46 I CHRONICLESnLetter From Albionnby Andrei NavrozovnWhose War Is It, Anyway?nAccording to Josef Joffe, foreign editornof the Siiddeutsche Zeitung, thenGerman historian Ernst NoUe oncenasked at a Harvard seminar whethernanyone present could find the idea ofnthe “Final Solution” in history beforenHitler. Since no one answered, hendrew the attention of his audience tonthe work of Marx and the concept ofnannihilation of the bourgeoisie as anclass.nWriting in a recent issue of Encounter,nMr. JolFe recalls:nBy now, puzzlement hadnfrozen into strained silence, andnthe American scholar EricnGoldhagen, a survivor of thenHolocaust, tried a bit ofnfriendly irony: “Professor Nolte,nwhen Fiorello LaGuardia [NewnYork’s mayor] overwhelmed hisnpolitical opponents, thenDemocrats, in the elections ofn1932, the New York Timesnquoted him in a bannernheadline: ‘We Really MurderednThem.’ Herr Nolte, he did notnmean it literally.”nMr. Joffe does not record the incautiousnprofessor’s reply, adding didacticallynthat he “did not get the pointnthen, nor has he apparently acceptednthe distinction between metaphor andnmechanized mass murder ever since.”nQuite obviously, the distinction exists,nas do other distinctions — betweenn(Marxist) theory and (Marxist) practice,nfor instance — and one doubtsnthat the man whom Mr. Joffe describesnas “a Heidegger disciple who favorsn’metaphysical history'” has been asnblind to them as he makes him out tonbe. It is, after all, the nature of suchndistinctions which remains unclear,none reason why, 15 years hence, Mr.nJoffe is still talking about ProfessornNolte, Professor Nolte is still talkingnabout Hitler and Marx, and we are stillninterested in what they have to say.nIn brief, the substance of the “Controversy”n(to borrow Encounter’s sectionnheading under which Mr. Joffe’snarticle, “The Battie of the Historians,”nappeared in the June issue) is definednby the degree of attention which annumber of historians, most notablynErnst Nolte and Andreas Hillgruber,nhave attracted in the German pressnwith their “revisionist” view of NationalnSocialism as a “reactive” phenomenonnwith origins in the clear andnpresent danger of Soviet expansionismnin the 1930’s. Mr. Joffe sets out tonlambaste the “revisionist” view, firstnput forward in Nolte’s article “Vergangenheit,ndie nicht vergehen will”n(“The Past That Will Not PassnAway”) in West Germany’s leadingnconservative paper, the FrankfurternAllgemeine Zeitung, on June 6, 1986.nSince both the argument and thencounterargument are highly polemical,nI will not endeavor to summarize themnhere. Instead, I propose to focus on anrecent study, bound to be perceived asnyet another volley from the “revisionist”ncamp: Stalin’s War by ErnstnTopitsch, professor of philosophy atnGraz University in Austria, just publishednin England.nThe trouble with “revisionists” likenNolte and Hillgruber, it seems to me,nis that their strain of historiography isnprevalently philosophic, rather thannprobative (and in that sense Mr. Joffe’snpoint about “metaphysical history” is,none suspects, something of a sorenspot). They tend to address an issuenlike “guilt” by speculating about theninternal causes of the Nazi reaction,ninstead of attempting to uncover thenfacts that would objectify their conclusions.nThis is just what ProfessornTopitsch aims to do in his study, sufficientlynoriginal and well articulated tonbring about a genuine reexaminationnof the war, its origins, and its aftermath.nIn short, the antonym of “revisionism”nas practiced by ProfessornTopitsch is banality, which brings onento the question: Is it not the duty of anhistorian (a thinker, an artist) to benrevisionist?nThe conventional view of eventsnleading to the outbreak of the war,nwith Hitler as its evil genius, differsnfrom the orthodox Soviet view largelynto the extent it acknowledges the criminallynirresponsible behavior of Westernnstatesmen and its effects on thenbalance of power in the 1930’s. AsnChurchill would later summarize it,nthis consisted in:nDelight in smooth-soundingnplatitudes, refusal to facennnunpleasant facts, desire fornpopularity and electoralnsuccesses irrespective of thenvital interests of the state,ngenuine love of peace andnpathetic belief that love can benits sole foundation, obvious lacknof intellectual vigour … allnthese constituted a picture ofnBritish fatuity and fecklessnessnwhich, though devoid of guile,nwas not devoid of guilt.nIn other words, in their interpretationnof the history of the war, Stalinnand his successors blame Hitier, whilenWestern democracies blame Hitlernand themselves. It is astonishingnthat— “revisionists” aside— ProfessornTopitsch is virtually alone amongnWestern historians of the period in hisnattempt to complete the triangle bynadding Stalin’s name to the list of thosenwho, in Churchill’s words once again,n”played a definite part in the unleashingnupon the world of horrors andnmiseries which, even so far as theynhave unfolded, are already beyondncomparison in human experience.”nHis is a difficult task. When thenSoviet Army entered Berlin in Mayn1945, a spetsnaz task force located andn”put into safe-keeping” all records ofnthe Stalin-Hitler negotiations, includingnthe crucial documents relating tonthe Ribbentrop-Molotov meeting innNovember 1940. Needless to say, theynhave been “safe” ever since. For thisnreason, a historian who wishes to seenbeyond Soviet representations on thenone hand and Western conventions onnthe other must rely on his instinct,nalong with what “hard” evidence hencan obtain, to piece together his viewnof events. Received wisdom, not intuition,nis the enemy.nIt is Hitler’s reputation as a strategistnthat is Professor Topitsch’s first target.nHe shows that “the greatest general ofnall time” was, in reality, a patheticnamateur, outmaneuvered by Stalin atnevery turn. His tactical skill (magnifiednin the light of his successful record ofndeceiving or intimidating democraticnleaders) was, on closer inspection,nmerely a gambler’s audacity, givingnway to sheer panic at the first unluckynturn of fortune’s wheel. “What do wendo now?” a bug-eyed Hitler is said tonhave asked Ribbentrop when England’snultimatum was handed to himn