The Conjuring of Anti-communist Dread

Stalin statue site reveals chilling remains of Prague labour camp…. More lies from the Guardian

The lurid tale that Robert Tait has to tell about a veritable gulag smack in the middle of Prague is scary indeed. If we are to believe him, archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a “forced-labour camp used to house workers press-ganged into building” a massive statue of Stalin (subsequently demolished under the shameful anti-Stalin “thaw”). Comparisons are drawn between the supposed camp and Nazi camps. But the evidence to back up such grave accusations is curiously lacking.

Tait says that Jan Hasil, from the Institute of Archaeology, prompted by the unearthing of some unexplained remains resulting from a project to build an artificial lake, took a closer look at the city archives. There he “discovered the original plans for the Prague facility, along with contemporary aerial photos confirming its existence”.

Poring over the plans for a facility which might or might not have ever been constructed (we are not told the nature of the aerial photos which supposedly establish that the plans were carried out), Hasil reports that the planning documents “set out provision for three wooden barracks with a capacity of 40 inmates each, housed eight to a room, with simple kitchen facilities. Conditions inside the huts were spartan, with no heating in the bathrooms.” Such a building might have served as an army barracks, or a workers’ hostel, or any similar accommodation. So far, so humdrum. Then we are told that, contrary to the concrete floors specified in the plans, no such floors were detected, “suggesting the flooring may have been made of soil.” (A simpler suggestion might have been that no floors were ever constructed.) Next we are told that wine or beer bottles were dug up, “indicating that inmates were allowed to consume alcohol”. This seems to have been a very liberal kind of gulag, specially in the light of Tait’s suggestion that the labourers “are believed to have been paid and may even have been allowed to leave the camp on occasional visits”.

Clutching at straws, Tait triumphantly reports that the “layout reveals a central square, common to concentration camps of the period, for holding daily roll calls, in a process historians say was often used to intimidate and humiliate inmates”. Or more prosaically, to keep tally of who is there. Yes, that central square is a real clincher!

And after all these innuendos and suppositions and “believed to have beens”, we have a startling retreat from all the vile comparisons attempted between Soviet correctional facilities and Nazi death camps. Hasil accuses socialism of misusing the time and lives of the people who were forced to work here. “Those people could have been studying, working in satisfying jobs or having a family but instead they were forced to be here”. It is an insult to the millions who died in Nazi concentration camps to compare their torments to those of pampered petty bourgeois intellectuals who found themselves on the wrong side of history after the Red Army had buried fascism.

It is worth remembering that Robert Tait is a senior correspondent with Radio Free Europe, the radio station funded by the US Congress through the CIA.