Auschwitz and the Germans

After World War II, a Russian, a Pole and a German are asked by a journalist, “Excuse me, what is your opinion about the current meat shortage?” The Russian asks, “What’s an opinion?” When the journalist asks the Pole, he responds, “What’s meat?” Then the journalist asks the German, “Excuse me, what’s your opinion about the current meat shortage?” The German asks, “What’s Excuse me?”

This is an intentional modification of a downright anti-Semitic joke made by grinning Norman Finkelstein when being interviewed in a car which can be seen at the very beginning of American Radical – The Trials of Norman Finkelstein of 2010.

Unfortunately the documentary, broadcast on the occasion of the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, about a documentary of what Red Army and Allies found when liberating extermination camps Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen and Dachau 70 years ago (“Night will Fall”), which I had posted yesterday, has been removed meanwhile. Having seen it, it was again very clear that one may make jokes about Germans’ ignorance and alleged supremacy but not about the ordeal of European Jews seeking refuge in the lands of their ancestors. While West Germany, after painful years of hunger and difficult survival in completely ruined cities, prospered due to the Marshall Plan (“Wirtschaftswunder”), people in East Germany suffered from enormous reparations and the dismantlement of their infrastructure (about 99 billion Deutschemarks) and just another, now communist, dictatorship.

In the West, especially after the Nuremberg Trials of leading war criminals in 1945 and 1946, no one wanted to be confronted with the shame of Auschwitz. It was just marked off. As a child of the 1950s, no one, not parents, grandparents, teachers, nor my pastor who confirmed me in 1968, talked about it, at least not about the absolutely necessary details of industrialized genocide. Hard to believe, but I first became aware of the monstrous crimes committed by my despicable compatriots in 1975, during the third Majdanek trial, when some of the culprits got ridiculously low prison sentences. I was then 19 years old.

After that, US miniseries Holocaust of 1979, Historikerstreik of the late 1980s, Daniel Goldhagen’s daring hypothesis (completely debunked by Finkelstein and Birn in 1998) of the vast majority of Germans having been Hitler’s Willing Executioners of 1996, all of that made an impact. When living in the Middle East for some time, I was faced with every-day anti-Semitism of Muslims who won’t respond to my constant claims that the Holocaust, when defined as industrialized genocide, was unique in history. But that is what it is. But I also learned that the unsolvable Israel-Palestine conflict is intimately related to Auschwitz and that Germans and Jews will be deeply connected forever.

German, Aryan, supremacy is still virulent, though, and has to be curtailed on a daily basis. In Dresden (with a Muslim population of 0.4%), each Monday a far-right group strangely called Patrioten Europas gegen die Islamisierung des Abendendlandes, or Pegida (European Patriots against the Islamization of the Occident) demonstrates in front of the Parliament shouting Wir sind das Volk (we are the people, or rather mob). The claim is shamelessly adopted from those who brought communist Eastern Germany (DDR) to its knees 25 years ago in Leipzig and Dresden. It doesn’t come as a surprise that this populist movement has its origin in Saxony where Germany’s fascist party NPD, a direct successor of Hitler’s NSDAP, failed, only with a narrow margin of 1000 votes, to be represented in the Landtag due to the five percent clause. Pegida, a new expression of xenophobia, has replaced open anti-Semitism with a risk for penalty.

28 January 2015 @ 1:30 pm.

Last modified January 28, 2015.

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