Vernon Gale Buchanan, member of the United States House of Representatives
Friday, 05 June 2020 19:00
Estonian Life No. 22 2020 - Ilvi Jõe-Cannon
Few days ago, Congressman Buchanan in Florida advised in an e-mail to his constituents that he has cosponsored the Never Again Education Act in order to educate students about the horrors of the Holocaust and he asked us to share our thoughts.
Of course, I support the education of students about the horrors committed in history, and particularly those in the 20th century, lest they recur, as the Congressman quotes Beverly Newman, Director of the Al Katz Center, “Our millennials — our future — must understand that perfect storm of evil”.
My thoughts are that if we’re going to teach our students about the “perfect storm of evil” we cannot, and must not, ignore the evil committed by the leaders of countries that embraced Communist ideology. These countries are principally the Soviet Union and Communist China whose regimes supported Communist movements in Latin America, including Cuba, and southeast Asia. So much of U.S. foreign policy has focused on these regimes and our young people should learn what Communist ideology preaches and that it is as evil as fascism that gave ideological justification for the Holocaust.
It wasn’t too long ago when President Reagan named the Soviet Union an “evil empire”. While that state no longer exists, the People’s Republic of China does. It is a country with an ancient, proud civilization and, yet, with a history of unimaginable cruelty under Communist Party rule. It is now a major power challenging the United States.
The victims of Communism are so vast in numbers and they span over such a large territory that it will take some time to grasp its full horror. During Joseph Stalin’s regime in the Soviet Union, from the time of Lenin’s death in 1924 to his own demise in 1953, an estimated 40 million people were its victims. During a “cleansing” campaign to rid the regime of “socially harmful elements” about a million were killed; a similar campaign in the border regions and the occupied Baltic countries and Poland as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact condemned to death hundreds of thousands in order to rid the country of ethnic minorities, as did the mass arrests in 1937-1938, known as the “Great Terror”, when 800,000 people were executed with a shot in the head.
And then there was the system of forced labor camps, known as the Gulag. Scholars have yet to agree on the total number of deaths in the Gulag; estimates run from three to 17 million. Several waves of “dekulakization” of farming resulted in mass deportation of over half million families to distant regions, where thousands died.
Probably the cruelest was the man-made famine, known as the Holodomor
, in Ukraine, when an estimated four million people, mostly women and children, starved to death in 1932-1933. My sense that of all the cruelties inflicted by the regime on its population, starving was the most horrible is based on what my father, who survived Stalin’s Gulag, said. He had known exhaustion from being overworked in the forests and mines, endured the freezing Russian winters, suffered from illnesses, had known torture and hunger, but he said that the most painful to endure was hunger. Thus the innocent Ukrainian peasants slowly dying an agonizing death from hunger is to me the greatest Communist evil.
In Communist China likewise, the forced agricultural policies of Mao Zedong resulted in a man-made famine that killed an estimated 30 million Chinese people during “The Great Leap Forward” in 1958-1961. It is the worst famine in history.
The country also experienced the devastating “Cultural Revolution” under Mao in 1966-1976 when a purging of “impurities”, a common practice in dictatorship, swept the country. Scholars have given various estimates of those killed from one-half to eight million during those years. Additional millions suffered imprisonment, torture or public humiliation, and seizure of property. Altogether, an estimate 60 million Chinese died as a result of Mao’s merciless attempts to create a socialist China.
The word “merciless” is central to Communist ideology and to any dictatorial ideology. The Estonian writer Jaan Kross has said that the Soviet Communist dictionary did not contain the word “mercy”.
Considering the histories of Communist regimes and Nazi Germany, I submit that Stanford University Professor Naimark is correct in saying that „Both Hitler and Stalin chewed up the lives of human beings in the name of a transformative vision of Utopia. Both destroyed their countries and societies, as well as vast numbers of people inside and outside their own states. Both, in the end, were genocidaires.“For that reason, our students should be educated also on the “perfect storm of evil” that Communism created and the subject should be included in such legislation as the Never Again Education Act. I strongly recommend Congressman Buchanan to include Communism in his statement, “We need to do all we can to combat this evil ideology.”
And finally, it needs to be noted that something is being done to learn about the full horror of Communism. A museum and an international center for research on the crimes of Communism is in the works at the historic Patarei Prison complex on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland in Tallinn, Estonia.
The complex, built by Tsarist Russia in 1828-1840 as a naval fortress, was the central prison during the Soviet and Nazi occupations of Estonia in the 20th century. Estonians targeted for the Gulag were imprisoned there and the occupying Nazi forces held there Estonian resistance fighters and European Jews in transit to death camps. The execution chamber in the basement became the final destination for many political prisoners. Ilvi Jõe-Cannon
June 2, 2020, Tallinn