There are many names for them: Relocation centers, detention centers, labor camps, concentration camps, death camps, re-education camps. They were always cruel, and in the 20th Century they became the de riguer way of totalitarianism. They were found wherever the Nazis, the Soviets and the Red Chinese went. The sycophants of these evil empires, such as Pol Pot, enthusiastically made copies of the mold. In the Soviet Union, the camps were collectively known as the gulag (an acronym in Russian for the Main Directorate of Corrective Labor Camps and Colonies).
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn alerted much of the world to the horrors of the U.S.S.R.'s gulags in the 1970s. It had no effect on the Democrat Party's decision to withdraw funding to prevent the ones that were being built at that time from going into operation. Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago" was masterful, but perhaps the West was just tired of fighting these evils. In succeeding years, Russian, French, and German scholars have added to Solzhenitsyn's work.
Oddly enough, American researchers have not led the charge of gulag research. It is a strange but noteworthy that the Holocaust fills the imagination. Books, movies and documentaries are constant reminders of the near-extermination of European Jewry abound. The gulags and the millions of ghosts they produced are almost forgotten. The Jewish memorialists, in fact, do as much to remind the world of the gulags as anybody, since they are in the business not simply of reminding people of their plight, but of similar plights. If ever we have found the way Satan does things, it is in these near-forgotten genocides and holocausts.
The Left in America and Great Britain went so far as to justify the gulags. The Right has failed to do the necessary work of real scholarship that these crimes deserve. Henry Wallace, the leader of the Communist wing of the Democrat party during the Roosevelt/Truman era, visited the brutal Magadan Soviet penal camps. Of the sadistic commander, Ivan Nikishov, Wallace said he was "idyllic."
The gulag's were under the control of the secret police (successively, Cheka, GPU, OGPU, NKVD, MVD, and KGB). A fair number of political figures in charge of modern Russia come from the KGB and therefore were part of the gulag administration. This would be the same as leading Hitler henchmen surviving the fall of the Nazis only to re-invent themselves as statesman in a new, socialist Germany. The founder of the Soviet secret police was Feliks Dzerzhinsky. His policy for the Cheka was expressed in 1918.
"We represent in ourselves organized terror - this must be said very clearly," he said.
Soviet exile in Siberia was much worse than it had been under the Czars. The Soviet Union had hundred of these camps, far more than the Nazis operated. They had thousands of work camps, and 500 were considered ITL (for "ispravitel'no-trudovoy lager"), which were corrective labor camps and penal colonies. The first opened in 1917. They were geographically spread out from the Arctic to Central Asia.
"…From the Cold Pole at Oy-Myakon to the copper mines of Dzhezkazgan," wrote Solzhenitsyn.
It was an integral part of the Soviet economy, responsible for railroad construction, road building, canal building, forestry, mining, agriculture, and construction sites. The conditions were no better than Auschwitz or Dachau. Women shared the work with no social regard. Children, mothers with babies, homosexuals, retarded people, the sick, the deformed and others were put to work, too. Psychiatrically disabled were labeled as "enemies of the people."
When the "Great Patriotic War" began, the Communists introduced "katorga" (hard labor camp) within the ITL system. Prisoners assigned to a katorga were given extra hard work with almost no rations or medical attention. (The word "katorga" is a Czarist term). The katorga's were virtually identical in purpose to labor camps run by the Nazis.
Slogans were posted in the camps.
"Work is a matter of honor, fame, courage, and heroism." "Shock work is the fastest way to freedom." "No work, no food."
The daily ration was 400 to 800 grams of bread. Productive workers received some fish, potatoes, porridge, or vegetables. The U.N. World Health Organization sets the minimum requirements for heavy labor at from 3,100 to 3,900 calories per day.
Inmate were Christians, Muslim clergymen, "kulaks" (or independent farmers), political dissidents, common criminals, "economic criminals," former "elitists," Communists with a following, ethnic minorities, homeless, "unpersons," "hooligans," tardy workers, and others.
Political prisoners or counterrevolutionaries were "58ers" for having violated Article 58 of the criminal code. Common criminals were called "urki" or "blatnyaki." Less violent criminals accused of violating some aspect of the civil code were categorized as "bytoviki." Individuals accused of undermining Soviet economic laws were referred to as subversives or pests - "vrediteli" in Russian. Trustees or "pridurki" in the camps, those most likely to survive their imprisonment, acted as camp service personnel. All inmates were referred to as "zeki," the acronym for the Russian word for prisoner.
Naftaly Aronovich Frenkel was a Jew born in Turkey in 1883. After the Bolshevik revolution he moved to the Soviet Union. In Odessa he was an agent of the State Political Administration, responsible for the acquisition and confiscation of gold from the wealthier classes. Frenkel was arrested in 1927 for skimming gold. He was sent to the Solovetsky Special Purpose Camp (SLON) in the Arctic. Frenkel had a talent for work efficiency and explained his ideas to Stalin personally. He linked food rationing to production and concluded that a prisoner was valuable for three months after captivity, but debilitated after that. The most effective thing was to kill them and replace them with fresh inmates. It was the opposite of the American treatment of African slaves in the Old South, which is why slavery thrived as an institution instead of literally "dying off." The Soviets did not have to worry about attrition; they always found slaves from among their huge population base.
When prisoners were called to fall into line, the last man to line up would be shot as a laggard ("dokhodyaga"), which created a constant flow of fresh labor, pleasing Stalin. Frenkel was made construction chief of the White Sea Canal project, and later of the BAM railroad project. In 1937 he was named head of the Main Administration of Railroad Construction Camps (GULZhDS), where he provide railroad transport facilities to the Red Army in the 1939-40 "Winter War" against Finland, and during the Second World War. He was awarded the Order of Lenin three times, named a Hero of Socialist Labor, and promoted to the rank of general in the NKVD.
Frenkel's became standard operating procedures in the BAM (Baltic-Amur Magistral) railroad project, the Dalstroy (Far East Construction), Vorkuta, Kolyma, Magadan, and countless other hellholes. Workers noted that the rails were marked "made in Canada," since they were part of aid given by the West.
300,000 prisoners were in Soviet labor camps in 1932, 1 million in 1935, and 2 million by 1940. Roosevelt extended the "hand of friendship" while millions starved in the Ukraine and Russia. 1 million inmates "served" in the Red Army, clearing minefields by walking through them at gunpoint. After the war, the camp population went up. Most soldiers who had fought or were imprisoned by the Germans were imprisoned for being exposed to Western thought.
The gulags filled with USSR's enemies: Finns, Poles, Germans, Italians, Romanians, and Japanese. Many of them were held for years after 1945. German prisoners were treated the worst. The death rate of POWs was excessively high. Most German POWs were shot out or mutilated. 95,000 German POWs were captured at Stalingrad, but 5,000 returned home. 40,000 died marching from Stalingrad to the Beketovka camp. 42,000 died there of hunger and disease. S.S. POWs and Vlasov forces imprisoned on Wrangel Island had almost no chance of survival.
Many Germans captured by the United States were held in Alabama, where they lived comfortably and were allowed many privileges.
The U.S.S.R. held 3.4 million German POWs at war's end. The Yalta Agreement (orchestrated by Alger Hiss) agreed to the use of German POWs in the Soviet gulag as "reparations-in-kind," instead of repatriation to their homeland. Germans were more productive than the other "workers." In an effort to get the most out of them, Stalin ordered that they be given food rations proportionate to their work. Still, almost a million German POWs died in the camps. The last of 10,000 survivors were released from the Soviet Union in 1955, after 10 years of forced labor. 1.5 million German soldiers are still "missing in action." 875,000 German civilians were abducted and transported to the camps. Half of them died.
After the war, British and U.S. authorities ordered their military in Germany to deliver to the Communists former residents of the U.S.S.R. This included men who had taken up arms with the Germans against the Soviets, prisoners of war, forced and voluntary workers in the German wartime economy, and numerous persons who had left. 4.2 million ethnic Russians and 1.6 million Russian POWs from defeated Germany were augmented by German POWs and civilians abducted or deported from Germany and Eastern Europe. Tens of thousands of Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians were sent to Soviet camps, replaced in their homelands by Soviet invaders. Most ethnic Russian women and children were reincorporated into the Soviet system. Russian POWs and the Vlasov men were put under the jurisdiction of SMERSH (Death to Spies), which sentenced about a third of a million to serve from 10 to 20 years in the gulag. In 1947, the gulag's held 9 million souls.
Under the direct supervision of secret police chief Lavrenty Beria, thousands of gulag inmates supported the Soviet nuclear bomb project, mining uranium and preparing test facilities on Novaya Zemlya, Vaygach Island, Semipalatinsk, and dozens of other sites. The Soviet Navy used gulag prisoners to rid decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines of radioactivity.
In 1953, the gulag's held 2.7 million prisoners. Danchik Sergeyevich Baldaev, an MVD major who worked in the Gulag from 1951 until his retirement in 1981, published a book depicting the post-Stalin Gulag - tortures, cruelties, sex, food and housing, climatic conditions, common and political criminals. The KGB allowed the barracks to be run by common criminals (murderers, rapists, and psychopaths of every variety), abusing the women and the weak. They called themselves "vory v zakone" (thieves within the law, an installed criminal leader deciding disputes and dividing spoils).
Women in the gulag were raped on the transport ship and in the railroad cars, then paraded naked in front of camp officials, who selected "promising" ones for easier work in exchange for sex. The officials preferred German, Latvian, and Estonian women, who would never see home again, over native Russian women, who might. Women not selected by the camp officials were left over for the barracks or lesbians. Starvation, work exhaustion, exposure to the cold, physical abuse, isolation, impalement, genital mutilation, and bullets in the back of the head were other common events in the gulag.
30 million prisoners entered the gulags during the Soviet era. Most who served their time were not allowed to return homes. They lived the remainder of their lives near the camps. Robert Conquest, a Western scholar, estimated that one out of every three new inmates died during the first year of imprisonment. Only half made it through the third year. Conquest estimated that during the "Great Terror" of the late 1930s alone, there were 6 million arrests, 2 million executions, and another 2 million deaths from other causes. By 1953, at least 12 million died there. The figure, according to Andrei Sakharaov, is much higher. Unlike the Germans, the Soviets were not as efficient at keeping records.
Wooden markers with the deceased's identification number were affixed to the left leg. Gold teeth or fillings were pried out. To ensure that the death was not feigned, the skull of the inmate was smashed with a hammer, or a metal spike driven into the chest. The corpses were buried in an unmarked grave.
Aleksandr Gutman produced a documentary film in which he interviewed four German women from East Prussia who as young girls had been raped by Red Army troops. They were then sent to Number 517, near Petrozavodsk in Karelia. Of 1,000 girls and women who transported to that camp, 522 died within six months of their arrival. These women were deported, with the acquiescence of the Western powers, as part of "reparations-in-kind" language, possibly written by Hiss, in the post-war charters.
"While the diary of Anne Frank is known throughout the world, we carry our memories in our hearts," one of the women remarked. When Gutman attempted to show the documentary in New York City, liberals were quoted as saying (and this is not made up), "He should be killed for making such a movie."
The U.S. Justice Department maintains the Office of Special Investigations, dedicated to the investigation, prosecution, and deportation of former Axis soldiers and officials. Most of those prosecuted were low ranking guards at wartime German camps. No American office was ever created to hunt out the officials who headed and ran the Communists' camps, even though Smirnov's "System of Corrective Labor Camps" lists more than 500 camps with their administrative officers through the 1960s.
Soviet gulags were mostly destroyed, and attempts to create museums, shrines and memorials have failed.
"People simply do not equate the ethical and moral horrors and shame of Nazism with those of Communism," said Yuri Pivovarov, director of the Institute of Social Science Research at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Many formerly high-ranking Communist officials are still in charge of modern Russia, including Vladimir Putin.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism