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PostDid Nazi Intelligence Provoke Stalin's Purge of the Red Army? (Cameron Sawyer, Russia, 07/15/18 4:10 am)
Nigel Jones wrote on June 29th, 2014: "I'd like to hear Cameron's views on whether the Red Army purge was just another instance of Stalin's paranoia, or whether it was orchestrated from afar by Reinhard Heydrich's Nazi secret service, the SD. Or both."
Sorry for the late (4 years!) reply to this.
There is some evidence that the Germans fabricated evidence that Tukhachevsky (and seven other Red Army generals) was disloyal, in the hopes of stimulating Stalin to purge him, in order to weaken the Red Army leadership. If this actually happened and actually influenced Stalin, then this German operation must be judged a brilliant success, as the Red Army was virtually decapitated in 1937, which had profound effects on the early stages of Barbarossa.
Here is an excellent article in English on the very subject: http://www.tracesofevil.com/1999/06/to-what-extent-was-german-involvement.html
Although the article is based only on secondary sources and only on English language sources, what is written here is an excellent synthesis of everything plausible which I have read in the Russian and German sources. The short version is that Stalin, like many dictators, indeed like many bullies, suffered from deep insecurity, and was terrified to the point of paranoia of anyone who might be considered a rival. Tukhachevsky (like Trotsky) was talented, popular and arrogant (a "potential Napoleon", as one writer called him) and ran into conflict with Stalin from an early stage, already during the Civil War if not earlier. I think that it is pretty clear that Stalin had been looking for an excuse to get rid of Tukhachevsky for a long time. I don't think we can know for sure whether he seriously believed the documents of the "Benesh Dossier" (as Russian historians call it), but it probably doesn't really matter. No such documents were used in Tukhachevsky's trial; the blood-spattered confession referred to by Nigel was all that was judged necessary, and that itself was a mere formality.
The "Benesh Dossier" was a set of documents supposedly handed over to the Soviets by the then-president of Czechoslovakia in 1937 incriminating Tukhachevsky and others.
My own opinion is that all this had little to do with the Red Army purges, which were an entirely logical and integral part of Stalin's orgy of slaughter which had its peak in 1937, which started with real enemies, progressed to imagined enemies, and finally dealt with random victims. Stalin used to say "net cheloveka, net problem"--hard to translate the tone of that exactly, but it means something like--"no guy, no problem", or "if there simply isn't that person, then there also isn't the problem." Tukhachevsky could not have survived 1937 in any case; he must have been at the top of the very first lists for liquidation.
In Russia, these events are referred to simply as "1937."
JE comments: Here's the link to Nigel's 2014 WAIS post, which appeared in the context of a lengthy discussion on Tukhachevsky. Wikipedia reports that De Gaulle and Tukhachevsky were cellmates as POWs during WWI, but the sources for this are not definitive.