This week began with the seventy-fifth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and ends with the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union. These two events are not unconnected, for per yours truly on page 105 of America Alone the EU is "a 1970s solution to a 1940s problem". They shouldn't really be quite so entwined, but as I said to Laura Rosen Cohen on the seventieth anniversary:
I think they drew the wrong conclusion from 'Never Again'. The Jews were sort of peripheral to the meaning of that. I think what 'Never Again' means to a Continental European is never again, as they saw it, the nationalism that led to war. So their response to 1939-1945 was to undermine their own nationalism. At the time of the European Constitution, so-called, a decade ago, you had these apparatchiks from the European Commission standing up and warning the Dutch and the French that if they didn't sign on to this Euro-superstate they would be on the path to Belsen and Auschwitz.
In other words, it's one or the other. You've the European Union or you've got ovens. That was the lesson they drew - that nationalism was bad, that nation states were bad, that national identity was bad. And, as part of that, they imported the next generation of anti-Semites to Europe.
(We might run a bit more of Laura's interview with me in the next couple of days.)
Nevertheless, several readers asked why SteynOnline didn't join in Monday's observances. The short answer is that I have a semi-official policy of sitting out Holocaust Memorial Day, on the grounds that in Europe formal veneration of dead Jews grows ever more fulsome in direct proportion to formal indifference to living Jews, and the extinguishing of what remains of Jewish life on the Continent.
I write below of "cultural appropriation" of the Holocaust, and there was a fair bit of that in Monday's coverage on European TV. I noticed that many spokespersons for "Holocaust remembrance" organizations were anxious to universalize the occasion: it's not just Auschwitz, it's Rwanda ...and Darfur ...and Srebrenica... Indeed, even Auschwitz is getting less Jewish. The BBC interviewed a nice lady who responded to a question about the victims thus:
Jews - plus disabled, gay, trades unionists...
Golly, is there anyone who wasn't in the Holocaust? Well, give it a year or two:
"What are you doing for Holocaust Memorial Day?"
"Isn't that something to do with Jews?"
"Not really. Well, okay, there's a few, but it's mostly gays and socialists and disabled transgenders..."
"I dunno. It still sounds a bit Jewy..."
A prominent Canadian university found it convenient in its round-robin email to lump observance of the Holocaust in with the third anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shootings. Six people died in that, as opposed to six million Je ...er, trades unionists. But it's not even about the numbers: Wars, and civil wars, happen, and it's not pretty on the ground. But Germany was the most advanced and civilized culture in Europe, and so even its extermination procedures were advanced and civilized: bureaucracy, paperwork, official government identification numbers, massive streamlined processing facilities... That is the unique evil of the Holocaust, and it's different from some guy opening fire on a mosque or taking his machete to the neighboring village. If Holocaust Memorial Day is a memorial to everybody, it's a memorial to nobody.
And the universalization thing doesn't work anyway: Five minutes after the nice lady's bleating about disabled gay shop stewards, the BBC news bulletin announced that overnight anti-Semitic graffiti had been sprayed over what remains of Jewish businesses in the East End of London.
I'm old enough to have known those who saw the camps for themselves. For example, my late friend Denis Norden:
Like all funny men of his generation, he'd been in the war - a wireless operator in the RAF whose commanding officers knew of his comedic bent and let him produce variety shows to keep the chaps' morale up. In the spring of 1945 he was preparing one such entertainment with Eric Sykes in northern Germany and needed some lights. He was told there was a German camp down the road lit up like a Christmas tree, and he could surely find what he needed there. So off he set, and walked straight into Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where, among others, Anne Frank had died a month before. 'We hadn't heard a word about it,' said Denis.
The camp had been not so much 'liberated' as abandoned: The German commandants and Hungarian guards had gone, shooting some of their starving prisoners on the way out and making perfunctory efforts to bury the evidence. Norden and Sykes were greeted by a world of wraiths: you couldn't tell which of these slumped emaciated husks was thirty or seventy, and in some cases alive or dead; wizened starving mothers clutched their shriveled babies, unaware that all life had fled. Denis found some lights, took the jeep back to the RAF, and at base rustled up all the provisions he could find and took it back to Belsen - and, even as he handed it out, worried whether the ruined digestive systems of humans starved to all but death would be able even to handle food.
The "slumped emaciated husks" he fed that day are almost all gone now, and their memory is useful to the New Europe in a way that the victims of today's Jew-hate are not. Here's what I wrote on the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz - in The Daily Telegraph in January 2005. Fifteen years on, everything is pretty much the same, only more so:
According to a poll by the University of Bielefeld, 62 per cent of Germans are "sick of all the harping on about German crimes against the Jews" - which is an unusually robust formulation for a multiple-choice questionnaire, but at least has the advantage of leaving us in no confusion as to how things stand in this week of pan-European Holocaust "harping on". The old joke - that the Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz - gets truer every week.
I have some sympathy for that 62 per cent. Killing six million people is a moral stain on one's nation that surely ought to endure more than a couple of generations. But, on the other hand, almost everything else about the Germany of sixty years ago is gone - its great power status, its military machine, its aggressive nationalism, its need for Lebensraum. The past is another country, but rarely as foreign as the Third Reich. Why should Holocaust guilt be the only enforced link with an otherwise discarded heritage?
"Enforced" is the operative word. If most Germans don't feel guilty about the Holocaust, there's no point pretending they do. And that's the problem with all this week's Shoah business: it's largely a charade. The European establishment that has scheduled such lavish anniversary observances for this Thursday presides over a citizenry that, even if one discounts the synagogue-arsonists and cemetery-desecrators multiplying across the Continent, is either antipathetic to Jews, or "sick of all the harping on", or regards solemn Holocaust remembrance as a useful card to have in the hand of the slyer, suppler forms of anti-Semitism to which Europe is now prone.
From time to time, the late Diana Mosley used to tell me how "clever" she thought the Jews were. If you pressed her to expand on the remark, it usually meant how clever they were in always keeping "the thing" - the Holocaust, as she could never quite bring herself to say - in the public eye, unlike the millions killed in the name of Communism. This is a fair point, though not one most people are willing to entertain from a pal of Hitler. But "the thing" seems most useful these days to non-Jews as a means of demonstrating that the Israelis are the new Nazis and the Palestinians their Jews. Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, has told the Home Secretary that his crowd will be boycotting Thursday's commemorations because it is racist and excludes any commemoration of the "holocaust" and "ongoing genocide" in Palestine.
Ah, well. He's just some canny Muslim opportunist, can't blame the chap for trying it on. But look at how my colleagues at The Spectator chose to mark the anniversary. They ran a reminiscence by Anthony Lipmann, the Anglican son of an Auschwitz survivor, which contained the following sentence: "When on 27 January I take my mother's arm - tattoo number A-25466 - I will think not just of the crematoria and the cattle trucks but of Darfur, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Jenin, Fallujah."
Jenin? Would that be the notorious 2002 "Jenin massacre"? There was no such thing, as I pointed out in this space at the time, when Robert Fisk and the rest of Fleet Street's gullible sob-sisters were going around weepin' an' a-wailin' about Palestinian mass graves and Israeli war crimes. Twenty-three Israelis were killed in fighting at the Jenin camp. Fifty-two Palestinians died, according to the Israelis; according to Arafat's official investigators, it was 56 Palestinians. Even if one accepts the higher figure, that means every single deceased Palestinian could have his own mass grave and there'd still be room to inter the collected works of Robert Fisk. Yet, despite the fact that the Jenin massacre is an obvious hallucination of Fleet Street's Palestine groupies, its rise to historical fact is unstoppable. To Lipmann, those 52-56 dead Palestinians weigh in the scales of history as heavy as six million Jews. And what's Fallujah doing bringing up the rear in his catalogue of horrors? In rounding up a few hundred head-hackers, did the Yanks perpetrate another Auschwitz? These comparisons are so absurd as barely to qualify as "moral equivalence".
I'm not one for philosophical meditations on Zionism. Had I been British foreign secretary ninety years ago, I doubt I would have issued the Balfour Declaration. Nor am I much interested in whose land was whose hundreds or thousands of years back. The reality is that the nation states of the region all date back to the 1930s and 1940s: the only difference is that Israel, unlike Syria and Iraq, has made a go of it. As for the notion that this or that people "deserve" a state, that's a dangerous post-modern concept of nationality and sovereignty. The United States doesn't exist because the colonists "deserved" a state, but because they went out and fought for one. Were the Palestinians to do that, they might succeed in pushing every last Jew into the sea, or they might win a less total victory, or they might be routed and have to flee to Damascus or Wolverhampton.
But, whatever the outcome, it's hard to see that they would be any less comprehensively wrecked a people than they are after spending three generations in "refugee" "camps" while their "cause" is managed by a malign coalition of UN bureaucrats, cynical Arab dictators, celebrity terrorists and meddling Europeans whose Palestinian fetishisation seems most explicable as the perverse by-product of the suppression of their traditional anti-Semitism.
Americans and Europeans will never agree on this, and the demographic reality - the Islamisation of Europe - will only widen the chasm in the years ahead. But, if I were a European Jew, I would feel this week's observances bordered on cultural appropriation. The old defence against charges of anti-Semitism was: "But some of my best friends are Jewish." As the ancient hatreds rise again across the Continent, the political establishment's defence is: "But some of our best photo opportunities are Jewish."
~from The Daily Telegraph, January 25th 2005
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