|26/1/05||Exiled from history By Stephen Gowans|
January 26, 2005
When the Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Laureate Eli Wiesel addressed the UN during its commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps, he lamented that Great Britain hadn”t allowed more Jews to “return to their ancestral homelands.”
The absurdity of declaring it possible for anyone to “return” to a place to which they”ve never been (without diminishing the main point that a generous refugee policy would have done much to save the lives of millions of European Jews), was passed over, as is much that is absurd in the distorted accounts of what happened in WWII.
The Jews, contrary to a growing view, were not the only victims of the Nazis, and it does not diminish the flagitious crime perpetrated against them to acknowledge the Nazi”s other victims, and to point out the Final Solution was not, as is now commonly supposed, the only significant event of WWII.
Indeed, it can be argued that the significance of any event is relative. For Jews, the Holocaust is central. For Russians, it is the mass devastation of their country, and the loss of 20 million lives. For Americans, who accounted for less than one percent of lives lost in WWII, it”s the arrogant and mistaken belief that they were the principal cause of the Nazi”s defeat.
Roma, too, were targets of the Nazi”s cold, calculated extermination programs, though anyone who suggested the Roma should have been allowed to “return” to their north India ancestral homelands (which they left circa 1400) to avert the Nazi”s elimination of 200,000 them, or that the Nazi”s efforts at anti-Roma genocide might justify the post-war herding of north Indians into ghettos to make room for the Roma, would be dismissed, deservedly, as a crank.
Forgotten is that the first targets of the Nazis, as recalled in Martin Niemoller”s famed invocation of the need for solidarity against a common oppressor, were the Reds.
“First they came for the Communists, and I didn”t speak up, because I wasn”t a Communist.
“Then they came for the Jews. ”
Reds, hunted down, rounded up, imprisoned and exterminated by the Nazis as cruelly and coldly as any other group that transgressed the Nazi ideal – or actively resisted and fought back – are history”s exiles.
And yet Communists are central – as victims, as early, implacable and clear-eyed opponents of Fascism, and as the principal reason European Fascism was defeated.
Nevertheless, nothing is said about them, except in out of the way journals and books.
So thoroughly have they been banished from official memory that it would not be going too far to suggest that if you stopped one hundred Canadians or Americans on the street, and asked them about the demographic composition of Germany after 1933, 99 would tell you it featured two large groups, and only two groups: the Jews and everyone else, who would be supposed to be Nazis or at least passive Nazi supporters. Germany”s large anti-Fascist community, the active resistance of the Reds, and their destruction at the hands of Hitler”s followers, would not be mentioned.
Popular history, that constructed by those who have turned anti-Communism into an official religion, has, moreover, turned Nazism into exclusively a movement against the Jews, and stripped it of its anti-Communist, anti-Socialist, and anti-trade union content. Today, it”s widely believed that anti-Fascism amounts to anti-anti-Semitism alone.
For a time, memory of the anti-Fascist resistance was kept alive in some places, in Communist East Germany, for example, but reunification saw anti-Fascist museums shut down and monuments carted away (too evocative of anti-capitalism), and replaced by tributes to Fascist-supporters, like John Foster Dulles.
And yet it was the most vilified of the Reds, the Communists, who rushed to the aid of the Spanish Republic before it was fashionable to be anti-Fascist, who led the fight at home against Mussolini and Hitler, free from delusions about the true nature of Fascism, and who successfully organized partisans to topple Fascist puppets in Yugoslavia and Albania.
And it was the Soviet Union that more than any other country, defeated – and suffered from – German imperialism.
While it”s rarely advisable to play historical what if games, we can be pretty certain that had the Soviet Communists not prevailed in driving German forces back into Germany, the Holocaust would have been far worse, and had German Communists prevailed earlier on (and German social democracy not quailed at the moment German capitalism was ripe to be toppled), there would never have been a Holocaust or death camps whose liberation we would be commemorating 60 years later.
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