A precedent for the Holocaust: The Armenian genocide and The Promise | Literaturesalon’s Blog

by Claudia Moscovici

As Peter Balakian points out in the Preface of his book, The Burning Tigris: The Armenian genocide and America’s response (New York: Harper Perennial, 2004), the Holocau…

Source: A precedent for the Holocaust: The Armenian genocide and The Promise | Literaturesalon’s Blog

The Nuremberg Trial | Literaturesalon’s Blog

How do you punish the perpetrators of the biggest genocide in human history? Do they deserve a fair trial, which their millions of victims never got? These are some of the questions the Allies debated during and after WWII. They were eventually resolved by the Nuremberg Trial, which Ann and John Tusa describe in vivid detail in their book by the same name (The Nuremberg Trial, New York: Atheneum, 1986). Several options were suggested, even before the war was over and the Ally victory secured.

Documents released in 2006 from the British War Cabinet indicate that in December 1944 the Cabinet considered a swift and severe punishment of the Nazi leaders involved in crimes against humanity. Winston Churchill suggested summary execution of the top Nazi leaders. A year earlier, at the Tehran Conference, Joseph Stalin proposed executing 50,000-100,000 Nazi officers. Roosevelt appeared prepared to go on board with this idea, but at the time Churchill vehemently objected, stating that most of them were…

Source: The Nuremberg Trial | Literaturesalon’s Blog

IG Farben: Manufacturing Death | Literaturesalon’s Blog

View of the Reichstag assembly after Hitler’s speech in Berlin on Jan. 30, 1937. Left first row, right: Adolf Hitler. Standing on the steps: the Prussian Premier Hermann Goering. (AP Photo)

IG Farben didn’t start out as a Nazi death factory, which is what it’s known for to this day. In fact, up to the mid 1930s its chief executives were not particularly anti-Semitic. Formed in 1925, IG Farben started out as a chemical company that manufactured dye. It was so successful, that by the 1930s it became the largest chemical company in the world and the fourth largest company in general. One of its leaders, Carl Bosch, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1931 for the development of chemical high-pressure methods. In Hell’s Cartel: IG Farben and the Making of Hitler’s War Machine (New York, Henry Holt and Company, 2008), Diarmuid Jeffreys describes the progression—or, more fittingly, regression–of IG Farben from Germany’s leading chemical company to a death factory during the Holocaust.

Jeffreys records of the most telling moments of this transition: the episode when the company’s leader, Carl Bosch, who valued the scientific work of many of his Jewish colleagues and employees, paid a visit to Hitler himself in the attempt to…

Source: IG Farben: Manufacturing Death | Literaturesalon’s Blog

The true banality of evil: Ordinary Men by Christopher R. Browning | Literaturesalon’s Blog

Hannah Arendt referred to Adolf Eichmann as the paradigm of the banality of evil: an ordinary man led by extraordinary circumstances to exceptional evil. However, given that Eichmann spearheaded some of the key initiatives of the murder of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust, I have argued that he was quite extraordinary: extraordinarily sociopathic and evil. The circumstances of Fascist Germany allowed his true nature to be revealed and his thirst for power through murder to be played out.

In Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (New York: Harper Perennial, 1993) historian Christopher R. Browning reveals the true nature of the banality of evil by recounting the…

Source: The true banality of evil: Ordinary Men by Christopher R. Browning | Literaturesalon’s Blog

Review of Sarah’s Key | Literaturesalon’s Blog

Between 1940 and 1944, approximately 75,000 Jews were deported from France. Most of them perished in the German concentration camps. Despite these grim statistics, and despite the fact that France was partially occupied by Germany from 1940 to 1944, France was one of the European countries with the highest Jewish survival rate: roughly 75 percent. Out of about 340,000 Jews living in France, about 72,500 died during the Holocaust. Initially, part of France retained some autonomy: the Vichy regime of Marshal Philippe Petain signed an armistice with Germany. German anti-Semitic measures against the Jewish population of France began almost immediately, including forcing Jews to wear the yellow star and forbidding Jews from working in white-collar professions, as lawyers, teachers and journalists. Following a similar procedure in France to the rest of occupied Europe, the Germans created a…

Source: Review of Sarah’s Key | Literaturesalon’s Blog

The Holocaust in Hungary | Literaturesalon’s Blog

Historian Leni Yahil estimates that in 1941 there were approximately 762,000 Jews living in Hungary, about a fourth of whom lived in Budapest. (The Holocaust, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990, 506). Under pressure from Nazi Germany, the conservative regime of Admiral Miklos Horthy and Prime Minister Miklos Kallay instituted some anti-Semitic measures modeled after the Nuremberg Laws. However, up to 1944 Horthy didn’t agree with the Nazi policy of deporting and exterminating Hungarian Jews. The Communist politician Bela Vago described the Horthy regime as a contradictory mixture of authoritarianism and some openness to democratic input; of anti-Semitic attitudes and relative tolerance towards the native Jewish population in Hungary:

“This was one of the paradoxical phenomena of the Hungarian regime, which contained a mixture of vestiges of feudalism with democratic-parliamentary elements; the authoritarianism of a quasi-fascistic regime with tolerance towards the democratic opposition; an official anti-Semitic policy with tolerance toward Jews in the fields of journalism, the arts, and other areas of culture. The Jews could be active as members of Parliament until the German occupation in 1944.’”(Cited by Leni Yahil in The Holocaust, Leni Yahil, 507).

Following the Soviet victory at the battle of Stalingrad, Horthy and Kallay began to realize that…

Source: The Holocaust in Hungary | Literaturesalon’s Blog.

Primo Levi’s reflection on humanity in crisis: Survival in Auschwitz (If This is a man)

Primo Levi’s memoir, Survival in Auschwitz (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996, translated by Giulio Einaudi), is not just about the author’s survival in the notorious Nazi concentration camp, but above all about the survival of his humanity after enduring such a grueling process of dehumanization. Published in 1947 under the Italian title If This is a Man (Se questo e un uomo), the author doesn’t claim to offer new information in this autobiographical book. Nor does he wish to level fresh accusations against the Nazis. Written in a calm, observational tone, Survival in Auschwitz sets out “to furnish documentation for a quiet study of certain aspects of the human mind” (9).

Thoughtful and thought-provoking, the narrative constitutes a reflection on the power—and limits—of forgiveness. In an interview published by the New Republic on February 16, 1986, Levi announces that he…

Source: Primo Levi’s reflection on humanity in crisis: Survival in Auschwitz (If This is a man)

Post-war Germany and Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies

DreamWorks Pictures/Fox 2000 PIctures’ BRIDGE OF SPIES, directed by Steven Spielberg, is the story of James Donovan, an insurance lawyer from Brooklyn who finds himself thrust into the center of the Cold War when the CIA enlists his support to negotiate the release of a captured American U-2 pilot.

Following the defeat of Nazi Germany in WWII, the Allies divided Germany into a larger democratic parliamentary state (the Federal Republic of Germany) and a communist state (the German Democratic Republic). Within a few years after its establishment, by the mid-fifties, the capitalist West Germany enjoyed a thriving economy. By way of contrast, East Germany, controlled by the Soviet Union, mirroring its police state (the Stasi was modeled after the KGB) and exploited for its needs, sank into economic depression.

Like a microcosm of the divisions within Germany itself, Berlin was divided into a communist and a democratic part: East and West Berlin. In 1961 the East Germans erected the Berlin wall, officially called the “Anti-Fascist Protective Wall”, under the pretext of protecting their population from fascist elements. In actuality, they were striving to put an end to the exodus of people fleeing East Berlin into West Berlin. The wall, along with the East German soldiers shooting upon sight any person trying to climb over it, turned out to be…

Source: Post-war Germany and Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies

Quiet Neighbors by Allan A. Ryan: The Legal Immigration of Nazi Collaborators into the U.S. | Literaturesalon’s Blog

Originally posted on Literaturesalon’s Blog.

Allan A. Ryan’s Quiet Neighbors (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984) recreates some of the horrors Jewish victims lived through in the Nazi death camps and describes the often lengthy and challenging process of bringing the Nazi victimizers and their collaborators to justice. In the short span of a year, from July 1942 to August 1943, the Nazis murdered nearly a million Jews at Treblinka. As Ryan recounts, “The guards drove the dazed and fearful Jews like livestock from the trains to be processed—clothing removed, hair shorn—some snatched out of the streams of people and told to stand aside. Families who had managed to stay together during the suffocating train ride slowly fell apart, their screams, their outstretched arms no match for the disciplined and experienced guards. After their hair was removed, the naked cargo was herded onto a dirt path packed hard by the feet of thousands of people before them. At the end lay gas chambers and, beyond them, deep smoldering pits that sent up thick black smoke to darken the sky” (Quiet Neighbors, 2). Some of the guards, many of whom were Ukrainian in origin, were particularly cruel and relished…

via Quiet Neighbors by Allan A. Ryan: The Legal Immigration of Nazi Collaborators into the U.S. | Literaturesalon’s Blog.

Why were so few Jews saved during the Holocaust?

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View of the Reichstag assembly after Hitler’s speech in Berlin on Jan. 30, 1937. Left first row, right: Adolf Hitler. Standing on the steps: the Prussian Premier Hermann Goering. (AP Photo) View of the Reichstag assembly after Hitler’s speech in Berlin on Jan. 30, 1937. Left first row, right: Adolf Hitler. Standing on the steps: the Prussian Premier Hermann Goering. (AP Photo)

In her comprehensive historical study, The Holocaust, Leni Yahil asks a question which, decades later, we still haven’t satisfactorily answered: “Why were so few of the millions of Jews who had been living in Europe prior to the Holocaust saved?” (The Holocaust, Oxford University Press, 543) The rise to power of the Nazis in Germany has been explored in-depth. But why did the rest of the world allow the Holocaust to happen? And why did so many countries even participate in the Nazi mass murder of Jews?

Instead of engaging casting blame, Yahil examines the specific circumstances in each European nation that prevented or made possible the rescue of the beleaguered Jews in Europe between the…

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The suffering of innocents: Romanian orphanages during Ceausescu’s regime

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romanianorphanagesbluenred.com

One of the most distressing aspects of the Holocaust is the fact that millions of children starved, fell ill and died as a result of Hitler’s genocidal policies. Even before studying the history of the Holocaust in greater depth, I became sensitized to the issue of children’s suffering during communism in the infamous orphages of my native country, Romania.

From the beginning of his rule, Romania’s dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, made rapid industrialization a cornerstone of his domestic policy. During the 1960’s, however, the country approximated zero population growth, which meant, in the long run, a reduced labor force. In response, Ceausescu abolished abortion in 1966, except for cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother or if the mother was over 45 years old and had given birth to at least four children. Later, he introduced more punitive pronatalist measures to offer Romanian citizens further incentives…

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Holocaust Memory: Beyond the Jewish Genocide

Literaturesalon's Blog

RuthMaierRandomhouse.com.au

The Holocaust refers to the genocide of nearly 6 million Jews by the Nazis and Nazi collaborators. There is no doubt that the Jews were singled out for systematic extermination. However, it is also important to keep in mind that the Nazis murdered or sent to slave labor camps millions of non-Jews as well. Over 3 million Russians died as prisoners of war and in concentration or labor camps established by the Nazis.

Max Hastings documents that by February 1942, “almost 60 percent of the 3.35 million Soviet prisoners in German hands had perished; by 1945, 3.3 million were dead out of 5.7 million taken captive. (Inferno, 488). A large percentage of Russian civilians sent to Nazi forced labor camps—170,000 out of 2.77 million workers—perished there, along with large numbers of Polish and Italian prisoners of war. (Inferno, 489).

The Nazi policy of deliberately starving the…

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Hannah Arendt on the Role of the Masses in mass horrors

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Nazi Germany, photo from the Wikipedia Commons Nazi Germany, photo from the Wikipedia Commons

Hannah Arendt on the Role of the Masses in mass horrors

by Claudia Moscovici

Totalitarianism isn’t an easy phenomenon to grasp. One of the most difficult things to understand is how could hundreds of millions of people all over Europe and the Soviet Union have allowed the horrors of the Holocaust and the mass purges to take place. In The Origins of Totalitarianism Hannah Arendt offers one of the best explanations for these mass horrors. “Mass” is the key word here. Arendt’s explanation consists of describing this modern social entity called “the masses,” which she distinguishes from the mob (itself capable of spurts of violence, such as during pogroms) as well as from classes (based on economic self-interest). The masses are a quintessentially totalitarian phenomenon.  Arendt posits that one of the key features of the totalitarian state is its system of indoctrination…

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