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book (design) story #22

leo trotzki:
stalins verbrechen

jean christophe-verlag, zürich, 1937
printer: unionsdruckerei bern
size: 22 x 14 cm
designer: richard paul lohse (attributed)

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almost simultaneously with the previous book, the same zürich company published trotsky's famous accusation of stalin. leon trotsky (1879-1940) wrote the book after he had to leave norway and went to mexico. trotsky's forword is dated 7 july 1937. according to the impressum the book was translated by alexandra pfemfert-ramm (1883-1963), the wife of franz pfemfert who published the magazine "die aktion". in mexico, leon trotsky was safe for only three more years: he died after one of stalin's agents managed to enter his room and attack him with an icepick.

we don't know for sure who designed the dustjacket and cover of this first german edition, there are no credits. but the raw linen cover with its asymmetric title in a narrow sans-serif, and the dark grey photographic jacket with white, semi-bold akzidenz-grotesk text are very similar in style to richard paul lohse's (1902-1988) design for citrine's "wahrheitssuche in russland" (story 21). interestingly, citrine's book is advertised on the rear flap of the trotzki dustjacket - although its impressum actually shows a (later) publication date of 1938. both books were printed by the same company.

there are a few more hints for lohse's authorship: the photographed handwriting shows similarities to his own (a comparison by a professional graphologist would maybe clarify this). and like in his jacket for "rosa luxemburg" (story 13 ) there is a subtle use of the symbolic diagonal: although the script shows an upwards angle, the word "ver-/brechen" (crime) has got a downwards pointing flourish at its end.

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lohse did not always sign his book designs. and especially in the case of this provocative anti-stalin book it would be more than understandable if he had decided to stay incognito. at that time, stalin's so-called "purges" reached a peak, and many (alleged) trotskyites were hunted down and murdered by the nkvd, stalin's infamous secret police - even in switzerland: on 4th september of that same year, ignace reiss poretsky (1899-1937), a communist functionary who publicly broke with stalin to join trotsky, was gunned down by nkvd agents near lausanne. we know today that richard paul lohse had been part of reiss's secret contact network (see peter huber's book "stalins schatten in die schweiz", isbn 3905311291).

in a way, this dust jacket can be seen as a sequel to the citrine: after the "search" the truth about the soviet system has been found - the photo suggests that "stalin's crimes" are now an accepted fact, and chalked across the blackboards of schools.

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