Posts Tagged ‘Primo Levi’

Richard Coughlan Talks about His Video Debunking Holocaust Denial

September 22, 2017

Yesterday I put up a 25 minute video by the stand-up comedian, Richard Coughlan, debunking Holocaust denial. It’s a grim video, complete with images of the emaciated victims of the Shoah and the bodies packed into mass graves. It is, however, necessary with the Alt Right and the other Nazis trying to claw their way into power, and Coughlan did a very good job of it.

This video’s somewhat longer at half an hour. In it, Coughlan talks about how glad he is that his first video was so well received, and describes the immense amount of research he did to make it. He compares learning about the Holocaust to tugging at a loose piece of thread in your jumper – it looks tiny, but once you pull much more comes away. He says he spent many months preparing the video, to the point where it felt that he spent his whole life making it. He read extensively, the first couple of books were The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz. The latter book was the true memoirs of a British soldier, who escaped from a P.O.W. camp. The escapee heard about the death camps, and in order to investigate the truth of what he’d heard actually broke out into the most notorious – Auschwitz. His book was covered on British breakfast television about a year or so ago when it was first published. Not only did he break into Auschwitz, exchanging clothes with a Jewish prisoner, but he did it twice.

Coughlan also goes on to talk about how he got the transcripts of the trial between Deborah Lipstadt and David Irving. Irving’s an extreme right-wing historian, who wrote at least one book minimizing the scale of the atrocity. Lipstadt’s an American academic, who called Irving what he was: a Holocaust denier. So he sued her, and lost. Coughlan says that by that point, Irving was losing popularity and credibility. Even so, I can remember the immense controversy that was caused when the Oxford Union invited him to speak. I can also remember talking to a co-worker at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, who had been in the public gallery watching the proceedings of the trial. He states that during the proceedings Irving himself was extremely confident and ebullient compared to some of the witnesses testifying against him. Not that it did Irving any good whatsoever. The trial exposed just how sloppy and fraudulent his own work on the Holocaust was. There were vital facts he didn’t mention, and he mistranslated some texts from the German. The trial resulted in Lipstadt being acquitted, and Irving’s reputation as an historian in tatters. I don’t think he’s ever recovered, and the last thing I heard the Austrians had sent him down in their country for Holocaust denial, which is a crime there and in Germany.

He also talks about one text he also read online. This was an encyclopedia of the death camps, also 45,000 or so of them. The book is divided into two volumes, each volume further divided into two parts. Each part is about 900 pages. And that’s just only some of the books he read.

He also talks about the monstrous horrors the Nazis perpetrated, such as the amount of ash generated by the cremation of the victims’ bodies, and the rooms full of the victims’ belongings and clothes. One room was full of children’s shoes. The victims’ were shaved, and their hair collected. In one camp, it was found stuffed into packs, so that there was a roomful of it, the total weighing many kilos. He wonders at the mindset of the guards, who could walk past these rooms full of their victims’ remains with complete indifference.

He also talks about how the people, who perpetrated this atrocity weren’t any different from us, citing once again the Stanford prison experiment. This was a psychological experiment, in which people were asked to play at being cops. After three days it was called off because these ordinary Americans were actually too brutal. Coughlan says that there have been three movies made of it. There was also a documentary about it shown on British television, which repeated the experiment. However, the documentary also added a few facts that I had never heard of. Such as when the experiment began, the volunteers playing the cops actually were too lenient, and those playing at the prisoners were more or less running amuck. So the experiment was stopped, and they were more or less encouraged by the experimenters to adopt a tougher approach.

And the psychology of some of high level officers responsible for implementing the Final Solution is bizarre. Joachim C. Fest in his book, The Face of the Third Reich, which is a collection of potted biographies of the leading Nazis, includes Hoess, the commandant at Auschwitz. Hoess is a vile character, who oversaw the mass murder of millions of innocents without any scruple. But he claimed he was no sadist. He said he was always at the back of the crowd, or tried to be away from it in his office, when the guards were beating or setting the dogs on the inmates. The Italian writer and chemist, Primo Levi, who had been imprisoned in the death camps, states that the guards ‘had our faces’. In other words, they were no different than we are. Coughlan says that Stamford Prison Experiment and the Holocaust shows how easy it is to turn ordinary people into monsters. And they do it gradually, drawing you into it little by little, until it all seems completely natural.

Coughlan highly recommends that his viewers take an interest in the subject, and do their own reading and research, ”cause it’s good to know stuff.’ Especially if you’re confronted by someone – and here he goes into a lengthy piece of invective to describe that kind of person- who tries to tell you that it didn’t happen, or that six million didn’t really die. At one point he mocks those, who try to argue for a lower number of deaths, such as two million, asking rhetorically what makes them think this will impress anyone. It’s still an horrific number.

He also says that studying the Holocaust teaches you so much, about politics, the media, how hate can be generated and used, and so on. He jokes about the old anti-Semitic remark about the media being full of Jews, who control it. Well, if that were to happen to him or people like him, he would definitely make sure his people would go into the media to stop it ever happening again. He also rebuts the objection to studying the Holocaust because there have been so many others. ‘No, not like the Holocaust’.

Actually, the unique nature of the Holocaust is a problem for historians and scholars of international law and politics. There are a number of different definitions of genocide. These can differ significantly, so that some cover certain forms of persecution to the exclusion of the others. The only thing they have in common is that they all cover the Holocaust. This means that some scholars advocate abandoning the quest to produce exact definitions of genocide in order to try to prevent the violent persecution of different groups at the societal level and prosecute those responsible as they really are and occur, unencumbered by too much ideological baggage.

What also comes out of this video is the sheer brazenness of the Holocaust deniers in seeking to refute what has been so extensively documented and witnessed. I’ve already mentioned how one judge in California ruled against one of the Nazi rags in his state that there was just so much supporting evidence for the Holocaust that it could not be reasonably regarded as anything other than a fact. Way back in the 1990s, when there were concerns about racist attacks in Bristol and the BNP nationally was trying to revive itself, one of the Black groups in the city held an evening, where the speaker was a Holocaust survivor, to hear his testimony about the reality of Nazism. They’re about, but obviously there are few of them because of old age, and the sheer, horrific efficiency with which the Nazis set about their extermination.

Coughlan describes how Holocaust deniers and Nazi apologists try to discredit descriptions and accounts of the death camps, by focusing on small discrepancies between them. Like in one account, it says there were 12 steps down to the gas chambers, but others say there are only eleven. They then move from this to the conclusion that this shows that people were making it all up. As if it followed from what had just been said. He also at one point describes how long it took for the victims to die when they were gassed with Zyklon B: 20 minutes. It’s another horrifying detail, and Coughlan appears quite naturally deeply moved by the fact.

This is a great video adding more information to his original piece. He also encourages others to learn as much about it as possible, so that they have all the information available to them to refute the lies of those who deny it ever happened, when they meet them, information which he couldn’t really put into the video here.

Advertisements

Sam Seder: Trump Advisors Shocked that He Says in Public His Private Racist Views

August 20, 2017

This is another important clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, in which Seder and his co-hosts discuss Trump’s vile moral equivalence between the Nazis at Charlottesville and the anti-Nazi counterprotesters. They make the point that his advisors, who are now declaring their horror at Trump saying that there were fine people on both sides – which means he thinks Nazis and White supremacists can be fine people – aren’t really horrified at his racism per se. They were quite well aware of how privately racist Trump was. What has shocked them is that he revealed it publicly.

After debating whether the mass resignations of the businesspeople on his manufacturing council did so out of genuine moral concern, or because they simply didn’t want to be associated with such noxious opinions simply for commercial reasons, they then get on to the topic of the two Jewish members of Trump’s cabinet, Gary Cohn and Steve Minuchin. Seder and his fellows on the programme are Jewish, so for them it’s particularly shocking and unacceptable that any self-respecting Jew should give aid to someone actively supporting Nazis. Seder says of Cohn that he must be profoundly grateful that it’s a long time till October, when he has to go to the synagogue for the Rosh Ha-Shanah festival. When he turns up then, there are going to be a lot of people looking at him. He states very clearly that the Jewish community should put pressure on Cohn to resign from Trump’s cabinet. Once he goes, Minuchin won’t want to be the only Jew left in it. After he’s gone, there’ll be a cascade of people resigning.

Seder debates which Jewish organization should put the pressure on these two men. He doubts the ADL would do it, because they’re a right-wing organization. J-Street might, possibly. But he concludes forcefully that there should be a coalition of left-wing rabbis, who believe in equality, who should stand outside their door first thing after sundown on Friday evening. This is when the Jewish Sabbath begins.

I’m not surprised that a couple of Trump’s leading officials are Jewish, despite his equivocation about the Nazis at Charlottesville. You can always find people in all races or religions, who are prepared to support those, who hate or would otherwise wish to harm their community. Karl von Luegerer, the anti-Semitic mayor of Vienna, who influenced Adolf Hitler, had Jewish friends. When he challenged about them by his fellow anti-Semites, he declared ‘I decide who’s a Jew and who isn’t’. One of the scandals of American support for the Nazis during the Third Reich was that this included prominent banking families, who advanced loans to them even while Jews were being deported and exterminated.

Many American, and for that matter, British Jews, are either emigrants or the children and grandchildren of Jewish Germans, who were forced to flee the country during the Nazi era. And these people had relatives, who were killed in the Holocaust. Michael Brooks has said in a previous video, in which he refutes criticism that the show and his boss, Seder, are anti-Semitic, that not only is he Jewish, but he’s specifically German Jewish. Trump’s willingness to support the goosesteppers has a direct, personal relevance for very many members of the American Jewish community.

Seder also attacks Cohn and Minuchin as they’re the weak links in Trump’s chain of command. The others aren’t directly affected by Trump’s support for the White supremacists and racists. They might even support it. But this isn’t the case for Cohn and Minuchin.

Regardless of their personal ethnic or religious background, I hope they, and others of Trump’s cabinet, do resign. Seder says in the video that the only Black official in Trump’s administration has done the decent thing and handed in his notice.

You can’t give the slightest support to Nazis and White supremacists. Trump states that there were ‘very fine people on both sides’. Part of the problem is that some Nazis and White supremacists can be personally very charming people. Way back in the 1990s I was listening to a programme on the Beeb, in which a German Jewish fellow described how he had successfully infiltrated and brought down a neo-Nazi group over there. He states that they included some people, who were otherwise perfectly friendly. They included not just real anti-Semites, but also normal Germans, who didn’t believe the Holocaust had occurred. Primo Levi, the Italian chemist and writer, states in his memoir of his incarceration during the Holocaust that there was personally no difference in character between the guards and the people interned. In his words ‘they had our faces’.

This is one of the aspects of the Holocaust, which make it so horrific and chilling. You don’t need to claim that Hitler was some kind of demon-possessed black magician, as some of the writers on the occult fringe have done. There was nothing supernatural or paranormal about the Nazis’ evil. Instead, it shows how otherwise normal people, who went back to their families at weekends or during leave as loving members, were capable of the most monstrous crimes against humanity.

As Mike pointed out with the Tweets he put up on his post from a very wide range of people, including Mr Sulu from Star Trek, George Takei, being a Nazi automatically rules you as a fine person. Or as Mr. Takei said, he ‘never met a fine White supremacist. Ever.’

Like Seder and his fellows, Takei has personal reasons to hate White supremacism. He’s a Japanese-American, who was active in the struggle to get reparations for the members of his community interned as enemy aliens during World War II.

Historians and political scientists have also pointed out that when the Nazis started out, they initially received miniscule support. The numbers, who voted for them in the early ’20s were comparable to those, who backed the BNP or NF today. The year before their election victory, Hitler’s party was bankrupt and had to go begging on the streets. One of the factors that boosted their support, apart from the Wall Street Crash and an agricultural crisis in Schleswig-Holstein, which allowed them to pose as the party of the beleaguered peasant farmers, was that influential members of the upper classes openly supported them. This included the philosopher Heidegger, who announced ‘Ich sage ‘Ja!’ – ‘I say ‘Yes!’.

This is the very good reason why no-one with any political power, or personal or social cachet, should give the slightest support to Fascism or Nazism. And why it’s necessary to condemn Trump, and deprive him of any support, for his own support for them.

Alan Moore on ‘V for Vendetta’

September 28, 2013

Mike over on Vox Political is, if you hadn’t already guessed, a long term comics fan. He’s blogged several times on the very disturbing parallels between the current financial crisis and the authoritarian, exploitative Coalition government, and the Fascist Britain portrayed in his graphic novel, V for Vendetta. I found the video below on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX7ehbE1vc0. It was originally broadcast on either BBC 3 or 4 in their documentary series, Comics Britannia. Moore here talks about how it came out of his activities with Rock against Racism, and states that like a lot of Science Fiction it was really about what is happening now, not the future. He makes very plain his anarchism and antipathy to leaders. He also says that he wanted to explore the morality of violence and states that he did not want to write it so that because he, Moore, was an Anarchist, it was therefore all right for the Anarchist hero to use violence.

He also wanted to portray the Fascists in the novel as ordinary people, some of whom may even have been likable. The Nazis, he points out, were not monsters from space and did not suddenly arrive from the pit of hell. This is, unfortunately, entirely accurate. Hannah Arendt in her description of the trial of Adolf Eichmann talked about the ‘banality of evil’. Primo Levi, the noted Italian author and holocaust survivor, said of the concentration camp guards that they were no different from the rest of humanity. In his words, ‘they had our faces’. Moore points out that the Nazis included the butchers, teachers and street-sweepers, many whom simply went along with what was going on, or they believed in the ideology. It’s a point which needs to be made. There’s a lot of complete rubbish written about Nazi Germany. Since the book The Morning of the Magicians appeared in the 1960s there has been a slew of books portraying Hitler as a literally demonic force, an evil black magician in touch with malign occult entities. He wasn’t. The Nazis were a product of the racial, geopolitical and eugenic theories then current in Europe and America at the time. There were brought to power by the financial collapse of 1929, the political disintegration and factionalism of the Weimar Republic, and the fear of global Communism and Soviet totalitarianism, although this last has been disputed by some historians. Hitler had read and taken some of his ideas about evolution from the pamphlets produced by the leaders of bizarre, Neo-pagan groups, like Lanz Von Liebenfels and Guido Von List. Their ultimate influence on Nazism was minimal and they were suppressed under Nazis. Some of their ideas survived in Himmler’s SS. For a proper understanding of this aspect of Nazism, see The Occult Roots of Nazism, by Nicholas Goodrick Clarke (London: I.B. Tauris & Co, 1992).

The most horrific aspect of the Nazis and other totalitarian butchers is that they were not literal demons or crazed alien machine creatures, like Dr. Who’s Daleks, but ordinary people. That needs to be accepted if we really wish to understand the immense evil they did as part of the dark side of the human psyche.

This is Alan Moore, talking about his work on V for Vendetta.