Tag Archives: Hitler

UNESCO Declares Tomb of Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb Muslim Sites

BY HONESTREPORTING.COM

ISRAEL

  1. UNESCO passed a resolution condemning Israeli aggression on the Temple Mount and recognizing the Tomb of the Patriarchs (in Hebron) and Rachel’s Tomb (between Bethlehem and Jerusalem) as Muslim sites.

The Palestinians were forced to back off efforts to declare the Western Wall a Muslim site when UNESCO chief, Irina Bokova, postponed a vote on that. More at the Jerusalem Post.

Tomb of the Patriarchs

  1. Our dear old pal, Seamus Milne, is taking a leave of absence from running The Guardian’s Comment is Free section to become Jeremy Corbyn’s communications chief, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Many in the UK Labor Party are concerned with Milne’s appointment because of his history of apologizing for terror. Among other things, Milne gave a byline to Osama Bin Laden in 2004, praised Iraqi resistance against British troops, and insisted that Israel had no right to defend itself against Palestinian terror.

Grand Mufti and Hitler

Israel and the Intifada

• Breaking news: Stabbing attack north of Jerusalem: an Israeli woman was seriously wounded; Palestinian attacker killed and another suspect was apprehended.

• Police officer lightly injured in suspected deliberate car-ramming attack near Ofra, between Jerusalem and Nablus.

• A 15-year-old Palestinian girl wielding a knife was shot and injured this morning trying to enter the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar.

• Two knife-wielding Palestinians who stabbed a soldier and attacked another in Hebron were shot and killed last night.

• Hundreds of Palestinians rioted near Rachel’s tomb.

• IDF arrests 47 in overnight West Bank sweep

Temple Mount

• Just wanted to tweak an otherwise decent Associated Press update on the latest developments. Regarding Palestinian claims that Israel wants to change the Temple Mount’s status quo, reporter Ian Deitch writes:

Israel has adamantly denied the allegations, saying it has no plans to change the status quo at the site, where Jews are allowed to visit but not pray. Israel has accused Palestinian leaders of incitement to violence over the site.

But Jewish visits to the site have doubled since 2010 and senior members of Netanyahu’s government have called for Jewish prayer rights, fueling Palestinian concerns about the site.

To say that the number of Jewish visits doubled doesn’t tell the full story, and certainly doesn’t lend any legitimacy to a month of stabbings, car-rammings, and shootings. An AFP report last month gave a fuller picture of the numbers. Whatever your feelings about Jewish visits to the holy site, the numbers are still a drop in the bucket:

About 10,900 Jews visited the flashpoint hilltop in 2014, according to Arnon Segal, an activist for the right of Jews to pray where their biblical temples are said to have stood.

In contrast, as many as nearly three million Muslims and 200,000 Christians go there each year, according to official Israeli data.

The number of Jewish visitors last year was double the figure of 2009, says Segal.

• The Washington Post takes a stab at the question, What drives the Palestinians who attack Jews with kitchen knives?

knives• In Israeli shops, knives get harder to find, while demand for guns goes up. NPR quotes some classic Israeli logic:

But one of Israel’s major grocery chains, Rami Levy, has pulled all the knives, plus kitchen scissors and pizza cutters, from the aisles. They are now stored at the service desk. Customers now have to ask for them.

Drori Levy, who works in the family business, says the reason is simple.

“We have a security guard at the door to prevent someone from getting in and attacking someone,” he says. “So why would we keep what an attacker would use here on the shelf?

• Years after sexual assault by Palestinians, an Israeli woman was granted status as a ‘terror victim.”

• Israeli officials continued speaking out. Ambassador Ron Dermer getting op-ed space in Politico on “10 deadly lies about Israel.” In an interview with the German daily paper, BILD (see summary in English at the European Jewish Press), Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom called on the EU to suspend aid money to the PA over Palestinian terror and incitement.

Commentary/Analysis

Justin Trudeau

• With Justin Trudeau’s election victory, Itamar Eichner looks at what Canada’s left-turn means for Ottawa-Jerusalem ties.

Senior diplomats predict that under Trudeau, the Canadian government might revert to a more balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – the type that was in place before Harper’s time. Canada could well go back to placing responsibility on both sides of the conflict when it issues statements. It will no longer automatically vote with Israel at the UN and we are more likely to see them abstaining in key votes. We are also more likely to hear criticism of Israeli construction in the West Bank settlements . . .

Nonetheless, a source closely involved in Israel-Canada diplomacy said: “Israel has no cause for concern. We may see a change in nuance, but basically ties will remain excellent.”

• Here’s what else I’m reading today . . .

Jay Michaelson: Israeli/Palestinian peace camp looks increasingly impotent
Ben-Dror Yemini: Must both sides exercise restraint
Jonathan Tobin: UNESCO and the end of US honor
Clifford May: Cutthroats of the Holy Land
Dan Margalit: What does Abbas want?

Image: Tomb of the Patriarchs CC BY flickr/Grant Barclay; Temple Mount via YouTube/Eric Huntsman; knives CC BY-NC-ND flickr/Any.colour.you.like; Trudeau via YouTube/CBC News;

 

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History Repeats Itself, but This Time it's in America

holocaust

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History Repeats Itself, but This Time it’s in America

holocaust

USA Secretly Taken Over by Red China ll

TPP? Phony Free Trade is a scheme… Only China will benefit from it!

America is now a puppet State – 100% controlled by Red China – If you think they aren’t coming for you – You are the one who is crazy. Every decision made now favors Chinese interests and goes against the American way. It’s pretty obvious that Jade Helm is a distraction to keep folks busy while the Chinese settle in to their new digs. The theater that is Jade Helm or China Hack-Gate etc. All of these things are planned distractions to hide the fact that America has surrendered to it’s creditor – Red China.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WySqyi6UIx0

The Holocaust – We Must Remember – Dr. Michael Steinlauf – Bondage to the Dead

THE HOLOCAUST: WE MUST REMEMBER 

30-Hour Series of Interviews broadcast on the Roger Fredinburg Radio Program

3-18-1998 Twenty-First Program in Series

Guest: Dr. Michael Steinlauf

Book: BONDAGE TO THE DEAD: Poland and the Memory of the Holocaust

ISBN-10: 0815604033 and ISBN-13: 978- 0815604037

Roger Fredinburg interviews Dr. Michael Steinlauf about his book: Bondage to the Dead. This is the last of the “We Must Remember” interviews.

bondage

Roger: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen! Once again, this is our final program in this very long series on the holocaust. It’s been quite a learning experience for me and I know for many of you. We’ve heard some incredible stories and learned some incredible things about man’s inhumanity to man, and beyond that, man’s triumph over that! It’s been a powerful series and I just want to thank all of you who have stayed with us for these 21 weeks. It’s been a real pleasure to do it!

Tonight we take a look at the Polish-Jewish relations in Poland up to, during and beyond World War II and the Holocaust. To help us get a grip on this particular area of interest, ladies and gentlemen, is a wonderful scholar joining us tonight. We have Dr. Michael Steinlauf with us. Michael, welcome to the show!

Dr. Steinlauf: Thank you very much, Roger.

Roger: It’s a pleasure to have you here, sir. I did not receive your book, so I am at a disadvantage this evening, but, I do know basically what your book is about. We’re just going to have to go at it from that angle. If you could first of all tell us a little bit about yourself and what it was that brought you to write on this issue of Poland, I’d be grateful.

Dr. Steinlauf: It all started about 15 years ago. In 1983 I was graduate student in Jewish studies at Brandeis University. I had the opportunity to go to Poland for a year as a Fulbright Scholar. I came to Poland expecting to trace the history of ghosts, you might say, and I discovered that they were in the middle of —- that was the period of “Solidarity” in fact it was in martial law, “Solidarity” had just gotten banned. It was a very exciting time and also a time all kinds of things were happening among living people as well. I slipped into this strange world where the memory of the Jews seemed to be very, very important, not just the stuff of history; but, for living people.

That got me thinking about the issues. Then some years later I had the opportunity to write an article about what it was that witnessing the holocaust had done to Poles. The article became a very long piece. I suddenly realized around six or seven years ago that I had more than an article, I had a book! The article was published in a recently published anthology called, “The World Reacts to the Holocaust” edited by David Wyman, where 21 or so countries are covered in terms of how the memory of the holocaust had been constructed over the last 50 years in those countries. My focus, of course, was on Poland which is a very unique situation in itself.

Roger: You know, in history they say that to the victor go the spoils? And, that he who wins the wars writes the history books for the future generations? Do you find that makes it difficult to go back and research the events of the holocaust?

Dr. Steinlauf:   My motto has always been the opposite! There’s a literary critic and philosopher who wrote in the 1920s and 1930s, a German-Jewish writer by the name of Walter Benjamin. His motto was “brush history against the grain.” What he meant by that is don’t accept the fact that to the winner go the spoils. Go back into history because precisely what may be most important about history and in history is what has been silenced for one reason or another.

Roger: I think that is really at the pinnacle of the discussion about the holocaust. Has there been anything silenced?

Dr. Steinlauf:  Well, in many ways. Look, you’re talking about, and I’m sure I don’t need to elaborate at this point if this is your 21st program, even today simply consulting the facts of what happened is well-nigh unbelievable! Incredible! It just boggles the imagination! It boggles the mind! It boggles the human spirit that people could have done this, that human beings could have done this to other human beings! Then imagine that we don’t have this 50 years and imagine people all over the world, and of course, all of the Jews themselves experiencing this, the Germans and Nazis and all the various levels of bystanders having to deal with this unbelievable reality that’s just only partially assimilated. 50 years ago we have this kind failure to fully witness this, with everyone involved no matter how close or how distant. Now, 50 years later we know what the facts are; but, what do the facts mean? In that sense, I think, we’re just beginning to deal with the events because they transformed the kind of world we live in.

Roger: I started out on this journey, Michael, because I really wanted to have a deeper understanding of what it must have been like to be a Jew during the time of the holocaust in Europe and in America and other places. It was last week or maybe the week before; but, last week in the 20th week of this series, I finally understood what it was like to be a Jew. I broke down in tears. I really finally got it! It took that much absorption and that many authors and that many stories, of which there’s been thirty-some, before I finally got it! You can’t explain it. It’s just the most amazing thing to me; but, I understand it!   I told my boss I’d rather be anything but a Jew.

Dr. Steinlauf: Well, you see, this is why–the nature of the material is such that it lends itself, you see, and the nature of the truth is such that it lends itself to holocaust deniers also because people say, “yes, it’s unbelievable! It never happened!” That’s such a danger!

Roger:  Since you work at the YIVO Institute, I know that you look at issues relative to the Jewish condition. I have had, and I might as well be up front about this, a lot of really strange email and mail and packages I didn’t want to open, if you know what I mean…

Dr. Steinlauf: Yup!

Roger: … as a result of doing this series. I have found a hatred that exists out there that is so powerful, so unbelievable in our modern time that I’m astounded by it, even though I knew it was there when I began! It’s almost impossible to relate to people some of the things that are said to me. The reason, of course, why I asked you this question about history; there are people who honestly believe that history has been revised so that some conspiracy of the Jews can take over the world–or whatever! When I dig into the historic evidence that exists and I look in the past and the current time and I research the books and the stories, I’m compelled to think that it’s quite reverse of what you might call the anti-Semites out there think that there’s so much more that hasn’t yet been told, that it’s mind-boggling!

Dr. Steinlauf: Well, this is people who refuse to look at the facts of history, find themselves in cause and effect in history. Some people find that they have to create myths and create conspiracies in history. Let me just tell you that the minute you talk about conspiracy, even if you’re not talking about the Jews, you’re talking something that potentially is going to involve the Jews because the oldest, oldest conspiracy that people have mythologized and created in their minds is that of the Jews, so that conspiracy theories are very tricky, dangerous things.

Roger:  We’ve gone into the origins of anti-Semitism and talked about this catalyst in the Christian realm that brought forward this concepts, these conspiracies. There are a lot of people out there today who read the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, they read The Lector Report, they throw these concepts into newsletter, the newsletters begin to circulate in copies that have been watered down to the place you can barely read them. People read that stuff and take it verbatim! They’ll believe that over the Bible! How does that happen?

Dr. Steinlauf: Well, it happens because people are not rational creatures, after all. You know, we think we’re rational. As far as I’m concerned, what that means is that despite all the trendy kind of talk about deconstruction and how do we know what’s true, and historical knowledge is relative; there’s all this trendy talk that I’m sure you’ve come across, some things and certainly in relation to the holocaust, here is something that is true!

There are some things in history that are black and white. We have to just state that! We have to state that over and over and over again! The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is fake, as false a book as can possible exist! That has to be stated over and over again, as often as is necessary. It’s a struggle! It’s a struggle because there’s a lot of unbelievable stupidity and bad faith in the world.

Roger: Yes, I interviewed a gentleman, in fact we didn’t even get it on the air yet, his name is Cohn. He’s over in England.

Dr. Steinlauf: Norman Cohn, of course!

Roger: Right! He wrote a book about that (Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of Jewish World Conspiracy and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion) and dedicated several chapters in the book to the actual origin of the Protocols. I ask people when they call now and start throwing that at me, I ask me to name a couple of those elders for me. Ha, ha!

Dr. Steinlauf: I don’t even argue with dyed-in-the-wool anti-Semites. These people who believe in the Jewish world conspiracy are people who have a psychological need to construct a certain image of the world. You’re not going to shake that! I think it’s useless to argue with anti-Semites. Of course, you find yourself in that position because you have a talk show and these people call up a lot.

On the other hand, most of the people who listen are open-minded people who simply want to know the truth.

Roger: I think one of things that people are not seemingly able to relate to, and maybe you can help with that, they don’t understand why 50 years after the fact, they still keep hearing about the poor downtrodden Jews —”there are lots of people who’ve been persecuted in the world!” and they go on to talk about Stalin or Mao Tse Tung or whoever.   Maybe you could address that for us, why this concept of genocide, set apart from the others is quite different and, more important, why we should pay attention to it.

Dr. Steinlauf: We’re not saying— I don’t think anyone is going to say — at least I certainly won’t and most historians won’t — that what happened to the Jews is somehow incomparable to any other mass murder or horrendous oppression that’s happened in history. There are certain things about what happened to the Jews that makes it worthy of our attention and our knowledge.

For me, one of those things is that it is not something that happened centuries ago in some out-of-the-way and supposedly barbaric corner of the world, that’s one thing. Above all, you might say that it not only happened in the modern world, in a certain way it’s the result of the harnessing of all those wonderful technological powers that seemed to have made our world so good in a lot of ways, so to me that seems a rather important issue.

Think of this! 150 years ago we had a factory system and all of that technology transformed our world. Come the Nazis who create factories–factories of what — not factories to produce things that people could use; but, factories to create death, to create death as effectively and expeditiously as possible! And to process, literally that’s how they said it, to “process” human beings from something alive into something dead, something that just gets plowed into the soil! To do this in such a way that millions and millions of people are “processed” (that horrible word!) in this way, within months, is something that talks about the potential in our modern civilization, I think. It suggests that we have to be on our guard because we have this potential even though we also have the potential of transforming for good. So, that’s one way I look at it.

The Jews, for better or for worse, found themselves at the center of this, at the center of this attempt in the modern world to take a group of people, simply because they were a group of people, and wipe them off the face of the earth! Now, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to talk about other genocides and attempted genocides. It doesn’t mean that one cannot talk about the millions and millions of people who were murdered in the course of being brought over to this country and other countries as slaves.

Roger: Yes, but, it is different because of the genocide effect, isn’t it?

Dr. Steinlauf: It’s different because it somehow ties in with our modern world in a really, really scary way.

Roger: Now, in Poland, I’ve heard some stories about Poland during the holocaust. What were the relationships like between Jews and Poles up to the point of the holocaust?

Dr. Steinlauf: Well, it’s very complex, first of all, because regardless of what’s out there. Let’s talk about the situation before the war. We have to remember that Jews lived in this huge area that was Poland. We’re not just talking about the area of this Polish nation-state today. Historically, for hundreds of years in the Middle Ages and in the early modern period, Poland was a huge area that included what is today the Ukraine and Belarus and Lithuania as well as Poland and even more than that! In those territories Jews have lived for centuries and centuries. In comparison — in fact, they’d immigrated from Germany when there incredible persecutions that you’ve no doubt heard about in the Middle Ages. Compared to the kinds of persecutions that were going on in Germany, there was relative tolerance in these Polish lands.

Jews lived there and other people lived there. It was a kind of loose, decentralized world, an old-fashioned kind of feudal world where there were landowners and peasants, and there were Jews who performed things that people needed; making things, crafts, artisan’s and commerce in the small towns. They were very economically important given that kind of economy. Now, things went on, it’s not to say that people loved each other; there were great differences between the local Polish peasants and the landowners and the Jews; but, they kind of accepted each other in the differences because they were able to live in a decent way for centuries and centuries.

The problem starts, what we call political anti-Semitism, begins at the end of the 19th Century, that’s about 100 years ago when you start getting nationalists movements. You get various kinds of nationalist movements in Poland. One of those nationalist movements is very hostile, not just to Jews but to all minorities. Their idea was that you must have a Poland that’s ethnically Polish and Roman Catholic. These people were called the National Democrats in Poland, called the “ND”. They don’t actually ever come to power. There was not Poland in the 19th Century. There was no Polish nation-state. It was part of the Russian Empire and part of the Austrian Empire; but, after World War 1 you do get a Polish state. In that state, these nationalists, these very anti-minority and anti-semitic nationalists become increasingly more popular. So, one could say that the worst moment in Polish-Jewish relations in hundreds and hundreds of years happens–this is a tragedy— in the period just before the holocaust.

I have to say, it doesn’t necessarily follow that because a whole lot of Poles weren’t crazy about Jews and would have like to have them out of Poland because most of the Polish political parties had platforms that said Jews should leave. Not forcibly; but, that there were too many Jews in Poland. This doesn’t mean that these people wished to see these Jews murdered! That’s very important to say. Just because you don’t like someone, even if you hate someone, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you would have them murdered in some horribly brutal way! We need to say that because now that the holocaust has happened, we also kind of tend to think the minute there’s any kind of hatred that it could escalate. It can, but, it also can’t. Every situation is different. That’s important to realize.

On the other hand, there was a great deal of anti-Jewish feeling in Poland. There was the sense that there were too many Jews, a lot of Poles felt. A lot of Poles felt that too much economic power was in Jewish hands so these Polish nationalists said that what they had to do was free the country of the Jews by pushing them out of the economy and eventually out of Poland. This led to some violence as well.

The Roman Catholic church in Poland during this time basically supported the nationalist position with the proviso of “no violence.” Violence was not okay; but, everything else in terms of pushing the Jews out of the economy was a fine thing. Again, this has to be seen in the context of what was happening in Europe, throughout eastern Europe, throughout Europe as a whole, throughout the world! As you know, there was an upsurge of Jew-hatred and anti-Semitism of all kinds, most obviously in Germany; but, everywhere in Europe. That’s how I might characterize the situation.

Roger: Well, it’s a perfect place of transition. I need to take a break, so just hang on for a minute. Dr. Michael Steinlauf is our guest, ladies and gentlemen. His work, his book is about the relationship between the Polish folks, the Germans and as it trends through the holocaust. We’ll continue our discussion right after this.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger:  Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen. Our guest this evening is Dr. Michael Steinlauf, senior research fellow at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York, a Fulbright Fellow in 1983-1984, one of the first students ever allowed to study Jewish history in Poland. He’s taught at the University of Michigan, Brandeis University and Franklin and Marshall College. He joins us this evening to talk about his incredible book, “Bondage to the Dead: Poland and the Memory of the Holocaust.”   We’ll tell you how to get that in a few minutes, folks.

Michael, we’re back! I just wanted to take an aside here. You talked about the Catholic Church and how they didn’t necessarily give an endorsement of violence; but, they certainly didn’t mind picking on the Jews.

Dr. Steinlauf: Right.

Roger: Today’s church is trying to remedy that, reconcile with their past, so to speak. Are they going to be successful?

Dr. Steinlauf: Well, they’re certainly making efforts in that direction. Certainly I can speak that the Polish church has changed quite a bit, not entirely — this is a very slow process— but, certainly the initiatives that I’ve seen of John Paul are certainly moving in the right direction.

Roger: Why can’t the Catholic church just come forward and say, “We’re sorry! We really blew it! We screwed up! We were wrong! We shouldn’t have been on the other side!” Why?

Dr. Steinlauf: Well, the most recent thing that just came out the other day tries to say something like that. The problem, I think, is that one of the stickiest points of papal infallibility. The issue that they really find tricky to address is what the pope back then was and was not doing because the pope is supposed to be infallible. You cannot question what the pope does and does not do. On the other hand, the fact that a lot of Catholics should have helped or should have protested and did not has been addressed. I would like to hope that this issue will be addressed as well. On the other hand, they will have to confront some of their own doctrine, I think.

Roger: Alright. I know it was an aside from where we’re going; but, I just was curious given this recent….. Going back to the Poles, I have interviewed folks who were on those trucks driving down the Polish roadways as thousands of Poles stood by the roadside applauding, “Kill the Jews! Kill the Jews!”

Dr. Steinlauf: Yes.

Roger: That clearly wasn’t part of their nature prior to Hitler’s Nazi Germany, was it?

Dr. Steinlauf: Well, you see, we have a situation. Let’s try to put ourselves—- you were talking about trying to put yourself in the situation of a Jew.   Let’s try to put ourselves in the situation of a Pole now. You have a situation where the Germans have created an environment where it is okay to have the most vile, the most awful feelings towards these people who used to be your neighbors come out. On the other hand, it’s not okay to manifest publicly any feelings of sympathy. Furthermore, and this is an important thing to remember, Poland was just about the only country in occupied Europe where helping Jews was punishable by death, not just your own death; but, there were cases that involved the death of your family as well.

So, we have a situation where only the most bestial kinds of responses are what are going to be encouraged in public. Okay? The reality was that there were Poles who did more than clapped when Jews were put on those trucks. There were Poles who helped kill Jews, who denounced them, who blackmailed them. There were also, and I think given the situation this is totally extraordinary, there were thousands of Poles who risked their lives to save Jews! That’s a fact, too!

Now, it’s a very complicated situation because here we have to try to grasp because in the most general situation, the most average Pole probably didn’t applaud and certainly didn’t help kill Jews–not the average Pole! The average Pole certainly didn’t help save Jews; but, watched this whole thing happening!

It creates a very, very problematic feeling inside one. Imagine that you have these neighbors. You don’t like them very much and that’s a fact. In fact, you wish there were gone! Then what happens? Somebody comes from outside, from far outside and before your eyes — you’re not even involved in this — before your eyes, murders these people in the most awful, bestial, horrendous possible way! Then what happens? You don’t even have to do this — then what happens is these people leave, they’re gone and you, because you live in that country, inherit all the property, all the things that were once Jewish; the buildings, everything from the homes and offices down to the bed linens and clothing!

Now, this is going to create, I would submit, a real problem! A real problem that has to do with guilt, that has to do with things that are not resolved. In a sense it’s easier for a German because in Germany you can punish a handful of guilty people, as in fact happened after the war, and say, “Okay,we’ve dealt with it!” But, the Poles didn’t do the holocaust! And yet, it was a kind of wish-fulfillment in terms of getting rid of the Jews and then they’re kind of rewarded with all this property! This whole world that used to have Jews in it is now in their hands.

So, that creates a very, very complex problem that works itself out in various ways over the past 50 years. That’s just summing up, a kind of looking at a subjective experience of witnessing for the Poles who watched the whole thing from beginning to end. They watched the ghetto walls going up and their Jewish neighbors put behind them, they watched the deportations and they watched and were close to the death camps. Of course, they smelled the smoke of the crematoriums! So, they were witnesses of the whole thing. That’s what makes their experience so unique.

So, the question is, how does the experience — that’s what my book tries to look at — how does this experience then affect the subsequent course of Polish history and consciousness?

Roger:  Well, tell me, Dr. Steinlauf, how did it affect them?

Dr. Steinlauf: In many ways. There were periods here that can be looked at.

Roger: Let’s look at the 20 years beyond the war. What happened there?

Dr. Steinlauf:  Right after the war there were some really horrendous things that happened in Poland and this time it’s not somebody else doing the violence, it’s the Poles themselves. In the years immediately after World War II — and again, this has to be put in context too — there was what amounts to nearly a Civil War between the communists who were taking over and the people resisting them, generally the nationalists and democrats of various kinds. There was a lot of violence going on, a lot of random violence, too! Within this over-all violence there were attacks on survivors; surviving Jews who appeared and the worst of these were actual pogroms, in other words mass attacks! The worst civil one on July 4, 1946 in the City of Kielce in Poland, 42 holocaust survivors who lived in one particular building where they were preparing to emigrate, are murdered and several hundred were wounded by an attack that began—- I’m sure in one of your programs where you studied the history of anti-Semitism you discussed the blood libel, the accusation that arose in the Middle Ages, that absurd nonsense that Jews used the blood of Christian children to bake matzos! In 1946 such an accusation was made when a child disappeared, a child that turned up the day after the pogrom. That kind of accusation led to a mob murdering 42 Jews! That was the worst! There were other attacks and about 1,500 to 2,000 Jews were killed because they were Jews.

Roger: Dr. Michael Steinlauf is with us this evening, ladies and gentlemen.   Remind me, Michael, to tell people how to get your book, “Bondage to the Dead: Poland and the Memory of the Holocaust.” We’ll entertain a call or two after the break, ladies and gentlemen. Please stay tuned.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger: Dr. Michael Steinlauf, senior research fellow at YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York joins us. His book is, “Bondage to the Dead: Poland and the Memory of the Holocaust.”

This is our last program in our Holocaust Series, ladies and gentlemen, although we’ll continue to dabble the subject from time to time. Michael, really quickly, how do people get your book?

Dr. Steinlauf: You can order it from Syracuse University Press 1-800-365-8929.

Roger: Alright, really quickly and then I want to take a couple of phone calls, just bring us up-to-date. How did Poland turn out after all of this?

Dr. Steinlauf: Well, crucial was this new way of defining who they are. That had to do with the Solidarity Movement that, of course, helped overthrow Communism; but, also started talking about a new way of thinking about being Polish. What that meant was including differences, that it was okay not to be Roman Catholic, that it was okay to be something else. So the memory of the Jew started being thought of in a different way.   What happened, interestingly enough, anti-Semitism still exists in many corners of the society, but, beginning in the 1980s there was also a renewed kind of interest, especially by young people in universities, in the Jewish past and who these Jews were, these millions of Jews who once lived in Poland. So, there’s both this fascination with the past in certain corners of the society and holdovers of this antipathy to Jews. It’s a very complex situation; but, again, I happen to be optimistic. I believe that gradually more and more of this past of dislike and enmity will be left behind and more Poles will appreciate and value this part of their history.

Roger: So, time and education….

Dr. Steinlauf:  Yes! And there’s also a very small emerging Jewish community in Poland now, too! Not three and a half million which was the community before the holocaust. It’s vastly smaller, 20,000 to 30,000 at most; but, it’s there and it’s making it’s presence felt.

Roger: Alright! We’re taking a couple of phone calls. Bob in St. Louis, Missouri, you’re on.

Caller-Bob: Hi, Roger and Dr. Steinlauf! I’m part Jewish from my Hungarian ancestry; but, I’m concerned that almost like a second holocaust is occurring. You were talking about the impact of modern Jews, what the thinking is in terms of Jewry today. Since World War II, I heard a report about six months ago from Jerusalem saying that the Israeli military had scoured the entire world, looking to find every Jew they could, hoping to find more young Jews for soldiers. All they could find was a maximum of 12.5 million Jews and most of those were elderly, above age 50. So, they’re too old to be soldiers.

They were saying that at least theoretically, before World War II there were 25 million Jews which was the most of any time. Right after the holocaust in 1945 there were 19 million Jews. The problem is, with abortion and contraception, the Jewish population has plunged from 19 million down to 12.5 million. They’re predicting that in another 25 years there will be only 2 or 3 million Jews left in the whole world! Meanwhile, the world’s population has gone up about 200 %! It seems like the Jews are almost causing a second holocaust by not having babies. I’m wondering, especially with such constant focusing on the holocaust, why aren’t Jews having babies?

Dr. Steinlauf: First of all, the problem you refer to is hardly a problem, only among Jews. I mean, most advanced industrial societies, and Jews mainly live in such societies, the birthrate has either been maintaining or declining. Indeed, the injunction to have many children is still followed by certain Jews, Orthodox Jews!   They have very large families. I think the demographics of the Jewish community in future decades is definitely going to shift to a larger proportion of Orthodox Jews. That’s clear! On the other hand, secular Jews are hardly going to die out, certainly not in the next hundred years, that’s about as long as I can predict!

Caller-Bob:  Are there going to be massive conversions? What they were saying is they couldn’t find any Jewish women of child-bearing age left. Most Jewish women are post-menopausal and that means you’d have to have a massive conversion of gentiles if you’re going to have an increase in the Jewish population.

Dr. Steinlauf: I doubt there’ll be a massive conversion of gentiles! But, on the other hand, statistics show that fully one-third of the mixed marriages in the United States, marriages between gentiles and Jews, in fully one-third of those the gentile partner converts to Judaism.

Caller-Bob: So, pro-abortion liberal Jews marrying pro-abortion liberal gentiles….

Roger: Bob, you’re really messing things up for me because there won’t be enough Jews to run the world when they take over if it’s true what you’re saying! Ha, ha, ha!

Dr. Steinlauf: Ha, ha, ha!

Caller-Bob: Seriously, what the Israeli government was saying is there won’t be any Jews left at all by the year 2023 because there are almost no Jewish women of child-bearing age. All the old Jews are dropping like flies.

Dr. Steinlauf: That’s a little extreme! I’ve never come across the idea that there won’t be anymore Jews after 2023. I think that certainly, compared to figure before the holocaust, we’re looking at a greatly diminished proportion of Jews in the world. On the other hand, for thousands and thousands of year the proportion of Jews in the world was very, very small. Somehow Jews have gone on. I personally am not worried about the survival of the Jewish people, given to fact that we survived the holocaust and many parts of the world seem to be undergoing a renewal.

Roger: Dr. Michael Steinlauf, ladies and gentlemen! “Bondage to the Dead: Poland and the Memory of the Holocaust.” Michael, real quick, give us your number before you go.

Dr. Steinlauf: My number to order the book is Syracuse University Press 1-800-365-8929.

Roger: Michael, thank you! God bless! Absolute pleasure to make your acquaintance!

Dr. Steinlauf: Same to you, Roger! And God Bless for this series!

Roger: Alright, folks! That’s the end of the Holocaust Series. I know for some it means applause and for others it means tears. For me it means a rest for my mind.

Transcription is from MP3 file converted from original cassette with minimal editing by Chey Simonton.

Errors, if any, may be due to unintelligible sections of original 1997 audio technology. Unknown/unintelligible words are spelled phonetically.)

Memory

The Holocaust – We Must Remember – Daniel Goldhagen – Hitler’s Willing Executioners

THE HOLOCAUST: WE MUST REMEMBER 

30-Hour Series of Interviews broadcast on the Roger Fredinburg Radio Program

3-11-1998 Twentieth Program in Series

Guest: Dr. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen

Book: HITLER’S WILLING EXECUTIONERS: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust

ISBN-10: 0679772685 and ISBN-13: 978- 0679772682

goldhagen

Roger: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen! Thank you once again for joining us on our continuing Wednesday night series. We’re just about through this series on the holocaust. It’s been a long and arduous process, trying to get all this information out to you. I think we’ve focused quite a bit on the tragedies of Europe during World War II, the horror of the holocaust. We’ve heard the stories of people who were themselves the victims of some of the most incredible evil that mankind has ever bestowed on his fellow-man. We’ve heard numerous stories about the victims; how they survived, why they survived, those kinds of things.

Tonight we explore something quite different than we’ve talked about in the past. There is a wonderful, wonderful book, ladies and gentlemen, outlining some of the more intricate details about the people who actually did the killing, a wonderful book written by Daniel Goldhagen, titled “Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust.” Powerful stuff! I want to bring Professor Goldhagen up right now. Daniel, how are you?

Dr. Goldhagen: I’m fine, how are you?

Roger: I’m really good tonight. Listen, could you tell the folks just a little bit about who you are and where you come from, Daniel?

Dr. Goldhagen: Professionally, I’m a professor at Harvard University. I’m a political scientist. I grew up in the Boston area and lived most of my life here. I lived for about 3 years in Germany studying and doing research for my work.

Roger:  Thank you very much! The book takes a little different slant on the issue of the holocaust, as you’re well aware. It’s quite a controversial book; but, compelling! It’s won a lot of awards and comes highly recommended. What were you trying to accomplish? I mean, the title is fairly broad; but, “Hitler’s Willing Executioners”? Tell us about that! Who were they?

Dr. Goldhagen:  First, let me tell you the reason I wrote the book was to fill in a gap in our knowledge. When I began this study in the mid-1980s, you could read the entire scholarly literature on the holocaust and you would have learned almost nothing about the people who were the killers! It seems obvious that until you know a great deal about these people; who they were, where they came from, what their lives were like in the institutions of killing, what they thought about what they were doing, why they acted as they did, what choices they made, and many other things, you can’t possibly explain how and why the holocaust happened. So, I just set out to learn whatever I could and this book is the result of that.

When I went to Germany to do the research, the principal source of which is the testimony of the killers themselves, the perpetrators. Most of my book is told in their own words. I discovered things that led me to conclude that we needed to revise our understanding of the holocaust in central ways. I’ll just tell you of three of the things very quickly.

One is that many of the killers were not SS men, contrary to how they’ve often been presented. They were ordinary Germans from every walk of life.

A second fact is that, contrary to how they’ve often been represented, the number of killers was by no means small. There were at least 100,000 Germans who were intimately involved in the slaughter of Jews. The number may have been far higher.

The third fact is that in the history of the holocaust, never was a single German perpetrator himself ever killed, sent to a concentration camp, jailed or punished in any serious way for refusing to kill Jews. It simply never happened! Many of the killers knew they didn’t have to because their commanders told them they did not have to!

All of this together conveys a portrait of the perpetrators as a large number of ordinary Germans who essentially chose to slaughter Jews and chose to brutalize them as well. The question of the book is ‘Why did they do it?”

The answer, which I’ll just say briefly now, is that it is clear that it was because they were Hitlerian anti-Semite–anti-Semites of the sort that Hitler was; who really believed that Jews were evil, that they had to be eliminated, in this case exterminated, if Germany was to survive and prosper.

Roger: Let’s start at the beginning of your book and talk about what you term as “recasting” the view of anti-Semitism. I’m not even sure people realize what anti-Semitism is. It’s the hatred of Jews; but, it’s more than that!

Dr. Goldhagen:  Right. What I’m going to say about anti-Semitism pertains to other kinds of prejudice as well; so we can think about prejudice against African-Americans, prejudice against Latinos, prejudice against any other group. We have a linguistic problem, a conceptual problem which is that even though anti-Semitism or other kinds of prejudice has enormously wide ranges and differences, we only have one term to describe all the different kinds of antisemitism and that term is “anti-semitism”.   So, a person says that “Jews are stingy”, a common stereotype; unflattering, but not the worst thing in the world, you could say.

Roger: Powerful enough to have adjectives in popular society like, “he jewed me down.”

Dr. Goldhagen:  Yes, but this person is called an anti-Semite and so is Hitler. Now, a person who thinks Jews are stingy and Hitler are worlds apart in what they believe about Jews and the things they would do. Yet, we only have this one term. We use the term racism, too. A person who makes a prejudicial remark is called a racist. Someone like David Dukes is a racist.

So, we have to get beyond this initial terminology and try to focus more on the content of people’s anti-Semitism. Always ask what exactly do they believe about Jews. What do they believe the Jews alleged evil nature is and why do they believe Jews are the way they say Jews are? We can ask these questions about racism of other kinds, too. Only when we do that will we begin to understand the character and nature of anti-Semitism in a given society.

Roger: When I think of anti-Semitism I always think of the Nazis. I mean, that’s the first thing that flashes through my mind. anti-Semite = Nazi.

Dr. Goldhagen. Sure!

Roger: But, you’re saying that comparison is not necessarily accurate.

Dr. Goldhagen: I see. You’re saying when you meet an anti-Semite, when you hear of one in the U.S., you think he’s a Nazi. Is that what you’re saying?

Roger: Right.

Dr. Goldhagen: You know, it’s not entirely fair. Well, fair is not the issue. It’s not entirely accurate because there are people who think, “I don’t like certain characteristics of Jews.” You know, there are lots of group prejudices in our country. There are people who don’t like certain characteristics of Italian Americans. This can be a mild form or prejudice, bad as it is; but, a mild form. But, these same people would abhor what the Nazis did.

Roger: How could someone go from, “Gee, those bad, dumb Jews” in Germany in 1937 – to killing Jews in 1942? How could someone evolve to that level?

Dr. Goldhagen: Because in 1937 they already had very deep prejudices, I mean they had a really enormous hatred for Jews which they didn’t really act upon because there was not opportunity to act upon them. When Hitler began a program of extermination and these people found themselves in institutions of killing and were told that the Jews have to be killed, then they usually accepted these orders, believed they were right and acted upon them.

Let me give an example from American history that will make this a bit clearer. In the American south before the Civil War, whites, the vast majority of whites, believed that blacks were inferior and fit to be slaves. Right? Subhuman! Fit to be slaves! A deeply racist view of blacks that led them to do terrible things! After all, that’s almost as bad as it gets! So, this first indicates how beliefs can motivate people to do really terrible things. Then you could say, “Look, there are a lot of whites who didn’t have slaves.” They still shared the views— they just didn’t have the opportunity to have slaves, to be slaveholders, they didn’t have the money. When the opportunity arose, perhaps, when they got more money, then they were happy to own slaves.

Germans in 1937 who hated Jews had no opportunity to kill them because their leadership was not persecuting Jews in this way; but, when a program of persecution began they found they had no difficulty participating in it.

Roger: This had to be fairly gradually implemented. I mean, they didn’t just all of a sudden one day decide they were going to kill Jews! There had to be some psychological process…

Dr. Goldhagen: No, it’s not really so! The fact is that the radical persecution of Jews began in 1933 with all kinds of laws to remove them from German life, with attacks on them, but no systematic killing. The killing systematically only began in 1941, so there was a gradual escalation of the persecution. However, what you finally say about the killers, which is what my book is mainly about, you find that most of these guys were drafted into the units, they were given no particular training for the killing and they were suddenly told by their commanders one day that their job was to slaughter Jews! We have their own testimony that indicates that they did it willingly, without any process of habituation where there was ever more psychological involvement.

Roger: Alright. Try to explain to me how they viewed Jews. How did they see these people?

Dr. Goldhagen:  Okay. As I was saying before, whenever you confront anti-Semitism or another kind of prejudice or racism you should always ask— the first question should always be what exactly do they believe about Jews. That’s what you asked me.

There was a basic model of Jews which existed in Germany that most Germans accepted, not all Germans. In fact, there are exceptions to everything I’ll probably say this evening. The model had the following properties:

  1. First, Jews were believed to be fundamentally different than Germans. They were not Germans of the Jewish religion. They were deemed to be Jews, not Germans.
  2. Second, their differences were believed to reside in their biology, conceptualized in terms of race, what people today would call genetic. This meant that the nature of Jews could not be changed. They genuinely believed that Jews were the way they were because of their biology.
  3. The third element of this model was that Jews were evil, essentially devils in human form.
  4. The fourth element was that they were enormously powerful and therefore capable of doing   great harm, and were responsible for many of the harms that had befallen Germany.

When you put all this together you have a fearsome image of Jews which says that they are extremely powerful, malevolent by nature and can never be changed. If you believe this about a group of people, you think first, “We’ve got to somehow get rid of them” which is what Germans were for a long time thinking of doing. Then when someone said that the only way to do it effectively– permanently — finally, is to kill them; you could see how this could make sense to people who held these views.

Roger:  But, where does that hatred, that antisemitism, that death to the Jewish people come from?

Dr. Goldhagen:  Initially, the principal source of anti-Semitism in the Western world has been Christianity. This is very well documented. In medieval Christian society anti-Semitism in Europe was virtually universal. It was preached that Jews were Christ-killers, everyone has heard this old canard before, that they were in league with the devil, actually the servants of the devil, that they were responsible for many of the ills that befell European society. This was really axiomatic. It was preached from virtually every pulpit in Christian society. Jews were ghettoized. They were not allowed to be citizens or take full part in the life of the places where they lived.

Why Christianity developed such a deep hatred for Jews has to do with the ancient history of Christianity and the psychological need, if you want to put it that way, of the early Christians to differentiate themselves from Jews, to deprecate Judaism because the Christian claimed and believed that Christianity was supposed to replace Judaism. It was a contest, they had a common tradition, a common set of sacred texts, a common God and so built into the fabric of Christianity was a deprecation of Jews. So, this is the original source. Of course, I’m giving you a very brief account of it because it would take a long time to lay it out thoroughly.

In the modern world, this modern racial anti-Semitism which I described was a somewhat transformed form of this medieval anti-Semitism which had been pan-European. So, it’s really Christianity which produced this deep-seated, long lasting hatred in the Western world, although in the modern times this hatred of Jews has taken on its own life aside from and divorced from Christianity.

Roger: Well, I don’t know if people realize just how prevalent that it is out there. It’s unbelievable to me! It’s part of the reason we’re doing this series. I’m amazed that in 1990s America these kooks are sitting around with their little newsletters and write back and forth to each other as though they are authorities on some subject and carry on this concept of anti-Semitism to very great extremes. I don’t know how or why in the modern world when we have so much information, so much history, so much knowledge and ability, that we still find these fairly large pockets of the same kind of anti-Semitism.

Dr. Goldhagen: Well, you know, I concur with what you say. I would just want to broaden it a bit which is, when you think about the world you think, “There are people who hate another person just because his skin is darker than theirs, or hate another person because he looks different, or hate another person he happens to go to a different kind of religious building and they have different texts that they use to worship God.” As you said, when you think about it in those terms and it’s just kind of hard to believe on some level, that people actually hate for these reasons. But, as you say, the sad fact is that many do. A fundamental thing to be said about that and about the nature of prejudice is that people are prejudice not because of any real characteristics of the people who are hated; but, because of characteristics of them, the people who hate, which lead them to hate.   Most people who hate Blacks, who hate Jews or hate other groups don’t really know very much about Blacks and Jews. The hatred comes from sources within themselves and within their own groups or cultures. So if you want to try to understand the source of this hatred, you don’t look to Jews for anti-Semitism, you don’t look to African-Americans for racism to try to understand it, you don’t look to Hispanics to try understand anti-hispanic hatred, you look to the hearts and minds of the people who hate.

Roger:  Which brings us back to the core subject in your book which is those people who actually perpetrated the acts against other people in Germany. I think we’ve laid a fairly good foundation as to how the hate originally developed and carried on into the modern age; but, it still doesn’t explain to me –when you have a country, and I think Germany was widely known as a very Christian country in the 1920s and 1930s, I think even far more civilized than the United States in some ways at that time— lots of culture and theater and art and dance–Dr. Goldhagen: The pinnacle of Western civilization.

Roger: Absolutely! So, to me it just confounds the mind that those people who were really quite sophisticated and modern ended up in this incredible moral abyss that we call the holocaust.

Dr. Goldhagen: Yes; but, you see, when you live in a society where these kinds of views are the common sense of the society, where most of the people believe it, you find that what we would like to believe, mainly that education is an inoculation against prejudice, we find that it is simply not true. Many of the people who were the killers, the leaders of the killing operations were people with PhD’s, people who were lawyers, doctors were deeply involved in this, highly educated people!

If we think of the American south in our own country, we see again how this is possible. So many slave owners, white southern society had many highly cultivated, literate men and women, many of whom were slave owners, many of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and others held slaves.

Roger: It was part of the culture!

Dr. Goldhagen: Part of the culture–they shared many of the views that were common in their time. Some of them came to reject it ultimately because, fortunately in the U.S., there was another view of slavery, a view that existed in the North and grew ever stronger, that such was an abomination.   In Germany there was no view that contested the dominate anti-semitic one which also had powerful institutional support. Therefore, most Germans were not exposed to views which would lead them to doubt the anti-Semitism they learned at home and all the institutions of society.

Roger: I understand that; but, since we’ve brought up American history, I want to look at another aspect of American history, that is the way in which we treated the American indians.   The American indians were certainly the recipients of certain acts of genocide. No question about that! But, I don’t know that there was an ingrained, religious-based hatred of indians!

Dr. Goldhagen: Well, it doesn’t have to be religious-based. There are many things that can motivate people to kill other people. I mean, hatred also means a variety of different things. The American indians or native Americans were deemed to be non-Christian heathens who were barbaric–so there was often a religious component to it. This is what was believed. And, who were a threat to the well-being of the settlers and also an impediment to the settlers desires to settle territory, farm and do whatever else they were going to do. Killing of people, genocide, is often motivated by the belief that another group is a threat that has to be eliminated. That’s what was believed about indians.

Roger:  Okay, Daniel, we’ve got to take a break here. When we come back I want you to tell some of the stories in your book; but, first I want you to talk about fear. I hear that word used a lot to describe some of the anxieties in our society, whether it’s the gay population or whatever. I’m not sure that’s an accurate depiction of the reality so I want you to address that as well. Ladies and gentlemen, Professor Daniel Goldhagen is with us this evening. His book, “Hitler’s Willing Executioners” is fascinating! We’ll tell you how to get the book later in the program. We’ll be right back.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger: Welcome back! We’re here with Dr. Daniel Goldhagen. His book is “Hitler’s Willing Executioners” is fascinating suff! Daniel, on the subject of fear, we hear that people are “phobic”; homophobic or whatever the case may be. But, I don’t find in my encounters with people who there’s an underlying fear. I wonder if you’d found that in your investigative work.

Dr. Goldhagen: You don’t find there’s an underlying fear of…..whom?

Roger: In other words, when someone says you’re homophobic, I don’t find that there’s a phobia.

Dr. Goldhagen: You know, those terms are very loosely put together. When the term homophobia, a term that has just come to be used for people who don’t like or hate people who are gay. There’s some whose obsessive hatred borders on a phobia; but, there are many who hate without having this kind of obsessive quality.

As it happened in Germany, there was a great deal of phobia that existed towards Jews, I mean the kinds of things said about Jews, the hallucinations–things that sound hallucinatory to us, which were just taken to be common sense at the time, can accurately be described as being “phobic.” Believing that Jews controlled all the levers of power in the world! The ran the Soviet Union, so it was believed! They ran the capitalist countries, so it was believed! It was said they lured German Christian children — unsuspecting girls –to defile them and use their blood for ceremonies! This kind of thing!   So there was really a phobic quality in Germany of the kind that we don’t find that often in our own society, even among people who are deeply prejudiced, though in certain groups you find it, like among the militia groups sometimes, the KKK.

Roger:  The guy waiting in the garage in his camouflage for the mailman because he knows he’s a spy! Ha, ha, ha!

Dr. Goldhagen: Yes! So, we know it exists here too.

Roger: So, take me, if you can, on a journey through the minds of some of these people in your book; what they were about, what did they care about, what did they believe in? Did they have standards of morality? Did they have convictions and ethical beliefs and those kinds of things? I’m curious about that.

Dr. Goldhagen: Sure. They had morality, just not the same morality that you and I share. They had moral views of the world, it’s just their moral views, that means that their views of what was right and wrong, were simply different from our own because they had a different map of the world, map of the social world. So, those who believed that Jews were really evil could at once be good Christians at home, treat their families well, treat their neighbors well, live most of the time good Christian lives, yet also say, “We have to get rid of the Jews and even violence and killing is permissible!”

Again, just like in the American south, there were many God-fearing people – or so they thought—who were slave owners. They just didn’t see the Blacks, the Africans, to be deserving of the same moral respect that other people were. So, you even have, for example, and this was exceptional–it wasn’t the norm; but, it’s worth presenting because it highlights this, you have the example of seven regional protestant churches in 1941 Germany putting out a public proclamation which said, “The Jews are the born enemy of Germans and mankind.” They could not be saved, therefore, by baptism because they were racially evil! Think of what a radical renunciation of fundamental Christian tenet this is, to renounce the power of baptism! They then went on to urge that the state take the severest measures against the Jews. It’s clear that these people knew that the German government had already begun to slaughter Jews systematically! So, what you have with this proclamation is something which is probably unique in the history of Christendom which is that major Christian leaders are endorsing the slaughter of other people! There were exceptions. There were many Christian leaders who disapproved of this. I just point to this as an indication of how people can at once believe that they are God-fearing, even live by their principles in regard to their own group; but, treat people who are deemed to be not in their group, or deemed to be inferior, or deemed to be an evil danger in ways that are profoundly anti-Christian!

Roger: It just absolutely stands the hair up on the back of my neck, trying to visualize this good German soldier heading home at night for a pot roast and potatoes, hanging out with the family, saying table grace, going to Bible study or church and then going back to the camps and killing Jews! I just can’t imagine what kind …. the dichotomy in the thinking process! I don’t get it! I just can’t get it!

Dr. Goldhagen: Yes, but you know it happened. It doesn’t make sense to you because you find it hard to imagine that people who were God-fearing could believe such things about Jews and then be willing to act upon them. But, I think you know…. I mean, tell me if I’m wrong; but, I think you know that these things existed, not just in Germany; but, in the American south.

Roger: My greatest fear is that we don’t learn the lesson of history. I’m afraid, Daniel, looking at the world as I view it, we haven’t learned much. When I think about…. and I’ve asked this question before, had the President of the United States and the mass media told the American citizenry what was happening in Germany, no one would have cared!

Dr. Goldhagen: Well, I don’t know about that….

Roger: It would not have been enough, it would not have been the catalyst to drag us into the war. It took Pearl Harbor and then the Japanese was the enemy and the War was fought in the south Pacific and we continued to ignore, even with the knowledge of what was going on in Hitler’s Germany.

Dr. Goldhagen: I’m not so sure that nobody….that most Americans wouldn’t have cared in some sense; but, I think your general point is well taken, or that your point is well taken and that it can even be generalized. It’s not just during the holocaust; but, in every genocide that has occurred since then, that the nation states of the world, including our own country, have done little or nothing to intervene in order to put an end to the systematic killing of men, women and children.

Roger: Alright. But, does that bring about a greater question which is; is it our place to do that? Is it our obligation to humanity?

Dr. Goldhagen: Well, you know, I certainly think that when a state or a group of people is slaughtering other people by the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, including little children, it is the moral obligation for all people to use whatever means they can in order to stop that. Yes, our obligation is to….

Roger: Alright!   Now having said that, the obvious question is; why don’t we?

Dr. Goldhagen: Why don’t we? Because the decision to do so is taken by a very small number of people; the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State and so on. These people act upon what they consider to be our “ national interests” and if a few hundred thousand people in Africa are being slaughtered, that doesn’t intrude into our “national interest”— or in Asia or lots of other places in the world. It is because our leadership has a very cold, calculating, self-interested view of the world that what I assert to be actually necessary moral action on the part of anyone who wants to consider himself to be a good Christian, a good Jews, a good moral being, that such action is not taken!

Roger: We first heard a term which was talked about in right-wing circles today called the New World Order. Adolf Hitler really spurred on this concept of a global power being the global governing nucleus of the world.

Dr. Goldhagen: That’s right.

Roger: When I look at the world today I see us heading in that direction. Of course, if we were a global community we would probably react differently to these circumstances, right?

Dr. Goldhagen: Sure.

Roger: So there’s a motivation by some to move us in that direction, and yet there’s this concept of sovereignty, especially if you’re an American, a country founded on principles far different from any other place in the world, no one wants to let go of their individuality as a nation, as a sovereign person. So, how do we hope….. because at any time in history when people have tried it’s been referred to as Machiavellian or whatever, when people have tried to conceptualize this global government where these problems might be handled differently. We always end up in great wars and things kind of collapse as we approach that concept.

Dr. Goldhagen: Right.

Roger: And yet, I think people make a legitimate argument when they say if we don’t let go of that sentiment like “this is America, it’s none of our business—- who the heck cares if a half million Rwandans are killed today,” then we’ll never get past the very thing that we object to with regard to Nazi Germany.

Dr. Goldhagen: Well, you know, you’ve raised very difficult problems. First, let me emphasize a point that you said or what you implied when you said….

Roger: We have to take a break, Daniel. Can you hold on and we’ll get back to it on the other side of the break. Don’t lose track of where we’re at here!

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger:  Alright, ladies and gentlemen, the book Dr. Daniel Goldhagen is a wonderful book, “Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust.” We’ll just barely get to this subject tonight, Daniel, as you can well imagine; but, we started in a direction and I want to go back there.

Dr. Goldhagen: Okay. I was just going to say that people should ask themselves why the life of a Rwandan child, a member of the Tutsi people in Rwanda, is any less valuable than the life of an American child.

Roger: Well, that’s a real hard question to ask yourself because we’re so detached from that.

Dr. Goldhagen: Well, one has to ask it in these terms; is that child’s life any less valuable?

Roger: Let’s go back into the minds — In your book you point out that a lot of these people who were killing agents for Hitler were not just SS officers; but, they were battalion policemen and all kinds of different …

Dr. Goldhagen: Just guys who were drafted to the duty….

Roger: Yeah! Just people! They got the orders to kill, “Hey! It’s okay to kill! We’re supposed to kill ’em!” Boom! We’ll kill them, okay?

It’s sad and hopeless; but, is there some kind of mindset where we find ourselves seeing the uselessness of other people? In other words, if I can identify — let’s say I’m a German battalion policeman with this order — if I can identify the Jew as a “useless eater” — they’re just garbage, they’re not even really people. If that now transfers through time, evolves so to speak, that subtle thinking process; now I’m an American in Hoboken and I’m watching my television set hearing about a half million colored folks in Rwanda killing each other machetes, do I find myself with that sentiment in the back of my mind? That they’re just useless people? 

Dr. Goldhagen: Well, if one does, then one is deeply prejudiced against those people. We should just say….

Roger: But, how could we sit back and watch that and not think that, and yet react, respond and act upon…

Dr. Goldhagen: But, many people do see that and they think this is an enormous, grave crime; but, the capacity of isolated individuals in this country to do much about it is really very small. If people would rouse themselves and clamor for the decision-makers in Washington….

Roger: Daniel, I’ve been here on the radio for years and I was certainly on the radio when the Rwandan incident came up, the Bosnian and the Balkan crisis. I am not at this moment recollecting any great moment of worry or calls of concern from the American people. They just didn’t seem to respond to it.

Dr. Goldhagen: You know, it’s not clear how much most people knew about it. I don’t know when you’re talking about your radio station.

Take Somalia, for example. When it became clear that there was mass starvation going on in Somalia, when we saw it every night on the news, a lot of pressure began to develop on Washington to do some intervention. Then a halt was put to it when the American soldier was dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. Nevertheless, when people were confronted by the horror, they said this is something that is just abominable!

Part of the problem is that news organizations, opinion leaders, politicians simply don’t work to inform the American people about the horrors taking place in many countries around the world. I’m not saying that if they did, everybody would immediately say that we should do something about it. In fact, many people don’t want to do anything about it. But, there are still many people in this country who would be willing to back some kind of action.

Roger:  You know, Daniel, in almost every major city in our country we have horrible inter-racial and cross-racial killings of people every day! We have the gang bangers. We have the drug culture. We have this whole new strange kind of urban jungle that’s developed in the inner-cities of America. The people that I talk to really consider that when Blacks drive by and kill each other in gang-related shootings as the “good riddance” factor! Is that something that comes from hatred? Or have we just determined, as these German men that you talked about in your book, we’ve just determined for ourselves that these people are useless anyway?

Dr. Goldhagen: First of all, there again are distinctions. Sometimes people are deemed to be “useless eaters” as the Germans put it; but, in Germany it was actually something different. The Jews were not considered to be “useless eaters.” They were considered to be a powerful force of evil who actually needed to be destroyed.

Roger: Alright, but; how would we treat inner-city blacks in America if they were on top of the obvious lack of concern for their well-being, thought of them also as evil?

Dr. Goldhagen: If they were thought of as evil, that’s a big “If” that would be acted upon. Let me ask you, do you actually think that if the government drafted just some cross-section of white American society and told people, “Go slaughter children!” Black children, Hispanic children, whoever they’re prejudiced against, any group, do you find that most people would just do this if they knew they had an option not to do it?

Roger: I think people charged with the duty would.

Dr. Goldhagen: Everyone?

Roger: I think people charged with the duty would do it.

Dr. Goldhagen: Even if they were told they didn’t have to do it?

Roger:  I think whether it’s the BATF or FBI man in Waco, Texas….

Dr. Goldhagen: Not a BATF or FBI….

Roger: Or a sniper in Ruby Ridge, Idaho….

Dr. Goldhagen:  I’m talking about regular guys who are just drafted into the duty.

Roger: Well, you know, I don’t know. I should know! I should say to you flatly, No Way! Never in America! But, I don’t know that I believe it. I believe that some would, many would.

Dr. Goldhagen: Okay. But, many would not, right?

Roger: I think that’s true.

Dr. Goldhagen: Don’t you think there would be a large segment of the American population who would be outraged by this?

Roger: I would hope so!

Dr. Goldhagen: Well, I’m convinced of it!

Roger: I think we’d probably end up in Civil War over it which would be the same thing.

Dr. Goldhagen: Look at the scenario we’re spinning.

Roger: No! I mean because when I see these things, I’m trying to look at the whole world and put it in perspective with what I can touch, feel and see in my own country. We could care more about each other, Daniel.

Dr. Goldhagen: Um hum.

Roger:  And if we could find a way to care more about each other than these things wouldn’t ever happen; but, I’m afraid, my friend, as I’ve been through about 18 weeks of this now, that it could happen again.

Dr. Goldhagen: We’ll it has happened again, not to Jews but to other people.

Roger:  To any segment of the world that someone decided to set aside.

Dr. Goldhagen: You know, there are many groups that are vulnerable because there are great hatreds and because they have enemies who contemplate doing these kinds of things.

Roger: Yes, we have our work cut out for us. Daniel, we’ve run out of the hour here, my friend. Could you tell folks real quickly how to get your book?

Dr. Goldhagen: My book is available at www.amazon.com and at every Barnes & Noble. It’s called, “Hitler’s Willing Executioners.” It’s really very, very widely available in paperback from Vintage Books.

Roger: Alright. Thank you, sir. God Bless! It’s been great to have you here. Continue of with your good work. It’s a wonderful book.

Dr. Goldhagen: Thank you! You’re doing a wonderful job, too! I enjoyed it, bye-bye!

Roger:  Ladies and gentlemen, that will conclude this week’s presentation of The Holocaust: We Must Remember. Thank you so much for participating and being here tonight. Dr. Goldhagen’s book really is a worthy read because it takes a close, intricate look into the minds of the people who actually did the killing in Nazi Germany. Whew! Powerful stuff!

Transcription is from MP3 file converted from original cassette with minimal editing by Chey Simonton.

Errors, if any, may be due to unintelligible sections of original 1997 audio technology. Unknown/unintelligible words are spelled phonetically.)

The Holocaust – We Must Remember – Daniel Goldhagen – Hitler's Willing Executioners

THE HOLOCAUST: WE MUST REMEMBER 

30-Hour Series of Interviews broadcast on the Roger Fredinburg Radio Program
3-11-1998 Twentieth Program in Series
Guest: Dr. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
Book: HITLER’S WILLING EXECUTIONERS: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust
ISBN-10: 0679772685 and ISBN-13: 978- 0679772682
goldhagen
Roger: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen! Thank you once again for joining us on our continuing Wednesday night series. We’re just about through this series on the holocaust. It’s been a long and arduous process, trying to get all this information out to you. I think we’ve focused quite a bit on the tragedies of Europe during World War II, the horror of the holocaust. We’ve heard the stories of people who were themselves the victims of some of the most incredible evil that mankind has ever bestowed on his fellow-man. We’ve heard numerous stories about the victims; how they survived, why they survived, those kinds of things.
Tonight we explore something quite different than we’ve talked about in the past. There is a wonderful, wonderful book, ladies and gentlemen, outlining some of the more intricate details about the people who actually did the killing, a wonderful book written by Daniel Goldhagen, titled “Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust.” Powerful stuff! I want to bring Professor Goldhagen up right now. Daniel, how are you?
Dr. Goldhagen: I’m fine, how are you?
Roger: I’m really good tonight. Listen, could you tell the folks just a little bit about who you are and where you come from, Daniel?
Dr. Goldhagen: Professionally, I’m a professor at Harvard University. I’m a political scientist. I grew up in the Boston area and lived most of my life here. I lived for about 3 years in Germany studying and doing research for my work.
Roger:  Thank you very much! The book takes a little different slant on the issue of the holocaust, as you’re well aware. It’s quite a controversial book; but, compelling! It’s won a lot of awards and comes highly recommended. What were you trying to accomplish? I mean, the title is fairly broad; but, “Hitler’s Willing Executioners”? Tell us about that! Who were they?
Dr. Goldhagen:  First, let me tell you the reason I wrote the book was to fill in a gap in our knowledge. When I began this study in the mid-1980s, you could read the entire scholarly literature on the holocaust and you would have learned almost nothing about the people who were the killers! It seems obvious that until you know a great deal about these people; who they were, where they came from, what their lives were like in the institutions of killing, what they thought about what they were doing, why they acted as they did, what choices they made, and many other things, you can’t possibly explain how and why the holocaust happened. So, I just set out to learn whatever I could and this book is the result of that.
When I went to Germany to do the research, the principal source of which is the testimony of the killers themselves, the perpetrators. Most of my book is told in their own words. I discovered things that led me to conclude that we needed to revise our understanding of the holocaust in central ways. I’ll just tell you of three of the things very quickly.
One is that many of the killers were not SS men, contrary to how they’ve often been presented. They were ordinary Germans from every walk of life.
A second fact is that, contrary to how they’ve often been represented, the number of killers was by no means small. There were at least 100,000 Germans who were intimately involved in the slaughter of Jews. The number may have been far higher.
The third fact is that in the history of the holocaust, never was a single German perpetrator himself ever killed, sent to a concentration camp, jailed or punished in any serious way for refusing to kill Jews. It simply never happened! Many of the killers knew they didn’t have to because their commanders told them they did not have to!
All of this together conveys a portrait of the perpetrators as a large number of ordinary Germans who essentially chose to slaughter Jews and chose to brutalize them as well. The question of the book is ‘Why did they do it?”
The answer, which I’ll just say briefly now, is that it is clear that it was because they were Hitlerian anti-Semite–anti-Semites of the sort that Hitler was; who really believed that Jews were evil, that they had to be eliminated, in this case exterminated, if Germany was to survive and prosper.
Roger: Let’s start at the beginning of your book and talk about what you term as “recasting” the view of anti-Semitism. I’m not even sure people realize what anti-Semitism is. It’s the hatred of Jews; but, it’s more than that!
Dr. Goldhagen:  Right. What I’m going to say about anti-Semitism pertains to other kinds of prejudice as well; so we can think about prejudice against African-Americans, prejudice against Latinos, prejudice against any other group. We have a linguistic problem, a conceptual problem which is that even though anti-Semitism or other kinds of prejudice has enormously wide ranges and differences, we only have one term to describe all the different kinds of antisemitism and that term is “anti-semitism”.   So, a person says that “Jews are stingy”, a common stereotype; unflattering, but not the worst thing in the world, you could say.
Roger: Powerful enough to have adjectives in popular society like, “he jewed me down.”
Dr. Goldhagen:  Yes, but this person is called an anti-Semite and so is Hitler. Now, a person who thinks Jews are stingy and Hitler are worlds apart in what they believe about Jews and the things they would do. Yet, we only have this one term. We use the term racism, too. A person who makes a prejudicial remark is called a racist. Someone like David Dukes is a racist.
So, we have to get beyond this initial terminology and try to focus more on the content of people’s anti-Semitism. Always ask what exactly do they believe about Jews. What do they believe the Jews alleged evil nature is and why do they believe Jews are the way they say Jews are? We can ask these questions about racism of other kinds, too. Only when we do that will we begin to understand the character and nature of anti-Semitism in a given society.
Roger: When I think of anti-Semitism I always think of the Nazis. I mean, that’s the first thing that flashes through my mind. anti-Semite = Nazi.
Dr. Goldhagen. Sure!
Roger: But, you’re saying that comparison is not necessarily accurate.
Dr. Goldhagen: I see. You’re saying when you meet an anti-Semite, when you hear of one in the U.S., you think he’s a Nazi. Is that what you’re saying?
Roger: Right.
Dr. Goldhagen: You know, it’s not entirely fair. Well, fair is not the issue. It’s not entirely accurate because there are people who think, “I don’t like certain characteristics of Jews.” You know, there are lots of group prejudices in our country. There are people who don’t like certain characteristics of Italian Americans. This can be a mild form or prejudice, bad as it is; but, a mild form. But, these same people would abhor what the Nazis did.
Roger: How could someone go from, “Gee, those bad, dumb Jews” in Germany in 1937 – to killing Jews in 1942? How could someone evolve to that level?
Dr. Goldhagen: Because in 1937 they already had very deep prejudices, I mean they had a really enormous hatred for Jews which they didn’t really act upon because there was not opportunity to act upon them. When Hitler began a program of extermination and these people found themselves in institutions of killing and were told that the Jews have to be killed, then they usually accepted these orders, believed they were right and acted upon them.
Let me give an example from American history that will make this a bit clearer. In the American south before the Civil War, whites, the vast majority of whites, believed that blacks were inferior and fit to be slaves. Right? Subhuman! Fit to be slaves! A deeply racist view of blacks that led them to do terrible things! After all, that’s almost as bad as it gets! So, this first indicates how beliefs can motivate people to do really terrible things. Then you could say, “Look, there are a lot of whites who didn’t have slaves.” They still shared the views— they just didn’t have the opportunity to have slaves, to be slaveholders, they didn’t have the money. When the opportunity arose, perhaps, when they got more money, then they were happy to own slaves.
Germans in 1937 who hated Jews had no opportunity to kill them because their leadership was not persecuting Jews in this way; but, when a program of persecution began they found they had no difficulty participating in it.
Roger: This had to be fairly gradually implemented. I mean, they didn’t just all of a sudden one day decide they were going to kill Jews! There had to be some psychological process…
Dr. Goldhagen: No, it’s not really so! The fact is that the radical persecution of Jews began in 1933 with all kinds of laws to remove them from German life, with attacks on them, but no systematic killing. The killing systematically only began in 1941, so there was a gradual escalation of the persecution. However, what you finally say about the killers, which is what my book is mainly about, you find that most of these guys were drafted into the units, they were given no particular training for the killing and they were suddenly told by their commanders one day that their job was to slaughter Jews! We have their own testimony that indicates that they did it willingly, without any process of habituation where there was ever more psychological involvement.
Roger: Alright. Try to explain to me how they viewed Jews. How did they see these people?
Dr. Goldhagen:  Okay. As I was saying before, whenever you confront anti-Semitism or another kind of prejudice or racism you should always ask— the first question should always be what exactly do they believe about Jews. That’s what you asked me.
There was a basic model of Jews which existed in Germany that most Germans accepted, not all Germans. In fact, there are exceptions to everything I’ll probably say this evening. The model had the following properties:

  1. First, Jews were believed to be fundamentally different than Germans. They were not Germans of the Jewish religion. They were deemed to be Jews, not Germans.
  2. Second, their differences were believed to reside in their biology, conceptualized in terms of race, what people today would call genetic. This meant that the nature of Jews could not be changed. They genuinely believed that Jews were the way they were because of their biology.
  3. The third element of this model was that Jews were evil, essentially devils in human form.
  4. The fourth element was that they were enormously powerful and therefore capable of doing   great harm, and were responsible for many of the harms that had befallen Germany.

When you put all this together you have a fearsome image of Jews which says that they are extremely powerful, malevolent by nature and can never be changed. If you believe this about a group of people, you think first, “We’ve got to somehow get rid of them” which is what Germans were for a long time thinking of doing. Then when someone said that the only way to do it effectively– permanently — finally, is to kill them; you could see how this could make sense to people who held these views.
Roger:  But, where does that hatred, that antisemitism, that death to the Jewish people come from?
Dr. Goldhagen:  Initially, the principal source of anti-Semitism in the Western world has been Christianity. This is very well documented. In medieval Christian society anti-Semitism in Europe was virtually universal. It was preached that Jews were Christ-killers, everyone has heard this old canard before, that they were in league with the devil, actually the servants of the devil, that they were responsible for many of the ills that befell European society. This was really axiomatic. It was preached from virtually every pulpit in Christian society. Jews were ghettoized. They were not allowed to be citizens or take full part in the life of the places where they lived.
Why Christianity developed such a deep hatred for Jews has to do with the ancient history of Christianity and the psychological need, if you want to put it that way, of the early Christians to differentiate themselves from Jews, to deprecate Judaism because the Christian claimed and believed that Christianity was supposed to replace Judaism. It was a contest, they had a common tradition, a common set of sacred texts, a common God and so built into the fabric of Christianity was a deprecation of Jews. So, this is the original source. Of course, I’m giving you a very brief account of it because it would take a long time to lay it out thoroughly.
In the modern world, this modern racial anti-Semitism which I described was a somewhat transformed form of this medieval anti-Semitism which had been pan-European. So, it’s really Christianity which produced this deep-seated, long lasting hatred in the Western world, although in the modern times this hatred of Jews has taken on its own life aside from and divorced from Christianity.
Roger: Well, I don’t know if people realize just how prevalent that it is out there. It’s unbelievable to me! It’s part of the reason we’re doing this series. I’m amazed that in 1990s America these kooks are sitting around with their little newsletters and write back and forth to each other as though they are authorities on some subject and carry on this concept of anti-Semitism to very great extremes. I don’t know how or why in the modern world when we have so much information, so much history, so much knowledge and ability, that we still find these fairly large pockets of the same kind of anti-Semitism.
Dr. Goldhagen: Well, you know, I concur with what you say. I would just want to broaden it a bit which is, when you think about the world you think, “There are people who hate another person just because his skin is darker than theirs, or hate another person because he looks different, or hate another person he happens to go to a different kind of religious building and they have different texts that they use to worship God.” As you said, when you think about it in those terms and it’s just kind of hard to believe on some level, that people actually hate for these reasons. But, as you say, the sad fact is that many do. A fundamental thing to be said about that and about the nature of prejudice is that people are prejudice not because of any real characteristics of the people who are hated; but, because of characteristics of them, the people who hate, which lead them to hate.   Most people who hate Blacks, who hate Jews or hate other groups don’t really know very much about Blacks and Jews. The hatred comes from sources within themselves and within their own groups or cultures. So if you want to try to understand the source of this hatred, you don’t look to Jews for anti-Semitism, you don’t look to African-Americans for racism to try to understand it, you don’t look to Hispanics to try understand anti-hispanic hatred, you look to the hearts and minds of the people who hate.
Roger:  Which brings us back to the core subject in your book which is those people who actually perpetrated the acts against other people in Germany. I think we’ve laid a fairly good foundation as to how the hate originally developed and carried on into the modern age; but, it still doesn’t explain to me –when you have a country, and I think Germany was widely known as a very Christian country in the 1920s and 1930s, I think even far more civilized than the United States in some ways at that time— lots of culture and theater and art and dance–Dr. Goldhagen: The pinnacle of Western civilization.
Roger: Absolutely! So, to me it just confounds the mind that those people who were really quite sophisticated and modern ended up in this incredible moral abyss that we call the holocaust.
Dr. Goldhagen: Yes; but, you see, when you live in a society where these kinds of views are the common sense of the society, where most of the people believe it, you find that what we would like to believe, mainly that education is an inoculation against prejudice, we find that it is simply not true. Many of the people who were the killers, the leaders of the killing operations were people with PhD’s, people who were lawyers, doctors were deeply involved in this, highly educated people!
If we think of the American south in our own country, we see again how this is possible. So many slave owners, white southern society had many highly cultivated, literate men and women, many of whom were slave owners, many of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and others held slaves.
Roger: It was part of the culture!
Dr. Goldhagen: Part of the culture–they shared many of the views that were common in their time. Some of them came to reject it ultimately because, fortunately in the U.S., there was another view of slavery, a view that existed in the North and grew ever stronger, that such was an abomination.   In Germany there was no view that contested the dominate anti-semitic one which also had powerful institutional support. Therefore, most Germans were not exposed to views which would lead them to doubt the anti-Semitism they learned at home and all the institutions of society.
Roger: I understand that; but, since we’ve brought up American history, I want to look at another aspect of American history, that is the way in which we treated the American indians.   The American indians were certainly the recipients of certain acts of genocide. No question about that! But, I don’t know that there was an ingrained, religious-based hatred of indians!
Dr. Goldhagen: Well, it doesn’t have to be religious-based. There are many things that can motivate people to kill other people. I mean, hatred also means a variety of different things. The American indians or native Americans were deemed to be non-Christian heathens who were barbaric–so there was often a religious component to it. This is what was believed. And, who were a threat to the well-being of the settlers and also an impediment to the settlers desires to settle territory, farm and do whatever else they were going to do. Killing of people, genocide, is often motivated by the belief that another group is a threat that has to be eliminated. That’s what was believed about indians.
Roger:  Okay, Daniel, we’ve got to take a break here. When we come back I want you to tell some of the stories in your book; but, first I want you to talk about fear. I hear that word used a lot to describe some of the anxieties in our society, whether it’s the gay population or whatever. I’m not sure that’s an accurate depiction of the reality so I want you to address that as well. Ladies and gentlemen, Professor Daniel Goldhagen is with us this evening. His book, “Hitler’s Willing Executioners” is fascinating! We’ll tell you how to get the book later in the program. We’ll be right back.
COMMERCIAL BREAK
Roger: Welcome back! We’re here with Dr. Daniel Goldhagen. His book is “Hitler’s Willing Executioners” is fascinating suff! Daniel, on the subject of fear, we hear that people are “phobic”; homophobic or whatever the case may be. But, I don’t find in my encounters with people who there’s an underlying fear. I wonder if you’d found that in your investigative work.
Dr. Goldhagen: You don’t find there’s an underlying fear of…..whom?
Roger: In other words, when someone says you’re homophobic, I don’t find that there’s a phobia.
Dr. Goldhagen: You know, those terms are very loosely put together. When the term homophobia, a term that has just come to be used for people who don’t like or hate people who are gay. There’s some whose obsessive hatred borders on a phobia; but, there are many who hate without having this kind of obsessive quality.
As it happened in Germany, there was a great deal of phobia that existed towards Jews, I mean the kinds of things said about Jews, the hallucinations–things that sound hallucinatory to us, which were just taken to be common sense at the time, can accurately be described as being “phobic.” Believing that Jews controlled all the levers of power in the world! The ran the Soviet Union, so it was believed! They ran the capitalist countries, so it was believed! It was said they lured German Christian children — unsuspecting girls –to defile them and use their blood for ceremonies! This kind of thing!   So there was really a phobic quality in Germany of the kind that we don’t find that often in our own society, even among people who are deeply prejudiced, though in certain groups you find it, like among the militia groups sometimes, the KKK.
Roger:  The guy waiting in the garage in his camouflage for the mailman because he knows he’s a spy! Ha, ha, ha!
Dr. Goldhagen: Yes! So, we know it exists here too.
Roger: So, take me, if you can, on a journey through the minds of some of these people in your book; what they were about, what did they care about, what did they believe in? Did they have standards of morality? Did they have convictions and ethical beliefs and those kinds of things? I’m curious about that.
Dr. Goldhagen: Sure. They had morality, just not the same morality that you and I share. They had moral views of the world, it’s just their moral views, that means that their views of what was right and wrong, were simply different from our own because they had a different map of the world, map of the social world. So, those who believed that Jews were really evil could at once be good Christians at home, treat their families well, treat their neighbors well, live most of the time good Christian lives, yet also say, “We have to get rid of the Jews and even violence and killing is permissible!”
Again, just like in the American south, there were many God-fearing people – or so they thought—who were slave owners. They just didn’t see the Blacks, the Africans, to be deserving of the same moral respect that other people were. So, you even have, for example, and this was exceptional–it wasn’t the norm; but, it’s worth presenting because it highlights this, you have the example of seven regional protestant churches in 1941 Germany putting out a public proclamation which said, “The Jews are the born enemy of Germans and mankind.” They could not be saved, therefore, by baptism because they were racially evil! Think of what a radical renunciation of fundamental Christian tenet this is, to renounce the power of baptism! They then went on to urge that the state take the severest measures against the Jews. It’s clear that these people knew that the German government had already begun to slaughter Jews systematically! So, what you have with this proclamation is something which is probably unique in the history of Christendom which is that major Christian leaders are endorsing the slaughter of other people! There were exceptions. There were many Christian leaders who disapproved of this. I just point to this as an indication of how people can at once believe that they are God-fearing, even live by their principles in regard to their own group; but, treat people who are deemed to be not in their group, or deemed to be inferior, or deemed to be an evil danger in ways that are profoundly anti-Christian!
Roger: It just absolutely stands the hair up on the back of my neck, trying to visualize this good German soldier heading home at night for a pot roast and potatoes, hanging out with the family, saying table grace, going to Bible study or church and then going back to the camps and killing Jews! I just can’t imagine what kind …. the dichotomy in the thinking process! I don’t get it! I just can’t get it!
Dr. Goldhagen: Yes, but you know it happened. It doesn’t make sense to you because you find it hard to imagine that people who were God-fearing could believe such things about Jews and then be willing to act upon them. But, I think you know…. I mean, tell me if I’m wrong; but, I think you know that these things existed, not just in Germany; but, in the American south.
Roger: My greatest fear is that we don’t learn the lesson of history. I’m afraid, Daniel, looking at the world as I view it, we haven’t learned much. When I think about…. and I’ve asked this question before, had the President of the United States and the mass media told the American citizenry what was happening in Germany, no one would have cared!
Dr. Goldhagen: Well, I don’t know about that….
Roger: It would not have been enough, it would not have been the catalyst to drag us into the war. It took Pearl Harbor and then the Japanese was the enemy and the War was fought in the south Pacific and we continued to ignore, even with the knowledge of what was going on in Hitler’s Germany.
Dr. Goldhagen: I’m not so sure that nobody….that most Americans wouldn’t have cared in some sense; but, I think your general point is well taken, or that your point is well taken and that it can even be generalized. It’s not just during the holocaust; but, in every genocide that has occurred since then, that the nation states of the world, including our own country, have done little or nothing to intervene in order to put an end to the systematic killing of men, women and children.
Roger: Alright. But, does that bring about a greater question which is; is it our place to do that? Is it our obligation to humanity?
Dr. Goldhagen: Well, you know, I certainly think that when a state or a group of people is slaughtering other people by the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, including little children, it is the moral obligation for all people to use whatever means they can in order to stop that. Yes, our obligation is to….
Roger: Alright!   Now having said that, the obvious question is; why don’t we?
Dr. Goldhagen: Why don’t we? Because the decision to do so is taken by a very small number of people; the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State and so on. These people act upon what they consider to be our “ national interests” and if a few hundred thousand people in Africa are being slaughtered, that doesn’t intrude into our “national interest”— or in Asia or lots of other places in the world. It is because our leadership has a very cold, calculating, self-interested view of the world that what I assert to be actually necessary moral action on the part of anyone who wants to consider himself to be a good Christian, a good Jews, a good moral being, that such action is not taken!
Roger: We first heard a term which was talked about in right-wing circles today called the New World Order. Adolf Hitler really spurred on this concept of a global power being the global governing nucleus of the world.
Dr. Goldhagen: That’s right.
Roger: When I look at the world today I see us heading in that direction. Of course, if we were a global community we would probably react differently to these circumstances, right?
Dr. Goldhagen: Sure.
Roger: So there’s a motivation by some to move us in that direction, and yet there’s this concept of sovereignty, especially if you’re an American, a country founded on principles far different from any other place in the world, no one wants to let go of their individuality as a nation, as a sovereign person. So, how do we hope….. because at any time in history when people have tried it’s been referred to as Machiavellian or whatever, when people have tried to conceptualize this global government where these problems might be handled differently. We always end up in great wars and things kind of collapse as we approach that concept.
Dr. Goldhagen: Right.
Roger: And yet, I think people make a legitimate argument when they say if we don’t let go of that sentiment like “this is America, it’s none of our business—- who the heck cares if a half million Rwandans are killed today,” then we’ll never get past the very thing that we object to with regard to Nazi Germany.
Dr. Goldhagen: Well, you know, you’ve raised very difficult problems. First, let me emphasize a point that you said or what you implied when you said….
Roger: We have to take a break, Daniel. Can you hold on and we’ll get back to it on the other side of the break. Don’t lose track of where we’re at here!
COMMERCIAL BREAK
Roger:  Alright, ladies and gentlemen, the book Dr. Daniel Goldhagen is a wonderful book, “Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust.” We’ll just barely get to this subject tonight, Daniel, as you can well imagine; but, we started in a direction and I want to go back there.
Dr. Goldhagen: Okay. I was just going to say that people should ask themselves why the life of a Rwandan child, a member of the Tutsi people in Rwanda, is any less valuable than the life of an American child.
Roger: Well, that’s a real hard question to ask yourself because we’re so detached from that.
Dr. Goldhagen: Well, one has to ask it in these terms; is that child’s life any less valuable?
Roger: Let’s go back into the minds — In your book you point out that a lot of these people who were killing agents for Hitler were not just SS officers; but, they were battalion policemen and all kinds of different …
Dr. Goldhagen: Just guys who were drafted to the duty….
Roger: Yeah! Just people! They got the orders to kill, “Hey! It’s okay to kill! We’re supposed to kill ’em!” Boom! We’ll kill them, okay?
It’s sad and hopeless; but, is there some kind of mindset where we find ourselves seeing the uselessness of other people? In other words, if I can identify — let’s say I’m a German battalion policeman with this order — if I can identify the Jew as a “useless eater” — they’re just garbage, they’re not even really people. If that now transfers through time, evolves so to speak, that subtle thinking process; now I’m an American in Hoboken and I’m watching my television set hearing about a half million colored folks in Rwanda killing each other machetes, do I find myself with that sentiment in the back of my mind? That they’re just useless people? 
Dr. Goldhagen: Well, if one does, then one is deeply prejudiced against those people. We should just say….
Roger: But, how could we sit back and watch that and not think that, and yet react, respond and act upon…
Dr. Goldhagen: But, many people do see that and they think this is an enormous, grave crime; but, the capacity of isolated individuals in this country to do much about it is really very small. If people would rouse themselves and clamor for the decision-makers in Washington….
Roger: Daniel, I’ve been here on the radio for years and I was certainly on the radio when the Rwandan incident came up, the Bosnian and the Balkan crisis. I am not at this moment recollecting any great moment of worry or calls of concern from the American people. They just didn’t seem to respond to it.
Dr. Goldhagen: You know, it’s not clear how much most people knew about it. I don’t know when you’re talking about your radio station.
Take Somalia, for example. When it became clear that there was mass starvation going on in Somalia, when we saw it every night on the news, a lot of pressure began to develop on Washington to do some intervention. Then a halt was put to it when the American soldier was dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. Nevertheless, when people were confronted by the horror, they said this is something that is just abominable!
Part of the problem is that news organizations, opinion leaders, politicians simply don’t work to inform the American people about the horrors taking place in many countries around the world. I’m not saying that if they did, everybody would immediately say that we should do something about it. In fact, many people don’t want to do anything about it. But, there are still many people in this country who would be willing to back some kind of action.
Roger:  You know, Daniel, in almost every major city in our country we have horrible inter-racial and cross-racial killings of people every day! We have the gang bangers. We have the drug culture. We have this whole new strange kind of urban jungle that’s developed in the inner-cities of America. The people that I talk to really consider that when Blacks drive by and kill each other in gang-related shootings as the “good riddance” factor! Is that something that comes from hatred? Or have we just determined, as these German men that you talked about in your book, we’ve just determined for ourselves that these people are useless anyway?
Dr. Goldhagen: First of all, there again are distinctions. Sometimes people are deemed to be “useless eaters” as the Germans put it; but, in Germany it was actually something different. The Jews were not considered to be “useless eaters.” They were considered to be a powerful force of evil who actually needed to be destroyed.
Roger: Alright, but; how would we treat inner-city blacks in America if they were on top of the obvious lack of concern for their well-being, thought of them also as evil?
Dr. Goldhagen: If they were thought of as evil, that’s a big “If” that would be acted upon. Let me ask you, do you actually think that if the government drafted just some cross-section of white American society and told people, “Go slaughter children!” Black children, Hispanic children, whoever they’re prejudiced against, any group, do you find that most people would just do this if they knew they had an option not to do it?
Roger: I think people charged with the duty would.
Dr. Goldhagen: Everyone?
Roger: I think people charged with the duty would do it.
Dr. Goldhagen: Even if they were told they didn’t have to do it?
Roger:  I think whether it’s the BATF or FBI man in Waco, Texas….
Dr. Goldhagen: Not a BATF or FBI….
Roger: Or a sniper in Ruby Ridge, Idaho….
Dr. Goldhagen:  I’m talking about regular guys who are just drafted into the duty.
Roger: Well, you know, I don’t know. I should know! I should say to you flatly, No Way! Never in America! But, I don’t know that I believe it. I believe that some would, many would.
Dr. Goldhagen: Okay. But, many would not, right?
Roger: I think that’s true.
Dr. Goldhagen: Don’t you think there would be a large segment of the American population who would be outraged by this?
Roger: I would hope so!
Dr. Goldhagen: Well, I’m convinced of it!
Roger: I think we’d probably end up in Civil War over it which would be the same thing.
Dr. Goldhagen: Look at the scenario we’re spinning.
Roger: No! I mean because when I see these things, I’m trying to look at the whole world and put it in perspective with what I can touch, feel and see in my own country. We could care more about each other, Daniel.
Dr. Goldhagen: Um hum.
Roger:  And if we could find a way to care more about each other than these things wouldn’t ever happen; but, I’m afraid, my friend, as I’ve been through about 18 weeks of this now, that it could happen again.
Dr. Goldhagen: We’ll it has happened again, not to Jews but to other people.
Roger:  To any segment of the world that someone decided to set aside.
Dr. Goldhagen: You know, there are many groups that are vulnerable because there are great hatreds and because they have enemies who contemplate doing these kinds of things.
Roger: Yes, we have our work cut out for us. Daniel, we’ve run out of the hour here, my friend. Could you tell folks real quickly how to get your book?
Dr. Goldhagen: My book is available at www.amazon.com and at every Barnes & Noble. It’s called, “Hitler’s Willing Executioners.” It’s really very, very widely available in paperback from Vintage Books.
Roger: Alright. Thank you, sir. God Bless! It’s been great to have you here. Continue of with your good work. It’s a wonderful book.
Dr. Goldhagen: Thank you! You’re doing a wonderful job, too! I enjoyed it, bye-bye!
Roger:  Ladies and gentlemen, that will conclude this week’s presentation of The Holocaust: We Must Remember. Thank you so much for participating and being here tonight. Dr. Goldhagen’s book really is a worthy read because it takes a close, intricate look into the minds of the people who actually did the killing in Nazi Germany. Whew! Powerful stuff!
Transcription is from MP3 file converted from original cassette with minimal editing by Chey Simonton.
Errors, if any, may be due to unintelligible sections of original 1997 audio technology. Unknown/unintelligible words are spelled phonetically.)

The Holocaust – We Must Remember – Michael Shermer – Why People Believe Weird Things

THE HOLOCAUST: WE MUST REMEMBER 

30-Hour Series of Interviews broadcast on the Roger Fredinburg Radio Program

3-4-1998 Nineteenth Program in Series

Guest: Michael Shermer

Book: WHY PEOPLE BELIEVE WEIRD THINGS:

Pseudoscience, Superstition and Other Confusions of Our Times

ISBN-10: 0805070893 and ISBN-13: 978- 0805070897

michael Shermerweird2

Roger: Welcome once again, ladies and gentlemen. I’m glad to continue this series. We’re about through with the series. I think there’s may two more weeks left, as I recall. It’s just been a joy for me to be able to go into this in such detail as we have; to talk to survivors and story tellers of history; fascinating, exciting, fun. As we reach a climax here, we enter into another realm and issues become a little more convoluted.

Tonight we have a really incredible guest; someone I’ve been looking forward to having on the program for some time now. His name is Michael Shermer. He’s the editor of Sceptic Magazine, the director of The Skeptic Society and he’s written an incredible book. We’ll get into more of the details of the book in the 3rd hour of the program this evening. He’s written a wonderful book called, “Why People Believe Weird Things.” He talks about pseudoscience and superstition and other confusions of our time; but, right now, because it is the holocaust series, we’re talking about pseudo-history; what people deny—and many people do deny the holocaust— and what is the truth about the subject. Michael Shermer, welcome to the program!

Michael S: Good evening.

Roger: Nice to have you here, sir! Listen, Michael, I want to focus on the  surrounding the holocaust, mostly I want to talk in-depth about this whole concept of denial which you cover quite nicely in your book.

First of all, who does say, as your chapter is entitled, that The Holocaust Never Happened and why do they say it?

Michael S: Right! Those are the two big questions! What I try to cover in “Why People Believe Weird Things,” is a lot of different subjects dealing with pseudoscience and its twin sister, what you’ve labeled as pseudo-history. I think that is a good title because pseudoscience is the attempt to use science to make it look like your claims are true even though you’re not really doing science. Pseudo-history is similar to that, in which you want to distort some past record for your present political or ideological purposes. But, you can’t just do that blindly because you want to make it look academic and scholarly.

So, the people who do this actually adapt the apparatus of scholarship by publishing in a journal called The Journal of Historical Review which sounds innocuous enough! It sounds like some academic journal. But, when you look at it you realize, “oh, wait a minute! There’s something else going on here.” So, that’s the context in my book of why that’s in there.

The short answer to your question is lots of people deny it or revise it. There’s quite a variation amongst them like there is in any social movement or group. Within the members they have their own disagreements about what they believe, their own doctrinaire arguments. But, we can kind of boil down their arguments which we’ll do in a minute. But, let me just finish answering that question.

Roger:  Michael, we’ve got two hours here. Don’t boil things down too much! I want all the details, Michael! Go ahead!

Michael S: Sure! The central group is out of Newport Beach, California. It’s called the Institute for Historical Review. They’re the ones that publish the journal, as I told you, The Journal of Historical Review. They’re in southern California, I’m in southern California, the Skeptic’s office here is in Altadena –they’re in Newport Beach –it’s an hour drive. So, like we do with anything we investigate here at Skeptic Magazine, I really want to meet the people and talk to them. I want to sit down and look them in the eyes and really get to know them as a way to find out that question of who, why and so on! Most people who have dealt with holocaust deniers would never meet them because they’re so infuriated by their claims, they feel it would be an insult to even be in the same room with them. I understand that because many of these people are survivors and there is an emotional component. For me, I felt like I wanted to get inside their head, sit down and have lunch and dinner and spend the weekend at their conference.

Roger:  Good investigative journalism!

Michael S:   Yes, I think so. Gosh! I even had one of these guys up to my house. We sat and ate pizza and talked about this stuff. Then the barriers start to break down and they start saying things that they’re never going to say on a talk show. You know, saying “those Jews, they do this and they do that!” They’ll never say that on a talk show; but, they may say it after a beer and a couple of slices of pizza.

Then a weekend of chit-chat at the conference where there’s the lectures then the interesting stuff; the break time conversations with people where you mill around the room and work your way into a little circle of people having conversations. Then you hear things like, “well, you know, there’s this Jewish conspiracy, the cabal, the cabal in England.” This is like David Irving in England, for example, the British historian who has slowly converted into becoming a holocaust revisionist or denier. I overheard him telling a couple of his fans about the Jewish cabal that was operating covertly to squelch his book sales and his book distribution in bookstores in England. You’ll never hear that written down anywhere! He’s certainly not going to say that on a talk show!

You have to actually get inside to find out what’s going on. I didn’t do it covertly. I just went in and said, “I’m Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine. What’s this all about?” They actually embraced me initially because they consider themselves skeptics. They’re skeptical of the holocaust.

Okay, fair enough! Anybody can be skeptical of anything they want in America. That’s fine! That’s what America is all about! But, they soon found out that skepticism isn’t a position you take on something just for grins. You have to actually investigate it. If the claims hold up with evidence, then you become skeptical of the skeptics, which is what I ended up becoming. I didn’t really know that much about what they were doing or even that much about the holocaust. I mean, I knew what most people know; but, not much beyond that. To actually understand what they’re doing, it’s not enough to understand the holocaust, you have to understand their particular claim.

Roger:  Is this Institute established around the single theory that the holocaust didn’t happen the way history depicts it?

Michael S:  That’s their main focus. In principle, no! In principle, they’re willing to investigate any interesting historical event. For example, they occasionally have articles about who really killed Lincoln or did Roosevelt and Churchill know about Pearl Harbor before it happened? That kind of stuff!

Roger:  So, it’s conspiracy-oriented?

Michael S: But, that’s really rare. Every issue has two or three articles on the holocaust, on the Jews, on Israel. There’s always that theme.

Roger: Is there that big a market for that stuff?

Michael S:  Ha, ha! Well, it’s not a huge circulation journal. As near as I’ve been able to figure, it’s around 4,000 to 5,000 people who get this journal. There is, in a sense, probably a lot of right-wing money, some neo-Nazi money, some old German money—-there’s a lot of grumpy old white guys that don’t like what they see in the world and it’s convenient to blame Jewish groups. It’s easy to target them because they’re very visual in the media, in films, on the news, in holocaust museums and Israel’s in the news a lot. So, it’s an easy target for them because they see it and read it every day. Once you have the conspiracy mindset — think of the film “Conspiracy Theory” with Mel Gibson where the guy clips newspapers every day. It’s easy to do that once you have the theory in your head to look at the newspaper and just clip things, “Oh, look! This bank hired “Goldstein”! You see? See those Jews? They’re running the banks, just like they always said!” It’s easy to find evidence to fit your theory once you have the theory. That’s what they do!

So, every issue of The Journal of Historical Review has a number of articles, even when they’re not directly related, they’re at least indirectly related. They’ll have articles that pertain to some other historical event; but, somehow the Jews are involved either directly or indirectly, and it still comes back to that. They had one last year on the Inquisition; that the Inquisition wasn’t really as bad as we’ve always heard it to be.

(Reader)          What?   Who says that?

(TJHR)            We do!

(Reader)          Why?

(TJHR)           Because the Jews have portrayed this as a much worse event than it really was!

(Reader)          What does that have to do with anything?

(TJHR)            Because the Jews are always exaggerating the traumas and miseries of history because they use that for their moral leverage against the rest of us just like they do today in order to gain moral authority for support for Israel.

That’s their line of reasoning.

Roger:  Who are some of the people involved and do they have any real impact on others around the country?

Michael S:      The major figures involved are the Director of the Institute for Historical Review is Mark Weber. He has a master’s degree in history. He’s a pretty thoughtful, intelligent and very well read individual. He’s got a huge library. His partner is a guy named Greg Raven who is pretty amateur at the whole thing. Weber’s really the brains behind it. That’s who kind of runs the show down there in Newport Beach.

Around the country and elsewhere, Ernst Zundel in Toronto is a sort of “free speech” guy. Anytime he can get media attention for his cause— You see, what happens is in Canada they don’t have the freedom of speech quite as liberally as we do so they have these “hate” laws. Most countries have “hate speech” laws and Canada has one too. It’s more liberal than Europe; but, nothing like Americans. So, they’ll nail Zundel on hate speech things because he’s got a webpage, or he publishes a newsletter, or his literature or whatever. What they don’t realize is that Zundel really likes that! That’s what he gets attention from!

The worst thing that could happen to these holocaust revisionists is if they were completely ignored. They like lawsuits and controversy! That’s how they get attention for their cause. It’s sort of an interesting thing. If somebody boycotts them or firebombs them or whatever, they use that to their advantage. For example, two years ago somebody firebombed Zundel’s house. He has a home office in Toronto. I’ve been there. It’s a two-story place. I was there right after the firebombing. When I went there a couple of big goons came to the door. Honestly, they were a couple of 6’2” blond haired, blue-eyed Aryan-type studs, his bodyguards. Ha, ha!

Roger: Ha, ha!

Michael S: They’re looking at me and I’m looking at them thinking, “Whoa! What am I getting myself into here?” They were his protectors, his bodyguards. It’s really kind of interesting. But, he was utilizing the fact that his house burnt down, getting a lot of publicity.

They were getting mass mailings out to their supporters. The mailings had a #9 postage paid return envelopes with a form to fill out with a check box to indicate how much money you wanted to donate to the cause. The cause is not just the generic issues of what really happened in the holocaust; but, now the Jews are trying to stop us! The Jews are firebombing our houses! We’ve got to do something about it! They were waving the red meat, as politicians like to say, in order to get the troops in support.

Roger: What is their basic theory. I mean, it must center around something. Is there some evidence in history I’ve overlooked that would cause people to believe that the holocaust didn’t happen the way it is depicted?

Michael S: Their theory is around a three-pronged axis. You have to really get into their literature to understand what’s going on. It’s not enough to know a lot about the holocaust to debate or argue with these guys. For example, I’ve seen historians–an historian was on Montel Williams’ show with Mark Weber and a couple of the other ones— they just ate this guy alive. He looked like an idiot and they were coming up with these obscure little minutiae points about the holocaust in camps and gas chambers. He just didn’t know! I mean, why should he?

Little points like, for example, the door on the gas chamber at u doesn’t lock. So what? Well, their argument is that if it doesn’t lock, how would they have kept the victims in there once they started pouring the gas in? Wouldn’t they try to escape? Yes. But, until you go there and investigate that particular question, which I did, and it took me six months to find out that it isn’t the original door. After the war parts and bits and pieces of the camp were dismantled. Decades later it was all put back together as a museum. You go there now and the camps are museums; sort of like monuments and museums to go pay your respect. They’re not reconstructed to be exact replicas! That door is not the original door! The original door was lost back in 1947! So, they just stuck another door there that kind of fit. That’s why it doesn’t lock.

But, if you don’t know that, and this guy on Montel’s show didn’t, you’d be sitting there on national television going, “Aw, gee! I don’t know!” and the extrapolation from that point of view is that if they couldn’t lock the door, then obviously, that wasn’t a homicidal gas chamber. That was a gas chamber probably used for delousing.   This is one of the three points.

So, point one is that the gas chambers and crematoria found at the camps were not used for mass homicide. They were used for delousing purposes only. Now, obviously, you can’t deny gas chambers and crematoria! There they are! They’re still there! You can go there right now and see them, so how can you deny that? They don’t! They just say that they had a different purpose. Let’s be honest, there’s no video tape or film of Nazis herding victims into gas chambers and gassing them! They didn’t make those kinds of films. There’s no photographs of this per se, that are really clear and it’s obvious what’s going on. There’s no order from Hitler to do this. So, proving it is more indirectly, which is what most history is, proved indirectly. You know, it’s a past event. So, that’s their first point.

The second point of the three axis is that there was no intention on the part of the Nazis to exterminate European Jewry. Yes, lot’s of them died and the revisionists all argue amongst themselves about what that number is; but, it wasn’t 6 million, they say. It was a low as half a million and as high as maybe 2 million. That’s the range they give. But, significantly lower enough that the 6 million figure looks suspiciously like a made-up conspiratorial figure constructed to make the holocaust look much worse than it really was in order to have this moral leverage over people, and so on. So, they say there was no intention on the part of the Nazis.

For example, David Irving, back in 1977 after the publication of his book, “Hitler’s War,” which is a fine piece of scholarship—this was in Irving’s early days before he’d really gone over into holocaust revisionist side—he kind of made Hitler out not to be a “good guy” or not even a “not bad guy” just a sort of incompetent fellow who really didn’t have the kind of control and power he’s always been given in the history books; that people were doing things behind the scenes that he didn’t know about. At that time Irving said, “The holocaust happened without Hitler’s approval” Goebbels did it, Goering was part of it, and Himmler, and so on; but, Hitler really didn’t know what was going on. He was out of it! He was busy with other things. So, he was kind of exonerating Hitler in a way. And, that was in the early stages!

In 1977 he put out $1,000 challenge to anybody who could find a document with Hitler’s name on it in which he orders the extermination of the Jews. Well, nobody has found such a thing.   We think we know why! Because Hitler was smart enough to know not to put things like that in writing. We know, for example, that in 1936 he did put out a written order to euthanize mentally retarded Germans! Not Jews, but actual mentally retarded Germans as part of a eugenics program of the whole Aryan program they had going! That came back to haunt him later in the courts. He got big legal hassles about that because you’re not supposed to euthanize people without the permission of the families. Sterilization also!   From that point on, he just didn’t put those things in writing. So, that’s one answer to that. That’s the second prong.

The third one is the 6 million figure. That it wasn’t 6 million. It’s the 6 million figure they doubt, the intentionality question and the mechanism, gas chambers and crematoria.

Roger: Do you know how the 6 million figure is arrived at? And, why it is that they refute it?

Michael S: I do! It’s actually a pretty interesting question. It’s far more complex than I ever would have imagined. I thought it would be something where a short chapter in a book explains it. It’s not! There’s volumes and volumes written about this.

The 6 million figure is arrived at by a triangulation process of looking at demographic figures of towns and cities and counties throughout all of Europe before the war— 1930, 1935,1940. Then looking at demographic figures after the war taken in consensus by the Allies as part of the repatriation program. They also look at, as part of the third prong of the triangulation, is shipments/exportations of people out of towns. There are some good records of this. The Nazis kept decent records of the shipments of Jews from one town to another and out of this country and into another country. Then you can also double and triple check these figures by looking at the camp records to see how many people entered any given camp, how many people escaped, how many people were deported to another camp, how many people were left upon liberation of the camp in 1944-1945. You piece all this together and it’s a complex story! Nobody actually knows how many died! So, what you end up with is a range of anywhere from 5.1 million on the low side by Raul Hilberg who is very conservative in these figures to as high 6-7 million on the more liberal estimates of that.

Roger: Alright. We’ve got to take a break. Hang on! Michael Shermer is our guest, ladies and gentlemen. He’s the editor of Skeptic Magazine. He’s the president of “The Skeptics Society”. His book which is really awesome and goes well beyond this issue is, “Why People Believe Weird Things.” We’ll come back and continue this discussion and take phone calls as this shows progresses.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger:   Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen. The holocaust special continues! Our guest is Michael Shermer. I want you all to pay attention when we tell you how to get this book because you’ll find, as we move into the third hour, it goes well beyond this subject; but, it’s really cool!

Really cool! “Why People Believe Weird Things” by Michael Shermer.

Michael, as I look at these issues around the holocaust— you know, being on radio over the years we get a lot of calls from really interesting people, as you might well imagine–and one of the common threads or themes seems to be this component of Christianity that the people first identify themselves as Christians and then deny the holocaust. What’s the parallel there?

Michael S:  Ah! Right! Now, the psychology gets even more interesting. There’s a long history of Christian persecutions of Jews all the way up to and including the holocaust! The Pope has only recently acknowledged that the Catholic church really should have had a bigger role in doing something to help the Jews or at least acknowledged that this was happening. It goes all the way back to who killed Christ and all this kind of stuff. You’ll sometimes see in extreme…. we’ve got to be careful here, I don’t want to say a majority of Christians think this at all; but, extreme right-wing Christian groups, particularly those that are affiliated with the Christian Identity Movement, a lot of militias, right-wing millenial cult-type groups, that’s where you see this!

Roger: Yes! These folks say, “I am a patriot!” Then you probe a little further and you find out they’re part of the Christian Identity Movement. What the hell is that?

Michael S: The holocaust denial stuff is only a small part of a much larger anti-semitic general persecution of Jews. That’s what it’s really part of. They actually don’t know that much, nor care that much about the holocaust.

Roger: But, they say the Jews are not the Jews. They say the Jews aren’t the Jews! That they’re some other race that sneaked in and claimed they’re the Jews! What is that stuff?

Michael S: Yes, that’s right.   Different groups have different versions. Degeneration, a degenerated human race, not one of the original tribes of God’s people and this sort of thing.

Roger: Is there evidence to support those arguments?

Michael S: No! Absolutely none! Actually, when you talk to a lot of these people they’ve never even met a Jew. They’ve never even sat and talked to a Jew. They have no clue what the Jewish community or culture or life is like. They get all of this from newsletters, from webpages, from gossip and rumors. They don’t know the first thing about this. It’s like this neo-Nazi fellow that came out of the closet two years ago with his book, I forget the title, something about “Fuhrer.” He was head of a neo-Nazi group in Germany and then he realized how idiotic it was and he kinda quit! They all hate him now! But, one of the things that struck me while reading his book is that he said, “I never even met a Jew, I’d never even seen a Jew and I hated Jews! When I met one I realized that this guy is just like me. He’s just a person. None of this stuff that they say is true. It’s just nonsense!” Ha, ha! It was really revealing and intellectually honest of him to say that.

Roger: Listen, I’ve got to do a couple of ads here. Then I want you to tell me, what is the best weapon to use that you’re aware of? I know you’ve been on Oprah and Donohue and all these programs. Maybe you can give us some tools to use to defend against some of this. Then we’ll take some calls. Hang on just a bit and we’ll be right back.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger: Alright, Michael, just give us a few tools that we can use to combat this insanity!

Michael S: First of all, it’s a terrible idea to get into a debate with one of these very knowledgeable revisionists without learning their literature. They really know their history quite well. It’s not enough to know a lot about the holocaust, you’ve got to know their stuff as well. Again, those three specific claims can be refuted with specific answers.

For example, on the 6 million figure, we went through just how that’s calculated. They claim the people are simply not missing. They’re still alive out there somewhere. They were shipped off to Peoria or Siberia or wherever. You just simply ask, “Well, where are they?” Why aren’t they making themselves known? It’s like saying the angels exist. The burden of proof is on you to show me where they are! You can’t just say they’ve disappeared. We do have good records for that.

In the case of the intentionality question, I showed why there is not written letter from Hitler. But, we have lots and lots of indirect evidence! Cumulative evidence from SS guards, for example, who after the war, we have their letters and diaries and their own confessions in which they said, “Yes, it was really disgusting! It was gross! It was awful, the things that were going on in the camps.” They describe Auschwitz as the anus of the world! It was a horrible, horrible place–these purges and mass exterminations! They talk about that kind of stuff!
In my book I actually reproduce this letter because David Irving and I got into this big discussion, this big debate about the meaning on “ausrottung” which is the German word for extermination. According to Irving, it doesn’t really mean extermination, it means “to get rid of,” as in “shipping off to Siberia” or something like this, not “to kill”. Well, I found a letter from an SS doctor talking about lice, in which he said, “we must ausrottung the lice.” What was he talking about—shipping the lice off on little mini-trains somewhere?

Roger: Ha, ha, ha!

Michael S: No! He was talking about killing them! I also got a memo from one of the generals involved in Bastogne, you know the Battle of the Bulge, the surrounding of the American troops in Bastogne. He sent this telegram to the Nazi general there saying, “We must ausrottung the troops! One by one, ausrottung them!” Well, they’re not talking about transporting Americans back to America. KILL THEM is what they meant! So, “ausrottung” means what it means. It means to exterminate, to kill.

They get into these kind of word games so you really have to study in advance, what they’re doing. I’ve done that. In my book I’ve outlined, point by point, if this is their claim, this is the answer.   The answers are there but you have to look for them in specific cases. A holocaust historian won’t know a lot of the answers to these questions because they are irrelevant questions. Irrelevant to everybody but them.

Roger: Right, okay! So, I can take those pages out of your book I suppose and copy them off to have them handy to fight some of this stuff when it comes up. Ha, ha! Because it’ll drive you crazy, believe me! And, there’s a lot more of them out there than I thought there were. I mean, they’re out there! These little newspapers and newsletters are everywhere!

Michael S: Yes! And, webpages proliferate the information even more. See, they only have to plant a seed of doubt in people’s’ minds. They don’t have to construct a history, they just have to plant a seed of doubt about some of the historical record to get people thinking along those lines.

Roger: Let me ask you the ultimate question, then we’ll go to phones. Do these people present any danger to the rest of us or are they just nuts?

Michael S:  Oh, no! They’re not nuts! No, when you get to know them you see they’re pretty smart, regular folks–regular in a generic sense. They’re not crazy. Are they dangerous? Well, it depends what you mean by dangerous. I think in a country like America where people are free to do what they want, we’re free to refute them! That’s a good way to operate, in the light of facts, they will collapse! I’m against the idea of censoring them or locking them up or preventing them from publishing their stuff simply because that’s how they get more miles out of their cause. Just go ahead and let them publish it and we’ll refute it. That’ll be that and eventually they’ll just go away.

Roger: So, don’t make a big issue out of it is what you’re saying?

Michael S: I don’t think you need to make a big issue about it. Okay, here’s an analogy: The Flat Earth Society, right? We don’t have to bother with them. There’s like 12 people on the entire planet who think the earth is flat. No big deal!

Roger: I’ve been accused of belonging! Ha, ha!

Michael S: Ha, ha! But, when a claim gets big enough that it’s in the public eye; where there are news stories, trials, lawsuits or whatever, trying to get it into the public schools –that’s when it should get the attention of us skeptics and we want to do something about it! They are big enough to pose a threat in the sense that somebody needs to step up and refute their claims.

Roger: That makes sense to me! Real quick–how do people get your book? I know you have a new one coming out. How do they find those?

Michael S: “Why People Believe Weird Things,” is carried in virtually every bookstore in America. All the chains carry it. It’s published by W.H. Freeman. The same stores carry Skeptic Magazine and we deal with lots of different controversies, not just the holocaust stuff. That’s how they can get it, or they can order from the Skeptic Magazine office. We have a book catalogue. Our phone number is 626-794-3119 . Anyone can call and order the book or magazine or just order general information and we’re happy to send it out.

Roger:  I’ll talk to you off the air about an order, I want to get a magazine or two. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be right back with Michael Shermer. Hang on!

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger:  Micheal Shermer is here with us, ladies and gentlemen. Michael, are you ready to take some phone calls. Let’s go to Adrian in Coquille, Oregon.

Caller-Adrian: Okay, guys! Here’s from Simon Wiesenthal. I was in the 11th Armored Division when we liberated Mauthausen. “On May 5, 1945 at 10:00 am the first tanks of the 11th Armored Division of the U.S. Army arrived at the Mauthausen concentration camp. I was an inmate of the death block of the warden of the camp.”

Michael S: You were?

Caller-Adrian: No! Simon Wiesenthal was imprisoned in various ghettos and camps, the last one being u. He was put on the death block where they received no more than a cup of soup and a tiny crust of bread every day. “Some of the prisoners on the block died of starvation on the day of the liberation. Some of the soldiers of the 11th Armored Division tried to help us in every way they could, giving prisoners food from their own rations. Having found several hundred dead bodies in Mathausen, the Nazis had no longer been able to burn them in the crematorium. The Americans organized a burial in a mass grave. They rounded up all the Nazi Party members from Mauthausen and the surrounding area and made them dig trenches and bury the dead.”

Roger: Alright, Adrian, what’s the point? What are you saying?

Caller-Adrian: This is Simon Wiesenthal.

Roger: Yes, the Simon Wiesenthal Foundation. We’re all familiar with it.

Caller-Adrian:  This is the man and he says that every year they have a sort of a shrine thing over there at Mauthausen to bestow a gold medal on him. He thought it was a great thing and he spoke mainly about the liberation day at Mauthausen and their gratitude to the U.S. Army and the 11th Armored Division for liberating them. His speech was very well received by all who were present.   I was there and I saw it.

Roger: You saw it! So, you’re pretty sure it happened, Adrian? Ha, ha!

Caller-Adrian: Oh, you’d better believe it!   I was there!

Michael S: I’ll tell you what the holocaust revisionists would say to that. They’d say, “Look, we’ve never denied that hundreds of thousands of Jews died in these camps due to starvation, disease, overcrowding, overwork, and so on. Any time you see pictures or films or testimony like you just heard, that can easily be explained as part of the several hundred thousand that we’re willing to go along with that they say were killed or died.”

In fact, the revisionists even have this weird, twisted argument in which they say that the Jews were actually fairly well taken care of in the early stages of the war; but, as the war turned bad for Germany and the Allies started bombing the railroad lines, they were no longer able to get supplies to the camps and that’s when all the deaths occurred. So, it’s really the fault of the Allies for preventing the Germans from properly feeding and taking care of their prisoners.

Roger: Oh, boy! They’ve got this down, don’t they? Ha, ha, ha! Let’s go to Sam in Sarasota, Florida. Hello, Sam!

Caller-Sam: Hi! This is something you guys might find interesting. I’ve lived most of my life on Long Island. I lived in an area that was 40% Jewish. A lot of people didn’t like Jews there so later on I moved to Florida. There’s almost no Jews here; but, most people like Jews. Do you think that a little bit of familiarity breeds contempt?

Michael S: Oh, yeah. Absolutely! Of course!

Roger: I thought the Jewish population of Florida was fairly significant.

Caller-Sam: Oh, they’re down in the southeast about 7 hours from here.

Roger: Go down there to hang out in the sun, all those rich Jews who made their money in the media lying to the rest of us, right Michael? Ha, ha!

Michael S: There you go!

Caller-Sam: But, also isn’t it true that according to the Bible, the Jews persecuted the Christians before the Christians persecuted the Jews?

Michael S: Well, that’s debatable.

Caller-Sam: Skeptic Magazine is very atheistic. You guys don’t believe in the Bible. I’m talking about Roger. Does Roger believe what the Bible says?

Roger: Sam, you know where I come from on this. I think that a lot of this is Satanic or occultic and that…

Caller-Sam: No, I’m talking about the Bible, where it says that when Paul was called Saul he persecuted the Christians. Then he became a Christian…

Roger: Yes. That’s biblically accurate, Sam. Yes.

Caller-Sam: Okay, but, the guy from Skeptic Magazine is atheistic, don’t forget that.

Roger: He’s a skeptic. We’re going to talk about that when we break away from the holocaust and go to a number of other subjects that touch on Creation vs. Evolution, too. We’ll get into that, okay Sam?

Caller-Sam: Sounds good to me.

Roger: Sounds like good entertainment? That’s what I thought. Ha, ha!   Now, Michael, would you give your numbers again, please, so people can get the magazine and the books that are available in all the stores. Is your new book out yet? What is the title of it?

Michael S:   “Why People Believe Weird Things,” has only been out since June, 1997. The next book, the sequel is, “Why People Believe in God.” That won’t be out until about a year from May because I’m still finishing it.

I’m definitely not an atheist! We are not an atheist organization— by no means! In fact, just yesterday I got a 15 page single spaced typed letter from the president of Atheists United excommunicating me and my organization from the Atheists ….

Roger: Really?

Michael S: Yes, because we don’t take a hard enough line!

Roger: The Christians excommunicated me in the last few days because I cussed on the radio!

Michael S: There you go! Ha, ha!

Roger: We’ll have to start our own crowd, Michael! Losers and Loners Unite! Ha, ha!

Michael S: That’s pretty amazing!

Roger:  Michael Shermer has been our guest, ladies and gentlemen. Run down to your bookstores and get “Why People Believe Weird Things.” It’s an incredible book! Not only will you have a great laugh about some of the idiotic things people believe in; but, you’ll also learn some things that are very important will help you conduct your life in a better way, I think.

Transcription is from MP3 file converted from original cassette with minimal editing by Chey Simonton.

Errors, if any, may be due to unintelligible sections of original 1997 audio technology. Unknown/unintelligible words are spelled phonetically.)

The Holocaust – We Must Remember – Dr. Samuel Oliner – Altruistic Personality: Rescuers Of Jews In Nazi Europe

THE HOLOCAUST: WE MUST REMEMBER 

30-Hour Series of Interviews broadcast on the Roger Fredinburg Radio Program

2-11-1998 Fourteenth Program in Series

Guest: Dr. Samuel Oliner

Book: Altruistic Personality: Rescuers Of Jews In Nazi Europe

ISBN-10: 0029238293   and   ISBN-13: 978-0029238295

Oliner

Roger:   Welcome once again, ladies and gentlemen, to our Wednesday night special, the Holocaust Series. It will be over in a few weeks. It’s been a great pleasure. I want to once again thank Chey Simonton and Kelleigh Nelson for all their effort in helping me locate some of the great authors and survivors and onlookers to talk about this tragic time in world history. It’s really tough, I know, week after week; but, we’re leading up to something, ladies and gentlemen, a climax that will shake your very soul. I can’t say much more about it; but, hang in there with us because this is really going somewhere!

We have a wonderful guest this evening. I’ve been thumbing through the book today and it’s just fascinating! The book is titled, “The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe.” It’s just a fascinating book, a collection, and anthology—- just stories of people who put everything on the line, trying to do something innately good, something not found often in the human character, I must tell you!

Our guest is Dr. Samuel Oliner. He is Project Director of the Altruistic Personality and the Prosocial Behavior Institute. He’s a survivor of the holocaust and has written “The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe,” “Who Shall Live: the Wilhelm Bachner Story,” and “Restless Memories: Recollections of the Holocaust Years.” 

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s welcome Samuel Oliner to the program! Sam, how are you?

Dr. Oliner: I’m very well! How are you, Roger?

Roger: I’m doing just great, Sam! This is really a great book because you touch on an aspect that is not often talked about. When we talk about Nazi Germany generally, we just think of all the bad people, all the evil and all of the hell! I suppose it is depicted about as well have I’ve read it in your book, in the Forward, the first paragraph! Somebody else wrote your Forward, didn’t they?

Dr. Oliner:  A renowned man of the cloth, Rabbi Harold Schulweis wrote the preface.

Roger: Let me read that first paragraph, just to set the tone here:

Victor Frankl, the founder of logotherapy, recalls lying at night in his bunk at Auschwitz. Next to him his fellow inmate lay tossing and turning, uttering tortured screams. Frankl wondered whether he should rouse him from his dreams. But rouse him–to what?

At Auschwitz reality was more frightening than nightmares. Frankl decided to let him alone.

That’s a powerful paragraph and it just really brings it home! That your worst nightmare couldn’t be as bad as what we’ve always observed in Nazi Germany! Terrible stuff! But you found some goodness there, you’re saying? 

Dr. Oliner:  Yes. As you said already, Roger, I was rescued myself in Nazi occupied Poland by a wonderful, beautiful, simple peasant woman and her family in the southern part of Poland. This happened, right after my entire family,everyone that I loved, along with 1,000 other people from a tiny little ghetto in Poland were all taken to a mass grave and executed!

My stepmother’s last words to me were, “You’ve got to run… you’ve got to hide… you’ve got to save yourself!” Of course, a 12 year-old boy didn’t know much so she gave me permission to survive.

Roger:  Well, I read your story, Sam, how you shinnied up to the roof and stayed up there on the roof for a couple of days, then you came down off the roof and ran into a Polish child that you’d known in the ghetto and you ended up in a fight with him. He ran off and you spent the night in a closet. It was just a fascinating story! A 12 year-old kid to go through that! I can’t even imagine it!

Dr. Oliner:  I often wonder whether I would be able to do this again. I guess the will to survive is so strong so you always feel that somehow or other you’ll make it, especially when your parents, your loving stepmother tells you to go and hide, run and survive. This kid was a kid who was an anti-Semitic kid! He didn’t like Jewish people particularly so his objective, because the ghetto was being searched as a mop up action by the Nazis, his objective was to let the guards know that here was a Jew-boy and betray me. So, the only solution I had was to pounce on him and pulverize him so that I could get away through the hole in the fence and run away across the field!

Roger:   Now, you were in your pajamas?

Dr. Oliner: Right. We need to back up for just a second! Why I was in pajamas….

Friday morning, very early in the morning, August 14, 1942 the Nazis surrounded the ghetto very early, brought dozens and dozens of huge miliary trucks into the square of the town, the ghetto. They went around knocking on doors and asking all people to get out and move to the square upon penalty of death! In a state of trance and shock, I was still in my pajamas. Hundreds and hundreds of people were brutally led into the square and then loaded into the trucks and subsequently took them to a mass grave! So, that’s how I found myself in pajamas.

In a state of fear and trance I was hiding in various places. Finally I was able to get some clothing and tried to make a break for it, run to the fence where I knew there was a hole… and this kid saw me. He tried to notify the guards who were mopping up the place.

I escaped and was wandering in a state of fear and fright. I already knew, from nearby peasants, where they took my entire family and the rest of the ghetto people, they took them to a pre-dug mass grave, a little hill probably 8 or 9 miles from the ghetto. They undressed them all, forcibly humiliating them and dragged them all into the mass grave where there planks were laid. They were machine-gunned, falling down either wounded or from fright. At the end of 18 hours, they covered them up with chemicals and dirt. Lots of bodies were still moving! Subsequently, one man who escaped from the top of the pile of bodies, his mind snapped and he became totally insane with the shock. Of course, the Nazis caught him a few days later and finished him off too.

So, I escaped and wandered around the village a little while, then I thought of this Polish family of a woman named Balwina. She saw me and she knew exactly what happened! She saw me, she took me in, she calmed me down and hid me for a while because there were also certain individuals (not too many) who made their living catching Jews and delivering them to the Gestapo. That means betraying Jewish people who were hiding and those Polish Catholics who were hiding them!

She kept me for a while and taught me the catechism. I changed my name to a typical Polish name and then went from village to village – she directed me in that area – and I found a job as a stable boy, ironically at a Jewish farm where the Jewish owners had been exterminated and the place was rented to an anti-semitic man by the Nazis. She and her son kept an eye on me throughout the balance of the years. She helped me authenticate my lie because I did nothing but lie to this new employer. He wanted to know who I was and where I was from, what kind of payment I wanted to be his stable boy; so she helped me survive that way!

This act of kindness by this one woman’s family, I could never forget! In some ways it motivated the rest of my life in the sense that when I came to this country as an immigrant in 1950 (by the way, I was almost immediately drafted into the Korean War) I got my U.S. citizenship quickly. When I got my PhD from the University of California in Berkeley I studied much about “evil.” I did all kinds of research on “evil”; racism, anti-Semitism, genocide, holocaust, intolerance generally.

Roger: Let’s talk about for a minute because I’m trying to imagine, first of all, what does a 12 year-old boy, meandering down a muddy trail right after his parents have been killed, what is going through a 12 year-old’s mind at that point?

Dr. Oliner: Well, disbelief at first, that it couldn’t have happened, a kind of denial! Then a kind of fear and cunning because you wanted to survive. You were told to survive! You were given instructions by a loving adult. Then I was fortunate enough to be guided by compassionate, loving people. 

Roger:  Did you hate, Sam?

Dr. Oliner:  Yes, I did. I did; but, right after the war, for instance, in 1945 I was a 15-1/2-year-old kid and I found myself in Germany in the American zone of occupation. I’d been in the middle of Germany so I hated Germans with great passion! I discovered as I grew older that hate in itself is destructive.

Roger: Isn’t hate evil?

Dr. Oliner: Extremely evil! And it was actually destroying me, my hatred! That’s one of the reason I subsequently studied so much about “evil”. One day at Humboldt State University in Northern California where I have worked for about 29 years or so, I introduced a course on The Holocaust because believe it or not, Roger, there are still people today in certain parts of the US and other parts of the world, that think the Holocaust is a hoax, it’s Jewish conspiracy to defraud, hoodwink humanity! When I heard this I became extremely angry as an adult, as a GI, has a PhD in Sociology.

I asked my Dean for permission to introduce a course on The Holocaust. When I did that — what do you talk about in a course on The Holocaust? Just the dates, the names, the places, the evil, the Auschwitz, the murders, the films, the documentaries of evil?

In one of my classes, and this is another pivotal point in my life, a young German woman who was married to an American boy, got up on the fourth or fifth day of my class and with a German accent and said to me in tears, “Professor, I’ve got to drop your class, not because it’s bad, not because your information is not valuable; but, because I feel so guilty–what my people did to your people.” I was moved to tears because in some ways this was an innocent woman. That single act of hers made me start thinking, “Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Is there anything else that happened in WW II besides the killing of 50,000,000 people— the sum total of the war itself including 6,000,000 Jews?” So I started thinking of Balwina, that woman who rescued me. That launched me and my life’s partner, my wife, Dr. Pearl Oliner — launched us on this project.

For the last 18 years we’ve been studying “Goodness”! Goodness is altruism, goodness is prosocial behavior, goodness is rescuing, goodness is hospice volunteers, goodness is the kind of heroes in this country who risk their lives to save strangers from certain death!

Roger:  Sam, what is “altruism”? I mean in its purest form?

Dr. Oliner: First of all, there are a lot of sceptics out there and I’ve run across critics who say “altruism” does not exist. I say to those people, “I’m sorry to inform you; but, it exists, it’s measurable. Just like bigotry exists and is measurable, so is “goodness”!

Altruism, Roger, would be something as follows: It is an act of helping someone who will benefit from such help which involves high risk and high cost to you, the helper, the rescuer and for which you are not expecting any external reward– no checks, no medals! You are just doing it as an act of kindness, an act of humanity, an act of recognizing your fellow human being.

Roger: So, someone rushing out into the middle of the highway to save a child from a moving vehicle without regard for their own life is an altruist?

Dr. Oliner:  Absolutely! As a matter of fact, our current research we’ve just begun less than a month ago is on America and Canadians who risked their lives for total strangers; saving from drowning, from burning, from various accidents, from violence, from guns, shootings and so forth. So, yes, that would be a good example of heroic altruism.

Conventional altruism, Roger, is the thousands and millions of acts of kindness, the 75,000,000 people who are unpaid volunteers in this country. If somebody paid them, they’d be earning

$150 billion dollars a year! These are examples of conventional altruism and heroic altruism. It exists! It is real! We hope and pray that more people move from the Bystander “I-don’t-care/these are not my people,” position to the position of people who intervene on behalf of humanity.

That’s what we’ve been doing, interviewing. In the book that you mentioned, “The Altruistic Personality,” which is published by the Free Press, what were doing is actually interviewing bona fide rescuers, heroes, people like the woman Balwina who saved me.   For purposes of trying to find out what motivated them, Roger, we compared them to a group of bystanders. We wanted to know what the difference was between them. That’s what this research was about. It’s a kind of systematic social science research. It goes beyond simple anecdotes. The anecdotes that you kindly recited, referred to are simply anecdotes of heroism; but, the analysis of these 800 respondents that we have done over a period of 8 years — which was from Poland, from Germany and from the United States, those rescuers that came to the United States after the war, from Canada, France, Italy and even Norway–from this we had a combination of some 800 rescuers and bystanders.

From this data we drew some conclusions about what makes a compassionate person which we are kind of proud of. It’s been critiqued and quite well-accepted by …..

Roger:  But, Sam, didn’t the very fact that the Holocaust happened, bring credence to the concept that man is inherently evil?

Dr. Oliner: No! No, I’m not willing to buy this! Man is born….

Roger:   I mean, even the altruists in their selfless acts, get some charge out of it, don’t they?

Dr. Oliner: You asked two different questions. One question that you asked, Roger, is man inherently evil? I think that man , if you’re saying inherently—biologically or genetically evil, I don’t think there enough evidence to make a tentative…..

Roger: Well, pick a religion, Sam! We’re all born to sin! If you’re a Christian, God had to give laws to Moses. Aren’t we born evil, Sam?

Dr. Oliner:  No! Because, you see, the institutions of the religions; some institutions, some religions, some books, some ideologies, some parents, some groups are able to inculcate hate in us.   I know that you know there’s been some work done on twins. Take one twin and bring him up and he can become a killer, gangster, hater, racist, anti-Semite, homophobe. Take the other twin of this pair and he can become a priest, and get involved in the well-being of humanity. So, I wouldn’t say we are born evil, I would say that we have acquired it in on the road of life.

Roger:   Sam, I’ve got to take a break here. If you would be so kind as to relax for a few minutes, we’ve got to get through these advertisements and we’ll be right back. Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Samuel P. Oliner is our guest. He is the author of, “The Altruistic Personality.” He’s a professor at Humboldt State College in Eureka, California. I think you’re all finding him as fascinating as I do!

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger:  Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen! Dr. Samuel P. Oliner is our guest this evening. His book is, “The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe,” a book about “goodness” in man, the good, good, good people who exist in our world, or existed during the holocaust!

Sam, welcome back! I want to go back to something you said earlier. Here you are, a graduate of Berkeley, hanging out in Humboldt, deciding that because you’ve run into these crackpots who really believe the holocaust is a hoax and a Jewish conspiracy, you decided to take this cause on and teach The Holocaust. Was that an act of altruism?

Dr. Oliner: It was an act of education and information.

Roger: What was your motivation?

Dr. Oliner:  My motivation was…..

Roger: I’m going to show you bastards the truth! Wasn’t that really it?

Dr. Oliner: I guess you could put it that way. Ha, ha!

Roger:   No! I mean really! It didn’t really come from the “goodness” of Sam Oliner.

Dr. Oliner: It came from the rage….

Roger: The hate!

Dr. Oliner: The anger, the hate… yes.

Roger: So, you formed this class based on something evil, didn’t you really?

Dr. Oliner: No, (ha, ha) I think that I formed this class in order to deal with evil.

Roger:  Samuel Oliner, PhD, UC-Berkeley…. what in the hell do you people mean who think the holocaust didn’t happen? I’ll show you! Right?

Dr. Oliner:  Well, by correcting the information, I guess you could say, “I’ll show you!” It was based upon my frustration that people in the late 1960s, early 1970s could be getting away with this sort of stuff. Even currently, by the way! Take a look at the websites and you’ll find 600 to 700 hate groups viciously racist and anti-semitic!

Roger: Are they? Or are they just misinformed? I mean, has the propaganda survived the holocaust?

Dr. Oliner:  I think it’s perhaps a combination of both; misinformed-yes. I think in the human psyche, that is to say; if as you are growing up you are beaten and abused….

Roger: Come on, Samuel. Jesus was a Jew and the Jews killed Jesus, so Christianity through their crusades and all the things…. those evil Jews killed Jesus, they killed our Savior, our Christ…. the Jews did that! Right? Isn’t religion the essence of goodness, your foundation? Yet, there is the evil right there….

Dr. Oliner:  Sure, I agree with you 100% when you talk about the source of evil. The source of evil is–a child is not born evil; but, a child internalizes the teachings and the preachings about who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.

For instance, in the case of Jesus, and I’m sure there are various interpretations, I know that Jesus existed. I know that Jesus was crucified. I also know, at least from scholarship, that it was not the Jews who killed Jesus, it was the Romans. But, the Jews were delighted and happy enough because he was a rebel who showed they were corrupt, they were not caring enough, they were highly stratified….

Roger:   They were evil.

Dr. Oliner: They were evil in the sense of practicing injustice and inequality.

Roger: They were evil. Right? Isn’t that what Christ was trying to point out? So, I want to make a point here. I believe, personally, that man is inherently evil, born to sin! I also believe that the people who don’t believe that the holocaust happened only do so because they don’t comprehend how evil man is because we gloss it over! We keep telling ourselves there are good people out there! Sam, are there really good people out there?

Dr. Oliner: Yes!

Roger: Really? Can you tell me about some good people?

Dr. Oliner: Yes, I can tell you about good people and I will believe for the rest of my life that humanity is basically good….

Roger:  I want to believe that! I want you to convince me….

Dr. Oliner:  Humanity is basically good. It is institutions, parents, role models, misguided Hitlers and leaders, it is perversion of truth that leads people along the path of hatred — also economic troubles and frustration and scapegoating. There is goodness.

Roger: Introduce me, Sam, to some people who are truly altruistic because I’m finding it hard, as I look across the landscape of my community, I’m finding it hard to find true altruism.

Dr. Oliner:  Okay! Again, I would have to disagree with you. Even in your own community there are lots of people who are caring and compassionate and take care of needy, etc.

But, let me get back for a moment to the slightly larger picture. If you’re talking about goodness and altruism, I’ll start with the big ones and go on to some very exciting small ones, small heroes; you have Mother Theresa, you already know; you have Gandhi, you already know; you have Jesus, you already know, and a number of super-super altruists who lived for humanity’s sake.

Now, in the case of our research, I can tell you, first of all, there is a profound difference between rescuers and bystanders. If we have the time I’ll go into some of them. But, you want some stories.

Roger: I want you to convince there are really altruistic people out there! I don’t know that I’ve ever met one. Maybe I did and just didn’t notice!

Dr. Oliner: Well, I’m surprised that you haven’t noticed because I am sure in your daily life, in your daily relationships with people in your community, there must be individuals who have done acts of kindness for you. In turn, I’m almost sure that you’ve reciprocated in kind. So, I’m not sure that….

Roger: But, that’s socialization! I mean, we socialize…. you send me a Christmas card so I send you a Christmas card. I’ll meet you downtown at a meeting, I’ll shake your hand… that kind of thing. 

Dr. Oliner:  Sure! But, altruism comes from moral socialization, moral role models, moral exemplars, the parents’ instilled values into you — your mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, priests and ministers.

Roger: Sam, 6 million Jews died in Europe —13 million or so, estimated totals of gypsies, homosexuals and whoever else they didn’t like! Lot of dead people over there, Sam! Now, there couldn’t have been too many rescuers over there could there? Not too many altruistic people!

I’ve heard stories on this program, Sam, of people selling out Jews for a buck!

Dr. Oliner:  Right. But, you see, it’s a question of…. Yes, I agree with you…and that’s what we did in our research. Under the Nazi occupation….there were 300 million people living in Nazi-occupied Europe; Poland and all the other occupied countries including Germany itself. Yes, in our book, we sadly take the best educated guess and there were less than 1% of those 300 million people who acted heroically and altruistically. So, yes, I agree with you that, unfortunately, there are not enough people….

Roger: So you agree that 99% of people are inherently evil?

Dr. Oliner:  No, 99% of the people were bystanders, my friend. That’s not the same thing as being evil. A “bystander” is a person who is afraid, a person who feels –these people are not my people –the Nazis are going to kill me if I help somebody. Only a few times in human history was there a situation where if you, Roger, save me, and it was discovered, you’d be shot and your entire family would be exterminated, along with me! So, when you have such stringent laws that were carried out— in Poland alone there were 2,000 Catholics (and that is a fact!) who were executed along with the people they were hiding, once they were betrayed by their fellow Poles who were making a living by getting payment from the Gestapo.

So, yes, I agree with you that not enough people are altruistic. Yes, I agree that not enough people are involved with humanity. But, I’m also saying to you there is hope for the future because it is not a gene. We do not have a gene for evil. If we are socialized and treat well, taught well and our parents role model kindness and compassion, more of us can leave the status of a bystander or even a perpetrator and become a rescuer/helper. So, there is hope in this! That’s why I cannot agree that we are basically evil and doomed to remain like this because if we entertain an image like this, think of all our children and the kind of image we leave them with–that humanity is nothing be evil–and we can predict and foretell the world is alienated and separate from each other.

Goodness and altruism, in my opinion and I don’t mean to sound preachy, is the antidote to a divided world. We need more of it. We need more of it in our leaders. In the second book that we wrote, “Toward a Caring Society,” we suggest that caring and compassion can be cultivated; in the workplace, in the church place of religious institutions, in educational institutions, family and other major institutions where caring and compassion can be taught and inculcated. It doesn’t cost you anything! When you treat a group of employees with kindness, and there are lots of examples…..

Roger: I’ve got to take this break, Sam! When we come back, give me your best shot! Tell me about the most altruistic person that you’ve found in your studies. Will you do that?

Dr. Oliner: I don’t know if I can tell you “THE MOST”, but I’ll try!

Roger: We’ll be right back, ladies and gentlemen! Our guest is Dr. Sam Oliner. His book is “The Altruistic Personality.”

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger:  Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen! We’re talking with our guest, Dr. Samuel P. Oliner, about altruism and whether it’s really real. My feeling, of course, is that the vast majority of people, I think ALL MEN, are born evil. I do! I think it takes a lot of work to be good. I do!

But, if you read Dr. Oliner’s book, it’s filled with stories of good people; the kind of goodness that is almost as difficult to describe as the evilness of the holocaust! Sam, give me your best shot here, buddy!

Dr. Oliner: Okay, you want the best shot as far as….

Roger: I want to believe in altruism, Sam! I’ve been reading your book! I want to believe that there is goodness in man! I really do! But, I think it’s the same kind of denial that I see elsewhere, that you’re trying to find goodness where there isn’t any.

Dr. Oliner:   Ha, ha! We could go on for hours…

Roger: No! Because I read your book and I see goodness there, Sam.

Dr. Oliner: Okay, just to convince you a little bit more….

Roger: First of all, before we move on any further, how can people who really want to know about the goodness of man get your book?

Dr. Oliner: That’s an easy one! It’s out in paperback. It’s “The Altruistic Personality” and is published by the Free Press. Any bookstore will have it or can order it for you.

Roger:  You get into all the psychology of altruism and evil in your book. Unfortunately, we don’t have time to get into all of that tonight. What I’m trying to discover, the real essence of this battle between good and evil that mankind has faced since Year 1— Cain and Abel, great story, right?

We ‘ve faced this battle of good and evil forever; but, the holocaust is like this paramount, the climax of evil in modern society! It’s this incredible story that’s real, that’s so difficult to understand, that I don’t think you can understand it unless you were there! Even then, I don’t think you could really, truly grasp the evil that was underlying this incredible event. So, when you talk about altruism, these wonderful people selflessly giving to those in need, regardless of the consequences…

I mean, sure there were a few people who probably snapped and lost and their minds and did good things; but, did really sane people?

Dr. Oliner: Ha, ha! Absolutely! They were sane people. They were rational people. They were compassionate people! Let me give you a few quick examples! I don’t know how time is going? 

Roger:  I might have to keep you over, Sam! This is not a subject I want to let die!

Dr. Oliner: Whatever you …

Roger: You just tell me, and we feel like we’ve sufficiently covered the subject, we’ll quit.

Dr. Oliner: Fine. I am sure the many listeners that you have must have heard of Oskar Schindler, must have heard of Wallenberg. I’m not going to be speaking about them. I’m going to give you some more close-to-home figures.

Raoul Wallenberg, in Hungary, rescued between 30,000-50,000 Jews, just one man, one man in the face of Nazi persecution of these people.

Oskar Schindler, rescued about 1,200 people.

Sempo Sugihara, a Japanese, by himself saved 15,000-30,000 people when he was a diplomat in Lithuania, issuing passes to these people.

Gergio Perlasca, an Italian rescuer who took over the Spanish Embassy while the Spanish Diplomats fled when Russian armies were advancing towards Budapest. He was able to issue Spanish passports to Jews in order to save them.

The Village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, in France. A friend of mine studied it very deeply and carefully. They saved about 5,000 people. A group of protestants hid these Jews in cafe’s, in churches, in basements and shed, in forests and under bridges and saved their lives!

So, I agree with you —- before I go into a few stories that I know personally, and we’ve interviewed these people—- I agree with you, Roger, that there wasn’t enough done! There were too many bystanders. There’s still too many bystanders! But, I’m saying that education and socialization away from evil and towards facts, truth and the teaching of justice can really take more millions of people away from the role of bystanders or sceptics or even bigots and turn them to people who are at least neutral, and at best empathic to other people’s pain.

Let me get to a story which I think shows you it is not random, it is not planned or anything like this! They were marching a group of people in a very famous city called Krakow, the oldest city in Poland.

Roger: You know, Sam, here’s what’s going to happen to you and me. We’re going to come up to a break here where I normally go on to other subjects. We haven’t explored this yet.

It think we have too much ground to cover and I need to ask you to stay at least another half hour or even beyond. It depends how it goes. Would that be alright with you?

Dr. Oliner: I’ll be very happy to! You sound like a very important person because by doing what you’re doing, you are inculcating goodness and I appreciate you!

Roger: Now, don’t tag me with this label of altruism. I am a man who has tried desperately to fight against evil in my own life for many years and I am trying to become what you might call a “good” person. I think I’ve come pretty close; but, I know in a heartbeat that called to answer the challenge of my own survival or basic and important, maybe political or social concepts, I could be driven to kill people in a heartbeat. I know that the warrior spirit is alive, in me and in all men! Our president is about to go and blow up Iraq because we don’t like them denying us the inspections of their facilities. We are warriors, we are murders, we are takers, we are conquerors….

Dr. Oliner: …. And we are compassionate people as well!

Roger:  Yes, well, after the bloodletting we’re always compassionate when we come down from our festive high. We’ll be back to continue this discussion with Dr. Sam Oliner! He’s a fantastic guy and the book is fantastic! It you read the book you will believe in goodness! “The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe”. Get it at your bookstore! We’ll be right back!

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger: Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen! Our guest this evening is Dr. Sam Oliner. He’s a professor at Humbolt State in California. The book we’re talking about relates to the holocaust, an incredible book he and his wife wrote called, “The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe” — what led ordinary men and women to risk their lives on behalf of others?

Sam and I have been having a little discourse. I believe that all men are born inherently evil; yet, I have evidence before me in Sam’s book that is not exactly true. I’m suffering now in personal crisis trying to overcome it, ladies and gentlemen, but I will before this program is over. Ha, ha! I suppose there are some good people out there; but, I think there are damn few of them! We’ll take some calls from listeners in a bit.

Sam, welcome back! 

Dr. Oliner: Thank you.

Roger: Alright, the altruistic personality we’ve been talking about, how do we know…. you and I were talking about some of these great names from history…how do we know they didn’t do these things just for history’s sake?

Dr. Oliner: Well, you asked a very good question. You know that I like to talk to you because you ask very good questions! First of all, altruism… I defined it for you and I said that altruism does not mean that you’re selfless, that you are always altruistic, that you never do anything bad or unjust or unfair. It means that most of the time you do something kind and compassionate. What I’m trying to say is that the fact that Wallenberg or one of the people who I’m going to talk about, I have 100s of case here, they helped other people without expecting external reward; but, internal reward–definitely! Internal reward is the feeling good about yourself, feeling you did something right, feeling you might get some praise from your loved ones and approval. So, Wallenberg did this because he was a diplomat saving 30,000-50,000 Jews. But, he also probably felt very good about this.

If you call it selfish — I’m going to do something kind for Roger so I will feel good about it— that’s fine! There’s nothing wrong when a corporation does something for people, for their employees, and they get harder-working, more loyal workers in return, there’s nothing wrong with that. The thing is internal reward is what counts. They achieve exactly the opposite of what PG&E or some other corporation that does something for the people; but, something for himself as well. Namely, he feels good about this; but, at the same time, in the world of work, you may get better workers. Internal reward could be called selfish if it’s done for selfish reasons, I don’t know. It could be said that way; but, that doesn’t deny the existence of altruism just because you did it for internal reward.

Roger: Isn’t ego a sin? Isn’t pride a sin?

Dr. Oliner:  No, absolutely not! Ego is not a sin! If you have a healthy ego it makes you a healthy person. Pride may be a sin if it’s avarice and greed and violence and destroying someone else. That’s a sin! Not pride, unless you have too much pride that leads to arrogance. Pride and a healthy ego— there’s nothing wrong with that! As as matter of fact, a guy like Wallenberg who tragically died in a Soviet prison…the irony of history, a man who did so much to save lives, the Soviets arrested him and he rotted in prison.

Roger: But, Sam, nobody would come to the aid of the Jews.

Dr. Oliner: That’s not true….

Roger: You know the president of the United States. He knew what was going on in Germany, in Europe! You know, Sam, that if the America people had known, IF THEY HAD KNOWN they wouldn’t have done anything! The American people were upset because Pearl Harbor got bombed and they were going to get those Japanese! But, they didn’t care that Jews and others were being slaughtered by the millions in Europe! Come on!

Dr. Oliner: That is true…

Roger: They didn’t care! Where’s the altruism there?

Dr. Oliner: Altruism is right away an individual thing….

Roger: Sam, 24 million African citizens have died in the last decade!

Dr. Oliner: 24 million? … African?…. citizens?

Roger: Yes, from war, aids, whatever. It’s terrible! Nobody cares! There’s not a lot of people rushing off to Africa to help, are there?

Dr. Oliner:  You’re right! It’s a tragic situation. Too many of us are bystanders. Our government is a bystander frequently, politics are bystanders, powers are bystanders. All of this is geo-politics and all that.

In the case of countries during the holocaust, it is true that some individuals in the State Department couldn’t care less because they were anti-Semitic. On the other hand, even when you look at other cultures….. for instance, Denmark. I’m sure you’ve heard of the situation in Denmark during the war. The notion that when the Nazis finally decided that the Danish people had better give up their 8,000-9,000 Jews to extermination in Auschwitz, the people refused! The people refused! King Christian X refused. The government refused and hid them and transported them across the water to neutral Sweden. Bulgaria, for instance, did something! In Greece, the City of Salonika saved most of their Jews, so everybody was not a bystander. But, I have to agree with you, too many people were bystanders then….

Roger:  Are they bystanders or is it really, at its root, guttural level cowardice?

Dr. Oliner: I don’t like the word cowardice.

Roger: Why?

Dr. Oliner: Because coward would imply that you had an opportunity and your leaders, ministers and churches told you to do something and you were too afraid. I think a better explanation is a bystander is a person who see a tragedy and finds a reason for not doing something for no one has defined for them that they ought to do something about it. He is not informed enough, involved enough. So, I think a bystander is a better term than just a coward. A coward is someone who runs away and hides.

Roger: Let’s explore that because you get into the psychology pretty heavy! Let’s explore that! I walk up to some Polish woman and I am some anti-semitic Polish officer serving in the SS and I ask her what she thinks of Jews, like Peter in the Bible. What does she say? “They’re not even people, those Jews! They’re animals!”

Dr. Oliner: There are some people like that.

Roger: Isn’t that cowardice when deep down inside this Polish woman may have no animosity at all towards Jews?

Dr. Oliner: Cowardice, in that sense, is saying you don’t want to rock the boat and you don’t want to get involved. You don’t want the policeman or the Nazi to call you a Jew-lover. In this country the word would be Nigger-lover, if you’re pro-African American.

Since you mention this woman, let me give you a story that’s just the opposite and see if you agree with me.

Roger: You tell me the story, then we’ll take a couple of calls and you can give me another story!

Dr. Oliner: Okay! Well, as I started saying before about this beautiful city, Krakow, Poland that has the most ancient university in the world. They were marching a group of a thousand Jews to the railroad station to the cattle cars. A Jewish woman has a small little infant and she knows, somehow deep in her heart she knows that the end is coming. So she sees some people on the sidewalk of Krakow, sees a blond woman standing there. She sneaks away from this column and runs over to the Polish woman and says, “Please, I beg you ma’am, to save my child! They’re going to kill her! I beg you to save my child!”

This blond woman takes this 5 month old child, takes it home. She lives on the 3rd floor of an apartment. She was neither pregnant or married and the neighbors begin to suspect that it may be a Jewish child. As evil would have it, someone reported her to the police, namely the Polish police in the service of the Nazis. (They were not exactly popular after the war.) Anyway, the Polish police come and arrest this woman with the child and she’s brought to the police station, to a big room with 6 to 10 police officers sitting around their desks. They sat her down to a desk to wait for the captain to arrive. The Polish captain arrived and he looks at her and barks, “This is not your child, lady! This is a Jewish child, isn’t it!”

By divine intervention, this woman breaks into Academy Award tears, pounds the desk and says, “You should be ashamed of yourself! Are you men? Are you Poles? You call yourselves human beings? One man in this room has fathered this child,” and she looks around the room at the men sitting there, “ and he called it a Jew so it would be exterminated and he wouldn’t have to take responsibility for it!”

Now, you tell me, why did she do that? What kind of evil is that? For the rest of the war, she was able to save this child! There are people like that! Their stories ought to be known! They ought to be in history books! The Schindler’s and the Wallenbergs ought to be in the history books because they’re more important than Hitler, Himmler and Eichmann.

The point I’m trying to make here is that’s the social science interpretation; that altruistic and compassionate people are made— they’re brought up! Here’s an example of compassion, social responsibility.   And by the way, as a P.S., the child grew up and is a scientist now. He’s no longer a child— ha, ha! — the woman is still alive and we had the privilege of interviewing both of them!

The State of Israel has an institution called Yad Vashem where they recognize from 15,000 to 18,000 of what they call Righteous Gentiles. I know this is a tiny little percentage; but, it is something to be put in history books and it helps us to straighten out a little bit of the distorted image of the cynicism that everything is evil, nobody cares and man is nasty and brutish!

I think we’ve got to fight that kind of image! Teachers are trying to do something about it, little by little, by teaching courage, character development, prosocial behavior. I think there’s hope! I think there’s hope because the alternative is nothing but despair. I’ve got thousands of stories I don’t have time to go into….

Roger: Let’s take a call or two and see what our listeners are thinking about our discussion. We’re going to Brian in Springfield. Brian, welcome!

Caller-Brian: I want to sorry because I’m going to have to stand behind Sam on this one!

Dr. Oliner: Thank you!

Caller-Brian: I believe there are altruistic people out there and it’s not human to be “born evil”. It’s just ignorant!

Roger: Well, were our founding fathers of America ignorant when they slaughtered the Native American Indians?

Caller-Brian: Of course!

Roger: Were the Spanish conquistadors ignorant when they slaughtered the Mexican peasants and the Incas and the Mayans?

Caller-Brian: Of course!

Roger: Was Alexander the Great ignorant when he conquered Persia?

Caller-Brian: I can’t answer that one.

Dr. Oliner: I think the question…. can I get into this, too?

Roger: Yes, absolutely! That’s why you’re here!

Dr. Oliner: I didn’t know how that works. The question that you’re asking about our founding fathers and slavery…. it is obviously within a tradition, with the teachings, within the arrogance of our culture. It is born out of our misinformation about other human beings, thinking that Blacks and Native Americans were savages without a soul, beasts of burden! So, I agree with Brian that it is a form of ignorance! It’s mis-education, under-education!

Roger: So, was God ignorant when he brought the rains and flooded the planet and only Noah and his family survived?

Caller-Brian: He brought the winter on to actually stop the Nazis as they marched into Russia! He helped us out there!

Roger: Alright, Brian! I appreciate that! Thank you very much!

Samuel, I am trying to grasp this. I know from going through your book there are some wonderful people in your book! I know there are some wonderful people; but, I don’t know if it’s our nature to be good. You seem to lead to that conclusion in your book. That it is our nature…

Dr. Oliner: Probably not our nature. When a child is born and you see your child for the first time, you don’t know what it’s nature will be. But, you can probably take a very, very good educated guess that if your child is loved and nurtured, taught the right values and tolerance, if I was a betting man I’d say there’s a 95% chance he or she will grow up to be a decent, caring person because you would be the role model.

Roger: Alright! Let’s take that decent, caring person and piss them off, fill them with hate, fill them with rage! Give them a reason, then where do they go?

Dr. Oliner: The decent, caring, compassionate person will probably buy less of the propaganda, will internalize less hate, will probably see two sides of the coin rather than only one side of the coin.

If you look at the people who joined the Nazi movement, these were decent people who I’m not defining out of the human race. These people who voted for Hitler were less educated, more unemployed, less informed, less experience with Jews and more susceptible to the systematic, vicious propaganda. Remember, Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Education and Propaganda said it so well that it’s used in college textbooks today, “ The bigger the lie, the more frequently repeated, the more likely uneducated people will believe it.”

So, I would say that, yes, economic frustration, misinformation, under-education, political frustration, humiliation will absolutely make you a recruitable person to a hate group or to a movement which was nationalistic and chauvinistic. Hitler said two or three important things to his people which were right on. He said we are in trouble in Germany because of the Treaty of Versailles, unemployment, horrendous unrest. We are in trouble! Do you agree with me? Vote for me and I’ll solve all your problems. The problems are the Jews, the Bolsheviks, the Communists, the Americans. Vote for me and I’ll solve your problems.

Roger:   Sam, Germany was the most cultured, the highest form of civilization on the planet!The people that supported Hitler, that moved Hitler into a position of power, that gave him money and cut deals with him for their business operations, these were not ignorant people! These were not uneducated people! These were the crème de la crème of the world!

Dr. Oliner: There were very rich industrialists, very wealthy people who had businesses and corporations who saw…..

Roger: But, haven’t you just countered your own argument?

Dr. Oliner: No, I have not! What I’m trying to say is that people made mistakes, including…

Roger:  Listen, collect yourself here. We’re going to take a short break. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be back to continue with our wonderful guest, Dr. Sam Oliner, about his fascinating book, “The Altruistic Personality” that’s just filled with stories of goodness. Goodness! You’ll feel really good after you read the book and you can get it any bookstore.

We’ll be right back.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger:  Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen! Dr. Sam Oliner is our guest. His book, “The Altruistic Personality” is just filled with a lot of interesting psychoanalysis and wonderful stories, tales of good people who put everything at risk to help the Jews during the holocaust. It goes into great depth about the whole psyche of these individuals, what they were really about deep down in their core. Fascinating reading! I hope you’ll get the book!

Sam, I want to get through this before we take the next call. You make this assessment, and I think it’s a dangerous, maybe even arrogant, assessment that people who are uneducated, I mean in the classic sense, are somehow easier to manipulate than people who are educated. I don’t think that I believe that! Can you make that argument, really?

Dr. Oliner: Let me put it another way. People who are less educated are more likely to be involved in stereotypes, more likely to buy distorted images of another group. They’re more likely to buy into the official line of propaganda.

Roger: Okay, back that up!

Dr. Oliner: I can back that up by……

Roger: Wait! Now, listen! That’s a profound statement! I think that we’re driven by our spirit and by common sense, by instinct and things that are innate within us!

Dr. Oliner: Let me back up for a second and say that I do not mean to imply that people who are less educated are therefore evil or that they are not capable of great compassion and helping. For example, in our sampling of 800, we found that uneducated people were just as compassionate as educated people.

What I’m trying to say and I hope I can make this statement clear is that less educated people are more likely to “buy the line”. They don’t have the educational background to look at the other side of the coin. Is it really true that Jews in Germany dominated the economy? Total absolute nonsense! There were only half a million Jews in Germany and 80 million Germans! Now, Jews did very well; but, they were not dominating the economy of Germany. An informed person would know the economy; the history, the details, the facts and figures and would probably not buy this unless it suited his purpose. Propaganda is to inflame people. A misinformed person might say, yes, these people are dominating my country, they’re evil, etc.

Roger:  Now, I want to agree with you. Here’s what I want to say, harkening back to the beginning of the program when you talked about initially beginning your class on the Holocaust at Humboldt State because you were surprised at the number of people who didn’t believe that the holocaust even happened–they thought it was a hoax! I want to tell you something, Sam. I have met a lot of those people! A lot more than I care to remember!

I was deeply involved in certain studies that led me to the Lector Report and the really egregious things that exist out there; The Protocols of the Elders of Zion! Let me tell you what I found that I think is rather interesting. Most of the people who fall for it are low-class white trash, the bottom of the spit! I’m just telling you from being out there and doing research on my own. There are hundreds of them, Sam! Not a few, but hundreds of them!

Most of them are right down, rock bottom at the lowest echelon of the class structure.

Dr. Oliner: Economic structure as well.

Roger: So, Sam, I hate to tell you; but, I think you’re right! Stupid people are dangerous!

Dr. Oliner: They are more susceptible to buying the line. Especially if they’re not reachable by some method to inform. Inform the people and I think they’re more likely to make a just judgment, given both sides of the coin. Thank God for the United States and the free press! We can counteract bigotry, not that we have licked it all. We’re trying!

Roger: Sam, I like to play the devil’s advocate occasionally and I’ve been doing it with you this evening somewhat. It’s more fun for me! In all honesty, I’ve now been through 12 or 15 of these interviews, read so many books and done so much research on this subject, I still cannot comprehend the kind of evil that was so compensatory throughout the holocaust.

Yet, when I read you book, I cannot in all my wildest dreams imagine that there aren’t really a lot more good people than what has been discovered. If my neighbor really was in trouble, I would be there.

Dr. Oliner: I know you would.

Roger: I really would! I would die for principle and I know a lot of my good friends would do the same! At least, I think we would.

But, then faced with this ominous evil authority that came with the Hitler regime and the SS and the hit squads, maybe not! I don’t know now because I can’t comprehend it! I cannot, in my mind’s eye, see loading human beings onto cattle cars and dragging them off to their death! I cannot visualize it, even though I know it happened!

So, I go back to the opening paragraph of your book where a man is resting in his sleep, or not resting but having nightmares, and his friend not wanting to awaken him to the worse nightmare of his reality. That is so powerful!

Dr. Oliner: Yes, it’s by a famous guy, Frankl, who I’m sure you know is a psychologist. His famous book is “Men Search for Meaning.” To survive a horror like this is to try to live in you mind, try to suppress the evil around you, try to think of poetry and beauty and flowers, what might have been or what once was….

Roger: Before I take calls here in just a minute, I just want to ask you this. Did we learn anything from this horrible atrocity, this terrible, terrible, terrible war on mankind? Did we learn anything from it?

Dr. Oliner: I think that we have learned something although not enough! Let me talk about “not enough” because since then we’ve had Bangladesh, Biafra, the Tutsis and the Hutus. So, we’ve had other genocides. We haven’t learned enough because our leaders still remain as, I don’t know, moral dwarfs or something — people who did not stand up and intervene in evil. We have the capability of stopping the slaughter in Bosnia, the Europeans had the capability. So, we haven’t learned enough!

But, we’ve learned something! For one thing, the school systems in a number of states are now teaching about genocide, the massacre of indians, the holocaust and other genocides in 13 other places. There’s more sensitivity to the idea of …we’ve got to teach prosocial behavior and we’ve got to talk more about moral leaders, moral people.

Roger: Sam, I know you’re living in Eureka, the pot capital of America and all the people are like peaceful and high and everything. But, do you know what they call it when young Black men in inner-city America are running up and down the streets at night and during the daytime hours, shooting each other and killing each other? Do you know what they call it?

Dr. Oliner: Go ahead, tell me.

Roger:  It’s the “good riddance factor”. I mean we don’t even deal with these situations in their microcosms in America today, let alone go to Rwanda or Burundi. We don’t even have the capability of dealing with this horrible evil that exists right here at home!

Dr. Oliner: We have the capability, Roger; but, we are indifferent to it. We are indifferent…

Roger: Then let me ask you before we go to the break and we’ll take calls immediately after the break— did we really learn anything?

Dr. Oliner: Yes! We learned that there was evil and some people stood up against evil. We must be vigilant and we must teach about it. Some people in this country call it the Holocaust Industry. No, it’s not! What it is, we are building libraries and memorials so that people can learn for the future what might happen if we are bystanders, indifferent to the past.

Roger: We’ve got to take a break. Dr. Sam Oliner is our guest. His book is “The Altruistic Personality”. If you want to get a good feel for goodness, get the book! We’ll be right back to take your calls. Please stay tuned.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger:    Welcome back! Dr. Sam Oliner is with us. We’ll go right to the phones, okay? Jimmy in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Hello!

Caller-Jimmy: Hello to you and hello to that eminent gentleman we’re talking with. Can you hear me?

Dr. Oliner: Hello! Yes, I can.

Caller-Jimmy: I’ve enjoyed listening to your comments, especially when the Jews were being ignored by the United States and many others. How true those words are, Roger!   Roosevelt ignored everything and could have done a lot more than he did! I have never liked the man because of his actions towards the Jews. I’m a Catholic; but, I was always taught to be nice to people.

53 years ago I saw the Bergen-Belsen, Hannau (sp?) and Dachau camps. I still find it appalling! I was fortunate enough to have been spared after I had seen the signs of “Arbeit macht frei”(Work Will Set You Free) that I didn’t go to one camp. But, the sights that I saw were stomach-turning! It was anything but pretty! George Patton said he wanted every soldier in his Third Army area —- the American soldier didn’t always know what they were fighting for —- He said, “I want you to come and take a damn good look at what you’re fighting against! This filth!!!” He hit it right! That’s just what there were! To see those human skeletons, I remember it well! I’m looking forward to your book, Sam!

Dr. Oliner: Thank you very much!

Roger:   Thank you, Jimmy.

Caller-Jimmy: Goodnight. Roger: Dave, in Central Point, Oregon. Hello, Dave!

Caller-Dave: Good evening to you Roger and to your very distinguished guest there. God bless him for living through such a hell! Listen, Roger, I’ve got tell you, it’s not inherited evil, it’s inherited sin, you know? And, a lot of what Sam says is true. It’s ignorance! The way they tell the lie over and over and over again until people believe. Look at America! Look at our own propaganda machine! You can see it happening at work.

Roger: The media can demonize anyone they want, that’s true.

Caller-Dave: Well, look at the polls. The sheep believe it! There you have it. There’s your proof. But, it’s inherited sin. It’s Adamic sin! Then add to that our corrupt culture and there you go! I’m scared about the rest of the world, like China and Africa and all these other places where it continues. God help us all! I hope he comes back soon.

Roger: Dave, I really appreciate your call. God bless!   Carol in Madison, Wisconsin, hello!

Caller-Carol: Yes, I have an article from the British Medical Journal here headlined, “Half of German Doctors Were Nazis” and it quotes a professor of Medical Ethics, Dr. Michael Grodin and a professor of History of Science, Dr. Robert Proctor.

Dr. Oliner: Yes, I know him.

Caller-Carol:  They talk about a meshing of medical ideology and Nazi ideology, namely a homeopathic paranoia, a desire to cleanse the German volk of all impurities and health threats including contamination by undesirable elements in society. So, those doctors can hardly be called ignorant! They were the most active of any segment in the population, according to Dr. Proctor’s book.

Roger: Imagine being a scientist….

Caller-Carol: And their ideology is still alive and well today in the anti-smoking movement.

Roger:  Carol, thank you. Hitler did give carte blanche to Mengele and his vast cadre of followers and….

Dr. Oliner:  In the name of science, they committed the horrors and atrocities. The caller is right! And, by the way, not only ignorant people can do evil, educated people can do evil, to–especially when they have bought into the ideology that they’re doing it in the name of science.

Roger:  I think that you can make a case that some people should know better and other you might not expect to be as readily knowledgeable. Don, in Roseburg, Oregon, hello!

Caller-Don: Hi Roger, howya doin? I just wondered if the Doctor knew, or if he can sense any of the same things happening in this society now with the liberals as has happened all across…..

Roger: You can’t ask Sam that question!. He’s a U.C. Berkeley grad! Ha, ha, ha!

Dr. Oliner:   Ha, ha, ha!

Caller-Don: Ha, ha, ha! Can he sense that type of thing happening, the ignorance of a lot of people?

Roger: Do you see the tentacles of fascism in America today, Sam?

Dr. Oliner: No. I hope to God not! I’ve lived in a very fascistic society. With all our troubles, problems and corruption we have, we still have a belief in democracy. We still have a belief in freedom of religion and freedom of the press. When this goes, then we’ve got a problem and we’ve got fascism coming; but, I don’t think that is going to go because there a lot of people sensitive and bright enough not to permit this to happen. People must have freedom — must have freedom of worship — must have freedom of the press! So, I feel more safe here.

Roger: Well, the warning signs will obvious, I suppose. I’ve seen little pieces; but, I do think the people in this country would be hard-pressed to fall into the same trap, let’s hope!

Sam, I really appreciate having me you. You seem like a wonderful guy!

The book, “The Altruistic Personality,” by Samuel P. Oliner and Pearl M. Oliner is available at your bookstores. Sam, the pleasure was all mine!

Dr. Oliner: It was my pleasure!   Thank you very much and I thank all your listeners. They’re wonderful! Appreciate it! And Good night!

Roger: God bless! Ladies and gentlemen, that’s that for this week’s Holocaust special. We were only going to go for an hour but it turned out to be so fascinating – at least, it was for me and I hope it was for you. We’ll be back tomorrow night. God bless America!

Transcription is from MP3 file converted from original cassette with minimal editing by Chey Simonton.

Errors, if any, may be due to unintelligible sections of original 1997 audio technology. Unknown/unintelligible words are spelled phonetically.)

The Holocaust – We Must Remember – Henry Feingold – BEARING WITNESS: How America and Its Jews Responded to the Holocaust

The following video is an important clip from this very wonderful interview.

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5gzHT33A-E&feature=player_detailpage

THE HOLOCAUST: WE MUST REMEMBER 

30-Hour Series of Interviews broadcast on the Roger Fredinburg Radio Program

2-4-1998 Thirteenth Program in Series

Guest: Dr. Henry Feingold

Book: BEARING WITNESS: How America and Its Jews Responded to the Holocaust

ISBN-10: 0815626703   and   ISBN-13: 978-0815626701
bearing witness

Roger:   Welcome, ladies and gentlemen! It’s a pleasure to be here once again to continue our series. I still have a very difficult time, each evening when we endure this topic, I find myself more and more emotionally disturbed about the truth with regard to history. When you hear from the mouths of the people who lived through the holocaust it’s just an entirely different picture that is drawn from what many of us got in our public school system. Fascinating stories we’ve heard! Tonight’s I’m sure will be no different.

Our guest this evening is Dr. Henry Feingold. His book is,” Bearing Witness: How American and It’s Jews Responded to the Holocaust.” He’s a professor of history at Baruch College and the Graduate Center at the City University of New York and we want to welcome him here. Professor, hello!

Dr. Feingold: Hi, how’re you doing?

Roger: Just fine! It’s nice to have you here, Dr. Feingold, it’s really a privilege! I’ve had the opportunity to thumb through your book over the last couple of days. What a piece!

Dr. Feingold: Thank you very much. I like to write.

Roger: Henry, what other things have you written? You’ve written quite a bit over the years.

Dr. Feingold: A Five volume history of American Jewry I edited called, “The Jewish People in America.” I wrote Volume Four: “A Time for Searching: Entering the Mainstream 1920-1945”, is probably now the definitive work on the American Jewish experience. I’ve done “Zion in America: the Jewish Experience from Colonial Times to the Present.” I’ve also written a “Midrash on American Jewish History,” and four books on the Holocaust. You wouldn’t want to know what other things! Ha, ha!

Roger: Ha, ha, ha! You must enjoy it to be that prolific!

Dr. Feingold: Well, some people like to write and it’s one of the things I like to do. It’s what I do. It’s how I invent myself.

Roger: Henry, you’re the first guest I’ve had on with regard to taking this subject on from the American Jew’s point of view. That’s an interesting subject, it really is! First of all, with all your discovery over the years, you talk about the “uniqueness of the holocaust.” I’d like you to tell me exactly what you mean by that.

Dr. Feingold: That’s such a difficult subject. I’m sometimes scared, there’s something very dangerous there, because my approach is Judeo-centric and not everyone buys it. There are various people; some people think it’s unique because of the unique intentionality. Some people think it’s unique because it shows modernity in its full-scale; that brilliant European railroad grid, that chemistry in the Zyklon-B gas, that almost mundane familiarity of bringing the raw material to death factories, the tolling of the dead by managers–so many units per hour –boasting between those who died in Treblinka and Auschwitz, whose camp was more efficient! That has a kind of almost boring familiarity to it! IT IS OUR INDUSTRIAL PROCESS! Some people think it’s that!

I think the holocaust is unique because the Jews of Europe were unique. I don’t unique because of “covenantal closeness”, after all, every group does feel unique. That’s why they are a group! I mean unique in the role that they played in the development of the European idea; that the Vienna-Berlin-Budapest axis that gave us Einstein, Freud and Kafka –unique in forming a universalizing elite!

I say it’s dangerous because Hitler also believed that the Jews were unique. He believed they were uniquely demonic! It’s kind of suspicious that a historian of Jewish history, who happens to be Jewish, should claim that there is a unique quality here. By unique I mean, valance, I mean weight, I mean importance! Unfortunately, in this particular process of the holocaust, you don’t have to rely on the words of the historian or the researcher. You can, in fact, wait for subsequent events.

If the French Revolution was unique or if it had a certain valence, a certain weight and subsequent history should have a resonance, it should change. Not everything in history is important; the discovery of the wheel is more important than the discovery of the toothpick. So, that we should be seeing a change in European history and a change in that other historical canvas which I am interested in, Jewish history. I must say, I go to Europe very often and I don’t really see much of a change. Europe does not miss its Jews and it has gone on as a prosperous area.

Then there is this thing you talked about in your introduction, you can’t pick up a newspaper today without reading something about the holocaust. I’ve heard that 6% of our literature today, our published books, have some impingement on it. You could say it’s a Jewish conspiracy, which it isn’t! It is the fact that we are listening to the sound of an extraordinary event, cracking into history, making that noise! Otherwise I see very little in European history that is unique.

It is on the Jewish historical canvas; however, that an extraordinary change has taken place; a people who was originally organized only in time, is once again organized in space. It has re-entered history. In that intractability of the Middle East Conflict, there is a linkage to the holocaust. The Arab world does not feel that it participated in the holocaust, yet it feels it is paying the price. We sometimes hear that argument in Arab propaganda. So there is almost… when I listen to the news about Iraq and our intention to bomb it, I sometimes feel almost eerie that there is something here that is happening, that had a line to it. So, on the Jewish historical canvas, it’s an enormous change!

An ideational change in the European historical canvas is that somehow everyone is trying to break their teeth on the holocaust idea. We don’t have very good art about it yet or very good theater; but, it doesn’t seem to go away! I don’t think it’s merely a conspiracy to make noise, to earn what one sociologist says, “ a psychic income to make points through the income of victimization.”

I think it’s a very interesting thing we are watching. Of course, I’m interested in it! I think we are dealing with a fantastic “something” that I have not quite been able to explain to myself; but, it is an event of enormous valence! I can’t even think of a historical word; I have to go to chemistry to explain it. We will see. The next 50 years will tell us. It is now 50 years after the holocaust and rather than this event getting softer and becoming contextualized and disappearing in history, perhaps overshadowed by other events, it is in fact getting louder every year! Even as the survivors disappear. So, we are dealing with something very special here.

Roger:  Well, I’ve heard the term about silence being deafening? That’s kind of an oxymoron; but, I think it applies to what you are trying to communicate, that it’s almost impossible to explain.

Dr. Feingold: Yes.

Roger: The semantics that surround the issue have for 50 years now dominated many cultures.   It’s a fascinating topic. Henry, we’ve got to take a short break here. Please hang on and we’ll be right back.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger:  We have Henry Feingold as our guest this evening. We’re talking about his book, “Bearing Witness: How America and It’s Jews Responded to the Holocaust,” Henry, welcome back!

You know, I want to move into America during the time of the holocaust. I’d like you to describe for me what you discovered about how Jewish America responded to the holocaust.

Dr. Feingold: That, again, is a very, very touchy subject for survivors who are living in America today. Enough was not done. Of course, we who were here know that enough could never have been done! So, we’re in an endless problem which leads to constant flagellation that we did not do enough. After all, 6 million Jews are evidence to show that not enough was done!

Once you get behind that, you have to wonder about certain things. The power of American Jewry to really change government priorities during wartime has to be examined and we get into enormously difficult problems because as part of the anti-Semitic imagination, the thing that is the common denominator to that imagination is the imagination that Jews have so much power. So, the anti-Semite feels the Jew have too much power and the Jew knows that he doesn’t have enough power.

When you compare American Jewry to other ethnic groups, the Irish-Americans or the German- Americans, we find there’s quite a different story. The German-Americans who were the largest “hyphenated” group here in 1914 were not able to stop America from going to war against its Father Land.   The Irish-Americans were trying to play the game called “Pushing the Lines,” too.

In the end they were not able to stop the Anglo-American alliance which dominated international relations in the 20th Century.

American Jewry, contrary to the imagination of Judeo-phobes, was not an organized group capable of conspiring in some way. In fact, its hallmark was that it was extraordinarily divided and dis-united and highly dynamic. It’s that way today. We sometimes wish that American Jewry had been able to speak to the Roosevelt administration with one voice, something more might have happened; but, even if that were true, it probably wouldn’t have changed very much because we have very few historic examples where an ethnic group in America pulled public policy away from the national self-interest, or what was viewed as the national self-interest, in order to serve its own needs. To give you an example, some people point to Greece and Turkey very recently. But, I can think of very few examples where that happened. So, the Jews of America during the holocaust are not noticeably different than other groups. In fact, I would say they were probably slightly more effective in getting the American government to articulate the Jewish interest, not that much more; but, certainly some more.

The question we really are speaking about is the question of power. How much power did the Jews have to change policy during a war, during a total war? How do you measure that power? What’s the difference between power and influence in America? We do not have the exercise of direct power. So, that’s one of the great problems we have. The problem of measuring the activities of the witness; whether it is the Vatican, or Switzerland, or the International Red Cross or American Jewry is far more complex historically than trying to tell the narrative of what happened to victims or the perpetrators because the victim ostensibly had some kind of choice; he could have been indifferent, he could have been opposed to having any action or he could have simply been neutral. When you have a choice you have an entrée for the moral athlete, for moralism which is the bane of all good history. Then you have the problem of trying to define what really happened. So, this problem of American Jewry’s reaction, just as the problem of the Vatican’s reaction or Switzerland’s reaction is extraordinarily difficult to handle because it has a comparative aspect and it also has the problem of choice and it’s very much affected by morality in a post-hoc situation. It’s true that nothing was done and that more could have always been done; but, once you get beyond that, what was really possible for a group that was divided, that had limited power, that was itself unable — it did not have any army or a sovereign legality to act on the national stage by itself– had to act through America, through the American government. How much could such a group have done? Are we assigning it a responsibility which it did not have the power to meet and then end up getting an endless whipping because not enough was done? That’s not only true of the Jews, by the way, it’s true of every one of the witnesses of which we expected much more; but, we have never really imagined the power they had, especially before Stalingrad, before March 1943 when many of the witnesses themselves were on the edge of become victims! It’s a hard problem!

Roger: Yes; but, there’s this guilt factor and I’m not clear about the dynamics about the guilt thing. American Jews are people who escaped the Final Solution, so to speak, those people feeling guilty that they didn’t suffer as much as others. I don’t understand that!

Dr. Feingold:  Ha, ha, ha! Yes, it’s very true! It is the defining act in American Jewry because while we, in the prosperity created by the war economy, were beginning to move to suburbia and sending our kids to the best schools, the brethren, our kin in Europe, were being baked! The historical cookie crumbled in a terrible way! In a sense, we were doing well while terrible things were happening to them! The juxtaposition itself posed problems for us. So, there is a feeling that not enough was done. In many cases the escape into getting the house in the suburbs and finally getting that car, of coming out of the Depression — if you talk to American Jews today, very few really remember fully what was happening— that credibility problem. It may very well be that they were preoccupied as most Americans were with day-to-day events. After all, the Depression created enormous private events. While the Jews were probably the most active group in the public sector, more politically astute, reading more newspaper, writing more Letters to the Editor more often, more engaged in the political process, they were not all involved in concern about their brethren. It depended on the generation.

Jews like my own family who came here in 1939 had an immediate visceral link. They understood it! But, what about those Jews who came before World War I and whose links to kith and kin had become much more remote, much more removed? It was much more difficult for them to imagine. So we find, for example, the American Jewish Committee represented the uptown Jews, the native-born wealthy Jews. In 1933 only 17% of the American Jewish population was still foreign-born. The older native-born had become much more American, far less conscious of their European families. They had removed themselves from that and they reacted as other Americans would, who did not have blood-ties.

The American Jewish Congress, on the other hand, another national defense organization which had in its rank and file many of the children of people who stemmed from the eastern European immigrants which were suffering this terrible bloodletting, had a far more visceral response. Yet, we find that these people did not know what to do. They would have these huge rallies, crying in public, “do something!” They sent rabbis to Washington D.C., they staged huge panoramas and plays and tried everything to get the public to understand what was happening. It was a public, of course, that was preoccupied with other things. The American people did not go to war singing, “Let’s Remember Auschwitz,” they went to war singing, “Let’s Remember Pearl Harbor.”

Roger: Absolutely. Professor, we’ve got to take a break. Ladies and gentlemen, Professor Henry Feingold is our guest, discussing his book, “Bearing Witness: How America’s Jews Responded to the Holocaust.” We’ll come back and talk more about what America really knew. That may shock you!

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger: Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen! Thank you so much for joining us during these Holocaust specials. It’s a real privilege and honor to be bringing these to you every week during this series. I’m enjoying it and I hope you are as well. Our guest this evening is Professor Henry Feingold. His book is, “Bearing Witness: How America’s Jews Responded to the Holocaust.”

Alright, professor, we’re back! We talked about what the Jews were trying to do. I’m looking back in history – what could you do? They had marches, they had demonstrations, they sent rabbis to Washington. Then, of course, there was this preoccupation, obviously, with the assault on Pearl Harbor. But, you had in office as the president at that time, Mr. Roosevelt. What did he know? I mean, the question real comes down to this, I think, in its basic terms; if the United States broadly had known what was going on in Europe at the time with the Jews, would that have been enough to get us into the war?

Dr. Feingold: No. The democratic system that you and I treasure so highly would have yielded a “No” response, a “No” even to the entrance of Jewish children and Jewish refugees into this country in the midst of the Depression. That’s what the consensus was. It would have required an enormous act of political courage for Roosevelt to have gone against such an opinion. It would have cost him political points. Roosevelt’s main objective between 1938 and 1941 when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred was to bring this divided, depressed nation into a war which it did not want to fight. He never really did succeed in doing that. He got as far as an undeclared naval war in the North Atlantic. He had promised Britain all kinds of things with the Atlantic Charter that was signed in August of 1941. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in a sense did for Roosevelt what he could not do for himself. Then the decision was made that the war in Europe would come first. For many Americans that was insufficient, it was always the war against Japan, the war in Asia that came first. It certainly was that way for General MacArthur. So, in a sense, we never won that battle, this nation went to war to remember Pearl Harbor.

It’s Roosevelt’s great political genius, I think, to be able to hold this nation together and to do what he did. We have to view what he did and did not do about the Jews, not even the admission of refugee children under the Wagner-Rogers Act that would have allowed 10,000 children to come here without visas. He didn’t do that. He probably knew that there were 120 professional anti-Semitic organizations, there was Father Coughlin. Jews were not winning any medals for popularity in the United States. The anti-Semitic imagination took to calling the Roosevelt administration not the New Deal; but, the “Jew Deal” ostensibly because Roosevelt, like Al Smith, had appointed more Jews to high places, more conspicuous high places, although today our tabulations indicate that Italian-Americans and Polish-Americans and Ukrainian-Americans were equally well treated. Actually, Hoover appointed just as many Jews to the court system as Roosevelt, just as high by proportion. But, it certainly looked that way! Adlai Stevenson who later gained an adoration, not unlike Roosevelt did among Jews, complained that in Washington every senator had his Jew behind him. They Jews did, in fact, make their presence in the national capital as advisors, as pundits, as journalists.

For the first time, Roosevelt’s New Deal resonated a certain part of Jewish political culture that was very important, the “benevolent state” doing good things.   So Jews, in a sense, had three worlds, we say in Yiddish, “ the world, that other world, and Roosevelt” (actual Yiddish words are omitted by transcriber) . The Jews gave Roosevelt the highest percentage of votes of any ethnic group. They were the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituency and, oddly enough, they did not switch to the Democratic Party until 1928! They were actually quite new arrivals! It was the other Roosevelt, the Teddy Roosevelt, that really brought Jews into politics. His name was on their citizenship papers and they voted Republican in the 1920s. In the 1930s they changed to this new urban ethnic coalition and became Roosevelt’s staunch supporters, even in the election of 1940 after other ethnic groups had sharply subsided in their concern and their love of Roosevelt. The Jews actually raised their concern and that’s very interesting because they knew of his falling behind in their needs in the foreign policy area. Nevertheless, who else was there? There was Thomas Dewey who had a suspicious mustache and who represented that other camp! They liked Wendell Willkie; but, he too was a Republican. So, the Jews had to depend on the less certain rewards for political loyalty because there was no Jewish leader on the scene like Stephen Wise, no Joseph Proskauer who could have threatened Roosevelt with the removal of the Jewish vote if he did not do what was part of the Jewish agenda. I think that’s really were we really have to conclude that Roosevelt knew that he had

the Jews in his pocket. So the normal political transaction of threatening the loss of votes was really not possible for the Jews.

Roger: We’re entering a time in history, Henry, where many of the people who remember will no longer be with us. Most of them are going to be gone in a very short time. What then?

Dr. Feingold: My own feeling is that while it’s true that the survivors were very instrumental in building the museum in Washington D.C. and echoing what happened to them, and that some of the noise we hear that will pick up to a crescendo in April which is Holocaust Month; but, some of the noise may in fact stem from them. My own sense is a little different. I think what we’re hearing is really the resonance of an enormous event, and important event in history. I’ve been teaching the Holocaust since 1968. I was probably one of the first to do so. It’s a very difficult subject to teach and it is easily mistaught. My classes are not primarily Jewish. They used to be; but, now everyone takes that course. We opened up a class at my school this year and we usually get an enrollment of perhaps 20. We’ve got 75 youngsters in there! When I asked them why, it’s not because it’s in a certain good period. It’s because they’ve seen Schindler’s List and because the holocaust has entered into their consciousness. It really fits into our own paranoiac dream that the world conspires against us. In a sense, they’ve all become European Jews! Life has become tougher, even though in terms of material wealth they’re doing quite well. So, I think what we’re seeing here is a kind of resonance.

Those who argue that it is, in fact, the survivors who want to be remembered— of course they do! But, I suggest that really it is not unseemly. I’m kind of surprised that people react so adversely to some of it. Perhaps there is a little bit too much noise. But, when your neighbor’s house is on fire and you see it, you must make the warning. Roosevelt said, “you must lend them your garden hose.” I say you must make a warning. The survivors have been to the abyss. They’ve seen how thin the veneer of civilization is. They are the ones who have witnessed it. They could be quiet. They could say, “You did not do anything for us! We will not warn you.” But, in an age of massive affirmation, perhaps even innocence and hope, the very people who should be cynical and skeptical are the ones who are yelling, “The world is on fire! The veneer is so thin. Be careful! This is what we have learned!” I think we should listen. They do it even though some people condemn them for it.

Roger: Hold right there, Henry! We’ve got to take a short break and we’ll be right back. Professor Henry Feingold is with us. His book is, “Bearing Witness: How America’s Jews Responded to the Holocaust.” It’s a great book and we’ll tell you how to get it. Don’t go away!

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger: Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen! Professor Henry Feingold is with us for the Holocaust Special this evening. “Bearing Witness: How America’s Jews Responded to the Holocaust.” Henry, how do people get your book if they want to read it?

Dr. Feingold: Well, I guess they go to Syracuse University Press or it’s in local bookstores. Barnes and Noble has it.

Roger: Amazon.com on the web? Do you know if it’s there?

Dr. Feingold: Yes!

Roger: Okay, so we can find it pretty easily then.

Dr. Feingold: Yes, it’s available.

Roger: I want to just say that if there’s anyone out there that has a question or a comment before the hour ends, we’ll be glad to entertain those if you call in.

Henry, you talk about this shot across the bow, this warning from those who witnessed the holocaust, to the rest of us. Yet, when I look across this landscape of this ever-shrinking globe of ours whether its Rwanda or Bosnia or even some of the tactics being used in our own country if you look at the Waco incident or the way the IRS goes in with SWAT teams to get the evil “tax non-filers”! I’m just wondering, what is the message? What are we supposed to be warned about? What should we look out for?

Dr. Feingold:  I think what you need to look out for is self-commanding bureaucracy that doesn’t even have to be triggered, that is a machine that does not have a human dimension, that simply solves problems—any problems! That’s really what we saw; the facelessness, the depersonalization, all the things that we were afraid of!

You know, it wasn’t only the Nazi bureaucracy that was guilty of murder during World War II. One reads through the American documents and realizes the euphemistic vocabulary. The Germans converted all victims into what they called “pieces.” We speak not of “Jews” in our documents. The Germans speak only of “Jews”. We speak of “political refugees”   A euphemistic vocabulary! In fact, the code word for the Final Solution which was originally “resettlement” was used much more in American documents and then picked up in German documents. The bureaucracy’s heartlessness was the same; the obtuseness, the inurement! These were not people, these were so many units that had to be processed!

I think that when you speak of the IRS and you speak of the machine that we face process and to govern a massive large and numerous world, I always look for that kind of “Do Not Bend, Fold or Spindle,” mentality that makes us stand in line, that makes us faceless and makes us a problem. Something happens in the inurement! So, I think that’s a terrific question! Where is the enemy?

I don’t want to sound paranoic and I know I’m not being too smart; but it is somehow in that bureaucracy, in that bureaucracy that can be told, “solve this problem” and ends up by killing people in large numbers! We had that here, too. Of course, much less so than other places in the world. I see that in the Soviet Union. I’ve just come back. I’m sure in China, too. The “facelessness” of the bureaucracy because you need a large bureaucracy when you have a totalitarian system that has something massive to do; to change the human being, to make the “New Nazi Man”, the “New Socialist Man”, to not let that human being alone! That requires an enormous change, to social engineer it! So, whenever I see it, I wonder about it. I think that we in America have gotten away from it, not entirely of course, but it’s much less so here because of the nature of our people. They just resist it automatically. They have that sense that, “I am a worthwhile person.” You have to go sometimes to the Soviet Union, and even today, to see what happens when a heartless bureaucracy weighs so heavily on a people. It destroys every civil institution; the church, everything — everything that could mediate between us and the power of government goes with such a bureaucracy!

Roger:   And you know, the reason I bring this up is because if the warning is received, if we hear the warning and we react to what we’re being told, then we will not have to deal with this ever again! In other words, the holocaust will not only be remembered; but, the lessons will be remembered for all time!

When I look at a public school system that separates children from their parents, that denounces the traditions of American history, that really becomes without concern for people’s religious beliefs, that takes a parent’s rights and flushes them down the toilet! Not that it’s extreme; but, the beginning emotions are there. We see this ever-increasing effort to take over the young people. Those are things that I look at and I say to myself, “Stop!” I hear the warning! Stop that! Don’t do that! The government doesn’t need to have the power to reshape the consciousness of my child, to socially engineer the children of America for some auspicious future that may not even come in world events! Just teach my children how to read and write and we’ll take care of the rest at home!

Dr. Feingold: You’re absolutely right!

Roger: And so, when I see those things, then I ask myself, “Is this how it starts?” Shouldn’t we—, early in the game before it gets so powerful that you can’t stop it — shouldn’t we be saying stop?

Dr. Feingold:  That’s right! When you hear them say the next time how few voted in the last election, remember that one of things that saves us is that we still have private lives. We can retreat to them, they have not been totally destroyed. There is a privateness and that’s where the freedom lies. In a sense, what we have to do is take care of that private sphere.

Certainly, there’s a great deal to be done, but I’m certainly not an expert on how one prevents tyranny. There is something aberrant about what happened in Germany, something special that is not yet fully understood. It may be possible that there is such a thing as a demonic leader. When one reads about the mesmerizing effect of this man who was nothing that we considered a man; he was not married, he did not drive a car, he did not go hunting, he didn’t play baseball— we would have considered him effete! Yet, he won the hearts of the German people! It’s not Hitler that’s interesting; it’s the relationship between Hitler and the German people who was so unbelievable strong. The spell was not broken until the very last day of the war. How did he get such a hold on the people?

Roger: Questions will forever be asked about this. Professor Henry Feingold has been our guest, ladies and gentlemen.   His book is “Bearing Witness.”   Thank you, sir! God bless! It was a wonderful interview!

Dr. Feingold: Thank you for having me!

Transcription is from MP3 file converted from original cassette with minimal editing by Chey Simonton.

Errors, if any, may be due to unintelligible sections of original 1997 audio technology. Unknown/unintelligible words are spelled phonetically.)