(Article changed on May 3, 2013 at 08:12)
(Article changed on May 2, 2013 at 13:18)
DSC03645 by **emmar**
This is my traditional May article. I had been writing those before May 9 for years. Anyone can go to my articles' page and read all the previous ones. There will be a Victory Parade in Moscow, Russia on May 9 and they will celebrate the 68th anniversary of Victory over Germany on May 9, 1945. We don't celebrate it. Come to think of it, why? May 9th was an official day of the German capitulation, the act was signed by German field -marshal Keitel and by four main coalition commanders- Russian, British, American and French; lock, stock and barrel. None of the Western sides celebrates it though. Only Russians. Why?
I think I know why. Russians celebrate because not only they just won the war. They won it because they were at that period of time the best people on Earth. They celebrate the spirit of that time, the utmost rising of the national spiritual power, the same way as French celebrate the Bastille Day, Americans celebrate the Independence Day, British Celebrate the Trafalgar. It is not about winning; it is about being the best at the time.
That had been my primary message for a while, whether I wrote about Russia or about Lincoln. And in most cases the message fell on dead ears. People, my readers, apparently either had no interest in the issue or just did not want to acknowledge the fact. Really, let that guy have his opinion, who cares. And does it matter who was the best at the time? In all fairness, if we follow the logic of that guy, the only really best were the victims, the "hundreds of thousands burned alive' like they say in one Russian song; those people, whether Jewish, German, Russian, Polish, French or Japanese- they were all innocent victims and thus -- sacrosanct by default. That would be the right way to think.
Yes, that would be the right way to think. Jean Moulin is not worse than Alexander Matrosov. The Westerplatte heroes from Poland are not worse than the defenders of the Brest Citadel. The peasants of Khatyn village in Byelorussia, burned alive are not better than the people of Or Adour, France, burned alive in 1944. All are martyrs, nobody must be forgotten. And yes, the victims inspire. But they do not win over evil. They are the cause for the eternal fight but not an effect. They make the case for the people to become better.
Information though must not only be transferred but also absorbed. In 1938 Hitler's armies occupied Austria after first assassinating its Chancellor Dolphus and imprisoning the next Chancellor Shushnig. Hitler claimed Austria as his birthplace. Right after the occupation the Jews of Vienna were forced to come out to the streets, women and children too- and clean the Vienna streets using toothbrushes. The private German matter became an international shame. The reaction of the Western public opinion was:
- Let's direct the German assault to the East and then we here in the West will feel secure.
Those are the words from the prominent French newspapers. There was no attempt to change the policy at all; Jews were not even a part of any discussion. Munich betrayal of Chechoslovakia was close at hand: Russians were offering troops to help the Czechs to fight but Poland, the ally of France did not allow the Russian troops' passage and French did not push them. In the paroxysm of betrayal Polish and Hungarian troops joined Germany in the attack on Czechoslovakia. In the same time Leva Fedotov, a young Russian boy of 17 wrote in his diary, "The war with German fascism seems inevitable to me because they are the anti- human force. I think we will have a very tough war and casualties will be severe but we will prevail. There is no other way."
There is no other way. This is not Harry Potter talking. Find me a diary of an American teenager of the time who would write something like that. A long time would pass until in 1951 Holden Caulfield, the Catcher In The Rye would proclaim the new, enlightened values but by that time the shadow of the nuclear bombardment would be over the US and the message would not be heard.
If only any of the French newspapers of the time had said what Leva said. But they did not. Neither in Britain or in the US. The message was received but not absorbed. Hitler and his cronies were viewed in the mirror of anticommunism. Here's what another influential newspaper wrote, "Despite his ferocious appearance Goering is a soft- heart man." In the modern movie "The King's Speech' the King of England says " Hitler humiliates one half of Europe, Marshal Stalin -- another half.' They were viewed as the same. And as rulers, yes, they were very similar. But their people were far from that. The nationalist superiority complex promoted by Hitler fell on a very much manured soil of Germany; capitalism + fear turned out the best environment possible for the development of the pathology of Nazism; corporate government became acceptable not only by Germans but by the foreigners too, Not that in Russia; there the Stalinist regime, no matter how powerful and vicious had to function within the framework of the socialist, revolutionary legacy, also taking into consideration thousands of years of Orthodox Christianity. The spirit of the population of then Soviet Union was deeply independent and compassionate at the same time: their tolerance of the regime atrocities never transformed into a mass involvement; yes, they did what they were told but they did not volunteer en masse to help. Stalin's system had to rely on force and fear much more that Hitler's; Germany really embraced Hitlerism in a short period of time, like 5 years. Verfallen, the German word, meaning "falling under the influence' was a very suitable one for the times. The West fell Verfallen to the temptation of evil and Jews could go there with the toothbrushes- their fate was sealed.
That perception that some people, even nations can have a sealed fate in achieving political purposes was the one embedded in the western psyche much more than in the Russian one. The West could imagine life under Ordnung- the Order, no matter what that Ordnung stayed upon; in 1940 the French elite surrendered France to Germany practically for the promise of being kept in power and order to be maintained. French wines and French cheeses proved more valuable to them than French Jews and French young men. The people from Or Adour burned alive were not burned just by Germans; there was a French track there too.
People of the West accepted the new reality. Russians, Yugoslavians, Greeks, all nations of the Soviet Union said no. That's the difference.
In the book "Lincoln' by Gore Vidal one of the members of the Lincoln's cabinet explains to the others that the secret of Old Abe is in his absolute commitment to the Union. Lincoln just could not imagine any another arrangement; his life and the existence of the Union were intertwined. Others could imagine living under a different regime, even under Confederacy -- Lincoln could not. He was committed to the cause.
That's why he was at the moment the better man- his human qualities proved invaluable.