The Moral Obligation to Remember the Crimes of Communism

In June, the Victims of Communism Museum opened in Washington, DC, just a few blocks from the White House—but with none of the attention that greeted other recent additions to the city’s cultural landscape. Yet its mission, Gary Dreyer argues, is more important than ever, with the horrors of Communist rule little known, especially by the young, while the Russian and Chinese governments, along with a number of Western leftists, wish to cover them up. Dreyer discusses the moral imperative of ensuring that this history is remembered correctly, and its special importance for Jews:

My grandparents, having survived the twin evils of Stalinism and Nazism as children, spent their adulthoods grappling with the corrupt, economically backward, and authoritarian police state of the post-Stalinist USSR, trying to bring up families in a climate of ratcheting anti-Semitism that deprived them and their children of work, education, and housing opportunities.

[Yet] discussing the history of the victims of Communism is hard. It takes intellectual honesty, empathy, and courage to do it right. And it is also controversial, not least because of the inevitable comparisons and contrasts between Soviet Stalinism and German National Socialism. Historians and Shoah survivors and their families and advocates have been loath even to discuss the notion of Communism having “victims” who can be analogized to those of the Nazis.

For many, the notion that these Soviet crimes can be described as “genocide” is deeply suspect and rooted in a desire, on the part of non-Germans in Europe, to evade responsibility for their participation in the murder of Jews during the Shoah. At worst, it is seen as a racist cudgel and perpetuation of the widespread myth of “Judeo-Bolshevism,” which was central to Nazi propaganda and far-right conspiracy theorists both before and after World War II.

But in its quest to prevent the distortion of the historical record and preserve the distinctiveness of the Nazis’ crimes against humanity and the Jewish people, this approach not only gives short shrift to victims of Communism as a whole; it also erases the history of Soviet anti-Semitism and xenophobia, all while stilling the voices of Jewish victims of Communism from the former Soviet Union and eastern bloc. Public education and commemoration of the victims of Communism and National Socialism is not a one-or-the-other choice. Rather, both are essential for a healthy society that can proceed into the future with sufficient awareness of the errors and horrors of the past, whatever extreme end of the political spectrum those violent ideologies come from.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Communism, Museums, Soviet Jewry

What Is the Biden Administration Thinking?

In the aftermath of the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Friday, John Podhoretz observes some “clarifying moments.” The third strikes me as the most important:

Clarifying Moment #3 came with the news that the Biden administration is still calling for negotiations leading to a ceasefire after, by my count, the seventh rejection of the same by Hamas since Bibi Netanyahu’s secret offer a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Blinken, a man who cannot say no, including when someone suggests it would be smart for him to play high-school guitar while Ukraine burns, will be back in the region for the eighth time to urge Hamas to accept the deal. Why is this clarifying? Because it now suggests, here and for all time, that the Biden team is stupid.

Supposedly the carrot the [White House] is dangling in the region is a tripartite security deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Which would, of course, be a good thing. But like the stupid people they are now proving to be, they seem not to understand the very thing that led the Saudis to view Israel as a potential ally more than a decade ago: the idea that Israel means business and does what it must to survive and built itself a tech sector the Saudis want to learn from. Allowing Hamas to survive, which is implicitly part of the big American deal, will not lead to normalization. The Saudis do not want an Iranian vassal state in Palestine. Their entire foreign-policy purpose is to counter Iran. I know that. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that. Even Tony Blinken’s guitar is gently weeping at his dangling a carrot to Israel and Saudi Arabia that neither wants, needs, nor will accept.

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More about: Antony Blinken, Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship