Though he appears to have taken a break from his writing, Fidel Castro utilized one of his last “Reflections” columns to commemorate “The 67th Anniversary of the Victory over Nazi Fascism.” In it, he offered congratulations to the Russian people, saying that, because the Soviets under Stalin had fought so hard to preserve Communism, they were able to “crush the invaders who wished to impose a thousand years of Nazism and holocaust on all humanity.”
The aging dictator has shown confusion in the past when applying the Nazi and holocaust labels. Two years earlier, he outraged many of the typically sympathetic members of the UN Human Rights Council meeting when he declared that the “Fuhrer’s swastika is today Israel’s banner,” adding: “The hatred felt by the state of Israel against the Palestinians is such that they would not hesitate to send the one and a half million men, women and children of that country to the crematoria where millions of Jews of all ages were exterminated by the Nazis.”
Castro’s calumny is standard fare in the professionally practiced anti-semitism of today’s far-left propaganda, which tries to portray its ideological roots as antithetical and in opposition to Nazism and fascism, which it portrays as occupying the right side of the political spectrum. This has always been a false dichotomy, rooted more in historical schisms that occurred before World War II and the ideological turf-wrangling that took place after.
A story published last week in Germany’s Die Welt puts to rest this false dichotomy, proving that it is extremism itself, rather than the edifying tenets of particular extremist ideologies, that drives radical leaders to murder and oppress their own people, even as they proclaim it a necessary evil to reach the promised paradise of their particular ideology.
According to Die Welt, newly uncovered documents from the German intelligence agency BND show that Fidel Castro actively recruited former Nazi paramilitary officers to train his revolutionary army in 1962, and offered salaries four times higher than these former Nazis would have received in Germany to come to Havana to impart their know-how.
According to the declassified documents, the BND believed that Castro’s entreaties “Clearly showed that Cuban Revolutionary Army personnel had little fear of contact with our Nazi past when it served their own cause.” The report further states that four former Nazis had accepted the offer, and confirmed that two of the Nazi trainers actually made it to the island to begin work.
Castro apparently didn’t stop at purchasing the services of Nazi paramilitary trainers. According to the documents, Castro sought out the services of two renowned Nazi operatives, Otto Ernst Remer and Ernst-Wilhelm Springer, to help the Cuban government purchase 4000 Belgian machine guns.
Revelations such as these about the inter-relations between what are normally touted as the far-left and far-right are bound to continue. In May 2007, a group of German scientists and engineers unveiled the “E-Puzzler,” the “world’s most sophisticated pattern recognition system,” which could process at record speed the torn and shredded Stasi files that had been partially destroyed by the East German agents as the Berlin Wall was falling in 1989. E-Puzzler has since reconstructed millions of once-secret files, revealing much of the collaboration between disparate extremist groups who sought logistical assistance for their own operations, regardless of the ideology of their co-partners.
Out of this torrent of reconstructed dossiers and documents has also come the revelation that arch-anticapitalist Fidel Castro had filled his pockets and those of his cronies with dollars generated by using the gulag labor of political prisoners. As the Miami Herald reported in May, a cooperation agreement was established in 1987 between IKEA and Fidel Castro to utilize Cuban prison labor to build furniture for the company.
After the initial report, a Cuban defector presented evidence that he had been part of a film crew for the Castro regime that was tasked with going inside the prisons to shoot a promo for Cuba’s gulag capitalism and what it could offer foreign companies looking for cheap labor that wouldn’t complain about the long hours.
Though it has always been known to all but the foolish that the Castro dictatorship was a living perfidy, the internet age has provided more of these real time revelations than normal. Historically, most of the secrets of despots are interred with their bones. But after half a century in power, one runs up a large list of sins to hide. It remains to be seen whether further revelations that Fidel practices “communism for thee, capitalism for me,” or that he has been just as welcoming to Nazis as he has been to communists, will change the minds of those who may remain ambivalent.
Jon B. Perdue, director of Latin America programs at the Fund for American Studies, is author of “The War of All the People: The Nexus of Latin American Radicalism and Middle Eastern Terrorism” (Potomac Books, 2012).