We are currently commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz camp, where more than a million prisoners perished. We have made it the symbol of the extermination camps, Nazi crimes and the Shoah.
Holocaust deniers have tried to rehabilitate Nazi Germany by denying that it intended to exterminate people, that it actually murdered millions of people, and even that it gassed prisoners. This abject polemic has pushed the question of understanding the facts into the background. Since the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1962, the prevailing interpretation has been that adopted by the Jewish Agency at the time: Nazi anti-Semitism was translated from the Wansee conference into a plan for the annihilation (Shoah) of the European Jewish populations. This marked a break in history. Eternally persecuted, the Jews would only be definitively safe by joining the State of Israel.
However, as will be shown, this contemporary interpretation does not take into account related facts.
The Long History of Genocide
During the four centuries of Western European colonization of the world, many supposedly civilized states practiced genocide without a conscience.
For example, when the President of the Council of the Kingdom of Italy, Benito Mussolini, proclaimed the Empire, he believed he could found a settlement in Ethiopia. But popular resistance was so strong that he devised a plan for the “ethnic cleansing” of a region to eliminate the indigenous population and replace it with Italians. He had Viceroy Rodolfo Graziani disperse mustard gas from planes by targeting rebel villages.
However, mass killings are not exclusive to Western Europeans or colonial ideology. Thus, Sultan Abdulhamid II organized the massacre of non-Muslims (1894-96), which was continued by the “Young Turks” (particularly in 1915-16) who overthrew him. The two regimes shared the same ideology, pan-Islamism, according to which the Turkish identity is exclusively Muslim. While Armenians were the most affected, all non-Muslim faiths were persecuted. The massacres took place in present-day Turkey and not in the territories conquered by the Ottoman Empire.
There are thus at least two distinct motives for these massacres:
– a military purpose: the elimination of resistant populations;
– an ideological purpose: the elimination of populations considered foreign.
Nazi policy responded to both, but the extermination of the Jews of Europe corresponds only to the ideological goal.
Nor are genocides the prerogative of the strongest against the weakest, as shown by the genocide of the Tutsis by the Hutus in Rwanda. The two peoples were of equal strength and the massacre was perpetrated with machetes by the Hutu population and not by militiamen.
These mass massacres constitute “crimes against humanity”. It is in this capacity – and only in this capacity – that the International Tribunal of Nuremberg judged the massacre of the Jews of Europe. The notion of “genocide” only entered the law later.
Under the influence of Raphael Lemkin, genocide was later considered a special crime among crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, a notion of collective guilt was introduced, which is contrary to the principle of personal responsibility and counterproductive. One thing leading to another is that US law now considers as genocide the killing of two or more people for what they are and not for what they would have done.
Why did the Nazis try to exterminate the Jews?
The Nazi program was to reconstitute a German empire that had been deprived of the country by the Treaty of Versailles at the end of the First World War. But instead of carving it up in Africa, Asia, or Latin America, which were already divided between the United Kingdom and France, it was to conquer it in Eastern Europe.
The Nazis, the heirs of Goethe and Beethoven, imagined themselves to be humanists by birth. In accordance with Western colonial ideology, they justified their desire for conquest by asserting that the peoples to be dominated were culturally inferior. This is what Adolf Hitler explains in Mein Kampf. He never speaks of “sub-humans” (Untermenschen). This expression came from the “scientific consensus” of the time: Western scientific circles were convinced that the colonial conquests proved the existence of a hierarchy of races at the top of which they held the throne. They therefore sought to define the characteristics of these races and to separate them. This notion is today invalidated by Science but persists in many countries, as in the USA where official statistics still classify people according to this imaginary concept.
For the Nazis, the first sub-humans were therefore the Slavs and they were their first target. However, as Chancellor Hitler justified his intention to conquer a living space (Lebensraum) by the superiority of his “race” (a concept that was at the time widely shared by Western peoples), he added the Gypsies and Jews because they were nomads or, in any case, had no land. Of course his condemnation of the Jews as a race was fed by the European anti-Semitism he developed, but it was not by anti-Semitism that he classified them as sub-human. Moreover, there is no European anti-Gypsy culture, but they too were nevertheless classified as subhuman.
The very notion of anti-Semitism has little to do with Jews. Indeed, the Semites are Arabs, some of whom are of the Jewish religion. Moreover, most of the Jews in Europe are from the Caucasus converted in the tenth century, and not from Palestine.
Initially, some of the Nazis were not as hostile to German Jews as we think today.
Before and after the Nazis came to power, Leopold von Mildenstein organized trips of Nazi officers to Palestine under the authority of Joseph Goebbels. The NSDAP, the Nazi party, considered it unacceptable that the Jews had no state and therefore supported the Jewish national home in Palestine.
While Germany had already passed anti-Jewish laws, the Nazi party negotiated with the Jewish Agency in 1933 the Haavara Accords which allowed Jews to settle in Palestine.
Things evolved in the wrong direction. The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Georges Bonnet, proposed to Nazi Germany in 1938 -that is, before the war- to transfer French and German Jews to the French colony of Madagascar. Poland – as President Vladimir Putin has just recalled – joined these two countries to set up a preparatory commission for this plan, which was never put into practice.
It was only at the end of 1941, once all the options had been exhausted and when the invasion of the Soviet Union turned into a nightmare for them, that the Nazis came to the “final solution”: mass murder.
The Rudolf Höß case
Before the First World War, Germany had an empire like the other great European powers. Franz Xaver Höß was sent as a soldier to South West Africa (today Namibia). There he took part in the first genocide of the 20th century: the massacre of the Hereroes and Namas.
His son, Rudolf Höß, joined the imperial army during the First World War at a very young age. He was sent to help the Ottoman Empire. In his memoirs he claims to have fought the British in Palestine. In reality, he was in present-day Turkey and participated in the massacre of non-Muslims by the Young Turks. Twenty years later, he joined the SS militia and in 1940 became the director of the Auschwitz prison complex. It was originally a concentration camp modelled on those created by the British during the Boer War (South Africa). At the end of 1941 an extermination camp (Auschwitz-Birkenau) was added, and in mid-1942 a forced labor camp (Auschwitz-Monowitz) was added, in which the American banker Prescott Bush (father and grandfather of the two Bush presidents) invested for his greatest profit.
Rudolf Höß always claimed to be a normal man. As shocking as it may seem, he did not see what was wrong with murdering Armenians and Jews when his father had murdered Hereroes and Namas.
The “extermination” of homosexuals
The Nazis, following the scientific consensus of their time, tried to preserve the Germanic (sic) “race” by prohibiting interracial marriages. This was not very original, as Germany had already been doing it since 1905, before the First World War, and many other Western countries with it.
But it was not only a question of preventing the birth of half-breeds, it was also necessary to preserve the genetic heritage of the race. The Institut du Kaiser Guillaume (equivalent to the French CNRS) stated that during sexual relations between men, if one penetrated the other, he could transmit elements of his genetic heritage. There was therefore a risk with “passive homosexuals”. This is why the Nazis penalized the practice of this form of sexuality, even though it was publicly dominant in the party at the beginning.
Those caught in flagrante delicto were invited to be castrated or imprisoned as anti-social. Many doctors, including Sigmund Freud, distributed medical certificates stating that homosexuality was a disease, but that the subject was undergoing therapy. In this way they saved their patients from atrocities of one kind or another. Some groups now wrongly cite these certificates of convenience to claim that the founder of psychoanalysis condemned homosexuality as a deviation.
After attending the unveiling in Amsterdam of a monument to deported homosexuals – there were allegedly more than 5 000 of them in the whole of the Reich – I founded an association to get this crime recognized in France. I have thus organised several ceremonies with associations of deportees. A witness came forward, Pierre Seel, who told us in great detail about being deported to the Struthof camp for homosexuality. By decree, I had the conditions for recognition as a deportee changed so that he could benefit from it. However, at the time of filling out his file, it turned out that this witness was lying and had been deported as an Alsatian-Mosellan deserter. I then asked a friend of mine, Senator Henri Caillavet, to investigate the deportation of French homosexuals in his capacity as president of the Commission nationale informatique et libertés (CNIL). After a year of research, he found that there has never been a police file on this subject and that this event has never existed in France, nor in the annexed Alsace-Moselle. However, Pierre Seel’s version was popularized and the city of Toulouse even dedicated a street to him.
This story has taught me a lot about the bidding war between groups of people to win the crown of martyrs. The belief has spread that the Reich wanted to exterminate gays and lesbians, which is absolutely false. There has never been a repression of lesbianism, but only of male homosexuality, and still only among the so-called “Aryan” populations. Only 48 men were identified as such at Auschwitz. They were deported to the concentration camp and those surviving released in 1942 to serve as “Aryans” in the “total war” against the Allies.
It should be remembered here that neither Jewish, Gypsy, nor homosexual issues played any part in the outbreak of the World War.
It is always difficult to understand why the Nazis fed, albeit very poorly, the prisoners they wanted to kill. In reality, they only fed those whose labour power they intended to exploit. To do so, they used the strange soup of Dr. Otto Buchinger.
This great doctor was one of the activists of the Lebensreform, of the return to nature. He theorized about the restorative role of fasting. Above all he discovered that one can work hard, almost without eating, if one drinks a very clear soup. The body quickly becomes thinner, but produces a great deal of energy. His work is still carried out in his family’s clinics in Germany and Spain, where the reigning dynasties of the Gulf will cure their overweight. The Nazis, who were also ardent supporters of a return to nature -Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian and forbade smoking-, used this soup to make their prisoners work, knowing that in the end they would die from it.
Final Solution, Holocaust and Shoah
The destruction of the Jews of Europe is called the “final solution” by historians. But it is known today as the “Holocaust” or the “Shoah”; two terms that designate particular interpretations of this fact.
The term holocaust is used by US evangelical Christians. It refers to a Jewish sacrifice where one tenth of the beasts are killed and their bodies are burned to the ground. According to their theology, the extermination of the Jews of Europe would have been willed by God before the Messiah returned to earth. It is therefore not a very respectful term for the victims. Moreover, when US evangelical officers learned of the extermination camps during the war, they advised their staff not to intervene in order not to disturb what they believed to be God’s “plan. As the Nazis stepped up their efforts to kill out of sight, the bombing of the railroad tracks was enough to stop the genocide not only of Jews but also of Gypsies instantly.
The word Shoah is a Hebrew word. It means “catastrophe” and refers to God’s silence during the tragedy. It is by analogy that Palestinians referred to their expulsion in 1948 as the Nakba (also catastrophe, but in Arabic this time).
In the light of the above information, it does not seem at all certain that this genocide is different from the others, nor that it constitutes a break with history, nor that it is the product of anti-Semitism alone. Still less does it seem certain that the State of Israel is offering the Jews the protection they have a right to expect. If that were the case, there would not be 50,000 survivors of this crime living below the poverty line in Israel today.
Neither good nor evil, only men
The implementation of the “Final Solution” was planned by the Nazis and partly carried out by Germans. But the vast majority of the camp staff was Baltic.
Considering all those who did nothing to stop this crime, it is abusive, to say the least, to put the blame on Germany alone. The truth is that the era thought like the Nazis, although only they went all the way.
One has to look at an ideology from the beginning and admit that we can all go in the wrong direction.
Thus, the State of Israel was created in the name of British Zionist ideology The idea was to create a colony that could help the extension of the Empire. It was proclaimed by David Ben Gurion who was not Jewish in the religious sense of the term, but atheist. Certainly at the end of his life he recovered his faith and turned to Buddhism. The State of Israel grants nationality according to criteria unrelated to the Jewish religion, so that they include many people rejected by the rabbinate. It had chosen to expel the indigenous populations, not to eliminate them. Little by little, it is nibbling away at new territories until it has eliminated the Palestinian Arabs. However, since then, some of them obtained Israeli nationality in 1948 and today make up a fifth of the population, Prime Minister Likounik Benjamin Netanyahu had Israel proclaimed a “Jewish State”. He has thus made official a hierarchical citizenship and commits the State to a logic of sorting. Whatever it may seem, it is exactly the same logic that led Labour Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (a great ally of South African apartheid) to envisage the “two-state solution”: separating “races”. There is still time to turn back the clock.
The “duty to remember”
Human beings do everything possible to forget the misfortunes they have suffered or caused. Gypsies, whose families were massacred with those of the Jews, follow this logic and are better off as a result.
It is certainly important, for those who knew them, to celebrate the memory of the dead. But this will not prevent further genocides. This question has nothing to do either with the identity and condition of the victims or with that of the executioners. It is just the human condition, and none of us is safe from turning into monsters. Civilization can never be taken for granted.
Source: Voltaire Network