Skip to comments.Closure of Soviet Concentration Camps Where ĎArbeit Macht Freií First Appeared Recalled
Posted on 12/28/2009 9:50:15 AM PST by TigerLikesRooster
Closure of Soviet Concentration Camps Where Arbeit Macht Frei First Appeared Recalled
23 December 2009
By Paul Goble
VIENNA The theft of the sign, Arbeit Macht Frei, which hung over the entrance to the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz has not only sparked international outrage but also called attention to the place where those words first hung at a place of detention of the innocent in the 20th century the Solovetsky Camps of Special Assignment in the USSR.
Seventy years ago this month, Yury Brodsky writes in todays Novaya Gazeta, Stalins secret police chief Lavrenty Beria shut down the Solovetsky camps but not before they both destroyed much of Russias intellectual and political elite and established the horrific precedent that Hitler drew from.
The Solovetsky Camps of Special Assignment known by the Russian acronym SLON were established in February 1920 in the prison in a monastery in northern Russian first erected and used by Ivan the Terrible to imprison anti-Soviet White Russian officers and men, Brodsky reports.
The name the Lenin-era officials chose is significant, he points out. A priori, Solovki was intended not for people who had committed crimes. The obvious enemies of the Bolsheviks were usually killed immediately. Instead, the SLON was in the first instance for questionable people who represented a potential threat for Soviet power by the very fact of their existence.
Among these victims of the class struggle sent there without trial were lawyers who knew the basis of classical Roman law with its presumption of innocence, historians [who knew a history that the Bolsheviks denied], [and] officers capable of taking part in uprisings and clergy of all confessions, bearers of an ideology alien to the Bolsheviks.
The Solovki prisons were "a forge of cadres" and "a school of advanced experience" for future concentration camps of the 20th century, Brodsky writes. The slogan "Arbeit Macht Frei" first appeared not in Auschwitz but on the Nikolsky Gates of the Solovetsky Kremlin. And but for one man, it could have become the first place with gas chambers for killing the innocent.
In the 1920s, the Novaya Gazeta journalist says, Soviet jailors at Solovki had built up supplies of poisonous gas, but a certain Dr. Nikolai Zhilov, who served in the medical review facility there, at his own risk destroyed this gas, using it to disinfect the clothes of prisoners rather than to kill them.
Conditions at Solovki were brutal, and anyone who violated any rule or failed to fulfill the norms for work in the forests and mines could be destroyed as a wrecker. But one curious feature of SLON was that the secret police arrested particular and often prominent intellectuals to do particular jobs there.
In 1937-38 alone, some 1800 of the inmates of SLON were shot, including, among others, the scholar P.A. Florensky, the restoration specialist A.I. Anisimov, the inventor L.V. Kurchevsky, the lawyer A.V. Bobrishchev-Pushkin, the pan-Islamic ideologue I.A. Firdeks, the academician S.L. Rudnitsky, as well as many other intellectuals and churchmen.
Indeed, Brodsky said, there are hundreds of names on the death lists, hundreds of the mind, honesty and conscience" of Russia, and not only of Russia. But the Soviet powers that be gave out awards to those who did the killing, with one NKVD captain decorated for killing 180 to 265 people per day throughout the fall of 1937.
In 1937, at the peak of the killings, the Solovetsky Camp was transformed into the Solovetsky Prison, a place if possible even more notorious for its cruelty and the viciousness of its guards than the camp had been, according to academician Alexander Bayev, who was one of the inmates of both.
Seven decades ago, Brodsky writes, Solovki ceased to be called a jail. [And] the physical evidence of this example of the medieval life of the 20th century almost does not remain. The restorers have covered over many things, and the archive of the prison has been hidden no one knows where.
In a country were a moral assessment of the crimes of Stalin has not been given, where pride in the great Soviet past is cultivated, it is alas not considered appropriate to recall [this] great tragedy of the 20th century.
Indeed, the FSB recently confiscated a manuscript on the Solovki camps being prepared by historian Mikhail Suprun.
The attitude of the Russian authorities is tragically clear: The deputy director of the Solovetsky State Museum-Park, which is responsible for the exposition devoted to the history of the camps of special assignment, is convinced that the Solovetsky camps were a brilliant form of defense of the state from all kinds of dissidents.
And his view, Brodsky points out, is apparently shared by those who control the books on display at Solovki for sale to tourists and pilgrims: They offer books that praise Stalin rather than condemning him for his role in the operation of this concentration camp. As a result, the tragedy of Solovetsky is becoming the tragedy of Russia.
I doubt the Ruskies ever hung a German sign "Arbeit Macht Frei" on their Gulags..
"...a monastery in northern Russian first erected and used by Ivan the Terrible to imprison anti-Soviet White Russian officers and men ..."
He was the Russian Tsar, 1533-84 - I didn't know there were anti-Soviet White Russian's back then.
were established in February 1920 in the prison
[in a monastery in northern Russian first erected and used by Ivan the Terrible]
to imprison anti-Soviet White Russian officers and men
That is, Ivan the Terrible built and used the monastery, which later converted by Bolsheviks to imprison.....
It was the slogan the NKVD originated, not which language it was in.
In my very bad Russian, the sign at Solovki could have read,
“TRUD DYELAYET ZA SVOBODAM”.
BTW, `slon’ is also the Russian word for elephant. The SLON organization adopted that logo for their HQ.
Me too! I think it should have been written something like this:
“The Solovetsky Camps of Special Assignment known by the Russian acronym SLON were established in February 1920 to imprison anti-Soviet White Russian officers and men in the prison of a monastery in northern Russian first erected and used by Ivan the Terrible, Brodsky reports.”
Yeah I figured something like that ... I went to the Russian web site to read it and it was the same ....
Or, perhaps TRUD OSVOBOZHDAET.
Gee, that sounds so, so... community organizing.
"There's something familiar about this place..."
Doesn’t matter at all as whatever the British and the Russians may or may not possibly have done or not done depending upon the prevailing system of truth and factual accountability of the time in question or the present time is well known to have been done solely in the interests of a better and more just world. Amen.
There is a slight difference. The Brits were fighting a war against the Boers. Stalin and Hitler did it to their own people. I also think the Brits had the idea but really didn’t think it through, and weren’t prepared to properly care for so many prisoners. It was more of a crime of ineptness and omission rather than a cold-blooded desire to kill the undesirables.
The left has alway been able to white wash the blood they are cover in....You will see no major Hollywood movie on this unless they can spin it “RIGHT”
As others have posted, I’m sure it had the same words but written in Russian.
The Brits knew exactly what they were doing. They were told numerous times and did nothing to improve the camps - in fact the situation rapidly deteriorated.
As it was 29,000 women and children died (1 in 4). Had the Boer armies held out another year or 2, very few women and children (if any) would have survived.
The Brits (then) were every bit the rat bastards the German Nazis and Soviets were..
So the Ruskies weren't 1st as the article suggests. Let's give credit where credit is due and pin 1st prize on the Brits.
You forgot to mention that when you chop wood, chips are going to fly and you have to break eggs to make an omelet.
I still don’t think the Brits were going for purposeful extermination. The military commanders just didn’t care what happened to the people initially and were ill-prepared to keep them. It was an expedient of war. The main reason the Boer army didn’t hold out another year or two was because of the camps, since they couldn’t stand to see their people suffering. But the government did try to fix things once the British people found out what was going on, although it pretty much failed.
What the British did was bad, but it’s still not in the same class as Stalin and Hitler, who both made camps purposely designed to kill by starvation, disease, and just plain execution.
If you want an earlier precedent to the British, you could probably look at what we did to the Indians in the 1800s. Go back to the 1600s and the Puritans stuck 500 Christian Indians who had allegiance to the English on the barren Deer Island in New England during Winter without food or shelter. More than half died. It would have been more, except a bunch of the “Praying Indian” towns took off when they heard of their impending internment.
We did almost exactly the same thing centuries later to the Japanese in WWII, although with far fewer casualties.
Really? Tell Lizzie that she's have been worse off in a Nazi or Soviet concentration camp..
Lizzie van Zyl
Emily Hobhouse tells the story of the young Lizzie van Zyl who died in the Bloemfontein concentration camp: She was a frail, weak little child in desperate need of good care. Yet, because her mother was one of the undesirables due to the fact that her father neither surrendered nor betrayed his people, Lizzie was placed on the lowest rations and so perished with hunger that, after a month in the camp, she was transferred to the new small hospital. Here she was treated harshly. The English disposed doctor and his nurses did not understand her language and, as she could not speak English, labelled her an idiot although she was mentally fit and normal. One day she dejectedly started calling: "Mother! Mother! I want to go to my mother!" One Mrs Botha walked over to her to console her. She was just telling the child that she would soon see her mother again, when she was brusquely interrupted by one of the nurses who told her not to interfere with the child as she was a "nuisance. Shortly afterwards, Lizzie van Zyl died.
I’m not saying the results were any less immoral. I’m saying the Brits weren’t going for extermination. The captive civilians were a bargaining chip in the war against the Boers, not a “sub-human” or “counter-revolutionary” class that needed to be exterminated.
Also, after the war the Soviets continued to use Buchenwald as a Concentration Camp. Something Obama didn’t mention when he visited there.