Written by: Liam King
Within the revisionist halls of modern academia a dishonest lie is being forced upon the world. That lie has rooted itself deep within our universities, and one would be hard-pressed to find a student of history who has not yet had the misfortune of having to hear it. It is a lie which aims to alter the reality of the greatest human conflict this world has ever seen, seeking to glorify the acts of one of the most inglorious regimes to ever rule over man. The lie is simple, succinct, and sinister: the Soviet Union was the true hero of the Second World War.
At the outset is must be stated that this piece does not seek to undermine the sacrifices of Russian soldiers and civilians during the war. Its intention is merely to illustrate that the overall role played by the Soviets in the war is most certainly not one to be praised as heroic.
The argument is as follows: without the intervention of the Soviet Union, Hitler would have had no trouble in subjugating the entirety of Europe and his odds of winning the war would have improved drastically. Therefore, the Soviet Union must be treated as a hero of the war.
Those who advance this argument point to the approximately 27 million Soviet lives sacrificed for victory against the Nazis. They ignore both the early months of the war as well as the years succeeding it. The reality is that the Soviet Union never joined the war to save Europe or the world. It never gave its lives out of some ideological opposition to Nazism and the tyranny it had wreaked upon millions. It did so because it was no longer convenient not to.
Crucial to debunking the myth of so-called Soviet heroism is an understanding of the friendship that existed between the Nazis and Soviets.
In August 1939 the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was entered into. Not only did the pact stipulate non-aggression between the two tyrannies (Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia), it effectively divided Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence, with each allowing the other to invade the nations of continental Europe and impose upon them foreign and undemocratic systems of governance. It was as a result of this pact that the Soviets invaded nations such as Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Finland. In most cases, Soviet annexation was followed by decades of tyrannical rule, eventually relieved by the collapse of that evil empire in the early 1990s.
Beyond non-aggression pacts, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were amicable partners to other pivotal agreements. Just before the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the two nations had entered into the German-Soviet Credit Agreement, whereby the Nazis granted the Soviets merchandise credit of approximately 200 million Reichsmarks to be used for ordering products such as industrial machinery and armaments. A few months later, in February 1940, the two signed the German-Soviet Commercial Agreement. Under this arrangement, the Soviets agreed to supply Nazi Germany with commodities (such as food) to the value of over 400 million Reichsmarks in exchange for even more industrial technology and military equipment.
Do these agreements sound like the acts of a heroic country to which the world is indebted for their sacrifices? Do they scream of honour, dignity, and determination in the face of peril?
To the contrary. They are the acts of a cowardly and morally corrupt nation looking to advance its own imperial desires through any means necessary. It is no coincidence that the decades succeeding the Second World War saw the Soviet Union expand into and rule over the vulnerable nations of eastern Europe which had been crippled by the war. The Soviets were more than happy to aid the Nazis on their warpath across Europe until Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa.
Were it not for Hitler’s back-stabbing, it is more than likely that the Soviets would have continued to aid the Nazis in their conquest of Europe, and perhaps even of the world.
I recently had the misfortune of listening to someone in academia give their opinion on western involvement in the Second World War. This person advanced the same argument that was alluded to earlier: that the Soviet Union should almost single-handedly be thanked for the Allied victory because of the 27 million lives it lost in the fighting.
This person even went as far as to say that America suffered no cost as a result of her participation in the war. It was this dishonest, infuriating , and somewhat insulting assertion that prompted me to write this article. Not only did America suffer enormous loss of life during the war, it was first and foremost the efforts of the western world which truly stalled the Nazi War Machine at a time when it devoured almost everything in sight.
Of immediate concern should be the figure upon which the pro-Soviet case rests: 27 million lives. There are a few things to note about this figure.
First of all, nowhere close to all of those deaths were directly related to the war. It is estimated that 10 million Soviet soldiers died during the war, a great many indeed but not even half of the 27 million that academics so often refer to. Secondly, a further 10 million deaths can be attributed to crimes against humanity during this period, crimes that the Soviet government continually committed against its own people on an immense scale. In fact, it is remarkable to note that Stalin killed more Russians in peacetime (by the tens of millions) than those who died during the war. Thirdly, the remaining 7 million deaths (to reach a total of 27 million) were the result of famine and disease during the war. This is partly because of the disastrous domestic agricultural policies of the Soviets, but also partly owing to the fact that while civilians were starving on Russian streets, the Soviet state was sending much needed food to Nazi Germany as per the German-Soviet Commercial Agreement.
One has to step back in light of such information and ask: are these really the types of acts committed by a heroic nation? Is it heroism for generals to execute infantrymen fleeing enemy fire (as the Soviets most certainly did)? Is it heroism to slaughter your own people by the millions in order to solidify your party’s political position? Is it heroism to let your people starve whilst you ship off food supplies to a foreign country? These are all acts committed by the, so-called, heroic Soviets.
Before this discussion can go any further, one must first clear the air about American sacrifices during the war, the the sake of intellectual honesty.
When you hear from academics that America suffered no cost in the war, remember that over 400 000 American soldiers died in the fight against tyranny, from the Pacific to the beaches of Normandy. It is widely acknowledged that the Pacific theatre saw some of the most hellish conflict of modern history. Let us not forget that it was the Americans who almost single-handedly led the Allied powers in this theatre. It was not the Soviets who pushed back the Japanese at Guadalcanal, Peleliu, and Okinawa. It was the Americans.
Without the efforts of the United States, without her loss of life, the Empire of Japan would have solidified its control over the Pacific, giving it the freedom to attempt invasions of Australia, New Zealand, and eventually of mainland America itself. The western world would have been sandwiched between the Nazis in Europe and a strong Japanese empire in the Pacific, with each power closing in month by month.
However, despite her power and might, despite her immense sacrifices, America was not solely responsible for the defeat of the Nazis. In fact, she was not even primarily responsible. To find the true heroes in this story, we must focus on the struggle of an island-nation facing down the devastation of Nazi wrath. We must turn our attention to Great Britain.
In his speech to the House of Commons on 4 June 1940, arguably the greatest speech ever delivered by man, Prime Minister Churchill encapsulated the European state of affairs in a single sentence:
“I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once more able to defend our island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone.”
“If necessary alone.” – It is a bleak situation to have to imagine, but it is the truth nonetheless. For a great deal of time, Britain was alone in the fight against Nazism. In less than two months, the Nazi War Machine had ploughed through the useless Maginot Line and France had fallen to enemy rule (which still included the Soviet Union at this stage, one might add).
Furthermore, the great nations of Belgium and the Netherlands had also fallen to the Nazis, each unable to put up a fight for more than a few months. The continent was lost and Britain stood alone. With much of the British landed aristocracy and political establishment (including people such as Lord Halifax) willing to make peace with the Nazis, the country faced a question which would change the world.
Would Britain roll over and surrender to Nazi rule or would she fight?
She chose the latter, and for this the world is forever indebted to her. For years, the British people endured hardship and suffering to keep the Nazis at bay. It is estimated that over 30 000 innocent civilians lost their lives during the Blitz, an 8 month long bombing offensive by the Nazis which, thanks to the skill and prowess of the Royal Air Force, resulted in Allied victory.
It was only after Hitler’s failed attempts to penetrate the British defences that he turned east towards the Soviet Union and even after he did so, Britain continued to play a pivotal role in the struggle. Had Britain faltered in her hour of despair, Hitler would have had no need to turn his attention to the Soviets. Had Britain buckled under the pressure, it is likely that Hitler would have won the entire war. Britain sacrificed a worldwide empire and nearly half a million lives to save the world from Nazism. While it is true that the human loss is nowhere close to what was suffered by the Soviets, there is one crucial detail we must not forget.
The Soviet Union turned on Hitler because he turned on them. They made a deal with the devil and the devil stabbed them in the back. Were it not for Barbarossa, there is no indication that the Soviets would ever have attempted to stand up to Hitler. The west, on the other hand, fought not only for survival, but out of an ideological opposition to the morally rotten doctrine of Nazism.
Britain and America made the sacrifices they did out of a dedication to freedom, democracy, and liberty. Such are ideals which have sustained western civilisation for thousands of years and which were not to be found in any inch of the Soviet Union.
A hero is not admired for his fighting abilities. He is admired for his noble qualities. A hero does not willingly choose to side with a mass-murdering psychopath until it becomes inconvenient. He stands his ground in the face of tyranny, never faltering and never doubting that good shall prevail over evil. Though not as great in number, the sacrifices made by the west (particularly by Britain and America) were the truly heroic acts of the Second World War. Despite what academics continue to spew out, despite what you may read in the revisionist textbooks of late, there is nothing that can alter this eternal truth.
Author: Liam King is a student of History and Law at the University of Cape Town, where he is currently serving as the Vice-Chairman of African Students For Liberty. His fields of interest include politics, economics, and history.