Sir: Steve Crawshaw's excellent and chilling report on the post-war Buchenwald "Gulag" (12 June) seems to have been marred by a misleading picture caption. Although the text makes clear that the official fiction about the camp holding "Nazi bigshots and war criminals" was untrue, the caption refers to "the graves of former Nazis and others".
Although the Soviet-run camps in Eastern Europe undoubtedly contained some former Nazis, anyone whom the Communists feared or disliked was automatically branded a Fascist, a Nazi or a collaborator. Stalinism stood reality on its head with impunity. In Poland, for example, the Communist security agencies promptly re-filled several of the Nazi-built concentration camps with the cream of the wartime resistance movement, the Home Army, which they coolly condemned for (imaginary) pro-Nazi activities.
The magic wand of Communist propaganda turned all democrats into instant spies, capitalist lackeys and anti-social elements. Similarly, in the Soviet zone of Germany, the reactivation of Buchenwald's Special Camp No 2 coincided with the Communists' campaign against the democratic opposition and particularly against the SPD, which in a free political arena would have commanded majority support.
It is logical to suppose, therefore, that the dominant element among the inmates of Special Camp No 2 in 1945-50 would have consisted not of "former Nazis" but rather of democratic socialists. As Mr Crawshaw indicates, active German socialists who had survived the Nazi camps faced the strong possibility of finding themselves cast back behind the wire by the Communists.
16 JuneReuse content