Many of my contemporaries are unaware of what happened in Europe to atheists before and during WWII. We were among the first groups murdered by Hitler and then Franco during and after the Spanish Civil War. Franco was a particularly nasty theocrat who had his troops shoot all the atheists first when they captured a town. He also abducted 300,000 babies from secular families and gave them to right-wing families. Some Spanish parents are still looking for their children today. When Hitler invaded godless Russia in 1941 he directly or indirectly caused the death of about 30 million Russians many of whom were atheists. In Croatia the Vatican supported the Ustasha, a Catholic fascist group that overthrew the government and established a brutal totalitarian theocracy that made the Inquisition seem mild by comparison. He murdered all non-Catholics who were Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and atheists. A total of about one million were brutally massacred in concentration camps. This is a history that is denied and revised by believers. We should all know it. Here is a blog by William Meyers of the III Publishing Co on some parts of it.
The Atheist Holocaust
Tired of Jewish Holocaust stories? I think it important to a take on people and institutions that deny the grim facts of history. But denial also sometimes comes from selectivity. Concentrating on the slaughter of the Jews by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party overlooks the many other victims of the fascists, including the regimes run by Franco in Spain, Petain in France, and Mussolini in Italy.
The Nazis started executing their enemies shortly after they came to power in 1933, but that hardly distinguished them from the typical world government. The numbers were not large, at first. The first big numbers were racked up by the Spanish fascists led by General Francisco Franco in the civil war that began in 1936. Again, at the time it was not clear this was the beginning of the Holocaust; soldiers kill each other, and often civilians, in civil wars. But Franco's troops, when they took a town, got lists of local atheist and Protestant men from Catholic priests, and shot them without trial. The roundups and executions continued even after the the Republican side surrendered. Franco's side was Catholic. Thus the shootings were an extension of the Spanish Inquisition and the Catholic wars against Islam in Spain (and against pagans in the Americas). Amazingly, except for some arms supplied by the Soviet Union, none of the democracies offered help to the elected government of Spain. In fact, the United States and Great Britain refused to sell arms to the Spanish Republic. They said that was neutral (they did not sell arms to Franco either), even as Germany and Italy supplied the fascist rebels with arms and trained soldiers.
Usually this lack of support for the elected government of Spain is attributed to the fact that democratic socialists (as opposed to anarchist socialists (anarcho-syndicalists) and communists) were the largest party elected. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, however, had other reasons for neutrality. He, and the Democratic Party, depended on two large voting blocks: Catholics, mainly living in northern urban centers; and racists in the southern states. The Catholic Church in the United States supported Franco, and Roosevelt decided he could not risk alienating Catholic voters for a cause so far from most American's concerns during the Great Depression.
It is generally agreed that the failure of the democracies (the United States of America, Great Britain, and France) to respond to the fascist takeover of Spain that convinced Hitler and Mussolini that they could start grabbing bits of the world. Regarding the Holocaust, it also convinced Hitler that he could execute large numbers of his enemies without interference from the outside world. Kristallnacht, which did not involve mass executions, did not take place in Germany until 1938. However, even before the fascist win in the Spanish Civil War, Hitler already had a model, the Turkish genocide against Armenians [See Franz von Papen, Hitler, and Two Popes].
While he and the two fascist popes, Pius XI and Pius XII, disagreed on some things, they agreed that it was important to exterminate non-Catholics, particularly Communist non-Catholics. Hitler, of course, put a higher value on exterminating Jews than the Popes, and both were willing to give Protestant Christians, who did not otherwise cause too much trouble, time to convert to Catholicism. [In case you have not been reading this blog, Hitler was Catholic. So were Mussolini, Franco, and Petain].
You know about the six million Jews. Who else did Hitler kill, with the Pope's blessing? I use generally accepted numbers here (there is much debate, largely due to attempts by various groups to whitewash their own deeds and demonize those of their enemies).
The Romani ("Gypsies") lost in the vicinity of 1 million. Non-Jewish Poles lost 2 million. Disabled Germans killed numbered a quarter million. Some 5000 Jehovah's Witnesses were killed.
But the really, really big number of victims can be classified as Atheists; most were Communists, though only fraction of them were members of the elite Communist Party. Hitler murdered Germany's Communists early on [though many of them converted to being Nazis], and even murdered some leaders of the more atheist, socialist wing of his own party. But the really big numbers came from deaths of citizens of the U.S.S.R. Some of these people may have been Orthodox Christians, but the vast majority were atheists. An estimated 7 million died fighting the German army. Perhaps two million soviet POWs were executed. And probably about 12 million civilians died in collateral damage or from starvation in German-held areas. [See World War II casualties of the Soviet Union for details]
That is a lot of dead atheists. This atheist holocaust was planned for decades by the leaders of the Catholic Church [See my series of articles on Pope Pius XI].
But Hollywood is based in the United States, and heroic Russian war movies, or pitiful atheist-civilians-killed-by-Catholics movies would not go over big here.
I think the atheist holocaust deserves some serious study. We still have a large Catholic Church, now led by an "ex" Nazi who seems to be trying to push the Church and world back to the Dark Ages. We still have religious leaders of all sorts who encourage their followers to hate people of other faiths. I might mention the record of atheists is not clean either, especially when atheism has been combined with authoritarian political trends like Leninism.
In my Natural Liberation philosophy war is always a war crime. Killing civilians (and pushing them off their lands into refugee camps) is always a crime against humanity. Religion may be wrong-headed, but it is up to the upright to persuade the religious to align themselves with Nature. I do believe people have a right to use violence for self-defense, but that is a very limited right because all too often people claim they are defending themselves when they are really attacking others or perpetuating a pointless feud.