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Book Review: Deathride: Hitler vs. Stalin: The Eastern Front, 1941-1945 by John Mosier

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You Can Trust the Communists.  That was the title of a textbook we used in high school for a brief course on communism.  In the late sixties, particularly ‘68 and ‘69, the Great State of Louisiana required that students take American history in either their junior or senior year.  A further stipulation was that during that course, one six-week period be devoted to communism.  It seems that they could be trusted back in the thirties and forties, too, but in another way.

John Mosier, a professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, says in his latest book, Deathride: Hitler vs. Stalin: The Eastern Front, 1941-1945, that Stalin and his gang could be trusted.  They could be trusted to bend the truth and distort the facts to suit Stalin’s vision of reality.  Hmm…. is this much different than what happens today?

The advance of both German and Russian armies to the Eastern Front became, as the title said, a “death ride” for each as their dictators battled to the death.  Another commonality was the loss by each country of a military genius that, had either or both lived, would have certainly had a noticeable impact on the outcome of the battle on the Eastern Front and perhaps on the outcome of the war in general.  The German, Walter Werver, was killed in a freak airplane accident.  Russia‘s greatest general, Mikhail Tukhachevsky, was arrested, tried, and shot on Stalin’s orders. 

And now, we arrive at Mosier’s thesis: that the Russians were pathological liars who said any and everything that would support their cause.  They lied about the nine million people who died in Stalin’s efforts to collectivize agriculture and they lied about “The Great Terror.”  Not only did they deny the occurrence of “The Great Terror,” they eventually lied about how many people died therein (almost 20 million).  Obviously Stalin had his own brand of holocaust in Russia with his own people.  He personified the adage of “shooting the messenger” to the point that soon he began to hear only what his aids knew he wanted to hear.

According to Mosier, these lies came back to haunt Russia in more ways than one with results that influenced history far beyond VE Day.  Mosier’s conclusion is that had it not been for the Allies, Germany would most surely have prevailed against Russia.  Hitler gambled with a sizeable portion of his resources there. Two of three German casualties in the entire war were on the Eastern Front.  Sometimes we Westerners get so caught up in the stories of our GIs in Europe, our great leaders there, and the efforts of Great Britain to assure U.S. involvement, that we forget about the tremendous loss of life on the Russian front.

Mosier’s smoothly flowing prose results in a thought-provoking page-turner on a par with many novels.  He helps the reader see through the fog of lies that have been perpetuated through the years.  His research has gleaned new facts from the shrouds of tradition and the gullible acceptance of previously unchallenged information.  Some might call Deathride revisionist history.   Whether “revised,“ or simply “corrected,“ we learn what really happened, how it still affects us today, and why we can still trust the communists.

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