German historian recounts Stalin's symbolic artistic gift to Hitler

Historians in the News

In November 1940, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov arrived in the German capital Berlin to pick up from where he had left off just over a year earlier with his German colleague Joachim von Ribbentrop....

The renowned German historian Werner Maser says that the luggage included one historically significant object: a personal gift from Stalin to Hitler.

It was a painting by an unknown Russian artist taken from the collections of the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad.

The subject of the painting was linked with the legend of the Book of Tobit from the Apocrypha.

As the legend was known both in the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, Stalin, a former student at an Orthodox seminary, imagined that it might have been familiar to Hitler, who once was a choirboy and who was interested in art. After all, the subject matter had been a source of inspiration for certain well-known artists in previous centuries.

The painting depicted a devout Jewish family that had previously lived in exile in Assyria.

Tobit, the father of the family, had gone blind in exile and lost part of the use of his hands.

Coming to his aid was the family’s son Tobiah, who had been told by the angel Raphael to use the gall of a fish on the eyes, which would restore his father’s sight and the full use of his hands....

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