Eighty years ago: Nazi art displayed in all its poverty, hard news on Stalin's purges and diplomatic double standards in China



Hitler opened the second national exhibition at the House of German Art in Munich. It was intended as a counterweight to the kind on non-representational and modern art that Nazism loathed as an essentially Jewish construct. His speech was long on bombast but short on substance as to the exhibits. Indeed he confessed that the previous year’s effort had shown how disappointingly little the Nazi cultural message had been understood. This year the number of exhibits had risen but this reflected the inclusion of formerly Austrian artists who had been citizens of the Reich since the Anschluß earlier in the year. He lauded Italian generosity in allowing the export of the Discobulus of Myron but his praise of classical sculpture rather reinforced the absence of any creative force under Nazi cultural policy.

NKVD general Genrikh Lyushkov appeared at the news conference in Tokyo following his defection to the Japanese forces in Manchukuo. Lyushkov had been a leading figure in Stalin’s purges but had recognized that a summons to return to Moscow meant that he himself was to be killed. He planned to arrange for his family to escape as well but this failed and they were all murdered. Lyushkov was one of the most high-ranking and knowledgeable defectors from the Soviet Union ever. He explained simply that the victims of the purges were simply those whom Stalin distrusted, innocent of any crime. He explianed that the confessions of old Bolsheviks such as Kamenev and Zinoviev presented at their show trials had been extracted by torture and also gave figures for the total numbers of purge victims: 1,000,000 civilians and 100,000 military. The Soviets pretended that Lyushkov was an impostor to try to soften the impact of his revelations. He also brought with him a mass of operational intelligence on Soviet forces in the Far East and later collaborated in a plan to assassinate Stalin. His fate is uncertain but it is suspected that his Japanese hosts murdered him in 1945 when their defeat was inevitable because of the volume of unfavourable facts that he had learned about them since his defection.

In China the retreating Chinese forces paused at Kiukiang. Here they damaged British owned warehouses by transforming them into strongpoints and destroyed a steel pontoon belonging to Standard Oil of New York. These attracted strong formal protests from the western ambassadors concerned. The Japanese took advantage of their air superiority to bomb towns on the Yangtze River inflicting some 200 civilian deaths but there was no protest from western diplomats in Tokyo.

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