A Memorial to Communism’s Victims – by Jamie Glazov


stalin_gulag

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Alide Forstmanis, the chair of Tribute to Liberty, a new organization based in Toronto that seeks to have a memorial built in Ottawa to the Victims of Communist Crimes, by November 2010.

FP: Alide Forstmanis, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Forstmanis: Thank you, I am grateful to FPM for this opportunity to inform its readers about Tribute to Liberty.

FP: Tell us about this memorial you are planning.

Forstmanis: We want a memorial built in our nation’s capital Ottawa to the victims of communism, a commemoration to the more than 100 million who were subject to the denial of their fundamental rights and freedoms, to torture, to deprivation, and to murder.

We are doing our utmost to have it ready next year. You might ask, why the rush? It took 15 years to complete a similar monument in Washington DC. The answer is very practical: we do not have those years available here. The fact is that many of the Eastern European victims of communism have passed on and those who are still alive are getting very old. We would like as many as possible of them to have a chance to see the monument.  The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall in November has re-inspired our cause.

FP: What is your own personal background that explains your dedication to this issue?

Forstmanis: Both my parents are Latvian, but I was lucky to grow up in Sweden. Almost all of our relatives stayed in Latvia and some were also sent to Siberia. Living in Sweden I envied those that had cousins or other relatives living nearby, as we were just the four of us – my parents, my brother and me. I missed growing up with an extended family. Although that family lived on the other side of the Baltic Sea, only about 150 km away, it seemed very far, one could really sense a wall. I remember my parents listening to “Voice of America” and the other news sources that were being jammed by the Soviets – so our relatives in Latvia wouldn’t hear them. Our correspondence with Latvia was censured by the Soviets, and telephone calls were complicated to make, due to Soviet technical backwardness.  In sum, communication was difficult.

For us in Sweden, very little, if anything was taught in the Swedish schools about the Baltic States, and to us it seemed as if to Sweden and the rest of the world these states hadn’t ever existed. Balts where often called “Russians”. And if you were not a Swedish citizen you were a “stateless Soviet Russian” citizen, and needed a visa to be able to travel internationally.

These experiences left me with a strong sense of my Latvian roots, and with a feeling of urgency to respond to what was going on. I then became involved in the Latvian communities in the various places I lived – Sweden, the UK, Germany and Canada – and I have seen the passion and conviction the survivors, including my parents, have had and the need they felt to inform the world about communism’s evils. The least I can do is try to get their suffering recognized here in Canada.

FP: What is the importance of monuments such as these?

Forstmanis: A monument like this will be a recognition by Canada of the determination of millions to come to a country like ours that celebrates liberty and opposes the oppression of totalitarian communism. This recognition will also help us remember the suffering that many of those Canadians endured, as well as the suffering of the millions who couldn’t come, and of the many millions that perished in the Gulag. Further it is also important for Canada’s future generations, to understand different Canadians’ backgrounds and history and bring a better understanding of each other. This monument will hopefully generate curiosity about communist crimes and through studies teach Canadians to be aware of and vigilant about them, and of the capacity for such evil in the world when our liberties are not protected.

FP: Why a memorial in Canada?

Forstmanis: According to 2006 Census almost 9 million of Canada’s 33 million inhabitants come from either former or current communist led countries. This is close to a third of the Canadian population. That’s an incredible number of people who can establish some kind of personal connection to lives under communist regimes. By building this memorial, Canada will show that it recognizes these connections. It will also underscore the seriousness with which we take our freedoms, our democracy, and the rule of law we are privileged to have.

FP: Why do you think there is so much resistance in our society to talking/educating about the crimes of Communism?

Forstmanis: The resistance has been there for a long time. Make no mistake: communist regimes have consistently been imperialistic, genocidal, brutal, murderous, aggressive, discriminatory, destructive, oppressive, cynical – there is no end to the negative descriptors that can be used. This has frightened both governments and ordinary citizens.

Many families in the west did not dare talk openly about their families in their homelands, because it could hurt them there. Fear is a great and often very understandable motivator. In addition, communist propaganda machines like that of the former Soviet Union have been incredibly efficient around the world at hiding the evils of communism and spreading myths about the good life offered under it.  Many in the west bought this rhetoric – naivety, duplicity, ignorance – who knows the reasons. Many still refuse to acknowledge the truth about communism. And then there are those that say such extreme oppression is dead and that these crimes happened a long time ago so why dwell on them.

Luckily, in the last 20 years, archives have opened up and truths have been revealed. We must continue to bring this evidence to light however, to educate people about the monumental human suffering of the last century.

FP: How do you explain this monstrous evil of communism and how it has manifested itself — and continues to manifest itself? And even after massacring more than a hundred million people and causing unspeakable pain and suffering to millions of others, there are still myriads of believers. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?

Forstmanis: Communism has existed for well over a century as an ideology and still maintains significant power in some countries. Ideologies can keep hold for a very long time.   But many wonder why communism – which was in part the inspiration for Nazism, managed to survive its brutal offspring for so long.   I think part of the reason was that the West had to make the communists our allies in the Second World War.   This was a necessary evil at the time, but the result was that Stalin emerged largely unscathed from public criticism in the West.   This despite his horrific abuses – the Holodomor genocide of Ukrainians, the Katyn slaughter of Poland’s senior officer ranks and intellectuals, to name just a couple.

Add to that the naive romanticism associated with communists – the legacy of the fight in the Spanish civil war against the fascists, the popular portrayal of Castro and Che Guevera, the popular portrayal of Mao (despite incredible slaughter) and you see a kind of branding that is extraordinarily positive. Finally, when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, things begin to change, but people who had witnessed many of the worst horrors were older, and all were so focused on addressing economic anarchy that there simply wasn’t the kind of attention paid to the crimes of communism that there might have been otherwise.

There was no Nuremburg, there was no Truth and Reconciliation commission – that kind of public engagement still needs to occur. But when so many were caught up in the romanticism and are embarrassed by having to confront the realities, it makes it very hard to contemplate such engagement. After all, George Bernard Shaw himself denied the Ukrainian Holodomor – saying no famine was occurring.   So did New York Time journalist Walter Duranty. Such high profile endorsements are hard to ever shake free.

And then, recognize the continuing power of communism.   Speak to Chinese-Canadians about the fear – the still pervasive fear – about speaking out, when you have family and friends back home. Cuban Canadians understand it, so do Vietnamese, and Koreans and Tibetans. East Europeans understand constant fear of reprimand and reprisal – they all lived it.

So all of these factors combine to create an atmosphere where there is incredible ignorance. Here in Ontario the Ministry of Education decided to include teachings of genocide into its high school curriculum. They chose to include the Armenian and Rwandan genocides, ignoring the genocides communism has committed.

But things are starting to change. For example, in Sweden, the alliance government elected in 2006 is concerned about it. The Swedish minister of education has included teachings about communist crimes in his government declaration. This was done because a poll result a few years ago showed that only 10% of people aged ~15-25 knew about the Gulag.

I believe Hollywood has done a tremendous job in exposing and teaching about the Holocaust and its victims. It is time for Hollywood to make a few movies about life in the Gulag. It’s my understanding that there has been talk about making a film about the poisoned ex Soviet spy in London UK, however for some reason that production has come to a standstill, and the film might not be completed. I mentioned Shaw before.  Think about how many public figures were enamored with communism – the legacy of that remains hard to shake, and people are inclined to say oh why don’t we just move on. And today, when every one wants more trade with China, criticizing communism has economic consequences that many are afraid to deal with.

FP: Is there any opposition to your efforts? The Left must not be very supportive.

Forstmanis: We recently received approval from the National Capital Commission of both projects for the concept and its name. To our original title “Memorial to the Victims of Communism” we added the adjective Totalitarian, in response to an early concern by NCC officials that the title might target legitimate political views in support of a communist party. With this, the NCC officials took the proposal forward to their decision-making body for a monument.   That body agreed to the project in principle but still found objection to the revised name, arguing that it might offend communists, that it was not politically correct, and that it should mark all forms of oppression.

Needless to say this sparked derision when it got out. The media had a field day with it, and we think the NCC suddenly recognized how absurd their complaints were.   I don’t bear malice towards them: they like many others were oblivious – I go back to my earlier point about ignorance. We were able to convince the NCC that the scope and scale of abuse by communism – directly and indirectly against Canadians – was deserving of public memorial.   We agreed to an amended title of “Memorial to the Victims of Totalitarian Communism; Canada, A Land of Refuge”.

We have not encountered much other resistance. I would note that we have written endorsements from Members of Parliament in the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, and the New Democratic Party. The Communist Party of Canada has written a letter to NCC asking them to reverse their decision, but this letter itself has sparked responses already – including a recent letter from the Vietnamese community. I can not imagine NCC reversing its decision.   When you think that approximately 25% of Canadians trace connections to countries currently or formerly under the fist of communism it is hard to imagine this memorial being rejected now.

FP: What do you hope the monument will help achieve?

Forstmanis: I hope it will give an incentive to people to explore and learn about communism. To see it for what it was and still is. It supposedly died 20 years ago for the West, although ByeloRussians will tell you that isn’t the case yet. And certainly its remaining outposts – particularly China – are not to be treated as of little consequence. There are several lessons I think.

First, that this was an extraordinarily evil ideology that took hold of incredibly large parts of the world and subjugated – and still subjugates – hundreds of millions to its oppression. People need to know this history and this reality – it is a part of knowing what we are and where we come from.

Second, the excesses of communist authority can exist under another name: the undermining of democratic processes by various regimes around the world – in Russia, in the middle east, in Latin America – looks awfully like communism by another name. By understanding communism and its terrible affects better, we are better able to address other oppressive regimes.

Third, I would like this monument to be a recognition for the many, many refugees from communist countries that arrived in Canada. It acknowledges and memorializes what they endured, and what those who could not follow them endured.

And fourth, and related to that last point, I would like the monument to help us remember that Canada is a land of liberty. Our great country took people in from around the world, and still does, because it believes in the fundamental dignity and worth of every individual. This liberty is to be vigilantly guarded– memorials like this can help us do that. It is important every new generation gets informed so that past mistakes are not repeated.

FP: Alide Forstmanis, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.

Frontpage encourages all of our readers to visit Tribute to Liberty.

*

[To get the whole story on why the Left ferociously opposes a true account of, and final verdict on, communism's crimes, read Jamie Glazov’s new book, United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror.]

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  • SteveNVicki

    Why are we not doing this in America? Can you imagine the retort from Hollywood?! THIS is exactly what is needed though…to raise awareness. I don't want my grandchildren to give up the freedom we enjoy today. Just being able to post on this site for example…goes away under a totalitarian regime.

  • kalevnyc

    A monument to the Victims of Communism was dedicated by President Bush in 2007 in Washington D.C. They have also developed an online museum http://www.globalmuseumoncommunism.org
    In Canada, Liberal Bob Rae recently introduced and passed an internationally monumental resolution condemning the crimes of communism, creating a naitonal day of mourning for the European victims of communism: blackribbonday.org

  • USMCSniper

    A well-known fact escapes leftist minds filled with illusionary daydreams of a socialist utopia. They get it that the Nazi's were evil bad guys, but somehow they lose themselves in a haze when it comes to Communism. Here's a dose of truth as a reminder:

    Isn't it interesting that when we see something going on in the world that leftists don't like, we compare it to Nazism? People on the far left it all the time. Liberals call anyone with even one conservative viewpoint a “Nazi.” Liberals somehow feel morally superior if they can get away with calling someone they don't like a Nazi. If you're one of these people, then I'm going to have to burst your bubble. While the Nazis were bad, they weren't the ultimate form of evil in the 20th – and even the 21st – century. The ultimate evildoers were communists. Consider:

    During Joseph Stalin's reign, it is estimated that 20 million Russians were rounded up and murdered. Soviet gulags were not completely unlike Nazi concentration camps. The concentration camps existed for about 12 years. Gulags were around for much, much longer. Stalin tends to get a free pass, probably because the Soviets were our allies during World War II.

    Opium addiction had been a major problem in China for about two centuries when the communists seized power there in the late 1940s. The communists wiped it out overnight. How did they do it? The communists rounded up all the opium addicts – sometimes entire families – and executed them. Quite an effective drug treatment program, huh? The true number of those who were murdered is unknown, but it has been estimated that between one-quarter & one-third of China's population was addicted to opium when the communists took over the country.

    During the mid-to-late 1970s, Pol Pot, the leader of Cambodia, ordered city dwellers to be rounded up & sent to “re-education” camps. At these camps, they would be indoctrinated in the “ideals” of communism. Anyone who didn't conform was executed. It is estimated that 2 million people died in what became known as the Cambodian Killing Fields. The North Vietnamese Communists murdered over 1 million South Vietnamese in their purges and reducation camps in the latter 1970's.

    How many thousands of Cubans have been murdered by Fidel Castro? How many Cubans were willing to risk their lives by escaping Castro's tyrannical reign? How many perished travelling through the 90 miles of shark-infested waters between Cuba & Florida? Do you remember the Cuban Boat People of the early 1980s? Ask around in Little Havana in Miami & find out what the people there think of Fidel Castro.

    Today, there are many people who revere Hugo Chavez, the Marxist dictator of Venezuela (just ask Sean Penn & Danny Glover). “Little Stalin,” as I like to call him, has maintained power by intimidating political opposition. There is no more free press, and private ownership of the nation's industries / resources has been stripped away. These are all communist tactics. Everything is owned by the state, including the people. To the communists, human life has very little value.

    The bottom line is that the greatest mass-murderers of the 20th Century were the Communists, not the Nazis. So remember, when you see something evil going on in the world, the first words out of your mouth shouldn't be, “That's just like what the Nazis would do.” The first words should be, “That's just like what the Communists did.”

    For all you useful idiots who come here to argue the so-called benefits of Communism, there are over 100,000,000 corpses that refute all of your agruments. Get it?

  • BS77

    Starvation, misery, mass executions, millions dead, millions in abject poverty…but HEY, let's give communism another try! Collective socialism has never worked, and will never work since it is organically and existentially inhuman….it is a political and social system that runs counter to human nature.

  • SteveNVicki

    Well said Snipper! Don't forget Pol Pots other program. He had anyone that wore glasses killled because that meant they could rread!

  • http://www.whycanadamustend.com/ Tony Kondaks

    Canada has no respect for freedom…and that includes Stephen Harper the current Prime Minister. So I hold out no hope for such a memorial to be built.

    Canadian and Quebec law segregates individuals into two separate and distinct civil rights categories, violating the basic tenet of free and democratic societies.

    Read it and weep:

    http://whycanadamustend.com/Chapter%202.htm

    and

    http://whycanadamustend.com/Chapter%205.htm

    .

  • FBastiat

    FROM HERE:

    The much- vilified “Stalin-Hitler equivalency” is only a euphemism for a more-feared equation. The connection that [John R.] MacArthur and all the other “naive liberals” evade is not between the dictators Hitler and Stalin, but between the theorists Hitler and Marx. What they ultimately dread is not the notion that “Stalin was as bad as Hitler” in practice, but that Marxism is as evil as Hitlerism in principle. For what was Nazism ever other than Marxism in which class consciousness was replaced with racial nationalism? Is a determinist doctrine of classism and class warfare less repugnant than one of racism and racial warfare? Is it less evil in principle; is it less evil in practice? To affirm the first part of that last question is to affirm the second — as exemplified by MacArthur's morally grotesque distinction between “[s]tarving masses of people to death in Ukraine” and “gassing Jews en masse.” One last link to ponder: In the first months of 1849, Marx published Engels' series of pieces for the Neue Rheinesche Zeitung in which he hailed the “bloody” liquidation of different European ethnic groups in a “world war” that would “result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples.” In 1924, references to these articles appeared in Stalin's Foundations of Leninism. It is this necessity of genocide to the collectivist struggle, the jihad of an Us vs. Them hate theology, that is the lesson Marx taught Stalin — who in turn taught Hitler.

  • minaka2

    How many unrepentant admirers of nazism are professors in western universities? Of course and rightfully so, the answer is zero.

    How many unrepentant admirers of communism are professors in western universities? The answer is thousands.

    This is adding insult to injury of the largely ignored one hundred million slaughtered on the altar of communism, and hundreds of millions deprived of their human rights to speak, congregate and move freely.

    Survivors of the Holocaust at least don't have to listen decades later to propaganda emanating from highly paid academics praising nazis and their system. No such comfort for victims of communism who get salt poured in their wounds by professors paid by their tax dollars. Ironically, many of the pro-marxist/communist professors are themselves Jewish whom one would think should be in the forefront of condemning another totalitarian system that targeted certain nationalities, religions and classes of people.

    • Elmars

      minaka2 has it dead on.. I had the unfortunsd "luck" live under the Communists
      and beihg forsed in Hitlers forces. I was found resisting regime un spent a time
      in Salaspils KZ. Iwas fried on codition never to go "owall" again or vI wil be shoot,
      by Liegd Krigs Gericht" . I did my best to fight vhen engaiged and meneged tu surrvive.I got voded in Danzig suraubed by Comunist forces. i was luck to be rescued
      to Denmark. .Idichsrged misej from Hospital after the war with no idetificaton documents. At 2010 I am stil sufering as a colboretr wirh Nazis I lost may home, myfamily, may chnce to return home , I am stil after 65 years sufering from the warvund.I am lucky there is acountry Canada that adopted me and I could pick Canada as refuge from setan death, althau even here I was regarded as DP and
      from some officials I am regarded as alove clss citizen in compariso to some fevored
      Selected individuals. Even at this situstion it is better to be facing some incoviniences
      bet be free to write the coments, to agtree or disagre, the be forcefuly put in a cattle car in shipt to Siberia. My rlatives are burried burried ther in the 1940.

  • http://www.uncorkedventures.com wine clubs

    Very cool to see this type of tribute. After spending some time in the Czech Republic I have a better understanding of the type of frustration and angst that citizens of these countries felt for so many years.

  • voxmancipium

    Ok, communism was evil at the time in the world. In fact, Russia was one of the top three main mass murderers of the 20th century. Stalin, Pol-pot, Mao Zedong, and other communists gave communism a bad name, making it probably one of the biggest threats at the time of World War Two. I have read the works of Marx and Engels, and I don't really understand how such a pristine solution to global depression translated into “big imperial dictatorship without human rights and free speech.” I think communism is misunderstood, and really is too corruptible to be a reliable system of government at this time. It is important to remember the victims of Stalin's holocaust, and that communists at this time were worse than the Nazis (well at least they weren't racist), and for this, there is no excuse. I believe, however, that it is equally important to recognize the founding ideals of communism. The utopia it describes might never become a reality, but we shouldn't be so hateful of anything that might remotely be communist. If we really believe that communism or socialism are not reliable forms of government IN ESSENCE. Look at today. Is capitalism really doing so well? Even though China today is a cesspool of political oppression, we owe them trillions of dollars. Why don't we try to ease ourselves not into hate but understanding of the past in order to create a better future for everyone. Why don't we try to merge our ideals of individual enterprise with their ideals of society and collective gain? It can be done, we just have to open our minds to this possibility.

  • confi

    Tja, that's everything wonderful, bud the real victims, they are still suffering and live under the poverty line, because…nobody care…we were tortured, persecuted etc. then I cut fly..My daughter, I only child was send to children slave gulack… (It was just 700 miles from "western" borders; our country was GIVEN to the soviets…in 1945 and all honest decent people land in slavary, gulags or has had "Accidents". Only we know the truth…we have survived, and after we have seen and try to warn the western in 1992 – 2000, and starting to writing a book, me daughter was push from the window…

  • confi

    the bouth coments are from em..and becouse "not place" it is in 2 parts..

    god bles..

    dentialconfi@yahoo.com

  • mememe

    ..The hospital in "western Europe tell me that she have pas the way…that was a lay…I find her…we are here know…heading and serge for somebody the help, unfortunately we have find just heartache which help hem self…To do give himself a big Solaris…from the spends which give again decent people and hope that the help the victims…and not them…the victimized the victims again…to do ALS if the care…and…

    Looking for somebody the really care…some publisher, film produce ten, advocate en immigration lawyer, politician, somebody the will help us to starting over, we are torture survivor…it is a remarkable story…
    The victims of communism have not voice bud they are here…

    Greetings to all nice/decent people, no Mather where!

    Be Alert and listen to the real experts, end the 1 hand witnesses..! Not spend money to money maker from others pain…
    Help the victims direct.
    The need justice and the right to stay in live!

    Thank you!
    And God bless!

    Lb

  • http://www.schnellabnehmen24.com/abnehmen/a Abnehmen Tipps

    I think that every kind of government can work but it would depend on the leadership. As long as there's corruption & greed, even democracy is a failure. Communism has its advantages in the sense of equality but with the history of bad leaders, it has always failed. Most of the leaders the communist countries had only wanted the power & not really to help the people, hence there were the dirt poor & the filthy rich!
    Its human nature that we have to fix!
    But on the other hand, I'm glad that there will be recognition for those who helped make the country as it is today.

  • http://www.tutsbuzz.com tutorial guide

    Most of the leaders the communist countries had only wanted the power & not really to help the people, hence there were the dirt poor & the filthy rich!

  • http://www.schnellabnehmen24.com/fettverbrenn Fettverbrennungsofen

    With today's leaders, even democracy doesn't sound so great. I'm still grateful for the freedom though.

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    The information about Canada census was really incredible. here in Israel we have the same situation when close to 1/3 are people born in former communist states.

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