Photo Gallery The Past that Won't Pass

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I and the 75th of the start of World War II. Questions over the degree of German guilt remain contentious among historians, who have been fighting over the issue for years.
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The debate was sparked by historian Fritz Fischer, who wrote that the German Reich bore "a substantial share of the historical responsibility for the outbreak of the general war."

Foto: Max Ehlert
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Fischer's theses were intolerable for historian Gerhard Ritter, who described his book, "Germany's Aims in the First World War," as a "national disaster."

Foto: dpa Picture-Alliance / Jan Woitas/ picture-alliance/ dpa
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Historian Herfriend Münkler called Fischer's research "outragrous, in principle," noting that the historian limited his research to German archives, ignoring Russian, English and French material.

Foto: Jan Woitas/ picture-alliance/ dpa
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Historian Jörg Baberowski says that while conducting his research in Russian archives, he discovered how vicious Stalin and his thugs had been. Concentration camps had existed in Russia since 1918. In a camp near Moscow, for example, four people shot and killed 20,000 people in one year. "It was essentially the same thing: killing on an industrial scale," says Baberowski.

Foto: Hendrik Schmidt/ picture alliance / dpa
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Hans-Ulrich Wehler disagrees with Baberowski. He doesn't believe that Hitler's actions were totally in response to Russian Bolshevism. A causal nexus? "Hitler cannot be interpreted as an anti-Lenin at all." Singularity? "I think so. In my eyes, Hitler remains undefeated at the top of the list."

Foto: Federico Gambarini/ picture-alliance / dpa/dpaweb
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The crimes of the Third Reich were vast and it remains controversial in Germany to suggest that Hitler was anything but a murderous maniac. Historian Baberowski does anyway. "Hitler was no psychopath, and he wasn't vicious," he says. "He didn't want people to talk about the extermination of the Jews at his table. Stalin, on the other hand, delighted in adding to and signing off on the death lists. He was vicious. He was a psychopath."

Foto: Erich Lessing/ AKG
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Many historians have pointed to the fact that both Hitler and Stalin were murderous in their own way. But in Germany, comparing the two can still get you in hot water.

Foto: AKG
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