Important note :
Before entering the following text and series of these posts dealing with many controversial subjects, I would like to warn all individuals with sensitive perception of this World not to read it. There are some disturbing details describing committed atrocities, with very high probability of consequence, that your worldview may irreversibly change. Your first reaction may be anger and rejection, however you would not be the first person in this World with such symptoms of exposure to numbing reality. There is one essential prerequisite needed though. It would be necessary that any of you, who may be reading this series, and have never experienced life within communist society / regime, to acknowledge the fact that you may be clueless about wickedness and degree of extreme fascism that survived for decades.
…continued from Part II
Great Purge (Yezhovshchina)
Stalin’s attempts to solidify his position as leader of the Soviet Union lead to an escalation in detentions and executions of various people, climaxing in 1937–38 (a period sometimes referred to as the “Yezhovshchina,” or Yezhov era)[i], and continuing until Stalin’s death in 1953. Around 700,000 of these were executed by a gunshot to the back of the head[ii], others perished from beatings and torture while in “investigative custody” and in the Gulag due to starvation, disease, exposure and overwork.
In the »Letter of an Old Bolshevik«, a book from 1936 written by Boris Nicolaevsky, there is this contemporary description of Yezhov:
»In the whole of my long life, I have never met a more repellent personality than Yezhov’s. When I look at him I am reminded irresistibly of the wicked urchins of the courts in Rasterayeva Street, whose favorite occupation was to tie a piece of paper dipped in kerosene to a cat’s tail, set fire to it, and then watch with delight how the terrified animal would tear down the street, trying desperately but in vain to escape the approaching flames. I do not doubt that in his childhood Yezhov amused himself in just such a manner and that he is now continuing to do so in different forms.«
Arrests were typically made citing counter-revolutionary laws, which included failure to report treasonous actions and, in an amendment added in 1937, failing to fulfill one’s appointed duties. In the cases investigated by the State Security Department of the NKVD (GUGB NKVD) October 1936 – November 1938, at least 1,710,000 people were arrested and 724,000 people executed.
The following video shows Stalin’s speech, note that he admits his land to be free of “kulaks”. Before removed as “enemies of the struggle between classes” kulaks were nothing more than small farmers, whose only sin was the fact they were in possession of land.
Regarding the persecution of clergy, Michael Ellman has stated that “… the 1937–38 terror against the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church and of other religions (Binner & Junge 2004) might also qualify as genocide”. Citing church documents, Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev has estimated that over 100,000 priests, monks and nuns were executed during this time.[iii]
Former “kulaks” and their families made up the majority of victims, with 669,929 people arrested and 376,202 executed.
Soviet killings during World War II
The most notorious killings occurred in the spring of 1940, when the NKVD executed some 21,857 Polish prisoners of war and intellectual leaders in what has become known as the Katyn massacre[iv].
According to the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, 150,000 Polish citizens perished due to Soviet repression during the war.
In September 1939, following the Soviet invasion of Poland, NKVD task forces started removing “Soviet-hostile elements” from the conquered territories. The NKVD systematically practiced torture, which often resulted in death.
Executions were also carried out after the annexation of the Baltic states. And during the initial phases of Operation Barbarossa, the NKVD and attached units of the Red Army massacred prisoners and political opponents by the tens of thousands before fleeing from the advancing Axis forces.
What about the other countries from the list?
Second most horrific story is one of Ukraine. Known to the history as Holodomor (Ukrainian: Голодомор, “Extermination by hunger” or “Hunger-extermination”; derived from ‘Морити голодом’, “Murder by Starvation”), it refers to a series of purposeful mechanized genocidal famines that took place under the Jewish Bolshevik regime during the periods of 1921-23, 1932-33 and 1946-47. Holodomor is a compound of the Ukrainian words holod meaning “hunger” and mor meaning “plague”, the expression “moryty holodom” means “to inflict death by hunger”. It is said it helped kill anywhere from 1.8 to 12 million ethnic Ukrainians[v]. Timothy Snyder, professor of History at Yale University, asserts that in 1933 “Joseph Stalin was deliberately starving Ukraine” through a “heartless campaign of requisitions that began Europe’s era of mass killing.“[vi] In a draft resolution, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe declared the famine was caused by the “cruel and deliberate actions and policies of the Soviet regime” and was responsible for the deaths of “millions of innocent people” in Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Russia[vii]. Relative to its population, Kazakhstan is believed to have been the most adversely affected.
Communism in Ukraine began when Poland and the communists signed the treaty of Riga after the second Bolshevik war. The USSR did not recognize Ukraine as a sovereign state, so they attacked until the signing of the treaty in 1921 which gave them control over Ukraine. »War Communism«, an economic and political system with the aim of keeping towns and the army fully stocked with weapons and food, was then introduced and enforced by the Supreme Economic Council (Vesenkha), which ended when the New Economic Policy began in 1921. During the collectivization process, Ukrainian farmers resisted vigorously, often violently, especially when the GPU (Soviet secret police) and militia forced them to turn their land over to the government. Thousands of farmers were killed and millions more were deported to Siberia to be replaced by more trustworthy workers. “War Communism”, which included also the nationalisation of industry, brought about the planned collapse of Ukraine’s economy resulting in the famine of 1921—1923, when hundreds of thousands of people perished.
To increase exports and to break the back of remaining resistance, Moscow imposed grain procurement quotas on Ukraine that were 2.3 times the amount of grain marketed during the best year prior to collectivization. Laws were passed declaring all collective farm property “sacred and inviolate.” Anyone who was caught hoarding food was subject to execution as an “enemy of the people” or, in extenuating circumstances, imprisonment for not less than 10 years. To make sure the new laws were strictly enforced, special “commissions” and “brigades” were dispatched to the countryside.
Stalin succeeded in achieving his goals. The grain harvest of 1932 was greater than in 1931, providing more money for industrial expansion. The cost to Ukraine, however, was catastrophic. Grain procurements continued even though it was clear to Soviet officials that more and more people were going hungry in the Ukrainian countryside. The result was inevitable. A famine, the magnitude of which staggers the imagination, struck Ukraine the still the Soviet government failed to provide relief. Detailed and documented descriptions of the horrors which prevailed in the rural areas of Soviet Ukraine have been presented by Ukrainian eye-witnesses, Congressional reports and various newspaper accounts. Thomas Walker, and American journalist who traveled in Ukraine during the famine, left us an especially graphic account of the situation in one rural area:
»About twenty miles south of Kiev (Kyiv), I came upon a village that was practically extinct by starvation. There had been fifteen houses in this village and a population of forty-odd persons. Every dog and cat had been eaten. The horses and oxen had all been appropriated by the Bolsheviks to stock the collective farms. In one hut they were cooking a mess that defied analysis. There were bones, pig-weed, skin, and what looked like a boot top in this pot. They way the remaining half dozen inhabitants eagerly watched this slimy mess showed the state of their hunger. One boy of about 15 years, whose face and arms and legs were simply tightly drawn skin over bones, had a stomach that was swollen to twice its normal size. He was an orphan; his father had died of starvation a month before and he showed me the body. The boy had covered the body with straw, there being no shovels in the village since the last raid of the GPU. He stated his mother had gone away one day searching for food and had not returned. This boy wanted to die – he suffered intensely with his swollen stomach and was the only one of the group who showed no interest in the pot that was being prepared.«
The Soviet government has preserved the greatest secrecy concerning the exact number of persons who perished in Ukraine during the Genocide Famine, but analysis of recently revealed Soviet census data comparing 1939 with 1926 figures suggest that no fewer than 10 million men, women , and children perished.
But even before all that just mentioned occured, Ukrainians were already suffering from Red Evil and its terror. Leading with Solzhenitsyn and naming some names involved:
»In August 1919, the Volunteer Army took Kiev and opened several Chekas and found the bodies of those recently executed; Shulgin composed nominal lists of victims using funeral announcements published in the reopened Kievlyanin; one can’t help noticing that almost all names were Slavic … it was the “chosen Russians” who were shot. Materials produced by the Special Investigative Commission in the South of Russia provide insights into the Kiev Cheka and its command personnel based on the testimony of a captured Cheka interrogator. The headcount of the Cheka staff varied between 150 and 300 … percentage-wise, there was 75 percent Jews and 25 percent others, and those in charge were almost exclusively Jews.
Some of them were avoiding publicity. Simeon Schwartz was director of the Ukrainian Cheka. A colleague of his, Yevsei Shirvindt, directed the transport of prisoners and convoys throughout the USSR. Naturally, such Chekists as Grimmeril Heifetz (a spy from the end of the Civil War to the end of WWII) and Sergei Spigelglas, a Chekist from 1917 who, through his work as a spy, rose to become director of the Foreign Department of the NKVD and a two-time recipient of the honorary title of distinguished Chekist, worked out of the public eye. Careers of others, like Albert Stromin-Stroyev, were less impressive (he conducted interrogations of scientists during the Academy trial in 1929-31.)
David Azbel remembers the Nakhamkins, a family of Hasidic Jews from Gomel. (Azbel himself was imprisoned because of snitching by the younger family member, Lev.) “The revolution threw the Nakhamkins onto the crest of a wave. They thirsted for the revenge on everyone—aristocrats, the wealthy, Russians, few were left out. This was their path to self-realization. It was no accident that fate led the offspring of this glorious clan to the Cheka, GPU, NKVD and the prosecutor’s office. To fulfill their plans, the Bolsheviks needed rabid people and this is what they got with the Nakhamkins. One member of this family, Roginsky, achieved brilliant heights as Deputy Prosecutor for the USSR, but during the Stalinist purges was imprisoned, as were many, and became a cheap stool pigeon. The others were not so well known. They changed their last name to one more familiar to the Russian ear and occupied high places in the Organs.”
Following text[viii] is authored by Michael Szporer, professor at Maryland University College, where we can learn disturbing history of Red Evil’s terror in Poland. I bolded the number of victims and some shocking facts to consider:
»The attempt by Bolshevik Russia to export the communist revolution abroad to economically depressed Germany, and elsewhere in the West, was a direct threat to Poland. The centrality of the Polish-Soviet War [1919-21] for the future of Poland and, more importantly, for the USSR in the region, is convincing when one considers Bolshevik intentions to carry the banner of communist internationalism to the world. Bolshevik Russia’s unexpected defeat with the rout of the Red Army at the gates of Warsaw in the battle of “the Miracle of the Vistula” [August 13-25, 1920] contained the spread of Bolshevism to Germany and the rest of Europe.
Polish Communists rejected an independent Polish state, looking forward to a Bolshevik triumph and an outbreak of a revolution in Germany. When they sided with the Soviets during the Polish-Soviet War, they were widely perceived as Soviet agents betraying the national cause, and never really attracted workers [only about 10% of members]. Prior to WWII native Communists never achieved a significant following, with about 13,000 members. Many communist leaders, mostly Jewish, inevitably become Stalinism’s early victims, with about 5,000 Polish communists liquidated during the Great Purge of 1935-38. The Party was reconstituted only after Germany attacked USSR, on January 5, 1942, consisting mainly of remaining activists “parachuted” into Nazi-occupied Poland.
The Soviet antipathy towards Poles was widely shared among the Soviet ruling elites after the humiliating defeat in the Polish-Soviet War. Poland was seen as part of the Western strategy of containment of communism and a springboard for spy networks infiltrating the Communist Party of the USSR. At the same time, the principal aim of the anti-Polish campaign was to systematically depopulate the Borderlands [parts of Lithuania, Western Belarus and Ukraine] where a sizeable Polish population had lived for centuries. This ethic cleansing campaign began well in advance of the Great Purge and was “more intense and brutal than any other of the mass operations.” Some 140,000, were arrested, shot or dispatched to the Gulag.
World War II widened the ethic cleansing. Mass repressions and executions of Poles began immediately after the Soviet army occupied eastern regions of Poland on September 17, 1939, followed by the integration of the Borderlands of Western Belarus and Ukraine into the Soviet Union. Both Soviet and Nazi occupations of Ukraine provoked massive ethic cleansing of mostly Poles and Jews but also Czechs.
The most infamous war crime committed by the Soviets during World War II was in “the killing fields” of the Katyń Forest, which the Berlin radio announced on April 13, 1943. Among the Katyń victims were the Polish officers captured as POWs in an undeclared war, as well as ordinary policemen. Actually the Katyń massacre included several POW camp locations, with 21,857 [according to the signed Soviet Politburo order] murdered in mid-March 1940 by the Soviet security forces. The victims were identified as “hardened and uncompromising enemies of Soviet authority.”
Katyń was an early example of shaping the new communist future by diminishing the anti-Soviet element. For more than fifty years the Soviet Union has denied its complicity in the massacre. While Mikhail Gorbachev acknowledged Katyń as “unjustified” and Russian president Boris Yeltsin presented a copy of the execution order to president Wałęsa the massacre is not seen as a war-crime in Russia to this day.
Russian historian Tatiana Kosinova estimated that 566,000 Poles suffered as a result of Soviet repressions, most probably killed at about 800 locations in unmarked graves. This figure compares with Jan T. Gross’s at about 415,000 killed. The deportation figure for Poles into the interior of the USSR is put at over 1.5 million, following general Władysław Anders’ 1949 estimate, many of whom were murdered or died from impossible conditions. Few of these Siberian deportees survived.
During WWII 6,028,000 Polish citizens, including Polish Jews, perished, 644,000 as a result of combat. Warsaw was devastated by the fighting, mostly during the 1944 Rising, which took over 200,000 lives. The city residents led by the nationalist Home Army loyal to the London government rose to liberate the capital from the Nazi occupiers as part of a nation-wide resistance operation “Burza” [Tempest]. The two-fold purpose of operation Tempest was to liberate the country and take visible charge of the territories as the “allied” Soviet forces advanced from the East.
The Poles did not anticipate Soviet operations, which were turned against them even though they were fighting a common Nazi enemy. In Warsaw, the Soviet army “paused” reaching the eastern bank of the Vistula [Warsaw suburbs] and left the participants of the Warsaw Rising to fend for themselves. One division consisting of Poles tried to cross the river to aid the city but was decimated by the Germans. The Soviets lifted their air cover over the city, permitting bombardment, denied bases for Allied airlifting of supplies, and disarmed Home Army units. This act of tactical betrayal enabled the Germans to break the resistance operation, retake the city and raze it to the ground. The Soviet action dealt a significant blow to the nationalist forces that could have prevented the communist takeover.«
Solzhenitsyn’s research gets confirmed[ix]:
»The Bolsheviks invaded Poland in 1920. (At this point they had recalled and adroitly used the Russian “national longing and national enthusiasm” — as Nahamkis-Steklov put it in an Izvestia editorial.)
And it appears that Polish Jews met the Red Army very warmly. According to a Soviet source, whole battalions of Jewish workers participated in the fighting at Minsk. Reading from the Jewish Encyclopedia: “on numerous occasions, Poles accused Jews of supporting the enemy, of anti-Polish, pro-Bolshevist and even pro-Ukrainian attitudes.” During the Soviet-Polish war many Jews were killed by Polish Army on charges of spying for the Red Army.
However, we should be wary of possible exaggerations here as we remember similar accusations in espionage made by Russian military authorities during the war, in 1915. The Soviets quickly formed a revolutionary government for Poland headed by F. Dzerzhinsky. In it were Y. Markhlevsky and F. Kon. Of course, they were surrounded by “blood work” specialists and ardent propagandists. (Among the latter we see a former pharmacist from Mogilev, A. I. Rotenberg. Soon after the aborted Red revolution in Poland, he, together with Bela Kun and Zalkind-Zemlyachka, went on to conduct the deadly “cleansing” of the Crimea. In 1921 he participated in that glorious work again – this time “purging” Georgia, again under the direct command of Dzerzhinsky. At the end of 1920s Rotenberg was in charge of the Moscow NKVD.)«
The names of those reponsible for Poland’s bloody experience with the Red Evil are:
Boleslaw Bierut – Polish Communist leader, NKVD agent and President of Stalinist Poland after the end of World War II.
Salomon Morel – commander of NKVD set-up Polish concentration camp after the end of WW2; colonel in Poland’s political police; commander of Katowice prison. In 1994, Poland indicted him for crimes against humanity. Morel fled to Israel, who refused to extradite him despite repeated requests by Poland.
Jakob Berman – prominent communist in prewar Poland; member of the Soviet-formed Polish United Workers’ Party. Leader of the State Security Services Urząd Bezpieczeństwa – the largest secret police in Polish history. He was considered Stalin’s right hand in Poland.
Julia Brystiger – Polish Communist activist and member of the security apparatus in Stalinist Poland. She was notorious for her cruel methods of interrogation.
I really need to stop here with Julia and give some more details about her, as I was always numbingly fascinated by women capable of devil’s deeds. Here is what a simple web search can provide, an excerpt from Wikipedia[x]: Julia Brystiger was a Polish Communist activist and member of the security apparatus in Stalinist Poland. She was also known as Julia Brystygier, Bristiger, Brustiger, Briestiger, Brystygierowa, Bristigierowa, and by her nicknames – given by the victims of torture: Luna, Bloody Luna, Daria, Ksenia, and Maria. The nickname Bloody Luna was a direct reference of her Gestapo-like methods during interrogations. Her pen name was Julia Preiss.
In the Polish official archives, there is an instruction written by Brystygier to her subordinates, about the purpose of torture:
“In fact, the Polish intelligentsia as such is against the Communist system and basically, it is impossible to re-educate it. All that remains is to liquidate it. However, since we must not repeat the mistake of the Russians after the 1917 revolution, when all intelligentsia members were exterminated, and the country did not develop correctly afterwards, we have to create such a system of terror and pressure that the members of the intelligentsia would not dare to be politically active.” [Czeslaw Leopold and Krzysztof Lechicki, »Political Prisoners in Poland 1945-1956«, Mloda Polska, Gdańsk, page 20.]
Brystiger personally oversaw the first stages of each UB investigation at her place of employment. She would torture the captured persons using her own methods such as whipping male victims’ genitals.
Such list of sadist humans in position of power is almost endless, regardless of their country of origin.
The following video has a long list of names of many names we learned in the series, with pictures and some personal data attached to them. There are as well some names and data about the communist butchers of Hungary, Chekoslovakia and Romania, which I will leave out of the focus of series of essays. If you choose to watch it, I kindly ask you to note two important things: for one, there is a scene at the beginning, which is taken from a Russian TV-movie and is not real footage. Further, disregard that red-colored David’s star of Isreal as that is a low-passioned nationalistic provocation left by the author of this video. Low passions of nationalism do not lead to anything good. If you are in doubt about it, I would be more than glad to give you a local tour around mass graves’ sites left behid by fanaticly delusional nationalists. So here it is:
…to be continued
[ii] Barry McLoughlin (2002) “Mass Operations of the NKVD, 1937–1938: a survey.” in Stalin’s Terror: High Politics and Mass Repression in the Soviet Union eds. Barry McLoughlin, Kevin McDermott; Palgrave Macmillan
[iii] Yakovlev (2002), “Century of Violence”
[vi] Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, 2010
[ix] Aleksandr Solthenitsyn, 200 Years Together, , p. 153