Professor Mark Tauger
Interview for the project
Fascism-XXI at your door
August 26, 2012.
Part I – The return of Nazism
1. Would you agree that during the last years there has been a rise of neo-Nazism throughout Europe at a scale that was unheard of since the end of the World War II?
For instance, each year the Baltic countries honor their Waffen SS veterans who march through the streets of Riga and Tallinn.
In October 2010 in Historical museum of Berlin there was nazi organized exhibition "Hitler and the Germans: Nation and Crime". The main objective was to present Hitler as an ideal example of the national savior.
What is your attitude towards such events? What are the root causes for the resurgence of Nazism?
2. The General Assembly of the United Nations annually adopts the resolution A/RES/64/147, A/RES/66/143 on inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Why each year many countries still refuse to vote for this resolution?
3. What is the position of Jewish organizations in the fight against resurgent Nazism? How this position has evolved since the end of WWII? Is the spirit of Nazi hunters of 50s and 60s still in demand ?
Video part 1
It seems to me that neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism have and right-wing extremist groups have grown recently primarily because of the economic crisis but also for other reasons as well. Some governments have programs in place and police training to deal with hate crimes but some other governments have done much less. Some governments dismiss some of these actions as simply… Some governments dismiss some of these actions as simply youth violence, as hooliganism, they don't consider it to be politically significant.
It seems to me that the actions of neo-Nazi groups like the ones in the Baltics are less significant. For example Estonia had that march of the Waffen SS veterans, but on the other had Estonia established a day of remembrance for the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity. And it should be remembered that Estonia suffered both from the Nazis and from the Soviets and some groups in particular suffered more from the Soviets than from the Nazis and it would be unfair to portray Estonia as a hotbed of neo-Nazis without mentioning that much longer experience of oppression under the Soviets.
Then you have a reference to the United Nations resolution about racism and so forth. I mean you have to bear in mind that there's another context of this. First of all the organization for security and cooperation in Europe the OSCE has organized repeated conferences on anti-Semitism and related movements. It has organized recording of actions by these groups across Europe and it has spread information on the best practices for police and for governments in dealing with these problems. The UN has also followed with the international task force ITF on Holocaust education remembrance and research.
The failure of countries to support this UN resolution that may reflect in part ignorance of history and support for right wing groups in some of these countries. As a result some leaders who made themselves not support such groups still feel that they cannot come out against such movements safely.
But other countries need to act consistently as well. For example, Syria and Iran have broadcast blatantly false anti-Semitic television and radio programs and published anti-Semitic books and newspaper reports as well as such events as that conference in Iran that minimize the Holocaust and so forth, yet Russia still supports these countries militarily and diplomatically.
As far as the question of Jewish organizations dealing with these issues I'm not a specialist in Jewish organizations I'm sure they do what they can, especially in the area of education and recording events but the issues today are not those of the time when Simon Wiesenthal and the others were hunting the hidden Nazis. Both the former Nazis and most of the Nazi hunters have passed away and the new neo-Nazis do not hide themselves under assumed names and so forth like the old Nazis. The new ones have websites, political parties and public rallies and marches and openly compete for attention and followers. The Nazi hunting approach is no longer necessary. Now the problem is the fundamental one of anti-Semitic attitudes and support for right-wing causes among the population and this has both old and new causes.
Part II – Nazism and Communism
1. Is there any scientific ground for a comparison of Communism and Nazism? Could you outline the fundamental differences between them?
Video part 2
Yes okay. As far as the question regarding the comparison between Nazism and communism, of course there is considerable basis for comparing the Nazi and Soviet regimes. The Nazis persecuted people on the basis of what they called race, the Soviets - on the basis of what they called class.
In both cases, lots of innocent people got arrested, jailed, tortured and killed, people who at least conceivably would've supported a more tolerant dictatorship. There was a dictatorship at the same time in Brazil headed by Getulio Vargas and it wasn't heavily ideol… it wasn’t really ideological at all and it was… I haven't studied in detail there may have been some repression but it was nothing like what happened in these European dictatorships.
Of course, the Nazis were much worse than the Soviets but but both of these regimes did these things. Both regimes had fanatical and irrational ideologies the Nazi ideology was much more irrational but the Soviets sometimes gave them hard competition for bad ideas. And both regimes exerted great control over their economies, both regimes tightly controlled the media and there are more comparisons.
So you know the Western theory of totalitarianism may be out of date in some ways but the fact that it could be developed at all means that their was a basis for comparison between these two regimes.
2. Why is it common today to hear historians, politicians and journalists draw an equal sign between Communism and Nazism with a tendency to favor the latter? Even during the years of Cold War nobody would have thought to equate these two ideologies.
Video part 3
But then as far as the question about the contemporary comparisons between Communism and Nazism and so forth, well… the last part of the question which is that even during years of the Cold War nobody would've thought to equate these two ideologies, well in fact this is not correct. During the Cold War many people thought to compare these two ideologies that was… that comparison was one of the bases of the theory of totalitarianism and there was… I don't know the exact anecdote but there was a famous case when Truman was vice president he… he thought that the Nazi and Soviets should destroy each other this sort of, this kind of extreme…
Anyhow, as far as the contemporary intellectuals are concerned, the idea of comparing Soviets and the Nazis is not new, it has a long heritage in the West and in Eastern Europe and to an extent it even goes back to the Nazi period Before World War II. Nazi propaganda painted a very negative picture of the USSR.
I think that to some extent it reflects a bias or low scholarly standards of particular writers and also a cheap way, cheap attempt to find a way to say something new to a relatively ignorant audience. Also, in this period of economic decline with all these public attacks on the 1% elite in the United States I'm not surprised that the press in the United States will find people, scholars to condemn communism as worse than Nazism. There is also a revival of Ayn Rand, this American writer who was at least part of her life very extremely individualistic and anticommunist. This is before she started getting Social Security and Medicare.
3. Have you seen the film "The Soviet Story"? Can you share your thoughts and make any comments ? Do you know about the public reponse to this film ?
4. Can you, comment on the allegation made in the film "The Soviet Story": "USSR helped Nazi Germany to instigate the Holocaust."
5. The film received the Mass Impact Award at the Boston film festival in 2008 and got plenty of attention in the Western media. 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 4
Okay. The question is about this Soviet, this film „The Soviet Story“ and the writings of Timothy Snyder. Okay, about „The Soviets Story”, this film tries to portray the Nazis and Soviets as similar as collaborators it refers to meetings that were held ostensibly between the NKVD (the Soviet security police) and the Nazi security police - the Gestapo. This collaboration apparently was somewhat exaggerated and even misrepresented. So there were ostensibly four meetings that were between the Soviet and Nazi representatives but actually very little is known about three of those meetings and then the last one may not even been between the NKVD and the Gestapo but between organizations dealing with refugees. So story is, it may be misrepresented in part.
As far as the Soviets “helping the Nazis to carry out the Holocaust” and you know all kinds of references to this can relate to the Nazi-Soviet pact, you know, in 1939-1941. This is problematic because it makes it appear as though the Soviet Union was alone in doing this and it seeks to identify the Soviet Union with the Nazis. Yet the same argument on the same basis could be made about the main Western powers including the United States. If the film does not acknowledge this comparison then the film is presenting only one side of the story and that's a very basic characteristic of propaganda: telling only one side of a story. So here's the background: the Soviet-German there was cooperation between the Soviet Union and Germany in the 1920s based on the Rapallo agreement of 1922 and this was enable the Germans to develop their military capacities behind the Soviet border and also the Soviets acquired military technology from the Nazis.
But what this leaves out is the fact that Germany went through a terrible economic crisis in 1923 because the French occupied the Rhineland and the Germans did not want to go along with the French control of that region and so they, it ended up in hyperinflation that devastated (the Soviet) that devastated the German economy and what saved the German economy was the Dawes plan of the United States that loaned money to Germany which is then used to work on its economy and then pay back the debts to the payments that were required by the Versailles Treaty to England which then paid the debts back to the United States. This was a great period of difficulty dealing with debts but the Dawes plan was essential and if the Soviet-German cooperation helped the Germans so did the American Dawes plan. So the Dawes plan in fact was an essential economic basis for that military cooperation.
And the second, the direct aid: the beginnings of the Holocaust took place in Poland during the Nazi-Soviet pact and the Soviets contracted with the Nazis to provide food and other goods in exchange for Nazi materials to be provided to the Soviets this was the trade that went on during the Nazi-Soviet pact and also the Soviets served as intermediaries for shipments you know from outside the Soviet Union to the East in that sense some Soviet aid perhaps oil, food and others supported in part the first phase of the Holocaust and even the first phases of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 22, 1941.
But what also has to be remembered as Western Europe and the United States acquiesced in the Nazi reoccupation and re-militarization of the Rhineland in outright defiance of the Versailles Treaty that all of these countries have signed. This was the most important steps of the war because of the West has stepped in and stopped this re-militarization then Germany would not would've had a much harder time preparing for the war might've been impossible. The US and other countries in Europe also traded extensively with Nazi Germany right up to the of the war and in some cases during the war and this is been documented extensively in recent research Ford Motor Company, General Motors, General Electric, many other (countries) companies did this.
And worse was the situation with Japan and the United States did not stop US companies from selling oil to Japan until August of 1941 US companies provided Japan with 80% of its oil so that the Japanese invasion and conquest of Manchuria in 1931 the Japanese invasion of southern China and the Nanjing massacre in 1937 in which the Japanese troops massacred 300,000 people and many other atrocities all depended on US oil even the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and the subsequent invasion of Southeast Asia all may have used, it’s hard to know exactly but they may have used oil stockpiled from trade with US companies. And Japanese atrocities in World War II were not as large as Nazi atrocities but they approached them, there were very many people were victimized that way.
Now if the film accuses the Soviets of helping the Nazis and says nothing about similar actions by Western powers in Europe and the United States in Europe and East Asia that the film would be overtly misleading because of an almost propagandistic because it leaves out contrary evidence. If the film does not mention these Western and US actions and then gets all these awards from other film prices and so forth then all of these countries and film festivals giving the film awards seem to be either ignorant or willing to go along with this deception and maybe they almost seem as though people who were trying to forget their own past and pat themselves on the back by pointing the finger at another evil doer in history.
6. 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 more terrible regime. It looks like he and some of his fellow historians work to move Nazism out of “absolute evil” category into the “relative evil”.
What could be the consequences of such a paradigm shift for Europe and for the rest of the world?
Video part 5
Okay as far as regarding the book by Timothy Snyder “Bloodlands”. Well, there are two things that I'd like to say about that. Okay, the first one is that I have published a lot of material on the Soviet famines and on famines in other countries on agricultural history and when he writes about the Soviet famine in that book which he describes as primarily a Ukrainian famine and he ignores a mountain of contrary evidence that was apparently entirely available to him such as published collections of documents containing literally many hundreds of documents about this period in the Soviet Union and as well as documents that are available in Soviet archives.
He spoke at my University and he when I talked to him afterwards I asked if he'd used Soviet archives and he said that he had and, you know, very sort of, with this assurance but when you look at his book he has no, in that chapter on the Soviet famine, he has no references to any Soviet archives. I've worked in the archives in different years from 1987 until 2009 I've been to Soviet Union and Russia six times working in archives in Moscow and in Kiev and I know that the archival sources do not support the arguments that he makes. He also, when he leaves out contrary evidence, for example, that the Soviet regime provided famine relief in 1932 and in 1933. He takes certain events and takes the context away from them, he leaves out the materials that I’ve published, for example, about that there was a famine in 1928-1929 in Ukraine caused by crop failures. It was not secret, the Soviet government set up relief agency, provided aid to hundreds of thousands of people including finding the ones who were the most ill and putting them in hospitals, providing forage for livestock and equipment and credits to help them improve the agriculture. And I'm the only scholar in any language who has written about this famine but it was not secret the head of the relief effort was interviewed in the Ukrainian press twice about the relief effort no one has ever noticed this.
And I documented that this was along with another famine in 1924-1925 is again not discussed in the literature but is well-documented and that these were factors in the decision to carry out collectivization and these are all documented with archival sources, more comprehensive view of published sources than any scholars have done before and awareness of the agricultural history of the Soviet Union and he explicitly stated at this lecture that he knew my work and had read all of it but he refers to none of this in his book.
Now the reason this is a problem is that we have a set of standards and statement on standards of professional conduct of the American Historical Association the British Royal Historical Society also has a similar statement it's on the web it can be found it’s two pages long and at the end of it, it says for more detail see the American Historical Association statement on standards of professional conduct because it's in England and United States you can find similar viewpoints in others. I will say that these are internationally respected standards and he violated those unambiguously. So his work is not only misleading and inaccurate but it is also seriously unethical.
In addition I documented that the harvest of 1932 which lay behind this famine in 1931 and 32 were both much smaller than the official statistics indicate I showed in a 160 pages of refereed publications which have also been published in Russian that why the statistics were misleading and inaccurate and what were the environmental causes of this famine and showing very clearly that the harvests were very low and famine level harvests and Snyder admitted that he had read these publicly at but in the book he has in one paragraph a half of the sentence where he admits that the harvest was poor and does not referred to my work at all in that section. According to the statement on standards of professional conduct you have to acknowledge other people's work and other people’s evidence, you have to be generous in citation that’s what they urge people to be and he was not. And someone could actually construe this as a kind of plagiarism. There’re other statements that he made are also found in other works that he does not cite and gave a talk, when he gave a talk at my University he did that as well he made a statement that the famine was entirely artificial and his main source one of his main sources is a Polish book that it's almost identical word for word, you know, for that statement.
So that one problem is that this work is seriously flawed from an academic standpoint. The second one about this making a new paradigm, well, his views, the viewpoints that he expresses in this book are (how do we put this) it's like a ghost from the past: people had said this for decades you know in the 40s in the 50s and the 60s, people were writing this, Ukrainian immigrants published “The Black Book of the Kremlin” about that makes the same type of argument. It's not so much that he's doing a paradigm shift as that he's trying to revive an old and rather discredited viewpoint, there is been a significant amount of work since then, mine is a part of that, but there are many other scholars who have shown all of the… many of the problems with this literature and it’s not so much that he is trying to revise the new… present a new paradigm as to suppress the new paradigm that is coming out now and go back to an older viewpoint.
Part III – Reactions in America
1. Do you observe any rise in Nazi feelings in America?
2. How does the American society react to the rehabilitation of Nazism?
3. What is the position of the American political establishment?
4. Americans are proud of their contribution to the defeat of Nazism during WWII. Can you explain why now the American media avoid criticism about regular events commemorating Nazis in the former Soviet republics – Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine?
Video part 6
Yes, okay, as far as reactions in America are concerned. I don't observe any rise of Nazi feelings in the United States. I mean there only in the sense that there are these isolated cases of these fanatics shooting people like the massacre at the Sikh Temple that took place recently besides it's few cases which are, you know, followed by the government and private organizations like the Anti-Defamation League. I do not think there is a significant rise in Nazi support. Our education system is quite consistent in attacking Nazism and remembering the Holocaust and there is actually literature about this.
As far as social attitudes to the revival of Nazism in the United States society would be quite hostile to any revival of Nazism or anything remotely like that and this is been shown many times and US politicians are like the public in this regard if there’s the slightest connection with any kind of Nazism or anything remotely associated with Nazism can really tarnish a politicians career.
Now as far as the media coverage and this is something my wife and I discussed. The media, it depends on what you’re talking about, if you’re talking about the New York Times, sorry if you're talking about the New York Times it's a newspaper of record it covers everything, it has to cover everything, that's its job and so they will discuss this and the New York Times of any newspaper is extremely hostile to Nazism. On the other hand, local newspapers are very locally oriented and very selective in what they report about anything outside of the locality it's hard to get really comprehensive news about America in some of these papers. Let alone, you know, about the Europe. And they tend to be focused on events outside of America only if it tends to involve Americans, you know.
Part IV – A broader perspective
1. Do you think that Russia with its communist past might still be playing the role of an external enemy and could the Western authorities be tempted to play the Russian card in order to keep their legitimacy in an increasingly unstable political environment?
Video part 7
Okay, as far as the American relations toward Russia and the prospect of maybe Russia could be seen as an external enemy. I don't think it's, it’s nothing like the Cold War, it’s nothing like the fear and adversity toward Russia that there was at that time. There are people who are sort of more conservative who tried to create that kind of impression.
But really the main concern Americans have is that's Russia seems to been ruled either directly or indirectly by Vladimir Putin since the year 2000 and there doesn't seem to be a prospect for any major alternative political party or political leader at the present. And he, we are concerned that under Putin the Russian government has extended control over most of the media that oblast governors are appointed - not elected and that protests against his rule seem to be being suppressed rather harshly like the two-year sentence for this group of Pussy Riot that you've heard about. And these are the views of most of the people in the United States, in the Western world.
Certainly Russia is not communist anymore but there are patterns that some people can construe as reminiscent of that, so this is the concern about Russia. But the relations between other, you know, economic relations and especially intellectual relations between Russia and United States are going strong and so there's it's actually quite different from what was in the Soviet regime. We, in America, we really think that Putin should really make an effort to be more interactive, proactive in dealing with people who were protesting that's what we feel him should be done.
2. Please, express your opinion about the major trends in political processes, the objectives of elite circles and the meaning of the present historical time.
Video part 8
As far as this last general question about sort of larger trends and political processes and elites and so forth, aright. My main worry is this problem of climate change and energy use and I feel that all of these movements and fanaticisms are really wasting people’s efforts and what we really need is everybody to work as hard as they can in figuring out what to do when we run out of oil, we have shortages of water, when we are facing real food crises and problems in transporting communications and we can't afford to have more of these irrational moments. We need to find a way to tolerate, to get long and deal with the real issues, environmental issues.