The Black Book of Communism

The Black Book of Communism
Le Livre noir du communisme.jpg
Cover of the first edition
EditorStéphane Courtois
AuthorsNicolas Werth
Jean-Louis Panné [fr]
Andrzej Paczkowski
Karel Bartošek [fr]
Jean-Louis Margolin [fr]
Ehrhart Neubert*
Joachim Gauck*
(*German edition)
Original titleLe Livre noir du communisme
PublisherHarvard University Press
Publication date
6 November 1997
Published in English
8 October 1999
Media typePrint

The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression is a 1997 book by Stéphane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Andrzej Paczkowski and several other European academics[note 1] documenting a history of political repressions by Communist states, including genocides, extrajudicial executions, deportations, killing population in labor camps and artificially created famines. The book was originally published in France as Le Livre noir du communisme: Crimes, terreur, répression by Éditions Robert Laffont. In the United States, it was published by Harvard University Press,[1]:217 with a foreword by Martin Malia. The German edition, published by Piper Verlag, includes a chapter written by Joachim Gauck. The introduction was written by Courtois. Historian François Furet was originally slated to write the introduction, but was prevented from doing so by his death.[2]:51 The book has been translated into numerous languages, sold millions of copies and is considered one of the most influential, although one of the most controversial, books written about communism.[3][4]

The book's title was chosen to echo the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee's Black Book, a documentary record of Nazi atrocities by Ilya Ehrenburg and Vasily Grossman.[5]:xiii

"Introduction: The Crimes of Communism"

In the first chapter of the book entitled "Introduction: The Crimes of Communism", Stéphane Courtois states that "Communist regimes turned mass crime into a full-blown system of government" and they are responsible for a greater number of deaths than Nazism or any other political system.[6]:2

Estimated number of victims

According to the chapter, the number of people killed by the Communist governments amounts to more than 94 million.[6]:4 The statistics of victims include deaths through executions, man-made hunger, famine, war, deportations and forced labor. The breakdown of the number of deaths is given as follows:

According to Courtois, the crimes by the Soviet Union included the following:

Comparison of Communism and Nazism

Courtois considers Communism and Nazism to be distinct, but comparable totalitarian systems. He says that Communist regimes have killed "approximately 100 million people in contrast to the approximately 25 million victims of the Nazis".[6]:15 Courtois claims that Nazi Germany's methods of mass extermination were adopted from Soviet methods. As an example, he cites the Nazi SS official Rudolf Höss who organized the infamous extermination camp, Auschwitz concentration camp. According to Höss:[6]:15

The Reich Security Head Office issued to the commandants a full collection of reports concerning the Russian concentration camps. These described in great detail the conditions in, and organization of, the Russian camps, as supplied by former prisoners who had managed to escape. Great emphasis was placed on the fact that the Russians, by their massive employment of forced labor, had destroyed whole peoples.

Courtois argues that the Soviet crimes against peoples living in the Caucasus and of large social groups in the Soviet Union could be called "genocide" and that they were not very much different from similar policies by Nazis. Both Communist and Nazi systems deemed "a part of humanity unworthy of existence. The difference is that the Communist model is based on the class system, the Nazi model on race and territory".[6]:15 Courtois further stated:

The "genocide of a "class" may well be tantamount to the genocide of a "race"—the deliberate starvation of a child of a Ukrainian kulak as a result of the famine caused by Stalin's regime "is equal to" the starvation of a Jewish child in the Warsaw ghetto as a result of the famine caused by the Nazi regime.

He added:

After 1945 the Jewish genocide became a byword for modern barbarism, the epitome of twentieth-century mass terror. [...] [M]ore recently, a single-minded focus on the Jewish genocide in an attempt to characterize the Holocaust as a unique atrocity has also prevented the assessment of other episodes of comparable magnitude in the Communist world. After all, it seems scarcely plausible that the victors who had helped bring about the destruction of a genocidal apparatus might themselves have put the very same methods into practice. When faced with this paradox, people generally preferred to bury their heads in sand. [...] Communist regimes have victimized approximately 100 million people in contrast to the approximately 25 million of the Nazis.

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