Victor Grossman

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Victor Grossman
Victor Grossman Gedenkfeier Buchenwald.jpg
Grossman visiting Buchenwald, 2013
Born Stephen Wechsler
(1928-03-11)March 11, 1928
New York City
Occupation writer

Victor Grossman(March 11, 1928– ) is an American publicist and author who defected to the Soviet Union in 1952, and is now living in Germany.

Early life[edit]

Stephen Wechsler was born in New York City, but reluctantly changed his name to Victor Grossman after defection to East Germany in order to shield his family members in the US. When a youth, his family often summered in Free Acres, New Jersey, which was created in 1910 as a social experiment by Bolton Hall, an Irish-born New York entrepreneur, reformer and follower of Leo Tolstoy.[1]

[At Free Acres] they talked politics with me as if I were an adult. When I was eight [I was asked who was the best candidate in the upcoming 1936 Presidential election]. Maybe Roosevelt, I answered. They responded: why not Earl Browder? [I responded] "I'm really for the Communists, too, ... but maybe we should back FDR so Landon doesn't win." "You mean back a man who helped big business weather the Depression and who pushed through the AAA, so hogs are slaughtered, wheat burned, and milk poured into the river to raise prices high while people go hungry?" "But wouldn't Landon be worse?" "If people always choose the lessor of two evils, evil will always be with us"

Victor Grossman. Crossing the River, p.14


In 1952, while serving as a U.S. soldier in Austria, Grossman swam the Danube River and became one of a handful of soldiers from the NATO nations who defected to the Soviets. Grossman later stated he defected because he feared prosecution by U.S. authorities for not declaring his membership in left-wing political organizations prior to his entering the army.[2]

Following assessment by Soviet authorities, Grossman was sent to East Germany, where he continued his studies in journalism at Karl Marx University. Before his war service, Grossman had graduated from Harvard University.[3]

While in East Germany, Grossman was a good friend of his fellow US exile, the singer and actor Dean Reed. He earned his living as a journalist and as a translator.

In 1994 the US Army dropped charges of desertion against him. Grossman reclaimed his US passport, traveled to America several times, including a book tour to promote his memoir Crossing the River: A Memoir of the American Left, the Cold War, and Life in East Germany, published in 2003 (ISBN 1558493859). Grossman is a frequent contributor to the Marxist magazine Monthly Review.

Selected works[edit]

  • Nilpferd und Storch. Kinderbuchverlag Berlin, Berlin, 1965
  • Von Manhattan bis Kalifornien. Aus der Geschichte der USA. Kinderbuchverlag, Berlin 1974
  • Per Anhalter durch die USA. Berlin 1976
  • Der Weg über die Grenze. Verlag Neues Leben, Berlin, 1985
  • If I Had a Song – Lieder und Sänger der USA. Lied der Zeit, Berlin, 1988, ISBN 3-7332-0023-3
  • Crossing the River. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, Boston, 2003, ISBN 1-55849-385-9 (Autobiogr.)
  • Madrid, du Wunderbare. Ein Amerikaner blättert in der Geschichte des Spanienkrieges. GNN-Verlag, Schkeuditz, 2006, ISBN 978-3-89819-235-4
  • Ein Ami blickt auf die DDR zurück, Spotless, Berlin, 2011, ISBN 978-3-360-02039-0
  • Rebel Girls: 34 amerikanische Frauen im Porträt, Papyrossa, 2012, ISBN 9783894385019