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reinforced the original motivations and goals of these policies, highlighting the
increasingly important integration of women into the workforce. In the Third
Reich, the most striking effect of the war was to make it increasingly dif¬cult
actually to implement the coercive population policies directed at the general
population (as opposed to more easily identi¬able enemy groups). In neither
case did policies geared toward increasing the birthrate actually work.

All this leaves us with the puzzling question of whether Nazi and Stalinist
regimes had more in common with each other in the sphere of reproductive
policies than one or the other of them shared with nontotalitarian regimes.
The question cannot be fully answered here, but it must remain in the back of
our minds as we attempt to draw conclusions from this comparative analysis.
One cannot argue, for instance, that totalitarian systems of government nec-
essarily lead to an intense concern with population policy and/or reproductive
policy. While the Nazi case would seem to bear out a connection with total-
itarian/utopian ideology and intensi¬ed concern with issues of reproduction,
closer examination reveals that the concern with marriage and reproduction
and the increasingly genocidal nature of Nazi population policy had more to
do with the speci¬c racial ideology of the regime than with any peculiarly total-
itarian feature. The comparison with the Soviet Union bears out the problems
with totalitarianism as an explanatory model in this particular case. It is also
only with attention to racial policy that we can understand the seeming contra-
dictions between antinatalist and pronatalist tendencies in Nazi reproductive
In the Soviet case, we ¬nd that reproductive policies had much in common
with other contemporary examples. Like governments throughout Europe in
the interwar period, the Soviet government utilized a combination of propa-
ganda, incentives, and (beginning in 1936) a ban on abortion to try to raise
the birthrate. While the rhetoric of Soviet leaders also “ as in the Nazi case “
depicted reproduction as a matter of each citizen™s duty to the state, actual
policies remained rather innocuous in comparison with their Nazi counter-
parts. The Soviet government in no way sought to limit the reproduction of
any of its citizens and rejected the eugenic sterilizations practiced not only
in Nazi Germany but in Scandinavian countries and the United States. Soviet
reproductive policies more closely resembled those of the Catholic countries

BA-B “ R43 II/722, Bl. 206“9. See order in Ministerialblatt des Reichs und Preussischen

Ministerium des Innern, Ausgabe B, Nr. 37, 6 Sept. 1944.
Utopian Biopolitics 129

of Western Europe “ France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal “ which also sought
to raise the birthrate without limiting the reproduction of those members of
society deemed “un¬t.”
Our conclusions on the issue of the uniqueness of these two cases and the
degree to which this particular national comparison is useful are at an admit-
tedly very preliminary stage, but our account certainly suggests the importance
of the differences in ideology in shaping reproductive policies in each case.
Different ideological goals crucially in¬‚uenced policy implementation in each
case. It mattered, in other words, that Nazis were envisioning a semimystical,
racially pure, and eternal Volkskorper when they set out to transform how indi-
viduals made reproductive and sexual decisions, while the Soviets were chie¬‚y
concerned with increasing labor power for the task of socialist construction.
Finally, one might add that much more thought must be given to the com-
parison of how the respective populations responded to reproductive policies.
We have hinted here that both regimes made an effort to depict these policies
(even some of the more coercive measures) as positive, legitimizing policies of
national cohesion. Coercion was often counteracted or ameliorated through
various ¬nancial or symbolic rewards, and, at least in the German case, coer-
cive measures directed toward clearly de¬ned “outsiders” served to highlight
the insider status of those not affected. But we need to think more about how
successful this integrative aspect of reproductive policy was in each case. The
Third Reich, despite economic constraints, had more money to give to these
programs. On the other hand, the Soviets™ acceptance of women™s dual func-
tion as mothers and workers was at least a realistic appraisal of actual social
circumstances and avoided the kind of contradiction between the ideology of
feminine domesticity and the reality of widespread female employment faced
by Nazi policymakers. Since neither of these regimes succeeded in substantially
in¬‚uencing birthrates, we must go beyond the statistical analyses of traditional
demographic history and integrate sociohistorical and sociocultural perspec-
tives to begin to ¬nd answers to such questions.
part ii


State Violence “ Violent Societies

Christian Gerlach and Nicolas Werth

comparing mass violence “ approach and questions
The academic book market certainly does not lack scholarly analyses compar-
ing Nazism and Stalinism, and, many of these analyses address the issue of
mass violence, the topic of this essay.1 The particularly sensitive nature of our
topic and the controversial outcomes of past attempts to compare German and
Soviet violence require some speci¬c methodological re¬‚ections. On this basis,
we try to contribute to a new and perhaps more conciliatory approach to the
comparative history of violence.
Most existing studies on mass violence focus on the Soviet and German camp
systems, usually reducing the great variety of camps to a select “representative”
few on each side “ namely, the concentration camps and the Gulag.2 Operated
by the SS and the NKVD, respectively, these camp systems appear ideally suited
for characterizing “ even imagining “ the “totalitarian” state. The focus of these
studies is primarily on the methods of violence (again, reduced to a select few
examples), the intensity or level of violence,3 the role of the state machinery in
such violence, and the ideology upon which each respective state was based.

Ian Kershaw and Moshe Lewin, eds., Stalinism and Nazism: Dictatorships in Comparison (Cam-

bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Henry Rousso and Nicolas Werth, eds., Stalinisme
et Nazisme: Histoire et Memoires comparees (Brussels: Complexe, 1999); Dittmar Dahlmann
and Gerhard Hirschfeld, eds., Lager, Zwangsarbeit, Deportation und Verfolgung: Dimensionen
der Massenverbrechen in der Sowjetunion und in Deutschland 1933 bis 1945 (Essen: Klartext,
2 Gerhard Armanski, Maschinen des Terrors: Das Lager (KZ und GULAG) in der Moderne

(Munster: Westfalisches Dampfboot, 1993).
¨ ¨
3 Among the more recent approaches Stephen Wheatcroft, “Ausmaß und Wesen der deutschen

und sowjetischen Massentotungen und Repressionen,” in Lager, Zwangsarbeit, Deportation und
Verfolgung: Dimensionen der Massenverbrechen in der Sowjetunion und in Deutschland 1933
bis 1945, eds. Ditmar Dahlmann and Gerhard Hirschfeld (Essen: Klartext, 1999), 67“109.
We are grateful to Ulrike Goeken-Haidl, Peter Klein, and Dieter Pohl for their suggestions and
support in searching material for this contribution.

Christian Gerlach and Nicolas Werth

For a long time, little scholarly attention was paid to responsible perpe-
trators and functionaries. As many Soviet archival records have only recently
become available, research on German perpetrators is somewhat more fully
developed. Yet, even here, our concrete knowledge about perpetrator groups
and individuals is sketchy, fragmentary, unbalanced, and still without a solid,
agreed-upon theoretical framework.4 Furthermore, certain subject areas have
been woefully neglected: little research has been conducted on German mass
exterminations outside the Jewish Holocaust and the reasonably well-explored
“euthanasia” program, and an overall analysis of the different German policies
of extermination within one framework remains to be undertaken.
Recent research into Nazi crimes, however, suggests a potentially prof-
itable alternative approach to the comparison of German and Soviet violence.
Four features are particularly characteristic of this research: a focus upon (1)
the detailed course of events in speci¬c regions, (2) the political context of
events, (3) the ideas and motives of perpetrators, and (4) the utilization of
new empirical bases and greater amounts of documentation. Stressing these
aspects has resulted in an enhanced understanding of and emphasis upon
the realization of violence, rather than upon plans and intentions. In turn,
this has provided us with a more nuanced understanding of the balance of
power and agency between periphery and center. Indeed, it appears that ini-
tiatives from mid- and low-level functionaries and from institutions other than
the SS and the police played signi¬cantly larger roles in the policies of exter-
mination than previously assumed, whether civil administrations, the minis-
terial bureaucracy, the military, or the academic intelligentsia. What is par-
ticularly stunning is not the dominance or importance of any one speci¬c
group, but the diversity of backgrounds, experiences, education, and age groups
Among the topics receiving the most attention are concentration camps,
occupation policy, the German military, and the expropriation and so-called
aryanization of Jewish property. While a variety of approaches have been uti-
lized, it is noteworthy that these studies generally tend to be complementary
rather than contradictory. Gone are the heated controversies of old. Histori-
ans have sought to argue “beyond [the theoretical schools of] intentionalism
and functionalism,” to quote Christopher Browning.5 The new research is not
about discerning the one “true” explanation; it is about elements of explana-
tion. Rather than intellectual confusion, it re¬‚ects a new sense of complexity

Gerhard Paul, ed., Die Tater der Shoah: Fanatische Nationalsozialisten oder ganz normale

Deutsche, Dachauer Symposien zur Zeitgeschichte (Gottingen: Wallstein, 2002); Christian
Gerlach, ed., Durchschnittstater: Handeln und Motivation (Berlin: Verlag der Buchladen, 2000).
To mention just one stunning fact: a scholarly biography of Reinhard Heydrich does not yet
Christopher Browning, “Beyond Intentionalism and Functionalism: The Decision for the Final

Solution Reconsidered,” in his The Path to Genocide: Essays on Launching the Final Solution
(Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 86“121.
State Violence “ Violent Societies 135

in our understanding of these events. With many non-Nazis among the perse-
cutors, the earlier assumed contradiction between ideologues and pragmatists
in Nazi Germany appears out of date; instead, differences appear to have been
only gradual, and cooperation between authorities more decisive than con¬‚ict.
An increasing number of scholars further accept that ideology and economy
were often mutually reinforcing, rather than opposing, forces. As a result, Ger-
man extermination policies can only be regarded as multicausal. Recognizing
that a complex of alternatively reinforcing and competing factors and argu-
ments resulted in the dynamics of destruction, the long-pursued search for the
prioritarian factor appears unnecessary, even counterproductive. The interplay
among political, economic, military, and other “pragmatic” motives further
questions the distinction often made between “ideological” and “utilitarian”
mass extermination in genocide studies.6 Having begun with an investigation
into the Nazi system, historians of Nazi Germany are on their way to under-
standing an extremely violent society.
The same can be said of historians investigating Stalinism, although an enor-
mous de¬cit of research on perpetrators, supporters, and bystanders remains.
Since the “archival revolution,” Soviet historians have gained a solid under-
standing of the categories, methods, and magnitude of Soviet violence. No
longer is the overall scope or scale of repression debated.7 This factual basis
has produced a more nuanced understanding of Stalinist repression. It now
appears not to have been a single phenomenon, not one uniform policy fueled
exclusively by ideology, but rather a number of interrelated repressive lines
and policies, divergent in scope, character, and intensity; implemented through
legal and extralegal means; and aimed at different categories of “enemies.”
The event historians of Stalinism label “The Great Terror” of 1937“8, for
example, is now best understood as the convergence of several phenomena: the
outcome of tensions among the Stalinist elite and in center-periphery relations,
the culmination of a decade-long radicalization of policies against marginal
and “socially harmful” elements, and the result of a growing and speci¬cally
“Soviet xenophobia” targeting “diaspora nationalities.”8

This is, for example, acknowledged by Roger Smith, “Pluralismus und Humanismus in der

Genozidforschung,” in Genozid und Modern: Strukturen kollektiver Gewalt im 20. Jahrhundert,
eds. Mihran Dabag and Kristin Platt (Opladen: Leske + Budrich, 1998), 309“19, here 310“11
and 313“14, and various contributions in Hans-Lukas Kieser and Dominik J. Schaller, eds., Der
Volkermord an den Armeniern und die Shoah = The Armenian Genocide and the Shoah (Zurich:
Chronos, 2002). But see earlier attempts at typologies like Roger Smith, “Human Destructiveness
and Politics: The Twentieth Century as an Age of Genocide,” in Genocide and the Modern Age:
Etiology and Case Studies of Mass Death, eds. Isidor Wallimann and Michael N. Dobkowski
(New York: Greenwood Press, 1987), 21“41; also Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn, The History
and Sociology of Genocide: Analyses and Case Studies (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press,
1990), 12“32.
Let us remember how important this topic, both particularly vulnerable to political passion and

unamenable to solution, was just a few years ago.
Sheila Fitzpatrick, ed., Stalinism: New Directions (New York: Routledge, 2000).
Christian Gerlach and Nicolas Werth

An empirical and more in-depth approach combined with the necessary “
and now possible “ contextualization of events will lead historians exploring
the repressive and violent dimensions of the Stalinist state and society toward
questions that have already been explored by their colleagues working in the
¬eld of Nazi Germany, speci¬cally, questions concerning
r Decision-making processes (discussed without the proper documentary basis
in the 1970s and 1980s);
r Implementation processes, including the complex interaction between cen-
tral and local levels; “excesses” and foot dragging, if not overt resistance;
and planned operations and improvisation (the example of dekulakization
illustrates this point vividly);9 and
r The public and the secret in the development of repressive policies and mass
violence. On the public side, the instrumentalization of social and ethnic
tensions, “mobilization techniques,” “political theater,” public scapegoating
campaigns, and social participation. On the secret side, police operations and
“hidden transcripts” (for example, transcripts relating to the secret NKVD
operations of 1937“8, not designed for circulation or even discussion among
midrank Party of¬cials).

Comparative analyses allow us to locate parallel and/or contradictory
developments in analogous situations, to explain similarities, and to estab-
lish broader historical patterns or identify alternatives. In so doing, historians
attempt to avoid overspecialization; they seek to widen their horizons in order
to facilitate generalization. Yet, despite the many calls for historical compari-
son, there remains a gap between the great ambitions driving such scholarship
and the resultant work product, a gap often exacerbated by a lack of conceptual
re¬‚ection. In general, comparative studies tend to focus on a select few variables
and factors, to strive toward “macrocausal” explanations, to ask “why” instead
of “how,” to establish limited contexts, and to seek the effective paradox.10
It is precisely complexity, multicausal thinking, and broad contextualization
which are for structural reasons not the strong points of historical compar-
isons. In other words, in a comparison, the very achievements of research in


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