Putin took full advantage of one of his rare opportunities to pontificate on a world stage. The stage was kindly provided by Israel, hosting a forum to celebrate the liberation of Auschwitz 75 years ago.
Though attended by many world leaders, including our own Prince Charles who had sorted out the climate problems en route, one such leader was conspicuous by his absence.
President of Poland Andrzej Duda chose to boycott the event because he didn’t want to hear Vlad playing world leader on this particular occasion. The truculent Pole still insists that Stalin’s Russia was, along with Hitler’s Germany, responsible for the war and, by inference, the Holocaust.
The Poles, along with some other sore losers, such as the Balts, always remember the First of September, when Germany attacked Poland from the west. However, they also remember the 17th of the same month, 1939, when the Nazis’ Soviet allies stabbed Poland in the back from the east.
Nor are they prepared to forget the Nazi-Soviet Pact that divided Europe between the two predators. They even still mention that, after the first few days of the war, most of the ordnance the Nazis rained on the Polish army was of Soviet manufacture (the same, incidentally, goes for the Luftwaffe bombs falling on London).
What makes matters even worse is that the EU at large went along with this view of history and passed a resolution daring to mention Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in the same breath.
Vlad, who is busily putting together an ideological cocktail including equal measures of Stalinism and Russian Orthodoxy, is incandescent. How dare those bastards “rewrite history”! Why, he’s going to “shut their filthy mouths” if that’s the last thing he does.
However, while the filthy mouths still remain defiantly open, he has subtly changed his propaganda. Until the present attempts to “rewrite history” in agreement with historical facts, the Russian mantra was “we liberated Europe from fascism”.
Alas, every time this refrain is sung, the aforementioned filthy mouths demur. The Soviets, they say, simply replaced the brown hue of fascism with the red variety. That scarcely qualifies as liberation. It’s more like substituting the rock for the hard place.
Fine, says Vlad. We’ll sort out those naysayers later. Meanwhile, here’s one fact no mouth, however filthy, will dispute. Stalin saved the remaining European Jews from certain death, by liberating Auschwitz and other such hellholes.
To reinforce that message, he out of the blue referred to Poland’s forgotten ambassador to Nazi Germany as “scum” and “anti-Semitic swine”, thereby claiming virtue by dissociation from sin. The implication was that the Poles provoked the German attack because they wanted to enlist the Nazis in the cause of slaughtering Jews.
By boycotting the conference, President Duda communicated his refusal to buy that message. He isn’t the only one.
The dichotomy of the philo-Semitic Stalin saving Jews from the anti-Semitic Hitler may work marginally better than the image of Soviet liberators, but not well enough.
For, once liberated, those Nazi camps weren’t decommissioned. The Soviets continued to use those purpose-built facilities for the purpose they had been built for.
Many skeletal inmates, those who didn’t pass ideological muster, stayed put. Many others were shipped to the Soviet equivalents. How many of them were Jews, I don’t know. Definitely some.
After the war, that philo-Semitic Stalin planned a final solution of his own. The Doctors’ Plot trial of 1952 was a prelude to the wholesale deportation of all Jews to Siberia, where new camps were being built to accommodate the influx.
The doctors, most of them Jews, were accused of planning to murder the entire leadership of the Soviet Union. Most of them, unable to withstand diabolical torture, admitted their guilt. Some died before trial.
The plan was to hang the doctors publicly in Red Square, after which the Soviet government would kindly step in and save the Jews from the ensuing outburst of public wrath by shipping them far out of sight.
The trial was accompanied by the kind of anti-Semitic propaganda that would have made Julius Streicher turn green with envy, had he lived to see the day. In parallel, similar campaigns were under way in the newly liberated Eastern Europe, where many Jewish leaders were executed on trumped-up charges of Zionism.
Soviet Jews were saved by Stalin’s timely death, after which they had no more cause to fear for their lives than the rest of the enslaved population. But the Soviet Union remained virulently anti-Semitic.
Percentage quotas were introduced in universities, varying from three to zero per cent (the latter at the more prestigious institutions). A whole raft of jobs were off limits to Jews, whose ethnicity was specified in their identity papers. Outbursts of spontaneous anti-Semitic violence went unpunished.
For today’s heirs to Stalin et al. to claim the mantle of saviours, they must as a minimum repudiate Russia’s communist past, naming, shaming and punishing the surviving perpetrators of Soviet crimes. As part of that cleansing experience, they should ban from government any members of oppressive, blood-stained organisations, such as the KGB.
Eastern European countries have done just that, with variable success. But at least they’ve made an honest attempt to atone for their sins. The Russians not only have made no such attempt, but they are governed by a group 82 per cent of which – including you know whom – have KGB links.
In Putin’s Russia, Stalin isn’t so much exonerated as glorified, with his genocidal peccadillos glossed over and put down to the vicissitudes of history. And that’s genocides that actually happened, those of Poles, Finns, Chechens, Russian Germans and many others, never mind those that were merely planned, such as that of the Jews.
Well done, President Duda. I wish others followed suit, but they won’t, will they?