by Joe Palmer
[ bookreviews ]
During the years that both Stalin and Hitler were in power, more people were killed in Ukraine than anywhere else in the bloodlands, or in Europe, or in the world. p20
I reckon Iím just about as ignorant as the next guy who started school in WWII and finished during the Cold War.
We old fools all have twisted minds warped by remembering the lies they told us in the old days, lies that were either distortions of the truth or lies told in innocence, both of which had the same effect on us, making us double dumb, twice cursed by the damning brush of deception and ignorance.
Trying to charm a dinner guest, a refugee from the Ukraine, I spoke to him in my halting Russian. He answered at length, and I didnít understand a word. My colleague Leonid Cechmistros translated: he does not want to be reminded of Russians.
Arenít Ukrainians Russians?
Or take for example the Nazi atrocity of murdering Jews in concentration camps. That was the worst thing to happen in that bloody century, wasnít it? Your agreement shows you donít know the whole story. And the Soviets were the good guys too in that war, werenít they? Of course... until they were no longer, I mean. Yes, thatís what we were told. We didnít want to hear the Soviets were sheep led by Romantic maniacs who believed like Jean-Jacques Rousseau that people are naturally good, and that History was Progress no matter how many Ukrainians starved to death or how many landowners were put to the sword.
We were never told why there were Red Scares in the United States after both World Wars and how McCarthyism was based on real fear of being murdered because Communists had killed those who were in their way like the future two million victims of Pol Potís Khmer Rouge.
The Communists and Nazis believed the will of ďGodĒ is not inscrutable, and the will to power of Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, Stalin, and Hitler is innately the Will of Nature, in whose grip social evolution, the survival of the fittest, is progress. Social Darwinism is the purpose of History. Every day in every way we are getting better and better. Hoo-Haa.
None of my teachers explained how Godís plan, the force of human will, progress, and history could get so confounded and twisted up together as to cause the Nazi scourge, the Soviet terror, WWII, the Holocaust, and the Cold War.
It took countless centuries for humankind to get as far as kings and bishops, monarchy and organized religion, freedom, democracy, and sacred individuality — a far cry from Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Ivan the Terrible, Rasputin, Vlad the Impaler, Stalin, Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot...
Let the peasants starve, Comrade Commissar. History will redeem them like God sorting out his own as he did in the Albigensian Crusades.
We were used to having new immigrants around after the war. Many German-speaking refugees found entire recent communities from Pennsylvania to Indiana and the Prairies where they could fit right in, but eastern European refugees usually found familiar communities only in the big cities where the Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians lived, the ones who had been able to get out alive.
We had never heard of Katyn, or of Khatyn.
Katyn massacre by the Soviets, 1940, proposed and ordered by Stalin and Beria: Polish: zbrodnia katyńska, mord katyński: 22,000 army and police officers, alleged intelligence agents, gendarmes, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers, officials, and priests in Poland.
Khatyn (Chatyń village) massacre by the Nazis, 1943: reprisal murder of 149 people in Minsk Oblast, Byelorussian SSR
The Nazis destroyed more than 5,295 White Russian (Belarusian) villages and kolkhozes (settlements) and killed some or all their inhabitants. Many villages were burned down several times. A quarter (2,230,000 people) of the country's population was killed in Belarus during the three years of German occupation.
The ďbloodlandsĒ were the killing fields from 1933 to 1945, before and during WWII, in Eastern Europe, from Poland to Russia and from the Baltic to the Ukraine. There the Nazis and Soviets murdered 14 million innocent people. Furthermore, half the soldiers lost in the entire war died in the bloodlands, in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Belarus.
Between a rock and a hard place, our neighbor in Québec, Maria Benzius, escaped the ďRussians,Ē fleeing from Soviet-dominated Lithuania to Germany with her family in a horse-drawn wagon.
The Nazis and Soviets had a pact, remember. They divided up Europe to their own advantage, and then Hitler turned around and attacked the Soviet Union.
In order to kill the Jews, the Nazis had to go to where the Jews lived, into the bloodlands, the Pale of Settlement where Jews had been forced to live under the Russian Imperial Empire. By custom and law, unconverted Jews were not aristocrats, peasants, or priests, so in the modern world they formed the resented business and professional middle class, and were forced to live within the Pale in order not to complete with the rising bourgeoisie elsewhere, in metropolitan Moscow, for example.
There were no longer many Jews remaining in Germany at the start of WWII. Three out of four German Jews had emigrated to find freedom elsewhere, in New York City and Hollywood, California, or in Britain, for example, between 1933 when Hitler became Chancellor and 1939 when he started the war. Mainly transient, the number of Jewish refugees to Britain cannot be precisely determined. They went on to the US, the Commonwealth or, later, to Israel [See M Berghahn, Continental Britons].
When the war started only about one in four hundred Germans was a Jew. The Nazis sent the Jews from Germany and most of Western Europe to be gassed or shot along with the Eastern European native Jews, sent them from France and Poland, from Norway and Italy, to Auschwitz, Sobibur, Treblinka, and Riga in the bloodlands where the large Jewish communities had lived... and were being killed.
Hitler and Stalin simultaneously invaded Poland in 1939, terrorizing the people jointly for two years. Then Hitler invaded Russia in 1941 by way of the bloodlands, today the former Eastern Bloc. Most of the Nazi and Soviet slaughter took place not in the concentration camps and Gulag, where prisoners worked as slaves and one million died, but in the killing fields where naked Jews and kulaks, peasant landowners left over from Imperial days, were starved, shot, or buried alive in trenches, where ten million died.
In the Soviet Gulag over one million suffered, and most survived, but in the hunger regions decreed by Stalin six million perished. The Soviet Gulag and Nazi concentration camp prisoners could work and live, for the most part, but most of the fourteen million gassed, shot, or starved never saw a concentration camp. Our present, ignorant view of the atrocity is colored by the fact that American and British troops did not liberate the killing fields, the bloodlands. We did not learn about Soviet perfidy until later. We are still learning.
In the 1930s, Stalin decreed famine in the Ukraine, the breadbasket of Europe, part of his own Soviet Union, killing four million. In the 1940s, the Nazis starved their Soviet prisoners, killing one million. Hitler hoped to starve tens of millions of Jews and Slavs in the winter of 1941-42. He further miscalculated what Russians would do to defend Leningrad, siege 1941-44, (more than four million casualties) and Stalingrad in 1942 (two million casualties).
All these horrific facts are thoroughly annnotated and described in Professor Snyderís book, from the Soviet famines to the Stalinist anti-Semitism of Soviet chauvinism and the fact of Israel. The Nazis, may they all rot in Hell, in the middle of this Communist period, had similar hopes of social progress at the expense of expendable, faceless individuals.