And thus to my final and most melancholy point: a great number of Stalin's enforcers and henchmen in Eastern Europe were Jews. And not just a great number, but a great proportion. The proportion was especially high in the secret police and 'security' departments, where no doubt revenge played its own part, as did the ideological attachment to Communism that was so strong among internationally minded Jews at that period: Jews like David Szmulevski. There were reasonably strong indigenous Communist forces in Czechoslovakia and East Germany, but in Hungary and Poland the Communists were a small minority and knew it, were dependent on the Red Army and aware of the fact, and were disproportionately Jewish and widely detested for that reason. Many of the penal labor camps constructed by the Nazis were later used as holding pens for German deportees by the Communists, and some of those who ran these grim places were Jewish. Nobody from Israel or the diaspora who goes to the East of Europe on a family-history fishing-trip should be unaware of the chance that they will find out both much less and much more than the package-tour had promised them. It's easy to say, with Albert Camus, 'neither victims nor executioners.' But real history is more pitiless even than you had been told it was.
What people still do not like to admit is that there were two crimes in the form of one. Just as the destruction of Jewry was the necessary condition for the rise and expansion of Nazism, so. I first noticed this point when reading an essay by the late Ernest Gellner, who at the end of the war had warned Eastern Europeans that collective punishment of Germans would put them under Stalin's tutelage indefinitely. They would always feel the guilty need for an ally against potential German revenge.
Ah, my dear friend, cheer up.. After all, we have peace! And because there is peace, the occupiers can't behave so abominably anymore. All right, we're not free. But we are used to that, Mr. Kujawski. After all we were both born into slavery, and we will die in it. Oh yes, at first they'll exploit us ruthlessly. Fourteen hours of slave labor a day. A bowl of watery soup. Whippings, beatings.. But that will pass with time. Because there is peace, they won't have a chance to get any new slaves. They'll have to take good care of those have already. Cheer up, dear Mr. Kujawski.. [..] Arbeit macht frei, work makes man free, and it makes him especially so in the sunshine of European peace. We will lack only one thing. Only one! The right of dissent. The right to say out loud that we want a free and independent Poland, that we want to brush our teeth and go on holiday in our own way, conceive children and work our own way, think in our own way, live and die. This is the one thing you will find missing in the sunshine of European peace, which you, my friend, hold to be the highest good.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, historians have become both more accurate and more honest fractionally more brave, one might say about that 'other' cleansing of the regions and peoples that were ground to atoms between the upper and nether millstones of Hitlerism and Stalinism. One of the most objective chroniclers is Professor Timothy Snyder of Yale University. In his view, it is still 'Operation Reinhardt,' or the planned destruction of Polish Jewry, that is to be considered as the centerpiece of what we commonly call the Holocaust, in which of the estimated 5.7 million Jewish dead, 'roughly three million were prewar Polish citizens.' We should not at all allow ourselves to forget the millions of non-Jewish citizens of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and other Slav territories who were also massacred. But for me the salient fact remains that anti-Semitism was the regnant, essential, organizing principle of all the other National Socialist race theories. It is thus not to be thought of as just one prejudice among many.