It’s sad that we have to visit this ground time and again – the insistence that the crimes of one totalitarian regime must historically supersede the crimes of another.
In a recent National Post article, “Is it possible that Holocaust gets special billing”, Peter Hitchens is quoted as saying “to pretend that other events – however horrifying – are equivalent is dishonest and detracts from the uniqueness [of the Holocaust].”
The article by Charles Lewis describes the controversy surrounding the future Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the prominent and special treatment that the Holocaust will receivet in the museum in relation to other genocides. In support of the uniqueness of the Holocaust, Arthur Schafer, director of the Centre for professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba stresses that the Holocaust always has to be given primacy of commemoration because of the ideology that was behind the murder of the Jews.
Even though Charles Lewis objectively argues that Soviet crimes have not yet received the attention and universal condemnation they deserve, the article still justifies the relative pre-eminence of the Holocaust with Schafer’s assertion: “The very rationale for killing Jews was part of the official ideology of Nazism while forced starvation of Ukranians was not the official ideology of communism.”
V.I. Lenin asserted in his 1906 “The Lessons of the Moscow Uprising” that “We would be deceiving both ourselves and the people if we concealed from the masses the necessity of a desperate, bloody war of extermination as the immediate task of the coming revolutionary action”. This was just one of Lenin’s numerable exhortations that the brutal elimination of definable human groups was necessary to achieve the goals of Soviet Communism. They were formulated more bluntly than Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”. One is tempted to ask: Which ideology is delineated more plainly or is more diabolical? It’s a question that shouldn’t need an answer.
While no one in the debate surrounding the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has any intention of diminishing the importance of any individual genocide, Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre recently stated that treating Soviet crimes equally with the Holocaust, jeopardizes the special status of the Holocaust and decreases its historical importance. Zuroff has in the past condemned the 2009 European Parliament’s decision declaring the August 23rd Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact day as one of remembrance of all totalitarian crimes. The establishment of Holocaust remembrance days throughout Europe preceded by many years the 2009 declaration of the European Parliament.
In this context it’s important to note that archival documents have implicated the Soviet NKVD as giving advice and expertise to the Nazis, before and after the signing of the MRP, about the most efficient ways of erecting concentration camps and liquidating targeted ethnic/political/social groups. One cannot deny the ideological similarities and barbaric collusion between the Soviet Socialists of Stalin and the National Socialists of Hitler.
Without assigning one a higher priority than the other, the crimes of the Holocaust and the crimes of the Soviet regime each deserve to be researched, exposed, taught, remembered. While one may have noble motivations in comparing suffering, it serves no useful purpose to compete for the title of “most victimized”. Privileged positions in the “hierarchy of suffering” make a mockery of the historic lessons to be learned.
A question that shouldn’t need an answer: Which were more horrifying, Nazi or Soviet crimes? (2)