Inquiry Into the Children of Dictators
Report by Betty Sakai
Jay Nordlinger lives in New York and writes for the National Review, covering politics, foreign affairs, and culture. His book, Children of Monsters, published by Encounter Books, 2015, is the product of extensive research into the lives of children of 20 dictators: Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Stalin, Tojo, Mao, Kim, Hoxha, Ceausescu, Duvalier, Castro, Qaddafi, Assad, Saddam, Khomeini, Mobutu, Bokassa, Amin, Mengistu, and Pol Pot.
He interviewed people who shared what they knew, but “almost never on the record”. As a general rule, interviews were difficult. He found that the children of dictators just want to be left alone. Although the subject matter is timely and compelling, it is also dark and unpleasant. The research required was long and intense -- hours spent in libraries searching biographies and memoirs.
Today’s college students are so Orwellian [meaning having an attitude and a brutal policy of draconian control of propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past]. They consider themselves so oppressed that they demand school administrators apologize to them. Our children are in a perpetual state of denial, uneducated as to their role of being a citizen, ungrateful to be born in a democracy where Americans died to preserve their freedom, where citizens today enjoy the rule of law. Little do our children know what it means to live in other places where there is no democracy, no Bill of Rights, no expectation of financial liberty, no freedom to create or expect tomorrow will be better than today. Reading Children of Monsters peels back the cloak of denial, confronts the reader with reality, and enlightens the mind.
The problem for Nordlinger writing a book about the children of dictators was that it meant spending a lot of time thinking about evil, about evil regimes. Responding to a question whether he found women dictators, Jay Nordlinger answered that dictators are generally a male thing. However, had Marie-Denise Duvalier, or Kim Jong-il’s daughter Sol-song, or Bushra Assad been males, they could have succeeded their fathers. Monster sons include Vasily Stalin, Nicu Ceausescu, some of the Qaddafi boys, two of the Assad boys, Saddam Hussein’s sons, and Kongulu Mobutu.
There is a point when one wants to be done with dictators. Jay said he felt this way when he finished the book. He found few of the children enjoyed serene lives. They experienced exile, prison, war, upheaval. Sometimes they became part of the oppression. Sometimes they became victims, such as Edda Mussolini, Raghdad Hussein, and Rana Hussein whose husbands were killed by their father. Sometimes they became victimizers, or both. Those who might be categorized as normal were Carmen Franco, Romano Mussolini, the Tojo children, Valentin Ceausescu, Nzanga Mobutu, and Pol Pot’s girl Sar Patchata. All of these children remained affected because they continued to revere their evil father and were thusly unable to release themselves from suffering. They were unable to identify their father’s world as dark and wrong. Only two children were found to be successful breaking out mentally and spiritually before they defected: Svetlana Stalin, and Alina Fernandez (Castro’s daughter).
Some of the children almost broke through their father’s dominance but failed, such children as Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, Zoia Ceausescu, Mao’s oldest of ten children by four wives, Mao’s son Anying, and exiled son of Kim Jong-il, Jong-nam, who knew if he ever engaged in open dissent it would mean his death warrant. Another, the son of Amin, Jaffar Amin was a man of honor and integrity, a “mensch”: both a champion of his father and a defender of his father’s victims.
Nordlinger pondered the question of ‘nature versus nurture’, struggling to understand why children from the same family would be good and evil, citing as an example Nicu Ceausescus and his brother Valentin Ceausescus. Nicu chose to be, or was perhaps by nature a monster. Valentin lived quietly and would not harm a hair on anyone’s head. What causes one sibling to be a monster and the other to be considerate of other people? Nordlinger admitted he could not answer that question.
One interesting story he told was about a man who claimed he was Hitler’s son, Jean-Marie Loret, 1918 - 1985. His mother, Charlotte Lobjoie, told him he was the product of one “tispsy evening” on the French countryside between herself (who spoke just French), and a German soldier named Hitler (who spoke just German) who gave “haranguing speeches on the histories of Prussia, Austria, and Bavaria.” Charlotte Lobjoie received envelopes of cash during WWII and owned paintings signed by Hitler. In Nordlinger’s book, there is a photo of Jean-Marie Loret and he looks strikingly like Adolf Hitler. In Loret’s home were two portraits of Hitler. Loret was quoted as saying, “Hitler is my family. What he did has nothing to do with me. He will always be family to me.”
Loyalty in the normal scheme of things is admired. In his book, Jay Nordlinger writes that here in the U.S. when George W. Bush was questioned by the press to take issue with his father’s 1990 budget deal that harmed his Presidency, George W. answered “If you think I am going to criticize my dad, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Loyalty in my family is not a character flaw”.
Describing one of the worst dictatorships in the 20th Century, Nordlinger wrote about Albania’s Enver Hoxha. He questioned what it was like to be the son or daughter of Enver Hoxha [pronounced “HO-djah”] in the self-styled insane “hermit kingdom” of Albania. Hoxha idolized Stalin, imprisoned, tortured, and killed his political opponents. He believed the Soviet leader Khrushchev and China’s Moa were too liberal. Nordlinger found the Hoxha kids were okay with all of this -- proud of their father’s name and themselves. Until their father died in 1985 at age 76, the children prospered.
Hoxha and his wife Nexhmije were a matched pair. She described herself as “a hard-line Communist, equating government funds and property with her own. She was sentenced to 11 years in prison for crimes she committed from 1985 to 1990 but remained unrepentant. Hoxha’s two sons also remained unrepentant, lost their jobs and subsisted on welfare, or so they said…while Ilir continued to drive his Mercedes. He insisted that his father had infringed on no laws [of course, because Hoxha made them], and he blamed capitalist society for unemployment, prostitution, corruption, high prices, and inflation.
When Ilir was arrested for inciting hatred, he appealed to Amnesty International, an organization that people in his father’s time had no recourse to. He later portrayed his father as a great champion of the people, “a true democrat”. His mother Nexhmije when released from prison set forth another Hoxha-family line: “I do not regret anything, and there is nothing I should feel guilty for. We only respected laws in force at the time. I continue to have confidence in the Communist ideal that will never die.”
Socialism leading to Communism is extremely seductive. Many of America’s college age youth are attracted to “Democratic Socialism” because it would mean that an anonymous big government redistributes to them other people’s wealth, thereby relieving them of the pressure of the ever-increasing costs to live. America’s youth are struggling today financially. They face graduating without a job, trying to pay off a large student loan, and make a living.
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton [Obama and Clinton are the same ideologues] play on the desires of America’s struggling youth. They say words in their speeches such as ‘fairness’, ‘equality’, ‘community’. These words feel good, are very attractive, very alluring. Democracy in America has fallen back unsupported by ideologue Barack Obama, is under attack by jihadists from the Arab world, and by Communists throughout the world, including from Latin America.
In summary, Jay Nordlinger’s book goes into vivid detail describing the effects on the children who have lived with dictators who are Communist and Fascist. The reader is left with the question of what might happen if the assaults on our Republic from those in power who do not support Democracy succeed. What will America be like in years to come if a Democrat like Sanders or Clinton gets elected to the Presidency in 2016?
The Forum thanked Jay Nordlinger with applause. Many stayed after the Q & A to purchase a signed copy of his book, Children of Monsters.
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