Operation Keelhaul (Thomas Woods)

“Among the most egregious and shameful examples of placating Stalin was Operation Keelhaul. As part of the Yalta agreement of 1945, Russian prisoners of war liberated from German camps by British or American troops were returned to Russia, just as American and British POWs liberated by the Russians were returned to Russia, just as American and British POWs liberated by the Russians were returned to their respective countries. But unlike British and American prisoners, the Russian prisoners did not want to go home. They would have to be coerced or tricked into doing so. Some Russians had donned German uniforms and fought to rid their country of Stalin: many more had sympathized with those who did so.
Although this decision might disturb some readers, it is certainly no more difficult to understand than Churchill’s decision to side with the mass-murdering Stalin against Hitler. The Russian soldiers tried to free their country of Communism. And in order to ingratiate themselves to Stalin, FDR and then Truman betrayed at least a million anti-Communist Russians by delivering them into the hands of the Soviet dictator.
Repatriation of Russian POWs turned out to be a ghastly and grisly process. Some of the men simply committed suicide rather than return. The world hardly knew what was happening, though details managed to trickle out here and there.
Operation Keelhaul was not confined to Europe, where most of the Russian prisoners were; it was also carried out on American soil. About 200 Soviet nationals were among the prisoners of war at Fort Dix. New Jersey, in mid-1945; they had been in German uniform when Americans captured
them. They were taken prisoner with the solemn promise that under no circumstances would they be repatriated to the Soviet Union, where they faced certain death. That promise was betrayed so that the American president might be faithful to Uncle Joe. These men, according to historian Julius Epstein. ‘had already experienced the determination of American military authorities to violate the Geneva Conventions [an international declaration pertaining to the treatment of prisoners of war] and the traditional American right of political asylum.’ Epstein was referring to an incident in Seattle in which these mon had been ordered at gunpoint to board a Soviet ship. When the prisoners offered intense resistance, the decision was made to ship them to Fort Dix for the time being.
At Fort Dix another attempt was made to return the men to the Soviet Union by force. They were tear-gassed and forced aboard a Soviet ship, at which point the stunned men fought with all their strength, and even began to damage the ship’s engines to the point at which the vessel was no longer seaworthy. Finally, a sergeant came up with the idea of drugging the prisoners, which he did by spiking their coffee with barbiturates. In the coma-like sleep that the drugs induced, the men were finally returned to the Soviet Union.”

(«Fra gli atti più eminenti e infami compiuti al fine di placare Stalin vi fu l’Operazione Keelhaul. Fra gli accordi stipulati a Yalta nel 1945 vi era pure quello di rimandare in Russia tutti i russi liberati dalle truppe britanniche o americane che erano stati prigionieri in campi di concentramenti tedeschi, così come i prigionieri di guerra americani e britannici liberati dai russi sarebbero stati restituiti ai loro Paesi di origine. A differenza, tuttavia, dei prigionieri inglesi e americani, quelli russi non avevano alcuna intenzione di tornare in patria. Si ricorse perciò alla forza e all’inganno. Alcun russi avevano accettato d’indossare uniformi tedesche per liberare il proprio Paese dalla tirannia di Stalin e, sebbene questa loro scelta possa spiacere a qualche lettore, non è tanto più difficile da capire rispetto alla scelta di Churchill di allearsi con l’assassino di massa Stalin contro Hitler. I soldati russi provarono a liberare il proprio paese dal comunismo. Roosevelt e, poi, Truman, per ingraziarsi Stalin, tradirono almeno un milione di russi anticomunisti consegnandoli nelle mani del dittatore sovietico.
[…] L’Operazione Keelhaul non riguardò solo l’Europa, dove si trovava la maggior parte dei prigionieri russi, ma fu messa in atto anche in terra americana. A metà del 1945, a Fort Dix, nel New Jersey, tra i prigionieri di guerra ve ne erano circa 200 di nazionalità sovietica. Al momento della cattura portavano uniformi tedesche. Erano stati fatti prigionieri con la solenne promessa che in nessunissima circostanza sarebbero stati rimpatriati in Unione Sovietica, dove li aspettava una morte certa. […]
[A Seattle] a questi uomini era stato ordinato, pistole alla mano, d’imbarcarsi sulla nave sovietica. Di fronte alla veemente resistenza di costoro, si era presa le decisione di portarli temporaneamente a Fort Dix.
A Fort Dix fu poi fatto un altro tentativo di rimpatriare forzatamente questi uomini in Unione Sovietica. Storditi con gas lacrimogeni, furono portati a forza a bordo di un’imbarcazione sovietica, dove, mezzi intontiti, lottarono comunque con tutte le loro forze arrivando a danneggiare i motori e a far sì che i vascello non fosse più idoneo a proseguire la navigazione. Alla fine, a un sergente venne l’idea di drogare i prigionieri correggendo il loro caffè con barbiturici. Nello stato di sonno comatoso indotto dalla droga gli uomini furono finalmente ricondotti in Unione Sovietica») 

(Thomas E. Woods Jr, The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, Regnery Publishing, Washington DC, 2004; tr. it Guida politicamente scorretta alla storia degli Stati Uniti d’America, cur. M. Brunetti, D’Ettoris Editori, 2011, pp. 254-256)

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