Brandon Schechter (Adjunct Assistant Professor of History) contributed the essay “What Russians Think When They Hear the Word ‘Nazi'” to NYU Jordan Center’s blog (Mar. 29, 2022).
Claiming that a country whose head of state is a Jew with relatives who died in the Holocaust is a “neo-Nazi” state is absurd. Yet for many Russians, this claim could sound credible, because “Nazism” and the more commonly used “fascism” carry a different set of associations than for most people in Western Europe and North America. In addition, Soviet and Russian understandings of fascism and Nazism’s essence have made it easy to use the terms to describe contemporary enemies in Russia. While the Holocaust or Shoah — the systematic murder of Europe’s Jews by the Third Reich and its collaborators—is the central Nazi crime remembered in “the West,” in Russia and much of the former “Second World,” the special victimhood of Jews tends to be elided.