So me and a room mate of mine were chilling out, and we decided we wanted to watch a movie. We ended up picking ‘The Death of Stalin’.
Overall this was a good movie. It was funny, but dark, and held somewhat to what played out in history.
But in the middle of the movie I remembered something that happened to me some years prior.
A Summer Job, Flowers, And Race
You see it was one summer between years at University (2010) and I had a job planting flowers and laying sod etc. I went to this one client’s house and everything was normal, until she asked me if I was a ‘Jew’.
I said that no I wasn’t, figuring she might be Jewish herself and was simply interested to see if I perhaps was her brethren.
Anyway the afternoon proceeded and we were talking casually while I handled the task at hand. As it turned out, she originated from Eastern Europe (I won’t name the country so people don’t feel obliged to generalize) and had immigrated sometime in her thirties (she was around 60 years old).
I said that that was particularly interesting to me since I was majoring in political science with a focus on that part of the world. So we chatted back and forth about where she was from and how Canada was so great.
Then she said something I’ll never forget, and really brought the whole “are you a Jew” thing to the forefront of my mind.
She said she had been raised under Stalinism and if she had the choice she would have preferred Nazism.
Now, I had learned quite a lot about the Soviet Union in my time as a undergraduate student. These are the classes I took on the subject.
- Rise of Communism
- Post Soviet Economies
- History of Totalitarianism
Let’s Talk Soviets
So I consider myself pretty adept at talking the realities of communism and such, maybe not as educated as someone with a masters or Phd in the subject but nevertheless I can hold my own in a discussion on the matter.
The thing is I already knew Stalinism was terrible for the people living under it’s rule. There were summary executions, a clearing of the intelligentia, and a lopsided power dinamic with the military and the party. Plainly, it might have been equal, but it certainly was no fun.
Just imagine your life is on the line all the time. One of your family members could run afoul of a party member and then you are all headed to the gulags.
Anyway, back to what that lady said. I almost get what she was saying except that I find it totally unacceptable. If you happen to not be Jewish under the reign of Hitler the quality of life was pretty high in comparison to the turbulent period of the 30’s where hyper inflation devalued their currency into dust.
There are stories of people taking out their entire life savings in the form of a wheel barrel of worthless cash just to buy a loaf of bread.
When everything calmed down, Hitler was the furer and anti-semitism was promoted within the Reich.
So this lady might have been saying that for her (as a non-jew) this was favourable. But her earlier comments (is you Jew?) make me think that’s not all there is to it.
Hitler’s Reich is responsible for the first industrialized genocide in history. Absolutely terrible incididous acts were perpetrated by the Nazis. If you happen to have blue eyes and blond hair maybe it wasn’t so bad for you personally, but come on….murder of millions of people.
The rate of murder was so intense that we have collectively called it a holocaust and when all was said and done, six million Jews were murdered.
Okay now, on the other hand. Stalin killed way more people, it might not have been race based but he fucking did it anyway.
People would often just disappear or be found in the streets dead from a gunshot would to the head. And let’s not forget the treatment of the poor Ukraine by the USSR.
Stalin decided to take all the food from the Ukraine and redirect it to Moscow. The result was a famine that took many, MANY, lives.
Big Numbers, Massive Crimes Against Humanity
Historians cannot agree on how many people Stalin had killed but it ranges from 6-20 million individuals (including the famine in Ukraine). That is a whopping number!
It is clear that daily life was not safe under Stalin rule.
But what is more aggregeous?
Unfettered racism, or a lack of respect for everyone’s rights?
The correct answer is that both are terrible. And if posed the question, which one would you rather live under, the appropriate answer is to say “fuck off.”
But I guess for the woman at my planting job, being from Eastern Europe the question on their minds for many years would have been Nazis, or Commies?
Because both sides were desperately gobbling up every country in Europe (and anywhere else), that they could. The Soviet Bloc at one point was absolutely enormous. The German Reich in comparison was equally as populated, though more centrally located to Europe.
So was this woman an anti-semite? I can’t possible know for sure because I did not ask, but let’s call a spade a spade and assume she’s less than enthused about the Hebrew.
When this happened I thought it was so perculiar because I’m from a neighbourhood that has Jewish people all over it. Not because it is a Jewish neighbourhood, but because it is very multicultural.
People from all over the world are all around me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I should also mention that anti-semitism runs deep in the part of Europe where she came from and I can’t really blame a shit leopard for having spots, you just avoid it.
I’ve been to many Bar mitzvah’s and I gotta say, they are a totally rad time. They are essentially the best party you can go to in your early teens. Who could fault a culture for something as wicked as that.
The Reality Of Racism
Jokes aside, when she told me she preferred Nazism over Stalinism, after the question about whether I was Jewish or not, I did feel weird.
Like I felt as though someone thought I was yucky or something, I felt less awesome than I did that morning, and I don’t want to feel that way again. Additionally, I bet the feeling is way worse when you are actually the subject of very real racism.
Being what someone hates is never a good feeling. I don’t plan on recreating the experience very soon.
But if we go back to this whole Nazism versus Stalinism thing, I can just say that I definitely do not want to live under a dictator. I like my rights, and the high level of equality afforded to me by my home country.
Peace out and be nice to your neighbours!