Skip to comments.They Endured the Communist Terror
Posted on 03/03/2013 11:18:09 AM PST by annalex
Nazism and Communism
by Horst Schüler
|Place of horror. A Soviet prison camp in the Vorkuta region. Our author Horst student had there for four years, forced to work - PHOTO:. PICTURE-ALLIANCE / AKG-IMAGES /|
A contribution to the controversy over the memory of the victims of Nazism and Stalinism: Horst Schüler responds to the historian Wolfgang Benz.
The former director of the Berlin Center for Research on Antisemitism Wolfgang Benz has recently published in Tagesspiegel about the dispute over the right of interpretation of the crimes of the Nazi dictatorship and communist regimes. The advocated by the European Parliament "remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes" is rejected by Benz. A common day of remembrance, in his opinion, levels the differences between Nazi persecution and Communist terror and marginalizes the genocide of Jews and the Sinti and Roma [Gypsies].
Benz's position has provoked the opposition of some representatives of the victims of terror groups. We print below an article by Horst Schüler, the honorary chairman of the Union of Associations Victims of Communist Tyranny Association [Union der Opferverbände kommunistischer Gewaltherrschaft e. V.] (UOKG). Horst Schüler (born 1924) was convicted in 1951 in Potsdam for resisting the Stalinist regime in East Germany by a Soviet military tribunal to 25 years in prison. Until 1955, he was detained in the Vorkuta Detention Camp in the Soviet Union. After his release was obtained by Konrad Adenauer, Schüler worked as a journalist from 1964 to 1989 and was editor of the "Hamburger Abendblatt".
His goal is "to initiate the necessary critical debate over the memory of two dictatorships". This we read in the Tagesspiegel Wolfgang Benz article published under the headline: "Nazism and Stalinism - Arguments and Thoughts." [NS-Zeit und Stalinismus Ums Gedenken streiten.] Wolfgang Benz is a historian, an emeritus professor at the Technical University of Berlin. He was until 2011 Director of the Center for Research on Antisemitism and has been widely honored and awarded. A man, therefore, who deserves a lot of respect. The aforementioned quote is reporting an issue these days in metropolitan publisher is published book entitled: "A struggle to define meaning. Politics, victims' interests and historical research. Disputes over the Leistikowstraße Memorial and Community Center" [Ein Kampf um Deutungshoheit. Politik, Opferinteressen und historische Forschung. Auseinandersetzungen um die Gedenk- und Begegnungsstätte Leistikowstraße].
The article by Wolfgang Benz has caused great indignation among the former political prisoners of the Communist-Stalinist terror. While it is always difficult to write for a group of people because everyone has a different viewpoint over things. However, I believe that I represent here the majority of women and men who were in the dungeons of communist secret services, foremostly of the Soviet KGB situated in the special incarceration regions in the Soviet gulag.
The past century is the century of two criminal regimes, whose terror destroyed millions and millions. There was the Nazi regime, which overspread like a mushroom over Europe. It killed countless people of Jewish faith, Gypsies and his political enemies. What we now call the Holocaust, which spared neither women nor children were old men, a previously unprecedented form of genocide, which resembled in its ice-cold cruelty of the gas chambers, an almost industrial killing machine.
"Anyone could always be victims of terror"
The name "Auschwitz" will forever be synonymous with a state-arranged crimes under the burden of the memory of which Germany will continue suffer for a long time.
And then there existed what is called Communist terror. It was dark enough in the GDR [East Germany], and in the most brutal form, in the Soviet Union under Stalin's rule. Jörg Baberowski, professor of history of Eastern Europe at the Humboldt University, writes in his 2012 book, "Scorched Earth", "Everyone could always be victims of state-organized terror: as a member of a stigmatized social or ethnic group, by denunciation or random or because it pleased the dictator to kill people and to put them in the state of fear and terror". He adds: "There was no country where people had to live in such fear as in the Soviet Union."
Wolfgang Benz will probably disagree, but he said in his article that it was not the intention of the Soviet policy of extermination to kill based on their belonging to certain ethnic or religious communities. That may well be, for Stalin's murder was aimed at members of classes not agreeable to him, or even to party members who had aroused his morbid suspicion. So how do we understand Benz when he writes that "there is no need to prove that the evidence that imprisonment in the KGB prison was the same as imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps". I certainly experienced the beatings by KGB officers as they broked off my kidney during the interrogation, not to speak of the teeth, and God knows I was no exception. Ultimately, we could even be happy not to have been among the thousands who were executed. And for God's sake I do not want to take away by this statement even a gram of the ton of the very heavy torment, which people were subjected to in Nazi prison. After all, my father in 1942 was killed in Sachsenhausen.
"Each individual is suffering - regardless of the political intention of the regime that it inflicted - the same dignity and represents the existential catastrophe of individuals at the same level," writes Wolfgang Benz. This sentence must be upheld wholly. Why does then Benz advocate a differentiated view of history, "in which the victim of on terror as well as the victims of the other must have their own place"? That is beyond my understanding. What is such place and where is it? In the camps of the Gulag, we, Christians, Jews, Muslims, non-believers, soldiers of the Red Army who were transferred from Prisoner of War camps straight into the Soviet penal zones, citizens of Poland, the Baltic states, Czechs, Germans, Romanians, Hungarians, Russians - a great mutitude of people as fdifferent as they hardly could be, but united in one thing: We were all tormented victims who survived only because we were in solidarity as such. And in the concentration camps of the Nazis it would have been no different.
Many countries celebrate the 23th August as a day of remembrance
So if the European Parliament on 23 August, the day that the Hitler-Stalin pact was signed in Moscow in 1939, has decided to form a common memorial for "European Conscience and Totalitarianism", how did such a memorial level the differences between Nazi persecution and Communist terror? How were the murder of Jews, and the genocide of Sinti and Roma marginalized, such as Wolfgang Benz writes? Why he thinks this is not going to be fair to the victims of the two systems? Why does he play down the initiators of this document as a "militant anti-communists with backward views"?
Benz argues that presently only Sweden, the Baltic states, Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, Hungary and Slovenia recognized this holiday. Not one Western European country among them. That really surprises him? Not us. The countries he mentions (except Sweden) have experienced specifically the Communist-Stalinist terror and suffered from it, unlike any Western European country. And in Germany, the guilt of the Nazi crimes still weighs so heavy that you can only see the [political] extreme right as a threat to freedom and democracy. This is why a discussion about the right to define the meaning of the memorial only takesplace among us. [Weshalb es denn auch eine Diskussion um Deutungshoheit wohl nur bei uns gibt.]
In the aforementioned book an essay by journalist and historian Martin Jander titled "Culture of set" [Kultur der Aufrechnung ] appears, an essay which we, after certain incidents anticipate with particular skepticism. The intention of that book is probably to "stimulate differentiated debate about the memory of two dictatorships". The occasion for this the controversy over the memorial complex in the former prison on the Leistikowstraße in Potsdam. Wolfgang Benz accuses us of forming a "strange order of battle". Maybe he should know that during the discussion about the design of this memorial difference of opinion existed even among the former political prisoners were that very prison.
There are those who think the design of the memorial is right, and there are many others who have a lot of reservations about it. We are not a homogeneous group, as is required in the ratings and opinions. However, there is a rule: If someone wants to sneak in a near-brown thought - and this may even happen with proper intellectual trimmings - then we shall close ranks and fight with all means against such. [Wir sind kein Haufen, in dem Wertungen und Meinungen vorgeschrieben werden. Ein Gesetz allerdings gibt es: Wenn uns jemand in die Nähe braunen Gedankengutes rücken will und mag dies auch noch so intellektuell verbrämt geschehen , dann werden wir uns geschlossen und mit allen Mitteln dagegen wehren.]
I don’t know who else to ping. There was a Polish/East European list but I don’t remember who lead it. I came across several Freepers form Germany, but I don’t remember their names.
I believe, this is an important issue also in America, where alliances and enmities of the Second World War still seem to linger, — despite the fact that for over 60 years our enemy has been not Nazism but Communism.
Regarding the Second World War, there's a somewhat recently published book by Timothy Snyder titled Bloodlands - Europe Between Hitler and Stalin which does an excellent job of revealing the vileness of both the Communists and the Nazis. Rather than focusing on the Jewish Holocaust, it tells (comprehensively) the story of the greater number of people who were starved and slaughtered in the "death zone" between their opposing armies. When the war ended, "those bloodlands fell behind the iron curtain, leaving their history in darkness." I recommend it.
You’re quite welcome. I enjoyed (if that’s the right word) your post. So many of the answers we desperately need nowadays can be found in history. I personally have great fear that modern ‘utopians’ will systematically erase, or ‘modify’ the true history of the modern world. They understandably fear the power of truth.
On returning to Dresden, they were arrested, charged with spying, and imprisoned. John Noble was 22 years old at the time. Conditions were abysmal, and starvation and executions were common. It was during his struggle to survive starvation that John developed the deep religious faith that was to sustain him and shape the rest of his life. Charles and John were kept in nearby cells until John was sent to the Soviet Special Prison, formerly the Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald, and the two were separated. Fortunately, Johns mother and brother had been released by the Soviets after their arrest.Every Camera Has a Story: KW, the Patent Etui, and John H. Noble
Vorkuta Camp Inmate
Gulag Inmates' Graves near Vorkuta
Thanks for reminding me about “Bloodlands.” I remember reading the review of it in the Wall Street Journal last October and put it on my Amazon Wish List. I just ordered it after your recommendation.
I just finished “The Venona Secrets” and started “The Founder’s Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms” by Stephen Halbrook. The genocides in Europe last century sure do drive home the importance of the Second Amendment.
It is especially true of the Soviet history, and the premiere victim of this erasure of history, just as of Communism, is the Russian nation.
Thanks for the recommendation of “Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956.” I just added it to my Amazon wish list. The reviews on Amazon are indeed very good.
Indeed. You also come to realize what a genius George Orwell was when he wrote "1984." MiniTru and the "memory hole" didn't mean much to me in 11th grade, but they take on far larger meanings as you age and get more exposure to true world history and how tyrants take control of countries.
Such is my concern for the future of our country, that I think it worthwhile to establish what Glenn Beck called 'Freedom Library's' for the purpose of preserving knowledge that may eventually become censored, if not forbidden (modern American leftists as you probably know, envision an 'enlightened' world where seemingly everything becomes either mandatory or forbidden).
I agree with you Annalex. I think that the Bolshevik Revolution and the Second World War were among the more awful consequences of the First World War, and the suffering and misery those events alone inflicted on the Russian people beggars the imagination.
The fact is that Hitler and Stalin both greatly admired each other, despite being bitter enemies....Hitler would go out of his way to insult Churchill and FDR, but he never personally directed insults towards Stalin personally.
You are correct. They were both far more similar than they were different. The reason the went to war was to dominate Europe, rather than any ideological difference. Jonah Goldberg aptly described them as “...two dogs fighting over the same bone.”
My only criticism of this article is that it leaves out the massive democide by the ChiComs. Rummel puts the number killed in that one at over 76 millions, more than the Soviet Communists managed, and many more than the Nazis.
Knowledge of the utopian democides of the 20th Century is why I will always own military-style firearms. Only ignorant idiots think “it can’t happen here”. Nothing about human nature has changed.
I’ll close with two quotes from my FR profile page that are applicable here:
“And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?... The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If...if...We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more we had no awareness of the real situation.... We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - The Gulag Archipelago
Although our modern socialists’ promise of greater freedom is genuine and sincere, in recent years observer after observer has been impressed by the unforeseen consequences of socialism, the extraordinary similarity in many respects of the conditions under “communism” and “fascism.” As the writer Peter Drucker expressed it in 1939, “the complete collapse of the belief in the attainability of freedom and equality through Marxism has forced Russia to travel the same road toward a totalitarian society of un-freedom and inequality which Germany has been following. Not that communism and fascism are essentially the same. Fascism is the stage reached after communism has proved an illusion, and it has proved as much an illusion in Russia as in pre-Hitler Germany.”
No less significant is the intellectual outlook of the rank and file in the communist and fascist movements in Germany before 1933. The relative ease with which a young communist could be converted into a Nazi or vice versa was well known, best of all to the propagandists of the two parties. The communists and Nazis clashed more frequently with each other than with other parties simply because they competed for the same type of mind and reserved for each other the hatred of the heretic. Their practice showed how closely they are related. To both, the real enemy, the man with whom they had nothing in common, was the liberal of the old type. While to the Nazi the communist and to the communist the Nazi, and to both the socialist, are potential recruits made of the right timber, they both know that there can be no compromise between them and those who really believe in individual freedom.
— F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom
Two points from that. First, the Nazis and the Communists didn’t have a nickel’s difference between them, just to spell it out, and I believe the horror of both should be remembered at the same time. Second, our modern socialists are taking us down a path that leads inexorably to a modern Gulag - if we let them.
Second, our modern socialists are taking us down a path that leads inexorably to a modern Gulag - if we let them.
Every American who sends their children into the government’s K-12 socialist-entitlement, single-payer, and GODLESS indoctrination camps ( misnamed “schools”) is “letting them”.
Every citizen who agree to work for, establish, and uphold these government K-12 GODLESS indoctrination camps is “letting them”.
In fact, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, that was the last chance to reverse the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and so on the Soviet territory in 1941-44 it was, in part a continuation of the Russian Civil War. This is something rarely talked about.
Or this: ask an average Russian on whose side the Soviet Union was in the Second World War and you will realize that his concept of WWII is limited to the Soviet-German war of 1941-45. The invasion of Finland, and the occupation of the Balt states and East Poland during 1939-41 somehow slides off the radar.
Had Hitler not come to power in Germany, it’s very likely the Communists would have....which ultimately would have set up a rivalry between the Germans and the Soviets as to who would control the worldwide Communist movement, much like what happened between the Soviets and Chinese in the 1950s...In fact, Stalin pretty much hoped Hitler would kill off the members of the German Communist Party, in which Hitler happily obliged. The worst case scenario for the Soviets was for the Germans to bring about Communism on their own without “help” from their betters in Moscow.
This is a memorable passage from the Archipelago for me as well. However, there needs to be a corrective or two.
The Russians did fight for freedom in 1918 and all the way through mid-20s. The Tambov Rebellion, for example, was a massive farmer revolt; the first time a government used weapons of mass destruction, -- chemical weapons, -- on its own citizens. People were marching against NKVD's machine guns carrying icons. When Hitler invaded in 1941, people were greeting the Germans as liberators, and thousands joined the Wehrmacht, because they saw a chance to liberate their fatherland. It wasn't for the lack of resistance that the Soviets prevailed.
The popular mind associates the Stalinist terror with the purges of the Communist cadre in 1930's. But a brutal war has been waged by the Soviet system on the Russian people for longer than a decade prior to that, and many fought back, howbeit desperately. It is the commies, hunted down like rats by their fellow commies that hunkered down waiting to get shot.
Right on. I agree. The history of the Communist movement is the history of the Kremlin maneuvering to control it and killing off those it could not control.
I like an old japanese “Human Conditions” trilogy about a young socialist japanese prison official in charge of workcamps for chinese POWs in Manchukuo. He has later joined Kwantung army, captured by the Soviets and sent to gulag.
A must see movie.
Thank you. I have not seen it.
It is an absolute classic of war/anwar&anticommunist movie.