I am not sure how many of my readers are aware of this trend, but
there is a “revisionist” school of German historiography that
tends to minimize Hitler’s crimes and maximize Stalin’s, to the
point of designating Stalin as one of Hitler’s main inspirations.
I first stumbled across this trend when reviewing the movie
Downfall, about Hitler’s last days. I wrote:
Nolte and other such “revisionists” were frequent contributors to
the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a conservative daily newspaper
that Joachim Fest [Downfall was based on his book] edited. When
Jurgen Habermas and other left-leaning scholars lashed out at the
neoconservatives, Fest came to their defense. In the August 29,
1986 FAS, he laid out an argument that is central to the
revisionist school, namely that Hitler was driven to extremes by
the Russian Revolution. In other words, Nazism was a defensive
although excessive measure.
Fest quotes a 1918 speech by Martyn Latsis, a Latvian Jew who was
a Cheka official: “We are in the process of exterminating the
bourgeoisie as a class.” From this quote, Fest concludes that the
Bolsheviks were determined to carry out a genocide on a class
basis rather than a race basis. Since his remarks are generally
not available in the original but from a version that appeared in
Harrison Salisbury’s “Black Night, White Snow: Russia’s
Revolutions, 1905-1917, we don’t really know what Latsis was
getting at. It is far more likely that he meant that their
property had to be liquidated on a class basis, rather than
exterminated as individuals. Of course, for the rich, this is a
fate worth death.
Timothy Snyder, a bright young thing in the Yale history
department (don’t let your children grow up to be ivy leaguers),
echoes Joachim Fest’s sentiments in a Guardian article titled The
fatal fact of the Nazi-Soviet pact:
As for the Soviets, Rafal Lemkin, who gave us the term
“genocide”, saw Stalin’s application of famine and terror to
Soviet Ukraine in the 1930s as a “classic case” of genocide.
During the campaign to collectivise Soviet agriculture, Stalin
spoke of “liquidating the kulaks as a class”. Soviet agitators
send to enforce collectivisation spoke of beating prosperous
peasants “into soap”.