Sunday, February 24, 2008

AUSCHWITZ AND the Final Solution and Anti-Semitism

Auschwitz: A New History by Laurence Rees

Also see TV series narrated by Linda Hunt Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution at PBS.Org

And see BBC TWO, January 2005

With a number of recent high profile Hollywood films such as Schindler's List and The Pianist and iconic books such as The Diary of Anne Frank it is easy to assume that everyone is familiar with the Holocaust and Auschwitz.

Yet a recent BBC survey suggests that almost half the adult population (45%) claim to have never even heard of Auschwitz.

Amongst women and people aged under 35 the figure is even higher at 60%.

Even among those who have heard of Auschwitz, 70% felt that they did not know a great deal about the subject.

Most of them (76%) were unaware of its roots as a concentration camp for Polish political prisoners; the majority (74%) did not know that people other than Jews were killed there and only a few recognised the name of the camp commandant or knew who finally liberated the camp at the end of the war.

The BBC's research informs a definitive new series which has been made to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in January 2005.

Written and produced by Bafta Award-winning producer Laurence Rees, Auschwitz: The Nazis & the 'Final Solution' offers a unique perspective on the camp in which more than one million people were ruthlessly murdered.

"We were amazed by the results of our audience research" says series producer Laurence Rees. "It's easy to presume that the horrors of Auschwitz are engrained in the nation's collective memory but obviously this is not the case.

"We were particularly startled by the fact that less than 40% of younger people have even heard of Auschwitz.

"The research reinforced the importance of making this series and trying to ensure the atrocities that unfolded at Auschwitz are never forgotten."

As this and other surveys done have shown that there are large numbers of people in Britain and North America who know little or nothing about Auschwitz or the Holocaust / Shoah. It is therefore necessary to discuss and go over the details of this dark period in the more recent history of Western Civilization. So the more accurate information presented in the various media including the internet is necessary to counter act the Misinformation of the numerous revisionists websites which make the bogus claim that the Holocaust did not take place.


There are those who believe that Christianity 's values are superior to other religions. Christianity some claim embraces the values of love and tolerance but the history of Christianity does not support such a view. One can list a rogues gallery of the horrors visited upon the world by Christianity.

As I have discussed in previous posts this list would include the preaching and spreading of anti-semitism which began with the writers of the New Testament Gospels continued by the Early Church Fathers to the Crusades and into the 19th and 20th century up to the end of World War II. Auschwitz and the Nazi's Final Solution to exterminate all of European Jewry was the almost inevitable outcome of twenty centuries of Anti-Semitism preached by the Christian Churches. As I have said before it is not surprising that the majority of Christians over the centuries have been anti-Semitic to one degree or another given the relentless preaching of the Church that the Jews were guilty of killing Jesus that is deicide. And the Church emphasized that it was not just those Jews in positions of authority in Jerusalem who were guilty of deicide but that all the Jews of Judea and all their descendants up to the present time were or are guilty of this crime..( It should be noted that it was not until Vatican II that the Catholic Church finally reversed its teachings against the Jews and declared that the Jews were innocent of this so-called crime but did not fully apologize for the harm the Catholic Church had done )

The Jews were further characterized by the Church as a race which was being used by evil forces or by the devil and Satan to attack and undermine Christianity. Since Jesus represented God and the forces of " Good " then those who killed Jesus must represent the forces of evil which of course in the Christian view was God's eternal enemy Satan and the Anti-Christ. As time went by this led to more and more bizarre accusations against the Jews. The Jews were falsely accused of secretly killing Christians in order to use the victims blood in their rituals . The Jews were falsely accused of secretly conspiring to take control of Europen society and governments . Later in the 19th century this conspiracy would be described as being a world wide conspiracy in which the Jews were working stealthily to take control of all the governments of the world. These ideas were not merely held by a few uneducated malcontents but rather this view was a mainstream prejudice fostered by the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant Churches . Secular institutions and individuals were also to a lesser or greater extent anti-Semitic. It was for instance the secret police of Tsarist Russia in 1905 which published the infamous and bogus Protocols of the Elders of Zion which claimed to show the link between the supposedly diabolical Jews and those liberals , socialists and others who were agitating for reform in Russia and throughout Europe . So the Russian authorities were using the already existing and prevalent hatred and fear of the Jews to undermine those who were justifiably agitating for reforms .Later in the 1920s the industrialist Henry Ford among others such as the extremely popular radio personality Father Coughlin would help to foster the belief that the Protocols were authentic and proved that the Jews for centuries were involved in a world wide conspiracy. Hitler also borrowed heavily from the Protocols and other anti-Semitic tracts .

It is no wonder then that the Nazis were able to begin their anti-Semitic program once they took power in Germany in 1933.. It is difficult for many Europeans and Westerners these days to accept the fact that these virulent and ugly forms of Anti-Semitism were common place in Europe and in the United States and Canada and elsewhere. . What is more remarkable is that in the 19th and early 20th centuries there were some Christians and secularists who did not buy into these bizarre conspiracy theories concoted by the sick and paranoid minds of the majority of Europeans. The attitude is that the Nazis did not represent ordinary Europeans or North Americans or others in their hatred of the Jews . It is argued that Hitler and a few thousand other madmen were responsible for the Holocaust but the historical facts suggest otherwise.

The shame of the Holocaust should not just be placed on the heads of a few madmen but in fact belonged to large number of ordinary Western and Eastern Europeans. As the Nazis conquered one country after another they usually could rely on those in authority and the ordinary citizens to help carry out the rounding up and transpoting the Jews of a particular nation to some unknown destinations. Tiny Denmark was the only country to actually stand up to the Nazis and refused to round up or transport the Danish Jews. No other occupied country could boast to saving as large of a percentage of their Jewish population. Ninety five percent of Danish Jews survived the Second World War.

So from an historical point of view all of those ordinary Christians who were quite happy to help the Nazis round up aand deport the Jews are also guilty of ethnic Cleansing and Genocide. It is this collective guilt which one could argue that Europeans and others have still refused to accept which that we have deluded ourselves into believing that the west had done all that it could to save European Jewry from the Nazis Final Solution . All of those who either actively took part in deporting the Jews from their respective countries or did not protest or did not try in other ways to help the Jews are to a greater or lesser degree guilty . But the guilt goes further than that when we examine the record of those nations especially in the West who refused to allow large numbers of Jews from Germany and elsewhere to immigrate to their country as refugees . Britain and the United States and other countries refused to take in large numbers of Jews even after it was known that the Jewish populations in German occupied countries were being systematically exterminated. Most of the six million Jews killed by the Germans were not killed at Auschwitz or other death camps but in fact were killed by shooting and placed in mass graves not far from where the Jews lived. Auschwitz was just another step in attempting to carry out the killings in a more efficient manner by using the model of the basic assembly line . But one of the other reasons for adopting this newer method of carrying out the killins of Jews was that it was quickly made apparent that the methods of mass shootings at close range had a devastating psychological effect on not only average soldiers but even on the members of the SS who took part in these killings . At the least all these killings at close range were bad for the morale of the SS. So it was believed that some other means should be found for killing such large numbers of not only Jews but also Gypsies, Poles , Slavs and others on Hitler's short list. Since certain people whom the Nazis saw as subhuman could be used as forced labor as long as they were needed and so were kept alive . Otherwise they would be considered by the Nazis as " useless eaters ". This is why the elderly and children & women with their children were often targeted first .

At Aushwitz the Jews were herded into gas chambers and then killed . The bodies were removed by Jewish prisoners, it was also Jewish prisoners who sorted through the belonings of those killed, Jewish prisoners were also put to use for example to extract the gold fillings of the dead often it was Jewish prisoners who were used to help unload the transport trains of their human cargo and to guide the newly arrived Jews to the Gas Chambers and to even reassure those on their way to their deaths that they were just going to take a shower or be deliced - In this way only a handfull of SS were needed to oversee the Jewish prisoners who were forced to help them to complete the whole process.

For instance when Hitler's army invaded Russia behind them came the special units of the SS who were to use whatever means necessary to exterminate the Jews in areas where the Germans had taken control. They would enter villages demand that all Jews be brought out and then were taken to nearby sites where they would be shot or killed by other methods. Millions were wiped out in Poland, Russia , Humngary Rumania , Croatia And Yugoslavia in this manner before the order was given that all Jews were to be transported to locations such as Auschwitz.

One of the issues raised byRees in his book Auschwitz is the notion that the Nazis wanted the camp which was series of internment camps to at the least pay for itself if not make a profit and help pay for the war effort. The camps included several hundred thousand prisoners who could be used as slave labor at first to hep build the camps and then to maintain the infrastructure . Later these slave -laborers could be rented out or contracted out for a set fee which would be less than what they would pay a civilian laborer to the private Industrialists who had industrial plants connected to the camps or nearby ie farben and Bayers etc. This was capitalism taken to the nth degree.

One of the other countries which refused to give up their Jewish citizens was Italy under the rule of the Fascist government of Moussolini.

There were various issues which became problems for the allies concerning the plight of the Jews. Failing to put forth a reasonable plan for taking in large numbers of Jews from the occupied countries . The Allies were unable or reluctant to use their power and resources to foster public sympathy for the Jews who were as far as they knew being sent to labor camps after being uprooted from their communities and their countries of origin One ends up with the nagging feeling that the feelings of the Allies were at the least ambivalent if not indifferent to the plight of the Jews..

Another issue which was raised by Jewish groups was that they pleaded with the allies once it became a possiblity to bomb the railway tracks leading to Auschwitz and other camps or to bomb the Transport trains or to bomb the camps themselves.

Laurence Rees in his book Auschwitz claims that there was no way for the Allies to save all or even half of the Jews who were slated for death. So he argues that it is unreasonable to place much blame on the Allies for not doing more to save Jews through military actions after 1942 or so. But according to others who have spent time studying the Holocaust believe that much more could have been done or at the least tried inorder to save at least a few Jews. Rees claims that the Allies did not have the ability to do anything. But according to other researchers the issue was that in fact the Allies were at times flying over or near these camps in carrying out bombing raids some ten to fifteen miles nearby inside Poland . There are niumber of things the Allies could have tried. For instance bombing the railway tracks leading to the various camps or bombing the railways going in and out of Germany and Poland and Russia and Austria and Hungary and Rumania etvc. These might also have been attacked using partisns and the resistance movements the Allies were in touch with.

The other actions could have included something as basic or simple as getting partisans and others to do survellance and gather intelligence on the camps and to make contact with inmates or even to help small numbers to escape in order to again find out what was taking place and how bad things were in the camps or was what the Allies were being told merely rumors. The other suggestions made by Jewish groups was to try to coordinate some sort uprising in the camps. This could again been done by coordinating members of the resistance and partisans by handing out weapons to inmates for instance- the other would be dropping weapons into the camps while doing a bombing run on them . The bombing would be distracting and lead to some chaos in the camps during which time outside members of the local resistance accompanied by specialist squads of paratroopers a hundred or more are dropped into the area. Such a concerted effort even if it failed it would have still had some positive effect . In wartime a boost to morale is just as important as a real military victory. The Jews and others in the camps at Auschwitz or elewhere would have felt that they hadn't been completely abandoned which is how many survivors have claimed they felt -that God and the Allies had abandoned them. Once they knew they were not forgotten and abandoned more uprisings might have occurred even if they were unsuccessful. The other part of this is that if some major actions had been taken against the camps the Germans might have had to change their tactics or some officers might have started to question the whole enterprise while also acknowledging that after the war there would be a reckoning and that what they were doing would not be forgotten .

Even if all the Allies had done was to drop pamplets on the camps informing the inmates that they were not forgotten while also letting the Germans and the SS know that the Allies were aware of what was happening and that all those involved would be punished. But unfortunately the Allies it seems had no shortage of excuse even when someone in aiuthority such as Winston Chrurchill gave the order to those below him to get whatever they could out of the airforce and military to take whatever actions that were possible even he was ignored by the career civil servants and political appointees who did not want to change the policies which were decided upon at the beginning of the war . They believed that once a policy was decided upon that was the end of the matter even when new information became available which then questioned the adherence to those policies in a dogmatic manner. So the politicians , civil servants and military leadership were able to conjure up as many excuse necessary in order not to help the Jews . Was it at bottom really a matter of their own anti-semitism or merely ambivalence and indifference. Even near the end of the war the Allies were still reluctant to take in large numbers of European Jews. They feared this would lead to a flood of European Jews seeking refuge and this might lead to more anti-Semitism in theri respective countries. But as I have said given the resources available to the Allies surely they could have developed a propaganda or information campaign to explain the plight of the Jews and that to not help them would constitute a moral failing on the part of the Allies and their people .
If for instance Arabs along with Lawrence of Arabia had been able to derail turkish trains during WWI then why couldn't specialist be dropped behind enemy line to help derail the transport trains .Even if a few of these actions had been tried then history itself wouldn't judge the Allies as harshly as they now are.

Instead what we have gotten over the years are researchers and commentators making excuses for the Allies inaction before and during the war . Besides the Nuremberg trials which only prosecuted a small percentage of those involved in the Final Soluton or even the murders of millions of non-Jews . What's the lesson sometimes people ask . The lesson is that human beings are capable of the most brutal and unimaginable treatment of their fellow human beings.

The other lesson is that those who could have helped often as not failed to do the least that they could have done.

Thirdly most people would just as soon forget such horrors and in fact would be happier to not know about them.

Did the more virulent anti-Semite finally come to realize how dangerous and deadly their views were ? For the most part no since most anti-Semites continued to believe as they had before and during the war . Even after the war and the revelations about the Final Solution became public these Anti-Semites still clinged tenaciously to their Anti-Semitic views and so continued to believe that the Jews were evil and cunning and dangerous and were the minions of Satan or the Anti-Christ . When some Jews who survived Auschwitz or Dachau etc. returned to their native land they often found that those Christians who now occupied their homes or controlled their former businesses refused to give them back and then they were told to go away and that Jews were not welcome in their town.

For more on this matter here are some books I would recommend :

Carsten, F. L. : The Rise of Fascism , pub.

Carroll, James : Constantine’s Sword: The Church and The Jews-
A History , Pub. 2001.

Cohen- Sherbok, Dan: The Crucified Jew: Twenty Centuries of Anti-Semitism, pub. 1992.

Cohn, Norman : Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, pub. 1996.

Dawidowicz, Lucy S.: The War Against the Jews 1933-1945, Pub. 1986

Gilbert, Martin: Auschwitz and the Allies, pub. 1990

Goldhagen, Daniel Jonah : A Moral Reckoning :The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair, pub. 2002

Kertzer, David I. : The Popes Against The Jews: The Vatican's Role in The Rise of Modern Anti‑Semitism, pub. 2001

Rees, Laurence : Auschwitz: A New History ,pub. 2005

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