Friday, January 08, 2010


Finished the subject book by Antony Beevor last night. Incredible book that brings to stark light "how bad it can get". Very well written, very academic, even handed, historical and non-sensational. But even with a clinical description, the horror of having two totalitarian regimes in conflict is very instructive. It is impossible to convey the grinding destruction, cold, hunger, lice, pain, death and just flat out despair. The total military dead was nearly a million German, far more than that for USSR. Soviet civilian casualties ran into the millions as well.

I'm not going to try to pick out specific anecdotes, since there are just too many -- the descriptions of the cold, the fighting, the hunger, the desolate steppe and a myriad of other things will likely stay with me for a long time, but given the three winters of struggle, it is the context that really brings it all home.

Some thoughts:

  • The fact that "central government control is the problem" is really brought home here. Communist, Fascist, it really makes no difference -- BOTH demand that the individual be subordinated to the state and that is the only way this level of disaster is possible. "LEFT wing" is ANY form of state control and loss of individual rights. Communist / Fascist / Socialist / Monarchy / etc ... FREEDOM only exists in the "middle right". "Libertarian Republic" -- what the USA used to be! 
  • BOTH sides were rife with "political officers" -- SS / NKVD, whose job it was to propogandize and "insure loyalty". Both sides in some situations had "2nd fronts" to shoot deserters from the main front. Worse for the USSR, but problem for both. 
  • Generals needing to get orders from the top to do obvious things or risk being shot, and the fact that providing real information to either Stalin or Hitler could easily result in people being shot made both sides make gigantic errors. 
  • Once you let the government take over there are ample numbers of folks to "do the bidding" of whomever, and their "morals" are simply about supporting the regime since it supports them.
Highly recommended, a warning for the age of BOism!