In very recent days Slavko Goldstein, founder in 1989 of Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS) and writer, has given an interview to Croatia’s Novi List in which he states in no uncertain words that EU remembrance day of victims of totalitarian regimes should not be held on the same day (23 August) for victims of Nazi regime (Hitler) and victims of Communist crimes (Stalin) because it equates the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany and that, he said, is “in contradiction with the entirety of historical truth”.
Given that Goldstein was a Partisan in the communist led Yugoslav troops of WWII one is not surprised at such views of his. After all, Stalin and Europe’s communists (including Yugoslavia’s Tito) were aligned with the Allies and they wrote the history to which Goldstein refers, leaving out of the historical spotlight the equally atrocious crimes perpetrated by communists as were those perpetrated by the Nazis.
Goldstein goes on to say that both Hitler and Stalin were criminals, but not of the same kind! “Hitler,” he says, “ from beginning to end pursued his criminal politics. Stalin commenced his criminal politics during 1920’s, which culminated during 1930’s with the massive purges, but from 1941 to 1945 he was the main carrier of battles against Hitler… unfortunately he resumed his purges after the war ended…”
In a commentary to this interview given by Goldstein, R.Horvat of HRSvijet portal writes: “And despite the estimates by which modern European historical account considers that communism is responsible for the death of more than 100 million people, of which 50 million victims are attributed to Mao Tze-Tung, 40 million to Stalin, 4 million to Lenin, 2 million to Pol Pot and 1 million to Tito, while 20 million deaths are attributed to Hitler, Slavko Glodstein wants to convince the Croatian public that it’s out of order to equate Hitler’s national-socialism with communism”.
Slavko Goldstein nevertheless admits that communism perpetrated crimes but he continues defending the role of Stalin and Soviet Union.
To me, Goldstein’s conviction is nothing more than blatant discrimination between victims. Does it really matter whether the majority of Stalin’s victims fell in brutal and atrocious sweeps by the totalitarian regime before and after, but not during WWII? No, it does not!
23 August was chosen to coincide with the date of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (23.08. 1939/ a.k.a. Nazi-Soviet Pact, non-aggression pact), in which the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany agreed to divide Eastern Europe between themselves. Both of these countries at the time had the worst forms of totalitarian regimes in the history of humanity. Hence, the very appropriate date chosen by the EU to remember victims of totalitarian regimes. The two subsequently collided with vicious and atrocious force. Essentially, one could say that Stalin was the front man for the Jews and Hitler was the enemy of the Jews.
Furthermore, the truth of history when it comes to Stalin is not as Slavko Goldstein says (i.e. that Stalin steered away from crimes during the war). “In Stalin’s Gulag some 516,543 people died between 1941 and 1943, sentenced by the Soviets to labor, but deprived of food by way of German invasion. Were these people victims of Stalin or of Hitler? Or both? … Hitler was worse, because his regime propagated the unprecedented horror of the Holocaust, the attempt to eradicate an entire people on racial grounds. Yet Stalin was also worse, because his regime killed far, far more people—tens of millions, it was often claimed—in the endless wastes of the Gulag. For decades, and even today, this confidence about the difference between the two regimes—quality versus quantity—has set the ground rules for the politics of memory. Even historians of the Holocaust generally take for granted that Stalin killed more people than Hitler, thus placing themselves under greater pressure to stress the special character of the Holocaust, since this is what made the Nazi regime worse than the Stalinist one.” (Timothy Snyder, “Hitler vs. Stalin: Who was Worse?” 2011)
According to Slavko Goldstein, it transpires that victims of both totalitarian regimes must not be treated the same essentially because there’s a few years of time difference between the two mass slaughters, even if they all fall under the insignia of victims of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes 23 August has been designated to remember them all by.
Or, is Slavko Goldstein saying: victims of the communist regime are less valuable than victims of the Holocaust?
Why fear the equating of victims of Nazi and Communist regimes? Could it be that Goldstein fears that perpetrators of horror on both sides will be seen as equally brutal and beastly? History so far has more or less spared the communist regime from the harsh but utterly just destiny the Nazis had been put through after WWII.
Whether Goldstein, or those who are like-minded agree or not, the fact is that both of these totalitarian regimes were equally brutal and beastly, and if we count the number of victims as a measure of brutality then communism wins hands down. And this could very well be the root of Goldstein’s pathetic reasoning regarding the 23 of August.
“The 23rd August (1939) pact between Nazi Germany and Communist USSR opened the door towards the East for Hitler, but before then, on 30th September 1938, England and France had already opened that door with the Munich agreement which handed Czechoslovakia to Hitler. England and France share the guilt for 23rd August. So, that date is one of the milestones of the war and war crimes, but not their main symbol”, Goldstein argues in his interview.
But let’s call a spade, a spade! On reflection, the West and the Communist countries have always hated Adolf Hitler after WWII. Joseph Stalin, however, was once their favourite (in Yugoslavia Tito ditched him in 1948 and became himself a certain favourite during the years of the Cold war). Only in recent couple of decades, especially, has Stalin acquired some of the reproach and outrage once reserved for Adolf Hitler – and only half-heartedly. What is the explanation?
Could it be because some see Stalin’s crimes as committed on behalf of the Jews and Hitler’s crimes were committed against the Jews?
Joseph Stalin now enjoys a bad reputation. Tito’s should follow suit. But Stalin is never seen as bad as Adolf Hitler and ‘The Holocaust’. And certainly, it seems that Slavko Goldstein would want us to believe that.
Forty five million dead at the hands of Stalin (communist totalitarian regime across Europe while he was the head figure) cannot be compared with the recognised six million dead Jews across Europe, indeed! Discussion of numbers can blunt our sense of the horrific personal character of each killing and the irreducible tragedy of each death. The reality is that the difference between zero and one is infinity. Every single victim is as important as the other no matter at whose hands, how and when he/she became a victim.
To keep the appalling discrimination between victims of totalitarian regimes within the Goldstein family, Slavko with his historian son Ivo Goldstein published a book in 2011 “Jasenovac and Bleiburg Are Not The Same” (Jasenovac being the symbol of pro-Nazi killings in Croatia during WWII and Bleiburg being the symbol of Communist killings). In essence they consider “Jasenovac” crime of genocide and “Bleiburg” crime against humanity or war crime. Yet both of these crimes comprised of systematic killings and deaths attributed to communist crimes far outweigh those of pro-Nazi crimes!
“Holocaust scholars have criticized a growing tendency in central and eastern Europe to equate the Shoah (Holocaust) with Communist oppression, a trend which they consider ‘the gravest threat to preserving the memory of the Holocaust’ as it served to exculpate populations complicit in the extermination of their Jewish minorities, according to a report by the Israeli newspaper ‘Haaretz’. Professor Yehuda Bauer of the Hebrew University called equation attempts ‘campaigns to marginalize the Holocaust’,” said the World Jewish Congress in 2010 and concluded: “To be sure, no one can or should minimize the untold suffering caused by Communist tyranny, of which Jews were also victims, but common commemoration will only serve to disfigure memory and history.”
It would seem to me that the only disfigurement of memory and history is pursued by those who maintain that victims of the Holocaust should have a place of piety and justice above any place the victims of Communist crimes of the same totalitarian regimes era should have. Furthermore, insisting or suggesting that the victims of each of the totalitarian regimes should be remembered on different days only prolongs the abominable discrimination against victims of communism the world has been served with since WWII. Separating the two, as has been the case, will continue to feed the false impression, and perhaps conviction, that one criminal was better than the other, when in fact, and in terms of humanity – both regimes were regimes of murder and intolerance. Separating the two groups of victims also seems to leave an ever bitter taste that victims of the Nazi regime were perhaps more valuable human beings than the victims of the communist regimes. This of course should not be and must not be tolerated any longer. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)