One side brings a knife, the other brings a gun. One side invades Poland, the other runs down Berlin while destroying anything in its path. One side begins systematically destroying its own citizens, the other does the same. Edele and Geyer describe a concept they dubbed as “interior and exterior fronts”,1 and further categorize the conflict between Russia and the Soviet Union as a multi front war, fought both on the line between the two nations, and within the respective countries. Their discussion led me to consider the potential consequences of this sort of mentality.
Both the Russians and the Germans engaged in a form of combat against their own people in order to improve the strength of their armies in the front, and the resolve of the citizens back home. The Germans engaged in a civil war against the Jews, while the Soviets engaged in a civil war of sorts against anyone that they viewed as weak, detrimental, or not committed enough to the beliefs of their “republic”. In addition to this rampant destruction within their own borders (the “civil war” aspect of Edele and Geyer’s statement), the escalation and radicalization of both of these countries led to a “destroy or be destroyed’ mentality.((Edele and Geyer, “States of Exception,” 356)) In a foreign and domestic sense, did this attitude cost the Germans and Soviets too much? Did the “interior and exterior” fronts of the war, combined with the escalation and radicalization, end up costing Germany the war, and the Soviets precious lives and infrastructure that took years to re-build?
Think about it: the German government spent millions on the development of the infrastructure necessary to carry out the holocaust. In addition to construction costs, the Germans had to funnel personnel, food, money, weapons, and medical staff into these camps in order to make them run properly. Had the Germans avoided this “civil war”, Hitler and the German army would’ve been equipped with valuable assets. Assets that, perhaps, when applied properly, would’ve turned the tide of the eastern front in favor of the Axis. The Soviets, too, lost a lot because of their interior activities. By deporting hundreds of thousands of individuals to the gulag, they robbed themselves of able bodied soldiers. Perhaps, with those men and women on the line, fewer lives would’ve been lost during the German advance.
- Edele, Mark and Michael Geyer. “States of Exception” in Beyond Totalitarianism. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2009. 349 [↩]