. 38
( 115 .)


POWs was not merely the result of orders descending from a centralized,
state-organized system. The mass rape of German women and girls in 1945
reinforces this notion. As to the persecution of “asocials” and “socially harm-
ful elements,” a small army of police and municipal authorities, public welfare
of¬cials, labor authorities, social scientists, pedagogues, and journalists sup-
ported the regime™s policies: mass arrests; reeducation programs, labor camps,
restrictive labor legislation, and various policies addressing undesired migra-
tion, the “exploitation” of welfare services, and criminality. Such participation
provided a breeding ground for violence and facilitated what often appears
to have been a rather ¬‚uid transition from repression to mass death. Among
the cases discussed here, the Soviet Union™s wartime deportation of entire eth-
nic communities least ¬ts the pattern of public participation; yet, very little
is known about those who took advantage of the situation.151 Certainly, our
knowledge of the mass deportation of Poles and other nationalities by Nazi
Germany and the subsequent settlement of ethnic Germans in their place “ a
process that resulted in many thousands of deaths “ supports the notion that a
multitude of groups within the state bureaucracy and among ordinary citizens
supported these policies.
As arguments encouraging the separation, imprisonment, or removal, in one
form or another, of victim groups often emerged from below, we presume that
the broader population possessed a fair amount of knowledge regarding such
persecutions. However, it is one thing to condone the separation, imprison-
ment, or removal of population groups and quite another to support mass
murder. And, with regard to the latter, it has been much more dif¬cult to
establish precisely how much ordinary citizens knew about the mass murder
of victims or the methods applied. In such highly organized and bureaucratic
societies, the act of killing itself remained a matter for of¬cials and state, party,
and police functionaries. In both systems, there was at least a partial attempt to
shield the broader population from knowledge about mass killings. No death
¬gures were ever published by the contemporary media. Various speeches by
Reichsfuhrer-SS Himmler to killing units in German-occupied Soviet territories
in 1941 and one notorious speech to SS leaders at a meeting in Poznan in 1943
indicate that the work of killing “ and, in particular, that of mass shootings “
was viewed as “hard,” dirty, and mentally distressing work, nothing to talk
about or of which to boast. Himmler told his listeners that “decent” men had
the “obligation” and “moral right” to take on themselves the task of carry-
ing out these cruel, but necessary acts in order to save the next generation
of Germans from having to do it.152 Indeed, the utilization of gas chambers

See the suppositions in Naimark, Fires of Hatred, 106.

For 1941, see Witte et al., Dienstkalender, 195 and 225; quotes from Himmler™s Poznan

speech, 4 October 1943, The Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International
Military Tribunal, vol. 29 (Nuremberg, 1948), 145“6. For a recording excerpt, http://www.
04101943-auszug-5-min-mp3, accessed 7 September 2007.
Christian Gerlach and Nicolas Werth

aimed, in part, to reduce the stress murder placed upon the conscience of
In the Soviet Union, there was a similarly strong tendency to “profession-
alize” violence. The instrumentalization of social tensions among the vari-
ous strata of peasants and the use of violence from below during the process
of “dekulakization” (1930“2) were, in hindsight, considered “counterproduc-
tive.” This experience, however, allowed the Party leadership and the political
police to draw a major lesson: it was more ef¬cient to rely on police records
than on denunciations or the haphazard initiatives of “activists.” Henceforth,
large-scale arrests and deportations were not to be publicized and were to be
organized by “professionals.” As for mass executions, 700,000“800,000 of
which were carried out during the “Great Terror,” they were to be imple-
mented in an “ef¬cient manner” and in total secrecy by NKVD staff. However,
as a number of later investigations into so-called “abuses” and “excesses” of
the ezhovshchina revealed, the seeming arbitrariness of the “execution quotas”
allotted to regional NKVD organizations created an environment that stimu-
lated the use of violence among rank-and-¬le police “ prisoners were tortured,
beaten to death, drowned, and decapitated.153
One dimension that deserves further scholarly examination is the role played
by petitions, complaints, and “public accusations.” Research to date has largely
been limited to political denunciations, especially in the case of Nazi Ger-
many.154 However, it has been shown that “Soviet denunciations were not
addressed exclusively or even mainly to the secret police (NKVD).” Such accu-
sations were sent to a number of agencies within the Communist Party and the
government: to the People™s Commissariat of Workers™ and Peasants™ Inspec-
tion, to high-level politicians, to the public prosecutor™s of¬ce, and, impor-
tantly, to newspapers. The extent to which such “signals from below” con-
tributed to Soviet policymaking needs to be more fully analyzed. Even in
“denunciations” sent directly to the NKVD or KGB, the dominant themes
were not political opposition, but abuse of power, neglect of duties, ¬nancial

GARF, f. 8131, op. 37, d. 145, l. 184; Nicolas Werth, “Repenser la Grande Terreur,” Le

D´ bat 122 (November/December 2002): 116“43.
See Robert Gellately, “Denunciations in Twentieth-Century Germany: Aspects of Self-Policing

in the Third Reich and in the German Democratic Republic,” in Accusatory Practices: Denun-
ciation in Modern European History, 1789“1989, eds. Sheila Fitzpatrick and Robert Gellately
(Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 185“221; idem, The Gestapo
and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy 1933“1945 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990),
129“58; Gisela Diewald-Kerkmann, Politische Denunziation im NS-Regime oder Die kleine
Macht der “Volksgenossen” (Bonn: Dietz, 1995); Bernward Dorner, “Heimtucke”: Das Gesetz
als Waffe. Kontrolle, Abschreckung und Verfolgung in Deutschland 1933“1945 (Paderborn:
Schoningh, 1998); Katrin Dordelmann, Die Macht der Worte: Denunziation im nationalsoziali-
¨ ¨
tischen Koln (Cologne: Emons Verlag, 1997); Rita Wolters, Verrat fur die Volksgemeinschaft:
Denunziantinnen im Dritten Reich (Pfaffenweiler: Centaurus, 1996); Vandana Joshi, Gender
and Power in the Third Reich: Female Denouncers and the Gestapo, 1933“45 (Basingstoke:
Macmillan Palgrave, 2003).
State Violence “ Violent Societies 175

misdemeanors, corruption, and “moral breakdown.”155 If denunciations, gen-
erally speaking, were indeed commonplace and if political accusations, in par-
ticular, were embedded within the same culture of petitioning and complaint,
this suggests that popular political participation and the violence that emerged
were closely intertwined, that they were not mutually exclusive categories, even
while the state remained the principal agent for the organization and carrying
out of violence.
In the strategic use of the most intense forms of persecution and violence,
however, the two regimes greatly differed. In Nazi Germany, for example,
“asocials” were heavily persecuted domestically, but the number of camp
arrests and related deaths never approached the magnitude attained in the
Soviet Union. The same is true for the regime™s political opponents. Despite
the brutal discipline of and the very real violence in¬‚icted by the Nazi regime,
their domestic approach was less confrontational and more integrative than
the Soviet one. If one includes “asocials,” criminals, political opponents, Jews,
Gypsies, the “terminally ill,” and, toward the end of the war, deserters, then
the Nazi regime killed some 500,00 to 600,000 of its own citizens (0.6 to 0.8
percent of the total population). Yet, in areas occupied by the German army,
exclusion rather than inclusion applied. Especially in Eastern Europe, German
violence was extreme. Roughly speaking, some 12 to 14 million noncombat-
ants were killed in occupied Europe during the war (5 to 6 percent of those
under German occupation).156 The largest groups to suffer were European
Jews, Soviet POWs, peasants caught up in antipartisan operations in Eastern
and Southern Europe, and forced laborers deported to Germany. The nature
of these categories underscores the fact that 96 percent of all victims of Nazi
violence were non-German.
In contrast, Soviet mass violence was directed more internally than exter-
nally. In part, it could be argued that Soviet violence was “developmental,”
as Mark Levene argues for “genocide” in general;157 in the USSR it had to do
with collectivization and industrialization. Certainly, there were massive depor-
tations from territories annexed by the Soviet Union “ ¬rst of elites (1939“41)
and later of hundreds of thousands of forced workers (toward the end of the

See Sheila Fitzpatrick, “Signals from Below: Soviet Letters of Denunciation of the 1930s,”

and Vladimir A. Kozlov, “Denunciation and its Functions in Soviet Governance: A Study of
Denunciations and their Bureaucratic Handling from Soviet Police Archives, 1944“1953,” in
Fitzpatrick and Gellately, Accusatory Practices, 85“120 and 121“52 (quotes on 88 and 125).
A similar estimate on slightly different assumptions is given by Dieter Pohl, Verfolgung

und Massenmord in der NS-Zeit 1933“1945 (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft,
2003), 153.
“Modern genocide, in conclusion, is developmental.” Mark Levene, “Creating a Modern ˜Zone

of Genocide™: The Impact of Nation- and State Formation on Eastern Anatolia, 1878“1923,”
Holocaust and Genocide Studies 12, no. 3 (1998): 393“433, here 419“20. It could be argued
that Nazi German violence, too, had a “developmental” aspect: much of it occurred in relation
to the attempt to transform occupied countries into more productive or surplus-generating
Christian Gerlach and Nicolas Werth

Second World War). Many of those deported perished or were executed, espe-
cially during the ¬rst wave of deportations. However, the violence reserved
for “non-Soviets” was no harsher than that which was reserved for Soviet
citizens. And it occurred on a much smaller scale. Between the early 1930s
and 1953, it is estimated that 1.0 to 1.2 million Soviet citizens were executed,
most of them on the basis of extrajudicial sentences (75 percent of these exe-
cutions were carried out in the eighteen months between July 1937 and the
end of 1938). Of the over 6 million Soviet citizens deported, approximately
1.5 million experienced an untimely death. Between 16 and 17 million Soviet
citizens were subject to imprisonment or forced labor; 10 percent of them died
in the camps.158 Only a minority of them, some 3 million in total, were ever
convicted of alleged “counterrevolutionary” activities. The great majority of
those sent to camp “ nearly 80 percent “ were products of the general crimi-
nalization of small offenses and social insubordination that resulted from the
regime™s attempts to “restore order” to an unsettled, undisciplined, and disor-
derly “quicksand society.” The largest contingents of prisoners were accused of
petty theft, “speculation,” “work desertion,” “hooliganism,” and other forms
of “socially dangerous behavior.” Finally, one should not forget to mention
one particularly extreme form of mass violence, that which was directed against
large parts of the collectivized kolkhoz peasantry in 1932 and 1933. The con-
sequence of this violence was the last great peacetime European famine and
millions of starved victims.
German and Soviet violence differed in another fundamental way, as well:
in all of the cases referenced above, as well as in many others, plans existed in
Germany “ plans that were often widely distributed and shared “ for a scale
of violence that far exceeded anything that actually transpired. While some
50,000 “asocials” may have been killed in Nazi Germany, experts estimated
that 1.0 to 1.6 million “asocials” would ultimately need to be eliminated.
Similarly, while more than 1 million people were resettled in the early stages
of germanizing Eastern Europe and other German-annexed territories, plans
required that at least 30 million more be resettled. Again: 3 million Soviet
POWs died in German captivity, but there were plans to allow tens of millions
of Soviet citizens, including POWs, to starve to death within a year following
the German attack on the USSR. And, these are not the only cases: 11 million
Jews were targeted for death in the Holocaust (6 million were killed); millions of
additional foreign workers would have been deported to Germany, if conditions
allowed; and, utopian military plans would only have spread the violence
further. The planned magnitude of absolute violence “ beyond the dimension
of violence and death actually in¬‚icted upon Europe “ made Nazi Germany a
unique threat.

Iu.A Poliakov and V.B. Zhiromskaia, Naselenie Rossii v XX veke, Part 1, 320; Part 2, 195

(Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2000, 2001).
State Violence “ Violent Societies 177

This is not to suggest that Nazi violence was solely the product of a set
of detailed, long-term plans directly related to the establishment of an Aryan
utopia. The very fact that a number of the Nazis™ more ambitious plans for mur-
der did not develop far beyond the stage of theory demonstrates that obstacles
and/or opposition to their realization existed. Secondly, it needs to be remem-
bered that violence was often diverted into unexpected directions “ or, at least,
into directions not implicit in Nazi ideology. The passive resistance of Soviet
citizens and their spirited determination to survive, for example, foiled Nazi
Germany™s original plans to starve large segments of that population to death.
This popular resistance, in turn, led to a series of ad hoc and hastily planned
efforts to starve “ or otherwise kill “ selected vulnerable population groups,
above all Soviet POWs “un¬t for work.” “Short-term plans” (Nahplane) to
settle ethnic Germans in western Poland and to resettle over a million evicted
Poles in the General Government also largely failed. The blocking of such
limited resettlements, of course, was an inauspicious omen for the longer-term
implementation of Generalplan Ost. These failures substantially contributed to
the genesis of the mass murder of Jews and disabled hospital inmates in these
regions. It was also only the failure of the campaign in the East that led to a
labor policy completely in contradiction with the tenets of Nazi racism: the
utilization of millions of foreign workers in the Reich, the bulk of whom were
Poles and Soviet citizens.
In other words, in Nazi Germany, too, internal and external resistance lim-
ited the regime™s ability to realize its murderous plans. Sometimes, the threat of
potential resistance alone was suf¬cient to curtail violence, as was the case with
the “euthanasia” program and with actions taken against so-called “half-Jews”
and “quarter-Jews.” Until recently, researchers have downplayed such dissent
and resistance; however, it is likely to become a more prominent feature in
future research efforts, once the factual and analytical bases for Nazi violence
have been established. Some German policies of extermination were delayed
or limited because of the war situation, while others were aggravated.
In the Soviet Union, too, authorities penned plenty of plans relating to the
arrest, deportation, or execution of “kulaks,” “socially harmful elements,”
“anti-Soviet elements,” and people belonging to “enemy nations.” OGPU
Order number 44/21 (February 2, 1930), for example, provided each indi-
vidual region with round-number quotas for the number of kulaks of the ¬rst
category to be arrested and sent to camps and of kulaks of the second category
to be deported. The increased quotas provided in NKVD Order 00447 (July 30,
1937)159 are characteristic of the “¬gure mania” that permeated every sector of
Soviet economic, political, and social life during the 1930s. These ¬gures re¬‚ect
both the illusion of planning and the Soviet obsession with social engineering.
From its inception, the “plani¬cation” of mass violence revealed its limi-
tations. For example, far from being a “planned” operation based on “¬rm

Cf. ftn. 10.
Christian Gerlach and Nicolas Werth

quotas,” as OGPU leaders had hoped, “dekulakization” descended into a
chaotic and largely uncontrolled process. Deportation operations were com-
pletely uncoordinated between source and destination, often resulting in the
unprecedented and deadly phenomenon known as “abandonment in depor-
tation.”160 Over a year passed before a special commission, directly attached
to the Politburo, ordered a “stop [to] the dreadful mess in the deportation of
manpower.” By that point, initial dekulakization quotas had been overful¬lled
threefold and authorities were forced to deal with over 1.5 million deportees.
The emergence of an internal dynamic that repeatedly resulted in the “over-


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( 115 .)