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There was an interesting piece on NPR about a three-year push by the FBI to close cold-case murders from the civil rights era.  Three years ago, the FBI pledged to investigate cases that had gone unsolved for decades.  The effort is wrapping up now.

As FBI Agent Cynthia Deitle explains in the interview, a few of the deaths turned out to have nothing to do with the civil rights movements.  Some murder cases were solved, but will go unprosecuted because the perpetrators are deceased.  Despite this lack of action, I can’t imagine anyone questioning the value of the effort to close these cases.  The FBI will contact the descendants of the victims of the cases, Deitle explained, and provide them with all of the information the bureau found.

“I think the only thing that we can give them is the truth,” she said.

Deitle is right, and the truth is no small thing.  The FBI’s effort does more than provide answers.  It conveys to the victims’ descendants, and to the country, that the victims of these crimes mattered, that their deaths were unacceptable, and that the nation’s failure to address them sooner was shameful.

This story made me think of the ongoing debate in Russia and the former Soviet Union about historical record.  The Kremlin and its allies like to argue that discussion of Communist crimes is divisive and backward looking.  That’s an insulting and unacceptable view.  The recent dismissal of Ukrainian archivist Volodomyr Vyatrovych is an effort to prevent the Ukrainian nation from knowing the extent of Soviet crimes.

It took the United States four decades to address these civil rights murders and to provide whatever measure of justice possible.  That was too long.

But the Holodomor took place more than 75 years ago.  The Katyn Massacre took place 70 years ago.  The NKVD’s mass murder of thousands of Ukrainians in Western Ukrainian jails during the Nazis invasion took place nearly 69 years ago.  Where is the acknowledgment?  Where is the contrition?  Where is the truth?  Where is the justice?

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I just finished watching the Glenn Beck-produced documentary The Revolutionary Holocaust.  In my previous post, I expressed skepticism about the project and lamented Beck’s comments while promoting the show on his radio program in which he drew a comparison between the communist regimes of Stalin and Mao and the American Left by explaining that both pursue “big government” programs and centralization of power.  In a series of remarks in the comments section of that post, a couple of readers and I went back and forth about the substance of my criticism.  I understood the argument Beck was making, but I felt, and still feel, that the connection is specious.  I felt the same way about arguments from some of the left that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was parallel to Hitler’s 1939 invasion of Poland.

Though I objected to Beck’s style of promoting The Revolutionary Holocaust, I can find no fault with the content of the program itself.  At the end of my previous post, I referred readers to a documentary by director Edvins Snore called The Soviet Story.  As it happens, Beck had to good sense to feature both Snore and footage from his film in tonight’s program.  The only downside for me was that I didn’t learn much new from the show.  But the point of The Revolutionary Holocaust was to introduce this history to an audience that is not at all familiar with it.  In addition to Snore, there were several other impressive featured speakers, including Prof. Taras Hunczak, a professor of Ukrainian and Eastern European history at Rutgers University, and Nick Gillespie, the editor of Reason.com.  Gillesipie’s devastating pronouncements on the brutality of Che Guevara were a highlight.

In my previous post I suggested that Beck’s comments on contemporary politics would keep The Revolutionary Holocaust and the history it recounts from having as wide an audience as the victims of communism deserve.  As I was watching tonight, another thought occurred to me.  The people who most need to see Beck’s program and The Soviet Story--those who see something romantic and idealistic in communism, those in Russia who would rehabilitate Stalin’s image, and those who deny that the Soviets attempted to exterminate Ukrainians and Ukrainian national identity–will likely refuse to watch.

The only recourse, then, is to treat those people with the same contempt rightfully heaped upon Holocaust deniers.

As a Ukrainophile working on a book about WWII in Western Ukraine, I am frustrated by how little most Americans know about Ukraine.  But on Friday January 22 at 5 pm EST, Fox News will air a documentary called The Revolutionary Holocaust, which will include information about Soviet crimes against Ukrainians.  Why am I not thrilled?  The documentary is produced by Glenn Back.

Now, I am not saying that I object to Beck’s conservative politics.  (Nor am I saying I approve of them.)  But Beck is a polemicist, not a journalist or historian.  Ultra-partisan media personalities like Beck, Ann Coulter, Keith Olbermann, and Michael Moore are good at firing up supporters.  But they seldom get a general audience to think critically about complex issues.

According to a preview of The Revolutionary Holocaust, the program will cover the Holodomor, the 1932-33 famine in which Stalin and the Soviets intentionally starved millions of Ukrainians.  Some debate whether the famine was genocide, but Dr. Raphael Lemkin, the man who coined the word “genocide,” believed it was.

I salute Beck for calling attention to this history, and I second his assertion that wearing hammer-and-sickle T-shirts is despicable.  But I’m troubled by the context in which he’s presenting this history.  In this clip, Beck explains The Revolutionary Holocaust will examine the abhorrent views of writer George Bernard Shaw.  Shaw, beloved by many, was an apologist for Stalin, and he denied the Holodomor took place.  Too many people don’t know Shaw was a propaganda tool for a murderous regime.  Beck isn’t content to uncover that, though.  He draws a parallel between Shaw’s thinking and Hillary Clinton’s politics.  In this preview, Beck links “out of control government” policies and the “progressivism” he sees taking hold in the U.S. to the regimes of Stalin and Mao.  In addition to being dubious political rhetoric, the point is insulting to the millions of victims of communism.  It’s an abuse of history like the one committed by those who compared George W. Bush to Hitler, a comparison Beck likely condemned.  The Revolutionary Holocaust might be a powerful documentary, and I am curious to see it.  But Beck’s rhetoric about contemporary American politics will keep many from listening to his examination of history.

I don’t blame Beck alone for this.  The failure of more objective, mainstream media figures to pay attention to Eastern European history and the sins of communism has left the subject to those who exploit it to attack their political enemies.  Beck is correct when he says Stalin, Mao, and other communist leaders are not subject to the same enmity as Hitler.  He perceives this as a liberal bias.  I am not certain of the cause, but I think it has something to do with the idea among intellectuals, especially on the left, that anti-communism has the taint of McCarthyism.  Whatever the reason, it has to change.  History cannot be left to those who would use it only to advance their political agenda.

For a good example of a documentary that takes a hard look at the crimes of Soviet communism, I recommend The Soviet Story.  It’s the sort of film that the victims of communism and intelligent viewers deserve.