After reading some reviews of Roger Moorhouse's new book on the Hitler-Stalin Pact - some positive, others less so - I decided to buy it for my Kindle. It would appear, at first glance, to be a kind of follow-up to Snyder's 'Bloodlands'. The strong claims Moorhouse makes for originality in the introduction are belied not least by the existence of Snyder's book. Also, it simply isn't true that the Hitler-Stalin Pact has been ignored by western historians. There are certainly enough books around on the topic (including books on memory of the Pact), quite a few of them admittedly in languages other than English. But I think what Moorhouse really means - and later makes clear - is that the Pact has largely been seen as an instrument of Hitler's, and is largely talked about within the context of discussions of Hitler's war on Poland. That may be true of historians of Nazism, but is it also true of historians of Stalinism? I don't know.
Anyway, my initial impression is that this is a book which is sailing in the wind of the school of new revisionism, a trend observable for some years now. The end of the Cold War brought an opportunity to assess Stalinism in the cold light of the horror it brought on millions. Comparisons of Hitler and Stalin, hitherto largely the domain of historians such as Ernst Nolte, were suddenly in. Numerically speaking, of course, Stalinism murdered many more people than Nazism. Inevitably, such comparisons, intentionally or implicitly, raise the question as to whether the Holocaust was so unique after all. Surely it was just one enormous act of inhumanity among others? Others - if we now look towards recent histories of genocide and ethnic cleansing - which occurred not just under the Soviets, but under, say, the Turks during the First World War (genocide of the Armenians). They also raise the question as to whether Britain's later alliance with the Soviet Union, necessary as it of course was to defeat Hitler, morally compromised the British - for do you work together with mass murderers? If western historians, as Moorhouse claims, did neglect the Pact, did this reflect an unwillingness to open a can of worms? Stalin, after all, 'regained' territories through the Pact that fell within the territory earmarked for Bolshevik Russia by the Curzon Line after World War One. Britain went to war over Poland, but then ended up conceding to Stalin - more or less - those areas of Poland he had occupied in 1939/1940. Did we really fight a good war only if we ended up confirming Stalin's territorial acquisitions from the Pact? Long-held assumptions of uniqueness and the national moral probity of WW2's victors are under fire. In the midst of all this sit today's Germans, staring startled into the headlights of international revisionism and waiting till they pass before deciding what to do. Totalitarianist theories still cause convulsions in German historical and commemorative discourse. Indeed they might, because the Germans spent 50-60 years getting the Holocaust to the centre of their national consciousness and staunchly resisting equations with Stalinism, which were regarded as little more than an attempt to deflect guilt. Now, it seems they were overreacting to say the least. Stalin was every bit as much a mass murderer as Hitler. The Brits were allied to a monster, launched a genocide from the air (Cologne, Hamburg, Dresden), and then sanctioned both the ill-gotten gains of the Soviets and the biggest mass expulsion in human history, which, in the eyes of some, was a form of genocide. Fast forward to, say, 2018: the German parliament decides to dismantle the Holocaust memorial in the centre of Berlin, and erect a memorial to the victims of Nazism and Stalinism. At the New Guardhouse, the Pieta will stay, although the dedication will be changed from 'Victims of War and the Rule of Violence' to 'Victims of Nazism and the Allies', which is what this dedication really meant anyway.
Or am I fantasising?