The coldest circle of hell

The story needed to be told and Anne Applebaum tells it with admirable attention to detail, proper restraint and a generally successful attempt not to allow horror to drive out objectivity. But, as I read Gulag, I experienced what is, for me, a rare emotion. Normally I cannot open a book without wishing that I had written on the same subject. With Gulag, I felt from start to finish, ‘Rather her than me’. Continue reading “The coldest circle of hell”

Camps of Terror, Often Overlooked

In visiting Poland last month, President Bush took the time to go to Auschwitz and tour one of the most ghastly assaults to humanity in the history of mankind. After finishing his tour, he remarked: “And this site is also a strong reminder that the civilized world must never forget what took place on this site. May God bless the victims and the families of the victims, and may we always remember.” Continue reading “Camps of Terror, Often Overlooked”

Inside Soviet Labour camps

While Anne Applebaum was researching her extraordinary history of the Soviet labour camps, simply titled Gulag, she began to suffer the same recurrent nightmare: she would be climbing the steps of a wooden bell tower in the old Solovetsky monastery on an island in the White Sea, the site of the first permanent Soviet concentration camp – and at the same time climbing over, and on, the bodies of the dead. “It happened on numerous occasions,” she says, “and it’s the only time I’ve ever had that kind of repetitive nightmare in my life.” Continue reading “Inside Soviet Labour camps”

A world built on slavery

The word Gulag (an acronym from the Russian for the more cumbersome “Main Administration of Labour Camps”) has become synonymous with the accumulated evils of 70 years of Soviet dictatorship. Yet the West knows little about the Soviet concentration camp system. Even to call them “concentration camps”, equivalent to the much better-known Nazi system, will come as a surprise to some. Continue reading “A world built on slavery”