THE BLACK BOOK ON COMMUNISM, by Stephane Courtois, Nicholas Werth, Jean-Louise Panne, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartosek and Jean-Louis Margolin; foreword by Martin Malia. Harvard University Press. $37.50, 858 pages.
Most sensible adults are aware of communism's human toll in the USSR and elsewhere-- the forced starvations in The Ukraine, the Great Purge of the 1930s, the Gulag, the insanity of China's Great Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot's murder of one of seven Cambodians etc. etc. All these horrors are now brought together in what the French scholar Martin Mali, in his foreword, calls a "balance sheet of our current knowledge of communism's human costs, archivally based where possible and elsewhere drawing on the best available secondary evidence."
Because it is an encyclopedia of horror, The Black Book is not pleasant reading. The materials derived from Soviet archives eventually become mind numbing. The Soviets kept statistics with Nazi precision: one report notes that of the 608,749 persons deported from the Crimea in 1944, 44,887 were dead within four years; 40 to 50 percent of them were less than 16 years of age. So say the Soviet records. Or read the 1933 memorandum in which Genrikh Yagoda, the head of the GPU, successor to the KGB, urged medical experiments on prisoners as a "true service to humanity. Hundreds of human guinea pigs are required."
The contributing scholars are associated with the Center for the Study of Communism, which works with younger Russian historians to exploit material coming from Soviet archives. The Black Book has sold more than 100,000 copies in Europe. Editor's comment: Some contributors in this book sought to explain the brutality of the communist regime as caused by the brutal 'nature of the Russian people' - - in my mind a big mistake. Lenin and Stalin's brutalities take their place along those perpetrated by other leaders and groups in recent history -- the Japanese and the Germans, of course, but also the British who cold-bloodedly starved a million Irish and who invented the concentration camps in South Africa starving Boer women and children, the Spanish who purposefully and completely exterminated the native Indians in countries like Uruguay, the Australians who hunted and exterminated (in Tasmania) Aborigines for sport , etc. etc.the list goes on. There are no simplistic answers and one must guard against prejudice and egocentric hypocritical arrogance in examining the "why." (Not read - Excerpted from review by Joseph C. Goulden, who is working on a book on the modern world of attorneys) (Ed. Roy J)
Reviewed in AFIO Weekly Intelligence Notes #44-99 6 Nov 1999
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