On January 30, 1933, a new chancellor came to power in Germany. This year, the German public and press spent the day quietly, treating the event as an insignificant episode in the chaos that reigned in the country at that time. In fact, when President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler, the leader of the little known National Socialist Workers’ Party, as Chancellor, no one expected him to be at the helm for long.
However, the political success of Nazism was laid in the very title of the party. The power of words like national, socialist and workers attracted people. Sprinkled with a concentrated cocktail of demagogy, social populism, promises of simple solutions to problems and chip goulash, it brought success.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said recently at the opening of the Berlin 1933: the Road to Dictatorship exhibition: “The rise of Nazism was possible because both the elite and parts of German society took part in it, but primarily because most Germans tolerated the rise. The repressions and crushing of human rights that finally ended with World War II, as well as the inhuman crime called the Holocaust, were only possible because most of the population turned a blind eye to them and stayed quiet.”
Meanwhile, there were a number of events in Ukraine to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad. Once again, we saw portraits of Joseph Stalin and had the opportunity to marvel at the heroism of the Red Army soldiers. But wasn’t it the rise of the Nazi totalitarian regime in 1933 that caused the death of hundreds of thousands people on the banks of the Volga in 1943? It would have made more sense to use the 80th anniversary of Hitler’s rise to power to discover the cause of the National Socialist Party’s success as a warning to contemporary societies. Totalitarianism knows how to fool people with slogans and promises.
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March 5 is the 60th anniversary of Stalin’s death. Just like Hitler, he based the success of the Soviet regime on the word “socialism”, replaced nationalism with internationalism, presented the takeover of territories as a proletarian revolution, and replaced the “solution of the Jewish issue” with the “continuous class war”. Indeed, the Stalin regime was so effective that we still cannot entirely rid ourselves of it. For instance, the demagogy of politicians from the Communist Party of Ukraine is not only an echo of the past, but an attempt to return to Stalinism as a method of rule.
Hence the question: what is the difference between the situation in Ukraine and Germany when it comes to totalitarianism?
Germany already knows that the passivity of most of its citizens opened the door for Hitler. Meanwhile, Ukrainians still live with Bolshevik legends, even after 22 years of democracy. Clearly, the reason is not merely in the “I’m all right, Jack” attitude – it is much deeper.
On February 23, for instance, many Ukrainians celebrated Protector of the Motherland Day, i.e. Soviet (Red) Army day. The government’s attempts to celebrate it on another day proved futile. Ukrainian people continue to live with Communist totalitarian holidays and traditions. This proves that a large part of the population identifies itself with the former regime, opting for a passive position when it comes to democratic values.
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Can you imagine buses with Adolf Hitler’s portrait on the side being driven around Germany before some holiday, or Mussolini supporters installing his bust in Rome? How would you feel if you saw a memorial plate for Martin Bormann on a building in the central street of Berlin where he used to live?
I don’t think Ukrainians would like anything like that. Then, why do they allow the use of Communist symbols, such as the memorial plate to Communist Party Secretary Shcherbytsky in Kyiv, and why does the founder of the totalitarian state and regime Vladimir Ulianov still point the way to well-being in the squares of many Ukrainian cities? Why do Ukrainians allow others to spit in their faces? And how do they expect to get closer to Europe with such an approach?
I think that the current political situation in Ukraine is best described by the slogan of Western European environmentalists: “Be active, or you’ll be radioactive!” The Ukrainian version could read “Inactivity leads to hell”.