Posts Tagged ‘‘Genocide: A Critical Bibliographic Review’’

Wishing Everyone a Solemn and Reflective Holocaust Remembrance Day

January 27, 2018

Today is, I believe, Holocaust Remembrance Day, when the world, or at least the Western world, reflects on the Shoah and the calculated extermination of six million Jews. But it is also important to remember the other victims of the Nazi camps as well. The Jews were the largest single group, but in total 11 1/2 million people were murdered by the Nazis in the death and concentration camps. This included the congenitally disabled, who were murdered by Nazi doctors under the Aktion T4 programme with the assistance and supervision of the SS. Historians such as Martin Broszat in The Hitler State and Karl Dietrich Bracher in The German Dictatorship, have pointed out that this prefigured and prepared for the murder of the Jews, particularly in the use of poison gas. In the end, Aktion T4 was stopped by the courageous action of the Roman Catholic aristocrat, Count Galen. This shows that Christian opinion in Germany and opposition to the Holocaust from the churches could also have stopped the Shoah. But with a few, very honorable exceptions, like Bonhoffer, the churches didn’t.

The Nazis also attempted to exterminate the Romanies – the Gypsies – as they too were considered, like the Jews, to be subhuman and a threat to German society and racial industry.

Other victims of the camps included the mentally ill, neurotics, prostitutes, recidivist criminals, Prisoners of War, and political prisoners, such as trade unionists, Socialists, Communists, Anarchists, gay men, and slave workers from the Slav nations. The last were worked to death in horrific conditions, including building the Nazi fortifications and tunnels in the Channel Islands.

Holocaust Remembrance Day isn’t just about commemorating the Holocaust and its victims, but other genocides and their victims that have occurred throughout history. Hitler partly made his decision to go ahead with the extermination of the Jews because of the complete lack of western reaction to the Young Turks’ massacre of the Armenians. He commented, ‘Who remembers the Armenians?’ And before then, the German colonial authorities in what is now Tanganyika had attempted to exterminate the Herrero after they revolted, using similar eugenicist logic.

Unfortunately, as Mike has pointed out, genocides have continued to be perpetrated, such as the various crimes against humanity committed by Fascist regimes across Latin America, Asia and Africa, supported by American foreign policy. The persecution of the Rohingya is just the latest of these. And Jews have been involved in protesting and commemorating them and their victims as well. In Canada, the leader of the mainstream Jewish organisation, Bernie Farber, organised a ‘Shabbat for Darfur’ after that city was attacked by the Islamist Janjaweed Militia in the early part of this century. Farber’s generous action has been bitterly criticised by members of the transatlantic conservative Right, who feel that Jews should concentrate solely on their own sufferings in the Holocaust, and not expand their experience of suffering, persecution and attempted genocide to form solidarity with the other persecuted ethnic and religious groups.

Israeli scholars have also noted that the Holocaust, while horrific, was not a unique event. See Genocide: A Critical Bibliographic Review, edited by Israel W. Charny, the executive director of the Institute on the Holocaust, Jerusalem, and Director of Postgraduate Interdisplinary and Graduate Social Work Programs in Family, Therapy, Bob Shapell School of Social Work, Tel Aviv University. Dr. Charny’s book also includes a chapter on the ethnic cleansing of Israel’s indigenous Arab population, which is definitely unwelcome to the Likudniks. But it bears out Ilan Pappe’s assertion that Israelis are still decent people, who need to have the situation and issues properly explained to them. But odiously, Netanyahu, Likud and other ethno-nationalists in his ruling coalition are doing all they can to prevent that occurring. As are his little helpers over here in the shape of the Jewish Labour Movement and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism.

So as we commemorate the sufferings of the Jews during the Nazi regime, we also need to take on board that it isn’t just about anti-Semitism, but about similar horrors that have disfigured human history down the centuries, and murderous, criminal regimes that are perpetrating them today.

The American Court Ruling against Holocaust Denial

October 17, 2016

In my article on Saturday reviewing the book Genocide: A Critical Bibliographic Review, edited by Israel W. Charny (London: Mansell Publishing 1991) I mentioned that amongst its contents, the chapter on Holocaust Denial has a passage describing how a Neo-Nazi rag in America was successfully sued over the issue of the existence of the Holocaust. The rag stated it never happened, and challenged people to prove that it had. One man did, and when the magazine refused to pay out the sum it had promised to pay, took them to court. The judge ruled in his favour, and stated that it was more than adequately demonstrated that the Shoah was historical fact. Here’s the passage:

Verdict of an American Judge on the Offer to pay $50,000 for Proof that the Nazis Gassed Jews

In the United States, the Institute for Historical Review offered to pay fifty thousand dollars to anyone who would be able to “prove” that the Nazis gassed Jews. IHR advertised this challenge in Los Angeles at their September 2, 1979 International Revisionist Conference. Such proof was provided by Mr. Mel Mermelstein, who now lives in Huntington Beach, California, and whose family died in the Birkenau gas chambers, but the institute refused to accept the proof or pay Mermelstein the money. Mermelstein sued them, and the result was an official statement by Judge Thomas Johnson, on October 9, 1981 in Lost Angeles Superior Court, that that “This court does take judicial notice of the fact that Jews were gassed to death at Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland” and that the Holocaust is not reasonably subject to dispute. “It is capable of immediate and accurate determination by resort to sources of reasonable indisputable accuracy. It is simply a fact.”

Despite this unequivocal statement of the Superior Court, the IHR still did not pay Mermelstein, but Mermelstein sought further relief in the Courts. Judge Robert Wenke in Los Angeles Superior Court approved the settlement that called for the IHR to pay the Auschwitz survivor. As reported in the New York Times, “The institute, which says the Holocaust never happened, must also pay Mr. Mermelstein $100,000 for the pain and suffering caused by the reward offer.”

Mr. Mermelstein’s lawyer, Gloria Allred, stated:

Mr. Mermelstein’s victory in this case will now send a clear message to all those throught the world who attempt to destroy history and inflict misery and suffering on Jews, that the survivors of the Holocaust will fight back through the legal system to protect themselves and vindicate the truth about their lives. (p. 55).

This hasn’t stopped Nazis repeating their despicable claim that it never occurred, or that it somehow was much smaller than the 6 million or so Jews killed in the death camps. But it does mean that, at least under American law, and certainly under German and Austrian legislation, they are peddling a lie. The IHR were fortunate. As Americans, they only had to pay out $50,000, plus no doubt costs and damages for their refusal to do so. In Germany and Austria, and a number of other European countries, Holocaust Denial is a crime, for which you can be imprisoned. Considering the disgusting nature of their claim, the IHR got off very lightly.

Israel W. Charny on Genocide Victims’ and Israelis’ Toleration of Atrocities against Others

October 17, 2016

In his chapter ‘The Denial of Known Genocides’ in the book Genocide: A Critical Bibliographic Review vol. 2 (London: Mansell 1991), Israel W. Charny, the book’s editor, discusses instances where the survivors of genocides are perfectly prepared to tolerate and approve of massacres and atrocities against others, despite having been the victims of such crimes themselves. Charny discusses the findings of research done in Israel, including with Holocaust survivors and medical students, as well as the general public. This found that a disturbingly high number of Israelis, and especially those, who had survived the horrors of the Nazi camps and student medical professionals, were more than willing to tolerate and even approve the mass murder of other human beings.

Charny writes:

Another sense in which victims can be said to be engaging in denial is that, despite their profound awareness of the extent of man’s inhumanity to man, many survivors themselves have not learned to make a commitment to protecting the lives of all other human beings. Charny and his associates have conducted a series of studies of the readiness of Holocaust survivors to approve or recommend or themselves be prepared to do evil to others. In the one study referred to early (Charny and Fromer, submitted for publication), where Jewish/Israelis who were going to see Lanzmann’s film Shoah were interviewed, the subjects were asked their opinions about a soldier who had been convicted for massacre of innocent Arabs who said years later that he would do it again – that he was only following orders, and would serve his country’s needs the same way under similar circumstances. Overall 38% of the subjects approved of the soldier’s position; among Holocaust survivors, children of survivors and an extended group of the subjects who had expressed themselves as strongly involved with the Holocaust, the approval rate was 46% as compared to 26% among non-survivors (a difference that was statistically significant).

In another experiment, Charny and Fromer (in press) and Fromer and Charny (submitted for publication) studied Jewish/Israeli students in medicine, psychology and social work as to their readiness to harm and even kill patients. The subjects were presented with a situation in which they were to imagine themselves in the future working in a developing country in Africa. As condition in the country worsen seriously and resources dwindle, the health authorities undertake to eliminate treatment and maintenance for the most severe cases, and to undertake involuntary mass euthanasia; 34% of the subjects agreed to the former step, and 17% to the latter. When the subjects were then told that the Ministry of Health determined that the involuntary euthanasia would be executed more humanely if done by professionals, and the subjects were asked who of themselves would be prepared to kill the patients, 11% agreed. In a continuation of the same experiment (Charny and Fromer – in press, and Fromer and Charny, submitted for publication), the subjects were also asked to think of themselves as having been called up to national service by an extreme right-wing Israeli government and they are ordered to classify all Arab citizens of Israel in connection with the government’s program for a forced migration of the Arabs from Israel. The rates of compliance varied between 21% and 34% (or one out of five to one out of three). The seriousness of the behaviours in all of the above cases was underscored by an addition survey the authors made of 30 supervisors-trainers in medicine, psychology and social work, 60% of whom, and in some cases many more, indicated they would expel any student from their clinical training programme who would agree to participate in such activities.

Charny and Sarid (in process) have studied the opinions of Israelis of the desirability of the Israeli government maintaining political, economic and security-interest relationships with each of three governments who were described as persecuting a minority people in their land. Although the situations described were presented as fictional, each actually was patterned after a specific real scenario – (a) South Africa; (b) Nazi Germany preceding the Holocaust or Turkish-Armenian relationships leading up to the Armenian genocide; and (c) the Holocaust. These responses were also analyzed for differences between Holocaust survivors and others. 78% of the survivors opposed the Israeli government maintaining relationships with the government that was described as persecuting its targeted minority in a way that was similar to what happened in the Holocaust, while 64.5% of non-survivors took this position. However, with respect to the two other persecutory governments who were oppressing their minorities differently, 56% of survivors and 39 to 52% (in different situations) of non-survivors took this position. The implication of these findings is that both Holocaust survivors specifically as well as other Israelis tend to have “learned” much more how to oppose evils which resemble the ones they endured against other peoples, but continue to deny or not react as strongly to the dangers of other “faces of evil” to which they do not generalize a full measure of moral outrage.

Altogether, these studies record a disappointing degree of callousness and obtuseness to genocidal massacre and threat of massacre towards peoples by substantial numbers of actual Holocaust survivors as well as, overall, on the part of the people of the survivors of the Holocaust, namely Jewish/Israelis. It should rightly be noted that research date from other peoples often show even higher rates of identification with and justification of genocidal massacres (e.g. Kelman and Hamilton, 1989; see also the extensive discussions of these issues in Charny and Fromer in press – a and b, and submitted for publication); but from an ideal ethical point of view, one would wish that all survivors of the Holocaust, and all Jewish/Israelis, would manifest an unerring sensitivity to the plights of all other peoples. (Pp. 7-8, my emphasis).

These figures are disturbing and disappointing because of the expectation many people have that the Jews, as a people, who have suffered horrendous persecution during much of their history, and particularly Holocaust survivors, who have been through what can only be described as a living hell – should be uniquely placed to have a greater hostility to the perpetration of such crimes.

Please Note: I am not suggesting for a single moment that Jews or Israelis are any more intolerant or ready to commit genocide and massacre than any other people. Indeed, Charny’s article passage reproduced here makes it clear that other nations may be even more disposed to do so. I think it’s highly likely that if a comparable test of British people were performed, the same numbers would also show themselves willing to tolerate or commit genocidal acts.

I am also very much aware of the number of courageous Jews, Israelis and people of Jewish heritage, who are very much opposed to their society’s ethnic cleansing and oppression of the Palestinians. Indeed, the above passage also makes it very clear that there are very many Israelis, who are profoundly opposed to the murder of Palestinian and Arab innocents, and the forced expulsions of the Palestinians from their native land. Israelis and Jews from America, Britain and across the world have protested against the massacres, the house demolitions and the creation of an apartheid state in Israel, including rabbis. They are extremely courageous individuals, as just as gentiles are accused of being anti-Semitic if they dare oppose or criticise Israel, so they run risk of being denounced as ‘self-hating’ and ‘un-Jewish’. Many of those, who have been libelled as anti-Semites and suspended from the Labour party, are Jews or people of Jewish heritage, who have a distinguished personal history of combatting and confronting racism and anti-Semitism. Like Jackie Walker, the vice-chair of Momentum, amongst too many others.

Reading this, I got the impression that Binyamin Netanyahu and his fellow nationalist extremists in the Likud party and the other members of the governing right-wing coalition had also read this research, and drawn the wrong conclusions. While Charny and his academic colleagues were dismayed by these results, Netanyahu and his stormtroopers were delighted, and drew the wrong conclusions. Charny and the other authors collected in the above book were concerned to place the Holocaust in its context as one genocide amongst so many others, and wish to make people aware of genocide and concerned to oppose and prevent it, no matter wherever and against whomever it may occur. Netanyahu and his colleagues have found that, despite the experience of the Holocaust, a sizable proportion of the Israeli population were prepared to tolerate the massacre and ethnic cleansing of the country’s indigenous Arabs.

It also shows why the Neocons and Likudniks are so keen to insist that the Holocaust is a unique event, and should not be coupled with concern for other victims of genocides, as has been done by most mainstream Jewish organisations. And why, despite its claim to include other victims of genocide, in fact the focus in Holocaust Memorial Day is very much on the Jewish experience to the exclusion of other groups.

Jackie Walker was quite right to question that exclusive focus. If we allow it to go ahead, and do not rightly commemorate the victims of other crimes against humanity, then we do run the risk, as she stated very clearly in her explanation of the previous set of remarks that led to her libelling as an anti-Semite, of creating a hierarchy of suffering which ignores the pain of other races and groups. And which could perilously lead to complacency about such other crimes, particularly those against the Palestinians, which the Israel lobby are very keen to deny, or rebut through accusing their critics of being anti-Semitic.

We very much need not just to commemorate the victims of the Shoah, but all the victims of genocide. And perhaps it’s time to ask another awkward, embarrassing question: the Palestinians have been the victims of ethnic cleansing for decades. Isn’t it about time their suffering was officially memorialised in Holocaust Memorial Day?

A Critical Bibliography of Genocide

October 15, 2016

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.

Part IV.
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.