July 25, 2002
Honor Thy Butcher
"Stalin is our fighting strength, Stalin is our youth.... Singing, struggling and victorious, our people go with Stalin." -- from a popular Soviet song.
Would you market a Castro sandwich in Miami? Would a Hitler hot dog sell in Israel? How about selling a Ho Chi Minh burger to the Vietnamese in Los Angeles or a Pol Pot casserole to the Cambodians in Long Beach?
Ridiculous, right? Why would anyone spend money on something named after someone who oppressed and murdered millions in the countries they fled from?
Well, apparently some people would. A few days ago, I walked into a local Russian deli and saw that they were selling an item named after one of the greatest tyrants, mass murderers and anti-Semites of the 20th century. His system murdered millions of innocents -- some historians say 45 million, others say 60 or even 80 million. It is more tragic than ironic that this butcher and his meat grinder regime are now being celebrated by a product that has been produced by a much smaller meat grinder: it is a salami named after Joseph Stalin.
The label proudly declares that the Stalinskaya Brand Smoked Sausage is made in the USA; it lists pork as its main ingredient. (Another irony: it is sold mostly to Jewish immigrants and is probably manufactured by Jews.) The maker is M & I International Foods of Brooklyn, N.Y.
I called M & I and spoke to the owner, who didn't give his name. It was a bizarre conversation. At first he denied that he made it.
"We don't make it. We buy it from Germany," he said.
"But the label says 'Made in USA,'" I countered.
"Sure. The label is made in America. The salami is German."
I let that one go, and asked why he sold a salami named after Stalin.
"Why not?" he said. "We make a salami named after anyone. We can make a Putin salami, a Berezovsky salami, a Bush salami, anyone."
"Would you sell a Hitler salami?" I asked.
"Sure," he said. "Why not? If people want a Hitler salami, we'll make it."
We spoke for about five minutes. He pretended not to understand my point. I told him that I was sorry for his children and hung up.
I am quite sure that this man -- like all former Soviet citizens -- lost relatives to Stalin's terror. I am looking at a note from my archives that is handwritten and signed by Stalin. It is a reply to a telegram dated Dec. 29, 1938, in which a regional KGB committee wishes Stalin a Happy New Year and proudly reports that it had filled its assigned quota for the elimination of anti-Soviet elements -- 17,000 people -- but respectfully requests an additional allocation of 6,000 more. Stalin's response is handwritten -- "Happy New Year, comrades! 6,600 more approved for the Krasnodar region. Stalin." He must have been in a good mood -- he gave them 10 percent more than they asked for!
The Jewish population of European Russia was scheduled to be deported to camps in Siberia and Asia in 1953 -- Stalin's version of the Final Solution. This was going to happen at the conclusion and public execution of 12 physicians -- most of them Jewish -- who were going to be found guilty of having conspired to murder high-ranking party leaders. Orchestrated pogroms were to follow in major cities and the Jews would be deported "for their own safety." Camps were already built; they still stand today. Railroad cars were standing by. But then a miracle: Stalin died in March 1953. It is very likely that both the makers and the consumers of the Stalin salami would not be enjoying life in America if Stalin had lived just a few months longer.
I told the owner of the Valley deli where the Stalinskaya Sausage is sold that I was upset. He looked genuinely surprised. "What's the matter with it?" he asked. "Isn't it fresh?"
So, could Stalin salami be made by Soviet immigrants to be sold by Soviet immigrants to Soviet immigrants? You bet.