Between the fronts: German-speaking intellectuals in the Viet Minh.
On 20 February 1950, the chairman of the Free German Youth (FDJ), Erich Honecker, launched an appeal to the 'German soldiers in Vietnam' in the Foreign Legion. (1) As their 'continued stay in the Legion is not compatible with the future and the honour of our nation,' he exhorted them to rally to 'the camp of the Vietnamese freedom fighters where already many former German legionnaires are'. He promised amnesty and employment for those who decided to return to the German Democratic Republic (GDR). (2) Four months later, GDR President Wilhelm Pieck received a note from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam informing him that 'there are many German soldiers in the captivity of the Vietnamese Liberation Army'. The matter was considered of the highest priority, and Pieck was asked to deal with it in the Politbureau because, 'If we could manage to get a number of these people to come here, then this would be a big thing for our propaganda towards West Germany'. (3) Shortly before the arrival of the first transport of former legionnaires from Vietnam, the Socialist Unity Party's (SED) general-secretary, Walter Ulbricht, advised that 'through interviews, radio and photo reports, a public reporting campaign had to take place in connection with the struggle against the re-militarisation of West Germany'. (4)
In the meantime, the Ministry of State Security (Stasi) had issued directives for 'a perpetual confidential control and surveillance' of the returnees; their mail was to be controlled, and Stasi agents were to be launched on each of them. The Ministry demanded monthly reports about the men's employment, their social, moral and political conduct and about any other details known about them, especially their contacts with 'the West'. (5) After all, irrespective of whether they had been crossovers or not, 'the influence of the French Foreign Legion and the crimes perpetrated by the legionnaires over years in colonial countries, give the reactionary French forces an opportunity to exploit [them] ... as weak-minded tools for their imperialist goals. Thus the French secret service disposes of a good reservoir of men who can be introduced as agents and spies into the GDR and the Peoples' Democracies'. (6)
At the time, among the Europeans in the areas controlled by the Viet Minh forces the air was thick with speculation and rumours. The focus of one of them was Erwin Borchers, alias Chien Si, 'the Fighter'. He was a lieutenant-colonel in the Vietnamese army, 'political commissar for the European and African military personnel who have joined the ranks of the Vietnamese, editor-in-chief of two propaganda journals ...[and] leading cadre in the department of the Vietnamese Propaganda Office towards the enemy'. On 15 May 1950, Borchers addressed a long letter, accompanied by a parcel of propaganda material that he and his friends had produced in order to induce legionnaires to join the Viet Minh, to 'Dear Comrade Honecker'. He pointed out that 'this is the first time since the beginning of the Vietnamese resistance that a channel opens up to make contact with the friends and comrades in Germany'. (7)
Another German in the mountain retreat of Viet Bac was Rudy Schroder, known in Vietnam as Le Duc Nhan--'a German called Le who has compassion'. On 6 August 1950, he learned from his friend Tran Van Giau, who had just returned from some 'important conferences', that 'considerable fractions' of the Au Phi, foreigners who had joined the Vietnamese side in the war, were 'soon to be returned home. The Drake (8) is to take charge of the journey'. Schroder, although highly placed in the Viet Minh hierarchy, was unable to obtain any precise information. Instead, when talking with his Vietnamese comrades, he met with the usual climate of secrecy and suspicion. (9) It is revealing to note that Tran Van Giau, chief political leader of South Vietnam in the 1940s and early 1950s, insisted on labelling those who had gone over from the Foreign Legion to the Vietnamese side prisonniers, that is, prisoners, not rallies, those who are won for a cause. Schroder considered Giau's frequently repeated slip of the tongue as indicative of the true appreciation of the Vietnamese of their European allies.
Who were these men? Actually, we are dealing with two generations and two categories. Firstly, there were those, born around the first decade of the 20th century, who left Germany or Austria after January 1933, anti-fascists who sought refuge in France and who were interned on the outbreak of war, and who later joined the Foreign Legion. They were subsequently sent to Indochina where, eventually, they rallied to the anti-colonial resistance. They were relatively few, some dozen perhaps, and they were driven by political motives. Most of them were highly educated people--atypical legionnaires indeed.
Secondly, there were youngsters caught up in the breakdown of the Third Reich; in 1945 they were between seventeen and twenty-five years of age. These poor wretches were rootless, torn out of their families, without education or employment. For them, the Foreign Legion seemingly offered an opportunity to get out of their misery, to be fed and to find a community that circumstances had otherwise denied them. They went over to the Viet Minh for a variety of reasons amongst which political conviction surely was the least important. As their activities have been dealt with elsewhere, (10) this article will primarily be concerned with the first group of European deserters to the Viet Minh from the middle 1940s onwards; with the motives that led to their portentous step; their destiny in Vietnam; and their return to Europe, the Cold War helping considerably to determine their re-admission. They were mainly recruited from the French colonial troops of Indochina, the Foreign Legion and the French Expeditionary Corps, but not exclusively. During the anti-colonial war 1946-1954, a total of 1325 legionnaires deserted to the Viet Minh, out of which 673 fled between 1946 and 1948. (11)
In addition to the repatriates who left Vietnam in large batches, four individuals left in pairs: Erich Frey, alias Nguyen Dan, together with Georges Wachter, alias Ho Chi Tho, arrived back in Austria in May 1951, while Rudy Schroder, together with Walter Ullrich, alias Ho Chi Long, reached Berlin in November of the same year. Erwin Borchers stayed in Hanoi until 1966. Their peregrinations will occupy the major part of this article.
Bordercrossers and Crossovers
Those who leave their country of origin and who live between countries, languages and cultures, are an intriguing species. They are at home in the world and refuse to be reduced to the national straightjacket, accepting a mosaic identity. The story I shall relate does not deal with those who leave their country whistling and hopeful, light-footed and of their own free will and who attempt to arrange themselves in harmony with their origin and a new land or culture. Rather, I will be dealing with those who, under dramatic circumstances, change camp or turn against their country or culture of origin, their Kulturkreis.
Bordercrossers are people who go back and forth between clearly demarcated areas. At times fairly dubious, slightly marginal characters, they do not really know where they belong. Or they may be highly respected, mediating agents, diplomats for instance, who remain firmly anchored in their society of origin, going to and fro, dialectically watching and listening to both sides, without being endangered as both sides need them.
Crossovers, on the other hand, have broken with their societies of origin, leaving the protective domain of nation, state or community and refusing the constitutive idea that is the basis of such notions. They are 'traitors of an absolute value (of the classless society, the purity of race, the holiness of a constitution), members of a worldwide movement ... [which] everywhere appears in different forms and with different contents'. (12) They are ejected from, and for some rendered traitors to, a community of traditions and values perceived as natural, or to a state that is historically willed; or they may be constructed as heroes for the other side because they are defined within a climate of confrontation.
In France, the republic was consolidated by the end of the 19th century or early in the 20th century and became identical with the fatherland: 'the duty to serve the fatherland, whoever may be its occasional ministers, does no longer permit doubt or exception,' Raymond Aron explained, and 'no situation seems conceivable where a man could work against his fatherland for noble motives'. (13) Yet this changed with the emergence of the Soviet Union and the ensuing bi-polarity of the world: 'the fatherland' was no longer an indubitable political system but an ideology, hence a design of the world to which patriotism subscribed. The fatherland is at the mercy of factional conflicts and 'traitor' and 'patriot' become relative concepts. Inside this framework of confrontation crossovers may well be the spearheads of 'politically organized groups--because all radical political change begins with treason'. (14) In other words, the road from oppression and obscurantism to progress and freedom leads through treachery and revolution. Or, what one party considers treachery is, for others, the thrust towards the 'not-yet', or the precondition of a better morrow that will bring with it liberation from unbearable fetters.
This is why the crossover's social existence in his native society is at risk; he delivers himself to, and is thus at the mercy of, the new community where he seeks the supra-national or universal idea that shall unite humanity. That community receives him on condition that he is useful to its pursuits. However, it rids itself of him as soon as he is no longer useful. Because, as it will become evident, especially under conditions of an anti-colonial war, what seemed revolutionary and to promise the universal republic is just as nationalistic and determined by local circumstance as the crossover's accidental place of birth. (15) The crossover becomes a political embarrassment.
France's Indochinese Reconquista
The German journalist and former paratrooper in the French colonial army, Peter Scholl-Latour, relates how, onboard a troopship heading for Indochina in late 1945, they met 'entire convoys which, in an opposite direction, steered towards Europe, and on whose masts fluttered victory streamers. On deck stood British veterans of the Burma campaign returning home to peace and ordinary life'. The happy Britons poked fun at the belated colonial warriors, shouting: 'You are going the wrong way ...'16 The French (and the Dutch), themselves only just liberated from occupation by Nazi Germany, were undertaking a journey against history. Humiliated in the war, they attempted to regain their former grandeur in what remained of their colonial empires. The Right and the Left, including the communists who at the time constituted the largest French party, with the most deputies, were of one mind in this respect. World historically, their undertaking was behind the times, and morally it was untenable, but for de Gaulle the point was to create a new national myth to gloss over the inner strife of the recent past and establish a (re-)united French nation.
In June 1940, France had capitulated to Germany, and for the colonial establishment this was a year of national-colonial rebirth--an 'annus mirabilis' for the colonial Far Right, as Jennings aptly calls it. (17) The Vichy administration in Indochina was isolated and hardly in a position to oppose Japanese expansion, and from the autumn of 1940 collaborated with the Japanese. The new, Petain-appointed governor-general, admiral Decoux, promoted the ideal of a national revolution and the warrior cult, an elitist, autocratic order and anti-urban, backward-looking tradition in line with Petainism.
This call to national rebirth and authenticity furnished valuable ideological ammunition for the anti-colonial forces. (18) Ho Chi Minh and the other leaders of the Indochinese Communist Party watched their country from their base in the northern border region, waiting for the 'favourable moment' when Japan would be defeated and Vietnam would be freed from both Japanese occupation and French colonial power; in actual fact, the Japanese invasion of South-East Asia had effectively terminated European rule in the region. In May 1941 the communist leaders founded the Vietnamese Independence League, Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh, the Viet Minh, a patriotic national front comprising all social classes, although it remained firmly in the hands of the Communist Party.
In the early 1940s, the French Foreign Legion became the rallying point of anti-fascist fighters when 'thousands of Spanish Republicans who had lost the civil war, German Jews who had fled Hitler's regime and beaten Poles after the Blitzkrieg', filled its ranks. But the political loyalties of the Foreign Legion were split. Just like the French army, it had fallen under two heads: a smaller part had sided with the Resistance; the larger had rallied to the Vichy regime. Following the liberation of Paris in August 1944, the former resistance fighters (maquisards) were integrated into the foreign branch of the army, the Forces francaises libres (FFL). It was the armee de la revolte: largely Left, if not communist, questioning of the bourgeois state, enthusiastic, idealistic and resolved in its desire to change the world. Late in 1944, many young men joined the French Expeditionary Troops for the Far East (FEFEO/CEFEO) in order to liberate Asia from fascism.
After Japan's capitulation on 15 August 1945, the Viet Minh orchestrated the August Revolution in an atmosphere of euphoria. (19) On 2 September, Ho Chi Minh declared independence from France and formed a government of national unity (under the leadership of the Viet Minh). The young soldiers in the French armed forces, and especially former resistance fighters, were told that anti-French natives had turned wild, that Viet Minh 'pirates' aided by the defeated Japanese wanted to seize Indochina, and that the Indochinese colonial empire had to be freed from such 'gangs', just as France had been freed from the Nazis: 'Here happens exactly what you have known. You are facing bastards, they must be eliminated just as you have liquidated the Germans'. (20)
From Paris via Sidi Bel Abbes to Hanoi
On the basis of laws proclaimed by the 3rd Republic in 1938 and 1939, all Austrians and Germans between the ages of seventeen and sixty-five in France at the outbreak of war were detained in camps as enemy aliens--fascists and anti-fascists alike, tourists just as much as employees or business people. The men were interned immediately in September 1939, whereas the women were confined in the Velodrome d'Hiver in Paris in May 1940, when the drole de guerre came to an end, from whence they were shipped off to camps in the south of France. While in 1939 only 1171 German detainees joined the Legion, 2418 became legionnaires over the first four months of 1940. Michels estimates that 3000 to 3500 German refugees were recruited from the internment camps in 1939-40, while around 5000 German prisoners of war opted for the Foreign Legion between August 1944 and the end of 1946. (21)
The importance of the stories told here is that the lives of these men were determined not so much by psychology as by history: they illustrate the painful history of Germany, France and Vietnam in the 20th century. As we will see in the case of Rudy Schroder, he was a crossover malgre lui; had political circumstances not intervened, he would in all likelihood have become a German university professor. Reiner Josef Rudy Schroder was born in Cologne in 1911. In his Ly Lich Dang Vien--his personal identification booklet--probably completed in March 1950, he indicates his class position as bourgeois. By then, however, his name was Le Duc Nhan. (22)
Rudy Schroder and Hilde Kahn left Germany in 1933 to seek refuge in Paris, where they married. Both were from middle-class manufacturing families. The Jewish Kahns produced carpets, the Catholic Schroders made raincoats. She was a medical student from Frankfurt am Main; he, highly talented, although 'not a scholastically organized man', (23) had studied sociology and French and German literature. In Cologne, a member of the Communist Student Faction (KOSTUFRA), (24) he had made a publicly demonstrative visit, with a bouquet of flowers, to Professor Spitzer who had been 'mis en retraite': forced to retire. (25) The Nazi paper Der Sturmer had defamed him as an enemy of the new regime, a communist and 'pro-Semite'.
For Schroder, emigration to Paris was not a disaster but, given the circumstances, the fulfilment of his dearest wish. (26) Paris for him was the enticing centre of intellectual, artistic and political life. It seems Raymond Aron, who was in charge of the Centre de documentation sociale de l'Ecole Normale Superieure in the rue d'Ulm, took him under his wing. When Aron took a post with the exiled Francfort Institut fur Sozialforschung, which had found refuge at the rue d'Ulm, he monitored the younger friend's studies at the Sorbonne. Schroder worked part-time with the Institut and served as a research and editorial assistant to Walter Benjamin. (27) Max Horkheimer, in a letter to Aron from New York, written in November 1936, spoke of 'Herr Schroder [as] a particularly gifted young scholar. We hope that, in the future, we can win him over as a valuable academic colleague'. (28) But it seems likely that Schroder suffered overwork, illness or psychological breakdown in 1935. He had financial difficulties that obliged him to work as a machine sewer in a textile sweat-shop and to peddle 'the awful carpets of the father-in-law' from door to door. (29)
Fritz Meyer recalls that when Nazi Germany attacked Poland in September 1939, 'we were all gathered in Colombes stadium, Germans and Austrians. Schroder was quite cheerful. Lists had been laid out, and we were told: "Who is going to volunteer for the Foreign Legion? Otherwise you'll stay behind barbed wire until the end of the war"'. Making war was not my thing. Schroder, though, didn't want to remain behind barbed wire'. Schroder was soon to be transferred to the camp of St Jean de la Ruelle near Orleans, where he joined the Foreign Legion because the authorities promised volunteers that their families would not be locked up. 'The thought of knowing that my wife and our child who was not yet a year old would be in an internment camp, was unbearable to me' he would write later. (30)
It is unlikely that Schroder and Borchers knew each other in Paris, yet they were soon to meet. Born in 1906 in Strasbourg, Borchers was a German Alsatian by birth, his mother from a well-to-do Alsatian wine-growing family, his father, originally a turner and later a professional soldier, a Prussian. Borchers was by nature a bordercrosser. His homeland had always been torn between states, nations and nationalisms. The native of a borderland is all too easily exposed to the drama of the 'politicization of what is human': one who may be 'tomorrow a hero ... the day after tomorrow ... a traitor again'. (31)
In his curriculum vitae written in Berlin in May 1966, Borchers claims that his father had gone into the First World War an enthusiastic follower of the Kaiser but returned a republican and pacifist, decisively influencing his son's political evolution towards the Left. In 1918, when Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France, the family moved to Heidelberg and then to Osnabruck, where Borchers was 'already as a young boy', according to his sister, 'obsessed with politics'. Borchers studied French, German and History at Munster, Vienna, Gottingen, Heidelberg and Frankfurt am Main, hoping to become a teacher, and was invovled in social-democratic circles. After Hitler's rise to power, he joined an illegal propaganda group that produced and distributed anti-Nazi leaflets. Denounced and interrogated by the police, he left for France where he continued his university studies at Aix-en-Provence and in Paris, taking his finals for German language and literature in 1936.
As the young Borchers was a German national, he was not admitted to the French public teaching service and instead became an employee at the Biblion bookshop at no. 6 rue Brea. When he tried to join the French armed forces at a Parisian recruiting office to fight the Nazis, he was refused on the grounds that 'your mother has betrayed France' (by marrying a German).32 He was interned as an enemy alien in Colombes on 3 September 1939, and there he joined the Foreign Legion. As he explains, 'service in the Legion for the duration of the war seemed to me politically acceptable because the Legion, as part of the French Army, was objectively a force in the big anti-Hitler coalition to which belonged also the Soviet Union ... the Legion fought the Wehrmacht in Narvik, Monte Cassino and on other fronts of the war against Hitler'. (33) In 1939, the Foreign Legion had quite an anti-fascist aura. For Borchers, as for so many anti-fascists, it offered the only possibility of engaging actively in the struggle against fascism.
Borchers and Schroder were dispatched to Sidi Bel Abbes in Algeria to the 5th REI (Cinquieme regiment etranger d'infanterie). On hearing about the details of his wife's flight from Paris to the south of France with their son, and haunted by his incapacity to share or lighten her lot, Rudy Schroder wrote: '... when what had never been considered possible, gradually and spasmodically closes in upon us, the horrible in the end appears necessary and natural'. (34) He wrote about 'the complete uselessness' and 'the stupidity, brutality and vulgarity of the life' of 'legionary Schroder, former gravedigger and actually muleteer and "alter Mann"'. (35) Early in 1941 the German armistice commission arrived at the garrison to demand the extradition of German legionnaires. (36) The Legion's high command, however, was only prepared to extradite those who explicitly wanted to return to the Reich. Petain's delegate-general in North Africa, General Maxime Weygand, attempted thus to protect German legionnaires and at his suggestion, a group of 'about 100 particularly exposed opponents of National Socialism ... plus some Wehrmacht deserters' (the Detachement Fantome), (37) were expedited to Indochina before the German armistice commission could get hold of them.
On 1 August 1941, onboard the Cap Pandaran off Madagascar, Schroder wrote a long letter to his wife, explaining that, together with a group of more than a hundred men, he had embarked on 4 July at Dakar in Senegal. He had been betting with 'B'--Borchers--about a rare irregular Latin verb, and 'I won'. He reported that 'we are miserably housed in a hold ... but the Annamites ... are even more badly quartered'. They arrived in Saigon on 3 November and soon went by train to the north, heading for Viet Tri, 80 km northwest of Hanoi. (38)
It did not take long for Borchers and Schroder to become disillusioned with the political and military style of the Foreign Legion and the political climate of Japanese-occupied Vichy Indochina. This was not the democratic and anti-fascist atmosphere they had longed for but, rather, resembled the situation from which they had fled. Given that Governor-General Decoux was collaborating with the Japanese occupying forces--just as Petain was doing in France with Nazi Germany--fighting the Japanese was out of the question.
Schroder and Borchers were to discover the realities of colonial society and the resistance of the Annamites in the eastern highlands of the north. An embryonic version of the French Resistance vouched for the unconditional return of Indochina to the French empire and, consequently, refused any form of co-operation with the Viet Minh or the Vietnamese population against the Japanese. On 9 March 1945, the Japanese overthrew the colonial regime. The French were blown away, and for the colonized this must have been an illumination and a confirmation: the French colonizers could be beaten.
Beyond National Commitment
How was it possible for people like Borchers and Schroder not only to make contact with the Viet Minh but to co-operate with the anti-colonial resistance and, moreover, to do so, as Schroder noted, 'in clear conscience and cheerful conviction'? (39) An answer can only be found if the question is related to one of the constitutive themes of the 19th and 20th centuries: nationalism, which Ernest Gellner desribes as 'a political principle which maintains that similarity of culture is the basic social bond' (40). Nationalists insist that members of a nation-state, members of the army and civilians alike, must unconditionally be devoted to the state and the national community, and this unreservedly in times of belligerent conflicts. According to this view, patriotic feelings are given and, if not biologically implanted, then at least the result of civic or religious education. If Schroder and Borchers were not French nationals, they felt culturally at home in France and unconditionally subscribed to its republican tradition. And vis-a-vis Indochina, they were considered, and considered themselves, first and foremost Europeans.
What made them switch allegiance (keeping in mind that they had joined in 1939 with a reservatio mentalis) and burn bridges behind them? Initially, as shown in the case of Schroder, there was the step into the Foreign Legion, not quite voluntary, but a relatively banal decision, where some might have expected a coherent motivation. For Schroder, the world was out of joint, and there did not seem 'an escape from the absurd'. (41) But then followed the more dramatic step of crossing over to the Viet Minh. At least for the intellectuals, there was a political prise de conscience, (42) possibly also a longing for a primordial world--the wish to partake in a politically and morally 'better' cause.
This was particularly true for Ernst Frey, born in 1915, the son of non-religious parents of Jewish-Hungarian descent. The Freys were liberal and non-practising, the father a culture-conscious social democrat. Their social environment was still influenced by the national, linguistic and religious juxtaposition of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and their Jewish heritage only became dominant when the Nazis inescapably ascribed it to them. Following an early, fervently Roman Catholic phase, young Ernst, via social democracy and the Association of Socialist Secondary Students (VSM), found his way to communism, which was decisively moulded by the experience of Nazi anti-Semitism and National Socialism. In marxism, he found the counter-model which gave a direction to his decision to fight fascism (and, for many years, blinded him to the horrors of Stalinist totalitarianism).
In 1934, '... when joining the Communist Youth League, I authorized the party to take possession of me root and branch,' he wrote. This was a radical and, in the political atmosphere of 1930s Vienna, a dangerous thing to do. Yet Frey was always driven by a kind of politico-religious messianism. Due to VSM 'activity in a secret society and high treason', he was given a term of imprisonment and excluded 'for life' from all Austrian universities. (43) On 15 March 1938, 'the whole of Vienna was upside-down--the Fuhrer made his entry'. Frey's mother was 'beaten in broad daylight, covered with paint, humiliated, insulted and for hours tormented and exposed to ridicule'. Following a secret warning amounting to an ultimatum--'whether I preferred to be arrested or would rather emigrate'--he decided to join the International Brigades in Spain. On the run, the SS seized him and he spent three months behind bars before the Grobdeutsche Reich deprived him of his citizenship. In Paris, he peddled pencils door to door. When his local party section refused him permission to go to Spain, he engaged for five years in the Foreign Legion to fight against Hitler; he had not a single franc left and he was very hungry. On 17 March he left Casablanca onboard the Dupleix, which arrived in Saigon on 1 July 1941. At the end of that year, he founded in Viet Tri, together with Schroder, Borchers and three other friends, a communist cell in the Foreign Legion. (44)
Repelled by the Franco-Japanese collaboration und the tacit cooperation with the Axis powers, they soon made contact with French socialists in Hanoi. They had tried repeatedly to talk with the Vietnamese they met in Viet Tri, yet their attempts were constantly frustrated since the few people they did meet seemed unable to comprehend that Europeans could be interested in discussing politics with them. In their clandestine cell meetings, the war and an analysis of fascism dominated at first, yet soon all hinged on the issue of colonialism. (45) Their intention had been to combine their cell with the local French Resistance into a united front and then make contact with the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP) or the Viet Minh. In November 1943, in the centre of Hanoi next to Hoan Kiem lake, Frey met with a highly placed representative of the ICP. (46) Early in 1944, Borchers met the party's general-secretary, Truong Chinh, 'in a ricefield outside Hanoi', (47) although the latter did not then disclose his identity. They were unaware of the fact that their every step had been eagerly watched by the Viet Minh's spy system set up by Muoi Huong, alias Tran Van Ban, alias Tran Quoc Huong, Truong Chinh's personal secretary. He had placed his agents in the Foreign Legion in Viet Tri and in Hanoi, around the communist cell, in the colonial administration as well as in the household of Caput, (secretary of the Socialist Federation of Tonkin) long before Frey and Borchers' first meeting with Truong Chinh and other members of the Central Committee. (48) It seems that the Legion cell, which was admitted into the ICP in early summer 1944,49 was the only real link between the Viet Minh and Free France before the Japanese coup of 9 March 1945. Truong Chinh suggested co-operation of all European antifascists with the Viet Minh, but neither Gaullists nor Socialists would accept the idea of an independent Vietnam. The vision of a European-Vietnamese military alliance against Japan with the aim of an independent Vietnam withered away.
Towards Anti-colonial Republican Solidarity
After 9 March, a few French fled Japanese repression to the Viet Minh. Borchers, Frey and Schroder, together with thousands of soldiers from the French Indochina army, were imprisoned by the Japanese, first in the Hanoi citadel, and then in an 'extermination camp' near Hoa Binh. (50) Japan capitulated in mid-August, and the Viet Minh considered the resulting power vacuum to be the 'favourable moment'. Through the so-called August Revolution and Ho Chi Minh's declaration of independence in September, '(t)he Annamites had become Vietnamese', as Schroder commented. (51) In this momentous celebration, the North Vietnamese history producers had constituted the nation as one single, homogenous block.
The prisoners were liberated on 16 September. Several meetings took place between Frey, Schroder and the French socialists around Caput, probably with the tacit approval of the former resistant Jean Sainteny, the French commissar for the North, so as to employ the members of the cell as mediators to persuade Ho Chi Minh's government to enter into negotiations with the French representatives. But the latter would not accept independence as a precondition.
Frey arranged with Truong Chinh, Pham Van Dong and Vo Nguyen Giap for he and his friends, including Walter Ullrich and Georges Wachter, to cross over to the Vietnamese for, as Borchers is supposed to have said, 'here philosophy shall become practice, and it appears we will be needed in the act', (52) a shatteringly naive utopian utterance that expressed his hope for the universal republic. Their desertion to the Viet Minh was camouflaged as espionage for the French authorities, as Schroder saw it, and, in Frey's version, as a Sainteny-Caput assignment to convince the Viet Minh leaders of the need for negotiations with the French. The three companions were picked up from the Citadel in Truong Chinh's old Buick (not for all crossovers did this step take place so stylishly). For Schroder, sensitively and intellectually lost a jamais, one who had always put out a feeler towards an imaginary reality, this may have been an equally ecstatic and ironic experience. Frey, hurt early in life, was possibly lulled into the class warrior's belief of finally having arrived at his destination, where the trumpets would sound. Borchers, as I envisage him, mindful of his chubby solidity and familial faithfulness, unambiguous and sincere, may have been sitting in the middle. But despite their different motivations, all three would have been fascinated by the adventure they were engaged in. They had survived, they were young, they were confident, they had accounts to settle, and they had found their cause.
In early autumn of 1945, then, after Japan's capitulation and the declaration of Vietnamese independence, the French could no longer pretend that they were in Indochina to fight the fascists of the East. Now the French were the invaders who gave battle to patriots and nationalists defending the independence of their country; the French had become the 'Nazis'. Therefore, with a wide range of motives, quite a few changed sides. Japanese soldiers, personnel from the French forces, including Moroccans and Algerians, some left-wing French teachers and a number of other civilians, opted for the opposite camp. With this motley group came military and technical knowledge, which was urgently needed by the Viet Minh.
Many crossovers, in a spirit of solidarity beyond nations, cultures and continents had 'chosen a new homeland, converted to the outlook on life, to the politics of this new homeland--they would talk to the erstwhile homeland as to a hostile land', (53) although, at this stage of the Franco-Vietnamese conferences of Dalat and Fontainebleau, Borchers, Frey and Schroder still tried to contribute to an understanding between the Viet Minh and France. Once the 'idealist traitors' had reached the other side, Secretary-General Truong Chinh allotted propaganda tasks to them. (54) Schroder was soon to work with the government broadcast 'The Voice of Vietnam' as announcer and commentator in French, (55) while Frey, on behalf of general Giap, prepared military studies and carried out the first military training courses of the People's Army. Borchers became a lieutenant-colonel and political commissar in charge of political education and propaganda towards the enemy, which meant that he was responsible for the production of propaganda material in French and German and, from 1951, for the political education of German prisoners of war from the Foreign Legion. The trio set out to publish a newspaper in French entitled La Republique, later Le Peuple, 'so as to show the French that the Vietnamese government and the Viet Minh are not rebels but legal, democratic organizations. Any attempt to reconquer the country by force would therefore be a violation of human rights'. (56) It is understood that the paper was also aimed at the Vietnamese francophone elite and was widely read in the Foreign Legion.
The four-page journal Le Peuple appeared for the first time on 7 April 1946; the last edition, no. 50, came out on 26 September of the same year. It launched an appeal to all well-meaning people to support the independence and indivisibility of Vietnam, that is, to oppose the separation of the South (Nam Bo) from the rest of the country. Le Peuple was spirited propaganda. The Doktors germaniques, as Doyon called them, wrote under new names: Frey had become Nguyen Dan; Borchers, Chien Si; and Schroder, Le Duc Nhan, Walter R. Stephen and Kerkhof. (57) (Siegfried Wenzel, another German, signed his contributions as Duc Viet, which means German-Vietnamese. (58)) They had become Viet moi, new Vietnamese. '[O]ver there, where I was going now, was my future, of that I was convinced,' Frey would write later, (59) while Schroder, looking back to 1945, stated: 'all three of us considered Vietnam as our future, in fact our present fatherland already'. (60)
Disillusions, Return Strategies
The leaders of the new Vietnam were overwhelmingly young intellectuals or professional revolutionaries. Most of them had come from the elitist Franco-Annamite secondary schools and were perfectly francophone, yet they were certainly not military strategists, technicians, economists or organizers of administrative apparatuses. Therefore, military and civilian crossovers, highly educated and with valuable skills, devoted to the cause and ready to sacrifice themselves for it, were of first-class importance, and at times they were moved into high positions.
In the mid-1940s, Borchers, Frey, Schroder and their fellow crossovers had been gladly, if not to say cheerfully welcomed by the Viet Minh in the persons of Truong Chinh, Pham Van Dong and Vo Nguyen Giap. They were useful for their propaganda, organizational, and technical and military capacities, both theoretical and practical. With the liberation of the Sino-Vietnamese border in 1950, however, everything changed. Chinese advisers arrived en masse, and with them the totalitarian-communist transformation of a hitherto popular-front movement got underway. The Chinese appeared in the guise of internationalist communist comrades. Crossovers, on the other hand, were 'foreigners', aliens, enemy deserters. The existential contradiction between the colonized and the white man meant that ultimately one could never trust the Europeans (61) (from Albert Memmi we know that the anti-colonial revolt turns racist and nationalist) because, from the Vietnamese point of view, they lived in disharmony with their own nation (if they were French) or, generally, as Europeans, they would never be able to overcome their Kulturkreis. In a meeting at the Central Committee on 15 August 1950, 'Than', Truong Chinh, told them they were 'ideologically insufficiently informed and ... chauvins', which Schroder interpreted as an Hinauswurf, or sacking. (62) By that time it had also become evident that the revolutionary enthusiasm of September 1945 that had united our crossovers had waned. Frey, Schroder, Borchers, Wachter and Ullrich had spent Christmas 1950 together, and this had revealed 'that not so much the same objective and the same activities, but a certain opposition had for some time held us together'. (63) It was for such reasons that very few Europeans remained in post-1954 Vietnam, prominently amongst them Borchers and the Frenchman Georges Boudarel, (64) both of whom were locally married and whose qualifications were still useful. Or was it that they were worried about losing face?
From 1947, Borchers had been chief editor of the papers Waffenbruder--Kampforgan der Deutschen im Dienste Viet-Nams and Freres d'armes--Organe de Combat des Amis du Viet-Nam. From about 1950, the Waffenbruder appeared under the title Heimkehr, appealing to (German) legionnaires to desert to the Viet Minh in order to return to Europe. After Dien Bien Phu, Borchers worked in the Ministry of Information in Hanoi. In the late 1950s he was Hanoi correspondent for the GDR's news agency (AND),65 and provided the GDR embassy with 'confidential' information. (66)
Chien Si is a legend even in today's Vietnam but legends, by their very nature, are cleansed of unpleasant realities so as to serve another cause. Georges Boudarel, who knew Borchers well, told me that Chien Si shared Boudarel's growing critique of the Party. In fact, Borchers was caught up in the revisionism struggle that ravaged Hanoi's political scene after 1956. (67) This surely contributed to his decision to return to Europe, which became more pressing after 1963. (68) The final cause was the first US bombing of Hanoi, which frightened him to death. He explained to his family that he could not envisage living through another war. From 1946 to 1954, he told them, he had lived through hunger, illness and dangers, but there had been an ideal, a community, and unconditional cohesion. Borchers would have preferred to return to Strasbourg, yet in France he was considered a deserter and traitor, and he feared court martial. (69) So in 1966, Borchers, his Vietnamese wife and six children left for the GDR where he worked in the African section of Radio Berlin International. Officially he was considered an anti-fascist and internationalist, yet in 1968 the Party took proceedings against him because he had expressed sympathy with Dubcek and the Spring of Prague. A (Stasi) IM report of August 1968 claimed that he frequently did not seem 'to understand the policies of our Party' and that he harboured 'misgivings about' the Party's 'fixed aims'. (70) In 1985, four years before his death, after having burnt his photos and papers, he crossed over to West Berlin and never returned.
The case of Ernst Frey impressively demonstrates the drama of the Zwischenfrontmensch: the man who exists between fronts. (71) Frey had also moved up into the ranks of the Viet Minh as one of the closest collaborators und military councillors of the commander-in-chief, Vo Nguyen Giap. As head of a military area, the Khu IX, which housed the centres of government and party, Frey had been a member of the enlarged Central Committee, and was the only officer who had access to Giap day and night. Exercising power was very much to his liking. Yet by 1949 even Frey was forced to recognise that he was not all that successful as a military strategist, and that he was less useful to the Viet Minh than he had been only a few years earlier. (72) He also felt desperate about terror and 'purification' in the party apparatus. Nevertheless, several ex-legionnaires who had joined the Viet Minh were executed on his orders (by his henchman Walter Ullrich, alias Ho Chi Long). (73) But Frey was a man with a redeemer complex. He would time and again, with the help of ever-changing strategies adapted to the moment, devote himself body and soul to an ideological project to change the world, which he saw as essentially evil. However, Frey did muster the courage to put himself into question when he recognized that what was once progressive had become retrograde. In Vietnam, at this crucial juncture, he was afflicted with a sense of guilt, considered himself to be in the grip of the devil, and was beset with the idea of redemption through conversion to Catholicism. He was a missionary, a millenarian, and even more: 'I see myself, like Jesus, delivering humanity from its diabolical oppressors ... I know, I see, I understand'. (74) His communist phase was definitely over.
When Frey saw that the Viet Minh no longer needed him, he went 'mad', having dreams and visions so as to have endorsed by celestial hint what rationally was too painful to accept. In this way, the problem of leaving Vietnam and returning 'home' could be solved simultaneously. I wonder whether the only possibility of returning 'credibly' consisted in appearing as someone other than he had been when cast off by Nazi Austria, that is, as an unshakable Catholic. On a different plane, conversion also allowed him to continue his life-long struggle for the liberation of the world from evil.
When Frey arrived in Vienna in 1951, he visited the Austrian communist party offices where he made a deposition about his exploits since 1938. He married, had two daughters and led the life of a travelling representative in textiles with his (Jewish) pre-war employers Bunzl and Biach, who had miraculously survived fascism. In Vienna he was surrounded by a younger generation who listened breathlessly to his stories and who still consider him a surrogate father and political model. But that was not all. His job required absences in Austria and Germany, which allowed him to break out of the life of the petit bourgeois and the story-teller. In fact, he gambled, visiting casinos like the one in Baden-Baden where, we can imagine, he experienced the unpredictable: the adventure and danger that had in reality left his life. In his final years, having lost his Catholic faith and joining the Greens (which he later denounced), he worked as a cook in the Catholic parish of his friend Father Faust to pay off his gambling debts. With the words 'And see to it that the book comes out' to his two daughters, he died in Vienna in 1994. (75)
Rudy Schroder was surely the most jeopardized and vulnerable--the man without a safety net. Knowledge of the absurd was his only certainty. In a letter from Hanoi to his wife in Paris in May 1946 he considered living with her in Vietnam. (76) When war broke out in December 1946, he became a lieutenant-colonel and was, at his request, sent to the front; on 9 April 1948, Giap, alias Van, sent him a note congratulating him on his success in action. (77) Then he was entrusted with propaganda towards the enemy, and after having served on the Lang Son front, he formed and was put in charge of the Detachement Tell which was comprised of European crossovers, a kind of Viet Minh foreign legion, so as to occupy the deserters. However, the detachment was insufficiently armed, inadequately clothed and undernourished, and its mission was never quite clear: demoralization soon set in. One witness of the events, the poet and painter Tran Duy, told me that former legionnaires from the detachment had become a menace to the local people, raping girls and women in the villages and killing peasants' buffaloes. (78) Some of the men were so desperate they tried to return to the French side. Schroder himself was convinced there was a mutiny. Instead of referring the case to the mobile martial court which dealt with such cases, he held a court martial and had six of the men executed on the spot although, as he admitted in his curriculum vitae of November 1951, 'this went beyond my powers as an officer of the Vietnamese People's Army'. (79) He was criticised by the party and demoted. This was the reason--or the pretext--for his falling out of favour with general Giap.
'Dismissed like an employee', he left Vietnam in August 1951 and arrived in the GDR in November where he taught German and History at a secondary school in Dresden. In 1953 he signed an engagement as a GI-informer for the Stasi secret service under the name of Alain; he was commissioned to report on 'representatives of the intelligentsia'--his colleagues and students, and on former legionnaires. (80)He was thus dealing with the heart of evil and through the seeming banality of his reports he contributed to a bureaucratically perfect surveillance, to the generalized climate of fear and mutual suspicion. Generally, in his reports, Schroder advanced a critique of the GDR regime, although here and there he excelled in sarcastic remarks on colleagues he disliked. These reports, then, reflect his growing impatience and despair with the conditions under which he lived, and by the end of the 1950s he had run into serious 'political difficulties', which led to the loss of his teaching position. Late in 1959 he and his young wife took the S-Bahn from East to West Berlin. His hope to work as a journalist floundered; he finally found a badly paid job as a French teacher at a private language institute near Frankfurt am Main. He died there, writing to his last day, lonely and dependent on alcohol, in January 1977.
Frey, Schroder and Borchers were torn from early familial, professional and national designs and thrown into a hostile and absurd world. In the Foreign Legion, the 'new community', 'the feeling of devotion, of comradeship, of gripping sensations' (81) (meant to ennoble war) only existed in the recruitment propaganda, and not in the daily reality of subordination, brutality and dullness. The Viet Minh revolution, on the other hand, would have appeared as a project of human progress to people thirsting for justice and political action, offering them a cause, a task and a home. They were prepared to subjugate their individuality to the concrete dream of a humane society only to finally realize that they had again fallen into the totalitarian trap, which demanded all and everything from them except individual difference. The freedom they had longed for turned out to be a tyranny. But then, they had themselves gaily and (not always) innocently contributed to the evolution of this authoritarian and totalitarian trap. However, 'I had lived in harmony with myself', one of them, speaking for all, would write years later, (82) maintaining his freedom in denouncing tyranny.
However hard they tried, they remained 'between the fronts'. Schroder, Frey and Borchers were militants and intellectuals. Being a militant and a soldier, though, was not so much a personal disposition as a result of the historical conjunctures. For all that, they accorded well with the Vietnamese-Confucian tradition of the 'literati warrior' as typified in Nguyen Trai (1380-1442) who decided against his duties as a son in favour of the fatherland, and who is venerated as a warrior and author of patriotic texts and poems. Just as their Vietnamese friends who had come from the colonial secondary schools did, they too temporarily championed a marxist millenarianism. In actual practice they lived in determined opposition to national-(social)ism because it had given them an existential fright. But since they recognized the all-powerful state as its procreator, disillusion with North Vietnamese socialism set in, as early as 1950. Reflection on it, in a spirit of critical solidarity, became George Boudarel's life-work (for which he paid clearly). The former general-secretary of the Vietnamese Association of Culture of the 1940s, Nguyen Dinh Thi, expressed it thus: Schroder and Boudarel 'had problems accepting the hierarchy of the party'. (83) When I asked Huong Muoi, who in the 1940s had cunningly lured them to the Viet Minh, why the dong chi moi, the new comrades, had left Vietnam, he gave me to understand that it had been necessary to sacrifice them for the sake of the cause, in a conflict between heart and reason in the political conjuncture of the period. One might say that they were sacrificed on the altar of history, depriving them once more of a fatherland.
After the manner of Bertolt Brecht, Schroder summarized the inescapable insight in a diary entry in February 1951:
If the man with the beard would say today: "The white towel which is hanging over there, is black"--then everybody will believe it; and the cadres will preach it as a gospel.--Such things also occur elsewhere. Goebbels has affirmed the most unbelievable things and found credence with the Germans who are clearly suited for collective self-hypnosis.--These people, though, go even further: they persuade themselves and assert that they had always believed the black towel to be white.--But this the Germans have not achieved. They knew that before national socialism things were different from what H[itler] and G[oebbels] affirmed. (84)
Once more, a world, another design of life, had gone to pieces.
(For a more extended version of the article published here, contact: (email@example.com>. See also Heinz Schutte's Zwischen den Fronten, Deutsche und osterreichische Uberlaufer zum Viet Minh 2nd edn, Berlin Logos Verlag, August 2007.)
(1.) I gratefully acknowledge a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft that allowed me to conduct extensive archival studies and interviews
in France, Germany, Austria and Vietnam in 2003 and 2004. For much help with this essay I am indebted to Nguyen The Anh, John Kleinen and Alison Caddick.
(2.) E. Honecker to Nguyen Van Huong, Praha, 20 February 1950, Bundesarchiv (BA): DY 24/3691.
(3.) Leo Zuckermann to Wilhelm Pieck, Berlin, 9 June 1950, BA: NY 4182/1269.
(4.) W. Ulbricht to Hermann Axen, 29 March 1951, BA: NY 4182/1269.
(5.) Secretary of State Mielke to Chief Inspector Gutsche, Berlin, 5 April 1951. Bundesbeauftragter fur die Unterlagen des Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemaligen Deutschen Demokratischen Republik (Stasi archives), (B St U): MfS-BdL/Dok. Nr. 003670.
(6.) Verwaltung Gross-Berlin, Abtlg. II, gez. Herbst, February 1957, Arbeitsrichtlinie, B St U: MfS S 1310/67, pag. 000015. The Vietnamese government had in fact agreed 'to allow the German soldiers who had been captured by the Vietnamese army or who had rallied to the Vietnamese people, the journey home'. Between March 1951 and the end of 1955, seven transports with a total of 761 men arrived in the GDR: BA: NY 4090/488.
(7.) BA: DY 24/3691.
(8.) This is probably the nickname of Huu Ngoc, alias Sergent Ngo, who, late in 1950, accompanied the first group of former legionnaires to China from where they took the train to Europe.
(9.) Diary, R. Schroder 6 July, 6 August and 23 December 1950. Private archive, Heinz Schutte--Fonds Maria Schroder (FMS).
(10.) E. Michels, Deutsche in der Fremdenlegion. Mythen und Realitaten, Paderborn, Ferdinand Schoningh, 1999, and: D. Michelers, Le Boudin. Deutsche Fremdenlegionare der Nachkriegszeit, Berlin, Steintor-Dependance,1990.
(11.) Michels, p. 160.
(12.) M. Boveri, Verrat im 20. Jahrhundert, I--Fur und gegen die Nation, Hamburg, Rowohlt, 1956, p. 9.
(13.) R. Aron, Preface, in A. Therive, Essai sur les Trahisons, Paris, Calman-Levy, 1951, p. ix.
(14.) Boveri, p. 141, see also p. 15.
(15.) In the anti-colonial revolt, '(t)he colonised becomes racist and xenophobic; he is a nationalist, not an internationalist', in M. Vaughan, 'Liminal' (a review of Albert Memmi, The Coloniser and the Colonised), London Review of Books, vol. 28, no. 6, p. 15.
(16.) P. Scholl-Latour, Der Tod im Reisfeld--Dreibig Jahre Krieg in Indochina, Munchen, WilhelmHeyne, 1988, p. 29. See also: C. John, Nothing to Lose, London, Cassell & Company, 1955, p. 184.
(17.) E. T. Jennings, Vichy in the Tropics, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2001, p. 29.
(18.) See Jennings. The Vichy regime's appeal to 'national revolution' under the slogan 'Work, Family, Fatherland' led, as emphasized by Nguyen The Anh, to anti-colonial reactions among Vietnamese intellectuals who 'began to study their own society and its past for the secrets of a Vichy-like "national revival" and mass action they hoped it might contain': Nguyen The Anh, 'The Formulation of the National Discourse in 1940-45 Vietnam', in Into the Maelstrom: Vietnam During the Fateful 1940s, Vien Viet-Hoc, Institute of Vietnamese Studies, Vietnam Cultural Series, no. 3, Westminster, Ca. VII-2005, p. 23.
(19.) D. G. Marr, Vietnam 1945. The Quest for Power. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1995, p. 401.
(20.) J.-L. Einaudi, Viet-Nam! La guerre d'Indochine (1945-1954), Paris, Le cherche midi editeur 2001, p. 133.
(21.) Michels, pp. l19, 164.
(22.) Schroder's contrary life of a political refugee is quite representative of the lives of those exiled intellectuals, artists, writers and political activists portrayed in the extensive yet little known literature ranging from Klaus Mann and Alfred Kantorowicz via Arthur Koestler to Soma Morgenstern and Gilbert Badia.
(23.) As related to the author by his friend Fritz Meyer in Paris in 2002.
(24.) For this, and some of the following: Lebenslauf des Schroder, Reiner, Josef, Rudy, Berlin, 9 November 1951, in BStU: Ddn. AIM 808/59, pag. 000058-000063.
(25.) Leo Spitzer to Raymond Aron, Cologne, 24 September 1933, in: Archives privees de Raymond Aron, boite 209, with the permission of Dominique Schnapper and Elisabeth Dutartre.
(26.) Hubert Schroder (the father of Rudy Schroder) to Raymond Aron. Koln, 16 November 1933, as in fn 33.
(27.) Klaus Brill to Max Horkheimer, New York. Paris, 31 March 1936, in M. Horkheimer, Gesammelte Schriften, Band 15: Briefwechsel 1913-1936, Frankfurt am Main, Fischer, 1995, p. 504.
(28.) Max Horkheimer to Raymond Aron, Paris. New York, 20 November 1936, in: Horkheimer, p. 729
(29.) Personal communication, Maria Schroder, 14 December 2002.
(30.) Lebenslauf, pag. 000059.
(31.) R. Schneider, Verhullter Tag, Koln, Bonner Buchgemeinde, 1962, p. 164.
(32.) Erwin Borchers' mother had been disinherited by her father on the grounds that she had married a Saupreube, that is, a 'filthy Prussian': oral communication, Lilo Ludwig, Erwin Borchers' sister, Berlin 28 June 2003.
(33.) Lebenslauf, Berlin, 14 May 1966, in BStU: MfS AP 14061/73, pag. 000008.
(34.) S. P. 554, 6 July 1940, in private archive, Heinz Schutte, Fonds Philippe Delaunay (FPD).
(35.) R. Schroder to Hilde Schroder, 23 September 1940, Bel-Abbes, 16 February 1941, and BelAbbes, 27 February 1941, FPD.
(36.) This included Austrians since Austria, ever since the Anschlub, no longer officially existed.
(37.) Michels, p. 136.
(38.) Letter from Schroder to his wife, 1 August 1941, in FPD.
(39.) From an untitled manuscript of 260 pages, in the following quoted as 'Manuscript': FMS, p. 58.
(40.) E. Gellner, Nationalism, London, Phoenix, 1997, p. 3.
(41.) He employs the concept with regard to his situation and his function in Vietnam, in Manuscript, p. 174.
(42.) Yet not only for intellectuals, as is shown, for example, by the case of Kubiak: 'Sometime, that eighteen year old Vietnamese soldier, for example, made a deep impression on him, who, when captured, cut his tongue in order not to give away his companions', in A. Fiedler, Im Lande der wilden Bananen, Leipzig, VEB F. A. Brockhaus, 1959, p. 168.
(43.) E. Frey, Vietnam, mon amour. Ein Wiener Jude im Dienst von Ho Chi Minh, ed. D. Sottopietra, Wien, Czernin, 2002, pp. 64 and 94. Frey had wanted to study technical chemistry.
(44.) Frey, pp. 118, 119, 121, 170.
(45.) Ferry Stern, Und ist es auch Wahnsinn, p. 655. This is Frey's original, 1216-page typed manuscript on which the heavily edited book version is based. Private archive, Heinz Schutte.
(46.) The contact had been mediated by Georges Wachter via Louis Caput, the secretary of the Socialist Federation of Tonkin. See Stern, pp. 692-726.
(47.) Borchers, Lebenslauf, pp. 000010/11
(48.) Personal communication, Muoi Huong, 14 October 2005, and Luu Van Loi, 2 October 2005 in Hanoi.
(49.) Stern, p. 704.
(50.) Schroder, Manuscript, p. 113.
(51.) Schroder, Manuscript, p. 117.
(52.) Schroder, Manuscript, p. 58.
(53.) Boveri, p. 111.
(54.) Walter Ullrich was to work in the army where, under the name of Ho Chi Long, he rose to the rank of lieutenant; Georg(es) Wachter, alias Wilton, alias Ho Chi Tho, who had completed an engineering qualification in Vienna before becoming a journalist, took over the re-organization of the weapons-producing workshops hidden in the bush.
(55.) Maria Schroder thinks he spoke his commentaries in English as she remembers his frequent 'And this is our daily commentary ...'
(56.) Frey, p. 206.
(57.) J. Doyon, Les Soldats Blancs de Ho Chi Minh, Paris, Fayard, 1973.
(58.) Wenzel, a textile worker, born 1920, had been in the Luftwaffe as a pilot and 'volunteered' for the Foreign Legion when a French prisoner of war. He arrived in Saigon on 28 January 1946 and crossed over to the Viet Minh three months later. He seems to have organized the first air defence system of the People's Army. In 1955 he was a cadre at Gia Lam airport and returned to the GDR a few years later. See his
Ly Lich, in BA: DO 1/ 8451; Ly Lich Can Bo, in: BA: DO 1/ 8448; letter Nguyen Duc Viet to (Le Duc) Nghan (sic), 1/6/1950, FMS.
(59.) Frey, p. 206.
(60.) Schroder, Manuscript, p. 60.
(61.) Personal communication, Huu Ngoc, Hanoi, 18 May 1999.
(62.) Diary, Schroder, entry 15 August 1950, FMS.
(63.) Letter from NEX (Borchers) to Kerkhof (Schroder), 28 February 1951, FMS.
(64.) G. Boudarel, Autobiographie, Paris, Editions Jacques Bertoin, 1991. See also, H. Schutte, 'Europaer in fremden Diensten: Uberlaufer zum Viet Minh', in D. Rothermund (ed.), Grenzgange, Festschrift zu Ehren von Wilfried Wagner, Hamburg, Abera, 2004.
(65.) Letter, Borchers to Schroder, from Hanoi, 20 October 1957, FMS.
(66.) For example, on the envisaged conference of the Lao Dong party: MfAA/A 8679, fiche 4, 30/9/1958. As follows from a letter from the GDR embassy in Hanoi to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Berlin of 5 January 1962, Chien Si was then 'Mitarbeiter', that is, literally 'collaborator' of AND-correspondent Pommerening. He had lost his position as head of the office: MfAA/A 8659, fiche 1, pag. 095.
(67.) Huu Ngoc confirmed that both Borchers and Boudarel were proscribed as revisionists: personal communication, Hanoi, 24 October 2002. See also Borchers' 'Lebenslauf', pp. 000012/000013 where he mentioned 'the fanatically pro-Chinese attitude of the overwhelming majority of the comrades in my party cell' where he was considered the correspondent of the press agency of a "revisionist" country ...'
(68.) Erwin Borchers' letters from Hanoi to his sister, Lilo Ludwig, in Berlin, are telling documents. For example, his letter of 30 June 1963, which Frau Ludwig generously made available to me.
(69.) Personal communication, Claudia Borchers, 26 June 2003 and 7 January 2002.
(70.) B St U: MfS FV 2/71, pag. 000011.
(71.) Boveri, pp. 33-5.
(72.) His close association with General Nguyen Son may have contributed to the deterioration of his relationship with General Giap.
(73.) Two crossover legionnaires disappointed with life with the Viet Minh, who toyed with the idea of escape and were suspected of spying for the French and were therefore considered a security risk, were executed by Walter Ullrich on Frey's orders.
(74.) P. Sergent, Un Etrange Monsieur Frey, Paris, Fayard, 1982, pp. 305, 309.
(75.) Personal communication, Irma Schwarz, Silvia Machto-Frey and Herbert Timmermann, Vienna, February 2002.
(76.) This letter is written on paper with the Ministry of the Interior (Bo Noi Vu) letterhead and dated '29 mai 1945', which is clearly a mistake--it must have been 1946. From the context it becomes evident that the letter was to be carried to Hilde in Paris by a certain Hoan: FPD.
(77.) 'J'apprends avec joie ton retour. Et avec beaucoup de plaisir le joli coup de main que tu as dirige contre les Tho Phi ... Cordialement ton Van': FMS.
(78.) Personal communication, Tran Duy, Hanoi, 18 October 2002 and 22 October 2004.
(79.) Lebenslauf, pag. 000062. The Stasi files contain various depositions from former legionnaires that seriously incriminate Schroder. In one of his tiny diaries, he noted that 'there was no "panic" in the Det(achment) "T" after the punishment' and, the next day: 'From 7 to 4 o'cl. p.m.--worked on my "defense" and letter to C.C.': Entries 11 and 12, June 1949.
(80.) B St U: Ddn AIM 808/59: Personalakte.
(81.) Boveri, I, p. 35.
(82.) Rudolf Schroder, In partibus infidelium, unpublished manuscript, p. 15, FMS.
(83.) Personal communication in Hanoi, 21 October 2002.
(84.) Diary entry, 25 February 1951, FMS.
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