“I Lived Under Hitler and Stalin: They Promised Socialism … But Gave Us Tyranny”

By Dr. Harold Pease

I met R. Sellner Reese some five years ago and found her story one of the most interesting and unusual ever; she lived under two of the most murderous tyrannical governments ever: Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin. “I was born under Hitler, grew up under Stalin and worked under communist dictators Walter Ulbricht and Erich Honnecker in East Germany,” she told me. Few have more practical experience under socialism than she. She and her three children came to America in 1985 for political and religious freedom requesting political asylum. Her main message to us: “socialism never worked under these regimes and it will never work in America either.” She sees us falling into the same trap of repeated lies and promises that duped her German friends and neighbors.

“Hitler promised National Socialism but gave us tyranny instead,” she said. “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.” Some warned the people but the promises were so desirable and powerful. “My friend’s father told other people, that Hitler is a liar and will bring Germany down. One evening, two men came to his apartment and took him in for questioning before the police. Five days later, the wife received a letter that he has passed away with a heart problem. The family was told his grave is at the City Cemetery. The family was so afraid to ask questions, and nobody knew what the Gestapo had done. No paper concerning his death was ever found. I personally know so many people who have suffered in the Nazi time.”

A second Hitler promise: “Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way around, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise.” The socialist promise that the government would take from the rich and give to the poor only made everyone poor and resulted in human suffering and death, and eventually war. “In my school class of 40 children, only 8 had a father after the war. Women had to take all the responsibility for family and their future.” So much for the socialist promises.

After the war the Soviets held the eastern part of Germany where she lived, (renamed East Germany) under socialism with Joseph Stalin. “We had to learn how wonderful the Red Army was and that socialism will take over the whole world to make all people free.” She remembered the fruitless promises of prosperity under Hitler. Socialism never delivered then or under Stalin. “We had little food and I never saw a banana, and chocolate was only a dream. We had to stand in long waiting lines for food. When I finally got to the counter, there might not be anything left. To buy a car, there was a 10-15 year waiting time. Of course, you must have cash!” Still, even midst all this poverty, the message went out, “SOCIALISM IS THE ONLY TRUTH ON THIS EARTH!” But the real truth was that the people could not choose their education or occupation. “The government had control over your personal life, our work, living place, childcare, school and the ‘STASI’ (Socialistic Secret Service) constantly watched us. If you resisted you ended up in prison and your children could be taken from you and adopted.”

A visit to Russia, the motherland of socialism, in 1982 revealed the failure of the promise of socialism there as well. “The citizens of Russia were so poor. Bad housing, not enough food and clothing.”

In 1985 Reese was finally able to leave socialist East Germany and come to the United States under political asylum. What she sees here in recent years is too similar to the socialist worlds from which she escaped, Reese says, and it frightens her that we are taking the same path of forced sharing the wealth and socialized medicine and so many other things, and she is forced to watch tyranny return one more time.

When she sees Congress having its own healthcare plan rather than taking the same one forced on the people visions of privileged healthcare for the socialist leaders in East Germany comes to mind. She experienced rationed healthcare when her mother, at 70, was declared too old for an operation and died two years later because resources would be better spent on the young but knew that such would not be denied a government official.

Reese warns, “What is happening in America right now is scary! I’d like to tell everybody, socialism will never work in America either.” Her loss of freedom in her former settings, she says, “didn’t happen overnight, but gradually, and it can happen in America!!”

Dr. Harold Pease is an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 25 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.

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