Thoughts on The Years of Extermination

Posted: September 12, 2007 in Social Justice

Reading the review of The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945[1] I get to the 3rd paragraph and see what is becoming an often cited example of the kindness of Catholics during Hitler’s Germany:


”The Years of Extermination rests on a career of scholarship nearly
half a century long. In
in 1964, Friedländer published an
edited collection of documents about the response — or more precisely,
the lack thereof — by
Pope Pius XII
to the Holocaust. An English
edition followed two years later. Then, in 1967, Prelude to Downfall:
Hitler and the United States
, 1939 – 1941 underscored the importance
Roosevelt‘s resistance to Hitler
in the two years preceding
Pearl Harbor and American entry into the war in Europe
. In 1969,
Friedländer published
Kurt Gerstein
: The Ambiguity of Good, about
a Waffen SS officer who witnessed murders of Jews in the gas chambers
in Belzec in 1942 and passed the information on to Swedish diplomats,
though they did not inform the Allies. In 1979, Friedländer published
When Memory Comes, an extraordinary memoir of his own survival
during the Holocaust as a boy hidden in a Roman Catholic seminary
France, followed by his eventual awareness of his Jewish origins
and his coming of age in
. In 1988, he helped to found the
influential journal History and Memory. A conference that he organized
at UCLA about the postmodernist challenge to the determination
of historical fact led in 1992 to Probing the Limits of Representation:
Nazism and the "Final Solution." And his reflections on history,
memory, and writing about the Holocaust led in 1993 to Memory,
History, and the Extermination of the Jews of Europe.”
(Emphasis mine)


I wax philosophical when I encounter these revelations. What they reveal to me is how some people can rise above nationalism and bend to their moral compasses. We have that kind of people in our society, of course; and they are roundly criticized by extreme nationalists as being anti-patriotic and even traitors.

I remember a man who came to work at Airborne Express who was a Muslim; and professed to be from Iran. This was post 9-11 when Muslim mosques were being vandalized around the good old U. SSSS. of A. I told the man that he didn’t need to worry about working with us because I felt comfortable that there wasn’t that evil mind-set in our department. He thanked me and said that he appreciated that. If anyone would have challenged my attitude – beings it came to light that there were sleeper cells in the U. S.; and our Iranian associate could have been a member of one – I would defend my actions as being worthwhile because, even if he was a member of a sleeper cell, he just might have been impressed by my (our collective) attitude and resisted doing the evil that he would be called on to do.

Certainly, Jews in Hitler’s Germany must have remembered the kindnesses that were bestowed on them and carried the gratitude with them the rest of their lives. I can’t help but believe that the good will expressed by the Roman Catholic seminary made the favorable impression that tempered the belief that all German Catholics were monsters.

I offer another observation: how often people are incredulous that the Jews could have been so accepting to their fates as they were herded up and sent to Nazi concentration camps. In-as-much as there were examples of resistance the capitulation was not universal. But, consider how alike the sheep-like compliance of the Jews that went to the concentration camps is to those in our society who accept that the Current Occupant[2] is hell-bent on incarcerating and taking property of those who dare to speak out about his infamous administration. I have people swearing that the Presidential Proclamation intended to curb violence aimed at the fledgling Iraqi government is aimed at demonstrators because the Proclamation could be loosely interpreted to take property from those demonstrators in violation of their constitutional rights. They even cite some professor in a Canadian university who theorizes to that effect. My feelings are he is a crack-pot in the strictest sense of the word; and we who hold vigils or demonstrate are no more in danger from even this administration. I personally believe that those who believe in this loose interpretation are short on analytical skills or are disingenuous in their attempts to dissuade those of us who are brave enough to hold vigils.

It is the morning of one of our weekly vigils and one of the three of us who are stalwarts in this on-going effort (now over two years old) talked it up at a meeting of Democrats who (she says) seemed interested. She was expressing hope that some of those who expressed interest might show up today. We’ll see about that. I’ve had others who expressed, not only interest, but said they would check us out. If they did I didn’t see them; although they could have driven by and I could have missed them because I don’t see all the occupants of all the cars that go by.  

[1] Published on line by in today’s edition of the daily reviews. This review is by Jeffrey Herf for The New Republic Online.

[2] This is a nick-name Garrison Keillor often uses to describe George Bush as The Current Occupant of the White-House. Thanks, Garrison for not suing me for plagiarism. (Snicker)



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