Posts Tagged ‘Adolf Hitler’

How the cult of personality turns everyone into a liar

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016
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Not a dictator, but a scholar. (Photo: Rachel Moltz)

Not a dictator, but a scholar. (Photo: Rachel Moltz)

When Mao Zedong died on September 9, 1976, hundreds of thousands of people poured into the streets, weeping over the dictator who is responsible for at least 50 million deaths.

According to Frank Dikötter of the University of Hong Kong, the cult of personality turns everyone into liars. “These are not true tears,” he told an audience at the Hoover Institution last week. “It’s not really clear who is really crying. Everyone knows there is lying. Not everyone knows who is lying.”

Dikötter is the author of Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, which won the 2011 Samuel Johnson Prize, Britain’s most prestigious book award for non-fiction. He spoke at Hoover about “The Making of the Cult of Personality in the Twentieth Century.” He is working on a “global history of the cult of personality,” focusing on prominent dictators of the 20th century.

“Millions were led to the death as they cheered their master,” said Dikötter of Mao. “The cult of personality obliged everyone to become a sycophant, destroying their dignity in the process.”

The Dutch author quoted Dostoevsky‘s Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazovsaying the ruler has two tools at his disposal: on one hand magic and mystery, on the other, the sword. Yet “the cult of personality” is born of the age of democracy. “Dictators depend on popular support,” he said. A totalitarian ruler needs at least the illusion of a mandate at the ballot box.

ceausescu

Romania’s man about town.

“The rise and fall of dictatorships is often determined by the cult of personality,” Dikötter said. The creation of the cult is far from a solo effort; a dictator needs plenty of support. “There is, at least, a ministry of propaganda, an army of photographers, bureaucracy, whole sections of industry, the army.” Mao, for example, had a whole industry to produce cult objects. Under Pol Pot, who caused the death of millions, a whole prison was dedicated to printing images of the leader and developing cult objects. Dikötter said the regime failed precisely because Pol Pot was unable to establish himself as a cult personality.

 Dikötter noted that there were some excellent studies on the cult of personality, although in many cases scholarly efforts remain scattered. In the case of Germany, for instance, the first exhibition of cult objects about Hitler took place only five years ago. “It seems almost obscene to look at the shiny surfaces the state produces rather than at the horror it hides,” he said.

The shiny surfaces also have a practical purpose: “In a dictatorship, you develop the image and the cult so that you will not have to turn to force. That’s the point.”

mao

Forever young.

The ministry of propaganda, photographers and others have plenty of work to do. For example, Romania’s Nicolae Ceaușescu traveled the country so much that he seemed to be everywhere at once. He made a record 147 whistle-stop tours of the entire country between 1965 and 1973. Some regimes rubbed out the images of fallen aides and sidekicks from photos (Milan Kundera famously describes how Vladimír Clementis was erased in a 1948 photo when he fell from favor).  Ceaușescu went one step further: he had himself inserted himself into photos of meetings he never attended, sometimes meetings that occurred at the same time miles away from each other, suggesting a sort of bilocation. After his fall, the cult images came down very rapidly.

Adolf Hitler, author of the Holocaust, buffed his image throughout the 1930s. Popular images portrayed him as a vegetarian, non-drinking, non-smoking, hard-working, modest man – and not just in Germany. “You can read it in the New York Times,” said Dikötter – dictators make a point of courting the foreign press and journalists, and the favor is apparently returned. The Hitler Nobody Knows (1933) was almost a companion volume to Mein Kampf. Hitler is always seen without his glasses.

Propaganda presented Benito Mussolini as “good family man, a far-seeing statesman, a stern dictator,” said Dikötter. The voice of the leader is an important tool in the legend, and Mussolini used it for maximum effect in his balcony speeches – ““a metallic voice with sentences delivered like the blows of a hammer.” While many of Italy’s poor did not have ready access to the radio, loudspeakers suddenly appeared in the public square, to make sure they got the message.

mussolini2By contrast, genocidaire Joseph Stalin hardly speaks at all, but that’s just as important. He appears before millions of the Red Guards and says nothing. “By not speaking he becomes the center of gravity,” said Dikötter.

Ceaușescu, like the other dictators Dikötter studied, drew his inspiration from others. In his travels, “he was smitten by what he sees in China and Korea – he takes it quite seriously,” said Dikötter. “Dictators don’t do this on their own.”

They draw their lessons not only from other lands, but other histories. They must present themselves in an imaginative line of succession rather than as illegitimate upstarts who grabbed power. Thus, Stalin presides over the canonizing of Lenin. The Ethiopian genocidaire Mengistu Haile Mariam, responsible for killing 500,000 to 2,000,000 people, adopted the symbols and trappings of the Emperor Haile Selassie, whom he had killed and buried beneath the palace, before turning to Marxism-Leninism. Mussolini presented himself as the reincarnation of Caesar Augustus.

papadoc

Kim Il-sung presented himself as the tradition of thousands of years embodied in his very own person. “It’s difficult to pull it off, unless you have a hermetically sealed state, like North Korea,” said Dikötter.

“Papa Doc” Duvalier in Haiti, who killed 30,000 to 60,000 of his countrymen, was the only one who reached into another world for his authority. He used voodoo as a prop to develop his cult of personality, and he took it very seriously. He came across to his minions as a gentle person in dark glasses, half-mumbling as if he were casting spells.

Yes, someone asked, but what happens when the dictator becomes sleek and very fat. Surely the starving and impoverished workers are no longer bedazzled by the ugly frog that waddles before them?

“Once the image develops, it tends to stay fixed,”said Dikötter. “It stays fixed and ever youthful, even though Mao in his last years looked pretty ghastly,” with black teeth, Lou Gehrig’s disease and, yes, very overweight.


The funeral of Mao: faking it.

Adolf Hitler’s X-rays @Stanford

Thursday, April 14th, 2016
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68007_Treasure008-2It’s April. Spring is in the air and blossoms are everywhere. What better time to think about Adolf Hitler and his skull? The exhibit is a favorite at Hoover Institution’s Library and Archives at Stanford – certainly one of the archivists’ most popular show-and-tells. Stanford students love it.

Whatever bits and pieces were missing from Hitler’s psyche and body, Stanford can definitely prove that indeed he had a skull.

These X-rays of Hitler’s skull were taken in September 1944. That was a few months after Claus Von Stauffenberg‘s attempted assassination of the Führer on July 20. Hitler had escaped with only singed trousers and a perforated eardrum, alas – but he still wasn’t feeling up to snuff a few months later. He had headaches and ringing in his ears. So the German doctors took X-rays.

The acquisition of this … treasure? … came about this way: After the war, the Allies interrogated all who had been in Führer’s circle, including his doctors. 

Enter Colonel William Russell Philp, a career military officer, serving in the first and second world wars. Philp was largely responsible for recreating the counter-intelligence corps of the West German government after World War II. And he gathered lots of records.

In the 1980s, the colonel was remarrying. His wife-to-be asked him to please clean out the cellar. Where to put all the stuff he had accumulated? He gave the Hoover Library Archives a call.

68007_Treasure010-2It was a trove indeed: included in the cellar were intelligence reports, interrogation reports, maps, and photographs relating to Adolf Hitler, the German military structure, national socialism, various aspects of German society during and immediately after World War II, various military campaigns of World War II (particularly preparation for the invasion of Normandy), denazification, and post-war reconstruction in Germany.

And yes, the X-rays of Hitler’s skull.

So what does it show? Bad sinuses and bad dental work, perhaps.

You, too, can see Hitler’s X-rays if you visit the Stanford campus – they’re kept in off-site storage, so you need to make a request in advance.

Hitler, of course, wasn’t the only one to have an odd posthumous story about his head. Consider this short blogpost a grisly postscript to our story on the curious and complicated story of  Vladimir Lenin‘s brain, here. (Hint: Joseph Stalin needed a hobby.) As I noted then: “A team of physicians insisted that his brain receive scientific study.  Not surprisingly, Russians needed scientific proof that Lenin was a genius. This was decided while the body was still warm.” That story also had a few whiffs of Hitler. And since this is a book blog, you can read all about Walt Whitman‘s brain here. It was kept in some sort of a jam jar until it broke, and a cultus formed around it.

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(Photos from the Colonel William Russell Philp Collection, Hoover Library and Archives)

Does “September 1” ring any bells? It should.

Monday, September 1st, 2014
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nytimes

September 1, 1939.  The day has peculiar resonances if you are Polish, for reasons obvious in the 1939 headline above. The anniversary of the Nazi blitzkrieg almost slipped by me, were it not for my Polish friend Artur Sebastian Rosman‘s interesting and controversial post on the subject over at his blog, Cosmos the in Lost, in which the Czeslaw Milosz scholar discusses Timothy Snyders internationally acclaimed Bloodlands, which we’ve discussed before here and here and here and here. While Artur acknowledges that the Holocaust has become almost a “metaphysical measuring stick of humanity’s capacity for radical evil,” he reminds us that Hitler had even bigger plans in mind:

snyderBloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin puts the Holocaust within its Central European context. What’s frequently lost is how Snyder’s international bestseller suggests the Holocaust is not some ahistorical transcendent metaphysical essence, but rather a contingent historical event. First of all, Snyder’s book puts the Holocaust within the context of the genocides perpetrated against other populations stuck between Germany and the Soviet Union. Second, Bloodlands gives a thorough account of the Generalplan Ost: the secret German plan to exterminate the Slavs so that Germans could repopulate their lands and take advantage of the Ukrainian breadbasket.

The extermination of the Slavs was Germany’s main plan. What they did not anticipate was the strength of the Soviet resistance and how the herding of Jewish populations would cause the Nazis logistical problems. The rapid accumulation of large populations in ghettos led the Germans to send them to preexisting concentration camps. These camps were first used to systematically kill Catholic clergy, Polish resistance fighters, and Communists.

Read the whole thing here.  Of course, we couldn’t let the day go by without a mention of W.H. Audens September 1, 1939 (we’re glad that Artur didn’t forget it, either), which begins:

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Right again

Sock it to us, Wystan.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

I’ve thought a lot of the last two lines of this excerpt in recent days – there’s plenty in the international news to remind us. What remedy? What remedy? How about the man who insisted that goodness properly understood is not passive, but active – that the world requires individuals who not only refrain from harming others, but energetically seek out those in need of help? Sir Nicholas Winton saved 669 Czech children from certain death in the Holocaust – about 6,000 people are alive today because of his efforts. He turned 105 years old last May, with an international celebration at London’s Czech Embassy; The Guardian wrote about that event here. “I am always surprised every time I come here to see all kinds of people who have come really very great distances to say hello,” Winton said. “As far as I am concerned, it is only Anno Domini that I am fighting – I am not ill, I am just old and doddery.”

wintonHis daughter has just published a book about her father – The Guardian wrote about that over the summer too, here. “Like her father, Barbara Winton is not sentimental; she lets the story tell itself,” writes Emma Howard. “Both father and daughter resist hero worship. The book’s title is a nod to his often-repeated motto: ‘If it’s not impossible, there must be a way to do it.'” An excerpt that tells the story:

“Nearly 6,000 people in the world today are alive because Winton responded to a phone call from Prague in December 1938. The call was from his friend Martin Blake, who was engaged in helping Jewish refugees and was asking for Winton’s assistance. On arrival in Prague, Winton immediately took action, setting up an office in his hotel in Wenceslas Square. He persuaded the German authorities to let a number of Jewish children leave, and identified British foster families who would open their homes to them. (In November 1938, shortly after Kristallnacht, parliament approved a measure that would allow the entry into Britain of refugees younger than 17, if they had a place to stay and provided that £50 was deposited to pay for their eventual return to their own country.) He then organised eight evacuations on the Czech Kindertransport train from Prague to London’s Liverpool Street station. He spent only three weeks in Prague – the maximum length of time he could get off from his job as a stockbroker in the City – though he worked in the evenings during the following eight months to complete the mission.

“For half a century, Winton knew nothing of the nearly 700 people who now call themselves ‘Nicky’s children’. He did not seek them out after the war and rarely spoke of the episode. But the details were waiting to be found – in a scrapbook crammed with documents, photographs and a list of every child he saved. It was not until the BBC got hold of the scrapbook in 1988 that the story came to light. Invited by Esther Rantzen to sit in the audience of her show That’s Life!, Winton was overwhelmed when she announced live on air that the people in the audience around him were the children he had saved.”

Here’s how he found out he’d become a hero. It’s an awwwww video, for a little hope on a grim anniversary:

What matters: reflections on a 9-year-old girl with an Uzi

Saturday, August 30th, 2014
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uzi_girl

Zeitgeist

Earlier this week, an instructor was training a nine-year-old girl to shoot with an Uzi, aiming at the image of a man some yards away. She inadvertently killed a real one, her instructor. A terrible occurrence on so many levels, but for the moment let’s consider the video that was inadvertently taken of what turned out to be a slaughter. It went viral. In other words, the accidental video of a man being killed functioned on some level as some sort of lurid entertainment (I can’t see any other purpose in watching such a video – and no, I won’t even reproduce the photo).

On a Facebook thread, as my friends and acquaintances expressed horror of the popularity of the video, I pointed out that this was perhaps not so surprising in a culture where a contemporary idol such as Kim Kardashian rose to fame with a video of herself engaged in sexual intercourse – or was that Paris Hilton? Or both? The femmes du jour become interchangeable at this point. The common point of reference is that sex and death have become casual entertainment for voyeurs, which is all of us. (One can include, I suppose, simulated sex and death in movies and TV shows, since part of the brain does not distinguish between reality and the filmed recreation of it – if you experience horror or arousal at either, you prove my point.)

The idea that the human person has any kind of innate dignity, that we draw a veil over at least sex and death (as well as bowel movements), that any kind of human activity might be private or intimate – increasingly strikes people as arbitrary and an anachronism, especially if sex, death, or a marriage proposal are click-bait. We are losing a language to even discuss such matters in a culture where the greatest fear is boredom and becoming fat. People are feeling increasingly uncomfortable at any kind of depth, any view of their roles as something other than a consumers of videos, electronics, sports, as “seekers” of the most shallow and transient kind of “happiness.” We’re a long, long way from Antigone, who sacrificed her life to honor and bury her slain brother – she disappeared in the rear-view mirror decades ago.

frederickfranck

Zen-inspired Dutchman

Here’s where I’m going: a few days ago I said the maiden name of ISIS is nihilism, and a few readers quibbled with me. The ISIS murderers have religious beliefs that impel them, and therefore they have “values” – of course, I responded that the religious beliefs are the merest fig leaves for mayhem. As William James wrote, “for all sorts of cruelty, piety is the mask.” Few people will express absolutely no value for anything – and such masquerades can easily be disproved. Hold a man’s head under water for a minute and he gets real pretty fast. (I love telling that to my non-dualist friends and others who deny the existence of the real.)

A few years ago, back when I imagined I still had room somewhere in my home for another book or two, I was rummaging through the $1 bin at the Stanford Bookstore and I ran across this quote in a small book:

“A much abridged symptomatology of modern Nihilism would include: disregard and detachment of all values except the immediate satisfaction of the narcissistic individual and herd impulses … atrophy of all notions of relatedness and responsibility to other humans, to animals, plants, the earth … degeneracy of the sense of beauty, truth, goodness, hence total mistrust of disinterested service … degradation of all fellow beings to the status of Things … progressive debility of all the higher functions by unrelenting and total bedevilment by electronic noise and imagery, media trivia, spectator sports, laugh shows, quizzes, commercials, propaganda for whiskeys, presidents, celebrities, gadgets, space trips…. Unavoidable consequences: alientation from self and environment – consumer addiction – identity crisis – existential vacuum – depression – mass psychosis – violence – sexual depravity – drug and alcohol addiction – teenage and all other categories of suicide, including our own’s collective incubation.”

schweitzer

Out of Africa

The book out of Woodstock, Vermont – What Matters – was written by a guy I’d never heard of, Frederick Frank (1909-2006), a Dutchman who served as a doctor on Nobel peace laureate Albert Schweitzer‘s staff in Africa, and was also an artist. He went on to publish 30 books about Buddhism, especially focusing on the Zen variety, and also a memoir, Days with Albert Schweitzer. Not normally my thing, but I thought he was dead-on about our times.

Here’s more:

“All consistent egocentricity is insane. Nihilism is the collective and endemic form of this insanity.

Whosoever, by ineffable grace, or sheer good luck, has survived this century of insanity, of Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, Papa Doc, Pinochet, of Auschwitz and Hiroshima, of Bhopals and Love Canals, yet still underestimates the contagious virus of Nihilism as Absolute Evil, hardly merits his survival.”

***

“In our nihilistic chaos every national, every ideological collectivity has dishonored itself utterly. Gulag, gas chamber, torture cellar, apartheid, induced famine, nuclear holocaust, have routinely been justified with an ad hoc gnosis of ideological twaddle and demonic hypocrisy.”

***

“The difference between ‘democratic’ and ‘totalitarian’ Nihilism is the difference in semantics, in ritual, in rhetoric and in categories of victims.”

***

mirror

Guess who?

So I wonder … René Girard writes that opponents come to resemble each other more and more, all the while insisting on their differences. “They” cover their women in body bags, “we” think “freedom” is putting them in string bikinis and encouraging them to starve themselves to death so they fit into them. Same disease, different symptom. We both have a fascination with weaponry, used in a way that devalues human life and responsibility. I’m not going to belabor the equivalence with a terrorist, genocidal, wannabe state that beheads children and crucifies those it dislikes – it would be obscene to do so. While you may not have full-blown leprosy … what’s that funny spot on your back? How long has it been there? Maybe you want to check it out.

Nihilism? Maybe we ought to look in a mirror.

Auden on Hitler and Napoleon: “Their fatality is being what they are.”

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012
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"a hunger to be needed"

Some time ago I wrote about Howard Griffin‘s Conversations with Auden.  I’m not sure I ever had read the front matter before tonight.  Had I done so, I would have learned that the young poet Griffin took these notes using a kind of shorthand (W.H. Auden would never have allowed a tape recorder) in 1946 and 1947, then transcribed them painstakingly with Peter Eckermann‘s Conversations with Goethe in mind as a model. They were highly regarded by literary circles in the 1950s.  Another poet, Marianne Moore, said “these discussions … profitable to me if no one else…”

The volume begins with this question:

Howard Griffin: Would you rather have lived at an earlier time when men knew less, when there was no police force, no plumbing?

W.H. Auden: I would not. If one thinks in terms of happiness or love, human behavior certainly has not improved through the ages, but if one thinks in terms of knowledge, power and potential for good, one must say: there has been an advance.

This was in 1946-47, remember. World War II was still a living wound; the avalanche of facts and photos and eyewitness accounts about it had yet to be published.  Auden had this take on Adolf Hitler:

“Although he seemed to be always telling other people what to do, Hitler’s acts were determined by compulsion and desire for prestige. Men like Hitler, Napoleon and Richard III contrive to make their surroundings sufficiently exciting so that they are sustained in a state of passion, which dictates what they will do. People like Hitler have a hunger for complete mastery and when things begin to go wrong, then there is nothing for them to do but wish their death.  The Hitler type is able to choose for others, but incapable of self-choice and he must go on arousing enemies because their fact proves that he exists. When we read of the night of the long knives, the SS slogan ‘Heads must roll,’ the Rohm purge, etc., we see that the Nazi leaders contrived to do evil consciously for its own sake in order to demonstrate their objective reality … Once they get started, they cannot stop. Their fatality is being what they are; they are their own disease …. For the dictator, war is a good thing; then he feels wanted. He has a hunger to be needed. A war provides people with a negative sense of self – enough self to destroy. What Hitler, Napoleon and Alexander lacked was a consciousness of their finiteness, a lack that can be disastrous …”

These conversations were published in literary journals, but never found a publisher – at least not in Auden’s lifetime. Nor in Griffin’s. He died in 1975, two years after Auden’s death, also in Austria.

 

 

Lightning strikes back: Book wars and Bloodlands

Monday, November 29th, 2010
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Is a critic ever being entirely “fair”?  Once my thoughts splash onto the printed page, I’ve agonized about whether the words that sounded so reasonable in my head would have been said to the author’s face.  On the other hand, when I’m being generous, I wonder if I’m doing the reader a disservice.  So I sat up straight when Jesse Freedman wrote over at Books Inq. last week:

“Readers of the LRB got a significant dose of honesty earlier this month when Richard J. Evans, Regius Professor of History at Cambridge, offered a scathing review Timothy Snyder‘s Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin. …

“I have to say, I respect Evans for his review – not only because his arguments are well grounded, but because he fights the tendency among (a fair number of) reviewers to praise pretty much everything they are handed.”

Strong words indeed from Books Inq.  Bloodlands was discussed on The Book Haven a few weeks ago, along with Norman Naimark‘s Stalin’s Genocides.

In his review, “Who Remembers the Poles?” Evans begins:

‘Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?’ Adolf Hitler asked his generals in 1939, as he told them to ‘close your hearts to pity,’ ‘act brutally’ and behave ‘with the greatest harshness’ in the coming war in the East. It’s often assumed that in reminding them of the genocide of at least a million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during the First World War, Hitler was referring to what he intended to do to Europe’s Jews. But he was not referring to the Jews: he was referring to the Poles. ‘I have sent my Death’s Head units to the East,’ he told the generals, ‘with the order to kill without mercy men, women and children of the Polish race or language. Only in such a way will we win the living space that we need.’”

Yet Evans castigates Snyder for failing to draw a clear enough distinction between the Holocaust and the concurrent genocides, distracting from what was unique:

“That uniqueness consisted not only in the scale of its ambition, but also in the depth of the hatred and fear that drove it on. There was something peculiarly sadistic in the Nazis’ desire not just to torture, maim and kill the Jews, but also to humiliate them. SS men and not infrequently ordinary soldiers as well set light to the beards of Orthodox Jews in Poland and forced them to perform gymnastic exercises in public until they dropped; they made Jewish girls clean public latrines with their blouses; they performed many other acts of ritual humiliation that they did not force on their Slav prisoners, however badly they treated them in other ways. The Slavs, in the end, were for the Nazis a regional obstacle to be removed; the Jews were a ‘world enemy’ to be ground into the dust.”

Snyder, he said, also fails to consider Hitler’s other victims sufficiently:

“Thus the eight million foreigners working in the Reich in the latter stages of the war were not all ‘from the East’ as Snyder claims – one and a quarter million of them were French, more than half a million were Italian, and nearly half a million were Belgian or Dutch. The killing of up to 200,000 mentally handicapped and sick Germans by Nazi doctors gets a brief paragraph; the hundreds of thousands of German and Western European Jews who were murdered are dismissed in a little more than a page; sites of mass murder that lie outside Snyder’s ‘bloodlands’ and where the killings were not perpetrated by the Nazis or the Soviets are dealt with in equally perfunctory fashion. The 300,000 Serbs slaughtered by the fascist regime in Croatia, the 380,000 Jews killed on the orders of the Romanian government, and further afield still, the tens of thousands of Spanish Republican prisoners executed by the Francoists and the hundreds of thousands more confined in brutal labour camps after the end of the Civil War, or the Gypsies killed in large numbers not just by the Germans but also by the Croatians and Romanians – all of these get barely a mention or no mention at all.”

Evans concludes:

“The fundamental reason for these omissions, and for the book’s failure to give an adequate account of the genesis of the Final Solution, is that Snyder isn’t seriously interested in explaining anything. What he really wants to do is to tell us about the sufferings of the people who lived in the area he knows most about. Assuming we know nothing about any of this, he bludgeons us with facts and figures about atrocities and mass murders until we’re reeling from it all.”

Reaction was swift and terrible in the Dec. 2 LRB.  Oxford’s Norman Davies makes the striking point that we are “emotionally conditioned” to observe the suffering of Hitler’s victims, not so quick when it comes to recognizing the victim’s of our ally, Jozef Stalin. Moreover, by emphasizing the uniqueness of the Holocaust, we fail to notice larger patterns in the concurrent genocides — a point akin to Naimark‘s contention in Stalin’s Genocides.  It is a point, Davies said, Snyder is better equipped than most historians to make.

But a reader in New York, Charles Coutinho, delivers the coup de grace:  “Richard Evans’s less than entirely positive review of Timothy Snyder’s book may or may not have been influenced by Snyder’s own less than positive review of Evans’s latest book in the New York Review of Books.”

Evans admits that Coutinho “does indeed put his finger on one of the many reasons Snyder’s book made me so cross, which is that Snyder devoted almost all of what was meant to be a review of The Third Reich at War in the New York Review of Books to making erroneous and unsubstantiated claims about my supposed ignorance of Russian and East European history.”

Return to the first sentence of this post. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Correction:  Thanks, Dave Lull, for pointing out that it was Jesse Freedman, and not Frank Wilson, who had made the original post at Books Inq. that brought the Evans article to my attention.  For the record, I certainly did not mean to fault Jesse F.  — it was the job of the LRB editor to make sure the reviewer doesn’t have an axe to grind or a fanny to kiss when writing a review.