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Author Topic: Why there is no equivalence, moral or otherwise, between Nazi and Soviet crimes  (Read 1541 times)

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Note: If u r in a hurry, read from the part "But what actually is the ultranationalist version of history?"


Halting Holocaust obfuscation

The Baltic ultranationalists rewriting east European history as an equal Nazi-Soviet 'double genocide' must be stopped

Dovid Katz

guardian.co.uk, Friday 8 January 2010 10.00 GMT

Britons who are proud of a parent or grandparent who fought in the second world war, proud of the Allies' defeat of Hitler, of Britain's valiant defence of freedom when Europe buckled and crumbled, have ample reason to be wary now. Wary, and disappointed, that one of this country's major political parties has entered into a rash alliance with the new far right of eastern Europe.

One of the eastern far right's priorities, notwithstanding the current economic challenges, is to rubbish the Allies' triumph, and rewrite the history of the war to suit local ultranationalism. It boggles the mind that those who lead the party of Churchill and, yes, of Thatcher, would be duped into joining the far-right European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), led by the controversial Polish MEP Michal Kaminski. If Cameron's Conservatives want your vote, they need to show the minimum courage required to exit rapidly from the ECR, and to utter the words that politicians in general have so much trouble with: "We made an honest mistake, we realise it, and we are today setting things right."

This is not just about the ECR group and Kaminski's equivocation about the Jedwabne massacre, or its Latvian and Estonian ECR partners who proudly endorse Waffen-SS celebrations. (It was, let's not forget, a Republican US secretary of state, Colin Powell, who once told them such behaviour must stop if they want to join Nato and the EU; of course, with membership in the bag, Nazi nostalgia re-emerged rapidly.) It also entails the ongoing campaign to rewrite second world war history by mitigating Nazism, insisting that communism's evils be proclaimed "equal" to Nazism by all of Europe, and trashing the Allied war effort as one that did nothing but replace one tyranny with another "equal" one in the east.

Make no mistake, the peoples of eastern Europe suffered enormously under communism for decades after the war, while we westerners were enjoying unbridled freedom and prosperity. It is absolutely right that they should now call for thorough investigation of the crimes committed by communist regimes. But the demand that the entire EU declare Nazism and communism to be "equal" is something else entirely.

Perhaps you must actually live in eastern Europe to appreciate the nuances. Let it be stressed that none of this is about the fine, tolerant, welcoming and hardworking people of the region, among whom I have lived happily for over a decade, in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. It is rather about the abuses of power elites, in government, academia, media, the judiciary and so forth, whose agendas are often opaque even to locals, and all the more inscrutable to unsuspecting foreigners.

The new ultranationalists are neither skinheads nor toughs. On the contrary, the elites are suave, silver-tongued, charming and highly educated, especially about history. But not in the openminded sense of relishing civic debate between competing ideas, but in the sense of insisting upon a single, uniform history as a product for export.

In 2009, the Lithuanian parliament actually debated proposals to impose two- or three-year prison sentences on people who would disagree with the "double genocide" model of the second world war and who would question, for example, whether Soviet misrule constituted "genocide". Even if it is never passed into law, the debate itself has intimidated citizens from speaking their minds freely in this part of the European Union.

But what actually is the ultranationalist version of history?

In the case of the countries in the far east of the European Union, the Baltics (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia), there is a reluctance to own up to any complicity with the Holocaust. The percentages of their Jewish populations killed (mid-90s) were the highest in Europe. Further west, collaboration had meant ratting to the Gestapo or taking neighbours to the train station to be deported. In these countries, it meant something different. Many thousands of enthusiastic local volunteers did most of the actual shooting of their country's Jewish citizens, whose remains lie scattered in hundreds of local killing pits. In Lithuania and Latvia, the butchery started before the Nazis even arrived. Of course we acknowledge, too, the exceptions and honour the inspirational courage of those Baltic citizens who risked their and their families' lives to rescue a Jewish neighbour.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of democratic states in the region, individual citizens hailing from each country's majority made spirited strides toward unearthing the truth. Some remarkable NGOs were set up. But near the turn of the millennium, the three Baltic governments colluded to set up state-financed commissions to study "as a single topic" the Nazi and communist legacies (known informally as "red-brown commissions"). The most notorious of these bodies has been Lithuania's International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania. Built into the name of the inquiry are the foregone conclusions: first, the desired equivalence of Nazi and Soviet crimes; and second, the limitation to consider the crimes of "occupation regimes", leaving little scope for investigation of the genocide committed by local forces, in some cases before the occupation began. The commission is cosily housed in the prime minister's office, turning history into a PR department of the government.

To "fix" the region's unfixable Holocaust history, an array of cunning ruses was brought into play. The very definition of "genocide" was broadened by local legislation in this part of the world to include wrongful deportation, imprisonment or attempts to rid society of a certain class, thereby "legally" placing communist oppression in the same category as Nazism. The state-funded Genocide Museum on the main boulevard of Vilnius does not mention the word "Holocaust"; it is all about Soviet crimes; and even flaunts antisemitic exhibits. It is widely repeated locally that the Soviets and their Jewish supporters committed genocide first, in 1940 (when the Baltic states were wrongfully incorporated into the USSR, less than a year after the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact), and that this was followed by some kind of opposite and equal reaction in 1941, when the German invaders and Balts began their genocide of the Jewish population.

According to this narrative, all is equal; everybody is even. All that remained was to sell this new history to the naive westerners whose mind is on other things these days.

But here in Lithuania, the process went further. State prosecutors, egged on by the antisemitic press, opened "war crimes investigations" against Holocaust survivors who are alive today only because they managed to flee the ghetto and the murder awaiting them, to join up with anti-Nazi partisans in the forests who were, yes, supported by the Soviet Union (there were, alas, no US or British forces in these parts).

One of the accused survivors, Dr Yitzhak Arad (born 1926), a gentle scholar who was founding director of Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, was duped into joining the Lithuanian red-brown commission (to give it legitimacy) before being absurdly accused himself. Then, in May 2008, at the lowpoint of modern Lithuanian history, armed police came looking for two incredibly valorous women veterans: Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky (born 1922), librarian of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, and Rachel Margolis (1921), a biologist and Holocaust scholar. Margolis is especially loathed by proponents of the "double genocide" industry because she rediscovered, deciphered and published the long-lost diary of a Christian Pole, Kazimierz Sakowicz. Sakowicz, witness to tens of thousands of murders at the Ponar (Paneriai) site outside Vilnius, recorded accurately that most of the killers were enthusiastic locals. Now resident in Rechovot, Israel, she is unable to return to her beloved hometown in Lithuania for fear of prosecutorial harassment.

Why would prosecutors, who have yet to level a single charge, go after the victims instead of the perpetrators? In fact, this has been all about defamation and manipulation of history, not prosecution. When it comes to perpetrators, there is no initiative or energy. As Dr Efraim Zuroff, director of the Wiesenthal Centre's Israel office, puts it:

    Since they obtained independence in 1991, the Baltic countries' record vis-a-vis the prosecution of local Nazi war criminals has been an abysmal failure. Not a single such person has ever been punished for their crimes.

But worse, with unbridled audacity, the Baltic states, working closely with far-right parties in other "new accession states" (Poland and the Czech Republic among them), have found "useful idiots" in the European parliament for spreading their underlying view that the Nazis were, in effect, liberators of their countries from the yoke of communism.

The east European cabal's greatest success to date is the Prague Declaration of June 2008, which demands that the entire European Union recognise communism and fascism [Nazism] as a "common legacy", and that "all European minds" think that way. Its practical demands include a new Nuremberg-type tribunal for trying the criminals of communism and, unbelievably, a demand for the "overhaul of European history textbooks" to reflect the revisionist history.

One of the reasons that all this progressed without scrutiny can be found in the Prague Declaration's list of signatories. They include some major anti-Soviet icons who stood up bravely for their nations' independence as the USSR crumbled, and subsequently helped forge solid democracies. The heroic roles of Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic and Vytautas Landsbergis of Lithuania in their nations' re-emergence remain undiminished. But that does not mean that, two decades later, we must be afraid to disagree with them when, following the general political trend in the region, they veer rightwards or unwittingly give succour to the ultranationalists.

These cardinal questions of 20th-century European history, and the current issues to which they are intimately related in eastern Europe 21st-century racism, antisemitism and homophobia should not have to become a party-political issue in Britain. It was the valiant Conservative MEP, Edward McMillan-Scott, who stood up to the east European heirs to fascist thinking and defeated Kaminski for the vice-presidency of the European parliament. But instead of getting the medal he deserved, he was expelled from the Conservative party.

Nor has the British Labour party been wholly immune to this Baltic virus. Last summer, at the parliamentary assembly of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the east European far right slipped two phrases into the Vilnius Declaration of 3 July 2009. The first was the affirmation of "two major totalitarian regimes, Nazi and Stalinist, which brought about genocide". The second was the now routine demand that all member states introduce a mandatory "Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism". The British government delegation, along with the other western members of the OSCE, acceded and voted for the resolution. In the never-ending carousel of Eurospeak, the red-equals-brown agenda is now being slipped into the "Stockholm Programme" of 2010-4.

There is a real need now for the main political parties in Britain to disown the eastern far right, admit these mistakes and disassociate as necessary, sink the Prague Declaration, and move forward. By denigrating the Allies' war effort against Hitler, the easterners go beyond whitewashing their own Holocaust histories. The entire "red-equals-brown" movement within eastern Europe panders to base instincts, which can be politically useful in hard times. It has hit upon a convenient way to stigmatise not only "Russians" (often a cover term for Russian-speakers of many ethnic backgrounds, including Roma), but also today's Russia. These nations have every right to fear Russia and they deserve firm western support for their permanent security and independence. This legitimate concern must not be compromised by the attempts of some at historical falsification and the peddling of contemporary racism and antisemitism.

Each state may preach and teach with it likes within its borders. But the unseemly revisionism promoted in some eastern EU states must not be granted entrance to the west via the back doors of Brussels and Strasbourg.

The time has come to say no.
"Every rise of fascism bears witness to a failed revolution."
Walter Benjamin


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Colonial Office files detail 'eliminations' to choke Malayan insurgency

Documents transferred to National Archives lay bare how communist groups were targeted in long jungle war

Owen Bowcott, The Guardian, Wednesday 18 April 2012   

The "elimination of ranking terrorists" was a repeated theme in secret monthly reports on casualty figures circulated by the director of intelligence in British-controlled Malaya during the 1950s.

Long-lost files from the "emergency" period, when insurgents attempted to drive out colonial occupiers, reveal how the protracted jungle war was fought to drive communist groups into submission and deprive them of food and support.

The first tranche of documents belatedly transferred from the Foreign Office depository in Hanslope park, near Milton Keynes, to the National Archives in Kew, show how British officials in Kuala Lumpur interpreted virtually all anti-colonial protests as evidence of a planned communist takeover.

But many potentially embarrassing documents, including probably some of those relating to the alleged 1948 massacre by Scots Guards of 24 villagers in Batang Kali, appear to be missing.

These missing papers could have been among scores of files listed for destruction in the colony's final months.

A compensation claim by relatives and survivors of the killings described by some as the "British My Lai massacre", after the US troop killings in Vietnam is due to come to trial in London in May.

Among documents that survived the transfer are reports issued monthly from the director of intelligence in the Federation of Malaya.

"The last month of 1956 brought a total of 41 eliminations of terrorists, which is average for the year," the director, G C Madoc, noted. "During the year, 287 terrorists were killed, 52 were captured and 134 surrendered. The [communist] politburo policy of avoiding contacts and conserving terrorist strength remains in force."

Madoc added: "In spite of the considerable difficulties of creating underground control organisations from the jungle, it is known that the MCP [Malayan Communist party] is striving continuously to implement directives on subversion in town and villages

"Hence the need to maintain constant watch over the gullible and ambitious opponents [of] the existing regime who are natural and probably unconscious targets for subtle forms of subversion."

Casualty tables written for December 1956 record: "Ranking terrorists eliminated 8." The phrase "eliminated" is used repeatedly to describe the killing of insurgents. In January the following year, Madoc recorded: "In Selangor a small but important success was achieved when the whole of the Ampang branch, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, was eliminated."

In March 1957, less than six months before the colony's formal independence, a monthly intelligence assessment observed: "By the standards of the last year the number of terrorist eliminations may be considered satisfactory."
Colonial papers documents Photograph: The National Archives

The killing of Tan Fuk Leong, it was noted in May that year, "by aerial bombardment, may presently ease the situation in North Negri Sembilan [sic]."

The assessment added: "His inspiring leadership of the 3rd Independent Platoon has been a major factor in the preservation of MCP influence in the north of the state. We know from experience that the elimination of senior leaders has little apparent effect on the morale of followers, but the plain fact is that only one deputy platoon commander survives."

Other means of combating communist subversion included banning books from 29 blacklisted publishing houses in Hong Kong, China and Singapore. A branch of the Labour party of Malaysia was censured for staging a concert at which "two objectionable songs were sung in spite of the fact that the police had registered their disapproval".

Another secret file reports on an inquiry into allegations that British troops regularly strip-searched and abused women near the village of Semenyih during a "food denial" operation aimed at preventing rice being smuggled out to communist units in the jungle.

Women complained that they were forced to remove their clothes, which were then thrown some distance away so they had to recover them under the gaze of loitering soldiers. The final report into the allegations is absent from the file.

An insight into how the government in London initially resisted the anti-colonial winds of change is contained in a "secret and personal letter" sent out in March 1953 by Sir Thomas Lloyd, permanent undersecretary at the Colonial Office.

Dispatched to "governors of non-self governing territories", it began: "The growth of anti-colonial activity is a feature of the general world situation with which we have to reckon these days. The dangers for us from it are sufficiently obvious, not least because its use to smooth the way for communist strategy in colonial territories It may only be a matter of time before members of the Arab/Asian bloc will cause [their] agents to interest themselves to our detriment in the underground political affairs of our territories."

His circular, posted to British governors in Malaya, British Guyana, Fiji, Cyprus, Kenya, U*a, Jamaica, Trinidad, Northern Rhodesia and other colonial outposts, requested feedback on "the effect of anti-colonialism on the attitude of the politically conscious among indigenous colonial people". It added: "In territories where there is a domiciled European population, [we recognise that] this is far from being the whole story."

In Malaya, a far-seeing official acknowledged that: "The word 'colonial' has acquired a stigma and should be dropped. We should not have a Colonial Office, a secretary of state for colonial affairs, a colonial service and so on. Why not 'Commonwealth protected territories' or some such phrase?"
"Every rise of fascism bears witness to a failed revolution."
Walter Benjamin


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Mau Mau verdict: Britain must undo its imperial amnesia

The case brought by elderly Kikuyu tortured in the Kenyan emergency allows a more honest account of Britain's identity

Priyamvada Gopal, guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 31 July 2012 22.00 BST   

The high court will shortly issue a verdict in a case brought before it by three elderly Kenyans who are suing the British government for damages. They, like many other Kikuyu people, suffered internment and torture during the brutal emergency rule imposed in the 1950s by Kenya's colonial government as it attempted to repress a violent uprising led by the Kenya Land and Freedom Army or "Mau Mau". Tens of thousands were killed while others endured systematic abuse including long internment, rape and castration. Given the recent emergence of "lost" documents pointing to the Foreign Office's awareness of these abuses, the British government does not deny the abuse but argues it is not liable for out-of-date claims against a past colonial administration.

Public arguments about this case have focused on whether present-day governments and taxpayers should be legally and financially accountable for the misdeeds of past regimes. Critics argue that judicial discretion to allow such cases to proceed will create a slippery slope of blanket entitlements. In fact, given the time elapsed, only a limited number of living victims would be eligible to bring direct personal injury claims: a fourth Kenyan claimant also died recently. It is true that the perpetrators of specific crimes will go unpunished by virtue of being dead. But should there be no collective national recognition in relation to British imperial misdeeds? It is odd that political leaders repeatedly call on this nation to take pride in what they regard as Britain's imperial achievements but want nothing doing with the injustices also intrinsic to imperialism.

Whatever the high court's verdict, this landmark case asks larger questions of Britain, the answers to which go beyond apologies and monetary reparations. How should Britain and Britons deal with the (not all that distant) imperial past? From racial hierarchies to artificial national borders and a deeply inequitable economic system which enshrined as a core principle the devastating profiteering we see around us, imperial history still shapes all our lives within Britain and beyond.

Its legacies are unfortunately not all about railways, parliamentary democracy and the English language. In the Kenyan case, the building of the railway itself had grim consequences including mass displacement and thousands of "coolie" deaths. The creation of an English-speaking elite in India, which benefits a minority like me, still disadvantages millions. Can reparations really be made for what took place under colonial rule across Asia, Africa and the Caribbean or, indeed, closer to home in Ireland? How do you compensate people for the ways in which their circumstances have been shaped by stolen lands, enslaved or massacred ancestors, expropriated resources, imposed languages, forced labour, artificial national boundaries, geographical displacement, avoidable famines, discriminatory taxation or institutionalised racial hierarchies?

An essential discussion about the past that all nations have to undertake has been repeatedly shut down here by strident and influential voices from Niall Ferguson and David Starkey to Gordon Brown and Michael Gove insisting the good done under imperial rule outweighs the abusive aberrations; that it is unnecessary to apologise for empire or that it's all just politically correct grievance politics: we should simply turn the page and move on. By refusing to let systemic atrocities be swept under the government filing cabinet, the Mau Mau case offers Britain an opportunity to begin what philosopher Theodor Adorno called a "serious working through of the past" precisely in the interests of moving on rather than institutionalise an amnesia that "justifies what is forgotten".

Undoing imperial amnesia will enable us to flesh out Britain's "island story" towards a more honest account of how Britain came to be what it is today, socially and economically. Unlike Danny Boyle's interesting "people's history" Olympics extravaganza, it would remind us that this country's multicultural history did not begin a few decades ago with the Empire Windrush but is also tied to the dislocations of empire. It is time to stop segregating majority "indigenous" history from that of immigrants and minority communities when they are so profoundly connected by empire. Antiguan writer Jamaica Kincaid asks: might not knowing why we are the way we are, why we do the things we do, why we live the way we live, lead us to a different, relationship with the world and with each other? This case invites us to begin answering it together.
"Every rise of fascism bears witness to a failed revolution."
Walter Benjamin
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