The Forgiven Holocaust
Joseph Sobran

   The columnist Sidney Zion of the New York Daily News, a forthright
partisan of Israel's Likud faction, has qualified his celebration of
his hero Franklin Roosevelt by charging him with indifference to "the
extermination of the Jews of Europe" during World War II.  It's a
little surprising that Zion's admiration for Roosevelt can survive such
a qualification at all.
   Zion cites Edmund Burke's famous aphorism: "The only thing necessary
for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." He comments:
"FDR did next to nothing to stop the massacre of the Six Million, a
fact that has been established by historical documentation running back
at least 20 years.  If ever there was a 'good man,' it was Roosevelt,
and if ever evil triumphed, it was the Holocaust."
   Well, evil has triumphed on a number of other occasions, and on one
of them this "good man" was likewise indifferent.  Soon after taking
office as president of the United States in 1933, Roosevelt extended
diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union, which was already
establishing its record as the most murderous regime of all time. 
specifically, it had pursued agricultural "collectivization" by
confiscating harvests and starving Ukraine into submission.  Low
estimates put the number of dead at 7 million; the highest estimate is
13 million.  In some places it was reported that dead children were not
even being buried; they were being eaten.
   The Ukrainian famine is sometimes called "the Forgotten Holocaust."
It might better be called the Forgiven Holocaust.  The anti-Communist
Hearst papers covered it extensively at the time, thereby incurring the
wrath of liberals.  (Orson Welles portrayed William Randolph Hearst as
a corrupt capitalist in Citizen Kane.) But Walter Duranty of the New
York Times, eager for Stalin's favor, denied that there was any
starvation in Ukraine and won a Pulitzer for his reportage.  His
Pulitzer has never been revoked; the Times continues to honor him among
its stellar journalists of the past.
   Privately, by the way, Duranty admitted to the British ambassador in
Moscow that as many as 15 million had died.  That his estimate may have
been high only underlines his mendacity.  He gave the American
establishment an excuse for ignoring Communist crimes which had been
amply confirmed by others, and which made most of Europe terrified of
Communism between the wars.  In any case, Roosevelt had no excuse.  No
president depends entirely on the Times for his information.
   Since Pius XII is (falsely) accused of "silence" about the Nazi
persecution of the Jews, it is worth mentioning that his predecessor
Pius XI was far more "silent" about the Ukrainian famine and, later,
the equally great Soviet purges of the later 1930s.  Popes rarely
commented on specific events; they condemned Communism and Nazi
racialism in principle and felt it unnecessary, or unavailing, to add
detailed condemnations when evil principles were put into practice.
   Of course those who condemn Pius XII for silence about the murder of
Jews don't condemn Pius XI for silence about the murder of Ukrainians
and others.  But neither do they condemn Roosevelt or anyone else for
overlooking the Communist horrors.  This gross double standard is a key
to understanding not only Roosevelt's time, but our own.
   If the official world had condemned and quarantined the Soviet Union
for its "democide" (an apt word coined by Professor R.J. Rummel),
Hitler himself might have thought twice about imitating that precedent,
whose numbers of victims he never even approached.  Today liberal
opinion condemns "Holocaust denial" that has no effect on events long
past; but it maintains its own silence on the timely denials of
Communist horrors while they were happening -- denials that not only
helped them to continue, but allowed the killers to escape punishment
and censure.
   Later, when the numbers of Soviet victims had surpassed the total
number of the dead of World War I, Roosevelt's generosity to Stalin and
the Soviet Union actually increased.  He gave Stalin aid against
Germany, eagerly formed an alliance with him, and praised him as a
great ally in the democratic war against "fascism." He even pressured
Warner Brothers to produce a major motion picture, Mission to Moscow,
portraying Stalin as the benign grandfather of the Russian people.  The
film was based on the memoir of Joseph Davies, Roosevelt's former
ambassador to Moscow; Davies defended even Stalin's purges, taking the
view that anyone Stalin killed probably got what was coming to him.
   While all this was going on, Hitler was not alone in blaming
Communism on the Jews.  Secularized Jews had been prominent in the
first generation of Soviet leadership; and even after Stalin had purged
those Jews, other Jewish intellectuals, propagandists, and activists
were conspicuous in the world Communist movement.  Many Europeans
crudely equated Jews with Communism.  This fact in no way justifies the
slightest violation of the rights of Jews, but it does explain the
readiness of many Germans to follow Hitler and the preference of many
others for Hitlerite over Stalinist rule. With war looming, most people
forget morality and think of their own hides.  Besides, in the late
1930s Hitler was not even in the mass murder business yet; Stalin was.
   This whole side of the period between the wars, officially ignored
at the time, is officially forgotten now.  It has become customary to
speak as if Hitler arose in a vacuum, the German masses followed him
out of sheer malevolence, and the French collaborated with him out of
sheer cowardice. Today anyone who even advocated neutrality toward
Hitler is condemned; the America First movement and other
"isolationists" are spoken of as if they had actually been pro-Hitler.
   That view is tenable only if you pretend that Communism didn't
exist. Hitler's unforgivable acts were made possible by the people who
forgave Stalin everything.  But Roosevelt's latter-day admirers see no
moral connection between his friendship for the Soviet Union and his
indifference to the extermination of Jews.
   After Roosevelt's death the extent of his administration's secret
favors to the Soviets became exposed and was seen in a very different
light. The revelation that Alger Hiss and many others had been active
Soviet agents led to the McCarthy era.  The liberal intellectuals'
condemnation of "McCarthyism" was of a piece with their general
ridicule of the very idea of a Communist "threat." For them Communism
had been the Great Progressive Hope, and they had far more pity for
"victims of McCarthyism" who had lost sensitive government jobs than
for the millions of victims of Communism who had lost their lives and
freedoms.  (Professor Rummel puts the number of dead under Soviet
Communism at nearly 62 million.)
   "Victims of Communism" is not a phrase that rolls easily off liberal
lips.  The huge, tax-supported Holocaust Museum near the Mall today
commemorates the victims of Nazism, chiefly Jewish, but also gypsy,
homosexual, whatever.  (The victims of communism may have a plaque
somewhere.  Who knows?)
   Liberals, Zionists, and "responsible" conservatives now occupy a
rhetorically Hitlercentric universe, in which Nazism is the measure of
all evil and Roosevelt is redeemed by his determination to crush
Germany. The stain of guilt for Nazism constantly spreads -- to
ordinary Germans, allies of Germany, neutrals, isolationists, Swiss
bankers, and Pius XII himself. The stain even spreads backward in time,
to pre-Hitler anti-Semites, Martin Luther, Christian culture in
general, even (according to a filmstrip shown at the Holocaust Museum)
to the authors of the Gospels.  In a new theory of causation, even the
slightest historical injustice to Jews "led to" the Holocaust. 
Scholarly books, popular movies, and everyday rhetoric are saturated
with this theme.  Everyone and everything is measured on a single
scale, which might be called the Hitler Continuum.
   But there is not corresponding Stalin Continuum.  Those who aided
and defended and celebrated Stalin at the height of his crimes incur no
guilt or obloquy.  To have dreamed the Communist dream is evidence of
idealism, not guilt or even irresponsibility.  Under "McCarthyism"
Communists actually became victims themselves!  Books, movies, and
rhetoric dramatize the plight of innocent Communists in the America of
the 1950s.  Old Communists like Lillian Hellman can publish their
memoirs of persecution -- how they suffered firing, blacklisting, or
sharp questioning by the House Un-American Activities Committee -- and
be hailed as heroes and champions of liberty, no less, even if it took
them until 1956, the year of Khrushchev's famous denunciation, to see
the error of Stalin's ways. Krushchev, after all, didn't repudiate
Communism; he merely accused Stalin of having betrayed it.  How?  By
murdering countless innocent people?  No, by purging loyal Party
   So the stain of Communist guilt, far from spreading metaphysically,
shrinks to one man, the erstwhile "Uncle Joe." He and he alone is
blamed for all that carnage.  We don't even ask what "led to" such
astounding violence and terror, let alone why he enjoyed such
complicity by powerful, influential, intelligent, and seemingly
respectable people.  Even Stalin's warmest admirers and benefactors
aren't tainted; that would be "guilt by association," a McCarthyite
   Certain shoes, for some reason, are never put on the other foot.
Imagine what would be said today of a president who had given Hitler a
little help when he needed it.  Or an ambassador who had written
eulogies to Nazi jurisprudence.  Or a reporter who had written from
Berlin that Jews weren't being abused in the Third Reich.  Or an
"idealist" who had seen Nazi Germany as the hope of mankind.
   You don't have to imagine a world in which people are forgiven for
doing the same things for the Soviet Union.  You're living in that
world right now.

Sobran's: The Real News of the Month
Volume 4, Number 7