Many assassination attempts were made on Hitler’s life. Yet, not so well-known are the german assassination plans for the Allied leaders – President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and the Soviet leader, Stalin.
Hitler’s Waffen-SS had an entire team and a plan dedicated to assassinating all three leaders when they met in Tehran for a World War Two conference in 1943. The details of this plan have been revealed in a new book called Operation Long Jump: Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Greatest Assassination Plot in History by Bill Yenne, who is a war historian and enthusiast.
The germans found out about the Tehran conference and began to plan how they could get rid of all the Allied leaders in one go since all three would be attending. The man leading the mission was Otto Skorzeny, who was also responsible for rescuing Italian wartime leader Mussolini when he had been deposed and imprisoned by the Italian authorities.
Otto planned for a team of paratroopers to drop on the outskirts of Tehran from the air and then hide in the houses of German sympathisers. Some of those paratroopers would be defectors from the Red Army who still had their uniforms. They would wear their army outfits and pretend to be part of Stalin’s security on the ground during the conference.
While Otto planned the mission, the Allies were also planning their response, since they had received intelligence from a Swiss agent that the german plan was afoot. Ernst Merser was a Swiss businessman who worked on international deals.
He gained the trust of the Germans and was asked to manage the equipment drops over Iran during the conference. Meanwhile, he was working for Allied intelligence; he made the plans known as well as the equipment and weapons that were to be used in the plot. In addition to Ernst, some of the Red Army defectors were actually spies planted into the Nazi war machine, and they were also feeding information back to the Soviet intelligence services.
Otto’s plan went ahead but when the paratroopers landed in Iran, the Soviet spies killed the German paratroopers.
The book also outlines what might have happened if the plan had gone ahead successfully. The successful assassination of the three Allied leaders could have potentially led to a peace deal with Germany, leaving it in control of its occupied territories across Europe.
Icebreaker: Who Started the Second World War?, by Viktor Suvorov (Vladimir Rezun). London: Hamish Hamilton, 1990. Hardcover. Maps. Photos. Source references. Index.
Reviewed by Joseph Bishop
It sometimes happens that the most significant historical works are virtually ignored by the mainstream press, and consequently reach few readers. Such is the case with many revisionist studies, including this important work by a former Soviet military intelligence officer who defected to the West in 1978. Even before the appearance of this book, he had already established a solid reputation with the publication of five books, written under the pen name of Viktor Suvorov, on the inner workings of the Soviet military, and particularly its intelligence operations.
In Icebreaker Suvorov takes a close look at the origins and development of World War II in Europe, and in particular the background to Hitler’s “Operation Barbarossa” attack against the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. Since its original publication in Russian (entitled Ledokol) in France in 1988, it has been published in an astonishing 87 editions in 18 languages. In spite of its importance to the historical record, Icebreaker has received very little attention in the United States. The few reviews that have appeared here have been almost entirely brief and dismissive — a shameful treatment that reflects the cowardice and intellectual irresponsibility of a “politically correct” scholarly establishment.
According to the conventional view, Hitler’s perfidious attack abruptly forced a neutral and aloof Soviet Russia into war. This view further holds that a surprised Stalin had naively trusted the deceitful German Führer. Rejecting this view as political propaganda, Suvorov shows Stalin’s personal responsibility for the war’s outbreak and progression. Above all, this book details the vast Soviet preparations for an invasion of Europe in the summer of 1941 with the goal of Sovietizing central and western Europe. Suvorov is not alone in his view. It is also affirmed by a number of non-Russian historians, such as American scholar R. H. S. Stolfi in his 1991 study Hitler’s Panzers East: World War II Reinterpreted (reviewed by me in the Nov.-Dec. 1995 Journal).
In spite of rigid Soviet censorship, Suvorov has succeeded in digging up many nuggets of valuable information from publicly available Soviet writings that confirm his central thesis. Icebreaker is based on the author’s meticulous scouring of such published sources as memoirs of wartime Soviet military leaders, and histories of individual Soviet divisions, corps, armies, fleets, and air units.
‘Second Imperialist War’
A central tenet of Soviet ideology was that the Soviet Union, as the world’s first Marxist state and bulwark of “workers’ power,” would eventually liberate all of humanity from the yoke of capitalism and fascism (the “last resort of monopoly capitalism”). While Soviet leaders might disagree about the circumstances and timing of this process of global liberation, none doubted the importance of this objective. As Suvorov notes:
“For Lenin, as for Marx, world revolution remained the guiding star, and he did not lose sight of this goal. But according to the minimum program, the First World War would only facilitate a revolution in one country. How, then, would the world revolution take place thereafter? Lenin gave a clear-cut answer to this question in 1916: as a result of the second imperialist war …”
Initially the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” was made up of only a handful of constituent republics. Lenin and the other Soviet leaders intended that more republics would be added to the USSR until it encompassed the entire globe. Thus, writes Suvorov, “the declaration accompanying the formation of the USSR was a clear and direct declaration of war on the rest of the world.”
Hitler understood this much better than did the leaders of Britain, France or the United States. During a conversation in 1937 with Lord Halifax, one of Britain’s most important officials, he said: “In the event of a general war [in Europe], only one country can win. That country is the Soviet Union.” In Icebreaker, Suvorov explains how in 1939 Stalin exploited the long-simmering dispute between Germany and Poland over Danzig and the “Polish Corridor” to provoke a “second imperialist war” that would enormously expand the Soviet empire.
Stalin anticipated a drawn-out war of attrition in which Germany, France and Britain would exhaust themselves in a devastating conflict that would also spark Communist uprisings across Europe. And as the Soviet premier expected, “Icebreaker” Germany did indeed break up the established order in Europe. But along with nearly everyone else outside of Germany, he was astonished by the speed and thoroughness with which Hitler subdued not only Poland, but also France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Yugoslavia and Greece. Dashing Kremlin expectations that a “second imperialist war” would quickly usher in a Soviet Europe, by July 1940 Hitler was effectively master of the continent.
The Soviet armies of the First Strategic Echelon were deployed in mid-1941 to strike against Europe. Another seven armies in the rear were making their way to the frontier in preparation for the massive Soviet offensive.
The Soviet 9th Army was concentrated not on the German border, but on the frontier with Romania. A 9th Army strike at Romania would quickly seize Germany’s most important source of oil.
Two Soviet mountain armies were set to help cut off Germany’s oil “jugular” and prevent the movement of German forces into Romania.
Deployment sites of the “first wave” Soviet airborne corps. Another five airborne corps were secretly being organized deep inside the Soviet Union.
Throughout history, every army has had a basic mission, one that requires corresponding preparations. An army whose mission is basically defensive is accordingly trained and equipped for defensive war. It heavily fortifies the country’s frontier areas, and employs its units in echeloned depth. It builds defensive emplacements and obstacles, lays extensive minefields, and digs tank traps and ditches. Military vehicles, aircraft, weapons and equipment suitable for defending the country are designed, produced and supplied. Officers and troops are trained in defense tactics and counter-offensive operations.
An army whose mission is aggressive war acts very differently. Officers and troops are trained for offensive operations. They are supplied with weapons and equipment designed for attack, and the frontier area is prepared accordingly. Troops and their materiel are massed close to the frontier, obstacles are removed, and minefields are cleared. Maps of the areas to be invaded are issued to officers, and the troops are briefed on terrain problems, how to deal with the population to be conquered, and so forth.
Carefully examining the equipping, training and deployment of Soviet forces, as well as the numbers and strengths of Soviet weaponry, vehicles, supplies and aircraft, Suvorov establishes in great detail that the Red Army was organized and deployed in the summer of 1941 for attack, not defense.
Germany entered war in 1939 with 3,195 tanks. As Suvorov points out, this was fewer than a single Soviet factory in Kharkov, operating on a “peacetime” basis, was turning out every six months.
By 1941 everyone recognized the tank as the primary weapon of an army of attack in a European land war. During this period, Suvorov shows, the Soviets were producing large quantities of the well armed “Mark BT” tank, predecessor of the famed T34 model. “BT” were the initials for the Russian words “high speed tank.” The first of this series had a top speed of 100 kilometers per hour, impressive even by today’s standards. But as Suvorov goes on to note, this weapon had a peculiarity:
“Having said so many positive things about the numbers and quality of Soviet tanks, one must note one minor drawback. It was impossible to use these tanks on Soviet territory …Mark BT tanks could only be used in an aggressive war, only in the rear of the enemy and only in a swift offensive operation, in which masses of tanks suddenly burst into enemy territory …
“The Mark BT tanks were quite powerless on Soviet territory. When Hitler began Operation Barbarossa, practically all the Mark BT tanks were cast aside. It was almost impossible to use them off the roads, even with caterpillar tracks. They were never used on wheels. The potential of these tanks was never realized, but it certainly could never have been realized on Soviet territory. The Mark BT was created to operate on foreign territory only and, what is more, only on territory where there were good roads …
“To the question, where could the enormous potential of these Mark BT tanks be successfully realized, there is only one answer: in central and southern Europe. The only territories where tanks could be used, after their caterpillar tracks were removed, were Germany, France and Belgium … Caterpillar tracks are only a means for reaching foreign territory. For instance, Poland could be crossed on caterpillar tracks which, once the German autobahns had been reached, could then be discarded in favor of wheels, on which operations would then proceed …
“It is said that Stalin’s tanks were not ready for war. That was not so. They were not ready for a defensive war on their own territory. They were, however, designed to wage war on others.”
Airborne Assault Corps
The Soviet KT (A-40) winged tank. Upon landing, the wings and tail were quickly detached, making the tank immediately ready for battle. Suited only for offensive warfare, this remarkable weapon was rendered useless by Hitler’s “Barbarossa” attack.
Similarly designed for offensive war are paratroops. This most aggressive form of infantry is employed primarily as an invasion force. Germany formed its first airborne assault units in 1936, and by 1939 had 4,000 paratroops.
And the USSR? Suvorov explains: “By the beginning of the war , the Soviet Union had more than one million trained paratroopers — 200 times more than all other countries in the world put together, including Germany…. It is quite impossible to use paratroopers in such massive numbers in a defensive war…. No country in history, or indeed all countries in the world put together, including the Soviet Union, has ever had so many paratroopers and air assault landing sub-units as Stalin had in 1941.”
As part of the planned invasion, in early 1940 orders were given for large-scale construction of airborne assault gliders, which were produced in mass quantity from the spring of 1941 onward. The Soviets also designed and built the remarkable KT “winged tank.” After landing, its wings and tailpiece were discarded, making the KT instantly ready for combat. The author also describes a variety of other offense-oriented units and weapons, and their deployment in June 1941 in areas and jumping-off points right on the frontiers with Germany and Romania. All these weapons of offensive war became instantly useless following the Barbarossa attack, when the Soviets
suddenly required defensive weapons.
Suvorov tells of a secret meeting in December 1940 attended by Stalin and other Politburo members at which General Pavel Rychagov, deputy defense minister and commander of the Soviet air force, discussed the details of “special operations in the initial period of war.” He spoke of the necessity of keeping the air force’s preparations secret in order to “catch the whole of the enemy air force on the ground.” Suvorov comments:
‘It is quite obvious that it is not possible to ‘catch the whole of the enemy air force on the ground’ in time of war. It is only possible to do so in peacetime, when the enemy does not suspect the danger.
“Stalin created so many airborne troops that they could only be used in one situation: after a surprise attack by the Soviet air force on the airfields of the enemy. It would be simply impossible to use hundreds of thousands of airborne troops and thousands of transport aircraft and gliders in any other situation.”
Suvorov also reports on the dismantling in June 1941 of the Soviet frontier defense systems, and the deployment there of masses of troops and armor poised for westward attack.
During the period just prior to the planned Soviet invasion, the USSR’s western military districts were ordered to deploy all 114 divisions, then stationed in the interior, to positions on the frontier. Thus, remarks Suvorov, June 13, 1941, “marks the beginning of the greatest displacement of troops in the history of civilization.”
Such a massive buildup of forces directly on the frontier simply could not be kept secret. As Suvorov notes, Wilhelm Keitel, Field Marshal and Chief of Germany’s armed forces High Command, spoke about the German fears during a postwar interrogation:
“All the preparatory measures we took before spring 1941 were defensive measures against the contingency of a possible attack by the Red Army. Thus the entire war in the East, to a known degree, may be termed a preventive war … We decided … to forestall an attack by Soviet Russia and to destroy its armed forces with a surprise attack. By spring 1941, I had formed the definite opinion that the heavy buildup of Russian troops, and their attack on Germany which would follow, would place us, in both economic and strategic terms, in an exceptionally critical situation … Our attack was the immediate consequence of this threat …”
In 1941, Admiral N. G. Kuznetsov was the Soviet Navy minister, as well as a member of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party. In his postwar memoirs, published in 1966, he recalled:
“For me there is one thing beyond all argument — J. V. Stalin not only did not exclude the possibility of war with Hitler’s Germany, on the contrary, he considered such a war … inevitable … J. V. Stalin made preparations for war … wide and varied preparations — beginning on dates … which he himself had selected. Hitler upset his calculations.”
In early 1941 the Soviet Union had vastly more paratroops than all other countries combined. Parachutists, by their nature, can only be used in offensive operations.
“The admiral is telling us quite clearly and openly that Stalin considered war inevitable and prepared himself seriously to enter it at a time of his own choosing. In other words, Stalin was preparing to strike the first blow, that is to commit aggression against Germany; but Hitler dealt a preventive blow first and thereby frustrated all Stalin’s plans …
“Let us compare Keitel’s words with those of Kuznetsov. Field Marshal Keitel said that Germany was not preparing an aggression against the Soviet Union; it was the Soviet Union which was preparing the aggression. Germany was simply using a preventive attack to defend itself from an unavoidable aggression. Kuznetsov says the same thing — yes, the Soviet Union was preparing for war and would inevitably have entered into it, but Hitler disrupted these plans with his attack. What I cannot understand is why Keitel was hanged [at Nuremberg], and Kuznetsov was not.”
Suvorov believes that Hitler’s preemptive strike came just two or three weeks before Stalin’s own planned assault. Thus, as Wehrmacht forces smashed Soviet formations in the initial weeks of the “Barbarossa” attack, the Germans marveled at the great numbers of Soviet tanks and other materiel destroyed or captured — an enormous buildup sufficient not just for an assault on Germany, but for the conquest of all of Europe. Suvorov writes
“Hitler decided that it was not worth his while waiting any longer. He was the first to go, without waiting for the blow of the ‘liberating’ dagger to stab him in the back. He had begun the war in the most favorable conditions which could possibly have existed for an aggressor; but given the nature of Stalin’s grand plan, he could never have won it. Even in the most unfavorable conditions, the Red Army was able to ‘liberate’ half of Europe …”
These Soviet tanks, with removable caterpillar tracks, were designed for use on German roads and highways. So equipped, they were of little use on Soviet territory, where few roads were paved.
As devastating as it was, Hitler’s assault was not fatal. It came too late to be successful. “Even the Wehrmacht’s surprise attack on the Soviet Union could no longer save Hitler and his empire,” Suvorov writes. “Hitler understood where the greatest danger was coming from, but it was already too late.” With great effort, the Soviets were able to recover from the shattering blow. Stalin succeeded in forming new armies to replace those lost in the second half of 1941.
As Suvorov repeatedly points out, the widely accepted image of World War II, and particularly of the roles of Stalin and Hitler in the conflict, simply does not accord with reality:
“In the end … Poland, for whose liberty the West had gone to war, ended up with none at all. On the contrary, she was handed over to Stalin, along with the whole of Eastern Europe, including a part of Germany. Even so, there are some people in the West who continue to believe that the West won the Second World War.
“… Stalin became the absolute ruler of a vast empire hostile to the West, which had been created with the help of the West. For all that, Stalin was able to preserve his reputation as naive and trusting, while Hitler went down in history as the ultimate aggressor. A multitude of books have been published in the West based on the idea that Stalin was not ready for war while Hitler was.”
A Soviet Europe?
An intriguing historical “what if” is to speculate on the fate of Europe if Stalin, and not Hitler, had struck first. For example, a less rapidly successful German campaign in the Balkans in the spring of 1941 could have forced the postponement of Barbarossa by several weeks, which would have enabled Stalin to strike the first blow.
Could German forces have withstood an all-out Soviet assault, with tens of thousands of Soviet tanks and a million paratroopers? With the advantage of striking first, how quickly could Stalin have reached Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Rome and Madrid? Suvorov writes:
“It would be a mistake to underestimate the enormous strength and vast resources of Stalin’s war machine. Despite its grievous losses, it had enough strength to withdraw and gather new strength to reach Berlin. How far would it have gone had it not sustained that massive blow on 22 June, if hundreds of aircraft and thousands of tanks had not been lost, had it been the Red Army and not the Wehrmacht which struck the first blow? Did the German Army have the territorial expanse behind it for withdrawal? Did it have the inexhaustible human resources, and the time, to restore its army after the first Soviet surprise attack?”
Partially answering his own question, Suvorov states: “If Hitler had decided to launch Operation Barbarossa a few weeks later, the Red Army would have reached Berlin much earlier than 1945.”
Suvorov even presents a hypothetical scenario of a Soviet invasion and occupation of Europe, replete with Stalinist terror and oppression:
By mid-June 1941, Stalin had concentrated enormous Red Army forces on the western Soviet border, poised for a devastating attack against Europe. This diagram appeared in the English-language edition of the German wartime illustrated magazine “Signal.”
“The [Soviet] troops meet endless columns of prisoners. Dust rises on the horizon. There they are, the oppressors of the people — shopkeepers, bourgeois doctors and architects, farmers and bank employees. The Chekists’ [NKVD] work will be hard. Prisoners are cursorily interrogated at every stopping place. Then the NKVD investigates each one in detail, and establishes the degree of his guilt before the working people. But by now it has become necessary to expose the most dangerous of the millions of prisoners: the former Social Democrats, pacifists, socialists and National Socialists, former officers, policemen and ministers of religion.
“Millions of prisoners have to be sent far away to the east and the north, in order to give them the opportunity, through honest labor, to expiate their guilt before the people …”
In Suvorov’s scenario, a camp called Auschwitz is captured early on by the advancing Soviets. In response to the question, “Well, what was it like in Auschwitz, pal?,” a Red Army man replies: “‘Nothing much, really’ The worldly-wise soldier in his black jacket shrugs his shoulders. ‘Just like at home. Only their climate is better’.”
Actually, “what if” historical speculation is normally uncertain because key factors are often simply imponderable. In this case, one such factor is Soviet morale. While it is certainly true that Soviet troops fought bravely and tenaciously in 1941-1943 defending their home territory, they may not have fought with the same fervor and morale in an invasion of Europe. The tenacity and endurance shown by Red Army troops in Hungary and Germany in 1944 and 1945 is not necessarily indicative, because these soldiers were bitterly mindful of more than two years of savage fighting against the invaders, and of stern occupation, on their home territory.
Another imponderable is the response of Britain and the United States to an all-out Soviet invasion of Europe. If Soviet forces had struck westward in July 1941, would Britain and the United States have sided with Stalin and the USSR, or would they have sided with Hitler and Germany, Italy, France, Romania, Finland, Hungary, Denmark, and the rest of Europe? Or would Roosevelt and Churchill have decided to remain aloof from the great conflict?
Anyway, when Hitler did launch his preemptive strike against Soviet Russia, Roosevelt and Churchill immediately sided with Stalin, and when the Red Army took half of Europe in 1944-45, neither the British nor the American leader objected.
What can now be stated with certainty — thanks to the work of Suvorov and other revisionist historians — is that in smashing the great Soviet military buildup in 1941, Hitler dashed Stalin’s plan to quickly conquer Europe, and that, in spite of his defeat in 1945, Hitler saved at least the western half of Europe, and tens of millions of people, from the horrors of Soviet subjugation.
“When the Jews achieved power in Russia, it was as a hostile elite with a deep sense of historic grievance. As a result, they became willing executioners of both the people and cultures they came to rule.” — Kevin MacDonald
by Kevin MacDonald
Annotated by Lasha Darkmoon
Introductory note by Lasha Darkmoon
This 17,000-word book review by Kevin MacDonald of Yuri Slezkine’s The Jewish Century is published here in its entirety as an invaluable work of reference. Abridged versions of the same review exist elsewhere (see here and here), but neither of these do justice to the information-packed scholarly monograph that MacDonald was to write soon after the publication of Slezkine’s book in 2004.
Why is this review of such importance?
Because MacDonald was one of the first to highlight the fact that Slezkine’s bombshell of a book had, perhaps inadvertently, let the cat out of the bag: it had revealed many embarrassing facts about the Bolshevik Revolution that Slezkine’s fellow Jews might have preferred to see suppressed or given far less prominence; namely, that Jews had played a leading role in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and in the Red Terror that followed. They had made themselves Stalin’s “willing executioners” and been directly responsible for the mass murder of millions of white Russian Christians and the destruction of their churches.
All the horrors of Communism from 1917 to 1953—the collectivization of farms, the dispossession and indiscriminate slaughter of the very proletariat in whose name the Communists professed to rule, the slave labor of the gulags, the horrendous tortures practiced by the cheka, the starvation genocide of 7 million people in Ukraine—all these unspeakable crimes would never have taken place without Jewish money and heavy Jewish participation.
Countless history books have been written about the Bolshevik Revolution and its aftermath, many of them by Jews, without the slightest hint being given that international Jewry was in large part to blame for the carnage. If anything, the Jews are presented in a rosy light and shown to be among the many victims of Stalin’s reign of terror. This enormous deception persists to this day.
MacDonald’s magisterial book review offers a valuable corrective to this deeply rooted misconception of the Jews as Eternal Victims. Read it, and learn from it the shocking truth: that Jews form a hostile elite — an elite that can be very dangerous indeed to the people among whom they live.
The grim history of the Soviet Union in the time of Lenin and Stalin stands as a stark reminder, a cautionary tale, of what could befall the Americans one day in the not too distant future.
Stalin’s Willing Executioners:
Jews as a Hostile Elite in the USSR
“When the Jews achieved power in Russia, it was as a hostile elite with a deep sense of historic grievance. As a result, they became willing executioners of both the people and cultures they came to rule.”
— Kevin MacDonald
This theme appears in a wide range of writings, from Henry Ford’sInternational Jew, to published statements by a long list of British, French, and American political ﬁgures in the 1920s (Winston Churchill, Woodrow Wilson, and David Lloyd George), and, in its most extreme form, by Adolf Hitler, who wrote:persistent theme among critics of Jews—particularly those on the pre-World War II right—has been that the Bolshevik revolution was a Jewish revolution and that the Soviet Union was dominated by Jews.
Now begins the last great revolution. By wresting political power for himself, the Jew casts off the few remaining shreds of disguise he still wears. The democratic plebeian Jew turns into the blood Jew and the tyrant of peoples. In a few years he will try to exterminate the national pillars of intelligence and, by robbing the peoples of their natural spiritual leadership, will make them ripe for the slavish lot of a permanent subjugation. The most terrible example of this is Russia.1
This long tradition stands in sharp contradiction to the ofﬁcial view, promulgated by Jewish organizations and almost all contemporary historians, that Jews played no special role in Bolshevism and indeed were speciﬁcally victimized by it. Yuri Slezkine’s book provides a much needed resolution to these opposing perspectives. It is an intellectual tour de force, alternately muddled and brilliant, courageous and apologetic.
1. APOLLONIANS AND MERCURIANS
One of the muddled elements, apparent at the beginning and present throughout The Jewish Century, is Slezkine’s claim that the peoples of the world can be classiﬁed into two groups. The successful peoples of the modern world, termed Mercurians, are urban, mobile, literate, articulate, and intellectually sophisticated.
Distinguished by their ability to manipulate symbols, they pursue “wealth for the sake of learning, learning for the sake of wealth, and both wealth and learning for their own sake” (p. 1). Since Slezkine sees Jews as the quintessential Mercurians, he regards modernization as essentially a process of everyone becoming Jewish. His second group, which he calls Apollonians, is rooted in the land and in traditional agrarian cultures, and prizes physical strength and warrior values.
Slezkine conceptualizes Mercurianism as a worldview, and therefore a matter of psychological choice, rather than as a set of psychological mechanisms, the most important of which is general intelligence.2 As a result of this false premise, he exaggerates the similarity among Mercurians, underestimates the power of ethnocentrism as a unifying factor in Jewish history, and fails to understand the roots of Western social and economic institutions.
Slezkine views Judaism as one of many Mercurian cultures—peoples that dwell alone in Diasporas, living among strangers and often acting as economic middlemen: the Overseas Chinese, Indians, and Lebanese, and the Gypsies and Irish Travelers. Their common denominator, in Slezkine’s view (and mine3), is their status as strangers to the people they live among—sojourners who, above all else, do not intermarry or socialize with the locals. Their interactions with the local Apollonians involve “mutual hostility, suspicion and contempt” (p. 20) and a sense of superiority. Moreover, a “common host stereotype of the Mercurians is that they are devious, acquisitive, greedy, crafty, pushy, and crude” (p. 23). The Mercurians possess greater kin solidarity and internal cohesion than the people they live among; they are characterized by extended families and patriarchal social organization.
So far, so good, although I would stress that the family organization of such groups derives more from the long-term adaptation to the culture areas they originate from than from an adaptation to the nomadic, middleman niche.4 But Slezkine maintains that Mercurians are above all smarter than the people they live among: They are said to possess “cunning intelligence,” but it is surely a mistake to consider such disparate groups as Jews (or the Overseas Chinese) and Gypsies (or the Irish Travelers) as having in common a particular set of intellectual traits. After all, the Jews, as Slezkine shows, have repeatedly become an academic, intellectual, cultural, and economic elite in Western societies, while Gypsies have tended toward illiteracy and are at best an economically marginal group.
Slezkine imagines that the Gypsies and literate middleman groups like the Jews or Overseas Chinese differ not in intelligence but only in whether they express their intelligence through literacy or an oral culture: “Businessmen, diplomats, doctors, and psychotherapists are literate peddlers, heralds, healers, and fortune-tellers” (p. 29)—a formulation that will not stand the test of current psychometric data. In fact, the general patterns of Gypsies are the opposite of Jews: a low-investment, low-IQ reproductive style characterized by higher fertility, earlier onset of sexual behavior and reproduction, more unstable pair bonds, higher rate of single parenting, shorter interval of birth spacing, higher infant mortality rate, and higher rate of survival of low birth weight infants.5 Intelligence, for Slezkine, is a lifestyle choice, rather than a set of brain processes underlying information processing and strongly inﬂuenced by genetic variation. As we shall see, this formulation is very useful to Slezkine as he constructs his argument later in the book.
In his attempt to paint with a very broad brush, Slezkine also ignores other real differences among the Mercurians, most notably, I would argue, the aggressiveness of the Jews compared to the relative passivity of the Overseas Chinese. Both the Jews and the Overseas Chinese are highly intel- ligent and entrepreneurial, but the Overseas Chinese have not formed a hostile cultural elite in Southeast Asian countries, where they have chieﬂy settled, and have not been concentrated in media ownership or in the construction of culture. We do not read of Chinese cultural movements disseminated in the major universities and media outlets that subject the traditional culture of Southeast Asians and anti-Chinese sentiment to radical critique, or of Chinese organizations campaigning for the removal of native cultural and religious symbols from public places.6 Slezkine paints Jews as deeply involved in the construction of culture and in the politics of the host societies, but the role of the Chinese was quite different. The following passage describing the political attitudes of the Overseas Chinese in Thailand could never have applied to Jews in Western societies since the Enlightenment:
But few seem to know or indeed to care about the restrictions on citizenship, nationality rights, and political activities in general, nor are these restrictions given much publicity in the Chinese press. This merely points up the fact, recognized by all observers, that the overseas Chinese are primarily concerned with making a living, or amassing a fortune, and thus take only a passive interest in the formal political life of the country in which they live.7
Moreover, Slezkine pictures the middlemen as specializing in “certain dangerous, marvelous, and distasteful” (p. 9), but nevertheless indispensable, pursuits (p. 36)—a formulation that carries a grain of truth, as in places where natives were prohibited from loaning money at interest. However, he ignores, or at least fails to spell out, the extent to which Jews have been willing agents of exploitative elites, not only in Western societies, but in the Muslim world as well.8 This is the overarching generalization which one can make about Jewish economic behavior over the ages. Their role went far beyond performing tasks deemed inappropriate for the natives for religious reasons; rather they were often tasks at which natives would be relatively less ruthless in exploiting their fellows. This was especially the case in Eastern Europe, where economic arrangements such as tax farming, estate management, and monopolies on retail liquor distribution lasted far longer than in the West:
In this way, the Jewish arendator became the master of life and death over the population of entire districts, and having nothing but a short- term and purely ﬁnancial interest in the relationship, was faced with the irresistible temptation to pare his temporary subjects to the bone. On the noble estates he tended to put his relatives and co-religionists in charge of the ﬂour-mill, the brewery, and in particular of the lord’s taverns where by custom the peasants were obliged to drink. On the church estates, he became the collector of all ecclesiastical dues, standing by the church door for his payment from tithe-payers, baptized infants, newly-weds, and mourners. On the [royal] estates…, he became in effect the Crown Agent, farming out the tolls, taxes, and courts, and adorning his oppressions with all the dignity of royal authority.9
Jewish involvement in the Communist elite of the USSR can be seen as a variation on an ancient theme in Jewish culture rather than a new one sprung from the special circumstances of the Bolshevik Revolution. Rather than being the willing agents of exploitative non-Jewish elites who were clearly separated from both the Jews and the people they ruled, Jews became an entrenched part of an exploitative and oppressive elite in which group boundaries were blurred. This blurring of boundaries was aided by four processes, all covered by Slezkine: shedding overt Jewish identities in favor of a veneer of international socialism in which Jewish identity and ethnic networking were relatively invisible; seeking lower-proﬁle positions in order to de-emphasize Jewish preeminence (e.g., Trotsky); adopting Slavic names; and engaging in a limited amount of intermarriage with non-Jewish elites.10 Indeed, the “plethora of Jewish wives” among non-Jewish leaders11 doubtless heightened the Jewish atmosphere of the top levels of the Soviet government, given that everyone, especially Stalin, appears to have been quite conscious of ethnicity.12 For their part, anti-Semites have accused Jews of having “implanted those of their own category as wives and husbands for inﬂuential ﬁgures and ofﬁcials.”13
By emphasizing the necessity and distastefulness of traditional Jewish occupations, Slezkine also ignores the extent to which Jewish competition suppressed the formation of a native middle class in Eastern Europe. (This has also occurred throughout Southeast Asia, because of competition from the Overseas Chinese.) Instead, Slezkine sees Eastern Europeans, through stereotypic lenses, as quintessential Apollonians, some of whom became Mercurian modernists when forced to by circumstances, rather than as containing elements that would have naturally aspired to and competently performed the economic and cultural functions that instead came to be performed by Jews because of their ability to create ethnic monopolies in goods and services. When Jews won the economic competition in early modern Poland, the result was that the great majority of Poles were reduced to the status of agricultural laborers supervised by Jewish estate managers in an economy in which trade, manufacturing, and artisanry were in large part controlled by Jews.14 On the other hand, in most of Western Europe Jews had been expelled in the Middle Ages. As a result, when modernization occurred, it was accomplished with an indigenous middle class. If, as in Eastern Europe, Jews had won the economic competition in most of these professions, there would not have been a non-Jewish middle class in England. Whatever one imagines might have been the fortunes and character of England with predominantly Jewish artisans, merchants, and manufacturers, it seems reasonable to suppose that the Christian taxpayers of England made a good investment in their own future when they agreed to pay King Edward I a massive tax of £116,346 in return for expelling two thousand Jews in 1290.15
While Slezkine’s treatment overemphasizes middlemen as a societal necessity rather than as ethnic outsiders competing for scarce resources, he does note that the rise of the Jews in the USSR came at the expense of the Germans as a Mercurian minority in Russia prior to the Revolution. (Jews were excluded from traditional Russia apart from the Pale of Settlement, which included Ukraine, Lithuania, Byelorussia, Crimea, and part of Poland.) Germans manned the imperial bureaucracy, formed a large percentage of professionals, entrepreneurs, and artisans, were more literate than the Russians, and had a sense of cultural superiority and ethnic solidarity:
And so they were, mutatis mutandis, head to the Russian heart, mind to the Russian soul, consciousness to Russian spontaneity. They stood for calculation, efﬁciency, and discipline; cleanliness, fastidiousness, and sobriety; pushiness, tactlessness, and energy; sentimentality, love of family, and unmanliness (or absurdly exaggerated manliness)…. Perhaps paradoxically, in light of what would happen in the twentieth century, Germans were, occupationally and conceptually, the Jews of ethnic Russia (as well as much of Eastern Europe). Or rather, the Russian Germans were to Russia what the German Jews were to Germany—only much more so. So fundamental were the German Mercurians to Russia’s view of itself that both their existence and their complete and abrupt disappearance have been routinely taken for granted (pp. 113–114).
Although the replacement of Germans by Jews was well under way by the time of the Bolshevik Revolution, a key consequence of the Revolution was the substitution of one Mercurian group, the Germans, by another, the Jews. The difference between the Jews and the Germans was that the Jews had a longstanding visceral antipathy, out of past historical grievances, both real and imagined, toward the people and culture they came to administer. Indeed, Russians on the nationalist right admired the Germans, at least up to World War I. For example, a statute of one nationalist organization, Michael the Archangel Russian People’s Union, expressed “particular trust in the German population of the Empire,”16 while its leader, Vladimir Purishkevich, accused the Jews of “irreconcilable hatred of Russia and everything Russian.”17 Jews disliked the Christian religion of the vast majority of Russians because of the antagonistic relationship between Judaism and Christianity over the ages; Jews distrusted the peasants, who “fell from grace” (p. 140) with the intelligentsia after the numerous anti-Jewish pogroms, especially after 1880; and Jews blamed the tsar for not doing enough to keep the peasants in check and for imposing the various quotas on Jewish advancement that went into place, also beginning in the 1880s—quotas that slowed down but by no means halted Jewish overrepresentation in the universities and the professions. In this respect, the Germans were far more like the Overseas Chinese, in that they became an elite without having an aggressively hostile attitude toward the people and culture they administered and dominated economically. Thus when Jews achieved power in Russia, it was as a hostile elite with a deep sense of historic grievance. As a result, they became willing executioners of both the people and cultures they came to rule, including the Germans.
After the Revolution, not only were the Germans replaced, but there was active suppression of any remnants of the older order and their descendants. Jews have always shown a tendency to rise because their natural proclivities (e.g., high intelligence) and powerful ethnic networking, but here they also beneﬁted from “antibourgeois” quotas in educational institutions and other forms of discrimination against the middle class and aristocratic elements of the old regime that would have provided more competition with Jews. In a letter intercepted by the secret police, the father of a student wrote that his son and their friends were about to be purged from the university because of their class origins. “It is clear that only the Jerusalem academics and the Communist Party members generally are going to stay” (p. 243). The bourgeois elements from the previous regime, including the ethnic Germans, would have no future. Thus the mass murder of peasants and nationalists was combined with the systematic exclusion of the previously existing non-Jewish middle class. The wife of a Leningrad University professor noted, “in all the institutions, only workers and Israelites are admitted; the life of the intelligentsia is very hard” (p. 243). Even at the end of the 1930s, prior to the Russiﬁcation that accompanied World War II, “the Russian Federation…was still doing penance for its imperial past while also serving as an example of an ethnicity-free society” (p. 276). While all other nationalities, including Jews, were allowed and encouraged to keep their ethnic identities, the revolution remained an anti-majoritarian movement.
Slezkine is aware of the biological reality of kinship and ethnicity, but he steadfastly pursues a cultural determinist model. He argues that biological models of ethnic nepotism are inappropriate because some nomadic groups are not kin groups but rather “quasi-families” like the Sicilian maﬁa (p. 35). But this is a distinction without a difference: Why are “natural” kinship groups signiﬁcantly different from groups composed of families that band together? Each is characterized by internal cohesion and external strangeness, the traits Slezkine deems essential, but there are also kinship connections and a genetic divide between themselves and surrounding peoples. Cultural badges of group membership and a culturally generated ideology of kin-group membership are age-old ways of cementing kinship groups and setting up barriers that mark real biological differences—the evolved psychology described by modern research in social identity theory.18 And in any case, the demonstrable genetic differences between Slezkine’s prototypical Mercurians—the Jews, Gypsies, and Overseas Chinese—and the surrounding peoples cry out for a biological analysis.
Moreover, Slezkine underestimates the power of ethnocentrism as a unifying factor in Jewish history. This is most apparent in his discussion of Israel, which he describes as a radical departure from the Jewish tradition, because Israel is a quintessentially Apollonian society. Long after Western societies had rejected ethnic nationalism:
Israel continued to live in the European 1930s: only Israel still belonged to the eternally young, worshiped athleticism and inarticulateness, celebrated combat and secret police, promoted hiking and scouting, despised doubt and introspection, embodied the seamless unity of the chosen, and rejected most traits traditionally associated with Jewishness…. After two thousand years of living as Mercurians among Apollonians, Jews turned into the only Apollonians in a world of Mercurians (or rather, the only civilized Apollonians in a world of Mercurians and barbarians)” (pp. 327, 328).
But Israelis certainly did not reject traditional Jewish ethnocentrism and sense of peoplehood. Slezkine portrays Israelis as simply choosing to be ethnocentric nationalists, but ethnocentrism (like intelligence) is a biological system, not a lifestyle choice, and traditional Diaspora Jews were certainly deeply and intensely ethnocentric above all else.19 There can be little question that Israel and Zionism have been and are promoted and spearheaded by the most ethnocentric elements of the Jewish community.20
For Slezkine, as for so many Jews, the moral debt owed to Jews by Western societies justiﬁes the most extreme expressions of Jewish racialism: “The rhetoric of ethnic homogeneity and ethnic deportations, tabooed elsewhere in the West, is a routine element of Israeli political life…. It is true that no other European nation is in a condition of permanent war; it is also true that no other European state can have as strong a claim on the West’s moral imagination” (pp. 364–365). Slezkine sees the moral taboo on European ethnocentrism, the creation of Nazism as the epitome of absolute evil, and the consecration of Jews as “the Chosen people of the postwar Western world” (p. 366) as simply the inevitable results of the events of World War II (pp. 365–366). In fact, however, the creation and maintenance of the culture of the Holocaust and the special moral claims of Jews and Israel are the result of Jewish ethnic activism. These claims have a speciﬁc historical trajectory, they are fueled by speciﬁc key events, and they are sustained by speciﬁc forces.21 For example, the Holocaust was not emphasized as a cultural icon until the late 1960s and early 1970s, when images of the Holocaust were deployed on a large scale in popular culture by Jewish activists speciﬁcally to rally support for Israel in the context of its wars of 1967 and 1973.
Similarly, Slezkine sees the United States as a Jewish promised land precisely because it is not deﬁned tribally and “has no state-bearing natives” (p. 369). But the recasting of the United States as a “proposition nation” was importantly inﬂuenced by the triumph of several Jewish intellectual and political movements more than it was a natural and inevitable culmination of American history.22 These movements collectively delegitimized cultural currents of the early twentieth century whereby many Americans thought of themselves as members of a very successful ethnic group. For example, the immigration restrictionists of the 1920s unabashedly asserted the right of European-derived peoples to the land they had conquered and settled. Americans of northern European descent in the United States thought of themselves as part of a cultural and ethnic heritage extending backward in time to the founding of the country, and writers like Madison Grant (The Passing of the Great Race) and Lothrop Stoddard (The Rising Tide of Color against White World Supremacy) had a large public following. At that time both academia and mainstream culture believed in the reality of race; that there were important differences between the races, including in intelligence and moral character; and that races naturally competed for land and other resources.23
2. JEWISH SUPERIORITY
† “What Jewish journalists write in mockery and satirical remarks against Christianity is downright disgusting…. Die Juden sind unser Unglück! — The Jews are our misfortune!” — Heinrich von Treitschke, German historian.
† “We Jews administer the spiritual possessions of Germany.” — Jewish writer Moritz Goldstein in 1912, quoted by Slezkine.
† The Weimar Republic was the period when Germany fell under the complete economic and cultural hegemony of international Jewry. For more on the cultural subversion of Germany under Jewish rule, see this author’s The Sexual Decadence of Weimar Germany. (LD)
The assertion that Israel is the only civilized Apollonian society, despite its acknowledged racialism and open discussion of ethnic deportations, reveals Slezkine’s belief in Jewish moral and intellectual superiority.
Indeed, Slezkine regards both European individualism and the European nation-state as imitations of preexisting Jewish accomplishments: “Europeans imitated Jews not only in being modern [by becoming individualists interacting with strangers], but also in being ancient” [i.e., by developing ethnically based nation-states] (p. 44). So we read condescending passages such as “among the most successful [of the European Mercurians] were Max Weber’s Protestants, who discovered a humorless, digniﬁed way to be Jewish” (p. 41). This act of intellectual gymnastics depends on the following analogy: Jews act as an ethnically based tribe within societies, seeing non-Jews as strangers; Europeans establish tribal nation-states while behaving as individualists within their societies (seeing other Europeans as strangers). The sweeping conclusion: Jews are the progenitors therefore of both aspects of modernity: economic individualism and the ethnically based nation-state. The Holocaust then occurred because the European nation-state, although an imitation of Judaism, failed somehow to be sufﬁciently Jewish: “In the hands of heavily armed, thoroughly bureaucratized, and imperfectly Judaized Apollonians, Mercurian exclusivity and fastidiousness became relentlessly expansive. In the hands of messianically inclined Apollonians, it turned lethal—especially to the Mercurians. The Holocaust had as much to do with tradition as it did with modernity” (p. 46).
But it is a huge stretch to argue from an analogy—and a loose one at that—to actual imitation and inﬂuence. (And one just doesn’t know what to say about his claim that Europeans perpetrated the Holocaust because they had become imperfect Jews.) Slezkine fails to provide any evidence that there is anything but a hazy and forced logical connection between European individualism and the Jewish role as a Diaspora people living among strangers. The reality is that by becoming individualists, Western Europeans returned to distinctive roots buried in their primeval past,24 whereas Judaism, because of its deep- seated tribalism, was widely regarded by Enlightenment intellectuals as an outmoded relic. Indeed, several Jewish commentators have noted that the post- Enlightenment forms of Judaism have essentially been responses to the corrosive effects of European civilization, with its emphasis on individualism and ethnic assimilation, on Judaism as an ethnically based collectivist group—what early Zionist Arthur Ruppin described as “the destructive inﬂuence of European civilization” on Judaism because of its tendency to break down group barriers and lead eventually to assimilation and intermarriage.25 Moreover, as Slezkine notes, Jews are not really individualists at all. Even in the modern world, the tribal approach of the Jews in economic enterprises employs ethnic kinship as a central component, whereas the individualistic approach of the Europeans sees this as illegitimate (p. 43). The bottom line is that it is ridiculous to claim that Jews are individualists because they treat outsiders as individuals while acknowledging that they retain a powerful ingroup consciousness and are masters of ethnic networking.
It is no stretch at all, however, to show that Jews have achieved a preeminent position in Europe and America, and Slezkine provides us with statistics of Jewish domination only dimly hinted at in the following examples from Europe in the late nineteenth century to the rise of National Socialism. Austria: All but one bank in ﬁn de siècle Vienna was administered by Jews, and Jews constituted 70% of the stock exchange council; Hungary: between 50 and 90 percent of all industry was controlled by Jewish banking families, and 71% of the most wealthy taxpayers were Jews; Germany: Jews were overrepresented among the economic elite by a factor of 33. Similar massive overrepresentation was also to be found in educational attainment and among professionals (e.g., Jews constituted 62% of the lawyers in Vienna in 1900, 25% in Prussia in 1925, 34% in Poland, and 51% in Hungary). Indeed, “the universities, ‘free’ professions, salons, coffeehouses, concert halls, and art galleries in Berlin, Vienna, and Budapest became so heavily Jewish that liberalism and Jewishness became almost indistinguishable” (p. 63).
Slezkine documents the well-known fact that, as Moritz Goldstein famously noted in 1912, “We Jews administer the spiritual possessions of Germany.” However, he regards Jewish cultural dominance, not only in Germany but throughout Eastern Europe and Austria, as completely benign: “The secular Jews’ love of Goethe, Schiller, and the other Pushkins—as well as the various northern forests they represented—was sincere and tender” (p. 68). Their only sin was that their love of cultural icons transcended national and ethnic boundaries in an age of popular nationalism—for example, their promotion of German culture among the Czechs, Latvians, and Romanians. But this is far from the whole story. Jews were not simply lovers of Pushkin and Goethe. A major theme of anti-Jewish attitudes was that Jews were deeply involved in creating a “culture of critique”—that Jewish cultural inﬂuence was entirely negative and shattered the social bonds of the peoples they lived among. Slezkine cites Heinrich Heine as a prime example of a Jewish intellectual with sincere and tender love for German culture, but the Germans, from Wagner to von Treitschke to Chamberlain and Hitler, didn’t see it that way. For example, Heinrich von Treitschke, a prominent nineteenth-century German intellectual, complained of Heine’s “mocking German humiliation and disgrace following the Napoleonic wars” and Heine’s having “no sense of shame, loyalty, truthfulness, or reverence.”26 Nor does he mention von Treitschke’s comment that “what Jewish journalists write in mockery and satirical remarks against Christianity is downright revolting”; “about the shortcomings of the Germans [or] French, everybody could freely say the worst things; but if somebody dared to speak in just and moderate terms about some undeniable weakness of the Jewish character, he was immediately branded as a barbarian and religious persecutor by nearly all of the newspapers.”27 Such attitudes were prominent among anti-Jewish writers and activists, reaching a crescendo with the National Socialists in Germany.
Yet for Slezkine, if Jews did battle against various national cultures—and in the end, he acknowledges that they did—it was only because they realized that their Mercurian worldview was superior: “Did they really want to transform themselves into thick-skulled peasants now that the actual peasants had, for all practical purposes, admitted the error of their ways?” (p. 74). Jews were not recognized as legitimate curators of the national culture, but their lack of acceptance means only that they are truly modern: “Deprived of the comforts of their tribe and not allowed into the new ones created by their Apollonian neighbors, they became the only true moderns” (p. 75)—a statement that accepts at face value the idea that the secular Jews who had become the custodians and main producers of culture had ceased to have a Jewish identiﬁcation. Slezkine fails to provide any evidence at all for this claim, and in fact there is overwhelming evidence that it is false.28
The main weapons Jews used against national cultures were two quintessentially modern ideologies, Marxism and Freudianism, “both [of which] countered nationalism’s quaint tribalism with a modern (scientiﬁc) path to wholeness” (p. 80). Slezkine correctly views both of these as Jewish ideologies functioning as organized religions, with sacred texts promising deliverance from earthly travail. While most of his book recounts the emergence of a Jewish elite under the banner of Marxism in the Soviet Union, his comments on psychoanalysis bear mentioning. Psychoanalysis “moved to the United States to reinforce democratic citizenship with a much-needed new prop…. In America, where nationwide tribal metaphors could not rely on theories of biological descent, Freudianism came in very handy indeed” by erecting the “Explicitly Therapeutic State” (pp. 79–80). The establishment of the Explicitly Therapeutic State was much aided by yet another Jewish intellectual movement, the Frankfurt School, which combined psychoanalysis and Marxism. The result was a culture of critique which fundamentally aimed not only at de-legitimizing the older American culture, but even attempted to alter or obliterate human nature itself: “The statistical connection between ‘the Jewish question’ and the hope for a new species of mankind seems fairly strong” (p. 90).
And when people don’t cooperate in becoming a new species, there’s always murder. Slezkine describes Walter Benjamin, an icon of the Frankfurt School and darling of the current crop of postmodern intellectuals, “with glasses on his nose, autumn in his soul and vicarious murder in his heart” (p. 216), a comment that illustrates the ﬁne line between murder and cultural criticism, especially when engaged in by ethnic outsiders. Indeed, on another occasion, Benjamin stated, “Hatred and [the] spirit of sacriﬁce…are nourished by the image of enslaved ancestors rather than that of liberated grandchildren.”29 Although Slezkine downplays this aspect of Jewish motivation, Jews’ lachrymose perceptions of their history—their images of enslaved ancestors—were potent motivators of the hatred unleashed by the upheavals of the twentieth century.
Slezkine is entirely correct that Marxism, psychoanalysis, and the Frankfurt School were fundamentally Jewish intellectual movements. However, he fails to provide anything like a detailed account of how these ideologies served speciﬁcally Jewish interests, most generally in combating anti-Semitism and subverting ethnic identiﬁcation among Europeans.30 Indeed, a major premise of his treatment is that Jewish radicals were not Jews at all.
3. WERE JEWISH RADICALS JEWS?
† Though not all these men were Jews (e.g., Felix Dzerzhinsky), all of them were either Jews, married to Jewesses or “Jewified non-Jews” (to use a phrase popularized by Albert Lindemann). Communism was good for Jews and Jews flourished under communism as if it had been tailor-made for them. (LD)
† “Jews perceived Communism as good for Jews, and indeed a major part of Slezkine’s book is to document that Communismwas good for Jews … it held the promise of Jewish power and influence … outlawed anti-Semitism, and established Jewish cultural and economic institutions…. As Slezkine himself notes, Jews were the only group that was not criticized by the revolutionary movement, even though most Russians … had very negative attitudes toward Jews.” — Kevin MacDonald
Slezkine recounts the vast overrepresentation of Jews in the radical left in Europe and America. His attempts to explain this cover some familiar ground: Jewish intellectual opposition to the status quo resulting from their marginal social status (Thorsten Veblen); Jewish leftism as a secular, universalized form of traditional Jewish messianism and rationalism in which Jewish leftists are descendents of the Old Testament prophets calling for social justice (Lev Shternberg, dean of Soviet anthropologists); Jewish Communists as recreating traditional Jewish culture forms—especially scriptural interpretation and intense teacher-student relationships—in a Communist setting (historian Jaff Schatz). Slezkine’s own contribution is to argue that Jewish radicals were in revolt against their families, “rejecting the world of their fathers because it seemed to embody the connection between Judaism and antisocialism
(understood as commercialism, tribalism, and patriarchy)…the real reason for their common revulsion was the feeling that capitalism and Jewishness were one and the same thing” (pp. 96, 98). “Most Jewish rebels did not ﬁght the state in order to become free Jews; they fought the state in order to become free of Jewishness—and thus Free” (p. 152).
This is a very useful theory, of course—useful because it denies that Jewish radicals were Jews at all, that in fact they were anti-Jews (if not anti-Semites—and there’s the rub). When Slezkine then goes on to recount the Jewish role as an elite in the most murderous regime in European history, we are led to believe that the only connection of those Jews with Jewishness is genealogical: Russian Jewish radicals, lovers of Pushkin and Tolstoy (as their counterparts in Poland, Hungary, and Germany loved Adam Mickiewicz, Sandór Petőﬁ, and Goethe), idealistically and selﬂessly set out to fashion a secular utopia of social justice by overcoming Apollonian backwardness even as they rejected their Jewish origins and all things Jewish.
His evidence for this is rather thin, but even in the examples Slezkine uses to illustrate his point it is clear that these Jewish radicals hated everything about their national cultures except for one or two literary ﬁgures. The rest would have to go. As Exhibit A, Slezkine presents Georg Lukács, the son of a prominent Jewish capitalist, who describes his profound discontent with his father’s way of life. But Lukács also expresses his hatred for “the whole of ofﬁcial Hungary”—how he extended his unhappiness with his father to “cover the whole of Magyar life, Magyar history, and Magyar literature indiscriminately (save for Petőﬁ)” (p. 97). Ah, yes. Save for Petőﬁ. All else—the people and the culture—would have to go, by mass murder if necessary. (Lazar Kaganovich, the most proliﬁc Jewish mass murderer of the Stalinist era, is pictured at the end of his life reading Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Turgenev [pp. 97–98].) But rather than see this as an aspect of traditional Jewish hatred for non-Jews and their culture, souped up and rationalized with a veneer of Marxism, Slezkine explains these radicals as enlightened Mercurians who wished to destroy the old culture except for a few classics of modern literature. We may give thanks to know that Shakespeare would have survived the revolution.
Another of Slezkine’s examples is Lev Kopelev, a Soviet writer who witnessed and rationalized the Ukrainian famine as “historical necessity” (p. 230). Slezkine states categorically that Kopelev did not identify as a Jew, but his own material indicates the complexity of the matter. Kopelev identiﬁed himself on Soviet documents as “Jewish” but claimed that was only because he did not want to be seen as a “‘cowardly apostate,’ and—after World War II—because he did not want to renounce those who had been murdered for being Jewish” (p. 241). To the external world, Kopelev is a proud Jew, but to his close associates—in his “heart of hearts”— he is only a Communist and Soviet patriot. But of course many of his close associates were ethnic Jews, and he shed no tears for the Ukrainian and Russian peasants and nationalists who were murdered in the name of international socialism even as he mourned the loss of Jews murdered because they were Jews. By World War II he had become a “leading ideologue of Russian patriotism” (p. 279), developing “an acute sense of hurt and injustice on behalf of Russia, Russian history, and the Russian word” (p. 280) as he attempted to rally the Russians to do battle with the Germans. Russian patriotism had suddenly become useful—much as, I would argue, harnessing the patriotism and high regard for military service among Americans has been useful for Jewish neoconservatives eager to rearrange the politics of the Middle East in the interests of Israel. Ideology is a wonderfully effective instrument in the service of self-deception (or deception).
Probably more typical of the Jewish identity of the Bolsheviks is the account of Vitaly Rubin, a prominent philosopher and an ethnic Jew, who recounted his career at a top Moscow school in the 1930s where over half the students were Jewish:
Understandably, the Jewish question did not arise there. Not only did it not arise in the form of anti-Semitism, it did not arise at all. All the Jews knew themselves to be Jews but considered everything to do with Jewishness a thing of the past. I remember thinking of my father’s stories about his childhood, heder [Jewish elementary school], and traditional Jewish upbringing as something consigned to oblivion. None of that had anything to do with me. There was no active desire to renounce one’s Jewishness. The problem simply did not exist (pp. 253–254).
These Jews clearly have a Jewish identity but they have been removed from traditional Jewish religious cultural forms. In such a predominantly Jewish milieu, there was no need to renounce their Jewish identity and no need to push aggressively for Jewish interests because they had achieved elite status. And yet, just prior to World War II, as Russians started replacing Jews among the political elite and Nazism emerged as an ofﬁcially anti-Jewish ideology, overt Jewish identity reemerged. Following World War II, Israel began exerting its gravitational pull on Jews, much to the chagrin of a suspicious Stalin. The visit of Golda Meir in 1948 and the outpouring of Jewish support for Zionism that it aroused was a watershed event for Soviet Jewry. Stalin reacted to it by initiating a campaign against public Jews and Yiddish culture.
It is interesting in this regard that the leading Soviet spokesmen on anti- Semitism were both ethnic Jews with non-Jewish sounding names, Emilian Yaroslavsky (Gubelman) and Yuri Larin (Lurie). Both refer to Jews in the third person (p. 245), as if they themselves were not Jews. But when Larin tried to explain the embarrassing fact that Jews were “preeminent, overabundant, dominant, and so on” (p. 251) among the elite in the Soviet Union, he mentioned the “unusually strong sense of solidarity and a predisposition toward mutual help and support” (p. 252)—ethnic networking by any other name.
Obviously, “mutual help and support” require that Jews recognize each other as Jews. Jewish identity may not have been much discussed, but it operated nonetheless, even if subconsciously, in the rareﬁed circles at the top of Soviet society. An example not presented by Slezkine is recounted in a report of 1950 to the central committee on Jewish activities at an aircraft production facility:
In a number of extremely important departments of the Central Aero- Hydrodynamic Institute there are workers due to be substituted for political reasons. They gather around themselves people of the same nationality, impose the habit of praising one another (while making others erroneously believe that they are indispensable), and force their protégés through to high posts.31
Indeed, there is no other way to explain the extraordinary percentages of Jews throughout elite institutions, which became apparent when the purges began in the late 1940s (see below). High IQ and achievement motivation can only go so far, and cannot explain why, for example, in the late 1940s Jews made up 80% of the Soviet Academy of Science Institute of Literature (Pushkin House) (p. 302), 42% of the directors of Moscow theaters, over half of Soviet circus directors (p. 301), or eight of the top ten directors of the Bolshoi Theater.32 In the case of Pushkin House, the opponents of the dominant clique stated that it had been forged “by long-lasting relationships of families and friends, mutual protection, homogeneous (Jewish) national composition, and anti-patriotic (anti-Russian) tendencies.”33
The reality is that Jewish identity always becomes more salient when Jews feel threatened or feel that their interests as Jews are at stake, but Jewish identity becomes submerged when Jewish interests coincide with other interests and identities.34 (This is a human universal and presumably accounts for the fact that the American Founding Fathers felt no need to carefully deﬁne the cultural and ethnic parameters of their creation; they assumed the racial and cultural homogeneity of the Republic35 and perceived no threat to its control by themselves and their descendants.) The relative submergence of Jewish identity within the Jewish milieu in elite circles of the Soviet Union during the 1920s and 1930s is a poor indicator of whether or not these people identiﬁed as Jews or would do so when in later years Jewish and Soviet identities began to diverge, when National Socialism reemphasized Jewish identity, or when Israel emerged as a beacon for Jewish identity and loyalty. A similar stance may be observed among present-day Jewish neoconservatives, who argue that the United States has a deep interest in democratizing the Middle East. The conﬂuence of their interests as Jews in promoting the policies of the Israeli right wing and their construction of American interests allows them to submerge or even deny the relevance of their Jewish identity while posing as American patriots.36 But if Israeli and American policy began to diverge signiﬁcantly, Jewish interests would almost certainly control their attitudes and behavior. Indeed, since neoconservative Zionism of the Likud Party variety is well known for promoting a confrontation between the U.S. and the entire Muslim world, their policy recommendations best ﬁt a pattern of loyalty to their ethnic group, not to America.37In a previous work I advanced several reasons for supposing that Jews continued to identify as Jews in the USSR, none of which is challenged by Slezkine’s treatment: (1) Persons were classiﬁed as Jews depending on their ethnic background, at least partly because of residual anti-Jewish attitudes; this would tend to impose a Jewish identity on these individuals and make it difﬁcult to assume an exclusive identity as a member of a larger, more inclusive political group. (2) Many Jewish Bolsheviks, such as those in Evsektsiya (the Jewish section of the Communist Party) and the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, aggressively sought to establish a secular Jewish subculture; these phenomena are virtually ignored by Slezkine. (3) Very few Jews on the left envisioned a postrevolutionary society without a continuation of Judaism as a group; indeed, the predominant ideology among Jewish leftists was that post-revolutionary society would end anti-Semitism because it would end class conﬂict and the peculiar Jewish occupational proﬁle. (4) The behavior of American Communists shows that Jewish identity and the primacy of Jewish interests over Communist interests were commonplace among individuals who were ethnically Jewish Communists. (5) The existence of Jewish crypsis in other times and places was combined with the possibility that self-deception, identiﬁcatory ﬂexibility, and identiﬁcatory ambivalence are important components of Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy.38
And in the end, despite the rationalizations of many Soviet Jews and Slezkine on Jewish identity, it was blood that mattered. By the time of World War II, most Jews
knew that they were, in some sense, Jews. They may never have been to a synagogue, seen a menorah, heard Yiddish or Hebrew, tasted geﬁlte ﬁsh or indeed met their grandparents. But they knew they were Jews in the Soviet sense, which was also—in essence—the Nazi sense. They were Jews by blood (p. 286).
They reemerged as Jews to ﬁght the Nazis and to solicit the support of American Jews to pressure their government to enter the war and provide aid to the Soviet Union. Jewish spokesmen visited New York proclaiming that “the Jewish people—‘ethnic’ or religious, Communist, Zionist, or traditionalist—were one family” (p. 290).
Moreover, Slezkine leaves out an enormous amount of evidence that conﬂicts with his Jewish radicalism-as-patricide thesis, evidence indicating that in general Jewish radicals did identify as Jews and acted to promote speciﬁc Jewish interests. Certainly Jewish radicals often rejected their fathers’ religion and their way of life, but all the evidence points to their identifying in different ways as Jews, not losing their Jewish identity to become de-ethnicized moral crusaders against capitalism. Slezkine uses Franz Boas to illustrate his patricide theory, because Boas was a radical Jew who recognized “the shackles of tradition” (p. 98). But he fails to note that Boas was hardly in rebellion against his own family. Boas was reared in a “Jewish-liberal” family in which the revolutionary ideals of 1848 remained inﬂuential,39 and there is ample evidence of his strong Jewish identiﬁcation and concern with anti-Semitism.40
Besides a few individual cases like Lukács and Boas, the only general evidence that Slezkine provides for the patricide thesis comes from Jaff Schatz’s study of the generation of Jewish Communists who dominated the Communist movement in Poland beginning in the 1930s. But he provides a mangled account of Schatz’s work.41 These Jews did indeed reject their parents’ religion, but the result of their Yiddish upbringing was “a deep core of their identity, values, norms, and attitudes with which they entered the rebellious period of their youth and adulthood. This core was to be transformed in the processes of acculturation, secularization, and radicalization sometimes even to the point of explicit denial. However, it was through this deep layer that all later perceptions were ﬁltered.”42 Most of these individuals spoke Yiddish in their daily lives and had only a poor command of Polish even after joining the party. They socialized entirely with other Jews whom they met in the Jewish world of work, neighborhood, and Jewish social and political organizations. After they became Communists, they dated and married among themselves, and their social gatherings were conducted in Yiddish. Their mentors and principal inﬂuences were other ethnic Jews, including especially Luxemburg and Trotsky, and when they recalled personal heroes, they were mostly Jews whose exploits achieved semimythical proportions.
In general, Jews who joined the Communist movement did not ﬁrst reject their ethnic identity, and there were many who “cherished Jewish culture…[and] dreamed of a society in which Jews would be equal as Jews.”43 It was common for individuals to combine a strong Jewish identity with Marxism as well as various combinations of Zionism and Bundism (a movement of Jewish socialists). Moreover, the attraction of Polish Jews to Communism was greatly facilitated by their knowledge that Jews had attained high-level positions of power and inﬂuence in the Soviet Union and that the Soviet government had established a system of Jewish education and culture. In both the Soviet Union and Poland, Communism was seen as opposing anti-Semitism. In marked contrast, during the 1930s the Polish government enacted policies which excluded Jews from public-sector employment, established quotas on Jewish representation in universities and the professions, and organized boycotts of Jewish businesses and artisans.44 Clearly, Jews perceived Communism as good for Jews, and indeed a major contribution of Slezkine’s book is to document that Communism was good for Jews: It was a movement that never threatened Jewish group continuity, and it held the promise of Jewish power and inﬂuence and the end of state-sponsored anti-Semitism. And when this group achieved power in Poland after World War II, they liquidated the Polish nationalist movement, outlawed anti-Semitism, and established Jewish cultural and economic institutions.
Slezkine also fails to note that in the United States a strong Jewish identiﬁcation was typical of Jewish radicals and that Jewish support for the left typically waxed and waned depending on speciﬁcally Jewish issues, particularly those related to anti-Semitism and support for Israel.45 The Jewish Old Left was a recognized part of the Jewish community, and American Jewish leftists during the 1960s were the only leftists who didn’t reject their parents—they really were “red diaper babies.”
It is also remarkable that the revolutionary movement in tsarist Russia ceased being anti-Jewish when Jews attained highly visible and prominent positions in the movement, even though workers and peasants participated in anti-Jewish pogroms from 1880 to 1905 and continued to harbor anti-Jewish attitudes. As Slezkine himself notes, Jews were the only group that was not criticized by the revolutionary movement (p. 157), even though most Russians, and especially the lower classes whose cause they were supposedly championing, had very negative attitudes toward Jews.46 When, in 1915, Maxim Gorky, a strong philosemite, published a survey of Russian attitudes toward Jews, the most common response was typiﬁed by the comment that “the congenital, cruel, and consistent egoism of the Jews is everywhere victorious over the good-natured, uncultured, trusting Russian peasant or merchant” (p. 159). There were concerns that all of Russia would pass into Jewish hands and that Russians would become slaves of the Jews. In the end, as Slezkine shows, as a result of the Revolution this prediction was not far off the mark. But in any case, one would think that if radical Jews had ceased being Jews, they would have been severely critical of the Jewish role in the pre-Soviet economy.
The other huge lacuna in Slezkine’s presentation is that he portrays Jewish radicals as typically the offspring of successful Jewish capitalists—like Georg Lukács—who scorn their fathers and wish for nothing more than to destroy Judaism in order to achieve personal freedom and make the world safe for humanity: “Marxism attributed [Jewish patricide] to the proletariat and urged the killing (more or less metaphorical) of the bad fathers, so as to emancipate the world from Judaism and make sure that no sons would have to kill their fathers ever again” (p. 100). Because he wishes to portray Jews as quintessentially modern Mercurians, Slezkine repeatedly shows how Jews dominated the economy, the universities, and the culture of Eastern Europe—indeed, his book is probably the best, most up-to-date account of Jewish economic and cultural preeminence in Europe (and America) that we have. But that is far from the whole story. A prime force resulting in Jewish radicalism was the grinding poverty of most Jews in Eastern Europe. Jews had overshot their economic niche: The economy was unable to support the burgeoning Jewish population in the sorts of positions that Jews had traditionally ﬁlled, with the result that a large percentage of the Jewish population became mired in poverty (along with much higher percentages of the non-Jewish population). The result was a cauldron of ethnic hostility, with governmental restrictions on Jewish economic activity and representation in educational institutions, rampant anti-Jewish attitudes, and increasing Jewish desperation.47
The main Jewish response to this situation was an upsurge of fundamentalist extremism that coalesced in the Hasidic movement and, later in the nineteenth century, in political radicalism and Zionism as solutions to Jewish problems. Slezkine devotes one line to the fact that Jewish populations in Eastern Europe had the highest rate of natural increase of any European population in the nineteenth century (p. 115), but this was an extremely important part of Eastern Europe’s “Jewish problem.” Anti-Semitism and the exploding Jewish population, combined with economic adversity, were of critical importance for producing the great numbers of disaffected Jews who dreamed of deliverance in various messianic movements—the ethnocentric mysticism of the Kabbala and Hasidism, Zionism, or the dream of a Marxist political revolution. Jews emigrated in droves from Eastern Europe but the problems remained. And in the case of the Marxists, the main deliverance was to be achieved not by killing Judaism, as Slezkine suggests, but by the destruction of the traditional societies of Eastern Europe as a panacea for Jewish poverty and for anti-Semitism.
In fact, the vast majority of Jews in Eastern Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were hardly the modern Mercurians that Slezkine portrays them as being. Slezkine does note that well into the twentieth century the vast majority of Eastern European Jews could not speak the languages of the non-Jews living around them, and he does a good job of showing their intense ingroup feeling and their attitudes that non-Jews were less than human.48 But he ignores their medieval outlook on life, their obsession with the Kabbala (the writings of Jewish mystics), their superstition and anti-rationalism, and their belief in “magical remedies, amulets, exorcisms, demonic possession (dybbuks), ghosts, devils, and teasing, mischievous genies.”49 These supposedly modern Mercurians had an attitude of absolute faith in the person of the tsadik, their rebbe, who was a charismatic ﬁgure seen by his followers literally as the personiﬁcation of God in the world. (Attraction to charismatic leaders is a fundamental feature of Jewish social organization—apparent as much among religious fundamentalists as among Jewish political radicals or elite Jewish intellectuals.)50
4. BOLSHEVISM AS A JEWISH REVOLUTION
† “Anyone who had the misfortune to fall into the hands of the Cheka [Soviet secret police] stood a very good chance of finding himself confronted with and shot by a Jewish investigator.” — Leonard Shapiro, British academic historian, quoted by Slezkine (p. 177)
† “We mustn’t forget that some of greatest murderers of modern times were Jewish…. Many Jews sold their soul to the devil of the Communist revolution and have blood on their hands for eternity.” Jewish Writer Sever Plocker, here
† LASHA DARKMOON notes: MacDonald gives the total number of Russian Christians killed during the Jewish-led Bolshevik Revolution and its aftermath as 20 million, as opposed to Solzhenitsyn’s 66 million mentioned in the quote above. 20 million, however, is the lowest conservative mainstream figure, the exact number of casualties often being put much higher. In a private email to me, Mark Weber confirmed the 20 million figure, but drew my attention to a footnote in one of his essays:
“Russian professor Igor Bestuzhev-Lada, writing in a 1988 issue of the Moscow weekly Nedelya, suggested that during the Stalin era alone (1935-1953), as many as 50 million people were killed, condemned to camps from which they never emerged, or lost their lives as a direct result of the brutal “dekulakization” campaign against the peasantry. “Soviets admit Stalin killed 50 million,” The Sunday Times, London, April 17, 1988.
R. J. Rummel, a professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, has recently calculated that 61.9 million people were systematically killed by the Soviet Communist regime from 1917 to 1987. R. J. Rummel, Lethal Politics: Soviet Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1917 (Transaction, 1990).”
In his introduction to the 800-page compendium “The Black Book of Communism“, published in 1999 by Harvard University Press, editor Stéphane Courtois states that “Communist regimes turned mass crime into a full-blown system of government.” He calculates a total death toll of 94 million, with two countries claiming a total of 85 million between them: 20 million in the Soviet Union and 65 million in Communist China. The remaining 9 million victims of Communism came from Cambodia, Vietnam, North Korea, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Eastern Europe and Cuba. (See here)
Slezkine’s main contribution is to summarize previously available data and to extend our understanding of Jewish dominance of the revolutionary movements before 1917, and of Soviet society thereafter. (Oddly, he makes only a passing reference to Albert Lindemann’s important Esau’s Tears, which makes many of the same points.) Not only were Jews vastly overrepresented among revolutionaries, they “were particularly well represented at the top, among theoreticians, journalists, and leaders” (p. 155). Radical Jews, like other Jews, were very talented, highly intelligent, hardworking, and in addition dedicated to creating effective ethnic networks.51 These traits propelled them to the top of radical organizations and made the organizations themselves more effective.
But if Jews dominated radical and revolutionary organizations, they were immeasurably aided by philosemites like Gorky who, in Albert Lindemann’s term, were “jewiﬁed non-Jews”—“a term, freed of its ugly connotations, [that] might be used to underline an often overlooked point: Even in Russia there were some non-Jews, whether Bolsheviks or not, who respected Jews, praised them abundantly, imitated them, cared about their welfare, and established intimate friendships or romantic liaisons with them.”52 (As noted above, many of the non-Jewish elite in the USSR had Jewish wives.) What united the Jews and philosemites was their hatred for what Lenin (who had a Jewish grandfather) called “the thick-skulled, boorish, inert, and bearishly savage Russian or Ukrainian peasant”—the same peasant Gorky described as “savage, somnolent, and glued to his pile of manure” (p. 163). It was attitudes like these that created the climate that justiﬁed the slaughter of many millions of peasants under the new regime. Philosemites continued to be common among the non-Jewish elite in the USSR, even in the 1950s, when Jews began to be targeted as Jews. One such philosemite was Pavel Sudoplatov, a Slav married to a Jew and with many Jewish friends, who was a high-ranking secret police ofﬁcial with a great deal of blood on his hands. The only murder he unequivocally condemned in his memoirs was that of Paul Mikhoels, a Jewish ethnic activist associated with the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee.
Figures like Gorky and Sudoplatov were critical to the success of Jews in the Soviet Union. This is a general principle of Jewish political activity in a Diaspora situation: Because Jews tend to constitute a tiny percentage of a society, they need to make alliances with non-Jews whose perceived interests dovetail with theirs. Non-Jews have a variety of reasons for being associated with Jewish interests, including career advancement, close personal relationships or admiration for individual Jews, and deeply held personal convictions.53
Gorky’s love for the Jews—what Slezkine terms “the bitter, ardent, and hopeless love of self-described Apollonians for beautiful Mercurians” (p. 165)—was boundless. Gorky saw Jews as possessors of “heroic” idealism, “all-probing, all-scrutinizing”; “this idealism, which expresses itself in their tireless striving to remake the world according to new principles of equality and justice, is the main, and possibly the only, reason for the hostility toward Jews” (quoted on p. 164).
Despite the important role of Jews among the Bolsheviks, most Jews were not Bolsheviks before the revolution. However, Jews were prominent among the Bolsheviks, and once the revolution was under way, the vast majority of Russian Jews became sympathizers and active participants. Jews were particularly visible in the cities and as leaders in the army and in the revolutionary councils and committees. For example, there were 23 Jews among the 62 Bolsheviks in the All-Russian Central Executive Committee elected at the Second Congress of Soviets in October, 1917. Jews were the leaders of the movement, and to a great extent they were its public face. Slezkine quotes historian Mikhail Beizer who notes, commenting on the situation in Leningrad, that “Jewish names were constantly popping up in newspapers. Jews spoke relatively more often than others at rallies, conferences, and meetings of all kinds.”54 In general, Jews were deployed in supervisory positions rather than positions that placed them in physical danger. In a Politburo meeting of April 18, 1919, Trotsky urged that Jews be redeployed because there were relatively few Jews in frontline combat units, while Jews constituted a “vast percentage” of the Cheka at the front and in the Executive Committees at the front and at the rear. This pattern had caused “chauvinist agitation” in the Red Army (p. 187).
Jewish representation at the top levels of the Cheka and OGPU (the acronyms by which the secret police was known in different periods) has often been the focus of those stressing Jewish involvement in the revolution and its aftermath. Slezkine provides statistics on Jewish overrepresentation in these organizations, especially in supervisory roles, and agrees with Leonard Schapiro’s comment that “anyone who had the misfortune to fall into the hands of the Cheka stood a very good chance of ﬁnding himself confronted with and possibly shot by a Jewish investigator” (p. 177). During the 1930s the secret police, then known as the NKVD, “was one of the most Jewish of all Soviet institutions” (p. 254), with 42 of its 111 top ofﬁcials being Jewish. At this time 12 of the 20 NKVD directorates were headed by ethnic Jews, including those in charge of state security, police, labor camps, and resettlement (i.e., deportation). The Gulag was headed by ethnic Jews from its beginning in 1930 until the end of 1938, a period that encompasses the worst excesses of the Great Terror. They were, in Slezkine’s words, “Stalin’s willing executioners” (p. 103).
The Bolsheviks continued to apologize for Jewish overrepresentation until the topic became taboo in the 1930s. And it was not until the late 1930s that there was a rise in visibility and assertiveness of “anti-Semites, ethnic nationalists, and advocates of proportional representation” (p. 188). By this time the worst of the slaughters in the Gulag, the purges, and the contrived famines had been completed.
The prominence of Jews in the Revolution and its aftermath was not lost on participants on both sides, including inﬂuential ﬁgures such as Winston Churchill, who wrote that the role of Jews in the revolution “is certainly a very great one; it probably outweighs all others.”55 Slezkine highlights similar comments in a book published in 1927 by V. V. Shulgin, a Russian nationalist, who experienced ﬁrsthand the murderous acts of the Bolsheviks in his native Kiev in 1919: “We do not like the fact that this whole terrible thing was done on the Russian back and that it has cost us unutterable losses. We do not like the fact that you, Jews, a relatively small group within the Russian population, participated in this vile deed out of all proportion to your numbers” (p. 181; italics in original). Slezkine does not disagree with this assessment, but argues that Jews were hardly the only revolutionaries (p. 180). This is certainly true, but does not affect my argument that Jewish involvement was a necessary condition, not merely a sufﬁcient condition, for the success of the Bolshevik Revolution and its aftermath.56 Slezkine’s argument clearly supports the Jews-as-necessary-condition claim, especially because of his emphasis on the leadership role of Jews.
However, the claim that Jewish involvement was a necessary condition is itself an understatement because, as Shulgin noted, the effectiveness of Jewish revolutionaries was far out of proportion to the number of Jews. A claim that a group constituting a large proportion of the population was necessary to the success of a movement would be unexceptional. But the critical importance of Jews occurred even though Jews constituted less than 5% of the Russian population around the time of the Revolution, and they were much less represented in the major urban areas of Moscow and Leningrad prior to the Revolution because they were prevented from living there by the Pale of Settlement laws.57 Slezkine is correct that Jews were not the only revolutionaries, but his point only underscores the importance of philosemitism and other alliances Jews typically must make in Diaspora situations in order to advance their perceived interests.
In 1923, several Jewish intellectuals published a collection of essays admitting the “bitter sin” of Jewish complicity in the crimes of the Revolution. In the words of a contributor, I. L. Bikerman, “it goes without saying that not all Jews are Bolsheviks and not all Bolsheviks are Jews, but what is equally obvious is that disproportionate and immeasurably fervent Jewish participation in the torment of half-dead Russia by the Bolsheviks” (p. 183). Many of the commentators on Jewish Bolsheviks noted the “transformation” of Jews: In the words of another Jewish commentator, G. A. Landau, “cruelty, sadism, and violence had seemed alien to a nation so far removed from physical activity.” And another Jewish commentator, Ia. A Bromberg, noted that:
the formerly oppressed lover of liberty had turned into a tyrant of “unheard-of-despotic arbitrariness”…. The convinced and unconditional opponent of the death penalty not just for political crimes but for the most heinous offenses, who could not, as it were, watch a chicken being killed, has been transformed outwardly into a leather-clad person with a revolver and, in fact, lost all human likeness (pp. 183–184).
This psychological “transformation” of Russian Jews was probably not all that surprising to the Russians themselves, given Gorky’s ﬁnding that Russians prior to the Revolution saw Jews as possessed of “cruel egoism” and that they were concerned about becoming slaves of the Jews. Gorky himself remained a philosemite to the end, despite the prominent Jewish role in the murder of approximately twenty million of his ethnic kin, 58 but after the Revolution he commented that “the reason for the current anti-Semitism in Russia is the tactlessness of the Jewish Bolsheviks. The Jewish Bolsheviks, not all of them but some irresponsible boys, are taking part in the deﬁling of the holy sites of the Russian people. They have turned churches into movie theaters and reading rooms without considering the feelings of the Russian people.” However, Gorky did not blame the Jews for this: “The fact that the Bolsheviks sent the Jews, the helpless and irresponsible Jewish youths, to do these things, does smack of provocation, of course. But the Jews should have refrained” (p. 186).
Those who carried out the mass murder and dispossession of the Russian peasants saw themselves, at least in their public pronouncements, as doing what was necessary in pursuit of the greater good. This was the ofﬁcial view not only of the Soviet Union, where Jews formed a dominant elite, but also was the “more or less ofﬁcial view” among Jewish intellectuals in the United States (p. 215) and elsewhere. (It is still far more common for leftist intellectuals to bemoan McCarthyism than the horrors of the USSR.59)
It is for the sake of creating a perfect human being—Apollonian in body and Mercurian in mind—that Levinson steels himself for doing what is “necessary,” including the requisitioning of a weeping farmer’s last pig and the killing of a wounded comrade too weak to be evacuated…. [T]he greater the personal responsibility for acts ordinarily considered evil, the more visible the signs of election and the inner strength they bespoke. Demonic as well as Promethean, Bolshevik commissars ‘carried within them’ the pain of historical necessity” (p. 194).
Levinson, a character in A. Fedeev’s The Rout (1926), a prominent example of socialist realism in the early Soviet period, is not ideologically Jewish, “but there is little doubt that for reasons of both aesthetic and sociological verisimilitude, canonical Jewishness seemed an appropriate expression of the Bolshevik vision of disembodied consciousness triumphing over [peasant] inertia” (p. 193). So it is not surprising that Gorky’s mild rebuke of Jewish anti-Christian zealotry was too much for Esther Frumkina, a leader of the Party’s Jewish section. Frumkina accused Gorky of attacking “Jewish Communists for their selﬂess struggle against darkness and fanaticism” (p. 187). In their self-perceptions, Jews are selﬂessly altruistic even when acting out ancient hatreds.
5. THE THREE GREAT JEWISH MIGRATIONS
OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
“Slezkine sees post-World War II America as a Jewish Utopia.”
— Kevin MacDonald
Slezkine’s last and longest chapterdescribes the three great Jewish migrations of the twentieth century—to Israel, to America, and to the urban centers of the Soviet Union. Slezkine perceives all three through the lens of heroic Jewish self-perception. He sees the United States as a Jewish utopia precisely because it had only a “vestigial establishment tribalism” (p. 209) that could not long inhibit Jewish ascendancy: “The United States stood for unabashed Mercurianism, nontribal statehood, and the supreme sovereignty of capitalism and professionalism. It was—rhetorically—a collection ifhomines rationalistici artiﬁciales, a nation of strangers held together by a common celebration of separateness (individualism) and rootlessness (immigration)” (p. 207). It was the only modern state…in which a Jew could be an equal citizen and a Jew at the same time. ‘America’ offered full membership without complete assimilation. Indeed, it seemed to require an afﬁliation with a subnational community as a condition of full membership in the political nation” (p. 207).
Slezkine sees post-World War II America as a Jewish utopia but seems only dimly aware that Jews to a great extent created their own utopia in the U.S. by undermining nativist sentiments that were common at least until after World War II. Slezkine emphasizes the Jewish role in institutionalizing the therapeutic state, but sees it as completely benign, rather than an aspect of the “culture of critique” that undermined the ethnic identities of white Americans: “By bringing Freudianism to America and by adopting it, brieﬂy, as a salvation religion, [Jews] made themselves more American while making America more therapeutic” (p. 319). There is little discussion of the main anti-nativist intellectual movements, all of which were dominated by ethnically conscious Jews: Boasian anthropology, Horace Kallen and the development of the theory of America as a “proposition nation,” and the Frankfurt School which combined psychoanalysis and Marxism into a devastating weapon against the ethnic consciousness of white Americans. Nor does he discuss the role of Jewish activist organizations in altering the ethnic balance of the United States by promoting large-scale immigration from around the world.
Slezkine also views the Jewish migration to Israel as heroic: “In both Jewish Palestine (the Yishuv) and Soviet Russia, brotherhood stood for the full identity of all true believers (always the few against the many) and their complete identiﬁcation with the cause (ardently desired and genuinely felt by most young Jews in both places). Eventually, both revolutions evolved in the direction of greater hierarchy, institutionalized militarism, intense anxiety about aliens, and the cult of generals, boy soldiers, and elite forces, but between 1917 and the mid-1930s they were overﬂowing with youthful energy and the spirit of fraternal effort, and self-sacriﬁce” (p. 212).
The passage is remarkable both for its pinpointing the ingroup/outgroup nature of the psychology of traditional Jewish groups, freed now of the Torah and the synagogue, and for its description of the ingroup psychology of mass murder (in the USSR) and ethnic cleansing (in the Middle East) as involving valiant self-sacriﬁce and pride in accomplishment.
But Slezkine spends most of his energy by far in providing a fascinating chronicle of the Jewish rise to elite status in all areas of Soviet society—culture, the universities, professional occupations, the media, and government. In all cases, Jewish overrepresentation was most apparent at the pinnacles of success and inﬂuence. To take just the area of culture, Jews were highly visible as avant-garde artists, formalist theorists, polemicists, moviemakers, and poets.
They were “among the most exuberant crusaders against ‘bourgeois’ habits during the Great Transformation; the most disciplined advocates of socialist realism during the ‘Great Retreat’ (from revolutionary internationalism); and the most passionate prophets of faith, hope, and combat during the Great Patriotic War against the Nazis” (p. 225). And, as their critics noticed, Jews were involved in anti-Christian propaganda. Mikhail Bulgakov, a Russian writer, noticed that the publishers of Godless magazine were Jews; he was “stunned” to ﬁnd that Christ was portrayed as “a scoundrel and a cheat. It is not hard to see whose work it is. This crime is immeasurable” (p. 244).
Some of the juxtapositions are striking and seemingly intentional. On p. 230, Lev Kopelev is quoted on the need for ﬁrmness in conﬁscating the property of the Ukrainian peasants. Kopelev, who witnessed the famine that killed seven to ten million peasants, stated, “You mustn’t give in to debilitating pity. We are the agents of historical necessity. We are fulﬁlling our revolutionary duty. We are procuring grain for our socialist Fatherland. For the Five-Year Plan.” On the next page, Slezkine describes the life of the largely Jewish elite in Moscow and Leningrad, where they attended the theater, sent their children to the best schools, had peasant women for nannies, spent weekends at pleasant dachas, and vacationed at the Black Sea.
Slezkine describes the NKVD as “one of the most Jewish of all Soviet institutions” and recounts the Jewish leadership of the Great Terror of the 1930s (pp. 254 and 255). On p. 256, he writes that in 1937 the prototypical Jew who moved from the Pale of Settlement to Moscow to man elite positions in the Soviet state “probably would have been living in elite housing in downtown Moscow…with access to special stores, a house in the country (dacha), and a live-in peasant nanny or maid.…At least once a year, she would have traveled to a Black Sea sanatorium or a mineral spa in the Caucasus” (p. 256). Slezkine writes long and lovingly detailed sketches of life at the dachas of the elite—the “open verandas overlooking small gardens enclosed by picket fences or wildly overgrown yards” (p. 256), but the reader is left to his own imagination to visualize the horrors of the Ukrainian famine and the liquidation of the Kulaks.
As Slezkine notes, most of the Soviet elite were not Jews, but Jews were far overrepresented among the elite (and Russians far underrepresented as a percentage of the population). Moreover, the Jews formed a far more cohesive core than the rest of the elite because of their common social and cultural background (p. 236). The common understanding that the new elite had a very large Jewish representation resulted in pervasive anti-Jewish attitudes. In 1926, an Agitprop report noted “The sense that the Soviet regime patronizes the Jews, that it is ‘the Jewish government,’ that the Jews cause unemployment, housing shortages, college admissions problems, price rises, and commercial specula- tion—this sense is instilled in the workers by all the hostile elements.… If it does not encounter resistance, the wave of anti-Semitism threatens to become, in the very near future, a serious political question” (p. 244). Such widespread public perceptions about the role of Jews in the new government led to aggressive surveillance and repression of anti-Jewish attitudes and behavior, including the execution of Russian nationalists who expressed anti-Jewish attitudes. These public perceptions also motivated Jews to adopt a lower proﬁle in the regime, as with Trotsky, who refused the post of commissar of internal affairs because it might lend further ammunition to the anti-Jewish arguments. From 1927 to 1932 Stalin established an ambitious public campaign to combat anti- Semitism that included ﬁfty-six books published by the government and an onslaught of speeches, mass rallies, newspaper articles, and show trials “aimed at eradicating the evil” (p. 249).
6. THE DECLINE OF THE JEWS IN THE SOVIET UNION
† “The ﬂoodgates were eventually opened by Gorbachev in the late 1980s, and by 1994, 1.2 million Soviet Jews had emigrated — 43% of the total. By 2002, there were only 230,000 Jews left in the Russian Federation, 0.16% of the population.” — Kevin MacDonald
† “There are almost as many Jews in North America today (5.8 million) as there are in Israel (5.9 million). An enormous 40 percent of world Jewry now choose to live in the United States.” — Lasha Darkmoon, here
Jews were able to maintain themselves as an elite until the end of the Soviet regime in 1991—this despite an ofﬁcial push for afﬁrmative action–style programs to open up opportunities for the children of peasants and workers in the 1930s and to blunt the anti-Jewish feelings simmering at the lower levels of Soviet society. Jewish elite status persisted despite the Great Terror of the late 1930s, which disproportionately affected the political elite. On the whole, Jews were underrepresented as victims of the Great Terror. And although the Jewish percentage of the political elite did decline after the purges of the late 1930s and the promotion of former peasants and working class Russians, this did not affect Jewish predominance as a professional, cultural, and managerial elite. Jews also retained their elite status despite Stalin’s campaign in the late 1940s against Jewish ethnic and cultural institutions and their spokesmen.
Jewish elite status remained even after the purge was expanded to all sectors of the Soviet elite, due at least partly to “the widespread sense [among Russians] that the great victory [in World War II] entitled them to a greater role in decision making” (p. 306). Slezkine shows the very high percentages of Jews in various institutions in the late 1940s, including the universities, the media, the foreign service, and the secret police. For example, the deans of philosophers, historians, and legal scholars were ethnic Jews, and, as already noted, Jews constituted 80% of the Soviet Academy of Science Institute of Literature. As for the Jewish role as “vanguard of the working class,” Jews still made up 23% of the staff at the Trade Union Council’s publication Trud even after a purge that cut their numbers in half.
The campaign against the Jews began only after the apogee of mass murder and deportations in the USSR, and was much less lethal than those mounted against a long list of other ethnic groups, whose typical fate was deportation under the most brutal of circumstances (Cossacks, Chechens, Crimean Tatars, Volga Germans, Moldavians, Kalmyks, Karachai, Balkars, Ingush, Greeks, Bulgars, Crimean Armenians, Meskhetian Turks, Kurds, and Khemshins). The campaign against the Jews was also much less consistent and effective than the Soviet campaigns against the children of the former elite—the factory owners, the Cossack ofﬁcers, and the middle classes and intelligentsia—had been (p. 308).
Unlike the purges of the 1930s that sometimes targeted Jews as member of the elite (albeit at far less than their percentage of the elite), the anti-Jewish actions of the late 1940s and early 1950s were targeted at Jews because of their ethnicity. Similar purges were performed throughout Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe (pp. 313–314). “All three regimes [Poland, Romania, Hungary] resembled the Soviet Union of the 1920s insofar as they combined the ruling core of the old Communist underground, which was heavily Jewish, with a large pool of upwardly mobile Jewish professionals, who were, on average, the most trustworthy among the educated and the most educated among the trustworthy” (p. 314). Speaking of the situation in Poland, Khrushchev supported the anti-Jewish purge with his remark that “you have already too many Abramoviches.”60
Whereas in the 1920s and 1930s children of the pillars of the old order were discriminated against, now Jews were not only being purged because of their vast overrepresentation among the elite, but were being discriminated against in university admissions. Jews, the formerly loyal members of the elite and willing executioners of the bloodiest regime in history, now “found them- selves among the aliens” (p. 310). Rather than rationalize their persecution as resulting from the iron laws of history, some Jews began to feel guilt for their former role. A Jewish woman writes that after her husband was arrested, her maid told her, “You are crying now, but you did not mind when my father was being dekulakized, martyred for no reason at all, and my whole family thrown out in the street” (p. 311).
And so began the exodus of Jews. Stalin died and the anti-Jewish campaign ﬁzzled, but the Jewish trajectory was deﬁnitely downhill. Jews retained their elite status and occupational proﬁle until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, but “the special relationship between the Jews and the Soviet state had come to an end—or rather, the unique symbiosis in pursuit of world revolution had given way to a unique antagonism over two competing and incommensurate nationalisms” (p. 330). A response of the Russians was “massive afﬁrmative action” (p. 333) aimed at giving greater representation to underrepresented ethnic groups. Jews were targets of suspicion because of their ethnic status, barred from some elite institutions, and limited in their opportunities for advancement.
The Russians were taking back their country, and it wasn’t long before Jews became leaders of the dissident movement and began to seek to emigrate in droves to the United States, Western Europe, and Israel. Despite still possessing elite social status and far fewer disabilities than many groups (e.g., the overwhelming majority of the Soviet population was not allowed to live in cities and some Christian sects were banned), Jews perceived their situation as “unrelieved humiliation” (p. 339). Overt anti-Semitism was encouraged by the more covert ofﬁcial variety apparent in the limits on Jewish advancement. Under these circumstances, Jews became “in many ways, the core of the antiregime intelligentsia” (p. 340). Jewish dissidents whose parents had run the Gulags, the deportations, and the state-sponsored famines, now led the “urgent call for social justice” (p. 342). Jewish academics with “cult followings” (p. 342)—a familiar Jewish pattern61—and close ties to Western Jewish intellectuals became the intellectual vanguard and iconoclasts of the new culture of critique in the Soviet Union.
Applications to leave the USSR increased dramatically after Israel’s Six-Day War of 1967, which, as in the United States and Eastern Europe, resulted in an upsurge of Jewish identiﬁcation and ethnic pride. The ﬂoodgates were eventually opened by Gorbachev in the late 1980s, and by 1994, 1.2 million Soviet Jews had emigrated—43% of the total. By 2002, there were only 230,000 Jews left in the Russian Federation, 0.16% of the population. These remaining Jews nevertheless exhibit the typical Ashkenazi pattern of high achievement and overrepresentation among the elite, including six of the seven oligarchs who emerged in control of the Soviet economy and media in the period of de-nationalization (p. 362).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this dénouement did not result in any sense of collective guilt among Soviet Jews (p. 345) or among their American apologists. Indeed, American Jewish media ﬁgures who were blacklisted because of Communist afﬁliations in the 1940s are now heroes, honored by the ﬁlm industry, praised in newspapers, their work exhibited in museums.62 At the same time, the cause of Soviet Jews and their ability to emigrate became a critical rallying point for American Jewish activist organizations and a deﬁning feature of neoconservatism as a Jewish intellectual and political movement. (For example, Richard Perle, a key neoconservative, was Senator Henry Jackson’s most important security advisor from 1969 to 1979 and organized Congressional support for the Jackson-Vanik Amendment linking U.S.-Soviet trade to the ability of Jews to emigrate from the Soviet Union. The bill was passed over strenuous opposition from the Nixon administration.) Jewish activist organizations and many Jewish historians portray the Soviet Jewish experience as a sojourn in the land of the “Red Pharaohs” (p. 360). The historical legacy is that Jews were the passive, uncomprehending victims of the White armies, the Nazis, the Ukrainian nationalists, and the postwar Soviet state, nothing more.
7. THE ISSUE OF JEWISH CULPABILITY
† LASHA DARKMOON would like to draw the reader’s attention to this Zionist quote on the above Trotsky cartoon: “This anti-Bolshevik propaganda poster, dated to 1919, shows Leon Trotsky (born Lev Davidovich Bronstein) as a devil. Elements of the imagery reveal anti-Semitism: a popular anti-communist tactic was to overplay the role of Jews in the Russian Bolshevik Revolution.” (From a Zionist website, attempting to minimize the role played by Jews in the Bolshevik Revolution. See here).
“The Chinese soldiers, presiding here over a mound of corpses and shooting Russian Christians to death, were hired mercenaries for the Jewish Bolsheviks. They did the Jews’ dirty work for them. Their reputation for sadistic torture on behalf of their Bolshevik employers was legendary. Thus they were responsible for introducing into Europe the infamous “rat torture”, a variation of which was to appear later as the horrendous climax of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four.” (Lasha Darkmoon, here)
† “Although they [the Jews] did carry out the destruction of traditional Russia and approximately twenty million of its people, they did so [according to Slezkine] only out of the highest humanitarian motives and the dream of utopian socialism…. This is simply not plausible.” — Kevin MacDonald
Alexander Solzhenitsyn calls on Jews to accept moral responsibility for the Jews who “took part in the iron Bolshevik leadership and, even more so, in the ideological guidance of a huge country down a false path.…[and for the Jewish role in the] Cheka executions, the drowning of the barges with the condemned in the White and Caspian Seas, collectivization, the Ukrainian famine—in all the vile acts of the Soviet regime” (quoted on p. 360). But according to Slezkine, there can be no collective guilt because Soviet violence, unlike the Nazi persecution of the Jews, was not tribal violence. Violence of the Soviet sort has “no legitimate heirs—for either the victims or the perpetrators” (p. 345). Slezkine acknowledges that Jews were “the most enthusiastic ethnically deﬁned supporters of the Soviet state” but he essentially argues that Jews were not really Jews when they were Communists, at least until World War II caused them to be conscious of their Jewish identities. After all, the legacy of Communism “was almost as strongly committed to cosmopolitanism as it was to mass violence” (p. 346).
Again we see the importance of Slezkine’s claims that Jewish Communists lacked a Jewish identity. However, as demonstrated above, there can be little doubt that Soviet Jews thought of themselves as Jews (although they certainly were not religious Jews) and that they worked together on the basis of shared Jewish ethnic identity. Nevertheless, the critical issue for collective guilt is whether the Jewish enthusiasm for the Soviet state and the enthusiastic participation of Jews in the violence against what Slezkine terms “rural backwardness and religion” (p. 346) had something to do with their Jewish identity.
This is a more difﬁcult claim to establish, but the outlines of the argument are quite clear. Even granting the possibility that the revolutionary vanguard composed of Jews like Trotsky that spearheaded the Bolshevik Revolution was far more inﬂuenced by a universalist utopian vision than by their upbringing in traditional Judaism, it does not follow that this was the case for the millions of Jews who left the shtetl towns of the Pale of Settlement to migrate to Moscow and the urban centers of the new state. The migration of the Jews to the urban centers of the USSR is a critical aspect of Slezkine’s presentation, but it strains credulity to suppose that these migrants threw off, completely and immediately, all remnants of the Eastern European shtetl culture which, Slezkine acknowledges, had a deep sense of estrangement from non-Jewish culture, and in particular a fear and hatred of peasants resulting from the traditional economic relations between Jews and peasants and exacerbated by the long and recent history of anti-Jewish pogroms carried out by peasants. Traditional Jewish shtetl culture also had a very negative attitude toward Christianity, not only as the central cultural icon of the outgroup but as associated in their minds with a long history of anti-Jewish persecution. The same situation doubtless occurred in Poland, where the efforts of even the most “de-ethnicized” Jewish Communists to recruit Poles were inhibited by traditional Jewish attitudes of superiority toward and estrangement from traditional Polish culture.63
In other words, the war against “rural backwardness and religion” was exactly the sort of war that a traditional Jew would have supported wholeheartedly, because it was a war against everything they hated and thought of as oppressing them. Of course traditional shtetl Jews also hated the tsar and his government due to restrictions on Jews and because they did not think that the government did enough to rein in anti-Jewish violence. There can be little doubt that Lenin’s contempt for “the thick-skulled, boorish, inert, and bearishly savage Russian or Ukrainian peasant” was shared by the vast majority of shtetl Jews prior to the Revolution and after it. Those Jews who deﬁled the holy places of traditional Russian culture and published anti-Christian periodicals doubtless reveled in their tasks for entirely Jewish reasons, and, as Gorky worried, their activities not unreasonably stoked the anti-Semitism of the period. Given the anti-Christian attitudes of traditional shtetl Jews, it is very difﬁcult to believe that the Jews engaged in campaigns against Christianity did not have a sense of revenge against the old culture that they held in such contempt.
Indeed, Slezkine reviews some of the works of early Soviet Jewish writers that illustrate the revenge theme. The amorous advances of the Jewish protagonist of Eduard Bagritsky’s poem “February” are rebuffed by a Russian girl, but their positions are changed after the Revolution when he becomes a deputy commissar. Seeing the girl in a brothel, he has sex with her without taking off his boots, his gun, or his trench coat—an act of aggression and revenge:
“I am taking you because so timid
Have I always been, and to take vengeance For the shame of my exiled forefathers And the twitter of an unknown ﬂedgling!
I am taking you to wreak my vengeance On the world I could not get away from!”
Slezkine seems comfortable with revenge as a Jewish motive, but he does not consider traditional Jewish culture itself to be a contributor to Jewish attitudes toward traditional Russia, even though he notes that a very traditional part of Jewish culture was to despise the Russians and their culture. (Even the Jewish literati despised all of traditional Russian culture, apart from Pushkin and a few literary icons.) Indeed, one wonders what would motivate the Jewish commissars to revenge apart from motives related to their Jewish identity. Traditional hostility toward non-Jews and their culture forms a central theme in the writings of Israel Shahak and many mainstream Jewish historians, including Slezkine, and I have presented summaries of this material elsewhere.64 An important aspect of Slezkine’s general theoretical approach is that relationships between Mercurians and Apollonians involve mutual hostility, suspicion and contempt, and a sense of superiority (p. 20). These traditional attitudes were exacerbated by the increase in tensions between Jews and non-Jews beginning with the pogroms of 1881 and extending, with ﬁts and starts, into the period of the Bolshevik Revolution.
Slezkine’s argument that Jews were critically involved in destroying traditional Russian institutions, liquidating Russian nationalists, murdering the tsar and his family, dispossessing and murdering the kulaks, and destroying the Orthodox Church has been made by many other writers over the years, including Igor Shafarevich, a mathematician and member of the prestigious US. National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Shafarevich’s review of Jewish literary works during the Soviet and post-Soviet period agrees with Slezkine in showing Jewish hatred mixed with a powerful desire for revenge toward pre-revolutionary Russia and its culture.65 But Shafarevich also suggests that the Jewish “Russophobia” that prompted the mass murder is not a unique phenomenon, but results from traditional Jewish hostility toward the non-Jewish world, considered tref (unclean), and toward non-Jews themselves, considered sub-human and as worthy of destruction. Both Shafarevich and Slezkine review the traditional animosity of Jews toward Russia, but Slezkine attempts to get his readers to believe that shtetl Jews were magically transformed in the instant of Revolution; although they did carry out the destruction of traditional Russia and approximately twenty million of its people, they did so only out of the highest humanitarian motives and the dream of utopian socialism, only to return to an overt Jewish identity because of the pressures of World War II, the rise of Israel as a source of Jewish identity and pride, and anti-Jewish policies and attitudes in the USSR. This is simply not plausible.
The situation prompts reﬂection on what might have happened in the United States had American Communists and their sympathizers assumed power. The “red diaper babies” came from Jewish families which “around the breakfast table, day after day, in Scarsdale, Newton, Great Neck, and Beverly Hills have discussed what an awful, corrupt, immoral, undemocratic, racist society the United States is.”66 Indeed, hatred toward the peoples and cultures of non-Jews and the image of enslaved ancestors as victims of anti-Semitism have been the Jewish norm throughout history—much commented on, from Tacitus to the present.67
It is easy to imagine which sectors of American society would have been deemed overly backward and religious and therefore worthy of mass murder by the American counterparts of the Jewish elite in the Soviet Union—the ones who journeyed to Ellis Island instead of Moscow. The descendants of these overly backward and religious people now loom large among the “red state” voters who have been so important in recent national elections. Jewish animosity toward the Christian culture that is so deeply ingrained in much of America is legendary. As Joel Kotkin points out, “for generations, [American] Jews have viewed religious conservatives with a combination of fear and disdain.”68 And as Elliott Abrams notes, the American Jewish community “clings to what is at bottom a dark vision of America, as a land permeated with anti-Semitism and always on the verge of anti-Semitic outbursts.”69 These attitudes are well captured in Steven Steinlight’s charge that the Americans who approved the immigration restriction legislation of the 1920s—the vast majority of the population—were a “thoughtless mob” and that the legislation itself was “evil, xenophobic, anti-Semitic,” “vilely discriminatory,” a “vast moral failure,” a “monstrous policy.”70 In the end, the dark view of traditional Slavs and their culture that facilitated the participation of so many Eastern European shtetl Jews in becoming willing executioners in the name of international socialism is not very different from the views of contemporary American Jews about a majority of their fellow countrymen.
There is a certain enormity in all this. The twentieth century was indeed the Jewish century because Jews and Jewish organizations were intimately and decisively involved in its most important events. Slezkine’s greatest accomplishment is to set the historical record straight on the importance of Jews in the Bolshevik Revolution and its aftermath, but he doesn’t focus on the huge repercussions of the Revolution, repercussions that continue to shape the world of the twenty-ﬁrst century. In fact, for long after the Revolution, conservatives throughout Europe and the United States believed that Jews were responsible for Communism and for the Bolshevik Revolution.71 The Jewish role in leftist political movements was a common source of anti-Jewish attitudes among a great many intellectuals and political ﬁgures. In Germany, the identiﬁcation of Jews and Bolshevism was widespread in the middle classes and was a critical part of the National Socialist view of the world. As historian Ernst Nolte has noted, for middle-class Germans, “the experience of the Bolshevik revolution in Germany was so immediate, so close to home, and so disquieting, and statistics seemed to prove the overwhelming participation of Jewish ringleaders so irrefutably,” that even many liberals believed in Jewish responsibility.72 Jewish involvement in the horrors of Communism was also an important sentiment in Hitler’s desire to destroy the USSR and in the anti-Jewish actions of the German National Socialist government. Jews and Jewish organizations were also important forces in inducing the Western democracies to side with Stalin rather than Hitler in World War II.
The victory over National Socialism set the stage for the tremendous increase in Jewish power in the post-World War II Western world, in the end more than compensating for the decline of Jews in the Soviet Union. As Slezkine shows, the children of Jewish immigrants assumed an elite position in the United States, just as they had in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe and Germany prior to World War II. This new-found power facilitated the establishment of Israel, the transformation of the United States and other Western nations in the direction of multiracial, multicultural societies via large-scale non-white immigration, and the consequent decline in European demographic and cultural preeminence. 73 The critical Jewish role in Communism has been sanitized, while Jewish victimization by the Nazis has achieved the status of a moral touchstone and is a prime weapon in the push for massive non-European immigration, multiculturalism, and advancing other Jewish causes.
The Jewish involvement in Bolshevism has therefore had an enormous effect on recent European and American history. It is certainly true that Jews would have attained elite status in the United States with or without their prominence in the Soviet Union. However, without the Soviet Union as a shining beacon of a land freed of ofﬁcial anti-Semitism where Jews had attained elite status in a stunningly short period, the history of the United States would have been very different. The persistence of Jewish radicalism inﬂuenced the general political sensibility of the Jewish community and had a destabilizing effect on American society, ranging from the paranoia of the McCarthy era, to the triumph of the 1960s countercultural revolution, to the conﬂicts over immigration and multiculturalism that are so much a part of the contemporary political landscape.74
It is Slezkine’s chief contention that the history of the twentieth century was a history of the rise of the Jews in the West, in the Middle East, and in Russia, and ultimately their decline in Russia. I think he is absolutely right about this. If there is any lesson to be learned, it is that Jews not only became an elite in all these areas, they became a hostile elite—hostile to traditional peoples and cultures of all three areas they came to dominate. Until now, the greatest human tragedies have occurred in the Soviet Union, but Israel’s record as an oppressive and expansive occupying power in the Middle East has made it a pariah among the vast majority of the governments of the world. And Jewish hostility toward the European- derived people and culture of the United States has been a consistent feature of Jewish political behavior and attitudes throughout the twentieth century. In the present, this normative Jewish hostility toward the traditional population and culture of the United States remains a potent motivator of Jewish involvement in the transformation of the U.S. into a non-European society.75
Given this record of Jews as a hostile but very successful elite, I doubt that the continued demographic and cultural dominance of Western European peoples will be retained either in Europe or the United States and other Western societies without a decline in Jewish inﬂuence. (Perhaps more obviously, the same might be said vis-à-vis the Palestinians and other Arab peoples in the Middle East.) The lesson of the Soviet Union (and Spain from the ﬁfteenth to seventeenth centuries) is that Jewish inﬂuence does wax and wane. Unlike the attitudes of the utopian ideologies of the twentieth century, there is no end to history.
LASHA DARKMOON (final note):
Dozens of further quotations could be provided, apart from those already given here, proving beyond any shadow of doubt that the Communist Revolution that claimed a total of 94 millions lives (Stéphane Courtois,The Black Book of Communism, 1999) was a Jewish revolution in which Jews played a predominant role; for even in Communist China, which claimed 65 million lives, Jews were to be found in top advisory roles in the Chinese government. In addition, it was Rothschild money that helped to finance Chinese Communism:
LD: We will cap this essay with a quotation by acclaimed Jewish writer Norman Cantor. He not only admits here that Jews were behind all the carnage in the Soviet Union in the first half of the 20th century, he actually boasts about it.
The Jews, he tells us, have “nothing to be ashamed of.” This is how the Jews got their “revenge”; it was their way of “striking back” at their historical oppressors:
“The Bolshevik Revolution and some of its aftermath represented, from one perspective, Jewish revenge. During the heyday of the Cold War, American Jewish publicists spent a lot of time denying that Jews played a disproportionately important role in Soviet and world Communism. The truth is until the early 1950s Jews did play such a role, and there is nothing to be ashamed of. In time Jews will learn to take pride in the record of the Jewish Communists in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. It was a species of striking back.”
— Jewish author Norman Cantor, The Jewish Experience, p. 364
Kevin MacDonald is Professor of Psychology, California State University – Long Beach, and the author of a trilogy on Judaism as an evolutionary strategy: A People That Shall Dwell Alone (1994), Separation and Its Discontents (1998), and The Culture of Critique(1998), all published by Praeger 1994–1998. A revised edition of The Culture of Critique (2002), with an expanded introduction, is available in a quality soft cover edition from www.1stBooks.com or www.amazon.com.
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In Nolte 1965, 406. See Kellogg (2005) for an account of the interactions and inﬂuence of White Russian émigrés on the National Socialist Movement in Germany.
See MacDonald 2004, 9–37, for a review of Jewish psychological traits related to ethnic activism.
MacDonald 1994/2002, 1998/2004
MacDonald 1994/2002, 1998/2004.
See MacDonald 1994/2002, preface to the ﬁrst paperback edition.
Bereczkei 1993; Cvorovic 2004.
See discussion in MacDonald 1994/2002, preface to the ﬁrst paperback edition. 7. Coughlin 1960, 169.
Davies 1981, 444; see also Subtelny 1988, 124.
This was also noted by Lindemann 1997.
Vaksberg 1994, 49.
See discussion in MacDonald 1998/2002, ch. 3.
In Kostyrchenko 1995, 272; italics in text.
MacDonald 1994/2002, Ch. 5; 1998/2004, Introduction to the ﬁrst paperback edition.
Mundill 1998, 249ff.
In Kellogg 2005, 41.
In Kellogg 2005, 37.
MacDonald 1994/2002; 1998/2004.
MacDonald 2004, 39–64.
Novick 1999; see summary in MacDonald 1998/2002, preface to the ﬁrst paperback edition.
In Lindemann 1997, 138–139. Similar complaints were common in Austria (op cit., 193).
MacDonald 1998/2002, passim.
Benjamin 1968, 262.
See MacDonald 1998/2002 for discussion of these issues.
In Kostyrchenko 1995, 237.
The composition of the board of the Bolshoi is given in Kostyrchenko 1995, 15.
In Kostyrchenko 1995, 171
MacDonald 1998/2004, ch. 9; 1998/2002, ch. 3.
Weyl and Marina 1971. For example, “The American Negro was deemed [by a national consensus of opinion from George Washington to the end of World War I] an alien presence in American society who could not be assimilated without destroying or largely impairing the homogeneity and national cohesion of the Republic” (377).
See MacDonald 2004, 65–127 for a discussion of the ethnic identity of Jewish neoconservatives.
See MacDonald 2004, 65–127. 38. MacDonald 1998/2002, ch. 3.
Stocking 1968, 149.
MacDonald 1998/2002, ch. 2.
See MacDonald 1998/2002, ch. 3.
MacDonald 1998/2002, ch. 3.
Stocking 1968, 149.
40. MacDonald 1998/2002, ch. 2.
41. See MacDonald 1998/2002, ch. 3.
42. Schatz 1991, 37–38.
43. Schatz 1991, 48.
44. Hagen 1996.
45. MacDonald 1998/2002, ch. 3.
46. See also MacDonald 1998/2004, ch. 2, note 23.
47. MacDonald 2004, ch. 2.
48. See also Vital 1975, 46.
49. Mahler 1985, 16.
50. MacDonald 1998/2002.
51. See MacDonald 2004, 9–37; 1998/2002, chs. 1 and 3.
52. Lindemann 1997, 433.
53. See MacDonald 2004, 65–127.
54. Mikhail Beizer, quoted in Slezkine, 176.
55. Churchill 1920.
56. MacDonald 1998/2002, preface to the ﬁrst paperback edition and ch. 3.
57. The Jewish Encyclopedia (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/table.jsp?table_id=427&voli d=11&title=STATISTICS:) estimates that Jews constituted 3.29% of the population of the Russian Empire circa 1900, and Slezkine (p. 217) provides data on the Jewish population of Soviet cities before and after the Revolution. Ediev (2001, 294) estimates the popula- tion of Russia at around 90 million around the time of the Bolshevik Revolution.
58. The estimate of the number of deaths caused by Communism in the USSR is from Cortois (1999, 4).
59. MacDonald 1998/2002, preface to the ﬁrst paperback edition.
60. In Schatz 1991, 272.
61. MacDonald 1998/2002.
62. See discussion in MacDonald 1998/2002, preface to the ﬁrst paperback edition.
63. Schatz 1991, 119
64. Mahler 1985; Shahak 1994; Shahak and Mezvinsky 1999.
65. Shafarevich 1989. The NAS asked Shafarevich to resign his position in the academy but he refused (see Science 257 : 743).
66. Lipset 1988, 393.
67. MacDonald 1998/2004, Ch. 2; MacDonald 1998/2002, ch. 1 and preface to the ﬁrst paperback edition; MacDonald 2004, 9–37; Soloveichik 2003.
68. Kotkin 2002.
69. Abrams 1997, 188.
70. Steinlight 2001.
71. Bendersky 2000; Mayer 1988; Nolte 1965; Szajkowski 1974.
72. Nolte 1965, 331
73. The detailed version of this argument is in MacDonald 1998/2002, preface to the ﬁrst paperback edition.
74. MacDonald 1998/2002.
75. MacDonald 1998/2002; 2004, 9–37.
Above is a German cemetery in Lithuania. From June to September of 1944, the Germans lost more than 1 million men – some to the Soviet army, some to the bitter cold.
When the German armed forces invaded the USSR on June 22, 1941, Berlin described the offensive as preemptive in the face of imminent Soviet aggression. The claim was generally dismissed as Nazi propaganda. Recently disclosed evidence from Soviet sources, however, suggests that Moscow’s foreign policy was not governed by neutrality when Europe went to war in 1939.
Challenging established social and political structures through internal subversion, armed violence and terrorism, the Soviet Union was considered an outlaw state. It advocated the overthrow of all capitalist regimes and supported anti-colonial “independence movements” in underdeveloped territories. “This will invariably provoke the ruling classes of the Great Powers against us,” the Communist Party’s general secretary, Josef Stalin, told its Central Committee in 1925.1
During the 1930s, Stalin, now dictator of the USSR, observed how Germany, revitalized under Adolf Hitler’s leadership, worked to revise the post-World War I structure of Europe imposed by the United States, England and France. Stalin and Hitler, therefore, were both at odds with the West.
The USSR was an agrarian state, rich in natural resources, struggling with transition into an industrial power. More than half the necessary factory machinery was purchased from the United States. Germany survived economically by exporting manufactured goods and industrial equipment in exchange for raw materials. Fertile ground existed for German-Soviet cooperation.
On May 3, 1939, Stalin sacked the USSR’s foreign commissar, Maxim Litvinov. Having previously concluded an alliance with Czechoslovakia and France, Litvinov was identified with Moscow’s anti-German foreign policy of the decade. His replacement by Stalin with Vyatsheslav Molotov was recognized as a gesture toward Germany. Only days later in Berlin, Georgi Astachov, the Soviet Union’s diplomatic advisor, thanked the German Foreign Office for the respectful tenor the Reich’s press had recently adopted toward the USSR.
That spring, London and Paris invited Moscow to co-sign an Anglo-French guarantee to protect Poland and Romania from German aggression. The Soviets made commitment contingent upon permission from Lithuania, Poland and Romania to allow the passage of Soviet troops in the event of war. Poland refused. The protracted Soviet-Allied negotiations were conducted halfheartedly by the West; its military advisors had a negative appraisal of the Red Army.
Moscow hosted an Anglo-French military mission August 12. The Soviet Union was represented by the chief of the general staff, Boris Shaposhnikov, Defense Commissar Kliment Voroshilov and the naval minister, Adm. Nikolai Kusnezov. The West sent second-rate negotiators with limited authority. The Soviets were insulted.
In August, Stalin decided on an agreement with Hitler. A non-aggression pact with Germany assured the Soviet Union tangible advantages. The Soviets would recover eastern Poland, which had formerly belonged to Imperial Russia. The Germans pledged support in the USSR’s claims on Bessarabia and agreed to define Eastern Europe’s Baltic and Balkan states as belonging to the Soviet “sphere of interest.”
Germany was preparing to invade Poland in case a territorial dispute and related grievances defied peaceful settlement. England and France supported Poland. Stalin reasoned that were he to conclude a military compact with the West, the powerful coalition would probably discourage Hitler from war.
A German-Soviet non-aggression pact, however, would give Hitler a free hand to invade Poland. England, as Poland’s ally, would declare war on Germany, drag a reluctant France into the conflagration, and Italy would rush to Hitler’s side. The Soviet formula for national security rested with aggravating the conflicting interests among the “imperialist” nations and maintaining neutrality as these states expended their resources in a prolonged struggle.
Stalin had defined the premise during his March 10, 1939, speech in Moscow:
Nonintervention represents the endeavor… to allow all the warmongers to sink deeply into the mire of warfare, to quietly urge them on. The result will be that they weaken and exhaust one another. Then… (we will) appear on the scene with fresh forces and step in, naturally “in the interest of peace,” to dictate terms to the weakened belligerents.2
On August 23, 1939, the German foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, was in Moscow. He and Molotov signed the historic German-Soviet non-aggression pact. The following evening, Stalin hosted prominent members of the Soviet Political Bureau in his apartment. Among the dinner guests were Molotov, Voroshilov, Lavrenti P. Beria and Nikita Khrushchev.
Stalin explained, as Khrushchev later recalled, that he considered war with Germany unavoidable, but had momentarily tricked Hitler and bought time. The Soviet premier described the treaty with Germany as a game of “who outwits whom.”3 He concluded that the Soviet Union held the advantage both morally and militarily. A few months later, the Soviet Foreign Office explained Stalin’s decision in a telegram to its embassy in Tokyo: “The ratifying of our treaty with Germany was dictated by the need for a war in Europe.”4
On August 25, 1939, the Swiss periodical Revue de droit international published the text of a speech Stalin delivered on August 19 to a closed session of the Political Bureau in Moscow. He was quoted as follows:
It must be our objective that Germany wage war long enough to exhaust England and France so much that they cannot defeat Germany alone…. Should Germany win, it will itself be so weakened that it won’t be able to wage war against us for 10 years…. It’s paramount for us that this war continues as long as possible, until both sides are worn out.5
In November, Stalin responded in Pravda that the Swiss article was a “heap of lies.”6 (The Russian researcher T. S. Bushuyevoy discovered Stalin’s original text in the former Soviet archives in 1994; it conformed to the Swiss version.)
Inside the USSR, an intensive armaments production program was under way. During 1938, it had increased by 39 percent, compared to 13 percent in civil industry. Emphasis was placed on armor, development of artillery and aeronautics. In September 1939 the USSR defense committee contracted the construction of nine aircraft production plants, and seven more to manufacture aircraft engines.
This was supplemented by the conversion to fabrication of aviation components of a number of consumer goods factories. In 1940, Soviet production of modern combat airplanes increased over 70 percent from the previous year. The ground forces experienced a parallel upgrading of weaponry. Between January 1939 and June 1941, the Red Army received over 7,000 new tanks and 82,000 artillery pieces (including mortars).
On June 26, 1940, a law was enacted extending the Soviet workday from seven to eight hours, and to seven days per week. Disciplinary action for tardiness or slothfulness in the factories was imposed on the work force. These are measures normally introduced during wartime.
Conscription swelled the ranks of the Red Army. A force numbering 1 million men in the spring of 1938 surpassed 5 million by June 1941. The growth was summarized by the historian Roger Reese: “There were 198 rifle divisions in 1941, compared to fewer than 30 in 1927; 31 motorized rifle divisions in 1941 and none in 1927; 61 tank divisions in 1941 and none as late as 1939.”7
The spirit imbued in the military was illuminated in the revised, 1939 edition of the Red Army’s field service regulations. It stated that should war be “forced” on Soviet Russia, “We will conduct the war offensively and carry it onto enemy territory.”8
In December 1939, the U.S. military attaché in Sweden reported to the War Department in Washington his assessment of the Red Amy:
This absurd propaganda poster reads: “Soldiers of the Red Army save us!” The Russian people were gullible and tended to believe communist propaganda. As a result, they fought valiantly against the invaders.
The soldiers are practically all peasants or common laborers… fed with a constant stream of propaganda extolling the virtues of Communism and assuring them that they are making some sacrifices in the present in order that it may eventually triumph throughout the world. Being unbelievably simple-minded and kept in total ignorance of conditions outside Russia, many of them are actually almost fanatical in their zeal for what they have been led to believe is a holy crusade to rescue their own class from villainous oppressors.9
The war in Europe did not develop as Stalin had predicted. In the spring of 1940, the British withdrew from the continent. The German army conquered France in June without suffering appreciable losses. The ground war was wrapping up without England and Germany becoming “sufficiently worn down.” Khrushchev later described how Stalin became unusually agitated following the Franco-German cease-fire in June 1940. He cursed the French for letting themselves be beaten and the English for fleeing “as fast as their legs could carry them.”10
The Soviets seized a generous portion of Eastern Europe only days before France’s surrender. In September and October 1939, the Soviet government had negotiated permission with Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to establish military bases at their Baltic ports. In June 1940, Molotov reproached the Lithuanian prime minister, Anastas Merkys, for the alleged poor security provided the Soviet garrison; a Red Army soldier had supposedly been bushwhacked. On June 14, Molotov presented Lithuania’s foreign minister with an ultimatum demanding reinforcement of the Soviet military contingent to prevent further “provocation.” The diminutive republic acquiesced.
Similar ultimatums were presented to Latvia and Estonia. On the 21st, the Baltic states were declared Soviet republics, following sham elections. Molotov told the Lithuanian foreign minister on June 30, “Now we’re convinced more than ever that the brilliant comrade Lenin was not wrong in asserting that World War II will bring us to power in Europe, just as World War I helped us to power in Russia.”11
When Moscow presented its demand on June 23 to reoccupy Bessarabia, the formerly Russian eastern province of Romania, Ribbentrop pledged Germany’s support. He asked only that the sovereignty of Romania’s remaining territory be respected, to safeguard the Reich’s economic interests.
Apologists for the USSR, and they abound among historians and sociologists in democratic countries, excuse these Soviet land grabs as defensive measures. The threat of potential German aggression supposedly compelled Moscow to extend the USSR’s frontiers to blunt the impetus of a German offensive. The premise ignores the fact that the Soviet operations in the Baltic and into Bessarabia occurred opposite a virtually undefended German border. Four German infantry divisions and six militia divisions protected the demarcation line shared with the Soviet Union. Two were transferred to the western front in June.
Stalin possessed a splendid espionage network, which consistently forewarned him of German plans. His spies could not have failed to observe (and report) that there were no German deliberations regarding an invasion of the USSR at that time. The atmosphere in Foreign Armies East, the German general staffs section assigned to matters related to the Red Army, was described by Maj. Erich Helmdach, who was posted there in July 1940:
I found genuinely peacetime conditions in the department. The air war against England generated far greater interest. There was no trace of “war preparations,” except that a Soviet film, The Breakthrough into the Mannerheim Line, a documentary about the Soviet winter war in Finland, was screened for the general staff officers. The post-film summary by Col. (Eberhard) Kinzel was limited solely to disparaging observations on the military achievements of the Red Army and its antiquated combat ordnance.12
How little the Soviets themselves promoted the “national security” pretext is illuminated by Molotov’s remarks in an address to the Supreme Soviet on August 1, 1940. Citing the USSR’s successful foreign policy, he stipulated that the Soviet Union should not be content with what had been achieved. In Stalin’s words, the foreign commissar proclaimed, the nation must maintain a state of mobilization to wrest further successes: “Well achieve new and even more glorious victories for the Soviet Union.”13
That summer, diplomatic relations with Germany deteriorated. When the Soviets exerted political pressure to gain control of Finland’s nickel production (the Germans had contracted to purchase 75 percent of the yield), Hitler garrisoned the Finnish nickel mines at Petsamo with elite mountain troops. After the Red Army occupied Bessarabia, the Führer signed a treaty with Bucharest in August, pledging to protect Romania from aggression.
In November 1940, Molotov traveled to Berlin to confer with Hitler and Ribbentrop. During the talks, the Soviet visitor belabored the German military presence in Finland and the Reich’s guarantee to safeguard Romanian sovereignty. This, he protested, was an infringement on the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence. All conciliatory arguments introduced by Hitler, Molotov resisted. The catalog of demands for Soviet preeminence in practically every region where Germany and the Soviet Union shared interests, which Molotov heaped on Ribbentrop during the final session, brought the diplomatic exchange to a fiasco.
The question arises what Molotov, presenting patently unacceptable demands, expected to achieve through these negotiations. The contemporary German historian Walter Post offers this analysis:
Moscow had to fear that England would either be finished off by a German amphibious operation, or, due to its military weakness and miserable financial situation, find itself ready to conclude a peaceful compromise with the Reich. The Soviet Union would then stand alone against a Germany that controlled the resources of the entire European continent. Moreover, the Soviet Union saw the danger of a cooperative effort among all the capitalist powers, including the Anglo-Saxons, against the USSR. To prevent this possibility, England had to be encouraged to continue waging war… To reinforce this hope and prevent a German landing operation against England, Moscow had to seek a conflict with Germany. With the threat of Soviet expansion toward Scandinavia and the Balkans in his rear, Hitler could not risk operation Sea Lion (the invasion plan for England). Instead, he had to transfer strong formations of his armed forces to the east to protect Germany’s supply sources of nickel lumber, oil and grain.14
In December 1940, Soviet intelligence obtained a copy of a top-secret directive drafted by the Führer on the 18th. It opened with the words, “The German armed forces must be prepared, even before the conclusion of the war with England, to defeat Soviet Russia in a rapid campaign.”15 The document contained general military objectives in the east and specified that preparations had to be completed by May 15, 1941.
Late in 1940, the attention of Hitler and Stalin shifted to southeastern Europe. Germany was the only great power capable of protecting the Balkans from Soviet aggression. This was instrumental in Ribbentrop’s persuading the governments of Hungary and Romania to join the Three Power Pact, the German-Italian alliance system, in November 1940. Bulgaria followed on March 1, 1941.
Hitler’s purpose was to arbitrate local border disputes and solicit permission to move an army through Romania and Bulgaria to invade Greece. Molotov bombarded the German embassy in Moscow with official protests. Germany, he scolded, had acknowledged in the August 1939 non-aggression pact that these states belonged to the Soviet sphere of interest. (The USSR’s occupation of the Baltic states in June 1940 demonstrated how Moscow interpreted the classification, “sphere of interest.”)
A sharper confrontation developed over Yugoslavia. Though its cabinet yielded to German pressure to enter the Three Power Pact, factions within the government and the military received discreet encouragement from England, the United States and Soviet Russia. During a visit to Ankara, the British foreign secretary, Anthony Eden, was told by Yugoslavia’s ambassador that Moscow had reassured him that were Yugoslavia attacked by the Germans, the USSR was ready to aid the defenders.
On March 27, 1941, the pro-German Yugoslavian government was toppled by a coup. Hitler directed his general staff to prepare an invasion. The German army group poised in Bulgaria to strike Greece would simultaneously invade Yugoslavia, supported by another German force deployed in southern Germany.
The new Yugoslavian government anticipated a military alliance with the USSR. Yugoslavia’s ambassador in Moscow, Milan Gavrilovic, was told by Stalin, “I hope that your army can stop the Germans for a long time. You have mountains and forests, where tanks are ineffective.”16 He urged the Yugoslavians to organize guerrilla warfare. Gavrilovic was then bounced to Molotov, who explained to him he was the “victim of a misunderstanding, since it had never been intended to conclude a military alliance with Yugoslavia, or support Yugoslavia militarily.”17Red Army formations along the western frontier were simply placed on combat alert four days after the Germans invaded Yugoslavia in April. This was calculated to force Hitler to beef up his defenses opposite the USSR and relieve pressure on the Yugoslavian army.
This saber rattling by the Soviets was a rare public manifestation of the Soviet military presence in the western zone. In general, the Soviet media denied rumors of troop concentrations along the frontier. The defense committee had been secretly transferring combat divisions there since the summer of 1940. In April 1941, the Ural and Siberian military districts were ordered to release more formations. On May 13, an additional 28 divisions, nine corps headquarters and four army headquarters were relocated from the Russian interior. By June, according to recent Russian archival estimates, the Soviet armed forces had deployed 2.7 million men near the western frontier; the equivalent of 177 divisions.18
This enormous fighting force was allocated 10,394 tanks, over 1,300 of which were the formidable types KV and T-34. The army was supported by nearly 44,000 field guns and mortars. Over 8,000 combat aircraft occupied forward airdromes. The western military districts established command posts close to the frontier. Army staffs and front administrative personnel were ordered transferred there in mid-June.
One hundred Soviet divisions were positioned in eastern Poland alone. A high proportion of armored and mechanized formations deployed near Bialystok and Lvov, behind geographic bulges protruding westward along the German-Soviet demarcation line. In a 1972 book, Marshal Ivan Bagramyan, in 1941 a colonel in the Red Army, commented on the troop disposition around Lvov: “We regarded it a favorable assembly area in case we had to initiate widespread offensive operations. It was no accident that two of our full strength, most combat ready mechanized corps, the Fourth and the Eighth, were concentrated there.”19
As for the Bialystok area, the Soviet Maj. Gen. Pyotr Grigorenko later offered this perspective:
More than half the troops of the Western Special Military District were stationed around Bialystok and to the west, therefore in territory extending like a wedge deeply into that of the probable enemy. A troop arrangement of this kind would only have been justifiable… if these troops had been earmarked to launch a surprise attack. Otherwise, half of them would have been surrounded in a moment.20
Here, in “reactionary” classical Cyrillic, it is written: “Whosoever shall come to us with the sword shall perish by it. Upon this stood and stands the land of Russia.” That was written by St. Alexander Nevsky (1220-1263). During World War II, Stalinist Russia briefly became the most conservative country in Europe.
The philosophy of the Red Army was attack oriented. The chief of staff, Georgi Zhukov, described the training at the Soviet general staff academy:
Participants in the course were instructed that wars are no longer declared; the aggressor strives far more to insure all the advantages of a surprise attack… The strategy of warfare is above all anchored in the correct thesis that the aggressor can only be beaten through offensive operations. Other variables of battle, such as counterthrusts, fighting to cover retreats and operations in case of encirclement, were, with few individual exceptions, only touched upon.21
During May 1941, Zhukov and the defense commissar, Marshal Semyon Timoshenko, prepared an operational study for Red Army deployment in case of war with Germany. It was based on an initial plan submitted to Stalin the previous September. The May document included the following recommendation:
In total, Germany and its allies can deploy 240 divisions against the Soviet Union. Considering that Germany, through the arrangement of its rearward services, can keep its army readily mobilized, it could deploy ahead of us and carry out a surprise attack. To prevent this and defeat the German army, I regard it as necessary to under no circumstances relinquish the initiative to the German high command; but to deploy ahead of the enemy and then attack the Germany army right when it is forming up, has not established a front and cannot organize the combat operations of its allied forces.22
On May 5, Stalin and assorted Soviet dignitaries attended commencement at the Frunze Military Academy in Moscow. During the following banquet, he proposed several toasts and talked volubly. An abridged transcript of Stalin’s remarks that day, from Soviet archives, was ultimately published by the Russian historian Lev Besyemski in the March 1992 issue of the periodical Osteuropa.
Stalin lauded the modernization of the Red Army. He rebuffed Gen. Michail Chosin, the director of the Frunze academy, for proposing a toast to the USSR’s peaceful foreign policy. The dictator substituted these words:
Now that we have become strong, one must go from defense over to the attack. To accomplish the defense of our country we are obliged to take the offensive…. We must reform our instruction, our propaganda, agitation, our press to pervade an attack spirit. The Red Army is a modern army, and a modern army is an offensive army.23
The Russian archives have never released the uncensored text of Stalin’s commencement speech. The deleted portions may be revealed, however, by the testimony of four Soviet officers who attended the graduation ceremony. Captured by the Germans, Maj. Ivan Yevstifeyev, Maj. Pissmeny, Maj. Gen. Andrei Naumov and Maj. Gen. Vassili Malyshkin had no contact during captivity, but their recollections of Stalin’s remarks are practically identical.
The witnesses testified that Stalin had described the German army’s “occupation” of Bulgaria and transfer of troops to Finland as “reasons for a war against Germany.”24 Discussing the preparedness of the Red Army, Stalin heralded its intended employment:
For us, the war plans are ready… In the course of the next two months we can begin the struggle against Germany. It may surprise you that I’m telling you our war plans, but it has to be. We must take this step for our protection and take revenge for Bulgaria and Finland. There is a peace treaty with Germany, but that’s just an illusion, a curtain behind which we can work.25
That same May 5, the military propaganda section received guidelines for “the tasks of political propaganda for the Red Army in the immediate future.” The outline stated that “members of the Red Army must be prepared for a justifiable, offensive war.” It further stipulated, “the present perception among many Red Army soldiers, commanders and political cadres that the German army… must be destroyed.”26
Ten days later, Stalin dictated a personal directive for the Red Amy:
The present international situation, which is filled with unforeseeable possibilities, demands revolutionary decisiveness and constant readiness to launch a crushing advance upon the enemy… The soldiers are to be schooled in the spirit of an active hatred of the enemy and to aspire to take up the struggle against him, to be ready to defend our fatherland on the territory of the enemy and deal him a mortal blow.27
Along the frontier, the German and Soviet field armies were massing for an imminent confrontation. German reconnaissance aircraft flew frequent sorties to monitor the Red Army. Stalin issued standing orders forbidding his troops to fire on them. The Soviet host, grossly underestimated by German military intelligence, continued to augment. “All the spare capacity of the entire national rail transport system had been taken up with this major and secret operation,” observed the former Soviet staff officer Viktor Suvorov. He points out that this large Soviet force could not, as Molotov would claim, have assembled in the west for summer training exercises.
The mobilized divisions could not have returned to the distant lands from whence they came. Such a move again would have absorbed the entire resources of the rail network for many months and would have resulted in economic catastrophe.28
The nature of these formations was illuminated in Suvorov’s 1990 book,Icebreaker:
The basis of Soviet strategy was the “operation in depth” theory…. The shock army was to… deliver those strikes in depth. Set up purely to solve offensive tasks, these shock armies had… a considerable quantity of artillery and infantry whose purpose it was to break the enemy’s defense, and one or two mechanized corps with 500 tanks each… On June 21, 1941, all the Soviet armies on the German and Romanian borders… were of shock army standard.29
It was unfeasible to maintain such an overwhelming military presence to protect against a potential German invasion. The region lacked sufficient shelters for winter, and there was a dearth of training facilities, such as firing ranges, to maintain the army’s combat preparedness. Shaposhnikov himself had stressed the necessity of committing soldiers to action shortly after deployment on the frontier; not only does their sense of readiness otherwise lapse, but such a troop buildup can only remain concealed from the potential enemy for a limited time.
A wounded Russian, captured in a skirmish, is treated by a Finnish nurse in a field hospital. Soviet soldiers were told by communist political officers that they would be shot or tortured by the Finns if taken prisoner. Despite these lying warnings, many soldiers surrendered to the Finns, and were alive and unharmed when the war ended.
Neither political nor military documents fixing the date for a surprise offensive against Germany are available. Soviet officers captured during the fighting testified that many anticipated the order to attack in August or September 1941. Some said that combat operations were scheduled to begin early in July.
The Soviet leadership, however, faced a serious concern. Stalin received reports that the Germans were preparing to invade the Soviet Union in June. His army on the front was undergoing feverish reorganization. Units were receiving new ordinance, recruit training was under way, many formations were under-strength. Other divisions were still en route by rail. It was estimated that the army would not be combat ready before the end of August. The dilemma is illuminated by Walter Post:
The rapid progress of the German deployment and the reports piling up about the Germans’ intention to attack in the latter half of June confronted the Soviet command with the problem of either changing the entire war plan to the strategic defensive, or advancing its own timetable for attack… A strategic defense would have required a total revision of the troop disposition, which because of the poor rail network could not be carried out in a short time…. The Soviet command had at this late hour no other choice but to maintain poise, camouflage its own deploying of forces as much as possible and hope for enough time to complete the concentration of its troops and attack according to plan.30
The Soviets hoped that were the German army to strike first, the initial thrust need not be decisive. “They felt the covering armies were fully sufficient to repulse an enemy attack while Soviet main forces were mobilizing and deploying to launch a counteroffensive.”31 The Red Army, as the German historian Max Klüver relates, “was in every branch schooled in attack and trained for the capability of responding to an enemy attack with an immediate counterblow.”32
The Soviet general staff, however, had failed to appreciate how quickly the German army, upon arriving on the frontier, could launch an offensive. Shaposhnikov had estimated 10 to 15 days. To the Red Army’s unpleasant surprise, the German armored and motorized divisions, right after reaching the border, struck with full fury. The captive Gen. Andrei Vlasov’s remarks on the subject in 1942 were summarized by a German intelligence officer:
The Soviets had been forming up since the beginning of the year, which, due to the bad Soviet railroad lines, went rather slowly. Hitler judged the situation perfectly and plowed right into the Soviets while they were deploying. This is how Vlasov explains the Germans’ enormous initial success.33
Like any novel concept assailing accepted views, the premise that Hitler may have only technically been the aggressor in the German-Soviet war has encountered resistance. Among the opponents of the revisionist position is David Glantz, who introduces new evidence to defend established views. An authority on Soviet military affairs, Glantz provides a comprehensive analysis of the 1941 Red Army in his study, Stumbling Colossus. He argues that rapid expansion since 1939, among other factors, made the USSR’s fighting forces unprepared to conduct a military operation in the scope of the purported preemptive offensive against Germany. Soviet commanders, as reflected at that time in their military periodicals, “demonstrated a clear Soviet appreciation of the superb German military performance… and an unmistakable realization that the Soviet military in no way matched German military standards.”34
Glantz provides evidence that troops were unfamiliar with new ordnance, service branches of the army lacked experience in coordinated operations, and the level of training among inductees was inadequate. In the 37th Tank Division, for example, “About 60 percent of the enlisted personnel had joined the army in May 1941, and none had any general or specialized training.”35
Glantz publishes a July 1941 analysis of the Soviet 15th Mechanized Corps on the first day of fighting by its acting commander, in which the officer states that personnel in the corps’ motorcycle regiment had never fired a rifle.36Stumbling Colossus also mentions that the “majority of KV and T-34 [tank] drivers had from three to five hours of service driver training.”37 Aware of the military’s predicament, Glantz concludes, Stalin sought diplomatic solutions to problems with Germany.
The American professor Roger Reese summarizes that expansion of the army “was pursued at a frantic if not altogether paranoid pace” since 1939, largely out of fear of Germany. The Red Army “inconsistently changed unit organization and reshuffled its leaders, creating a great deal of confusion, instability and systemic incoherence.”38
Glantz’s book in particular is worthwhile for balancing the perspective of recently available information. However, related factors should also be considered. The fact that the Red Army was experiencing a difficult period of reorganization, modernization and expansion from 1939 to 1941 did not prevent Stalin from employing it as an instrument of foreign policy. The invasion of Poland and the occupation of the Baltic republics and Bessarabia delayed progress in improving the army. A 1939-40 winter war against Finland cost the troops a quarter of a million casualties and widespread demoralization. Stalin was not deterred by the disastrous impact Soviet imperialism exercised on the struggling military establishment.
The question arises, did the Soviet general staff really consider the fighting forces inadequate? Why would Zhukov and Timoshenko, who overestimated German strength, prepare an operational study for invading central Europe? “There is no direct evidence that Stalin ever saw it,” Glantz maintains.39 The study was dated May 15, 1941, and addressed to Stalin.
The Russian historian Col. Valeriy Danilov argues that it would be absurd to presume that the Soviet defense commissar and the chief of staff would have prepared such a document to set before Stalin without authorization. Such arbitrary conduct by officers would have represented a rebuke against Soviet policy and implied that Stalin was in error. Considering the 1937 purge of the military hierarchy, it is doubtful that staff officers would have risked antagonizing him.40 It is more plausible that the study was accomplished on his orders.
The controversy will continue, at least until the former Allied powers Britain, the United States and Russia, whose governments have liberally exposed Germany’s wartime records, release the relevant material in their own archives. The Austrian newspaper Die Presse of April 4, 1997 quoted the Moscow journalist Konstantin Preobrashenskiy about use of the Russian archives. “Once again, the archivists only approve access to the documents when they feel like it. It is regrettable to see how what was accessible yesterday is today closed once more.”41
Interestingly, the anniversary of World War II has reopened old wounds and ignited an ugly battle of words between Russia and its unloving neighbors, Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltic states.The latter two accuse Moscow of having stabbed them in the back in 1939 by becoming a partner with Germany.
The European parliamentary assembly (OSCE) recently held the USSR and Germany `equally responsible for World War II. After 70 years, its about time.
A flat-out lie, angrily retorted Russias prime minister, Dimitry Medvedev. The war cost the Soviet Union 25 million dead. Russians are quite right in believing that they, not the US and British Empire, defeated Hitlers Germany. Russians fought with incredible heroism, suffered unthinkably casualties and damage, and ground Germany into dust. The Allies played an important but comparatively far less important role in Europe against an already defeated and ruined Germany.
Underlining Moscows worrying rehabilitation of Stalin, Medvedev claims the Soviet dictator saved Europe from Hitler and rejects all attempts to equate him with Hitler.
But the facts say differently. Stalin was an even worse mass murderer than Hitler by a factor of three or four. Stalin was also a much cleverer strategist, war leader and diplomat than Hitler, who stumbled into a war that Germany could not possibly win and for which it was woefully unprepared.
Russias President Vladimir Putin admitted the 1939 Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact that partitioned Poland between Germany and the USSR, handed the Baltic states and Romanias Bessarabia to the Soviets, was `immoral.
But Putin correctly asserted that the 1938 Munich Pact signed by Britain and France with Hitler that returned Czechoslovakias ethnic German Sudaten region to German-Austrian ownership was equally immoral. He reminded Poland of its unsavory role in carving up bleeding Czechoslovakia. He blasted East European critics as `collaborators with Fascism.
Interestingly, we know that Hitler was determined to undue the pernicious effects of the post-World War I `peace treaties that cruelly dismembered the German Reich, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. He was set on restoring the 1914 borders.
But it is little understood that Stalin was also bent on historic and geographic rectification. He sought to erase the effects of the 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, imposed on defeated, revolution-torn Russia by the German-led Central Powers.
The draconian treaty tore away a quarter of Russias population and industry, and vast swathes of Russian-ruled territory: Poland, the Baltic States, Belarus, Ukraine, Crimea, Bessarabia and Finland. Like Hitler, Stalin was determined to regain lost territories. This he largely did from 1920-1939. The 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was the final act in the restoration of the old Russian Tsarist Empire.
A fascinating book, `The Chief Culprit by Viktor Suvorov (US Naval Institute Press), the pseudonym of a defector from Soviet military intelligence GRU, makes explosive new revelations about Stalins role in igniting World War II. My old friends at KGB despise the GRU. But it was GRU that got 2-3 high level agents into Franklin Roosevelts White House and shaped Americas wartime foreign policy.
Suvorovs argument is simple. Stalin cleverly lured Hitler into war by offering to divide Poland. This act, Stalin knew, would prompt Britain and France to declare war on Germany. Stalin expected to pick up the pieces.
Stalin also knew Germany was no match for the USSR. Hitler had only 3,332 tanks, most of them light vehicles armed with machine guns or 20mm cannon. Contrary to our images of a motorized blitzkrieg, 75% of German transport was horse-drawn (think how much hay and how many hay wagons are needed to feed 750,000 horses.) The Wehrmacht had no winter uniforms. The German High Command expected to win the war against Russia in only three months before winter set in.
Most important, Germany had no raw materials save coal. Its sole sources of oil were Romania and Russia. Germany had only enough oil for a two-month campaign against the Soviet Union. It had no motor lubricants suitable for Russias -20 to -30 F winter weather.
From digging in GRU files, Suvarov asserts that in the spring of 1941, Stalin was poised to launch 170 divisions, 24,000 tanks and thousands of warplanes in a surprise blitzkrieg against Western Europe, supported by mountains of munitions and more reserve armies from Asia and the Far East. The first target was Ploesti, Romania, Germanys sole source of oil. Germany was also Italys sole source of oil. Losing Ploesti would have knocked both Axis powers out of the war.
The Red Army and Air Force were deployed in vulnerable offensive formations hard on the new German-Soviet border. Stalin ordered all 1,000 plus defensive casemates of the formidable Stalin Line defending the USSRs western border destroyed.
But Hitler struck first. Learning of the Soviet threat, Hitler secretly massed his armies and attacked on 22 June, 1941. Operation Barbarossa caught the Russians flat-footed: warplanes on the ground, tanks on rail cars, munitions in the open. Soviet ground forces were quickly enveloped, cut off and destroyed in vast numbers. Had they been positioned in defensive deployments behind the Stalin Line, this rout would not have happened.
Soviet propaganda later tried to cover up Stalins plan to attack Europe, claiming his forces were outmoded and unprepared, and generals incompetent. This view still prevails today.
Not so, claims Suvarov. His view will infuriate mainstream historians. I poured through Suvarovs meticulous military analysis. To me, as a veteran military analyst, his figures appear to confirm that Stalin was just about to attack when Hitler pre-empted him.
By 1945, Stalins Red Army had taken half of Europe. But, contends Suvarov, had Hitler not attacked first in 1941, Stalins thirty-million man army, backed by mammoth industrial production, would have overwhelmed all of Europe in a 1941 surprise blitz.
Suvarovs unstated conclusion: Hitler saved Western Europe from Stalin. He asserts, less convincingly, that Hitlers offensive into Russia led to the inevitably downfall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the real end of WWII.
In the authors view, if Poland had given back German-populated Danzig to Germany, war might have been avoided. The British Empire collapsed because of its fatal decision to go to war with Germany in 1939 over Poland, a nation it could not possibly defend.
All this is grand heresy. We need to clear away the lingering clouds of wartime propaganda and begin understanding what really happened.
Russian people’s attitude towards Joseph Stalin – the former Soviet Union leader who was responsible for the deaths of millions of his own people – is becoming increasingly positive, according to a revealing new poll.
And a leading historian says the country’s leaders have been promoting the war tyrant as a ‘tough leader’ who guided the Soviets to victory in the Second World War and presided over the country’s industrialisation.
Now new evidence suggests that suggests ‘Stalin’s rehabilitation is being steadily implemented’, a leading historian has said.
One rights group which specialises in Stalin-era victims believes that during his regime, ten million people died of starvation, more than five million were displaced and six to seven million were arrested for political reasons.
Historians believe that an increasingly positive view of former Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin (his figurine, left) in Russia is partly driven by the country’s current leaders, including President Vladimir Putin (right)
One rights group believes the bloody regime of Stalin (pictured) directly caused the deaths of over 20 million people
Nikita Petrov from Russia’s most prominent rights organisation Memorial says it is ‘a sign of unlearned history lessons’.
He added that it comes from ‘a reluctance to look at yourself and honestly admit that we took the wrong path and that our country committed a host of crimes against its own people and the people of neighbouring states’.
Petrov says this sentiment which stems from the country’s leaders – who long for the days when the USSR were a world superpower – has filtered down to many everyday Russians.
Now 45 per cent of people believe ‘sacrifices’ sustained by people under Stalin were justified by the country’s great goals, according to a study by the respected Levada Centre pollster.
That number is up from 27 per cent in October 2008 while the number of people who viewed Stalin negatively fell to 20 per cent from 43 per cent in 2001.
Now a leading historian says the country’s leaders including Vladimir Putin (pictured) have been promoting the war tyrant Stalin as a ‘tough leader’
Putin has distanced comparisons with Nazi Germany to the regime of former Soviet Premier Stalin (right), pictured with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (left) and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (centre)
Putin has been ambivalent about the role of Stalin, condemning the ‘ugliness’ of state-sponsored terror but also saying his regime should not be compared to that of Nazi Germany.
‘The Stalin regime never aimed to exterminate entire ethnic groups,’ the Russian president said during his televised phone-in last month.
The Stalin regime never aimed to exterminate entire ethnic groups
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Since President Vladimir Putin took power in 2000, there has been a growing chorus of Russians who take a positive view of the Soviet tyrant’s role in history.
Those attitudes have changed so dramatically on the back of patriotic fervour whipped up by state-controlled media that some analysts speak of a creeping ‘rehabilitation of Stalin’.
The change in how Russians perceive the Soviet leader came into focus in the run-up to Russia’s celebrations of Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in WWII.
Banners featuring Stalin – whose name is inseparably tied to the history of the conflict known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War – were spotted in Moscow and Magadan, a former transit point in a vast network of Stalinist labour camps.
But since President Vladimir Putin took power in 2000, there has been a growing chorus of Russians who take a positive view of the Soviet tyrant Stalin (pictured)
The precise number of deaths caused by the Stalin regime remains a subject of debate but according to Memorial rights group, about ten million people died of starvation, more than five million were displaced, and about six to seven million were arrested for political reasons.
But law student Mikhail Kosyrev – who used to have a negative view of Stalin – says his attitude has drastically changed in recent years and insists that he meant well.
As long as history in Russia is presented as a chain of triumphs and victories over enemies, without an honest attitude towards our forefathers’ mistakes and crimes, we will have no safeguards against a repeat of the purges
Analyst from Gazeta website
The 29-year-old said: ‘Over the past five years I’ve often watched documentary films about Stalin, about that time on television and learnt more about him.
‘And now I don’t have any negative feelings towards him. He had good intentions.’
Many analysts warn that unless Russians get the Stalin cult out of their system history may repeat itself.
The Gazeta online newspaper wrote: ‘As long as history in Russia is presented as a chain of triumphs and victories over enemies, without an honest attitude towards our forefathers’ mistakes and crimes, we will have no safeguards against a repeat of the purges.’
But law student Kosyrev appears unconvinced. He says that like Putin, who is locked in a battle of wills with the West, Stalin was also guided by the interests of his country.
‘I see what is happening in Ukraine, how America is putting pressure on us over Ukraine and I think things back then were not easier and there was no other way for him.’
MAKHACHKALA, Russia — Large posters with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s portrait that were placed in public spaces earlier this week in Daghestan’s capital, Makhachkala, have been removed.
The posters’ appearance in Russia’s North Caucasus city on April 27 sparked online criticism by local bloggers and Internet users.
Some posters showing Stalin together with other Soviet leaders and military commanders of the 1940s remain in the city’s public spaces.
In Moscow and some other Russian cities, Stalin’s portraits and banners depicting his image are being displayed in connection with the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, which Russia celebrates on May 9.
Human rights activists in Russia have condemned the use of Stalin’s image, saying he was personally responsible for the repression and deaths of millions of Soviet citizens.