Monday, June 11, 2012

A Story Forgotten Needs To Be Told - As Shocking As It May Be: The (Post)-War Crime Of The Allies

It is the story about the forced deportation of hundred of thousands of Cossacks from Western Europe (and according to some witnesses even from the US) to face execution squads and death in extermination camps in Stalin's USSR.

Most deportees (without hesitation I would call them the fortunate ones) were shot right on the spot after being handed over to the KGB units by the THE US AND BRITISH TROOPS; the less then lucky deportees were first tortured then shot or hanged, or tortured then sent to die a slow death in the Siberian Gulags.
The most shocking and sickening fact: many of the deportees were not even Soviet citizens; they were refugees who fled during the communist revolution and settled in the West between 1918-1921. Many of them were the children of those refugees, born and raised in the West. Yet those children and their mothers and fathers were sent to USSR to face Stalin's execution squads.

The fate of these Russians was one of the best kept secrets of the war. As many as could surrendered to American and British forces, trusting that they would eventually be able to settle somewhere outside the Soviet Union. But in February 1945, at the Yalta conference, Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to Stalin's demand that they be handed over to him. The anti-Soviet Russians in the hands of the western allies would therefore be betrayed. To carry out the repatriation order, American and British servicemen often had to resort to deception and brute force. No one doubted what was in store for the Russians once they were in Soviet hands. Many were executed on the spot.

 Painting by Nikolai Getman (Gulag survivor): Prisoners waiting for their execution

In some instances, Allied guards responsible for turning over their prisoners could see their bodies hanging in the forests where the exchange took place. Some were transferred on the same boat that had brought the British delegation to Yalta a few months previously. They were shot behind warehouses on the quay side with low flying Soviet planes circling overhead to help drown the noise of the rifle fire. Many returned prisoners were tortured before being shot. The remainder disappeared into prison camps for long sentences, receiving the worst treatment of all the Gulag's inmates. Needless to say all were immediately stripped of the new winter clothing and personal equipment that had been generously issued to them by the British in response to the cynical demands of Soviet liaison officers. American and British officers were the appalled eyewitnesses to many desperate acts of suicide by Russian men and women who preferred their own death and that of their wives and children to falling into the hands of the Cheka/NKVD/GPU/KGB.
The more we think about these seven minutes of official film the more disturbing the questions become. Five weeks earlier, Russians interned at Dachau, site of the notorious Nazi concentration camp and not far from Plattling, had resisted their repatriation with a ferocity that stunned American military police, resulting in at least ten suicides. Did someone have the idea of using a film clip to quell rumors about the difficulties the American army encountered in the forcible repatriation program? Did they think they might show the clip in other camps whose inmates were also scheduled for deportation? The film material strongly suggests that it was intended to give the impression that the repatriation policy was being conducted without incident. Continues here.

There is a lesson to be learned here. Just because you live in a democracy doesn't mean you're safe from being put in a cattle wagon heading out to an extermination camp.

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