Terry Teachout reviews an important new book over at Commentary. Its title is Voices of the Dead, it was written by Hiroaki Kuromiya, and it utilizes secret police files from Kiev to chart the fate of victims of Stalin's terror. It is an utterly horrifying account of the impact of Stalin's regime on ordinary citizens.
The people we meet in The Voices of the Dead are indeed “utterly unknown, ‘ordinary’ Soviet citizens: workers, peasants, homemakers, teachers, priests, musicians, soldiers, pensioners, ballerinas, beggars.” All they had in common was that they ran afoul of Stalin’s killing machine. Many appear to have been tortured before being sent to the execution chamber. Some confessed to crimes that they may or may not have committed, while others went to their graves swearing that they had done nothing wrong. To read about them is a jolting experience, no matter how much you may already know about the regime that sentenced them to die.And that's the problem -- far too few people appreciate the utter malignancy of many leftist regimes; the evil they are willing to perpetrate in the service of their twisted ideologies. Teachout quite rightly attributes this ignorance to the efforts of left wingers in academia and the information media to deliberately downplay the sins of leftist regimes. But there is another, unspoken factor -- the determination of many to portray the Holocaust as a crime much worse than anything perpetrated elsewhere. Even Teachout's mild suggestion that we should pay as much attention to the victims of Stalin's terror as we do to the victims of the Holocaust evokes charges in the comments section that he is a "holocaust relativist" [perhaps even a dread "neocon" or "John Bircher"] who does not fully appreciate that Hitler's crime "stands alone as the single most intense expression of human malice."
This insistence on the unique evil of the German genocide, however justified, does a grave disservice to history and to our understanding of the world in which we live. It obscures the significance of other horrific crimes against humanity, and these, as Teachout ably notes, deserve our full attention.
Read Teachout's review here.
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