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The atrocities that Russian troops have committed in Ukraine raise two questions about Russians at home: Do they know their military is doing these things? And if they do, are they OK with it? The answers are almost certainly “Yes” and “They’re working on it.”

The degree of civilians’ ignorance may not matter much for Russia’s redemption, should that ever become possible. It didn’t matter in post-World War II Germany. Although Germans used to refer to the end of that war as the zero hour, nothing was nullified by Hitler’s suicide and his armies’ capitulation. When “peaceful” Germans told their allied occupiers they hadn’t known what the Nazis were up to, they were sometimes taken en masse to see the death camps. Many were, or acted, astounded and horrified. Whether or not those emotions were real, by expressing them, “innocent” Germans only provoked the allies to rub their noses in Hitler’s terrible heritage.

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