Jewish Writing on Anti-Semitism

Review of David Cesarani’s “Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews, 1933–49” — Part Two of Five

 

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“Germans were not being asked to hate Jews; they were being asked to love other Germans. … It would be a mistake to equate Nazi values with hate.
David Cesarani

Part 1.

The Complexities of Judenpolitik, 19331939

Although David Cesarani’s book is divided into eight chapters, it is best reviewed by dividing it in two sections: the author’s treatment of the development of Jewish policy by the National Socialist government before the war, and their development of Jewish policy following the outbreak of hostilities with Britain and France in 1939. The separation of the two is essential.[1] Throughout history, during times of war governments and heads of state have made significant changes or accelerations in their policies towards minorities, particularly ethnic and religious minorities with suspect loyalties. A major weakness in mainstream historiography on the Third Reich, particularly that authored by Jewish historians, is the refusal to make this concession. Instead, Jewish-authored narratives of Jewish casualties suffered in wartime overwhelmingly trace the sum total of deaths to earlier laws, edicts or policies in which very different circumstances prevailed, and in which no future outcomes were pre-ordained. By doing so, these “histories” become essentially anti-historical.

For over a decade I have been fascinated by the development of National Socialist Judenpolitik between 1933 and 1939. Indeed, I find the period infinitely more interesting than anything that occurred during the war years. The world then, in terms of government, diplomacy, and the global economy, was actually not that different from today. What careful study of this period offers is a unique opportunity to peer into the attempts of a modern state, with modern obligations and responsibilities, to reckon with the question of Jewish influence. It is therefore essential that those with an interest in this question familiarize themselves with the political and economic ramifications of attempting to deal with it. “Holocaust education” may therefore be of some use after all, although quite different from that envisaged by our educators.

David Cesarani was of course one of the foremost of these educators, yet he begins Final Solution with some frank admissions about the Holocaust trope he so relentlessly promoted. In one of many tactical retreats, he admits that histories of World War II have been pushed on the mass public as a part of a network of “extraneous agendas” which aim, among other things, at bolstering multiculturalism and constructing “an inclusive national identity.” Most of these histories “lazily draw on an outdated body of research, while others … downplay inconvenient aspects of the newer findings.” The inaccuracies, false memories, and downright lies of many self-professed “Holocaust survivors” “routinely trump the dissemination of scholarship.” The Holocaust is more a “cultural construction rather than the historical events to which it is assumed to refer.” Cesarani even argues that the term ‘Holocaust’ itself should be abandoned since it is “well past its sell-by date,” and if nothing else, its “politicization” is a “good enough reason to retire it.” The author admits the failings of a “standardized version [of Jewish deaths during World War II], to which I have myself contributed.” Read more

Review of “Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews, 1933–49” — Part One of Five

 

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“There is a yawning gulf between popular understanding of this history and current scholarship on the subject. …
This divergence has become acute since the 1990s.”

Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews, 1933–49
David Cesarani
London: Macmillan

A Portrait of the Author

In October 2015 Jewish historiography lost one of its more enigmatic practitioners when David Cesarani died of spinal cancer, aged 58, just a few months after initial diagnosis. I met Cesarani a handful of times at academic and social gatherings on both sides of the Atlantic during the 2009–2013 period, and I don’t think I’ve met a Hebrew before or since who embodied the physical and behavioral attributes of Jewishness quite as well as the late professor. Ignoring his caricature-like appearance, which once led a scorned David Irving to label him “Ratface,” Cesarani was every inch the diminutive chatterbox; a veritable bundle of verbal and intellectual intensity. He was possessed of a certain low charm, and was a perfect specimen of the shtetl comedian. When making wise-cracks he would stoop his head forward, rolling his shoulders like so many members of his race. Whether the traits were affected, or part of some bizarre genetic make-up, I could never quite decide. He was evidently persuasive, however, and strangely impressive to others. On several occasions I observed at close hand how collectives of enamoured students and faculty would warmly refer to him as “Caesar,” in a perfect example of the “Jewish guru” phenomenon.

Yet for all his bravado and undeniable gift for showmanship, he lectured in a slow, plodding and measured manner. He was more interesting in lectures than conversations, and I found him more comfortable speaking to groups rather than individuals. In the few brief private conversations I had with him on Jewish history and the “Holocaust” he appeared ill at ease; his sharp wit and excellent memory apparently deserting him. Perhaps it was something to do with the coldness with which I greeted his glib responses to my more searching questions. More likely, the slow and almost menacing grin that spread across his face at some of my enquiries was a sign of his awareness that he was in the presence of a “knowing” non-Jew; or in their vernacular, an “anti-Semite.” I would smile back, of course, and we would continue the conversation, verbally circling each other, saying a great deal and yet speaking very little at all. He was a capable, and oddly entertaining, verbal opponent. Read more

The Troubling Testimony of Alonzo Mann in the Murder of Little Mary Phagan

With today’s centennial of the death by lynching of Leo Max Frank, public attention has been fixed once again on the remarkable dual murders of Mary Phagan and Leo Frank. As is fairly well-known at this point, 13-year-old Mary Phagan was murdered in the National Pencil Factory in Atlanta on April 26, 1913. Leo Frank, her boss and last person to admit seeing her alive, was convicted of the murder.

His appeals went up to the Supreme Court of the United States and his conviction upheld at every level. Frank’s appeals to the administrative agencies of the State of Georgia also brought no change. Only when Governor John Slaton, a law partner of the Frank defense team, commuted the sentence to life imprisonment was Frank’s life apparently spared. But the outrage felt in Georgia over the impropriety of the Governor pardoning a client of his own law firm on his last day in office (and widely suspected of being bribed) resulted in a band of leading Marietta men planning and executing a daring break-in at the State Prison in Milledgeville, abducting Frank and driving over the primitive dirt roads of Georgia all night to hang him in Marietta at sunrise the next day.

The astonishing murder of Leo Frank has tended to soften the public’s view of his guilt in the murder of Mary Phagan.

Was Frank guilty of the murder of Mary Phagan?

His own subsequent murder is not material in establishing his innocence in the matter. It represents what might be called the “Ox-Bow Incident” mentality. We so dislike vigilante justice that we have a tendency to give the benefit of the doubt to the victims of such lynchings. Even in a case like this where Frank’s guilt was upheld at every level of the appellate legal system we recognize his subsequent murder as an assault on the entire legal system. Read more

Joel Pollak and Bill Kristol on Obama’s rabid anti-Semitism

Not to be outdone by the Tablet article labeling Obama a “Jew baiter,” Joel Pollak writing in Breitbart came out with “Barack Obama’s Anti-Semitic Rant on the Iran Deal: President Barack Obama is using anti-Jewish language to sell the Iran deal.”

On Thursday, Obama led a conference call with left-wing activists in which he repeatedly railed against his political opponents by using the old canard of rich Jews using their money to exert control.

Accusing critics of the deal of being “opposed to any deal with Iran”–i.e. of advocating war–Obama railed against “well-financed” lobbyists, as well as the “big check writers to political campaigns,” and  “billionaires who happily finance super-PACs.” He complained about “$20 million” being spent on ads against the deal—a subtle reference to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC–whose support he had repeatedly courted when running for office).

Some of Obama’s references were thinly-veiled attacks on specific (Jewish) individuals—columnist Bill Kristol, for example, the Weekly Standard publisher and former New York Times resident conservative who served in the George H.W. Bush administration, and also helps run the Emergency Committee for Israel, which opposes the Iran deal; or billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who is a prodigious Republican benefactor, super PAC donor, and well-known hawk on Israel issues.

So now merely referring to the fact that the opposition to the Iran deal is well-funded makes Obama’s statements into an “anti-Semitic rant.” Calling attention to the deep pockets of political opponents is fair game with a long history in American politics. But if Jews are the ones with the deep pockets, suddenly, it’s “anti-Semitism” — defined I guess as “something Jews dislike because it brings attention to their actions.”  Read more

“Jew baiter” Obama: The same people who brought you Iraq are opposing the Iran deal

Sometimes Jewish comments related to anti-Semitism seem so unhinged that they surprise even me.  A Tablet article describes the meeting between Obama and a raft of Jewish leaders on the Iran deal (“Obama to Jewish Leaders: Lay Off the Iran Deal, and I Will Lay Off You“).

Words have consequences, and when they come from official sources, they can be even more dangerous, the president was told. The community worked hard to keep it from getting personal and didn’t make it specific to him. The president complained about the lobbying, and said some of the same people who brought you Iraq are opposing the Iran deal. He was told those characterizations are not accurate. Jewish lobbyists didn’t support the Iraq war.

Another participant who also asked to remain anonymous told me that some people expressed discomfort with  “how the debate is being framed—framed as, ‘if you are a critic of the deal, you’re for war.’ The implication is that if it looks like the Jewish community is responsible for Congress voting down the deal, it will look like the Jewish community is leading us off to another war in the Middle East.”

Read more

A Review of “The Devil That Never Dies” by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Part 3

 Part 1
Part 2

Jews and Communism

Goldhagen angrily declares that any claim that Jews “were responsible for the Russian Revolution and its predations” is a “calumny” and that: “If you associate Jews with communism, or worse, hold communism to be a Jewish invention and weapon, every time the theme, let alone the threat, of communism, Marxism, revolution, or the Soviet Union comes up, it also conjures, reinforces, even deepens thinking prejudicially about Jews and the animus against Jews in one’s country.”[1]

So any linkage made between Jews and communism is, for Goldhagen, a “calumny” despite the fact that mainstream Jewish historians readily confirm that Jews were vastly disproportionate participants in providing the ideological basis for, and the governance and administration of, the murderous communist regimes of Central and Eastern Europe.  Bernhard Wasserman, professor of Modern Jewish History at the University of Chicago, notes, for example, that “the European left was in large measure a Jewish creation. In Germany in the mid-nineteenth century Marx, Hess, and Lassalle, all three of Jewish origin, had founded and shaped the socialist movement.”[2] Further,  the Jewish historian Norman Cantor pointed out that “In the first half of the twentieth century, Marxist-Leninist communism ran like an electromagnetic lightning flash through Jewish societies from Moscow to Western Europe, the United States and Canada, gaining the lifelong adherence of brilliant, passionately dedicated Jewish men and women.’[3]

The prominent Jewish intellectual and writer Chaim Bermant observed that, “To many minds, at the beginning of this [twentieth] century, the very words radical and Jew were almost one, and many a left-wing thinker or politician was taken to be Jewish through the very fact of his radicalism.” He also observed that “When, after the chaos of World War I, revolutions finally erupted all over Europe, Jews were everywhere at the helm”[4] To take just one example, of the forty-nine commissars who governed Bela Kun’s short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic, thirty-one were Jewish.[5] Read more

A Review of “The Devil That Never Dies” by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Part 2

Part 1

“Antisemitism” as “The Real Devil that Christianity Spawned”

Rather than hostility toward Jews having its origins in group competition for resources, Goldhagen contends that “antisemitism” is “the real devil that Christianity spawned.”[1] He conveniently ignores the fact that antipathy to Jews was widespread throughout the pre-Christian civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome, and instead claims that “antisemitism”

began in ancient Israel during the time of Jesus and migrated shortly thereafter to Greece. There it was codified in the context of early Christians’ desires to appropriate the early Jewish religious and messianic tradition, really Judaism revamped, for themselves. In Greece the Gospels were written, at best based on a long chain of hearsay, not until fifty to one hundred years after Jesus’ death by people who never knew or saw Jesus or the events surrounding his life. Antisemitism then moved to and became entrenched in Rome, the center of the Western world, where Christianity and simultaneously antisemitism had its greatest conquest when Emperor Constantine adopted Christianity for himself and the Roman Empire in the early fourth century. As his empire spread to more European lands in particular, the secular and religious authorities brought the antisemitic gospel with them, which, after Rome’s fall (which did not see the Church fall), spread to all of Europe, so that during the Middle Ages antisemitism, together with Christianity, had solidified itself as the one pan-European belief system, about which different peoples, peoples of different classes and stations, different professions, and eventually even different and warring forms of Christianity could agree upon and coalesce. Then, with European and Christian colonization of much of the world, antisemitism spread farther.[2]

In addition to ignoring the extensive and often violent pre-Christian aversion to Jews, Goldhagen also makes no mention of the fact that Christianity, unlike Judaism, is a universalist creed which eventually led to Europeans being the first people in history to ban slavery for moral reasons. Instead, he maintains that the New Testament is an “antisemitic” and “eliminationist” tract:

The Christian bible is, whatever its subsidiary pronouncement to the contrary, at its heart an eliminationist document. A codification of eliminationist antisemitism against Jews. Their evangelical calls for Jews to follow Jesus aside, the Gospels so deprecate the Jew’s existing cultural core (namely the Jewish bible’s laws and codes), implicitly and explicitly calling for an end to this people as Jews, and so demonize Jews in the process for putatively being Jesus’ enemies and murderers, and so threaten them with violence and destruction, that it is hard to see this as anything but an eliminationist mindset, a blueprint for eliminationist politics, and, if only tacitly, a call to eliminationist action — and this is how it has been taken by Christians and others beholden to the foundational paradigm it grounded.[3]       

Goldhagen claims that the New Testament contains “four hundred fifty antisemitic verses just in the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, averaging more than two per page.”[4] Conveniently, he has nothing to say about the “eliminationist” mindset, politics and actions that are far more clearly evident in the Jewish Bible, and how this has shaped Jewish attitudes toward non-Jews. Read more