27 January 2009

Lest We Forget: Holocaust Victim Remembrance Day

Taking a break: Camp commandant Richard Baer, notorious concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele, and the commandant of the Birkenau camp, Josef Kramer (obscured) and former commandant Rudolf Höss.A pleasant and relaxing break between torturing and murdering over 1,500,000 people.Spiegel through US Holocaust Museum

I had planned to write an interesting post here. This is the 64th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Russians.

Some reports say the German guards were given orders several days ago to destroy the crematoria and gas chambers. Tens of thousands of prisoners - those who were able to walk - have been moved out of the prison and forced to march to other camps in Germany.BBC 1/27/45. 

They entered to find a near empty camp, because the Nazis had loaded all the moveable victims that they could into trains to nowhere, which were then bombed and the victims were forced on a march to nowhere.
They also found seven tons of women's hair, human teeth, from which gold fillings had been extracted and tens of thousands of children's outfits. BBC
 My father was one of 25,000+ on the march to nowhere. He was one of 38 survivors.

I don't have the energy to discuss this. Instead I want to link to other stories and other blog posts. Take a look. To those who wish to say that the destruction of the Jews is comparable to any other mass murder I say, "You are wrong".

The Wiki entry for Auschwitz-Birkenau
Yad Vashem
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Should Auschwitz be left to decay?(BBC). In a world where the Pope (a former Nazi, if an unenthusiastic one) finds it good to remove the excommunication of a Holocaust denying "Bishop"(Reuters) two days before Holocaust Remembrance day,
"Especially from a German pope, I would have expected more understanding and sensitivity," Graumann said. "The fact that this comes from a German pope leaves a certain taste and provokes certain feelings."
In comments to Swedish television broadcast and widely available on the Internet, Williamson has said: "I believe there were no gas chambers." He said up to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi camps, rather than the 6 million widely accepted.
it seems falsely naive to pretend that allowing the concrete evidence of this evil to disappear is not a step onto the path of forgetfulness. There's a reason that the Nazis attempted to burn all records and destroy the crematoria before the Red Army arrived.

A beautiful post from Ian, at Letters Home.

A post from Normblog dicussing the two cities that cancelled the commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust through an anti-Semitic equation of the murder of more than 6,000,000 with the sad deaths of some 300+ innocent people in a war started by their own terroristic government lobbing bombs at innocent people. Barcelona is one of them.

Norm also discussed the debate referenced above about keeping Auschwitz as a memorial.

I'm going to close with a link to an interview with Norm (Nrman Geras) and a long quote- here is a disussion of the "uniqueness" of the Shoah that I feel does not derive from a desire to minimize the destruction of my people and my way of life, and which thought processes I understand and respect:

Is there something special about the Holocaust that, in your view, marks it out as uniquely significant? Or does it stand alongside other acts of genocide such as the Turkish massacre of the Armenians or the recent slaughter in Rwanda?

The first thing to say is that the disjunctive implication in this pair of questions is one I would want to discourage. The Holocaust can stand alongside the Armenian, Rwandan and other genocides, even if it also stands apart in some significant way. I would go further. The universal significance of the Holocaust as an act of human barbarity and an experience of colossal suffering – and in these respects just like a very large number of other historical experiences – is of greater moment than is any special significance the event might possess. As terrible as was their fate, the destruction of the Jews of Europe belongs to a wider pattern of human violence and resulting pain and torment, and one should oppose all attempts to single it out as having been somehow uniquely terrible for its victims. It was another ghastly chapter in the long book of mass human suffering – and that is terrible enough. Accordingly, I did not see it as in any way inappropriate to formulate a universalizing theoretical argument on the basis (mainly) of the Jewish tragedy.
On the other hand, I think that from the side of the perpetrators – that is, if one considers the Nazi genocide not as an experience of suffering but as a crime – there may well be something significantly singular about it. I reject the notion, of increasing currency these days though it would not have been acceptably utterable in any left or liberal milieu for several decades after the Second World War, that the claim that the Holocaust was unique is merely some sort of epiphenomenon of Zionism. The Holocaust-uniqueness thesis can be, and sometimes is, misused in apologetics for unjust and oppressive policies of the Israeli state, but it is not reducible to this; no more than is the denial that the Holocaust was unique necessarily a form of German historical apologia, though it can be that, and was during the German historians' debate of the 1980s, in the writings of Ernst Nolte and others. There have been both non-Jewish and Jewish proponents of the uniqueness thesis whose internationalist, or ethically universalist, credentials were beyond doubt; as there have been opponents of the same thesis without any interest in apologetics on behalf of the Third Reich. There is a legitimate and difficult question here and it should be tackled on assumptions of good faith rather than malign motivation. To summarize a complex argument in a few sentences – for this is the topic of a paper I completed recently – my own view is that the claimed uniqueness of the Holocaust, if it can be sustained, is not persuasively attributable to any one distinguishing feature of the disaster. It is the product of a combination of features. I draw on the Wittgensteinian argument about family-resemblance concepts. The features in question – comprehensiveness of genocidal intent; 'modernity'; the effort at a kind of moral, as well as physical, annihilation of the Jews; and the fact that the undertaking had no ulterior instrumental purpose but was, in a sense, for its own sake – combined to produce an ongoing, tendentially permanent, social sub-system specifically for the mass production of death outside warfare. This was an ominous precedent for humankind.

1 comment:

honeypiehorse said...

A very moving post. I think the distinction between the suffering of the victims and the motivations of the perpetrators is important. I'm sorry about your father.