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Tanya, Terrorism and Our Phoney War

ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA — As I write you this week, I am concluding a fascinating and informative trip to Russia with the American Foreign Policy Council and my friend Herman Pirchner. Last week, I wrote to you from Moscow. This week, we concluded our tour in St. Petersburg, the capital of the Old Russian Empire.

One place we visited in St. Petersburg in particular has got me thinking about the threats we face as a country and as a civilization — and how our leaders and elites have yet to honestly face up to these threats. They are, in significant ways, deluding themselves — and endangering us in the process.

The Dead of the Siege of Leningrad

On Sunday, we visited the Piskarevskoye Memorial Cemetery, dedicated to the victims of the siege of Leningrad (as St. Petersburg was called at the time) during World War II. For nearly 900 days, from September 1941 until January 1944, the German Army surrounded and besieged the city. At least 641,000 people died and perhaps as many as a million — the vast majority of them civilians — mostly from starvation and disease.

More than 500,000 of these victims are buried in the Piskarevskoye Memorial Cemetery. On its own, this massive place of death is sobering enough. But in the cemetery’s museum are two chilling displays, shown side-by-side, that speak volumes about the consequences for average people when their leaders fail to heed the words of evil men.

The Diary of Tanya Savicheva

The first display is the diary of an 11-year-old girl named Tanya Savicheva, written during the siege of Leningrad.

In seven short entries below, she documents the deaths of her entire family — first her sister, then her grandmother, then her brother, her uncle, another uncle and finally her mother.

  • Jenya died on 28th Dec. at 12.30 AM 1941
  • Grandma died on 25th Jan. at 3 PM 1942
  • Leka died on 17th March at 5 AM 1942
  • Uncle Vasya died on 13th Apr. at 2 o’clock after midnight 1942
  • Uncle Lesha on 10th May at 4 PM 1942
  • Mother on 13th May at 7.30 AM 1942

The last entry in Tanya’s diary says simply, “Savichevs died. Everyone died. Only Tanya is left.”

And then Tanya herself died of starvation.

‘In this Existential War, There is No Point in Maintaining These People’

Side-by-side with Tanya’s diary in the museum is another display that makes Tanya’s diary all the more disturbing. It is a September 1941 German High Command order to the German army in Russia.

The order states with evil simplicity that “the Fuhrer has decided to raze the city of St. Petersburg from the face of the earth.”

The German army is ordered to attack and eliminate the city’s supply lines — to isolate the city and literally starve its inhabitants to death.

“There is no point to prepare for the subsistence of the population.”

“In this existential war, there is no point in maintaining these people.”

The Suicidal Behavior of Gordon Brown

As I stood there looking at this call for the annihilation of an entire city and the extermination of its residents and as I read the tragic story of a young girl just a few years older then my own granddaughter watching the slow death of her entire family, I was reminded of a recent book about the terrible consequences of attempting to appease evil.

Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England by Lynne Olson tells the story of how the British establishment lied to the British people and sought to avoid doing anything to antagonize Hitler even in the first year of World War II.

And then I thought about the suicidal behavior of new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown after the attempted terrorist bombings in London and Glasgow.

Prime Minister Brown has reportedly banned his ministers from using the word “Muslim” in connection with the terrorism crisis in Britain. And he had also banned the phrase “War on Terror,” apparently because of its close association with his former Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush.

Our ‘Phoney War’ on Terrorism

And as I thought about the new British prime minister’s unwillingness to tell the truth about the terrorists who are seeking to destroy Western civilization, I realized this:

For the past six years, we have been engaged in a “phoney war”.

The period during World War II from 1939-1941 became known as the “phoney war.” After Hitler had attacked and occupied Poland, the Nazis had made their intentions clear, but the Allies did little to respond to Hitler’s aggression. In this period of “phoney war,” the British people eventually came to believe that they could avoid war. Children who had been evacuated from the cities began to return to their families.

And then, in May 1940, Hitler attacked France. The “phoney war” was over. The real war had begun.

How Many More Tanyas Will There Be?

Standing in that cemetery in St. Petersburg last week, I thought of all the other Tanyas who had died because their leaders refused to believe the evil words of evil men and refused to convey that truth to their people.

I thought of today’s Tanyas — all the young girls and their families who are threatened by the Irreconcilable Wing of Islam.

Just as in the years leading up to World War II, the signs are all around us. The rise of Hamas. The re-arming of Hezbollah. The Iranian dictatorship’s relentless drive for nuclear weapons. Terrorists from New Jersey to London to Iraq and Pakistan who are saying repeatedly and publicly that they want nothing more than to kill us.

So my question is this: In our own existential war, do our leaders hear these voices that are determined to destroy us? And will our “phoney war” end on our terms, or the terms of our enemies?


Newt Gingrich

P.S. — Don’t forget to tune in on July 23 for my personal briefing on the huge gap in incentives and abilities between the America that fails and the America that works. Join me in finding out how we can transform our country and our government by reaching out to all 511,000 elected officials in America. And don’t forget to watch my YouTube video called FedEx vs. Government Bureaucracy that describes the core structural problem of government and why it doesn’t work. So far, more than 200,000 people have viewed it. You should, too.

P.P.S. — In case you missed it, my op-ed, “Sarkozy’s Lesson for America,” appeared last weekend in the Washington Post.

P.P.P.S. — I will be in Atlanta tonight, July 10, with Sean Hannity, WSB Radio and Lt. Col. Oliver North for the Hannity Freedom Concert to benefit the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund for the children of America’s Military Heroes who have been killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. I will be signing copies of my new novel, Pearl Harbor, at the event. Tickets are still available.

Atlanta, Georgia on July 10, 2007
The Arena at Gwinnett Center
Doors Open: 5:30 pm
Concert Begins: 7:00 pm

Tickets to the Atlanta concert can be purchased by calling 1-800-329-5454 or online by clicking here.

Written By

Mr. Gingrich is the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and author of To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine, Real Change: From the World That Fails to the World That Works and Winning the Future (published by Regnery, a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).

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