Kafka, being honest, depicted hisnnightmares. He revealed the personalitynof the diclasse, stripped of humanity,nnothing more than an insect. He showednthe absurdity of living as such in anmiddle-class world, whose conventionsnbecame ridiculous by contrast. Butnwhen “modern man,” bourgeois to hisntoenails, tries on existentialism, he is notnas honest as Kafka. He accepts blowndryers and television, Renaults and Perrier.nThe only thing he chooses to discardnOn Self-DefilementnMark R. Elliott: Pawns of Yalta: SovietnRefugees and America’s Role in TheirnRepatriation; University oi IllinoisnPress; Urbana.nby Charles A. MosernMark Elliott, associate professor ofnhistory at a small Kentucky college, hasnwritten a thorough book on one of thenlargest moral dilemmas the UnitednStates government has faced in recentntimes, a situation in which those inncharge of our government acquittednthemselves poorly. The story of thenforced repatriation of Soviet citizensnfreed from German prison camps or capturednwhile fighting in German ranks innGerman uniforms has become a rathernpopular topic lately: Lord Nicholas Bethellnhas published a gripping account of itnin The Last Secret, for example. Elliottnhas reviewed the existing literature andncompiled a fascinating story too, thoughnhe is drier and more scholarly in his approachnthan Bethell. He deals with thenmoral aspects of the situation carefully,nas well.nIn the period following Hitler’s surprisenattack on the Soviet Union, thenGerman armies, in their rapid advance,noften encircled great numbers of Sovietnmilitary and civilian personnel, who werenProfessor Moser teaches at the GeorgenWashington University.n181nChronicles of Culturenis “conventional” morality. And, if inndoing so he makes his world cheap, nasty,nand angst-ridden, he looks aroundnwith bitter, cynical eyes and says thenwhole self-generated mess is “Kafkaesque,”nmeaning it is not in the least bitnhis fault. A reading of Ronald Hayman’snbiography will disabuse any Saturdaynightnexistentialist of the notion thatnwhat he is asking for in becoming one ofnGod’s “nihilistic thoughts” is any formnofescape from responsibility. CDnthen made captives. Some were eventuallyndispatched to Germany to work in itsnwar industry, which suffered criticalnlabor shortages toward the end of thenconflict. (Elliott remarks very aptly thatn”one of the greatest ironies of the ThirdnReich has to be that the nation so obsessednwith racial purity forced the interminglingnof the peoples of Europe on anscale unparalleled in the continent’snhistory.”) More recalcitrant captives wentnto slave-labor camps. And some prisoners—thenmore cooperative ones, who,nafter enduring the horrors of the Stalinistnpurges of the late 1930’s, regarded thenevil they did not know as better than thenone they did know— fought along withnthe Wehrmacht in small detachments, ornin a larger congregation known as then”Russian Liberation Army” under GeneralnAudrey Vlasov. Vlasov was remrnednto the Soviet Union after the war and wasnpromptly executed; his name is synonymousnwith the blackest treason to thenSoviet state.nIn February 1945, at the conclusion ofnthe Yalta conference, Franklin Rooseveltnagreed to a convention specifying thenreturn of all foreign nationals to theirnhome countries at the end of hostilities.nThe Americans who signed the agreementnprobably did not realize that forcenwould have to be used against Sovietncitizens in large numbers if the pact werento be kept. When this fact became clear,nthe United States decided it was obligednnnto enforce the agreement regardless ofnthe consequences. That led to the spectaclenof American soldiers arrangingntransports for people who were purposelyndeceived as to their destination (the nazisnused to do as much for their Jewish victims),nforcing unwilling refugees intontrucks and trying to prevent their chargesnfrom escaping or committing suicide—nfor they knew very well what lay in storenfor them.nThe Soviets have always adopted annunforgiving attitude toward prisoners ofnwar. The United States is a signatory tonthe Geneva Convention, which providesnthat a prisoner captured in the uniformnof a particular nation is treated as belongingnto that nation. But when it becamenknown that 5 % to 10% of all men capturednin the West in German uniformnwere in fact Soviet citizens, the UnitednStates quite naturally wondered how tontreat substantial numbers of citizens ofnan allied power captured while fightingnfor the enemy.nInitially, the Soviet government heldnthat there were no Soviet citizensnfighting for the Germans, but when thendimensions of the defections emerged,nMoscow decided that this potentiallynhuge embarrassment could only be eliminatednthrough forced repatriation. Itnthen used the issue as a means of exertingnpressure on the Western Allies. The internal,nofficial, Soviet view was that anprisoner of war was a traitor: a loyal soldiernwould commit suicide rather than submitnto capture. The Criminal Code of thenSoviet Union stipulated that a soldiernwho surrendered without justification benpunished by death by shooting. Indeed,nwhen Stalin’s son Jacob was capmred in anGerman encirclement in 1941, Stalinnconsidered himself disgraced, and thereafterndenied that he even had a son, forcingnJacob to choose suicide as his only waynout. Elliott also cites the case of LieutenantnGeneral Mikhail Lukin, also capmrednin an encirclement of 1941, and sonbadly wounded that both his legs had tonbe amputated. While being held, Lukinnsteadfastly refused to collaborate with hisn