Monday, May 9, 2005

Something to remember

Publius Pundit has a nice piece today, with lots of links, about an ugly incident from World War II: the Yalta conference in which Churchill, Stalin, and Rooosevelt basically agreed to divide up Eastern Europe. There's some legitimate room for debate about whether the Western Allies could have done anything effective about it, but...they didn't even take a principled stand, or object in any way, to Stalin's enormous grab of land for a "buffer zone" around the core of the Soviet Union. And in the process millions of people who had independent before Hitler overran them were "transferred" from one tyrant's dominion to another's.

To some of my Estonian friends, especially those who are both ethnically Estonian and interested in history, this behavior of the Western Allies rankles to this day, and is the direct cause of a reluctance to trust. And who can blame them?

An excerpt:

Amid this, I discovered some ugly history. There was a book out, by Nikolai Tolstoy, a distant descendent of Leo Tolstoy, called ‘Victims of Yalta.’ It disturbed me, because of its description of how the victorious Allies handed their Eastern European allies in the Great War to Jozef Stalin. Prisoners of the Germans were to be forced back to Stalin brutal communist regime, the evilest tyranny on earth. Many of them jumped onto barbed wire rather than endure that fate worse than death. All begged to be spared. None were. Many were shot the minute they reached their now-Stalinist oppressed homelands.

One of my professors had been a Polish freedom fighter who fought with Sikorsky from London during the war. He was decorated for bravery. From him, I learned the term ’sold down the river.’ The allies instead chose to preserve ‘peace’ with Jozef Stalin, at the price of their freedom. Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill were willing to do it, because they were ‘only’ Eastern Europeans, the third world of Europe, surely ‘used’ to oppression. So in the disgraceful last chapter of the war, they traded Eastern Europe’s freedom for their own.

Check out the whole thing, and don't forget to follow some of those links...

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