Coffee House

Caught between two great evils

28 December 2010

7:45 PM

28 December 2010

7:45 PM

David Brooks, the great New York Times columnist, recommends the best essays of the year every Christmas. His selection this year includes a brilliant essay by Anne Applebaum, of this parish, on Hitler, Stalin and Eastern Europe. It makes you realise quite how bloody the Eastern Front was—‘On any given day in the autumn of 1941, as many Soviet POWs died as did British and American POWs during the entire war’—and think about the effect on these societies of being caught in the middle of these two extremist ideologies.

There is always a tendency for us to discuss how the crimes of Hitler and Stalin compare. But I think Applebaum offer an appropriate counter to this way of thinking:

From a great distance in time and space, we in the West have the luxury of discussing the two systems in isolation, comparing and contrasting, judging and analyzing, engaging in theoretical arguments about which was worse. But people who lived under both of them, in Poland or in Ukraine, experienced them as part of a single historical moment. Snyder explains:

‘The Nazi and Soviet regimes were sometimes allies, as in the joint occupation of Poland [from 1939–1941]. They sometimes held compatible goals as foes: as when Stalin chose not to aid the rebels in Warsaw in 1944 [during the Warsaw uprising], thereby allowing the Germans to kill people who would later have resisted communist rule…. Often the Germans and the Soviets goaded each other into escalations that cost more lives than the policies of either state by itself would have.’

The whole essay is well worth reading, it is an example of the review essay at its best.

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Show comments
  • yank


    Apologies for the rudeness.

    Your loved ones are heroes not just to you, but to all of us, and they won’t be paying for drinks if I’m around.

    This is an issue apart from the individuals, including the individual officers, I think. Hard not to personalize this, I understand, but it seems important enough to merit that discomfort.


    And my question was more rhetorical and sarcastically socratical, normanc, but you’ve provided a quite thoughtful response, which I endorse and commend to those who confuse such deployments elsewhere with “imperialism”.

  • Edward McLaughlin


    I think you might have your way very soon regarding the elimination of the oroficer class. They will surely be disbanded in the near future, along with anyone else who now stands in British uniform.

    I don’t like to admit it but I think most of your litany of military numptiness, has a ring of truth about it – quite rude but then I suppose we wouldn’t sit up and listen to a nice gentle bout of counselling.

    It’s just that, well you see, naturally enough, many of us have photo’s on our shelves, of loved ones who tried their best and gave their all in our past exploits, and to us they are and always will be, heroes.

    And there’s always the possibility that, who knows, we might get it right next time.

    Onwards and downwards. Chin chin.

  • Jez


    Ha Ha Ha Ha!! BRILLIANT!!

  • normanc

    Even as a Brit I have to agree with a lot of yank’s previous post. I do see a lot of truth in it, although I don’t actually recall any occassions when we’ve needed US troops here to defend this pile of rocks. Maybe you could supply an example? WW1 and 2 certainly don’t fit the bill, nor cold war times.

    US troops stationed in Europe was as beneficial to the US world view and position as to our defence against the Warsaw Pact countries.

    As for other countries view of us, as an outsider you can take a more dispassionate view and you’re probably right in most of what you write.

    From Churchill’s WW2 opus I seem to recall (but it’s a good few years since I read them) passages with him railing against the Aussies for wanting to keep their troops for defence of Australia and he wanted to throw them into half baked plans far from home.

  • yank

    The imperialist lords were foursquare in favor of the 1921 Washington Treaty restricting their own, Japan’s and the US’ naval fleets. No need to blame the US for that which the lords wanted, and further, the lords were only acting to save themselves some of their then dwindling cash. Even amidst the then

  • Herbert Thornton

    Peter from Maidstone,

    On the matter of appeasement we are going to have to agree to differ.

    On the matter of England’s soul, I hope you are right – but for the present the Establishment continue to play much the same part in the nation’s life as did the French aristocracy before the French Revolution.

    Whether another Islamic atrocity will be enough to precipitate the Establishment’s downfall I doubt. Unlike the French Aristocracy, the British Establishment are more difficult to identify as individuals and also unlike France before the Revolution, the population are distracted, as were the Roman Plebs, by lots of bread and circuses.

  • Edward McLaughlin


    Please do not take me as a supporter of any of yank’s intermittent Anglophobic taunts – I think it’s an attention thing. But he is capable outside of that, of bringing a good deal of worthwhile comment.

    As for your leaving me and him to it, that would not do at all. I can’t claim total alliance with your offerings – especially on things US related – but read them all with interest and much nodding.

  • Herbert Thornton

    Nicholas (December 30th, 2010 2:59pm –

    As you say at the end of you post, it is a complex and far-ranging subject difficult to address briefly.

    But I still think that you are addressing it from a point of view that is determined to see nothing good in America.

    You mention Dresden and seem to imply that the firestorm attacks on Japanese cities were motivated by racism. But that allegation ignores Kyoto. America acknowledged the profound significance of Kyoto in Japanese culture. America respected Kyoto and left it untouched.

  • Simon Mennie


    Britain’s declaration of war in 1914 was by no means a certainty;had the Austro-Hungarian/Serb crisis been contained within the Balkans ,as was the case with the two earlier Balkan wars which ended in 1912,then the war would have remained regional.The powder trail was lit by the German “blank cheque” to Vienna and the consequent activation of the Schlieffen mobilisation plan by Germany which involved the near certainty of the violation of Belgian neutrality,made it all but inevitable that Britain would be drawn in as a French collapse and German control of the Channel ports could not be countenanced.Up until the time it became clear that Germany would invade France and violate Belgian neutrality to do so,those in favour of active British military intervention in the crisis were in aminority in the Cabinet.In a sense the British declaration of war,although spun as an act of high moral principle in defence of the rights of small nations,was grounded in strategic self interest for the reasons given-the preservation of the historic European balance of power,a three hundred year old bedrock of British foreign policy.Whether Britain should subsequently have sought to emulate the strategy of the Peninsular War and rely on the global reach of the Royal Navy while using its small army for tactical expeditionary interventions rather than commit the BEF immediately to a continental land camapign is another matter.Not to have committed troops in 1914 was widely perceived at the time to risk a French military and moral collapse with dire strategic consequences for British interests and a wider perception of Britain as a moral force for good.

  • Nicholas

    Edward McLaughlin I take your point. The best course of action would be to ignore the posts but yank’s “instruction” for me to do so on pain of having my “tail twisted” is uncommon provocation. Further to that, his Anglophobe contempt for this island’s history is remarkable in the lack of response it garners from a supposedly mainly right of centre British readership. I think that to describe those attacks on our history as a “valuable contribution” is odd and must perhaps reflect the self-harm and self-denial of national identity the modern British seem to indulge in as some sort of badge for liberal, global and broad-minded credentials. The irony is that there is no such reticence on the part of Americans who trumpet the most blatent patriotism and chauvinism at every opportunity.

    The attacks are not even delivered with any verifiable insight to the historic record but rely instead on what I might characterise as the Hollywood-Mel Gibson school of Anti-British propaganda. If you and others find that valuable I can only summise that this Coffee House represents something other than I imagined.

    In fact, so pronounced is my disgust at what he gets away with here (q.v. A Paean to the People), insulting and abusing our war dead, that I intend to let you – and he – get on with it.

  • Nicholas

    Herbert Thornton – No, the racial war was underpinned by US propaganda and much of it authorised by Roosevelt, including the internment of 110,000 Japanese-Americans. The de-humanisation of the Japanese as a people (as distinct from their own militarisation and the consequences of that) was an integral part of the US war effort against them. It was much more pronounced than in propaganda against the Germans and whilst the US were able, with hindsight, to play the moral high card over the decision to bomb Dresden, for example, their deliberate firestorm attacks on Japanese cities escaped the same level of critical scrutiny. Some aspects of this must inevitably be construed from different attitudes towards the people in those cities.

    It is always difficult to address such a complex and far-ranging subject in posts on a thread.

  • Jez

    I don’t.

    But at the moment Britain isn’t an English, Scottish or Welsh thing- at all.

    Is that better or worse?

    A Judge (?) has even bollocked the government for even contemplating controlling immigration. Another legal beagle manipulated something (or other) to make it acceptable to attack Iraq. We as a nation cannot chose whether or not we sell even more of our autonomy to Europe through Treaty’s that would make the Reservation Indian’s of the 19th Century wince in shock- and to top it all we’re looking as though we’re going to share our Navy with the French.

    The previous government even embarked on a subversive and calculated agenda to completely erradicate the British as an Island people / culture through the Neathergate revelations….. that have not even been mentioned by anyone from the mainstream- this publication included.

    Are you trying to tell me there is nothing quite wrong with what’s happening here?

    Obviously you see no ships- but try opening your eyes properly.

  • Peter From Maidstone

    Jez, how on earth can you consider a German Europe as a good thing? The disaster was that England was not prepared to intervene earlier and with force in the rise of Nazism.

  • Jez

    How on earth could Britain’s involvement in World War one be seen as worth while?

    It was a disaster that went global twice in the same century.

    Nicholas describes perfectly why a nation should always be intelligent enough to make it’s own decisions for it’s own interests with the Geneva Naval Treaty.

    Mind you, let’s compare that treaty to the ones we capitulate to in Europe, not even allowed to control influx of people, even mine our own coal, etc.

    A bit of a freefall from grace there?

    And it all started when Gavrilo Princip fired those shots on 28th June 1914.

  • Peter From Maidstone

    Herbert Thornton, it would be appeasement because Britain remaining neutral would have had a far different meaning to Switzerland remaining neutral. If Britain had remained neutral it would have actually meant that Britain positively allowed Germany to occupy the European continent by force, in return for being left alone. That would have been cowardly and appeasing.

    Britain is not Sweden or Switzerland. Sweden would have fallen to the Germans in days, as would Switzerland. Britain alone COULD resist and was right to do so.

    Who cares what the ‘Establishment’ think. They are not the nation. The soul of a nation is not that of Parliament. England is not over yet. There may be desperate times ahead. But the silent majority has not yet found its voice. Another successful Islamic atrocity in London, especially a major one, and I think it will do.

    England, awake! awake! awake!

  • Edward McLaughlin

    yank and Nicholas

    If you two could both get a grip then this site might once more benefit from your respective insights. At the moment your catfight is debasing your once-valued contributions.

  • Herbert Thornton

    Peter From Maidstone
    (December 29th, 2010 10:12pm)

    I don’t understand why you should characterise Britain’s remaining out of WW1 or WW2 as “appeasement”. To my mind it would no more have been appeasement that was Sweden’s or Switzerland’s remaining neutral. Take even Franco’s keeping Spain neutral – I don’t think that was appeasement either.

    As for a nation losing it’s soul – it seems to me that Britain’s current Establishment care not a fig for Britain’s soul. So little indeed that they have nonchalantly brainwashed it into a state of political correctness, even though it is obvious that the poor corrupted thing is thereby being condemned to eventual subjugation by Islam.

  • Herbert Thornton

    Nicholas (December 29th, 201010:34pm) –

    Do you really believe that Roosevelt was “so maddened by the humiliation of Pearl harbor that he unleashed a racial war”? In what way was it “racial”? I think that’s a bit far-fetched.

    I suggest that far from being maddened, Roosevelt was quietly satisfied that he had deceived the Japanese into being so foolish. Moreover, I suggest that the absence from Pearl Harbor of the American aircraft carriers was not just a fortuitous accident.

    Was your main aim to irritate Yank?

  • Nicholas

    Herbert Thornton – the Japanese decided to “extend” their war in the Far East because of the sanctions and pressure put upon them by the USA. The clock was ticking and they knew they would be emasculated without seizing the raw material assets of SE Asia, especially oil. The USA had already frozen the supply of scrap metal which the Japanese were highly dependent upon to prosecute their war in China.

    The USA had undermined the Anglo-Japanese Naval Alliance in the 1920’s, always wanting to supplant the Royal Navy in Asia, and had chosen to support one of the most breathtakingly corrupt regimes in Asia, Chiang Kai Shek’s kuomintang China. Japan fell out with Britain over attitudes to India, providing succour to Indian nationalists. War was inevitable, and in a hotbed of mistrust and bad feeling the Japanese hand was forced. They undertook a pre-emptive military strike and “ran wild” for a year as Yamamoto had predicted. It was perhaps ironic that the Japanese naval attack on Pearl Harbor drew much on the lessons of the Royal Navy’s successful strike at Taranto. But the attack was not as effective as at first it seemed. The US carriers escaped harm and the third strike wave which was set to destroy US Navy oil reserves was not initiated.

    The American regime was cynical and imperialist towards the Far East. There were two emergent empires and one stagnant one competing for the same imperial space. The Japanese attack on the Phillipines was far more effective than on Pearl Harbor, largely because of MacArthur’s stupidity. However the egotistical Dugout Doug (that imperialist nabob who later set himself up as the seii taishōgun in Japan) got the Congressional Medal of Honour for his bit of tail between the legs bugging out whilst the humble Kimmel (who demoted himself even before the recriminations began) got the sack and the relief of Wake Island was cancelled as a result.

    Roosevelt was so maddened by the humiliation of Pearl Harbor that he unleashed racial war against the Japanese, culminating in the mass destruction of cities and the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Then of course, having laid waste to Japan the Americans muscled in as “benefactors” to exploit it and purged the militarism in an ancient culture, replacing it with weirdness. Dugout Doug was in the forefront, American Caesar, stopping the Australians dead in their tracks and refusing to allow them to advance north of Borneo, then getting the British occupation force kicked out of Japan as soon as he could while he lorded it over the Japanese as Emperor.

    The American-Chinese conspiracy to subvert the return of Hong Kong failed in the face of decisive action by the British which brought the only post-war stability to the region. Again, ironically, it was the stability and success of Hong Kong that provided the gateway for American commercial imperialism into China and the capitalist accommodation with the communist regime there that persists to this day.

    Everywhere else the USA attempted to fill the imperial vacuum in the Far East or double-deal there was strife and war – Burma, Indo-China, Korea, the East Indies, Malaya. First supporting communist insurgents against the returning colonialists, playing a devious double game and then changing tack when the situation got out of hand – but always working hard against the British whilst appearing not to do so. America’s imperial adventure in the Far East is long lasting, despite the debacle of Vietnam, with their military forces still occupying the Phillipines, Japan and Korea. In their own imperial adventures, a chaotic, fractured and often contradictory series of affairs, they have largely escaped the opprobrium they heaped on the former imperialists.

    So, what could have been in 1939 may be extended to what might have been in 1945. There were only two victors, the USA and the Soviet Union. Every other country lost in ways small or large.

  • Peter From Maidstone

    Appeasement was and is unthinkable. I would not want to be part of a Britain that had made a selfish settlement with Germany in either the First or Second World Wars. What value is there in gaining the world if a nation loses it’s soul.

  • Fulcra1537

    In 1939 the Polish field marshal Eduard Smigly-Rydz epitomised the historic dilemma of his country eternally ground between the upper and nether millstones of two hostile and more powerful neighbours,thus:

    “With the Germans we lose our liberty;with the Russians we lose our souls”

  • Jez

    Hi Herbert,

    No September 1939 declaration of War;

    Probably / maybe;

    The British Empire would have been left intact. The Baltic states would have been decimated by the Commissar sanctioned terror. Hitler would have unleashed Barbarossa earlier than June 1941 and probably taken Moscow. The preliminary and strong resistance to the Germans/Hungarians/Romanians/Italians may have also persuaded Hitler to sanction Stalin to continue a muted but still active Socialist state East of the Urals. There would be no lend lease materials from te Allies also, mainly through Persia but also to Archangel via the British merchant navy.

    The Jews.

    They would have been murdered. Everyone of them resulting from either immediate Einzatz Gruppen actions and then in ‘Germanisation’ of the occupied territories- as the East was seen by a manipulative and anti-Semitic NSDAP propaganda machine as the birth place of International Communism ‘in action’, which was also seen by them as Jewish in origin.

    I’d like to say that this isn’t true as it as a high percentage (at one point) of atheist Jews that made up the Communist machine (or also at one point the NKVD) was a miniscule number to the overall Jewish population in the Socialist Russian Empire.

    The complete annihilation of a group of people whilst the free world sits by is not good….. although (mentioned by Himmler) their crimes in the East were seen as prospectively ones that could be covered up or brushed aside as the Muslim slaughter of Christians in Armenia and later the mass Genocides of the Communist Party toward any cultures of peoples that would not snuff out it’s own lights in the face of the Marxist juggernaught.

    The economic principles of the NSDAP didn’t seem to be sustainable and also seemed to be grab the resources of others to survive (the KrystallNacht fines and then the Skoda seizures of the Sudetenland). The Economic model for the occupied territories in the east were grand but probably unsustainable….. maybe it’s hypothetical fate being along the lines of the sudden collapse of the Soviet in the late 1990’s?

    A 1940 post Dunkirk peace deal.

    Only *without* the Saturday 7th September 1940 (and onwards from there) Luftwaffe attacks on Britain could at that time German ally Mosley probably become Prime Minister / Leader. After these raids the table was properly set and anything to do with Germany was seen as the enemy by the masses.

    The Jewish population would probably been ‘resettled’ / murdered. In the Palestine Mandate, Eichmann’s sponsored Mufti, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni’s militia (assisted by EinsatzKommando Rauff), would have done exactly as in the Barbarossa acquired territories.

    Britain’s southern Africa Territories intact- although steadily more and more influenced by an Afrikaner dominated Dominium of South Africa. The British colonized North / South Rhodesia could have been more or less isolated. Mussolini would have carved up the North of the Continent. Canada may have looked (even quicker) to the US with the Axis sponsored GB government now in Westminster.

    The Imperial Raj could have been undermined dramatically by pro-Japanese subversion. The Japanese would have probably taken the whole of the Far-East and China…. where (maybe again) a clash between the racially orientated NSDAP- via pressure from puppet Moseley regards European dominance of key assets there being undermined by ‘Asiatics’.

    Heydrich would not have been assassinated by British sponsored Czech partisans in 1942 and would have then most probably inherited a 50’s Third Reich- with Nuclear capability?

    Not ideal.

  • yank

    It certainly couldn’t have been any worse today.

    Yes, the Brits should have remained neutral in 1939. Hard to call it evil, but it was supremely foolish. Watching the Brit government reverberate and bounce around like a basketball in this era, you know they were just off. Planning on shooting their way in to help Finland (Stalin’s sworn enemy), but then making goo goo eyes at Stalin shortly thereafter? Huh?

    WTF… Did the inbreeding finally just take its ultimate toll, or what?

    Even more importantly, the Brits should have remained neutral in 1914. That action doomed many, and for that reason could rightly be called “evil”. But the better classes just couldn’t help themselves… the imperialist lords simply HAD to give the imperialist huns a good kicking, because German GDP had just surpassed theirs, and the Brit Empire was already 40-50 years into its long decline, even then. The Thirty Years War merely accelerated the process.

    And now soon they’ll be spreckenzedeutsching, after the hun prints up those deutschmarks and abandons the euro, hijacks Europe’s finances, and steers everybody away from the loansharking and casino gambling they’ve been doing in London and New York for so long.

    Sort of ironic, isn’t it? Gone to war to beat down the hun, and now praying at the Wagnerian shrine? And that’s the best of all options, really. Always was, apparently. Well, they say Wagner isn’t really as bad as it sounds… so there’s that. I’ll take Wagner over whatever that stuff is they blare out of the minarets.

    The Japanese decision to extend war was certainly foolish, but not likely any more evil than what they’d already been doing. By then, they’d been landing armies and supplying them at 5% of total required tonnage, for years, so war crimes and atrocities were a given, and sanctioned by all obviously, as those supply records indicate.

    I’d say the US displayed significant foolishness, in confronting the Japanese when they did. Upwards of 40% of Japanese GDP was then being committed to their military, so their spear was plenty sharp. So the US needed to play footsie for at least another year, perhaps even 2, while that imbalance began to take its toll on their economy and people and military.

    The Japanese knew as well as we did that the Two Ocean Navy would be rolling off the ways here starting in late 1942, and they chose to strike before it did, and while their spear was still sharp. That wasn’t the time to push them. That was the time to sweeten them up. They were already at evil work, so no change on that score.

    Of course, there was the matter of the Axis pact and the foolish Brit war declaration in 1939 to contend with, so things sorta come full circle here. Once you display weakness, all of the predators in the world come out of the woodwork, teaming up, and eventually having to be dealt with.

    If the Brits had made nice with the Italians, and shared a bit of the imperialist pie, they could have got through it all without war, I suspect. Now? No more limey or eyetie empires, both gone. And Hitler said all along that it was only the Italians pinning down his western threats that allowed him to muck around in Austria and C’vakia early on. Huge strategic blunder, allowing imperial greed to supersede good military/diplomatic balance. Twice in 30 years. That’s how empires go down.

    Ah well, alternate histories are fun to speculate on. Too bad we’re always stuck with all the corpses of the actual histories.

  • Herbert Thornton

    “Two great evils” sums the Nazi – Marxist conflict up quite accurately – and the joke that Andy recalls about the difference between Stalin and Hitler being essentially that Hitler was a racist while Stalin would kill anyone is equally accurate.

    But as well as those two great evils I think that two other ingredients in WW2 deserve mention. It would be interesting to discuss whether they had the character of Great Evil, or Great foolishness or both.

    One was the Japanese decision to extend its war in the Far East. I incline to say it was both evil and foolish.

    The other was the Anglo-French decision to declare war in 1939. I doubt it can justifiably be called evil, but surely it can be argued to have been especially foolish? Hitler had set out his aims and attitudes in Mein Kampf with considerable frankness – and they did not include war with, or subjugation of, Britain.

    Perhaps somebody would like to speculate on what the situation in Europe and Britain would be now, if Britain had remained neutral.

    If Britain had remained neutral, would evil loom so large in Britain as it does now? Would Britain have become so corroded by Political Correctness? Would Britain be moving so helplessly towards subjugation by Islam?

  • normanc

    As for which system was ‘worst’ it’s a moot question, the further left you go the worse things become as these two ideologies show.

    As for the people who lived under both of them there is an interesting contrast. Contemporary German accounts tend to be quite positive about live under NSDAP rule (as long as you satisifed the racial laws – that part goes without saying) whilst live in the USSR seems to be universally loathed by all.

    Contrast the writings and experiences of Grossman with Sajer (or thousands others) and you can really see the difference. Stalin had to drop all pretence of Communism and reinstate bourgoise ranks and practices to the Army to get any sort of reaction.

    The impression one gets of the two men is that Stalin really didn’t care about his subjects or the conditions they lived / fought in. The Germans did at least try and make life as comfortable as possible for their own. How they treated other nations was another story though, there they equalled Stalin’s cold heartedness and brutality (would be impossible to surpass it).

  • porkbelly

    And let us not forget that Stalin and Zhukov used the simple, ruthless tactic of sending thousand upon thousand of Russian soldiers to their deaths in frontal assaults against the Germans until the Germans where overwhelmed. Russian patriotism was only part of the winning equation – Stalin’s medieval barbarism and Zhukov’s lack of ability was the other.

  • Baron

    if Hitler treated the Russian peasantry more leniently than Stalin, he could have won the war; Vulture’s right, the muzhiks’ sacrifice has never been appreciated fully either inside or outside Russia.

    the war furnished conclusively the proof of the dangers inherent in an ideology of any sort; pragmatism rather than creed should inform human behaviour at all levels, it may not deliver the best results, but it avoids the worst.

    three events had a profound impact on the outcome of the war, the geo-political arrangements after it: Winston’s elevation into No10; the battle of Kursk, and the dropping of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  • TomTom

    “to acknowledge the role that the Russian people played in the the defeat of the Nazis.”

    Yes but the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 had the USSR supplying oil to Germany during the Battle of Britain and Black Sea ports supplying the Wehrmacht. Operation Barbarossa took Stalin by surprise even though Richard Sorge had warned Moscow – so trusting was Stalin in his fellow Anti-Democrat to crush Western democracies

  • TrevorsDen

    DeeJay – I think people do know about the Russian involvement in the war. Your speculations are interesting. The eastern front hugely overextended Germany, given American involvement Europe could have been liberated, but at considerable cost. The point is though that Hitler always intended to attack Russia – the invasion of France occurred because we declared war on him first.

  • GeoffH

    “Would the Russian people have defeated the Nazis without the help of the western allies? Its highly debatable but I think its possible..

    Would the Allies have defeated the Nazis without the Russians. Almost certainly not.”

    Please, let’s not have this ahistorical analysis.

    If it hadn’t been for the complicity of the Stalin in the first place then Hitler’s Polish invasion might not have taken succeeded and begun the whole devilish experience.

    There’s no virtue to be had in taking credit for assisting the defeat of the enemy whose aims you’d assisted in the first place.

  • Vulture

    @DeeJay – Contrary to your opening
    sen tence the Soviet Union per se played no role in the defeat of what you call fascism.

    (National Socialism was a very different ideology from Mussoilini’s Fascism).

    In fact the Soviet Union – by which I mean the Communist system – actively hindered the fight against ‘fascism’. Stalin’s purges of the Red Army officer corps; the Commissar system; the refusal to acknowledge the looming German invasion; them shooting of Generals ‘pour encourager les autres’ – all brought the ‘Soviet Union’ perilously close to collapse in 1941.

    It was the patriotic will of the Russian PEOPLE, to resist a foreign invasion of their homeland that- eventually harnessed by Stalin, -finally brought victory. That and small factors such as a 10-1 superiority in manpower; superior uniforms; stronger tanks; Generals December and January; and the enormous landmass of Russia – ‘Russia is devouring us’ wrote FM Rundstedt only a few weeks after the invasion.

    Even with all these advantages against them, the Nazis almost won. It was Hitler’s incredible stupidity in not harnessing the anti-Communism of ordinary people – particularly those of the Ukraine – and enlisting them in the Wehrmacht until it was far too late that lost him the war.

  • DeeJay

    It worries me that so few in this country know of the role of the Soviet Union in the defeat of fascism. I suppose the Cold War and US cultural hegemony in the 1950’s might explain why we decided to forget or ignore the scale of the Russian involvement but I believe that we have no such excuses today.
    If we choose to be critical of the current Russian mafia state, and I think we should be, then we ought, at the very least, to acknowledge the role that the Russian people played in the the defeat of the Nazis.
    Would the Russian people have defeated the Nazis without the help of the western allies? Its highly debatable but I think its possible..

    Would the Allies have defeated the Nazis without the Russians. Almost certainly not.

  • Alan Douglas

    Like so many above, I take issue with the premise as shown in your headline : two great evils.

    No. only one, artificially separated into two parts to make great headlines and confuse “the masses”. Then as now it was much easier to move people with emotion than with sense and reason.

    There is no true distinction between “right” and “left” – truth gives us a moderate “centre” v. all extremes.

    Hitler and Stalin both saw in the other someone far too similar for their own safety and domination.

    Alan Douglas

  • Roy

    These two horrible regimes started their days with a thin end of a wedge driven into a cauldron of prospective power forces.
    There are many pointers that suggest we could be about to repeat this historical phenomenon.
    In todays world we are reluctant to speak out and damn things in the name of truth and convert our thinking away from the imbecility of political correctness. We are unable to distinguish the bombardment of lies issuing from the world generally, its trouble spots, at home politically, or recognise true financial reasoning.

  • Peter Crawford

    Yes TD the Poles broke Enigma as early as 1932. Top man was Marian Rejewski. The basic enigma machine was designed to combat industrial spying not for military reasons. The Wehrmacht simply adapted it.

  • TomTom

    80% German Casualties were on The Eastern Front. Had the Japanese stuck to the original plan and invaded the USSR instead of going south to attack Pearl Harbour the US would have had no excuse to break neutrality and Zhukov’s forces could not have been moved westwards to Stalingrad

  • TrevorsDen

    Edward – the Poles were the first to break Enigma.

  • TrevorsDen

    The Germans cooperated in developing ‘blitzkrieg’ and armoured war theory with the Russians in the inter-war years. The Russians called it ‘Deep Battle’.

    The Russians were amazingly complacent.

    The purges hindered Russian attempts to use ‘Deep Battle’ – I suppose their later counter offensives could be argued to fall under this heading but for me they were just bigger/better WW1 style offensives against a broken enemy.

    The eastern front was the nearest to hell on earth we hopefully well ever get.

  • Jez

    I’d like to be able to scrutinize the archives of this period and put together a fresh new perspective from neither the Right nor the mainstream.

    It’ll actually be achievable, i’m sure.

    Just Wikipedia’d Anne Applebaum and she supports Roman Polanski.

    I’m sorry but for whatever reason she does, then it proves her ability to bury ‘in your face’ factual evidence and then ignore it for personal reasons.

    A bit of a ‘fail’ there then in regard to historical interpretation that can be trusted?

  • Edward McLaughlin

    In the first years of my career in the mid 70s, I had the pleasure of working alongside a middle-aged man who was from Poland. I once asked him why he had come to England. He explained that one day the German army came to his village, rounded up whatever men they could find, and shot them. Not much later, the Russian army rode in and caught those men who had been lucky enough to escape the Germans, and shot them.

    He said he was spared only because he was thirteen years old. He didn’t want to hang around to become a man in that place. Great bloke. Taught me more mathematics and history in one year’s tea-breaks, than I learned in 5 years of ‘Grammar’ school.

  • Peter From Maidstone

    Who discusses the regimes of Stalin and Hitler as if they were anything other than equally and utterly evil. They were both socialist. This is what socialism turns into.

    Sorry, perhaps the Millibands and their friends are able to make such distinctions, after all so many of them come from Stalinist backgrounds.

  • Andy

    It is easy to forget that these tow evil ideologies sprang from the same roots. The Nazis were not ‘right wing’ and fascism is an ideology of the left: always was and always will be. As to which was worse it is purely academic, although there is the old sick joke that the difference was essentially that ‘Hitler was a racist: Stalin would kill anyone’. The reality is they both were essentially the same and sprang form the same roots. Look ye well on them.