I'd like everybody to read this article, and then post their thoughts.
[b]Atrocity museum angers Russians
Kremlin accuses Germans of 'making us look like Nazis'[/b]
Sunday December 23, 2001
In the flat countryside north of Berlin, a decaying triangular complex of wooden huts and barracks remains a chilling symbol of Hitler's killing machine.
Opened in 1934, the Sachsenhausen concentration camp became the SS headquarters for running the elaborate camp network in which millions were to die. It was here that 'medical experiments' were conducted on human guinea pigs, that mass killing was refined using gas chambers before the Nazis practised 'industrial murder' on a vast scale.
Yet Sachsenhausen also harbours a more obscure, more recent history as the lynchpin of Stalin's gulag in Europe. Mass graves discovered on the site in the former East Germany a decade ago, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, contained the corpses of hundreds of victims not of the Nazis, but of the NKVD, Stalin's secret police.
A museum just opened on the fringe of the complex sheds light on the little-known story of the NKVD takeover of the camp after Hitler's defeat. This exercise in historical recovery is angering the Kremlin by highlighting Russia's reluctance to face up to the crimes perpetrated in its name, particularly anything that sullies its great triumph over Nazi Germany.
'This is an attempt to diminish the crimes of the Nazis, to compare the Nazi and the Soviet regimes,' protests Mark Kilevich, a Russian who survived the Nazi camp in the Forties and is now vice-president of the Sachsenhausen International Committee. 'This museum puts the victims and their torturers side by side.'
The idea that the new museum is a German attempt at historical revisionism, equating the Holocaust with the gulag, is vehemently rebuffed by the Germans, but forcefully argued by the Russian government.
The Russian embassy in Berlin boycotted the opening of the museum earlier this month. The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aleksandr Yakovenko, attacked the entire concept of a museum devoted to Soviet crimes 'as an attempt to whitewash the crimes of the Nazis. Sachsenhausen testifies to the darkest side of the Nazi genocide, where thousands of our countrymen fell victim,' he said. 'The [museum] organisers aim to equate the crimes of fascism with the actions of the Soviet occupation powers.'
The German organisers dismiss the accusations as absurd and the result of a misunderstanding.
Irina Shcherbakova, a Moscow historian who helped with the years of research that led to the Sachsenhausen museum, says the fierce Russian opposition is a 'very ominous sign' of a historical taboo. 'It's like the earlier Soviet demagogy that can only talk of victory in the Second World War. We have lots of black spots concerning Germany and the war. The KGB kept it all secret for years.'
Sachsenhausen, where Stalin's son Yakov was murdered by the Nazis, was taken over by the NKVD in August 1945. At least 12,000 of the 60,000 people incarcerated there by the Russians died, mainly starving or freezing to death in the bitter winters of 1946 and 1947.
The detainees included thousands of junior Nazi officials subjected to rough Russian justice. Many, however, were innocent - including victims of denunciations, large numbers of emigrès who fled Russia to Berlin during or after the revolution, anti-communists, German social democrats and teenagers groundlessly suspected of being Nazi guerrillas.
The Russian government says it has now 'rehabilitated' 8,000 German victims of the NKVD from those years. But the barbarism meted out by the Russians in Germany in the early post-war years - revenge for the appalling suffering inflicted on the Soviet Union by the Third Reich - remains largely hidden from contemporary Russians.
In Berlin at the war's end, it is estimated that up to two million German women were raped, mainly by Soviet soldiers. Talk of this and Sachsenhausen is still largely taboo in Russia, where opposition to the museum is reinforced by the fact that most of the 30,000 victims of the Nazis there were Russians.
Maybe the Poles should set up a similar memorial at the Katyn Forest.
I have no problem with this museum.
The Russians want to portray themselves as the glorious liberators of Eastern Europe despite the fact their tactics were just as bad as the Nazis. And they'd rather hush it up.