Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Last Boat Out of Liverpool

This post has been sitting in various places, half-written, for several weeks now. Parts of it are on my laptop; parts have been printed out and left in pieces on the coffee table. A few notes flutter out of my journal where I stuck them several weeks ago.

It would seem I’d rather not finish the post, and, at least on one level, that’s true. But another part of me aches for the remembrance then and the sense of helplessness now, as history repeats itself.

So push has come to shove: April 25th is the day set aside annually for the commemoration of the Holocaust. It is the day to remember those millions of souls who vanished into silence during the Second World War. Today the post gets written, or it gets consigned to oblivion.

This is a personal story. It is not the tale of a Holocaust survivor, but a recollection of shame about my family — a feeling that is fading as I observe myself in the same position my mother occupied when it was her turn to watch what the Western world does to Jews.

I was raised a devout Roman Catholic. My mother was born and lived in Ireland until her marriage to my father — a union which happened to coincide with Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Having been swept off her feet by this handsome American, what relevance could a Blitzkrieg possibly have to my mother’s life?
Mother of Dymphna, second from the left

As it transpired, very little. My mother was an intelligent woman, but she was not an intellectual. She read devotional books, or an occasional novel. The larger world held little interest for her, and, until she became an American citizen fifteen years after her arrival here, I never even heard her discuss politics. Apolitical people like my mother are not unusual; even so, looking back at the history through which she lived, I find it hard to comprehend how little it meant to her. On the other hand, being an alien resident with a green card, always feeling that at any moment she could be sent back, Mother did not live at the forefront of her life. Only after friends pushed her through the process of applying for citizenship, only after taking the oath and being able to check the box “U.S. Citizen” on forms — only then did she relax enough to look at the headlines. Now she belonged; now she could vote. Her very first presidential election was Adlai Stevenson and Eisenhower. The image of my mother wobbling off on my bike to vote for the first time remains distinct.

My exposure to history as a child was mostly the 1950s version of the patriotic American story. The threat of Communism was very real to Catholic schoolchildren in those days. We knew about the imprisonment of Cardinal József Mindszenty, and prayed for him. The burgeoning parochial school system was dedicated to producing assimilated American Catholic children — very definitely, Red-White-and-Blue Catholics is what we were.

If history classes touched on the Holocaust, I do not remember it. What I do recall, as freshly as if it happened last month, was my introduction to the images of the concentration camps. The program, narrated by Edward R. Murrow, riveted me to the television screen.

This was my first brush with Evil, up close and unrelenting. By the time the program was over, I was (I now know) in a state of shock. I had just been traumatized by the enormity of our human capacity for malevolence. My innocence was a dead, useless skin, quickly molted and left behind. I remember being angry as only idealistic adolescents can be. When my mother returned — she had been at some devotional at church — I was beside myself. In fact, from then on I could understand what that phrase meant.

I confronted her at the door, tears streaming down my face. Her instant maternal alarm quickly dissolved when she learned the source of my distress.

“Oh, that thing about the concentration camps,” she said, waving it away. “I heard they were going to show that.”

I was stunned. “You mean you knew about it?”

“Oh, vaguely. Your father and I got the last boat out of Liverpool to come to America. I remember U-boats following us all the way through international waters. Down in steerage there were crowds of people. Most of them had tattoos. I knew they’d been in some prisons Hitler set up for the Jews. They were a sad lot.”

In my whole life this was the only time I ever wanted to hit my mother. How could she?

“How could you just ignore it? Why didn’t you do something?”

Mother looked at me as though as though I were speaking Greek, as though I were the alien. I hated her callous dismissal of a part of history that was up close and unspeakably inhuman.

Eventually I quit asking her questions. Later, as an adult, I realized how anxious and scared she’d been herself through those years. With the passage of enough time I even forgave her, as children do, though my whole-hearted respect never returned.
Auschwitz survivors

In the days following my discovery, it was hard to think of anything else. When I lay down at night, the images of those stacked bodies and the slack-jawed living skeletons would not permit me a luxury like sleep. If I slept, then I would be equally complicit with those who had permitted these atrocities.

Slowly, I became fiercely pro-Israel. I even considered converting to Judaism as a kind of reparation. Of course, I never said this out loud. I lived in a Catholic ghetto; though I never ever heard any anti-Semitic remarks, I was on an island of Catholics in a sea of Southern Baptists. Jews — as evidenced by Israel — were admirable but exotic.

As I matured and witnessed and cheered Israel’s survival, I learned more about the rich history of Jews in America. I read with a shiver of pride George Washington’s Letter to the Jewish congregation in Rhode Island. Heartened by Israel’s “Never Again”, I knew with certainty that “Never in America” was an absolute. I read Jewish biographies like Harry Golden’s For Two Cents Plain, books about urban Jewish childhoods. I envied the survival instincts of these, my religious forebears.

As Palestine became the darling of the Left, I moved right. Up until now, I’d always seen my conservative philosophy as arising from my economic principles, and that is certainly true. But, above all, it was my solidarity with Israel which slowly evolved into a militant stand against those of my fellow citizens who seemed to hate America and Israel equally. When I would occasionally (and then more frequently) meet a pro-Palestinian Jew, the cognitive dissonance made me queasy. Their outlook, to me, was either insane or perverted. I still think this.

Life comes full circle in more ways than one can imagine in adolescence. Reading Shrinkwrapped’s description of the increasingly desperate straits of Stockholm’s Jews, I am now in same helpless position my mother once occupied. The fact that I am more informed than she was does not render me more competent to do anything. The fact that I know she and I were and are part of a larger historical wave of Western self-destruction does not provide surcease.

The most bizarre and perverted aspect of this phenomenon of self-hatred is the denial of the Holocaust itself. This symptom of our cultural depravity, even if it exists only on the fringes, is deeply disturbing for what it portends for the future of the West. If we are denied our remembrance of the past — and 9/11 is now entering this “VERBOTEN” zone — then what are we?

What are we, with no history?

My intent is to continue, by whatever means I have, to wrest from the culture-killers and the memory-hole guardians, the haters and the equivocators, their prominence of place in the American landscape.

Otherwise, what is the point?


AtlasShrugs.com said...

Extraordinary work Dymphna. G-d bless you, righteous one.

westbankmama said...

Great post.
I still find the images from the camps disturbing even in adulthood.

One thing you may not have picked up on in your surveys of American Jewish culture is that many Jews - including survivors - paralleled your mom's attitude, perhaps in a desire to put the war's heavy burdens behind them and move forward with their lives.

So there is a stereotype of the workaholic Holocaust survivor - people who don't want to be left with time for reflection on their hands. There were several people like that in our synagogue, and one in our family.

And thank you for supporting Israel.

Wally Ballou said...

Great post, D.

But, I have to say I share Dan M's puzzlement at your imputing any kind of blame to your mother (although I understand you are speaking of adolescent feelings and God knows they have a logic of their own). She was obviously powerless to do anything to stop Hitler, and afterwards, she really couldn't be expected to dwell on the past. People forget bad times when they can.

One of the most interesting phenomena of the last century, to me, is the almost total public amnesia about the great influenza pandemic. It is only in the last years of the century that people starting writing and talking about just how catastrophic it had been. In Gina Kulota's book Flu, she recounts her surprise at finding how little she really knew when she started her research and how difficult it was to get data. The survivors just wanted to get on.

The 9/11 amnesia has obvious political roots in the media - but it is also driven by a universal human weakness - a desire to forget the pain of the past.

The_Editrix said...

I am a German gentile with a higher degree in history and a blog of my own where I am dealing with my country's past, which is so inextricably linked to the contemporary situation in the Middle East and the rise of Islam.

Why am I telling you that?

Because I would like to give some weight to my words when I say now that Dymphna's post and the following comments are among the best I have ever read on that topic.

Thank you all!

Paulinus said...

Oh how your story resonates! Part of the Irish diaspora, my father and uncles fought in the Middle East and I am immensely proud of them. For Dad it was a particularly personal fight - he had been a sabbath goy and in the Depression, the money he earned from those Jewish families was the difference between a living and destitution. They were incredibly kind to our family and Dad saw that if the Nazis were victorious, those Jewish families would be on the boat to The East.

Similarly the Jewish Commnunity in the city where I grew up in the North of England was generous to the Irish Catholics, I sspect recognising that they had been in a similar situation half a century before. When our church burned down, the Jewish community replaced the vestments of the church lock, stock and barrel. They are stll worn at Mass to this day.

Having fought Nazism and Italian fascism, mano a mano, they were unequivocal. As one uncle put it rather indelicately: "The Yids deserve a state - they fought for it". As my father put it more delicately "God blesses those who bless Israel"

pacific_waters said...

?The fact that I am more informed than she was does not render me more competent to do anything. The fact that I know she and I were and are part of a larger historical wave of Western self-destruction does not provide surcease."

And that's the rub. Our leaders fail to recognize the enormity of what is occurring and the rest of us are either powerless to effect change or have our collective heads in the sand.

William Zeranski said...

I quote to myself, and others, often:

“How do you know where you’re going, if you don’t know where you’ve been?”

And I keep in mind that anyone or group that endeavors to rewrite or skew the past, in anyway, is the enemy.

Yaakov Kirschen said...

wonderful post.
the ripples this will make as it spreads thru the blogosphere and into our brains is, indeed, doing something.
good work!
Dry Bones
Israel's Political Comic Strip Since 1973

Kiddo said...

Whoa. That was one of those knock-over reads. Incredible writing. I too will never waver in my suppport of Israel. I understand what you said about considering conversion, also. When I was a teenager in Miami my school partnered with the local Holocaust Museum there and as 13, 14 and 15 year olds we all would sit there and talk at length with survivors. One I met was even on a boat that reached Miami Beach, but the US would not accept and wouldn't let them disembark. He was returned to Europe after being within view of freedom. This man, then a boy, joined the Resistance in France and fought until the end of the war, when he finally came back to, of course, Miami Beach! I had never heard such tales, and hearing them and seeing the tatoos at such an age burned all of it into my memory. One of my children is even named after a woman who worked to saved Jews during the war, a righteous woman.

Imagine my surprise in knowing all of this and then discovering what happened in Asia Minor? It is amazing how family secrets are held and not passed down sometimes. I understand your sense of anger, as well as your ability to let it go over the years. Absolutely beautiful writing.

Frank said...

With respect, the Holocaust has been done before again and again and again. And again. It is one among many atrocities that punctuate history, and the Holocaust differs from the Armenian massacres or any other such holocaust only because of its politicization after the war. In fact, the cult of victimhood that began with the Holocaust has become so popular an ethic that it by now encompassed everything from natives to female denizens of "patriarchy".

I am tempted, I admit, to make the usual prerequisite pious pronouncements that such a post demands, but I won't. I won't, because I remember that from the days of my first political awareness, Israel has used the Holocaust to justify everything from its own terrorist roots in the Irgun to its holiday in Lebanon in the early 80s. For a time, one could almost predict Israel's next move by attending the volume of Holocaust remembrances. If the remembrances were louder than usual, Arabs would do well to head for the hills lest the wrath of Yahweh, aided by F15s, fell about them.

Then of course there is the matter of freedom of speech. We are all too willing to lambast the Muslims for trying to curb free speech over insulting cartoons, but what do we say when someone who, in an academic quest, tries to show that the numbers in the Holocaust are wrong and gets sent to jail for his pains? What do we say then? What do we say to Germany and Austria, who actually incarcerate people who say the wrong things, or Canada, where people's lives and careers are finished if they go against the hegemonic grain?

If freedom of speech is good, then it is good. If it is bad, then it is bad, but it cannot be both on the whim of the listener. And if it is good and should be defended, then it should be defended against all comers.

K enough ranting for now...

Dymphna said...


Actually, I thought the ranting could have stopped a little sooner.

So the Jews shouldn't have a lobby and make sure everyone knows what happened? They all live in safety now and we should just go on to something else? Announce that in Tel Aviv, why don't you?

I think the Armenians should have their own museum. I wish as a culture they would find the energy and perseverance to make sure their story is known. They should keep hammering away.

But my own sense of injustice imprinted on the Holocaust. It might have centered on the Armenian massacres if Edward R. Murrow and other filters had decided to cover it. Lord knows there's enough physical evidence.

RIght now, we're not seeing the strongly arresting physical evidence of what Saddam did...or maybe I missed it. THere should be a similar program for every mass evil injustice that cries out to heaven for redress. Hell, we could just document the history of China and never be finished.

My light on the Damascus Road was the pictures of the camps. We write what we know -- what is "seared, seared," into our memories. And those who share those memories feel a kinship in the reading of our journey.

I am just beginning to learn of the bloody, on-going, relentless massacres of Islam along its bloody borders. It's not easy to read...were I still a teenager, it might affect me the same way.

wally ballou I share your puzzlement of the memory hole into which the Influenza epidemic was shoved. At least twelve million, maybe fifty million, people died in a year or two. Then silence and the Western world went to on the Roaring Twenties.

IMHO the Twenties were a manic rebound to the reality of the Flu epidemic. People don't even know the havoc it played in the lives of their ancestors. My paternal grandmother and their oldest son, age 6, died at that time, I *think* from the epidemic. It shattered my father's family and his life. He spent his childhood hearing his bitter father tell him repeatedly that "the wrong son died." I can trace its effects in my family from 1919 through 2006. I can guess its ongoing echoes from here.

Don't you wonder if the Black Plague is in any way related to the ongoing cultural suicide we see now? How does a place lose huge numbers of its population through sudden outbreaks of disease and not be eternally affected? Distant echoes...

BTW, the outbreak of the Nazi plague was a truly virulent one.
dan m

We all have our moments of sudden realization. Dachau was mine. You all are entitled to chose your own.

It wasn't that the subject was unspeakably grim and morbid, perhaps she didn't want those types of thoughts to plague her... I spared my mother's picture by not emphasizing her airy dismissal and her refusal to see it as particularly evil.

We did talk a lot about the war, but only as it affected my mother and her family personally. The larger story was all about *us* and evil was, say, not attending Mass on Sunday. An unheard-of, unpracticed evil.

It is not wrong to be an airhead. I inherited some of those tendencies. But to remain deliberately ignorant and to refuse to enter into a conversation with a child who was struggling to come to terms with something incomprehensible? Sorry, but your interpretation of my history is off the mark.

Though she had plenty of her own personal anguish to deal with, so that's where forgiveness comes in. As any parent knows, at some point children have to forgive and move along. However, in doing so, the child has to make use of his understanding to process his own life journey.

Dymphna said...

BTW, dan m

Since you so thoroughly fisked my wrong attitude towards my mother, let me offer an observation.

The description of your family member's various suffering looks to an outsider as though *your* family needs to develop some way to talk about the horrors they've seen or suffered.

In your post-length comment, you say:

I took a college course EXCLUSIVELY covering the Holocaust. But I don't go talking about it constantly. In fact, I rarely even use my knowledge of the details of the Holocaust when I am doing something in support of Israel, or Jews for that matter...

Is this some kind of moral high ground I'm supposed to follow? If so it suits neither my character not my abilities nor my inclinations.

Wallow on in silence...you certainly don't when you're here.

And, yeah, you pissed me off.

SC&A said...

Dymphna, Dan m is living proof that 'A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.'

'Nuff said.

Pastorius said...

Great post, and as a few others have already said, beautifully written.

I used to run a business with a partner who was an Irish immigrant. He and I had many long conversations wherein he tried to explain to me the depth of the Irish, and the European, sense of helplessness in the face of class, tradition, and authority.

I'm guessing your mother was also a victim of this triumvirate.

We Americans think we can do anything, overcome any obstacle. European architecture towers over the European, declaring, "We have been here much longer than you, and you are insignificant in comparison to us."

Of course, there is a European mind architecture as well.

Here in America we believe everything is built to be replace, except the individual.

It is not surprising when Europeans fall into depression, psychosis, and aquiesence to evil.

Frank said...


You said: "THere should be a similar program for every mass evil injustice that cries out to heaven for redress. Hell, we could just document the history of China and never be finished."

First, I didn't compliment you on the writing itself, perhaps because it is as usual superlative and if I complimented you each time it would begin to get redundant.

Second, you outline above the cult of victimhood which began with the Holocaust (at least I can't find many incidences of it before 1945) and is now pandemic in our society. Perhaps this cult is more apparent in Canada, but it is a major component of the self-flagellating lilly white liberalism so detrimental to Anglo-Saxon society.

And you're right, the list of historical victims is endless. The Romans civilized the Celts, but the Saxons massacred the Celts almost completely in central England, followed by the Danes, who ethnic cleansed most of England of Saxons and a good part of Ireland of Celts. Then what was left of the English killed my forebearers in Scotland after the '45 and sent us all packing to Canada and elsewhere. We are all victims of this or that genocide and the list is endless.

So why the Holocaust in particular? The magnitude? As another poster pointed out, it wasn't 6 million Jews, it was 15 million people. And Stalin killed twice that in the Ukraine within living memory and no doubt thrice that in concentration camps during the same period. Where are the museums to that? Yes, Dymph, enough about the Holocaust already.

Third, you have not addressed the freedom of speech issue. Since the rest of the above is just rebuttalrant, perhaps you could address this point alone. Are you as outraged by imposed censorship backed by incarceration in the case of the Holocaust as you are about self-imposed censorship in the case of cartoons?

Are you as ready to encourage Holocaust deniers to publish denials in the name of free speech as you are to encourage media to publish cartoons of Mohammed in the name of free speech?

eatyourbeans said...

I'm afraid I have to agree with Dan and Scott, Dympha. Possibly what's irritating some of us is this fixiation on one bloody, revolting page pulled out of a whole bookful of human atrocities over history. It's naive, and is as much as to say the other unmentioned millions and millions don't matter.
Then again, maybe somebody does need to write a new Uncle Tom's Cabin to rile us up for the coming war. In this case, please accept my apologies for the preceding paragraph.

Baron Bodissey said...

ScottSA --

I have to take exception to part of your early British history (5th through 9th centuries). You're right that the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes either massacred the Celts, or turned them into slaves and helots, or pushed them westward and northward into the less habitable regions of Scotland and Wales.

But the Danes did not commit genocide against the Anglo-Saxons. It is true that the Vikings were hideously brutal, and massacred coastal populations during their early raids. But after the initial period, once they established their ascendancy in the North, they settled in among the native population as rulers, becoming the landed gentry, intermarrying with the people of the English kingdoms, and mixing their language with Old English.

They were on the verge of extending their rule to the whole of England when the English rump states united under Alfred the Great and threw the Danes back above Watling Street.

The territory was then divided into England and the "Danelaw", and over the next two centuries, up until the Norman Conquest, the two polities gradually merged, with the English mostly absorbing the Danes, but peacefully, and uniting under the Danish king Canute.

You do an injustice to our Danish readers. There was no Danish genocide against the English.

Frank said...

"You do an injustice to our Danish readers. There was no Danish genocide against the English"

Haha...you forgot Cornwall as one of the places the Celts (Britons) ended up at the hand of the Saxons.

You are denying the Danish Holocaust? Holocaust denier!
Fi, I say Fi on you. If this were Wessex I would have you chained and balled. No, wait, I didn't mean that.

But what about free speech? If you should be able to deny the Danish Holocaust and Danish magazines should be able to publish Mohammed cartoons, why should it be so horrible a crime to "deny" the German Holocaust? Will you stand equally for free speech on all of these issues or are two right and one wrong?

The_Editrix said...

But what about free speech? If you should be able to deny the Danish Holocaust and Danish magazines should be able to publish Mohammed cartoons, why should it be so horrible a crime to "deny" the German Holocaust?

What has the one to do with the other?

Denying the German Holocaust of the Jews of Europe is no matter of Free Speech, it's simply a lie.

Are you for the Flat Earth theory as well?

It is a pity and a shame that such a great thread should be watered down by some delusional dickhead in the name of... what???

Frank said...

Editrix said:
Denying the German Holocaust of the Jews of Europe is no matter of Free Speech, it's simply a lie.

Are you for the Flat Earth theory as well?

It is a pity and a shame that such a great thread should be watered down by some delusional dickhead in the name of... what???"

In the name of free speech. Try to focus. Or didn't you read my post? I'm sure publishing cartoons of Mohammed serves no real purpose either, and apparently Muslims think its a "lie" too, so the content is really not the issue, is it?

Yet you and me and Dymph are all too ready to call for publication of the cartoon in the name of free speech, so why shouldn't we call for Holocaust denials in the name of free speech? Aside from general name calling, slander and ad hominem, can you actually answer the question?

What is the substantive difference between defending free speech by cartoon and defending free speech by Holocaust denial. It doesn't matter what the content is; what matters is whether speech should be free.

Susan Humeston said...

I remember as a young teen, watching "The World at War", in particular, the episode that showed the death camps. The image was burned into my brain of the bulldozers rolling over mountains of dessicated bodies, just skeletons with skin. I remember being frozen with horror at those scenes. I had always believed in God, but I remember wondering how He could exist where things like that occurred. I'm still a believer in God, but I never forgot the Holocaust. Today, like you, I'm pro-Israel, pro-Jew - and I still am fascinated by the sheer evil evinced by the Nazis in their "Final Solution". I will never forget and if I have anything to say about it, I will not let others forget either. I understand Germany is about to make public all their WWII records regarding the camps - that should remind the world about what happened.

hank_F_M said...


One of your best.

I’ve always had some sort of interest in politics. Politics is important to create a world where people can live their lives in peace and reasonable comfort. Never could understand the ideological busy bodies that think of people as fodder for great plans. Nazi’s Communists and such are an abomination! It is important that people oppose them.

I used to wonder about people like your mother who took little interest in politics. How could they not see all the important events going on around them?

It dawned on me once that I am the weird one, the people who aren’t taking an interest in politics are making the world a place to live in by doing important things that need doing. Your mother, by doing the important thing of being your mother, did more to make the world a better place than she ever could have done in political action.

Among the many unpunished crimes of those who started the holocaust was creating a world where your mother could not just mind her own business.

Count your blessings, she sounds like a great women!

Dymphna said...

dan m--

Apology accepted.

Your comment brought back a buried memory: my mother actually "dated" a Nazi officer briefly while on holiday on the continent, the year before she met my father. She said she knew her holiday trip would never have taken place had her father still been alive, but she set out to Lourdes -- or so she and her girl friends told their families -- and never quite made it.

Instead, she ended up in some tourist place, being chatted up by a Nazi.

She was fascinated, in an uneasy kind of way, by this educated, sleekly attired boor, who told her how wonderful Hitler was and how kind he was to animals. In addition, he said, the Fuhrer was a peaceful vegetarian.

Having met him and sat to listen, she remained guilty for never having made it to Lourdes...

...and she did speak wonderingly sometimes of a country that had produced so many Christian theologians and so many killers.

Funny. I'd forgotten that story. I think she saw it as her brush with evil. The officer was most interested and Mother was most repelled. When I think of that, I wonder what her life might have been like had she not hightailed it away from that particular path.

education doesn't make us more humane, but don't you think ignorance -- in the sense that our college students can't find Europe on a map -- is even worse?

Dymphna said...


I would not have sent the Holocaust denier to jail. But I don't see him as a lone figure. There are many like him, people who read and believe the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Jews as victims is new? Jews as victims is millenia old. Only then, we thought they deserved it. When Israel was founded and Jews said "never again," something changed.

I wish we could make that kind of firm stand. It faces the only road to respect.

Dymphna said...

Oh, btw, Paulinus, my uncles fought in the war too,in the British forces, though Eamonn DeValera demanded that the Republic of Ireland stay neutral and it was known as a haven for Nazis during the war.

Some say they had no choice. I don't agree. Much of Ireland is disgustingly anti-American now. One exception is my cousin, Mark Humphrys, whom I never knew existed till the advent of the internet.

He an Irish libertarian who eats anti-Americans for lunch.

Here's his site (he's been on line for 11 years now)

Mark Humphrys

The_Editrix said...

"Muslims think its a "lie""

The operative word is "to think" as opposed to "to be", isn't it?

Or rather assume, as Muslims hardly ever think.

It's useless to talk to demoniacs like you.

Pity for an excellent thread.

Wally Ballou said...

Scottsa -

No-one in the United States is going to jail for denying the holocaust. That happened in Austria, so don't ask Dymphna to explain it, defend it or disavow it. It is completely irrelevant to her holocasut consciousness. Free speech is believed in at least half-heartedly by both left and right in this country - even when we diasagree about specifics we all uphold the principle in abstract. The notion that free speech trumps other civic values does not even exist in most European countries, and seems bizaare to them.

The following coutries make holocaust denial a crime:

Czech Republic

You once checked in from the Bizarro planet and accused me of sounding like Jesse Jackson. Well, Jesse Jackson once famously said he was "sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust." - whom does that sound like, hmmm?

Smooth said...

Dymphna, what a profoundly intimate post. Absolutely elegant. Thank you.

David Foster said...

"And that was the fact that the great majority of men who filled up the Einzatzgruppen were men of college education"...which may not be terribly surprising, given that some of the most bitter and hate-filled people in America today have graduate degrees. (Although I suspect that German higher education in the 20s and 30s was far closer to classical liberal arts education than is today's typical college experience)

David Foster said...

Also: there's a book titled "Diary of a Man in Despair" written by an anti-Nazi German. He identified the following groups of people as especially susceptible to Nazi propaganda: Low-level government officials (post office workers, etc), schoolteachers, and women in general. I'm going from memory here, but i'm pretty sure that he did not mention manual workers in this category.

Wally Ballou said...

I am continuing to try to give ScottSA's comments the benefit of the doubt, but it's tough. Consider the following statements:

Yet you and me and Dymph are all too ready to call for publication of the cartoon in the name of free speech, so why shouldn't we call for Holocaust denials in the name of free speech?

"Call For" holocaust denials? Holocaust denial is a good thing? It equals free speech? This is either sloppy writing or profoundly confused thinking.
Just because you have the right to do something (you have the right in the US, anyway) does NOT make it the right thing to do. A thing can be legal and yet morally indefensible.

How about:

what do we say when someone who, in an academic quest, tries to show that the numbers in the Holocaust are wrong and gets sent to jail for his pains?

If the "someone" he is talking about here is David Irving, then this is a complete misrepresentation of what he was doing. Irving wasn't quibbling with numbers in the spirit of academic enquiry - he was fabricating and disseminating false information - providing spurious academic cover to a coterie of unsavory pseudo-scholars so that they might advance the "holocaust was a hoax" big lie.

Again - you have the "right" to lie under many circumstances in this country - but that doesn't make lying good. As for Austria, Germany and Israel in particular I think their laws against holocaust denial are entirely understandable, even if not consistent with American ideas of liberty.

Ethics and Public Policy 101:
To permit something is not necessarily to approve it. Not everything that is wrong should be illegal - not everything that is legal is benign.

Baron Bodissey said...

Bravo, Cato! I couldn't have said it better.

It's like that idiot down the road from me who flies the Confederate battle flag over his double-wide. It's his right to do so, and I would never want that right abridged. He may even mean nothing more than "I support States' Rights" or "long live the glory of the Sovereign South". But I doubt it.

Considering that most of our neighbors are black, and knowing how the average black person would perceive his action, it would be better that he not do it, as a common courtesy, out of respect for his neighbors.

Even if it is legal. Even if he has a right to do it.

Jeremayakovka said...

A really fine post. Thank you.

Wally Ballou said...

This is my confederate flag. Fewer recent historic connotations.

(off topic, but you started it)

Baron Bodissey said...

Yes indeed. Notice that I said "battle flag", because I knew that if I had said "Confederate flag", you would have corrected me.

An ounce of prevention...

Frank said...

Cato said:
""Call For" holocaust denials? Holocaust denial is a good thing? It equals free speech? This is either sloppy writing or profoundly confused thinking.
Just because you have the right to do something (you have the right in the US, anyway) does NOT make it the right thing to do. A thing can be legal and yet morally indefensible."

All of which can and has been said about publishing cartoons showing Mohammed, yet most of the people here, including me, defend the right and indeed call for the publication, and beyond that hiss and boo the forces of PC which say, in some cases almost verbatim, what you just said.

One can say that publishing cartoons of Mohammed is not the right thing to do on moral grounds, given that it makes Musselmen yowl in outrage and break things, yet that is not the issue when someone defends it on the grounds of free speech, is it? The operant in that ethical argument is free speech, not content.

If the argument where based upon content, the cartoons in and of themselves aside from free speech would be defended by Dymph and I as a "good" for society, and neither nor I suspect Dymph is willing to claim that. The confused thinking is I suspect on your part. I will allow this lesson in Logic 101 free of charge this time. Be a bit less conceptually sloppy next time please.

Focus here please all ye howlers against Holocaust denial:

If, on the grounds of free speech, one is to defend an offensive publication (cartoon), one must also, if free speech truly is the issue, defend all offensive publications, assuming that they pass the "harm test" (yelling "fire" in a crowded theatre yada yada)

You see, you are clouding the issue with normatives here.

Wally Ballou said...

Don't know why I bother. ScottSA has said we should "call for" holocaust denial. Now he says we should "defend" holocaust denial. As though those were the same thing - and he calls me conceptually sloppy. That's pre-101.

This free speech issue is irrelevant nonsense. Restate it as much as you like - you can't make it an intelligent argument.

The fact remains that my duty to respect free speech, when it applies at all, begins and ends with toleration of expression, and the defense of the right to make such a statement. It does not require me to "defend" nor "call for" every type of expression regardless of its content. It also ends at the shores of the US, as far as I am concerned. Austria is not obliged to respect the fredom of speech of someone who in their view has effectively shouted "fire" in a crowded theater, and I am not obliged to argue with them or even give a damn.

You are confused by the Danish cartoon issue. This blog did in fact call for them to be published. They didn't do this just because the cartoons existed, nor just because the cartoons had content offensive to Muslims. It was because, as the focus of a huge news story, the cartoons normally would have been printed, but were not in this case because of violent pressure against publication. A very special case. This blog has not "called for" the publication everywhere of and "defended" the content of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", although following scottSA's tortuous logic, they should. Perhaps he will loan his copy?

I sense that there is more than an abstract devotion to "free speech" behind ScottSA's insistence that we must defend the poor holocaust denier.

He isn't usually this solicitous of the put-upon and downtrodden. After all he said it was Jesse-Jacksonesque to feel any compassion for Chinese in the Solomons since they were alien oppressors of the natives wherever they live, He later lumped the Hindus and Jews in the same basket.

I detect a whiff of brimstone. Does the "SA" stand for "Sturm Abteilung"? Let's all hum the Horst Wessel song and weep in our beers for the poor holocaust deniers.

Stop lumping "Dymph" in with you in your "arguments". I suspect she doesn't like you speaking for her. You truly stand alone.

Paulinus said...


Nice to know my family was not alone. About 50,000 Irish fought for the British army during World War II, three of whom were awarded Victoria Crosses.

There was a weird schizophrenia, however. While immensely proud of their service to the Crown - my father and uncles were members of the Royal British Legion and their regimental associations 'til they died - they would happily sing "Kevin Barry", "Danny Boy" and "The wearing of the Green" when they had the drink on them.

Dymphna said...


Cato is right. One cannot lump form and content amorphously into a single issue or absolute.

My call for -- and printing of -- the Muslim cartoons was motivated by the cowardly behavior of the MSM and the on-going attempts to muzzle their reproduction at universities (see Illinois for just one example), and bookshops (Borders).

Cartoons are not factual, they merely make offer opinion via exaggeration. OTOH, claims about whether historical events have occurred or not are indeed "fact-based"...or purport to be such.

The US would not have put Irving in jail for his book, though the Brits did have a civil trial for his slander of another author. I'm sure his book molders on many shelves in America. I wonder if you can get the thing on Amazon? Or maybe the Joos are too powerful to permit that?

Austria, and many other countries, have more stringent rules about what may be said out loud. Given their history of tyranny, one could see why they might be more careful about what they deem to be a case of incitement.

Scott, you seem to have lost your way in some thicket of misdirection. You may need a moral compass to get out of it.

Anonymous said...

Here it is now, several months after the last comment. I only several weeks ago discovered GOV, and only a few weeks ago started my own blog. Today an issue came up in the news, so I posted about it, and here, a couple of hours later, discover this post with its comments.

One Way or Another: The Ministry of Truth

Hektorza said...

The picture with the Skinny man wasn't taken at Auschwitz. In fact most pictures taken in Auschwitz taken by the Red Army seem to show very well nourished prisoners including little children.