The Corner

History

On Communist Executions

Andrew Higgins’s useful New York Times article about the discovery of new victims of Stalinist-Communist execution in northwest Russia would have been improved by referring to an excellent documentary appendix on the same issue published in John Earl Haynes’s and Harvey Klehr’s In Denial: Historians, Communism and Espionage (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2003; pb 2005) entitled “The Invisible Dead: American Communists and Radicals Executed by Soviet Political Police and Buried at Sandarmokh.” The appendix gives the names and brief biographical sketches of 141 Finnish Americans who were unjustly summarily executed in the late 1930s (mostly 1938) after returning to the USSR to try to build Communism.

The list was painstakingly researched and put together by an amateur Finnish-Russian-American historian, Mayme Corgan Sevander, who was herself there in the 1930s with her parents and two siblings, subsequently taught in the area for decades, and also went on to write three books on this and related issues published by small publishers in the U.S. in the 1990s. Writing in praise of her work, Haynes and Klehr note that, as of 2003, none of these books had been reviewed in a major scholarly journal and only one had received any notice in any scholarly journal that they could locate (In Denial, pp. 275–6, n.37). Higgins’s excellent article needs to be supplemented by Ms. Sevander’s work, to which Haynes and Klehr rightly directed attention. Such truth-telling about the age of enormity since 1914 is necessary for our sanity.

M. D. Aeschliman (Ph.D., Columbia) has written for National Review since 1984 and has taught at universities in the United States, Switzerland, and Italy. His father, Adrien R. Aeschliman, saw frontline combat against the Japanese in 1944–45 in New Guinea and the Philippines in the 32nd Infantry Division, one of the most battle-hardened divisions of the U.S. Army in any theater of operations in World War II.

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