Putin’s seizure of the Crimea and Hitler’s seizure of the Sudetenland: The comparison is accurate

After seizing the Sudetenland, Adolf Hitler began persecuting the Jews in the newly annexed territories. That Vladimir Putin has not done.

In other major respects, Putin’s military seizure of the Crimea is comparable to Hitler’s seizure of the Sudetenland. These include the “Big Lie” that citizens sharing the culture and language of the aggressor were being persecuted, the mobilization of local paramilitary forces to support the invasion, and annexation of the respective territories to that of the invading nation. One difference is that Hitler, through the threat of military force, secured the acquiesence of France and Great Britain and the support of Italy through the signing of the infamous Munich Pact on September 30, 1938, by Eduoard Daladier, Neville Chamberlain and Benito Mussolini.

Statements by German leaders denying the comparison between Putin and Hitler may be dictated by a perceived need not to antagonize the aggressor, who is actively threatening further aggression with tens of thousands of troops poised on the border with the Ukraine. They are, however, factually inaccurate.

Alternatively, reluctance to admit the comparison may have deeper causes rooted in German pacifism and a willingness to try to solve the crisis through appeasement.

Putin has indeed used Hitler’s tactics in the Crimea. His threat of further aggression, backed by troops on the Ukrainian border, must be taken very seriously, as he could quite possibly be planning to invade Ukraine proper just as Hitler invaded “rump” Czechoslovakia in March, 1939.

See:

Carsten Luther, “Diesmal hilft die Hitler-Keule (Kommentar), Die Zeit, Aktualisiert 31. März 2014 (19:46 Uhr)

Wolfgang Schäuble hat Putins Annexion der Krim mit Hitlers Verhalten im Sudetenland verglichen. Die Aufregung ist groß, doch die Parallele stimmt. EIN KOMMENTAR VON CARSTEN LUTHER, 493 Kommentare

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"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.

1 Comment on "Putin’s seizure of the Crimea and Hitler’s seizure of the Sudetenland: The comparison is accurate"

  1. Horst Koehler | April 3, 2014 at 1:20 am |

    I do not understand this comparison with all due respect. First of all, one needs to be very short-sighted to condemn absolutely every action by Hitler. Yes, the annexation of Sudetenland lead to a terrible hunt on jews, but the protection of a German population beyond their national border is nothing any strong empire (read: USA) wouldn’t do Secondly, I have yet to see proof that there was a “military seizure” in Crimea, something every is crying but to which there is no sufficient proof.

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