Tony Judt makes the following astute observation in his Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945:
It was a Marxist commonplace and Soviet official doctrine that Nazism was merely Fascism and that Fascism, in turn, was a product of capitalist self-interest in a moment of crisis. Accordingly, the Soviet authorities paid little attention to the distinctively racist side of Nazism, and its genocidal outcome, and instead focused their arrests and expropriations on businessmen, tainted officials, teachers and others responsible for advancing the interests of the social class purportedly standing behind Hitler.
The reason why Stalin couldn’t afford to draw attention to Hitler’s racism is that, during WWII and immediately after, Stalin was engaged in his own racist persecution of entire ethnic groups. It’s kind of hard to say, “Look at this guy! He wanted to exterminate the Jews! What an evildoer!” when you are planning to exile all of the Jews in your own country to Siberia with no plans for them to survive the move.
Soon after the victory over Nazism, the very word “Jew” would become offensive and nobody would want to say it aloud. When I was 6, my best friend Yulia shared with me in a whisper a huge secret. “We are Jews,” she said. “Do you know what this means?”
“No,” I said. “But I will ask my Mommy.”
I asked my Mommy and she said she had been planning to have this conversation with me when I was older but that she guessed I was old enough to know.
So she told me. I didn’t really understand why some people thought that my Daddy was different and disliked him for that but I knew that there was some darkness hidden in the whole issue.
“So Daddy isn’t Russian?” I asked.
“No,” my mother said. “I just told you he is Jewish.”
“So are you at least Russian?” I asked, hopefully.
“No,” she said. “I’m Ukrainian.”
“Then who is Russian in this family?” I exclaimed, feeling very disappointed. “Can I be Russian?”
When I was told it wasn’t possible, I knew we were all one hopeless family.