Story of a Secret State: My Report to the World. Reads like fiction. He also entered a concentration camp to report on the activities there.
Interviews with him can be found on youtube.
On the other hand, there was the Stalinist regime, ruthless rule, killing one's own people and others - for power and control. Whenever someone makes any judgement about Russians, they make a generalizing mistake. On top of that, I'd be very careful when making judgements about people's behaviors in extreme situations, it's quite easy to make that at a distance.
That many Russians died to secure Soviet control over Central/Eastern Europe is not proof that the Soviets were self-sacrificial liberators, but rather that in Soviet, and ultimately Russian, culture, human life is much more dispensable to those in power than it is in the West. The Tsars, and their Soviet successors, were tyrants who could decide the fate of any subject. To this day, the Russian leadership has no problem in carrying out assassinations of politically problematic people, even abroad. The Soviet-installed government in Poland following WWII operated according to similar principles and under Soviet directives, though not to the same extremes as the Soviet leadership. Pilecki is one of many who were brutally tortured and executed by the communists, many of them members of the Home Army. Both Nazis and Soviets took part in exterminating swathes of Polish society they saw as a threat or an inconvenience to their rule (e.g. Katyn massacre), during and also, in the case of the Soviets, following the War.
It is easy to lay blame at the feet of a handful of leaders and forget that in centuries the Russian people put their arms, their strength, their blood behind such. It is easy to focus on a single tiny person within the scope of history and say of course this person had no power and no complicity in evil and forget that the totality of the Russian people are complicit in the actions of their leaders.
Tell me, who was responsible for the hundreds of thousands killed in the battle of Verdun: individual soldiers? Scared to death, trembling, half-insane, playing dead under the dead, left without any reasonable choice, resembling more animals than humans? Or someone else, who actually sent them there?
The same was true of prior tyrants they embraced.
That is under a big assumption that Stalin's USSR was actually better than Hitler's Germany. Since there were lots of people who fled Soviet-occupied parts of Poland into German-occupied ones (hoping that life under Hitler will be less of a horror), this is not really clear whether the cure was not worse than the disease.
* Romanies ("gypsies")
* Slavs (Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Czechs, modern Macedonians, Serbs, Slovaks, Bulgarians, Slovenians...)
The reason he didn't exterminate everyone at the same time is that he needed slaves and collaborators in the transitional period. People down the list could be used to exterminate those higher up (indirectly, but sometimes directly).
Few people realise that the Soviet Union took roughly one-third of Poland when it & Germany invaded Poland at the beginning of the Second World War — and it kept that territory after the war. Polish society in those conquered territories was replaced with Russian society.
For me the most fascinating is the case of Lithuania. Polish children are taught about the Commonwealth, common history, fighting together... So when they hear about anti-Polish sentiment there, it makes no sense to them. People are surprised and can't understand it. That's the fault of presenting a one-sided version of history and completely ignoring the POV of your neighbors.
* They claimed that all development in Russia was led by people of German (Aryan) origin,
* Yet they focused their efforts on exterminating the social elite first, to make the society of Untermensh (slave race) fall faster.
While the Soviets did harbour imperial ambitions against neighbouring states (Poland, Finland), this:
> had Hitler not attacked first, Stalin would probably just attack Germany within a short period of time
is blatantly false, and insultingly so given the millions of Soviet citizens who paid a bloody price for Stalin's total lack of readiness at the German border or mobilization against the Nazis.
No it's not. The only “Historian” to say so was the so-called Suvorov, a transfuge of the NKVD. And his theories have been thoroughly dismantled by the whole academia.
"The Zaolzie region was created in 1920, when Cieszyn Silesia was divided between Czechoslovakia and Poland. Zaolzie forms the eastern part of the Czech portion of Cieszyn Silesia. The division did not satisfy any side, and persisting conflict over the region led to its annexation by Poland in October 1938, following the Munich Agreement. After German invasion of Poland in 1939, the area became a part of Nazi Germany until 1945. After the war, the 1920 borders were restored."
To my knowledge there's no evidence that Germany and Poland colluded in the annexation of Czechoslovakia but Poland definitely did take the opportunity to annex part of it. And the Germans weren't particularly unhappy about that as it played very well for them internationally.
* History of Poland
This is the direction recent act about "Polish death camps" is heading in. It will outlaw saying Poles were originators of any WW2 war crimes. This is ridiculous. Yes, several million of Poles were killed in WW2. But there are black sheep in any society, and certainly there are in an oppressed one. When you harm a group of people, some of them will invariably hit back. How often do you hear that widely admired Józef Piłsudski was a terrorist and a train robber in his early years ? That Polish resistance conducted assassinations and bombings, not just on soldiers but also on civilians they determined to be collaborators ? Kazimierz Wielki (Casimir the Great), praised for development of Poland under his rule, was a cynical womanizer.
Even a single person can be both good and bad. By whitewashing Polish history, Poland shoots itself in the foot. You shouldn't expect to get correct output if you provide incomplete input. Poland has aspirations to be a regional power and to form an alliance of countries under its leadership. It's not going to happen as long as Poles refuse to remember their wrongdoings towards other nations and groups. Poles will just continue to wonder why most neighboring nations don't like them. You need to remember your mistakes to avoid them in the future and/or to apologize for them, if only in a symbolic manner. Look at what Germany is doing. Yes, Germans supported terrible genocide under Hitler, but they're now doing a lot to prevent that from happening in the future. And Germany is doing really well as far as diplomacy goes.
The eye-opening moment for me was when I was preparing for final exams. We had extra history lessons, and our teacher would force us to think. She would tell us what happened, and asked us why did king X or pope Y do that. Or she would divide us into two groups, like Spartans and Athenians, give us source text and ask to prepare a speech arguing our city-state is better (contemporary Greeks considered Sparta to be a realized utopia).
As for the word like "szmalcownik", throw it around enough times and it will lose its power. For example, in Ukraine both sides of conflict call each other "fascist". In Poland, both sides of political conflict call each other "communists" - but very few actually back up their claims.
My favourite: "targowica", used by right-wingers to accuse political adversaries of treason. However, members of Targowica Confederation:
* had a conservative point of view,
* were hostile to western Europe,
* criticized contemporary Polish constitution,
* had a strong Church backing, including archbishops and Pope,
* called themselves devout patriots.
Regarding that point, when Soviets were "freeing" Poland after Hitler's fall, it was really common for them to raid houses of polish civilians. They didn't only steal and kill, but also rape women, children, infants alike (even impale them on sticks). I'm living on territories close to the one of extermination camps and soviets really brought us more harm than nazis durning WW2.
Red army was created mostly from really uneducated villagers that lived in conditions similar to those in middle ages.
I presume you are not counting the three million Polish Jews who were murdered by the nazis?
Soviets killed about six million of polish people (until 1956). Not to mention harm that was done to the polish culture, dignity, economy, science for the 45 years.
So you would like to make your statements, but not to have them challenged?
Oh dear, I didn't even point single statement yet.
Google Translate says "...he was following the instructions of the NKVD Ministry of Defense and that without them it would be impossible to perform so much the number of executions to which the arrested were sentenced by three threes at a time"
Many who ended up in the soviet sphere of influence would beg to differ.
The British empire outproduced, manufactured, mined etc the Germans for basically the entire war. The question is more about why it took so long for the allies to get the upper hand.
The idea of ‘the plucky underdog’ is a myth, Britain was very much a superpower with a massive, resource rich empire behind it.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was not signed without context. The USSR sought out, and was rejected from an alliance with Britain and France.
EDIT: removed link due to questions about author's truthfulness
I can think of worse heuristics to use for deciding "whom should we kill".
The psychology behind committing such crime is beyond the “sexual urge” excuse.
Edit - is this controversial? It’s simply a fact that some men do that, throughout history, in almost all cultures, hence the entire topic... Sometimes units of soldiers are even formed from criminals.
Absolutely. As Robert E Lee eloquently said: "It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it."
In war there is no good. It's just evil. The only difference is between winners and losers.
> The psychology behind committing such crime is beyond the “sexual urge” excuse.
Isn't it innate nature? In the wild, whether it is chimps or lions, you vanquish the males and rape/procreate with the females. For much of human history, rape wasn't a crime. One of the reasons for going to war was for women. Women were considered spoils of war. You can find it in seminal western texts like Iliad or the bible. The entirety of european colonization ( from africa to china ) was mass rape of women. As has been in pretty much all human cultures since we kept records.
I was with you up until then. European colonisation was about exploiting the natural resources of the Africa and the Orient, not the women.
I meant for the entirety of european colonization ( its duration ), that the mass rape of women from africa to china was the norm. Not that rape was the only motivating factor. I think that was fairly obvious if you put that within the context of my other points.
Women, along with resources, land, slaves, etc were part of the equation. It wasn't the sole reason.
It's very deppressing but apparently shape of human penis is very good for shoveling sperm of the guy that was before you. In tribal or pre-tribal times it's possible that war gang rapes were common enough to shape evolution.
We'd like to replace these, uhm, traditional benefits of war with, say, increased status at home for veterans, but have such efforts been going on long enough to erase the underlying psychology?
As for Operation Unthinkable, it is one of the better-known realities of WWII that Churchill and Stalin enjoyed a mutual (and, to a retrospectively large extent, mutually-unfounded) paranoid fear of each others' ambitions. It is in that context that Unthinkable was formed – retaliation for poor treatment of POWs might have been a politically-tasteful façade, but was not the root as the parent might suggest.
I believe in the saying that begins with two eyes and ends with zero. The parent's sentiment seems to preach on the failing moral integrity of the Red Army soldiers – after all, they went for that second eye. I'd like to think that I am morally well-formed enough to not rape and kill, even when provoked to some unknown, but hopefully high degree. When I try to imagine what it was like to be a Russian soldier in 1945, advancing against people whom you see directly responsible for the death by fire and famine of your brothers, fathers, cousins, wives, children; when you've seen men die instantly for standing in the wrong place in line, I can't. We call these things "shell shock", but it masks the depravity that we are unfathomably privileged to not endure. I can't imagine the person I would be. I don't think any of us could. Principles about eyes probably don't seem to carry weight when the only parts of your village left to come home to (that you passed, on your way to the front) are the parts that wouldn't burn.
In that sobering context, one finds that the Red Army's treatment of Germany was (this is very counter-narrative west of the curtain) perhaps shockingly docile. The Red Army did not give orders to execute unarmed political officers on sight, or to burn entire swaths of countryside, with its villages and inhabitants, to the ground. Many German POWs perished for a myriad of reasons, among the biggest being insufficient supply lines, and an incredibly harsh winter of '45. The western allies had much better supply lines, rebooted in place, while the Soviets largely had to make them up as they went along. And yet, at least those take prisoner were treated with enough human dignity, to be taken prisoner in the first place. Their soviet counterparts were not given the same courtesy. I am recalling the diary of a Wehrmacht soldier, who was shocked that his captors did not kill him on sight – so conditioned was he to the reciprocal action, not only towards soldiers, but unarmed civilians, whom he had been instructed to believe were sub-human. Now this sub-human, in the reverse role, offered him bread of his own ration!
Yes, the Red Army committed war crimes. But it is important to consider that the morale of their troops begged for war crimes far worse than those committed.
In all, I humbly submit the idea that we are not in any position to judge. Citations from BBC magazine wikipedia, and youtube notwithstanding.
At this point, I'm surely rambling, but I just want to close by saying that as we inherit our popularly-told modern history, it is important to keep in mind that there are humans in every story, and that we gain nothing but bigotry from deliberately excluding the experiences of one over the other. Lest we repeat their mistakes of irrational hatred, which begets more, and so on.
On that note, I encourage us all to, at some point, read balanced histories of that era, which were inevitably written after the cold war. Shirer, whose account was authoritative while many of us were growing up, is a journalist who was the product of his time. His books are mostly regarded as a primary source by modern scholars. "Concise History of the Third Reich" by Wolfgang Benz, "Bloodlands" by Timothy Snyder, "The Unwomanly Face of War" by Svetlana Alexeivich, and "Burned Bridge" by Edith Sheffer are solid scholarly entry points for those of us for whom this more nuanced and even approach is appealing. For those of you who get to visit Berlin, I'd also strongly recommend the German-Russian Museum in Karlshorst – it's both utterly fantastic and utterly empty (on every day except for the May 8/9, when a large number of observant Russians come to pay respects), due to being so far away from the city centers. The guides there are some of the most knowledgeable people on this subject I've met.
Sorry, mate, even in your broad context, your trying to justify mass rapes this way can't possibly stand given the present days' values.
Wars to that scale do not happen nowadays, but similar suffering and low morale is encountered in "smaller" warzones, yet the scale of rapes isn't relatively comparable.
Given the various wars my father and I witnessed in the Balkans and throughout the world, I'd say discipline (thus, education) matters more than morale.
In all, the point of my comment was not to cast black into white, to exchange one form of binary bigotry for another, but to remind us that our popular history of that time has, in fact, been dyed in politically-opportunistic ways many times over. Whether we choose to accept those dyeings or not is up to us, but it's important to know that we have a choice to hate or not to hate. And that we should default towards skeptical when we have been instructed to treat people as "The Other". When education and discipline are corrupted by this introduction and emphasis of "otherness", hate crimes and war crimes follow.
Why have Germans historians opted to broaden the narrative? I can only imagine. A common story I hear of people growing up in Germany in the 60s, 70s and 80s was that there were a whole list of questions that you weren't allowed to ask your (Grand-)parents. You knew they were in Hitler youth, maybe even in the Wehrmacht or heaven forbid the SS. I do not know about you, but when I was young I asked all kinds of questions. Most of these historians were probably the same, and decided to make their career out of these unanswerable and taboo questions. What we have today, as a result, is a much more complex, nuanced, and complete understanding of the decisions of our grandfathers. This nuance might seem dangerous to you? Should nuance be illegal? Yes, even violence has a context. Perhaps this sense of threat stems from the cultural difference of viewing "Committers of Crime vs Criminals". I won't speculate further.
In closing, it is important to note that what I have provided in my original comment is not revisionist in the sense you seem to be suggesting. The facts are unchanged and undisputed. It is the perspective on the facts that have shifted, with the distance provided by time. I hope we can distinguish between the two, and therefore agree that I was not changing the picture of 1945 (revisionism), but filling in the picture of 1941-45 (contextualizing). There's a sizable difference!
It's really easy to sit in an air conditioned office while eating $8 bagel and talk about how horrible decisions people made in the past are.
>Principles about eyes probably don't seem to carry weight when the only parts of your village left to come home to (that you passed, on your way to the front) are the parts that wouldn't burn.
If Truman had toured the Pacific theater a little more we probably wouldn't have stopped at two
My understanding was that the "A team" shock troops and mainline motor infantry/armored divisions were well disciplined, but the later echelon of conscript infantry went into combat and gunpoint, didn't have functional unit leadership and were raping and pillaging.
Russia had a pretty good track history of making territorial conquests. By the time the allies met in Berlin in was apparent Russia wasn't interested in giving back what they gained.
Remember Patton wanted to rush to Berlin and the. Keep on going to Moscow — that was the enemy he had been trained to hate.
And this was quite effective for the other allies — they shipped materiel to the USSR who in exchange did the majority of the actual fighting. Not to discount the efforts of the western allies, but the level of USSR fatalities was enormous, while Eisenhower (a logistics specialist, not a tactician) delayed the proposed invasion for anyear in order to get his supply lines in order and to minimize casualties for his side.
The 'our Russian allies' part sounds a bit strange. Are you aware that the Soviet Union started the war on the Hitler side? What's amazing is that in modern Russia most people don't believe it.
Check out Raoul Wallenberg (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raoul_Wallenberg), who saved tens of thousands of people from the Holocaust in Budapest, and then ended up killed in a cell by the KGB.
> Testimony against Pilecki was presented by a future Polish prime minister, Józef Cyrankiewicz, himself an Auschwitz survivor.
Why? The US were were the last major country to recognise the USSR (in late 1933, just before the USSR joined the LoN), and the USSR's various stated purposes (collectivisation, state atheism, …) were very much polar opposites to the US's.
The alliance was against Nazi Germany, not for anything.
The large fascism homefront in the US consisted of the industry, the press (William Hearst) and the banks, the government was largely fascist (after the business plot and Roosevelt's death), and it took a lot of (british) efforts and some sunken ships to turn the public around, against the Nazis.
More here: https://www.globalresearch.ca/a-brief-history-of-fascism-in-...
The claim that the US was "largely fascist" after WW2 also seems... questionable.
Well, the US style of fascism after WW2 can of course not be called as such in the homeland. The regimes it installed over the world were purely fascist military dicatorships, inside the country it was a modernized version of fascism, commonly called cooperatism. But since the 70ies scandals worldwide european lefts simply call it fascism again. Nothing changed since the 30ies.
> it all ends up getting tortured and killed by Russians a few years after the war.
Is it that brutal? Killing foreign spies is something not unheard of in this historical period (see eg. Klaus Fuchs, who stole nuclear secrets), the only difference is in the torture.
So, Pilecki was by no means a spy: he was a member of legal Polish intelligence agency, reporting to legal Polish government and passing intelligence information to our official allies (Poland had signed military pacts with both France and Great Britain in 1939).
What wasn't legal was the communist government that killed him in 1948, government formed by usurpers, backed by Soviet occupants.
Speaking of Pilecki, of course he thought he believed he was acting in the name of a legal government, but that's not what is being discussed here. The Soviets were correctly claiming him to be a foreign spy, since he was spying for a country which is foreign to the USSR, and treated him as such.
The question of which was the "real" Polish government is not in discussion, though you're repeatedly trying to derail the conversation towards that issue; my original comment was about the fact that the Soviets killed Pilecki by virtue of him being a spy, which was also common for other countries (unlike torture). Can we agree that the Soviets correctly viewed Pilecki as a foreign spy?
And how can they view Pilecki as a spy when he was providing intel to their British allies on their common enemy? Any reasonable country would consider Pilecki a hero, not a spy. You know, the old "Enemy of my enemy, friend of my friend" rule.
Unless of course Soviets were still respecting Ribbentrop-Molotov pact and considered Germans the allies and Brits the enemies, then prosecuting Pilecki for spying on Germans would make sense.
Enemy of the state -> Spy
It's OK to kill enemies of the state -> It's ok to kill spies
This article is a great follow-up story for the book.
Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with processed Po-210, which was determined to have come from a facility owned by the Russian state. It was placed in his tea by two Russian agents, and an investigation by the British government concluded that Putin probably personally signed off on the murder.
Nemtsov was criticizing Putin and the government non-stop for almost 20 years. There was nothing new to be assaisnated for.
But it would probably have more weight if you didn't compare Trump and Putin with the systems that systematically tortured and killed millions of people.
And for the record: I'm no big Trump fan.
Edit: as usual I'm honest and I'm not trying to troll anyone. And as the downvotes pile up it would be interesting to know what I've written that was so horribly wrong or offending.
Edit2: I don't care aboit those stupid points. But I do care to get my point across efficiently and without insulting anyone unnecessarily.
Downvotes deserved and I'm happy I got an explanation for the (good) reason.
Of his imprisonment under the Soviets he told his wife:
"I cannot live. They killed me. Because compared to them Auschwitz was just a trifle."
 - http://www.poloniainstitute.net/witold-pilecki-bravery-beyon...
 - https://www.warhistoryonline.com/world-war-ii/story-of-the-m...
> His Soviet prosecutor, Czesław Łapiński, died on the way to the hospital, before his trial for judicial murder.
This person wasn't Soviet - he was a Pole, born in Silesia, a Polish soldier fighting the Nazi. I know it's more convenient to portray it as "the Russians were guilty of all wrong", but the reality is that during the Stalinist rule many atrocities were committed by Poles on Poles.
This point o view is actually present in the official version of the history as taught in many countries, with a notable exception of Germany: one's own country is always portrayed at its best, and its citizens as good fellows. The idea that one's ancestors might commit many atrocious crimes is terrifying. Yet, it is often the case. In this particular situation, some people were motivated by greed, some by their survival instinct, but some were just firm believers in Communism and were convinced they do the right thing. To them, Pilecki was just a bandit and a traitor. It's important to be aware of that, because this lesson from the past has bearing on present and future, for whoever is able to reason and draw conclusions.
He really was quite an amazing individual.
It's moot either way, though. "Nazis vs. Soviets" is a reductio of internet forum topics and the sort of flamewar material that's off topic here.