A nice video of the Battle of Warsaw in 1920 where the Poles scored an upset victory against the invading Soviet Red Army, securing Polish independence and giving the nascent Communist movement its first serious defeat. Poland has helped save Western civilization several times, but on few occasions have the odds been bleaker than a bit over 97 years ago. All the Poles had to rely on was God, themselves and their laughing courage, but they were enough to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
On one side, millions of starving peasants, their bodies often swollen from lack of food; on the other, soldiers, members of the GPU carrying out the instructions of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They had gone over the country like a swarm of locusts and taken away everything edible; they had shot or exiled thousands of peasants, sometimes whole villages; they had reduced some of the most fertile land in the world to a melancholy desert.
Malcolm Muggeridge – British foreign correspondent, “War on the Peasants“, Fortnightly Review, 1 May, 1933
Eighty-five years too late, a movie on the Great Famine of 1932-1933 in the Soviet Union is being released tomorrow. Some six million people were murdered by starvation in Stalin’s man made famine, and almost all of these people died in the most agriculturally fertile areas of the Soviet Union, especially the Ukraine. This was Stalin’s way of imposing collectivization on the recalcitrant farmers of his empire, while eliminating the opposition to Communist rule in the countryside. For Stalin the mass deaths were a feature not a bug. While all this was going on most Western journalists in the Soviet Union actively attempted to conceal the existence of the famine. Only a few brave journalists like Malcolm Muggeridge, then a partisan of the left, had the courage to speak out and tell honestly what they had seen with their own eyes. Walter Duranty, who was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for his reports from the Soviet Union, of the New York Times denounced journalists who reported on the famine. “Fake news” has a long pedigree on the left in this country.
The Russians are celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany this weekend. It is fair to say that in that defeat the Soviet Union did the lion’s share of the fighting, the Soviets suffering more than twenty million war dead. For all their heroism and suffering , the Soviets were still enslaved to a tyranny just as bad as the Third Reich, with that system now extended throughout Eastern Europe. This cold fact is why Churchill entitled the final volume in his World War II history: Triumph and Tragedy.
The clip from the film Alexander Nevsky at the beginning of this post underlines the tragedy for the Russian people of World War II. A true work of genius by Sergei Eisenstein, who somehow pulled off the feat of making a film about an Orthodox Saint, an aristocratic Prince and pillar of the Church, and ladling it with Communist and anti-religious propaganda, and yet having the final result not be laughably absurd. The film was among the first efforts of Stalin to rally traditional Russian patriotism against the looming threat of Nazi Germany. Poor Eisenstein found himself in the doghouse soon after the release of the film due to the Nazi-Soviet pact. After the onset of Operation Barbarossa, the film was once again released and played to packed houses throughout the war. The Russian rallying song in the film was composed by Sergei Prokofiev. The lyrics roughly translated are :
Arise, ye Russian people,
to glorious battle, to a battle to the death:
arise, ye free people,
to defend our beloved country!
All honour to the warriors who live,
and eternal glory to those slain!
For our native home, our Russian land,
arise, ye Russian people!
A nice manic history of the Soviet Union and post Soviet Union a la the game Tetris. Studying the history of Russia has explained to me why it is no mystery that so many Russians are so fond of vodka.
A new film, Under the Roman Sky, starring James Cromwell as Pius XII, details the heroic efforts of Pius XII to save the Jews of Rome from the Nazis, after Rome came under Nazi occupation subsequent to the fall of Mussolini following the Allied invasion of southern Italy in 1943.
Rabbi David G. Dalin, in his review of a Moral Reckoning, a tome by Daniel Goldhagen which sought to blame Catholicism for the Holocaust, details the efforts of the Pope to save the Jews of Rome:
Goldhagen’s centerpiece is the outrageous allegation that Pius XII “did not lift a finger to forfend the deportations of the Jews of Rome” or of other parts of Italy “by instructing his priests and nuns to give the hunted Jewish men, women and children sanctuary.” Much of this is lifted straight from anti-Pius books like Susan Zuccotti’s Under His Very Windows–and thus Goldhagen repeats the errors of those books and adds extras, all his own, in his determined attempt to extend their thesis into over-the-top railings against the sheer existence of Catholicism.
Something for the weekend. Paul Robeson, an incomparable talent, singing The Song of the Volga Boatmen.
Today is the 70th anniversary of the beginning of World War II as Germany bombarded Westerplatte with canon fire. Eventually Germany made peace with their neighbors by recognizing the role they played in the devastation of Europe. Since then Europe has experienced only one conflict since the end of World War II.
But Russia remains another matter.
Russia continues to be belligerent in their interpretation of the war. Denying much culpability in their conflict with Poland and even insinuating of Polish-German designs on the Soviet Union.
In the days leading up to anniversary, Russian media has aired a string of accusations against Poland, claiming that Warsaw intended to collaborate with Hitler in an invasion of the Soviet Union, and that Jozef Beck, Poland’s foreign minister in 1939, was a German agent. Moscow broadcasters have also claimed that there was a “German hand” in the 1940 Katyn massacre of thousands of Polish PoWs, an atrocity generally held to have been the exclusive work of Stalin’s secret police.
In fairness, the de facto ruler of Russia, Vladimir Putin, did offer a conciliatory tone relating to Russia’s aggression towards Poland:
“Our duty is to remove the burden of distrust and prejudice left from the past in Polish-Russian relations,” wrote Mr Putin, who went on to describe the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact as “immoral”, and also thanked Poland “from the bottom of my heart” for the 600,000 Poles who fought on the Eastern Front under Red Army command.
Adolph Hitler’s evil twin in terror, Joseph Stalin, once remarked “How many divisions has the Pope?”. This was done in response to the future saint Pope Pius XII’s disapproval of his policies.
Well it wasn’t a mocking tone nor was it a sarcastic remark in reference to the Vatican. It was a serious concern to the ‘meddling’ of the Catholic Church in thwarting Communism’s attempt at world domination. Stalin was well aware of the tremendous moral power that the Vatican wielded and Vladimir Lenin implemented the full power of the KGB and the eastern bloc spy agencies to monitor and undermine the mission of the Catholic Church.
A new non-fiction book by John Koehler titled, Spies in the Vatican, has recently come out that documents the final twenty years of the Cold War and how it played out as the Soviet Union and their allies infiltrated the Vatican.