Perhaps the only thing that outrages Russian defenders of Stalin more than the obvious parallels between his regime and Hitler’s is any reference to the alliance the two dictators formed in 1939 with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, one that opened the way to war in Europe and lasted until Hitler turned on his former ally in June 1941.
But now there may be something even more offensive to such defenders of Stalin and his system: the discovery of documents which confirm that Stalin’s NKVD cooperated closely with the Gestapo well before the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed and that may have paved the way to its signature.
Dmitry Volchek of Radio Svoboda reports that documents recently released from the archives of the KGB offices in Ukraine show that “the NKVD handed over to the Gestapo refugees from Germany who had hoped to find in the USSR salvation from Hitler.”
Beginning well before 1939 and continuing right up to the German invasion, the Soviet secret police sent “hundreds” of refugees to their imprisonment, torture and in many cases death at the hands of the Gestapo. At first, it involved mostly German citizens; but later, this “cooperation” expanded to include others as well.
German historian Wilhelm Mensing has set up a website, “The NKVD and the Gestapo” at nkwd-und-gestapo.de, devoted to the fate of those who fled Hitler’s Germany only to be arrested in the USSR, sent to the GULAG or handed back to the Nazis. [Mensing is also the author of Von der Ruhr in den GULAG (2001) among other books.]
The documents from Ukraine are especially important for two reasons:
- In East Germany, any reference to this practice was prohibited; and there are few documents about it in Stasi files, Mensing says;
- And in Russia, the secret police files that presumably do contain documents about it remain classified and thus inaccessible to researchers.
Volchek asked Mensing about similarities between the NKVD and the Gestapo. The German historian answered that they shared “the specific qualities of the secret police. The Gestapo exterminated the Jewish population in occupied countries: this was its unique feature.” On the other hand, “the number of victims of the NKVD was apparently larger.”
“The numbers varied, but the pitilessness was the same,” he continued. “Both the Gestapo and the NKVD were instruments in the hands of criminal rulers and despotic tyrants.”
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