chapter  16
National Socialist and Communist violence compared: A contribution to the research on repression and oppression in ideocracies JERZY M A C´ KÓW
Pages 44

The collapse of Communism (Soviet socialism)1 has, through the partial opening of the archives in the “East”2 and the partial loss of wellestablished political taboos in the “West,” boosted the interest of social sciences in political violence research. The primary concern of this research is not so much the explanation but rather the recording of political violence during the twentieth century or any other point in the history of mankind.3 Generally, statistical and typological exploration is limited to categorizing atrocities into types of mass murder. In this context, many authors have begun “searching for genocides.”4 Rafał (Raphael) Lemkin, a Polish expert on international law who died in New York in 1949, forgotten and poor, after having been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize seven times, is now often cited.5 In 1943, on behalf of his government, which acted in exile, he compiled criteria for “ludobójstwo” (he translated this Polish word into English as “genocide”). These were incorporated into the UN convention against genocide adopted in 1948. In this convention, due to Soviet pressure and contrary to Lemkin’s original intention and the first drafts of the convention, a selective understanding of genocide was adopted. This definition has remained in use to this day. Under this definition, the term “genocide” refers to the annihilation of national, ethnic, racial, or religious groups. Norman M. Naimark demonstrated in his sober and competent examination of the genocides perpetrated by Joseph Stalin how the Soviet party leader maintained, with the assistance of some states, that mass murders committed out of political or economic reasons should not be classified as genocide.6 Already in 1946, the Soviet autocrat was assisted by his democratic war allies in this matter. For this reason, they dropped the charges related to the Katyn massacre during the Nuremberg trials. In order to cover up Soviet guilt over this event, a Soviet prosecutor had brought an action against a Wehrmacht (German Armed Forces until 1946) unit, specifically referring to genocide. In the course of trials, however, the Soviet responsibility for the

massacre started to unequivocally reveal itself and the prosecutors suddenly changed their minds. Today, as then, the scientific discussion of genocide has a political foundation, or at least political importance, especially when it comes to events which make perpetrators liable to prosecution. The scientific classification of some mass murders as genocide increases the likelihood that compensation claims will be supported in court. It also affects the images and reputations of countries and governments. As mentioned above, taboos are broken in this process. For example, it appears that the heated debate that took place in the Federal Republic of Germany in the 1980s regarding the comparability or singularity of the Holocaust has long been decided in favor of the minority position. Its supporters intended, through a comparison with other mass murders of the twentieth century, to “historize” and relativize the “Endlösung” (“Final Solution”) perpetrated by the Third Reich. The removal of taboos after 1989 regarding crimes perpetrated by the Communists, described by Norman Davies, facilitated this revisionism:

Owing to the indisputably atrocious record of the Axis Powers in general, . . . no conflict has ever aroused such strong convictions in Britain and America of being a just war, fairly contested by the Allies. . . . Yet a cursory glance at the full list of horrors as subsequently established will suffice to show that the record is not so simple. On many counts, the anti-Fascist coalition was responsible for unnatural death on no less vast a scale. . . . From what is now known . . . it is manifestly evident that the Stalinist party state in the USSR must be classed as a criminal regime.7