Thursday, July 24, 2008

What is Robert Gellately reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Robert Gellately, author of Lenin, Stalin and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe, The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy, 19331945, and Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany.

One book he singles out:
Paul R. Gregory’s, Lenin’s Brain and other Tales from the Secret Soviet Archives (Stanford, CA., 2008). He is an American professor in charge of copying newly released Soviet documents and making them available for study at the Hoover Institution. His short book consists of 14 chapters, each a vignette illustrating what these documents can divulge. In “Relatives and Falsifying Death Certificates” he tells a unique story. In 1937 and 1938 during the Great Terror, countless thousands had been arrested and shot. Their loved ones were told nothing, but some found out the unfortunates had been given 10 years in prison “without right of correspondence.” Historians left the story there. What Gregory discovered in the secret archives was what happened in 1947, 1948, and later. Where were the prisoners once their sentences had been served in full? Letters and petitions began raining down on the authorities from the late ‘50s onward, and over the years they invented newer and bigger lies. Relatives of the persecuted were torn between hope and despair that dragged on until June 6, 1992 – a whole lifetime of heartache. Only then were the heirs officially allowed to dig for the truth, and even then it was an uphill battle. [read on]
Simon Sebag Montefiore's Washington Post review of Gellately's Lenin, Stalin and Hitler opens:
"The image of Lenin that emerges from the pages of this book, even the mere mention of him in the title alongside Stalin and Hitler," writes Robert Gellately in the introduction to his new study of the epoch of the great slaughterhouse in the 20th century, "will disturb some people." The author, a distinguished academic, adds that "a good friend of mine . . . said the very thought of putting Lenin next to Stalin and Hitler in the book's title would be enough to make her Russian grandmother turn in her grave." But let that Russian grandmother turn: It's time to rip up the accepted versions of this terrible period and analyze it on the evidence that we now have. Gellately has done just that in a book that is both sensible and sophisticated, scholarly and very readable. [read on]
Learn more about Robert Gellately's Lenin, Stalin and Hitler at the Knopf website.

Robert Gellately is the Earl Ray Beck Professor of History at Florida State University and was the Bertelsmann Visiting Professor of Twentieth-Century Jewish Politics and History at Oxford University in 2004–05.

Writers Read: Robert Gellately.

--Marshal Zeringue