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an entirely respectable hatred

By Diogenes (articles ) | Nov 25, 2007

This rankles. The AFP photo above, taken from the BBC website, shows Soviet cartoonist Boris Efimov (sometimes transliterated Yefimov) reviewing a retrospective of his drawings in commemoration of his 107th birthday.

A nostalgic occasion? It shouldn't be. Efimov was a classic Stalinist toady, at once sycophantic to the dictator and foully malevolent towards his master's enemies, who included not only the Nazis (when expedient) but the Catholic Church as well. The cartoon below, showing the Red Army soldier striking fear into the Axis leaders -- and the Pope -- was titled "Seven Dangers, One Response." That to the right (from 1940, when the Nazi-Soviet Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact was still in force), shows a Roosevelt figure as Uncle Sam adding his war-industry profits on an abacus of human skulls. Efimov was a true believer. Still is, apparently.

Of course, Efimov was just a cartoonist, a hack. It may well seem captious to treat him as a responsible adult with a serious political message. But consider the case of Julius Streicher, the Nazi fanatic notorious for his ferociously anti-Jewish caricatures in the weekly Der Stürmer, of which he was the publisher (for some specimens of Streicher's work, visit the excellent Calvin College archive). Arraigned at the Nuremberg trials, Streicher was convicted of crimes against humanity and executed by hanging in 1946. The Wikipedia entry on Streicher notes that "he holds the distinction of being the only defendant from the Nuremberg trials executed solely for the expression of ideas." Ironically, Efimov was also present for the Nuremberg Trials -- in the gallery. He was commissioned to pour ridicule on the defendants for the readers of Izvestia, Pravda, and Krokodil.

Not all crimes against humanity carry the same cost of complicity. As Peter Simple sardonically observed (with a wry glance at 1 Samuel 18:7), "Hitler has killed his millions, and Marx his tens of millions." Now apologists for Fascism, even persons judged deficient in their opposition to Fascism, have in the main been condemned by public opinion; yet those who have applauded, or even participated in, the Leftist regimes of Stalin, or Mao, or Pol Pot, are rarely treated with comparable abhorrence in the West. The fact of the matter is that many Leftists today, while willing to discountenance the "excesses" of Stalinism, have come to view Christianity as the main obstacle to the realization of their political goals, and they neither feel nor wish others to feel indignation at the liquidation (the term of art) of so many obdurate opponents. If you think I've drawn the contrast too sharply, try this experiment: spray paint a hammer-and-sickle on the sidewalk outside the faculty office complex of your local college. One month later, spray paint a swastika on the same sidewalk. Compare the respective reactions of the university community. Write the results to me from jail.

In every pertinent respect -- ideological crudity, bluster, the combination of braying invective and cringing toadyism -- Efimov and Streicher were twins, and in every measure of crimes against humanity, intended and effected, the regimes they served were twins as well. Born fifteen years before Efimov, Streicher has been dead six decades. Efimov is living yet, in honor. A parable.

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Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Nov. 26, 2007 9:27 PM ET USA

    The Russian culture article notes Efimov was in Kiev at the time of the Civil War after the Revolution. Good thing he didn't stay there - he wouldn't have made it to 107 if he'd had to live through a famine. "Jozeph Stalin personally gave Yefimov assignments. Once he even corrected one of his drawings." I bet he did.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 25, 2007 4:15 PM ET USA

    Shhh! Don't tell the bishops Efimof is alive and well! Years ago, "Sanders," the Milwaukee Journal cartoonist, consistently sketched anti-Catholic cartoons ridiculing the Church for her stand on the usual hot buttons (e.g., anti-abortion, anti-contraception, non-ordination of women). Despite his track record, the American bishops' "Campaign for Human Development" commissioned Sanders to sketch promotions of this leftist activist fund to squeeze dollars from unwitting Catholics.

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