The Soviet Union Versus Nazi Germany: Viewpoints from a Democracy
As an alumnus of Williston Northampton School, one of our nation’s finer prepatory schools, I am struck by comparison of two course descriptions in its 1997-1998 course of studies brochure regarding “Russian History” and “Hitler and Nazi Germany.”
The description for the semester course on Russian history reads:
The transformation of Russia into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the rise of that political entity to the first rank of world powers…
The description for the semester course on Hitler and Nazi Germany reads:
This comprehensive study of the personality, deeds, and impact on Europe of Adolf Hitler, examines man and World War II, covers the Holocaust in detail, and considers values and attitudes that are important for the present as well as critical for understanding the past.
The first thing that occurs to me as I compare these course descriptions is that there is a bizarre and even unacademic dichotomy in the manner by which these two histories are appraised: one attempting to laud and extol, the other attempting to focus in such a way as to deride and defame. I understand, of course, that Nazism was hostile to our American way of life. But so too was the Soviet system. And yet, regardless the antithetical nature of either of these two isms, the study of history regarding them should remain dispassionate and free from bias. These course descriptions, however, suggest something other than such an attempt.
Allow me to examine what seems suggested by the descriptions:
1) “… the rise of that political entity” (USSR) “to the first rank of world powers…”
The USSR’s rank as a political entity among world powers might properly be assessed by its degree of influence and involvement in world affairs, and this through treaties and decision-making status in international organizations. The USSR was, after all – at least up until Stalin’s fatherland speech of 1931 – ostensibly committed to internationalism. And yet the USSR did not belong, curiously enough, to the League of Nations. Germany, by contrast, did, at least after December 1, 1925 and until September 1934. As far as treaties, the USSR was not a signatory to the Treaty of Versailles, Locarno, Saint Germain, Trianon, Neuilly, nor even the Little Entente (August 1920) involving Czechoslovakia, Romania and the Serb-Croat-Slovene Kingdom – nations within her immediate sphere. She was, however, a participant in the treaties of Brest-Litovsk (abrogated by the Allied Powers) and Rapallo (April 1922), but these were both with Germany, as was her infamous pact of August 23, 1939.
It is true the Soviets took part in international disarmament conferences at Geneva, 1927-28. The Soviet government had advocated this course with Poland, Finland and the Baltic States in 1922-23 without success, and similarly failed in their proposals for immediate and progressive reduction of land, sea and air forces at Geneva, precisely because the European Powers did not have adequate confidence in the USSR’s sincerity or veracity. In fact, the USSR was excluded from being one of the original signatories to the Kellogg World Pact of Non-Aggression, signed at Versailles in 1928. True, after the advent of Hitler, the Soviet Union indeed concluded military alliances with France and Czechoslovakia, and elaborate pacts of non-aggression with Poland, Romania, Finland and the Baltic States (these, except for Poland, joining with Germany by the time the latter invaded Russia in June 1941), and they cultivated political alliances with liberal and radical parties in France and Spain, supporting Popular Front governments in both countries. Yet Leon Blum’s government lasted barely a year in France and the Communists and Anarchists fighting against Franco in Spain were also defeated.
It was, in fact, the cooling off in relations with France and Britain at the time of the Munich Conference in September 1938 that precipitated the USSR’s alliance with Germany in August of 1939.
There is no question Soviet Russia was a political entity of consequence, although it is disputable whether, until after the defeat of Nazi Germany in WW II, she was of “first rank” as the above course description proposes. The implication of Stalin’s accord with the Nazi government in 1939 suggests one might equally have suggested Nazi Germany as a first-rank power, had there been no fear regarding the repercussions such honesty would entail.
I believe this question of political efficacy can be approached by studying the relative economic growth of Communist Russia and National Socialist Germany. For the degree to which one system versus the other fostered economic progress is a key indicator of their relative political merits. Decrees and legislation affecting entrepreneurial motivation, labor laws regulating employer-employee relations and overall worker morale: these are factors both governments brought to bear on the economic climate of their respective countries. The comparison is rather skewed, however, in that the Soviet population in 1933 was some 130 million persons, whereas the German population stood at roughly 70 million. What is more, the Soviet land mass, richer than Germany in many ways relative to mineral and agricultural resources, was also many times larger. But I think it would nevertheless be interesting to examine relative economic progress in the two nations for the period 1933 to 1940, comparing Soviet Russia when she was launching her Second Five-Year Plan and Germany at the outset of the National Socialist regime, to the period before those two countries went to war with each other.
I draw the following industrial output figures from “International Historical Statistics: Europe 1750-1988,” by B.R. Mitchell (ISBN 1-56159-038-X), Third Edition, 1992, Stockton Press, New York, New York:
|1933||67.5, 8.9||110, 127|
|1934||82.8, 11.4||125, 137|
|1935||95.3, 14.3||143, 147|
|1936||109, 17.6||158, 161|
|1937||110, 18.1||185, 185|
|1938||115, 18.5||186, 195|
|1939||125, 21.3||188, 212|
|1940||140, 25.9||184, 225|
|Average Progression||9.06/yr., 2.1/yr.||9.25/yr., 12.25/yr.|
|Average Progression||USSR: 120/yr.||Germany: 115.9/yr.|
|Year||USSR (“sawed” wood)||Germany (“working” wood)|
|Year||USSR (PC, CV)||Germany (PC, CV)|
|1933||10, 39||92, 13|
|1934||17, 55||147, 27|
|1935||19, 78||205, 42|
|1936||4, 132||244, 57|
|1937||18, 182||269, 62|
|1938||27, 184||275, 63|
|1939||20, 182||—, —|
|1940||6, 140||—, —|
|Average Progression||2.83/yr., 24.16/yr.||30.5/yr., 8.33/yr.|
|Average Progression||USSR: 2/yr.||Germany: 6.83/yr.|
|Note: as there were no figures for pre-war years, these post-war figures require interpretation.|
During the period in question, 1933-1940, the USSR topped Germany in iron ore and petroleum production and also in the output of farm crops such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, maize, soy beans and potatoes (with the exception of this last crop in 1938: 42.0 million metric tons versus 55.98 million metric tons, respectively). Consequently, by 1939, Germany relied on the USSR for deliveries of oil, rare metals (such as manganese) and foodstuffs. But, by the same token, in this same year, the Soviets were depending on Germany for various machinery and machine tools, weapons (such as heavy and medium artillery, and aircraft), blueprints for ships and aircraft, and entire warships such as the cruiser Lützow. It is to be noted in regard to W.W.II that Russia necessitated some $10,100,000,000 in Lend Lease materiel from the U.S.: dyes, locomotives, tanks, aircraft, etc., in order to stay the course of the war, while Germany withstood the combined onslaught of America, Canada, Britain, South America, South Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand and the USSR, for some seven years, and was the supplier to her various allies: Italy, Finland, Romania, Hungary, Spain, and to some extent, Japan.
As far as what I have listed in the tables, you will note that not only did Nazi Germany produce more in quantity per year of goods listed (with the exception of commercial vehicles, timber until 1937 and various farm crops – save potatoes in 1938) but the rate of increase in these sectors of production also surpassed the Soviets (except for commercial vehicles, H2SO4, and the listed farm products – but not rye nor possibly butter), and in some cases, e.g., brown coal, pig iron, private cars, wool yarn and timber, dramatically so. The conclusion I am arriving at is, regardless to the fact of lesser quantitative resources in labor and land mass, German Nazism appears to have been more conducive to economic growth than Russian Communism. And given economic prowess as a significant hallmark of a political entity’s rank among world powers, it would appear Nazi Germany rather than Soviet Russia is the political entity to which this description better applies.
2)… study of the personality, deeds, and impact on Europe of Adolf Hitler, examines man and W.W.II, covers the Holocaust in detail, and considers values and attitudes that are important for the present…”
Aside from sounding like a course of indoctrination, what is suggested here, unlike the analysis of Soviet Russia, is that Nazi Germany can best be examined by focusing on its chief of state, and that World War Two and the “Holocaust” – while not WW II and the “Great Purge” relative to the USSR – are key aspects or repercussions of this state. That is certainly a point of view but one, I think, which is over-zealous and asymmetric. While it is not inappropriate to perceive Adolf Hitler as the principal actor and ultimate ruler of National Socialist Germany, I think it a mistake to conceive Nazism in Germany as having its existence or final character without the many ministers and party members who were key personalities in their own right: Hermann Göring, Rudolf Hess, Joseph Goebbels, Alfred Rosenberg, Hans Frank, Walter Darré, Baldur von Schirach, Walter Funk, Eric von Ribbentrop, Ernst Röhm… When teaching about Soviet Russia, does one not discuss Bukharin, Kirov, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rykov, Krestinsky, Yagoda, Yezhov, Brezhnev, Kosygin, Andropov and Chernenko – aside from Stalin or Lenin?
Because the above course speaks of a “comprehensive” study of Hitler’s personality, deeds and impact on Europe, I would imagine one selects some degree of readings from Mein Kampf. And, of course, one is aware to employ the E.T.S. Dugdale translation rather than the Ralph Manheim version. For, as any historian should know, Hitler’s lawyers brought suit against the publishers of the Manheim edition for undue license and liberty with the German text, which allegedly gave Anglophone readers a fraudulent impression of Hitler’s ideas. Personally, I have never read the Dugdale translation and have never had an opportunity to compare it with the Manheim version, but as a matter of diligence, it would seem any knowledgeable and honest historian would choose to employ a translation which the author considered authoritative rather than one which he did not. Aside from Hitler’s writings in Mein Kampf, I would also suggest selections from the two-volume Norman F. Baynes compendium, The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, regarding what the Führer said following his rise to power. As to Hitler’s youth and formative years, I have found no better, if no more obscure, book than composer Auguste Kubicek’s The Young Hitler I Knew. Kubicek was Hitler’s boyhood friend and writes in a kindly and tender manner relative his first-hand impressions. As to more general and comprehensive studies, I would certainly suggest John Toland’s Hitler, David Irving’s Hitler’s War and Jacques Benoiste Méchin’s Histoire de l’Armée Allemagne, 1919-1945. I am unaware if the last is available in translation, but it embodies many details, such as Hitler’s “Punktaktionen” vis-à-vis negotiations with Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg and Lord Runciman’s mission to the Sudetenland prior to the Czechoslovakian Crisis, which I have yet to see treated elsewhere. An interesting perspective by a French academician regarding Hitler at the 1935 Party Day is given by Louis Bertrand in a book titled Hitler (originally published by Arthème Fayard), which I have translated into English under the same title, published by AuthorHouse. As far as those who knew and interacted with Hitler during the pre-war and war years, one may choose to go with architect Albert Speer, a repentant Nazi, but I think there is something to be learned from post-war loyalists who faced persecution in maintaining apologetic or nostalgic views and would therefore also recommend pilot Hans Bauer’s Hitler At My Side. Given this recommendation, one may find it unusual I also suggest a book by renegade Kurt G.W. Ludecke. His book, I Knew Hitler, by Jarrolds Publishers, London, is fascinating and although Ludecke left Germany for England in 1938, under other than convivial circumstances, his many sober and intelligent observations make this book valuable for understanding Hitler the man and politician, prior to and immediately following his election to the chancellorship in 1933.
Let us now consider the “Holocaust” – in extremis – as per the given course description. As a point of comparison, I have already noted there appears to be no similar interest in focusing on the imprisonment and eradication of peoples in the course description pertaining to the rise of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and I can only imagine this is because the victims of Soviet demagoguery do not solicit our normal human sympathies, serve no post mortem political interest furthering national or international agendas, or because their deaths are an embarrassing and inconvenient issue for those historians and social engineers who are ever so fastidiously attempting to teach selective lessons of history. To the degree the latter applies, it is not just the ruminations of former Nazis or their apologists one will want to avoid. For instance, historian Robert V. Daniels, in his book Russia: The Roots of Confrontation, (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1985) makes an extraordinary claim when stating “The analogy has often been drawn between Stalin’s purges and the Terror in France under Robespierre… Stalin killed more Communists than have all the world’s right-wing dictators combined.” Purges? Certainly one is familiar with this phase of Stalinist rule, but allow me briefly to review the “Great Purge” which began with the assassination of moderate Politburo member Sergei Kirov in December 1934. Even before this juncture, millions of peasants, intellectuals, wayward bureaucrats and party members had been imprisoned in corrective labor camps under the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs and many tens of thousands of peasants and Kulaks who resisted farm collectivization had been murdered. Do the lives of these people, even if indistinct respective to race or class, matter? Or what about those former Stalinist opponents, who, after Kirov, were accused during the Moscow show trials, men such as Zinoviev and Kamenev, Bukharin, Rykov and Krestinsky, the leading Trotskyists and members of the Right Opposition, national minority leaders and the top marshals of the Red Army, members and candidate members of the Politburo, the bulk of the Central Committee and a majority of the delegates to the 1934 party congress, all forced to confess to charges of treason and all suffering the penalty of death – even ex-commissar Genrykh Yagoda and NKVD chief Nikolai Yezhov, who had helped prepare these trials? In all, it is estimated some two million people in responsible and skilled positions were arrested and shot or jailed during these purges (or “chistka” – cleansing – of a kind, however, the Western press did not oblige the League of Nations to go to war over). Two million?! One probably wishes to challenge this figure and I would not be surprised. It is possibly an exaggeration. But now without further ado let us transition to the subject of the Jewish Holocaust under Nazism and the contemporary challenge to its fastidious figure of six million and what is the above course’s position: that the numbers here are inviolate? Likely. For to broach any lesser figure enters upon the taboo arena of Revisionism and, even in the absence of the kind of national and international laws which prevail in Europe (e.g., Gayssot-Fabius, the Holocaust Treaty, etc.), there is a definite impediment in the United States for academics who choose to engage in this manner of re-evaluation. Nonetheless, there are several books that address this subject: Arthur R. Butz’s Hoax of the Twentieth Century, Wilhelm Stäglich’s The Auschwitz Myth, Paul Rassinier’s The Holocaust Hoax or The Lies of Ulysses, Walter Sanning’s The Dissolution of European Jewry, as well as several other titles. There is also gas chamber expert Fred Leuchter’s 1989 structural/chemical investigation, The Leuchter Report. Having an engineering and chemistry background myself, with more than a passing interest in history, I traveled to Auschwitz-Birkenau in May 1996 to examine and assess Leuchter’s findings. My report on this is filed with the Committee for Open Debate On the Holocaust (CODOH) A second, more extensive article is there, too, in response to passages from a book, Holocaust Denial, by Kenneth Stern, who utilizes analyses by French pharmacist Jean-Claude Pressac to challenge Leuchter’s findings. Grounded in science rather than the often unreliable basis of eye-witness testimony, the conclusions of Leuchter’s investigation in regard to the salient issue of whether facilities existed at Auschwitz-Birkenau utilizing poison gas, e.g., hydrocyanic acid, for homicidal purposes (and not merely delousing), pose a major challenge to orthodox holocaustians which has yet to be resolved. There are faults with Leuchter’s investigation I do not hesitate to reveal, yet in essential respects, my analysis corroborates his work, even identifying how a misinterpretation in regard to samples extracted from Kremas IV and V further substantiates an earlier existing non-traditionalist thesis. You may read my interview with Auschwitz chief curator, Dr. Franzicek Piper, who informed that his museum presently endorses an official Auschwitz-Birkenau death toll of 985,671 persons (due to all causes), whereas the six million figure established at the Nuremberg trials for the Holocaust as a whole was based on a preliminary post-war assumption of some four million deaths at Auschwitz. Whereas the total in the press and popular mythology has never been revised, simple math allows one to perceive that, in regard to just the revision stemming from the Auschwitz facility alone, the quantitative aspect of the Jewish Holocaust should be halved, i.e., reduced to three million. If one notionally concedes proportionally scaling back the initial Nuremberg fatality estimates for all concentration camps operated by the Nazis during W.W.II (especially in recognition of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's latter-day admission there were no camps operating gas chambers within the borders of Germany proper and the fact Leuchter’s findings indeed apply to five other camps investigated outside Germany), one may plausibly arrive at a combined holocaust figure approaching what is also possibly true regarding the number of victims associated with the purges of Stalin. What this suggests – the conclusion I am arriving at – is that unless one is an elitist, or has ulterior, a-historical motives, there should be no more compelling reason on a purely numerical basis to trumpet the particular crimes of Hitler over and above the crimes by Stalin. Neither should be whitewashed, neither, excused. In fact, I am not suggesting the alternative of eliminating mention of Hitlerian atrocities just because one may not be delving into this facet of Soviet behavior. Rather, I am suggesting, as a matter of consistency, one treat both instantiations of these political isms alike, and ideally no less beneficently and no more harshly than national examples of Shintoism, Muhamadanism, Socialism, Republicanism, plutocracy, aristocracy or democracy.
Closing on the issue of the Jewish “Holocaust,” I think instructive to include Roger Garaudy’s The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics. Garaudy, an internationally known and respected French author, counts among his former friends many prominent Jews, including Bernard Lacache, founder of the League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA), with whom he spent time in a German concentration camp. In this regard, he is perhaps as unlikely and unusual an exponent of Revisionism as was Paul Rassinier (a former Socialist and internee at Buchenwald), but has nevertheless written a work which does a fairly capable job of reviewing challenges to the more troublesome aspects of the Holocaust saga. I suggest this book for anyone wanting to gain an overdue understanding for the character and scope of Holocaust Revisionism, explaining in turn why this body of research should become part of any school curriculum offering to focus on the Holocaust to begin with.
- Being based on a letter originally addressed to Peter Gunn, Chair of the History and Social Science Department, Williston Northampton School, Easthampton MA, 24 August 1999, regarding the school’s course guide for 1997-1998. Contents of the letter derive from notes dating from November 1997 while referencing background materials at Exeter University in the U.K Later statistical materials were drawn from library sources at the University of Dayton.
- In March 1944 the Luftwaffe made available to the Japanese engineering drawings for two of their most advanced aircraft, the Me 262 and Me 163B-1a. The Germans also provided prototypes. The Japanese renamed the Me 163 the J8M1 “Shusui,” for which they achieved a first flight on 7 July 1945. Previous to this, the Germans sold the Japanese the HE100D-0 (with license to build) as well as the HE112B-0. The Japanese converted the former to become the “Hein,” employed for homeland defense.
- Interestingly, Alan Cranston, who later made a successful bid for Congress, involved himself with the American effort to dismiss Hitler’s suit, but this was done from political motives rather than those of historical accuracy historians should espouse.
- There is, for example, the interesting interview conducted by George Seldes, of the Chicago Tribune, with Yakof Khristoforovich Peters, the head of the Soviet Chekah in 1922. Chekah, or Vai-Che-Kah, was the acronym for Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution. The Daily Mail of London was accusing Chekah of 1.7 million terror executions, so Seldes was there to get the real story. The conversation, according to Seldes, went like this:
“Mr. Peters… why don’t you tell me just how many persons have been executed?”
“I said,” he replied, “a few thousand.”
“No. More than that.”
“A hundred thousand?”
“Much less than that.”
“Split the difference? Fifty thousand?”
“That’s about right,” said Peters. “A few thousand more or less. In wartime, mind you. Traitors, spies, enemies of the Revolution!”
(From, Witness to a Century, Ballantine Books, NY, 1987, p. 197)
- For a primer in these matters, the reader is advised to consult the cross-examination transcripts of the several trial proceedings against Ernst Zündel in Toronto, Canada, circa 1985 – 1993, or compare the hundreds of sworn testimonies gathered at the Nuremberg trials in 1946-47 regarding gassings at Dachau versus the later (August 1960) pronouncements by the Institut für Zeitgeschichte and official plaque now appearing at Dachau itself (to the effect that its “gas chambers” were never completed or utilized by war’s end).
Additional information about this document
|Author(s):||Daniel D. Desjardins|
|Title:||The Soviet Union Versus Nazi Germany: Viewpoints from a Democracy|
|First posted on CODOH:||Aug. 22, 1999, 7 p.m.|