My father, Israel Rachlin, the son of Shneur and Sara Rachlin, was born in Kibart in 1906. . . He was born into a family of horse exporters, a business that he took over upon his graduation from the University of Leipzig in 1932. He managed the business until the Soviet occupation in 1940. The whole family, my father, my Danish-born mother, grandmother and my two older siblings, were arrested on June 14, 1941 and deported a few days later to Siberia together with the thousands of others thereby escaping the fate of most of the other Kibart Jews who perished in the Holocaust including my father's relatives. My parents passed away recently, my father in October 1998, and my mother just about three months later, in February 1999. They left behind 4 volumes of memoires . . . The first volume, 16 Years in Siberia, has also been published in English by the University of Alabama Press. -- Danish journalist Sam Rachlin, posted on www.shtetlinks.jewishgen.org
One of the books at my bedside stand that I pick up when I can't sleep is Sixteen Years in Siberia: Memoirs of Rachel and Israel Rachlin, translated by Birgitte De Weille.
The Rachlin family were arrested by the Soviet NKVD secret police as "political unreliables" as were many successful Jewish families who came under Russian domination in the brief time between the Hitler-Stalin Pact and the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June, 1941. They were deported to Siberia just ahead of the SS Einsatzgruppen, to begin a 16 year sentence that only ended when the Danish prime minister personally intervened with Khruschev to secure their release.
The irony is that it saved their lives. None of their family in Lithuania survived the Holocaust. Sam Rachlin was born in Yakutsk, Siberia during that long "imprisonment without walls." The Rachlin's memoir is a wonderful tale of how love and family can overcome just about anything. But there are elements of the personal consequences of politics that resonate today.
For example, Israel relates:
In 1950, I became a homeroom teacher for the first time, and that involved quite a few new tasks. . . At least twice a year the homeroom teacher had to pay visits to the homes of his students to discuss with their parents their levels of achievement, conduct and maturity. The homeroom teacher had to write a report on his visits, describe the family relations, and present the information at the faculty meetings. . . One of my students was the daughter of the local NKVD chief. His name was Fedotov, and he was in charge of all the deportees in Pokrovsk. I had to visit him and his wife just as I had visited the parents of the other students. It was a somewhat peculiar situation, and I always went with mixed feelings. On the other hand, it was my task to educate his daughter, Nina, who was a sweet and intelligent girl. However, I myself was in Pokrovsk to be educated and retrained, and it was one of Fedotov's tasks to see to it that I was educated in the right manner and in the right spirit. I was not too sure that it suited Fedotov that a special deportee such as myself had the task of educating and bringing up his daughter. However, my visits to the home of Fedotov proceeded without friction, and the parents gave expression to their satisfaction with Nina's achievements in school.
One day, however, I met Fedotov under other circumstances. . . I received a call from the local NKVD officer, asking me to see to it that all of the senior students stayed after the last class to hear a lecture by one of the NKVD officers in Pokrovsk. I got the students together as requested and was rather surprised to see that the lecturer was Fedotov himself. On his arrival, Fedotov shook my hand and smiled, thanking me for my help. Fedotov's lecture concerned the watchfulness that Soviet citizens always had to display. He talked about the great progress achieved by the Soviet Union despite many difficulties. He paid the obligatory tributes to Stalin and talked about the great triumphs of the Soviet economy in developing the communist society that would ensure all people and races a magnificent and happy future.
However, the enemies of communism lurked everywhere, endeavoring to put a stop to the victorious progress of the Soviet society. Enemies did not sleep, Fedotov pointed out, for they were always searching for an opportunity to harm the young Soviet state. That is why it was the duty of every Soviet citizen always to be on his guard against the undermining activity of the enemies of socialism. Every Soviet citizen had to be a patriot and protect his fatherland as the most sacred thing in life. One of the most important virtues was alertness, and Fedotov urged the young students always to pay attention to what was going on around them. If they encountered something suspicious, they would have to report it immediately to the NKVD office, where NKVD officers would always be prepared to listen to them. Imperialist agents were everywhere, he stressed, and they worked in devious ways. Even the most innocent activities could conceal serious crimes against the Soviet state. . . Be on your guard and help the NKVD destroy the enemies of the country, Fedotov concluded.
As he left, he once more shook my hand, smiling in a friendly manner. With some effort, I managed to force a smile, for after that lecture there was not much to smile about for a man in my position. It was, among others, people with my background whom Fedotov had indirectly asked the students to keep an eye on. Now I had to be even more careful about what I said and did in my classes and in the teachers' lounge. While such alertness campaigns were in progress, there was bound to be someone wishing to impress the authorities by catching one of the agents of imperialism "in the act." -- Israel Rachlin, Sixteen Years in Siberia, pp. 180-182.
Remarkable, then, that I read the above pages the same night I read this in the Washington Post on-line.
Security Chief Urges 'Collective Fight' Against TerrorismBy Spencer S. Hsu
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano urged Americans on Wednesday to join a "collective fight against terrorism" that combines the efforts of individuals, companies and local, state and foreign governments.
"Collective fight." Hmmm. Not willing to take the Washington Post's word for anything, I went to the DHS website here to get the entire text (including the transcript of the Q and A period) of her speech to the Council on Foreign Relations. Some relevant excerpts:
Now, President Obama has been very forceful about seeing the threat of terrorism in all of its complexity and in bringing all of our resources, not just the federal government, to bear against violent extremism.
So today, I will speak candidly about the urgent need to refocus our counter-terror approach to make it a shared endeavor—to make it more layered, networked and resilient—to make it smarter and more adaptive and to make sure that as a country—as a nation—we are at the point where we are in a constant state of preparedness and not a state of fear.
The challenge is not just using federal power to protect the country, but also enlisting a much broader societal response to the threats that terrorism poses.
Now, a wise approach to keeping America secure should be rooted in the values that define our nation—values like resilience, shared responsibility, standing up for what is right. These are the values that led us to fight and win two world wars—that were on display in the dark days after the September 11th attacks. We must embrace them again now.
So how do we secure our homeland and stay true to our values? We do it with four levels of collective response. It starts with the American people. From there, it extends to local law enforcement, and from there up to the federal government, and then finally out beyond our shores, where America's international allies can serve and do serve as partners in a collective fight against terrorism.
Collective fight, yes, I got that. "Fedotov's lecture concerned the watchfulness that Soviet citizens always had to display."
. . . So what is the right response, and what are we doing? As I mentioned earlier, there are four layers, and the place we start is the work of engaging the American people in our collective effort. I'm often asked if complacency is a threat in the United States, and I believe the short answer is yes.
But I think a better question is this: Has the United States government done everything it can to educate and engage the American people? The answer there is no. For too long we've treated the public as a liability to be protected rather than an asset in our nation's collective security. And this approach, unfortunately, has allowed confusion, anxiety and fear to linger.
Let me stress—this is no small matter.
This is a first-order issue for us. The consequences of living in a state of fear rather than a state of preparedness are enormous. We may be better prepared as a nation than we were on 9/11, but we are nowhere near as prepared as we need to be.
There are, of course, aspects of countering the terror threat that are inherently governmental, but the smart government is one that knows what it does best and which helps others do their best as well.
So here's how we're looking at this. First, with respect to individuals and the private sector, we're taking a much closer look at how we can support and inform our greatest asset, individual citizens, and with them the private sector. You are the ones who know if something is not right in your communities, such as a suspicious package or unusual activity. . .
So there's no doubt that building a culture of preparedness in our communities will require a long-term commitment from all aspects of our society. But there are, as I said, simple ways for you as individuals and community and business leaders to engage right now. With basic training, every one of us can become better first preventers as well as first responders.
Hmm, "first preventers," yes, I think I see what you mean Comrade, er, ah, I mean, Madame Secretary. "Be on your guard and help the NKVD destroy the enemies of the country, Fedotov concluded."
The second layer is local law enforcement. And if you go out one ring from individuals and the private sector, you have 780,000 law enforcement officials across 18,000 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies. Let me just say those numbers again: 780,000 across 18,000 departments. These men and women play an absolutely critical role, because they are the ones that can act on information they receive from individuals in the community, from their own observations, or from the intelligence community itself. But the ability of state and local officials, as well as the private sector, to prepare for threats and to respond to a disaster is only as good as their ability to receive useful information, understand what it means and act upon it effectively.
As Arizona governor, I took a lead role in creating our state's first law enforcement fusion center. Now, in a typical fusion center, an FBI agent might be sitting next to a state highway patrol officer; who might be sitting next to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, agent; who might be next to an agent from the DEA or from the tribal police. They don't merely share space. They share databases and techniques. They share ideas and experiences. They break down barriers and build networks.
This ensures that local law enforcement has better information necessary to protect our people, our neighborhoods, our infrastructure. Fusion centers are and will be a critical part of our nation's homeland security capabilities. I intend to make them a top priority for this department to support them, build them, improve them and work with them.
We've now moved three dozen intelligence analysts out to the field. In other words, as we build the fusion centers, we need to move analytic capacity from the Beltway to the country. So let's—how this is used. And I'll take it out of the terrorism context for just a moment. That if a law enforcement agency reports an increase in drug seizures of a particular type, that is a data point. That's a piece of intelligence. But a whole range of agencies working together in a particular fusion center can analyze that trend to understand what it means, how it will affect particular neighborhoods, and whether it foretells something even larger on the horizon.
In addition to the 70 current fusion center sites, the department will be collaborating with the Department of Justice and the FBI in more than 100 joint terrorism task forces across the country as well. So you see how we're creating the network—individuals, private sector, now among fusion centers and the law enforcement community.
Then we move on to the federal role. Since 2001, the United States government has invested considerably in reorganizing itself to counter the threat of terrorism. Now, DHS obviously plays the critical role here because we were given the explicit mission to secure our country against attack. So we, therefore, have an obligation to be clear about that mission.
We are not the FBI and we are not the CIA, but we need to work in close coordination with them and with all agencies who have part of the counterterrorism portfolio. And the way we are doing that is taking information shared amongst the Beltway and improving the sharing of information up and down the ladder—state, local, tribal communities—to the private sector. So the addition of the ability to share intel is the value-added that the Department of Homeland security provides.
"Share intel," "value-added," yes. I think I got your fusion center hanging, Janet. "If they encountered something suspicious, they would have to report it immediately to the NKVD office, where NKVD officers would always be prepared to listen to them."
Let me close by going back to something I said earlier about people, because in the end, what we really do is about people. We are a nation of more than 300 million. More than that, we're a nation of families, communities, organizations, of cities, suburbs, tribes, all of their local governments and organizations. And within these groupings lies an extraordinary pool of talent, ingenuity and strength.
We face a networked enemy. We must meet it with a networked response. The job of securing our nation against the threat of terrorism is a large one, and it may never be totally completed, but we have a much larger chance at success if we strengthen our own networks by enlisting the talents and energies of Americans.
Countering the terrorist threat is not just the effort of one agency; it is one—or one element of society. Nor is countering terrorism the consequence of one tactic. Rather, it requires a holistic, unrelenting approach at all levels, with all tactics and all elements of society.
We need to be the very best at what we do, and that means engaging and empowering our citizens to be part of our collective effort, an effort aimed at effective prevention and of resilient response. So when I hear the phrase "Department of Homeland Security," I think of us as a hub, but the hub of a very large wheel that involves every single person in our country.
"Hub of a very large wheel that involves every single person in our country." Hmm. Yes, got that. "Enemies did not sleep, Fedotov pointed out, for they were always searching for an opportunity to harm the young Soviet state. That is why it was the duty of every Soviet citizen always to be on his guard against the undermining activity of the enemies of socialism."
Then there were two exchanges in the Question and Answer period worthy of mention. Here:
Questioner: Secretary, I was very admiring of your comments. But as I sat there, I heard you speak several times about what our citizens need to—how we need to implicate our citizens in more efforts. Are you suggesting we need train our people from school days on to be more alert and watch more carefully their school people, their schoolmates, their workers, their family, their neighbors, and then to more effectively report what they see to some authority?
Napolitano: You know, I think there's actually an important role that we can play in educating even our very young about watching for and knowing what to do if—if you're in an airport and you see a package left with no one around; you know, that sort of thing. I also think we could do a much better job at educating young people about how to—how to prepare how to handle themselves so that they can protect themselves also if something untoward were to happen.
So do we have a plan in that—in that way, or have we actually worked that angle of this? Not yet. But I think you're getting the gist of what I'm saying, which is to say we need a culture of collective responsibility, a culture where every individual understands his or her role; which goes along with my saying that the more we prepare, not only the stronger we are, but the more preparation you have, the less fear that you possess.
Questioner: Annette Gordon-Reed.
You began speaking about developing rules, against terrorism and fighting terrorism, that are consistent with values. Are there any problems, do you see, with developing a notion of citizens who have a collective responsibility to report on one another?
I mean, where's the balance between sort of the individual sort of accepting people, in your community, and at the same time being little private attorney generals?
Napolitano: Yeah, that's the point I was making a bit earlier, about being very sensitive to that. And that's where education really can come in. What is something that should be reported? What isn't? And there are materials from a variety of aspects that help with that kind of education. And so really the first questioner said, what are you doing to educate young people about that? I think that's where it has to start.
"Educate young people about this." Yes, heard that before, too. "One of the most important virtues was alertness, and Fedotov urged the young students always to pay attention to what was going on around them. "
Given that Janet's department has already evinced a staggering propensity to falsely label political opponents as "extremists" and proto-terrorists, I think she and Comrade NKVD agent Fedotov would understand each other. They certainly seem to be following the same tyrannical playbook.
The SS Einsatzgruppen weren't the only ones to take trophy photos. NKVD man executes two "enemies of the people."