September 29, 2012


REVIEW: Iron Curtain: the Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-56 By Anne Applebaum : A superb study in the savagery of Soviet invasion and occupation of the Eastern bloc (OLIVER BULLOUGH, 29 SEPTEMBER 2012, The Independent)

Iron Curtain deserves as much praise as its predecessor. It is not a sequel chronologically speaking, since Gulag traced the impact of Joseph Stalin's camps to the present day. But it takes the same theme - the destruction of society and imposition of Soviet dictatorship - and expands it to Eastern Europe. Applebaum starts her story - which focuses on East Germany, Hungary and Poland - with the Red Army's arrival in Eastern Europe in 1944. The tale is, by turns, upsetting, depressing and uplifting, as we see how humans reacted to the pressures put on them by forces completely outside their control.The distinction between whether the Soviet soldiers liberated or occupied the citizens of what became the Eastern bloc is a crucial one. At first they were themselves unsure. On their arrival in Poland, they initially co-operated with the Home Army, the underground force that had battled the Germans since 1939. Poles could speak Polish in public for the first time in years. The Soviets opened the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and gave freedom to the few Jews who had survived the war.

But disillusionment set in fast. The Red Army re-opened camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald almost as soon as they closed them, to house their own undesirables. Soviet troops gang-raped almost any women they came across, not just Germans but Poles and Hungarians. Astonished by the relative wealth - even after total war - of the lands they were conquering, they stole anything they could carry. Watches became a craze and the famous picture of the Soviet flag waved from the Reichstag had to be "touched up" to remove the watches on the soldier's arm.

Over the next five years, Soviet power gradually erased any pretence of democracy in its satellites, slicing away at civil society and political parties until nothing was left but the Communists led by each country's own "little Stalin". Even the Poles quailed before the ruthlessness of Stalin's NKVD.

Some people don't even realize the term V-E Day is ironic.

My own personal fear on 9-11 was that we would, once again, only take the low hanging fruit and end the war before we'd taken down Libya, Egypt and Syria in particular.  But the WoT is turning out far more successfully than did the Civil War, WWI or WWII, for which W and the UR deserve the credit that Johnson, Grant, Wilson, Truman and Ike do not.
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Posted by at September 29, 2012 7:14 AM

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