One written by an internationally renowned writer and essayist, the other by a Stalinist apologist who works for the socialist 'newspaper' The Guardian.
Who is right.
DON’T BLAME HITLER ALONE FOR WORLD WAR II
September 07, 2009
History is the propaganda of the victors. Accordingly, Germany’s Adolf Hitler has been assigned total blame for starting World War II in Europe, history’s deadliest conflict in which 50 million died.
Interestingly, the 70th 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 Nazi Germany.
The European parliamentary assembly (OSCE) recently held the USSR and Germany `equally responsible for World War II.’ After 70 years, it’s about time.
`A flat-out lie,’ angrily retorted Russia’s president, 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 Hitler’s Germany. Russians fought with incredible heroism, suffered unthinkably casualties and damage, and ground Nazi Germany into dust. The Allies played an important but comparatively far less important role in Europe against an already defeated and ruined Germany.
Underlining Moscow’s 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.
Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin admitted the 1939 Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact that partitioned Poland between Germany and the USSR, handed the Baltic states and Romania’s Bessarabia to the Soviets, was `immoral.’
But Putin correctly asserted that the 1938 Munich Pact signed by Britain and France with Hitler that returned Czechoslovakia’s 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 Russia’s 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 Stalin’s 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 Roosevelt’s White House and shaped America’s wartime foreign policy.
Suvorov’s 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 Russia’s -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, Germany’s sole source of oil. Germany was also Italy’s 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 USSR’s 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 Stalin’s 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 Suvarov’s 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, Stalin’s Red Army had taken half of Europe. But, contends Suvarov, had Hitler not attacked first in 1941, Stalin’s thirty-million man army, backed by mammoth industrial production, would have overwhelmed all of Europe in a 1941 surprise blitz.
Suvarov’s unstated conclusion: Hitler saved Western Europe from Stalin. He asserts, less convincingly, that Hitler’s offensive into Russia led to the inevitably downfall of the Soviet Union in 1991 – and the real end of WWII.
In the author’s 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.
Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2009
This rewriting of history is spreading Europe's poisonBlaming the USSR for the second world war is not only absurd – it boosts the heirs of the Nazis' wartime collaborators
Seumas Milne guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 9 September 2009 21.00 BST Article history
Through decades of British commemorations and coverage of the second world war – from Dunkirk to D-day – there has never been any doubt about who started it. However dishonestly the story of 1939 has been abused to justify new wars against quite different kinds of enemies, the responsibility for the greatest conflagration in human history has always been laid at the door of Hitler and his genocidal Nazi regime.
That is until now. Fed by the revival of the nationalist right in eastern Europe and a creeping historical revisionism that tries to equate nazism and communism, some western historians and commentators have seized on the 70th anniversary of Hitler's invasion of Poland this month to claim the Soviet Union was equally to blame for the outbreak of war. Stalin was "Hitler's accomplice", the Economist insisted, after Russian and Polish politicians traded accusations over the events of the late 1930s.
In his introduction to this week's Guardian history of the war, the neoconservative historian Niall Ferguson declared that Stalin was "as much an aggressor as Hitler". Last month, the ostensibly more liberal Orlando Figes went further, insisting the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact was "the licence for the Holocaust".
Given that the Soviet Union played the decisive military role in Hitler's defeat at the cost of 25 million dead, it's scarcely surprising that Russians are outraged by such accusations. When the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev last week denounced attempts to draw parallels between the role of the Nazis and the Soviet Union as a "cynical lie", he wasn't just speaking for his government, but the whole country – and a good deal of the rest of the world besides.
There's no doubt that the pact of August 1939 was a shocking act of realpolitik by the state that had led the campaign against fascism since before the Spanish civil war. You can argue about how Stalin used it to buy time, his delusions about delaying the Nazi onslaught, or whether the Soviet occupation of the mainly Ukrainian and Byelorussian parts of Poland was, as Churchill maintained at the time, "necessary for the safety of Russia against the Nazi menace".
But to claim that without the pact there would have been no war is simply absurd – and, in the words of the historian Mark Mazower, "too tainted by present day political concerns to be taken seriously". Hitler had given the order to attack and occupy Poland much earlier. As fellow historian Geoff Roberts puts it, the pact was an "instrument of defence, not aggression".
That was a good deal less true of the previous year's Munich agreement, in which British and French politicians dismembered Czechoslovakia at the Nazi dictator's pleasure. The one pact that could conceivably have prevented war, a collective security alliance with the Soviet Union, was in effect blocked by the appeaser Chamberlain and an authoritarian Polish government that refused to allow Soviet troops on Polish soil.
Poland had signed its own non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany and seized Czech territory, which puts last week's description by the Polish president Lech Kaczynski of a Soviet "stab in the back" in perspective. The case against the Anglo-French appeasers and the Polish colonels' regime over the failure to prevent war is a good deal stronger than against the Soviet Union, which perhaps helps to explain the enthusiasm for the new revisionism in both parts of the continent.
But across eastern Europe, the Baltic republics and the Ukraine, the drive to rewrite history is being used to relativise Nazi crimes and rehabilitate collaborators. At the official level, it has focused on a campaign to turn August 23 – the anniversary of the non-aggression pact – into a day of commemoration for the victims of communism and nazism.
In July that was backed by the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe, following a similar vote in the European parliament and a declaration signed by Vaclav Havel and others branding "communism and nazism as a common legacy" of Europe that should be jointly commemorated because of "substantial similarities".
That east Europeans should want to remember the deportations and killings of "class enemies" by the Soviet Union during and after the war is entirely understandable. So is their pressure on Russia to account, say, for the killing of Polish officers at Katyn – even if Soviet and Russian acknowledgment of Stalin's crimes already goes far beyond, for example, any such apologies by Britain or France for the crimes of colonialism.
But the pretence that Soviet repression reached anything like the scale or depths of Nazi savagery – or that the postwar "enslavement" of eastern Europe can be equated with wartime Nazi genocide – is a mendacity that tips towards Holocaust denial. It is certainly not a mistake that could have been made by the Auschwitz survivors liberated by the Red Army in 1945.
The real meaning of the attempt to equate Nazi genocide with Soviet repression is clearest in the Baltic republics, where collaboration with SS death squads and direct participation in the mass murder of Jews was at its most extreme, and politicians are at pains to turn perpetrators into victims. Veterans of the Latvian Legion of the Waffen-SS now parade through Riga, Vilnius's Museum of Genocide Victims barely mentions the 200,000 Lithuanian Jews murdered in the Holocaust and Estonian parliamentarians honour those who served the Third Reich as "fighters for independence".
Most repulsively of all, while rehabilitating convicted Nazi war criminals, the state prosecutor in Lithuania – a member of the EU and Nato – last year opened a war crimes investigation into four Lithuanian Jewish resistance veterans who fought with Soviet partisans: a case only abandoned for lack of evidence. As Efraim Zuroff, veteran Nazi hunter and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, puts it: "People need to wake up to what is going on. This attempt to create a false symmetry between communism and the Nazi genocide is aimed at covering up these countries' participation in mass murder."
As the political heirs of the Nazis' collaborators in eastern Europe gain strength on the back of growing unemployment and poverty, and antisemitism and racist violence against Roma grow across the region, the current indulgence of historical falsehoods about the second world war can only spread this poison.