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“Pain is more powerful than death”: Who is Lev Nussimbaum?

Pain is more powerful than life, more powerful than death, love, loyalty, and duty” wrote Lev Nussimbaum before he died in acute pain in the retreat village of Positano by the shore around Naples in 1942.

Lev Nussimbaum, (he signed his books and articles by Essad Bey in the first 8 years or Kurban Said in the last 4 years of his life), arrived from Vienna to Italy in full health at the age of 31, fleeing Nazi Germany that occupied Austria.  He was trying to obtain the rights to becoming Mussolini biographer.

Before 1938, Mussolini politics were against Hitler and the anti-semite or Aryan Nazi policies.  Lev ( a Jew by origin) was dropped from the writers syndicate in Germany, and his author’s rights from selling his already published 10 books were denied him.

He married for convenience sake a German baroness and signed Kurban Said so that he may receive money through his wife from different accounts in Europe.

By 1938, Mussolini sided with Hitler; it seems that Mussolini understood that Germany will not leave its southern front (Italy) unprotected by all means.  Thus, Italy started leisurely to tighten the grip on Jews.

Lev was suffering from Reynaud’s syndrome by 1940; it is a blood infection that asphyxiate the cells and your body witnesses internal gangrene.  Lev was amputated several times and he relied on morphine and hashish to secure short reprieves from pain.

Imagine you were born at the turn of the 20th century (say 1905) and had to witness genocides and two world wars before you reach the age of 30.

You experienced genocides against Armenians in Baku (Azerbaijan) and you had to flee persecutions with your father (since your mother committed suicide when you were only 9 years old) and you were kept on the run from Baku, to Turkmenistan, to Persia, to Georgia, to Constantinople, to Italy, Paris, Germany, and back to Italy.

Imagine that “revolutionary” gangs kidnapped people in your city for ransoms and that you had to be confined in your home for years.

Imagine that you witnessed the “Red Bolsheviks” invade your country and commit mass massacres.  You see the old world of lasting empires, monarchies, kingdoms, and dynasties falling apart and you have to get used to a new world of “barbaric” youth who are trying to live in a different changing culture, tradition, and set of values.

Trying to comprehend a world of totalitarian regimes, racial ideologies blatantly discriminating among race and religions, regimes intent on restricting freedom of opinions that you were used to and you have to juggle amid this world of upheaval while barely 20 of age.

Imagine you are mentally more mature than normal kids, that you could read in three languages and devoured all the novels in your rich library about the Orient of Sultans, Princes, and Khans, that you built an imaginary world of fast and pomp and luxury.

Imagine that you appreciated luxury and lived in luxury (your father is an oil baron in Baku and money is redundant) and then you are reduced to a life of poverty.

Imagine that you believed deep down that Islam and the Islamic world (for example, the Ottoman Empire) is the alternative political and social system to Bolshevism and racial segregation; that you converted to Islam and took the name of Essad Bey.

Suppose you could assimilate the culture of your environment and play the roles you desire; that you attended university courses in Orientalism (the history, literature, geography) of Islam and Central Asia nations (Ottoman, Mogul, Tatar, Persia) while still a high school kid.

Imagine that you started publishing big hit books at the age of 24 and that you published 15 books and 200 articles in renowned dailies and magazine within 12 years and you were hired and recognized an expert on the Orient.  Lev donned the Ottoman Fez and garments of the Caucasus regions in his home.  You earned plenty of money and recognition and then you were reduced to be penniless and mortally ill.

Imagine you had to play as many roles as countries you live in as immigrant and survived to keep a semblance of sanity in a fast changing world where liberty was doomed to disappear. Imagine that your father is living in Vienna and he is unable to travel and you know that Nazi Germany will most probably get hold of your father and send him to a concentration camp (which was done).

You are longing for a stable and tolerant society but are faced with a barbaric reality of total intolerance and totalitarian ideologies.

Then, you had to suffer the life of a prisoner, unable to travel and communicate freely in an isolated Italian village and had to deal with physical pain every minutes of your life.

Yet, Lev spent 15 hours a day writing and publishing.  His radio and typewriter were taken from him and Lev wrote on cigarette paper and on the marge of books for lack of paper.

It would have been nice to live confortably to an older age; but how else could you learn the secret of life: “Pain is more powerful than life, more powerful than death, love, loyalty, and duty”

Note: I have posted two articles on Lev Nussimbaum if you are interested in his biography.  The information were extracted from the “The Orientalist” by Tom Reiss.

Liova or Lev Nussimbaum (1905-1942), also known as Leo, or Kurban Said, or Essad Bey,wrote in German over 15 books and over 200 articles in several dailies and periodicals within 12 years.  He died in Italy at the age of 36 but he looked as old as a 70 years old man.

Among his books are “Blood and oil in the Orient”, “Ali and Nino”,  “The daughter of the Golden Horn”, “Twelve secrets of the Caucasus”, “Muhammad”, “History of Guepeou”,  “Soviet Union secret police”, “Stalin”, “Lenin”, “Tsar Nicholas II”, “Allah is Great”, “Epic of oil”, “White Russia: People without a land”, “Russia at a crossroad”, “The Caucasus: Mountains, people, and history”, “Reda Shah” and many other books.  He mostly signed his books under Kurban Said. Lev’s agent, Werner Schendell, asked Lev to ease up on publishing so often and to focus on publishing one book a year, at no avail.

Kurban Said was known in Germany of the 1920′s as Essad Bey (Assad is Lion in Arabic, just as Leo refers to Lion) after he converted to Islam by the Imam of the Ottoman Embassy in 1923.  He was the first to describe Stalin and Lenin in details and accounted for the tormenting period of Baku (Capital of Azerbaijan on the Black Sea or the “Zarathustra” land).

Lev was a Jew born in Baku of a rich oil baron living in Baku (Abraham was born in Tbilisi in Georgia) and a mother (Berta Sluzk, originally from Kiev).   Berta had left Zürich, headquarters of Russia revolutionaries, and ended up in a Baku prison.  Lev’s father noticed Berta who was serving a prison sentence at the Baku prison and arranged for her to be set free and married her. Berta resumed her “revolutionary” activities and extended money to the revolutionary groups (that will later be called Bolshevik) between 1905 and 1912.  Berta committed suicide by poison after she was found out of communicating with the revolutionary gangs and then, she became an embarrassment to her family.  Lev was then 9 years old. 

Lev was mostly forced to be secluded in his home and his large library because of the dangerous conditions outside.  In the rare outings, Lev was surrounded with body guards and a nurse: He was considered of fragile health. Lev and his father fled Baku in 1917 during the First World War: the armies of Tsar Nicholas II were defeated by Germany and Baku was becoming a hotbed for instability and chaos.  They crossed Turkmenistan and then Iran and had many adventures. 

Father and son returned to Baku as the Turks and Germans occupied it briefly before the English returned.  Azerbaijan experienced independence for less than a year before the Bolshevik returned in 1920 and Azerbaijan became part of the Soviet Union. Father and son managed to flee Baku, separately, in order to avoid close surveillance.

Lev spent some time in Tbilisi (Capital of Georgia) and then, boarded an Italian boat with his father in 1920 to Constantinople( Istanbul).  Istanbul was big and cosmopolitan and Lev fell in love with this city.  The French, English, Italian, and Japanese troops had headquarters in different quarters of Constantinople.  Father and son boarded an Italian boat and wandered a few months in Italy before landing in Paris.  A year later, Lev was sent to a boarding school on an island in Northern Germany and then they settled in Berlin by 1922.

Lev was attending university courses on the orient history, geography and literature while finishing his high school in a Russian school in Berlin.  Berlin was nicknamed the second Russian Capital because most Russian refugees ended up in that city after Lenin and Bolsheviks took over power. Willy Haas of the famous magazine “Literarische Welt” hired Lev as an expert of the Oriental matters at the age of 24.  Lev also published articles in the dailies and magazines of  “Deutsche Allgemeine”, “Prager Tageblatt”, “Asia”, “The living age”, and “Saturday Review of literature”.  Lev wrote about most monarchs and princes who visited Germany between the two wars, and the history , geography, and literature of the Oriental countries.  He wrote articles about Resa Shah (father of Shah of Iran), Ibn Saud and the Wahhabi sect, on Egypt, on Afghanistan, and mostly on Russia and the Caucasus region. You may have more details on Lev’s life in my post: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/%e2%80%9cthe-orientalist%e2%80%9d-by-tom-reiss/

Note: This biography is extracted from “The Orientalist” by Tom Reiss.

Tom Reiss investigates the identity of an author who wrote in German “Blood and oil in the Orient”, “Ali and Nino”, and “The daughter of the Golden Horn” and signed under Kurban Said.  Kurban Said was known in Germany of the 1920’s as Essad Bey who was the first to describe Stalin in details and accounted for the tormenting period of Baku (Capital of Azerbaijan on the Black Sea and “Zarathustra” land).

It turned out that Essad Bey was Liova Nussimbaum, nicknamed Lev (1905-1942).  Lev is a Jew born in Baku of a rich oil baron from Baku (Abraham) and a mother (Berta Sluzk).  The Sluzk were Jewish serfs working for Prince Sluzki in Ukraine and many converted to Christianity to improve their living conditions.

Berta had left Zürich, headquarters of Russia revolutionaries, and ended up in a Baku.  Lev’s father noticed Berta who was serving a prison sentence at the Baku prison and arranged for her to be set free and married her. Berta resumed her “revolutionary” activities and extended money to the revolutionary groups (that will later be called Bolshevik) between 1905 and 1912. Joseph Stalin, under the code name of Koba, was 28 years old and was leading the Bolshevik groups that asked ransoms in order to provide protection for minority ethnic groups.

Berta committed suicide by poison after she was found out of communicating with the revolutionary gangs and then, she became an embarrassment to her family.  Lev was then 9 years old.  Berta bequeathed her library to Lev and Abraham respected his wife’s will and allowed Lev to occupying the library and reading all day long.

Lev was mostly forced to be secluded in his home and library because of the dangerous conditions outside.  In the rare outings, Lev was surrounded with body guards and a nurse: He was considered of fragile health.

Lev and his father fled Baku in 1917 during the First World War: the armies of Tsar Nicholas II were defeated by Germany and Baku was becoming a hotbed for instability and chaos.  They crossed Turkmenistan and then Iran and had many adventures.  Lev gave accurate description of locations, dates, customs, and fashion of the regions they travelled, but his accounts were mostly fantasies that he dreamt of during his seclusion in Baku.

Father and son returned to Baku as the Turks and Germans occupied it briefly before the English returned.  Azerbaijan experienced independence for less than a year before the Bolshevik returned in 1920 and Azerbaijan became part of the Soviet Union. Father and son managed to flee Baku, separately, in order to avoid close surveillance. Lev reached the second city of Gandja (ancient capital) walking.  The citizens in Gandja chased out the few Russian soldiers for a few days before the Bolshevik army encircled the city and entered it with the accompanying massacres.

Lev managed to get out of Gandja and stumbled on a German colony-village (Helenendorf) by the borders with Georgia.  This colony was established in 1813 after the Napoleonic wars and Tsar Alexander I encouraged many Germans to populate the Caucasus region.  As Germany invaded Russia in 1940, Stalin made sure to transfer all the Germans in 1941 to Siberia; very few Germans returned to Germany in 1991.

Lev spent some time in Tibilissi (Capital of Georgia) and then, boarded an Italian boat with his father in 1921 to Constantinople.  The French, English, Italian, and Japanese troops had headquarters in different quarters of Constantinople.

Apparently, Nazi Germany studied extensively the procedures and tactics of the Bolshevik Tcheka (secret services) and added its refinements.  Lev and his father settled in Berlin of the 1920’s and wrote his books that were translated and appreciated in the USA.  Lev converted to Islam in 1923 at the Turkish Embassy.  He died in Northern Italy at the age of 35 but looked seventy.  Lev was the first to publish Stalin biography since the Pockennarbige (smallpox face)or Iossif Djougachvili knew Lev’s mother and he stayed in their home in 1920.

I might publish another post on Lev Nussimbaum as I finish reading the book.  You may read my account on Baku https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/bakou-1905/

Baku of 1901: Paris of the Orient Gate?

By 1900, Baku (Capital of Azerbaijan on the Black Sea) was the center of oil production and it supplied half the world’s demands.

The Swedish Alfred Nobel (inventor of dynamite) and his brother ran the first oil tanker named “Zarathustra”; a fitting name since Baku was then the main religious city of the Yazd sect that worshiped the sun and fire since antiquity.

Oil was known for thousands of years in this region, and Baku was the religious capital of the Zarathustra sect after Islam invaded Iran in around 650 AC.   And Azerbaijan became the main Islam Chiaa sect region before Iran adopted that sect in the 18th century.  Actually, many Persian monarchs and dynasties were originated from Azeri khans or tribal leaders in Azerbaijan.

For thousands of years, Baku was lighted at night from the burning oil on the surface of the Black Sea.  Burning waves lighted the night and hit the shores.  After kerosene was distilled in the 20th century, using kerosene lamps were common household appliances in Baku, Russia, and the neighboring regions of the Caucasus.

Baku was the richest city in the Caucasus and rivaled New York, London, and Paris in attracting immigrants and investors.

Baku became an Oriental city competing in its modernity with Paris: elegance in residences and fashion were widespread among all ethnic and religious minorities living in the ultimate of capitalist system of “laissez fair” mind of doing business.  It was a typical “frontier” city where millionaires and the poorest classes of oil workers cohabited.

Baku is a terrible windy city all year round and its soil is muddy black, soaked with oil; but wealth overcomes many climatic disadvantages.

In 1905, widespread revolts swept all over Russia to the borders with Korea.  Everyday, hundreds of politicians and civil servants were assassinated and pogroms were common.

Tsar Nicolas II decided on giving war to Japan in order to appease the revolts.  The Tsar imagined that a quick victory over “these tiny monkeys with short tails” will galvanize the Russian citizens into patriotic zeal.  Russia was quickly defeated; the entire Russian Pacific Navy sunk and hundreds of thousand of Russian soldiers were annihilated by Japanese machine guns in Mongolia.

The Russian revolts intensified.  The only remaining Russian Navy in the Black Sea was overrun my sailors and their officers slaughtered (the Potemkin debacle).  Tsar Nicolas promised a Constitution.  The Cossack cavalry understood Constitution to mean total freedom of doing what they pleased.  Hundreds of pogroms were daily occurrences in Belorussia and Ukraine (formerly belonging to the Catholic Polish Kingdom before 1772.)

The pogroms reached Baku.

The first minority victims were the Armenians who were well established and lived comfortably out of commerce and lending money.  For days, thousands of Armenians were massacred before the Cossacks managed to restore a semblance of security.

Between 1905 and 1917, Baku was kidnapped by a multitude of revolutionary groups that robbed banks, and asked for ransoms.  Joseph Stalin, under the code name of Koba and who was 28 years old, was leading the Bolshevik groups that asked ransoms in order to provide protection for minority ethnic groups.

The Communist Revolution of 1917 ruined Baku in 1920 as a prosperous city; mass transfers of population and assassinations were systematically applied.

Note:  Topic extracted from “The Orientalist” by Tom Reiss


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