Chilling but war is chilling…

Ilya Ehrenburg
(1891-1967) was a prolific Soviet writer and journalist. His article “Kill
Him!” (the actual title was simply “Kill!”), published in 1942,
was widely read.


Krasnaya Zvezda (No173 [5236]) 24 July 1942


“Here are excerpts from three letters found on dead Germans. Inspector Reinhardt wrote to Lieutenant Otto Schirach: “[…] I have found six Russians in the area. They last far longer than Frenchmen. Only one of them has died. […] Their upkeep costs nothing and we must not tolerate that these animals, whose children are possibly killing our children right now, get to eat German bread. Yesterday I whipped lightly two Russian beasts who secretly drunk up skim milk meant for pigs […]” A certain Otto Essmann wrote to Lieutenant Helmut Wiegand: “We now have some Russian prisoners of war. These fellows feed on worms by the airstrip and throw themselves at buckets of dirty water. I have seen them eating weeds. It is hard to believe that these are human beings…” Slavers – they would like to enslave our people. They take some Russians home, mistreat them, make them lose their wits by hunger, to the point that they eat grass and worms, and then a repulsive German with a stinking cigar can philosophise: “Are these perhaps human beings?” We know everything. We remember everything. We have understood: Germans are not human beings. Henceforth the word German means to us the most terrible curse. From now on the word German will trigger your rifle. We shall not speak any more. We shall not get excited. We shall kill. If you have not killed at least one German a day, you have wasted that day. If you think that instead of you, the man next to you will kill him, you have not understood the threat. If you do not kill the German, he will kill you. If you cannot kill your German with a bullet, kill him with your bayonet. If there is calm on your part of the front, if you are waiting for the fighting, kill a German before combat. If you leave a German alive, the German will hang a Russian and rape a Russian woman. If you kill one German, kill another – there is nothing more amusing for us than a heap of German corpses. Do not count days; do not count miles. Count only the number of Germans you have killed. Kill the German – this is your old mother’s prayer. Kill the German – this is what your children beseech you to do. Kill the German – this is the cry of your Russian earth. Do not waver. Do not let up. Kill.”

A little earlier, on 18 July 1942  the “Red Star” published a poem by Konstantin Simonov titled “Kill him”, which possibly, inspired Ehrenburg to come up with his subsequent article.

If your house means a thing to you
Where you first dreamed your Russian dreams 
In your swinging cradle, afloat 
Beneath the log ceiling beams. 
If your house means a thing to you 
With its stove, corners, walls and floors
Worn smooth by the footsteps of three 
Generations of ancestors. 

If your small garden means a thing: 
With its May blooms and bees humming low,
With its table your grandfather built 
Neath the linden – a century ago.
If you don’t want a German to tread 
The floor in your house and chance
To sit in your ancestors’ place 
And destroy your yard’s trees and plants

If your mother is dear to you 
And the breast that gave you suck 
Which hasn’t had milk for years 
But is now where you put your cheek; 
If you cannot stand the thought 
Of a German’s doing her harm. 
Beating her furrowed face 
With her braids wound round his arm. 
And those hands which carried you 
To your cradle washing instead 
A German’s dirty clothes
Or making him his bed .

[If you haven’t forgotten your father 
Who tossed you and teased your toes, 
Who was a good soldier, who vanished 
In the high Carpathian snows,
Who died for your motherland’s fate, 
For each Don and each Volga wave, 
If you don’t want him in his sleeping 
To turn over in his grave, 
When a German tears his soldier picture 
With crosses from its place 
And before your own mother’s eyes 
Stamps hobnailed boots on his face.]

If you don’t want to give away 
Her you walked with and didn’t touch,
Her you didn’t dare even to kiss 
For a long time – you loved her so much,
And the Germans cornering her 
And taking her alive by force, 
Crucifying her – three of them 
Naked, on the floor; with coarse 
Moans, hate, and blood, – 
Those dogs taking advantage of 
All you sacredly preserved 
With your strong, male love.

If you don’t want to give away 
To a German with his black gun 
Your house, your mother, your wife 
All that’s yours as a native son 
No: No one will save your land
If you don’t save it from the worst.
No: No one will kill this foe, 
If you don’t kill him first.

And until you have killed him, don’t 
Talk about your love – and 
Call the house where you lived your home 
Or the land where you grew up your land.

If your brother killed a German, 
If your neighbor killed one too, 
It’s your brother’s and neighbor’s vengeance, 
And it’s no revenge for you.
You can’t sit behind another 
Letting him fire your shot.
If your brother kills a German,
Hes a soldier; you are not.

So kill that German so he 
Will lie on the ground’s backbone, 
So the funeral wailing will be 
In his house, not in your own.
He wanted it so It’s his guilt 
Let his house burn up, and his life.
Let his woman become a widow; 
Don’t let it be your wife. 
Don’t let your mother tire from tears; 
Let the one who bore him bear the pain. 
Don’t let it be yours, but his
Family who will wait in vain.

So kill at least one of them 
And as soon as you can. Still 
Each one you chance to see! 
Kill him! Kill him! Kill! 

The “Kill The Germans” campaign took many forms. It appeared on billboards and as posters.

Art Institute of Chicago collection

(Russian, founded 1924)
Konstantin Mikhailovich Simonov
(Born Petrograd, 1915; died Moscow, 1979)

Kill Him!, TASS No. 0527, July 23, 1942

2865 x 1140 mm
If you don’t want to give away
To a German, with his black gun,
Your house, your wife, your mother
And everything we call our native land.
Then know your homeland won’t be saved
If you yourself do not save it.
And know the enemy won’t be killed,
If you yourself do not kill him.
Ne boltai! Collection, Obj: 203967


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