Classic STUMP: Remember the 9th of November
Beware of those building prison walls; build your castle walls
A re-working of last year’s post.
Yes, I know the “real” rhyme, but this ain’t about a bunch of failed anti-Protestants in England trying to blow up Parliament, but about the fall of the Berlin Wall, the fall of the USSR, and, most importantly, remembering that this happened and why.
Thirty-one years ago today, the Berlin Wall fell.
OFFICIAL MESSAGE REMEMBERING THE FALL OF THE WALL
But my personal connection to your great country, and to the German people, began in the fall of 1986, as a younger, thinner, more daring Army second lieutenant, in a place called Bindlach – we’re not far from, by the way. I am one of millions of Americans who have lived in Germany since the founding of the Federal Republic back in 1949.
My tour, my time on station here, happened towards the end of the Cold War, but my fellow soldiers and I know that we had no idea that it was, in fact, close to the end. We did midnight emergency drills and exercises within sight of a militarized border. Would the next patrol – I patrolled the border from the tri-zonal point in Czechoslovakia then, Czechoslovakia up and through Hof and through Modlareuth. Would the next patrol be our last? This was very real. It seems hard to imagine for the young people in either of our two countries. We didn’t know.
But we knew we had the ultimate advantage. We had national leaders with a deep faith in God, and human dignity, that had confidence in free peoples, with the courage of their convictions, who also had patience and persistence. They built our peoples’ resolve. They made the case to their respective peoples. They built our institutions and alliances so that we could collectively prevail over communism and over evil.
And behind the Iron Curtain, a brave and noble group of East German citizens refused to remain chained inside a communist system that denied the inherent worth of every individual. Indeed, they are the real heroes of this story. I had a chance to meet with a few of them last night in Leipzig.
Together, we won the Cold War: Germany, Germany and the United States, and all of our Allies and partners. And so it’s why I am really thrilled and happy to be here. It’s why I’m so proud – speaking mere feet from where the Wall once stood – to celebrate its demise now three decades ago. Sometimes we need to take a victory lap. We get caught up in the challenge of the day and we forget the greatness that we have achieved to lift billions of people out of horrific conditions, and that we did so together.
There is much more, Read the whole thing.
One of the points is that we have to keep fighting, and we need to remember this history. Another is to remember that the wall was intended to keep people in — they were prison walls. I will be coming back to that.
A PUBLISHER TO REMEMBER THE SOVIET CRIMES: NINTH OF NOVEMBER PRESS
Named after the day the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, Ninth of November is a small press headquartered in California. Our founders are two Americans who work with a team of experts and volunteers around the world to preserve the words of our heroes of freedom. We have used modern electronic publishing to make several out-of-print books with high demand available for Kindle, after seeing used copies sell for hundreds of dollars.
A story from one of the founders of the press:
November 9, 1989:
A PR error and a Stasi officer bring down the Berlin Wall
Saturday 9 November is the 30th anniversary of the day when unprepared East German spokesman Günter Schabowski, responding to reporters’ questions at a daily press conference, jumped an embargo and fumbled his interpretation of a page that he had been handed to read. It described a pending softening of travel restrictions between East and West Germany.
Schabowski mistakenly said on TV that passage through Berlin’s heavily Antifaschistischer Schutzwall—the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart built in 1961 to keep East German citizens safe from the rapacious capitalist sinkhole of West Berlin—was now unrestricted, effective immediately.
East Germans flocked to the Wall’s several gates, eager to cross into the other side of their city walled off for 28 years.
Harald Jäger—a 46-year-old night shift passport control officer who had cheered the wall’s rise in 1961 and joined the border patrol, a loyal Stasi member who later said he almost choked on his sandwich when he heard Schabowski’s announcement that morning—watched the gathering crowd grow from 20 people to an unruly 10,000 by nighttime.
As much as he despised the West’s fascists, Jäger ignored early orders to capture or kill trespassers, as well as later orders to allow some through but with trick one-way passport stamps that would lock them out of East Germany.
Eventually, with a restless mob of 10,000 at the gates and a riot brewing, Jäger did the safest thing for all: He disobeyed his commander on the phone and opened the gate at Bornholmer Street.
The other guards followed suit. You’ve seen the rest: Berliners on both sides united with hand tools to take the hated wall apart themselves.
I love the whole story. When I had to name the publishing imprint under which we restored out-of-print books by Russian dissidents Vladimir Bukovsky and Alexander Litvinenko, I chose Ninth of November Press. Surviving Soviet-era dissidents approved.
So far, three books have been published by Ninth of November Press.
TO BUILD A CASTLE BY VLADIMIR BUKOVSKY
I have written about this book several times before, and it was in the release of To Build a Castle that I first became involved with Ninth of November Press.
(Note: links go to Amazon, and I get paid commissions for any sales through those links)
A description of the book:
A major document in the literature of human rights, this now-legendary memoir, by one of the most prominent of the Soviet-era Russian dissidents, was a world-wide bestseller when first published in 1978.
At the age of 20, as punishment for his political protests, Vladimir Bukovsky was falsely declared insane and committed to a psychiatric hospital—standard practice for communism’s critics in 1963. But the quack doctors and brutal guards who kept him captive didn’t realize: Bukovsky wasn’t locked up with them. They were locked up with Bukovsky.
In this compelling, beautifully-crafted memoir, Bukovsky details with equal parts burning outrage and bitter humor the cruel theater of life for Soviet prisoners of conscience. But he also recounts how he found his inner truth and strength, and built a fortress around it—the imaginary castle of the title—in which he could remain safe from the daily assaults on his body and mind.
Bukovsky refused to break under the pressure of 12 years’ incarceration in a series of psychiatric hospitals, labor camps, and some of the Soviet Union’s worst prisons. More than that, though, he turned the tables on his captors and oppressors—the USSR under Brezhnev—with a series of rebellions, pranks, and persistent goading that ultimately led Soviet officials to trade him for a high-ranking Communist prisoner in the West, as a means of getting Vladimir Bukovsky out of the country at last.
In To Build a Castle, Bukovsky offers powerful firsthand testimony to the importance of personal integrity and perseverance under seemingly boundless, endless oppression and abuse. Over nearly forty years, Bukovsky’s story has inspired dissidents, prisoners, and those trapped by circumstance: Even in chains, you can be free.
The book was originally published in English back in 1978, and the Ninth of November re-published it in kindle.
Of the three books, I recommend this to be the one you start with. It’s the most dynamically-written, it’s fairly short, and I found it very compelling.
Key passage from the book:
Why should I do it?” asks each man in the crowd. “I can do nothing alone.”
And they are all lost.
“If I don’t do it, who will?” asks the man with his back to the wall.
And everyone is saved.
That is how a man begins building his castle.
Remember you may need to build a castle. And sometimes you have to do it alone.
ALLEGATIONS BY ALEXANDER LITVINENKO
About the author:
Alexander Litvinenko was a member of Russia’s FSB, its secret service formerly known as the KGB. Claiming he was ordered to assassinate a Russian tycoon, he was arrested twice before fleeing to the UK. There, he spoke and wrote frequently against what he called the “mafia state” of contemporary Russia under President Putin. Litvinenko was murdered with radioactive poison in 2006 in London. This collection of writings and interviews — curated and translated by another daring dissenter, Pavel Stroilov — lives up to its title, making one claim after another against the FSB and the regime which Litvinenko fled.
You may remember this famous poisoning, which was incredibly blatant. It’s not like most people randomly run into radioactive substances at a level that will kill them in an undeniable way.
This book was published in English in 2017, over a decade after Litvinenko’s death, and Vladimir Bukovsky wrote the introduction.
Note: the Litvinenko poisoning was far from the last from Putin’s bullies. The Skripals were poisoned in 2018, and there have been others who have been killed. We will return to that with the last book mentioned.
JUDGMENT IN MOSCOW BY VLADIMIR BUKOVSKY
Description of the book:
“The movers and shakers of today have little interest in digging for the truth. Who knows what one may come up with? You may start out with the Communists and end up with yourself.” —Vladimir Bukovsky
Bukovsky’s Judgment in Moscow, called “stunning” by Richard Pipes and “a massive and major contribution” by Robert Conquest, has been published for the first time in English. Margaret Thatcher gave a grant to support the writing of the book, and the initial publication in Russia was paid for by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. The book has an introduction by Edward Lucas and an afterword by David Satter.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, legendary Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky had the opportunity to steal thousands of classified documents from the Soviet archives. Judgment in Moscow is about the secrets exposed by those documents. It reveals the inner workings of the Soviet regime and the complicity of many in the West with that regime.
Judgment in Moscow was an international bestseller published in nine languages, but has only now been published in English for the first time. It was previously at Random House, but Bukovsky refused to rewrite parts of the book which accused prominent Westerners of behind-the-scenes dealings with the Soviets. In this edition, the author quotes correspondence with his editor, who says, “I don’t disagree, but I simply can’t publish a book that accuses Americans like Cyrus Vance and Francis Ford Coppola of unpatriotic — or even treacherous — behavior.”
“Vladimir Bukovsky uses the Kremlin’s own documents to show how the Soviet Union provided a false face to the world and how Soviet leaders used Western leaders as dupes or willing actors. Judgment in Moscow provides the written Nuremberg trial the Soviets never got when the USSR fell.” —Anne Applebaum, author of Gulag: A History (Pulitzer Prize)
“An essential warning of the dangers of collaborating with authoritarian regimes.” — Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion and author of Winter is Coming
“The most important work to appear for decades on the Soviet empire and its aftermath.” — Edward Lucas, former senior editor of the Economist, from the introduction
I was more involved with this text, working primarily on checking footnotes and original English language sources, as well as compiling reference material as backmatter for the book.
This book was released in May 2019, not only in kindle format, but also in hardcover and paperback versions. Bukovsky did live to see this publication, but died in October 2019.
The original text had been published in languages other than English in 1995 (there’s a whole story about why it didn’t get published in English contemporaneously), and there had been some bootleg English translations floating around. We got it published in English, officially, for the first time in 2019.
So we could get it into libraries, there are also hardcover and paperback versions.
If you don’t want to buy the book via Amazon, there’s a non-DRM e-book version available through Baen Books.
And to followup on the poisonings mentioned above — in the after matter of the book, there is a list of Putin opponents assassinated. Not all of them were poisoned. Most of them were shot.
DO NOT FORGET
I don’t remember (ha) if I’ve mentioned this before. The official motto of the Clan Campbell is “Ne Obliviscaris” which, evidently, is the name of an Australian metal band, but it means Do Not Forget.
The reason for these books — the reason for the Ninth of November Press — are to make sure people DO NOT FORGET the crimes of the Soviet state, as well as the continuing organizations that sprang from that Soviet state (like Putin).
There are active measures being taken by Putin and his cronies right now to paper over Stalin’s crimes just for starters, such as pretending the massive numbers of deaths of the Holodomor – aka Great Famine were not deliberate policy (they were) and that the deaths of the prisoners in Gulag were also not intentional (they were). To cover over the tortures and abuses.
Vladimir Bukovsky documents it — in his own life, and in the documents he liberated from the Soviet archives.
In the book created from Alexander Litvinenko’s writings, we see how the same corrupt state continues under different guise now.
That’s the Soviet Union specifically, but remembering the Berlin Wall, what is appalling is how many people forget — or, more likely, never learned in the first place — why that wall was built. It was not in order to keep the communist East Germans out of West Germany. It was to keep them from escaping.
If you don’t understand the distinction between a castle’s walls to protect those inside versus a prison’s walls to make sure the inmates stay inside….
You may learn that distinction in a very hard way.
October 2016: Please Help Claire Berlinski Cover Bukovsky
December 2016: Vladimir Bukovsky Makes the New York Times