As the Stanford historian Norman Naimark explains in Stalin’s Genocides , the UN’s definition of genocide was deliberately narrow: “Acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” This was because Soviet diplomats had demanded the exclusion of any reference to social, economic, and political groups. Had they left these categories in, prosecution of the USSR for the murder of aristocrats (a social group), kulaks (an economic group), or Trotskyites (a political group) would have been possible.
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Arguments among his commanders and advisors did not help the situation. By late 1942 Hitler's subordinates had split into cliques that competed for increasingly scarce resources, while he remained the final arbiter of all disputes. His senior commanders felt free to contact him directly; they knew that the last man to brief him often got what he wanted. At other times, though, Hitler would cling to a decision stubbornly, regardless of its merits. His decision to attack in the Ardennes in 1944 is one good example: his commanders tried, both directly and indirectly, to persuade him to adopt a more realistic plan, without success.
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That may well be the case. But shouldn't writing and thinking, the effort of analyzing and understanding, aim for something more than "comfort"? Shouldn't it aim, instead, at the truth, however exigent? However painful? However unsettling?
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