Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe

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Harvard University Press, page(s): 256


Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe presents research Professor Norman Naimark conducted while working at the Forum on Contemporary Europe (FCE) on cases of ethnic cleansing, genocide, and forced migrations in five cases including Armenians in Turkey, Chechens-Ingush and Crimean Tatars in the USSR, Bosnian Muslims and Albanian Kosovars in the Yugoslav lands, as well as Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe, and Germans in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Such historical comparison dislodges common assumptions to reveal patterns of our modern world.

Without losing sight of relative magnitude or original aggressor, Naimark clarified that crimes occurred in all the above cases, and sets details of atrocities ordered by authoritarian regimes alongside evidence of ethnic cleansing enabled by Europe's democratic powers. In the example of the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, Naimark demonstrates that the Serbian ethnic-cleansing campaign, with concentration camps and raping of Bosnian Muslim women, had their precedents in ethnic-cleansing campaigns during World War II. Media images of the Serbian camps shocked EU and U.S. audiences, and rightly so; but publics and political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic may read in Naimark's work the importance of a fuller historical record.

Naimark's comparison presents evidence for his argument that these instances of ethnic cleansing are "interconnected and embedded in the European 20th century." The notion of interconnected atrocity, with points of comparison across nationalities, ideologies, and territories, leads to provocative insight. Throughout 20th century Europe, victims and perpetrators could become perpetrators and victims. Naimark clearly distinguishes between original aggressors and victims, and does not blur the scale of Nazi atrocity with other modern war crimes. But his research demonstrates that the division of Europeans into fixed categories of victims and perpetrators, and the politics of peace-keeping based on these identities, must be tested against Naimark's seasoned and influential scholarship.

As a work of illuminating history, Fires of Hatred has a history of its own. Naimark has injected penetrating scholarship into Europe's politicized debates over history and memory of World War II. Since its publication in English, some of Europe's political commentators have sought to defend their versions of postwar history with which they identify, against the complex details of Naimark's work. Naimark himself has granted numerous interviews with European journalists seeking his help to set their record straight. Demand in Europe for Naimark's work is finally being met. Five years since it first appeared in English, Fires of Hatred has been translated into Italian, Czech, Russian, Croatian, and German. Further translations are undoubtedly in the works.

FCE is dedicated to consequential thinking about Europe in the new millennium, and Professor Naimark exemplifies the beneficial impact of our programs for public dissemination of Stanford research.

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