Professor Hans Hautmann
Interview for the project
Fascism-XXI at your door
October 20, 2012.
Question: Since 1956, when the book «Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy» by Carl Joachim Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski was published1, the word «totalitarian» became an instrument used by many politicians to equate communism and fascism. Is there any scientific ground or political explanation for such comparisons?
Video part 1
As a historian with more than 50 years of experience, I know the theory of totalitarianism. It became very popular after the publication of fundamental work by Hannah Arendt2. I need to say that this theory was a subject of our discussion in the circle of very serious historians. All of them find this theory very controversial, even those, who have no sympathy to communism, disagree with this theory.
In my opinion, equating communism and fascism has always been just a political instrument of certain circles aiming to defame communism by comparing these two political systems.
Repeated question: Is there scientific or political explanation for such comparisons?
Video part 2
I believe there is a political explanation, which also applies to science. The political explanation is that ruling elites in today's global world fear Communism much more than they fear Fascism or Nazism. Communism has been their primary adversary since the October revolution of 1917, this adversary has to be defeated and the theory of totalitarianism is a weapon in this war, it is aimed to discredit utopian communist and socialist ideas.
Question: Many Europeans are allergic to the word «communism». Why is it common today to hear historians, politicians and journalists draw an equal sign between Communism and Nazism? Even during the years of Cold War nobody would have thought to equate these two so essentially opposite ideologies. What has changed today?
Video part 3
In my opinion, if we take a look at this from historical point of view, it would be clear that Soviet Union played a global historical role (together with Western Allies) in the worldwide standoff against Fascism and Nazism. Naturally, the Red Army and the Soviet Union became very popular in the Allied countries among the masses — USA, Great Britain — everyone saw the huge sacrifices of this country in the fight against Hitler.
But, for some people this was like a bone in the craw, this is why starting from the late 40s a lot was done to erode such sympathies in public mind.
For this purpose equating of communism and fascism was employed and in particular Soviet-German Non-Aggression Treaty was used as main evidence; back then it was alleged that this treaty signified a political kinship of two systems.
Thus, such equating has actually started during the Cold War era and the theory of totalitarianism, enriched by many contributors, represents the theoretical support of this process. In 50-60s the main idea of this theory was the struggle against World Socialism.
Question: Have you seen a film «The Soviet Story»? What is your opinion about this film, how could you evaluate it? What kind of public response to this film you anticipate?
Video part 4
Yes, I saw an excerpt from this film. I have to admit, I was not surprised at all, and there was nothing new to me. There are plenty of such concoctions around; where some scary and ugly stories are brought to the forefront. Yes, some unpleasant events really happened, but the issue is that they present the main thing upside down: they claim that idea of communism is fundamentally evil and when implemented always entails death.
If we trace the historical evolution of communist idea, we will see that since the beginning of time people had the idea of oppression free society and this idea is worthy of pursuing.
Well, so, it's very old idea of humanity, it emerged as soon as society became divided into classes, and therefore it is necessary to emphasize that. This idea is fundamentally different from racial fascist ideology, based on the principle of inherent inequality of people. There is nothing like that in communism.
Question: Can you comment on the allegation made in film «The Soviet Story» that USSR helped Nazi Germany to instigate the Holocaust?
Specifically, they mean deportations of Jewish refugees, so called terror and the Jewish victims of totalitarianism. The film alleges that Nazi Germany used the legacy and experience of Soviet Union.
Video part 5
This is absolutely wrong. From the very beginning the fascists kept calling communism, especially Russian Bolshevism a «Jewish invention» and they considered Jews as main supporters of Bolshevism.
If we look at the history of Soviet Union, especially in 20s and in all other periods, we will find no discrimination of Jewish population as such. Of course, there were individual cases of anti-Semitism among Russians, Ukrainians and others, but we must frankly admit, that even since Tsarism times many steps were taken to quell, to deter such hostility among the population. Back then all these measures were taken to ensure peaceful coexistence with Jewish population in the Western regions of Soviet Union. This is why such allegation, as they make in the film, is ridiculous.
Question: The film received the Mass Impact Award at the Boston film festival in 2008 and got plenty of attention in the Western media. Then it was translated into 30 languages and released on DVD for sale. Why this kind of position is actively promoted by the officials and the media while opposite views are not known to the public?
Video part 6
I know this from my own experience. I represent a type of historians who write history from the "bottom". Before I was working on the history of Austrian Labor movement and from the personal experience I know what may happen if something does not match the general line of history interpretation or may hurt interests of ruling class, who controls this line of interpretation, these people have much more power than someone who may oppose them. In our system if something serves the interests of ruling class, it is accepted as truth and gets appropriate support, but all other opinions on the subject are ignored, silenced, «swept under the carpet».
Question: Yale historian Timothy Snyder in his book “Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin” stated that Communism and Nazism were not antagonists and the Communism was a more terrible regime. It looks like he and some of his fellow historians are working at moving Nazism out of the category of “absolute evil” into one of the “relative evil”. What could be the consequences of such a paradigm shift for Europe and for the rest of the world?
Video part 7
My position towards this is extremely negative. It's known that about 10-12 years ago so called «The Black book of communism» was published. This was large-scale work intended to demonstrate enormous amount of human victims in communist countries starting with Soviet Union to Mao's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia, etc.
There was big number of victims, indeed, but it was a consequence of isolation of Russian revolution of 1917. For many decades Russia was sort of besieged fortress, it had to take extreme measures and actions to defend and protect itself the way it is usually done in the besieged cities and also in other socio-economic formations.
But the most important is the proven fact that all huge numbers from «The Black book of communism» are exaggerated drastically.
As a historian I stand against devaluation or embellishment of factual events, I also consider it incorrect to play with the number of victims only. If we do it, we might as well accuse the British colonial Empire in the deaths of more than a million Indians from the famine in 1930s. I don't like this type of accounting; such business is disgraceful for a historian. If the historian writes something, he ought to try the subject matter on his own country where he lives and works.
Question: Do you share the anxiety expressed by some historians that anti-Communism might result in the return of Nazism in the long run? Do we have a ground to speak about the predetermined path: from consumerism to anti-Communism to Nazism?
Video part 8
I don't believe that under the current situation we can expect precisely the same course of events like during the Nazi time. There are more important and more dangerous events, that are developing in our democratic political systems behind the scenes, invisibly for the majority of the population. Slow and covert «de-democratization» is coming; it reveals itself in many symptoms. For example, this paranoid fashion of surveillance over people!
I remember when I was a kid during the Cold war era, in the 40s and 50s. Back then, there was no such close monitoring of dissidents and their mindsets like we have today. Today's technology allows to maintain continuous surveillance of a person when he works on the internet or uses a cell phone.
I'm curious there must be some reason behind all this. Otherwise, why in a situation like that, when there is no threat of a lower class revolution to the mighty of the Western world there is the atmosphere of such fear within the ruling elite that manifests itself in nosing around everywhere and spying on people?
Well, looks like the main enemy now is «international terrorism», which replaced communism in this role. But the point is that the Western society cannot live without the image of an enemy. All this declares itself in such covert “de-democratization”.
Question: Do you think that Russia with its communist past still plays the role of external enemy?
If we review all the latest developments, we would have to agree with this statement. The relations between USA and other Western great powers from one side and Russia from another side appear to be proper — politicians hold meetings, shake hands and exchange hugs. However, it is clear that in the first place USA does not consider Russia an equal partner and, besides that, Russia is always accused of lacking real democracy, etc, etc.
In my opinion there is a simple reason why Russia is still treated as an external enemy: Putin administration, unlike previous administration of Eltsin, works to limit the influence of Western capital in Russia. This is exactly what still hampers the West very much. This is clearly seen from the propaganda campaigns conducted in Russia from time to time: the «Pussy Riot» story, the latest elections of Putin, etc, etc.
The similar developments are going on in Belorussia. I was there last year and I asked a local guide: «Who owns all large industrial enterprises in Belorussia? » She said: «The State». It seems like Lukashenko and Putin both impede the intervention of Western capital in their countries. Sure, there is McDonald’s in Minsk and there are branches of Western banks, however all attempts of Western corporations to gain control over industrial enterprises and mining are blocked. And this is precisely what the West cannot accept, this is, I believe, the main reason why the image of enemy still exists in political sphere.
Question: Do you see nowadays any political and legal opportunities to stop historical falsifications actively promoted by official media? How this rapidly escalating process can be curbed?
Video part 10
Frankly, I think there are no legal opportunities. Interpretation and explanation of history is not something that can be settled by court order. Who tells the truth and who lies? There are political levers to oppose this; it simply involves providing equal opportunities to all viewpoints. However, this is very difficult to implement today, because the opposite viewpoint is widely promoted and has very good financial support from certain circles.
It is known that in Western countries there are many well-financed scientific institutes working exclusively for the defamation of communism: they evolve the theory of totalitarianism, develop the disciplines like Sovietology and SAC (Soviet and Communist studies). But the communists no longer counteract this starting from 1989 or rather from 1991. So, those, who are intended to promote the different concept of history, they are short on resources including financial. But they got to find the way.
Today the Internet is the primary communication tool and mass media; it creates opportunities to say something to the millions of people all over the world. I think it's very important to leverage this media to present alternative viewpoints.
Question: In this context, what kind of future is coming for our children?
Video part 11
Now I am at the age when I can observe this looking at my two sons. Comparing with the time when I was a student, the current young generation has very bleak prospects for the future. Both of my sons are qualified scientists and professionals. One son has three diplomas, he has a master’s and doctor’s degrees. Another one is a lawyer. But both of them have been unemployed for quite some time. They work occasionally in the scientific field, but have absolutely no confidence in their future career. And this is closely related to the disintegration of the world communist system.
Previously, nothing like this could happen, it was very dangerous to deprive the majority of people of their existential support, they would have gone to the opposite side of the standoff.
One fact is undisputable: the socialist system did not know what unemployment was. While that system was around, the unemployment rate in the West was very low. But since that system disappeared unemployment skyrocketed.
All this causes a pretty dismal outlook for the future of young people. I'm afraid it may become a social ground for right-wing extremist movements, especially among unemployed and frustrated young people. I have to admit, that our policymakers, those who have political power, they act like they are blind and do not realize this danger. To restrain this process they should have changed the economic policy completely. However, this is not happening. Unfortunately, this is the way it is.
Question: How could you comment on the speculations in official media and pseudo-historical sources on the subject of millions of German women, allegedly raped by the Red Army soldiers? It's not about individual incidents, which could happen in any army, they insist on the huge numbers — millions of victims.
Do you agree with this point of view or not? What would be the social and political implications?
Video part 12
It's known that Ilya Ehrenburg3 was accused for inciting the Red Army soldiers to violence on the German territory. “Break the racial arrogance of German women by force” - Ehrenburg wrote. I believe, something like that was really published in one of the military magazines, where Ehrenburg worked as a correspondent in 1943-1944. (The project team in cooperation with professor Hautmann investigated the authenticity of this quote. It was found that the quote was a fake. Professor was not aware of this at the time of interview; his comment on this issue is available below)
On the other hand, for my family the situation was completely different. When Red Army took Vienna from April 7th to 13th, 1945, nothing like that was going on, it was quite the contrary. From my family I know, that was true liberation. My father was an ordinary worker; by the order of military commandant of Vienna lieutenant-general Blagodatov4 he was appointed head of Vienna police. Within few days my father reached a high state post. This would have been impossible before.
It's known, there were no rapes committed by field combat troops — they fought and liberated the cities. There could have been some incidents with the units of the second echelon, which came later. Of course, some rapes occurred, but, in my opinion, this statistics is extremely exaggerated.
On the other hand … this was revealed pretty recently … if I'm not mistaken; two German women-researchers wrote a book about rapes committed by German Wehrmacht on the Russian territory. According to them such rapes and sexual relationships between soldiers of Wehrmacht and women on the occupied territory caused birth of more than million children.
The main issue is that this is still very settled historical cliché in Austria. It is presented like there was no liberation in 1945, Red Army rampaged, looted, snatched watches off people, raped, etc. No matter how sad the individual cases of those events were, we must remember the great historical context. In 1945 Europe was liberated from Fascism and Red Army bore the brunt of this struggle. The world became different, it became better thereafter. If Hitler had won, it would have been impossible! And this is the most important!
Question: Is it known to the public and historical circles, that soldiers and officers of Red Army guilty of rape were condemned to death? If caught red-handed they were executed immediately, even at the end of the war, regardless of their previous excellent service records.
Video part 13
Yes, we are aware of such cases, such actions of Red Army commanders. Only they were just unable to control everything in their occupation zone, if something happened somewhere in Mühlviertel5 or in Weinviertel6, Lower Austria. We know, when such cases were reported to the officers, most of the times they took appropriate actions, punished the offenders.
There is something more about it. When other troops — American, British, French — entered Austria, they did not even need to compel local women to sexual intercourse, they used basic commodities such as food, cigarettes and other goods as their main argument to win this kind of favour.
The situation was different in Red Army. I believe, the official policy was to suppress such behaviour. If they were unable to do it everywhere, it was because of ongoing war and turmoil. They were not angels, there were ordinary people and many of them marched all the way from Stalingrad to Vienna. At one of the symposiums, I met an officer, he told me that from 1943 to 1945 he literally had footed from Stalingrad to Vienna, within the 3rd Ukrainian front. This front liberated Vienna under command of marshal Tolbukhin7.
They have seen all that devastation and ruination committed by German Wehrmacht in their own land. No doubt, it seriously impacted mind and behaviour of soldiers. Of course, they were overwhelmed with vengeance. So, it was really a miracle that in 1945 something much more terrible did not happen. They really could simply grab masses of people suspected in cooperation with the Nazis and shoot all of them immediately. However, the suspects were sent to appropriate courts. Being in Austria, they submitted this jurisdiction to Austrian Justice System and this was a huge difference comparing to the situation in their own country.
Question: Is there anything else that you would like to add on the subject?
Video part 14
I'm going to give you something later, so you know what I was talking about. I wrote an article about reestablishing Vienna police in 1945 and the role of my father in it.
Now, if we analyze the evolution of Austria after 1945, looking at it with the experience of our present time, we must admit that Austria took much better path than after WWI and the Soviet Union played the key role in it.
The ten year period of occupation should be viewed more positively than it is usually done in Austrian historiography. First of all, the Soviet Union has adhered strictly to the principles of Moscow Declaration of 1943: restoration of Austria as independent state, complete separation from Germany, reestablishing of democratic institutions. The appointment of Provisional Government under the leadership of Karl Renner8, helped to avoid the split of the country like it happened in Germany in 1949. The signing of State Treaty and Federal Constitutional Law governing Austrian Neutrality9 initiated the best ever period in Austrian history — from 1955 until 80s — 90s. The good relationship between Austria and Soviet Union during that time played very good and very positive role.
Question: In the State Treaty or rather in Moscow Declaration10, the Soviet leadership insisted to consider Austria as the first victim of Hitler’s aggression and opened a way for Austrian people to build their own future. Thus, the liability for war crimes was put only on the ruling elite and state apparatus.
Video part 15
Yes, marshal Tolbukhin declared the same in his proclamation. When Soviet troops crossed the Austrian border the commander of the 3rd Ukrainian front Tolbukhin announced to Austrian people that Soviet troops came to Austria with a mission of liberation. He promised to take no repressive actions against Austrians if people remain loyal. In general this promise was fulfilled.
Opinion on the behavior of the Red Army soldiers in Germany and Austria in 1944/45. (from March 22, 2013)11
No doubt, the so called incitement to violence by Ilya Ehrenburg (“Break the racial arrogance of German women by force”) is a fake concocted by the propaganda ministry of Joseph Goebbels in November 1944; it was spread by order of the commander of group of armies «North». The original could not be traced in any Soviet military newspapers or in pamphlets. It is known that writers like Ehrenburg, Konstantin Simonov, Alexey Tolstoy, Mikhail Sholokhov and Alexey Surkov stirred up hatred against Germans.
On August 13, 1942 Ehrenburg wrote in the military newspaper «Red Star»: «We shall kill them all. But we must do it quickly; or they will desecrate the whole of Russia and torture to death millions more people. »
And on another day, also in «Red Star» he wrote: «… If you have killed one German, kill another. There is nothing jollier than German corpses.»
This hate propaganda had its positive effect during «Black Summer of 1942»; it was a valuable contribution to strengthen the morale of Red Army soldiers in the situation of grave danger when Germans were advancing to Stalingrad and Caucasus.
The feelings of hatred found more justification and were intensified in 1943, 1944 when Germans were extruded from the Soviet land. From 1941 the German occupation policy represented continuous sequence of monstrous atrocities. Every liberated city and village in Russia, Ukraine or Belorussia could tell its own horror story of massacres, terror, humiliation and deportations to slave-labouring.
Alexander Werth wrote about this: «All that Alexei Tolstoy and Sholokhov and Ehrenburg had written about the Germans was mild compared with what the Russian soldier was to hear with his own ears and see with his own eyes and smell with his own nose. For wherever the Germans had passed, there was a stench of decaying corpses. »
For all reasons mentioned above it was very hard for Red Army soldiers to curb their desire for revenge on the German land in 1944-45. Because of this there were some cases of looting and rape, but these indisputable facts must be viewed as an effect of serious causes in the context of that time. The incidents involving Soviet troops were statistically insignificant comparing to the mass murders and atrocities committed by Germans in the Soviet Union. This is a real miracle that something more terrible did not happen.
At the beginning of 1945 the Command of Red Army and Soviet Government took some corrective actions, «...it was clear that, before long, the Russians would be faced with a variety of political and administrative problems in Germany which could simply not to be handled on the "anti-Marxist" basis that "all Germans are evil."»
This was reflected in «Red Star» editorial of February 9, 1945:
«"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" is an old saying. But it must not be taken literally. If the Germans marauded, and publicly raped our women, it does not mean that we must do the same. This has never been and never shall be. Our soldiers will not allow anything like that to happen—not because of pity for the enemy, but out of a sense of their own personal dignity... They understand that every breach of military discipline only weakens the victorious Red Army... Our revenge is not blind. Our anger is not irrational. In an access of blind rage one is apt to destroy a factory in conquered enemy territory —a factory that would be of value to us. Such an attitude can only play into the enemy's hands.»
On April 14, 1945 in «Pravda» the principal ideologist of the Party Central Committee G.F. Alexandrov published an article "Comrade Ehrenburg is oversimplifying". Alexandrov quoted well-known phrase of Stalin "Hitlers come and go, but the German people go on forever". He criticized Ehrenburg for un-Marxist and inexpedient position to treat all Germans as sub-humans because Russians and Germans would have to coexist in the future.
Also, in Austria, the Soviet Command has taken steps to prevent outrages by means of orders, directives and specific penalties. The proclamation issued on April 4th, 1945 by Military Council of the 3rd Ukrainian Front stated: «Mercilessly exterminate German oppressors, but don't hurt peaceful Austrians, respect their culture, family and property. Proudly carry the glorious name of Red Army soldiers. Let the whole world see not only all-powerful might of Red Army, but also high level of discipline and culture of its soldiers. »12 This was preceded by direct Order of Stalin to Commanders of 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian fronts (R. Y. Malinovsky and F.I. Tolbukhin) issued on April 2, 1945: «...give no offence to the population of Austria, behave respectfully, do not confuse Austrians with German oppressors ...»13
There is another document from May 3rd, 1945, the Order to the NKVD troops in Austria to take strict actions against «criminal elements» from Red Army and use severe punishments for abuses.14
retired professor, Doctor Hans Hautmann
Vienna, March 22, 2013.
5 The Mühlviertel is an Austrian region belonging to the state of Upper Austria: it is one of four "quarters" of Upper Austria. It is named for the two rivers Große Mühl and Kleine Mühl. The Mühlviertler Hasenjagd took place here.
9 State Treaty, Austrian, governing the re-establishment of an independent and democratic Austria, concluded between the allied powers USSR, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, USA and France on the one hand and Austria on the other, signed by the foreign ministers of the signatory states, V. M. Molotov, J. F. Dulles, H. Macmillan and A. Pinay and the Austrian Foreign Minister L. Figl in the Belvedere in Vienna on May 15, 1955.
12 Source in German. Stefan Karner u.a. (Hrsg.), Die Rote Armee in Österreich. Sowjetische Besatzung 1945-1955. Dokumente, Graz-Wien-München 2005, S. 79.
13 Ibid. p. 77
14 Ibid. p. 147f