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World Affairs Journal: Germany and the Holocaust -- Part 1

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July 21, 2012, 6:04 p.m. | Op-ed — by Alexander J. Motyl

Rabbis of the Society for the Preservation of Jewish Holy Sites "Athra Kadisha" stand at the site of what is thought to be a mass grave containing 753 Jews killed by the SS near the eastern German town of Jamlitz on April 22, 2009. The victims, mostly from Poland and Ukraine, were held in Lieberose, a subcamp belonging to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. AFP PHOTO DDP / MICHAEL URBAN GERMANY OUT
© AFP

Alexander J. Motyl

Alexander J. Motyl is professor of political science at Rutgers University-Newark, as well as a writer and painter. He served as associate director of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University from 1992 to 1998. A specialist on Ukraine, Russia, and the USSR, and on nationalism, revolutions, empires, and theory, he is the author of Pidsumky imperii; Puti imperii; Imperial Ends: The Decay, Collapse, and Revival of Empires; Revolutions, Nations, Empires: Conceptual Limits and Theoretical Possibilities; Dilemmas of Independence: Ukraine after Totalitarianism; Sovietology, Rationality, Nationality: Coming to Grips with Nationalism in the USSR; Will the Non‑Russians Rebel? State, Ethnicity, and Stability in the USSR; The Turn to the Right: The Ideological Origins and Development of Ukrainian Nationalism, 1919–1929; and the editor of more than ten volumes, including The Encyclopedia of Nationalism. Motyl’s novels include Whiskey Priest; Who Killed Andrei Warhol; Flippancy; The Jew Who Was Ukrainian; and a work in progress, My Orchidia. His poems have appeared in Counterexample Poetics, Istanbul Literary Review, and New York Quarterly (forthcoming). He has done performances of his fiction at the Cornelia Street Café, the Bowery Poetry Club, and the Ukrainian Museum in New York. Motyl’s artwork has been shown in solo and group shows in New York, Philadelphia, and Toronto; his art is represented by The Tori Collection.

Since June 22nd marks the day Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, it’s an appropriate time to consider the question posed by Paul Hockenos, an accomplished journalist and political analyst in Berlin, in a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education: “Can Germany Help Central Europe Confront Its Dark Past?” Unsurprisingly, the answers his interlocutors provide range from “yes” to “no” to “it depends.” The yea-sayers generally argue that the truth is the truth and, if Germans can help promote it, so be it. The naysayers insist that the Germans have no right to preach morality in a region they devastated in two world wars. The it-depends camp says that truth-telling is fine—as long as it’s done with sensitivity and tact. I come down hard in all three camps.

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