Friday, February 15, 2008

Between Two Fires

Making a pact with Joseph Stalin was like making a pact with the devil. No matter what the devil promises, he always triumphs over those foolish enough to bargain with him. Whatever the United States and Great Britain thought to gain by so magnanimously treating with Uncle Joe at Yalta in 1945, the only ones who gained anything of substance in the long run were the Soviets. Eastern Europe was handed over to Stalin, who was probably responsible for killing as many or more people than Hitler. The reasons why vast territory was ceded to the Communists are obvious if one has read Whittaker Chambers. Last night, by watching an insightful and poignant documentary, more pieces of the puzzle were put together for me, as well as further comprehension of the enormous toll in human suffering that was the price paid for making peace with Stalin on his terms.

Between Two Fires, an extraordinary film by Douglas Smith, chronicles the tragic events of the spring of 1945 when Russian POWs, interred on American soil, were repatriated by the United States to the Soviet Union where they faced torture, imprisonment, and certain death. To hand over prisoners of war to captors who were going to inflict death and severe punishments upon them violated the Geneva Conventions. The Russian prisoners begged for death at the hands of the Americans rather than being given to the Soviets. Some committed suicide. They were refused the ministrations of the local Orthodox clergy and so had to face their ordeals without spiritual guidance. Yes, they had been fighting for the Germans. But they did not see it so much as fighting for the Germans as fighting against Stalin and the Communists, who had inflicted untold sufferings upon the Russian people.

Between Two Fires is the winner of several awards, including a Bronze Oscar in 2002. Douglas Smith weaves together the political conniving, the human despair, and the underlying spiritual struggle into a powerful documentary. He is not afraid to tackle many controversial and uncomfortable questions. Why were American soldiers being held prisoner by the Soviets after the war? How did so many Russians end up fighting on the German side? Why were the Geneva Conventions so blithely ignored? Who was ultimately responsible for repatriating the Russian POWs against their will? Such questions and many others are probed in this short but cogent film. Every student of modern European history should own a copy of it. Because it is artistically crafted and yet based upon solid historical evidence and personal testimonies, it is worth watching again and again. It is a film which sheds further light upon the compromises which free people have made with the Revolution, to the detriment of all. Share