- Five years ago, I wrote about the unknown Holocaust in
Ukraine. I was shocked to receive a flood of mail from young Americans
and Canadians of Ukrainian descent telling me that until they read my column,
they knew nothing of the 1932-33 genocide in which Josef Stalin's Soviet
regime murdered seven million Ukrainians and sent two million more to concentration
- (Note - Many scholars place the death figure at a much
higher number -ed)
- How, I wondered, could such historical amnesia afflict
so many? For Jews and Armenians, the genocides their people suffered are
vivid, living memories that influence their daily lives. Yet today, on
the 70th anniversary of the destruction of a quarter of Ukraine's population,
this titanic crime has almost vanished into history's black hole.
- So has the extermination of the Don Cossacks by the communists
in the 1920s, the Volga Germans in 1941 and mass executions and deportations
to concentration camps of Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians and Poles. At
the end of World War II, Stalin's gulag held 5.5 million prisoners, 23%
of them Ukrainians and 6% Baltic peoples.
- Almost unknown is the genocide of two million of the
USSR's Muslim peoples: Chechens, Ingush, Crimean Tatars, Tajiks, Bashkirs
and Kazaks. The Chechen independence fighters who today are branded as
"terrorists" by the U.S. and Russia are the grandchildren of
survivors of Soviet concentration camps.
- Add to this list of forgotten atrocities the murder in
Eastern Europe from 1945-47 of at least two million ethnic Germans, mostly
women and children, and the violent expulsion of 15 million more Germans,
during which two million German girls and women were raped.
- Among these monstrous crimes, Ukraine stands out as the
worst in terms of numbers. Stalin declared war on his own people in 1932,
sending Commissars V. Molotov and Lazar Kaganovitch and NKVD secret police
chief Genrikh Yagoda to crush the resistance of Ukrainian farmers to forced
- Ukraine was sealed off. All food supplies and livestock
were confiscated. NKVD death squads executed "anti-party elements."
Furious that insufficient Ukrainians were being shot, Kaganovitch - virtually
the Soviet Union's Adolf Eichmann - set a quota of 10,000 executions a
week. Eighty percent of Ukrainian intellectuals were shot.
- During the bitter winter of 1932-33, 25,000 Ukrainians
per day were being shot or died of starvation and cold. Cannibalism became
common. Ukraine, writes historian Robert Conquest, looked like a giant
version of the future Bergen-Belsen death camp.
- The mass murder of seven million Ukrainians, three million
of them children, and deportation to the gulag of two million more (where
most died) was hidden by Soviet propaganda.
- Pro-communist westerners, like The New York Times' Walter
Duranty, British writers Sidney and Beatrice Webb and French Prime Minister
Edouard Herriot, toured Ukraine, denied reports of genocide, and applauded
what they called Soviet "agrarian reform." Those who spoke out
against the genocide were branded "fascist agents."
- The U.S., British, and Canadian governments, however,
were well aware of the genocide, but closed their eyes, even blocking aid
groups from going to Ukraine.
- The only European leaders to raise a cry over Soviet
industrialized murder were, ironically and for their own cynical and self-serving
reasons, Hitler and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
- Because Kaganovitch, Yagoda and some other senior Communist
party and NKVD officials were Jewish, Hitler's absurd claim that communism
was a Jewish plot to destroy Christian civilization became widely believed
across a fearful Europe.
- When war came, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and
British PM Winston Churchill allied themselves closely to Stalin, though
they were well aware his regime had murdered at least 30 million people
long before Hitler's extermination of Jews and gypsies began. Yet in the
strange moral calculus of mass murder, only Germans were guilty.
- Though Stalin murdered three times more people than Hitler,
to Roosevelt he remained "Uncle Joe."
- The British-U.S. alliance with Stalin made them his partners
in crime. Roosevelt and Churchill helped preserve history's most murderous
regime, to which they handed over half of Europe in 1945.
- After the war, the left tried to cover up Soviet genocide.
Jean-Paul Sartre denied the gulag even existed.
- For the western Allies, Nazism was the only evil; they
could not admit being allied to mass murderers. For the Soviets, promoting
the Jewish Holocaust perpetuated anti-fascism and masked their own crimes.
- The Jewish people, understandably, saw their Holocaust
as a unique event. It was Israel's raison d'etre. Raising other genocides
at that time would, they feared, diminish their own. This was only human
- While today, academia, the media and Hollywood rightly
keep attention focused on the Jewish Holocaust, they mostly ignore Ukraine.
We still hunt Nazi killers, but not communist killers. There are few photos
of the Ukraine genocide or Stalin's gulag, and fewer living survivors.
Dead men tell no tales.
- Russia never prosecuted any of its mass murderers, as
- We know all about the crimes of Nazis Adolf Eichmann
and Heinrich Himmler; about Babi Yar and Auschwitz.
- But who remembers Soviet mass murderers Dzerzhinsky,
Kaganovitch, Yagoda, Yezhov and Beria? Were it not for writer Alexander
Solzhenitsyn, we might never know of Soviet death camps like Magadan, Kolyma
and Vorkuta. Movie after movie appears about Nazi evil, while the evil
of the Soviet era vanishes from view or dissolves into nostalgia.
- The souls of Stalin's millions of victims still cry out
- Eric can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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