|Born||January 11, 1923
|Education||PhD in Philosophy (1952)|
|Alma mater||University of MĂĽnster
University of Berlin
University of Freiburg
University of Cologne
|Occupation||Philosopher and historian.|
|Employer||University of Marburg
Free University of Berlin
|Known for||For articulating a theory of generic fascism as â€śresistance to transcendenceâ€ť|
|Awards||Konrad Adenauer Prize (2000)|
Ernst Nolte (born 11 January 1923) is a German historian and philosopher. Nolteâ€™s major interest is the comparative studies of Fascism and Communism. He is Professor Emeritus of Modern History at the Free University of Berlin, where he taught from 1973 to 1991. He was previously a Professor at the University of Marburg from 1965 to 1973. He is best known for his seminal work Fascism In Its Epoch, which received international acclaim when it was published in 1963. Nolte has been a prominent conservative academic since the early 1960s, and involved in many controversies related to the interpretation of the history of fascism and communism. More recently, he has also focused on Islamism.
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Nolte was born in Witten, Westphalia to a Roman Catholic family. Nolte's parents were Heinrich Nolte, a school rector, and Anna (nĂ©e Bruns) Nolte. According to Nolte in a March 28, 2003 interview with a French newspaper Eurozine, his first encounter with Communism occurred when he was 7 years old in 1930, when he read in a doctor's office a German translation of a Soviet children's book attacking the Roman Catholic Church, which very much angered him.
In 1941, Nolte was excused from military service because of a deformed hand, and he studied Philosophy, Philology and Greek at the Universities of MĂĽnster, Berlin, and Freiburg. At Freiburg, Nolte was a student of Martin Heidegger, whom he acknowledges as a major influence. From 1944 onwards, Nolte was a close friend of the Heidegger family, and when in 1945 Heidegger feared arrest by the French, Nolte provided Heidegger with food and clothing when Heidegger attempted to escape. Another professor who influenced Nolte was Eugen Fink. After 1945 when Nolte received his BA in philosophy at Freiburg, Nolte worked as a Gymnasium (high school) teacher. In 1952, he received a PhD in philosophy at Freiburg for his thesis Selbstentfremdung und Dialektik im deutschen Idealismus und bei Marx (Self Alienation and the Dialectic in German Idealism and Marx). Subsequently, Nolte began studies in Zeitgeschichte (contemporary history), and published his Habilitationsschrift awarded at the University of Cologne, Der Faschismus in seiner Epoche, as a book in 1963.
Between 1965 and 1973, Nolte worked as a professor at the University of Marburg, and from 1973 to 1991 at the Free University of Berlin. Nolte's wife is Annedore Mortier and their son, Georg Nolte, is a professor of international law at Humboldt University of Berlin.
Nolte first rose to fame with his 1963 book Der Faschismus in seiner Epoche (Fascism In Its Epoch; translated into English in 1965 as The Three Faces Of Fascism), in which he argued that fascism arose as a form of resistance to and a reaction against modernity. Nolte's basic hypothesis and methodology were deeply rooted in the German "philosophy of history" tradition, a form of intellectual history which seeks to discover the "metapolitical dimension" of history. The "metapolitical dimension" is considered to be the history of grand ideas functioning as profound spiritual powers, which infuse all levels of society with their force. In Nolte's opinion, only those with training in philosophy can discover the "metapolitical dimension", and those who use normal historical methods miss this dimension of time. Using the methods of phenomenology, Nolte subjected German Nazism, Italian Fascism, and the French Action FranĂ§aise movements to a comparative analysis. Nolte's conclusion was that fascism was the great anti-movement: it was anti-liberal, anti-communist, anti-capitalist, and anti-bourgeois. In Nolteâ€™s view, fascism was the rejection of everything the modern world had to offer and was an essentially negative phenomenon. In a Hegelian dialectic, Nolte argued that the Action FranĂ§aise was the thesis, Italian Fascism was the antithesis, and German National Socialism the synthesis of the two earlier fascist movements.
Nolte argued that fascism functioned at three levels: in the world of politics as a form of opposition to Marxism, at the sociological level in opposition to bourgeois values, and in the "metapolitical" world as "resistance to transcendence" ("transcendence" in German can be translated as the "spirit of modernity"). Nolte defined the relationship between fascism and Marxism as:
â€śFascism is anti-Marxism which seeks to destroy the enemy by the evolvement of a radically opposed and yet related ideology and by the use of almost identical and yet typically modified methods, always, however within the unyielding framework of national self-assertion and autonomy."
Nolte defined "transcendence" as a "metapolitical" force comprising two types of change. The first type, "practical transcendence", manifesting in material progress, technological change, political equality, and social advancement, comprises the process by which humanity liberates itself from traditional, hierarchical societies in favor of societies where all men and women are equal. The second type is "theoretical transcendence", the striving to go beyond what exists in the world towards a new future, eliminating traditional fetters imposed on the human mind by poverty, backwardness, ignorance, and class. Nolte himself defined "theoretical transcendence" as:
"Theoretical transcendence may be taken to mean the reaching out of the mind beyond what exists and what can exist toward an absolute whole; in a broader sense this may be applied to all that goes beyond, that releases man from the confines of the everyday world, and which, as an "awareness of the horizon", makes it possible for him to experience the world as a whole."
Nolte cited the flight of Yuri Gagarin in 1961 as an example of â€śpractical transcendenceâ€ť, of how humanity was pressing forward in its technological development and rapidly acquiring powers traditionally thought to be only the providence of the gods. Drawing upon the work of Max Weber, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Karl Marx, Nolte argued that the progress of both types of "transcendence" generates fear as the older world is swept aside by a new world, and that these fears led to fascism. Nolte wrote that:
"The most central of Maurras's ideas have been seen to penetrate to this level. By "monotheism" and "anti-nature" he did not imply a political process: he related these terms to the tradition of Western philosophy and religion, and left no doubt that for him they were not only adjuncts of Rousseau's notion of liberty, but also of the Christian Gospels and Parmenides' concept of being. It is equally obvious that he regarded the unity of world economics, technology, science and emancipation merely as another and more recent form of "anti-nature". It was not difficult to find a place for Hitler ideas as a cruder and more recent expression of this schema. Maurras' and Hitler's real enemy was seen to be "freedom towards the infinite" which, intrinsic in the individual and a reality in evolution, threatens to destroy the familiar and beloved. From all this it begins to be apparent what is meant by "transcendence"."
In regard to the Holocaust, Nolte contended that because Adolf Hitler identified Jews with modernity, the basic thrust of Nazi policies towards Jews had always aimed at genocide: "Auschwitz was contained in the principles of Nazi racist theory like the seed in the fruit". Nolte believed that, for Hitler, Jews represented "the historical process itself". Nolte argues that Hitler was "logically consistent" in seeking genocide of the Jews because Hitler detested modernity and identified Jews with the things that he most hated in the world. According to Nolte, "In Hitler's extermination of the Jews, it was not a case of criminals committing criminal deeds, but of a uniquely monstrous action in which principles ran riot in a frenzy of self-destruction". Nolte's theories about Nazi antisemitism as a rejection of modernity inspired the Israeli historian Otto Dov Kulka to argue that National Socialism was an attack on "the very roots of Western civilisation, its basic values and moral foundations".
The Three Faces of Fascism has been much praised as a seminal contribution to the creation of a theory of generic fascism based on a history of ideas, as opposed to the previous class-based analyses (especially the "Rage of the Lower Middle Class" thesis) that had characterized both Marxist and liberal interpretations of fascism. In the early 1960s, Nolte's book helped to facilitate a change in emphasis from totalitarianism theory, in which Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were perceived as the regimes most nearly alike, to fascism theory, in which Fascist Italy and the Third Reich were the regimes held to be most nearly alike. In the 1960s, The Three Faces of Fascism had an immense impact on the scholarly community by advancing this new theory of generic fascism, and was described by the British historian Sir Ian Kershaw as one of the most influential history books of the 1960s. As a result of Nolte's book and the ensuing debates it caused, numerous international conferences were held to discuss generic fascism as a concept, several anthologies were put together to consider generic fascism, and a significant scholarly literature dealing with generic fascism as an intellectual phenomena was published. British historian Roger Griffin has written that although written in arcane and obscure language, Nolte's theory of fascism as a "form of resistance to transcendence" marked an important step in the understanding of fascism, and helped to spur scholars into new avenues of research on fascism. Israeli historian Zeev Sternhell wrote in 1976 that:
"The Three Faces of Fascism is an attempt to give a comprehensive explanation of fascism. The book is based on the most meticulous scholarship, the command of the material is impressive, and the methodological rigour is admirable. The work has been translated into English and French, and was acclaimed an immediate success. In reviews by, among others, Klaus Epstein, Hajo Holborn, James Joll, Walter Laqueur, George Mosse, Wolfgang Sauer, Fritz Stern and Eugen Weber, this masterly work was hailed as a very great book. Professor Nolte's work contains such a wealth of observations, information, insight and throwaway ideas that are well worth keeping that inevitably one takes issue with some."
The "issues" of which Sternhell spoke were concerns about Nolte's "phenomenological" approach to history in which Nolte claimed, for Hegelian reasons, that the particular examples he had chosen to study were valid in more general contexts. Especially objectionable to Sternhell was Nolte's insistence on focusing solely on the ideas of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Charles Maurras as the causal factors of fascism. Sternhell commented that the effect of this single-minded focus on ideas and personalities was that:
"In some ways, Ernst Nolte's approach recalls that of Gerhard Ritter and Friedrich Meinecke: Thomas More, for Ritter, Machiavelli, for Meinecke, and now Maurras, for Nolte, are so many proofs of the universality of evil, so many proofs that it was almost by accident, by a mere conjunction of political circumstances, that the Nazis arose in Germany".
Sternhell complained that Nolte, by reducing National Socialism to the ideas of Hitler, exonerated the German people. In particular, Sternhell expressed concern about the passage where Nolte wrote: "after the FĂĽhrer's death, the core of the leadership of the National Socialist state snapped back, like a steel spring would up too long, to its original position and became a body of well-meaning and cultured Central Europeans" Sternhell argued that Nolte's equating of Hitler with National Socialism meant that National Socialism entered and left the world with Hitler, and that with Hitlerâ€™s death, the commandant of a death camp returned once more to the model citizen he was before falling under Hitlerâ€™s spell. Finally, Sternhell noted that if National Socialism was the "practical and violent resistance to transcendence", and if "transcendence" was a universal process affecting all societies, that Nolte had totally failed to answer why National Socialism was only a German phenomenon.
Other historians were more hostile in their assessment of The Three Faces of Fascism. Criticism from the left, for example by Sir Ian Kershaw, centered on Nolte's focus on ideas as opposed to social and economic conditions as a motivating force for fascism, and that Nolte depended too much on fascist writings to support his thesis. Kershaw described Nolte's theory of fascism as "resistance to transcendence" as "mystical and mystifying". From the right, historians such as Karl Dietrich Bracher criticized the entire notion of generic fascism as intellectually invalid and argued that it was individual choice on the part of Germans, rather than Nolte's philosophical view of the "metapolitical", that produced National Socialism. Bracher's magnum opus, his 1969 book Die deutsche Diktatur (The German Dictatorship), was partly written to rebut Nolte's theory of generic fascism, presenting an alternative picture of the National Socialist dictatorship as a totalitarian regime created and sustained by human actions. In the early 1960s, Nolte was identified with the left, which helped to explain why The Three Faces of Fascism, by promoting a non-Marxist theory of generic fascism over the previously dominant totalitarianism paradigm (the only alternative for theorists of fascism in the 1950s had been the Marxist-inspired "Rage of the Lower Middle Class" thesis), was much welcomed in general by the non-Marxist left. Together with the work of Eugen Weber, The Three Faces of Fascism was one of the first books to furnish an extensive study of the ultra-nationalist and anti-Semitic Action FranĂ§aise movement of France, but many have questioned Nolteâ€™s claim that the Action FranĂ§aise was a fascist movement, or in the case of John Lukacs, that such a thing as generic fascism ever existed. Answering the criticism that generic fascism was an invalid concept because no other fascist movement produced anything equivalent to the Holocaust, Nolte argued that National Socialism was "radical fascism".
As a professor at the University of Marburg in the late 1960s, Nolte was a target of student protesters, an experience that left him with a strong distaste for the West German left. For a time in the 1960s, all of Nolte's classes were boycotted by radical students, who demanded Nolte's dismissal, an experience that some such as John Lukacs and Charles S. Maier have credited with Nolte's radical change of views about the National Socialist period. Later in the 1970s, Nolte was to reject aspects of the theory of generic fascism that he had championed in The Three Faces of Fascism and instead moved closer to embracing totalitarian theory as a way of explaining both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. In Nolte's opinion, Nazi Germany was a "mirror image" of the Soviet Union and to a very large degree, everything the Nazis did in Germany had already been done by the Communists in Russia.
All of Nolteâ€™s historical work has been heavily influenced by German traditions of philosophy. In particular, Nolte seeks to find the essences of the "metapolitical phenomenon" of history, to discover the grand ideas which motivated all of history. As such, Nolteâ€™s work has been oriented towards the general as opposed to the specific attributes of a particular period of time. In his 1974 book Deutschland und der kalte Krieg (Germany and the Cold War), Nolte examined the partition of Germany after 1945, not by looking at the specific history of the Cold War and Germany, but rather by examining other divided states throughout history, treating the German partition as the supreme culmination of the "metapolitical" idea of partition caused by rival ideologies. In Nolte's view, the division of Germany made that nation the world's central battlefield between Soviet Communism and American democracy, both of which were rival streams of the "transcendence" that had vanquished the Third Reich, the ultimate enemy of "transcendence". Nolte called the Cold War
"the ideological and political conflict for the future structure of a united world, carried on for an indefinite period since 1917 (indeed anticipated as early as 1776) by several militant universalisms, each of which possesses at least one major state."
Nolte ended Deutschland und der kalte Krieg with a call for Germans to escape their fate as the world's foremost battleground for the rival ideologies of American democracy and Soviet communism by returning to the values of the Second Reich. Likewise, Nolte called for the end of what he regarded as the unfair stigma attached to German nationalism because of National Socialism, and demanded that historians recognize that every country in the world had at some point in its history had "its own Hitler era, with its monstrosities and sacrifices".
Nolte has little regard for specific historical context in his treatment of the history of ideas, opting to seek what Carl Schmitt labeled the abstract "final" or "ultimate" ends of ideas, which for Nolte are the most extreme conclusions which can be drawn from an idea, representing the ultima terminus of the "metapolitical". For Nolte, ideas have a force of their own, and once a new idea has been introduced into the world, except for the total destruction of society, it cannot be ignored any more than the discovery of how to make fire or the invention of nuclear weapons can be ignored. In Nolte's view, Communism, by introducing the idea of a total destruction of a particular group, was the most important idea of the 20th century. Together with such historians as FranĂ§ois Furet and Renzo De Felice, with each of whom Nolte occasionally corresponded, Nolte has sought to develop a wide-ranging paradigm to explain the 20th century. In a review, the American historian Felix Gilbert described Deutschland und der kalte Krieg as a return to the type of Hegelian history that had not been written in Germany since 1945. Gilbert criticized Nolte for excessively focusing on ideas as the central causal agents in history, and for his tendency to turn ideas into ethereal crystallizations that personalized a particular theme in history.
The books Der Faschismus in seiner Epoche, Deutschland und der kalte Krieg, and Marxismus und industrielle Revolution (Marxism and the Industrial Revolution) formed a trilogy in which Nolte seeks to explain what he considered to be the most important developments of the 20th century. Some of Nolteâ€™s statements in Deutschland und der Kalte Krieg attracted controversy. For example, Nolte asserted that if in the 1930s the CPUSA had been the same size as the KPD, then American President Franklin D. Roosevelt would have been just as anti-Semitic as Adolf Hitler. American historian Charles S. Maier wrote that Nolte seemed in Deutschland und der Kalte Krieg to have an unhealthy fixation with Israel, with Nolte complaining that as a result of World War II, the Jews had achieved both a state and won territory while the Germans had lost both. In the same text, Nolte wrote of the Vietnam War that it was "nothing less than [the United States'] essentially crueler version of Auschwitz".. Of these claims of moral equivalence, American historian Peter Gay answered that "there is a world of difference between Nazi Germanyâ€™s calculated policy of mass extermination and Americaâ€™s ill-conceived, persistent, often callous prosecution of a foreign war". Gay added that he considered Nolteâ€™s book "a massive and sophisticated apologia for modern Germany", and complained that "Nolteâ€™s tortuous syntax, his evasive conditional phrasing, his irresponsible thought experiments, makes it nearly impossible to penetrate to his own convictions".
In the late 1980s, Nolte became known for his role in the so-called Historikerstreit ("Historians' Dispute") of 1986 and 1987. On 6 June 1986 Nolte published a feuilleton opinion piece entitled Vergangenheit, die nicht vergehen will: Eine Rede, die geschrieben, aber nicht mehr gehalten werden konnte ("The Past That Will Not Go Away: A Speech That Could Be Written but Not Delivered") in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. His feuilleton was a distillation of ideas he had first introduced in lectures delivered in 1976 and in 1980. Earlier in 1986, Nolte had planned to deliver a speech before the Frankfurt RĂ¶merberg Conversations (an annual gathering of intellectuals), but he had claimed that the organizers of the event withdrew their invitation. In response, an editor and co-publisher of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Joachim Fest, allowed Nolte to have his speech printed as a feuilleton in his newspaper. One of Nolte's leading critics, British historian Richard J. Evans, claims that the organizers of the RĂ¶merberg Conversations did not withdrew their invitation, and that Nolte had just refused to attend.
Nolte began his feuilleton by remarking that it was necessary in his opinion to draw a "line under the German past". Nolte argued that the memory of the Nazi era was "a bugaboo, as a past that in the process of establishing itself in the present or that is suspended above the present like an executioner's sword". Nolte complained that excessive present-day interest in the Nazi period had the effect of drawing "attention away from the pressing questions of the present-for example, the question of "unborn life" or the presence of genocide yesterday in Vietnam and today in Afghanistan". Nolte argued that the furor in 1985 over the visit of the American president Ronald Reagan to the Bitburg cemetery reflected in his view the unhealthy effects of an obsession with the memory of the Nazi era. Nolte suggested that, during West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer's visit to the United States in 1953, if he had failed to visit Arlington National Cemetery a storm of controversy would have ensued. Nolte argued that since some of the men buried at Arlington had in his view "participated in terror attacks on the German civilian population", there was no moral difference between Reagan visiting the Bitburg cemetery, with its graves of Waffen SS dead, and Adenauer visiting Arlington with its graves of American airmen. Nolte complained that because of the "past that would not pass", it was controversial for Reagan to visit Bitburg, but it was not controversial for Adenauer to visit Arlington. Nolte cited the Bitburg controversy as an example of the power exerted by historical memory of the Nazi past. Nolte concluded that there was excessive contemporary interest in the Holocaust because it served the concerns of those descended from the victims of Nazism, and placed them in a "permanent status of privilege". Nolte argued that Germans had an unhealthy obsession with guilt for Nazi crimes, and called for an end to this "obsession". Nolte's opinion was that there was no moral difference between German self-guilt over the Holocaust, and Nazi claims of Jewish collective guilt for all the world's problems. He called for an end to the maintaining of the memory of the Nazi past as fresh and current, and suggested a new way of viewing the Nazi past that would allow Germans to be free of the "past that will not pass".
In his feuilleton, Nolte offered a new way of understanding German history which sought to break free of the "past that will not pass", by contending that Nazi crimes were only the consequence of a defensive reaction against Soviet crimes. In Nolteâ€™s view, National Socialism had only arisen in response to the "class genocide" and "Asiatic barbarism" of the Bolsheviks. Nolte cited as example the early Nazi Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter, who during World War I had been the German consul in Erzerum, Turkey, where he was appalled by the genocide of the Armenians. In Nolte's view, the fact that Scheubner-Richter later became a Nazi shows that something must have changed his values, and in Nolte's opinion it was the Russian Revolution and such alleged Bolshevik practices as the "rat cage" torture (said by Russian Ă©migrĂ© authors to be a favorite torture by Chinese serving in the Cheka during the Russian Civil War) that led to the change. Nolte used the example of the "rat cage" torture in George Orwell's 1948 novel 1984 to argue that the knowledge of the "rat cage" torture was widespread throughout the world. Furthermore, Nolte argues that the "rat cage" torture was an ancient torture long practiced in China, which in his opinion further establishes the "Asiatic barbarism" of the Bolsheviks. Nolte cited a statement by Hitler after the Battle of Stalingrad that Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus would be soon sent to the â€śrat cageâ€ť in the Lubyanka as proof that Hitler had an especially vivid fear of the â€śrat cageâ€ť torture.
Along the same lines, Nolte argued that the Holocaust, or "racial genocide" as Nolte prefers to call it, was an understandable if excessive response on the part of Adolf Hitler to the Soviet threat and the "class genocide" with which the German middle class was said to be threatened. In Nolte's view, Soviet mass murders were Vorbild (the terrifying example that inspired the Nazis) and Schreckbild (the terrible model for the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis). Nolte labeled the Holocaust an "ĂĽberschieĂźende Reaktion" (overshooting reaction) to Bolshevik crimes, and to alleged Jewish actions in support of Germany's enemies. In Nolte's opinion, the essence of National Socialism was anti-Communism, and anti-Semitism was only a subordinate element to anti-Bolshevism in Nazi ideology. Nolte argued that because "the mighty shadow of events in Russia fell most powerfully" on Germany, that the most extreme reaction to the Russian Revolution took place there, thus establishing the "causal nexus" between Communism and fascism. Nolte asserted that the core of National Socialism was
"neither in criminal tendencies nor in anti-Semitic obsessions as such. The essence of National Socialism [was to be found] in its relation to Marxism and especially to Communism in the form which this had taken on through the Bolshevik victory in the Russian Revolution".
In Nolte's view, Nazi anti-communism was "understandable and up to a certain point, justified". For Nolte, the "racial genocide" as he calls the Holocaust was a "punishment and preventive measure" on the part of the Germans for the "class genocide" of the Bolsheviks. American historian Peter Baldwin noted parallels between Nolteâ€™s views and those of American Marxist historian Arno J. Mayer:. Both Nolte and Mayer perceive the interwar period as one of intense ideological conflict between the forces of the Right and Left, positing World War II as the culmination of this conflict, with the Holocaust a byproduct of the German-Soviet war. Baldwin distinguished Nolte from Mayer in that Nolte considered the Soviets aggressors who essentially got what they deserved in the form of Operation Barbarossa, whereas Mayer considered the Soviets to be victims of German aggression. Operation Barbarossa, in Nolte's thinking, was a "preventive war" forced on Hitler by an alleged impending Soviet attack.
The crux of Nolte's thesis was presented when he wrote:
"It is a notable shortcoming of the literature about National Socialism that it does not know or does not want to admit to what degree all the deedsâ€”with the sole exception of the technical process of gassingâ€”that the National Socialists later committed had already been described in a voluminous literature of the early 1920s: mass deportations and shootings, torture, death camps, extermination of entire groups using strictly objective selection criteria, and public demands for the annihilation of millions of guiltless people who were thought to be "enemies".
It is probable that many of these reports were exaggerated. It is certain that the â€śWhite Terrorâ€ť also committed terrible deeds, even though its program contained no analogy to the â€śextermination of the bourgeoisieâ€ť. Nonetheless, the following question must seem permissible, even unavoidable: Did the National Socialists or Hitler perhaps commit an â€śAsiaticâ€ť deed merely because they and their ilk considered themselves to be the potential victims of an â€śAsiaticâ€ť deed? Wasnâ€™t the 'Gulag Archipelago' more original than Auschwitz? Was the Bolshevik murder of an entire class not the logical and factual prius of the "racial murder" of National Socialism? Cannot Hitler's most secret deeds be explained by the fact that he had not forgotten the rat cage? Did Auschwitz in its root causes not originate in a past that would not pass?"
[[File:Birkenau gate.JPG}right|thumb|Nolte called the Auschwitz death camp and the other German death camps of World War II a "copy" of the Soviet Gulag camps]]
According to Nolte, during the Industrial Revolution in Britain, the shock of the replacement of the old craft economy by an industrialized, mechanized economy led to various radicals starting to advocate what Nolte calls â€śannihilation therapyâ€ť as the solution to social problems. In Nolteâ€™s views, the roots of Communism can be traced back to 18th and 19th century radicals like Thomas Spence, John Gray, William Benbow, Bronterre Oâ€™Brian, and FranĂ§ois-NoĂ«l Babeuf. Nolte has argued that the French Revolution began the practice of â€śgroup annihilationâ€ť as state policy, but not until the Russian Revolution did the theory of â€śannihilation therapyâ€ť reach its logical conclusion and culmination. He asserts that much of the European Left saw social problems as being caused by â€śdiseasedâ€ť social groups, and sought â€śannihilation therapyâ€ť as the solution, thus leading naturally to the Red Terror and the Yezhovshchina in the Soviet Union. Nolte suggests that the Right mirrored the Left, with â€śannihilation therapyâ€ť advocated by such figures as John Robison, Augustin Barruel, and Joseph de Maistre; Malthusianism and the Prussian strategy of utter destruction of oneâ€™s enemies during the Napoleonic Wars also suggest sources and influences for National Socialism. Ultimately, in Nolteâ€™s view, the Holocaust was just a â€ścopyâ€ť of Communist â€śannihilation therapyâ€ť, albeit one that was more terrible and sickening than the â€śoriginalâ€ť.
As proof of this argument of the Holocaust as a defensive reaction, Nolte presented a letter written by Chaim Weizmann, the President of the World Zionist Organization, on 3 September 1939 to the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain pledging full and unconditional support to the British war effort. Nolte has called Weizmann's letter to Chamberlain a "Jewish declaration of war" against Germany, as it had sometimes been reported contemporaneously in the press, e.g. "Judea Declares War on Germany". Nolte argued that Weizmannâ€™s letter was a rational reason for Hitler to be â€śconvinced of his enemiesâ€™ determination to annihilate him much earlier than when the first information about Auschwitz came to the knowledge of the worldâ€ť. When challenged on this point, Nolte replied that he was merely quoting David Irving, who first made this claim in his 1977 book Hitlerâ€™s War.
Nolte subsequently presented a 1940 book by American author Theodore N. Kaufman entitled Germany Must Perish!. The text contends that all German men should be sterilized, evidencing, according to Nolte, the alleged "Jewish" desire to "annihilate" Germans prior to the Holocaust. An August 1941 appeal to the world by a group of Soviet Jews seeking support against Germany was also cited by Nolte as evidence of Jewish determination to thwart the Reich. Nolte argued that the Nazis felt forced to undertake the Holocaust by Hitler's conclusion that the entire Jewish population of the world had declared war on Germany. From Nolteâ€™s point of view, the Holocaust was an act of â€śAsiatic barbarismâ€ť forced on the Germans by the fear of what Joseph Stalin, whom Nolte believed to have significant Jewish support, might do to them. Nolte contends that the U.S. internment of Japanese Americans in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack provides a parallel to the German "internment" of the Jewish population of Europe in concentration camps, in light of what Nolte alleges was the "Jewish" declaration of war on Germany in 1939 which Weizmann's letter allegedly constitutes.
Subsequently, Nolte expanded upon these views in his 1987 book Der europĂ¤ische BĂĽrgerkrieg, 1917â€“1945 (The European Civil War, 1917â€“1945) in which he claimed that the entire 20th century was an age of genocide, totalitarianism, and tyranny, and that the Holocaust had been merely one chapter in the age of violence, terror and population displacement. Nolte claimed that this age had started with the genocide of the Armenians during World War I, and also included the Stalinist terror in the Soviet Union, the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe, Maoist terror in China as manifested in such events as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, compulsory population exchanges between Greece and Turkey from 1922 to 1923, American war crimes in the Vietnam War, the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.. In particular, Nolte argued that the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe in 1945-46 was "to be categorized...under the concept of genocide". As part of this argument, Nolte cited the 1979 book of the American historian Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, Die Wehrmacht Untersuchungsstelle, which argues that the Allies were just as guilty of war crimes as the Germans as the "happy evidence of the will to objectivity on the part of a foreigner" In Nolte's opinion, Hitler was a "European citizen" who fought in defence of the values of the West against "Asiatic" Bolshevism, but due to his "total egocentrism" waged this struggle with unnecessary violence and brutality Since in Nolteâ€™s view, the Shoah was not a unique crime, there is no reason to single out Germans for special criticism for the Holocaust.
In addition, Nolte sees his work as the beginning of a much-needed revisionist treatment to end the "negative myth" of the Third Reich that dominates contemporary perceptions. Nolte took the view that the principle problem of German history was this â€śnegative mythâ€ť of the Third Reich, which cast the Nazi era as the ne plus ultra of evil. Nolte wrote that after the American Civil War, the defeated South was cast as the symbol of total evil by the victorious North, but later â€śrevisionismâ€ť became the dominant historical interpretation against the â€śnegative mythâ€ť of the South, which led to a more balanced history of the Civil War with a greater understanding of the â€śmotives and way of life of the defeated Southern statesâ€ť, and led to the leaders of the Confederacy becoming great American heroes. Nolte urged that a similar â€śrevisionismâ€ť destroy the â€śnegative mythâ€ť of the Third Reich. Nolte argued that the Vietnam War, the Khmer Rouge genocide, the expulsion of "boat people" from Vietnam, the Islamic revolution in Iran, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan meant the traditional picture of Nazi Germany as the ultimate in evil was no longer tenable, and proved the need for "revisionism" to put an end to the "negative myth" of the Third Reich. In Nolte's view, the first efforts at revisionism of the Nazi period failed because A. J. P. Taylor's 1961 book The Origins of the Second World War was only a part of the "anti-German literature of indictment" while David Hoggan in Der erzwugnene Krieg, by only seeking to examine why World War II broke out in 1939, "cut himself off from the really decisive questions". Then the next revisionist efforts Nolte cites were the Italian historian Domenico Settembrini's favorable treatment of Fascism for saving Italy from Communism, and the British historian Timothy Mason's studies in working class German history. The best of the revisionists according to Nolte is David Irving, with whom Nolte finds some fault, although "not all of Irving's theses and points can be dismissed with such ease". Nolte praises Irving as the first to understand that Weizmann's letter to Chamberlain was a "Jewish declaration of war" on Germany that justified the "interning" of the Jews of Europe. Nolte went on to praise Irving for putting the Holocaust "in a more comprehensive perspective" by comparing it to the British fire-bombing of Hamburg in 1943, which Nolte views as just much of an act of genocide as the "Final Solution". The sort of revisionism needed to end the "negative myth" of the Third Reich is, in Nolte's opinion, an examination of the impact of the Russian Revolution on Germany.
Nolte contends that the great decisive event of the 20th century was the Russian Revolution of 1917, which plunged all of Europe into a long-simmering civil war that lasted until 1945. To Nolte, fascism, Communism's twin, arose as a desperate response by the threatened middle classes of Europe to what Nolte has often called the â€śBolshevik perilâ€ť. He suggests that if one wishes to understand the Holocaust, one should begin with the industrial revolution in Britain, and then understand the rule of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Nolte then proceeds to argue that one should consider what happened in the Soviet Union in the interwar period by reading the work of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. In a marked change from the views expressed in The Three Faces of Fascism, in which Communism was a stream of â€śtranscendenceâ€ť, Nolte now classified communism together with fascism as both rival streams of the â€śresistance to transcendenceâ€ť. The â€śmetapolitical phenomenonâ€ť of Communism in a Hegelian dialectic led to the â€śmetapolitical phenomenonâ€ť of fascism, which was both a copy of and the most ardent opponent of Marxism. As an example of his thesis, Nolte cited an article written in 1927 by Kurt Tucholsky calling for middle-class Germans to be gassed, which he argued was much more deplorable than the celebratory comments made by some right-wing newspapers about the assassination of the German Foreign Minister Walter Rathenau in 1922. Richard J. Evans, Ian Kershaw and Otto Dov Kulka all claimed that Nolte took Tucholsky's sardonic remark about chemical warfare out of context. Kershaw further protested the implication of moral equivalence between a remark by Tucholsky and the actual gassing of Jews by Nazis, which Kershaw suggests is an idea which originates in neo-Nazi pamphleteering.
In his 1987 book Der europĂ¤ische BĂĽrgerkrieg, 1917â€“1945, Nolte argued in the interwar period, Germany was Europe's best hope for progress. Nolte wrote that "if Europe was to succeed in establishing itself as a world power on a equal footing [with the United States and the Soviet Union], then Germany had to be the core of the new 'United States'". Nolte claimed if the Germany had to continue to abide by Part V of the Treaty of Versailles, which had disarmed Germany, then Germany would have been destroyed by aggression from her neighbors sometime later in the 1930s, and with Germany's destruction, there would had been no hope for a "United States of Europe". The British historian Richard J. Evans accused Nolte of engaging in a geopolitical fantasy.
These views ignited a firestorm of controversy. Most historians in West Germany and virtually all historians outside Germany condemned Nolte's interpretation as factually incorrect, and as coming dangerously close to justifying the Holocaust. Many historians, such as Steven T. Katz, claimed that Nolteâ€™s â€śAge of Genocideâ€ť concept â€śtrivializedâ€ť the Holocaust by reducing it to one of just many 20th century genocides. A common line of criticism were that Nazi crimes, above all the Holocaust, were singularly and uniquely evil, and could not be compared to the crimes of others. Some historians such as Hans-Ulrich Wehler were most forceful in arguing that the sufferings of the â€śkulaksâ€ť deported during the Soviet â€śdekulakizationâ€ť campaign of the early 1930s were in no way analogous to the suffering of the Jews deported in the early 1940s. Many were angered by Nolte's claim that "the so-called annihilation of the Jews under the Third Reich was a reaction or a distorted copy and not a first act or an original", with many such as Ian Kershaw wondering why Nolte spoke of the "so-called annihilation of the Jews" in describing the Holocaust. Some of the historians who denounced Nolteâ€™s views included Hans Mommsen, JĂĽrgen Kocka, Detlev Peukert, Martin Broszat, Hans-Ulrich Wehler, Michael Wolffsohn, Heinrich August Winkler, Wolfgang Mommsen, Karl Dietrich Bracher and Eberhard JĂ¤ckel. Much (though not all) of the criticism of Nolte came from historians who favored either the Sonderweg (Special Way) and/or intentionalist/functionalist interpretations of German history. From the advocates of the Sonderweg approach came the criticism that Nolteâ€™s views had totally externalized the origins of the National Socialist dictatorship to the post-1917 period, whereas in their view, the roots of the Nazi dictatorship can be traced back to the 19th century Second Reich. In particular, it was argued that within the virulently and ferociously anti-Semitic VĂ¶lkisch movement, which first arose in the latter half of the 19th century, the ideological seeds of the Shoah were already planted. From both functionalist and intentionist historians came the similar criticism that the motives and momentum for the â€śFinal Solution to the Jewish Questionâ€ť came primarily from within Germany, not as the result of external events. Intentionalists argued that Hitler did not need the Russian Revolution to provide him with a genocidal mindset, while functionalists argued it was the unstable power structure and bureaucratic rivalries of the Third Reich, which led to genocide of the Jews. Another line of criticism centered around Nolte refusal to say just precisely when he believes the Nazis decided upon genocide, and have pointed out that at various times, Nolte has implied the decision for genocide was taken in the early 1920s, or the early 1930s or the 1940s.
Coming to Nolte's defence were the journalist Joachim Fest, the philosopher Helmut Fleischer, and the historians' Klaus Hildebrand, Rainer Zitelmann, Hagen Schulze, Thomas Nipperdey and Imanuel Geiss. The latter was unusual amongst Nolteâ€™s defenders as Geiss was normally identified with the left, while the rest of Nolteâ€™s supporters were seen as either on the right or holding centrist views. In response to Wehlerâ€™s book, Geiss later published a book entitled Der Hysterikerstreit. Ein unpolemischer Essay (The Hysterical Dispute An Unpolemical Essay) in which he largely defended Nolte against Wehlerâ€™s criticisms. Geiss wrote Nolte's critics had "taken in isolation" his statements and were guilty of being "hasty readers"
Further adding to the controversy was a statement by Nolte in June 1987 that Adolf Hitler "created the state of Israel", and that "the Jews would eventually come to appreciate Hitler as the individual who contributed more than anyone else to the creation of the state of Israel". As a result of that remark, Nolte was sacked from his position as chief editor of the German language edition of Theodore Herzl's letters by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Community), the group that was responsible for the financing of the Herzl papers project. Another controversial claim by Nolte was his statement that massacres of the Volksdeutsch minority in Poland after the German invasion of 1939 were an act of genocide by the Polish government, and thereby justified the German aggression as part of an effort to save the German minority. Another contentious set of claims by Nolte was his argument that the film Shoah showed that it was "probable" that the SS were just as much victims of the Holocaust as were the Jews, and the Polish victims of the Germans were just as much anti-Semites as the Nazis, thereby proving it was unjust to single out Germans for criticism. Nolte claimed that more â€śAryansâ€ť than Jews were murdered at Auschwitz, a fact overlooked because most Holocaust research comes â€śto an overwhelming degree from Jewish authorsâ€ť. Likewise, Nolte has implied that the atrocities committed by the Germans in Poland and the Soviet Union were justified by earlier Polish and Soviet atrocities. In response, Nolteâ€™s critics have argued that though there were massacres of ethnic Germans in Poland in 1939 (about 4,000 to 6,000 being killed after the German invasion), these were not part of a genocidal program on the part of the Poles, but were rather the ad hoc reaction of panic-stricken Polish troops to (sometimes justified) rumors of fifth column activities on the part of the volksdeutsch, and can not in any way be compared to the more systematic brutality of the German occupiers towards the Poles, which led to a 25% population reduction in Poland during the war. Another contentious statement by Nolte was his argument that the Wannsee Conference of 1942 never occurred. Nolte wrote that too many Holocaust historians were "biased" Jewish historians, whom Nolte strongly hinted manufactured the minutes of the Wannsee conference. The British historian Richard J. Evans was highly offended by Nolte's claims that German massacres of Soviet Jews carried out by the Einsatzgruppen and the Wehrmacht were a legitimate "preventive security" measure that was not a war crime. Nolte wrote that during World War I, the Germans would have been justified in exterminating the entire Belgian people as an act of "preventive security" because of franc-tireur attacks, and thus the Rape of Belgium was an act of German restraint; similarly, Nolte wrote that because many Soviet partisans were Jews, the Germans were within their rights in seeking to kill every single Jewish man, women and child they encountered in Russia as an act of "preventive security".
In particular, controversy centered on an argument of Nolte's 1985 essay â€śBetween Myth and Revisionismâ€ť from the book Aspects of the Third Reich, first published in German as "Die negative Lebendigkeit des Dritten Reiches" ("The Negative Legend of the Third Reich") as an opinion piece in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 24 July 1980, but which did not attract widespread attention until 1986 when JĂĽrgen Habermas criticized the essay in a feuilleton piece. Nolte had delivered a lecture at the Siemans-Sitftung in 1980, and excerpts from his speech were published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung without attracting controversy. In his essay, Nolte argued that if the PLO were to destroy Israel, then the subsequent history written in the new Palestinian state would portray the former Israeli state in the blackest of colors with no references to any of the positive features of the defunct state. In Nolteâ€™s opinion, a similar situation of history written only by the victors exists in regards to the history of Nazi Germany. Many historians, such as British historian Richard J. Evans, have asserted that, based on this statement, Nolte appears to believe that the only reason why Nazism is regarded as evil is because Germany lost World War II, with no regard for the Holocaust. Klaus Hildebrand called in a review in the Historische Zeitschrift journal on 2 April 1986 called Nolteâ€™s essay "Between Myth and Revisionism" â€śtrailbrazingâ€ť. In the same review of Nolte's essay "Between Myth and Revisionism", Hildebrand argued Nolte had in a praiseworthy way sought:
"to incorporate in historicizing fashion that central element for the history of National Socialism and of the "Third Reich" of the annihilatory capacity of the ideology and of the regime, and to comprehend this totalitarian reality in the interrelated context of Russian and German history".
Another area of controversy was Nolte's 1987 book Der europĂ¤ische BĂĽrgerkrieg and some accompanying statements, in which Nolte appeared to flirt with Holocaust denial as a serious historical argument. In a letter to Otto Dov Kulka of 8 December 1986 Nolte criticized the work of French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson on the ground that the Holocaust did in fact occur, but went on to argue that Faurissonâ€™s work was motivated by admirable motives, in the form of sympathy for Palestinians and opposition to Israel. In Der europĂ¤ische BĂĽrgerkrieg, Nolte claimed that the intentions of Holocaust deniers are "often honorable", and that some of their claims are "not obviously without foundation". Kershaw has argued that Nolte was operating on the borderlines of Holocaust denial with his implied claim that the "negative myth" of the Third Reich was created by Jewish historians, his allegations of the domination of Holocaust scholarship by Jewish historians, and his statements that one should withhold judgment on Holocaust deniers, whom Nolte insists are not exclusively Germans or fascists. In Kershaw's opinion, Nolte is attempting to imply that perhaps Holocaust deniers are on to something.
The philosopher JĂĽrgen Habermas in an article in the Die Zeit of 11 July 1986 strongly criticized Nolte, along with Andreas Hillgruber and Michael StĂĽrmer, for engaging in what Habermas called â€śapologeticâ€ť history writing in regards to the Nazi era, and for seeking to â€śclose Germanyâ€™s opening to the Westâ€ť that in Habermasâ€™s view has existed since 1945:
â€ś[T]he culture section of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, June 6, 1986 included a militant article by Ernst Nolte. It was published, by the way, under a hypocritical pretext with the heading â€śthe talk that could not be deliveredâ€ť. (I say this with knowledge of the exchange of letters between the presumably disinvited Nolte and the organizers of the conference). When the Nolte article was published StĂĽrmer also expressed solidarity. In it Nolte reduces the singularity of the annihilation of the Jews to â€śthe technical process of gassingâ€ť. He supports his thesis about the Gulag Archipelago is â€śprimaryâ€ť to Auschwitz with the rather abstruse example of the Russian Civil War. The author gets little more from the film Shoah by Lanzmann than the idea that the â€śthe SS troops in the concentration camps might themselves have been victims of a sort and that among the Polish victims of National Socialism there was virulent anti-Semitismâ€ť. These unsavoury samples show that Nolte puts someone like Fassbinder in the shade by a wide margin. If the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung was justifiably drawn to oppose the planned performance of Fassbinderâ€™s play, then why did it choose to publish Nolteâ€™s letter [A reference to the play The Garbage, the City, and Death by Rainer Werner Fassbinder about an unscrupulous Jewish businessmen who exploits German guilt over the Holocaust that many see as anti-Semitic]...The Nazi crimes lose their singularity in that they are at least made comprehensible as an answer to the (still extant) Bolshevist threats of annihilation. The magnitude of Auschwitz shrinks to the format of technical innovation and is explained on the basis of the â€śAsiaticâ€ť threat from an enemy that still stands at our doorâ€ť.
In particular, Habermas took Nolte to task for suggesting a moral equivalence between the Holocaust and the Khmer Rouge genocide. In Habermasâ€™s opinion, since Cambodia was a backward, Third World agrarian state and Germany a modern, First World industrial state, there was no comparison between the two genocides.
In response to Habermas's essay, Klaus Hildebrand came to the defence of Nolte. Hildebrand in an essay entitled "The Age of Tyrants" first published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on July 31, 1986 went on to praise Nolte for daring to open up new questions for research.
Nolte for his part, started to write a series of letters to various newspapers such as Die Zeit and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung attacking his critics; for an example, in a letter to Die Zeit on 1 August 1986, Nolte complained that his critic JĂĽrgen Habermas was attempting to censor him for expressing his views, and accused Habermas of being the one responsible for blocking him from attending the RĂ¶merberg Conversations. In the same letter, Nolte described himself as the unnamed historian whose views on the reasons for the Holocaust had at dinner party in May 1986 in Bonn had caused Saul FriedlĂ¤nder to walk out in disgust that Habermas had alluded to an earlier letter
Responding to the essay "The Age of Tyrants: History and Politics" by Klaus Hildebrand defending Nolte, Habermas wrote:
â€śIn his essay Ernst Nolte treats the â€śso-calledâ€ť annihilation of the Jews (in H.W. Koch, ed. Aspects of the Third Reich, London, 1985). Chaim Weizmannâ€™s declaration in the beginning of September 1939 that the Jews of the world would fight on the side of England, â€śjustifiedâ€ť-so opinioned Nolte-Hitler to treat the Jews as prisoners of war and to intern them. Other objections aside, I cannot distinguish between the insinuation that world Jewry is a subject of international law and the usual anti-Semitic projections. And if it had at least stopped with deportation. All this does not stop Klaus Hildebrand in the Historische Zeitschrift from commending Nolteâ€™s â€śpathfinding essayâ€ť, because it â€śattempts to project exactly the seeming unique aspects of the history of the Third Reich onto the backdrop of the European and global development". Hildebrand is pleased that Nolte denies the singularity of the Nazi atrocitiesâ€ť.
Fest in an essay entitled "Encumbered Remembrance" first published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on August 29, 1986 claimed that Nolte's argument that Nazi crimes were not singular was correct. Fest accused Habermas of "academic dyslexia" and "character assassination" in his attacks against Nolte. In response to Habermas's claim that the Holocaust was not comparable to the Khmer Rouge genocide because Germany was a First World nation and Cambodia a Third World nation, Fest, who was one of Nolteâ€™s leading defenders, called Habermas a racist for suggesting that it was natural for Cambodians to engage in genocide while unnatural for Germans. Fest argued against the "singularity" of the Holocaust under the grounds that:
"The gas chambers with which the executors of the annihilation of the Jews went to work without a doubt signal a particularly repulsive form of mass murder, and they have justifiably become a symbol for the technicized barbarism of the Hitler regime. But can it really be said that the mass liquidations by a bullet to the back of the neck, as was common practice during the years of the Red Terror, are qualitatively different? Isn't, despite all the differences, the comparable element stronger?...The thesis of the singularity of Nazi crimes is finally also placed in question by the consideration that Hitler himself frequently referred to the practices of his revolutionary opponents of the Left as lessons and models. But he did more than just copy them. Determined to be more radical than his most bitter enemy, he also outdid them"
Moreover, Fest argued in his defence of Nolte that in the overheated atmosphere in Munich following the overthrow of the Bavarian Soviet Republic in 1919 "...gave Hitler's extermination complexes a real background" Finally, Fest wrote as part of his attack on the "singularity" of the Holocaust that:
"There are questions upon questions, but no answer can be offered here. Rather, it is a matter of rousing doubt in the monumental simplicity and one-sidedness of the prevailing ideas about the particularity of the Nazi crimes that supposedly had no model and followed no example. All in all, this thesis stands on weak ground. And it is less surprising that,as Habermas incorrectly suggests in reference to Nolte, it is being questioned. It is far more astonishing that this has not seriously taken place until now. For that also means that the countless other victims, in particular, but not exclusively those of Communism, are no longer part of our memory. Arno Borst once declared in a different context that no group in today's society has been ruthlessly oppressed as the dead. That is especially true for the millions of dead of this century, from the Armenians all the way to the victims of the Gulag Archipelago or the Cambodians who were and still being murdered before all of our eyes-but who have still been dropped from the world's memory"
In a letter to the editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published on September 6, 1986 Karl Dietrich Bracher accused both Habermas and Nolte of both "...tabooing the concept of totalitarianism and inflating the formula of fascism".
The historian Eberhard JĂ¤ckel in an essay first published in the Die Zeit newspaper on September 12, 1986 argued that Nolte's theory was ahistorical on the grounds that Hitler held the Soviet Union in contempt, and could not have felt threatened as Nolte claimed. JĂ¤ckel wrote, in an essay entitled "The Impoverished Practice of Insinuation: The Singular Aspect of National-Socialist Crimes Cannot Be Denied",
"Hitler often said why he wished to remove and kill the Jews. His explanation is a complicated and structurally logical construct that can be reproduced in great detail. A rat cage, the murders committed by the Bolsheviks, or a special fear of these are not mentioned. On the contrary, Hitler was always convinced that Soviet Russia, precisely because it was ruled by Jews, was a defenseless colossus standing on clay feet. Aryans had no fear of Slavic or Jewish subhumans. The Jew, Hitler wrote in 1926 in Mein Kampf, "is not an element of an organization, but a ferment of decomposition. The gigantic empire in the East is ripe for collapse". Hitler still believed this in 1941 when he had his soldiers invade Russia without winter equipment."
JĂ¤ckel attacked Nolte's statement that Hitler had an especially intense fear of the Soviet "rat cage" torture by arguing that Hitler's statement of February 1, 1943 to his generals about captured German officers going off to the "rat cage" clearly meant the Lubyanka prison, and this is not as Nolte was arguing to be interpreted literally. JĂ¤ckel went on to argue that Nolte had done nothing to establish what the remarks about the "rat cage" had to do with the Holocaust. JĂ¤ckel accused Nolte of engaging in a post hoc, ergo propter hoc argument to establish the "causal nexus" between Hitler's supposed fear of the "rat cage" torture, and the Holocaust. Against Nolte's claim that the Holocaust was not unique but rather one among many genocides, JĂ¤ckel rejected the assertion of Nolte and his supporters, such as Joachim Fest:
"I, however claim (and not for the first time) that the National Socialist murder of the Jews was unique because never before had a nation with the authority of its leader decided and announced that it would kill off as completely as possible a particular group of humans, including old people, women, children and infants, and actually put this decision into practice, using all the means of governmental power at its disposal. This idea is so apparent and so well known that is quite astonishing that it could have escaped Fest's attention (the massacres of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during the First World War were, according to all we know, more like murderous deportations than planned genocide)".
JĂ¤ckel later described Nolte's methods as a "game of confusion", comprising dressing hypotheses up as questions, and then attacking critics who demanded evidence for his assertions as seeking to block one from asking questions.
The philosopher Helmut Fleischer in an essay first published in the NĂĽrnberger Zeitung newspaper on September 20, 1986 defended Nolte against Habermas under the grounds that Nolte was only seeking to place the Holocaust into a wider political context of the times. Fleischer accused Habermas of seeking to impose a left-wing moral understanding on the Nazi period on Germans and of creating a â€śmoralâ€ť Sondergericht (Special Court). Fleischer argued that Nolte was only seeking the "historicization" of National Socialism that Martin Broszat had called for in a 1985 essay by trying to understand what caused National Socialism, with a special focus on the fear of Communism.
The German historian JĂĽrgen Kocka in an essay first published in Die Zeit on September 26, 1986 contended against Nolte that the Holocaust was indeed a â€śsingularâ€ť event because it had been committed by an advanced Western nation, and argued that Nolteâ€™s comparisons of the Holocaust with similar mass killings in Pol Pot's Cambodia, Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union, and Idi Amin's Uganda were invalid because of the backward nature of those societies. Kocka went to criticize Nolte's view of the Holocaust as "a not altogether incomprehensible reaction to the prior threat of annihilation, as whose potential or real victims Hitler and the National Socialists allegedly were justified in seeing themselves". Kocka wrote that
"The real causes of anti-Semitism in Germany are to be found neither in Russia nor the World Jewish Congress. And how can one, in light of the facts, interpret the National Socialist annihilation of the Jews as a somewhat logical, if premature, means of defense against the threats of annihilation coming from the Soviet Union, with which Germany had made a pact in 1939, and which it then subsequently attacked? Here the sober historical inquiry into real historical connections, into causes, and consequences, and about real motives and their conditions would suffice to protect the writer and the reader from abstruse speculative interpretations. Nolte fails to ask such questions. If a past "that is capable of being agreed on" can be gained by intellectual gymnastics of this sort, then we should renounce it."
Hagen Schulze in an essay first published in Die Zeit on September 26, 1986 defended Nolte, together with Andreas Hillgruber, and argued Habermas was acting from "incorrect presuppositions" in attacking Nolte and Hillgruber for denying the "singularity" of the Holocaust.Schulze argued that Habermas's attack on Nolte was flawed because he never provided any proof that the Holocaust was unique, and argued there were many "aspects" of the Holocaust that were "common" with other historical occurrences. In Schulze's opinion:
"For the discipline of history, singularity and comparability of historical events are thus not mutually exclusive alternatives. They are complementary concepts. A claim that historians such as Ernst Nolte or Andreas Hillgruber deny the uniqueness of Auschwitz because they are looking for comparisons stems from incorrect presuppositions. Of course, Nolte and Hillgruber can be refuted if their comparisons rests on empirically or logically false assumptions. But Habermas never provided such proof."
The Swiss journalist Hanno Helbling in an essay first published in the Neu Zuricher Zeitung newspaper on September 26, 1986 accused Nolte and his allies of working to destroy â€śthe â€śnegative mythâ€ť of the Third Reich, not only by revising our inevitable understanding of this reign of terror, but also by restoring the national pastâ€ť.
Hans Mommsen in an essay first published in the September 1986 edition of Merkur accused Nolte of attempting to "relativize" Nazi crimes within the broader framework of the 20th century. Mommsen asserted that by describing Lenin's Red Terror in Russia as an "Asiatic deed" threatening Germany, Nolte was arguing that all actions directed against Communism, no matter how morally repugnant, were justified by necessity. In another essay in an essay first published in the BlĂ¤tter fĂĽr deutsche und internationale Politik magazine in October 1986, Mommsen was to call Nolte's claim of a "causal nexus" between National Socialism and Communism "not simply methodologically untenable, but also absurd in it premises and conclusions". Mommsen wrote in his opinion that Nolte's use of the Nazi era phrase "Asiatic hordes" to describe Red Army soldiers, and his use of the word "Asia" as a byword for all that is horrible and cruel in the world reflected racism. Mommsen wrote:
"In contrast to these irrefutable conditioning factors, Nolteâ€™s derivation based on personalities and the history of ideas seems artificial, even for the explanation of Hitlerâ€™s anti-Semitismâ€¦If one emphasizes the indisputably important connection in isolation, one should not then force a connection with Hitler's weltanschauung, which was in no ways original itself, in order to derpive from it the existance of Auschwitz. The battle line between the political right in Germany and the Bolsheviks had achieved its aggressive contour before Stalinism employed methods that led to death of millions of people. Thoughts about the extermination of the Jews had long been current, and not only for Hitler and his satraps. Many of these found their way to the NSDAP from the DeutschvĂ¶lkisch Schutz-und Trutzbund [German Racial Union for Protection and Defiance], which itself had been called into life by the Pan-German Union. Hitler's step from verbal anti-Semitism to practical implementation would then have happened without knowledge of and in reaction to the atrocities of the Stalinists. And thus one would have to overturn Nolte's construct, for which he cannot bring biographical evidence to bear. As a Hitler biographer, Fest distanced himself from this kind of one-sidedness by making reference to "the Austrian-German Hitler's earlier fears of and phantasies of being overwhelmed". It is not completely consistent that Fest admits that the reports of the terrorist methods of the Bolsheviks had given Hitler's "extermination complexes" a "real background". Basically, Nolte's proposal in its one-sidedness is not very helpful for explaining or evaluating what happened. The anti-Bolshevism garnished with anti-Semitism had the effect, in particular for the dominant elites, and certainly not just the National Socialists, that Hitlerâ€™s program of racial annihilation met with no serious resistance. The leadership of the Wehrmacht rather willingly made themselves into accomplices in the policy of extermination. It did this by generating the â€ścriminal ordersâ€ť and implementing them. By no means did they merely passively support the implemention of their concept, although there was a certain reluctance for reasons of military discipline and a few isolated protests. To construct a â€ścasual nexusâ€ť over all this amounts in fact to steering away from the decisive responsibility of the military leadership and the bureaucratic elites."
In another essay, Mommsen wrote that:
"Nolte's superficial approach which associates things that do not belong together, substitutes analogies for casual arguments, and-thanks to his taste for exaggeration-produces a long outdated interpretation of the Third Reich as the result of a single factor. His claims are regarded in professional circles as a stimulating challenge at best, hardly as a convincing contribution to an understanding of the crisis of twentieth-century capitalist society in Europe. The fact that Nolte has found eloquent supporters both inside and outside the historical profession has little to do with the normal process of research and much to do with the political implications of the relativization of the Holocaust that he has insistently championed for so long...The fundamentally apologetic character of Nolte's argument shines through most clearly when he concedes Hitler's right to deport, through not to exterminate, the Jews in response to the supposed "declaration of war" issued by the World Jewish Congress; or when he claims that the activities of the SS Einsatzgruppen can be justified, at least subjectively, as operations aimed against partisans fighting the German Army."
Mommsen was later in a 1988 book review entitled "Resentment as Social Science" to call Nolte's book, Der EuropĂ¤ische BĂĽrgrkrieg, a "regression back to the brew of racist-nationalistic ideology of the interwar period".
Martin Broszat in an essay first published in Die Zeit on October 3, 1986 labeled Nolte an obnoxious crank and a Nazi apologist who making "offensive" statements about the Holocaust. Regarding Nolte's claim that Weizmann on behalf of world Jewry had declared war on Germany in 1939, Broszat wrote that Weizmann's letter to Chamberlain promising the support of the Jewish Agency in World War II was not a "declaration of war", nor did Weizmann have the legal power to declare war on anyone. Broszat commented, "These facts may be overlooked by a right-wing publicist with a dubious educational background, but not by the college professor Ernst Nolte." Broszat wrote that "Here the roads part", and argued that no self-respecting historian could associate himself with the effort to "drive the shame out of the Germans". Broszat ended his essay with the remark that such "perversions" of German history must be resisted in order to ensure the German people a better future.
The journalist Rudolf Augstein, the publisher of the Der Spiegel news journal accused Nolte of creating the "New Auschwitz Lie" in an essay first published in October 6, 1986 edition of Der Spiegel. Augstein questioned just why Nolte referred to the Holocaust as the "so-called annihilation of the Jews". Augstein agreed with Nolte that the Israelis were â€śblackmailingâ€ť the Germans over the Holocaust, but argued that given the magnitude of the Holocaust, the Germans had nothing to complain about. Augstein wrote in opposition to Nolte that:
"Not for nothing did Nolte let us know that the annihilation of the kulaks, the peasant middle class, had taken place from 1927 to 1930, before Hitler seized power, and that the destruction of the Old Bolsheviks and countless other victims of Stalin's insanity had happened between 1934 and 1938, before the beginning of Hitler's war. But Stalin's insanity was, in contrast to Hitler's insanity, a realist's insanity. After all this drivel comes one thing worth dicussing: whether Stalin pumped up Hitler and whether Hitler pumped up Stalin. This can be discussed, but the discussion does not address the issue. It is indeed possible that Stalin was pleased by how Hitler treated his bosom buddy Ernst RĂ¶hm and the entire SA leadership in 1934. It is, not possible that Hitler began his war against Poland because he felt threatened by Stalin's regime...One does not have to agree in everything with Konrad Adenauer. But in the light of the crass tendency to deny the co-responsibility of the Prussian-German Wehrmacht ("The oath! The oath!") ones gains an understanding for the point of the view of the nonpatriot Adenauer that Hitler's Reich was the continuation of the Prussian-German regime"
The classicist Christian Meier, who was president of the German Historical Association at the time gave a speech on October 8, 1986 before that body, in which he criticized Nolte by declaring that the Holocaust was a â€śsingularâ€ť event that â€śqualitatively surpassed" Soviet terror. Referring to Nolteâ€™s claims of being censored, Meier stated that Nolte had every right to ask questions, and that â€śno taboos will be establishedâ€ť. Meier went to say:
â€śBut the way Nolte poses these questions must be rejected simply because one should not reduce the impact of so elementary a truth: because German historical scholarship cannot be allowed to fall back into producing mindless nationalist apologies; and because it is important for a country to not deceive itself in such sensitive--ethically sensitive--areas of its history.â€ť
Thomas Nipperdey in an essay first published in Die Zeit on October 17, 1986 accused Habermas of unjustly smearing Nolte and other right-wing historians via unscholarly and dubious methods. In letter to the editor of Der Spiegel on October 20, 1986, Imanuel Geiss accused Augstein and Habermas of trying to silence Nolte
In another feuilleton entitled "Standing Things On Their Heads" first published in Die Zeit on October 31, 1986, Nolte dismissed criticism of him by Habermas and JĂ¤ckel under the grounds that their writings were no different from what could find in a East German newspaper Nolte contended that criticism over his use of the phrase â€śrat cageâ€ť was unwarranted since he was only using the phrase â€śrat cageâ€ť as an embodiment of the â€śAsiaticâ€ť horror he alleges Hitler felt about the Bolsheviks. In reply to the criticism of Habermas and JĂ¤ckel, Nolte wrote:
â€śThe Gulag Archipelago is primary to Auschwitz precisely because the Gulag was in the mind of the originator of Auschwitz; Auschwitz was not in the minds of the originators of the Gulagâ€¦If JĂ¤ckel proves his own definition for the singularity of the Final Solution, then I think that his concept simply elaborates what can be more briefly expressed with the term â€śracial murderâ€ť. If, however, he wants to say that the German state, through the mouth of its FĂĽhrer, unambiguously and publicly announced the decision that even Jewish women, children and infants were to be killed, than he has illustrated with one short phrase all that does not have to demonstrated in the current intellectual climate, but can be â€śimputedâ€ť. Hitler was certainly the most powerful man that has ever lived in Germany. But he was not powerful enough to ever publicly equate Bolshevism and Christianity, as he often did in his dinner conversations. He also not powerful enough to publicly demand or to justify, as Himmler often did in his circle of friends and associates, the murder of women and children. That of course is not proof of Hitlerâ€™s â€śhumanityâ€ť, but rather of the remnants of the liberal system. The â€śextermination of the bourgeoisieâ€ť and the â€śliquidation of the kulaksâ€ť were, in contrast proclaimed quite publicly. And I am amazed at the coldheartedness with which Eberhard JĂ¤ckel says that not every single bourgeois was killed. Habermasâ€™s â€śexpulsion of the kulaksâ€ť speaks for itselfâ€ť
In an essay first published in the Frankfurter Rundscahu newspaper on November 14, 1986, Heinrich August Winkler wrote of Nolteâ€™s essay "The Past That Will Not Pass" that:
â€śThose who read the Frankfurter Allgemine all the way through to the culture section were able to read something under the title â€śThe Past That Will Not Passâ€ť that no German historian to date had noticed: that Auschwitz was only a copy of a Russian original-the Stalinist Gulag Archipelago. For fear of the Bolsheviksâ€™ Asiatic will to annihilate, Hitler himself committed an â€śAsiatic deedâ€ť. Was the annihilation of the Jews a kind of putative self-defence? Nolteâ€™s speculation amounts to that.â€ť
Writing of Nolteâ€™s claim that Weizmannâ€™s letter was a â€śJewish declaration of warâ€ť, Winkler stated that â€śNo German historian has ever accorded Hitler such a sympathetic treatmentâ€ť.
In a later newspaper feuilleton first published in the Frankurter Allgemeine Zeitung on November 20, 1986, Meier again asserted that the Holocaust was a â€śsingularâ€ť occurrence, but wrote that:
â€śIt is to be hoped that Ernst Nolteâ€™s suggestion that we should remain more keenly aware of the various million-fold mass murders of this century bears fruit. When one seeks orientation about this-and about the role of mass murder in history-one is surprised by how difficult it is to find. This would appear to be an area that historical research should look into. By pursuing these questions, one can recognize more precisely the peculiarity of our century-and certain similarities in its â€śliquidationsâ€ť. But Nolteâ€™s hope to be able to attenuate this distressing aspect of our Nazi past will probably not succeed. If we, and much speaks for this, to prevent National Socialist history from becoming an enduring negative myth about absolute evil, then we will have to seek other pathsâ€ť.
Meier praised Nolte in his article â€śStanding Things On Their Headâ€ť for speaking to â€śmodifyâ€ť the thesis that he had introduced in â€śThe Past That Will Not Passâ€ť about the â€ścausal nexusâ€ť by claiming the â€ścausal nexusâ€ť only existed in Hitlerâ€™s mindâ€ť. In response to Meier's article, Nolte wrote in a letter to the editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published on December 6, 1986 that he did not â€śdefuseâ€ť the thesis he presented in his essay â€śThe Past That Will Not Passâ€ť, but merely corrected a few mistakes in his essay "Standing Things On Their Head".
The political scientist Kurt Sontheimer in an essay first published in the Rheinischer Merkur newspaper on November 21, 1986 accused Nolte and company of attempting to create a new â€śnational consciousnessâ€ť meant to sever the Federal Republicâ€™s â€śintellectual and spiritual ties to the Westâ€ť.
In another feuilleton entitled "He Who Wants to Esacpe the Abyss" first published in Die Welt on November 22, 1986, Hildebrand argued in defense of Nolte that the Holocaust was one of out a long sequence of genocides in the 20th century, and asserted that Nolte was only attempting the "historicization" of National Socialism that Broszat had called for
The German political scientist Richard LĂ¶wenthal noted that news of Soviet dekulakization and the Holodomor did not reach Germany until 1941, so that Soviet atrocities could not possibly have influenced the Germans as Nolte claimed. LĂ¶wenthal argued in a letter to the editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on November 29, 1986 for the "fundamental difference" in mass murder in Germany and the Soviet Union, and against the "balancing" out of various crimes in the 20th century. LĂ¶wenthal contended that comparisons between Hitler and Stalin were appropriate, but comparisons between Hitler and Lenin were not For LĂ¶wenthal, the decisive factor that governed Leninâ€™s conduct was that right from the onset when he took power, he was involved in civil wars within Russia LĂ¶wenthal argued that â€śLeninâ€™s battle to hold on to powerâ€ť did not comprise â€śone-sided mass annihilation of defenceless peopleâ€ť Speaking of the Russian Civil War, LĂ¶wenthal argued that â€śIn all these battles there were heavy losses on both sides and horrible torture and murders of prisonersâ€ť  Speaking of the differences between Lenin and Stalin, LĂ¶wenthal argued that â€śWhat Stalin did from 1929 on was something entirely differentâ€ť LĂ¶wenthal argued that with dekulakization, the so-called â€śkulaksâ€ť were to destroyed by the Soviet state as:
â€śâ€¦a hindrance to forced collectivization. They were not organized. They had not fought. They were shipped to far-away concentration camps and in general were not killed right away, but were forced to suffer conditions that led in the course of time to a miserable deathâ€ť 
LĂ¶wenthal wrote that:
â€śWhat Stalin did from 1929 both against peasants and against various other victims, including leading Communists...and returned soldiers, was in fact historically new in its systematic inhumanity, and to this extent comparable with the deeds of Hitler. Certainly, Hitler, like all his contemporaries, had a preconception of the civil wars of Leninâ€™s time. Just as certainly his own ideas about the total annihilation of the Jews, the Gypsies, the â€śunworthy of lifeâ€ť, and so on, were independent of Stalinâ€™s example. At any rate the idea of total annihilation of the Jews had already been developed in the last work of Hitlerâ€™s mentor, Dietrich Eckart, who died in 1924. For the reference to this source, which leaves no room for â€śbalancingâ€ť, I am grateful to Ernst Nolteâ€™s first large book, which appeared in 1963, Faschismus in seiner Epoche [Fascism in Its Epoch] 
Hans Mommsen's twin brother Wolfgang in an essay first published in the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper on December 1, 1986 charged that Nolte was attempting to egregiously whitewash the German past. Mommsen argued that Nolte was attempting a "justification" of Nazi crimes and making "inappropriate" comparisons of the Holocaust with other genocides. Mommsen wrote that Nolte intended to provide the sort of history that would allow Germans feel good about being Germans by engaging in â€śâ€¦an explanatory strategy thatâ€¦will be seen as a justification of National Socialist crimes by all those who are still under the influence of the extreme anti-Soviet propaganda of National Socialism".
Horst MĂ¶ller in an essay first published in late 1986 in the BeitrĂ¤ge zur Konfliktforschung magazine argued that Nolte was not attempting to "excuse" Nazi crimes by comparing it with other crimes of others, but was instead trying to explain the Nazi war-crimes. MĂ¶ller argued that Nolte was only attempting to explain "irrational" events rationally, and that the Nazis really did believe that they were confronted with a world Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy that was out to destroy Germany. MĂ¶ller asserted that all historical events are unique and thus "singular". Finally, MĂ¶ller argued that Habermas was gulity to trying to justify Soviet crimes by writing of the "expulsion of the kulaks". Andreas Hillgruber in essay first published in the December 1986 edition of the Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht magazine in a tentative way seemed to lend Nolte support by commenting that what was going on in the Soviet Union in the early 1920s may had influenced Hitlerâ€™s thinking on the Jews
In an essay entitled "The Nazi Reign-A Case of Normal Tyranny?" first published in Die neue Gesellschaft magazine in late 1986, the political scientist Walter Euchner wrote that Nolte was wrong when he wrote of Hitler's alleged terror of the Austrian Social Democratic Party parades before 1914, and argued that Social Democratic parties in both Germany and Austria were fundamentally humane and pacifistic, instead of the terrorist-revolutionary entities that Nolte alleged them to be. Euchner wrote that:
"Politicians like Karl Kautsky and Eduard Bernstein certainly did not inspire anyone to phantasies about annihilation. For these Hitler needed neither prewar Marxism nor the Gulag Archipelago. They were in fact a product of his insanity."
Euchner went to argue that there was no comparison of German and Soviet crimes in his view because Germany had had an "outstanding intellectual heritage" and the Nazis had carried out a policy of genocide with the "voluntary support of a substantial part of the traditional elites". The journalist Robert Leicht in an essay first published in Die Zeit on December 26, 1986 asserted that Nolte was attempting to end the German shame over the Holocaust by making "absurd" arguments. Leicht argued that Stalin was not the "real" cause of the Holocaust as Nolte alleged, and that because the Holocaust was without precedent in German history, it was indeed "singular". The political scientist Joachim Perels in an essay first published in the Frankfurter Rundscahu newspaper on December 27, 1986 argued that Nolte's bias could be seen in that Nolte was full of fury against the "permanent status of privilege" that he alleged that those who were descendents of Nazi victims were said to enjoy while at the same time having the utmost sympathy for Hitler and his alleged terror of Bolshevik "Asiatic deeds".
In an essay first published in the Evangelische Kommentare magazine in February 1987, Geiss called Nolteâ€™s claim about Weizmannâ€™s letter being a Jewish â€śdeclaration of warâ€ť as â€śhair-raising nonsenseâ€ť Nolte's admirer Joachim Fest was later to argue in his "Postscript" of April 21, 1987 that Nolte was motivated by purely scholarly concerns, and was only attempting the "historicization" of National Socialism that Martin Broszat called for Fest wrote that in his view:
"In its substance, the dispute was initiated by Ernst Nolte's question whether Hitler's monstrous will to annihilate the Jews, judging from its origin, came from early Viennese impressions or, what is more likely, from later Munich experiences, that is, whether Hitler was an originator or simply being reactive. Despite all the consequences that arouse from his answer, Nolte's question was in fact a purely academic exercise. The conclusions would probably not have caused as much controversy if they had been accompanied by special circumstances"
Fest accused Habermas and his allies of attempting to silence those whose views they disliked. Fest wrote that:
"Standing on the one side, to simplify, are those who want to preserve Hitler and National Socialism as a kind of antimyth that can be used for political intentions-the theory of a conspiracy on the part of the political right, to which Nolte, StĂĽrmer, and Hillgruber are linked. This becomes evident in the defamatory statements and the expansion of the dispute to the historical museums. It is doubtless no coincidence that Habermas, JĂ¤ckel, Mommsen and others become involved in the recent election campaign in this way. Many statements in favor of the pluralistic character of scholarship and in favor of an ethos representing a republic of learned men reveal themselves as merely empty phrases to the person who has an overview of these things"
Fest argued that:
"Strictly speaking, Nolte did nothing but take up the suggestion by Broszat and others that National Socialism be historicized. It was clear to anyone with any sense for the topic-and Broszat's opening article made it evident that he too had recognized it-that this transition would be beset with difficulties. But that the most incensed objections would come from those who from the beginning were the spokesmen of historicization-this was no less surprising then the recognition that yesterday's enlighteners are today's intolerant mythologues, people who want to forbid questions from being posed"
Hans-Ulrich Wehler was so enraged by Nolte's views that he wrote a book Entsorgung der deutschen Vergangenheit?: ein polemischer Essay zum "Historikerstreit" (Exoneration of the German Past?: A Polemical Essay about the "Historikerstreit") in 1988, a lengthy polemic attacking every aspect of Nolte's views. Wehler described the Historikerstreit as a "political struggle" for the historical understanding of the German past between "a cartel devoted to repressing and excusing" the memory of the Nazi years, of which Nolte was the chief member, against "the representatives of a liberal-democratic politics, of an enlightened, self-critical position, of a rationality which is critical of ideology". In another essay, Wehler declared:
"Hitler supposedly believed in the reality of this danger [of the Soviet Union threatening Germany]. Moreover, his dread of being overwhelmed by the "Asiatic" Bolsheviks was allegedly the prime motivating force behind his policies and personality. Nolte restated his axiom-one which perhaps reflects the naivetĂ© of an historian who has devoted his life's work to the power of ideologies-in a blunter, more pointed form than ever before in the fall of 1987: "To view Hitler as a German politician rather the anti-Lenin", he reproved hundreds of knowledgeable historians, "strikes me as a proof of a regrettable myopia and narrowness". Starting from his premise, and falling under the sway of the very fears and phobias he himself has played up, Nolte once again defiantly insisted: "If Hitler was a person fundamentally driven by fears-by among others a fear of the "rat cage"-and if this renders "his motivations more understandable", then the war against the Soviet Union was not only "the greatest war ever of destruction and enslavement", but also "in spite of this, objectively speaking [!], a preemptive war".
While Nolte may like to describe his motive as the purely scientific interest of (as he likes to put it) a solitary thinker in search of a supposedly more complex, more accurate understanding of the years between 1917 and 1945, a number of political implications are clearly present. The basic tendency of Nolte's reinterpretation is to unburden German history by relativizing the Holocaust. Nolte claims the Nazi mass murder was modeled on and instigated by the excesses of the Russian Revolution, the Stalinist regime and the Gulag; that it countered this "Asiatic" danger by imitating and surpassing it. This new localization of "absolute evil" in Nolte's political theology leads away from Hitler, National Socialism and German history. It shifts the real origins of fascist barbarism onto the Marxist postulate-and the Bolshevik practice-of extermination. Once again the classic mechanism of locating the source of evil outside one's own history is at work. The German war of destruction certainly remains inhuman. But because its roots supposedly lie in the Marxist theory and Bolshevik class warfare, the German perpetrator is now seen to be reacting in defensive, understandable panic to the "original" inhumanity of the East. From there, it is only one more step to the astounding conclusion that Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 and the war of conquest and extermination that followed were "objectively speaking"-one can hardly believe one's eyes-"a preemptive war".
Perhaps the most extreme response to Nolte's thesis occurred on 9 February 1988, when his car was burned by leftist extremists in Berlin. Nolte called the case of arson "terrorism", and maintained that the attack was inspired by his opponents in the Historikerstreit.
Criticism from abroad came from Ian Kershaw, Gordon A. Craig, Richard J. Evans, Saul FriedlĂ¤nder, John Lukacs, Michael Marrus, and Timothy Mason. Anson Rabinbach accused Nolte of attempting to erase German guilt for the Holocaust. Ian Kershaw wrote that Nolte was claiming that the Jews had essentially brought the Holocaust down on themselves, and were the authors of their own misfortunes in the Shoah. Elie Wiesel called Nolte, together with Klaus Hildebrand, Andreas Hillgruber, and Michael StĂĽrmer, one of the â€śfour banditsâ€ť of German historiography. American historian Jerry Muller called Nolte an anti-Semitic for suggesting that the only reason people kept the memory of the Nazi past alive was to place those descended from the victims of National Socialism in a "privileged" position. Muller accused Nolte of writing "pseudo-history" in Der EuropĂ¤ische BĂĽrgrkrieg. Deborah Lipstadt argued in her 1993 book Denying the Holocaust that there was no comparison between the Khmer Rouge genocide and the Holocaust because the former had emerged as part of the aftermath of a war that destroyed Cambodia whereas the latter was part of a systematic attempt at genocide committed only because of ideological beliefs. The American historian Charles Maier rejected Nolteâ€™s claims regarding the moral equivalence of the Holocaust and Soviet terror on the grounds that while the latter was extremely brutal, it did not seek the physical annihilation of an entire people as a state policy. The American historian Donald McKale blasted Nolte together with Andreas Hillgruber for their statements that the Allied strategic bombing offensives were just as much acts of genocide as was the Holocaust, writing that that was just the sort of nonsense one would expect from Nazi apologists like Nolte and Hillgruber.
In response to Nolte's article "Between Myth and Revisionism", Israeli historian Otto Dov Kulka in a letter to Nolte on November 24, 1985 criticized Nolte for abandoning the view that he expressed in The Three Faces of Fascism that the Holocaust was a "singular" event, and asked "Which of the two Ernst Noltes should we regard as the authentic one?" In his reply, Nolte told Kulka to read his up-coming book Der europĂ¤ische BĂĽrgerkrieg to better understand his "shift of emphasis". In a reply of May 16, 1986, Kulka accused Nolte of engaging in a "shift of responsibility" with the Holocaust as a "preventive measure" forced on the Germans by the "Jewish provocation" of Weizmann's letter to Chamberlain. In a letter to Nolte on July 18, 1986, Kulka wrote in defense of the "singularity" of the Holocaust that: "The uniqueness of the National Socialist mass murder of the Jews must be understood in the world-historical sense attributed to it-as an attempt to bring about a change in the course of universal history and its goals. Thus, National Socialist anti-Semitism must be regarded as an expression of perhaps the most dangerous crisis of Western civilization with the potentially gravest consequences for the history of mankind..." In a letter to Kulka on October 22, 1986, Nolte wrote: "If I pursed my thinking from 1963 on, it was in a way along the line that an overexaggerted right can be equally an evil, and that an overexaggerated (historical) evil can again, in some way, be right" (emphasis in the original). Kulka accused Nolte of advancing "monocausal, retrospective explanations of universal history" and of engaging in "totalitarian thinking".
The Anglo-German historian H.W. Koch accepted Nolteâ€™s argument that Weizmannâ€™s letter to Chamberlain was indeed a â€śJewish declaration of warâ€ť, with the oblivious implication since all Jews were now enemies of the Reich, the Germans were entitled to treat the Jews whatever way they wanted to. From abroad came support from Norberto Ceresole and Alfred-Maurice de Zayas.
In a 1987 essay, the Austrian-born Israeli historian Walter Grab accused Nolte of engaging in an â€śapologiaâ€ť for Nazi Germany. Grab called Nolte's claim that Weizmann's letter to Chamberlain was a "Jewish declaration of war" that justified the Germans "interning" European Jews a "monstrous theses" that was not supported by the facts. Grab accused Nolte of ignoring the economic impoverishment and the total lack of civil rights that the Jewish community in Germany lived under in 1939. Grab wrote that Nolte "mocks" the Jewish victims of National Socialism with his "absolutely infamous" statement that it was Weizmann's with his letter that caused all of the Jewish death and suffering during the Holocaust.
One of Nolte's letters created another controversy in late 1987, when Otto Dov Kulka complained that a letter he wrote to Nolte criticizing his views was edited by Nolte to make him appear rather sympathetic to Nolte's arguments, and then released to the press. In 1987, Nolte wrote an entire book responding to his critics both German and foreign, Das Vergehen der Vergangenheit : Antwort an meine Kritiker im sogenannten Historikerstreit (The Offense Of The Past: Answer At My Critics In The So-Called Historians' Dispute), which again attracted controversy because Nolte reprinted the edited version of Kulka's letters, despite the latter's objections to their inclusion in the book in their truncated form. In Das Vergehen der Vergangenheit, Nolte declared that the Historikerstreit should have begun 25 years earlier because "everything which has provoked such excitement in the course of this dispute had already been spelled out in those books [Nolte's earlier work]" and that "the simple scheme 'perpetrators-victims' reduces the complexities of history too much" (emphasis in the original). When an anthology was published about the Historikerstreit, Nolte objected to the subtitle â€śThe Documentation of the Controversy Concerning the Singularity of the National Socialist Annihilation of the Jewsâ€ť, and instead demanded that the subtitle be â€śDocumentation of the Controversy Surrounding the Preconditions and the Character of the â€śFinal Solution of the Jewish Questionâ€ť. Only when it become clear that the book could not be published, did Nolte yield on his demands.
The Historikerstreit attracted much media attention in West Germany, where historians enjoy a higher public profile than is the case in the English-speaking world, and as a result, both Nolte and his opponents became frequent guests on West German radio and television. The Historikerstreit was characterized by a highly vitriolic tone, with both Nolte and his supporters and their opponents often resorting to vicious personal attacks on each other. In particular, the Historikerstreit marked the first occasion since the â€śFischer Controversyâ€ť of the early 1960s when German historians refused to shake hands with each other. Abroad, the Historikerstreit garnered Nolte some fame, to a somewhat lesser extent. Outside of Austria, foreign press coverage tended to be hostile towards Nolte, with the fiercest criticism coming from Israel. In 1988, an entire edition of Yad Vashem Studies, the journal of the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem, was devoted to the Historikerstreit. A year earlier, in 1987, concerns about some of the claims being made by both sides in the Historikerstreit led to a conference being called in London that was attended by some of the leading British, American, Israeli, and German specialists in both Soviet and German history. Among those who attended included Sir Ralf Dahrendorf, Sir Isaiah Berlin, Lord Weidenfeld, Harold James, Carol Gluck, Lord Annan, Fritz Stern, Gordon A. Craig, Robert Conquest, Samuel Ettinger, JĂĽrgen Kocka, Sir Nicholas Henderson, Eberhard JĂ¤ckel, Hans Mommsen, Michael StĂĽrmer, Joachim Fest, Hagen Schulze, Christian Maier, Wolfgang Mommsen, Hugh Trevor-Roper, Saul FriedlĂ¤nder, Felix Gilbert, Norman Stone, Julius Schoeps, and Charles S. Maier. Nolte was invited to the conference, but declined, citing scheduling conflicts.
Nolteâ€™s opponents have expressed intense disagreement with his evidence for a Jewish "war" on Germany. They argue that Weizmannâ€™s letter to Chamberlain was written in his capacity as head of the World Zionist Organization, not on behalf of the entire Jewish people of the world and that Nolteâ€™s views are based on the spurious idea that all Jews comprised a distinct "nationality" who take their marching orders from Jewish organizations. Lipstadt criticized Nolteâ€™s thesis on the grounds that first, Weizmann had no army in 1939 to wage â€śwarâ€ť against Germany with, and that Nolte had totally ignored the previous six years of Nazi persecution of the Jews, making it sound like as if Weizmann had struck a low blow against Germany for no apparent reason in 1939. Furthermore, it has been contended that there is no evidence that Hitler ever heard of Weizmannâ€™s letter to Chamberlain, and that it was natural for Weizmann, a British Jew, to declare his support for his country against a fiercely anti-Semitic regime.
As for Kaufmanâ€™s book, the Nazis were certainly aware of it; during the war, Germany Must Perish! was translated into German and widely promoted as an example of what Jews thought about Germans. But most historians contended that the radical views of one American Jew can in no way be taken as typical of what all European Jews were thinking, and to put the call for the forced sterilization of Germans that was never carried out as Allied policy in the same league as the Holocaust shows a profound moral insensitivity. Moreover, it has been shown that there is no indication that Kaufman's book ever played any role in the decision-making process that led to the Holocaust. Finally, it has been contended that Nolte's comparison of the Holocaust with the internment of Japanese Americans is false, because the Jews of Europe were sent to death camps rather than internment camps, and the U.S. government did not attempt to exterminate the Japanese Americans in the internment camps.
Because of the views that he expressed during the Historikerstreit, Nolte has often been accused of being a Nazi apologist and an anti-Semitic. Nolte has always vehemently denied these charges, and has insisted that he is a neo-liberal in his politics. Nolte is by his own admission an intense German nationalist and his stated goal is to restore the sense of pride in their history that he feels the Germans have been missing since 1945. In a September 1987 interview, Nolte stated that the Germans were "once the master race (Herrenvolk), now they are the guilty race (SĂĽndervolk). The one is merely an inversion of the other". Nolte went to declare that he was working towards creating a situation where no one "will demand of the Germans as Germans that they declare themselves guilty". Above all, Nolte is opposed to any sort of Sonderweg interpretation of German history. In Nolte's view, the roots of National Socialism are only to be understood as a "reaction born out of the anxiety of the annihilating occurrence of the Russian Revolution". In Nolte's opinion, National Socialism lacked any connection with pre-1917 German history. Likewise, Nolte has criticized those who sought like William L. Shirer and A. J. P. Taylor to equate Deutschum (Germanism) with National Socialism as guilty of anti-German racism. Nolteâ€™s defenders have pointed to numerous statements on his part condemning Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Nolteâ€™s critics have acknowledged these statements, but go on to claim that Nolte makes arguments that can be construed as being sympathetic to the Nazis such as his defence of the Commissar Order as a legitimate military order, his argument that the Einsatzgruppen massacres of Soviet Jews were a reasonable "preventive security" response to partisan attacks, his statements citing Viktor Suvorov that Operation Barbarossa was an "preventive war" forced on Hitler by an alleged impeding Soviet attack, his claim that too much scholarship on the Shoah has been done by "biased" Jewish historians or his use of Nazi-era language such as Nolte's practice of referring to the Red Army soldiers in World War II as â€śAsiatic hordesâ€ť. Evans described Nolte's methods in first criticizing and then offering a justification for the Third Reich as a similar methodology to Edward Gibbon, who in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire wrote that the rise of Christianty was due to the work of God, and that the historian could only explain the "secondary causes", which Gibbon depricted as moral rot, hatred, degeneracy, and greed, a collection of "secondary causes" which Evans noted completely undermined the first statement Many British and American historians have been angered by Nolte's statements in the Historikerstreit that there was no moral difference between British "area bombing" of German cities in World War II, American war crimes in the Vietnam War and Nazi war crimes. Nolte called the destruction of Hamburg by the RAF an example of the British determination to "annihilate" the German population, which was in no way morally different from the Holocaust. Nolte argued that the British "area bombing" was an act of genocide against the German people, and was not a response to German bombing of Britain. Nolte went to argue that "the conduct of war by the Soviet Union was characterized by genocide to an even greater degree than that of England was".
In his 1991 book Geschichtsdenken im 20. Jahrhundert (Historical Thinking In the 20th Century), Nolte asserted that the 20th century produced three â€śextraordinary statesâ€ť, namely Germany, the Soviet Union, and Israel. Nolte claimed that all three were â€śabnormal onceâ€ť, but whereas the Soviet Union and Germany were now â€śnormalâ€ť states, Israel was still an â€śabnormalâ€ť state and was, in Nolteâ€™s view, in danger of becoming a fascist state that might commit genocide against the Palestinians.
Between 1995â€“1997, Nolte via a series of letters had a debate with French historian FranĂ§ois Furet over the relationship between fascism and Communism. The debate had been started by a footnote in Furet's book, Le PassĂ© d'une illusion (The Passing of an Illusion), in which Furet had expressed his disagreement with Nolte's theories about Communism and fascism, leading Nolte to write a letter of protest to Furet. Furet argued that both ideologies were Totalitarian twins that shared the same origins, while Nolte repeated his views of there having been a kausale Nexus (causal nexus) with fascism as a response to Communism. After Furet's death, the letters were subsequently published in a book in France in 1998 as Fascisme et Communisme: Ă©change Ă©pistolaire avec l'historien allemand Ernst Nolte prolongeant la Historikerstreit (Fascism and Communism: Epistolary Exchanges With The German Historian Ernst Nolte Extending The Historikerstreit), which was translated into English as Fascism and Communism in 2001. Through charging Stalin was guilty of great crimes, Furet wrote to Nolte that he did not feel that there was a precise parallel in the manner suggested by Nolte between the Holocaust and dekulakization. Furet contended that though the history of fascism and Communism was essential to European history, there were singular events associated with each movement which differentiated them, contrary to Nolte's conception of them as ultimately comparable.
Nolte often contributes Feulliton (opinion pieces) to German newspapers such as Die Welt and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Nolte has often described as one of the "most brooding, German thinkers about history". A major theme of Nolte's essays are the historical consciousness and self-understanding of the Germans. Nolte called the Federal Republic "a state born of contemporary history, a product of catastrophe erected to overcome catastrophe" In a feuilleton piece published in Die Welt entitled â€śAuschwitz als Argument in der Geschichtstheorieâ€ť (Auschwitz As An Argument In The Historical Theory) on 2 January 1999, Nolte criticized his old enemy Richard J. Evansâ€™s book In The Defence of History, on the grounds that aspects of the Holocaust are open to revision, and that therefore, Evansâ€™s attacks on Nolte during the Historikerstreit were unwarranted. Specifically, citing the American political scientist Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Nolte argued that the effectiveness of the gas chambers as killing instruments was exaggerated, that more Jews were killed by mass shooting than by mass gassing, that the number of people killed at Auschwitz was overestimated after 1945 (with about 1 million rather than 4 million being killed there), that Binjamin Wilkomirski's memoir of Auschwitz was a forgery and accordingly, the history of the Holocaust is open to reinterpretation. In a response in October 1999, Evans stated that he agreed with Nolte on these points, and argued that this form of argument was an attempt by Nolte to avoid responding to his criticism of him during the Historikerstreit.
On 4 June 2000, Nolte was awarded the Konrad Adenauer Prize. The award attracted considerable public debate. It was presented to Nolte by Horst MĂ¶ller, the Director of the Institut fĂĽr Zeitgeschichte (Institute for Contemporary History), who praised Nolteâ€™s scholarship while trying to steer clear of Nolteâ€™s more controversial claims. In his acceptance speech, Nolte commented that "We should leave behind the view that the opposite of National Socialist goals is always good and right", while suggesting that excessive "Jewish" support for Communism furnished the Nazis with "rational reasons" for their anti-Semitism.
In August 2000, Nolte wrote a favorable review in the Die Woche newspaper of Norman Finkelsteinâ€™s book The Holocaust Industry, claiming Finkelsteinâ€™s book buttressed his claim that the memory of the Holocaust had been used by Jewish groups for their own reasons. Nolteâ€™s positive review of The Holocaust Industry may had been related to Finkelsteinâ€™s endorsement in his book of Nolteâ€™s demand first made during the Historikerstreit for the â€śnormalizationâ€ť of the German past
In a 2004 book review of Richard Overy's monograph The Dictators, the American historian Anne Applebaum argued that it was a valid intellectual exercise to compare the German and Soviet dictatorships, but complained that Nolteâ€™s arguments had needlessly discredited the comparative approach. In response, in 2005, Nolte was defended against Applelbaum's charge of attempting to justify the Holocaust by Paul Gottfried, who contended that Nolte had merely argued that the Nazis had made a link in their own minds between Jews and Communists, and the Holocaust was an attempt by the Nazis to eliminate the most likely supporters of Communism. In a June 2006 interview with the Die Welt newspaper echoing theories he first expressed in The Three Faces of Fascism, Nolte identified Islamic fundamentalism as a "third variant", after Communism and National Socialism, of the â€śresistance to transcendenceâ€ť, expressing regret that he will not have enough time to fully study Islamic fascism In the same interview, Nolte said that he not forgive Augstein for calling Hillgruber a â€śconstitutional Naziâ€ť during the Historikerstreit, and claimed that Wehler had helped to hound Hillgruber to his death in 1989. Nolte ended the interview by calling himself a philosopher , not a historian, and argued the hostile reactions he often encountered from historians was due to his status as a philosopher who wrote history.
In his 2005 book, The Russian Roots of Nazism: White Ă‰migrĂ©s And The Making of National Socialism, the American historian Michael Kellogg argued that there were two extremes of thinking about the origins of National Socialism with Nolte arguing for a â€ścausal nexusâ€ť between Communism in Russia and Nazism in Germany while the other extreme was represented by the American historian Daniel Goldhagen's theories about a unique German culture of â€śeliminationistâ€ť anti-Semitism Kellogg argued that his book represented an attempt at a middle position between Nolteâ€™s and Goldhagenâ€™s claims, but that he leaned closer to Nolteâ€™s position, contending that anti-Bolshevik and anti-Semitic Russian Ă©migrĂ©s played a key and underappreciated role in the 1920s in the development of Nazi ideology with their influence on Nazi thinking about Judeo-Bolshevism being especially notable
In his 2006 book No Simple Victory, the British historian Norman Davies lends Nolte's theories support by writing:
"Ten years later, in The European Civil War (1987), the German historian Ernst Nolte (b. 1923) brought ideology into the equation. The First World War had spawned the Bolshevik Revolution, he maintained, and fascism should be seen as a "counter-revolution" against Communism. More pointedly, since fascism followed Communism chronologically, he argued that some of the Nazis' political techniques and practices had been copied from those of the Soviet Union. Needless to say, such propositions were thought anathema by leftists who believe that fascism was an original and unparallled evil. At one point Nolte was "disinvited" from giving an lecture at Oxford university, then re-invited by a committee headed by Sir Isaiah Berlin...At the time he published The European Civil War, Ernst Nolte wrote an explanatory article entitled "The Past Which Will Not Pass On', in which he described fascism as a "defensive reaction" to Communism. The word "defensive" was a red rag to the red bulls. It was bad enough for Nolte to have suggested earlier that fascism was a reaction to Communism. But to state that Communism had been the aggressor and fascism the defender was too much to bear...The explosion was immediate. Habermas and other left-wingers went into action with a flurry of articles and letter-writing. They claimed that the uniqueness of the Holocaust was under attack. They disliked comparisons, particulary between the tragedy of the Jews and the misfortuens of the Germans. And they vehemently objected to the idea that the Holocaust could in any way be seen as a reaction to the misdeeds of the Stalinists"
Davies concluded that revealations made after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe after 1989-91 about Soviet crimes had discredited Nolte's critics
Nolte's assertion that Nazi Germany was a "mirror image" of the Soviet Union has also received support from several other more recent scholars, notably from StĂ©phane Courtois, who argues both that Nazi Germany adopted its system of repression from Soviet methods, and that Soviet genocides of peoples living in the Caucasus and exterminations of large social groups in Russia were not very much different from similar policies by Nazis:
"The deliberate starvation of a child of a Ukrainian kulak as a result of the famine caused by Stalin's regime "is equal to" the starvation of a Jewish child in the Warsaw ghetto as a result of the famine caused by the Nazi regime".
Courtois wrote the preface to the French edition of The European Civil War, that was published in 2000.
|Professor of Modern History at the University of Marburg
|Professor of Modern History at the Free University of Berlin
|Awards and achievements|
Wolfgang SchĂ¤uble, freedom
|Konrad Adenauer Prize, science
(with Otfried PreuĂźler, literature)
Peter Maffay, culture