Another Russian Historian Speaks on WWII

Published: 1998-01-01

The other day I cited a prominent and highly regarded Russian historian (that is, historian of Russia) whose interpretation of some aspects of 20th century Soviet history matched my own, and which in both cases tended toward a revisionist perspective.

The rejoinder I received was something along the lines of "OK, so you found a professor who agrees with you" which I thought odd, since the individual in question is a historian, has prestige as a historian among historians, as well as experience, training, knowledge, and publications in history that the vast majority of Holocaust "historians" lack.

I will have a few more comments after this next "historian" or "professor who agrees with me" speaks, next in line will be Raul Hilberg's critique of such Holocaust "scholars" as Lucy Dawidowicz, Nora Levin, and Hannah Arendt.

"The conduct of the trials, held at Nuremberg between November 1945 and October 1946, demonstrated two very different approaches to judicial process. The Soviet prosecutors labored under the disadvantage that confessions had not been wrung from the defendants by weeks of ceaseless torture. They presented a case carefully constructed in Moscow and stuck to it rigidly. There was no mention of the German Soviet pact of August 1939 and the division of Poland; no mention of the Soviet Finnish War. Soviet prosecutors used the language of Communist propaganda as they read out declaratory statements demonstrating the guilt of the "fascist criminals", about which they were in no doubt. For crimes against humanity the Soviet side contributed lengthy accounts read out from prepared scripts allegedly based on eyewitness testimony. The accounts revealed unspeakable, almost incomprehensible atrocities, and were little questioned, despite the absence of the same witnesses in court. They may well have been entirely fabricated; they were almost certainly (but unnecessarily) embellished in order to demonstrate that the Soviet Union was the victim of greater barbarisms than any other state.

When [Soviet Prosecutor] Vyshinsky arrived at Nuremberg in November 1945, with the Chief Prosecutor of the Soviet Union, he raised a toast to the defendants at a dinner in his honor: "May their paths lead straight from the courthouse to the grave!" British and American judges found themselves in the uncomfortable position of endorsing the death sentence for men they were supposed to be trying in the tradition of judicial impartiality. [...] Vyshinsky was appointed secretly by Stalin to head a "Commission on the Direction of the Nuremberg Trial", to interfere in the conduct of the Tribunal. Vyshinsky's main task was to ensure that there would be no hint at all at the trial of the Soviet German agreements made in 1939, nor of any impropriety on the part of Soviet authorities. Soviet prosecutors were instructed to shout down any witness whose testimony was "anti-Soviet".

[...] Katyn was not the only Soviet atrocity blamed on the German invader. In the Kuropaty forest Belorussia roadworkers excavating a new highway in 1957 uncovered human remains. "An ancient cemetery" was the explanation given. In 1987 two schoolboys stumbled across a mass grave. What they had discovered was one of an estimated 500 mass burial sites in the forest areas around Minsk, all of them filled with the victims of NKVD terror. They contained, according to the estimates of those who investigated them, between 150,000 and 200,000 bodies. The official position of the Belorussian government, which authorized a commission of inquiry, was to blame the Germans, and this position was maintained beyond the collapse of the Soviet Union. The evidence of the exhumations damned the NKVD."

Russia's War by Richard Overy, Penguin, 1997, 294ff
(Overy is a professor of Modern History at King's College in London)

NOTE: The first paragraph, which suggests that the Soviets may have simply made up their Nuremberg presentation, is something that revisionists have been arguing strenuously for some time. The Soviet presentation included most of what we now regard as Holocaust orthodoxy; it definitely includes under this rubric the claim that the Germans conducted "experiments" in soap making, practiced skeet shooting with children, tickled homosexuals to death, and similar nonsense.

There are two specific points of interest. The first is that elsewhere Overy _does_ discuss the liberation of the extermination camps, so it is clear that he is not overturning the legend in his book. (Although his remarks on that subject are also instructive and I will quote them too when I get the chance; they are not entirely accurate) On the other hand the above first paragraph is keyed to a passage in Telford Taylor's "Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials" that I used two years ago to buttress my argument that it was certainly within the range of reason to reject the soap making experiment claim. In other words, Overy not only agrees with me, he used the same sources in order to do so.

And so revisionism continues to patiently work around the 50 year old orthodoxy of WW2, something that cannot be stopped and which will continue, no matter how much some may attempt to stop it either through legislation, censorship, or name calling.

Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): Germanica
Title: Another Russian Historian Speaks on WWII
Sources: Russia's War by Richard Overy, Penguin, 1997, 294ff
Published: 1998-01-01
First posted on CODOH: June 29, 1998, 7 p.m.
Last revision:
Comments: Holocaust orthodoxy matches in many respects the Russian version of WWII.
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