SPECIAL FEATURE: by Christopher J. WardNews Weekly
Who speaks and acts for the communist dead?
, February 12, 2005
January 27 this year marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi death camp in wartime Poland.
During World War II, at Auschwitz and elsewhere, Hitler's Nazis deliberately exterminated six million Jews, as well as millions of Poles, Slavs and gypsies, not to mention numerous social democrats, churchmen of various stripes and intellectuals - in short, any racial groups or individuals who stood against Hitler's monstrous tyranny.
As the world commemorated Auschwitz, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called for heightened vigilance to counter anti-Semitism.
"The overwhelming majority of Germans living today do not bear guilt for the Holocaust. But they do bear a special responsibility," he said.
But, while the German Chancellor has been warning his fellow-countrymen about their special responsibility to guard against a return of Nazism, Russia's Government has recently embarked on rehabilitating one of the 20th-century's greatest mass-murderers, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
On January 19 - only a few days before the Auschwitz commemoration day - Moscow announced plans to erect a new statue of Stalin in the city, returning his once-ubiquitous image to its streets after an absence of four decades.
In recent months, Russian state television has broadcast a number of prime-time television programs depicting Stalin in a favourable light.
Yet Stalin's campaign of terror and extermination was no less murderous than Hitler's Holocaust. If survivors of Nazism are entitled to intone, "Never again", so are the millions of people of Ukraine, the Baltic States and other nations, who suffered for much of the 20th-century under communist rule.
Before the war, in 1932-33, millions of Ukrainians perished under Stalin's devastating terror-famine. Millions more perished during the German occupation.
During World War II, the people of the Baltic States - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - suffered three invasions: first in 1939-40 by the Soviet Red Army, then in 1941 by the German Wehrmacht, then once again in 1944 by the Red Army. Following the two Soviet invasions, hundreds of thousands of people from these countries were deported to Arctic slave-labour camps where a large proportion of them died.
As World War II ended, the Red Army occupied other Eastern European countries, installing in their capitals communist puppet régimes obedient to Moscow. This eventually led to the Iron Curtain and the effective partition of Europe.
The Soviet secret police matched the German Gestapo with its repressive measures. It rounded up not only former Nazis and Nazi-sympathisers, but all anti-communists and the Soviets' most feared internal opponents, the intelligentsia - including social democrats and, ironically, Jews.
In many instances, considerable numbers of whole populations were relocated in parts of the USSR. This was particularly evident in the Baltic States where Russian "immigrants" augmented the populations. By 1995, it was calculated that 38 per cent of the population of Estonia was Russian or from Russian-dominated areas. Similarly, Latvia had a non-native population of 45 per cent. Lithuania fared somewhat better, with 20 per cent of its population being non-indigenous.
After the end of World War II and the Nuremberg war crimes tribunals, reckoning came for the Nazis from another not unexpected source. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre and other Jewish organisations became very active in the hunt for war criminals and bringing them to justice.
The most important Nazi survivor - clearly implicated in planning and executing the machinery of genocide and mass murder - was Adolf Eichmann, smuggled out of Argentina by Israeli secret agents in 1961, tried by an Israeli court and executed in May of the following year.
Since then, it has been most instructive to watch white-haired, stooped, elderly Germans - and those who were allied to them - hunted down and brought to trial for war crimes, although Austria a few years back refused the extradition of an SS officer to Italy for alleged war crimes.
Constant claims have been made about the number of Nazis and fascists - especially from the Baltic states, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia - present in Australia, having "slipped through" the immigration net.
In particular, Mark Aarons - son of a former leading Australian communist, Laurie Aarons - has produced books on this topic that have received wide publicity on the ABC.
In June 2001, German companies who used slave labour during World War II were ordered to pay reparation to survivors and the German Government has made financial reparation to the state of Israel. Even the US computer giant IBM has been implicated in the same process and has paid some compensation.
Encouraged perhaps by the success of the Jewish actions, other victims of the Nazi Holocaust have joined the fight for financial compensation. The Romany Council in Europe has lodged claims on behalf of gypsies killed in concentration camps and, so too, homosexuals have commenced a "pink" claim.
However, the numerically greatest numbers of victims of the Holocaust have exacted retribution and payment for the atrocities visited on them. This activity has been supported by the mass of Israelis and Jews around the world. Dissent has been muted, but the noted Jewish-Australian intellectual Frank Knopfelmacher, became shunned and despised by his fellow-Jews when he publicly denounced the process as "the Holocaust Industry" which made money from the dead.
This writer takes no set position on the question; but revenge can be justified and justice is, or should be, the cornerstone of a civilised society.Flexible
Yet justice, as we know is flexible and depends on who rules. As time has proven again and again, after wars the victors write history to suit their own purposes and carry out judicial execution among the losers.
The denial historians of the David Irving category are beneath contempt. The Nazi regime left behind abundant evidence of their mass-extermination program, in the form of official documents, railway timetables, photographs and film footage.
Over the past few years, we have seen those responsible for genocide in the Balkans, such as Slobodan Milosevic, indicted for crimes against humanity. And for a long while there has been, and now is, a distinct possibility that General Pinochet, a discarded US ally in the Cold War, may be tried for crimes against his own people during the military junta in Chile.
However, one must ask the question that so many in the West appear to find so difficult: Who speaks and acts for the communist dead?
Recent documents acquired from Russia by the Hoover Institute in the United States show that, before the inception of the USSR, communists planned to inflict terror and death on the citizens of that unhappy nation.
Despite attempts to remove the stains of guilt from the "pure" Lenin, evidence shows that mass extermination began under his rule and at his direction, 70,000 having being killed in 1921 alone.
Documents held and translated by the Hoover Institution exist, bearing Stalin's own handwriting approving those deaths and the establishment of the Gulag slave-labour camps which were intended to work the incarcerated to death.
Wherever the Soviets held sway, mass murder, imprisonment in the Gulags, deportation and relocation of millions were the order of the day. With the expansion of the Soviet empire, the process was repeated, wherever communist parties came to power.
The murderous extent of communist killing is a well-established fact. Noted British historian Robert Conquest and others have estimated the human cost of Soviet communism to be as high as 34 million deaths.
The Australian Sinologist Simon Leys (pen-name of Dr Pierre Ryckmans) has put Chinese deaths caused by communism at 50 million.
R.J. Rummel, professor of political science at Hawaii University, has remarked: "In a distant third place were the Nazis, who murdered about 21 million Jews, Slavs, Serbs, Czechs, Poles, Ukrainians and others deemed misfits such as homosexuals and the mentally ill" - although, as stated earlier, the list included other opponents.
These figures of communist deaths have largely been confirmed by The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression
(1999). After its original publication in France, there was a short-lived academic furore which failed to spill over into the mainstream press.
The general public rarely if ever equates communist atrocities with Nazi ones. Who has been tried by international courts for the atrocities of the USSR and its accomplices?
Instead, we have seen television documentaries of elderly, white-haired Russians fondly reminiscing about the good old days of Joe Stalin and the "fatigue" they felt while engaged in the slaughter of anti-party elements and counter-revolutionaries - people whose only crime was to demand more food or freedom.
The ABC in particular has been given to portraying Australian Communist Party members as dewy-eyed idealists, whereas in reality they were steely-eyed Stalinists who were prepared to kill as many of their fellow Australians as the Party told them to.
Have communist mass-murderers ever been brought to justice? The former East German leader, Egon Krenz, must be the unluckiest man in the world, convicted for giving orders that led to the deaths of a few who fled to the West - merely following orders no doubt. Yet, at least he deserves some credit for opening the crack in the Berlin Wall.
The point is that deaths perpetuated by the Nazis appear to be seen as crimes against humanity and those by sundry other dictators, crimes against their people. By contrast, those committed by communists are whitewashed, perceived as morally purifying a country for the greater good and creation of a new man.
This supreme act of hypocrisy has been aided and abetted by silence in Western academic institutions. Until this hypocrisy is redressed, and the guilty are brought before courts and monuments erected to the victims of communism, the Gulags preserved to illustrate guilt and incriminating documents integrated into our history books, we are clearly deficient in humanity and complicit in obscuring the deaths of millions more than Hitler managed.
I ask again: "Who speaks and acts for the communist dead?"