“I went to interview some of these early Jewish colonial zealots—written off in those days as mere ‘fringe’ elements—and found that they called themselves Gush Emunim or—it sounded just as bad in English—’The Bloc of the Faithful.’ Why not just say ‘Party of God’ and have done with it? At least they didn’t have the nerve to say that they stole other people’s land because their own home in Poland or Belarus had been taken from them. They said they took the land because god had given it to them from time immemorial. In the noisome town of Hebron, where all of life is focused on a supposedly sacred boneyard in a dank local cave, one of the world’s less pretty sights is that of supposed yeshivah students toting submachine guns and humbling the Arab inhabitants. When I asked one of these charmers where he got his legal authority to be a squatter, he flung his hand, index finger outstretched, toward the sky.”
― Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir
“Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, historians have become both more accurate and more honest—fractionally more brave, one might say—about that ‘other’ cleansing of the regions and peoples that were ground to atoms between the upper and nether millstones of Hitlerism and Stalinism. One of the most objective chroniclers is Professor Timothy Snyder of Yale University. In his view, it is still ‘Operation Reinhardt,’ or the planned destruction of Polish Jewry, that is to be considered as the centerpiece of what we commonly call the Holocaust, in which of the estimated 5.7 million Jewish dead, ‘roughly three million were prewar Polish citizens.’ We should not at all allow ourselves to forget the millions of non-Jewish citizens of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and other Slav territories who were also massacred. But for me the salient fact remains that anti-Semitism was the regnant, essential, organizing principle of all the other National Socialist race theories. It is thus not to be thought of as just one prejudice among many.”
― Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir
“To make his point, Ivan staged a sensational demonstration. Some time before Christmas he had arrested two Lithuanians employed in the Moscow Kremlin. He charged them with plotting to poison him. The accusations against Jan Lukhomski and Maciej the Pole did not sound very credible; but their guilt or innocence was hardly relevant. They were held in an open cage on the frozen Moskva River for all the world to see; and on the eve of the departure of Ivan’s envoy to Lithuania, they were burned alive in their cage.50 As the ice melted under the fierce heat of the fire and the heavy iron cage sank beneath the water, taking its carbonized occupants down in a great hiss of steam, one could have well imagined that something was being said about Lithuania’s political future.”
― Norman Davies, Europe
“Political calculation and local suffering do not entirely explain the participation in these pogroms. Violence against Jews served to bring the Germans and elements of the local non-Jewish populations closer together. Anger was directed, as the Germans wished, toward the Jews, rather than against collaborators with the Soviet regime as such. People who reacted to the Germans’ urging knew that they were pleasing their new masters, whether or not they believed that the Jews were responsible for their own woes. By their actions they were confirming the Nazi worldview. The act of killing Jews as revenge for NKVD executions confirmed the Nazi understanding of the Soviet Union as a Jewish state. Violence against Jews also allowed local Estonians, Latvian, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Poles who had themselves cooperated with the Soviet regime to escape any such taint. The idea that only Jews served communists was convenient not just for the occupiers but for some of the occupied as well.
Yet this psychic nazification would have been much more difficult without the palpable evidence of Soviet atrocities. The pogroms took place where the Soviets had recently arrived and where Soviet power was recently installed, where for the previous months Soviet organs of coercion had organized arrests, executions, and deportations. They were a joint production, a Nazi edition of a Soviet text.
“In October 1941, Mahilue became teh first substantial city in occupied Soviet Belarus where almost all Jews were killed. A German (Austrian) policeman wrote to his wife of his feelings and experiences shooting the city’s Jews in the first days of the month. ‘During the first try, my hand trembled a bit as I shot, but one gets used to it. By the tenth try I aimed calmly and shot surely at the many women, children, and infants. I kept in mind that I have two infants at home, whom these hordes would treat just the same, if not ten times worse. The death that we gave them was a beautiful quick death, compared to the hellish torments of thousands and thousands in the jails of the GPU. Infants flew in great arcs through the air, and we shot them to pieces in flight, before their bodies fell into the pit and into the water.’
“The title ‘Lord of All-Rus’’ did not possess much basis either in history or in current reality. It came into the same category as that whereby the kings of England laid claim to France. In the 1490s, two-and-a-half centuries after all traces of a united Kievan Rus’ had been destroyed, it had the same degree of credibility that the king of France might have enjoyed if, in his struggle with the German Empire, he had proclaimed himself ‘Lord of all the Franks’. By that time, it conflicted with the separate identity that the ‘Ruthenes’ of Lithuania had assumed from the ‘Russians’ of Moscow. Indeed, it all seemed sufficiently unreal for the Lithuanians to accept it as a small price to pay for Ivan’s good humour. They were not to know it, but they were conceding the ideological cornerstone of territorial ambitions that would be pursued for 500 years.”