Sixty-four years ago William L. Shirer wrote a history of the Nazi regime and its part in the Second World War. I am rereading it—a major task since it is over 1200 pages. The first time I read it, it did make a strong impression, but nothing like this time around. Nevertheless, hard as it is to go through, it is one of the best books I have ever read. I took it up again because my three sons have little idea of the holocaust and how it came about. One of them even finds it doubtful.
As you make your way through the history you begin to realize that it represented a new dimension of evil in the world. Ascribing the evil only to Hitler and a few fanatical followers is not possible. While not all Germans were involved, quite a number were complicit and approved of the extermination of Jews and others considered undesirable. The Nazis planned to literally enslave large European populations to serve as workers for the Third Reich. The torture and cruelty was beyond belief. That is the most difficult portion to read—to realize how many lives were destroyed wantonly. Shirer builds the story on facts and fact by deadly fact accumulates until the horror of the whole is laid out before you.
This is not an easy book to read, but it is extremely important that the history not be lost or neglected. No doubt Hitler was a madman, but he captivated a majority of the population of one of the world's most civilized and cultured nations. To say that it could not happen again is sheer foolishness. The human capacity for evil is unlimited.
People badly want to feel that evil is "other", that WE are nice people and would never do xxx. One of the illusions that we wrap around ourselves like a coat in cold weather.
Good point Laura. Tribalism is very old -- much older than our experiment in civilization and maybe old enough that it is what we're evolved to fit. The Hebrew Bible was a compendium of just how much more special Jews were than everyone else. It was, of course, written by those claiming to be special.
An odd aspect of Christianity is that it's "history" was written by losers rather than winners. How is it that a cult whose messiah/god was easily squashed by the Empire came back to claim prominence in that very empire? I suppose that the claim to that would rest on the claim of magical resurrection. Belief in magic aside, it's rather remarkable that a personality cult could wrangle enough adherents to constitute what we see today.
Germans I've met still seem antisemitic. Especially one older man, who would have been a little kid in World War II. Their society was absolutely soaked in the Jew-blaming. Even a younger German I knew seemed a bit like that.
Anti-Semitism surely exists as actions and reactions within all three of the major Abrahamic traditions, and as plain old xenophobia disguised. It has also been too often trotted out, especially since WWII and the Holocaust, whenever someone criticizes the actions of the state of Israel. Hell, it's even invoked by Israeli politicians and lobbyists and fundamentalist Christians when some US politician fails to sufficiently support any action by the Israeli government.
it exists, and that's just a fact. It is in its trajectory approximately where the US was in the latter third of the 19th century. The native population is contained and marginalized, but not yet to the extent that it is entirely irrelevant. It (or rather political Zionism) is a system of theocratic, racist apartheid, just as the US was in its "Manifest Destiny" phase of aggressive expansion. Israel just hasn't yet reached its "Wounded Knee" moment.
To criticize that is not to criticize Jews in whole -- it's criticism of a political ideology. All of the Jews that I know (all of them American) with whom I've discussed this are strongly opposed to the modern actions of Israel, and I don't think that one could reasonably describe them as anti-Semitic. But if a non-Jew makes any of these points they are likely to be tarred with that very effective slur, and likened to neo-Nazis. It's a method of manipulation of the deserved guilt of those who should and could have prevented the Holocaust but didn't. It was a component in the creation by western powers of the modern state of Israel 66 years ago, and remains a large part of foreign policy (especially that of the US) today.
Hmm, somehow my comment above got slightly snipped -- probably something I did. The beginning of the second paragraph should read, "I'll not address the legitimacy of the modern state of Israel. It exists, and that's just a fact."
It's a good question though - how much of the perceived need for the state of Israel, comes from religious differences?
Some people though, equate the suffering of the Jews in the Holocaust with the actions of Israel today, as if the Jewish people in Israel had turned around and become like Nazis themselves.
That's wrong. I haven't seen anything to indicate that the situation of the Palestinians is comparable at all to the Holocaust. Yes, there are a lot of reports of Palestinians being treated badly, and they seem to be oppressed. But saying it's comparable to people being shipped off to concentrations camps by the millions and starved or gassed to death - shows a blindness to what the Jewish people went through, that may come from anti-Semitism.
If the situation of the Palestinians in Israel were comparable to the Jews in the Third Reich, there wouldn't BE Palestinians in Israel. They would have been shipped off to concentration camps and murdered.
It is perhaps even worse in Austria and Hungary and it did not cease with the end of the war. Vienna has always been a city of stunning culture with an amazing array of music and literature and philosophy, but quite anti-semitic.
Anti-Semitism is an alien concept around here, in New York State, and in California where I used to live. There might be more of it in the South. At least, the only anti-Semitic comments I've heard have been from Germans. I'm not Jewish though, if I went around looking Jewish I might experience more of it.
The persecution of the Jews seems like the result of religious differences, they were not just persecuted as outsiders. There were repeated pogroms - mass murders of Jews that preceded the Holocaust and got people used to the idea.
"Religious differences" is putting it rather mildly. Read Constantine's Sword or watch the TV series. Two millennia of European history built the death camps, every brick a pogrom, a massacre, a ghetto, or a banishment. The Nazis characterized them as vermin in their propaganda; unlike other religious groups, Jews were considered a separate race. It was widely believed that both Jewish women and men menstruated and had to replace their lost blood with that of Christian children; that they ate Christian babies; that sexual contact with a Jewish man would forever physically contaminate a Christian woman. Crusaders on the way to Palestine slaughtered Jews by the thousands. And so it went . . . .
You are talking about the persecution of Jews, and I certainly didn't say the persecution was mild!
I too have read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. But an even more frightening book to read about the Holocaust and the the Nazi regime is "IBM and the Holocaust". Disturbing. And frightening. How easy it was to track, identify and persecute those whom the Nazi's felt were not of the faith.
And it hasn't gotten any better in the years that have past since the atrocities of those grotesque days of the glorious Third Reich. In fact, looking at how completely out of control the Executive branch of the government has become, the Fourth Reich seems to be just around the corner.
Of course, I could just be paranoid, but then (in all actuality), only the paranoid will survive.