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HomeIllinois NewsKushiner: Ill-Fated Life Applause & Cheers for the Dying Lives of Others?

Kushiner: Ill-Fated Life Applause & Cheers for the Dying Lives of Others?



UnnamedBy James M. Kushiner, The Fellowship of St. James - 

When I was young,  I wondered how a virulent moral virus could so infect a nation that they would give power to a man willing to kill millions in death camps. What I puzzled over concerning Hitler, I realized had another expression in the USSR when I became aware of the crimes of Stalin and the fate of those caught in the gulag archipelago.

Soviet Jewish writer Vasily Grossman's dissident novel Life and Fatepublished in English in 1985, and finally published in the Soviet Union in 1989, focuses on both the personal and the political in the context of the battle between Stalin and Hitler during World War II. Both men use state-run camps to impose their wills and ideologies.

I first discovered Life and Fate through the 12-part Russian-made mini-series (2012) based on the 800-plus page novel. Only a year earlier, the BBC had released an audio Life & Fate :

Kenneth Branagh stars in BBC Radio 4's ambitious eight-hour dramatization of Life and Fate, Vasily Grossman's epic masterpiece set during the Battle of Stalingrad. This powerful work, completed in 1960, charts the fate of both a nation and a family in the turmoil of war. Its comparison of Stalinism with Nazism was considered by Soviet authorities to be so dangerous that the KGB placed the manuscript under arrest and Grossman was informed his book would not be published for at least 200 years.

Having been a household name as one of Russia's most distinguished war correspondents, Grossman died aged 58 — the banning of his book hastening the end of his life — and he would never know the fate of his masterpiece: smuggled out of the Soviet Union on microfilm, to freedom and eventual publication in the West. Today it is increasingly hailed as the most important Russian novel of the 20th century.

Jacob Howland reviewed Life and Fate in the October 2018 issue of The New Criterion. In his fascinating study, he notes, "For the totalitarian State is something like an extremely heavy metal, and its nucleus–the point where all ideological, technological, and administrative forces converge and achieve maximum concentration–is a death camp." 

Grossman depicts a perverse Last Supper in which Adolf Eichmann, on an inspection tour of a camp, is presented with a table of hors d'oeuvres and wine placed in the center of a gas chamber. Far-fetched? Howland relates: "Ukrainian witnesses interviewed by Father Patrick Desbois in The Holocaust by Bullets testified that the men of the Einsatzgruppen banqueted next to the pits where Jews were being shot."

Howland: "The biblical God nourishes soul and body alike–literally, in the case of the communion wafer. Totalitarianism reverses this relationship. Like some primitive, malformed Titan, the State, Nietzsche's 'coldest of all cold monsters,' feeds on human lives."

How can educated men not only commit but celebrate obvious evil? Adjourn with me now to Albany, New York, where Governor Cuomo signed a law which effectively allows for infanticide. Touchstone Senior Editor Robert P. George reacted:

"Until a few minutes ago, I had never felt physically ill as a result of watching something on television. But the video footage of New York legislators applauding and cheering the monstrous late-term abortion bill they passed yesterday on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade literally nauseated me. The sheer inhumanity of applauding an act licensing and facilitating the killing of six, seven, eight, even nine month babies–babies who could be delivered and survive; babies with fully formed faces, eyelashes, fingernails; babies who hear and are familiar with their mother's voice–turned my stomach. What kind of people are we? How can so many be utterly blind to such gross and manifest evil? These people were cheering. They were *cheering*. Where did this fanatical commitment to ensuring that the lives of children in the womb count for nothing–indeed less than nothing–come from? How did this contempt for human life insinuate itself into people's hearts?"

Answer: the ancient enemy who seeks to devour men. And no nation is immune, no, not one. No time for sleeping.


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