We know everything about the unimaginable sufferings of the Holocaust, but we know almost nothing about the harm done in the labour camps of the Soviet Union.
Gulags. Forced labour camps all across the country.
Who got here? Criminals, political opponents and generally everyone. The organs (personal responsible for the operation of the camps) had their own quotas. They had plans to fulfill. Gulag inmates were the main labour force.
Hell on Earth. Fabricated charges, forced confessions, interrogation techniques that were so cruel the Inquisition from the Middle ages would be jealous.
The book is an insight into what happened there.
I am nothing but grateful I did not have to live through these horrors. My grandmother's brother spent there for 5 years. Two is Siberia. Have not spoken about it much.
The book is not just great because it tells a shameful story of the 20th century. Shedding light on an under examined problem.
It also gets into the human soul and human-made systems.
People do the most damage who are not aware of their wrongdoings. Almost none of us wants to harm others on purpose.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
How then we end up in regime where millions died and perished?
It's a system where there are no breaks. Breaks that could prevent one from causing evil to others.
Or even worse. A system where causing suffering is encouraged.
Or the worst. Where inflicting suffering is legitimized by an ideology.
The end justifies the means.
The book is hard to read. The author is not simply condemning some evil people. Because they might have been uneducated. Sick (mentally). Or any other limitations.
It is hard to read because we keep second-guessing ourselves: If I had lived there, in those times, would I have been a prisoner or a prison guard. Am I a victim or a perpetrator?
As Socrates said in Plato's Gorgias:
It is better to suffer injustice than to commit it.
Easy to say, until we find ourselves in pressure like that.
How some who got devoured by the labour camps got corrupted, did things they thought were unimaginable. Yet at the same time others denied to do any harm. Even if it meant their own death.
This book is a great insight to the human soul and the horrors from the past. It is way more than a documentation.