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A potential Soviet genocide

LAURENCE REES: It's very interesting to hear you talk about the Soviet deporations and 'population policies'. Can you explain a little more as to why you think this is different from the Nazi genocide?

OMER BARTOV: Because I believe that the dynamic of Nazi ideology was different from the dynamic of Soviet ideology, and you can see that quite clearly because the Nazis become increasingly murderous towards everyone as things progress. They become more and more murderous. Some people in the West say ‘there were 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust and 11 million in general died in ‘a holocaust’, not only the Jewish Holocaust but in ‘a holocaust’. Nobody will ever tell you exactly who are these 11 million? Why 11? It was not 11; there were about 28 million Russians who died, Soviet citizens who died. These are huge numbers, much bigger than 11, right? And they’re not counted, somehow, for some reason the Soviet citizens are not counted. But they count the Poles, they count the gypsies, they count the handicapped, all of whom should be counted, but Soviet citizens are left out. There was a dynamic of destruction in Nazi Germany that was ultimately genocidal. If you want to think what Poland would have looked like today had Germany ruled there until the fall of whatever wall the Nazis had put there, what would there be there?

Now, when the Soviets take over Eastern Europe they install brutal dictatorial Communist regimes. They’re murderous regimes. They kill many people and they put many people in camps and there’s nothing good to be said about them. But they’re not genocidal. And when Poland gets rid of Communism there is a Polish state, a Polish society, Polish intelligentsia, Polish universities, none of that would have existed. And I’m not talking now about Jews. None of that would have existed had the Nazis ruled over Poland or over Russia. So the dynamic is different. That is not to apologise in any way for the kind of so-called population policies, ethnic cleansing and mass crimes that were committed by Stalin, often, of course, against Soviet citizens, on a far larger scale against Soviet citizens than Hitler ever acted against German citizens. It’s just that they were different. And the difference needs to be identified, not in order to apologise for them, but because distinctions actually matter in history. And if you lump everything together you understand nothing.