Heinrich August Winkler has criticized comparisons between the Shoah and other crimes. The extermination of the European Jews remains the central fact of German history in the 20th century, the renowned German historian told the Berlin daily newspaper Tagesspiegel. She was "the greatest crime of all time".
Vladimir Putin was also "not a second Hitler," said Winkler. The Russian President does not want to exterminate the Jews. He doesn't seem to want to conquer all of Europe either. He is a radical nationalist who wants to restore the territorial existence and sphere of influence of the defunct Soviet Union as much as possible.
This revisionism differentiates Putin's Russia from the Soviet Union of the Brezhnev era, which primarily wanted to secure its territorial possessions. Putin, on the other hand, radically questions the status quo. Winkler, 84, taught at the Humboldt University in Berlin until 2007. He has been awarded the Federal Cross of Merit and has published numerous books.
In the wars against Georgia in 2008 and against Ukraine since 2014, the historian sees “frightening parallels to certain aspects of Hitler’s politics”, such as the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1938/1939. The war of aggression against Ukraine bears “features of a war of annihilation”.
Winkler also speaks out against comparisons between the Shoah and the actions of colonial powers. The processing of German colonial crimes in the 19th and 20th centuries is "bitterly necessary". "But it cannot relativize the Holocaust," said Winkler.
Western democracies have every reason to be very self-critical about their colonial past and their racism: "But there was only a Holocaust in and through Germany."
In the conversation, Winkler also commented on the debate about a possible renaming of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. Such an act would be "not a contribution to coming to terms with the German past, but an escape from German history," said the "Tagesspiegel". "Prussian bashing is also so popular because it's more convenient than German self-criticism," criticized Winkler.
Against the background of the 90th anniversary of the transfer of power to the National Socialists on January 30, 1933, Winkler said that there was "not only the Prussia of militarism and the authoritarian state, whose traditional guardians in 1933 included Hindenburg and the Wilhelmine power elite": "We shouldn't forget we the Prussia of the Enlightenment, of religious tolerance, of decisive structural reforms in the Stein-Hardenberg era at the beginning of the 19th century.”
There was also "the Prussia of the rule of law, the liberal Prussia", emphasized the historian. In the Weimar Republic, Prussia, governed by social democracy, acted “as a bulwark of democracy”.
The SPK is to be comprehensively reformed and reorganized by decision of the foundation board in December 2022. Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth (Greens), as Chair of the Foundation Council, also advocated a name change for the SPK.