Wilson Bell presented multiple interpretations of the Gulag (a soviet work camp) in his article. These interpretations ranged from describing the Gulag as a simple work camp, to the extreme of comparing the death and destruction wrought by the institution to be on the same level as the Nazi Final Solution. The comparison between the Gulag work camp system during the Second World War, and the infrastructure driven Holocaust which occurred at the same time, made me reconsider the role of the Soviet Union in the conquest of Nazi Germany.
Without the fortitude shown by Soviet troops at Stalingrad, and various other points during Hitler’s failed assault on the eastern front, the allied effort certainly would’ve been slowed, if not halted all together. Learning that the Soviet mechanical machine was powered by labor akin to that used by the Nazis in work camps across occupied Europe puts a different spin on the contributions of the Russians to the allies. As Bell points out by citing Applebaum, the Holocaust and the Gulag system must be considered on equal playing fields, which makes looking at Russia and its Red Army as the saviors of Europe as they marched into Berlin difficult. The 27% mortality rate is certainly not as high as the numbers of dead from Nazi work camps, but the number of ‘incarcerated’ individuals in Gulags is higher, and the atrocities committed by those in charge (rape, ect) according to articles cited by Bell are astronomical in number. The enemy of my enemy is my friend- but when the enemy of your enemy and your enemy commit similar atrocities, the idea of marching into battle under the same flag becomes a lot more complicated.