Archive for the ‘Nazism’ Category

My close friend, Marek Chodakiewicz, is a serious historian of World War II, the Holocaust, and the Nazi and Soviet occupations of his native land. He is an intelligent, balanced, and honest scholar, who does not indulge in nationalist myth-making, is willing to slay sacred cows, and is not devoid of appreciation for the moral complexity that faced the Jewish and Polish people under foreign occupiers. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)–a money grubbing supposed civil rights organization run by the morally challenged Morris Dees–has decided to attack him, as they have attacked so many others, for deviating from leftist orthodoxy in a ruthless campaign of censorship:

Many of Chodakiewicz’s controversial writings about Jews predate his appointment to the museum board. In a 2003 book, After the Holocaust: Polish Jewish Relations in the Wake of World War II, he argued that postwar violence directed at Jews in Poland was seldom due to anti-Semitism. Instead, he cited other factors: Poles’ resistance to Jewish communists; self-defense against Jews who wanted to murder Poles who had collaborated with the Nazis; and thwarting efforts by Jews to reclaim property seized by the Nazis and later taken by Poles.

Chodakiewicz also maintained in the book that 400 to 700 Jews were murdered in Poland after the war; other estimates place the toll at 1,500 or higher. And he argued that Jewish communists killed more Poles after the war than vice versa.

In an article about Chodakiewicz’s book for a newspaper in Israel, Laurence Weinbaum, a historian, one-time Fulbright scholar and executive director of the Jerusalem-based World Jewish Congress Research Institute and the Israel Council of Foreign Relations, wrote that Chodakiewicz and “like-minded historians … are hard at work explaining why the murdered — not the murderers — are guilty.” Chodakiewicz, Weinbaum added, is a historian with “twisted views.”

I have read the book. The scholarship is impeccable. It has hundreds of footnotes per chapter. It cites sources in Russian, English, Polish, Ukrainian, and even Hebrew. It literally researches and reports on each and every reported violent death in Poland from 1944-1947.

The Holocaust was a great crime not only against Jews, but also against Ukrainians, Poles, Czechs, Belarussians, and others. If the essence of the crime was mass murder of innocent civilians for ideological and racist reasons–which I think it was–then the mass murder of Polish Christians, often by Russian or Jewish communists in post-war Poland, is also a crime worth studying in a rigorous way. Such scholarship does not detract from or minimize the Holocaust against the Jewish people. Context is everything in history, including context necessary to understand the magnitude of the Nazi mass murder of Jews. But an event shorn of all context is not historical but mythological or religious: beyond discussion, beyond comparison, beyond understanding, beyond reason. This is not healthy. This is not history.

The real history of World War II has been eclipsed by a fairly recent focus in popular culture almost exclusively upon the Holocaust. This focus has come about through the exclusion of understanding of other Nazi crimes, Japanese crimes, Soviet crimes, and most other aspects of the war. The popular history of the Holocaust has been especially distorted to render the perpetrators beyond human and their victims beyond reproach, even when some of those same victims (or would-be victims) were also victimizers in the uniforms of the NKVD in Poland from 1944-1947. In the post-war milieu of Poland and Eastern Europe, no doubt there were many crimes perpetrated, whether by anti-semitic Polish nationalists, ordinary bandits, rape-addicted Red Army soldiers, or overly zealous Jewish “Avengers.” But this layered story, where the evil Europeans of the Holocaust were now victims is inconvenient, and it has been suppressed.

There is no excuse for mass murder of innocents. This should not be controversial. But to discuss these others victims is considered suspect, whether those innocents were Poles killed by German Nazis, Poles killed by Jews, Ukrainians killed by Poles, Poles killed by Ukrainians, Germans killed by Russians, or any of the other permutations of ideological mass murder that marked the middle of the 20th Century. It is a narrow ideological goal that takes one especially effective species of such mass murder–the Nazi mass murder of the Jews–to exclude, ignore, and downplay other instances of civilian genocide, not least that of the long-suffering Poles, who endured a situation where the erstwhile Jewish victims of the Nazis (in recently donned and also threadbare Soviet uniforms) were also in some cases the victimizers of the Poles–Poles who were themselves also victimized by the Nazis alongside the Jews simultaneously during 1939-1944.

Chodakiewicz’s crime is that he speaking the truth. And that truth threatens the agenda of a certain kind of leftist, a leftist that hates Christianity, hates America, hates Europe, and hates the white race. Such leftism needs the Holocaust to have primacy over all other history because this viewpoint renders the Nazis as uniquely diabolical in history, the apotheosis of the genetically evil Western World. It is the same leftism that defames the Catholic Church, the Spanish conquistadors, the soldiers of the Confederacy, and the brave knights of the Crusades. The leftism comes first; facts and context are secondary.

As a result of leftist dominance in academia and the media, an unnuanced series of concepts about the Holocaust have become etched in stone as conventional wisdom. The most central such myth is that of a completely perfect victim sacrificed by a completely evil and irrational perpetrator.  As such, the official Holocaust of the Left becomes the mirror-image of the Christian Passion story: the perfect and blameless Lamb (then Jesus, but now the Jews) slaughtered by the hateful Jewish mob (Christian Nazis) with the acquiesence of the amoral Romans (Polish, Russian, French, and other Christian Europeans who did not do enough to stop the mass murder). After all, what else was Hitler’s Pope or Hitler’s Willing Executioners all about?

Scholarship, such as Chodakiewicz’s, that shows the perpetrators too sometimes were victims of evil, and that Jews too were sometimes bystanders, and that their cousins in NKVD uniforms killed even more people than the Nazis did in the Ukraine and Poland and Russia, would pull down the entire edifice of leftism which depends upon a very particular and quasi-religious Holocaust story, as summarized above.

The SPLC and its allies seek to suppress and marginalize scholarship such as Chodakiewicz’s–rather than refute it–because his work teaches implicitly that all people everywhere may commit evil and mass murder in the name of modern ideology of one kind or another. In other words, his words may reveal that the Western World, far from being evil to the core, was in much better shape before it tasted modernism, ideology, secularism, and the various poisonous fruits of the Enlightenment.

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Pat Buchanan has again put forward the view that World War II was avoidable, that the Western Allies should not have defended Poland’s frontiers, and that the confluence of events compelled Hitler to seek world conquest where he might have otherwise been appeased.  I believe this is rubbish, it contradicts Hitler’s own stated messianic aims, and Buchanan’s error is rooted in his attempts to rewrite the past to conform to his foreign policy preferences of the present, namely, American isolationism.  While isolationism may be justified now–after the defeat of Hitler and the defeat of Soviet Russia–it is unfortunate that he has ignored and twisted the facts about Hitler and the very necessary European War to make a point (and in the process discredit a point) that is otherwise quite compelling under the historical circumstances of today.

I think his view of Hitler as a victim of British insouciance is his absolutely weakest position.  If neoconservatives look at foreign policy as a puzzle that must be solved in such a way that the foreign policy positions today should always yield a response to WWII that gets America involved earlier than it did to avoid the evils of German expansion and oppressive racial policies in occupation, Pat views the evils of excessive American interventionism today such that history must be re-written so that all such intervention is morally suspect (including British intervention to prevent the rise of a German hegemon) .

While Germany was treated pretty shabbily after Versailles, it was the Poles who were deprived by the Austrians, Germans, and Russians of a nation state from 1795 to 1918.  Their national defense and their position on Danzig was hardly an extreme one.  Further, the question of borders being resolved by force has a very thin and unsustainable moral basis, as pretty much the entire Western half of Poland such as Silesia, Posen, Danzig, as well as other parts of Europe with German minorities, were subject to colorable German claims for realigning borders because of scattered German minorities in all of these regions, and the East of Poland was equally subject to Russian claims because of scattered Ukrainian and Belarussian minorities.  There was no perfect solution that did not arguably require the country to be destroyed in the name of an amoral European peace.  The Pilsudski regime was not perfect, but Hitler would not have been content with anything less than annexxing a half or more of Poland, most of Ukraine and Belarus, and the Baltics.

I wrote two longish pieces on this subect at Takimag last year here and here.  Among other things, I note the following:

But the war in the East did not depend on British involvement, nor did it become more likely because of the Franco-British security guaranty to Poland. Indeed, the war arguably would have been delayed by these measures if they were undertaken with greater vigor. Britain reasonably viewed their diffidence on the eve of WWI as having emboldened the Kaiser; they reasoned that clearer commitments might arrest the conflagration from occurring a second time. This became particularly important after Munich, because Hitler showed his bad faith and moved on to the next item on his list by threatening the weak and recently re-born nation of Poland.

Second, the argument about the justice of liberating millions of Germans under Czech control “proves too much.” Many Germans also lived in Poland, Russia, Latvia, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and France too. Poles lived in Lithuania. Russians lived in Ukraine. Ukrainians lived in Poland. Magyars lived in Romania and Slovakia. Jews and Gypsies lived everywhere. It would have been impossible to align the political and ethnic borders in 1938 Europe. To avoid the real and imagined harms to vulnerable ethnic minorities, either the borders of all of Europe would had to move and at least some of the people would have to be moved en masse, which is more or less what happened post-war. The Germans would not have stopped at Danzig, and there is no logical reason under Pat Buchanan’s reasoning that they should have. For the Germans, any German being ruled by a non-German was an injustice.

In other words, from the Alsace-Lorraine to the Volga, the Germans had a pretext to engage in wars to “liberate the oppressed Volksdeutsch.” Let’s be clear. This was a zero sum game: if the Germans got Danzig, the Poles of Pomerania would be Germanized, expelled, or oppressed, as they eventually were when it was annexed by the Third Reich.

Britian in 1939 is not America in 2009.  Further, Hitler and the Nazis, like Stalin and the Soviet Communists, were unique and thankfully rare threats to world peace and the entire human race.  Their threat was sui generis, and the American response should be seen as such as well.  It neither requires permanent pax Americana, but nor does that exceptional engagement become wrong, simply because it’s wrong to fight for democracy today when the threats of barbarism from African or South American or Caucasian hell holes are picayune in comparison.  It is appropriate Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were stopped with the help of American arms, and it was even morally defensible to ally with the Soviets from 1941-1945 given the stakes.  Sometimes the enemy of my enemy must be cooperated with, even if far too much was eventually lost at Yalta and Tehran.

As bad as the latter situation was, it would have been far worse if a successful Hitler had dominated Europe with his crackpot, racist, and anti-Christian ideology.  Since nationalism is inherently stronger in many ways than communism, and since the post-WWII environment preserved a distinct competitor to the Soviets in the form of NATO and the United States, it is quite likely that a successful Hitler or his successor regime would still be dominating Europe today and in effect destroying European civilization but for the actions of Churchill, Roosevelt, de Gaulle, and the rest of the West in World War II.

It is the worst kind of ideology that can defend a general principle, such as American non-interventionism–a principle which I share–but is blind to the exceptions and willing to refashion them in the most naive and results-oriented manner possible.

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