Young generations know almost nothing about what communism led to, so we need to act now, while we still have people whose memories can be preserved - says James Bartholomew, director of the Communist Terror Museum in London.
"For me, for my generation, the years 1989-90, when the countries of Eastern Europe freed themselves from communism, were a fantastic moment, because we saw that something that had brought people so much suffering was finally over. We thought it would be forever. But we thought it would be there forever. history does not work like that, because the next generations do not know anything about it and these ideas may seem attractive to them. Therefore, it is necessary to pass this knowledge on to what they actually led to "- Bartholomew said in an interview with PAP.
As he recalls, the moments of public rehabilitation of communism began to notice a few years ago, when the opposition was led by socialist Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom, Bernie Sanders ran for the presidency in the US, and John McDonnell brought him to the House of Commons for the presidency at the time. Mao Zedong's Red Book and said in an interview that you can learn a lot from Marx's Capital.
"I thought then: oh God, it really does come back, and my generation of children has no knowledge to confront the ideas of these people. Many young people were very enthusiastic about Corbyn. Of course, they can believe who they want, but it's important that they know what happened before when attempts were made to introduce communism. I would like the knowledge about what happened during communism to be as present in schools and in the public consciousness as the knowledge about Nazism or Hitler. , not about theories. Then they can decide whether they want to be communists, "says Bartholomew.
He cites the survey conducted by the Survation centre in Great Britain among people aged 16-24, which shows that 28% of them have never heard of Stalin, 49 percent. about Lenin, and 70 percent. about Mao Zedong. Mao Zedongu, who, as the museum director reminds us, is responsible for more lives in the 20th century than anyone else. He says that young people are ignorant, but at the same time points out that it is more the fault of the education system.
"We do not teach them about it and that is what I would like to change. To teach more, but also to teach in a different way. The history of the Cold War is shown from the side of Stalin, or from the West, but it is not shown from the side of people who in this they found. The point of view from which one looks at stories decides what it looks like. From Stalin's point of view, it was a great success, they took a large part of Europe. And where is the view, was it right, moral? like Poles or Czechs, did they not have the right to self-determination? What about terror, what about the low standard of living? You have to show history also from this point of view, and this is completely missing in school "- argues Bartholomew.
Young people in Great Britain are less susceptible to communist ideas, he believes, compared to their peers in France, Italy or other Western European countries, but that should not be a reason to calm down. "The path we have travelled since 1990 when literally everyone knew that communism was a terrible idea and caused misery to millions of people, until now, when my generation knows it, but not the younger one, is an important lesson" - he points out.
"It will only get worse. In 20 years there will not be many people knowing from their own experience that communism was a catastrophe. British society is more and more susceptible to its temptation. So it is imperative to act now while we still have people whose memories we can keep The future is more dangerous, not less "- he argues.
As he says, he came up with the idea of creating the Communist Terror Museum for several years - just at the time of the growing popularity of Corbyn and Sanders - when he was at the House of Terror in Budapest, which he admits made a big impression on him.
"I have visited many museums since then to see what makes a good museum. There must be + wow + effect on the one hand and very personal stories or items on the other, like letters from prisoners from Vietnam re-education camps. In the Gulag Museum in Moscow, one of the most moving things I saw was a piece of wood with the words + I'm on the train, I don't know where I'm going, please tell my family, this is their address +. Such little things can be remarkably eloquent, "Bartholomew points out.
As he announces, he wants the attention of the London museum to be focused not on leaders, but on people who have suffered as a result of their decisions. "We need to understand the human cost of what the leaders did," he explains.
"We joined the game late because such museums have existed for over a dozen years in Berlin or the countries of Eastern Europe. When we started, we had nothing. Now we have about 100 exhibits and we could do a small exhibition. Among them is the Trabant or the great Mao monument. recently at an auction of a door from a KGB building in Lithuania or a thermometer used by KGB executioners to check whether the body temperature drops to confirm that the convict is dead "- says the director.
He adds that he would like to purchase a T-54 tank, such as was used in the Hungarian intervention in 1956 or Czechoslovakia in 1968, which is a symbol of "Communist imperialism", and a cattle wagon used to transport people to the Soviet Union. gulags. "But we also do a lot of interviews with people from the former communist countries to give them authentic memories of what communism really looked like, or about people who were killed by communism. One of the latest recordings is about Witold Pilecki. These videos are about 100,000. . views "- he says.
When asked when the London museum is scheduled to open, Bartholomew replies: "I would like to open the museum tomorrow. What is holding me back is money, because we only function thanks to subsidies, but I hope that thanks to all these activities we build sufficient credibility."
From London Bartłomiej Niedziński (PAP)