Sunday, May 30, 2021

Thanks but No Thanks

Today, I updated the list of Citations of Holocaust Controversies in the Literature, adding two sources: a book on the Kurdish and Armenian genocides published back in 2007 by Desmond Fernandes, who was a senior lecturer in geography at De Montfort University in the U.K.; and a book on anti-imperialism from 2018 by Rohini Hensman. There was a third citation of our work that I found, but I won't be adding it to our list. Here's why.

The book that I won't be including that cites our blog is Grover Furr's Khrushchev Lied: The Evidence That Every Revelation of Stalin's (and Beria's) Crimes in Nikita Khrushchev's Infamous Secret Speech to the 20th Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of February 25, 1956, Is Provably False. (As Max Amann famously said before deleting the subtitle Viereinhalb Jahre (des Kampfes) gegen Lüge, Dummheit und Feigheit from Mein Kampf, "Everyone needs an editor.") If you're not aware who Grover Furr is, my blogmate and comrade Sergey Romanov has written fairly extensively about his work at this very blog. Several words come to mind to describe Furr, but "kook" is perhaps the one that comes most readily.

Look, I get it. I too have a Ph.D. in English and ended up doing most of my writing in the field of history. It happens. It happened to me. I just ended up on the "other side" of Furr. And lest it be said that we both see the Soviets as the "good guys" in World War II, the similarity pretty much ends there. (OK, I also wrote a doctoral dissertation that addressed the topic of medieval European literature, and we share an interest in Arthurian literature, but it really does end after that. Honest.)

The funny thing about Furr's citation of us is what he cites from us and why. Specifically, on page 520 (footnote 26) of Khrushchev Lied: He Really, REALLY Did!, Furr cites this blog post by Sergey, as a way of marshalling evidence against Tim Snyder, the historian of modern European history at Yale and author of Bloodlands, among other studies, for having "lied" about a source on the antisemitism of Joseph Stalin. Notably, Sergey, while providing the correct translation and source of the quotation, does not exculpate Stalin of antisemitism -- he merely notes that Stalin was likely more tactful. Indeed, Sergey writes, "This is not to say that he [Stalin] wasn't an antisemite." And indeed, the context for the dispute is the Doctors' Plot -- one of Stalin's final repressions, which specially targeted Soviet Jews.

Furr writes, "Snyder is either deliberately lying or never bothered to check the source of this quotation. Whatever is the case, it does him no credit as a historian." While it's not my intention to venture into this particular thicket of weeds, I do want to point out that this discovery is not exactly the "gotcha" Furr seems to think it is. Not only was Stalin demonstrably antisemitic, particularly in the last chapter of his life (although other examples exist), but also Stalin in the correct quotation is clearly not referring to Zionists when referring to "Jewish nationalists." When he said, "Jewish nationalists think that their nation was saved by the USA (there you can become rich, bourgeois, etc.)," the "nation" Stalin was referring to was not Israel -- it was the Jewish nation, i.e., the Jewish people.

Funnier is that Furr cites our blog as a way to attack Snyder without (apparently) checking to see whether we'd ever commented on his own work here. It's a bit ironic that Furr didn't fully check his source in this case (HC blog) while accusing Snyder of doing the same. As a famous Jew once said, "Physician, heal thyself!"

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