The European Union’s Black Ribbon Day has been held in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, but has not had much media coverage, except in media catering to the relatives of the victims of Communism and some victims of Nazism.
The very beginnings of the day of remembrance were controversial with a lot of opposition from left-leaning groups and politicians, as well as, perhaps surprisingly, some Holocaust scholars and activists.
(It cannot be surprising that many European politicians don’t want to remember the victims of Communism, as in many cases these same politicians are former Communists and in some cases, were even involved directly in torture, deportations and murder, or lesser acts, such as organising groups of informants to report on every action of people. Besides what was called “Real Socialism” in the former East Bloc [that is, actual, existing Communism], there were also so-called Euro-Communists in the West. The current president of the European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, is José Manuel Barroso, a former Maoist Communist. Nor is he alone. At present, many members of the European Parliament are either members of Communist parties or were in their youth.)
As a result, a compromise title was given for the day, to be remembered on August 23, the day of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (perhaps it should be called the Stalin-Hitler Pact). This compromise was called: ” European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism.” This is a way of avoiding the central issue, namely, that Communism was always murderous and must be to carry on, as can be seen in Communist China or Cuba. By mentioning only ”Stalinism”, the EU lawmakers carefully avoided the crimes committed by Lenin (from 1917 to 1921), estimated at some five million people, who were killed by execution, concentration camps or famine.
Then there are various other Communist leaders after Stalin who are responsible for incredible suffering, including tens of millions of deaths, from Chairman Mao in China, who killed millions before his infamous ”Cultural Revolution” to Ché Guevara in Cuba, whose picture is used to represent something positive (what?) to millions worldwide, but who murdered people in the name of the Communist ”Revolution”, without giving them a chance for a trial or a legal defence. The Cuba Archive keeps track of the victims of Communism in Cuba, and has compiled a list of names of known victims of this ”sexy” icon. The reality is different. Testimony gathered by the Archives gives an example of Guevara’s behaviour. During the Cuban Revolution, his men captured a 17-year-old boy wearing the uniform of the Cuban Army. The boy said:
“I haven’t killed anyone. I just arrived here. My mother is a widow and I am an only child, I joined the Army for the salary, to send it to her monthly. Don’t kill me, don’t kill me!”
The hero of popular culture said, characteristically:
And had the boy shot. Besides being an example of his cold, calculating cruelty, this action is in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions and would be classified as a war crime in any modern court, or any court when it happened in 1959. How many of those proudly wearing Ché Guevara tee-shirts know this? And if they know it, do they then agree?
The issue of a divide in Europe, roughly following the line of the old Iron Curtain drawn by the Communist regimes from the 1940s to 1989, is still key to how many western and eastern Europeans view the history of Europe. Their different experiences means a divide remains in the minds of people who grew up free and those who did not, writes Tibor Navracsis, Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister in the CEE Blog.
Some people, mostly Americans, have called for ongoing remembrance of Communism’s victims, like historian Lee Edwards (includes video) and his Global Museum of Communism.
Canada also remembers the victims of Europe’s totalitarian regimes on Black Ribbon Day.
The remembrance day naturally includes the memory of the victims of Nazism, unlike many who feel victims of Nazism are somehow more important than victims of Communism. The Program Director of the House of Terror, Gábor Tallai, told Hír TV that it no-one could claim the suffering of those persecuted by the Nazis was greater than those persecuted by the Communists. He pointed to the fact that the European Court of Human Rights had ruled in favour of wearing the red star symbol of Communism, while Nazi symbols were banned. Speaking in Hungarian and translated by Digital Journal, he said:
„While millions died under the aegis of the red star, obviously we will not be able to accept this. Another problem is caused by the fact that the Western intelligentsia has drawn up a kind of hierarchy, which can mostly be shown in that the crimes of the Holocaust constitute a primary, singular, unique phenomenon... logic shows us, that among the perpetrators and the victims there are first-class, second-class, or even third-class (members). This is untenable.
An English-language broadcast of Duna TV can be seen here which reports on the remembrance day, while the American National Public Radio (NPR’s) website reports on a man who places ”stumbling stones” to help German people remember the Holocaust in a more personal way. This website describes the crimes of the Nazis in detail, although these are well-known in both east and west as there have been 70 years to study the crimes of the Nazis in detail.