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This is people under communism a series of documentaries interviews and talks based upon documented evidence and expert knowledge about the power and intentions of the Soviet Union. The series is presented transcribed by the National Association of educational broadcasters in consultation with scholars from the Russian Research Center at Harvard University. The Russian Institute of Columbia University and the Hoover Institute and library at Stanford University. The program you're about to hear is an analysis of communist front organizations and communist prisoners of war by Dr. Harold H Fisher. Dr. Fisher is chairman of the who're Institute and library. He's the author of many books and articles on the Soviet Union and he served with the American Relief Administration in Russia and has traveled extensively in Asia. He will be joined a bit later in this talk by his special guest a colleague from the Hoover Institute.
Dr. Irene Blumenthal Dr. Fisher. Ladies and gentlemen we are going to talk to you about communist front organizations and the problem of communist war prisoners. The question of the forced repatriation of prisoners of war in Korea doesn't at first sight appear to have any particular connection with any of the Communist front organizations in different parts of the world. But there is a connection in the first place they are connected with the basic idea of the freedom of association. In the second place they both belong to a phase of solving Russian Foreign Relations. That is very important and is not very well understood. Ever since the Communists seized power in Russia they have tried to work realize their world aims by appealing directly to the people of other countries either over their heads or behind the backs of the
governments of these countries. And while the Russian government has been trying to reach the people of other countries it has at the same time taken the greatest pains to prevent other countries from reaching the Russian people. The Soviet government has tried to reach the people of other countries through local party organizations of which where have had a good deal of information lately but it is also tried to reach a very much larger number of people by unofficial party organizations or as they are commonly called front organizations which the communists have themselves inspired or which they have in which they have taken part in this broadcast. I am have as my associate Miss Irene Blumenthal who was born in Russia and who lived in Europe until 1948. Mr. Blumenthal has a doctorate in law from the School of Law and Political Science of the University of
Vienna and she is now a member of our staff at the Hoover Institute and library at Stanford University where she is specializing in international law and Saudi affairs. In this broadcast Mr. Blumenthal and I will tell you about some of these front organizations and how the government has used them and how they relate to this question of war prisoners. When the Communists who were then called Bolsheviks seized control of the Russian government back in November 1917 a great number of soldiers captured during the first three years of World War One were in prison camps in central Russia and in Siberia. These soldiers were Germans and Czechs and Slovaks in Hungary NS and Yugoslavia and Roumanians and members of various other nationalities within three months. The Soviet commissar at all foreign affairs had started a campaign to
indoctrinate and to organize these soldiers into what was called an international revolutionary organization of socialist workers and peasants. This organization had two immediate purposes. One was to persuade the war prisoners to shift their allegiance from their native country to solve yet Russia and then to join in the defense of Sauvie at Russia against the foreigners or against the enemies of the Soviet government. The Russians undertook to organize international brigades or units of one size or another to defend the revolution. Such international brigades were organized during the civil war in Spain in the 1930s and they were organized in to invade Greece. In the recent struggle after World War Two. Another purpose of the war prisoner organizations was to use these war prisoners to convert their fellow soldiers to the revolutionary doctrines all the communists and to join in a movement to overthrow the governments of their own
countries. In some cases these war prisoners became the leaders and the organizers of national Communist parties. They look Coon was hungry and wore prisoner who actually became the head of a hung jury and saw the government which lasted for a few months in 1919 and there were former German war prisoners in Russia who became the leaders of a German Soviet government which was set up in and lasted for a few weeks in Bavaria. How important all this was in the eyes of the Bolsheviks as bestial and Elaine in speeches that are at the Russian Communist Party Congress in 1919 at which he had reviewed the achievements of the one and a half years of communist rule. Elaine even gave credit to this foreign girl for being the nucleus of the common time or third international and calls the indoctrinated prisoners of war are the carriers of the best solos of
Bolshevism. Spreading the new faith throughout the world. We do not exaggerate if we say that he regarded the city education of the prisoners of war as the initial step towards the creation of the worldwide Communist movement. Well listen to the elders of the earth. Government among the war prisoners caused a good deal of protest from the Germans. And as I understand it it was a violation of international law. Yes the German protests as well as those of the Allies were quite justified for it was the commissariat of foreign affairs. The Soviet foreign office to which these groups of water prisoners swear attached. As a result of these protests the Soviet government transferred the responsibility for indoctrinating and organizing water prisoners from the Foreign Office to the Russian Communist Party over which they claimed they had no control and the work of
indoctrination and organization went on this incidentally was the formula which the communists used so often in those years they transferred the propaganda activity to the Communist Party or the common turn. And they maintain that the Russian government had no responsibility for it so they got the best of both worlds. But after the peace conference between the Central Powers and salvia Russia those famous Brest-Litovsk conference both sides agreed that war prisoners should be really used by both sides and that they should be allowed to go home. But and this is the important point probably point of view of the present. They should not be forced to return to their native countries. Right is right then the position of Soviet Russia was exactly opposite to that position in 1952 regarding prisoners of war in Korea. There have been 17 such treaties with various powers in which only
voluntary repatriation was recognized in fact as late as 1943 did the Soviet Union take sides for voluntary repatriation. Only when she addressed her surrender outa made to the German troops that Stalin got out. I think it's rather interesting that this change in the Russian point of view in the first place insisting that there should be no forced repatriation to their present their point that they should be forced repatriation. It is connected with events which have happened in the since during and since World War 1. These events however had a certain background. The During World War 2 the Soviet government was still trying to indoctrinate or to bribe prisoners of war. To say is to support they saw the cause. And during the years between the wars they saw good government for bad Russians to leave the country and close the
frontier very tight. Of course they began to do that almost as soon as they took power in Russia. But they they tightened up more and more as time went on and as it turned out the only chance that Russians really had to escape from what the communists called the Soviet Paradise was during a war when these Russians could surrender to the other side. And in that way become prisoners of war and in this manner escape from this paradise. Well this came to be quite an event during World War 2 when a great many soldiers surrendered and so few of them wanted to return to Russia. That after that dissolve the government began to demand the enforced repatriation as a means of discouraging desertions. Now there is one of these things Mr. Blumenthal that you might say a word on and that is. Some of the cases which developed during World War Two which put a particular emphasis upon this change of
Soviet view. Yes we should perhaps first locate at Soviet policy regarding prisoners during World War Two at these two cases Poland and Germany. When Soviet troops moved into Poland in 1939 after the German attack a large part of the Polish army surrendered to them under very liberal terms which among others included a speedier least of men and officers. This problem of the poles is related to what is now a very famous case. The teen massacre. This has been investigated and written about a great deal in Europe and more recently by a congressional committee in the United States. These suppose these Poles who were taken prisoners were supposed to be on the side of the
of the Russians against the Germans. That is the Germans were the common enemies of both the both the Russians and the poles. We have in the Hoover library and these materials have been used as part of the basis of this broadcast. A great many reports which have brought out all Russia by the Poles who were taken over by the Russians and interned in forced labor camps and some of these documents have been used as the basis of a pamphlet recently published by the State Department called Forced labor in the Soviet Union. We have here the following facts. When in 1941 a Polish army was formed to fight side by side with the Western Allies and the Soviet Union against Germany. The Soviet government disclaimed any knowledge of the whereabouts of about 11000 officers whom they had captured in 1939. In 1943
the Germans discovered mass graves of about four and a half thousand of these officers in cutting a place near small islands in eastern Russia. Today after these congressional hearings there can be no doubt that these unfortunate man parish's at the hands of the NKVD and that I stuffed the missing officers found a similar fate that ruthless liquidation of some 11000 man is a very grave precedent. Among them where the best of Poland's manhood high officers of that I go our Army chaplains and outstanding intellectuals who had joined the Polish army in the hour of distress. These men leaders of their nation where without doubt strongly opposed to communism. Now let's consider for a moment some of the other aspects of this war prisoner matter the case of the German war prisoners in World War 2 back in World War 1. The communist war prisoners organizations
tried to make the German radical intellectuals and labor leaders whom they had captured. They tried to transform these leaders into a communist revolution is dedicated to start a revolution in Germany like the revolution that had taken place in Russia. But during World War Two the Russian Communists took a different line. There they then they set up a free Germany committee in Russia which was made up of ex nazi high officers or members of the Prussian nobility and these were calculated to be the nucleus of a government which the Russians plan to set up in whatever part of Germany they succeeded in occupying after World War One the Russian plan was first to have a revolution in Germany and then set up a communist government. I think it is significant that after World War 2 the order of events in the communist program was reversed. The first thing that they intended to do
was to set up a Communist controlled government and then to carry out the revolution. It is very interesting. The Committee for you Germany included among their members the field marshal from Palos and the general Seidlitz apart from providing such members as any great communists and other man who would appeal to the toiling and exploited masses. The Soviet authorities went to great lengths to have the most prominent representatives of militarism ex snap seize and typical Prussian younkers joined this organization. But there is another aspect of this war prisoner problem. The matter of prestige. No soft yet citizen could want to desert. If they did desert they were weaklings are traitors who obviously required being educated like serfs who would have been a way that actions who surrendered should be forced to return to their masters. In this case the Soviet state. But many soldiers off that I
had on me did run away especially before it became known how badly the Germans treated Soviet prisoners. And in spite of such treatment former members formed a volunteer army under General blossom. Naturally this army was under the German command. Still its members were not interested in the German space for a living but wanted to free that country from communism at any price. After the end of the War of the allies under an agreement Wade made was the Soviet government repatriated all members of the Soviet army and many former slave laborers who were found in their zones. The fate which awaited philosopher and his man could have been expected. But what was even more strange was the treatment of those men who had fought valiantly against the Germans where taken prisoners and had endured a long miserable years in German prisoner slave labor camps. These loyal citizens were not sent home but banished individually are sent
to slave labor camps on the White Sea or Siberia such news spread quickly despite censure and I knew of former prisoners of war our slave laborers who rather than bury pattering committed suicide. Well now let me summarize this matter of solving our policy in the first place. The Soviet Communists have tried to educate or to indoctrinate or to convert prisoners of war in order to that is prisoners of war that they held in order to persuade these prisoners to transfer their allegiance from their own countries to the USSR and to be used to subvert their native countries. In the second place for some years they saw their government insisted that there should be no forced repatriation of war prisoners. But then they discovered that in war Soviet soldiers did actually desert in large numbers just to escape from the Soviet Union. And then the Soviet government began to demand forced repatriation. Now this war prisoner issue and this is the third part is
of the utmost importance to the south their government because if the principle should be accepted that prisoners of war will not be forced to return the communist arguments armies will there abide be weakened and dissolve the communist prestige will suffer everywhere in the world simply from the fact that prisoners know that if they do desert they will not be forced to return. And so this is a great reflection upon the prestige of the of the communist regime. Yes the prisoners of war who do not return are the most effective propaganda to disprove the communist claims of the so called salvia part dies. And speaking about propaganda This takes us on to the next point and that is that the communist parties have made a systematic and skillful use of other non-governmental unofficial nonparty or front organizations as they are popularly called these communist of the communist parties use these organizations according to a certain formula. First of all the purpose of the
organization is usually a noble one or a humanitarian one. Or at least it's a worthy one. And it may have no relation whatever to communism. For example famine relief is one world peace. The condition of labor civil rights and world trade all of these are subjects for which such organizations may be set up. A list second step in the formula is that communist parties encourage respected persons know not to be members of the Communist Party to take part in these front organizations. And the third step in the formula the Communist Party's take part in these united fronts but they never relax the discipline of their own party nor are they would they surrender any independence. A fourth step in this parliament is that the organization is not expected to succeed in achieving its aims but it is expected to fail and one way to ensure the failure is to advertise that the Communists advertise communist support of the organization. And by this means arouse
anti-communist opposition and discourage noncommunist participation. If if by the purpose of these non-government organizations which the communists either support or form or joining is first of all to establish contact with persons who would be repelled and not attracted by communism. And secondly to demonstrate by the failure of the organization and by the opposition to it that people who are not communists are opposed to these worthy objectives. And contrariwise that these worthy objectives can be gained only by the communists themselves. One of the very first of these are organizations as I said had to do with famine relief in Russia during the great Russian famine which began in 19 20. That was not very effective except for propaganda. No it was not effective except for propaganda and that's one of the reasons why America particularly and some other countries joined in bringing relief to the government
but saw that government did the appeal and accepted this American aid through the American Relief Administration. They communist propaganda then was that this American aid was done for profit. And now the communist propaganda says that this aid was given by America 30 years ago not to for profit but as a plot to overthrow the Saudi government. There is another early type. The organization for peace this began the night of the seizure of power was the piece to carry the peace propaganda was continued while at the same time the Bolsheviks were appealing to the class hatred and waging class war with a communist may call it a point to the fact that they despise pacifism and they despise pacifists and they deny that they want to make peace with the capitalists. They they they say that the fight is for peace.
It is a part of a much larger fight of the communists for a Communist victory. Now there is a beautiful example the league against war and fascism which was founded by Vali Munson about the most talented man the Communist Party had for such activities. Between the two wars this same leak appeared in the United States under the name of American League for Peace and Freedom. In 1939 after Stalin had sided with Hitler the organization was named. American Peace Mobilization trying to keep the United States on the side of the axis article East neutral. When Hitler attacked Soviet Russia in nineteen forty one the organizations name changed again this time to American people's mobilization. Then in 1946 when the last pretenses of a friendship between Soviet Russia and the Western Allies disappeared the same organization once again was renamed National
Committee to win the peace and whose peace that was to be is not difficult to imagine. Well one of the other rather ambitious and I must say a rather successful examples of this peace campaign has been associated with the Stockholm peace petition. This has been carried on by a series of conferences the first which was held in 1948 in the old German city of Breslau now called by the poles of rock's law. Another one was held in. I was 48 another meeting in New York City in 49 and one in Paris importing 9 1 in Mexico in 49. Then in Stockholm in 1951 the petition was drawn up. A meeting was held earlier 1950 in East Berlin. One is just been held in papering and one in Vienna in 1952. They claim that over 800 million supporters of this movement throughout the world. That would be over one third of the total world
population. There is no doubt that that the number of people have been attracted to this because of the fear of war. But that is certainly over emphasized. Now all of these meetings have some kind of anti-Americanism about them. It is related. This is related to the communist theory of imperialism and that is the inevitability of war between the capitalist powers and the second point the exploitation of colonies and underdeveloped areas by the capitalist states. The communists set up among others the anti-imperialist sleek to support colonial already vaults against alleged imperialism in much the same way as more recently they have used the Stockholm peace movement against riyal and alleged dangers of war. The leak was organized by the same mastermind who set up the league against war and fascism. Billy Munson bark their way out of certain national
organizations who had already been earlier sponsored by the Communists and you are as well as a nation and the America it's part of the Congress which was held at Brasil in 1927 set up an international anti-imperialist league and it led down a significant program which can be summarized in three points. First national independence for all colonial are dependent areas and there was drawl of all foreign troops. Secondly complete freedom for all revolutionary organizations unserved nationalization of industries and the distribution of land to the toiling peasants. This anti-imperialist League was one of the means by which the communists got in contact with the and encouraged the national independence movement in Southeast Asia. For example back in 1931 there were some 200 members of the anti
imperialist league in Malaya who were supporting many of the items on the programme of the Malayan Communist Party. There are other organizations in the Pacific the Federation of maritime workers. I'm not sure that that is the precise name of it and there was another one called the racial Emancipation League. Organizations have been an important means of contact and development of the sort of communist contact with the. Communist movement in Asia. In this connection it's interesting to note that the anti-imperialist league managed at least that its first international congress to get quite a few liberal nationalists to attend. The most prominent of these was the present prime minister of India though not present at the Congress two other prominent liberals were elected to the presidency. Mrs Sun Yat Sen and the
eminent scientist Albert Einstein. There is no indication I have but if the consent of the store had been asked in advance there were also some prominent British Labor leaders perhaps it should be added that two years later at its second international congress the leak purged these liberals as traitors who collaborated with the imperialist powers. But the international call of communists stayed on. Well these organizations like the anti imperialist league partisans of peace and various other groups of this kind have drawn the support of the great numbers of people who had no interest in or who are actually opposed to the doctrines of communism the communists have made capital out of these organizations because the communists themselves were organized and disciplined and had a definite program while the noncommunist were unorganized and divided and the war prisoners issue have had a great deal to do with the spread of the contact of the communists among people to
whom they could not appeal as communists. And they have been one of the means by which the communists have prevented the development of the basic idea of freedom. Freedom of Association of People for a good cause because they have they have betrayed these good causes by the communist participation and they have discouraged other people from taking part in. Communist front organizations and communist prisoners of war and analysis by Dr. Harold H. Fisher chairman of the Hoover Institute and library at Stanford University. Dr. Fisher special guest was Dr. Irene Blumenthal who is a research assistant at the institute. This talk was a member transcribed program in the series people under communism. The series as a whole was prepared in consultation with scholars from the Russian Institute of Columbia
University Hoover Institute and library Stanford University and the Russian Research Center at Harvard University. This is Parker Wheatley speaking. These programs are prepared and distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters and they're made possible under a grant from the fun for adult education an independent organization the stablished by the Ford Foundation. This is the end they be take network.
People under communism
Communist front organizations
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National Association of Educational Broadcasters
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program presents a talk by Professor Harold Fisher of Stanford University: "Communist Front Organizations and Communist Prisoners of War". Fisher also speaks to Irene Blumenthal.
Series Description
A series of documentaries, interviews and talks based upon documented evidence and expert knowledge about the power and intentions of the Soviet Union.
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Politics and Government
Prisoners of war--Soviet Union--History
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Advisor: Hoover Institute and Library on War, Revolution, and Peace
Advisor: Columbia University. Russian Institute
Advisor: Harvard University. Russian Research Center
Funder: Fund for Adult Education (U.S.)
Host: Wheatley, Parker, 1906-1999
Producer: Tangley, Ralph
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Speaker: Fisher, Harold H. (Harold Henry), 1890-1975
Speaker: Blumenthal, Irene
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 52-38-15 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:34
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Chicago: “People under communism; Communist front organizations,” 1953-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 12, 2024,
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APA: People under communism; Communist front organizations. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from