Perhaps billing this book as a “how to” guide for future totalitarians is a good marketing schpeel in poor taste–but it does seem to capture the essence of this exciting new book from the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Gulag.
Inspired by their example, other young Germans began organizing similar anti-fascist groups in Berlin, but they didn’t last long. On July 31, the Soviet Military Administration banned all unregistered organizations. After that, many groups, clubs and associations were denied permission to exist.
This decision was not an aberration. Newly opened archives show that the persecution of civic activists, frequently enforced by violence, often took precedence over Communist parties’ other political and economic goals in the Soviet bloc at that time. Selective violence was carefully aimed at elites — intellectuals, businessmen, priests, police officers, anti-Nazi partisans — and above all at anyone capable of founding and leading any kind of spontaneous organization, no matter how apolitical. Scout groups, Freemasons and Catholic youth leaders all figure among the early victims of these regimes.
In later decades, this Soviet pattern of “totalitarianization” — the pursuit of total control over all aspects of public life — was widely imitated. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Muammar el-Qaddafi’s Libya got Soviet and East German advice on secret police methods, as did Chinese, Egyptian, Syrian, Angolan, Cuban and North Korean governments on those and other aspects of societal control.