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92 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The party is always right !, November 4, 2012
This review is from: Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956 (Hardcover)
This review is about the 656 pages version printed in England, by a subsidiary of Penguin Press, written by Anne Applebaum, author of the Pulitzer prize winning "Gulag: A history of the Soviet Camps."
The sheer size and scope of the book give pause to the casual reader but this is mitigated by the author's elegant prose and ability for descriptive details. The reader is not spared from the horrors of war illustrated by the unremitting violence, unmitigated brutality, wholesale rape, mass murder, abject poverty, deadly starvation and theft - events that led to mass dislocation and homelessness of massive populations within Europe by the end of world War ll - and became the fertile ground for the spread of false hope by the communists. These events are well described in the first half of the book, "False Dawn".

The second part, "High Stalinism", is a vivid description of the betrayal of the so-called "communist ideal" by Stalin and his minions based mostly on personal interviews and original source document research by the author. Applebaum depicts the subjugation on Eastern European countries through persecution, mass deportation, bogus trials, trumped-up accusations of treason and sedition and the summary arrests, torture and execution of dissidents. Civil administrations and societies were destroyed, religion was outlawed and churches persecuted - as demonstrated by Stalin's edict to.. "Isolate the Catholic hierarchy...Separate the Vatican from the believers....Control all the churches by December 1949".. at the Cominform meeting in Karlsbad in 1949.

Planted throughout the eighteen chapters, are the stories of individuals, such as Benda in East Germany, Supka and Bien in Hungary who were persecuted by communist regimes. These examples are used to emphasize the paranoia of the totalitarian oppressive governments mainly in East Germany, Hungary and Poland, but were similar to Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia. National autonomy was dismantled; arts, education, the media and school textbooks were subjugated to the promotion of the "Homo Sovieticus". Information was censored and tightly controlled by the state. Goods were rationed and housing was planned around "Ideal Cities" of communal living. The entire system was sustained by delusions, lies, fraud and corruption made possible by a vast network of informants, compliant and reluctant collaborators and cowed passive opposition. Personal security and professional advancement were closely tied to the allegiance to the communist party.

In the last chapter, the author comments about communism in the present leftist socialist regimes mainly in Latin America. It is an oversimplification, because the choice of each country depends on the various cultural and social make-up and economic needs of the society. One size communism does not fit all.

Iron Curtain is a formidable book that should be read by anyone interested about how socialism (read communism) insinuates itself in a society, either by following the collapse of that society or surreptitiously by subterfuge and lies, heralded by the gradual loss of personal liberty and economic independence. It is a failed doctrine no matter how often it is revived, modified or disguised.

Anne Applebaum is a gifted writer who has succeeded in presenting a complex amalgam of the harsh reality of war, the human tragedy of indiscriminate slaughter and mass persecutions, the genesis of totalitarian regimes and their oppression of millions in what were previously culturally advanced sophisticated societies; she did it in an easy to read elegant style and flowing prose. The book is meticulously detailed, very well researched and documented with 46 illustrations and maps of Eastern Europe before and after WWll. Undoubtedly, Iron Curtain will become a major reference on the subject.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 15, 2012 3:04:54 PM PST
Enjoyed your review influenced me to purchase the book. Thanks

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2013 4:55:55 PM PST
SInohey says:
Glad that I was of service to you. Cheers. :-)
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