Leon Trotzky, exiled Bolshevist leader, who is now living in Turkey, received no Jewish religious training from his parents in his early youth, his autobiography, which has just been published, shows. In this book, called “My Life,” and published in German by the Fischer house, Trotzky, speaking of his early youth, says among other things:
“A religious spirit did not exist in my family. In the beginning appearances were still kept up: on high holidays my parents would ride to the synagogue of the colony, on Saturdays my mother would not sew, at least not publicly. But even these few religious rituals were abandoned after a few years with the growth of the children and the prosperity of the family. My father, who was a tenant farmer, stopped believing in God in his early youth, and in his later years he spoke openly about his non-belief with mother and the children. Mother preferred not to discuss the question, and on proper occasions she would even raise her eyes to heaven.
“When I was seven or eight the belief in God was still the proper thing in my home. Once a guest came to visit my parents, and my parents, as is usual, wanted to show me off before the guest as a clever child. ‘And what is God?’ I was asked among other things. ‘God,’ I answered without hesitation, ‘is a certain man.’ The guest shook his head: ‘No, God is no person’.”
As to the religious education of his eldest son, Ljowa, who began his schooling in Vienna in 1913, Trotzky relates:
“When Ljowa began to go to school the question of his religious education came up. According to the Austrian law of that time, children up to 14 years had to be instructed in the religion of their parents. Since in our documents we indicated no religion, we chose for our children the Protestant religious training, since that religion seemed to us the easiest for the child’s shoulders and soul to carry. A woman teacher taught Lutheranism outside of school hours, but in the school building. Ljowa liked this instruction, one could see that on his face, but as for talking about it in the home, he regarded it as superfluous. One night, when he was already in bed, I heard him murmuring something. When I questioned him, he answered: ‘This is a prayer; do you know, there are some very beautiful prayers, like poems’.”
Immediately after the Bolsheviks came into power in Russia, an interesting conversation about Trotzky’s Jewishness took place between him and Lenin. Trotzky relates it thus:
“On November 7th came the victory. Like a surgeon after finishing a difficult and dangerous operation, I wanted to wash my hands, take off my white apron and rest. But Lenin demanded that I put myself at the head of internal affairs: the fight with the counter-revolution was the main task now. I resisted, and among other arguments I brought up the race question: ‘Does it pay to put into the hands of our enemies another such weapon as my Judaism?’ I asked. Lenin was indignant: ‘We have a great international revolution. What significance can such labels have?’ A half-facetious dialogue ensued between us: ‘The revolution is certainly great, but there are still plenty of asses left in this world,’ I said. ‘Yes, but must we accommodate ourselves to the asses?’ asked Lenin. ‘Not accommodate ourselves, but a small concession to stupidity must be made: why must we create an unnecessary complication right from the beginning?’ I answered.”