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Friedlander’s ‘plain speaking’ on Israeli trends (per Bromwich)

Israel/Palestine
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Saul Friedlander

Saul Friedlander

The other day I picked up some of Haaretz’s interview of Holocaust scholar Saul Friedlander, in which he said that it was legitimate for the left to analogize trends in Israeli political culture to Nazi actions in the 1930s. David Bromwich, who has a new book out on Moral Imagination, wrote to explain Friedlander’s importance:

Friedlander is one of the great scholars of the 20th century; and the integrity of the plain speaking in that interview is remarkable. Contrast the American scholars who see the viciousness of Israel’s social and political arrangements in regard to the Palestinians, but who say nothing, on the ground that only Israelis have the right to criticize Israel in public. Compare, too, those who treat the Holocaust as an event about which we are compelled to be silent because nothing in history approaches it. Friedlander is not cowed by those reasons for reticence.

His distinction between German anti-Semitism in the ’30s and the building and working of the death camps in the ’40s deserves to be noticed. The death camps started operating in 1942. The race laws against Jews–the prelude–were passed in the mid-’30s; Kristallnacht, the big Nazi government-sanctioned pogrom, waited until November 1938. Friedlander has recognized that the settler movement is already habituated to small pogroms, and that this falls in with the government design of legalized dispossession of Palestinians.

Menachem Begin was the first Israeli prime minister to invoke the Holocaust for political purposes. There was shock at the time when Begin used it to justify the 1982 Lebanon War, but we got over the shock, and got used to the demagogic practice. On Friedlander’s view, the rhetorical use of the Holocaust by the extreme right should be corrected and explicitly opposed. He sees the catastrophe not as a unique instance of something non-Jews did to Jews, but as an extreme instance of something people have done to other people, and still are capable of doing, anywhere.

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37 Responses

  1. David Doppler
    David Doppler
    May 21, 2014, 10:48 am

    Great piece. Cogent insight into intellectual cultural dysfunction.

  2. lysias
    lysias
    May 21, 2014, 11:33 am

    On Friedlander’s view, the rhetorical use of the Holocaust by the extreme right should be corrected and explicitly opposed. He sees the catastrophe not as a unique instance of something non-Jews did to Jews, but as an extreme instance of something people have done to other people, and still are capable of doing, anywhere.

    It would be interesting to know when apologists for Israel started denying that things like the Turkish killing of Armenians and the German killing of Gypsies were also genocides. The (Jewish) lawyer Raphael Lemkin, who coined the word “genocide” and drafted the international Genocide Convention, very much had the Armenians in mind in his work. But he died in 1959.

    • JohnAdamTurnbull
      JohnAdamTurnbull
      May 21, 2014, 12:25 pm

      When they started taking their vacations on the Turkish coast and buying apartments in Berlin.

    • jon s
      jon s
      May 21, 2014, 3:28 pm

      Who denies that those were genocides?

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        May 21, 2014, 4:14 pm

        “Who denies that those were genocides?”

        LMAO. Well, the Zionist lobby in the US, for a start. (At least until the Israeli terror squad decided to attack unarmed ships, sailing from Turkey to Gaza with humanitarian supplies to relieve the victims of the Israelis, and proceeded to murder a bunch of the passengers in cold blood, after which Turkish/Israeli relations suffered.)

      • jon s
        jon s
        May 22, 2014, 10:34 am

        Woody, Assuming you’re referring to the Marmara – it wasn’t unarmed, it wasn’t carrying humanitarian aid, and the soldiers were fighting for their lives.

        As to the genocides: prominent Israeli historians, such as Yair Auron and Yehuda Bauer have written extensively on those atrocities, they are acknowledged as genocides in academia and in the schools.
        I agree that in the past the Armenian genocide was downplayed, so as not to harm relations with Turkey -and I think that was disgraceful. Relations with Turkey are presently on the mend, and it doesn’t look recognizing that genocide will harm them.

      • James North
        James North
        May 22, 2014, 5:07 pm

        jon: I assume you are an honest man, but do you truly and honestly believe that the armed Israeli soldiers who attacked the Mavi Marmara, an unarmed vessel in international waters, were “fighting for their lives?”

      • lysias
        lysias
        May 22, 2014, 5:26 pm

        Mavi Marmara not unarmed? If you’re referring to the metal bars from the ship that the passengers picked up and brandished against the invading commandos, then there is no ship in the world that is unarmed.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        May 22, 2014, 5:36 pm

        @James North
        “jon: I assume you are an honest man, ”

        Don’t. It’s a bad assumption. There is nothing honest about jon s. He’s a lying Zionist, no better than any of the others.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        May 22, 2014, 5:54 pm

        “Woody, Assuming you’re referring to the Marmara – it wasn’t unarmed, it wasn’t carrying humanitarian aid, and the soldiers were fighting for their lives.”

        Typical jon s. Wrong, wrong and wrong. First, it was unarmed. Second, it was carrying humanitarian aid. Third, the garbage that attacked the ship to commit cold blooded murder were not “fighting for their lives,” they were out to kill people who were simply try to aid their fellow humans in Gaza who were being brutally oppressed by your diabolical government.

      • Hostage
        Hostage
        May 22, 2014, 6:34 pm

        but do you truly and honestly believe that the armed Israeli soldiers who attacked the Mavi Marmara, an unarmed vessel in international waters, were “fighting for their lives?”

        There was another case involving Turkey, the S.S. Lotus, in which the Permanent Court of International Justice addressed the applicable law of the seas:

        “Now the first and foremost restriction imposed by international law upon a State is that – failing the existence of a permissive rule to the contrary – it may not exercise its power in any form in the territory of another State. In this sense jurisdiction is certainly territorial; it cannot be exercised by a State outside its territory except by virtue of a permissive rule derived from international custom or from a convention.”

        http://www.icj-cij.org/pcij/serie_A/A_10/30_Lotus_Arret.pdf

      • lysias
        lysias
        May 21, 2014, 4:24 pm

        For example, Guenter Lewy in The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies and in The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide. Bernard Lewis was convicted in a French court of law for denying that what was done to the Armenians was genocide. Steven Katz in The Holocaust in Historical Context denies that what was done to the Armenians and the Gypsies constituted genocide.

      • Ellen
        Ellen
        May 21, 2014, 4:42 pm

        Israel lobbied the US Congress for years to prevent recognition of the Armenian Genocide. They claimed that they were concerned for Jews in Turkey so did not want to recognize what was done to the Armenian population under the Ottomans. (Which Jews of Turkey simply found odd.)But when Israel murdered unarmed Turkish citizens a few years back, they suddenly no longer seemed to care about the welfare of Jews in Istanbul.

        The ADL made a disgraceful mockery of themselves when they politically attacked an Armenian community of Newton, MA when they sought recognition of the Genocide. More on that here.

        http://adlandag.blogspot.com

      • Ellen
        Ellen
        May 21, 2014, 4:57 pm

        The ADL, for one. As the Armenian Community of Massachusetts wrote to the ADL:

        We maintain, however, that a human rights organization that engages in a form of genocide denial and opposes recognition of genocide does not have the moral authority to sponsor such important programs in our communities.

        Our deep concern with the ADL’s position on the Armenian Genocide is manifold.

        The ADL’s leadership, evidently unbeknownst to its members, has denied the Armenian Genocide and actively opposed U.S. recognition of it for years. It was under pressure that National Director Abraham Foxman somewhat insincerely released a statement on the Armenian Genocide on August 21, 2007. Referring to the events of 1915-1918, the statement declared, “The consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide.”

        Aside from the fact that the Armenian Genocide began in 1915 and continued through 1923, we do not consider the statement to be a full, unequivocal acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide.

        First, the qualifier “tantamount” is inappropriate. The Armenian Genocide was not “tantamount to genocide,” it was genocide.

      • lysias
        lysias
        May 21, 2014, 5:27 pm

        They in effect said that the genocide ended in 1918, because that absolved Ataturk’s Turkish Republic of any responsibility for the genocide. In fact, after the Ottoman Empire surrendered at the end of World War One and ended the genocide, Ataturk’s Turkish Nationalist forces resumed the massacres in 1920, and they lasted until 1923, with the result that the only Armenians remaining on the territory of the Turkish Republic were some Armenians in Istanbul. They had been obliterated throughout Anatolia.

  3. James North
    James North
    May 21, 2014, 11:50 am

    Great, valuable post. Thanks to David Bromwich.

  4. seafoid
    seafoid
    May 21, 2014, 1:40 pm

    “The race laws against Jews–the prelude–were passed in the mid-’30s; Kristallnacht, the big Nazi government-sanctioned pogrom, waited until November 1938. ”

    The Nazis had a similar build up over a shorter time period in the Netherlands .
    It was always one step at a time. Nothing necessarily alarming on its own . Designed to appeal to law and order types. All towards the same sick goal. Just like the State of Israel.

    http://www.holocaust-lestweforget.com/holocaust-segregation.html

    • lysias
      lysias
      May 21, 2014, 2:39 pm

      As a result of the discussion here on MW a couple of days ago of the word “Weltanschauung”, I am now in the process of reading through Mein Kampf for the first time. Monday, I read Hitler’s discussion of the turn-of-the-century Austrian politicians the Christian-Socialist Karl Lueger and the Pangermanist Georg von Schönerer. Hitler says he much more agreed with the ideas of von Schönerer but that he much more admired Lueger as a politician, because he knew what it was possible to achieve, and limited himself to that (whereas von Schönerer’s lack of realism condemned him to political failure). This morning, I read a passage where Hitler says that, in order to achieve anything, you have to set yourself intermediate goals and get to your ultimate objective in steps.

      • German Lefty
        German Lefty
        May 21, 2014, 4:07 pm

        I am now in the process of reading through Mein Kampf for the first time.
        Do you read it in German? Are you a native German speaker?
        I considered reading the book, too. However, I was told that it is rather boring. That’s why I decided to cast away that idea.

        Hitler says that, in order to achieve anything, you have to set yourself intermediate goals and get to your ultimate objective in steps.
        Oh, great! From now on, every person who has the same approach will be accused of being “just like Hitler”.

      • lysias
        lysias
        May 21, 2014, 4:30 pm

        Yes, I am reading it in German. (I am not a native speaker. I studied German in high school and college, worked one summer in a bank in Vienna, was stationed with the U.S. Air Force for two years in Berlin, and had to read a lot of German for my postgraduate studies in clasicial antiquities.) I can’t say much for Hitler’s style. But the content is fascinating. Even though he’s clearly lying a lot of the time (and even admits the utility of lying,) it goes a long way towards explaining what the man’s intentions were.

        On Hitler going step by step, Christabel Bielenberg said when she was interviewed for the British TV series The World at War that Hitler’s genius was his being able to sense just how much he could get away with, over time.

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        May 22, 2014, 11:07 am

        He bit off more than he could chew invading the Soviet Union, however.

      • German Lefty
        German Lefty
        May 22, 2014, 2:00 pm

        But the content is fascinating.
        Really? I have heard that it’s badly written and tedious to read. However, the Free State of Bavaria refused to allow the book’s publication in Germany. From this one can only infer that the book’s content must be incredibly appealing and would immediately turn every German reader into a little Nazi. Or not? This just shows how much trust Bavaria has in German citizens. Precisely zero. Very insulting.
        Any way, I just downloaded the audio version of the book. I wonder how long I will be able to endure listening to this crap. Peter Beinart’s book about Zionism became unbearable after 40 minutes of listening.
        By the way, I hope you didn’t pay any money for your copy of “Mein Kampf”.

        Even though he’s clearly lying a lot of the time (and even admits the utility of lying)
        Doesn’t surprise me. The Zionists, too, know that the things they say are lies.

        Hitler’s genius was his being able to sense just how much he could get away with, over time.
        Just like Zionists.

      • lysias
        lysias
        May 22, 2014, 5:20 pm

        The German text is very cheap (less than a dollar) on the Kindle, at least here in the U.S.

        But you’re judging the book for the truth value of its contents (very little), when what gives the book its value is its historical significance.

      • Elisabeth
        Elisabeth
        May 22, 2014, 5:50 pm

        Hello German Lefty,
        I wanted to answer your question (put to me earlier in another thread, but the comments there were closed). As to religion, you asked me how believing in a non-existant being could make anyone better.
        I think that is a shallow view of religion, at least one that is very simple. I am religious and it is to me a way of being in the world. (I do not know or care if there is some kind of existence that you might call ‘god’, an imagined being.) But going to church means a lot to me. It lifts me out of the weekly drudgery, listening to an intelligent discussion of sometimes beautiful, and sometime horrible texts. (Those last are the more interesting, in a way.)
        And then there is the music, singing together with the congregation, people from your neigborhood that you otherwise would not meet.

        When I studied in the US, I went to listen to a political speech in a church in Washington DC and found a leaflet there, written by one of its former ministers (called Powell Davies).
        I will paste the text below as it (sort of) explains what I mean.
        Please do not react by saying “Oh, I can do all that without believing in an imagined being”. Just try to get an understanding of what religion can mean to some people, who are not stupid or simple, will you?

        On going to church

        …Let me tell you why I come to church. I come to church –and would whether I was a preacher or not- because I fall below my own standards and need to be constantly brought back to them.

        It is not enough that I should think about the world and its problems at the level of a newspaper report or a magazine discussion. It could too soon become too low a level. I must have my conscience sharpened- sharpened until it goads me to the most thorough and responsible thinking of which I am capable. I must feel again the love I owe my fellow men. I must not only hear about it but feel it. In church I do.

        I need to be reminded that there are things I must do in the world- unselfish things, things undertaken at the level of idealism. Workaday enthusiasms are not enough. They wear out too soon. I want to experience human nature at its best –and be reminded of its highest possibilities, and this happens to me in church.

        It may seem as though the same things could be found in solitude, but it does not easily happen so. In a congregation we share each other’s spiritual needs and reinforce each other. In some ways, the soul is never lonelier than in a church service. That is certainly true of a pulpit, for a pulpit is the most intimately lonely place in the world –yet it is a loneliness that has strength in it.

        Perhaps this is because the innermost solitude of the human heart is in some paradoxical way a thing that can be shared –that must be shared – if the spirit of God is to find a full entrance into it.

        We meet each other as friends and neighbors anywhere and everywhere, but we seldom do so in the consciousness of our souls’ deepest yearnings. But in church we do –in a way that protects us from all that is intrusive, yet leaves us knowing that we all have the same yearning, the same spiritual loneliness, the same need of assurance and faith and hope. We are brought together at the highest level possible. We are not merely and audience, we are a congregation.

        I doubt whether I could stand the thought of the cruelty and misery of the present world unless I could know, through an experience that renewed itself over and over again, that at the heart of life there is assurance, that I can hold an ultimate belief that all is well. And this happens in church.

        Life must have its sacred moments and its holy places. The soul will always seek its nurture. For religious experience –which is life at its most intense, life at its best – is something we cannot do without.

        A. Powell Davies Minister, All Souls Church,
        1944-1957

      • just
        just
        May 22, 2014, 6:35 pm

        Thanks for sharing that, Elisabeth.

  5. Hostage
    Hostage
    May 21, 2014, 7:45 pm

    Menachem Begin was the first Israeli prime minister to invoke the Holocaust for political purposes.

    No, Ben Gurion did it early and often. Lesser officials did too. Abba Eban browbeat Mike Wallace on US network television for “committing blasphemy,” when Wallace compared the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to the ethnic cleansing of Jews during the Holocaust. http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/multimedia/video/2008/wallace/eban_abba_t.html

  6. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    May 21, 2014, 11:58 pm

    I suppose I’m nitpicking, but Friedlander differentiated between the 30’s and the 40’s and did not mention the death camps. In fact the difference between the 30’s and the 40’s probably began with the invasion of Poland in 1939 and definitely began by the time of the einsatzgruppen mass killings in the fall of 1941. (I’m not sure how many Jews were murdered in the aftermath of Kristalnacht, but it could be argued that this too falls into the category of the 40’s as delineated by Friedlander.) When Bromwich focuses upon the building of the death camps this seems to fall into the category of historical carelessness, as if the only mass murders took place in the death camps and not in the killing fields, the mass graves on the outskirts of towns in Eastern Europe. Bromwich promotes ignorance with his focus on the death camps.

    • Stephen Shenfield
      Stephen Shenfield
      May 22, 2014, 6:35 am

      Yes, the occupation of Poland enormously expanded the size of the Jewish population under Nazi control and together with the resulting outbreak of war with Britain and France ruled out expulsion as a possible “solution to the Jewish problem.” The transition to open genocide occurred with the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

      The methods used were a matter of secondary importance. Initially the Nazis relied on mass executions. But this had such an unsettling effect on the executioners (clinics had to be set up for guys driven insane by so much killing) that they started to look for alternative methods. (Norman Finkelstein draws attention to the parallel with the Israeli tendency to be concerned with the moral damage to the perpetrators of atrocity rather than with the suffering of their victims.) The idea of using poison gas was borrowed from the earlier extermination campaign against the handicapped and initially took the form of pumping exhaust into enclosed chambers at the back of motor vehicles.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      May 22, 2014, 8:50 am

      I think the avoidance of the fact that half of the Jews killed in the Holocaust died (basically) by being shot on the outskirts of towns in Eastern Europe stems from the fact that when you start talking about “the Holocaust as an event about which we are compelled to be silent because nothing in history approaches it,” you have to draw distinctions between it and every other example of armed forces committing wholesale murder. Those who wish to view the Holocaust as being “different in kind” often point to the organization and industrialization of the process as being indicative of that “difference in kind.” Obviously the fact that half of those killed were not killed in anything approaching an industrialized process puts a monkeywrench in that attempt to set the Holocaust separate and apart.

      • marc b.
        marc b.
        May 22, 2014, 10:07 am

        I find the whole exercise of ranking atrocities at the macro or micro scale to be grotesque. you cannot analyze the Holocaust as an isolated historical event, and qualifying it as an unparalleled, historical event does nothing to advance ‘History’. in fact, it’s been ably pointed out, the reverse is true. and you cannot rank the terror experienced by a Russian child who froze to death during the siege of Leningrad against those of a Polish Jew who froze to death in a cattle car on its way to a concentration camp. the only ways such an analysis works at any level is either as an ideological exercise, or as teaching device, i.e. breaking down an historical era into bite-sized, comprehensible chunks for novices.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        May 22, 2014, 5:31 pm

        marc b, I agree. But I would think that those who are looking for a way to hold the Holocaust out as being different in kind would say that they are not engaging in ranking, but in saying that it is qualitatively different. (I don’t believe that, of course, but that would probably be their response.)

    • marc b.
      marc b.
      May 22, 2014, 8:55 am

      Bromwich doesn’t promote anything of the sort by his historically accurate reference to the death camps, and its hardly careless. 1942 is a pivotal year both in terms of the European war generally, and the practical implementation of German policies. essentially the revision of policy in 1942 is a tacit admission that the war was lost. I don’t see how I can paraphrase the evolution of policy briefly, so i’ll quote Timothy Snyder. (apologies if the long excerpts violate some rule or another.)

      The removal of these men [fifteen thousand Polish officers]—and all but one of them were men—was a kind of decapitation of Polish society. The Soviets took more than one hundred thousand prisoners of war, but released the men and kept only the officers. More than two thirds of these officers came from the reserves. Like Czapski and his botanist companion, these reserve officers were educated professionals and intellectuals, not military men. Thousands of doctors, lawyers, scientists, professors, and politicians were thus removed from Poland.

      In Operation Tannenberg, Heydrich [Himmler’s assistant] wanted the Einsatzgruppen to render “the upper levels of society” harmless by murdering sixty-one thousand Polish citizens. As Hitler put it, “only a nation whose upper levels are destroyed can be pushed into the ranks of slavery.” The ultimate goal of this decapitation project was to “destroy Poland” as a functioning society. By killing the most accomplished Poles, the Einsatzgruppen were to make Poland resemble the German racist fantasy of the country, and leave the society incapable of resisting German rule.

      A particular wound was caused by the intentions, in both Moscow and Berlin, to decapitate Polish society, to leave Poles as a malleable mass that could be ruled rather than governed. Hans Frank, citing Hitler, defined his job as the elimination of Poland’s “leadership elements.” NKVD officers took their assignment to a logical extreme by consulting a Polish “Who’s Who” in order to define their targets.
      Hitler intended to use the Soviet Union to solve his British problem, not in its present capacity as an ally but in its future capacity as a colony. During this crucial year, between June 1940 and June 1941, German economic planners were working hard to devise the ways in which a conquered Soviet Union would make Germany the kind of superpower that Hitler wanted it to become. … Under the general heading of “Generalplan Ost,” SS Standartenfurhrer Professor Konrad Meyer drafted a series of plans for a vast eastern colony. … General would deport, kill, assimilate, or enslave the native populations, and bring order and prosperity to a humbled frontier. Depending upon the demographic estimates, between thirty-one and forty-five million people, mostly Slavs, were to disappear. In one redaction, eighty to eighty-five percent of the Poles, sixty-five percent of the west Ukrainians, seventy-five percent of the Belarusians, and Fifty percent of the Czechs were to be eliminated.

      As German planners saw matters, the collective farm should be used again to starve millions of people: in fact, this time, the intention was to kill tens of millions. Collectivization had brought starvation to Soviet Ukraine, first as an unintended result of inefficiencies and unrealistic grain targets, and then as an intended consequence of the vengeful extractions of late 1932 and early 1933. Hitler, on the other hand, planned in advance to starve unwanted Soviet populations to death.

      Ruthlessness is not the same thing as efficiency, and German planning was too bloodthirsty to be really practical. The Wehrmacht could not implement the Hunger Plan. … The problem for the Germans was rather that the systematic starvation of a large civilian population is an inherently difficult undertaking. It is much easier to conquer territory than to redistribute calories. … Germany starved Soviet citizens anyway, less from political dominion than political desperation. Though the Hunger Plan was based upon false political assumptions, it still provided the moral premises for the war in the East. In autumn 1941, the Germans starved not to remake a conquered Soviet Union but to continue their war without imposing any costs on their own civilian population.

      As the war turned Stalin’s way, Hitler recast its purpose. The plan had been to destroy the Soviet Union and then eliminate the Jews. Now, as the destruction of the Soviet Union was indefinitely delayed, the utter extermination of the Jews became a wartime policy. The menace henceforth was less the Slavic masses and their supposed Jewish overlords, and more the Jews as such. In 1942, propaganda against Slavs would ease, as more of them came to work in the Reich. Hitler’s decision to kill Jews (rather than exploit their labor) was presumably facilitated by his simultaneous decision to exploit the labor of Slavs (rather than kill them). … Henceforth resettlement or resettlement to the East [of the Jews] would mean mass murder. Perhaps the resettlement euphemism, by suggesting an essential continuity of policy, helped Nazis to overlook the fact that German policy not only changed by had to change because the war was not going as expected.

      Within a few months, Stangl had changed the appearance of Treblinka, and thereby increased its lethal functionality. Jews who arrived at Treblinka in late 1942 disembarked not to a simple ramp surrounded by dead bodies [as it had become under Eberl] but inside a mock train station, painted by a Jewish laborer to resemble a real one. It had a clock, a timetable, and ticket counters. As Jews stepped from the “station,” they could hear the sound of music, played by an orchestra led by the Warsaw musician Arthur Gold. … In the courtyard, the Jews were forced to strip naked, on the pretext that they were to be disinfected before a further transport “to the east.” Jews had to bundle their clothes neatly and tie their shoes together by the laces. They had to surrender any valuables; women were subjected to cavity searches. At this point a few women, in some of the transports, were selected for rape; and a few men, in some of the transports, were selected for labor. The women then shared the fate of the rest, whereas the men would live for a few more days, weeks, or even months as slave laborers. All the women went to the gas chambers without their clothes, and without their hair.

      so, 1942 and the ‘camps’ are both important practically and symbolically. the problem/purpose with/of your criticism is that it is historically careless. it promotes ignorance in that you make it appear as if the extermination of European Jews was the primary objective of the Nazis, necessary to the success of Germany’s depopulation/repopulation scheme for Eastern Europe. In fact the extermination of tens of millions of Slavs was the immediate goal. The extermination of Polish/Belorussian/Russian/Ukrainian Jews would not have made possible German plans for repopulation of European Russia.

      • MHughes976
        MHughes976
        May 22, 2014, 4:56 pm

        I do have some reservations about Snyder, though I cannot martial a small fraction of the information that he uses. However, to my mind he argues too much through numbers, as if they were the heart of the matter, and depends to a rather startling degree on secondary sources. On planned hunger in the conquered eastern lands, from which energies were (he says) diverted into persecution of Jews, I think he overinterprets.
        German colonists were not available in the first phase of the eastern war, when things appeared to be going Germany’s way, and at the same time food production was essential if the early successes were to turn to long-term victory. It would have been possible to maltreat, but not to starve with immediate effect, the workers whose work was essential to the production of food. Fantasies of long-run cruelty may, since the German leadership were not very nice people, have been entertained but their existence as fantasies would not show that there had ever been a practical plan. The obvious ploy in the face of increasing Stalinist success was to seek some support from the conquered populations by blaming Stalin (and of course the Jews, often accused of Stalinism; divide and conquer) for their sufferings and offering some slight alleviation in comparison with what Stalin had inflicted. I would think that the degree of success achieved by the German armies shows that, however horrible were their ideas, they were not even incompetent, let alone crazy. Moreover I think it clear that their propaganda persuaded some people.
        Isn’t Snyder’s rhetoric ‘They could not carry out the plan (ie the plan for starvation) but starved people anyway’ running away with itself?

      • marc b.
        marc b.
        May 22, 2014, 5:26 pm

        yes, you’ve touched upon some issues. I’d only respond for the moment by saying that for all the Germans’ vaunted efficiency, the lebensraum plan was a crackpot one and bound to result in some wild improvisation as it inevitably fell to pieces. as you point out, for example,

        German colonists were not available in the first phase of the eastern war, when things appeared to be going Germany’s way . . .

        in fact, there weren’t enough ‘Germans’ to effectively repopulate Eastern Europe even if the Nazis managed to murder tens of millions of Slavs and maintain military control of the region. (R.M. Douglas in ‘Orderly and Humane’ paints a picture of the extremely flexible standard for ‘Germanness’ when just trying to fill up emptied apartments in Poland, never mind restocking the Ukraine.)

        the service Snyder is providing is to try to synthesize a whole out of all the various competing national and ethnic studies of who did what to whom during the war in the East.

  7. LeaNder
    LeaNder
    May 22, 2014, 7:27 am

    (I’m not sure how many Jews were murdered in the aftermath of Kristalnacht, but it could be argued that this too falls into the category of the 40′s as delineated by Friedlander.)

    Apparently often the numbers of the secret police report are used in this context, which initially reported 90something, I would need to look that up, and later corrected it to around thirty. From memory.

    This is one of the general problems of dealing with the period, on one hand you have to rely on the documents and numbers of the regime, on the other hand you have to take them with a grain of salt and only use them if their is independent evidence . The Reichsprogromnacht is an interesting issue, since it was portrayed at the time as a spontaneous action expressing the will of the people. It was nothing of the kind, of course. How could a spontaneous action coordinate such a Germany wide event. I do not mention this to excuse my German ancestors or the German masses at the time, I mention it in the context of the argument of “new antisemitism” and Nazi analogies. Obviously it is a lot more dangerous when antisemitism is part of the ideology of the regime.

    The problem with the numbers is, they don’t include the people that where brought to the camps, some of which can be shown to have been killed there. The majority was released again, which leaves us with two types of numbers, at least for the camps whose numbers still exist: A smaller one indicating the people that were killed in the respective camps and a larger one the fate of which is unknown. I haven’t seen a study–not suggesting it does not exist–that compared the people whose fate is unknown with the lists of trains or transports further East. Or checked other sources, since obviously the people on the trains while marked as Jews are nameless. But I remember that some scholars suggested that people that committed suicide in the aftermath should be included too. But as you may imagine, it would be very, very difficult or more impossible to do. Or at least it would be an immense task, that needs a solid method.

    For whatever reason an old couple comes to mind, whose fate touched me deeply, but I had to check if that was about the aftermath of the “Kristallnacht”. They committed suicide, after the woman had gotten her husband out of the camp. They had all the documents to leave. But as you may imagine the older one is the less easy that may be. Their destination would have been somewhere in South America.

    In fact the difference between the 30′s and the 40′s probably began with the invasion of Poland in 1939 and definitely began by the time of the einsatzgruppen mass killings in the fall of 1941.

    While it is true that the Einsatzgruppen performed there dirty work in the back of the troops during the invasion of Russia, they first practiced “their task” during their invasion of Poland. There were a lot of mass shootings that targeted the Polish intelligence, as enemies of the German expansion East.

    Kristallnacht, by the way. Two “l”. Besides if you are talking about its human victims and not the “broken glass”, Reichsprogomnacht is the better term.

    • LeaNder
      LeaNder
      May 22, 2014, 10:44 am

      Hmm, I never could understand mistakes resulting from phonetics, when I lived in London. In any case, “there – their” has to be corrected in your mind occasionally. Seems I was only semi-attentive.

      Maybe since I wanted to get one basic conviction about a system like the Nazis’ over. Somewhat between the lines, the only minor route of escape for journalists at that time too. It is often alluded to by a specific quote. First they came for the Socialists …

  8. Xpat
    Xpat
    May 22, 2014, 4:58 pm

    “He sees the catastrophe not as a unique instance of something non-Jews did to Jews, but as an extreme instance of something people have done to other people, and still are capable of doing, anywhere.”

    This is a restatement of Hannah Arendt’s conclusion in “Eichmann in Jerusalem”. For taking the Holocaust out of the Jewish domain and making it a universal issue she was shunned by Israel and Zionists. 50+ years later, this is not the point that is going to stoke controversy.

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