Both Victor and Perpetrator

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

This year marks the end of World War II with the victory over Germany and Japan. TV news is inundating us with the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, the destruction of the Third Reich, and the final defeat of the Japanese Empire. Yet there was one other country that was responsible for the start of World War II that has been completely omitted—the former Soviet Union. The war itself could never have started without the participation of the Soviet Union on the side of Germany in 1939. When Germany and the Soviet Union had signed a non-aggression pact in 1939, it was more than that. It was an agreement to divide Eastern Europe. Germany got the western half of Poland, and the Russians got the eastern half. The Soviet Union got to take over the independent Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and to be able to attack Finland with impunity. Because of this agreement, Germany was able to secure its eastern borders and thus be able to attack France and the low countries of Belgium and the Netherlands.

Before 1941, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin deported hundreds of thousands of Polish, Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian residents to Siberia, and he established the Soviet secret police and torture chambers in these countries. Further, Stalin is directly responsible for the mass murder of tens of thousands of Polish officers and general staff taken prisoner by the Soviet forces in 1939. Before 1941, the former Soviet Union was the de facto ally of Germany. Had the Soviet Union remained in such good graces with Germany we would have to consider the Soviet Union as much an enemy as Germany. Well, Germany attacked the Soviet Union and the whole process of the war changed with it. Hence the Soviet Union became one of the Big Three Allied powers fighting against Germany and its allies. Yet it did not change what the Soviets had done to the Polish people or the peoples of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Many of the people deported to Siberia were horribly killed in the Soviet Gulag slave labor camps. Nothing is mentioned about this in the World War II history books for the most part.

Just as equally not mentioned is the fact that the Soviet armed forces took 50,000 British and American allied prisoners of war from German prisoner of war camps and sent them to the Soviet labor camps. Out of this number, 20,000 to 30,000 never returned. They were all killed. But we do not blame the Soviet Union or Josef Stalin for any of this, and the fact that the Russians also sat in judgement at the Nuremberg Trials of the Nazis who ran the Third Reich was kind of hypocritical. Even though the former Soviet Union had fought against Germany and Hitler from 1941-1945, it does not change the fact it had sided with Germany and Hitler from 1939-1941. If there is anything we should remember about World War II is that dictatorship can change its allegiances to fit the political winds, but that democracies must and should fight on principle to defend the weak and the vulnerable.

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