The Certainties of Evil and the Politics of Not-Forgetting


Ms. Barnouw is Professor of German and Comparative Literature, University of Southern California, and author of Visible Spaces: Hannah Arendt and the German Jewish Experience, John Hopkins (1990). She lives in Del Mar, California. Her latest book is The War in the Empty Air: Victims, Perpetrators, And Postwar Germans.

“The Holocaust” as a construct of memory stories about the historical events of Nazi rule began its spectacular rise in Western culture with the Eichmann trial that located Jewish identity in the experience of extreme suffering and victimization. Presented on the stage of the world, before hundreds of journalists of the print and electronic media, this trial changed the earlier universalist perspective on Nazi crimes by focusing on individual Holocaust witnesses. The chief prosecutor Gideon Hausner had chosen a large number of witnesses on the basis of their written testimonies and his subsequent interviews with them. His goal was to derive the dramatic structure of Eichmann’s trial exclusively from their stories rather than the extensive collection of Nazi documents gathered by the Israeli police.The extreme experience of “the Holocaust”could only become ‘real’ for the millions of readers, listeners and viewers of the trial, if a large number of carefully coached survivors testified in person and thereby individualized the uniqueness of unimaginably cruel persecution. In the cumulative acts of individual recitation, however, these stories would not draw on collective memories “refreshed,” as Hausner had hoped, by the witnesses’ recorded testimonies. Rather, the emotions released by the recitations overpowered the witnesses to the point where they became their stories of extreme suffering—an identification that exploded the elaborate choreography of the trial. Screaming with the recalled pain, fainting from the remembered fear, the performance of their past persecution collapsed all temporal and spatial distance between the narrator and the narrated and thereby erased the historicity of their experiences of persecution, that is, the complex relational historical reality of Nazi crimes.

Hausner would have been dismayed at first that his elaborate strategy for handling the witnesses' testimonies had not worked as planned. He would not have wanted his audiences to witness this seemingly uncontrollable emotional engulfment in selective individual reenactments of past persecutions that in reality had been shared with many others. But he also had not planned for the representation of Nazi persecution to be negotiated by historical relation and comparison between different witnesses’ past experiences based on a rational interrogation protocol. And it was precisely the spontaneous erasure of such rational contextual historical inquiry that communicated to “the whole world” the supra-historical reality of indescribable, unspeakable, incredible suffering. What the world saw, heard, visualized and visceralized watching this trial had to mean the uniqueness, and then unique significance, of Jewish suffering that called for a supra-historical status of the survivor-as-witness and a near-religious postwar hierarchy of victimization and innocence.

Observing and reporting the Eichmann trial, Hannah Arendt disliked particularly the witnesses’ self-absorbed performances of their extreme suffering that created the illusion of a powerful immediacy of previous persecution and thus drowned out the ostensibly real issue of the trial, the guilt of Eichmann. She was troubled by the result of the show trial’s sensationalist and emotionalist use of the witnesses, namely the uncommonly low protocol standards regarding their examination and the evaluation of their testimonies. She also criticized the staging of Jewish collective identity in the experience of Nazi persecutions as “uniquely” Jewish victimization, where in historical reality many other groups were also persecuted as the declared enemies of the Nazi regime.

In her correspondence with the philosopher Karl Jaspers about the question of German guilt, Arendt had expressed her fears about the political consequences of the pure victim status of Jews in the postwar era (17 August 1946). More clearly than most of her contemporaries, she foresaw the problems with the American sharply drawn separation between the absolute innocence and goodness of the victors and the absolute guilt and Evil of all the vanquished: none of them politically workable concepts. Her compounded misgivings about the political consequences of the Eichmann trial contributed to her ill-advised choice of the subtitle for the Eichmann book, “The Banality of Evil.” It was meant to focus more attention on the guilt of Eichmann, an extraordinary mass-murderer and ordinary man, and less on his extraordinary victims. But linking “banality” and “Evil” was a profound shock to most of her readers since it appeared to question the mysterious substance and significance of (Nazi) Evil, and by association the a priori existential dignity of the victims of that Evil. Arendt, in turn, was shocked by their powerful desire to believe in the profoundness of Evil: her critical questions and reservations signified an amoral violation of religio-political certainties, heresy.

Over the decades, the desire to join the community of believers would grow and with it the semi-religious status of "the Holocaust" and the politicization of the memory of W.W.II. The perception of German collective guilt as the combined banality of ordinary men and the Evil of extraordinary murderers had been prefigured in the Allies’ Manichean scenario at the end of the war. But Eichmann as he emerged at the trial, a hyper-modern kind of ideological mass murderer, fit neither the religious concept of Evil nor the secular concept of banality. The man’s bad (evil) deeds may indeed have seemed to reflect elements of both in that his ideological (utopianist) motivations could be said to have been semi-religious--hence Arendt's definition of him as a "common man and extraordinary murderer." Yet the extreme situation of a total inversion of morality (killing the perceived enemy as the supreme value) at the end-stage of a hyper-modern technological war of heretofore unheard-of dimensions was a new phenomenon for which this explanation was and is too simple.

Arendt herself had invoked that extreme situation in her attempts at a better understanding of the nature of Eichmann's deeds and thereby undermined her neat combination of common and extraordinary, the banality of evil. This is precisely the point where the still most controversial, indeed "evil," relation between Nazi criminality and the Victors' war crimes could be helpful for a better rational, and that means partial, understanding of the historical events of W.W.II and its heritage. The Allies' new concept of “total air war” differed in kind from Hitler’s and Stalin’s brutal warfare on the eastern front in that its equally absolute disregard for human life did not focus on particular population groups, other than “the enemy” (which included civilians); nor did it depend on outlandishly ruthless, psychopathic leaders.

The denial of the protective civilian status to all civilian populations at all times in all places was built into the new concept of air war, and it was there to stay. In his recent account of the beleaguered President's plan to shift the "war" in Iraq away from the politically sensitive (physically messy) ground troups to more neutral (less visible) airpower, Seymour Hersh sums up the opinion of military experts: "while the number of American casualties would decrease as ground troups are withdrawn, the over-all level of Iraqi fatalities would increase unless there are stringent controls over who bombs what" ("Up in the Air," The New Yorker, Dec.5, 2005, 43). But who, given the evermore chaotic situation in Iraq, would be in control of such control?

The Eichmann trial had been successful in presenting the supra-historical uniqueness of the Jewish victim status; and though it took them some years to act on it, the political value of the moral capital of this status was not lost on American Jewry—hence also the sharp attacks on Arendt’s report on the Eichmann trial in the early sixties. In the late sixties, with mounting international criticism of Israel's occupational strategies, Jewish leaders in America found it increasingly useful to draw on the authority of “the Holocaust” to support belief in the unique claims of a “chosen” people with unique victim status—claims that were echoed in the Germans’ increasing pre-occupation with their unique collective guilt and "inability to mourn” their victims.

Over the next four decades, “the Holocaust” would become a gigantic construct of memory stories of singular Jewish suffering, and May 2005 saw the much lauded inauguration of the hyper-monumental Berlin Mahnmal. Dedicated exclusively to the memory of the murdered Jews of Europe, it promised an enduringly guilty remembrance of Germany's Bad Past that would "forever" control that nation's future. In political reality, the long heated debates over many years about the wisdom of such an exclusive and extravagantly monumental memorial, and the highly politicized process of actually building it, were a microcosm of the notorious German anxiety of memory. German singleminded loyalty over such a long time to a rigid hierarchy of remembrance has produced, to the outsider, often darkly comical malaise, especially where it concerned the by now quite numerous politically and morally charged anniversaries of important events of W.W.II. Maintaining this hierarchy at all cost could not but reflect the vicissitudes of politics and memory, their potentially surprising contingencies and all-too familiar instabilities. Nevertheless, many American Jews and Israelis applauded the Mahnmal as a binding moral-political promise that the Germans “will never forget,” affirming the continuation of the power-politics of remembrance in the future.

Tony Judt's recent article "From the House of the Dead: On Modern European Memory," (NYRB, October 6, 2005) begins with the acknowledgement that "by the end of the twentieth century the centrality of the Holocaust in Western European identity seemed secure." Surprisingly, given his notorious insistence on the central cultural and political power of Holocaust memory, he now sees some "risks" in this position, a potential "backlash" such as a new German interest in their own war experiences, even to the point of alleging "the crimes of the Allies." At the end of the essay, after lengthy complaints about Eastern European failure to own up to their flawed dealings with Jews past and present, presumably in contrast to Germany, the model child, Judt acknowledges the "partisan" nature of memory. Now more civic minded, he suggests a general necessity of "some measure of neglect and even forgetting," even invoking the power of history over "memory itself" in recalling the painful past. But the question left unanswered in his half-hearted concession is "whose history?" Who defines at what time and in what situation the cultural and political role of history? Instructively, where the issue is the need for a more sober, secular historization of the Nazi-period, partisan memory still clearly trumps for Judt an at least intentionally more objective historiography .

Calling for a "professional study of the past," Judt still wants it focused on the "truth" of Nazi "Evil" which, he claims, only the historian can "guard" against forgetting. But what kind of historian would that be? What modern historian would work with religious concepts like immutable "truth," "forever," "Evil," "uniqueness"? The Berlin Mahnmal is for Judt the existential lode of guilt where "Western Europeans--Germans above all--now have ample opportunity to confront the full horror of their recent past." What about all their "confrontations" and demonstrations of remorse over the last 60 years? Not Judt's concern. He praises the German Chancellor's promises at this year's celebration of the liberation of Auschwitz: "the war and the genocide are part of our life. Nothing will change that; these memories are part of our identity." These are oddly provincial assertions for the democratic leader of a technocratic mass demoracy that now includes many different ethnic groups. Among them are many moderate Muslims who might think that unquestioned Nazi Evil has gone a long way to support questionable American and Israeli political and military conduct. But Judt is undeterred, demanding that postwar Europe, arising from the ashes of Auschwitz, will have to "remain forever mortgaged" to its "terrible past." Have there been no important issues besides Auschwitz for Judt? Where have all the years gone? Where are all the problems of the present? Arguably, exclusive not-forgetting of Nazi-Evil has contributed to forgetting them.

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Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

Mr. Miller:
Well, here I am again. I thought I had escaped, but I wanted to make one further comment to Mr. Friedman and now I find that there are already two new posts addressing my previous. You guys are way ahead of me. You probably type faster too.

I regret that I cannot lay out the organizational chart that you suggest would be a learning experience for me, and about which I believe you are right. It would take me a month, or a year maybe.

I believe the following sentence of yours explains my inability to communiate with you in a way that interests you. (I do not post very much, however, as you can see by this one thread, because I can't make the time.)

"As you know better than I (I gather you contribute far more frequently to these posts) this is the History News Network, not Adventures in Theology."

No, I don't know better than you, but I believe you have put your finger on the problem here. I have been aware of this without noting it. I cannot speak with you as even an amatuer historian. At the same time, I'm interested in such issues as the "moral" justification for intentionally killing the innocent for the deeds of the guilty.

Facts and moral justification, perhaps the twain will never meet.

I don't believe we are going to bridge this gap, tho I believe you could bridge it easier than I would be able to.

I just don't care about the issues of Nazi bureaucrcy, or even primarly about German criminality. I'm an American, and my sense of things is that I should address American issues first. As best I can, not as a scholar because I am not one (I entered college in Mexico City a long time ago, but when I failed landscape painting I decided that the academic life was not for me and got into something more interesting), but as a citizen. Even mere citizens have their own responsibilities to their culture.

I undestand what you mean when you say history is "cold" discipline. I suppose I am interested in a discipline, if I can call it that, that is not cold, but has a warm, beating heart to it. But it is not mrely sentimental to ask a historian how he can morally justify intentionally killing the innocent by the hundreds of thousands in response to the deeds of the guilty.

It's okay, it's rational, to review the organizational charts of the National Socialists to understand how they went about doing what they did. A historian's work.

My work (if I can call it that) is different. I want to understand how the intentional killing by Americans of hundreds of thousands of innocents can be morally justified. You have tried, you have provided me with a good deal of historical fact, with a good deal of highly reasoned argument, but I remain unconvinced that the intentional killing of the innocent for the deeds of the guilty has been, or can be, morally justified. Even for Americans.

It's probably just me.

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

Friedman writes:

"There may be wrongs involved in bombing civilians during war time. It is not, however, equivalent to the Nazi campaign of rounding up civilians in order to erase them entirely and their civilizations from world history."

Smith writes:

"There may be wrongs involved when Arabs intentionally kill Israeli children during an intifada. It is not, however, equivalent to the American campaign of intentionally exterminating tens of thousands of innocent German and Japanese children for being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

Mr. Miller: thanks for this informed reply. I largely agree with the views expressed in it. I was addressing a couple other points.

One: it appears to me that we Americans are obsessed with how the Nazis morally justified their killing of innocent, unarmed civilians for what they perceived to be a greater good, rather than with how Democrats and Republicans morally justified thier killing of innocent, unarmed civilians for our own greater good. Always the other, never (seldom) ourselves. We somehow came to the conclusion that the intentional killing of Jewish civilians by Nazis was morally reprehensible, while the intentional killing of Japanese and German civilians was morally acceptable.

Two: I agree with you entirely that men kill, that’s just how we are, and I do not expect that it will change much for the better. Nevertheless, the intentional killing of the innocent for the deeds of the guilty suggests a moral issue, with profound political implications, that interests me. I want to argue that the killing of Jewish (and other) civilians by the Nazi administration is a moral issue for Germans. And that the intentional killing of Japanese and German civilians by the bi-partisan Democratic / Republican admistration is the issue that Americans ought to address. Not addressing it allows us, our political administrations, to morally justify the initiation of violence against a great variety of targets, including I suppose pre-emptive war—where it is understood going in that five, ten and more innocent civilians will be killed for every military thus "intentional").

With regard to Hitler, I have only recently begun to read Mein Kampf. I will not defend him from any charge whatever—other than from the charge that he was not human.

With regard to credentials, I have none. So I especially appreciate your willingness to help me clear my head. The question about morally justifiying what we do while we condemn others for doing the same does not require credentials (fortunately). While I am not a Christian, thought has just reminded me of that old saw about how we should do unto others what we would have others do unto us. In this case it would suggest that, with regard to WWII, we should hold Democrats and Republicans to the same high moral standards to which we hold the National Socialist German Workers Party. And that we should have done so at the time.

Maybe I’m wrong.

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

Mr. Miller: I’m afraid we are rather talking past each other here. When this thread started, it started because the issue of “double standards” was raised with reference to a particular time frame—WWII. I take your argument, and I believe I agree with the whole of it, but it appears to me that what you have introduced so well—“the behavior of preceding generations with very different ideas about (among an infinitude of other matters) fighting wars” is not specifically to the point.

Barnouw focused specifically on WWII. Reimer, who started this thread, focused specifically on WWII. I agree with Reimer’s initial post. Americans judge the killing of innocents by Nazis using one standard of moral justifcation, but judge the killing of innocents by Democrats and Republicans using a different one. I see this as a corrupting influence on American culture. My inclination is to stay focused where Barnouw and Reimer focused—WWII. That doesn’t mean we can’t go other places, only that we have not yet come to an understanding about the issue of double standards which began the thread.

I want to reiterate that I agree with substantially everything, probably (I’ve heard it argued that the Brits hit the Germans with heavy bombers before the Germans hit the Brits, but I cannot reference the info at the moment) absolutely everything, you have written here. I am not qualified to address the details of your post. At the same time, I do not believe that you address head-on the specific issue that began the thread. The propostion that with regard to that specific war we hold Nazis to a higher moral standard than we hold ourselves to, and that we feel morally justified in so doing.

My sense of things is that it would be better if we were to hold Republicans and Democrats to the same high moral standards to which we are still so obssessed with holding Nazis to. If that moral standard remains good enough for Nazis living sixty years ago, it should be good enough for Republicans and Democrats who lived sixty years ago.

I think the Pope and Mr. Freud would agree here—confession is good for the soul. I believe it might be good for other matters as well.

By the way, I believe you may have mistyped this sentence: “I will disagree with you in one respect--Hitler, I'm afraid, was all too human.” You either meant to write “agree,” not “disagree,” or you have expressed yourself with an irony that is above my level of sophistication (that’s not a straight line).

Best wishes to you, too, for a good New Year.

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

You write: “… the argument has been made--and to those under Japanese occupation, it could stand as a compelling one--that given the rates of civilian death at the hands of the Japanese, that the firebombing of Tokyo and the nuking of the other two cities actually saved lives.”

Maybe I have woken up to the problem here. I am discussing this matter with a historian who, as a matter of course, sees the issue of the intentional killing of innocent, unarmed civilians primarily from a historical perspective, with a particular regard for the “laws” of warfare. And why not?

I address the matter from some other, simpler perspective, one that is not dependent on any especial level of knowledge. I am trying to say that in my view it is wrong, and particularly for the State, to intentionally kill the innocent for the deeds of the guilty. This perspective does not depend on historical precedent, does not change from generation to generation, and is not affected by referencing international agreements or “law.” Six thousand, six million—wrong.

In short then, I do not believe I can be moved to morally justify the intentional killing of the civilian population of Tokyo because those serving the Japanese Government felt morally justified in killing other civilians in other parts of the world. There is no end to that. It’s time to get off the train.

As we agreed earlier, there is probably going to be no end to the intentional killing of the innocent for the deeds of the guilty, but we do not have to try to morally justify the role we play in it. If it’s wrong when “they” do it, it’s wrong when “we” do it. Let's not use a double standard here, or any where else. Magnitude does count, as you say, but primarily to those who survive the killings. It’s time to get off the train.

There are several other passages in your good letter than I could respond to, but maybe enough is enough.

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

Mr. Friedman: You write: “… I am not so sure it is entirely accurate to say there was no law - other than laws applied ex post facto - on which to prosecute the Nazis.”

That would appear to be true. At the same time we would not want to say that “there was no law—other than laws applied ex-post facto—on which to prosecute Democrats and Republicans.”

Or would we? One standard of law for murderous Nazis, another for murderous Democrats and Republicans. Here we are then, back with the issue of “double standards.” Difficult to get away from it really.

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

Well, I didn't expect this one. I'm very glad to have it. I will post again, but you will find that I'm something of a one, or two-note Johnny. Thanks.

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

Mr. Miller:
You write: -- What all of this means is that the old paradigm of "bad aggressors," "sneak attacks," and Pearl Harbor analogies will have to be rethought under many circumstances. I make these comments not necessarily welcoming (or decrying) these changes, but simply noting them.

-- War ethics, as they always have, are evolving again.--

It's difficult for me to pin down my reaction to this. "... as they always have ..." In truth, it has to be this way, considering who we are. It leaves me with a sense foreboding that is, I don't know, "deadly."

You have caused me to see something that I have been ignoring. At bottom it's not a matter of double standards, but one of many standards, each created primarily for the benefit of those who have either the physical force, or the moral force, to set them and enforce them.

Outside my office window the Mexican sun is shinning down brilliantly into our patio. Tonight we are told to expect the first of many new storms with heavy rains. I can't change the weather, and I can hardly hope to change the nature of the race. There's nothing for it. We each play out our role as best we can.

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

Mr. Friedman: Yes. I carelessly used your phrase incorrectly to make my point. Still, I suppose that the gist of my final paragraph would still stand. Different law for different folk. Double standard.

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

Mr. Miller:
You write: "Until you or Ms. Barnouw can show that Holocaust memorializers, or Jews, or Jewish organizations, or the state of Israel are lobbying against Germans asserting their historical grievances, then I reserve the right to question the linkage she makes and also inquire into her motives."

I would agree, as you suggest, that the "Holocaust memorializers" you reference are not lobbying, primarily anyhow, "against Germans asserting their historical grievances, etc ..."

I would argue that what they lobby (promote) is something much deeper, the concept of the "unique monstrosity" of the German himself, together with the unique suffering of the Jews. The one doesn't work without the other. Every (most every?) story told about a Jew suffering during WWII is carried on the back of a "uniquely monstrous" German.

Without the uniquely monstrous German, the Holocaust story has no legs.

It appears to me that Holocaust memorializers are "lobbying against Germans" generally, incessantly, and with great verve, persistance, and success. They have been so successful that an open examination of the Holocaust story is now an imprisonable offense in most countries of Western Europe, in Israel of course, and is taboo in America.

Some lobbying! Some memorializers!

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

Mr. Miller:
You write:

*Europe's "tradition" of free speech is tenuous at best--murder or no murder of the Jews.*

I suppose you are refering to my observation that those who are pushing the memorializing of the Holocaust story have been successful to the point where, in much of Europe and in Israel, those who question some part of the orthodox version of the story will find themselves in prison for saying so, while in America such matters are taboo.

But I wonder what your purpose is in noting that “Europe’s ‘tradition’ of free speech is tenuous at best….”

This does not appear to be a direct reply to what I wrote. It suggests (to me) that because the “tradition” has a tenuous history, that it is not of first importance. It would help if you would state clearly what you do mean in a way that someone like myself can understand it. I’ll do the best I can.

Or, maybe you believe that its tenunousnes reveals its unworthines as a cultural ideal. I don’t believe you think that, but I will wonder about it until you explain clearly what do you mean.

Let me say up front that I cannot “prove” that the freedom to say what we think and reveal what is in our hearts is a more valuable ideal than State censorship, taboo, and prison for dissenters. It’s only how I feel about it, my sense of things.

I know. Pretty subjective. No facts.

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

Mr. Friedman: You don’t specifiy which “point.” In my mind my point was to ask Mr. Miller what exactly “his” point was in making the observation:

*Europe's "tradition" of free speech is tenuous at best--murder or no murder of the Jews.*

I agree that it is. So are Europe’s “ideals” of honor and truth and equality before the law—if that last has ever been a European ideal—and others. Nevertheless, I am rather in favor of the ideal of free speech, despite the tenuousness of its existence. I don’t understand, and this may be my own weakness, what there is for you not to understand in the following paragraph:

*Let me say up front that I cannot “prove” that the freedom to say what we think and reveal what is in our hearts is a more valuable ideal than State censorship, taboo, and prison for dissenters. It’s only how I feel about it, my sense of things.*

There are many interesting and important matters in Mr. Miller’s post (#73355). I started with the one he numbered “One.” His reply is full of interesting information and observations, as are all his posts. Still, I do not see that he has addressed my simple question. It may be that he, too, finds the paragraph above very difficult to understand. I don’t know why that should be, but I will reflect on the matter. Maybe I can rewrite it, clear up its obscurities for both you and Mr. Miller.

I should add that I do not see what relevance “factual arguments” with regard to the destruction of European Jewry have to do with the ideal of intellectual freedom—the right to think and to say what you think.

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

Mr. Friedman: you write

“Who is being denied the right to speak and say anything? [and] Now, in Europe, there are evidently codes of speech so that Holocaust denial is a crime.”

Well, exactly. You are not obligated to be interested in the matter. Different strokes for different folks. “Codes of speech” in this instance, however, means prosecution and imprisonment for thought crimes. “Thought crimes” has a different ring to it (for me) than does “Codes of speech.”

With regard to Ms. Barnouw's article, I have not addressed it-—not with vile, and not with praise. I came into this discussion with the thread that introduced the issue of "Double Standards." Then this one, Reason and Unreason. In the former I suggested that one standard is used (still) to judge the intentional killing of Jewish civilians by Germans, and another to judge the intentional killing of German and Japanese civilians by Americans. My position was that, as Americans, we should hold ourselves to the same high moral standards to which we hold Germans. It was not an argument that found much favor.

My position now, with regard to free speech, is that it is either there for all of us, including those who believe what I am skeptical of, or it’s not there. It is not a sophisticated argument.

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

Mr. Miller:
This is a wonderful post.

I wonder if you have the time, or the interest, in responding directly to my question about what significance you place on your single line *Europe's "tradition" of free speech is tenuous at best--murder or no murder of the Jews.*

What does that have to do with the importance of the "ideal" of intellectual freedom? The sentence could possibly give the impression that intellectual freedom and free speech are of no especial importance to you. I do not belive that would be true.


Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

Mr. Friedman:

I agree with you: there are war tactics, and there are war aims, and they are not the same.

What is the same is that the Germans murdered Jewish babies for what they saw as a greater good, while the Americans murdered German and Japanese babies for what they (we) argued was a greater good. The more you devide it up, the more it remains what it was.

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

Americans spend an immense amount of time and energy and print and money in forwarding the concept of the "unique monstrosity" of the German National Socialists. The primary crime of the Nazis was to have intentionally killed innocent, unarmed civilians for what they claimed was a greater good.

Americans spend very little time or anything else in reflecting on the deeds of the bipartisan Democrat / Republican alliance and thier intentional killing of innocent, unarmed civilians--Japanese as well as Germans--for what they claimed was a greater good.

If Americans are going to continue to hold Germans to a higher moral standard than we hold ourselves to with regard to the intentional killing of innocent, unarmed civilians for a greater good, then it would appear that there is indeed a double standard here. Which is where this thread began.

I'm willing to be convinced I'm wrong.

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

I will not defend the behavior of the German State against the Jews. I am only noting that, in the context of WWII, Americans are eager to morally condemn the behavior of others (Nazis), and eager to morally justify behavior of ourselves (Democrats and Republicans). It does not matter, literally, to Americans that thier government, run by Democrats and Republicans, is guilty of the mass murder of innocent, unarmed civilians. We had “good” motives, the others had “bad” motives. Of course. Simple really, and furthermore, always simple and always true.

My suggestion that we hold Republicans and Democrats to the same moral standards that we hold German National Socialists to is not an argument that has raised any interst in this thread. Most likely I did not stay on top of it the way I should have. I’m going to let it go this time. Maybe next time I’ll be more alert.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Thanks for the honest answer. And you are unfortunately right about the short supply. I will mention in reply that I found your recent comment above (#73201) to be probably the most enlightened and useful on the whole page. I am not yet ready to put Barnouw in the same category as Irving (for one thing Irving did have credentials as a top-rate historian before he dumped them in favor of denialism) but time will tell.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I noticed R. Clarke (no relation) now has a novel out. I don't expect to be citing him again. But, I don't recall ever citing him as an historian capacity.

He was, and still is -regardless of his latter-day fictionalizing- a "primary source". He was, most significantly, in the room when Bush was bumbling around muttering about Saddam on Sep-12-2001. Unless Clarke is lying. But even a liar is still a primary source, albeit not a very usable one. That was a pivotal moment in global history when the whole civilized world was so outraged that Bush could have done almost anything and had nearly the whole planet marching along beside him. It is one of the great tragedies of our lifetimes that this mightly incompetent president blew this golden opportunity so thoroughly, so that within two years he became one of the most hated Americans ever. What actually happened in that room on Sep-12-01 is unclear. It is basically Clarke's word versus Bush's. One liar vs another, perhaps. But there is no denying the centrality of the moment, the vital beginning of the period of those first weeks and months after the 9-11 attacks. So in that very limited, but very significant sense, Clarke is someone that any good contemporary historian ought to ready to cite when discussing the current worst U.S. president of our lifetimes. He is not as bad as Hitler, to be sure. So Barnouw is wrong there, if that is what she want's to prove. But, as someone else here noted, we can speculate endlessly about what she means because she is so unclear. She is NOT a primary source, she is lit prof trying to act like a historian. No comparison to Richard Clarke.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Good points, Mr. Smith. I think Mr. Miller was confused by the triple negative formulation of your position about Hitler being human, thus accidentally reading 180 degrees off from what you wrote. Best, PKC

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

You guys are at least getting at substantive issues in a way that Barnouw did not even try to. As a result, some important distinctions are emerging from the dissusion.

It is one thing to point out that the massive focus on the Nazi genocide in World War II (whole departments institutes, journal, indeed a whole "industry" based on it) has helped minimize the many other collosal atrocities of the bloody 20th century, including those committed by the U.S. government. It is quite another thing to assume that there is one "standard" by which all these massive crimes can be judged.

"it is wrong, and particularly for the State, to intentionally kill the innocent for the deeds of the guilty"
says Mr. Smith. Well, yes, but...
that formulation pretty much applies to every major modern war. War is not likely to be abolished for good in our lifetimes, and so we have "rules" for it.

Real wars (as distinct from Bush's bungled invasion in Iraq packaged as a war for election campaign purposes, and as distinct also from metaphorical wars, such as the "war on poverty" or the "war on drugs") are not all alike.
There are wars of aggression, wars of self-defense, wars of choice, wars of last resort, "just wars according Christian theology" "unjust wars", etc.

Even after a playground scuffle, where the standard solution is to scold both parties, make them apologize and shake hands, we are still not inclined to apply precisely one and only one standard to all instances and all individuals. "Who started it ?" is a legitimate and often practically and morally necessary question to ask.

World War II was not started by "Democrats and Republicans".

The current American occupation of Iraq was.

And so forth...

Let the punishments fit the crimes.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I checked out Crone. Her credentials as a historian are indeed unassailable. But note two important caveats, before quoting to your heart's delight:

1. Her book is an INTELLECTUAL history of Islamic THOUGHT and THEOLOGY.
It is NOT a book on the history of the Mideast, the history of Moslems, or Arabs, or of Islamic extremist movements, of relations between Islamic regions and "the West", or of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is about the philosophical and cultural ORIGINS of Islamic ideas, NOT about the political, economic, demographic, or military CONSEQUENCES of Islam. It is therefore difficult to imagine it having much direct relevance to the issues typical raised on HNN.

2. Even in those relatively rare instances where a citation to Crone's book may be insightfully and significantly relevant here, if you cannot properly cite what she says (quotation marks in the right place, page numbers, etc.) AND RESPECT AND PROPERLY REPRESENT the CONTEXT within which what she is speaking, then quoting her will get you no further than quoting your more traditional non-historian polemicists.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. Miller, I am afraid your desire to make arm chair predictions is running a bit ahead of historical facts.

There is world a difference between

(a) going into Afghanistan in 2001, where the 9-11 terrorists were based, with the unanimous blessing of the whole world, with a basic goal of liberating the country from a weird cult that had been semi-ruling it for only a few years, and where a proper last-chance ultimatum was issued


(b) picking for absolutely no justifiable reason (after 12 years of off and on non-compliance by Saddam) March 2003 to launch a non-internationally-backed agressive buy un-thought out invasion and open-ended occupation of an solidly entrenched dicator that had an extensive political and tribal structure of support built up over a quarter of a century much of it with substantial American and European assistance, and without giving him any alternative but commit political if not actual suidice

Unfortunately, the lies, massive incompetency and deliberate wolf-crying of (b) seriously erodes any positive precedents left from (a) for interventions within sovereign states, which the UN, by the way, could assign itself authority for doing at the drop of the hat if the Chinese and Russian regimes weren't scared of the implications for Chenya, Tibet, etc.

Exclusive non-remembering of the great blunder of "OIF" will not make it forgotten.

Happy new year

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Dear me, the old problem of reading comprehension seems to have returned.

I find it childish to pull rank, but I am a historian and you are not, Mr. Friedman. That is the ultimate source of my "authority" here. How many hundreds of discussions have we had before and how times have mentioned this before (answer: zero). I only mention it now in the faint hope that you might understand why I have not always appreciated your from time to time passing off your mistakes as some kind of misunderstanding or ignorance or rigid opinionating on my part. You will not die if you admit that you have erred once in a while. You, me, and everyone else her is human, and humans make mistakes, regularly. I have no fixed political affiliations: what I care about here is respecting the complexities of history, and being informed, objective, consistent and accurate when trying to draw contemporary conclusions from history: in short what HNN claims to be about while in reality more often choosing articles and allowing comments designed to achieve the precise opposite.

I did NOT say that Crone's book didn't contain "history and political/religious ideas" as you indicate now, I said it was mostly a history of intellectual origins, not a history of economic, demographic, or military consequences. (My sources for this conclusion are below. Tell me why they are wrong after you have finished reading the book). Read whatever you like, Mr. Friedman, and quote whenever you want to. There are no rules here. But the fact that you have read something and liked it, and want show off your knowledge by quoting from it, perhaps accurately, does not make your resulting comment relevant. I will not prejudge future remarks you might make, but past comment boards have been fillled with much irrelevant Islamophobia from you, so excuse if me I don't jump for joy at your having found a real history book. My own readings are of zero relevance to whether or not you are able to read other people's posts with a modicum of accuracy, remember what yourself write in the comment threads, avoid bigoted generalizations about entire religions, and stay on the topic. Which we are now completely off of here (surprise, surprise). Good luck, happy reading, and happy new year,

PK Clarke


Patricia Crone’s God’s Rule is a fundamental reconstruction and analysis of Islamic political thought focusing on its intellectual development during the six centuries from the rise of Islam to the Mongol invasions. Based on a wide variety of primary sources—including some not previously considered from the point of view of political thought—this is the first book to examine the medieval Muslim answers to questions crucial to any Western understanding of Middle Eastern politics today, such as why states are necessary, what functions they are meant to fulfill, and whether or why they must be based on religious law.

The character of Muslim political thought differs fundamentally from its counterpart in the West. The Christian West started with the conviction that truth (both cognitive and moral) and political power belonged to separate spheres. Ultimately, both power and truth originated with God, but they had distinct historical trajectories and regulated different aspects of life. The Muslims started with the opposite conviction: truth and power appeared at the same time in history and regulated the same aspects of life. In medieval Europe, the disagreement over the relationship between religious authority and political power took the form of a protracted controversy regarding the roles of church and state. In the medieval Middle East, religious authority and political power were embedded in a single, divinely sanctioned Islamic community—a congregation and state made one. The disagreement, therefore, took the form of a protracted controversy over the nature and function of the leadership of Islam itself. Crone makes Islamic political thought accessible by relating it to the contexts in which it was formulated, analyzing it in terms familiar to today’s reader, and, where possible, comparing it with medieval European and modern political thought.


God’s Rule

This fundamental reconstruction of Islamic political thought

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

It is time to go enjoy News Year Eve, Mr. Friedman, but let me leave you with a few appended comments.

First of all, my professional credentials or yours are not an issue here, nor are they relevant, and I do not intend to discuss them. This a forum for anybody to say anything civil they want to and no personal questions asked. I am sorry I even touched on the matter of personal backgrounds. Not kosher, basically.

Secondly, google is good but it is not God. Try googling Bat Y'eor to find out her credentials, as I just did, and you might see what I mean. Or you might not.

Thirdly, when appropriate, I am happy to back up my historical conclusions with proper citations.

Fourthly, I never told you what to cite.

Fifthly, I took my own advice to you and reread the thread above. In so doing I noted the very distinct possibility that part of the confusion here could be a possible unawareness of the difference between a primary source and a secondary source in history-writing. At the risk of reprising what may already be known, I will offer an explanation containing an analogy.

The primary source (which can be a document, an artifact, almost anything in fact) is a piece of firsthand evidence from the time period in question. A letter Hitler wrote, or Thomas Jefferson's diary, or an advertisement in a Mexican newspaper, for example. JFK’s inaugural address would be a primary source. His book “Profiles in Courage” about past senators would not qualify as a primary source, though. Kennedy was not there at the time when Webster or Quincy Adams stood up in the chamber. Get it ? The primary source is like a witness at a trial. It matters considerably whether the witness is honest, biased, a liar, has a bad memory or a good one, can speak directly to the crime or other issue at hand, or not, etc. What the witness does for a living, whether the witness has a lot or a little experience at being a witness, how familiar he is with the law, etc. are not normally important issues, however.

Secondary sources in history are some kind of more general body of information (usually a history book) constructed by someone who relies not on his or her own eyewitness observations, but instead accumulates material, summarizes it, and tells a story or synthesizes an explanation based on it. Here the critical reader needs to know how good a researcher and writer the secondary source producer is, and how knowledgeable he or she is of the general subject matter. Profession and prior experience are pertinent here. More or less the opposite situation as compared with primary sources.

But, there are two basic kinds of secondary sources: The first set are those written by scholarly or serious historians, who are inherently curious about "what really happened" in the past, or who like to delve through archives for interesting trivia and then tell stories about what they uncover. But the quality scholar (whether a professional or an amateur) tries to make sure that his or her stories are logical, consistent, supported by, and objectively representative of underlying historical issue or phenomenona, and respectful of the context and conclusions of both prior "secondary source" scholars and of primary sources (people, documents, artifacts, numerical statistics, etc). The scholar historian producing works of history that are secondary sources is like the judge at the trial, or perhaps the jury, if it is a jury trial.

Then there are the inherently non-scholarly history-writers. They write history not in order to search for truth or meaning or exciting inspiration from the past, but in order to use history as a means for arguing a pre-conceived point of view, or to support an already established agenda. These are like the lawyers at the trial. It is not their job to testify (be a source of firsthand primary information) nor to sift, weigh, compile, analyze, summarize and conclude, like the judge (historian). The lawyer’s job is to do research, think carefully, and then come up with and cogently present a persuasive argument on behalf of his client.

Of course, the Anglo-Saxon system of jurisprudence needs all three kinds of inputs: witnesses, lawyers, and judges. But one should never confuse the three different roles: expecting a lawyer to also be the judge at his trial, or to think that a witness could testify and then step into the jury box.

Get it ?

Richard Clarke - witness
Patricia Crone – historian
Bat Y’eor – non historian using history to promote an agenda. At least as far as I can tell with google, which may be wrong.

Sixthly and finally, I am fundamentally skeptical of the whole approach of trying to understand the contemporary Mideast crisis, issues of Islamic terrorism, etc. by going deep into the convoluted philosophical origins of the Moslem mind. Yes, it is different from the Western one, and incompatible with it in many ways. No separation of religion and state is not a setup that bodes well for human rights, for example. There are many other such examples. But…so what ? We need ever more arcane (or in Crone’s case maybe brilliantly erudite) dissection of where Islamic “weirdness” comes from ? It is a religion with a long history, but other than the Barbary pirates on the shores of Tripoli, when did it matter a tinkers dam to American history before the 1970s ? Can you really believe that some intricate detail about the intellectual development of dhimmtude is the reason why Islam is suddenly a big big deal to world history in the last few decades after doing pretty much nothing for centuries ? Doubtful, at best. Population explosion in the Mideast, oil development, great power rivalries, the wars with Israel, technological change, globalization. THESE are what have changed radically or emerged suddenly over the past half century. THESE forces, not Bat Y’eors fears or Crone’s informed theological tracings are the truly powerful factors behind the current challenge posed by Islamic fundamentalism.

One final analogy connected to this last point. How long was AIDS kicking around in the African jungles undisturbed before it became a global pandemic ? And should we be now discussing at great length how to genetically reengineer the entire tropical ecosystem of the planet to force the HIV viruses to behave less dangerously ?

You and I are actually intrigued by some of the some modern and historical challenges. But, we want to focus on different sets of causal forces and solution mechanisms.

That’s going to have to do it for 2005.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. Thomas,

That must have been quite some New York Times article (or even articles) to have encompassed the many revelations (12 at least) you list. Can't you give us some supporting citations ? If these points are true, then some unindicted historians somewhere must have mentioned them over the past decade. You could at least add short form parenthetical attributions at the end of each point (telling us which part of which archive concludes thusly, for example). At the very very least we ought to have dates for the New York Times articles. Such documentation would help readers to better differentiate the plausible from the dubious among your factual claims, and to sift your own errors out from them. As it stands, I am afraid your efforts, while obviously intending be factually oriented, achieve little more than the interesting but frankly rhetorical and unfactual piece by Barnouw (though your grammar is better than hers), and are a quite ineffective antidote to the silly criticisms (by other posters) which make her out to be some king of a Nazi in philosopher's clothing.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I meant "kind" not "king" in the final line above.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. Thomas,

You are "absolutely" in contradiction with the plain language of your prior post. The long laundry list of claims you made there follows immediately after the colon which followed your mention of the New York Times as a source. If you are unable to read what you wrote previously, here it is again:

“The Limits of Hot Rhetoric... (#73054)
by Frederick Thomas on December 27, 2005 at 2:46 PM

...The Russians released the extremely detailed captured German records of Auschwitz in 1995, 50 years after they were taken and classified, causing the Poles who possess the site today to revise the official history of Auschwitz to bring it into accord with the extensive documentary historyAs reported in the NY Times in 1995, these facts force a reevaluation. They can be summarized as follows:

-Auschwitz was a slave labor camp, not an extermination center per se. It was the most modern factory complex in the world, 33 enormous factories and many hundreds of large barracks all clearly visible in hundreds of US reconnaissance photos. Its output was essential to the eastern German war effort....”

followed by the other eleven of your twelve lengthy mutlifaceted claims, each starting off with a dash.

These claim of yours are all over the map, ranging from highly believable to highly dubious. They cover everything from Eichmann’s job description, to what Ukrainian forces were doing, to the chemical effects of Zylkon interacting with lime. Your unclear assertion now (either that these 12 claims deal only with the “only with the Auschwitz numbers” or that the New York Times was not the source for them) can be explained in only one of three ways: (a) you have difficulties writing English, (b) you have difficulties reading what you wrote or (c) both (a) and (b). Unlike Barnouw, who is clearly not writing in her native tongue, however, I think you should aspire to higher standards. The only thing I can see which your kitchen sink of dashed “bullet points” seem to have in common is their affinity with what what can indeed be readily found: on Holocaust denial websites. Some of them are also commonplace in the more standard Holocaust literature, but many are not. If Auschwitz was indeed "was essential to the eastern German war effort” why did the allies not try to bomb it ?

Thanks for citing the date of the New York Times article, but you will excuse me if I don’t spend time looking it up until you clear up the increasingly strange contradictions in your positions here. I agree with your instinct that Barnouw’s arguments would carry more force if backed up by facts, and I also agree that issues raised by your claims are the sorts of facts which could be relevant to Barmouw’s points, but I am skeptical now of both your “facts” (in the 12 claims) or at least most of them, and the means by which you obtained them.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. Friedman,

Your citation was straightfoward and relevant. Why can't Mr. Thomas be so straightfoward here ?

It comes as no surprise at all, however. We are dealing here with a non-historian trying to write about history and making a rather shabby mess of it. Nazi-like leanings (of which there is no good evidence so far) could hardly trump that fundamental non-ideological flaw.

If you could only open your mind far enough to recognize the not dissimilar failings in some of your pet authors, Mr. Friedman, you might actually discover a reduced level of skeptical responses towards your posts here, by people like me. It is year end and one is allowed to entertain the possibility of miracles.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. Miller, While I appreciate your sympathetic attempt to try and do Mr. Thomas's homework for him, it would only be fair to ask you to also do yours.

If you have credible, documented evidence of Barnouw being a supporter of "radical Islam", "German revanchism" or Holocaust denial, out with it, please. Otherwise, I would respectfully suggest that you might be well advised to not undermine your generally useful comments with guilt-by-association arguments.

I can easily imagine a half dozen other possible motives, consistent with what she has written here, and more plausible than your theories (if that is what they actually are). Number one would be: desire for publicity.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I thought you might say: because Auschwitz was out of fuel range. But that is just an undocumented recollection of mine. I won't ask you to look it up for me or call you lazy if you don't.

It is reassuring, somewhat, that you didn't say (as would have been consistent with your claims) that Auschwitz was avoided by bombers because the Allied bombing strategy did not place a high value on hitting war-related installations.

At any rate, have a happy new year filled with facts and consistency,

PK Clarke

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

No. Rather: because some of them are not historians and clearly (from what I HAVE read) have biased non-historical agendas and play hard and loose with historical facts. You can't slam the instance of that on display here while averting your gaze from similar failings elsewhere, at least not if you want to be consistent and credible.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

You are leaping to conclusions all over the place. Some may be true, some not, some are clearly immeasurable. I do not support Barnouw's views or methods, however. Those are, after all, relevant topics.

Controversy, sarcasm, and posturing is the raison d'etres of this website, however, so I am not going to get into discussion of relative verbal genocides. I do believe in consistency, so if you want to critique me on that I am quite willing to listen politely (provided the critiquing is itself consistent of course, which I am afraid I don't expect on Hypocrisy News Network).

Richard F. Miller - 1/5/2006

Yes, I know that website. I wound up there on my fact checking expedition. A picture--in that case, many pictures--a worth many thousands of words--or no words at all.

N. Friedman - 1/5/2006


Some more from the same web page. This time we have the Nazis writing to the grand mufti, and translated as follows:

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Berlin, April 28, 1942
Your Eminence:

In response to your letter and to the accompanying communication of His Excellency, Prime Minister Raschid Ali El Gailani, and confirming the terms of our conversation, I have the honour to inform you:

The German Government appreciates fully the confidence of the Arab peoples in the Axis Powers in their aims and in their determination to conduct the fight against the common enemy until victory is achieved. The German Government has the greatest understanding for the national aspirations of the Arab countries as have been expressed by you both and the greatest sympathy for the sufferings of your peoples under British oppression.

I have therefore the honour to assure you, in complete agreement with the Italian Government, that the independence and freedom of the suffering Arab countries presently subjected to British oppression, is also one of the aims of the German Government.

Germany is consequently ready to give all her support to the oppressed Arab countries in their fight against British domination, for the fulfillment of their national aim to independence and sovereignty and for the destruction of the Jewish National Home in Palestine.

As previously agreed, the content of this letter should be maintained absolutely secret until we decide otherwise.

I beg your Eminence to be assured of my highest esteem and consideration.
To His Eminence (Signed) Ribbentrop

N. Friedman - 1/5/2006


You might examine this web page: http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~jkatz/nazis.html

While I have not verified the facts and while I assume that the author of the page has an agenda and may possibly be polemic, I note that the page includes copies, with translation, of some documents. For example:

June 28, 1943

His Excellency
The Miniater of Foreign Affairs for Hungary

Your Excellency:

You no doubt know of the struggle between the Arabs and Jews of Palestine, that It has been and what it Is, a long and bloody fight, brought about by the desire of the Jews to create a national home, a Jewish State in the Near East, with the help and protection of England and the United States. In fact, behind it lies the hope which the Jews have never relinquished, namely, the domination of the whole world through this Important, strategic center, Palestine, In effect their program has, among other purposes, always aimed at the encouragement of Jewish migration to Palestine and the other countries of the Near East. However, the war, as well as the understanding which the members of the Three-Power Pact have of the responsibility of the Jews for its outbreak and finally their evil Intentions towards these countries which protected them until now - all these are reasons for placing them under such vigilant control an will definitely stop their emigration to Palestine or elsewhere.

Lately I have been informed of the uninterrupted efforts made by the English and the Jews to obtain permission for the Jews living in your country to leave for Palestine via Bulgaria and Turkey.

I have also learned that these negotiations were successful since some of the Jews of Hungary have had the satisfaction of emigrating to Palestine via Bulgaria and Turkey and that a group of these Jaws arrived In Palestine towards the end of last March. The Jewish Agency. which supervises the execution of the Jewish program, has published a bulletin which contains Important information on the current negotiations between the Uglish Goverment and the governments of other interested states to send the Jews of Balkan countries to Palestine. The Jewish Agency quoted, among other things, its receipt of a sufficient number of immigration certificates for 900 Jewish children to be transported from Hungary, accompanied by 100 adults.

To authorize these Jews to leave your country under the above circumstances and in this way, would by no means solve the Jewish problem and would certainly not protect your country against their evil influence - far from it! - for this escape would make It possible for them to communicate and combine freely with their racial brethren in enamy countries in order to strengthen their position and to exert a more dangerous influence on the outcome of the war, especially since, as a consequence of their long stay in your country. they are necessarily in a position to know many of your secrets and also about your war effort. All this comes on top of the terrible damage done to the friendly Arab nation which has taken its place at your side in this war and which cherishes for your country the most sincere feelings and the very best wishes.

This is the reason why I ask your excellency to permit me to draw your attention to the necessity of preventing the Jews from leaving your country for Palestine: and If there are reasons which make their removal necessary, it would be indispensable and Infinitely preferable to send them to other countries where they would find themselves under active control, for example, in Poland, in order thereby to protect oneself from their menace and avoid the consequent damages

Yours, etc.

This is all pretty nasty stuff.

Richard F. Miller - 1/5/2006

Agreed. I was surprised to learn recently that during the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem's sojourn in the Third Reich, he was instrumental in raising Muslim Bosnian troops--which served (I think) as a brigade in the Waffen SS. I had always assumed that Muslim SS "regulars" were prompted by the same motives (and motivators) as the European Waffen SS cohort. No doubt they shared some but the Mufti's efforts would seem to lend a very distinct "Palestinian" cast to Hitler's efforts, at least on the eastern front.

But I suppose the mere mention of this contributes to the "exclusive not forgetting of Nazi-Evil."

N. Friedman - 1/5/2006


The alliance between Islamist and Nazis goes back to WWIIand has continued since that time. So, nothing in the article seems very surprising.

Richard F. Miller - 1/5/2006

If you're interested in what Barnouw's agenda is--not to mention her various cheerleaders--read this touching story from the BBC:


I have no doubt that within our lifetimes, Barnouw and those of her ilk will succeed in finishing the job of memory erasure that her fellow-countrypersons once dreamed of. (At least credit the SS with this much--at least they intended to institutionalize a version of memory with their notorious "Museum to an Extinct Race" project.)

N. Friedman - 1/4/2006


Yes, Omar is Bat Ye'or poster boy for the Islamic point of view.

Richard F. Miller - 1/4/2006

Mr. Smith:

First, everything that you have written interests me. Otherwise, I would not break from my work to respond. Your questions are solid, urgent and go directly to the great issues of human character; by contrast, the historian's questions are far less urgent. I will share with you a view that should immediately distinguish me as an average mind of the 12th century--it is my view that history should be the handmaiden to theology. I say that, not only prompted by religious conviction (which particular religion doesn't matter) but also because the questions that do matter--the 4 AM questions--the answers to which (for people of my particular bent) will matter in the long run are the very ones posed by you. They can be informed by history, perhaps--but ultimately must decided as "matters of the heart."

Please keep posting. If we have exhausted this topic, we shall post again on others. Remember that blades sharpen as they are honed.

Richard F. Miller - 1/4/2006

You are quite right on the accountability issue--even in the absence of formal lines of responsibility, there is for example, constructive agency, and strict liability. And yes, I have lurked about Mr. Baker's posts for quite some time. On occasion, what differentiates his posts from others (in my opinion) is his insistance reinventing Judaism through the eyes of Islam--and thereby transferring to the former attributes of the latter. I will leave it to your imagination as to my feelings about the propriety of that tack.

N. Friedman - 1/4/2006


I thank you for an intelligent post.

As for HNN, it is whatever the editors and posters want it to be. Some people pretend that the posts - as opposed to featured articles - are serious things. Others state their views. You might note Omar Baker and his views - in my view, venomous views - about Israel. Others like to criticize as Peter Clarke does.

I post as it is fun. I occasionally learn something. Such is the case when I read your posts. Take that as a compliment as it is one.

For what it is worth, I think your "Org" notion makes a lot of sense except that it does not necessarily account for the "ought to have known" issue or no paper trail situation.

Richard F. Miller - 1/4/2006

Mr. Friedman: My point in referencing an "org chart" was to introduce some principles of causality. For example, it's conceivable (not likely, however) that, contrary to the org chart, Lt. Calley was ordered to kill by LBJ directly. Still, the principle of the org chart--causality in the service of imposing responsibility on "distant" actors, i.e., those far up the chain, remains. Remember, Mr. Smith specified "Republicans and Democrats"--political parties. Very well, then. Putting entirely aside my conviction about pre and post Nuremberg ideas on acceptable retaliation, one still has to demonstrate causality. Was Calley acting as part of an authorized chain of command? Or was he freelancing? What was Hap Arnold's relationship with "Bomber" Harris's decision to hit some German cities? Should the allies be lumped together, or should certain raids, e.g., Hamburg, Dresden, be analyzed separately and responsibility assigned?

At the end of the day, notions of responsibility become legal judgments. Trials are held, evidence is presented and a defense is mounted. As a result, it is causality for the prosecution and the lack thereof for defenders. If Mr. Smith wishes to impose accountability on "Republicans and Democrats" (what does this mean, by the way? registered voters? ward healers? party leaders?) then the least that can be asked is for some specifics--the Famous Five is a good start: Who, What, When, Where and How.

As you know better than I (I gather you contribute far more frequently to these posts) this is the History News Network, not Adventures in Theology.

Barnouw gives us theology masked behind history; Mr. Smith may well be asking questions which are theological at their roots. But as you know as well as I, history is a much colder discipline.

N. Friedman - 1/4/2006


Your "org" argument is rather interesting. It fits, I think, into an examination of war tactics. I am not sure it entirely addresses Mr. Smith's point.

Reduced to mathematics, Smith's argument is that a + b = a + b + c can be a true statement even where "c" is a value other than zero. Which is to say, his argument says, both sides of the equation include common elements; hence the equation can be re-written as a + b = a + b with "c" being ignored as unimportant.

In practical life, Mr. Smith's math sometimes works. It applies when we say, all men are created equal, knowing full well that some are brighter or taller or stronger or braver, etc., etc. So, the universal is of the same kind but the differences are accidentals and not to be considered (e.g. before a court of law). Here we can have an equivalence where there are accidentals that differ.

Something similar can apply when selecting food in the supermarket. One can say, so far as equivalence of kind, that one brand of granola is the same as the next. All are granola. But, there are differences between granolas that are in the nature of accidentals (e.g. some come with nuts and fruit, etc.). One can choose granola as such - with a + b = a + b + c - or one can choose a particular granola - a + b or a + b + c - based on liking or disliking the additional element "c" in the mix.

Notwithstanding Mr. Smith's point of view, I think that there are times when "c" simply cannot be ignored. That is particularly the case when it comes to people dying. Thus, when charged with killing someone, there is a real difference between killing with malice aforethought (i.e. murder), intentionally without malice forethought (i.e. manslaughter), involuntarily (e.g. in a car accident), by mere accident (sometimes no crime at all) or in self defense (no crime at all). And the law recognizes all these distinctions as they are important.

Now, if we follow Mr. Smith's argument, killing is killing is killing. Hence, it is all wrong and all equivalent or a + b = a + b + c whenever the dead people are civilians.

On his argument, because the government made war, civilians died; hence, we have an equivalence with the Nazis who set an agenda and people died. The argument, as I see it, is as simple as that. It ignores "c" entirely.

In my view, the war aims of the Nazis were so extreme and so far beyond the pale that such aims cannot be ignored. They define the Nazis and their war and their behavior and render that war entirely illegitimate. And, more particularly, the killing of civilians by the Nazis was a war aim. It simply does not equate with the killing of civilians in bombing raids. a + b does not equal a + b + c.

There may be wrongs involved in bombing civilians during war time. It is not, however, equivalent to the Nazi campaign of rounding up civilians in order to erase them entirely and their civilizations from world history.

Richard F. Miller - 1/4/2006

Mr. Smith: I have no hesitation taking up the other side of this argument. In several posts you have implied an equivalence in standards of judgment that ought to be applied to both Nazis and "Democrats and Republicans." As a logical construct, the argument seems fair--after all, shouldn't everyone be held to the same standard?

I will indulge that ahistorical proposition for a moment but first ask you to establish a historical one--which events and which Congress are we talking about? And is the relationship between "Republicans and Democrats" in government and say, Lt. Calley of Mai Lai fame the same as Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich and the Einsatzgruppen?

In short, draw me an "org chart" if you will between "Democrats and Republicans" and Lt. Calley. Give me a chain of command in which authorized acts of state are properly translated down the line to the proverbial "point of the spear," who in turn commits state sanctioned crimes. Now, to be fair, I must tell you that considerable ink has been spilled in establishing what those org charts were for the Third Reich. And, if you were paying attention to the hoopla over Abu Grahib, you probably noticed considerable controversy over precisely the same issue in proving links between the prison grunts, Donald Rumsfeld and the president. (Much was asserted, little was proved, in my view. Maybe archival stuff will turn up later.) On the other hand, you'll find some excellent material along those lines in Rauol Hilberg's (sp?) "The Destruction of the European Jews." (And some contrary claims, ala David Irving, who contends that the chart "only" reached as far as Himmler.)

So, to badly paraphrase the old Tom Cruise line, "Show me the atrocity!" What events involving "Republicans and Democrats" are you talking about? If it's the air war over Germany, then (at least to my satisfaction) I answered that question in earlier posts--a pre-Nuremberg standard of retaliation vs. the post-Nuremberg standard.

Is there any other event you had in mind?

N. Friedman - 1/3/2006


Your argument against what the US did during WWII sounds more like an argument against war as, in fact, there has never been a war which did not involve the killing of people for a perceived greater good. Well, I am no fan of war so I appreciate your point, considered in the abstract.

WWII, however, is not an abstract event. German deaths, as I see the matter, would not have occurred but for the German government and its illegitimate war. As I see things, Germany's war aims were so far beyond the pale that any sympathy for your argument, considered in the abstract, abates to none in the concrete reality of those war aims.

In the context of accepting war as legitimate, there are legitimate war aims and illegitimate ones. There are illegitimate means and legitimate means. To forget the differences is to say that rather clear distinctions matter not when, in fact, the making of such distinctions is very important if we are not to abandon civilization to mere brutes.

So, I see the US which, by and large - and obviously there were exceptions -, acted honorably during WWII. Then there is Germany which set out not only to conquer but - and this is critical - also to wipe out entire peoples so that it would appear they had never existed. As wars go, the Nazi war has no imaginable justification but is an exersize in pure barbarism with no benefit to mankind.

Which is to say, horrible as the deaths of German civilians were, they are the stuff of war. What the Germans did to Jews and Roma and others is not. Such is barbarism legitimately fought by the friends of civilization, which means accepting as legitimate large numbers of German civilian deaths - while condemning as excesses where there were clear excesses - who were killed by the allies.

If I accepted that a reasonable person could really sympathize with the Nazis, I might see the matter in a different light. I do not. I think the Nazis were, in fact, an extreme evil on the European scene and I think that view is supported by the evidence and is not a mere construct. Which is to say, the Nazi war aim to eradicate peoples is unacceptable and if such is not evil, then we might as well abandon words such as good and bad.

Richard F. Miller - 1/3/2006

Mr. Smith: It has nothing to do with the ideal of freedom, which I value second to none among the various rights enumerated in our Constitution. What I meant about Europe--excluding (but in an increasingly limited way, Britain)--is that despite the contradictory aspirations of "Liberty, Fraternity, Equality," Europe has no real tradition of "freedom of speech." If so, where is it? Take France, and show me where it is--or ever was. Likewise with Germany, a functioning monarchy until 1918 followed a brief flirtation with Weimer, followed by Herr Hitler, followed by a division, the half of which had no freedom of speech and the other half, a limited one at best.

I believe the reason for this was well stated by Hitler in Mein Kampf: "The state is the vessel of the race." European countries are not and never were constitutional compacts; rather, they are ethnic conclaves writ large, devoted at various times and with various emphases to maintaining the racial, ethnic, lingual, religous, or cultural purity of the whole.

Europe's attempts to go multi-culti now are laughable--just look at the French fumbling over the Hajib, as they are simultaneously forced to ban the wearing in schools of Christian crosses and Jewish skullcaps. The fumbling is and will remain quite natural to them--the "vessel of the race" doesn't have a clue how to assimilate or integrate minorities. I don't believe for a minute that Holocaust memorializers had much to do with Europe's speech codes; rather, I think it is a measure of social control exercised by the post-WWII bourgeois European elites against just-beneath-the-surface trends that they know all too well. (For example, in France, it's spelled L-E P-E-N)

N. Friedman - 1/3/2006


I have not read "The Crisis of Union" but I think I gather your point about The New York Times even though I think it is a somewhat more positive contributor than your comment suggests you believe that paper to be.

As for the most likely outcome, I believe we are in a religious war and that Europe is a likely loser in the war. But I also think that Huntington's point that a cause (but, of course, not the only cause) of the war may be, at least in part, a large generation of children among Muslims. Maybe the next generation of Muslims will prefer fewer kids and that will diminish the radicalism of the Islamic revival movement.

N. Friedman - 1/3/2006

Mr. Smith,

You pose an interesting point but I am not persuaded.

It would seem to me that one cannot simply apply the same standard to what Germany did to Jews (or, to the Roma, for that matter) and what the allies did to Germany. The allies' bombardment of German cities was a war tactic while the Nazi destruction of European Jewry was a war aim.

Which is to say, you do not appear to be comparing apples to apples. The allies may also have committed war crimes but they are rather different than what the Nazis did. Again, the destruction of European Jewry was a war aim of the Nazis, not a means to accomplish territorial victory on the battle field. So, it is not clear how one can compare these events other than to say the obvious, namely, that the Nazi war was illegitimate beyond all imagination while the allies may, at times, have employed illegitimate means to accomplish legitimate aims.

Richard F. Miller - 1/3/2006

With a strong dose of humility (given the well-known risks of the fallacy of extrapolation), I have to agree with your final paragraph--projecting a reassertion of Muslim theocracy.

Other than Bush's effort to change the Middle East's political culture, what else agitates for change? I see nothing. Quite the contrary--as a State Department contact of mine observed recently, while Iranian democracy is badly flawed (e.g., the exclusion of authentic reform candidates, etc.) it still remains the closest thing the region has to a democracy. And with what result?

I'm afraid Sam Huntington called this one so many years ago. I understand why the "Finlandized" (Palestianized, in Bat Yeor's wording) Europeans must hold their noses and look the pre-moderns in the face--appeasement is second nature for increasingly hollow societies that must import a despised immigrant class in order to keep the natives' pensions flowing--but we have less excuse.

Nevertheless, while I am pessimistic about Europe, I am optimistic about the U.S. Excepting the shallow troughs of increasingly marginalized elites (if you're familiar with George Frederickson's landmark, The Crisis of Union, just replace the word "Brahmin" with "New York Times" and you'll see my point), my sense of the United States remains a country that is strong, vigorous and confident.

But, as the old adage runs, from my lips....

N. Friedman - 1/3/2006


Well, I think we agree on the demographics. No doubt that a larger and larger percentage of people in Europe who are at the very least nominally, and, quite often, devoutly Muslim are going to be born and play a greater and greater role in Europe.

The question, of course, is what that demographic change will mean for Europe. If present religio/political trends among Muslims continue, the future for non-Muslim Europeans is extraodinarily bleak - a distinct likelihood according to Bat Ye'or's analysis and probably, absent unforseen circumstances, the most likely scenario - as Europe will no longer be a center of Western civilization but part and parcel of the Muslim civilization, a civilization in deep turmoil where the rights of non-Muslims (or Muslims) are not protected.

There is - and this was my point - at least some possibility of a different outcome.

First, it is safe to note that all things are almost never equal. Which is to say, it is not so easy to project current trends forward as there may be other changes which will force a change of attitude by Islamists and by Muslims on the street.

Second, European countries might find a way to integrate Muslims so that the call of Islamic religious politics is outweighed by other interests, thus causing a change in that politics. That, of course, means reversing the policies described in Bat Ye'or's book. Some confluence of events might trigger a change of policy and attitude.

Of course, if Bat Ye'or is correct that it is already too late for European values to triumph, the issue is what will become of Muslim values.

Are we seeing a last gasp of the current Islamic politics, with discernable changes within a decade or so? Or, are we witnessing something more profound, in which Islam resumes its place on the world stage as a dominant force, with European Muslims advancing classical Islamic theopolitical goals of conquest?

Richard F. Miller - 1/3/2006

Mr. Friedman, I believe that the issue of Europe and Islam will be resolved in the obstetrics wings of European hospitals. Europe's history of dealing with minorities remains one of the worst, and they're evidencing little more success today. But given the disparity in birth rates between whites and non-whites, i.e., Muslims, in Europe (if you've read Bat Yeor, I know you've already tuned in to Bernard Lewis on this subject), the Europeans have already lost the battle for integration. In demographic terms, there simply isn't time left. My children will survive long enough, I believe, to see the un-Islamic contents of the Louvre either destroyed or shipped west.

Of course, this is pure conjecture about events which have not yet happened, and not to be confused with history. And I'll be the first to admit, if I may politely paraphrase Clint Eastwood, that opinions are like derriers--everybody has one.

N. Friedman - 1/3/2006

Mr. Smith,

I still find your argument odd.

Who is being denied the right to speak and say anything? You are asserting yourself on HNN. Ms. Barnouw has asserted herself on HNN. Her views are extreme by any standards but her right to speak and to say her piece seems rather secure.

Perhaps, what you mean to say is that few people are willing to accept her viewpoint. That may be true. I think her argument is, frankly, idiotic and, even if what she said were largely factual, unimportant. But, I do not see her being silenced. I see her being criticized and, in some instances, savagely. Then again, people (e.g. Peter Clarke) savagely criticizes me. I do not feel silenced.

Now, in Europe, there are evidently codes of speech so that Holocaust denial is a crime. But, Holocaust re-valuation/ranking (which is what Barnouw really seems to propose) is, so far as I can discern, rather commonplace in Europe so speech codes do not appear to have much affect. Evidently, it is also not wise to criticize Islam, judging by the law suit filed against Oriana Fallaci and the attempt by the EU to supress the report showing the role of Muslims in violence perpetrated against European Jews. But, people find ways to criticize and the suppressed report came out as well.

In any event, Ms. Barnouw teaches in the US. She is clearly not being silenced.

Which is to say, I still do not see your point. Everyone is heaping whatever vile and praise they desire onto anyone and everyone.

N. Friedman - 1/3/2006


Well, I also hold Bat Ye'or in high esteem. She is not, as Peter alleges (although he is kind enough to admit he could be wrong, given that he has made his judgement without bothering to read any of her books), a "non historian using history to promote an agenda." She is, in fact, a rather first rate historian.

As for your argument, Ms. Barnouw is not my cup of tea. I suspect that you correctly classify her.

Based on the essay he published about Israel in the NY Review of Books, Judt accepts the European Union as the standard toward which society is marching. Which is to say, ethnic nationalism is passe so countries such as Israel are passe.

I wonder how he reacts to the rejection of the EU Constitution by France. It seems to me that such contradicts his view. Perhaps Europeans are deeply worried about EU trans-nationalism but, at the same time, do not want to return to their conflict filled past. In any event, the age of ethnic nationalist expression has not quite ended, even in Europe.

Given our short mention of Bat Ye'or, I suspect that one major problem with trans-nationalist politics ala the EU is that such politics are likely incapable of addressing Islamic political expression. Islamic political expression is also transnationalist - really imperial - while, at the same time being separatist and supremacist; and such politics assert different values from those people like Judt would want to associate with his transnational Europe, so they offer a radical transformation of Europe into a society difficult to fathom.

My suspicion is that a league of integrated states might have been possible for Europe and still is possible if a solution for Islamic transnationalism can be found. However, the EU as currently endeavored will, in the end, more likely lead to an imperial endeavor as it politics, as shown by Bat Ye'or, are closely aligned with Islamic transnationalism and, as I said, Islamic transnationalism is rather imperial.

Richard F. Miller - 1/3/2006

True, and as much as I respect Mr. Clarke--and I do--I also consider Bat Ye'or (sp?) as the last European historian of Europe, or at least the Europe that many Americans imagine when they hear the word.

Regarding Branouw, I would refer you to my earlier posts where (to my own satisfaction, at least) dismantled her use of Tony Judt as a "poster boy" for her imaginary "evils of not-forgetting." Mr. Friedman, as you may be aware, Judt authored the now-famous article in the October/November 2003 New York Review of Books ("Israel: An Alternative") in which he endorsed a one-state solution, something now to left of the PA's public position.

This is evidence of Barnouw's shoddy work--apparently, Judt's "not forgetting" hasn't crowded out his concern for Palestinians, something that Barnouw shares.

Ergo, based on the evidence she adduces in her HNN piece, her thesis is trash.

And I still say she should consider lecturing at the Institute for Historical Review.

N. Friedman - 1/3/2006


You risk Peter Clarke's scorn for daring to mention Bat Ye'or.

N. Friedman - 1/3/2006

Mr. Smith,

I am having difficulty following your point.

Trusting - perhaps foolishly - that we do not have a serious factual argument about the destruction of European Jewry at the hands primarily but not only of Germany and its allies, I do not see your point. Can you really blame anyone, much less those adversely affected, for heaping scorn - and lots of it - on Germany and even singling out Germany as playing a rather extraordinary role in the fate of European Jewry? Do you really equate the removal and eradication of innocent civilians from civilian society with deaths caused in bombing raids carried out between countries at war - whether or not also a wrong -?

What orthodox version of the Holocaust do you call into question? That millions of Jews were killed? That Antisemitism played a rather central role in Nazi propaganda and belief? That the destruction of European Jewry was a substantial priority of the Nazis? That the Nazis set up death camps? That Jews suffered a lot?

Somehow, I suspect that the problem for you is that whatever political agenda you espouse is inconvenienced and/or contradicted by either or both the role of Germany in WWII or the impact of WWII on Jews. Hence, if your concern is about the underplaying - if that has occurred - of German suffering during WWII, you do not like how people rank that suffering in relation to the suffering of others. If, on the other hand, you are an anti-Zionist, you do not like the argument made by some Jews and others that WWII proved that Jews need a state.

In any event, I cannot imagine that your concerns are those you have related as they do not appear to amount to very much.

Richard F. Miller - 1/3/2006

"Without the uniquely monstrous German, the Holocaust story has no legs."

"They have been so successful that an open examination of the Holocaust story is now an imprisonable offense in most countries of Western Europe, in Israel of course, and is taboo in America."

First, let me address your first assertion, and emphasize what I indicated earlier about the importance evidence--in this case, the totality of evidence.

Consider the following statements:

"Without the monsterous slavetrader/slaveowner/system of plantation slavery, the-enslavement-of-Africans-in-the-New-World "story" has no legs."

"Without the monsterous Portuguese/Spanish/French/English colonists, the-unjust murder-dispossession-and-enslavement "story" of Native Peoples has no legs."

I could go on but if you're trying to assert that the murder of millions of Jews and others during WWII, really wasn't perpetrated by anyone worthy of judging for their acts, fair enough--so what was your earlier point about judging the ethics of fighting a war? I don't believe that "the Germans" are any more--or any less--culpable than Milosivich, Hutus, Darfur Islamists, or Pol Pot's Cambodians. The only people today who are asserting the "uniqueness" of German evil seem to be those Europeans with an interest in undoing it, for, (in my opinion) a variety of reasons of their own, many unrelated to the Holocaust, per se. Barnouw is wonderful example--if she has a problem with the Allied air forces taking out German civilian targets, then let her press her case against London, Moscow and Washington. I don't recall that the IAF was part of the 8th Air Force. If she has a problem with postwar expulsions of German civilians, she needs to raise that with the governments of Poland, Russia, Ukraine. I don't believe that there was an IDF division in the Red Army. For some reason--perhaps you can explain why--she is curiously silent about the actual perpetrators of these wrongs, preferring instead to focus on a "Holocaust construct"--as if deconstructing "a construct" will deliver either justice or compensation.

Second, regarding your point about "taboos," you've either been in Mexico too long or have not spent enough time in America. Holocaust denial and minimalization are actively discussed in journals (e.g., Occidental Quarterly, Institute for Historical Review) and various websites, (e.g., Stormfront, National Alliance) which, given their claimed circulation numbers and hits, suggests that millions of Americans disbelieve the "Holocaust" story--and write about it early and often. However, since I know nothing of your political inclinations, let me assume that by "taboo," you mean that, for example, the president, most members of Congress, and leading cable, television and print outlets will not question the historical event itself, then I have a question for you. Which of the following statements are not "taboo" by the same media and political sources:

1. There was very little African slavery in the New World and what little there was operated for the clear benefit of the slaves, by Christianizing them and offering other benefits of Western civilization. The notion that many Africans were simply murdered by slavers rather than risk discovery by British frigates is a myth. The idea that white society has any ongoing responsibility for African slavery is wrong.

2. Native Peoples deserved to be dispossessed from their lands, as whites could make far better use of their resources. Besides, all treaty violations with Indian tribes were the result of "Indian giving" and not white perfidy.

I could go on, but these statements are also "taboo"--simply because they are patently false, and to raise them suggests a warped view of history that is not, and should not be, part of mainstream discourse. A society without such "taboos"--is in fact a society without standards of judgment. Judgments may evolve, but they must be made--otherwise, why hold it against a candidate for political office or an editor for a respectable newspaper if she happens to believe that blacks welcomed slavery or that Indians "got what they deserved"?

A final matter--Barnouw's apparent obsession with the United States and Israel reflects her own, to use Bat Yor's (sp?) word, Palestinianization. You see, in the United States the Holocaust has relatively little claim on public attention or, more importantly, public resources. And why should it? America's chief historical legacy and criminality involves African slavery, the ripples of which continue, correctly in my view, to demand American attentions today. However in Europe, which is currently struggling with a criminal historical legacy of its own, assimilation problems with a Muslim minority exploding in size (and occasionally, in the streets), and soon to be well within range of nuclear-tipped Iranian Shahab-4s, the Holocaust is a far more pressing affair--as it should be.

Barnouw's expression of ideological revanchism, while poorly written and even less well documented, is, in fact, likely to represent the European future--but it will be a future in which what is left of the EU will be casting terrified glances towards men like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and less to the New World. If you recall the Cold War paradigm of "Findlandization" then you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. You may be European but in my view, my father's Europe no longer exists.

Barnouw's twisted revisionism, i.e., the notion that redress will be found in Washington and Jerusalem (rather than with the actual perpetrators of her grievances) will become more and more "necessary" as Euros, unable to assert themselves in any respect other than diplomatically, make the necessary accommodations in order to become the New Mahgrab. The EU needs a new history--and the Barnouws of the world will deliver it.

Richard F. Miller - 1/2/2006

You need to examine several things, always bearing in mind the difference between genuine historians and mere analyzers of "texts"--evidence, the assessment of evidence, and the totality of evidence. Consider the following:

1. Europe's "tradition" of free speech is tenuous at best--murder or no murder of the Jews.

2. Europe's speech gags happen to (foolishly) extend to a variety of anti-ethnic "hate" speeches that wouldn't stand muster in an American court for 10 seconds (although it might on U.S. college campuses). You will observe that the flurry of recent litigation on the subject (in Europe) has involved mostly Muslims bringing actions (many successful) against a variety of European news outlets, public intellectuals, and politicians.

3. You need to learn more about Holocaust studies. Few who know much about them--such as scholars and victims--accord the Germans the exclusive "bragging rights" for the mass murders. Scholarship has long established an extensive Roll of Dishonor--Laval, and Vichy in France; Dutch collaborators by the thousands; Waffen SS units recruited in the Balkans and Ukraine; Romania's Iron Guard; Hungary's Arrow Cross; episodic involvement by various churches across Eastern Europe. I'm afraid the problem of the Holocaust is not a German one.

I am going to add one other point, not directly related to your attempt to connect Holocaust memorialization with EU speech codes. It is perhaps the deepest flaw in Barnouw's article, which would seem to support Weinberg's contention (see book review) that her research habits have a bit of "shoddy" in them.

Barnouw's juxtaposition of Tony Judt with Hannah Arendt is either inexcusable negligence or an attempt to suppress evidence to make her point about German suffering. (If the former, it is pure shoddy; if the latter, then she deserves no credit as an historian, but merely as a lawyer.)

She offers Judt as a poster-boy for how "Nazi-Evil" has crowded out the consideration of other suffering--notably that of Israel.

Is Barnouw aware that Judt, in the November/October 2003 issue of the New York Review of Books ("Israel: An Alternative") demanded an end to the Zionist enterprise and insisted on a one-state solution? This essay has become one of the most celebrated calls of its kind by a leading Jewish intellectual, and places Judt to the left of the Palestinian Authority's public position.

So here is my question about the crowding out effects of Nazi-Evil: If Barnouw's poster boy for the "Holocaust construct" hasn't let the latter crowd out his concern for the suffering of others, of what value is her thesis? Where is her evidence that this crowding out occurs? Other than making an overly intellectualized case for which you have not produced a shred of evidence--once again, I will repeat my request for clear citations of statements by memorializers to the effect that the suffering of WWII Jews has a priimacy over the suffering of others--your comments merit the same respect as I would accord a college bull session.

If you have evidence making the connection, out with it. If you have evidence supporting Barnouw's slipshod use of Judt, out with that, too. Otherwise, simply declare that you hold your opinion without demonstrable evidence (which is certainly your right) and give me other reasons why I ought to believe it.

Who knows, perhaps you've discovered a new religion here--but it's not good history.

N. Friedman - 1/1/2006


Happy New Year to you as well.

I can take your word about Bat Ye'or - even though I know, having read her books, for a fact that you are mistaken - or can I read what some actual historians think of her.

For example, here is what historian Victor Davis Hanson thinks. He evidently disagrees with you. He writes, at http://www.victorhanson.com/articles/Private%20Papers/Question%20Log/December.html , (in response to the question, which I first post in italics):

Are you familiar with the work of Bat Ye’or and the issue of Dhimmitude, as well as her more recent research into the issue of Eurabia? I tend to be somewhat skeptical of ‘conspiracy’ theories (not that her views on Eurabia are conspiratorial in the classic sense), but it does suggest some rather worrying possibilities with regard to European alliances with Arab causes (and personalities) and the long term implications this has for American-European relations.

Hanson: Yes, I am familiar with her work. She is not a conspiracist at all, but an empiricist, whose work is based on observation, facts, and logic: look at the demography of Europe; look at the history of Christians living under Muslims (going to Church in Saudi Arabia is not the same as worshipping in a mosque in Madrid); and read not what Western elites say about Muslim clerics, but what Muslim clerics themselves say. So, yes, she is a scholar and should not be dismissed because her views bother us because they are largely insightful. Europe has a gut-check time coming very soon as it ponders Islamic populations in its own borders, the admission of Turkey into the EU (in some ways very good for the US, a disaster for Europe), and nuclear missile capability of Iran. We shall see whether it reawakens or not.

Here is what well known Arabist Johannes J.G. Jansen thinks of her work:

In 1985, Bat Ye'or offered Islamic studies a surprise with her book, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam,[3] a convincing demonstration that the notion of a traditional, lenient, liberal, and tolerant Muslim treatment of the Jewish and Christian minorities is more myth than reality. Bat Ye'or's documentation and argument convinced most of her (relatively few) readers.


God blinds those whom he wants to destroy; Bat Ye'or's Eurabia offers a powerful tool for those who wish to see.


So, I can believe you who, from what I have seen, is relatively unfamiliar with the history of the Muslim regions and certainly unfamiliar with the scholarship or I can take the word of some well known scholars, some of them experts on the Muslim regions, like, for example, Vahakn N. Dadrian, who sees fit to cite her prominently. Do you see my dilemma?

Now, like you, I can pour out drivel about primary and secondary sources. Any moron can write what you wrote.

But, you see you actually have to read the books to judge which, in fact, are polemic and which are serious scholarship. That, Mr. historian Peter, you have not bothered to do. And that, frankly, disqualifies your views, rendering them unimportant and childish.

Now, this is what an historian professor (full professor of history) at a major US university) pen-pal friend of mine says, with reference to the very dilemma you pose (and, unlike you, he is not cocksure and arrogant like you are):

On reading history: I agree that the historian should try to inculcate in the student a sense of what’s more or less credible and respectable, especially in this era when all
kinds of nonsense appears on the web; but I read everything, and wouldn’t
suggest that a work has to be a product of a major academic or commercial press to receive credibility. Some fringe stuff becomes mainstream, and vice versa.

Note the difference between what a real historian writes and what you claim. So, I can take the view of a full professor of history that it is important to read things in order to make a judgement because fringe stuff can become mainstream or I can take your arrogant word that you know what is good scholarship without reading it. Tough dilemma for me. :) I can take the word of someone like you who claims to be an historian but spends his time insulting people on the Internet - with nothing else to show for his scholarship - or I can take the word of the author of numerous books of history and a full professor of history at a first rate university. REALLY TOUGH CHOICE. I think I shall take the word of someone a bit less arrogant than you.

Now, let's take the example of another historian you have not bothered to read but, nonetheless, pooh poohed: Vahakn N. Dadrian. Now he is a rather well known among people interested in what happened to the Armenians. To you, he was some strange theorist. That suggests to me that you are no historian, since he really is very well known. http://www.zoryaninstitute.org/Table_Of_Contents/genocide_bio_dadrian.htm

Guenter Lewy, who disagree with Dadrian, seems to take him rather seriously. See http://www.meforum.org/article/748 .

So again, I can take your word for things. But, as you can see, my dilemma is that I think you are arrogant and too self-important to bother reading other writers. And that is the sign of an amateur and no historian, despite your arrogant nonsense about primary and secondary sources, as if only you know the difference. In my view, you lack the judgement necessary to guide me or anyone else.

Do you now see my problem with you and your arrogant views?

By the way, I still have not seen a list of any books you have read about the Muslim regions. I wonder why? Actually, I do not wonder. I think I know the reason. It is the same reason you spend time knowing which historians are important and which are polemic without having bothered to read any of them. Or, should I say that the full list of your reading is Richard Clarke. Admit to it, Peter. It will help you move on.

N. Friedman - 12/31/2005


I should not say you are not an historian. That is not fair to you. I should say that you offer opinions without any justification while criticising others who disagree, demanding proof but unwilling to justify your views with any proof. That is pretty low and you should consider that others likely share my view of your methods.

In simple terms, it is always a one way street with you. In my experience, people who take the approach you take are often frauds. [Note: I am not calling you a fraud.]

I should also mention that I found no google citations for your name, Mr. historian, other than on HNN. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&;lr=&q=%22Peter+K.+Clarke%22&btnG=Search And I should remind you that, so far as I know - and despite asking repeatedly for, I believe, more than a year -, you have yet to acknowledge having read a single book about the history of the Islamic regions. The logical conclusion to reach is that you may not have read any. Prove me wrong.

Notwithstanding your refusal even to mention the basis for any of your alleged knowledge, you have all sorts of criticism of me - not always or even often, although sometimes, well founded -. You have also insulted me and at least one acquaintance of mine who is a well known historian but who holds views you do not share - although you refuse to prove the basis of your disagreement -.

Now, I do not claim to be an historian. You do make that claim and, to be frank, your opinionated postings on this website make me rather skeptical. Prove me wrong.

Prove to me (a)that you are a real historian, (b) that you know something about the Muslim regions and (c) that you have actually read books about those regions. Then, perhaps, I might take some of your criticism more seriously. As matters stand, I can only assume that you are in Plato's cave seeing shadows and believing you know something.

As for what you posted: I read your comment carefully. My comment was well taken given what you claimed and your outrageous insults.

I do not disagree with what powell books or columbia says. I disagree with your assertions. In any event, you have no business telling what to cite and what you consider acceptable.

N. Friedman - 12/31/2005

Dear me Peter,

I googled your name. You are no historian.

Richard F. Miller - 12/31/2005

Dear Peter and Bradley: Not to muddy the waters concerning the evolution of standards, moral responsibiliy and war, but I wish to make a final point in the waning hours of 2005. It would seem that the Nuremberg standards, combined with the UN Charter's sacralization of national sovereigns may not be the "final stage" in the evolution of standards of warfare. The Bush Administration's doctrine of preemption, while practiced before (e.g., Israel's Six Day War, the 1981 attack on the Osiris reactor) was never elevated to the level of officially declared, advance pronouncement. For example, to this day, despite the findings of numerous scholars (e.g., Oren, "The Six Day War") Israel still denies that it struck first. However, that was not the case with Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan). There, the U.S. struck first--as in Iraq--in an effort to neutralize a phenomenon that, for technological reasons, is becoming increasingly dangerous--the failed sovereign, i.e., the nation that can't or won't police their territory.

I believe that the the twin U.S. invasions of OEF and OIF represent a watershed moment in international affairs. The 19th and 20th century concept of sovereignty, with internationally respected borders, with "official" ignorance by foreign governments of what transpires within those borders, e.g., genocide, is drawing to a close. Eroded by technology (i.e., the inexpensive and portable nature of devices of mass murder) and terrorist NGOs, one of my "predictions" for the New Year is that this trend will accelerate--but now, others will embrace it as expediency dictates. What makes the security function (as opposed to humanitarin functions) of the United Nations obsolete is its embrace of sovereignty as its lodestar. Of course, as presently structured, the UN has little choice--the UN itself was founded on the increasingly antique notions of sovereignty--antique, that is for those "nations" unable to exercise the first task of the sovereign, which is to monopolize violence within its own borders. This was certainly true of Afghanistan.

If course, Iraq was different--a pure case of preemption (assuming, as I do, that the Bush administration actually believed the intel on WMDs). What is curious here is the world's--much of it, at any rate--acceptance of preemption for OEF and Afghanistan compared with the lack thereof in Iraq. Certainly one of the reasons for this was a growing understanding that failed states represent a growing risk to world peace. This, I contend, is a sea change from the world as it stood in 1945. It is a change in the morals of war in that now, preemptive aggression against sovereigns is justificable in cases of terrorist NGOs deploying on the territory of failed states. Using preemption against living states, i.e., Iraq, was crippled, in a PR sense, by the failure to find WMDs of the types and amounts predicted.

But it will not remain crippled long. There are several instances of living states where preemption is likely to occur, and conceivably with less European opposition. One place is Iran--with targeted strikes on their widely dispersed nuclear facilities. The Israelis do not have the capacity (the extra-tanked F-16 they have has insufficient range) to destroy, or most likely, delay the Iranian program. That will have to be done by us. Given the strike range of Iran's Shahab-4 missile (basically, the old Soviet SS-4), which includes a number of European capitals, this effort will likely be covertly joined, or done without vociferous objections, by some European governments.

What all of this means is that the old paradigm of "bad aggressors," "sneak attacks," and Pearl Harbor analogies will have to be rethought under many circumstances. I make these comments not necessarily welcoming (or decrying) these changes, but simply noting them.

War ethics, as they always have, are evolving again.

My best to everyone in the New Year.

N. Friedman - 12/31/2005


Show me where you provide context for your quotes.

List the books about the Muslim regions that you have read.

N. Friedman - 12/31/2005


Since when are you the judge of what is good history? What books have you written, Peter? What positions do you hold, Peter? What makes you an authority on anything? And, further, what books about the Muslim regions have you read? Any? Given the ignorant opinions you often espouse, I tend to doubt you have read a single book of history about the region or its history, only books by contemporary observers such as Richard Clarke.

My thought for you: come down from your arrogant heights where you demand much but offer little of substance in return.

You, who have read, so far as I know, exactly nothing about the Muslims, about their history or culture or religion are no one to tell me what is what.

Further - and this is for you to consider since, in fact, you have not read Crone's book at hand so you should not tell me what I can quote from the book -, your understanding of Crone's book is incorrect. It is a mixture of history and of political/religious ideas.

I certainly do not quote polemicists - at least when I cite books -. That is in your head. And I do cite people most of the time - and, like anyone else, I occasionally make mistakes - in context. I have no intention of proving anything to you as a condition to post. You are free to check my quotes and sources and opinions and, in the event you disagree or think I erred, you can point out my mistakes. But you are no judge of what is good and bad opinion around here as many of your comments are woefully uniformed and, worse than that, you confuse your opinions with facts.

N. Friedman - 12/31/2005


This is one of your sharper comments. I think I agree with most of it.

One reason why multiple standards are employed is that events also look forward and have potential consequences.

Thus, to take a hard stance with respect to the Sudanese Muslims and their genocidal war against the Southern Sudanese Christians and animists (i.e. from 1983 - 2004) would have impacted on relations with oil producing countries which evidently supported the genocidal war. Hence, that war which killed about 2 million people, most of them Christians and animists, with many of these poor souls intentionally starved to death, their children taken away and forced to convert, with slaves taken and sold to people living accross the Gulf region was hardly an item and still is hardly an item.

Sudan had oil and oil counts. Egypt supported the war as did the Gulf states so it was bad to bring up inconvenient events that transpired more than two decades.

N. Friedman - 12/31/2005

Mr. Smith,

I did not say that there was no law. I said it is a mistake to so claim.

N. Friedman - 12/31/2005


I am not quite sure you are correct regarding the concept of "crimes against humanity." They have their origin at least in connection with WWI and the treatment by the Ottoman Turks of their Armenian subjects.

I note this comment from the Zoryan Institute:

Because the perpetrators of the Armenian genocide were not prosecuted, the Nazi-organized Holocaust against the Jews became possible. There is a direct linkage between the failure to prosecute the crimes against humanity before World War II and their commission during World War II.

This failure did not occur because there was no offense or because there was no jurisdiction. Both existed, and still the prosecutions did not occur. This reluctance to act, in spite of the offense and in spite of the jurisdiction, made the Nazis more brazen and the Holocaust more likely.

- David Matas, "Prosecuting Crimes Against Humanity: The Lessons of World War I," Fordham International Law Journal (1989-90): 104.

I note that Vahakn Dadrian himself indicates something rather similar (both paragraphs of the above quoted material) in his book The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus. So, I am not so sure it is entirely accurate to say there was no law - other than laws applied ex post facto - on which to prosecute the Nazis. The laws did exist but, in the case of the Armenians, they were, with a few exceptions (where, by the way, the Ottoman government itself conducted the prosecutions), basically not employed.

N. Friedman - 12/31/2005


Richard Clarke is certainly a bright guy. I had no objection to you citing him. He is knowledgeable about the Jihadis, etc., etc. I did not say you cite him as an historian but that you cited to him and that he is not an historian.

I do note that you very unfairly criticize some of the sources to which I cite. People like Vahakn Dadrian really are first rate historians. He is considered the leading advocate of the view that the Armenians were the subject of a genocide. I note that those who oppose that view also cite him as being the primary and leading source for scholarship for his point of view.

By the way, he cites Bat Ye'or as his primary historian for understanding the role of non-Muslims in Muslim society. Her book The Dhimmi is footnote number one in chapter one of his book The History of the Armenian Genocide : Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus, around which his entire analysis is built. He cites her because she is also a major historian for her field of endeavor. He cites her elsewhere in the book as well. I cite to her because I think her contributions to the field are rather substantial.

You will do well to expand your list of writers regarding the Muslim regions. You might also add Patricia Crone to the list of writers you should read. I shall be citing to her going forward. I just finished her excellent book God's Rule: Government and Islam. It is a study of political thought in the Muslims regions during the first 600 years of Islam. The book has a great deal of light to shed on what is occuring today - from a theoretical point of view -.

Richard F. Miller - 12/30/2005

Focus is always a good idea. Let me give it another shot. First, to assess the issue Barnouw thinks she is raising, we must do what she has explicitly failed to do--stick to "apples with apples." I make this specific comment because Barnouw (presumably) seeks to apply what I'll call a Nuremberg standard to events, e.g., Israeli occupation of the West Bank, or U.S. policy in Iraq, occurring half a century later. She is on safer ground insofar as she seeks to compare Allied and German behavior for the period of 1939-1945. Her argument that Allied behavior itself failed to comply with the postwar Nuremberg standard is undoubtedly true. I do not believe that her argument that Holocaust memorialization has somehow "crowded out" the suffering of others is true. She hasn't been reading the newspaper--any newspaper--lately, by which I mean since 1945.

Victor's justice did not always comport with victor's expediency in ending the war, as witnessed not only in places like Dresden and Hamberg, but Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Tokyo, (the latter by conventional bombs). At the same time, the argument has been made--and to those under Japanese occupation in the Philippines, China and Korea, it could stand as a compelling one--that given the rates of civilian death at the hands of the Japanese, that the firebombing of Tokyo and the nuking of the other two cities actually saved lives. If you had hauled Harry Truman and Henry Stimson into the dock, that would certainly be a part of their defense. (The same argument, after a fashion, has been made about the want of an Allied aerial attack on Auschwitz--given the imprecision of ordnance, tens, perhaps a hundred thousand innocent slave laborers would have been killed, but if the camp was destroyed, say, in 1944, something on the order of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews might never have been deported there that summer.)

There is an interesting legal argument involving Nuremberg that bears on the questions of evolving standards of warfare that I raised earlier as well as the issues you raise presently. A number of Nuremberg defendants raised the quite legitimate defense--ultimately unsuccessful, given the enormity of their crimes, I hasten to add--of ex post facto application of law. Technically, they were correct--until the Nuremberg tribunal was established, there had never been such a thing as "crimes against humanity." It was noted at the time that the imposition of this standard on the Nazi scum in the dock would have amounted to an unconstitutional Bill of Attainder under U.S. law. It is ironic that what happened at Nuremberg represented a judgment that (in my opinion) had to happen for the rehabilitation of Europe (never Germany alone, by any means) but also represented a judgment by the victors on themselves. It was during the existence of the Nuremberg tribunal that the U.N. Charter and subsequent international treaties were established, which (assuming compliance)essentially made future WWIIs impossible for both victors and vanquished alike. This was unprecedented. It was as if the Nuremberg was intended to seal off an entire epoch of warfare by all parties. Incidentally, whether in the novels of Kurt Vonnegut or even postwar West Germany, the firebombing of German and the nuking of Japanese cities have been the subjects of extreme controversy. (For a far better informed discussion of the German side of the equation, read the recent HNN review of Barnouw's book.)

In fact, perhaps like you and I, the two sides may be talking past each other. Take the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those who object to the American use of atomic weapons use something like a Nuremberg standard. Those who argue it was justified use the pre-Nuremberg standard prevalent during WWII itself--a population can be held accountable for its government's policy. Between the August, 1945 (the A-bombs) and November [?] 1945 (the beginning of Nuremberg, only a couple of months passed. But the world moved.

Do the example of the Nazis, held up as the ultimate evil, corrupt American culture by issuing "get out of jail free cards" to those whose misdeeds are measured in tens of thousands of lives rather than millions? Probably. But consider as well that "Nazi" is now indiscriminately applied to everyone from genuine Saddamite mass murderers to people who object to second hand smoke in restaurants. I think the standard of what a "Nazi" is has similarly fallen. (In my youth, Ho Chi Minh was often called a Nazi--but did the 3,000 civilians killed by NVA at Hue (among other atrocities) legitimate the charge? Probably not--I have to revert to my earlier comment that magnitude matters.)

Richard F. Miller - 12/30/2005

Thank you for your patient reply. The fault is mine for not properly elaborating my argument about the evolving standards of war. During a period that probably commenced with Sherman's March to the Sea--and perhaps ending in 1945--the "ethics" (and I surround the word with smear quotes as a reflection of my personal view, c. 2005) of warfighting seems to have countenanced "some"--never satisfactorily defined in law, of course--retaliation against wholesale populations for the actions of their governments. There is a slight "if" here, however. The retaliation must have been "measure for measure," (which, ironically, Sherman's was not), e.g., bomb my civilian population first, (e.g., London, Rotterdam, Warsaw, Nanking, etc.), and I'll bomb yours. Of course, the comfort that the "innocent" drew from such wholesale and often indiscriminate retaliation was that the adversary was the initiator, thus classifying the response, no matter how brutal, as an effort to ward off future attacks.

By today's standards, this type of measure for measure warfighting is simply unacceptable, and, among advanced industrial powers, (hopefully) no longer practiced. To be entirely honest however, one must acknowledge that technology has simplified the moral issue to some extent--beginning in c. 1971 with the introduction of so-called "smart bombs," precision munitions are now a reality, thus alleviating some of the moral perplexity associated with the 1,000 bomber raids characteristic of the air war over WWII Germany. (The numbers were necessary because of the unguided nature of the ordnance.)

Yet you have raised an issue that will likely bedevil historians to the end of history--can we, should we, and if we do, how do we, judge the behavior of preceding generations with very different ideas about (among an infinitude of other matters) fighting wars? Sacking cities, enslaving women and children, killing adult males, was standard practice until (on the larger time scale) relatively recently. I could re-write Thucydides and include condemnations of Athenian or Spartan behavior in this regard, which might make me or my readers feel better, but I doubt it would render a satisfactory account of life as lived in the 5th century BCE.

By the way, I will disagree with you in one respect--Hitler, I'm afraid, was all too human.

In any case, have a happy New Year.

J. Mumford - 12/30/2005

I do not think the author is arguing that the Nazis and the Allies were equally guilty in WWII. But because she does not make clear exactly what she *is* arguing, I can see why some readers assume the worst. With such an explosive subject, one ought to express oneself clearly, not by indirection.

N. Friedman - 12/30/2005


I have generally, but not always, cited historians in arguments with you. For whatever reason, you have a list of writers you like and do not touch others. Remembering back, I recall that you, at one time, liked to mention Richard Clarke who does not claim to be an historian at all. Be that as it may, you are free to cite whomever you like, just like I am.

By the way, I do not cite to historians who play fast and loose with facts.

Richard F. Miller - 12/29/2005

Sir, you are correct; moreover, I will offer something in scant supply here on HNN--my apologies. I will lighten up just a bit, on my honor! Like you, I enjoy verbal genocide, write a good deal for HNN, and actually have (to be very candid) enjoyed your posts, even when opposed to my point of view. Frankly, I don't get out much, inhabiting either libraries and occasional embed assignments in Iraq. Alas, that means that for company, I am limited to (other than my spouse, thankfully) other scholars and U.S. Marines. Interesting combination that, and to be blunt, I prefer the Leathernecks. In any case, keep writing, and I'll keep reading.

Best, Richard F. Miller

Richard F. Miller - 12/29/2005

Mr. Smith: I will certainly make no effort to "prove" you wrong. How could I? On the grossest level, your point is indisputable--Hitler killed, we killed, the Japanese killed--I needn't go on. Over the broad sweep of time, few nationalities, ethnicities, faiths or followings have clean hands. It's what makes the "Gotcha!" game of accusations of double-standards so easy to play, but in the end, unrewarding.

What I will attempt to do is (perhaps) hone your understanding just a little. Men have been killing other men for a long time; yet, at least in the past two centuries, codes of warfare and the force of opinion of democratic constituencies have developed and do exercise real constraints on most combatants. In the absence of these, can you imagine, for example, what Iraq would look like today? A wasteland produced by American chemical and possibly lower yielding nuclear weapons as politicians uninhibited by such codes concluded that it would be less costly to eliminate opposition in Fallujah by the use of a neutron bomb as opposed to sending in the Marines on the comparatively "safer"--to Fallujah civilians--Operation Al Fajr of one year ago.

My point is that standards of war have evolved. Remember that the British nighttime attack on Hamburg reportedly killed 200,000 Germans--in one horrific evening. By comparison, the hardest left estimate (which I believe is overstated by a factor of 3) is 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead--over almost three years. I'll be the first to admit that these standards don't matter much to the dead or those who mourn them. But they do matter to those not dead and who will never die as a result of these constraints.

Now to Herr Hitler. Clearly, had Hitler pursued his war aims divorced from the tens of millions of civilians for whose deaths he was responsible, your point would be a fair one. Hitler would have been firmly in the tradition of a Napoleon I, or Kaiser Wilhelm, or countless others for whom war was, as von Clausewitz maintained, simply a "continuation of diplomacy by other means." But as most students (David Irving excepted, of course) of Hitler and teh Third Reich understand, Hitler war aims were not divorced from the intentional murder of civilians--arguably, that was his war aim. It was, in part, as the late scholar Lucy Dawidowicz (sp?) maintained, "a war against the Jews." But not only against Jews, of course. Gypsies, some homosexuals, Communist Party members, and increasingly, against political and conscience opposition within Germany. I have read Mein Kampf, and as I write this, I'm looking at my copy on my bookshelf. Although he had a homicidal venom towards Jews, Hitler's notions of race extended far beyond them. As he makes clear in Mein Kampf, Slavs in general were considered racially inferior, or as Himmler succinctly said of the Poles, "We will teach them to count to 500 and read a road sign; the rest we will shoot." These convictions were translated into policy. The German occupation of places like Poland and the Ukraine preferred dispossession, deportation for slave labor, and a gradual weakening of the population through intended starvation. And this was for the Slavs, not the Jews!

I am military historian who has also seen the face of war and I will tell you that magnitude matters; intention, which usually contributes to magnitude, also matters. A TOW missile directed to a specific target is a much different type of offensive weapon than a call to start "walking in" H.E. mortar rounds indiscriminately across a civilian neighborhood so that a platoon sized unit can advance in safety. The former will happen; if the latter happens, and is discovered, the officer responsible will be prosecuted.

But you raise an important point. The Talmud declares that, "He who has taken one life is as if he has destroyed the world." None of us are clean, to be sure. Yet there are differences.

Richard F. Miller - 12/29/2005

Dear Peter Clarke: Having reviewed several of your posts here and elsewhere, what I find conspicuously displayed (other sarcasm as a surrogate for argument) is a curious lack of familiarity with current affairs. Elsewhere, I was surprised to discover you were unaware of Soros's rather well-publicized civil conviction in France for securities' fraud. On this post, you are also (apparently) unaware of Ms. Barnouw's rather sloppy scholarship in her article.

By making Tony Judt the exemplar of what she deems to be a Holocaust "construct" that she asserts has been inflated at the expense of others' suffering, (notably, she claims, the opinions of "moderate Muslims") she (and apparently you) are unaware of Judt's actual position on the question of Israel.

The October 23 2003 issue of the New York Review of Books contained one of the most celebrated articles to appear by a leading Jewish intellectual to endorse a one state solution to the Israel/Palestine dispute. Tony Judt wrote it (See "Israel: An Alternative") and of the spate of post 9-11 articles that appeared, few provoked as much comment as his.

The point of course is that Judt's actual position on Israel (repeated by him many times since then) is quite to the left of the Palestianian Authority's stated position. Moreover, it vitiates Branouw's entire thesis--for if her very exemplar doesn't behave as she predicts, i.e., the "forgetting" of non Nazi-Evil, then of what value is her thesis?

I advise you to spend less time at HNN and more time reading, say, the NYT--about which, based on one of your earlier posts, you seem ignorant.

N. Friedman - 12/29/2005

Mr. Clarke,

No offense but you have skepticism about some of the historians I cite because you have not read them.

N. Friedman - 12/29/2005

Mr. Thomas,

I do not wish to follow too far down the Arab Israeli conflict - as that is not the direct topic here - but I think your statistics are erroneous. In the King David Hotel, 91 people were killed, 28 Britons, 41 Arabs, 17 Jews and 5 others. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_David_Hotel_bombing

Wikipedia has a list of massacres during the time you mention. It does not include a massacre at Qiryat Arba. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_massacres_committed_during_the_1948_Arab-Israeli_war
A google search on "Dier es Salaam" uncovers not a single reference. http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=mozclient&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&q=%22Dier+es+Salaam%22 In simple terms, there is no such place. Whatever the correct spelling of the place you had in mind, no place by a similar name was the subject of a massacre committed by the Irgun or anyone on either side in 1948. And, I might add, by world standards - and examine the total list from Wikipedia - there were rather few massacres, all told, during Israel's war of independence.

To list some of the massacres that did occur and - since you employed basically a smear using made up facts, I get to cite some massacres committed by Arabs against Jews during the same period -:

Ben Yehuda Street Bombing, February 11, 1948, Arab (with British deserters) in which 52 Jews were killed. Hadassah medical convoy massacre, April 13, 1948, by Arabs in which 77 Jews were killed. Kfar Etzion, May 13, 1948, by Arabs in which 50-120 Jews were killed. Haifa Oil Refinery massacre, December 30, 1947, by Arab workers in which 39 Jews were killed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_massacres_committed_during_the_1948_Arab-Israeli_war

Are these examples of mass murder and ethnic cleansing? By your standards, they are.

Now, Jews also committed massacres as the Wikipedia list shows. But there was no mass murder, at least by the standards of WWII, which was the point. Here is an example, by the way, of mass murder really for purposes of ethnic cleansing - a somewhat different thing than what you cite which is, rather unfortunately, the norm during war -:

Kiev ... contained a Jewish population of 175,000 on the eve of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. The Nazi forces captured the city in mid-September; within less than a fortnight, on the 29th. and 30th., nearly 34,000 Jews of the ghetto were brought to a suburban ravine known as Babi Yar, near the Jewish Cemetery, where men, women, and children were systematically machine-gunned in a two-day orgy of execution. In subsequent months, most of the remaining population was exterminated....

The riddled bodies were covered with thin layers of earth and the next groups were ordered to lie over them, to be similarly dispatched.

After the main massacre, the site was converted into a more permanent camp to which thousands of victims from other parts of the Ukraine could be sent for extermination. It became known as the Syrets camp, taking its name from a nearby Kiev neighborhood. Several hundred selected prisoners were quartered there - carpenters, shoemakers, tailors, and other artisans - to serve the needs of the SS men and the Ukrainian guards. They were usually killed within a few weeks and replaced by others who continued their duties. In charge of the administration and ultimate killing was Paul von Radomski, who seemed to crave a reputation for outdoing his sadist colleagues in other camps.

Source: Abram L. Sachar, The Redemption of the Unwanted. By the way, my wife's family were among the few survivors from that incident, having escaped on a train.

A fast fact check for you about Germany and the Armenian genocide. The Germans were definitely involved in what the Turks did, as carefully documented by Vahakn N. Dadrian. Read his book The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus. He devotes a rather long and detailed chapter to the issue. He has also written an entire book specifically on the role of Germany in the genocide of the Armenians entitled German Responsibility in the Armenian Genocide: A Review of the Historical Evidence of German Complicity.

Mr. Thomas, you need to check your facts a bit better.

Richard F. Miller - 12/29/2005

Mr. Adams: As I acknowledge several times through an admittedly long string of posts, the "facts" of the Holocaust are likely to be debated for a long time--as they should, in light of both new evidence and changing perspectives. My objections to Ms. Barnouw's article do not deal with Holocaust studies, but rather, the linkages she insists on making--by her own rules, a "construct" if ever there was one--between the memory of the Holocaust and, to use her rather unwieldy sentence, "the exclusive not-forgetting of Nazi-Evil." Her suggestion--a rather stupid one for anyone who has read a newspaper since 1945--is that Holocaust memorialization has obstructed awareness of the pain of other groups.

There are two groups that she is most concerned with--Germans who were bombed by the allies and expelled by Eastern European nations in the aftermath of WWII, and "moderate Muslims who might think that unquestioned Nazi Evil has gone a long way to support questionable American and Israeli political and military conduct."

Here she is making a linkage between the "memory" of the murder of millions of Jews--an event which, except for scattered pogroms in 1945 and 1946, effectively ended at the end of WWII--and events which occurred (and in her view, continue to occur) decades later. In short, taking her argument at face, she is guilty of precisely the same tort she lays at the feet of Tony Judt--that of creating a "useful history" by exploiting the memory of the Holocaust--only now, Ms. Branouw seeks to create a counter-memory, in part by emphasizing how others have made political hay of Holocaust memory, in order to advance her own agenda--awareness of various German grievances from WWII and justice for Palestinians today.

If you wish to delve somewhat deeper into her own construct, you may wish to consider Ms. Branouw's rather clever use of straws here. She juxtaposes two leading Jewish-European intellectuals here, Arendt and Judt. Her use of Judt to make a point of "exclusive not-forgetting of Nazi-Evil" (particularly given her mention of current Israeli behavior as an evil obscured by "the Holocaust construct") must stem from complete ignorance--Tony Judt is one of Israel's most vociferous critics, having even questioned the necessity of the Zionist state! On the other hand, Barnouw's use of Hannah Arnedt as one of her "good Jews" (my quotes) is far less surprising--Arendt's feelings about Jews, Judaism and the Holocaust were a complicated matter (see pre and post war love affairs with Nazi apologist, later de-Nazified Martin Heidegger).

I will state as I have in several earlier posts that Ms. Barnouw's article needs to be seen in light of current political affairs in Germany, of which a sort of ideological revanchism--over German grievances--has grown.

If you wish to explore constructs, then you ought to inquire why compensation for anyone's grievance must be linked to Holocaust memorialization. Until you or Ms. Barnouw can show that Holocaust memorializers, or Jews, or Jewish organizations, or the state of Israel are lobbying against Germans asserting their historical grievances, then I reserve the right to question the linkage she makes and also inquire into her motives.

Don Adams - 12/29/2005

The hysterical responses to this article do more to confirm the its basic premise than refute it. That is to say, the fact that so many have read assertions and associations into the article which do not actually exist suggests that the Holocaust is indeed a "semi-religious" topic whose orthodox interpretation cannot be challenged without accusations of heresy. This is too bad, in part because, as Barnouw notes, there are consequences even in today's world for Holocaust orthodoxy, not all of them positive. More to the point, it leaves the Holocaust beyond the realm of traditional historical inquiry

Suggesting that the Holocaust is a "construct" neither denies its reality nor minimizes its significance. What it does do, and quite rightly so, is place it within the bounds of rational inquiry. It tells us what we surely agree to be true of all other historical events, namely that there is no inevitable or unassailable way to understand it. That it happened is certain; how we interpret it, and how it fits into our collective consciousness, is not. Never mind the fact that, as has been made clear from other threads, even some of the "facts" of the Holocaust are not perfectly understood or agreed upon. The more complex and more important questions about cause, meaning, and remembrance are of course open for debate. Suggestions to the contrary, including the peremptory smears and dismissals of Ms. Barnouw in this forum, are a disservice to intellectual life.

Richard F. Miller - 12/28/2005

Dear Peter: Other than the rather critical book review that appears in HNN's archives, I have absolutely no familiarity with Ms. Barnouw and wouldn't be able to pick her out of a police line up. However, I have more than a passing familiarity with her arguments, which have been echoed repeatedly both in and out of Germany. Is it your contention that one cannot be characterized by the essence of their argument? Or put another way, if I echo the arguments (and linkages) of Holocaust minimizers, are you out of bounds to conclude that I am either sympathetic with them or, simply acting, as Lenin might have said, like a "useful idiot?" Does it matter that I am not a member of the National Alliance, IHR, or the Iranian Governing Council? I simply made the point, which I repeat here, that her arguments and linkages on this issue have found a home at the IHR website. It's not guilt by association--it's an intentional association designed to eliminate guilt.

Think about the standards that you would impose for a semi-public (versus courtroom-evidentiary) debate. Incidentally, that Ms. Barnouw has a book out is irrelevant to assessing her arguments--although, if you do read the HNN review (and find it credible) you might wonder a bit about her scholarship.

Her language of "exclusive not-forgetting of Nazi-Evil has contributed to forgetting [the problems of the present]" is not only patently false, but is merely an effort to put lipstick on a pig.

If I may rile you a bit (good naturedly, of course) it is a bit like Martin Heiddeger's conversion to Nazism followed by his postwar conversion from Nazism--all very gentlemanly, naturally, didn't mean a thing, let bygones be bygones, and hey, did you know I'm one of the outstanding philosophes of the 20th century? And everybody winked (including, sorry to say, Ms. Barnouw's vaunted Hannah Arnedt.)

Everybody winked. After all, he was intellectual.

Frederick Thomas - 12/28/2005

"If Auschwitz was indeed "was essential to the eastern German war effort” why did the allies not try to bomb it?"

Good question. In fact your only good question. All of the recon flights, over 400, were presumably done to facilitate later bombing. Perhaps they realized that the hundreds of barracks contained hundreds of thousands of human beings, who would be killed. Of course, that did not stop them when they bombed German civilians, so it is unclear why not.

"Thanks for citing the date of the New York Times article, but you will excuse me if I don’t spend time looking it up until..."

Laziness is no virtue in a scholar, Mr. Clark, even if accompanied by a facile excuse.

Happy New Year anyway!

Richard F. Miller - 12/28/2005

Dear Mr. Clarke: Mr. Thomas was mistaken when he asserted that 1995 New York Times articles are unavailable online. Indeed they are (as are full copies--for a fee--of Times articles since 1981) available and may be accessed through the Times' homepage.

I did attempt to access the article cited by Mr. Thomas, using the key words "Auschwitz," "Russia/Russian" and "January 1995." While the search yielded several hits, none even remotely dealt with the subject claimed by Mr. Thomas. Until he furnishes new dates, or corrects his post, I will simply treat this as a footnote of the Michael Bellesiles (sp?) school of citation.

As for my earlier assertion that Ms. Barnouw might be welcome at the Institute for Historical Review, I urge anyone interested to visit their website (www.ihr.org) and read the "news" articles posted there. The first article is a lovely piece entitled, "Holocaust Remembrance Strengthens Jewish-Zionist Power." The very next article for inquiring minds is about the brutal British mistreatment of German POWs during WWII. Scroll down a bit and you'll find another piece entitled, "History Matters: Few Know of the Massacre of German POWs in Utah." Keep scrolling--there are many more items of this type.

For all I know, the substance of these articles is true. But I also know that the point of linking them with minimalization of the Holocaust patently serves other agendas, be they overtly antisemitic, or Arabist, or more charitably, the pursuit of elusive standards of "international justice."

In Ms. Barnouw's case, after reading her tortuous prose, I was struck by a curious disconnect. Putting aside Mr. Friedman's point about a wider German culpability for WWII, if everything that Barnouw claims is true--and there's no reason to question much of it--what on earth does this have to do with the (her words) "semi-sacred" memory of the Holocaust? Using normal principles of causality, why would she go looking to Jerusalem and Gideon Hausner for recompense rather than London, Washington, Moscow, Prague, or Warsaw?

If I may answer my own rhetorical question, it is because her purpose in minimalizing the Holocaust, in reducing it to a postmodern construct of "memory" versus an actual event that murdered millions, she is able to accomplish what I believe is a purpose shared by many European intellectuals of her stripe, along with Arabists, Palestinian apologists, and radical Muslims--the delegitimization of Israel and the United States. Indeed, Ms. Barnouw's article needs to be seen in the context of a broader ideological revanchism--tired of laboring under the yoke of history, it intends to recover lost moral standing--pervasive in Germany today. (An entire political movement has developed around uncompensated German grievances arising from WWII.)

That German revanchism of any kind is once again at the expense of "the Jews" may comfort the cynics but will disappoint many others. However one views this, the only other forum where I see these arguments and linkages being made is on IHR's website; hence, my suggestion to Ms Barnouw.

Frederick Thomas - 12/28/2005

Peter, it is absolutely clear from my post that the Times article dealt only with the Auschwitz numbers. Too bad they had no internet postings back then, but if you wish to go to the microfiche I believe the date was January 18th, 1995.

Regarding the other sites I mentioned, there is little to question if you buy the standard lines, because I mainly summarized them. Look 'em up yourself if you are unfamiliar with the literature.

Frederick Thomas - 12/28/2005

Mr. Friedman, nice to hear from you, although your points are at times so indirectly worded that they defy answering.

A couple of small rejoiners:

"If by mass murder, you mean that there have been deaths and massacres caused, directly or indirectly, by the Israelis, I agree with you."

Mass murder is, for example, Qiryat Arba, Dier es Salaam, etc in which, in May of 1948, all the inhabitants but 2 were killed in cold blood (by Itzhak Sharmir's Irgun thugs in the first case.) The two were sent ahead to terrorize the other villages in the area into leaving their homes, which were taken over by Jews.

Together these two sites east of Jerusalem came to over 600 murders, and the terroristic ethnic cleansing of about 5 times that number. This pattern of murder and ethnic cleansing was designed in the 1930's by David ben Gurion, and was repeated military style all across Palestine.

Menachem Begin's terrorist act against the King David Hotel, killing about 200, is another type of mass murder also practiced by Irgun.

Almost 90 thousand were murdered, and 1.1 million disposessed, and driven out per UN refugee reports. That probably trumps Darfur and Sudan. Of course, these murders were done by a supposedly civilized nation.

"ala what the Nazis did to at least to Jews and Gypsies or the US did to the Indians or the Turks and Germans did to the Armenians or the Muslim Sudanese did to Christian and animist Sudanese -, then your proposition is a fantasy."

Fact check time. The Germans had nothing to do with the Turkish atrocities against the Armenians, although they had a military alliance. Is that not a blood libel?

Frederick Thomas - 12/28/2005

Mr. Miller, I am having difficulty with your logic here. You seem to wish to build up big straw men then bravely knock 'em down. Examples:

You asked what was the "magic threshhold of victims must be in order for "Jews" to avoid a backlash?" I neither claimed nor implied any threshhold, but rather sought to establish some documented reality, and to support those whose horrible losses were minimized in this very post by yourself. So what is your point?

"And what "story" will be getting out?"

The story is that one group of sufferers considers its losses more significant than even much larger numbers of sufferers in other groups.

This logic is what one expects from the Soviets, who originated it at Nuremberg, to exculpate themselves from far greater crimes. It does not stink any less today.

Any human being who hears another human being claiming that only his group was murdered, and that greater numbers of other groups who died do not count, will be unpopular, Guaranteed.

Look at Europe if you are unwilling to consider the facts. Israel is widely hated there, and it is getting worse. These facts were just yesterday reported in the J-Post following a sub-ministerial report. I am glad someone other than me noticed. Maybe there is hope.

N. Friedman - 12/28/2005


Corrective note: My title was inspired by your comment. I am not accusing her of being a Nazi. Please however note the point in the article I cite about her scholarship which downplays the suffering of non-Germans in general and Jews in particular.

N. Friedman - 12/28/2005


Regarding Ms. Dagmar Barnouw, read this: http://hnn.us/roundup/entries/19649.html

Grant W Jones - 12/27/2005

Mr. Reimer states: "On March 8, 1945, American bombers bombed the unimportant small city of Bergisch-Gladbach near Koeln."

Bergisch-Gladbach is about five miles east of Cologne. Cologne, on the west bank of the Rhine, fell to elements of the U.S. First Army on 7 May, 1945. Also on that day the Remagen bridge over the Rhine was seized by the U.S. 9th Armored Division. Remagen is about fifty miles upstream of Cologne.

My guess is the Germans were moving troops through Bergisch-Gladbach, on the east bank, and your relatives had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

N. Friedman - 12/27/2005

Mr. Thomas,

Among the more unusual things you claim is that the Israelis committed mass murder. If by mass murder, you mean that there have been deaths and massacres caused, directly or indirectly, by the Israelis, I agree with you. If, as your comment suggests, by mass murder you mean massive massacres - ala what the Nazis did to at least to Jews and Gypsies or the US did to the Indians or the Turks and Germans did to the Armenians or the Muslim Sudanese did to Christian and animist Sudanese -, then your proposition is a fantasy.

As for Ms. Barnouw's theories, they sound more like apologia than analysis. One might, without denying those Germans who died their due for suffering, remember that it was Germany - and that means Germans - which picked a fight with other countries and it was Germans who, so far as anyone can discern, sat by as their Jewish neighbors were taken away. You might read Walter Lacquer's book The Terrible Secret where he documents that it was widely known in Germany, from early on, that those taken away would never return. For example, insurance companies were all informed as such affected payouts, soldiers wrote to their families about forcing people en masse to dig their own graves and machine gunning them en masse; some sent pictures home, proud of their doings while other wrote home in horror about what was occuring.

Now, if you want to go by numbers, you are rather correct that Jews and gypsies were hardly the only people who suffered. But, the numbers do not really tell the story. The real story is about why innocent Jewish and gypsie civilians, among others, were intentionally singled out, rounded up and disposed of en masse. And the numbers do not tell of the use of scientific methodology to seperate Jews from the rest of society, as documented in Edwin Black's somewhat flawed book - from which there is still much that can be learned - IBM and the Holocaust. The records uncovered by Black tell the story of a government obsessed to rid itself of Jews. It employed what was the latest and best technology available for the project. And, none of this tells the story of an entire machinery set up to dispose of people who had no dispute against Germany or the German people.

Now, one can claim a lot of things about all who died and suffered in WWII. But frankly, what Ms. Barnouw claims seems rather divorced from fact.

Richard F. Miller - 12/27/2005

"As the story gets out, there could well be a backlash against Israel and against Jews, such as we see today all over Europe. Mr. Miller could help prevent this possibility by getting real in his rhetoric."

---Fred Thomas, 12/27/05

Mr. Thomas, this is perhaps the most frightening part of your remarks. It illustrates how pervasive, how tempting is the ancient disease, even for presumptive bien pensants such as yourself.

The actual number of Jews killed by Germans during WWII will likely be debated for a long time. However, perhaps you tell us what the magic threshhold of victims must be in order for "Jews" to avoid a backlash? Is it 2 million dead? 3 million? 1 million? 2.75 million?

And what "story" will be getting out? Revised estimates of victims? Or perhaps the recent statements by the well-known scholar of Holocaust studies, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the Holocaust was in fact a "Holohoax," to paraphrase his remarks. And is it your contention that recent antisemitic violence in Europe (perpetrated mostly by Muslims) is driven by revised estimates of the number of Jews killed by Germans?

You assert that I can help prevent this backlash against Jews by "getting real" in my rhetoric. How so? By agreeing with you? By taking a position, contrary to your own, that Israeli depredations are not equivalent in magnitude or evil to the mass murders in Rawanda, Darfur, or elsewhere?

But rather than raise rhetorical questions, allow me offer a "real" historical example of where your logic of "the representative Jew" leads. On November 7, 1938 a Jew named Zindel Grynszpan murdered Ernst von Rath, the Third Secretary of the German Embassy in Paris. Two days later, Joseph Goebbels, declared that the murder was evidence of a conspiracy against Germany by "International Jewry," and called for public vengeance. The result was Kristallnacht.

Now tell me, Mr. Thomas, is it your contention that when the number of "proved" Jews murdered during WWII falls below a certain level, that the "international community" (the same one that acted with such dispatch in Cambodia, Serbia, Rawanda and Darfur) will rise as one in a titanic backlash against "the Jews?" Why are there no representative Germans? For example, Germany was the indisputable intiator of WWII, yet in postwar Europe, quickly regained a position of economic dominance. Other than a handful of Nuremberg-type trials, and a rather shallow de-Nazification program, where was the backlash?

And if you actually believe this stuff about the relationship between Holocaust revisionism and "backlashes" against Israel and "the Jews," what does that make you?

Grant W Jones - 12/27/2005

Minimizing the Holocaust while painting the American military as bad as the Nazis is a favorite theme of HNN's.



I'm still curious as to the why.

Frederick Thomas - 12/27/2005

I appreciate the more reasoned tone of this post, Mr. Miller, but have a couple of comments.

Ms. Barnouw did not say "mere construct." She said "...as a construct of memory stories..." She did not in any way minimize the holocaust, as you imply, she directed the reader's attention to the eyewitness testimony of it.

She evinces no "...perversion of language...," as you assert. Rather she uses language as eloquently as one should, given her position as a USC linguist in good standing. Ad feminem attacks are neither needed nor appropriate here.

By the way, you did not read more than a little of my post, which led you to another error. Look up "Einsatzgrueppen," "Umsiedlungslager," "Kommissarbefehl," etc, and you will see all of these tragedies are indeed mentioned by me, contrary to your assertion, together with a reference to the Ukranian genocide. See "Murder by Government" for a complete scorecard, with the Soviets leading with 61.5 million butchered.

You will never get a very good feeling for my thought process as long as you fallaciously attribute it to pro-Palestinianism, although I have sympathy for these long suffering people. Rather, I do not like regimes which practice mass murder and ethnic cleansing, which still sadly includes the Israelis.

However, I also feel the same about the Darfur situation, the South Somalia situation, the East Timor situation, etc. Israel just happens to be the only advanced country still pursuing such murderous policies.

Richard F. Miller - 12/27/2005

I have no particular interest in defending the murder by Germans of any one people among the many millions they killed during WWII. Indeed, Stalin and Mao murdered far more, and their crimes have never been satisfactorily recognized. A life is a life and the numbers cited by Mr. Thomas are largely irrelevant--as well as incomplete, since they do not take into account the Einsatzgruppen killings or the tolls at camps such as Treblinka and many, many others. (Why he should focus on just Auschwitz is a mystery--I don't believe I mentioned it in my posts).

What does trouble me about Dagmar Barnouw's article is the perversion of language--the Holocaust is not only labeled a "mere construct"--as if the murders, in whatever number, was something like a post-WWII advertising campaign, but also the discrediting of the notions of German mass murders in an effort to delegitimize both the U.S. and Israel. (I carry no brief for Israel, but a check of Mr. Thomas's past postings indicate that he is a reliable bulletin board for the Palestinian narrative).

Incidentally, a review of the article suggests that the only person who has a problem with Tony Judt is Dagmar Barnouw--it is him that she attacks repeatedly for attempting to hold European civilization accountable for its manifold crimes.

As a side note, is it possible that Mr. Thomas's "insight" that the so-called Holocaust construct will somehow cause "Jews and Israel" to suffer in an imagined backlash makes him one of those who believe in the collective punishment of ethnicities? Tell me, Mr. Thomas, does one "bad Jew" spoil the barrel? And who will make "the Jews" pay the price this time, Mr. Thomas?

I breathlessly await your answer.

Frederick Thomas - 12/27/2005

Mr. Miller seems intent to make the Soviet version of the holocaust into some kind of revealed truth, like various fundamentalists who tout their quite literal faith in the Old Testement.

Mr. Miller will not accept the fact that Jews probably suffered less than did German civilians, the Poles, Ukranians, and others. Mr. Miller argues with repeated and heated rhetoric, and by characterizing every nuance in the discussion of suffering as a great evil he calls "revisionism."

However, events may have moved beyond Mr. Miller's rhetoric. The Russians released the extremely detailed captured German records of Auschwitz in 1995, 50 years after they were taken and classified, causing the Poles who possess the site today to revise the official history of Auschwitz to bring it into accord with the extensive documentary history. As reported in the NY Times in 1995, these facts force a reevaluation. They can be summarized as follows:

-Auschwitz was a slave labor camp, not an extermination center per se. It was the most modern factory complex in the world, 33 enormous factories and many hundreds of large barracks all clearly visible in hundreds of US reconnaissance photos. Its output was essential to the eastern German war effort.

-The workers were fed a diet of 1850 calories per day, just enough to sustain work. (After the war, the valuable factories, which were never bombed, were disassembled and taken to the Soviet Union.)

-The deaths at Auschwitz were 75% from the so called "war disease," typhus, a rikketsium which causes high fever for two weeks, diaharria, vomiting, emaciation, and often death, particularly to its undernourished victims. Typhus is spread by lice biting an infected victim, causing a rikettsial bloom in the louse intestines, which is passed to the next victim through the louse's feces, and the victim's own scratching. Spreading was guaranteed by the practice of putting more than one victim in the same bunk. It is a horrible way to die.

-Typhus is controlled by delousing of clothing, and by cremation of the dead, which otherwise would remain infectious for weeks. Typhus was everywhere in eastern Europe, and potentially affected everyone. It probably entered Auschwitz along with civilian workers, because the slave workers were deloused upon arrival.

-The first Auschwitz commandant, Hoess, was fired as a result of the hundreds of thousands of deaths which took place during the Winter of 1942-1943. Production was off by more than 30%, which meant that German soldiers were also dying in Russia, in large numbers, and battles being lost, for want of supplies. Hoess' job was to keep production up, and he failed.

-The overall death toll at Auschwitz was 1,160,000, about 890,000 of them Jewish, the rest Poles, homosexuals, German communists, Gypsies, and criminals. The deaths were concentrated in the winters of 42-43 and 43-44, when more clothing was worn due to the cold, and was not removed as often for personal hygeine.

-there were two gas chambers in Auschwitz, one built by the Soviets after the war for show purposes, and never used, and the second a tiny affair only three feet high in which clothing was deloused using Europe's successful civilian delousing agent, Zyklon B, a form of hydrocyanic acid. It has a powerful permanent chemical reaction with the lime in concrete to create "Prussian Blue," a porcelain which make it very easy to know where this agent has been used and where not.

-the "testimony" at Neuremberg which resulted in the current version was flawed by the two weeks of brutal torture and threats against the family of former Commandant Hoess by the British. From this came the claim of 4 million killed by gas. Most other "witnesses" put forward by the Soviets. There were many contradictions in the "eyewitnesses" provided by the Soviets, who had not even bothered to coordinate their stories. The Soviets apparently wanted to take the world's attention off of their many atrocities, including the massacre at Katyn Forest, which their prosecutor, Vyshinsky, had personally directed.

-The luckless Eichmann was not even involved with the camps other than to coordinate transportation of new slave workers, which had the highest priority because of the essential need for Army supplies.

-Most of the camps were what the Germans called "Arbeitslager," or "work camps" and seem to have had the same problem with Typhus as did Auschwitz. Anne Frank died of typhus at one of these, Buchenwald. A second type of camp called "Umsiedlungslager," or "resettlement camps" in east Poland, were apparently deadlier, but also much smaller.

-The order by Hitler to kill captured Jewish Kommissars and the reprisal killing of Jews by vengeful Ukranians working with the Einsatzgrueppen during the initial invasion progably added at least a half million to the toll of Jewish dead.

-By comparison, the Germans lost 3.5 million civilians to Soviet mass murder during the ethnic cleansing of the eastern German states, and almost that number to indiscriminate firebombing of cities by the British. Mr. Miller's desire to minimize this suffering or show it as less than the Jewish suffering is beneath contempt.

It seems that the opprobrium which Mr. Miller's many posts heap upon Ms. Barnouw and by implication Prof. Judt, a very fine historian, for seeking a more balanced view may be counterproductive. As the story gets out, there could well be a backlash against Israel and against Jews, such as we see today all over Europe. Mr. Miller could help prevent this possibility by getting real in his rhetoric.

Richard F. Miller - 12/27/2005

I would refer HNN posters to a recent HNN review of Ms. Barnouw's book "The War in the Empty Air: Victims, Perpetrators, and Postwar Germans," that was published on this site on 21 December. The review speaks for itself; what the review does not (and cannot) address are the motives that might lead this "scholar" to produce a work characterized by extreme factual shoddiness and unfamiliarity with the basic sources in her field. One clue may be found her use of "smear quotations"--as pointed out by poster Grant Jones--around the words, "the Holocaust."

If my memory serves, the neo-Nazi affiliated, Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review (IHR) is located in Ms. Barnouw's state of California. I'm quite sure that despite her turgid post-modernist prose, they would welcome her insights without too many inconvenient questions about sources or factual accuracy.

Sal Braun - 12/27/2005

"Professor"Barnouw and her ilk have a DREAM.
The rehabilitation of National-Socialism as a credible political ideology!
As the morsel is too large to swallow in one single bite an incremental strategy is to be implemented.
Preferably from the height of the academic"pulpit" where credulous well-meaning students are to be formed as future decision-makers.
Here is a schematic outline how this policy should be carried out:
1)Never mention atrocities carried out by the Nazi regime towards its own folk(for instance a year-long campaign of physical extinction of disabled people of Aryan extraction carried out by the SS as a "training exercise" for future "nobler"exalting tasks!)
If ever questioned about the topic dismiss it out of hand as Zionist fabrication!A loving father of the German Nation like Adolf Hitler eliminating his own kin for the sake of a better stock?Lies.Sour grapes!If anything of the kind ever happened it either was on a small scale or without the knowledge of the Fûhrer.
2)Belittle systematically the atrocities committed by the Nazis even well-documented ones as unfounded or/either ill-documented with a poor factual basis.
3)Dwell emphatically on the legitimate warfare actions of the Allies Forces as grossly disproportionate to the military forces of the "German adversary", transform the Allied War effort gradually into atrocities against defenceless innocent civilians.
(A perfect Nazi/Soviet-style mental exercise!)
4)Bring on a equal footing Allied Forces war activity with Nazi-Germany one to prove that both sides have equal torts!
5)Consequently prove that the Nurenberg Trial was a gross denial of justice in that it was essentially the "Victors" one imposed on a unjustly defeated deprived of any meaningful legal means helpless "Victim"!
6)Try by all feasible means through a"Coalition of the Willing" in reverse to undo its verdict by proclaiming its legal and moral invalidity!
7)Demand a new trial where this unspeakable wrong could be righted once and for all, and brind the US and the UK for a grand retrial where all the evils of Colonisation and Neo-Colonisation would be eventually denounced and roundly condemned!
8)Ask for a meaningful financial compensation for "Moral irreparable damage "incurred.The proceeds of which could go halfway for Germany the balance equally distributed among Moslin Countries and of course the Palestinians for the constant humiliation they live under since the inception of the state of Israel.
9)A plausible venue for this High Court of Justice could be in a first phase The Hague Tribunal to be later transfered on more neutral territory like Tehran for instance.
After all the Netherlands fought an evil war against a chivalrous adversary in the moral person of Nazi Germany.
This is briefly sketched the radiant future "Professor" Barnouw and her acolytes dream of.
A realignment of world order where the the Moslim countries would at long last have the rightful place they deserve on the planet Earth.
A shuddering perspective!
America wake up before it is too late!

Grant W Jones - 12/26/2005

Why does HNN insist on posting this type of revisionist crap? Putting The Holocaust in smear quotes, a nice touch. Just lovely.

And what's the deal with the article length link?

Richard F. Miller - 12/26/2005

Mr. Reimer, I'm sorry about your personal losses, but all you've achieved by making the claim is parity with (by now) billions of European and Asian families who were touched by the murderous hand of World War II. War breeds misery and death in horrific abundances, and civlians will always die. Unlike you (I suspect), I have no need to revert to distant family history on the subject of war, having written widely on wars that I have personally observed--notably, OIF-I and OIF-IV. What I do know is that your lack of detachment--understandable though it may be--makes it impossible for me to accept your uncorroborated assertion that the town Bergisch-Gladbach was militarily unimportant, or that the strike was intentional (and not the result of an accident, quite common before precision bombing had become a meaningful technology).

Your assertion that I am a member of the Likud Party (which is apparently on the verge of extinction in any event) would be an impossibility--I am an American citizen, and do not hold Israeli citizenship. However, since I do not discuss my religion (whatever it may be, if any) in any public forum, your implication that by questioning Ms. Barnouw's argument, I must be a Jew, has a very unpleasant odor to it.

Perhaps to the list of websites that I recommended you visit I should add that of Stormfront and the National Alliance.

Thomas Reimer - 12/26/2005

I think you would be more comfortable with some extreme Likud site.

On March 8, 1945, American bombers bombed the unimportant small city of Bergisch-Gladbach near Koeln. Among the dead were my grandmother's sister, and her mentally disabled son. He dithered after the alarm sounded; she went to take him to the shelter. Those few minutes doomed both. They both died.

Who are you to condemn all Germans? You need to really think about what kind of values you have!

Richard F. Miller - 12/26/2005

That's not an argument, Mr. Reimer. Perhaps you'd fee more comfortable at Daily Kos? Or what about the ISM site, perhaps?

Thomas Reimer - 12/26/2005

Oh, take a hike--to your spiritual advisor, to get over that self-righteousness that is your albatross!

Richard F. Miller - 12/26/2005

Mr. Reimer: You seek fairy tales in history, a sure sign of presentist neurosis. Its surest symptom is the failure to discern, typically found in the indiscriminate mixtures of time periods, cultures, and historical circumstances, like so many mixed drinks. As historians with any nuance would be happy to tell you, 1933 is not 1945 is not 1967 is not 2005. Germans of the late '30s are not Israelis of the present age; nor is Bush, Hitler; nor is Saddam, Hitler; only Hitler is Hitler. Neither you nor Barnouw are either "courageous" or particularly intelligent by masking a partisan agenda by creating a useful history. (True courage carries risk, and I submit that both of you are merely several "moos" among the herd of "independent thinkers.") Barnouw is a moralizer, a sermonizer, a spinner of homilies, all of which have their uses and purposes--but genuine historical thinking is not among them.

Are there "double standards" Between different time periods and historical circumstances? Ha! If that is the sum total of your insight, you've offered no insight at all.

Thomas Reimer - 12/26/2005

Barnouw is courageous. Predictably, she's criticized by the people stuck with their antique crusader certainties. But a decent world must look at all victims....to prevent more. The killing of those German civilians was a crime, too. We gain nothing by vociferously protecting a double moral standard. The double standard people are the true spiritual kin of Goebbels/Jdanov, not Barnouw.

Richard F. Miller - 12/26/2005

Bad ideas are always bad enough. But to be expressed in such turgid prose!

Sal Braun - 12/26/2005

Ms Barnouw is a true disciple of Goebbels and Jdanov altogether.It would be a sheer waste of time to compose a thorough refutation of what should be considered blatant unashamed antisemitism vested in sophistry.When can we expect dear Ms Barnouw a serialised version of Mein Kampf with your enlightened comments?
Under your deft pen it'll make for sure for interesting reading.
I'm looking forward with elation to reading it!
Salé Braun,"survivor of the Shoa" who lost"some 30 odd members of his close family including his own father in Auschitz".

Richard F. Miller - 12/25/2005

[My apologies for premature posting]
While acknowledging that unrestricted Allied bombing campaigns against German cities were different in kind and degree than the actions of Hitler and Stalin (but nevertheless asserting that the Allied campaigns were criminal), he ignores both the political incentive for the strikes (retaliation for attacks against British civilians initiated by the Luftwaffe) as well as the primitive targeting technology that limited Allied choices in reciprocating. In calculating their effect on Germans, Mr. Barnouw fails to consider other populations. Had the bombings succeeded in shortening the war by a month, two months, or six months (and who is to say they did not?), then large numbers of innocent civilians, including Jews as well as Poles, Russians, Czechs, French, and Dutch owe their lives to these attacks. Mr. Barnouw can inject as much presentism as he likes in his effort to suggest equivalence between the Germans and their civilian collaborators in countries under German occupation. But this has been tried before. One has only to visit certain Islamist websites and those of David Duke or the National Alliance to read more succint versions of the same ideas.

Richard F. Miller - 12/25/2005

Dagmar Barnouw's essay provides a wonderful illustration of precisely how the European will unburden himself of the Holocaust's legacy--by replacing an evil that was uniquely theirs by finding moral equivalence in the "evil" actions of others. And how convenient for European intellectuals that the "others" turn out to be their former accusers, the Jews, and the victors of World War II, the Americans! This space is insufficient for a lengthy analysis of his piece, so I will focus on one thread.