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From the Gulag to the Killing Fields: Personal Accounts of Political Violence and Repression in Communist States

Recorded on June 28, 2006

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium

As a global phenomenon, the scale and character of communism is only now coming into focus. The opening of formerly inaccessible archives has helped to establish empirically the extent and brutality of Communist totalitarianism. But what about Communist terror as personally experienced by the dissidents, the so-called obstructionists who stood in the way of the Communists' efforts to create the new man of the socialist utopia?

From the Gulag to the Killing Fields (ISI Books) is the first volume to collect more than forty dramatic personal memoirs of Communist violence and repression from political prisoners across the globe. Several distinctive features of Communist political violence can be discerned from these compelling accounts. The most important, argues editor Paul Hollander, is that communism was "violence with a higher purpose" - that is, it was devised and undertaken to create a historically superior social system that would not only abolish scarcity, exploitation, and inequality, but also would create a new and unique sense of community, social solidarity, and personal fulfillment. Nothing, of course, was allowed to stand in the way of this effort to radically and totally transform the human condition - least of all human beings.

But, as Anne Applebaum notes in her foreword, human nature persisted: "Every person who entered the camps discovered qualities in themselves, both good and evil, that they hadn't previously known they had. Ultimately, that self-discovery is the true subject of most camp memoirs, and the true subject of this book."

Join us as renowned scholar Paul Hollander - who himself escaped from Hungary after the defeat of the 1956 revolution - chronicles the human cost of communism and the horrific 20th Century saga we must never forget.