Hotel Lux (Люксъ) was a hotel in Moscow that, during the early years of the Soviet Union, housed many leading exiled Communists. During the Nazi era, exiles from all over Europe went there, particularly from Germany. A number of them became leading figures in German politics in the postwar era. Initial reports of the hotel were very good, although its problem with rats was mentioned as early as 1921. Communists from more than 50 countries came for congresses and for training or to work. By the 1930s, Joseph Stalin had come to regard the international character of the hotel with suspicion and its occupants as potential spies. His purges created an atmosphere of fear among the occupants, who were faced with mistrust, denunciations, and nightly arrests. The purges at the hotel peaked between 1936 and 1938. Germans who fled Hitler for safety in the Soviet Union found themselves interrogated, arrested, tortured, and sent to forced labor camps. Most of the 178 leading German communists who were killed in Stalin's purges were residents of Hotel Lux.
Originally named Hotel Frantsiya, the hotel was built as a luxury hotel in 1911 by the son of Ivan Filippov, a well-known Moscow baker, whose baked goods were delivered widely, even to the tsar's residence. Located at Tverskaya Street 36, it had four stories and housed the Filippov Café. The hotel was taken over by the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution and renamed Люксъ, i.e. Hotel de luxe. It came to be used by the Communist International (Comintern) as lodging for communist revolutionaries from other countries. Guests were lodged according to hierarchy, more important individuals received better rooms. Some rooms were also used for meetings.
In June and July 1921, 600 delegates who came to the Third World Congress of the Communist International from 52 countries were housed at Hotel Lux. With the sudden influx of so many international revolutionaries, the hotel began to be known as the "headquarters of the world revolution". Germany alone sent 41 delegates. The Hamburg Uprising was discussed at the hotel, both before and after the events. After the Comintern was founded, many of the Party's leading functionaries lived at the hotel, including Ernst Reuter and the hotel became the best known of the Comintern's buildings, although its offices were elsewhere.
1933 through World War II
In 1933, two stories were added, giving the hotel 300 rooms. The address, meanwhile, was changed to Gorky Street 10. 1933 was also the year Adolf Hitler gained power with the Machtergreifung and soon began to arrest and imprison his political opponents, arresting communists and socialists by the thousands. German communists began to flee to the Soviet Union and the Hotel Lux began to fill with German exiles.
In addition to party functionaries, there were advisors, translators and writers who came with their families. Employees were brought to the Comintern Central Committee's offices by bus. The hotel became overcrowded and conditions were difficult. The hotel was continually plagued by rats; the earliest reports of them were in 1921. There was hot water only twice a week, forcing people to shower in groups, as many as four people at a time. Communal kitchens for the use of residents cooked food next to boiling pots of diapers being sterilized. In spite of the conditions, initially, there was camaraderie among the residents. Children played in the halls and attended a German-language school, the Karl Liebknecht School, set up for the children of exiles.
In 1934, after the murder of Sergei Kirov, Joseph Stalin began a campaign of political repression and persecution to cleanse the Party of "enemies of the people". Stalin viewed the foreign occupants of Hotel Lux as potential spies, or as a Moscow newspaper assumed of Germans (and Japanese) in 1937, they were working actively on behalf of their own country. By 1936, his Great Purge began to include the hotel's residents. The hotel then gained a second name, that of "the golden cage of the Comintern" because many would like to have left, but could not while being investigated. Between 1936 and 1938, many residents of the hotel were arrested and interrogated by the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs). Suspicion and betrayal created an atmosphere of fear. Arrests came in the middle of the night, so that some residents slept in their clothes, others paced the floor, or played games of concentration to mask the stress.
An investigation or arrest was prompted more by the atmosphere of terror than by charges of wrongdoing, which were often baseless. Walter Laqueur later wrote of the period, "There was no rhyme or reason as to who was arrested and who was not, the security organs were given a plan to fulfill, a certain number of people were to be arrested in a certain region, and from this stage on it was more or less a matter of accident at whose door the NKVD (the secret police) emissaries would knock in the early hours of the morning." The procedure was for the NKVD to knock, the accused was told to pack a small suitcase with a few things, get dressed and wait outside the door to be picked up and taken away. Then the NKVD returned to collect the accused and seal the door. One night, the NKVD knocked on the Langs' door and Franz Lang was told to get ready. Dutifully waiting outside his door to be picked up, the security police returned. "What are you doing standing around out here?", asked the NKVD. Lang replied that he'd been ordered to do so. "What's your room number?", asked the security officer. "Number 13." "We're only taking away the even numbers tonight!" Astonished, Lang went back to bed. Nor did the NKVD ever knock on his door again.
In the morning, the doors of those arrested were sealed;[note 1] the wives and children had to move to other quarters and were ostracized as "enemies of the state".[note 2] The children of parents under investigation were placed in orphanages, where some died from illness and others rejected both their parents and their own German identity. Some of the adults arrested were sent to a gulag or were executed. Those who came back were regarded with suspicion, as was the case with Herbert Wehner, who was taken away and returned twice. Such people were assumed to have betrayed others under torture or to save themselves. In Wehner's case, that was what happened.
By 1938, in order to get upstairs in the hotel, a propusk was needed, a document that said one was authorized to get past the armed guard, standing in front of the elegant Art Nouveau elevator. Even high-level members of the Comintern could not get past the guard without a propusk.
The atmosphere affected the children. Rolf Schälike, who was a child at Hotel Lux, later wrote, "I grew up in Moscow, in the center of power, and state and non-state criminality, Gorky Street, Hotel Lux. It was the years 1938–1946. Around us too, there was juvenile violence. We played 'partisan and German fascists' in our Hotel Lux, and one kid in our group was hanged—for fun. He couldn't be revived again. There were frequent battles with iron bands with the kids from the neighboring building."
Of the 1400 leading German communists, a total of 178 were killed in Stalin's purges, nearly all of them residents of Hotel Lux. By comparison, the Nazis killed 222 of those 1400 leading German communists. Within the top leadership itself, there were 59 Politburo members between 1918 and 1945, six of whom were killed by Nazis and seven by the Stalinist purges. The saying among the German communists was, "What the Gestapo left of the Communist Party of Germany, the NKWD picked up." When Leon Trotsky was killed in August 1940, the purges at Hotel Lux stopped, bringing a brief respite to the exiles.
Evacuation and return
Ten months later, in June 1941, Operation Barbarossa began, Nazi Germany's assault on the Soviet Union. In 1941, the hotel was evacuated. The first residents returned in February 1942. At the end of World War II, the Ulbricht Group left Hotel Lux for the airport to return to Germany on April 30, 1945 to become the new leaders of the German Democratic Republic. The purpose of the trip and whether or not the assignment was temporary or a permanent return to Germany was not known to the whole group until they arrived in Berlin. The youngest of the group was 24-year-old Wolfgang Leonhard.[note 3]
The last political residents left the hotel in 1954, either willingly or by eviction, and the hotel returned to normal, operating under the name "Hotel Zentralnaya".
After the collapse of communism, the hotel housed offices, small travel agencies, liquidation companies and other small businesses on the lower floors, the upper floors remained hotel rooms.
The building, still called Hotel Zentralnaya, was bought by the holding company Unikor in 2007. Unikor and its majority shareholder, Boris Ivanishvili bought the hotel to renovate it and re-open it as a luxury hotel. There were mostly offices in the building at the time of its sale. The Mandarin Oriental Moscow, a luxury hotel, is being built on the site, behind a restored version of the historic facade, the original building having since been largely demolished. The street name has been restored to Tverskaya; the building remains number 10.
Numerous guests and residents of Hotel Lux have written about the hotel, initially in reports and articles, later in books and memoirs. Early reports from before the purges were often positive, though mentions of rats appear from the beginning. Accommodations were described in favorable terms and the atmosphere as full of camaraderie.
In East Germany in the 1950s and 1960s, the Socialist Unity Party commissioned memoirs (Erinnerungsberichte) from former exiles who had lived there. These were carefully written official reports that sanitized and supported the official version of events. Franziska Reubens, who lived there with her husband and children, wrote in guarded language, "It is not easy to write about the memories from that time, to write about them honestly." Other people turned away from the Communist Party, some as a result of their exile in the Soviet Union, and wrote more bluntly and critically about the hotel, such as Ruth von Mayenburg, who in one passage, used cannibalism as a metaphor to describe the period. In 1978, von Mayenburg published the first history ever written about Hotel Lux.
Notable residents from 1921–1954
- Toivo Antikainen
- Johannes R. Becher
- Bolesław Bierut
- Willi Bredel
- Georgi Dimitrov
- Hugo Eberlein
- Zhou Enlai
- Ernst Fischer
- Ruth Fischer, was expelled from the Communist Party of Germany and held under house arrest for 10 months
- Klement Gottwald
- Antonio Gramsci
- Antonio Graziadei
- Julius Hay
- Jules Humbert-Droz
- Lotte Kühn, 1935
- Aino Kuusinen
- Otto Ville Kuusinen
- Wolfgang Leonhard
- Ruth von Mayenburg, Communist Party of Austria
- Ho Chi Minh
- Imre Nagy
- Margarete Buber-Neumann, returned to Germany in 1940 under the Nazi-Soviet Pact
- Heinz Neumann, executed in 1937 in the Great Purge
- Wilhelm Pieck
- Theodor Plivier
- Karl Retzlaw
- Ernst Reuter
- Kang Sheng
- Rudolf Slánský
- Richard Sorge
- Ernst Thälmann
- Josip Broz Tito
- Palmiro Togliatti
- Walter Ulbricht, 1935
- Gustav von Wangenheim
- Herbert Wehner, 1937 to early 1941
- Erich Weinert
- Markus Wolf
- Clara Zetkin
- Hedda Zinner
- Herbert Wehner – Die unerzählte Geschichte (2) Hotel Lux, Heinrich Breloer, documentary. Germany (1993) (German)
- Hotel Lux, written and directed by Leander Haußmann. With Michael Herbig. Germany (2011) (German)
- Hitler Youth Conspiracy, NKVD case pursued in 1938 (later found to be baseless), resulting in some 70 arrests, 40 executions
- Bert Hoppe, Zimmerservice für die Revolution. Ein Besuch im Moskauer Hotel Lux, das bald zugrunde saniert wird Süddeutsche Zeitung, (October 26, 2007) (German)
- Ruth von Mayenburg, Hotel Lux. Mit Dimitroff, Ernst Fischer, Ho Tschi Minh, Pieck, Rakosi, Slansky, Dr. Sorge, Tito, Togliatti, Tschou En-lai, Ulbricht und Wehner im Moskauer Quartier der Kommunistischen Internationale. Bertelsmann Verlag. Munich (1978) (German)
- Ruth von Mayenburg, Hotel Lux. Das Absteigequartier der Weltrevolution. 1979. ISBN 3-492-11355-9 Piper Verlag GmbH (1991) (German)
- Ruth von Mayenburg, Hotel Lux – die Menschenfalle. Elisabeth Sandmann Verlag GmbH (2011) ISBN 3-938045-60-4 (German)
- Reinhard Müller, Herbert Wehner – Moskau 1937 Hamburger Edition, 2004, ISBN 3-930908-82-4 (German)
- Reinhard Müller, Menschenfalle Moskau. Exil und stalinistische Verfolgung. Hamburger Edition, Hamburg (2001) ISBN 3-930908-71-9 (German)
- Waltraut Schälike, Ich wollte keine Deutsche sein. Berlin-Wedding – Hotel Lux Dietz Verlag (2006) (German)
- Arkadi Vaksberg, Hôtel Lux. Les Partis frères au service de l'Internationale communiste. Fayard (1993) ISBN 2-213-03151-7 (French)
- Hermann Weber, Hotel Lux – Die deutsche kommunistische Emigration in Moskau (PDF) Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung No. 443 (October 2006). Retrieved November 12, 2011 (German)
- Herbert Wehner: Zeugnis – Persönliche Notizen 1929–1942. Bastei-Lübbe (1982) ISBN 3-404-65064-6 (German)
- Years later, Margarete Buber-Neumann wrote of the nights that grew ever more painful and of discreetly looking for sealed doors the next morning. Her husband, Heinz Neumann was one of the leaders of the Communist Party of Germany from 1929 to 1932, but in 1937, was arrested at Hotel Lux by the NKVD and was later executed. In 1938, she was also arrested and in 1940, was returned to Germany, where she spent the rest of the war in Ravensbrück concentration camp.
- Women were also taken away and even children.
- Leonhard's mother, Susanne Leonhard, was one of the founders of the KPD. She was arrested October 26, 1936 and spent 12 years in the Gulag. Wolfgang Leonhard attended Landschulheim Herrlingen for the 1932–1933 school year, then a boarding school in Stockholm. His mother came to visit in 1935, but couldn't remain in Sweden or return to Germany, so they fled to the Soviet Union, where he then attended the Karl Liebknecht School, a German-language school in Moscow for the children of exiles, living at a home for those children from September 1936 to 1939. After Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, he was evacuated with other Germans. He returned to Moscow in 1942 at the age of 21 and was trained at the Comintern school before becoming employed by the National Committee for a Free Germany.
- Peter Dittmar, "Der steinerne Zeuge des stalinistischen Terrors" Die Welt (October 30, 2007). Retrieved November 11, 2011 (German)
- "Legendary reporter" This is Russia (September 20, 2011). Retrieved November 12, 2011
- Johannes Voswinkel, "Frühstück mit Genossen" Die Zeit (March 19, 2008). Retrieved November 14, 2011 (German)
- Alexander Cammann, "Müde Kalauer im roten Bunker" Die Zeit (October 23, 2011). Retrieved November 13, 2011 (German)
- Weber (October 2006), p. 56
- Weber (October 2006), p. 59
- Weber (October 2006), p. 57
- Weber (October 2006), p. 58
- „Emigranten: Hotel Lux“ Geo Epoche, No. 38 (August 2009). Retrieved November 12, 2011 (German)
- Walter Laqueur, Generation Exodus: The Fate of Young Jewish Refugees from Nazi Germany Tauris Parke Paperbacks (2004), pp. 168–169 ISBN 1-86064-885-1. Originally published in 2000 as Geboren in Deutschland: Der Exodus der jüdischen Jugend nach 1933. Retrieved November 14, 2011
- "Nachts kamen Stalins Häscher" Der Spiegel (October 16, 1978), p. 102. Note: The html file is an OCR scan of a bad photocopy and has many typos. There is a link at the URL to a PDF version, but it's not much easier to read. Retrieved November 15, 2011 (German)
- Walter Laqueur, Generation Exodus (2004), p. 167
- Chris Johnstone, "Rudolf Slánský: architect of Communist takeover and purge victim" Radio Praha (July 8, 2009). Retrieved November 13, 2011
- Walter Laqueur, Generation Exodus Brandeis University Press (2001), p. 171. Retrieved November 26, 2011
- "Nachts kamen Stalins Häscher", p. 105
- Weber (October 2006), p. 60
- Manfred Menzel, Brochure about Orli Wald (PDF) Hannover Municipal Archive. Retrieved July 14, 2011 (German)
- Atina Grossmann, "German Communism and New Women" in: Helmut Gruber and Pamela M. Graves (eds.) Women and Socialism, Socialism and Women: Europe Between the Two World Wars (1998), pp. 159–160. Berghahn Books. ISBN 1-57181-152-4 Retrieved November 13, 2011
- "Nachts kamen Stalins Häscher", p. 98
- "Nachts kamen Stalins Häscher", p. 106
- Stefan Aust and Frank Schirrmacher, Du gehst in das Institut Nummer 99 Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (May 14, 2005). Retrieved November 14, 2011 (German)
- Arthur Lee Smith, The War for the German Mind: Re-educating Hitler's Soldiers Berghahn Books (1996), p. 120. Retrieved November 14, 2011
- Weber (October 2006), p. 61
- Hermann and Gerda Weber, Leben nach dem "Prinzip links" Ch. Links. (2006), pp. 129–131 ISBN 3-86153-405-3. Retrieved November 14, 2011 (German)
-  Mandarin Oriental (July 23, 2008). Retrieved March 15, 2012
- "Köstliche Entdeckung" Der Spiegel (November 3, 1969). Retrieved November 14, 2011 (German)
- "Nachts kamen Stalins Häscher", p. 94
- Germino, Dante. Antonio Gramsci: Architect of a New Politics. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990. p. 134
- "Nachts kamen Stalins Häscher", p. 100
- Wolfgang Leonhard, Child of the Revolution (1979)
- Jean Michel Palmier, Weimar in Exile: The Antifascist Emigration in Europe and America Editions Payot (1987), Translated by David Fernbach. Verso (2006). ISBN 1-84467-068-6. Retrieved December 15, 2011
- Visit to Hotel Lux (Video) Soviet Memories. (Italian)
- "Document 20: Cadres Department memorandum on "Trotskyists and other hostile elements in the emigre community of the German CP" Yale University. (Translated from the original Russian.) Memo labeled "Top Secret" sent to Georgi Dimitrov, Dmitry Manuilsky and Mikhail Trilisser-Moskvin from Moisei Borisovich Chernomordik, Cadres Department (1936). Retrieved December 7, 2011