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From the Gulag to the Killing Fields: Personal Accounts of Political Violence and Repression in Communist States [Hardcover]

By Paul Hollander (Editor)
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Item description for From the Gulag to the Killing Fields: Personal Accounts of Political Violence and Repression in Communist States by Paul Hollander...

As a global phenomenon, the scale and character of communism is only now coming into focus. The opening of formerly inaccessible archives and landmark books such as The Black Book of Communism have helped to establish empirically the extent and brutality of Communist totalitarianism. But what about Communist terror as it was personally experienced by the dissidents, the so-called obstructionists who stood in the way of the Communists' efforts to create the new man of the socialist utopia? From the Gulag to the Killing Fields is another landmark volume---and the only one of its kind. Edited by renowned scholar of communism Paul Hollander, it gathers together more than forty dramatic personal memoirs of Communist violence and repression from political prisoners across the globe. From these compelling accounts several distinctive features of Communist political violence can be discerned. The most important, argues Hollander, is that communism was "violence with a higher purpose"---that is, it was devised and undertaken to create a historically superior social system that would not only abolish scarcity, exploitation, and inequality, but would also create a new and unique sense of community, social solidarity, and personal fulfillment. Nothing, of course, was allowed to stand in the way of this effort to radically and totally transform the human condition---least of all human beings. But, as Anne Applebaum notes in her foreword, human nature persisted: "Every person who entered the camps discovered qualities in themselves, both good and evil, that they hadn't previously known they had. Ultimately, that selfdiscovery is the true subject of most camp memoirs, and the true subject of this book."

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Item Specifications...

Pages   760
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 2.25" Width: 6" Height: 9"
Weight:   3.05 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Apr 17, 2006
Publisher   Intercollegiate Studies Institute
ISBN  1932236783  
ISBN13  9781932236781  

Availability  0 units.

More About Paul Hollander

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! ANNE APPLEBAUM is a columnist for The Washington Post and Slate. Her previous book, Gulag, won the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction and was a finalist for three other major prizes. Her essays appear in The New York Review of Books, Slate, and The London Spectator. She lives in Washington, D.C., and Poland with her husband, Radek Sikorski, a Polish politician, and their two children.

Anne Applebaum was born in 1964.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Russia
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Politics > General
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Politics > History & Theory
4Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Politics > Ideologies > Communism & Socialism
5Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Reference
6Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Violence in Society

Reviews - What do customers think about From the Gulag to the Killing Fields: Personal Accounts of Political Violence and Repression in Communist States?

A little dry, but still impressive  Aug 16, 2006
Maybe it is just me, or maybe something is lost in the translation for the exerpts reproduced in this volume, but the reading was a little rougher going than I expected. It is, however, wide-ranging, with voices from some of the lessor-examined communist regimes, and it definitely worth a look if this is your field of interest.
An excellent companion to The Black Book of Communism  May 6, 2006
But unlike the Black Book, which derives most of its information from recently accessible Soviet archives and other sources, this emotionally charged tome relies on the accounts of victims themselves, which makes it even more damning in my view. This book should convince many that Communism in practice is every bit as murderous as its rival totalitarian ideology Fascism, which is considered the epitome of political evil.

Several of the contributions are well known, such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" (USSR), Eugenia Ginzburg's "Journey into the Whirlwind" (USSR), Harry Wu's "Bitter Winds" (China) and Armando Valladares "Against All Hope" (Cuba). Some I myself have not heard of, such as Venko Markowski's "Goli Otok: Island of Death" (Yugoslavia) and Nika Stajka's "The Last Days of Freedom" (Albania). Others have been out of print for some time, such as Bao Ruo-wang's "Prisoner of Mao" (China). In all there are 45 different horror stories in this book that will keep you up at night.

The shocking details of humiliation and suffering in these personal accounts makes the book a more difficult read than the aforementioned Black Book, which for the most part is written in a fairly dry, scholarly tone as it recounts the numbers repressed and killed in various Communist dictatorships. Clearly numbers alone, and we're talking tens of millions, don't tell the full story. We learn firsthand that Khmer Rouge soldiers occasionally sliced open the bellies of pregnant women, in front of terrified spectators, and ripped the fetuses from them. In Castro's Cuba dissidents are subjected to horrific abuse in psychiatric prisons (similar abuse happened in the USSR, China and Romania). In Mengistu's Ethiopia during the "Red Terror," bullet-ridden bodies of men, women and even high school students were left lying in the streets or publicly displayed. In Enver Hoxha's Albania prisoners at the Nizhaveci camp were tormented and ultimately drowned in muddy swamps filled with leeches. In Nicaragua under the Sandinistas prisoners were subjected to brutal beatings during interrogation, mock executions, believable death threats against family members, food and water deprivation and extremely harsh conditions of confinement. And in North Korea's prison camps public executions by hanging and firing squad (often of inmates attempting to escape) are commonplace.

Clearly these selections from victims all over the world prove that repression and terror, with varying degrees of severity, were common practices in all Communist states.

The book opens with a thoughtful Foreword from Anne Applebaum and an absolutely brilliant 64-page introductory essay by Editor Paul Hollander. It rivals and perhaps surpasses Stephane Courtois's excellent (yet controversial in some circles) introduction to The Black Book of Communism. He hits the nail on the head again and again. He rightly tells us that while the mass murders of Hitler's National Socialists have stimulated a huge and continued outpouring of righteous indignation and hand wringing, the similar mass murders of Communist rulers such as Josef Stalin and Pol Pot have inspired little corresponding concern. Indeed, it seems that history's most prolific killer, Chinese Red Emperor Mao Tse-tung, has a better reputation amongst the cultural elites than does Ronald Reagan. And Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Castro's ruthless henchman who authorized hundreds of executions at La Cabana prison and sometimes participated in the killings himself, has become a pop culture phenomenon. T-shirts emblazoned with his "romantic" image are available in trendy shops at your local shopping mall. Could you imagine a t-shirt featuring General Pinochet's likeness being sold anywhere?

Hollander points out that left-wing intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and revisionist historians such as J. Arch Getty (his 1985 book "Origins of the Great Purges" attempted to minimize the numbers killed in Stalin's Great Terror to mere "thousands" and portrayed Stalin not as an instigator of this horrendous bloodbath, but as a moderator in a bureaucratic turf war who was forced to authorize mass executions. The now accessible Soviet archives have proven him dead wrong on both counts. Applebaum rightly states in her Foreword that the archives "have established that the victims numbered in the millions, not the thousands.") coldly dismissed defectors and refugees accounts of Communist atrocities and deplored them being used in historical works. Recently, New York Times correspondent Nicholas Kristof was greatly skeptical of "uncorroborated reports" from survivors of North Korea's concentration camps, which are arguably some of the most inhumane in the world today. Yet it seems that memoirs and accounts by survivors and exiles of right-wing regimes are treated as gospel truth. Who, for instance, has questioned the truthfulness of Elie Wiesel, Nelson Mandela or Ariel Dorfman? Who would dare take someone to task for exaggerating the "horrors" of the McCarthy era besides perhaps a right-wing conservative pundit like Ann Coulter?

Even the most blatant apologists for Josef Stalin, such as Eric Hobsbawm, who boasted that the mass murder of 20 million people would have been totally justified had the great socialist utopia been realized, still enjoy an excellent moral and intellectual reputation in Western academic circles. One of the most disgusting apologists for this mass murderer, Grover Furr, who argues that good ole Uncle Joe was really an advocate of democracy, is a tenured English professor at Montclair State University. By contrast many of Hitler's apologists, like David Irving, Ernst Zundel and Germar Rudolf, are rotting inside prison cells in various social "democratic" European countries for the crime of "Holocaust denial." I could go on with these double standards forever it seems.

I'm sure some might be reluctant to purchase a book with contributions they've read elsewhere, especially Solzhenitsyn's popular "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich." But as I mentioned earlier there are many here almost unheard of and others long out of print. The introduction alone is almost worth the price of the book! This is an absolute must have, especially for those who enjoyed The Black Book of Communism.

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