Ernst Nolte, a German historian who set off a dispute among his peers by arguing three decades ago that Nazism was a reaction to an "existential threat" to Germany from the Russian revolution, has died. He was 93.

Nolte's family confirmed that he died Thursday at a Berlin hospital, the news agency dpa reported, following a report in the city's Tagesspiegel daily.

Nolte, an author of respected histories of fascism, in 1986 published an essay titled "The Past That Won't Go Away." It suggested that Stalin's forced-labor camps and the killing of millions of peasants in the Soviet Union were in a sense a forerunner of the Nazis' genocide program.

Opponents argued that he and other conservative historians were trying to lessen the magnitude of Nazi crimes through such comparisons.