This post is part 43 of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
Last night the program had a barbeque and a dance. I stayed for both, though the music was so contemporary it didn’t have words or a danceable beat – at least for my taste. The students like to observe the fact that their professor dances, a change in their perception of the talking head, so I attend dances in the programs where I teach. Once I start dancing, it’s fun for everyone. So why not collapse the age/thought divide for a night. We return to sanity the following day. All is well.
During the barbeque a bombshell. One of the students in the larger group approached me with a rumor. Had I heard that the buildings we use for the program had been a Hitler Youth camp during the war? I was shaken by this and asked one of my Austrian students to check it out. His immediate “so what” response interests me. Obviously Austria was Nazified during the late 1930s and some of the buildings in Austria that stood and are still standing were used for whatever the Nazified Austrian government needed to carry on. If all the buildings that had been used for Nazi programs were destroyed after the war, a massive building program would have ensued. Much of Austria would have to be reconstructed.
Same and more for Germany. So, as the research begins, does it matter, as in, should such a program such as this have its living and teaching quarters where Nazi youth were once trained in Hitler’s madness? It should at least be known to all, I would think. It certainly would reinforce my sense and my teaching that Europe isn’t free of history. The program would need to acknowledge that it too has a historical foundation.
Rumors of Nazi background.Rumors of genocide. Some more reflection on Hillary Clinton’s address and the Atrocity Prevention Board set up by President Obama. Timothy Snyder, our Bloodlands author, was quoted in the article, as knowing that global warming will bring episodes of mass death, a strong statement for sure and perhaps an accurate one. A strange future for sure, though he also warns that superpowers like the United States and China will deflect the consequences of global warming from their shores.
What strikes me is how easy “mass death” roles off the tongue at the Holocaust museums of the world. Politicians and intellectuals who are protected from the ravages of everything they predict for others. At least for now. This, at the place where they mourn the past. Strange digs to predict the end of the world as we know it?
Returning to the Israel’s “Never Again” Drones and Germany on the “We Repent” prowl again. Everyone who is anyone are preparing for the Global Warming world where drones will monitor the earth for every movement of weather, food, armaments, you name it. Monitoring for our security is the name of the Global Warming future.
This reminds me of the time I spoke at the Holocaust museum – itself a long story and one for another time. The image I remember is a reception held for a conference that was being held at the same day I was speaking. As I was brought to the reception and introduced all around, I noticed the food and the drinks were extensive and beautifully presented.
It was a lavish spread. Noting that we were surrounded by Holocaust depictions and artifacts, I hesitated before partaking of the feast before me. Of course, I had eaten earlier that day and would eat again. I was also hungry. The memory of the Holocaust had not interrupted my eating patterns. Yet, right there, in the Holocaust museum, the feast before me and the hum of friendly interactions, I was caught up short. When I mentioned this to my host he assured me that partaking of the food and conversation was appropriate. He offered to help by gathering food for me.
Hitler Youth camps.Mass death rolling off our tongues. Drones being manufactured, bought and sold. Receptions at Holocaust museums. Should all of this be normalized, as in, Marc, enjoy the food, would you like some tomato juice?
An earlier discussion in the program.I told the group that when a Palestinians comes to my home on Friday night, I will not light the Shabbat candles or say the blessings in front of them or that I was against my son, Isaiah, learning German as his college program’s foreign language – shall we say that it elicited controversy? Obviously I was just sharing my perspective to provoke thought. In light of everyone’s desire to normalize what shouldn’t exist in history or now, it may seem even more idiosyncratic. Who cares about Shabbat and my son learning German?
Disturbing it is, though. I suppose memorializing the dead and predicting more death is normal for the protected and the affluent, as in, we know it happened and is coming, let’s eat a sandwich and drink some coffee before we return to the continuing discussion, and, oh yes, Hillary Clinton’s keynote is next where she will note her husband’s failure as the Rwandan genocide unfolded. Not a problem, he has already acknowledged it as he acknowledged and tried to bridge the Israel/Palestine gap. President Clinton even attended Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral after he was assassinated as a friend and a man of peace without mentioning that Rabin was an ethnic cleanser. Clinton normalized Rabin as the Hitler Youth camps, mass death in the future, drones galore, the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide – all of it rolling off our tongues so easily.
The Congo line. The Apartheid Wall. Do you remember when no one thought the Wall could be built because the international community would stop it? I remember people arguing that it was best that Israel start building the Wall precisely because the situation would be then so crystal clear that the whole Israel/Palestine affair would be resolved. I was amazed and asked whether if the proponents of the Wall for the express purpose of exposing Israel had ever been ghettoized. If they had ever watched their worlds being walled in as the international community was called upon to act. Didn’t they realize that they were wrong, that if the record in the past of stopping Israel was a predictor then the Wall wouldn’t be stopped and that soon the world be on to other global hot spots? That the Wall would be normalized and that a people would be ghettoized as another fact on the ground?
Normalizing the once unthinkable. Mass death. The Apartheid Wall. So much before and after. So much to come, it just rolls off the tongue.
The Hilter Youth. Pope Benedict time, a whole other story. In the main building here, now being renovated, the crucified Jesus hangs on the wall where meals are eaten and in each room above the bed. I mean vivid depictions of Jesus’ agony. Were they there when the Nazis were around?
It seems that the Swastika and the Cross rarely clashed during the Nazi era. When they did it sometimes had to do with Crucifixes on the wall. Should they be removed or if they remained how vigorous did the churches support for the Nazis have to be?
The Catholic Church coexisting and then normalizing the Nazis.The Cross and mass death. Not synonymous. Not in absolute opposition.
Scary stuff. The raw dough of history.
Where I am teaching now, receptions where plates of food were passed, then.
Dancing last night – on the graves of others. Such is history. If we don’t dance on the dead, there would be no place to dance.
Life goes on, Global Warming mass death rolling off our tongues. Receptions will continue for the protected. As with the Apartheid Wall. Life goes on.