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Absent history

Without Nuremberg trials or public memorials to the millions who died in the gulags, post-communist countries cannot come to terms with their past. Anne Applebaum describes the moral and political squalor which results from allowing the criminals of the old regimes to go unpunished

By Anne Applebaum   April 1996

In 1944, Primo Levi arrived at Auschwitz; years later, he described the event in his memoir, If This Is A Man: “Then the lorry stopped, and we saw a large door, and above it a sign, brightly illuminated (its memory still strikes me in my dreams): Arbeit Macht Frei.” That was the image which Levi recorded. It is also the image that comes into the minds of millions of people when they hear the word Auschwitz: the gate, the sign, the slogan; sometimes train tracks too.

But had the Nazi guards had their way, that is not an image which…

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