Saturday, May 16, 2009

What Makes the Holocaust Unique?

The Holocaust is unique in its unprecedented ideological driving force merge with unprecedented total destruction means used against the Jewish people.

In other genocides, besides the Holocaust, pragmatic considerations such as control of territory and resources were central to the genocide policy. Yehuda Bauer argues that:

"The basic motivation of the Holocaust was purely ideological, rooted in an
illusionary world of Nazi imagination, where an international Jewish conspiracy
to control the world was opposed to a parallel Aryan quest. No genocide to date
had been based so completely on myths, on hallucinations, on abstract,
nonpragmatic ideology – which was then executed by very rational, pragmatic
means."

(Bauer, Yehuda (2002). Rethinking the Holocaust. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press. pp. p.48.)

Responding to the German philosopher Ernst Nolte who claimed that the Holocaust was not unique, the German historian Eberhard Jäckel wrote in 1986 that the Holocaust was unique because:

"the National Socialist killing of the Jews was unique in that never before had
a state with the authority of its responsible leader decided and announced that
a specific human group, including its aged, its women and its children and
infants, would be killed as quickly as possible, and then carried through this
resolution using every possible means of state power".

(Maier, Charles The Unmasterable Past, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988 page 53)

The slaughter was systematically conducted in virtually all areas of Nazi-occupied territory in what are now 35 separate European countries. It was at its worst in Central and Eastern Europe, which had more than seven million Jews in 1939. About five million Jews were killed there, including three million in occupied Poland and over one million in the Soviet Union. Hundreds of thousands also died in the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Yugoslavia and Greece. The Wannsee Protocol makes clear that the Nazis also intended to carry out their "final solution of the Jewish question" in England and Ireland.

Anyone with three or four Jewish grandparents was to be exterminated without exception. In other genocides, people were able to escape death by converting to another religion or in some other way assimilating. This option was not available to the Jews of occupied Europe. All persons of recent Jewish ancestry were to be exterminated in lands controlled by Germany.

Saul Friedländer writes that: "Not one social group, not one religious community, not one scholarly institution or professional association in Germany and throughout Europe declared its solidarity with the Jews." He writes that some Christian churches declared that converted Jews should be regarded as part of the flock, but even then only up to a point.

Friedländer argues that this makes the Holocaust distinctive because antisemitic policies were able to unfold without the interference of countervailing forces of the kind normally found in advanced societies, such as industry, small businesses, churches, and other vested interests and lobby groups.
(Friedländer, Saul (2007). Nazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Extermination. London: HarperCollins. pp. p.xxi.)

To the contrary. Every arm of the country's sophisticated bureaucracy was involved in the murder process. Parish churches and the Interior Ministry supplied birth records showing who was Jewish; the Post Office delivered the deportation and denaturalization orders; the Finance Ministry confiscated Jewish property; German firms fired Jewish workers and disenfranchised Jewish stockholders; the universities refused to admit Jews, denied degrees to those already studying, and fired Jewish academics; government transport offices arranged the trains for deportation to the camps; German pharmaceutical companies tested drugs on camp prisoners; companies bid for the contracts to build the crematoria; detailed lists of victims were drawn up using the Dehomag company's punch card machines, producing meticulous records of the killings. As prisoners entered the death camps, they were made to surrender all personal property, which was carefully catalogued and tagged before being sent to Germany to be reused or recycled. The Final Solution of the Jewish question was in the eyes of the perpetrators Germany's greatest achievement.

The unprecedented Holocaust genocide against the Jewish people was enabled by hundreds of years of evil anti-Semitism and racism fed by superstition, popular belief and theology that culminated in Hitler's Mein Kampf to historic proportions.

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)

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