Formation of a new memory: why a court is needed to recognize the Siege of Leningrad as genocide

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Formation of a new memory: why a court is needed to recognize the Siege of Leningrad as genocide
Formation of a new memory: why a court is needed to recognize the Siege of Leningrad as genocide
20 September, 16:56
In St. Petersburg, they began to consider lawsuits to recognize the blockade of Leningrad and the actions of the Nazis on the territory of the Leningrad Region as genocide of the Soviet people.

Novye Izvestia found out why such lawsuits were filed right now, what the security forces demand, and what historians think about it.

Alexander Dybin, St. Petersburg

Two similar lawsuits were filed almost simultaneously. The St. Petersburg City Court began considering the case on recognizing the blockade of Leningrad as genocide. Similar requirements, but already in relation to the occupied Leningrad region (during the war years it included the modern Pskov and Novgorod regions), are considered by the Leningrad Regional Court. Formally, the requirement of the prosecutor's office sounds like this: recognize as war crimes and crimes against humanity, the genocide of the Soviet people the established and newly revealed crimes committed by the Nazi invaders during the Great Patriotic War in the region.

As part of the "blockade" case, the court intends to interview historians who have studied the issue, as well as residents of Leningrad, who found this tragic period. In addition, the case contains secret documents that will be studied in a closed mode from the media. Active consideration of the case has already begun in the "regional" process, the first witness has been interviewed.

“Recognition of the fact of these crimes is not only an obvious decision arising from the main legal results of the Nuremberg trials, but also the historical debt of society to veterans and victims of the war”, - the prosecutor’s office said in the materials submitted to the court. - Throughout the time that has passed since the end of the Second World War, attempts to deny the facts of these events have not stopped, even in those countries that have experienced fascism as their own history and would not have a chance to exist if it were victorious. The fact that the USSR was the main victim of the aggression of German Nazism is ignored. Various kinds of statements, resolutions and laws are being adopted, where, instead of condemning fascism, they talk about certain crimes of totalitarian regimes. The results of the Nuremberg Tribune cannot be revised and subject to doubt and adjustment. Comparison of the fascist regime with other regimes and ideologies has the practical goal of shifting responsibility to Russia both for the imaginary and real mistakes of the Soviet leadership, and for the actions of other states and politicians, to push the countries that are the heirs of the history of the anti-Hitler coalition. All this poses a direct threat not only to the national security of the Russian Federation, but also to European cooperation and international stability”.

According to the prosecutor's office, more than 400,000 civilians and prisoners of war died in the region during the war years. In particular, as part of the process, they are going to study the materials of the work of search engines. This summer, large-scale excavations were carried out in Gatchina in Sylvia Park near the palace of Emperor Paul. According to the Iskra search squad, the remains of 121 people, including women and children, were found.

Do not forget the Nazi allies and collaborators

Why are lawsuits filed on the events of Leningrad and the Leningrad region? According to the leading researcher of the St. Petersburg Institute of History of the Russian Academy of Sciences Boris Kovalev, who prepared the conclusions for both processes, the north-west of Russia was occupied for the longest time, in addition, the invaders had the goal of clearing this territory of the population, so the region suffered more than others. In March 1944, in the southern regions, Soviet troops had already reached the state border, and the north-west was occupied until the summer of 1944.

“The specifics of the unfortunate Leningrad region is that this territory had a sacred meaning for the leaders of the Reich”, - says Boris Kovalev, – For example, theoretical pamphlets like “Novgorod - the Eastern Pillar of the Hansa” were published. It was believed that this is one of the places of attraction for the Nordic race. This means that at best it was proposed to resettle the population, and at worst - to subject it to complete destruction. We see the terms of the occupation and the special attitude of the ideologists of the Nazi party to this territory.

According to the historian, in the context of war crimes, it is necessary to talk not only about the German fascists, but also about the allies of Germany, as well as collaborators. The last topic in the Soviet years was often bypassed, since it was about the inhabitants of the Baltic countries.

“This is a triad: Nazi Germany, which was, like the engine, the leading force, it bears the main responsibility for the crimes. Secondly, the participation of the allies was hushed up for a long time. First of all, we are talking about Finland. There were Spaniards from the "blue division" on the Leningrad front. Almost 50 thousand people passed through it. This is more than 20% of the personnel of the Spanish armed forces. We forget about the volunteers who were recruited in Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands. Romanians, Hungarians, Slovaks, Italians were also part of the German army, but they came here only on excursions, although an Italian flotilla operated on Ladoga. An important question about collaborationism. Regardless of who they thought they were, they committed numerous crimes. Even in Soviet historiography, I saw a “Baltic trace”, when they tried to soften, hush up and explain their active participation”.

Why now?

According to Boris Kovalev, the assessment of the blockade of Leningrad and the occupation of the Leningrad region is given so late, almost 80 years after those events, for a number of reasons.

“You can blame Stalin, who told the Pravda newspaper that we suffered a little more than 6 million losses in the war, of which about half a million was the blockade of Leningrad,” the historian argues. - But in conditions when the United States had nuclear weapons, and the Soviet Union did not, it was necessary to do as much as possible so that there was no temptation to unleash a new war. In addition, most of the leaders of state security were repressed in the "Leningrad case", all the problems of the events in the occupied Leningrad region were somewhat hushed up. As a result of the thaw in 1955, an amnesty was announced and those who collaborated with the invaders and could hide the crimes returned home. In 1965, it was decided that the authorities deal only with those who committed crimes that do not have a statute of limitations, and most of these cases were stopped in the second half of the 80s.

Historian Yegor Yakovlev, who studies the topic of Nazi crimes on the territory of the USSR, believes that society needs to form a new memory of these events, as the last witnesses to the war are leaving, and knowledge about it is being washed away.

“I think that there will be no political consequences from these processes, it is an absurd idea to count on some new reparations”, - says Yegor Yakovlev, - “what Poland is now demanding from the Germans is political madness. But these lawsuits are launched because we are witnessing the passing of the last generation of veterans. There will be no one else to tell about the atrocities that the invaders committed on Soviet soil. In the 1990s, personal memory was eroding and a new social memory needs to be created. Already by learned historians, when the right accents are again placed on Nazi politics for future generations".

According to the historian, this process should have started not with the private - Leningrad and the region, but with the general motivation of Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War.

“These processes are also going on in other regions of the country, but here our law enforcement officers took a slightly wrong turn, they are trying to prove the existence of a policy of genocide in different regions”, - the historian says“, - but first it was necessary to prove the original intention of the German elites and recognize the common genocide. And then go to specific areas. I myself work with the investigative committee, I provided them with several plump folders. They contain documents that have never been translated into Russian, such as the testimony of Bach-Zelewski, which he gave in American captivity. I am now preparing them for publication. In particular, he says that Himmler aimed to destroy 30 million Slavs during the war. And the blockade was one of the criminal acts undertaken for this purpose. Why, what is the motivation? She's complex. The leadership of Germany had a fear of huge human resources. There are only 90 million Germans, and the enemy - 180 million. It was believed that if they destroyed 30 million people, then the forces would equalize. The second reason, they were cleaning the land. It was planned to populate these territories with the Germans. And third, Germany was experiencing a serious food crisis. And the inhabitants of the Soviet territory were considered as extra mouths, they were killed so as not to be fed. All of this fits the classic definition of genocide. Moreover, this material should be included in textbooks for schools and universities, a clear concept of genocide is needed so that there are no questions. Now there is no doubt that they committed crimes, but the controversy is around motivation. For example, there are scientists who say that the burning of villages is not a genocide, but a fight against partisans. But the idea of the Slavs as Utermens played a huge role in the dehumanization of Soviet citizens.

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