Genocide: A Critical Bibliographic Review, edited by Israel W. Charny, Vol. 2 (London: Mansell Publishing Ltd 1991).
This is a grim book, but one on a subject that it is still tragically extremely relevant, and in many cases urgently so today. It’s a critical review of genocide and the related issues surrounding it.
I found it in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham, and bought it because of its direct relevance to the current anti-Semitism smears in the Labour party. At the heart of these smears are attempts by the Israel lobby to silence left-wing critics of their decades-long policy of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, and by the Blairites to hang on to power by any and all means they can. This has meant the personal vilification and libel of genuinely anti-racist people, including Jews, people of Jewish descent and gentiles, who have proud histories of actively fighting anti-Semitism as anti-Semites. If Jewish, they are smeared as ‘self-hating’ and their own Jewishness impugned, regardless of their pride in their Jewish heritage or the fact that their opposition in several cases in rooted in their understanding of the moral dimension of the Judaism and opinions of the sages in the Talmud.
It’s particularly relevant in the case of Jackie Walker, the former Vice-Chair of Momentum, who was removed from her post following accusations that her comments questioning the definition of anti-Semitism and the exclusive focus on the suffering of the Jews in the Shoah during a training day on Holocaust Memorial Day were insensitive, and anti-Semitic. Walker has since received messages of support from Momentum’s Black and Jewish supporters, condemning her removal and demanding her reinstatement. The letter published in the Groaniad by Momentum’s Jewish members and supporters argues from its signatories’ considerable knowledge of the Holocaust and the historical literature about it, that Walker’s criticisms were entirely correct. Mike has published a piece on it, which you should read, and follow the links to the original post.
But it isn’t just in this issue that the book is useful. It also covers the literature surrounding other holocausts, such as the Armenian massacres, which are still to this day denied by the Turkish authorities, as well as many other, lesser-known crimes against humanity, such as the Pakistani atrocities in Bangladesh, the murder of the Ache Indians in Paraguay, the artificial famine in the Ukraine under Stalin and the Soviet deportation of entire peoples to Siberia, the butchery of the Mayan Indians in Guatemala and so on. It also extends the discussion of genocide to include ‘omnicide’ – the murder of everyone in a thermonuclear holocaust in an atomic war.
Other topics covered include the psychology of those committing genocide, the Righteous Gentiles, who showed immense courage and daring in assisting Jews during the Holocaust, the responsibility of civil servants and professional groups, and Holocaust denial. Amongst those involved in these disgusting attempts to minimise the extermination of the Jews, or deny it happened altogether, is David Irving. Irving was the British historian, who tried to sue an American historian for libel when she attacked his book on the Holocaust as anti-Semitic. He lost. In the trial a number of expert witnesses tore down his arguments, showing how he omitted evidence, misrepresented others and presented an entirely false history. This destroyed any academic reputation he might have had.
And don’t let any Nazi tell you that the Holocaust has not been proven. It has. In an American court of law. One of the American Nazi magazines claimed that the Holocaust was unproven, and offered a prize of several thousand dollars to anyone, who could prove that it actually happened. A Californian resident stepped forward, and did so. But the Nazis showed their complete unwillingness to confront history, total dishonesty and general lack of class, and refused to stump up the money. So the gentleman took them to court. This ruled in his favour, with the judge declaring that the Holocaust had been proven beyond any doubt, and that it was stupid and malicious to try to say otherwise. Or words to that effect.
The book explains why, despite the masses of evidence available on the existence of the Holocaust, the Nazis are still able to present a case that it didn’t. Put simply, the Nazis were extremely cautious about honestly describing what they were doing to the Jews. The extermination campaign was couched in deliberately obscure language. It was described as ‘relocation to the East’ and ‘special operations’. Finally, the Nazis aimed to destroy all traces of the camps, thus removing both the Jews and the Nazis’ own horrific crimes against them from history.
A similar tactic of concealing evidence has been adopted by the Turkish government over the Armenian Massacres. Despite widespread coverage to by the American press, and firsthand testimony from the survivors, as well as evidence from the American and German ambassadors, and Turkish officers and officials themselves, much of the evidence is deliberately withheld by the authorities.
There are also chapters on memorialising and teaching the Holocaust and other genocides, and a list of suitable teaching materials and monuments to the Shoah and other genocides across the world, including the former Czechoslovakia and Poland.
The book’s contents are as follows:
Part I: Special Section on Denials of the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide
1. Israel W. Charny, The Psychology of Denial of Known Genocides.
2. Erich Kulka, Denial of the Holocaust.
3. Roger W. Smith, Denial of the Armenian Genocide.
4. Vahakn N. Dadrian, Documentation of the Armenian Genocide in Turkish Sources.
Part II: Law and Genocide
5A. Progress and Limitations in Basic Genocide Law, David Kader.
5B. Humanitarian Intervention in Genocidal Situations.
5C. Bibliography of Law and Genocide, Barbara Harff and David Kader.
Part III. Educating about the Holocaust and Genocide
6A. Educating about the Holocaust: A Case Study in the Teaching of Genocide, Jan Dorsa.
6B. Education about Genocide: Curricula and Inservice Training, Samuel Totten.
7. Genocide, Total War, and Nuclear Omnicide, Eric Markusen.
8. Professions, Professionals, and Genocide, by Eric Markusen.
9. The Memorialisation of the Holocaust: Museums, Memorials and Centers, by Sybil Milton.
10. First-Person Accounts of Genocidal Acts, by Samuel Totten.
11. Righteous People in the Holocaust, by Pearl M. Oliner and Samuel P. Oliner.
12. The language of Extermination in Genocide, by Herbert Hirsch and Roger W. Smith.
I’m sure that as the book is now a quarter of a century old, it is no doubt dated and has very like been superseded. But it still seems to me to be enormously valuable in the historical, psychological and legal issues surrounding this desperately important subject.
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