Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Life and work
Ilya Ehrenburg played many roles in his life, and was never fully understood by his contemporaries. 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 became an anti-Bolshevik, truthful and sensitive journalist, turning again in later years to writing crude Communist and war propaganda, while occasionally defending his views with boldness against Stalin or government mouthpieces, Ehrenburg was a public figure who at times made severe compromises to survive under the inescapable paradoxes of Soviet totalitarianism, and at others took foolhardy risks that he survived perhaps only by chance.
One of the major controversies surrounding Ehrenburg is that during World War II he exhorted Soviet troops to kill any Germans that they encountered in the war effort. Ehrenburg authored an especially vitriolic 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 hate-filled incitements as a motivating factor for the mass murder and rape of German civilians that took place as Soviet troops advanced through Nazi occupied territory toward the end of the war.
However, outside of his propagandistic efforts, Ehrenburg is well known for his literary writing, especially his memoirs, which contain many portraits of interest to literary historians and biographers.
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