Ordinary people; horrific crimes

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum received an unusual donation last Christmas:  a photo album taken during the last year of Auschwitz.  But unlike all our other images of Auschwitz, which show the horrors visited on the camps’ victims, this one shows the perpetrators at play.  It’s mind-bending to see images of brutal killers (amongst whom you’ll find images of Mengele) singing songs together, frolicking in the rain, gathering for convivial drink fests, and otherwise enjoying ordinary life.

This album is a reminder, as I noted here, that one of the worst aspects of the Holocaust, for those in the West, is that the perpetrators were people just like us.  We can’t distance ourselves from them simply by saying that they were twisted primitives from an alien culture.  They weren’t.  They were the product of one of Western Civilization’s highest cultures and, even as they were burning the dead bodies of the millions they murdered, they kept on living their ordinary lives — sometimes within a mile or two of the smokestacks.


17 Responses

  1. It isn’t really mind-bending, you know. Regrettably, it’s pretty normal. Hitler liked dogs and the children he knew; Richard Ramirez likes children; Heinrich Himmler was a great father, John Wayne Gacey liked old people; Ted Bundy was a bird-watcher, etc., etc.

    Even mass murderers have to hit the supermarket, mow the lawn, and wash their clothes. When the sink leaks they get to call plumbers just like the rest of us.

    Which maybe makes it worse.

    But it doesn’t do any good to expect them to be creatures from some different Creation – they’re us.

  2. “- they’re us.”

    … It ought to be heartening to hear authoritarians embrace their own, but it’s not.

    Simply put, *they* were not *us* because we,

    * Are not rabid nationalists.

    * Do not demonize our opponents.

    * Do not worship the military.

    * Do not support a propagandic media.

    * Do not obsese over national security.

    * Do not protect the corpocracy.

    …. oh wait a minute. I could go on, but I seem to be describing “conservatives” like Book and DQ, who all-too-easily fit the definition of fascist.

  3. What a perfect juxtaposition – JJ, commenting upon the ying/yang nature of “Mankind”, recognizes the good and evil that dwells in all of our souls, versus Greg who points fingers at all but himself.

    You see, Greg, it is specifically because you DON’T recognize that your own fallibilities that people like you are so dangerous. It is people like you that I worry about, because you don’t even understand who and what the Nazis were. Just like you, they believed they were building a better world but first had to get rid of the untermenschen (i.e., conservatives) in order to achieve that goal. I find it ironic that you can so blithely demonize your opponents even as you moralize about not demonizing your opponents. It shows a rather blatant lack of self-awareness.

    Like a child, you flail in all directions for ideological dragons to slay without understanding the implications of what you seek. All you await is the right Pied Piper…or Imam… to lead you on your quest.

  4. Greg, that was, without doubt, the single most nasty thing you’ve ever written at this blog. You should be ashamed about yourself, but I doubt anyone who can write that kind of stuff is capable of experiencing shame. Another crack like that and I will ask Askimet to treat you as spam.

    I’m open to opposing viewpoints and I have, to date, found your vapid insults more amusing than offensive, but you’ve crossed over a line with this one, Dude. If you’d like to come back here and punch around in future, do not crudely call me a Nazi.

  5. You make a good point about how civilized people can commit atrocities. The Nakba was a great example:

    there no evidence that Arab leaders had called upon their people to flee in 1948-49, but that records revealed exactly the opposite: “In no case did a Palestinian population abandon its homes before an attack.” To the contrary, Israeli intelligence services had actually intercepted calls from Arab leaders asking Palestinians either to remain in their homes or to return if they had already fled.

    Morris and other Israeli historians concluded that the Palestinians’ flight was—as the Arabs had long claimed—the result of a purposeful policy of Israeli forces, whose communiqués at the time spoke openly of “cleansing” or “purifying” the conquered Arab villages.

    According to Gen. Yigal Allon, in May 12, 1948, as his men approached each Arab town, they tossed in tracts with the message in Arabic, “if you don’t flee immediately, you will all be slaughtered, your daughters will be raped.” Those were not empty threats.

    “The reality,” writes Cypel in his newly published book,
    “Walled,” “is that the expulsion was desired, coordinated, and accomplished by systematic atrocities against, and killing of, civilians, with town properties razed on order (at first on a very unequal fashion from one area to another), and that nearly half of this expulsion was carried out even before the Arab states attacked Israel.”

    Another Israeli historian, Gail Ehrlich, concluded that a dozen massacres of more than 50 victims each were committed during Israel’s War of Independence, apart from about 100 killings of smaller groups and individuals. He described a “conspiracy of silence” surrounding those massacres, which were carried out by elite Israel troops and continued even after the creation of the state of Israel.

    “When the first expulsions were undertaken no local officer received an order to stop them,” says Cypel, who lived for 12 years in Israel and served in the army. “Everyone understood from then on what direction was to be followed, without any need for an explicit formulation.”

    In 2004, Benny Morris wrote a new study concluding there had been far more “ethnic cleansing”—far more massacres and rapes than he had originally thought. The Israeli fighters had been given explicit orders “to uproot the villagers, expel them and destroy the villages themselves.” In October 1948 in the Galilee, he said, “There was an unusually high concentration of executions of people against a wall or next to a well in an orderly fashion. This can’t be chance. It’s a pattern.” The orders for expulsion followed the visit of Prime Minister Ben Gurion to the headquarters of the units that undertook them.

    According to Cypel, “Of the 875,000 Palestinians who found themselves in the expanded State of Israel at the end of the war, only 150,000 were left after the new expulsions following the cease fire with the Arab states. The others, that is 82 percent, were driven out, half of them by military force, the rest under the combined influence of threat, terror, and a deep feeling of abandonment and powerlessness.”

    What sealed their fate was the decision of the Israeli government in 1948 to refuse to allow any Palestinians who had fled—no matter what their motive—to return to their homeland. At the same time, Israeli residence was offered to anyone in the world who could claim Jewish ancestry.

    As if to destroy evidence of the Palestinian past, over the following years some 400 out of 500 Palestinian towns and ancestral villages were burned, dynamited and bulldozed, obliterated from the maps of Israel.

    More recent example include IDF soldiers breaking the bones of young Palestinian children and Israel’s carpet bombing of southern Lebanon with cluster bombs and targeting civilian infrastructure, both clear violations of the Geneva conventions.

  6. America First, whoever she or he is, is a lost cause. To those of you reading this, though, who might think “But an Israeli historian is saying all this….” I offer a few thoughts.

    First, think Ward Churchill or Noam Chomskey. The fact that someone is a citizen of a state does not mean he feels any emotional, academic or intellectual allegiance to that state. Morris’ nationality is irrelevant to his academic honesty.

    Second, Morris is a self-described far Leftist. This is a group that views the study of history, not as a vehicle for historic fact, but as a means by which to affect the present and future ideologically. Morris has so many bones to pick that his biases must inevitably distort his credibility.

    And finally, about Morris’ credibility, I offer these articles of your reading pleasure, all of which systematically destroy the so-called “factual” underpinnings of his writing:

    Benny Morris’s Reign of Error, Revisited
    Harvard’s Hucksters (which discusses Morris’ gross distortion of source material)
    The Arab Lie Whose Time has Come

    Benny Morris, by the way, has become frightened of the monster he gleefully helped create when his rampant Leftism caused him to turn against his own nation and falsify its history. He’s recognized that there is a much scarier enemy out there than conservatism, and its name is Iran.

  7. There’s another myth going on. It is that the Left actually cares about nationalism as a worthy thing to believe in. Also it is said that the Left believes that their accusations of atrocities actually apply to their opponents rather than themselves.

  8. …. oh wait a minute. I could go on, but I seem to be describing “conservatives” like Book and DQ, who all-too-easily fit the definition of fascist.

    This is why the Communists knew they had to get rid of the useful idiots when it came time for them to seize power. You never know what these the tools might do or react when faced with the unvarnished and devastating truth.

  9. Greg, glad to hear you don’t demonize your opponents!

    And thanks for the comic interlude.

  10. Hey hey take a deep breathe relax. You would think this blog was real.This is virtual reality ! There are degrees of facsists..Just to name a few !Benitoism,KKKism,Francoism ,Hitlerianism,Hirohitoianism,Pinochetianism,Menacham Beginism,Idi Aminism ,Arafatism,American My Laism,Hamastanism,Slobodianism,Husseinism,radical Islamism. Oh did I forget some of the magor religions of the world and the atheists and the rest of you. O course we are all fascists within degrees.But I don’t think anybody is calling anyone a Nazi here but hey it is only a word and not that there is anything wrong with that. Chill !

  11. You see in a court of law(ahem . . small throat clearing . . blush blush) your feelings don’t really count. “Just the facts mam.” You may think Greg called you a Nazi but did he ? No he did not from what I can read. Isn’t it interesting how we jump on our high horses if the “N” words are perceived to be used or directed at us(“N” fact I think some people actually want these words to be used and if they aren’t they will fake it that they were ,then climb back up on that high horse and giddy up). Why is that ? Don’t bother I know why !

  12. Sigh. . . . Okay, Greg, I’ll take the bait:

    * Are not rabid nationalists — I’m not rabid, but I do believe that the nation I live in stands for values I agree with, against a world that, by and large, does not. My nation has many, many faults, but it tries harder than perhaps any other to do the right thing. If supporting that makes me a nationalist in your eyes so be it.

    * Do not demonize our opponents — Read your own post (or pick most any post you’ve every written to this blog). You do more demonizing than anyone at this site. But, then, liberals have elevated demonization to an art form.

    * Do not worship the military — I don’t worship the military, but I do respect and acknowledge that without our military we would not have the freedoms I so very much treasure. I appreciate that.

    * Do not support a propagandic media — No, I oppose the liberal propagandist media we are inflicted with here in America. You apparently support it.

    * Do not obsese over national security — I don’t obsese over it, but I sure do believe we should pay attention to it. Or do you like having our buildings blown up and our people killed?

    * Do not protect the corpocracy — Anyone who uses a word like corpocracy is a lost cause anyway. There is no such thing. I do support free enterprise and capitalism, though, because experience has shown that they provide the greatest good to the greatest number better than any other economic or political model yet devised. And, by the way, they are fairer, in that they reward hard work and success and penalize sloth and failure more certainly than any other system yet devised.

    P.S. Keep in mind that Bookworm is a Jewish woman whose father fought the Nazis and whose mother survived a concentration camp. That you would be stupid enough to call her a fascist says far more about you than it does about her.

  13. The prime ethnic cleansing tool is, forever, land grab of Palestinian property in conjunction with expansion of settlements.

    The stage for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians has been set in the Occupied Territories, and ethnic cleansing is in progress. At present, this is the major project of the state of Israel. For an impartial person of medium intelligence, a tour of the Occupied Territories may be sufficient to understand this fact.

    The prime ethnic cleansing tool is, forever, land grab of Palestinian property in conjunction with expansion of settlements. Various stages of annexation process are in evidence in the originally rural part of the West Bank, constituting 60 per cent of its area. By now, nine per cent of the West Bank land has been transferred to the direct control of the settlements. A recent Peace Now investigation (July 2007) revealed that only twelve per cent of this land is being used at all. “The state earmarks huge tracts for the settlements, out of all proportion to their size, in order to prevent Palestinian construction in those areas. Yet once an area is closed to Palestinians, the settlers begin seizing adjacent Palestinian lands, often privately owned, that lie outside their jurisdiction”.

    According to B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, already in 2002, 41.9 per cent of the West Bank was assigned to the Israeli regional councils. And for years, the entire rural Area C has been under administrative control of the so called “Civil Administration”, which, in close cooperation with other branches of the Israeli army and with the settlers, toils to make the life of its Palestinian residents as miserable as possible; the obvious objective being to make them leave. (Comprehensive information can be found, e.g., in the Occupation Magazine, the website of the Israeli anti-occupation activists.)

    In the remaining West Bank, Palestinians became virtual prisoners in their own towns and villages. Every aspect of normal Palestinian life – economy, health, education, is being crushed by a well organized and deliberate military-bureaucratic machine, masquerading as a security establishment. Every now and then, the strangulation noose around Palestinian existence is being tightened. Ethnic cleansing, by means of home and field demolitions, is also pursued diligently by the state of Israel towards its Bedouin citizens residing in the Negev desert (see the excellent tutorial movie at the website Adalah – the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights).

    All of the above scarcely registers in minds of my compatriots. No wonder, since it is covered by a monumental but eagerly believed hoax of “negotiations with Abu-Mazen”, diplomatic efforts, and promises of good will gestures towards Palestinians (which are forever un-implemented, or implemented marginally for short periods). For reasons of their own, some Palestinian politicians including President Abbas chose to participate in this farce.

    An average Jewish-Israeli does not know – or does not want to know – about the ethnic cleansing program executed by their state – she or he prefers to think of it as “fight against terror”.

    Jewish-Israeli citizens live in virtual reality, thoughtfully provided for them by the leaders, the media, and the education system. In this reality, the Israelis figure as good guys, fighting for their existence, rather than as colonizers and occupiers. In this virtual world, it is believed that our government has worked hard to achieve a peace agreement with the Palestinians; and if this goal has not been not achieved, it is because of Palestinian intransigence. Impediment of negotiations by settlers is admitted, but settlers are viewed as troublesome extremists, rather than as an offshoot of deliberate and consistent annexationist policy of the Israeli government.

    But the key Israeli politicians KNOW – the ethnic cleansing project could not possibly proceed otherwise. I have been wondering if every new minister in Israeli government gets a manual spelling the facts of life, written in the past by somebody like Golda Meir or Arik Sharon. Otherwise, how would you explain the remarkable continuity of Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories during the long years of the Occupation? How come the current maps of the Jewish settlements and the Palestinian enclaves match the Drobles and Sharon’s blueprints for colonizing the West Bank, prepared decades years ago? However I rather think that no such manual exists, and every minister is expected to figure it out by himself/herself. Yitzhak Rabin paid with his life for what then appeared to be a sincere effort to break away from the ethnic cleansing program (although Rabin never even tried to remove the settlements; and his was the idea of the infamous “bypass roads” for settlers; in the end, the Oslo years turned out to be a golden opportunity for settlement expansion under the cover of the bogus “peace process”. Barak, promoter of large scale colonization projects in the West Bank, seems to have made the last failed effort to set a (very limited) form of coexistence with Palestinians. But he must have finally decided that “if you cannot fight it, join it”, as indicated by his current activities as a new Minister of Defense.

    (One recent example can be found in the article “Hamastan as a challenge”, by Shlomo Gazit, NRG, June 25, 2007: “Simultaneously with its total takeover of the Gaza Strip, the Hamas leadership implemented a unilateral ceasefire with Israel . For a whole week, not a single Qassam was fired at Sderot and the surrounding district. But then, after only one day as Defence Minister, the new Minister [Ehud Barak] authorized a new operation to seek out people on the wanted list in the Khan Younis region. Five Palestinians were killed while others were injured. As if by magic, the firing of Qassams towards Sderot resumed the very next day.” Maintaining low grade violence appears necessary for the ongoing Israeli policies of presenting Palestinians as terrorists, and presenting Israeli colonization projects and military operations to crush Palestinians – both in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip – as the “fight against terror”.)

    It was Sharon, a brilliant politician, who, under the cover of the “disengagement from Gaza”, converted the ethnic cleansing program to the “only game in town” in the Israeli politics. By now, the entire Zionist establishment has been enlisted, from the Hebron settlers to the Shomer Hatzair (socialist youth movement), who, as army conscripts, provide those same settlers with security cover. The current policies of the State of Israel are determined by the collusion of settlers’ insatiable appetite for land, and the generals’ insatiable appetite for “action”. The elected leaders who execute these policies range from whole-hearted supporters to more or less willing accomplices, mindful of their careers. Presently, none of the leaders opposes actively the ethnic cleansing program. In the background, there is the ever-intensifying humming of propaganda which designates Palestinians – both citizens and non-citizens – as A DEMOGRAPHIC DANGER WHICH SHOULD BE ADDRESSED.

    The Israeli policy towards Palestinians can be summarized briefly – “inflict all the damage you can get away with”. But how do the Israeli leaders envisage the end of this game? The hard core nationalists spell it loudly – “transfer”, i.e. expulsion of Palestinians. But what do the main-stream leaders think – the ones who actually carry out the expulsion (presently – the internal one, to the Palestinian ghettos and the enclaves)? The operation is too well organized for one to believe that the end-game was never considered.

    I believe that the final objective of our rulers is to set the stage for the second Naqba. Otherwise what is the point of the endless goading of Palestinians into violence? Any minimally thoughtful person understands that the Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories will lead to an eventual paroxysm of violence. Do not tell me that our leaders never thought about it. Granted, amongst them there are total opportunists who do not care about anything except staying in power. But somebody is pushing the ethnic cleansing forward. Sharon was the foremost among them, but judging from the well organized continuation, his associates are fully operational and in business. These people are actually looking forward to the violence. They have their eyes on the real-estate prize – the West Bank. A paroxysm of violence would enable the State of Israel to annex the West Bank – the entire West Bank, that is, while getting rid of most of Palestinian inhabitants. Just like in 1948. This is, in my view, the envisaged end-game. Where do they propose to expel the Palestinians? Jordan? The Gaza Strip? Syria? I do not know.

    Will the ethnic cleansing succeed? The authors of these policies obviously count on it. The opening is there, with the present US administration backing Israel whatever it does, and the EU and the Arab countries unable or unwilling to stand up to the US. It is likely that the forthcoming outburst of violence will be initiated by the desperate and destitute Palestinians; and then, for the umptieth time, our propaganda machine will be able to present us to the world as victims, and Palestinians as victimizers. Israeli responses will be presented as legitimate defensive actions. Later, the history may judge otherwise, but meanwhile (if the present political constellation persists for a while), who cares about the Palestinians.

    But in the long run, disaster looms for Israel. This is since we are a small nation, and Palestinians are a similarly sized nation which is moreover a part of the vast Moslem world. The experience of South Africa suggests that the apartheid-type system imposed on Palestinians is not viable in the long run, even if it seems invincible at the beginning. As exemplified by last year’s invasion to Lebanon, the performance of the Israeli army is deteriorating, corrupted by years of operating as a colonial militia. At the same time, the generals are becoming increasingly unbridled and reckless. The Israeli economy rests on support of the similarly reckless US corporate-political establishment, but this very expensive support is unlikely to last forever. The ability of the US to dictate the world is also likely to wane as Russia and China are coming to their own. And perhaps most importantly – the Dome of the Rock – the third holiest place of Islam – is at stake.

    In my view, my country Israel has embarked on suicidal policies. Something like that already happened in the Jewish history, some 1940 years ago – see the “The Jewish War”, by Josephus Flavius. And just like in those days, most of Israeli public does not realize, that they are being dragged to disaster by their own leaders.

    Victoria Buch is an Israeli academic and anti-occupation activist. She is available at vvbb54@yahoo.com

  14. I guess posting about the Holocaust really brings out the wackos.

  15. Hi Don, I see you’re not quite in DQ overdrive but on the way. I wish I had the time to respond to your self-denial. But, as the good swampman pointed out, the issue isn’t the applicability of the label (I mean, it’s a no-brainer that you and Book amply satisfy the criteria), but rather, having worked so hard to get the label, what does it mean to you? I think Book’s already done a lot of the work that’s needed and is much clearer/more honest than you are, concerning the meaning and implications of the beliefs you two promote. I suggest, DQ, that you do yourself a favor and lay this matter upon your heart and see where it leads you. You’ve got a life journey ahead of you — and if it includes a brown shirt, have the integrity and guts to put it on.

  16. Wow these anti-Israel diatribes are sick and disturbing. You do a post about the Holocaust and you get Israel haters and distorters trying to prove, I guess, that Israel is monstrous and evil. Are they making a case that Israel is worse than Nazis? Palestinian suffering has to be juxtaposed and made as bad as extermination camps, I suppose, in order to justify the fact that they advocate for the destruction of Israel and dance in the streets when civilians are blown to pieces in buses and marketplaces. Why are articles about the Holocaust so threatening to them? Boy we have some moral confusion out there.

  17. Theirs is not a moral confusion, Lulu. It’s a moral void.

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