fled from Russia. Several hundred thousand settled in France, among them Professor Odinets, who like others, sought to preserve his Russian identity.4
  • David Boder: It was the same Dimitriev who took over at one time the so-called trusteeship of the Stolpzow gymnasium?
  • Dimitri Odinets: . . . The very same Dimitriev who was as active as he was in Petersburg . . . besides this I was here chairman of the Russian Pedagogical Society in France, also professor and inspector of the Franco-Russian Institute which we founded, i.e. of the department of law. I was also the general secretary of the Russian Academic Union in France in which capacity I still remain. I have written several books and that seems to be all.
  • David Boder: All right, Dimitri Michailovitch, what are you at present—the editor?
  • Dimitri Odinets: I am the editor of the paper "Sovietsky Patriot". A member of the Central Committee of the "Union of Soviet Patriots". I am continuing to be on the executive committee of the Russian Academic Union. Yes, I forgot, I am also chairman of the board of the Turgenev Library, which was removed and confiscated by the Germans.
  • David Boder: . . . In speaking of the Turgenev Library tell me something about it and it what state are its affairs?
  • Dimitri Odinets: The Turgenev Library was founded with direct participation of the famous Russian writer, Ivan Sergeiewitch Turgenev in 1876, gradually the library has grown in the number of books . . .Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883) was master Russian novelist as well as playwright and poet. He acquired an international reputation as a result of his brilliant portrayals of Russian life. During the 1870s Turgenev lived in Paris where he was an esteemed unofficial Russian cultural ambassador.5
  • David Boder: The library not only contained Turgenev's books, it was a library in general?
  • Dimitri Odinets: It was a general library. A public library, which was growing gradually and has become finally a very valuable depository of books. All outstanding French scholars [one word not clear] were making use of the library. It was also attended without exception by all Russian emigrees of the time. Among the renowned emigrees scholars [who frequented the library] was also Lenin during his stay in Paris. The administrative staff of the library was chosen by elections because the library belonged to all subscribers and for the last three years of its existence I was the elected chairman of the board. The city of Paris, recognizing the value of the library, donated magnificent quarters [for the library]. As to the books:—before the war there were 110,000 books by titles, that means that there were a great many more volumes. When the Germans appeared in Paris a title was considered equivalent to an author.
  • David Boder: Yes, yes, explain.
  • Dimitri Odinets: The title means the author, for instance: Gogols's whole collection of his writings was considered one title, but volumes there are many—twenty-four.Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852) was a Russian novelist and dramatist whose works were characterized by stylistic richness and sympathetic realism. His writings served as a model for later Russian writers and helped establish the great tradition of the Russian novel.6
  • David Boder: Yes, yes, I just recall "Niva" [Footnote: A famous weekly magazine of pre-revolutionary times in Russia, which gave its readers every year a premium of twelve or twenty-four volumes of classical literature.] which was publishing the authors in twenty-four volumes.
  • Dimitri Odinets: So the Turgenev library had become the richest Russian library abroad, with references to old issues, not Soviet publications . . . but older books. After the Germans had besieged Paris, yet before the war with Soviet Russia, they offered me, as the chairman of the administration, on behalf of the German government . . .The Germans entered Paris on June 14, 1940. The war with the Soviet Union began on June 22, 1941.7
  • David Boder: The Germans offered?
  • Dimitri Odinets: Yes, the Germans offered in behalf of the [German] government, to buy the library, claiming that . . .
  • David Boder: On behalf of the German government?
  • Dimitri Odinets: On behalf of the German government.
  • David Boder: What did they want it for?
  • Dimitri Odinets: The Representative of Rosenfeld . . . Pardon me, Rosenberg who was coming to our library and had become to know it. He said that the library was a very interesting one and for this reason the German government would like to purchase it. I think they had in view to transfer the library to the "Rosenberg East European Institute."Alfred Rosenberg (1893-1946) was the Nazis' leading ideologist. His thinking, incorporating racism, occultism, German neo-paganism, anti-Semitism and anti-Communism, was contained in his influential 1930 work Der Mythus des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts (The Myth of the Twentieth Century). From 1933-1945, he headed the Nazi party's foreign affairs department. After the fall of France, the so-called Operational Staff Rosenberg confiscated French cultural treasures.8
  • David Boder: H—um . . .
  • Dimitri Odinets: When I refused to sell the library to the Germans, in view of the fact that it did not belong to me and, also, because I did not want to do it, the library was liquidated the following day by the Germans. Part of the books we succeeded to save, but nine/tenths of the books were sent over to Germany, where the library still is at present. Only lately we succeeded in tracing it in Germany in the Soviet Occupied Zone, and we hope that with the help of our representative, we may be able to get back the library or what was left of it. But, meanwhile, it is a question [?].
  • David Boder: You will get it back to Paris?
  • Dimitri Odinets: Yes, to Paris. But as yet, the problem has not been solved.
  • David Boder: Well, let us begin again. Be so kind and inform us . . . I know that you are an historian, but I collect primarily the experience of eye witnesses.
  • Dimitri Odinets: Yes.
  • David Boder: Tell me please, what happened to you personally and to your family, of course, evaluating the events—you could not do it otherwise, beginning with the moment of the German invasion in Poland.
  • Dimitri Odinets: At the moment of the German invasion in Poland, [a few words not clear] we Russians residing first in Paris, although at the time Soviet Russia was in alliance with Germany, understood clearly that war between Russia and Germany was imminent, that sooner or later the Germans will attack Russia. And so, forseeing these events I severed with the past as an emigre and for the first time went to the Soviet embassy. I told them, "I have come here because I am convinced that Russia is in danger and as a Russian moved by patriotism, I must be with my country in this critical period." I was very well recieved.
  • David Boder: Who was the ambassador then?
  • Dimitri Odinets: Ambassador Bogomol, but he was then in Vichy. In Paris there was the charge d'affaire Lerv Alexandrowich Tarasow, and exceptionally pleasant and cultured man. We met several times and it became obvious to me that in regard of the Russian-German relations we stand on identical grounds and are speaking the same language. I decided then that is was my duty to return to my native country. I told so to Tarasow [one word not clear] and Tarasow took certain steps in that direction. But it was too late. In fact within a few days war broke out. The Germans attacked Russia and I remained in France, in Paris and I am still here until this day. But I have not lost hope to state it better, I am absolutely sure that relatively soon I shall return to my native land.
  • David Boder: How then, this has taken place when the war started. Well, what happened when the Germans attacked France? How did it affect your personal life, and what were your experiences?
  • Dimitri Odinets: When the Germans attacked France . . .
  • David Boder: When they attacked Russia, we were talking about that phase . . .
  • Dimitri Odinets: When the Germans attacked Russia, the same day in the morning I was arrested by the Germans. They took me to the same offices of the Gestapo on Rue [name not clear] in Paris and proposed me to go with them to Petersburg.
  • David Boder: When?
  • Dimitri Odinets: To Petersburg, because as they said: "We are in need of intelligent people and as you know, the intelligensia there has been exterminated. Do you want to go with us or not? Or do you intend to remain outside Russia?" To this proposition I responded with a categorical refusal, either to go or to work with the Germans. As a result I was sent to the concentration camp in Compiègne.
  • David Boder: Compiègne?
  • Dimitri Odinets: Compiègne. After a preliminary detention in one of the prisons [?] in Compiègne I stayed close to two months and after I had become gravely ill from malnutrition I was sent to a hospital in Paris, the hospital "Van de Grasse" [??] was also under German control.
  • David Boder: Well give us some particulars, of course you were not the only Russian to be called. What did they do in general with the Russian colony, considering that in speaking of the Russian colony we are compelled to speak separately of the Russians of orthodox faith and the Russian Jews. In other words, about the Russian Christians and the Russian Jews. How large was the Russian non-Jewish colony when the war started?
  • Dimitri Odinets: At the beginning of the war the whole Russian colony counting Russians and Jews together for we did not make any distinction in our midst—Here, as elsewhere, Professor Odinets shows himself to be free of anti-Semitic sentiments. He expresses genuine sympathy for the plight of the Jews in France during the Occupation and highlights the worse treatment given them.9
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Dimitri Odinets: Consisted of approximately about forty thousand people. Among the Russians were arrested . . .
  • David Boder: Forty thousand altogether men, women, and children?
  • Dimitri Odinets: It seems so. The exact number no one knows.
  • David Boder: Yes, yes, we are not interested in exact statistics.
  • Dimitri Odinets: The number of arrested Russians was [about] five hundred including again the Russians and the Jews.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Dimitri Odinets: From the beginning the Regime, the powers to be treated equally the Russians and the Russian Jews. We lived together under identical conditions, we starved together and suffered equally the various inconveniences of the lager. But I must state that at the beginning the treatment was of course a thousand times better that, for instance, in the future lager Drancy, exclusively for Jews or more so in the regime in Buchenwald.
  • David Boder: Well, let us clear that up. From a military standpoint, the Germans have been interning the citizens of enemy countries as they would have done in Germany.
  • Dimitri Odinets: Yes, yes.
  • David Boder: As for instance the American would have interned the Germans in their country.
  • Dimitri Odinets: Yes.
  • David Boder: But obviously they did not observe to a large extent the Geneva convention. Continue.
  • Dimitri Odinets: But one must keep in mind that according to our papers we were all White Russians.
  • David Boder: Which means . . . ?
  • Dimitri Odinets: That means . . .
  • David Boder: Anti-Soviet Russians?
  • Dimitri Odinets: According to our papers we were anti-Soviet Russians. So the reasons for their actions were of entirely different nature. What these reasons were we were never able to find out because nobody told us why we were arrested. And the people in power differed to such an extent in status and political outlook that to find any consistent reason for our arrest was absolutely impossible for us. And so this question remains a riddle. We obviously were arrested according to some lists [of names] delivered from varous sources and compiled on different basis. And so, I return [to the previous topic], we were about 500 people Russians in the narrow sense of the word and Jews. and at first we lived under identical conditions and under identical regime, and the treatment accorded us by the German authorities of the lager was the same. But that changed comparatively soon. Since the contingent of the arrested as I stated before was most heterogeneous in its political convictions, so there appeared in our midst among the Russians, in the narrow sense of the word, some individuals who presented to the German Command a memorandum that they do not want to be imprisoned together with Jews. Obviously these people had in mind to get in the good graces [of the Germans].Among the Russian emigrés, there were those who were extreme anti-Semites, spreading the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion which described a supposed worldwide Jewish conspiracy to use nefarious means to undermine Christian civilization with the aim of ruling the world.10
  • David Boder: To get where . . . ?
  • Dimitri Odinets: To get into the good graces.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Dimitri Odinets: To get into the good graces of the Germans. After the presentation of this memorandum the Jews . . . we were separated. We were transfered to another section of the same lager behind a different wired fence.
  • David Boder: Behind what?
  • Dimitri Odinets: Behind another wired fence without the right to communicate. In spite of that, I—with whom the German authorities communicated as the representative of the lager,—I managed to transfer again all the Jews who remained in the original section to us. I pointed out to the Germans that what they were doing is absolutely indecent, since among those Jews who remained there were people of deep conviction, enimies of the Soviet rule were people on whose money in times passed was formed the army of Volunteers. [Note: Here begins a conversation in whispers intended apparently to remain off the record, because due to the friendly relations between France and the Soviets in 1946 and the influence of the communists in France and it appeared uncomfortable to say the least, to speak openly of assistance rendered to the White armies during the counter-revolutionary attempts following the ascent of the Soviets to power. We reproduce whispers as much as possible. —D.P.B.]
  • David Boder: Which Volunteer army? When? Continue. What kind of Volunteer army?
  • Dimitri Odinets: The first army, Alexiew's. The very first army.Indeed, a French interventionist force arrived in Ukraine shortly after the November 11, 1918 armistice with Germany with the aim of supporting anti-Communist forces. However, the French withdrew their forces in the spring of 1919.11
  • David Boder: That was during the first revolution? After the first world war?
  • Dimitri Odinets: During the first civil war . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, yes, in 1918.
  • Dimitri Odinets: . . . the famous "March on the Ice," etc.
  • David Boder: Yes, yes.
  • Dimitri Odinets: And the Germans yielded to these arguments and our Jews, our comrades in imprisonement were transfered to our section. In the section where they were before remained only the French whom the Germans designated as communists [however] without sufficient grounds. Since there was no verification [of the accusations].
  • David Boder: You mean French Jews?
  • Dimitri Odinets: [In whispers] no, no, the communists.
  • David Boder: But you said that there remained the Frenchmen; what kind of Frenchmen, French Jews?
  • Dimitri Odinets: [It is possible that he shook his head in the negative and then continued] . . . in cases of attempts on the lives of the German soldiers and officers they used to take from this section those whom they shot as hostages.During the Occupation, there was a vicious cycle of reprisals for acts taken by the Resistance, followed by counter-reprisals and so on. The Germans highlighted that those they executed were communists and Jews in an attempt to show the population at large that these "anti-French" and "foreign" elements were the ones causing problems, and that if not for them, the occupation would be less harsh.12
  • David Boder: That happened in Compiègne?
  • Dimitri Odinets: Yes, in Compiègne.
  • David Boder: How far is Compiègne from Paris?
  • Dimitri Odinets: Approximately 70 kilometers.
  • David Boder: What is it, a kind of military installation?
  • Dimitri Odinets: Yes, we lived in former armories, very neglected that belonged before to some French military divisions. In barracks built of stone.
  • David Boder: Yes. Were there any beds?
  • Dimitri Odinets: At first we had to sleep on the floor, but in about two weeks they provided iron beds and we slept in beds.
  • David Boder: Well. Were the families permitted to visit? Did they permit to write letters?
  • Dimitri Odinets: The first visits were permitted after a month and a half after incarceration. Twice a month they permitted to write on postcards of government issue on which the content of the letter was printed beforehand and one had to answer the ready questions.
  • David Boder: Has any one saved such a postcard?
  • Dimitri Odinets: I regret not to be able to say. I personally have not saved any.
  • David Boder: And your family has none?
  • Dimitri Odinets: No.
  • David Boder: Well continue.
  • Dimitri Odinets: Step by step, life became organized. And in our section, where there were five [Russian] university professors and two French university professors we soon started to give lectures. In the morning we delivered serious lectures, and in the evening [lectures] of more popular nature. We started to teach languages. We taught French, German, Italian, Spanish, English, and Russian. Every Sunday we organized a concert. We organized a wonderful church for there were in our midst also artists, of course the Germans soon deprived us of our church hall, claiming to need it for the storage of potatoes. To be sure, a week after our church was devastated they deposited there three sacks of potatoes.
  • David Boder: Tell me, were there also priests among the internees?
  • Dimitri Odinets: There were three priests among us. One of them a very old man who wore fetters and was a great faster. He arrived in times past from Soviet Russia, and failing to be interested in any worldly affairs he did not bother to exchange his Soviet passport. Apparently he was arrested on account of his passport. For what reason the other priests were arrested remains a matter of conjuncture. One of them was apparently arrested for secretly helping the Jews, by issuing to them certain church certificates, which he expected would save them form arrest and imprisonment. And, so I repeat, from the start the regime was not too bad. But things were getting worse, gradually worse and worse. Gradually new, stricter rules were introduced. But these regulations fell with special impact upon the Jews [in our camp]. They became a group apart not in terms of location but in terms of the treatment accorded to them. For instance when a German commission would arrive for investigation [of the status of the internees] the Jews were the last to be called. No promises of any sort were given to them. But at first there were cases when prisoners were set free. And from the start, sixteen Jews were released and in proportion a larger number of Russians were released. In the month of August, at the end of the month, I, ill from malnutrition, was transfered to a hospital [name not clear] where I underwent a very serious operation, followed by several months in bed, without moving. When I left the hospital, after a measure of improvement I found among the internees a most horrible regime. We were not sick but crushed by the imprisonment. And again the worst sufferers were the Jews. In my capacity as an elected prison trusty I represented in the hospital the Russians, French, Yugoslavs, and Americans. Only the English had their own representative. And in the capacity of such a representative I had to negotiate with the German authorities on a number of matters pertaining to the prisoners in Van de Grasse [not clear] and among them . . .
  • David Boder: Prisoners where?
  • Dimitri Odinets: In Van de Grasse [??].
  • David Boder: What was that?
  • Dimitri Odinets: A hospital, I told you that before.
  • David Boder: Yes, yes. I always try to . . .
  • Dimitri Odinets: Yes, yes. And here I was a witness to several horrible scenes. "This is not my husband. What have you scoundrels done to him?" And the condition of the Jews among us remained all the time the same nightmare. Our situation was getting worse in the sense of stricter regulations, but except for insults and scoldings they did not perpetrate any special atrocities upon us. After ten months of incarceration I was released on account of illness, but again without any explanation as to the reasons. After that I lived in Paris, existing on lessons which I gave, and every new victory of the Red Army gave me new pupils desirous to learn the Russian language.
  • David Boder: From among the French?
  • Dimitri Odinets: French, Dutch, a few Spainiards, two three Swedes, and even one Turk. All but the Germans—since for the Germans—"I had not time", and I refused [to accept them].
  • David Boder: Tell me, how did they happen to release you?
  • Dimitri Odinets: They set me free without giving me any reasons, just how they had arrested me.
  • David Boder: Did your family intervee, did a lawyer intervene?
  • Dimitri Odinets: Nobody intervened, nobody intervened. I did not want that anybody of my family should plead with the Germans. During these years besides my lessons, I participated in the anti-German press of the underground. The Russian [underground] press. The newspaper—the paper which was published in the underground under the most difficult and dangerous conditions was called "The Russian Patriot". It coincided with the birth of a new organization which calls itself now "The Soviet Patriot", embraces a membership in excess of ten thousand and publishes a newspaper under the name "The Soviet Patriot", of which I am at present the editor and director.
  • David Boder: Now let us recapitulate a bit. Were there any Russians who collaborated with the Germans?
  • Dimitri Odinets: Unfortunately there were such Russians, but I must state that among the intelligentsia, the workers with the pen such as scientists, writers there were no such people.
  • David Boder: There were no such people among the collaborationists?
  • Dimitri Odinets: Hardly two - three names could be named from among writers and scientists who went along with the Germans. The rest held out very firmly, preferring to starve rather than help the enemies of our Native land.
  • David Boder: Now tell me Dimitri Michailovich, you once mentioned to me an episode, about a Russian officer who was married to a Jewish woman.
  • Dimitri Odinets: Yes.
  • David Boder: Tell us about that episode with some detail [some remarks in whispers].
  • Dimitri Odinets: And so I must say that a considerable part of the Russians, possibly a larger part considering the whole Russian colony, conducted themselves in a political sense very well and with firmness. But there were cases when Russians . . . She worked as a nurse in a French hospital [??] and was considered among the best. And so this Russian . . .
  • David Boder: What was he, a military man?
  • Dimitri Odinets: At that time he was no more a military man.
  • David Boder: Oh, yes, he was an ex-military man . . .
  • Dimitri Odinets: An ex-military man. And he reported to the German authorities his own wife making the following statement: "My wife is a Jewess. She is corrupting my children." But these my children were also her children. In consequence of this report she was arrested and incarcerated in a most horrible lager which was run like a real prison for hard labor, the famous lager Drancy. When the director of the French hospital appeared at this German lager and petitioned the German commandment to set free a most useful worker at his hospital, he was faced with the most disastrous refusal, in the following words, "What are you troubling yourself, if her own husband has requested . . . her husband himself has petitioned that we should apprehend his wife, in view of her corrupting influence on the children. The Frenchman, the director of the hospital was unable to believe that such a thing could happen. The commandant replied: "What is there to argue about, here is the letter." And he showed him the lelter, such things did happen . . .
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool 168. The interview with Professor Dimitri Michailovich Odinets . . . ahh . . . in Paris. [Pause, whispers and laughter] We are going over to the next spool for some short . . . question and answer . . . for a short question and answer session. Paris, September the . . . Paris, October the . . .
  • David Boder: Chicago, July the 6th, 1950. The Spool 168 ends rather abruptly which very often used to happen. The continuation of the interview is on Spool 169. Since that part of the interview lasted only ten to twelve minutes we have decided to record it right on this same spool. This spool then will be 9-168 and 9-169A. Spool 169B contains some incidental conversations and songs taken during the last evening of my stay in Paris. Boder. This is part of the project MH156.
  • David Boder: Paris, October 4th, 1946. [Pause] This is Spool 169, we continue the interview with Professor Dimitri Michailovich Odinets, which begins on Spool 168.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Dimitri Michailovich . . . what about that story which you mentioned—talked before—about the officer who betrayed his own wife. By the way is it known what hapened to her finally?
  • Dimitri Odinets: She died.
  • David Boder: Where?
  • Dimitri Odinets: In one of the German lagers, in Germany.
  • David Boder: Now tell me . . . what happened to him?
  • Dimitri Odinets: His fate is not clear to me. I know only that at the time of the liberation of Paris from the Germans he was in the possession of large sums of money and walked openly through the streets of Paris. However, the authorities of liberation caught up with him and for a time he was arrested. His further fate is not known to me, but rumors have it that he was released.
  • David Boder: Now tell me in general . . . give us a general picture to the extent to which you were able to observe, or read . . . in your capacity of the editor of a newspaper . . . First of all, the "Soviet Patriot" has emerged from the underground?
  • Dimitri Odinets: Yes.
  • David Boder: And who publishes it now?
  • Dimitri Odinets: The Union of Soviet Patriots . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Dimitri Odinets: By its central board.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Dimitri Odinets: It appears once a week.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Dimitri Odinets: Its platform is pro-Soviet. That does not mean that those who write for it are communists. People of most divergent outlooks are able to write for it, provided they satisfy one condition: that they be patriots of their Native Land.Professor Odinets does not further specify what he meant by "patriots of their native land."13
  • David Boder: Well, now tell me, how started . . . you were an eyewitness of the Russian revolution, you know, . . . how started here in France the selection, the screening out, the dispostition, so to speak, to those who collaborated with the Germans—what happened in this matter after the Germans were expelled from Paris?
  • Dimitri Odinets: At every police station, that is at each of twenty police stations of Paris [two words not clear] were formed special "Councils of Liberation" in charge of the cleanup.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Dimitri Odinets: These councils were composed of representatives of the so-called Resistance, that is those who, arms in hand, fought against the Germans. One must state here, that among those French forces of resistance were very many Russians. Many of course in proportion to the general number of Russians. And certain [people] among the, not small in number, were presently rewarded military decorations for their demonstrated bravery. Many were killed in battle. The Councils of Liberation were in charge of calling to account of persons who had discredited themselves by collaboration with the Germans. of course often occurred great misunderstandings, especially in the early days when people were apprehended sometimes on sheer suspicion and at times due to dishonest accusations. I personally was heading in those days the legal committee within the newly formed organization the Union of Soviet Patriots. This committee devoted itself to the review of complaints of people who came to it claiming false incarceration or arrest. I must tell that the French authorities heeded to a very high degree to our conclusions, the conclusions of our legal committee, which I was heading. In consequence this committe was able to attain the release of numerous innocent individuals, who were apprehended due to error. But this committee did not occupy itself with extrication of "criminal" elements. We only intervened for those who deserved such intervention.Marshall Pétain and others argued that they had collaborated due to patriotic motives and that theirs had been a benevolent collaboration, which had saved France from what would have been far greater destruction had they not cooperated with the occupiers. When General Charles de Gaulle assumed power following the liberation, he helped to destroy this myth.14
  • David Boder: By the way: tell me what about those shavings of heads of French women, which we saw in the movies, what about that?
  • Dimitri Odinets: That was in my opinion a very bad incident. But fortunately it lasted only a few days.
  • David Boder: What was that all about?
  • Dimitri Odinets: It was like this. Women who were suspected or actally proved to have had intimate dealings with the Germans, these women were submitted to shaving of their heads; on their faces and shaven heads were painted the sign of the Swastika, and not seldom they were paraded through the streets. Such vehicles were followed by crowds of children and it was in all respects a horrible sight [Note: My personal inquiries suggest that by "dealings with the Germans"—was meant betrayal of maquis, and general collaboration in terms of betrayal of Jewish neighbors, or underground activities. —D.P.B.].
  • David Boder: So you consider that an inappropriate expression of popular wrath?
  • Dimitri Odinets: I consider that such a form [of expression] was unworthy of the French people. And in particular, the Americans and the English who were then in Paris were most sincerely provoked by it. At least many of them demonstrated their indignation. These things were done without any trial, they were perpetrated by the mob.These acts were part of the first phase of uncontrolled retribution by the Resistance during which many accused collaborators were summarily executed and women accused of fraternizing with the German occupiers were publicly humiliated. Subsequently, investigations and trials of accused collaborators took place. 15
  • David Boder: Now then. What do you intend to do in Russia?
  • Dimitri Odinets: In Russia I plan to continue my scientific work. I have hope that I will be able to obtain a chair in the University of Tiflis, or how it is now called, not Tiflis, but Tbilisi in Grusian. I am unable to return to Leningrad on account of my health—because as a consequence of all that I had gone through here—at one time I was paralyzed, my whole right side was paralyzed, now I have recuperated.Given the post-war reassertion of Stalinist totalitarianism, these hopes seem at best naive.16
  • David Boder: You look very well now.
  • Dimitri Odinets: I have recovered, but the results of this illness make themselves felt. This is the price which I finally paid as a consequence of my detention in a German concentration camp . . .
  • David Boder: Dimitri Michailovitch, last night at supper we happened to mention casually one of the versions of the origin, of the racial origin of the Russian Jews. Could you sum up for me this material.
  • Dimitri Odinets: For me as an historian it appears beyond any question that an overwhelming percent of persons of Jewish faith who lived in Russia are not of Semitic origin but Turks.
  • David Boder: Are the Turks not Semites?
  • Dimitri Odinets: No, they are a different race [that the Jews were] Turks. The Jewish religion was prevalent among the ruling strata of the Khazar [?]. In the 7th century the Khazars were a strong and powerful empire, which spread in part over the Caucasus, in part over the lower basin of the Volga. Their prestige was so great that even the Byzantine emperors intermarried with them. The Khazars were zealously proselyting [people] into the Jewish religion.The Khazars were a group of tribes of Turkish ancestry who inhabited a vast territory in southern Russia north of the Caucasus mountains. They converted to Judaism in the year 740 C.E. In about the year 960 C.E., an exchange of letters took place between Hasdai ibn Shaprut (c. 915-c. 975), an important Jewish minister of the Caliph of Cordoba, Spain and Joseph, king of the Khazars. In this letter, Joseph relates how his ancestor, the king Bulan, converted to Judaism. The Khazar ruling elite followed suit, and Judaism by degrees came to be accepted by the population at large. In 1016 C.E., the kingdom of the Khazars was crushed by the Russians and the Byzantines. What became of the Khazars remains a matter of dispute. Some might have been among the forebears of Polish and Russian Jewry. However, it is generally accepted that Russian Jewry were of central European origin.17
  • David Boder: But how did the Khazars themselves happen to become converted into Judaism?
  • Dimitri Odinets: This question was once posed by the Califf of Cardoz [Cordova, Spain] to his advisers in matters of finances—a Jew Chas Da"i' Ibn-Shaprut.
  • David Boder: In what year was that?
  • Dimitri Odinets: That was . . . of course in the 7th century.
  • David Boder: Oh, yes.
  • Dimitri Odinets: The Chas Da'i' Ibn-Shaprut has dispatched an interesting letter to the Jewish . . . to the Khazar Tzar Joseph [??]. The letter was carried to him through all of Europe by a Jewish trading organization Rodanitza [??]Odinets is referring to the so-called Radanites, intrepid Jewish traders in the ninth century C.E. who exchanged goods from the Frankish kingdom of Europe for those of Asia. Their name probably comes from a Persian phrase meaning, "knowing the way."18. Rodanitza comes from the word Rodansk [?] Ronsk [?] Riga [?]. It was delivered this letter—through Kiev to Joseph the Tzar of the Khazars and both have reached our times—the letter as well as the reply of Tzar Joseph. It was a reply also of his financial adviser. These documents were found in 1912 in the synagouge in Cairo. And so when Ibn-Shaprut asked Joseph how did it come to happen that in the distant east there is a kingdom of true believers who profess the true faith, the faith of the Jews. To this Joseph answered with an historical legend: It happened once that the Khazars found themselves in a very difficult strategic position, and here there appeared an unknown youth—an experienced military leader who beat off the enemy. This youth was of Jewish faith and the victory made such an impression that the whole upper strata [of the khazars] have adopted the Jewish religion. So says Tzar Joseph of the Khazars [Footnote: See remarks at the end of the chapter.]. Exact information on this question is not available.It should be emphasized that this is indeed a legend.19
  • David Boder: Dimitri Michailovitch is there anything you would like to tell the American scientists as a result of your experiences during the war and in Europe?
  • Dimitri Odinets: There is so much to tell the American scientists. Having lived in France more than 25 years I have been doing scientific work under very difficult conditions, I most sincerely envied my American colleagues because they were able to pursue their scientific work always under exceptionally favorable conditions with the support of the people and the American government. As an historian I might say that among the American historians there are a great many names of world significance. Personally I became acquainted with the eminent historian Shotwell [??]—the head editor of a publication of many volumes undertaken by the Carnegie Institute on "Influence of War on the Life of a Country." In the case of us the Russian scientists with reference to Russia [I was commissioned to write] a book on the subject: the lower and middle level schools under the impact of the war between the years 1914-1918. Shotwell made upon me the finest impression as a genuine representative of scientific thought and as an exceptionally fascinating person.
  • David Boder: Well, anything else.
  • Dimitri Odinets: [in whispers] no.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes the interview of great interest with . . . ah . . . Professor Dimitri Michailovitch Odinets, a leader of the Russian colony in Paris. Paris, October the 4th, 1946, Illinois Institute of Technology wire recording, taken at the Grand Hotel. [Pause] Professor Odinets wants a correction. He is not the leader of the Russian colony, he considers that he is one of possible representatives or leaders but the colony is by no means something a unified group of unique convictions, tendencies and interests. Well, we will make that correction.
  • David Boder: Chicago, July 6th, 1950. This concludes spool 9-169A. Two spools are on this reproduction, 9-168 and 9-169A. The other part of Spool 169 contains some rather irrelevant material. This reproduction is part of a project supported in part by a research grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, United States Public Health.
  1. In July 1917, the Provisional government for which Professor Odinets worked passed a law stating that national minorities, such as the Ukrainians, were recognized as a having a right to national autonomy. Thus Professor Odinets was concerned above all, as he said, with combating right wing Ukrainian chauvinism, which would have led to the formation of a separate state.
  2. The Skoropadsky government, which had been sponsored by the German occupiers of Ukraine during World War I, fell with the defeat of Germany on November 11, 1918. Following this, rival groups of various political persuasions struggled for power. During this time, some 100,000 Ukrainian Jews were murdered in pogroms by Ukrainian nationalist extremists, White Army anti-communist forces, and Poles.
  3. By the end of 1920, the Red Army fully controlled southern Russian, including Ukraine.
  4. In the aftermath of the defeat of anti-communist forces, some one million refugees fled from Russia. Several hundred thousand settled in France, among them Professor Odinets, who like others, sought to preserve his Russian identity.
  5. Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883) was master Russian novelist as well as playwright and poet. He acquired an international reputation as a result of his brilliant portrayals of Russian life. During the 1870s Turgenev lived in Paris where he was an esteemed unofficial Russian cultural ambassador.
  6. Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852) was a Russian novelist and dramatist whose works were characterized by stylistic richness and sympathetic realism. His writings served as a model for later Russian writers and helped establish the great tradition of the Russian novel.
  7. The Germans entered Paris on June 14, 1940. The war with the Soviet Union began on June 22, 1941.
  8. Alfred Rosenberg (1893-1946) was the Nazis' leading ideologist. His thinking, incorporating racism, occultism, German neo-paganism, anti-Semitism and anti-Communism, was contained in his influential 1930 work Der Mythus des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts (The Myth of the Twentieth Century). From 1933-1945, he headed the Nazi party's foreign affairs department. After the fall of France, the so-called Operational Staff Rosenberg confiscated French cultural treasures.
  9. Here, as elsewhere, Professor Odinets shows himself to be free of anti-Semitic sentiments. He expresses genuine sympathy for the plight of the Jews in France during the Occupation and highlights the worse treatment given them.
  10. Among the Russian emigrés, there were those who were extreme anti-Semites, spreading the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion which described a supposed worldwide Jewish conspiracy to use nefarious means to undermine Christian civilization with the aim of ruling the world.
  11. Indeed, a French interventionist force arrived in Ukraine shortly after the November 11, 1918 armistice with Germany with the aim of supporting anti-Communist forces. However, the French withdrew their forces in the spring of 1919.
  12. During the Occupation, there was a vicious cycle of reprisals for acts taken by the Resistance, followed by counter-reprisals and so on. The Germans highlighted that those they executed were communists and Jews in an attempt to show the population at large that these "anti-French" and "foreign" elements were the ones causing problems, and that if not for them, the occupation would be less harsh.
  13. Professor Odinets does not further specify what he meant by "patriots of their native land."
  14. Marshall Pétain and others argued that they had collaborated due to patriotic motives and that theirs had been a benevolent collaboration, which had saved France from what would have been far greater destruction had they not cooperated with the occupiers. When General Charles de Gaulle assumed power following the liberation, he helped to destroy this myth.
  15. These acts were part of the first phase of uncontrolled retribution by the Resistance during which many accused collaborators were summarily executed and women accused of fraternizing with the German occupiers were publicly humiliated. Subsequently, investigations and trials of accused collaborators took place.
  16. Given the post-war reassertion of Stalinist totalitarianism, these hopes seem at best naive.
  17. The Khazars were a group of tribes of Turkish ancestry who inhabited a vast territory in southern Russia north of the Caucasus mountains. They converted to Judaism in the year 740 C.E. In about the year 960 C.E., an exchange of letters took place between Hasdai ibn Shaprut (c. 915-c. 975), an important Jewish minister of the Caliph of Cordoba, Spain and Joseph, king of the Khazars. In this letter, Joseph relates how his ancestor, the king Bulan, converted to Judaism. The Khazar ruling elite followed suit, and Judaism by degrees came to be accepted by the population at large. In 1016 C.E., the kingdom of the Khazars was crushed by the Russians and the Byzantines. What became of the Khazars remains a matter of dispute. Some might have been among the forebears of Polish and Russian Jewry. However, it is generally accepted that Russian Jewry were of central European origin.
  18. Odinets is referring to the so-called Radanites, intrepid Jewish traders in the ninth century C.E. who exchanged goods from the Frankish kingdom of Europe for those of Asia. Their name probably comes from a Persian phrase meaning, "knowing the way."
  19. It should be emphasized that this is indeed a legend.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Olga Collin
  • English Translation : David P. Boder