- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 12, 2001

Some 800,000 Jews lived in Hungary in relative peace during the first five years of World War II. Suddenly in mid-March 1944, the German Army arrived accompanied by Adolph Eichmann, Adolf Hitler's organizer-in-chief in charge of the Final Solution. By May-June 1944, 400,000 Hungarian Jews had been dispatched to Auschwitz. On July 7, 1944, Adm. Miklos Horthy, the Hungarian regent who had surrendered his authority to the Nazis, reasserted it and stopped the deportations. He was shortly deposed by a pro-Nazi coup.
The deportations restarted but on a much smaller scale. And then one man and a handful of courageous diplomats stationed in Budapest and representing neutral countries, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain and Portugal, the papal nuncio and officials of the International Red Cross intervened. Some 140,000 Budapest Jews survived thanks to this group.
The Man Who Stopped the Trains to Auschwitz: George Mantello, El Salvador and Switzerland's Finest Hour by David Kranzler, with a foreword by Sen. Joseph L. Lieberman (Syracuse University Press, $45, $19.95 paper, 341 pagies, illus.) is the little known story of the man who was behind the survival of the remnant. He was George Mantello, a Jewish diplomat from El Salvador, who had earlier issued 10,000 Salvadoran citizenship papers, each good for an entire family, to endangered Jews and their families. He even invested some of his own money for the production and wider distribution of the protective citizenship papers. If only there had been more Mantellos — and Oskar Schindlers, too — elsewhere in Europe in those frightful years.

Who would have thought in the 1960s when it all began that a phrase like "nation-building" would turn out decades later in some cases to be a curse not a hoped for blessing? Nigeria — civil war, thanks to British "nation-building." Indonesia — continuing civil war thanks to Dutch "nation-building." Algeria and the Kabyle — ongoing civil war, thanks to French "nation-building." And there's Sri Lanka and the Tamils, Yugoslavia and Kosovo, Spain and the Basques, Canada and Quebec, Tibet and China, Chechnya and Russia, Rwanda, Haiti. A litany of failures and millions of lives lost.
Fool's Errands: America's Recent Encounters with Nation Building by Gary T. Dempsey with Roger W. Fontaine (Cato Institute Press, $19.95, 220 pages) is a book for the Bush Administration to study carefully if the United States is to avoid investing American lives in premature nation-building, premature in the sense that institutions essential to creating a nation have yet to be created. Ernest Renan asked "what is a nation?" and replied tersely, "a daily plebiscite" (un plebiscite de tous les jours), the willingness of people to live together in peace and mutual trust. What the authors show brilliantly and conclusively is the need for a moratorium "on the sort of ill-conceived nation-building adventures witnessed during the Clinton years." Must read for Condi Rice.

Maria Hsia Chang of the University of Nevada, Reno, a native of Hong Kong who has been studying and writing about China for decades, is one of our leading Sinologues. The Return of the Dragon: China's Wounded Nationalism, (Westview Press, $25, 257 pages), her latest book, deals with the PRC's "reactive nationalism" which, she writes, has been "generalized into a sense of contemporary victimhood." Documentation for this thesis can be seen in the nationalist outburst in the aftermath of the downing of the U.S. surveillance plane April 1.
The author cites a 1996 mainland bestseller "China Can Say No," whose message is that the PRC must stand up to the United States because the United States is a declining power whereas China is a rising power certain to triumph in this century. Praised by the Communist Party, the book was turned into a television series the same year with a government subvention. The author quotes the authors as saying, "Why shouldn't we become a superpower and assume leadership of the world?" Their theme fits with the 1996 speech of Defense Minister Haotian who has predicted that war with the Unite States is inevitable. The Chinese national mood can be described, writes the author, as "xenophobic nationalism."
This is a disturbing book because a careful reading of it can only lead to the conclusion that the prophecy, that Chinese democratization is inevitable especially now that Beijing has been awarded the 2008 Olympics, is wildly mistaken.

Daniel Poliquin, a Francophone novelist, lives in Ottawa not in Montreal, heaven knows why. Admittedly Quebec nationalism is a stuffy, humorless politics but Ottawa, Canada's boring capital, is hardly an improvement. Montreal is a delightful city, the nearest thing to Paris on $5 a day.
Perhaps the author of In the Name of the Father: An Essay on Quebec Nationalism (Douglas & McIntyre, CAN$22.95, 222 pages) has wisely chosen to live outside of Quebec for reasons of personal safety because his essay-novel, translated from the French by Don Winkle, is a witty and cogent attack on Quebec nationalists, who can be quite nasty because of their frustrations, as Mr. Poliquin shows. Appearing originally in French, the essay-novel created quite a tempest in Quebec because of the author's balloon-puncturing assault on the secessionist movement. At least half the province's population opposes Quebec separation judging by the results of three provincial referenda.
This witty book, which I thoroughly enjoyed, isn't for everybody. Interest in Canadian affairs is an acquired taste but its politics and its economy are tremendously important to the United States, far more than, say, Mexico's.

On August 12, 1952, almost half a century ago, 24 Soviet Jewish writers and poets were executed in Moscow's Lubyanka prison basement at Joseph Stalin's orders, charged in farcical, secret trials with being anti-Soviet spies. They were members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, who toured the United States in 1942 to drum up pro-Soviet sentiment after Hitler's invasion in June 1941 of the Soviet Union, his former ally. The arrest, imprisonment and torture of this group of literary figures was the opening gun of Stalin's anti-Semitic campaign, which was followed by the infamous Doctor's Plot. Fortunately, Stalin died in March, 1953, before he could carry out any further pogroms.
Stalin's Secret Pogrom: The Postwar Inquisition of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, edited and with an introduction by Joshua Rubenstein and Vladimir P. Naumov, translated from the Russian by Laura Esther Wolfson (Yale University Press, $35, 537 pages) contains a stenographic transcript of the trial of these last victims of Stalinism. It makes for fascinating reading especially the courageous and defiant testimony of Solomon Lozovsky, a deputy minister of foreign affairs. The introductory essay by Mr. Rubenstein, a noted scholar on Soviet affairs, is a sobering recapitulation of one of the most awful episodes of Stalin's reign during the postwar years.
A word about Yale University Press, which has been publishing some of the most important volumes of archives and exploratory essays about the Soviet Union as part of its Annals of Communism series. For this, Jonathan Brent, the YUP executive editor, and the foundations which are supporting publication, are owed our thanks.

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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