Δευτέρα, 22 Μαρτίου 2010

The Jews inn the Soviet Union


This edition of TBR is entirely devoted to one of the most important books on the Russian Revolution and the Bolshevik era ever to be written: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Jews in the Soviet Union.

Together with part one, Russian Jewish History: 1795-1916, they comprise Solzhenitsyn’s massive—and suppressed—200 Years Together. We’re reviewing The Jews in the Soviet Union this issue because, as far as we know, this is the first and only full-length review of the book ever to appear in the English language.

Distinguished Revisionist historian Udo Walendy reviewed Solzhenitsyn’s The Jews in the Soviet Union in his magazineHistorische Tatsachen (“Historical Facts”). Our English translation of that scholarly review—with many great photos added—comprises this September/October 2008 issue. We think it’s a blockbuster.

As Solzhenitsyn himself put it: “After 1917 life and people [in Russia] changed greatly. But literature produced a very poor reflection of these changes. The truth was suppressed and lies encouraged. Thus we arrived in the 1990s knowing next to nothing about this country. This explains the great number of surprises.”

The German magazine Der Spiegel asked the great writer:

Your recent two-volume work 200 Years Together was an attempt to overcome a taboo against discussing the common history of Russians and Jews. These two volumes have provoked mainly perplexity in the West. You say the Jews are the leading force of global capital and they are among the foremost destroyers of the bourgeoisie. Are we to conclude from your rich array of sources that the Jews carry more responsibility than others for the failed Soviet experiment?

Solzhenitsyn replied:

I avoid exactly that which your question implies: I do not call for any sort of scorekeeping or comparisons between the moral responsibility of one people or another; moreover, I completely exclude the notion of responsibility of one nation toward another. All I am calling for is self-reflection. You can get the answer to your question from the book itself: Every people must answer morally for all of its past—including that past which is shameful. Answer by what means? By attempting to comprehend: How could such a thing have been allowed? Where in all this is did we go wrong? And could it happen again?

It is in that spirit, specifically, that it would behoove the Jewish people to answer, both for the revolutionary cutthroats and the ranks willing to serve them. Not to answer before other peoples, but to oneself, to one’s conscience, and before God. Just as we Russians must answer—for the pogroms, for those merciless arsonist peasants, for those crazed revolutionary soldiers, for those savage sailors.


Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn has proved to be without doubt both a very important and industrious writer. He was born on December 11, 1918 in Kislovodsk, Stavropol Krai, Russia. While an artillery captain in the Red Army, he was arrested in February 1945 in East Prussia because of an exchange of letters that criticized Josef Stalin between the lines and that was zealously read by political monitors.

For 8 years, from 1945 through 1953, he suffered through the work camps of the gulag and then spent three more years in an internal banishment region of Kazakhstan. Afterward, he was a mathematics teacher. Assured of government approval by Nikita Khrushchev (the communist head of state after Stalin) who had introduced a free-speech period or “thaw,” he released in 1962 his fictionalized account One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the first Soviet work of literature about Stalin’s punishment camps. It was translated immediately into numerous languages.

Then new attacks and persecution began. None of his important novels after Ivan Denisovich was allowed to appear in the Soviet Union: Cancer Ward (1968); The First Circle of Hell (1968); The Gulag Archipelago (three volumes inmost printed editions, 1973-1978); and a cycle of novels called The Red Wheel, consisting of August 1914 (1971), November 1916 (two volumes, 1984) and March 1917 (two volumes, 1989- 1990).A fourth tome in the cycle, April 1917, is not yet translated into English.

He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, but did not dare travel to Oslo to receive it, fearing he would be banned from Russia. That same year he was in fact excluded from the Soviet Writers Federation (which readmitted him only in 1989 under glasnost). He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974 and lived in Vermont from 1976 to 1994. Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev rehabilitated him in 1990 and restored his Russian citizenship.

The present discussion is concerned with the second volume of Solzhenitsyn’s two volume work. Together they are called Two Hundred Years Together. In romanized Russian, this is Dvyesti lyet vmestye.
The first volume was Russian-Jewish History 1795-1916 and ran to 512 pages, published in 2001. In 2002 the second volume appeared, a 600-page-long investigation called The Jews in the Soviet Union. His preceding books, written in the form of novels, were often based on historical facts and personal experiences, and all could lay claim to correct and provable factuality regarding the historical events they described. As far as we know no one—apart from communist dogmatists unable to toss overboard their mendacious party dialectic—has dared attack or refute him on his facts. He merits outstanding recognition for this in view of the abundance of detail in his works.

In his book The Jews in the Soviet Union, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has once again opened up for us a multiplicity of Russian sources that previously had been inaccessible or unevaluated in German-speaking countries.

His Two Hundred Years Together series abandoned his usual form of fiction in favor of scientific analysis. Possibly this was also due to the controversial topic: Jewish power and anti-Semitism. There is only one problem with this otherwise excellent book, chapter nine, “At War with Germany.”

Chapter nine should also have received his usual comprehensive documentary analysis. But here we cannot avoid the reproach, to be detailed later, that the Nobel Prize-winning Solzhenitsyn, whom we otherwise profoundly respect, copied for this chapter exclusively from biased Jewish and Soviet sources, in fact mostly from state historians, without feeling compelled to undertake one single critical examination.

As an experienced analyst, he should have known that those historians, particularly with respect to Germany, had snatched up their pens in the same unanimous and unrestrained party-line spirit as communists always do for their political diatribes. A man who otherwise understands well how to differentiate between propaganda and reality, and between censorship and freedom of expression, has here lost his impartiality when confronted with the extensive complexity of German history.

In his Gulag Archipelago he confessed: “How easily did we let zealous [Stalinist] slogans lead us about on their mental leash. How satisfied we were to regard the persons betrayed as those who were betraying!”1 In volume two he describes truly horrific events that were basic Soviet practice. But regarding German war history, it does not occur to Solzhenitsyn in the least to think that he might still be on the leash of zealous propaganda.
Part 2 of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s banned book series 200 Years Together—a review by German historian Udo Walendy
The Communist October Revolution in Russia
The domestic and international dimensions of the Bolshevik revolution can be grasped only by familiarization with what happened in the power centers of the capitals of Petrograd (formerly St. Petersburg, later called Leningrad) and, from March 1918 on, Moscow, and the consequent effects on the vast tracts of Russia. Enough books have appeared concerning this.

The goal of this review is to show two things: 1) that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, despite all the suffering he has undergone and learned of from his companions in fate, has remained a Russian nationalist patriot; and 2) to summarize his key findings. First, here is a summary of illustrative quotations from Solzhenitsyn taken from his classic and massive The GULAG Archipelago:

The river [of political prisoners] that flowed in the years 1937-38 was neither the only one, nor even the main one—perhaps only one of the three large rivers that brought the dark stinking pipes of our prison channels almost to bursting.

The river of the years 1920-30 had preceded it. . . . It had sloshed a good 15 million muzhiks (if not even more) into the taiga and the tundra. . . .And afterward there was the inmate river of 1944-46. . . . Whole nations were pumped through the discharge pipes [such as Cossacks,Tatars, ethnic German Russians, Poles, Balts, Hungarians etc] and in addition there were millions and millions of [Soviet] returnees [from German wartime labor camps and factories], German POWs and new forced labor hordes. . . .The prison pipeline never remained empty.2

At the end of November 1917 . . . the members of the Cadet Party were also declared outlaws. Arrests followed immediately. The members of the Federation of Constituents [the advocates of a democratic constitution] and the network of the “soldier universities” were immediately included.

Lifted from an NKVD circular of December 1917: In view of the sabotage of the work of our officials . . . a maximum of self-initiative is to be displayed by local authorities, who by no means should avoid using confiscations, coercive measures and arrests.3

Solzhenitsyn writes that while Lenin was demanding the merciless subjugation of all attempters of anarchy, he published on January 7 and 10, 1918, two articles to guide his Bolsheviks, demanding, as Lenin said, “the cleansing of Russian soil of all vermin.”

Solzhenitsyn adds:

Under vermin he understood not only everything that was hostile and outside of the working class, but also workers themselves who avoided labor. . . .” 4

Vermin were naturally the zemstvo farmers, the tradesmen and all home owners. . . . It was vermin that were singing in the church choirs.5 [Zemstvo refers to a form of local government instituted during the great liberal reforms of imperial Russia byAlexander II.]—Ed.

Other vermin were high school teachers and church council members. “All clergymen [were] vermin,” remembered Solzhenitsyn. The same applied to railroad men who refused an oath swearing armed defense of Soviet authority, telegraphers unsympathetic toward their new masters and insubordinate trade unionists. Solzhenitsyn says:

The Cheka’s [secret police] task was to settle accounts outside the court system. In all of man’s history it represented a unique kind of repressive organ—one single authority entrusted with spying on citizens, with arresting them, with conducting investigations of them, with directing
their prosecution, furnishing their judges and carrying out sentences upon them.6

In February 1918 the Sovnarkom’s chairman, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, demanded an increase in the number of prisons as well as more severe punitive repression, and in May he added concrete sentencing guidelines for the “punishment of corruption”: a minimum of 10 years prison plus 10 years at a hard labor camp.7

With regard to foreign policy the Bolsheviks secured themselves a respite by making peace with Germany in the Brest-Litovsk Treaty of March 1918. Their representatives at the conference were Leon Trotsky (formerly Bronstein), Adolf Yoffe, Lev Kamenev (formerly Rosenfeld) and Gregory Sokolnikov (formerly Brilliant). On August 26, 1918 Lenin instructed by telegram: “Dubious persons are to be locked up in concentration camps outside of the city. Relentless mass terror is to be carried out.”8

Tens of thousands of hostages were killed “for deterrence” during the 1917-1922 civil war, with hundreds drowned at a time by sinking them on barges in the White Sea in the Arctic. The NKVD instructed its local offices on August 30, 1918 with this ominous order:

All right-wing Social Revolutionaries [The Social Revolutionaries were socialists but not Bolsheviks, hence were called right-wingers.—Ed.] are to be immediately imprisoned, and a considerable number of bourgeois and officers also must be taken hostage.

By resolution of the Defense Council of February 15, 1919 the Cheka and the NKVD were instructed to seize hostages from the farmers of those areas “wherever the clearing of snowdrifts off the railroad tracks is not progressing satisfactorily; in this case, if the work is not done, they can be shot.”

On September 5, 1918 the major decree setting in motion the Red Terror followed, with instructions for mass shootings and erecting concentration camps under the direct authority of the Cheka. The decree read: “For attempts to escape from concentration camps the punishment is a tenfold increase of prison time and, for repeated attempts, shooting.”

At the end of 1920 Social Democrats were again targeted as hostages. Cheka Order No. 10 of January 8, 1921 ordered “intensification of the repression of the bourgeoisie.” This was after the end of the civil war!

The Cheka also continued rounding up Mensheviks (the anti-terrorist communists], and other members of smaller parties on nocturnal excursions. People were also shot recklessly on the basis of arbitrary lists—particularly academics, artists, authors and engineers.

With the regulation on forced food-collection of January 1919, the farmers were also targeted. Later, in the 1930s, the mass “collectivization of agriculture” in Ukraine led to the death by starvation of about 6 million humans.

Solzhenitsyn remembered:

Any man who has not yet been flung into the sewage channel, Solzhenitsyn writes from his bitter personal experience, and whoever has not yet been pumped himself through the pipes into the GULAG archipelago, should march about, joyfully above-ground, with flags flying and bands playing, praising the courts, and expressing ecstasy over his acquittal.

From Solzhenitsyn’s summary in The GULAG Archipelago:

What will be found in the following section is almost incomprehensible. In order to grasp the full and monstrous truth and comprehend it down to the bedrock, one would have to be dragged through many lives in many camps—camps in which the first phase alone could not be survived without special favors from someone, since the camps were devised for your extermination.

And so it happens that all who got the deep and full experience of the gulag now lie for a long time in their grave, silent forever. . . .

What happened to me [Solzhenitsyn here speaks of himself as a survivor] resembles more a view through a hole in the wall of this archipelago than a panoramic view from one of its towers. Fortunately, however, more books on the gulag continue to emerge. . . . After describing the incessant horrors suffered by those dragged by the communist system into the penal and extermination mills, Solzhenitsyn goes on to outline life outside the gulag—the permanent living conditions of those who had the “luck” not to be arrested by the Cheka:

1. Constant fear, because there was no security for anyone’s life, dwelling or property;

2. Moving to another place was difficult or impossible;

3. Taciturnity and distrust;

4. General unawareness of what was happening;

5. Informants everywhere;

6. Betrayal as a way of life: Betrayal was all around you. . . . It is easy to claim now that arrest was “a roll of the dice,” as Ilya Ehrenburg claimed. . . . But arrests were a matter of quotas and state goals. And anyone who spoke publicly against them was seized in the same instant;9

7. Destruction: The number of the prisoners that passed over the course of 35 years (until 1953) through the archipelago or died there amounts to roughly 40-50 million, and that is a careful estimation, because that is only three or four times the average population of the gulag; during the war, 1 percent died daily);10

8. Lying as a way of life;

9. Cruelty (even against Cheka and state personnel).

No worse ruling system can be imagined. Who were its makers, and how was it possible that this system also rode on tanks as a “liberator” into Central Europe in 1945 over the blood slick of millions of humans, hailed by the Western Allies, a USSR celebrating itself as a representative of civilized “mankind” and sitting in judgment at Nuremberg over the defeated “barbarians”?
1 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, New York, Volumes I & II (1973/1974). [“GULAG” was an acronym meaning, in Russian, “Chief Directorate of Corrective Labor Camps and Colonies.” The camps were strewn across the vast USSR’s territory like many islands in an island chain, hence the word “archipelago.”] Vol. I, 232.

2 Solzhenitsyn, Gulag Archipelago, Vol. I, 35-6.

Gulag Archipelago, Vol. I, 37.

4 Ibid., Vol. I, 37-8.

5 Ibid., Vol. I, 38.

6 Ibid., Vol. I, 39.

7 Ibid., Vol. II, 12-13.

8 Ibid., Vol. II, 18.

9 Ibid., Vol. II, 610-14.

10 Ibid, ol. II, 617.

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