Thursday, 7 June 2018

Stalin's guilt for Soviet Casualties in the Second World War

Among the questions of Communist criminal responsibility, Stalin's culpability for Soviet casualties and German POW losses in WW2 is possibly the most difficult one. Soviet losses were around 25 million, of which 8 million were military in battle, and 3 million were dead POWs. From 700,000 - 1 million German POWs also died in Soviet custody particularly from 1941-1943.

Soviet military losses were horrendous, especially earlier in the War.  In the 2nd half of 1941 alone, a series of huge Nazi encirclements and disastrous Soviet counter-offensives gave more than 3 million Soviet killed or captured, and another 3 million in 1942. German losses over the same 18 months were less than 1 million. In 1943 and 1944 Soviet losses were still 2 to 3 times as high as German losses, due to Soviet tactics and approaches that were incredibly wasteful of human lives.

Despite official Soviet propaganda Stalin bore great responsibility for the losses of the Soviet people. Stalin's insane purges weakened the Red Army in the late 1930s. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact gave Hitler carte blanche to invade Poland, the Balkans and France. The 1939-41 economic pact transported million of tonnes of vital raw materials to Germany without which the invasion of the Soviet Union would probably have been impossible.

Stalin's refusal to believe invasion was imminent, despite repeated intelligence warnings and German reconissance, left the whole Soviet Air Force and over 3 million men helplessly exposed when the Gemans invaded. Almost that entire 3 million would be taken captive and then starved to death by the Nazis over Autumn and Winter 1941. After the invasion through 1941 into early 1942 Stalin ordered repeated counter-attacks that cost millions of further Soviet losses dead and captured.

Reckless Soviet partisan activity killed large number of civilian 'collaborators' and sparked brutal Nazi repression that killed hundreds of thousands more. Scorched Earth policies ahead of the Nazi advance led to hundreds of thousands more deaths as peasants lost their precious food stores ahead of winter.

German POW losses fall into a different category, while Soviet policies were nothing like the mass extermination carried out by the Nazis from June 1941-Jan 1942, they still led to the death of around 1/3rd of German POWs, up to 1 million people. This was in line with the much higher death toll in the Gulag during the early half of the war.

The guilt does not just apply to Stalin personally though. It was the Bolsheveik system in its entirety that gave almost no value to human life, on the battlefield or off it. It was Bolsheveik and Stalinist aggression, first against Poland in 1920, then later, that led Stalin to risk using Hitler to allow USSR to absorb Eastern Poland and the Baltics. It was the suspicion and fear of Stalinism that poisoned efforts to form a Polish-British-French-Soviet alliance against Hitler in 1939. It was the Soviet guarantee that gave Nazis freedom to invade Poland and plunge the world into War, it was Soviet trade with Germany that gave them the material resources to be able to invade the Soviet Union in the first place; then it was Stalin's stupidity that left millions of Soviet troops exposed, betraying them to captivity and extermination.

In the 1st World War under the Tsarist govt Russia suffered 3 million dead out of 20 million total losses in the War.  In the 2nd the Soviet Union suffered 25 million dead out of 40 million in the European theatre. In fact the astonishingly higher Russian death toll accounts for the entire increase in deaths between WW1 and WW2, even given Nazi murderousness in Poland and elsewhere.

It is certain that the blame for some proportion of Soviet losses lies with the idiotic incompetence and aggression of Stalin and the Communist system. Picking a figure however is basically guesswork. How do you turn moral responsibility in such a complex situation into a percentage?

My mind returns again and again to 3 million. 3 million was the number that were basically offered up to the Germans at the start of the invasion, then killed en masse. 3 million out of 25 million or 12%, as good a number as any, and so the number I include in my total tally of Communist crimes to represent the horrendous Soviet losses in WW2. The overwhelming blame lies with the Nazis and always must, but Stalinist aggression, stupidity and disregard for human life killed millions of Soviet citizens.


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