We have been discussing barbarians, and how they like to loot stuff that was created by other people. They do this for various reasons. Maybe sometimes they are just defective people who are not capable of making their own things. So they take stuff from other people. Everybody can actually understand the concept of theft, even while not approving of it.
What is harder to understand is why people simply destroy valuable stuff. In a way, I think this is even more barbaric than outright theft.
Which Brings us to the Nazis
When the Nazis occupied the outskirts of Leningrad, they engaged in a veritable orgy of destruction. Now please keep in mind that the Communists, after seizing power in Russia — okay, they destroyed a few churches at first — but on the whole the Commies were obsessed with the idea of maintaining and preserving Russia’s cultural heritage. Everything: literature, music, theater, architecture, ballet. Don’t take my word for it — just read up on the Communist legacy in Russia, and you will see that I am telling the truth. Why did they do this? you might ask.
Well, because Lenin and the other Communist leaders were intellectuals, that’s why. They placed themselves in the European heritage, they saw themselves, among other things, as torchbearers of European civilization. Russia’s cultural and historical heritage came under the curatorship of Marxists for the next 70 years. And they did a decent job of preserving it. Like I said, if you don’t believe me, then just go and read some books. Or better still, go the Bolshoi Theater and watch “Swan Lake”. And ponder what resources it took to support and train all those generations of classical dancers.
In fact, ironically, during the Cold War, this was America’s main criticism of the Commies: That they only supported the classical arts and repressed the “avant-garde” artists of various ilks. Soviet painters and ballet dancers were encouraged to defect to the West, so that they could be “freer” to indulge in the “modern” genres.
But I digress. Returning to the village of Tsarskoe Selo, which is where the great Russian poet Pushkin spent his childhood learning to rhyme: The Soviets spent decades, and a lot of very scarce money, restoring and maintaining all these palaces. Only to lose all of this to the Nazis, who plundered and destroyed at will. Upon retaking these objects, the Soviets then had to spend more time, and more money, attempting to re-restore what the Nazi barbarians had looted and, in some cases, even wantonly destroyed. The restorations took decades and the efforts of a small army of specialists.
Quoting from the Nuremberg Trials testimony of Lieutenant-General Raginsky, from the source I linked above:
“At the time the German invaders broke into Petrodvoretz (in Peterhof) there still remained, after the evacuation, 34,214 museum exhibits (pictures, works of art and sculptures), as well as 11,700 extremely valuable books from the palace libraries. The ground floor rooms of the Ekaterinsky and Alexandrovsky palaces in the town of Pushkin (Tzarskoe-Selo), contained various suites of furniture, of Russian and French workmanship, of the middle of the eighteenth century, 600 pieces of porcelain of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as a large number of marble busts, small sculptures and about 35,000 volumes from the palace libraries
On the basis of documentary material, the statements and testimony of eye witnesses, the evidence of German prisoners of war, and as a result of careful investigation, it has been established that: Breaking into Petrodvoretz on 23rd September, 1941, the German invaders immediately proceeded to loot the treasures of the palace-museums and in the course of several months removed the contents of these palaces.
From the Big, Marly, Monplaisir and Cottage Palaces, they looted and removed to Germany some 34,000 museum exhibits, among them 4,950 unique pieces of furniture of Italian, English, French and Russian workmanship from the periods of Catherine the Great, Alexander I and Nicholas I, as well as many rare sets of porcelain, of foreign and Russian manufacture, of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The German barbarians stripped the walls of the palace rooms of the silks, Gobelin tapestries and other decorative materials which adorned them.
In November, 1941, the Germans removed the bronze statue of Samson, the work of the sculptor Kozlovoky, and sent it to Germany. Having looted the museum treasures, the Hitlerites set fire to the Big Palace, created by the famous and gifted architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli.
“Upon their withdrawal from Petrodvoretz,” I have omitted a paragraph, “the Germans wrecked the Marly Palace by delayed action mines. This palace contained very delicate carvings and stucco mouldings, The Germans wrecked the Monplaisir Palace of Peter the Great. They destroyed all the wooden parts of the pavilion and galleries, the interior decorations of the study, the bedroom and the Chinese room. During their occupation, they turned the central parts of the palace, i.e., the most valuable from the historical and artistic viewpoint, into bunkers. They turned the Western pavilion of the palace into a stable and a latrine. In the premises of the Assembly Building the Germans tore up the floor, sawed through the beams, destroyed the doors and window-frames and stripped the panelling off the ceiling.”
I omit one paragraph and quote the last one on this page.
“In the Northern part of the park, in the so-called Alexander Park, they blew up the villa of Nicholas II, completely destroyed the frame cottage which served as billets for officers, the Alexander gates, the pavilions of the Adam fountain, the pylons of the main gates of the Upper Park and the Rose pavilion.”
I omit one paragraph on Page 47.
“The Germans wrecked the fountain system of the Petrodvoretz Parks. They damaged the entire pipeline system for feeding the fountains, a system extending from the dam of the Rose pavilion to the Upper Park ….After the occupation of New Petrodvoretz, units of the 291st German Infantry Division, using heavy artillery fire, completely destroyed the famous English Palace at Old Petrodvoretz, built on the orders of Catherine II by the architect Quarengi. The Germans fired 9,000 rounds of heavy artillery shells; together with the palace they destroyed the picturesque English park and all the park pavilions.”
Is There A Moral To This Story?
Except, perhaps, that Civilization is only just a thin layer deep. Underneath the Creative Force there is a savagery and a destructive force within the savage breast of man. How else could the same nation produce both Beethoven and Adolph Hitler?