At Big Hollywood, John Nolte has a photo of one of the billboards the History Channel is using to promote The World Wars, its new miniseries attempting to place World War II into context, by describing it as part of a continuum from World War I. That seems like a fine concept for a docudrama, and the series itself might be quite good; the few clips I’ve seen on YouTube certainly look intriguing. But its ad campaign is built around a pair of monstrous lies. The copy on the billboard that John features in his post reads, “WWI Made Stalin a Man. WW2 Made Him a Tyrant.”
Stalin was a already a tyrant long before World War II; as Roger L. Simon, our own Maximum Pajamahadeen Emeritus noted earlier this month at the Second Annual Duranty Awards in New York, the show’s namesake Timesman “white-washed Stalin’s mass starvation of upwards of a million Ukrainians, not to mention numerous other atrocities of the Soviet Union from the Gulag to the Purge.”
At Big Hollywood today John writes, “Forget the fact that Stalin had already been a mass-murdering tyrant for going on forty years and that no one ‘made’ Stalin a tyrant but Stalin, the truth is actually the exact opposite. This isn’t well known, and the History Channel is probably counting on that, but during World War II Stalin was at his least tyrannical:”
During the war, the few hundred Christian churches The Party hadn’t already leveled (there were over 50,000 when the Communists assumed power) were allowed to re-open. In the decade before the war, the man the History Channel claims wasn’t yet a tyrant, had been on a rampage to extinguish all religion and persecute the religious. Opening the churches was a complete turnabout.
Moreover, during WWII, Stalin encouraged patriotism instead of squashing it (with murder and Gulags) as nationalism — which Communists consider a threat to devotion to The State, or central government.
Finally, what is now known as The Great Terror (or the purges, show trials) was put on hold — which gave the people some room to breathe and move, instead of having to behave like robots to stay off the radar of the Secret Police.
The Soviet peoples were never freer under Stalin than during the war.
Stalin was no sweetheart, and the freedoms he allowed were only to serve the mercenary purpose of defeating Hitler, but the truth is in fact the complete opposite of what the History Channel’s advertising says.
For the record, after WWII, Stalin went right back to being Stalin. Until his death in 1953, he worked feverishly to extinguish those he felt were poisoned and corrupted by his liberalities during WWII, especially Jews.
While I was in New York to videotape the Duranty Awards, the subway entrance in front of my hotel at 53rd and 3rd had a billboard that was also promoting the History Channel’s series. As I wrote here after arriving back in California, after someone mentioned the Stalin billboard on Twitter:
I’m kicking myself for not taking a photo of it, but last week in New York, I saw an ad for the same History Channel series, The World Wars posted on the entrance to the Lexington Ave. IRT with similar verbiage. It was something along the lines of World War I made Hitler into a man or solider — I forget what the first noun was, but the second half of the equation was tough to forget: “World War II made Hitler into a monster.” (If you’ve seen the ad, post the language in the comments, or point me to a photo of it.)
After reading John’s post today, I came across this Facebook page, which has screenshots of the video version of the ad I saw in New York:
As with Stalin, Hitler was a monster long before September 1st, 1939. The Nuremberg Laws, declaring Jews non-citizens of Germany, were passed in 1935. Kristallnacht occurred three years later, resulting in at least 91 Jews “killed in the attacks, and 30,000 were arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps,” according to Wikipedia, and “over 7,000 Jewish shops and more than 1,200 synagogues (roughly two-thirds of the synagogues in areas under German control) were damaged or destroyed.”
The Nazis’ T-4 campaign of euthanasia against the infirm and the mentally ill, which preceded the Final Solution against all Jews under Nazi subjugation similarly had its roots in 1930s Germany, before World War II began:
During the 1930s, the Nazi Party carried out a campaign of propaganda in favour of “euthanasia”. The National Socialist Racial and Political Office (NSRPA) produced leaflets, posters and short films to be shown in cinemas, pointing out to Germans the cost of maintaining asylums for the incurably ill and insane. These films included The Inheritance (Das Erbe, 1935), The Victim of the Past (Opfer der Vergangenheit, 1937), which was given a major premiere in Berlin and was shown in all German cinemas, and I Accuse (Ich klage an, 1941), which was based on a novel by Dr Hellmuth Unger, a consultant for the child euthanasia program.Catholic institutions, which could be expected to resist the killing of their patients, were progressively closed and their inmates transferred to already overcrowded state institutions. There the squalid conditions provided further ammunition for campaigns in favour of euthanasia.
Both of the History Channel ads for Hitler and Stalin imply that the horrors of World War II passively transformed these men, implying that they were as much victims of the war as the men who served under them, or the prisoners they sent to the gulags and concentration camps to die.
As I said, it’s quite possible the actual History Channel show is quite good, and far more historically accurate than its ad campaign, but as Jonah Goldberg once wrote, while people always say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover until actually reading the book, the cover is the clearest indication of its author’s intent. The same is true of an ad campaign — and shame on the executives at the History Channel for not knowing history sufficiently before signing off on these ads.
Update: “Both men were monsters long before WWII and let’s not forget that both helped cause WWII: Germany AND the USSR invaded Poland in September 1939,” Maetenloch adds at Ace of Spades’ blog.