Stalinism and Nazism: History and Memory Compared

Stalinism and Nazism: History and Memory Compared

Stalinism and Nazism: History and Memory Compared

Stalinism and Nazism: History and Memory Compared

Synopsis

In this volume Europe's leading modern historians offer new insights into two totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century that have profoundly affected world history--Nazi Germany and the Stalinist era in the Soviet Union. Until now historians have paid more attention to the similarities between these two regimes than to their differences. "Stalinism and Nazism explores the difficult relationship between the history and memory of the traumas inflicted by Nazi and Soviet occupation in several Eastern European countries in the twentieth century. The first part of the volume explores the origins, nature, and organization of Hitler's and Stalin's dictatorial power, the manipulation of violence by the state systems, and the comparative power of the dictator's personal will and the encompassing totalitarian system. The second part examines the legacies of the Nazi and Stalinist regimes in Eastern European countries that experienced both. "Stalinism and Nazism features the latest critical perspectiveson two of the most influential and deadly political regimes in modern history.

Excerpt

Henry Rousso's Stalinism and Nazism: History and Memory Compared situates itself at the center of a number of important debates that have not only shaped the field of “contemporary history” in France in the last decade but also generated considerable and persistent controversy in the public forum as well.

As its title suggests, this book engages in the first instance with the heated and often ideologically loaded debate surrounding the comparison of Communism and fascism, and National Socialism in particular. Because the comparison of these ideologies in their various expressions inevitably involves discussion of the applicability and viability of the concept of totalitarianism, Stalinism and Nazism addresses this subject as well.

As its title also suggests, the collection explores the difficult relationship between history and memory, primarily the history and memory of the traumas associated with the double experience of Nazi and Soviet occupation in several Eastern European countries. While France was of course never occupied by the Soviet Union, the experience of Nazi occupation during World War II, coupled with Vichy complicity in the Holocaust, has left scars on the French national psyche and pitted “history” and “memory” against each other on a number of levels and in several important contexts. Because the competing and often conflicting imperatives of history and memory regarding Vichy have a bearing on the framing of the debates and issues dealt with in this volume, it is important to consider them briefly here.

In his now-classic study The Vichy Syndrome (1987), Henry Rousso examines in compelling detail how the memory of the Vichy period has evolved over time since the liberation of France in 1944. Subject to cultural and generational shifts as well as political manipulations, the memory of the Pétain regime and the German Occupation—of les années noires (the “Dark Years”)— has, in Rousso's view, gone through four distinct phases, the last of which has particular relevance here. Since the late 1970s and early 1980s, the memory of Vichy has been nothing less than a national “obsession, ”to use Rousso's term, provoking political and judicial scandals and inspiring controversial films and novels. The primary reason for Vichy's remarkable notoriety is that, increasingly, the memory of the period has focused on the regime's involvement with the Nazis'“Final Solution”and on Vichy's own homegrown anti-Semitic . . .

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