By Roger Cohen
The New York Times, January 30, 2012
"The 'double genocide' wars that pit Stalin's crimes against Hitler's are raging in wide swathes of Europe and every now and again along comes a gust from the past to stoke them. The 70th anniversary this month of the Nazi adoption at Wannsee of annihilation plans for the Jews provided one such squall. Yes, the past is still treacherous beneath Europe's calm surface. Memory swirls untamed in the parts of the Continent that the American historian Timothy Snyder calls 'Bloodlands,' the slaughterhouses from Lithuania to Ukraine that Hitler and Stalin subjected to their murderous whim. To mark the Wannsee anniversary, over 70 European Parliament members, including 8 Lithuanians, signed a declaration objecting to 'attempts to obfuscate the Holocaust by diminishing its uniqueness and deeming it to be equal, similar or equivalent to Communism.' It also rejected efforts to rewrite European school history books 'to reflect the notion of "double genocide."' All of this was too much for the Lithuanian foreign minister, Audronius Azubalis, a conservative, who blasted the Lithuanian social democrat signatories as 'pathetic.' His spokeswoman declared that the only difference between Hitler and Stalin was the length of their mustaches. She said legal qualifications of the crimes they committed were 'absolutely the same': genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Azubalis's outburst reflected the rancor in states of the former Soviet Empire over their perception that, in the United States and Western Europe, Hitler's slaughter of the Jews is amply memorialized while Stalin's murderous crimes -- before, during and after World War II -- garner far less attention. Where, they ask, is the US museum memorializing Stalin's terror? The Prague Declaration of 2008, signed by various luminaries including the late Vaclav Havel, attempted to address this by insisting that Communist crimes 'must inform all European minds to the same extent' as Nazi crimes. It called for the establishment of Aug. 23 (the date of the 1939 Hitler-Stalin pact) as 'a day of remembrance' for victims of both Nazis and Communists, just as Europe 'remembers the victims of the Holocaust on Jan. 27th.' We are witnessing what Antony Polonsky, a professor of Holocaust studies at Brandeis University, calls 'the suffering Olympics.' As the Middle East tells us, these are a dangerous form of games. [...]"