Masha Gessen: Are Totalitarianisms Like Snowflakes?

tags: NYT, Nazis, Hitler, Russia, Stalin, Masha Gessen, totalitarianism



Masha Gessen is a journalist in Moscow and the author of “The Man Without a Face,” a biography of Vladimir Putin.

MOSCOW — Just saying that a Jew should have been made into a lampshade does not make you an anti-Semite, or so a prominent columnist asserted recently. And just because both Nazism and Soviet Communism were totalitarian regimes does not mean they are comparable. Such arguments, counterarguments and variations of them have dominated Russian blogs, social networks and some of the traditional media for the last week.

The debate began when the liberal Leonid Gozman wrote a blog entry equating Smersh, the Stalin-era counterintelligence agencies — the name is an acronym for “death to spies” — with the Nazi S.S. The occasion was a television mini-series about Smersh, released on the anniversary of the end of World War II. Gozman asked readers to imagine a miniseries that portrayed S.S. officers as “honest soldiers who show themselves to be capable of outstanding bravery and self-sacrifice.” A show like that is unthinkable, he wrote, in Russia or in Germany, because “Germans born years after that nightmare are still ashamed of the S.S. uniform.” Yet the officers of Smersh, wrote Gozman, were as criminal as the S.S.: “They did not have handsome uniforms, but that is their only significant distinction from the S.S.”...



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