Stalin’s Jewish Ears – A Smoking Gun?
Was Stalin Jewish? Hitler had suspicions – and theories, one of which was that Jews had, well, Jewish ears. To see for himself, the German leader ordered a headshot of his Soviet counterpart.
For Hitler, the question of Stalin’s racial background was crucially important because Germany and the Soviet Union were allies at the time. The Soviet and German foreign ministers, Molotov and Ribbentrop, signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact in Moscow on 23 August 1939, a week before the Nazis invaded Poland. The pact fizzled out on 22 June 1941, with the Nazi sneak attack on the Soviet Union.
Photographic opportunity presented itself when German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop flew to Moscow to sign the Nazi–Soviet Pact. Hitler’s photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, went along for the ride – and to take photos emphasizing Stalin’s earlobes.
What did Jewish earlobes look like? According to Hitler, they would be ingrown, not separated. And it would be easier for Hoffmann to get a good likeness of Uncle Joe’s ears than to spy on him in the toilet or shower for Jewish anatomical features.
In the event, the Soviet dictator, who had been a seminary student in Georgia in his youth, was goyish according to the photographic evidence.
Hitler’s Puff Pieces
But the many photos that Hoffmann brought back with him revealed a different problem. Stalin was a chainsmoker, and the snaps invariably depicted him cheerfully puffing away.
Hitler wanted to depict Stalin as a dignified figure in publicity photographs, and he believed that smoking would show the Soviet leader in less than flattering light.
Hoffmann, using darkroom techniques, removed the offending evidence from the photographs – a fact he omits in his book Hitler was my Friend.
In Hitler and Stalin, historian Alan Bullock notes that “He [Hitler] believed these would show whether Stalin had Jewish blood – whether the earlobes were ‘ingrown and Jewish, or separate and Arian’. He was relieved to see that Stalin passed the test and was not a Jew.”