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Catastrophic Success

As if there weren't enough political opinionating out there, I, too, now sing the body bloglectric. Let me FEED you![XML]

Location: United States

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Blogburst - Wannsee Conference and Liberation of Auschwitz

The Holocaust, symbolized by Auschwitz, the worst of the death camps, occurred in the wake of consistent, systematic, unrelenting anti-Jewish propaganda campaign. As a result, the elimination of the Jews from German society was accepted as axiomatic, leaving open only two questions: when and how.

As Germany expanded its domination and occupation of Austria, Czechoslovakia, France, the Low Countries, Yugoslavia, Poland, parts of the USSR, Greece, Romania, Hungary, Italy and others countries, the way was open for Hitler to realize his well-publicized plan of destroying the Jewish people.

After experimentation, the use of Zyklon B on unsuspecting victim was adopted by the Nazis as the means of choice, and Auschwitz was selected as the main factory of death (more accurately, one should refer to the “Auschwitz-Birkenau complex”). The green light for mass annihilation was given at the Wannsee Conference, January 20, 1942, and the mass gassings took place in Auschwitz between 1942 and the end of 1944, when the Nazis retreated before the advancing Red Army. Jews were transported to Auschwitz from all over Nazi-occupied or Nazi-dominated Europe and most were slaughtered in Auschwitz upon arrival, sometimes as many as 12,000 in one day. Some victims were selected for slave labour or “medical” experimentation. All were subject to brutal treatment.

In all, between three and four million people, mostly Jews, but also Poles and Red Army POWs, were slaughtered in Auschwitz alone (though some authors put the number at 1.3 million). Other death camps were located at Sobibor, Chelmno, Belzec (Belzek), Majdanek and Treblinka.

Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army on 27 January 1945, sixty years ago, after most of the prisoners were forced into a Death March westwards. The Red Army found in Auschwitz about 7,600 survivors, but not all could be saved.

For a long time, the Allies were well aware of the mass murder, but deliberately refused to bomb the camp or the railways leading to it. Ironically, during the Polish uprising, the Allies had no hesitation in flying aid to Warsaw, sometimes flying right over Auschwitz.

There are troubling parallels between the systematic vilification of Jews before the Holocaust and the current vilification of the Jewish people and Israel. Suffice it to note the annual flood of anti-Israel resolutions at the UN; or the public opinion polls taken in Europe, which single out Israel as a danger to world peace; or the divestment campaigns being waged in the US against Israel; or the attempts to delegitimize Israel’s very existence. The complicity of the Allies in WW II is mirrored by the support the PLO has been receiving from Europe, China and Russia to this very day.

If remembering Auschwitz should teach us anything, it is that we must all support Israel and the Jewish people against the vilification and the complicity we are witnessing, knowing where it inevitably leads.

The meeting at Wannsee established the mechanism for "the final solution" -- shipment of Jews to eastern labor and death camps -- as the official policy of the Third Reich. Ever efficient and unashamed, the Nazi kept a record of the meeting, which were discovered in 1947 in the files of the German Foreign Office.

The conference addressed every aspect of Nazi genocide in chillingly ordinary logic and language, e.g., " Europe will be combed through from West to East," "forcing the Jews out of the various spheres of life of the German people." Ever efficient, the participants foresaw that, "[i]n the course of the final solution and under appropriate direction, the Jews are to be utilized for work in the East in a suitable manner. In large labor columns and separated by sexes, Jews capable of working will be dispatched to these regions to build roads, and in the process a large number of them will undoubtedly drop out by way of natural attrition."

The minutes reflect an intention to dispose of "roughly eleven million Jews." This figure was derived after a horrifyingly detailed discussion of those with only partial Jewish ancestry, sparing some only a quarter Jewish, and magnanimously exempting others from evacuation only if "sterilized in order to prevent any progeny . . . Sterilization will be voluntary, but it is the precondition for remaining in the Reich."

Many conference participants survived the war to be convicted at Nuremberg. The conference, and the bureaucratic sounding murderous minutes, provide a prototypical example of Hannah Arendt's Banality of Evil.

[Begin Personal Reflection]

I believe that the blogosphere has brought Israel's most vocal and articulate allies out of the woodwork and has recruited its next generation already. Indeed, people who were indifferent are more and more taking a stand for Israel and for the Jewish people so that we may join them in crying "NEVER AGAIN!" Never Again, though, means Never Again Anywhere to Anybody. I must believe that the lessons of the Holocaust have been learned by Americans (and especially Jews) to the extent that it could not happen to them again, and I believe we are enlightened enough to never let it happen to anyone again. I just wish Europe would look at their own history and STOP IGNORING THE PAST. A resurgence of anti-semitism is alive and well in Europe today. I will give my voice in all its power (whatever that may be) to add to the cry "NEVER AGAIN!" I know others will join me, and we shan't have another Holocaust in my lifetime.

Frankly, the whole concept of the Holocaust scares the crap out of me. I can't quite get my brain around the truths one would have to hold self-evident to allow one to blithely order and commit the grisly murder and enslavement of millions of fellow humans. It begins I know, with ascribing a subset of humans with a sub-human status. I understand the allure of this.

I must admit to having very briefly held the thought "We ought to bomb those death-loving jihadists into their greatest desire," but I know that the cost of doing so is to also kill the far greater numbers of Arabs and Muslims who don't march to jihad with a bomb strapped to their chest merrily whistling a martyr's hymn. Frankly it just isn't in our interest to do so, nor is it in our character. Nagasaki and Hiroshima ended what would have been a long protracted battle on the shores of Japan that would have cost both sides tens of thousands of lives. That just isn't the case here. This is not the Emporer's Army and Navy fighting and dying for empire. These are a small but very loud contingent of the people, most of whom, I suspect, just want to be left alone to go to work, provide for their families and feel safe.

So it is an easy path to follow as soon as you decide to disengage your brain from your life. Feelings of vengeance, hate, powerlessness and fear are natural. What separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom is our innate ability to use our brains to reason through a problem or think above our emotions. It is unconscionable to fail to use the brain you were born with to examine the inconsistencies put forth by those who would do hateful acts on your behalf. It is impossible to believe that "Jews are of substandard intelligence" and "Jews are secretly running every facet of world politics with their diabolical genius and their money" are both true at the same time. Just as it is impossible to believe both that "George Bush is a moron who couldn't put on his shoes unaided, even if they were velcro" and that "George Bush is an evil genius bent on world domination." The Palestinians suffer from this failure to reject the cognitive dissonance required to believe half the things that vile Imams spew about them today. Frankly, if I were a Palestinian forced to live in the squalor that is life under the Palestinian Authority and I could look across a border (well, over a wall anyway) and see a thriving, peaceful, affluent and democratic nation where the standard of living is so high above my own that the very comparison is worthless, I may just think those dirty stinking Zionist infidels may be on to something and that maybe, just maybe, Allah would want me to be happy and successful through my own actions.

I must credit the people of this great nation for not falling prey to the viral thought processes that would lead to a shameful action that would poison any real power we have in the Middle East. I think we could stand to use more force, but I applaud George Bush for his more moderated approach to the Battle of Iraq. He understands that we must break the Middle East in order that it may be stronger for the reconstruction, but that we must be ABLE to help reconstruct that and,as is our ideal, we can only do so with the consent of the people. If we had turned the Middle East into so much shiny glass, those who remained would forever be our enemy.

The current War on Terror, as waged in Afghanistan and Iraq has been the painful, itchy smallpox vaccination that will forever leave a scar on the arm, but will prevent the very fatal and more painful disease. We have injected Afghanistan and Iraq (in three days time) with the Totalitarian Vaccination. It turns out that those at risk of contracting Totalitarianism seem to build antibodies to it as they are exposed in larger quantities to Democracy Virus. Democracy spreads by word-of-mouth, freedom of the press and brain-to-brain contact. Sometimes the introduction of the Democracy Virus to a population requires a fair amount of pain, but the antibodies take firmer hold where that is the case.

It is my hope that as Democracy spreads, its entire family of viruses will spread with it. Where Democracy thrives, Freedom of Thought is always found, as is Freedom of Speech. With those two around, Freedom of Religion is seen in greater numbers. Those three together always seem to spontaneously mutate into the sub-viruses Rationality, Rule of Law and Prosperity. Its high time the Middle East was infected. Israel has been the sole carrier of these benevolent viruses for far too long. I expect peace in the Middle East in my lifetime. A culture of death sows the seeds of its own demise, whereas a culture of life reproduces itself indefinitely.

Let's give the Middle East (and the rest of world while we're at it) an epidemic of Democracy!

Regarding the Wannsee Conference, HBO has made two films centering around it: "Conspiracy," starring Stanley Tucci, is the truly historical one, with much of the dialogue taken from the actual transcripts of the Conference itself. It is wonderfully acted and it is powerful indeed seeing the upper echelon of the Nazi Party and the German War Machine talking about the best way to enact a "Final Solution" with no more concern than in an argument about which restaurant to go to for lunch.

"Fatherland," starring Rutger Hauer is actually based off a novel by Robert Harris set in an alternate history at the 75th birthday of the Fuhrer as the US and Greater Germany are seeking detente. The Wannsee Conference and the Final Solution are never public knowledge. Hauer's character begins to find the information, including the transcripts, as he investigates a series of murders (of those men who were there). I never saw the movie, but I read the book and it was a hell of a good read. Great mystery too.

[End Personal Reflection]

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