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View Diary: Kids sodomized at Abu Ghraib, Pentagon has the videos - Hersh (430 comments)

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  •  Yes, A Great Deal Has Been Written... (none)
    ...and I've read more of it than most.  I'm not a scholar, but I did read a hell of a lot of this in college, and I've maintained a serious interest in the subject since then.  And I've read enough to know that the Kristalnacht, Goebbel's "big night" when Nazi thugs broke store windows of Jewish-owned businesses across the Reich, was a complete disaster.  It was in part because of the shocking lack of enthusiasm for that very public attack on Jews that the Reich began concealing it's policies against Jews.  In fact, what was happening to Jews didn't generally happen before German eyes, for there was a several-year, incremental process of margainalizing Jews from society so that by the time of the physical destruction, Jews had been removed from society.  

    Yes, of course there was plenty for Germans to have seen and known to inform them of what was being done to Jews during the period from 1933-1945.  But almost all of the worst atrocities against Jews were perpetrated far from the eyes of Germans, in Poland, in the Baltic nations, in the USSR.

    Yes, there were probably a couple million Germans who had a pretty good idea of what was happening to the Jews, but almost all of those people were either in the Wehrmacht, the SS, the state bureaucracy, the railroads, in construction, or with one of the main corporations (like I.G. Farben) that were intimately involved in the camps.  But people in Germany would probably know things only if they heard from people from one of the above groups.  

    •  You obviously haven't read enough (none)
      "I'm not a scholar"

      Indeed not, and your comments carry no weight.

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,439168,00.html

      The mass of ordinary Germans did know about the evolving terror of Hitler's Holocaust, according to a new research study. They knew concentration camps were full of Jewish people who were stigmatised as sub-human and race-defilers. They knew that these, like other groups and minorities, were being killed out of hand.

      They knew that Adolf Hitler had repeatedly forecast the extermination of every Jew on German soil. They knew these details because they had read about them. They knew because the camps and the measures which led up to them had been prominently and proudly reported step by step in thousands of officially-inspired German media articles and posters according to the study, which is due to be published simultaneously in Britain and the US early next month and which was described as ground-breaking by Oxford University Press yesterday and already hailed by other historians.

      ...

      •  I'm Sorry, Where Did You Post Your C.V.? (none)
        Since obviously you believe one has to be a scholar on this issue to have any credibility, I would love to know who you are and what you've had published.  In fact, I may have read something by you, if you are any of the following, who are just some of the scholars on the Holocaust or modern German history who I have read:

        Uwe Dietrich Adam, Hannah Arendt, Timothy Garton Ash, Yahuda Bauer, Richard Bessel, Karl Deitrich Bracher, Christopher Browning, Gordon Craig, Ralf Dahrendorf, Joachim Fest, Peter Gay, Raul Hilberg, Eric Hobsbawm, Ian Kershaw, Eberharb Kolb, Walter Lacquer, Robert Jay Lifton, Michael Marrus, Timothy Mason, Alan Milward, Hans Mommson, Barrignton Moore, George Mosse, Ingo Mueller, Franz Neumann, Jeremy Noakes, Robert O. Paxton, Detlev Peukert, Fritz Stern, Gerhard Wilke, John Willet, Leni Yahil, Susan Zucotti...  I'm not looking at my bookcases, so I'm sure I'm forgetting several dozen other scholars whose work I've read and possibly even written about.  I hope you're not one of the scholars whose work didn't spring immediately to mind.

        Gee, you're not Raul Hilberg are you?  If so, I just want to tell you that your three volumn "The Destruction of the European Jews" is possibly the greatest work of historical scholarship I've ever read.  I agree with all the historians and social scientists who rank your work on bureuacracies as on par with Max Weber and your great mentor, Franz Neumann.  

        •  Professort Galletely's c.v., not mine. (none)
          And his research using actual newspapers of the time.  Against those, your opinion as to what happned in Germany is simply irrelevant, no matter what you've read.
          •  Oops -- Gellately, not Galletely (none)
            Here is more on Dr. Gellately's scholarly research:

            http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=173311020096810
            http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=26371014051698

            I'd be interest in any research, by Raul Hilberg or anyone else, showing that Gellately has forged German newspapers or in any other way has misrepresented the direct historical material he has gathered showing that the extermination of the Jews was well known to the German people (unless the whole population was blind and couldn't read headlines like "The Jew will be Exterminated").

          •  Hey, Thanks For Clearing That Up (none)
            I had forgotten that whenever a newspaper article is written about a soon-to-be released book, that everthing that there is to be examined, discussed and argued on the subject of the book is settled once-and-for-all.  You know, it was so silly of me to think that scholarship might lead to divergent arguments, explanations, interpretations of evidence, weighing of facts and previous scholarship, etc.  

            I also was silly to think there is a glaring inconsistency between you telling me that my characterization of the state of scholarship on Nazi-era Germany holds no weight because of my own admission to not being a scholar, but that you are able to, in your mind, refute my assertion by citing a single book review.  How silly of me.

            And while I'm talking about silliness, I guess I should conclude that the people I named and thousands of other aren't scholars either, because one some or other issue, every one of them has at least one disagreement with every other one.  So, logically, I guess it means that there are very few scholars, since on a whole range of issues, they probably have some disagreement with the singly-cited professor, who apparently now has eliminated any need for any further scholarship.

            Thanks for the edification.

            •  not a substantive response (none)
              "refute my assertion by citing a single book review" -- it doesn't require refutation, since you have offered no support for it -- just a bunch of names.  But I did in fact offer a reference to Gellately's work, which does in fact refute your assertion.  Feel free to rebut his work.  But we're talking about direct historical material, remember?  Do you want to claim that this material does not exist?  Or that Germans did't read the newspapers?

              "who apparently now has eliminated any need for any further scholarship."

              Not at all -- I invited further scholarship that counters Gellately's findings.

              You write as if Hilberg or any of the other names you mention have refuted Gellately's work, but there's no reason to think they have.  The view you put forth was a view widely held in the past, before this research was done.

              •  Let's Back Up... (none)
                ...to here, where you cited my own admission that I'm not a scholar, to which you added "Indeed not, and your comments carry no weight."  Then, you made your own assertions based on a work of scholarship, but with no resort to primary sources.  See, in historical scholarship, there are these things called "secondary sources."  In short, secondary sources are reports of the primary sources.  They are the interpretative and theoretical foundation of historical understanding, and one can be very learned about a subject based on their reading of secondary sources.  But one cannot in any real sense consider themselves a historical scholar of a subject if one doesn't have a intimate familiarity with both the primary (archival and statistical and documentary and material evidence of a region and/or era) and the secondary sources, the articles, monographs and books written about that field of study based on research of the primary sources.  

                I'm not familiar with much primary material from the Holocaust or Nazi-era Europe.  I've read a several volumes of documentary evidence in translation and edited by eminent scholars.  But I am not fluent in German, and nobody without fluency in German and at least a few of the other languages relevant to the field--Polish, Russian, Ukranian, Hungarian, the south Slav languages, French, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Romanian, Romany, or any of the myriad linguistic families of the Caucuses or the Baltic nations--can be considered a scholar in that field.  

                However, one can be learned and discerning about how historians use primary sources, their characterizations of the state of scholarship and the research and arguments of other historians, and the soundness of their conclusions, based on a critical reading that applies to all works of prose, as well as what one knows about the history from the secondary sources.  And one also can profit from the assessments and critiques of other historians.  

                To that end, the article you cite--which isn't even a secondary source, btw--quotes a couple historians, Michael Burliegh (who I haven't read) and Omer Bartov (who I have read, and who I believe to be an excellent scholar) with favorable assessments of Gelletely's work.  But the far more interesting reference in the Guardian review is to Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. Galletely's book, they claim,  

                ...offers a mass of detail to support the theme of an earlier work, Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners, which caused an international sensation in 1995. Goldhagen's theme was that "what the Nazis actually did was to unshackle and thereby activate Germans' pre-existing, pent-up anti-semitism".

                This points to a complexity of which you're either woefully ignorant or disingenuously ignoring--scholars disagree, and one book, especially one that hadn't even, at the time of the review, been widely reviewed in the historical jornals, doesn't "prove" anything.  Furthermore, to get back to my point above, scholars disagree.  Case in point--not everyone who finds great merit in Gelletely's work finds great merit in Goldhagen's.  For instance, Omer Bartov, in this 1996 review of Goldhagen's book, pretty much demolishes Goldhagen's thesis (which is misrepresented by the Guardian review), namely that "eliminationist anti-Semitism" was not only primarily but almost exclusively motivated the German genocide against the Jews, but that it was shared by almost all Germans, and it was unique to Germans, at least in terms of intensity.  And in Bartov's review, he even cites earlier work by Gelletaly to support his largely (but not entirely) negative assessment of Goldhagen's book, an assessment shared by almost every repsected scholar in the field.  In short, few things are simple, and part of my initial point is that "much has been written, and I've read a lot of it."  Your retort was based on a single article, on a single aspect of the historical record, by a single scholar, who very well may still agree with my general point that much was hidden from the German populace, and that even though many millions would have known about some  pieces of what was happening to the Jews, few would have had anything close to a full understanding of the broad strokes of destruction process that was largely occurring in Poland and the USSR.

                But let's zero in on the essential point to this increasingly futile excange between you and me.  You claim that me not being a scholar means that my comments carry no weight.  Two days later, my original question has led to another.  First, my original question: who are you to say that my comments carry no weight, when neither one of us is making an argument predicated on our own assessments of the primary material, but rather my reading of a substantial body of secondary literature and your reference to only a few internet sources?  And second, with the passage of two days, if you believe my comments carry no weight, why are you still (ineptly) trying to prove me wrong?  And why haven't you even formulated your own claim, instead of just saying I'm wrong without even trying to understand what I was even saying?  (It's a lot easier to "disprove" somebody when you actually underestand what they're assuming and asserting.)

                Maybe you ought to learn a little bit about intellectual discourse, scholarship, and sound thinking and rhetorical presentation before you get too tied up with trying to argue a claim on a subject about which you've still not shown you know a damn thing.  

                •  Wrong issue (none)
                  If you would go back and track the thread, you would see that the issue is not Goldhagen's controversial thesis that ordinary Germans took part in the destruction of the Jews, but whether they knew of it.  And going further back, this is in the context of Abu Ghraib.  Imagine that there were no photos of Abu Ghraib, no Americans had ever heard of it, but the papers carried headlines like "Bush decrees: the Iraqi will be tortured!" and then later, the torture at Abu Ghraib is revealed.  Americans could say "We didn't know" -- technically, they would be telling the truth.
                  •  Never Mind (none)
                    You don't get it, or you're avoiding the issue, which is your dismissal of my point because I'm not a scholar, without ever establishing that you are more capable than me to assess the claims and arguments of historians and scholars.  Repeast: Dismissing my claim because I'm not a scholar is the issue I'm addressing.  Yet again, the issue which prompted my second response and all subsequent exchanges wasn't about the Holocaust or German history, it was the bullshit basis on which you claimed that anything I would argue would be without merit because I'm admittedly not a scholar.  

                    It's not the what of the argument that I've been addressing, it's the how.  Your failure to recognize or address this reveals that you lack either the tools or the integrity to justify any further engagement with you.  

                    •  ad hominem all the way (none)
                      I was trying to focus on the issues, not the personal stuff.  Oh well.
                      •  Perhaps (none)
                        Perhaps in this debate we've lost sight of the forest for the trees.  Essentially the question is about whether Germans knew things, Which Germans knew things, When, and if motivated to oppose them, could they? Any chance they could succeed? The reason for asking this question now has to do with whether it offers any insight into how Americans are absorbing the various facts about Iraqi Occupation, and particularly about torture in Abu Ghraib and other prisons.

                        I don't pretend to be a Holocaust Scholar -- hovever I am in my 60's, my parents were involved in this country in resetteling Jews and Social Democrats who managed to emigrate in the 30's (think my playmates spoke German) -- and I've been reading this story since the mid 50's.  I.ve also lived in Germany as a foreign student and for other reasons -- and thus my observations of Germany span the period from the 1950's to the present.  I have some observations about this shrill argument and others like it.  

                        Most debaters about the Holocaust miss one very important step in Historican reconstruction -- they fail to flesh out an understanding of the complexity of the society in which the events occurred.  You can't answer the question, What did they know and when did they know it? until you construct for yourself a map of how Germsns (which Germans) knew things, and how they learned about them.  From 1933 onward, Germany became an increasingly closed society, indeed a classic totalitarian one -- Listening to foreign radio was forbidden, you had to turn in radios that could pick up foreign broadcasts, it was illegal to own or read the foreign press.  Mail from abroad was censored.  No organization opposed to the regime was permitted, so even if you did receive information, what would you do with it?  People generally feared being identified as holding any sort of critical opinion.  In such an environment a significant number of people simply did not want to know anything that contradicted the regime -- so while they may have known some things, or observed things -- taking the next step into ascribing meaning to it was downright dangerous.  Within these general rules, Germans in very diverse parts of the nation and culture had to organize their world view, and their survival.  Any claim that they all did it in precisely the same way is ridiculous.  

                        There is no question Germany was saturated with anti-Jewish propaganda.  The Soviets were described as Jewish Bolsheviks, and Franklin D. Roosevelt (Church of England actually) was described as part of the World Jewish Conspiracy.  Churchill was described as an agent of the Rothschilds.  Did people believe this clap trap? yea -- a good many did in part, particularly because no counter information was generally available.  I suggest that people imagine themselves as residents of a provincial German community run on strict patriarchal lines from the local "Stammtisch" and ask questions not only about knowing information -- but also about the matter of processing it, and ascribing meaning to it all.  The best sources for comprehending all this probably will not be found in the shrill arguments -- but in literature, both things quietly written for the drawer (as for example the Klemperer Diaries) or the post war German novels of all sorts that reconstruct the period.  

                        My own view is essentially this.  Some few Germans were positioned to make any difference at all after the war began in 1939.  Some of these proved to be helpful -- helping people living underground, in Berlin for instance, to hide and survive.  For these individuals with anti-Nazi attitudes, and very good reason to be attuned to the implementation of policy -- knowing what was going on was profoundly important.  They were attached to networks that shared information.  For most others, information about the so called "Final Solution" was useless information, and potentially dangerous.  Their informal information networks did not transmit much information about the Genocide.  Since gossip, defeatism and passing on information from foreign broadcasts could get you a death sentence -- it's no wonder the informal networks focused on rations and bomb damage.  

                        We actually have a little mini example of how this works right here in the USA -- remember the survey about who believed Al-Qaeda was operationally linked to Saddam?  FOX consumers strongly believed that argument -- NPR listeners discounted it for the most part.  Imagine living in a society where all you could watch was FOX?  

                        •  Complexity (none)
                          As I think you picked up, the exchange became about epistomology as much as about the content of the orginal comments that led to the dispute.  And part of my contention was based on the assumption that things are complicated, and one or two answers don't answer all questions or close all open loops.  You've described this complexity well.  Thanks.

                          I suspect you may have some personal knowledge of plenty of people who had only fragmentary knowledge of what was happening in the east to Jews, Poles, intellectuals, Romany, etc.  One example of which you're probably already aware, but if not you should read about, is the White Rose group, the Munich students and academics who formed a resistance group, were caught distributing flyers calling for resistance and alerting Germans (cryptically) about what Germans were doing to Jews, and who were executed in 1942.  

                          These young people were incredibly bright and engaged and they were voracious consumers of news and information.  But it took a while for them to learn about what was happening to the Jews, and this despite:
                          -Their connections with Catholic anti-Nazi groups
                          -Many of them serving on the Eastern front
                          -Their connections with student opponents of the Nazis in other parts of Germany, most notably in Hamburg, which was probably the most anti-Nazi city in the Reich
                          -Their connections they established with people affiliated with both the Red Orchstra  (socialists and communists employed primarily in the intellegence and foreign services) and the conservative, mostly Catholic opposition that coalesced around Stauffenberg and the officers involved in the July 20th plot

                          They were friends with an architect, and when he was employed in the east, he turned his studio over to them for their use.  IIRC, it wasn't until he returned on a leave that they eventually got a fairly clear picture of the destruction process, and then primarily because their friend was assigned to projects related to the construction of transit or concentration camps involved in the destruction process and shared with them his knowledge and his horror.  

                          So, even these hyper-vigilant and aware opponents of the regime, who were incredibly linked to all sorts of informational channels and networks, didn't know much about the mobile killing units, the ghettos, or the growing system of death camps until some time in 1942, by which point over 2 million Jews had already been killed.  

                          Finally, as a sort of related issue to questions of German knowledge of what was happening to Jews, you're surely aware that there was plenty of information for Americans to piece together.  A couple examples, again which you may know about, are an article in the NYT, I think in 1942 but possibly in 1943, that describe with a fairly high degree of accuracy, the mobile killing operations and attributed hundreds of thousands of deaths to these units.  There was also the now well-known mission of Jan Karski, who the Polish resistance snuck into a transit camp, then got into Switzerland and who eventually shared his observations with Roosevelt and Morgenthau.  And even in the realm of literature, Arthur Koestler's "Arrival and Departure" includes a chillingly accurate depiction of Jews, naken and dying, packed into cattle cars.  I've seldom been so unsettled as when, while reading that novel, I looked to see the publication date--it was published in 1943, meaning it described an important aspect of the Nazi's organized mass murder of Jews as it was happening and that few people knew about until a year or two later.  

                          All of this leads me to a question--do you know if the Jews and Social Democrats your parents helped settle in the U.S. knew much about what was happening to their fellow Jews or fellow leftists once the war began?  Since these folks were probably much better connected to sources of unofficial information than the people who couldn't escape Germany, it would be interesting to know how surprised they were by what everyone eventually had opportunity to learn about from  1945 onward.

                          •  Yes, (none)
                            Yes, there was limited communication through some people in Sweden, a German woman married to a Swede from Malmo who was able to travel for family visits to Germany once or twice a year.  Between 41 and early 44 this held up, though her letters had to go through three levels of censorship -- Swedish, Red Cross and US.  The best communication I know of was articles published in obscure Protestant Evangelical Church publications -- mostly Lutheran and Baptist, that were based on Swedish Red Cross and Church Workers who had more general access to Germany and German Contacts.  The information they collected formed the basis of articles that were placed in a number of publications.  Reason for spreading them around was to protect sources and all that.  For some reason they never applied much censorship to these church publications.

                            I think it a mistake to see the refugees spending lots of time worried about relatives.  They were all out anti-Hitler, and 100% into the US war effort, and many had very significant jobs.  In the group I know about (about 70 families)about half of the men were in service -- some in OSS, others serving as translators in combat.  Some of the wives worked for the Army, teaching German in an OCS for the occupation force.  Many others who were not in the service were scientists, working on things like synthetic rubber, plastics, and nylon materials science.  The Visa system in the 1930's worked in such a way that potential refugees with significant skills went to the head of the line -- frequently they came in over the quota if they were scientists or could work in research and development.  

                            There was a weekly newsletter in German published by some refugee faculty at Columbia that served very well the need for news from behind the lines in Germany.  When people got any information, they sent it in -- and it was synthesized with other materials, and republished.  The newsletter also critiqued things in the daily press -- and always carried a bibliography of magazine and periodical materials of interest.  It was trusted, and I suspect is a good guage of what people knew and when.  

                            Your mention of John Dingell is interesting -- his district was strong CIO, and it was the CIO that maintained underground contact with the German Social Democrats, and was a key part of the resettlement efforts we were involved with in those years.  I think the involvement of Progressive Labor in these efforts has been totally missed by many historians.  I would tend to see Dingell as much speaking out on the CIO's dime as anyone elses.  Arthur Goldberg, Chicago Attorney for the Steel Workers in the 30's was also a key figure from 33 onward.  

                          •  complexities of epistemology and psychology (none)
                            "So, even these hyper-vigilant and aware opponents of the regime, who were incredibly linked to all sorts of informational channels and networks, didn't know much about the mobile killing units, the ghettos, or the growing system of death camps until some time in 1942, by which point over 2 million Jews had already been killed."

                            As I said, people didn't know the details.  But they knew Hitler's intent and could make inferences, just as Alan Cranston did when he read and published Mein Kampf -- but they didn't have to read the book because it was being trumpeted in newspaper headlines.  This is different from Fox News, which plays their coy "fair and balanced" game.  It's more like replacing Hannity & Colmes with Hannity & Coulter, and then playing that 24 hours a day on every station.

                            In Sara's original note she pointed out that Germans denied the reality of the death camps after photos, detailed descriptions, and even being marched past corpses, and she referred to "guilty bystanders" and "participation in Nazi culture".  I said they didn't disbelieve, they rationalized.  But I'll grant that, due to cognitive dissonance, there's isn't really any  difference.

                            First they came for the Jews
                            and I did not speak out
                            because I was not a Jew.
                            Then they came for the Communists
                            and I did not speak out
                            because I was not a Communist.
                            Then they came for the trade unionists
                            and I did not speak out
                            because I was not a trade unionist.
                            Then they came for me
                            and there was no one left
                            to speak out for me.

                            -- Pastor Martin Niemöller

                          •  Fine (none)
                            Look, I suspect you haven't read much more than newspaper headlines about a book on which you seem to be basing your entire position.  Your comment to Sara below about the Gov'ts intent shows you know little or nothing about the chaos and competition between and within the various branches of the German military, bureaucratic and business sectors, because there was no single intent, and much of the destruction process was improvised or the result of creative problem solving.  Hitler may have intended to murder millions of Jews, and there were surely some others who dreamed of it, which even led to the initial interpretative approach to the Holocaust in the 1950's being called the "intentionalist" approach.  But from the 1960's onward that approach, or at least anything but a weak and highly-qualified version of it, has been completely discredited.  The whole idea that the Holocaust was the forseeable and deliberately planned goal of Nazi policy from 1922 or 1933 or 1936 or 1939 onward has been discredited.  I'll bet if you actually read that book you keep clinging to you would probably pick that up.

                            But none of this has anything to do with learning of persuading, it's all about being right.  So, to that end, as I sign off, I give you permission to get what you want, by inserting the last word here:___.  

                          •  last word: you like strawmen and ad hominems (none)
                        •  Oh, Another Thing (none)
                          Here in the Detroit area, the elder John Dingell (New Deal Dem Congressman, father of the current congressman who took over the seat when his dad died in 1955) held rallies in Detroit to draw attention to the killings of Jews in Eastern Europe.  His district was fairly heavily Polish, but it also included the most heavily Jewish neighborhoods in Detroit, so through both Jewish groups and connections with the various branches of the Polish resistance, some news was getting back to Americans, and Dingell, because of the demographic makeup of his district, was better suited than most to connect the dots with the information coming from different lines of communication between Europe and the U.S.  But while the Jewish and Polish communities had some knowledge and were agitating for action to impede the massacres in the East, that knowledge never really settled in with many other folks.  
                        •  My point was not about people's attitudes, but (none)
                          of what they knew about the government's attitudes, and of what a rational person might infer from that knowledge.  If one watches Fox News all the time, it 's not hard to figure out what views they are promoting and what actions they favor, regardless of whether one shares those views.

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