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Repatriation — The Dark Side of World War II, Part 2

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Hitler, Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Truman shared two things in common — their philosophical belief on the role of government in economic activity and their participation in the mass murder of millions of innocent people.

All of them believed that government should own or control the means or results of production. Thus, each of them helped lead their respective nations down the collectivist road — to Nazism, fascism, the welfare state, the planned economy, the New Deal, and so forth.

But the misery and destitution that their economic philosophy brought to the citizenry of their countries were nothing compared to the tremendous evil associated with the holocausts in which these world leaders participated.

Hitler’s holocaust, of course, is well known — six million people burned in the Nazi ovens. Less well known is the holocaust in which two million innocent Russians were massacred through the joint participation of the U.S., Great Britain, and Russia.

Americans have been taught to believe that World War II was a war of good versus evil. Unfortunately, the analysis is not that simple. For one thing, the U.S. and Great Britain were allied with one of the most evil political regimes in all of history — Stalinist Russia. There is nothing that Hitler and Nazi Germany did that communist Russia did not do. Hitler killed millions of innocent people. So did Stalin. Germany attacked Czechoslovakia and Austria. Russia attacked Finland. Germany invaded Poland. Russia did so at the exact same time. In fact, it is difficult to understand why Great Britain and France declared war only on Germany rather than on both Germany and Russia — both Germany and Russia had engaged in the exact same evils.

If France and Great Britain had not declared war on Germany, there is no doubt that Germany and the Soviet Union would have ultimately gone to war against each other. The Nazis hated the communists; and the communists hated the Nazis. With his move into Eastern Europe, Hitler was clearly moving eastward. And the overwhelming evidence is that Stalin was preparing to attack Germany (see the review by Richard M. Ebeling of Icebreaker: Who Started the Second World War? in Freedom Daily, November 1991).

So, when Germany finally attacked Russia, the war on the eastern front became one of Nazism versus communism — not exactly a wonderful choice for either Germans or Russians. But for thousands of Russians, anything was better than the mass murderer Joseph Stalin and his communist regime. It would have been virtually impossible to find a Russian family who had not had a friend or relative killed by Stalin’s forces. And political terror existed all across the nation.

Thus, thousands of Russian people had nothing but hate for — and fear of — Joseph Stalin and his communist regime. This was the reason that when Germany invaded Russia, thousands of Russians viewed the Germans as liberators rather than as conquerors.

When Andrey Vlasov was captured near Leningrad, the Germans knew that they had bagged a big prize. Vlasov was one of Stalin’s most brilliant and courageous generals. The Germans removed Vlasov to a POW camp back in Germany.

There, Vlasov met many other Russian POWs. They began talking among themselves about Stalin, communism, the war, and Russia. Most of them shared two things in common — their hatred for Stalin and communism and their love for their country. After much soul-searching, deliberation, and reflection, the Russian POWs persuaded the Germans to permit them to form a Russian army to fight Stalin’s forces. And they elected Andrey Vlasov as their commanding general.

Of course, this raises questions with respect to the meaning of patriotism. Were Vlasov and his men patriots or traitors? One might argue that they were traitors because they were opposing their own government during wartime. If that is the test for patriotism, then what about German citizens, like Marlene Dietrich, who opposed Hitler — were they patriots or traitors?

Vlasov and his men believed that patriotism meant more than blindly supporting one’s government. Stalin was a mass murderer, they reasoned, who had brought nothing but misery and destitution to the Russian people. Their goal was to eradicate the communist regime and establish an independent and free Russia. Here are excerpts from “The Smolensk Declaration,” issued by Vlasov on December 27, 1942:

An appeal by the Russian Committee to the men and officers of the Red Army, to the whole Russian nation, and to the other nations of the Soviet Union.

Friends and Brothers!

Bolshevism is the enemy of the Russian people. It has brought countless disasters to our country and finally has involved the Russian people in a bloody war waged in other’s interests. This war has brought unheard-of sufferings to our Motherland. Millions of Russians have already paid with their lives for Stalin’s criminal attempts to seize world-wide power to the profit of Anglo-American capitalists. Millions of Russians have been crippled and have lost their ability to work forever. Women, old people and children are dying of cold, starvation and because the work demanded of them is beyond their strength. Hundreds of Russian cities and thousands of villages have been destroyed, blown up and burned on Stalin’s orders.

Defeats such as those experienced by the Red Army have never happened before in the history of our country. In spite of the selflessness of the troops and officers and the bravery and self-sacrifice of the Russian people, battle after battle has been lost. The fault lies with the rottenness of the whole of the Bolshevik system, and the incompetence of Stalin and his general staff.

At this very moment, when Bolshevism has shown itself to be incapable of organising the country’s defences, Stalin and his clique make use of terror and lying propaganda to drive people to their deaths, for they want to remain in power, at least for a while, regardless of the cost in blood to the Russian people.

Stalin’s allies — the British and American capitalists — have betrayed the Russian people. . . .

The Russian Committee has set itself the following aims:

a. The overthrow of Stalin and his clique, the destruction of Bolshevism.

b. The conclusion of an honourable peace with Germany.

c. The creation, in friendship with Germany and the other peoples of Europe, of a “New Russia” without Bolsheviks and Capitalists.

The Declaration then set forth thirteen specific goals, including the abolition of forced labor; the abolition of collective farms and their return to private ownership; the “re-establishment of commerce, trades and crafts” and “private initiative”; and the “complete dismantling of the regime of terror and the introduction of genuine freedom of religion, conscience, speech, assembly and the press; the guarantee of inviolability of persons and of their homes.”

In March 1943, Vlasov published an open letter entitled “Why I decided to fight Bolshevism,” which stated in part the following:

Inasmuch as I am calling on all Russian people to fight against Stalin and his clique, to build a “New Russia” without Bolsheviks and Capitalists, I consider it my duty to explain my actions. . . .

I am the son of a peasant, and was born in the province of Nizhni Novgorod. . . . During the Civil War, I fought with the Red Army because I believed that the Revolution would give the Russian people land, freedom and happiness. When I became a commander in the Red Army, I lived with the men and their officers — Russian workers, peasants, and members of the intelligentsia, all of them dressed in grey [army issue] overcoats. I knew their thoughts, their worries and problems. I did not lose touch with my family and my village and was familiar with the ways and means of the peasantry.

And so I realised that none of those things for which the Russian people had fought during the Civil War had been achieved by Bolshevik victory. I saw what a difficult life a Russian worker led and how the peasant was forcibly driven to join the collective farms. Millions of Russian people disappeared, having been arrested and shot without trial. I saw that everything Russian was being destroyed, that time-servers were being given positions of command in the Red Army, people to whom the interests of the Russian nation were of no importance. . . .

From 1938 to 1939 I was in China as military adviser to Chiang Kai-shek. When I returned to the USSR, I saw that during that time the command structure of the army had been destroyed for no reason whatsoever on Stalin’s orders. Thousands of the best officers, including the Marshals of the Red Army, had been arrested and shot or sent to the labour camps to disappear forever. Terror was unleashed not only on the army but on the whole nation. There was no family which was not involved in some way or other. The army was weakened, the terrified nation looked to the future with horror, awaiting the war which Stalin had made inevitable. . . .

While I was in the forests and swamps [avoiding capture], I finally came to the conclusion that my duty consisted in calling on the Russian people to fight to overthrow Bolshevik power, to fight for peace for the Russian people, to fight for an end to an unnecessary war being fought for foreign interests which was spilling Russian blood, to fight for the creation of a New Russia, in which every Russian might be happy. . . .

I reached the firm conclusion that the tasks facing the German people can be solved in alliance and cooperation with the German people.

Of course, the logical question is, how could Vlasov cooperate with the Nazis? After all, Hitler and the Nazis were not any different from Stalin and the communists. Vlasov knew that if he was to help liberate Russia from communist rule, he had no choice but to work with the Germans. His attitude was the same as the American and British toward Stalin and the communists — politics and war sometimes make strange bedfellows. But Vlasov also believed that he could ultimately maneuver the German political leaders into guaranteeing a free and independent Russia.

Little did Vlasov and his men know that their attempt to liberate their nation from communist tyranny would ultimately result in one of the worst holocausts in history — this one provided by Roosevelt, Truman, Churchill, and Stalin.

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    Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.