To the famous question raised by Robert Conquest in his "Reflections on a Ravaged Century"--Are the crimes of the Nazis worse than the crimes of the Stalinists?--I have always been compelled, by filial emotion and family history, to answer that they were about equal...
Now Anne Applebaum, in the first and last chapters of her powerful "Gulag: A History," takes up the same question. My more elaborated answer, informed by her book, must be: If the Nazi record is worse because its perpetrators more deliberately and successfully murdered their targeted groups, then the Soviet record is worse because its perpetrators have managed to escape the kind of universal denunciation we level against the Nazis.
The educating is left to Applebaum and the dissidents on whose discouragingly rare memoirs she draws. Her account of the concentration camps, in which eighteen million people spent some period of time between 1929 and 1953 (and millions from 1953 to the fall of Soviet Communism in 1991), is nauseatingly vivid.
Applebaum doesn't chronicle just the deaths of Gulag prisoners, but also the brave and honor-filled survival of those anti-Soviet writers--Ukrainian, Baltic, and Georgian nationalists, Helsinki Watch Group members, Jews, Tatars, Christian clergy--and others who were imprisoned, in that quintessentially totalitarian way, for "who they were" rather than "what they did."
Melana Zyla Vickers is a senior fellow at the Independent Women's Forum and a columnist at TechCentralStation.com.
Read the entire article on The Weekly Standard website.