Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holocaust Studies Make the Grade

A campaign by elements of the Israel lobby to have the Jewish component of the Nazi genocide, aka 'The Holocaust'*, included in Australia's national history curriculum (see my 12/4/10 post Sam Lipski's National Curriculum) has finally borne fruit.

[* In his invaluable book, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering (2000), Norman Finkelstein calls 'The Holocaust' "an ideological representation of the Nazi genocide."]

According to the Australian Jewish News: "The official inclusion of Holocaust studies in the new national curriculum has received a cautious welcome from community leaders and educators. The curriculum was approved by a Ministerial Council meeting in Canberra and endorsed by state and territory education ministers last week... Holocaust studies have been included in two areas of the history curriculum - as part of the Australian immigration story to be taught in year 6 and as part of World War II studies in year 10. Sydney Jewish Museum education director Avril Alba described the inclusion of Shoah studies in the new curriculum as 'a positive step forward... [I]t provides teachers and students with an excellent opportunity to study both the context within which the Holocaust took place and the radicalising effect of the war." (Green light for Shoah studies, 17/12/10)

A cautious welcome?

Ah, "[b]ut [Alba] voiced concern over the limited time the subject is given in the curriculum, saying 'the challenge for teachers will be to both contextualise the unfolding of the Holocaust within the broader context of World War II but also to point out its distinctive features'." (ibid)

OK, Avril, to accomodate your concern, we'll omit the bit in the WWII depth study which goes: "An overview of the causes and course of WWII."

Ah, but "[t]he Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) also expressed reservations. 'The revised content description appears to be an improvement on the original draft', said ECAJ executive director Peter Wertheim. 'One difficulty is that study of the Holocaust is limited to the years 1942-1945. This is inaccurate and omits the Nazi program of mass shootings and other atrocities between 1939 and 1941 in which 1.5 million Jews were systematically put to death'." (ibid)

OK, Peter, 1939 through to 1945 it is. We'll just drop the bit about the "use of the atomic bomb."

Ah, but "Pratt Foundation chief executive and AJN columnist Sam Lipski earlier this year cited concerns about how the syllabus might be delivered if the Shoah wasn't contextualised. 'Without also studying who the Jews were, how they began, and what they've had to say about themselves and to the world over 3 millennia, a generation of Australians will gain a misleading picture', Lipski wrote in an AJN column." (ibid)

OK, Sam, we fully understand your concern, and you'll be pleased to hear that we're seriously considering dropping the history syllabus altogether and replacing it with Jewish/Israel studies.

Seriously though, if dunum by dunum, goat by goat is your mantra and modus operandi, can enough ever really be enough?

Not that I'm the only one ever to have had reservations about The Holocaust being used to promote Israel. Even acclaimed Nazi hunter and Zionist Simon Wiesenthal, in Jerusalem for the 1961 trial of Eichmann, had initial misgivings: "Wiesenthal did not object to the tendency to present the extermination of the Jews as a vindication of Zionist ideology and as justification for the existence of the State of Israel. But Israel's goal of gaining a monopoly over the legacy of the Holocaust aroused a sense of discomfort in him." (Simon Wiesenthal: The Life & Legends, Tom Segev, 2010, p 153)

This discomfort, of course, didn't last long. When, in the wake of Israel's conquest of the West Bank in 1967, it was suggested to Wiesenthal that it was "tragic" that an attempt to redress the injustice to the Jews by creating Israel had given rise to a fresh injustice to the Palestinians, he was adamant: "No, it is not tragic. The creation of Israel was the only possible and the only correct reaction to Auschwitz. There had to be a country in the world where the Jews were the landlords instead of tolerated guests." (ibid, p 219)

If the Wiesenthal line on The Holocaust is the one advanced in our year 10 classrooms, Zionist propagandists will have achieved a significant victory. One can but wonder at the contents of any curriculum support material that might be sent by ECAJ to our schools. On the other hand, if classroom discussion of one terrible injustice turns to discussion of another... watch this space.

Anyway, for teachers of year 10 history out there who are serious about their subject and who may have been wondering just what the real significance of the Nazi genocide is, here's our big picture man, James Petras: "The Nazi genocide against the Jews is an example of the ruling elite victimizing a minority population to create cross-class cohesion, diverting the masses from internal labor-capital conflicts and the real or potential costs of imperialist policies. To deflect their focus on capitalist exploitation, the ruling elite directed worker and middle class discontent to Jewish bankers and capitalists. This propaganda was especially effective in professions like medicine and the retail trade in which competition for positions and market shares between Jews and non-Jews was especially intense. The transition from intensified exclusion and ethnic discrimination to the practice of genocide coincided with Germany's massive military, economic and political expansion and conquest of the late 1930s and early 1940s. As the costs of empire-building increased, so did the need to deflect the increasing anger and anxiety of the population by giving their ills a perpetrator's face (the Jews), and giving them lower ranking populations to despise (the Slavs). Parallel to the Jewish-Nazi Holocaust, the German imperial conquest of great swaths of Eastern Europe and especially Russia led to an even greater holocaust, the killing of some 9-10 million Slavs and the enslavement of many millions more to the imperial-capital war machine." (Genocides, Cohesion & Imperialism, in Rulers & Ruled in the US Empire: Bankers, Zionists, Militants, James Petras, 2007, p 77)

Chew on that, Peter, Sam.


Syd Walker said...

In general I'm an admirer of James Petras' work, but I think he distorts the history of the 1930s in the extract you quote here, unintentionally or not.

He writes: "As the costs of (Nazi) empire-building increased, so did the need to deflect the increasing anger and anxiety of the population by giving their ills a perpetrator's face (the Jews), and giving them lower ranking populations to despise (the Slavs)."

Few objective observers believe/d the experience of most Germans in the pre-war Nazi era was dominated by the rising "costs of empire-building". On the contrary, the German economy performed well between 1934 and 1939. The ability of the Nazis to reflate the German economy from its disastrous condition in the early 1930s put the Roosevelt Administration's New Deal to shame.

Another myth is that the Nazis' economic successes came solely by boosting military expenditure. Overall, economic management under the Nazis was more successful than their Anglo-American counterparts. Although there's some dispute about whether underlying productivity rose as fast in Germany, the benefits of economic receovery were more evenly distributed. These may be incovenient facts for contemporary historians (and they are debated – as all historical assertions should be!), but I think they're not hard to substantiate. They explain the enthusiasm of Austrians to merge with Germany in late 1930s. German nationalism was unquestionably part of the motivation for Anschluss, but it's doubtful it would have prevailed were it not for the widespread belief of the Austrian populace at the time that living standards would rise within the German Reich. That belief wasn't just based on blind faith; it was the result of observation.

In fact, as is well-known, the antipathy of Hitler (and the Party he led) to Jews pre-dates his ascent to national leadership. The causes of that antipathy are an important and complex topic.

(continued in part two...

Syd Walker said...

(continued from part one...

19th and 20th century history is crucially important for understanding the world of today, but the chance it will be taught in schools in anything but a wholly one-sided, Judeophilic way is minimal in the current political and intellectual environment.

The successful push by the organised mainstream Jewish Lobby for mandatory 'Holocaust' education in Australian schools is another manifestation of the overbearing power of this partisan movement. Its preferred narrative of World War Two history is already overwhelmingly dominant in the mass media, the arts, bookshops and political discourse. But enough, as you note, is never enough...

That's not a new problem. Read Wilhelm Marr’s The Victory of Judaism over Germanism: Viewed from a Nonreligious Point of View - recently tranlated into English for the first time.

Not reading German myself, I'd imagined this short book was a quintessential anti-Jewish rant, full of vilification and ugly, irrational assertions. That's because I'd read about it - as opposed reading the text itself. I got rather a shock to read what Marr actually wrote. It's interesting to measure Marr's gloomy prediction of an inexorable slide into Jewish dominance with the course that human history has taken since his time - even accounting for a brief interruption in the 1930s and 1940s, an interruption that from the vantage point of hindsight actually gave the Zionist project an enormous and generally unanticipated boost!

In my view, one of the most fatal flaws of Marr's analsysis (and Hitler's) was the notion that 'race' is a meaningful term and that it should be built it into analysis of Jewish culture and economic power. Scientists now generally hold that race is a useless and utterly unhelpful concept for understanding the biological complexity of humankind. But in fairness, Marr - and naughty Uncle Adolf - were scarcely alone in their belief in 'race'. Most people of the era shared it. Many folk still hold on to the outdated concept to this day. Quite a few of them are Zionists...

MERC said...

No, I hadn't heard of Marr, but am in full agreement with you re the race meme. In addition to what you call the 'outdated concept' of race, which today's lunar right still cling too, I also feel, unfortunately, that the old, nonsensical concept of 'blood', which underpinned pre-WW2 racialism, lives on under the guise of the modern, 'Genes-R-Us', cult of DNA, an equally problematic way of looking at human beings. Too often this is the subtext behind mumbo jumbo about one's 'heritage', which you hear so often this days. Where once that word had a purely cultural connotation, it now often refers to one's biological background. Having Jewish 'heritage', for example, can now mean sharing the DNA of your grandmother, or some more distant ancestor, who happened to be Jewish, rather than merely maintaining a link with one's parents' religious traditions or beliefs.

Re Hitler and Zionism, there is a telling quote in Lenni Brenner's wonderful Zionism in the Age of the Dictators (1983), concerning Emil Ludwig, a popular biographer and historian of the 30s, and a Zionist: "Hitler will be forgotten in a few years, but he will have a beautiful monument in Palestine. You know... the coming of the Nazis was a rather welcome thing. So many of our German Jews were hovering between the Scylla of assimilation and the Charybdis of a nodding acquaintance with Jewish things. Thousands who seemed to be completely lost to Judaism were brought back to the fold by Hitler, and for that I am personally very grateful to him."

Syd Walker said...

Marr's name comes up mainly because he is credited with coining the term 'anti-Semitism' (in German), which has subsequently become such an important concept in all modern European languages. I think it's been an extremely useful term for the Zionists, for reasons I intend to write about when I get round to it. (The argument I have in mind is not simple and I'd like to do it justice).

It seems the expression 'anti-Semitism' really caught on through the writings of Herzl - from the time in the mid-1990s when he covered the Dreyfus trial as a reported and 'converted' to Zionism. Zionism and anti-Semitism were like Siamese twins from that time; on the one side, a rationale for Jewish nationalist separatism, on the other a means of achieving it.

The quote by Emil Ludwig is extraordinary. I hadn't noticed it before, but it's a few years since I read Brenner's 'Age of the Dictator'.

It dovetails with 'The Eichmann Memoirs' as discussed by David Irving back in 1992 - see The Suppressed Eichmann and Goebbels Papers

Here's a short extract from Irving's account:

The second interesting thing that emerges from Eichmann's own papers is that he's chewing over in his mind-- he's frightfully repetitive -- he keeps on coming back, again and again, in his manuscripts and in these conversations to who was behind it, and what was behind it. What was behind the "Holocaust" (if we can use that word loosely here now)? He keeps coming back to the appalling thought: Did they manage to use us? Did the Zionists use the Nazis to further their own ends? Was the Holocaust something that they themselves inflicted on their own body, in order to bring about their Zionist cause in the long run?

This was Eichmann's theory, at the end of his life (effectively, because a year or two later he was kidnapped and a year after that he was at the end of a rope in Israel). "Did they manage to use us?" He keeps on coming back to it, and every time he comes back to it becomes more and more plausible to him. And perhaps this is the reason why the Eichmann papers were not supposed to see the light of day.

MERC said...

Remember that the Ludwig quote came from the early 30s, not later when the Holocaust was underway in earnest. Brenner also quotes Zionism's poet-laureate Bialik as expressing similar sentiments around this time, but says that this view ceased to have currency by 1936.

I'm not familiar with TEM or Irving's speculations on them, but obviously, a man like Eichmann, who claimed he was merely following orders from Hitler, was always going to be one for palming off responsibility for his part in the genocide of Europe's Jews onto others. So why not also blame the Zionists as the ultimate string pullers?

In a sense, the Zionists did use the Nazis to further their own ends, but that was after, not before, the Holocaust. Tom Segev makes this clear in his recent biography of Simon Wiesenthal: "In letters he wrote and interviews he gave before the trial [of Eichmann], Ben-Gurion emphasized that Eichmann the individual was of no interest to him at all. Ben-Gurion saw significance only in the historical value of the trial itself. He hoped the trial would overshadow claims that the leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine had neglected to try to rescue the Jews from the Nazis, and that it would also neutralize the arguments against his government's establishment of ties with West Germany. More than anything else, Ben-Gurion felt that the young state of Israel had not yet shaped its identity, and he therefore wanted to provide it with an overwhelming collective experience, patriotic and purifying, a national catharsis. Beyond this, he hoped that the trial in Jerusalem would drive home to the consciousness of the rest of the world the idea that Israel was the sole heir to the legacy of the 6 million and that the Arab states plotting its destruction were trying to complete the crime that Nazi Germany had begun." (p 152) This manipulation of history irked Wiesenthal somewhat, according to Segev, but unfortunately not enough for him to question the Zionist project.