Today the Bundestag wants to condemn Stalin’s hunger murder, the Holodomor, as genocide. A momentous decision with very concrete effects on the present.

Condemning Stalin’s starvation as a genocide in Ukraine sends a threefold signal from German politics: to Russia, because it puts Putin on the same level as Stalin, to Ukraine, because it recognizes it as an independent nation, and to the Germans, because it changes the way we look at history. The resolution of the German Bundestag is nevertheless problematic. Not only because German politics calms her guilty conscience towards Ukraine.

In any case – it is new that the Bundestag with a large majority of SPD, Union, Greens and FDP – puts the three crimes against humanity Stalin, Putin and Hitler on the same level. It was already apparent when Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock spoke of a “break in civilization” with regard to Russia’s Ukraine war.

A rhetoric that has so far only been used by top politicians during the Holocaust. And the resolution itself not only refers to the historical “Holodomor” decreed by Stalin, but also to the current war in Ukraine – and thus draws a strong line from the past to the present.

It is the third time in a short space of time that the Bundestag has condemned a genocide. Every time the bad German conscience resonated. Coming to terms with history is always a painful process. And although it always relates to the past, it is also always topical and therefore highly political.

Six years ago, Germany classified the massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire against Turkey’s protests as “genocide”. Germany was involved because it did not even try to prevent this crime as an ally of the Ottomans at the time.

A year ago, the Bundestag classified the atrocities against the Nama and Herero in the then German colony of Southwest Africa as “genocide from today’s perspective” – ​​a trick to prevent reparation payments. The act came years, maybe decades, too late.

And now the Ukraine: Three years ago, the topic of the Holodomor – classifying starvation as genocide – landed in the Bundestag – and was rejected. Because the federal government was against it. Russia was already at war in Ukraine, but in the Crimea and in the Donbass, which was stamped in Germany under further running. However, Russia was – a much more obvious, reliable supplier of gas and oil.

Condemning the country for genocide seemed inopportune. The other way around: Not condemning the Holodomor as genocide was not based on historical knowledge, but was political opportunism. Worn by the Union and the SPD, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

A second reason also played a role: the extermination of the Jews should continue to be “unique”. This “singularity” of German guilt is a cornerstone of German historiography, and of great importance for the foreign policy of the Federal Republic – from the very first day of its existence.

To classify Stalin’s hunger murder in 1932/33 as a “crime against humanity” – no question. But also as “genocide”? This is problematic for three reasons.

The Bundestag is well aware of the danger of relativizing the murder of the Jews. That is why the Bundestag resolution contains a clear reference to the Holocaust “in its historical singularity” at the end. But what is still “singular” about the extermination of the Jews if there were other genocides as well? What remains singular is that the victims were Jewish; the fact that it was a matter of “genocide” can hardly be called singular.


These vaguenesses are due to the term “genocide”, which itself is not exact – but a neologism aimed at the extermination of the Armenians. It was a historic compromise, as Eastern Europe historian Tanja Penter recalled in Der Spiegel. In any case, the term is not objective, but political. That is why he is increasingly being questioned. But nothing can or should be put into perspective.

A crime against humanity remains a crime against humanity.

The Bundestag decision is highly explosive for another reason. By now classifying Russia’s hunger war against Ukraine as genocide, with the overwhelming majority of the SPD, Union, Greens and FDP, the Bundestag is helping a theory that has become increasingly controversial in recent years to be reborn: the theory of totalitarianism. To put it more flippantly: The “horseshoe”, long declared dead by the political left, is alive.

If Stalin’s starvation of the Ukrainians was a genocide and Hitler’s murder of the Jews was also a genocide, then the commonality of a left-wing and a right-wing dictatorship arises. to the number of victims. The analogies between right and left extremists far outweigh the differences between Stalin and Hitler, which is why they were able to make common cause without hesitation in the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939 and wipe out Poland after they had previously wiped out the critical spirits in their own peoples.

So far, the concept of “anti-fascism” has lived on Hitler’s singularity. But after Stalin’s classification as a genocide, they no longer exist. So “anti-fascism” would have to become “anti-totalitarianism”. But that would be a heavy blow to left-wing historiography and left-wing political understanding. Because both justify the priority of the “fight against the right”.

Is this the next turning point?