I SAY “bravo Mount Carmel School!” for providing junior students a series of comprehensive, interactive and multi-media lessons about the Holocaust.
Like most historical events, the details of the unspeakable horrors perpetrated by the National Socialist German Workers’ aka Nazi Party seem to be fading from our collective memories. There was a time when calling someone “Nazi” was considered slanderous — when it still meant “pure evil.” Not anymore. Like the word “fascist” (or, for that matter, “racist,” “corrupt,” etc.) “Nazi,” to quote George Orwell, “has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’ ” — or “someone I disagree with.”
However, Nazism and the underlying premise of its centerpiece policy, the Holocaust, are not specific to Nazism itself. It is also quite simplistic to equate Nazism with “White Supremacy.” White — i.e., Caucasian — supremacists admire Hitler. But Hitler admired the non-Caucasian Chinese and Japanese. (He wrote, “I have never regarded the Chinese or the Japanese as being inferior to ourselves. They belong to ancient civilizations, and I admit freely that their history is superior to our own.”) He also admired Turkey’s leader, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. And during World War II, Germany courted Arabs and Muslims, tens and thousands of whom fought for the Nazis. (David Motadel writes in “Islam and Nazi Germany’s War” that Muslims fought on both sides in WWII. But, says book reviewer Dominic Green, “only Nazis and Islamists had a political-spiritual romance.”)
It is my contention that there was nothing unique about Nazism’s basic idea: that true leaders who know what is best for “the people” can identify and solve society’s problems by uprooting their, well, “root causes.” Once and for all. The final solution.
For Hitler the root cause was the Jews. For Lenin and Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot it was the “rich,” the “capitalists,” the “bourgeoisie.” For some Hutus of Rwanda, it was the Tutsis. For the P.I.’s wildly popular, self-proclaimed socialist President Duterte, it’s narcotics, their pushers and users. For Duterte’s idol and self-proclaimed centrist Ferdinand Marcos, it was the “oligarchs,” the “elite” and their “corrupt old society.” There may be — there is always —“collateral damage” but the intent is always “good”: a better future for everyone (still alive).
The rhetoric is also usually the same: the time is now, and it’s now or never. (Duterte: I’m your last card.) The alternative is catastrophe if not the end of the world. They assure us that we can’t have omelette without breaking eggs. So throughout history, lots and lots of eggs were broken and are still being broken. But still no omelette.
As for the Holocaust, here are three images:
1) The photo of a one-year-old baby, Adolph Hitler. An “innocent” Hitler “without victims.” Hitler way before the murder of six million human beings — and the war he instigated, killing a total of 75 million people.
2) A scene from “Cabaret”: A radiant young man, most likely a teenager, is singing a folk song. The members of the audience — ordinary people: parents, their children, the elderly — are captivated. The camera returns to the teenager singing “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”; he is wearing a Hitler Youth uniform.
3) Another scene, another movie, “Schindler’s List”: a Nazi (SS) soldier is flawlessly playing the piano; two other German soldiers are standing at the doorway wondering whether the tune is Bach’s or Mozart’s while the rest of the Nazis were machine-gunning Jews — men, women, children, the elderly — hiding in a Polish ghetto.
Germany — a nation of philosophers, composers, poets, artists, scientists — spawned Nazism. We’re not talking about uneducated barbarians or religious fanatics.
At the Auschwitz concentration camp, the Nazis murdered at least 1.08 million men, women and children, close to 90% of whom were Jews.
In his magnificent novel, “Sophie’s Choice,” William Styron wrote: “The most profound statement yet made about Auschwitz was not a statement at all, but a response. The query: ‘At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God?’ And the answer: ‘Where was man?’ ”
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