In the autumn of 1944, 75 years ago, the Red Army reached the borders of the German Reich; cities such as Minsk, Vilnius, and Brest having been liberated in July as Soviet forces swept West.
Today, the Russian Federation celebrates these victories with the same emotion and pride as Western allies celebrate the Normandy landings and the subsequent battle for France, which occurred at the same time.
The sour attitude of the Balts is part of a much bigger problem, namely a self-congratulatory Western amnesia about the role of the Soviet Union in WWII. It is safe to say that the German-Russian war of 1941-1945 was by far the bloodiest conflict in human history; and moreover that the fighting in the East dwarfed anything that happened in the West. Hitler’s occupation of Western Europe was nothing but a prelude to his real goal, the subjection of Eastern Europe and parts of the Soviet Union to German domination in pursuit of the Nazi project of establishing “living space” (Lebensraum) for ethnic Germans there. Yet, the decisive role of the USSR in defeating Nazi Germany has been eradicated from the collective memory of the West – President Putin was not even invited to this year’s Normandy celebrations – and instead the war is remembered only as a victory for liberal democracies against two equally evil totalitarianisms.
They recall, including in ceremonies and celebrations, the fraternal meeting between the US and Soviet troops on the Elbe on April 25, 1945. In their public statements they say that the war was won thanks only to a common effort, and that one side on its own could not have prevailed against Hitler. This is about as obvious a statement of geopolitical fact as it is possible to imagine. Alas, Western minds, polluted by their obsession that they embody universal values which must necessarily win because they are on the right side of history, forget it.
The 2nd Belorussian Front troops liberated the town of Bialystok during the Bialystok operation. Bialystok residents greeting the Soviet liberators. © Sputnik
In June 1942, a senior German academic and specialist in agriculture sent Himmler a project for the settlement of Germans in the Eastern territories which foresaw the elimination by deportation, starvation or murder of tens of millions of Slavs – Poles, Ukrainians, Belarussian, and so on. This “Generalplan Ost” is largely forgotten about today because we remember instead the industrial murder of Jews. But that horror should not be allowed to obscure other horrors, especially since the persecution of Slavs was at the forefront of everyone’s mind when the plans were first laid to prosecute the Nazi leadership after the war but before the Holocaust was properly understood. In his report to President Truman dated 6 June 1945, Robert Jackson, the former Attorney General who was to become the chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, cited the persecution of Poles and other Slav peoples in the occupied parts of Eastern Europe, but said not a word about Jews.
The Baltic theory of “occupation” also conveniently overlooks the fact that Latvia and Estonia, who today denounce the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of non-aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union, signed on 23 August 1939, as a moral outrage, themselves signed non-aggression pacts with Hitler in June 1939. (Those treaties can be consulted here, pages 49 and 105.)
The Balts today pretend that the period of “occupation” was one of ethnic domination by Russians over ethnic Balts but this is also nonsense. Russians might as well claim that they were subject to Georgian dictatorship under Stalin. The fact is that the Soviet system was brutal for all Soviet citizens and that more Russians suffered under it than other nationalities. The Soviet elite believed that its system was the best in the world and it introduced the same regime all over the territory of the USSR without national discrimination. It is precisely this issue which radically distinguishes Soviet Communism from Nazism, and therefore makes it absurd to treat the two regimes as if they were equal.