Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be attending the January 27, 2015 ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation by Soviet troops of Nazi German extermination and concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Soviet troops assisting survivors of the Nazi German Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp.
Fair use of photo from: Meczenstwo Walka, Zaglada Zydów Polsce 1939-1945. Poland. No. 538.
Russia has yet to acknowledge Soviet complicity in the Holocaust. Without that acknowledgement, President Putin’s absence is appropriate.
The history of Auschwitz-Birkenau is also the history of Soviet complicity in the Holocaust:
Prior to Soviet-Nazi military alliance, the Soviet Union provided the Nazis with the material assistance to wage aggressive wars of conquests and genocide:
- The treaties that ended WWI prohibited German rearmament. The Soviets assisted the Nazis to evade their treaty obligations by allowing the Nazis to secretly develop and test their new weapons on Soviet territory.
- The manganese in the steel the Nazis used to construct their military vehicles, weapons, and ammunition was supplied by the Soviets.
- Nazi vehicles were fueled with Soviet oil.
- Nazi troops were fed with Soviet grain.
- Nazi horses, which made up 90% of Nazi military transportation, were fed with Soviet fodder.
In August, 1939, the Nazis and Soviets upgraded their relationship to include a military alliance:
- The Soviets guaranteed that when the Nazis attacked Poland, the Nazis would not face a two front war as in WWI. The Nazis would only face the alliance of Poland, France, and Britain.
- While Slavic and Jewish Polish troops were defending Poland against Nazi aggression from the west, the Soviets attacked Poland from the east.
- The defeat of Poland by the Soviets and Nazis resulted in the Nazi capture of most of the Polish Jews along with Auschwitz-Birkenau and other sites where they constructed extermination and concentration camps.
- From August, 1939 until June, 1941, the Soviet controlled Communist International (Comintern) ordered pro-Soviet Communist Parties, including the Communist Party USA, to support the Soviet-Nazi alliance, to oppose the war against the Nazis, and to oppose U.S. entry into the war. That is among many reasons the U.S. delayed entry into WWII.
By end of 1941 when the U.S. entered the war, Holocaust victims were beyond the reach of military rescue. The death camps and their rail lines were beyond the range of Allied bombers.
In January, 1945 when the Soviets finally reached Auschwitz-Birkenau, they found about 7,000 survivors.
So few were liberated because almost all the victims of the Holocaust were already dead and most of the other survivors had been evacuated to Nazi Germany.
Just as the post-war democratic state of Germany inherited the responsibility for the crimes of its predecessor state of Nazi Germany, Russia inherited the responsibility for the WWII crimes of the Soviet Union.
The obligation for acceptance of responsibility will not go away with the passage of time.
Acknowledging such histories is part of the process of a state maturing to a full member of the family of civilized nations.
The Russian people deserve such actions from their leaders such as President Putin.
In public consciousness and popular culture among the most common questions are why the Allies did not do more to stop the Holocaust such as attempting to rescue victims and bomb the death camps and their rail lines.
Similar questions about the Soviet Union’s conduct are rarely asked.
That may because of a very successful Cold War era propaganda campaign to promote questions about the Allies and divert attention from the complicity in the Holocaust of the Soviets and their allied Communist Parties.
Now that the Cold War is over the time has come to seek information about the Soviet Union’s Holocaust complicity to make WWII history more complete and accurate.
Links with sources and for more information:
70th anniversary of liberation of the Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau – January 27, 2015 The official 70th anniversary site.
Putin Won’t Attend Commemoration of Auschwitz Liberation New York Times.
In depth historical background and context: An occasional feature of my family history blog.