Synopsis- “The Holocaust Industry, Reflections on the exploitation of Jewish suffering” by Norman G. Finkelstein

A revealing read for a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the US Jewish organisations in cahoots with the US government at all levels from the Executive branch , federal government to the local and state levels that according to the author, blackmailed and extorted huge sums in the name of Holocaust survivors. The author has substantiated some of his accusations with points and counterpoints and referential data though he has also drawn some deductions through logical assumptions. His accusations are indeed shocking!

Author– Norman G. Finkelstein

Genre– Non Fiction

Subject– Holocaust studies

About the author

Norman Gary Finkelstein, a political scientist, is an incisive critic of Israeli policies on Palestine, an activist, author and professor. His parents were survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, his mother survived the Warsaw Ghetto and the Majdanek concentration camp, his father was a survivor of both the Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz and later they emigrated to the US. His mother, a pacifist, imbued the sense of moral outrage in him that turned him into a fierce critic of Israeli policies on Palestinians. A follower and fan of Noam Chomski, reading him helped Finkelstein to apply his principles in the critique of Israel and the Jewish organisations. He was in the forfront of the protests against Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and has written many books including about Palestine and the First Intifada( The rise and Fall of Palestine)

Through his book,”The Holocaust Industry, Reflections on the exploitation of Jewish suffering” he turns tables on the conventionally believed notions of the inner workings of the powerful American Jewish organisations that misappropriated the legacy of the Nazi Holocaust morphing it into a Holocaust Industry that according to him, is culpable of a double shakedown and financial extortion of European countries and Holocaust survivors in cahoots with the Clinton administration and other US administrations.

Synopsis ( The sentences are exactly as they are written by the author under the same titles)

Introduction

Dubbed the “most controversial book of the year” by the Guardian, this provocative, pugilistic work has torn apart the altruistic facades and intrinsic hypocrisies of the Jewish organisations and laid bare the shocking complicity and abetment of the US government from the top Executive branch all the way down to the lower rungs of the administration. If these allegations are true, it is indeed shocking. The main references include the details of the Senate hearings,Class Action Settlement Agreement text, Claims Resolution Tribunal text, correspondences, newspaper reports, books,articles and essays by acclaimed authors and many others,

A self-professed iconoclastic Jew, Finkelstein has trodden a minefield managing to make enemies at all levels. In the foreword, he has dismissed the ‘conspiracy theory’ allegations of critics and challenges them to refute his claims, that are well researched, documented and out in the open. According to him, apart from lobbing ad hominems and conspiracy theory criticisms, the claims has not yet been discredited by anyone.

He explains the stepwise, calculated approach taken by the American Jewish organisations in succesfully running an extorsion racket, disproportionately milking the Swiss banks and German industrialists in the name of reparations for the Holocaust victims, corrupting the history and intergrity of the Holocaust with little respect for truth or moral rectitude, all the while defending the egregious American and Israeli violence.

Capitalizing the Holocaust

Finkelstein begins the book by incriminating the US as the corporate headquarters of the Holocaust industry and The New York Times as the promotional vehicle. Searingly critical of Elie Wiesel, Jerzy Kosinski( American Jewish novelist, more about him under the header Holocaust literature fraud) and Daniel Goldhagen ( American author of two controversial books about ‘the Holocaust: Hitler’s Willing Executioners‘ (1996), and ‘A Moral Reckoning‘ (2002)), he merits The NYT for having advanced their careers. The historian, Raul Hilberg (the world’s preeminent scholar of the Holocaust, his three-volume, 1,273-page magnum opus, The Destruction of the European Jews, is regarded as a seminal study of the Nazi Final Solution) has repeatedly lent his support to Finkelstein’s claims and arguments. An extensive number of references are attributed to Peter Novick‘s seminal study, ‘The Holocaust in American Life‘.

Between the end of WW II and the 1960’s there were only a handful of books and films on the Holocaust. When Hannah Arendt published Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1963, she could draw on only two scholarly studies in English language- Gerald Reitlinger‘s The Final Solution and Raul Hilberg‘s Destruction of European Jews. No monuments or tributes marked the Holocaust in the US during that time. Though the standard explanation of this silence was the trauma and repression of memory of it, Finkelstein points to the fact that the American Jewry hewed to the US foreign policy then as well as now. By 1949, West Germany had become a crucial post-war American ally. Yet another reason why the Final Solution was a taboo topic among the American Jewish elites was that it had been championed by the leftist Jews opposed to the Cold war allignment of the US with Germany against the Soviet Union. Thus the remembrance of the Final Solution was tagged as a Communist cause. The elite Jewry even collaborated in the Mc Carthy era Communist witch hunt sacrificing the fellow leftist Jews at the ant- Communist altar.

Everything changed after the June 1967 Arab- Israeli war and the Holocaust became a fixture of American Jewry. After Israel was founded in 1948 as a homeland for Jews, many of the Jews, in particular the Eastern European Jews who were Left leaning continued to support the USSR during the Cold War. To avoid the charge of ‘dual loyalty’ from the US, the American Jewry distanced itself from Israel from 1948 until 1967. During this time Israel was never in the orbit of US strategic planning. President Truman and Eisenhower carefully balanced support for Jewish state against the interests of the Middle East, favoring the Arabs. The American Jewish intellectuals as well as the US politicians literally ignored Israel. Ironically, the only two public intellectuals who had forged a bond with Israel before 1967 were Hannah Arendt( critical of Israel and labelled ‘an enemy of Israel’ after her work, Eichmann in Jerusalem) and Noam Chomsky( fiercely critical of US foreign policy). The 1967 Arab Israeli war showcased the overwhelming display of force by the Israeli military routing the Arabs and the US heartily incorporated Israel as a strategic asset. Even before the war , US had moved towards Israel as Syria and Egypt charted an independent course. The US Jewry too now tilted towards Israel. This should be juxtaposed with the 1948 Arab Israeli war( Israel won), when the US had joined a UN arms embargo against Israel and the Arabs had clear edge in weaponry. The Jewish defeat was certain, had it not been for a secret Czech arms deal with Israel.

The mainstream American Jewish organisations like Anti Defamation League( ADL) worked hard to firm up US- Israeli alliance, coverage on Israel shot up in the NYT and the Holocaust industry sprung up. Except for the alliance with the US, Israel remained a pariah state in the international scene. Israel and the organised American Jewry found it politically expedient to revive the Holocaust memories as a weapon to deflate criticisms and a contrived hysteria over anti Semitism came into existence. Sartre observed in his work, ‘Anti-Semite and Jew‘, “the anti-Semite is in the unhappy position of having a vital need for the very enemy he wishes to destroy”. The US Jews enjoyed secular and financial success, they moved to the right of the political spectrum, but remained left-of-center on cultural issues like sexual morality and abortion. Traditionally aligned with Black people against caste discrimation, many Jews opportunistically broke with the Civil Rights alliance in the late 1960’s as the blacks demanded more economic equality . Defending their corporate and class interests, the Jewish elites branded all opposition to their conservative policies as anti- Semitic. The 1968 NewYork teachers strike which pitted the Jewish professional union against Black communty activists is highlighted by the Jewry as an anti-Semitic excercise, though Jewish racism is less often remembered.

Hoaxers, Hucksters, and History

The Israeli writer, Boas Evron observes how the Nazi Holocaust transformed into the ideological, dogmatic Holocaust. He writes, ” the memory of Nazi extermination became a powerful tool in the hands of the Israeli leadership and the Jews abroad”. Two central dogmas of The Holocaust after 1967- one, the event as a categorically unique one and two, the eternal. irrational Gentile hatred of the Jews. Disproving the uniqueness would amount to Holocaust denial. As Novick writes, the main purveyor of the “sacralization of the Holocaust” was Elie Wiesel, who, for his standard fee of $25,000 plus chauffered limosine, lectured that the “secret of Auschwitz lies in silence”, “Holocaust leads to darkness”, “negates all answers”, “lies outside if not beyond history“, and so on. Wiesel in his memoir reprimanded Shimon Perez for speaking of and comparing the “two holocausts of the 20 th century- Auschwitz and Hiroshima“. Similarly, Ken Livingstone, a former Labour Party member was branded anti- Semitic when he incensed Jews in Britain by saying global capitalism has claimed as many victims as WWII. Fiedel Castro was also branded anti- Semitic by the ADL for accusing the capitalist system of regularly causing deaths on the scale of WWII. Thus Jean Michel Chaumont( Belgian sociologist) accuses that the claims of Holocaust uniqueness has come to constitue a form of “intellectual terrorism” where speakers need to be wary of a thousand caveats to ward of accusations of holocaust denial, and anti- Semitism. According to the historian, Peter Baldwin the uniqueness claim adds to the moral and emotional claims that Israel can make over the other nations. For example, Israel’s development of nuclear weapons evokes the specter of the Holocaust. Also Holocaust uniqueness amounts to Jewish uniqueness. According to Elie Wiesel, “everything about us is different, Jews are ontologically exceptional”.

The second tenet is the eternal, millenial Gentile hatred of the Jews. The Jews perished because all Gentiles, be it perpetrators or collaborators, wanted them dead. Incidentally, this theory gives comfort to the anti-Semite, as per the author. In ‘The Origin of Totalitarianism“, Hannah Arendt mentions, ” that the doctrine was adopted by professional anti Semites is a matter of course; it gives the best possible alibi for all horrors. If it is true that mankind has insisted on murdering Jews for more than 2000 years, then Jew killing is a normal and even human occupation and Jew hatred is justified beyond the need of argument. The most surprising aspect of this explanation is that it has been adopted by a great many unbiased historians and by even a greater number of Jews”. According to Finkelstein, this second tenet of eternal Gentile hatred justifies the necessity of a Jewish state, it’s actions- defensive, aggressive, preemptive, offensive, and even torturous and accounts for the hostility directed at Israel.

Hitler’s Final Solution was irrational, which means the eternal Gentile hatred that led to the Final Solution was inductively irrational, means, the irrationality confers a blamelessness on the Jews. Thus the Arab hatred, Black hatred, towardsIsrael and the Jews also becomes irrational, the Jews not to be blamed, ever chastised and ever innocent. According to Chaumont this confers a “radical innocence” on the Jews, thus presupposing a normal status in other killings and persecutions. Thus crimes and persecutions falls into a binary status- unconditionally intolerable crimes and tolerable ones. The uniqueness of eternal Gentile hatred makes the Holocaust unique making the persecution of the non Jews accidental, episodic and non unique. The Gentiles hated Jews from the jealousy, envy, ressentiment of a large number of less accomplished Gentiles to a small number of more accomplished Jews. That is the Holocaust uniqueness due to Gentile hatred of the Jews confirms the chosenness of the Jews. Propounding all the above mentioned tenets, thus Wiesel became the ideological figure of the Holocaust industry, as per Finkelstein.

Holocaust literature frauds

Finkelstein mentions about the cultural milieu that nurtured some Holocaust literature that is nonsense, outright fraud, worthless scholarship. The first major Holocaust hoax was the book ‘ The Painted Bird‘ by the Polish emigre Jerzy Kosinski, who claimed to have written it in English, while he actually wrote it in Polish. The book was supposed to be his autobiographical account of his wanderings as a solitary child through rural Poland during WWII. In fact, he lived with his parents throughout the war. He mentions the sadistic sexual tortures perpetrated by the virulently anti Semitic Polish peasants, but in fact the peasants safely harbored the Kosinski family fully aware of their Jewishness and taking the risks they could face due to that. Wiesel and Cynthia Ozick( Jewish American short story writer, essayist and novelist) heaped praise about it’s remarkability, authenticity, sincerity and sensitivity even after it was exposed as a hoax. The book went on to win many awards, was a best seller, became a basic Holocaust text, translated to many languages, and required reading in high school and colleges. When he was exposed as a fraud, Kosinski was defended by the NYT as a victim of Communist plot. Kosinski commited suicide and near his death, he deplored the Holocaust industry’s exclusion of non Jewish victims and paid tribute to the Polish peasants who sheltered his family during WWII.

Another fraud is the autobiographical book ‘Fragments‘ by Binjamin Wilkomirski. He borrowed the same plot of a lone child survivor, who becomes mute and winds up in an orphanage and belatedly discovers that he is Jewish. Like ‘The Painted Bird ‘, there is an orgy of violence in the book. Aodpted by a Swiss family, he endures torments amidst holocaust deniers, and Gentile anti Semitic school bullies. Fragments wa hailed as a classic Holocaust literature, translated to a dozen languages, won awards. His fraud was exposed later. He had spent the entire war in Switzerland, he was not even Jewish. Still Jewish publishers, editors and authors hailed it as a classic. Wilkomirski fabricated the Holocaust past, but the truth is that the Holocaust industry built on fradulent misappropriation of history for ideological purposes celebrated his fabrication. In 1999, his German publisher withdrew the book from stores, acknowledging that he wasn’t a Jewish orphan, but a Swiss born man named Bruno Doessekker. It took one more month for the American publisher to withdraw the book.

The four volume ‘ Encyclopedia of the Holocaust‘ edited by Israel Gutman gave the Mufti of Jerusalem a significant role in it, though he had nothing to do with the Holocaust. Mufti gets a top billing in Yad Vashem too. Tom Segev (Israeli historian, author and journalist) writes, “the visitor is left to conclude that there is much in common between Nazi plan to destroy the Jews and Arabs’ enimity to Israel“.

History of Holocaust Memorial Museum

There are over 100 Holocaust institutions in the US. Seven major Holocaust museums dot the US landscape. Annual days of remembrance are a national event, all 50 states sponsor commemorations. The main museum is the one in Washington. The author asks a pertinent question, ‘why do we have a federally mandated and funded Holocaust museum in the capital which is incongruous in the absence of a museum commemorating crimes in the course of American history ?’( The annual budget of the museum is $ 50 million, in which $30 million is federally subsidized). The Congressional initiative to build a national African- American museum was aborted many times between 1984 and 1994.

The Washington museum was mired in politics from conception to completion. Jimmy Carter, whose reelection campaign was looming, initiated the project to placate the Jewish voters and contributors galled by the President’s recognition of the “rights of the Palestinians”. Israeli Prime minister Menachem Begin was visiting US at the time and also a Congressional battle was ongoing on the sale of weaponry to Saudi Arabia. The other opportunistic, expedient political make ups of the useum include, 1) Muting of Christiam background to European anti Semitism so as not to offend a powerful constituency 2) Downplaying the discrimatory US immigration quotas for Jews before the war 3) Exaggerating US role in liberating the concentration camps 4) Silently passing over the US recruitment of Nazi war criminals at the war’s end.

The crux of politicization is evident in whom to memorialize and honor. Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat is honored since he rescued thousands of Jews and ended up in a Soviet prison. Fellow Swede, Count Folke Bernadotte is not since he was assassinated by the order of former Israeli PM, Yitzak Shamir for being too pro- Arab, though he had also rescued many Jews. The Nazis systematically murdered half a million Gypsies, their proportional loss roughly equal to the Jewish genocide. Yehuda Bauer of Yad Vashem argued that gypsies did not fall victim to the same genocidal onslaught as Jews, though historians like Hnery Friedlander and Raul Hilberg argued that they did. Elie Wiesel and Yahuda Bauer led the offensive to commemmorate Jews alone. Yet the Communists were the first political victims and the handicapped were the first genocidal victims of Nazism .

The Gypsies were marginalised during the memorialization since the loss of gypsy life was incomparable to the loss of Jewish life. Some like Rabbi Seymour Siegel openly doubted whether gypsies even existed as people. Acknowleding the gypsies meant the loss of exclusive Jewish franchise over the Holocaust and the loss of Jewish moral capital . If it turned out that the Nazis persecuted gypsies and Jews alike then the dogma that the holocaust marked a climax of millenial Gentile hatred of the Jews becomes untenable . The anecdote of Gentile envy spurring the Final Solution also becomes untenable. Therefore the non Jews who were persecuted by the Nazis only get a token representation in the US Holocaust museum.

The Double Shakedown

The term Holocaust survivor is designated to those who had suffered unique trauma of the Jewish ghettos, concentration camps and slave labour camos. The figure was around 100,000 at war’s end, and the number couldn’t be more than a quarter of this now, as per records. There has been a tendency to inflate and sometimes fabricate the numbers and the reasons proposed are material benefit (post war German compensation), sense of martyrdom etc..Questioning this would amount to Holocaust denial, so they were left unquestioned by historians and authors of Holocaust litearature. Finkelstein points to preposterous statements in Holocaust literaure like the one mentioned in Elie Wiesel‘s acclaimed memoir ” I read the ‘Critique of Pure Reason‘ in Yiddish“while Wiesel himself had acknowledged that he was ignorant of Yiddish grammer at the time and also Kant‘s masterpiece was never translated into Yiddish.

Those who had evaded the Nazis were also inclued among the survivor list. This stretches to the limits like Israel Gutman’s (Polish-born Israeli historian and a survivor of the Holocaust, was Academic Advisor to Yad Vashem and Deputy Chairman of the International Auschwitz Council) statement on the fraudster author WilkomirskiHe is a Holocaust survivor because his pain is authentc“. The living survivor statistics was inflated by the Israeli prime minister’s office bearing in mind the reparation claims to be followed. The politics of reparation provides the insight into the inner workings of the Holocaust industry. During the Cold war, Germany aligned with the US, entered into negotiations with the Jewish institutions, signd indemnification agreements, paid $60 billion as compensation and so the Nazi Holocaust was forgotten. Germany compensated with three different agreements, with individual claimants, with Israel and with an umrella of major Jewish organisations, the Claims Conference.

Comparing Germany’s compensation with that of the US, 4 to 5 million died in US wars in IndoChina. Vietnam was shattered economically, demographically, socially after the US war. Millions of acres of farmlands and forests destroyed, millions of farm animals killed, many hamlets disappeared, millions killed, many hundred thousands disabled, maimed, children orphaned, women forced into prostitution, industrial cities badly damaged. Refusing to pay any reparations, President Carter said,”destruction was mutual“. President Clinton‘s Defense Secretary William Cohen opined “Both nations were scarred. They have their scars, we have ours“.

In the agreement with the Claims Conference the German government specified that the monies should go to the survivors solely. The Claims Conference anulled the agreement and used the amount for Jewish communities in general. Many survivors did not receive the compensation, some only a pittance and few got lifetime pension. Rabbis and outstanding Jewish leaders were separtely categorised apart from the victims and paid exorbitant sums. Large sums flowed into the coffers for pet projects, for facilitating Jewish emigration from Eastern Europe, for museums and so forth. The Claims Conference even appropriated denationalized Jewish properties in former East Germany worth millions of dollars that rightfully belonged to living Jewish heirs. While the officials of the Conference drew exorbitant sums as salary and perks.

Coming to Finkelstein’s pertinent accusation, ‘the double shakedown’ of Holocaust industry of both European countries and legitimate Jewish claimants. He accuses the industry to be an absolute extortion racket. Purporting to represent all the world Jewry, living and dead, the industry laid claims on Holocaust era Jewish assets throughout Europe. Starting with the Swiss banks, the saga continued until they raked in a fortune worth billions from the European countries. Comemmorating the 50 th anniversary of WWII, Switzerland’s president formally apologized in May 1995 for denying Jews refuge during Holocaust. A widely reported story had circulated about the Swiss banks holding Holocaust era Jewish accounts worth billions of dollars. The World Jewish Congress(WJC) leapt at this opportunity

Swiss were an easy prey since few would sympathize with with the rich Swiss as compared to the needy Jewish survivors, and the banks were susceptible to pressures from the US. Thirteen branches of six Swiss banks operated in US at that time( 1990’s), they loaned Americaan businesses some 38 billion and also had billions in investments in US stocks and banks. The WJC spawned a new organisation World Jewish Restitution Organization(WJRO) that claimed legal jurisdiction over the claims of the survivors, living and dead. The Swiss bankers declared that they could locate only 775 unclaimed dormant accounts worth a total of $32 million and they offered this sum for the WJC,which they flatly refused. The WJC teamed up with the other Jewish organisations, mobilized the entire US political establishment who denounced the perfidious Swiss. What followed was nothing short of a calculated blackmail cum extortion campaign.

With the help of the US, the Holocaust industry launched a vilification campaign against the Swiss. The credulous press gave banner headlines and propogated the smear campaign. The main charge was”a 50 year Swiss- Nazi conspiracy to steal billions from Europe’s Jews and Holocaust survivors”. Evoking the secrecy legislation enacted by the Swiss banks in 1934 to prevent Nazi shakedown of Jewish depositors, the WJC alleged that heirs of the Holocaust victims were denied access to the bank accounts, deposts were filched and documents destroyed. Another allegation centered on the Swiss purchase of Nazi gold that the Nazis looted from the central treasuries of Europe and from the body of concentraton camp inmates. The allegation was that the Swiss knowingly purchased the “victim gold”, while the Swiss had all the while maintained that they were unaware of the source of the gold. The Swiss were also claimed to have appropriated the accounts of Polish and Hungarian nationals, many of them Jews, in compensation for the Swiss properties nationalized by their governments. An investigative Committee was appointed with six members and an independent commission of experts was appointed by the Swiss.

Playing the card of the “plight of needy victims”, WJC pressed for financial settlement before the commission’s findings were out. The Swiss protested this as extortion and blackmail. The Swiss then offered $ 250 million which was categorically rejected as a pittance by the WJC. The commission’s report would have turned out to be in disfavour with WJC, if only a few dormant accounts were detected. A public hsteria was whipped up. To terrorize the Swiss into submission the threats of class-action law suits and US economic boycott were brought forward. The first and second class action lawsuits were filed in 1996 and a third one in 1997 respectively. The main weapon was the threat of economic boycot by the US. In 1996, both the NewYork City and State comptrollers wrote to Swiss banks threatening sanctions. The then New York Governor George Pataki publically lent his support. During the next months local and state governments of New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Rhode Island tabled resolutions threatening an economic boycott of the Swiss banks. In 1997, Los Angeles imposed the first sanctions by withdrawing hundreds of millions of dollars in pension funds from a Swiss bank. Meanwhile NewYork State banking officials sought to block the newly formed United Bank of Switzerland (a merger of major Swiss Banks) from operating in the US.

Gradually the Swiss buckled under pressure, though did not surrender completely. Through 1997, the Swiss reportedly spent $500 million to fend off the attacks. In 1998, new sanctions were threatened to be imposed on the Swiss and NewJersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan and California joined within days. The Swiss finally caved in. They agreed to pay $1.25 billion in a class action settlement. It covered the claimants of dormant accounts, refugees denied Swiss asylum and victims of slave labour the Swiss benefited from.

Coming to the comparable American record for all the righteous indignation about the perfidious Swiss. Like the neutral Switzerland, US denied entry to Jewish refugees fleeing Nazis before and during WWII. Yet the US hasn’t seen fit to compensate the Jewish refugees aboard the ill-fated ship St. Louis. There were a lot of reasons in both the countries for refusing the refugees, the main ones were economic downturn, xenophobia, anti Semitism ans security concerns. Hundreds and thousands of Haitian refugees were denied asylum in US after they fled US sponsored death squads in Haiti. Though smaller in size and resources compared to US , the Swiss admitted almost 20,000 Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. Coming to the hypocritic sentiments of the US politicians. Preisdent Clinton– “We must confront and as best right the terrible injustices of the past”. Bipartisan Congressional leaders– “The past must never be forgotten. It should be made clear”. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright– ” The economic benefits accrued by the Swiss from with held Jewish accounts were passed to subsequent generations and that is why the world now looks to the people of Switzerland, not to assume responsibility for actions by their forebears, but to be generous in doing what can be done at this point to right past wrongs”. Very noble words, actively ridiculed when it comes to compensating the African Americans or Native Americans.

The lawyers who took up the class action suit reaped millions. Plaintiffs and survivors demanded that the money should exclusively go to them. WJC wanted half the money earmarked for Jewish organisations and Holocaust education . The settlemet with the Swiss banks was hastened by evoking the needy Holocaust survivors, though no one was compensated almost a year after that. As per records, by 1999, only less than half of the $200 million was paid to Holocaust victims and the rest flowed to WJC coffers.

By 1998, the BERGIER COMMISSION REPORT published that the Swiss had purchased Nazi gold knowing that it had been plundered from central banks of Europe. The US politicians and Congressmen expressed suprise at the corrupt politicians depositing their ill gotten gains in Swiss Banks ( a true concern since annually an estimated $100 to $200 billion from political corruption is sent across borders worldwide and deposited in private banks). But the illegal deposition of corrupt money equally occurs in US banks too with the complete sanction of US law. The dictators find safe haven equally in US banks as well as Swiss banks. Along with the Swiss banks, the US and UK were also a primary safe havens for transferable Jewish assets in Europe before and during WWII..

The question arises- What happened to the dormant Jewish accounts in the US? Abandoned dormant accounts are automatically transferred to the state under the doctrine of escheat. A rudimentary audit estimated the value of the dormant accounts at $ 6 million, rejected by the Congressmen, further slashed by Committee hearings, and opposed by the Bureau of Budget, and the final proposed limit came to around $250,000. Compare this to the $ 32 million acknowledged by the Swiss banks and $1.25 billion paid even before the inquiry reports. There was no hue and cry over the “perfidious American bankers”. The Holocaust industry didn’t launch a single campaign to pressurize the US banks.Similarly the dormant Jewish accounts in Israeli banks were also left out. The Swiss banks were criticized to have maintained strict requirements of death certificates to access the dormant accounts by heirs, but the same requirement was there in Israeli banks too.

The Holocaust industry deployed the same strategy against Germany after the Swiss settlement. The same legal teams deployed the same tactics and script of slander by whipping up public hysteria through news and economic boycott. They demanded $20 billion as compensation by initiating class action law suits aginst German private industry for Jewish slave labour.( compare with the African American slave labour in the US context). The industry found a new scapegoat , Bayer pharmaceuticals, a German company that was accused to have colluded with Josef Mengele although there was no evidence that Bayer directed his murderous experiments. Sanctions threat and economic boycot worked and German companies too caved in with a substantial compensation. This was over and above the compensation given by Germany after during the Cold war and later. The number of living survivors was inflated for receiving a larger sum.

The shakedown of Swiss and Germany was followed by some of the vulnerable Eastern Europen countries after the Soviet Union collapsed. This turned out to be one of the main reasons for the resurgent anti Semitism in Europe. Apart from extracting compensation monies, the WJRO maintained that the heirless Jewish assets in Europe should go to them. The shakedown of Eastern European countries took place far away from the public eye, since extorting from the already impoverished countries there would definitely be not taken kindly by the public, unlike from rich countries like Germany and Switzerland. This could easily be mistaken for grave robbery. But the Holocaust industry did not need public support when it had the key support of the US officials to break the feeble resistance of the prostrate nations. The bludgeon of US sanctions were evoked to take over the prewar Jewish properties in Poland and Belarus. Holocaust compensation amount was elevated and the prospect of these countries to ascend into multilateral institutions like WTO, NATO, EU and OECD were slowed or blocked accordingly. The complicity and abetment of US is as glaring as the outright hypocrisy concerning compensation for African Americans and Native Indians. Israel has repeatedly denied compensating the Palestinians who were evicted from their homes during the 1948 war.

Many of the needy Holocaust victims never received any money and they had filed suit against the Claims Conference.

Conclusion

Peter Novick in ‘The Holocaust in American Life ‘ argues ” the pretense that Holocaust is an American memory is a moral evasion. It leads to shirking of the responsibilities that do belong to the Americans as they confront their past, present and the futire”. It is easier to see the guilt of others than to look inside us.

Hitler‘s Lebenstraum policy (comprises policies and practices of settler colonialism which proliferated in Germany from the 1890s to the 1940s.) had the ideological and programmatic elements of Manifest Destiny of US (the 19th-century doctrine or belief that the expansion of the United States throughout the American continents was both justified and inevitable) . Hitler modelled the conquest of East from the American conquest of the West. During the first half of the 20 th century, a majority of American states enacted sterilization laws and tens of thousands of Americans were involuntarily sterilized. Nazis invoked this when they enacted their own sterilization laws. Nuremberg laws stripped the Jews of franchise and forbade miscegenation between Jews and non Jews. Blacks in the South suffered the same legal disenfranchisement. The Eugenic program in the US preceded the Final Solution in Germany. Unethical, cruel medical experiments were done by the US doctors on American citizens including children before they were appropriated by the Nazi doctors.

In ‘The Origin of Totalitarianism‘, Hannah Arendt notes, “the subterranean stream of Western history has finally come to the surface and usurped the dignity of our tradition”. This vaunted Western tradition is deeply rooted in Nazism as well. To justify extermination of the handicapped( precursor of the Final Solution), the Nazi doctors deployed the concept Lebensunwertes Leben( “life unworthy of life”). Plato states in “Gorgias“- “ I can’t see that life is worth living if a person’s body is in a terrible state”. Plato in “The Republic” sanctioned the murder of defective children. Hitler opposes birth control in ‘Mein Kampf‘ on the ground that it preempts natural selection. Rosseaeu prefigured this in his ‘ Disclosure on the Origins of Inequality

Finkelstein asks some pertinent questions towards the end of the book. Invoking the Holocaust is a staple for US while condemning Khmer Rouge bloodbath in Cambodia, Soviet invasion of Afganistan, Iraqi invasion of Kuwait or the Serbian ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Question arises, what should we compare the Native American genocide to? Palestinian genocide by Israel to ?

As the Khmer Rouge atrocities were unfolding in Cambodia, the US backed Indonesian government was slaughtering the population in East Timor. What should we compare that to? While the Soviet invaded Afghanistan the indigenous Mayan population in Guatemala was being decimated by the US backed government. Israel was the main weapons supplier for the Guatelaan government. Haitian boat people fleeing US supported death squads were forced back. US led NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 is another catastrophe. Whenever the perpetrators mattered to them, the US had aquiesced and abetted. What should we compare this passive US complicity to ? A million children were killed in the Final Solution. Many millions die from malnutrition and starvation worlwide. After the US invasion of Iraq devastated the country, the US and UK forced sanctions on Iraq to punish Saddam and depose him, a million children have likely perished during that time. Questioned about the death toll, the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright replied “the price is worth it“.

Finkelstein argues that the extremity of the Holocaust limits it’s capacity to provide lessons applicable to our everyday world. It has become the benchmark of oppression and atrocity and as such it tends to trivialize crimes of lesser magnitude. Yet it can also sensitize us to injustices. He maintains, ‘seen through the lens of Auschwitz, bigotry can no longer be taken for granted’. Slavery occupied the same place as Holocaust, previously. Thus it was often used to illuminate and compare evils. John Stuart Mill compared the condition of Victorian women to slavery. Nazi Holocaust is evoked and misused by Israel to deflect criticisms of its own indefensible practices.

Towards the end , the author notes about the fear of subsequent moral complacency that persuades scholars against normalizing the infamies of Nazism. He asserts the all the normal history of humankind is replete with horrifying chapters of inhumanity. The Nazi Holocaust must be viewed through rational lens and the Holocaust industry that makes it irrational for exploitative purposes must be dismantled according to the author. He maintains that to atone the crime by the Nazis, the noblest gesture should be preserve the memory of those who perished, learn from their suffering and let them rest in peace.

Book Review- ‘That was Dachau’ by Stanislav Zamecnik

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Author–            Stanislav Zamecnik ( Czech historian, Holocaust survivor)

Genre–              Non-fiction/ History

(‘Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions’…..     Primo Levi)

Review

I bought this book while on a visit to the Dachau concentration camp memorial site( created in 1965), Bavaria, Munich during the 2016 summer.  A must-see place for history lovers. The camp is a bit of a harrowing repository of the Dachau archives, houses a museum which really is a time machine, whereby one can hark back to Third Reich and it’s barbarity. I could literally feel the terror while being guided through the camp( the museum is set in such a way). One of the sites which made me stuck as if in a nightmare, was the crematoria where the gassed and poisoned prisoners were burned up. Words definitely fall short for the kind of utter insensibility and cruelty of The Third Reich.

About the book, the author, Stanislav Zamecnik, himself a Holocaust survivor, has stunningly captured the details, shored up by statistics and ample evidence. He has done a painstaking and arduous job of research which is commendable. The fact that he had done this despite the sanction imposed on him by the authorities in the wake of The Prague Spring, which prohibited him from working as a historian, in itself is one of the reasons which make it a must-read for all, in particular, The Third Reich history pursuant. He was imprisoned in Dachau for almost four years. His mission in life was to preserve the memory of Dachau, and he committed himself to the redevelopment of the Dachau Memorial and the permanent exhibition there recreating the realities, leaving his indelible mark on the International Committee of Dachau.

The camp was opened on March 22, 1933, by Heinrich Himmler, 2 months after Adolf Hitler took power, the first one of a series of death camps to follow. It went on to become the instrument of the Nazi extermination regime and the prototype for the other death camps. Dachau was the only camp that remained in operation from 1933 until 1945. Located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory, it was intended to house political prisoners at first and later expanded for forced labor and to house Jews from Germany, Austria and other countries that Germany invaded. There were more than 40,000 documented deaths (murders plus death from hunger, malnutrition, overwork, and diseases) out of the 200,000 imprisoned from all over Europe at the site and its subsidiaries.

The entrance gate carries the phrase “Arbeit Macht Frei” (work shall set you free). Dachau’s close proximity to Munich, where Hitler came to power and where the Nazi Party had its official headquarters made it a convenient location. Initially, Hitler imprisoned intellectuals, artists, Jehovah’s witnesses, communists, handicapped and homosexuals for the slave labor for manufacturing weapons for Germany’s war efforts. Later, some of the prisoners were used for brutal medical experiments by the Nazis( There is a touching book about how the Nazi doctors ruthlessly did irrational, unethical, inhumane and brutal experiments- Doctors From Hell by Vivien Spitz- I had read this some time back, hope to re-read and write the review sometime soon).

The first commandant of Dachau was the SS officer, Hilmar Wackerle. A Munich schoolteacher Sebastian Nefzger was killed by the SS officers, who reported the death as a suicide. The Autopsy revealed the cause of death as strangulation and the public prosecutor in Munich, therefore, charged the camp commandant Hilmar Waeckerle and other SS officials in the camp with murder. Himmler was forced to remove Wackerle from his post. But on May 25, 1933, Hitler exempted Dachau from judicial oversight and authority and the SS were given unlimited authority over the camp prisoners. Later, all the camps would be removed from the judicial oversight.

Theodor Eicke, who replaced Wackerle as the camp commandant on  October, 1933, brought in severe punishments including systematic beatings and summary execution for rule infringements or escape attempts. Any attempts at sabotage, escape or political agitation were met with summary execution. Later, this system would be followed for all the other concentration camps run by the SS.

Dachau camp was expanded in 1938 by the construction of an SS military training base by demolishing a WW I era munitions factory. The prisoners were made to work 24/7 for the reconstruction. During the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom, about 30,000 Jews were summarily arrested and incarcerated in the three concentration camps, Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen. Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues in Germany and Austria were destroyed, burned or vandalized and they were dragged off the streets and homes to the camps, almost 11,000 of them ending up in Dachau.

In 1939, all the prisoners in Dachau were transferred to Buchenwald, Mauthausen and Flossenbeurg camps. The facilities at Dachau were used by the Waffen-SS for training the Death-Head’s Division. The camp would resume operating again in 1940. From 1941 onwards, the SS doctors started selecting the weak, ill and disabled prisoners, who would be transported to Hartheim and get killed there. As more numbers of prisoners started getting executed in Dachau, four crematoria were built along with the construction of a gas chamber. As a part f their plan to Germanize Occupied Poland and undermine the Catholic Church leadership there, more than 2700 clergy were arrested and incarcerated in the “Priest barracks” of Dachau.

SS doctor Sigmund Rascher conducted his infamous cold water freezing experiment on the prisoners, with methods of reviving them after they had been forced to remain in ice- cold water for hours. This was meant to help revive the German Air Force pilots whose planes went down in cold water. Out of 300 test subjects, one-third died. Numerous other prisoners were used for other medical experiments as well. A 1943 Typhus outbreak in the camp forced the SS to quarantine the prisoners and stop the forced labor. Almost 1000 died as a result of the disease.

While the prisoner numbers increased many subcamps sprang up around Dachau in Southern Germany and also in Northern Austria. On April 26, 1945, just three days before the liberation of the camp, the SS forced about 7000 prisoners on ‘The Death March’ to Tegernsee. It lasted for 6 days, while the SS shot the weak on the way, while many died of exhaustion, hunger, and exposure. The surviving prisoners who arrived at Tegernsee were liberated by the American Forces on May 2, 1945.

The Dachau Camp was liberated by the US Forces on April 29, 1945. As they arrived in the camp, they found more than 30 coal cars filled with decomposing bodies and more than 30,000 prisoners in the camp.

As a part of Hitler’s ‘Final Solution‘ to ‘The Jewish Problem‘ many more were exterminated in the other concentration camps. The Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site was opened in 1965. The International Monument at the Memorial Site holds a sculpture by Nandor Glid, the Yugoslav sculptor and Holocaust survivor whose father and many other family members were murdered in Auschwitz. The sculpture is a poignant pointer to the Holocaust. It is made of dark bronze. It features short strands of barbed wire on which skeletons are hanging with their heads dangling sharply. On either side of the sculpture are concrete fence posts which closely resemble the ones actually used to support the barbed wire fence around the camp. Underneath the sculpture is the dates 1933 – 1945, the years that the camp was used as a concentration camp for anti-Nazis.

 

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On the west side of the monument  is a wall whose inscription in English reads “May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933 and 1945 because they resisted nazism help to unite the living for the defense of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow men.”
The letters on the east side of the monument wall say “Never Again” in five different languages. In front of the wall is a box of ashes of the victims of the Dachau concentration camp, which was placed here on May 7, 1967, the same day that the Jewish Memorial building was dedicated. These were ashes that were found in red clay urns when Dachau was liberated.
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The International Monument has a wide ramp which slopes down to the base of the sculpture designed by Nandor Glid. On the west side of the ramp is another sculpture which features a bas relief depicting three links of a chain held together by bars in between. This signifies the unity among the prisoners, many of whom were left-wing political prisoners who shared the same beliefs. On the links are enameled triangles in the colors of the cloth badges worn by the prisoners on their uniforms to identify their prisoner classification.
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Red triangles were worn by the Communists, Social Democrats and other political prisoners and blue by the foreign workers, mostly Poles, who were brought to the Dachau camp. The Jews always wore two triangles with a yellow triangle on top of another color, usually red which signified a political prisoner.
Why we should read about the Third Reich and the Holocaust?
The Italian- Jewish Holocaust survivor and writer, Primo Levi, in his autobiographical trilogy ‘If This Is a Man‘, tries to find the reasons for the human barbarity.
Logical thinking and reasoning prompt us human beings to ask questions. Discerning the answers cogently and sizing up the present and future, linking them to the past, requires one to dig deeper into the graveyards of history.
I admit that the read was depressingly bleak. Yet the pages sufficed as steps of knowledge, as answers to how a civilized nation could descend into savagery of this magnitude, how complacence and denial are akin to abetment of organized crime, why only a few were audacious enough to stand up to the ordeals, how a far-right ultra-racist minority could amass the instruments of governance to systematically mass murder an entire race by kindling the smoldering hatred with the aid of warped history, spurious politics, and apocryphal pseudo-science, or, how the social, political and economic environments join forces in the origin, re-incarnation or morphing of one among us into a Frankenstein’s monster.
The answers teach us many things. We learn to pay heed to the forewarnings from society, we try to respect diversity, fend off ‘otherization’, above all to question the unsavory, shady deviances. We learn to react individually and collectively. To teach is to learn and to learn is to question. And learning about the Reich and the Holocaust invariably prepares our mind for questioning, to understand the responsibilities in crimes of not only the men at the top of the ladder, but also the nameless, faceless cohorts at the lowest rungs of the society,  to have the courage of our convictions, to speak out when something is not right. The German Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemoller‘s post-war confession stays ever- relevant, in particular,  in the present times. The following poetic form of his quote is engraved at the  New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston, Massachusetts.

 

‘ First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me’.

 

As Primo Levi observes, ‘Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions’.

 

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