Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Soviets at Nuremberg

I finished Ludwik Kowalski’s Hell on Earth and returned to one of the other books I’m reading, Tony Judt’s Postwar, A History of Europe Since 1945. I picked up where I left off and read on page 54, “There were, however, two unavoidable shortcomings to the Allied punishment of German war criminals. The presence of soviet prosecutors and Soviet judges was interpreted by many commentators from Germany and Eastern Europe as evidence of hypocrisy. The behavior of the Red Army, and Soviet practice in the lands it had ‘liberated,’ were no secret – indeed, they were perhaps better known and publicized then than in later years. And the purges and massacres of the 1930s were still fresh in many people’s memory. To have the Soviets sitting in judgment on the Nazis – sometimes for crimes they had themselves committed – devalued the Nuremberg and other trials and made them seem exclusively an exercise in anti-German vengeance. In the words of George Kennan: ‘The only implication this procedure could convey was, after all, that such crimes were justifiable and forgivable when committed by the leaders of one government, under one set of circumstances, but unjustifiable and unforgivable, and to be punished by death, when committed by another government under another set of circumstances.’”

Further down, on page 58, Judt tells us that in 1952, “25 percent of West Germans admitted to having a ‘good opinion’ of Hitler.” It shouldn’t really surprise us, therefore, that 19 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, some leftist professors, still have a favorable impression of Stalin. These professors were not “in the Soviet Union” and subject to Soviet propaganda. They are a little different from the Russians and Germans who had little access to outside information. No, they agreed, and still agree, with Marxist-Leninist ideology and are not yet willing to abandon its ideals. Any sort of revisionist history that attempts to rehabilitate Stalin will meet with the approval of perhaps more than 25 percent of American academia.

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