Monday, October 26, 2015

David Cesarani, British Historian of Holocaust and Anglo Jewry, Dies at 58

Liam HoareOctober 25, 2015

David Cesarani, the great British historian of the Holocaust and Anglo Jewry, has died at the age of 58, London’s Jewish Chronicle reports. The London Times columnist David Aaronovitch described him as “a man of luminous intelligence and splendid academic achievement.”


Cesarani — as a research professor in History at Royal Holloway, University of London and director of the school’s Holocaust Research Center — made significant interventions in the field of Holocaust studies, winning the National Jewish Book Award for History in 2006 for “Becoming Eichmann: Rethinking the Life, Crimes and Trial of a Desk Murderer.”

Using archival material hitherto unavailable to historians, Cesarani dismantled the notion, constructed by Hannah Arendt, that Eichmann was essentially a banal bureaucrat — a paper pusher responsible for the deaths of millions due to circumstance, time, and place. Dismissing Arendt as an unreliable witness, Cesarani showed that Eichmann’s anti-Semitism and belief in Nazism, as well as the denigration of European Jewry to subhuman status and the willingness of others to collaborate in Nazi crimes, made his participation in the Holocaust possible.

“It is thoroughly researched, densely factual; there may never be need for another biography of the man,” Barry Gewen wrote in a review for The New York Times.

Invested in Holocaust education and remembrance, in 2005 Cesarani was awarded an OBE for his work towards the establishment of Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) in the United Kingdom. He was a trustee of the HMD Trust and a consultant to the Holocaust Educational Trust. His public support for a Holocaust museum in London in the 1990s culminated in the opening of the permanent exhibition on the Holocaust at the Imperial War Museum in 2000. Cesarani served on the advisory board working with the team that created the exhibit.

“David was an outstanding historian of the Holocaust, who recognised that the Holocaust was more than simply an event to be studied — it was unprecedented challenge to civilization,” Olivia Marks-Woldman, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust said. “David helped ensure that everybody in society was challenged by the difficult lessons that the Holocaust presents.”

Cesarani was also an important voice in Anglo-Jewish affairs. He wrote a history of The Jewish Chronicle — the British Jewish paper of record — that its current editor, Stephen Pollard, described as “gripping, enlightening, and judicious.” Writing for The Guardian and New Statesman, Cesarani in turns dispelled the myth of Jewish unity, assailed the journalist Peter Oborne for his insinuations about the power of the pro-Israel lobby, and argued that a “suspicion of Jews is ingrained in certain quarters of Britain’s ruling class.”

From the political left, Cesarani critiqued the growing movement on Britain’s university campuses to boycott, divest and sanction Israel. “It is possible to support the Palestinian struggle against the occupation and for a viable state without endorsing the murder of innocents or conspiracy theories about Jews,” he wrote. “British universities are a meeting place of different nationalities and ethnic and faith groups. The boycott campaign, anti-Israel motions, double standards and violent rhetoric poison this precious environment.”

All in all, Cesarani was the author and editor of over fifteen books, including a biography of Arthur Koestler, “The Homeless Mind,” and “Major Farran’s Hat: Murder, Scandal and Britain’s War Against Jewish Terrorism 1945-1948.” His final work, “Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933-1949,” is due for publication in January 2016.

At an event in March for London’s Jewish Book Week, Cesarani indicated that “Final Solution” demonstrate the surprising lack of inevitability in the events that culminated in the Holocaust. “Auschwitz is tremendously important,” Cesarani said then, but “it has created the sense that the Holocaust started in 1933 and inevitably led to Auschwitz.” Instead, Cesarani will stress the haphazard evolution of anti-Jewish policy in the 1930s and argue that the Holocaust was a consequence of both German and Allied military failures.

“So much knowledge has gone from the world with David Cesarani’s passing,” Stephen Pollard concluded.

Source: Forward
http://forward.com/news/breaking-news/323295/david-cesarani-british-historian-of-holocaust-and-anglo-jewry-dies-at-58/?attribution=home-breaking-news-headline-1

Friday, October 23, 2015

"La sombra de Franco se ve en las memorias divididas y en el uso político de la Historia"

Recién cumplido el cuarenta aniversario de la muerte de Francisco Franco, una obra colectiva coordinada por Julián Casanova ofrece una síntesis sobre diversos aspectos de la dictadura. Su objetivo es, según Casanova, «ofrecer una visión crítica y rigurosa del franquismo, para un público amplio, de la política, la sociedad, la economía y la cultura, a través de análisis bien escritos, claros y sencillos de los mejores especialistas»

Enrique Clemente 23 de octubre de 2015. Actualizado a las 05:00 h.

Foto: Benito Ordóñez
Catedrático de Historia Contemporánea, con destacadas obras sobre la Guerra Civil, el franquismo o el anarquismo, Julián Casanova (Valdealgorfa, Teruel, 1956) ha reclutado a prestigiosos especialistas, entre ellos Paul Preston, José Carlos Mainer, Mary Nash, Ángel Viñas o Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, para analizar desde distintos ángulos la dictadura en 40 años con Franco.

-¿Las generaciones que no lo vivieron saben lo que fue el franquismo?

-Hay un déficit de educación sobre la dictadura y el siglo XX español en general por diferentes razones. Porque se tardó muchísimo en introducir esos contenidos en las escuelas, y en secundaria no se estudia Historia Contemporánea. Porque la derecha política española, a diferencia de otras europeas que surgieron de la derrota del fascismo, nunca ha tenido una mirada libre del pasado, y porque, además, hay un uso político de la Historia, mayor que en otros países. La propaganda política y las memorias familiares, donde el relato del abuelo prevalece sobre el histórico, dificultan el conocimiento del franquismo, Pero lo malo no es que haya debates entre historiadores, sino ignorancia.

-Varios libros recientes inciden en el apoyo popular que tuvo la dictadura. ¿Qué papel jugaron ese respaldo y la represión?

-Ninguna dictadura que se mantiene tanto tiempo puede prescindir de las bases sociales. Las bases iniciales de la dictadura fueron los vencedores, los excombatientes, la gente de orden, muy ideologizada, pero con el tiempo se ampliaron. Salvo los más reprimidos, perseguidos y silenciados, los vencidos se adaptaron gradualmente al régimen y, entre la apatía y el miedo, daban un apoyo pasivo al régimen. Mucha gente cree que las dictaduras desaparecen siempre por tensiones entre los gobernantes y los gobernados, pero la mayor parte de los historiadores y los politólogos que las han estudiado han llegado al acuerdo de que es muy importante el conflicto entre los gobernantes, que es lo que desintegró el franquismo. Por supuesto, no hay ninguna dictadura que muera en la cama que no tenga un ejército unido en torno a ella. También es importante el apoyo de la Iglesia a la Cruzada, que bendice el franquismo y la represión, aunque en los últimos años hay una disidencia. Pero el día que muere Franco, el clero le da su bendición. Yo analicé todas las homilías de las diócesis ese día y el 80 % parecen salidas del 18 de julio de 1936. La mayoría son combativas, de subordinación y de incienso absoluto a la persona que habían nombrado caudillo por la gracia de Dios.

-La represión fue muy cruenta en la posguerra.

-Hubo una voluntad de exterminio, con un escenario muy favorable para llevarlo a cabo con el nazismo en el poder en Alemania. Su voluntad era de exterminio, así se lo pedían los vencedores y la Iglesia. Eso se ve en qué conmemoran las fiestas, en la simbología, en los ritos. El rito del vencedor sobre el vencido está presente hasta el final en el franquismo.

-¿Cómo definiría a Franco?

-Franco es un militar golpista, que opta por el golpe para conquistar el poder y revertir la situación republicana, liberal, revolucionaria y masónica, qué el concebía en un mismo saco, que se fascistiza, y mucho, durante la II Guerra Mundial. Un dictador contrarrevolucionario, autoritario y sanguinario. El 1 de octubre de 1975, después de los fusilamientos, denuncia que todo es fruto de la conspiración judeo-masónica. Esa vuelta a los orígenes demuestra que tenía interiorizada la cultura de la represión y del enemigo. El hilo conductor del franquismo siempre fue la represión.

-Hay historiadores que aseguran que los dos grandes aciertos de Franco fueron mantener a España fuera de la Segunda Guerra Mundial y el desarrollo económico de España en los 60.

-Paul Preston y Ángel Viñas han desmontado esos mitos. Franco no entró en la guerra porque Hitler no le concedió lo que quería, no le hacía falta. Esto le permitió mantenerse, porque si no hubiera acabado en el 1945, como todos los dictadores de los países del Este. Franco se oponía al cambio de política económica que le proponían el FMI y el Banco Mundial y colocó a los tecnócratas a regañadientes.

-¿Cuál es el legado que ha dejado el franquismo?

-La sombra alargada de Franco se ve en las memorias divididas, que son un producto de la falta de educación sobre la Historia de España del siglo XX; en los usos políticos de la historia; en los símbolos que aún provocan un debate, empezando por el mayor que es el Valle de los Caídos, con el que aún no sabemos qué hacer, o en la cultura política de la derecha actual. Hay un revisionismo neofranquista muy importante, pero creo que queda más de Franco en el papel que en la sociedad civil. Hasta 1945 España siguió una trayectoria similar a la de otros países europeos. Pero en las tres décadas que van del 45 al 75, en las que las sociedades occidentales consolidan las democracias, el Estado benefactor y la sociedad civil fuerte, solo España y Portugal siguieron siendo dictaduras, lo que pesó como una losa sobre la transición y la cultura política. Dicho esto, los vicios actuales de la democracia, como la corrupción, el deterioro de la política o que los políticos no lean o no sepan inglés, no son culpa de la dictadura ni de la transición.

-¿Hizo algo bueno Franco?

-Hizo cosas muy buenas para una parte de la población. Es una tontería no decirlo. Pero el historiador no puede meterse solo en la piel de esos sectores de la población, tiene que buscar una fotografía completa, y esta dice que Franco fue un desastre para España, sin ninguna duda.

40 años con Franco. Varios autores. Coordinación de Julián Casanova. Crítica. 406 páginas. 20,90 euros

Source: La Voz de Galicia
http://www.lavozdegalicia.es/noticia/fugas/2015/10/21/sombra-franco-ve-memorias-divididas-uso-politico-historia/00031445432137855575995.htm

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Top Holocaust Scholar Blasts 'Holocaust-abuse' by U.S., Israeli Politicians

Deborah Lipstadt lambasts 'unhealthy and embarrassing' pandering of Republican presidential candidates; says U.S. envoy Gutman’s comments on Muslim anti-Semitism were 'stupid.'
Chemi Shalev Dec 16, 2011 1:03 PM

Prof. Deborah Lipstadt, Jan 11, 2000.AP
Full Interview with Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt
Hilary Swank to star as Deborah Lipstadt in biopic about Holocaust denier's trial

Renowned Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt says that American and Israeli politicians who invoke the Holocaust for contemporary political purposes are engaging in “Holocaust abuse”, which is similar to “soft-core denial” of the Holocaust.

“I think it is dangerous, just plain dangerous. It’s a distortion of what Israel is all about, what Zionism is all about,” said Lipstadt, who has just published a retrospective book “The Eichmann Trial” on the 1961 Jerusalem trial of the infamous Nazi criminal.

“When you take these terrible moments in our history, and you use it for contemporary purposes, in order to fulfill your political objectives, you mangle history, you trample on it,” she said.

In a hard-hitting interview with Haaretz, Lipstadt also lashed out at the "over-the-top pandering" of Republican presidential candidates, describing their fawning support for Israel as "embarrassing" and "unhealthy." Of last week’s appearance of the top Republican candidates at a Washington forum organized by the Republican Jewish Committee, she said: “It was unbelievable. It made me cringe. I couldn’t watch it.”

“You listen to Newt Gingrich talking about the Palestinians as an ‘invented people’ – it’s out-Aipacking AIPAC, it’s out-Israeling Israel,” she said. .”There’s something about it that’s so discomforting. It’s not healthy. It’s a distortion,” she said.

She also used the word “despicable” to describe settlers who use the term “Nazi” against IDF soldiers. “And it’s so inaccurate. And it’s such an abuse of history. The people who started it know it’s not true, but the kids, the yeshiva kids, and the high school kids – they don’t know it’s not true. And so when real Nazism comes around - no one will recognize it.”

Lipstadt, who is the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Atlanta’s Emory University, became a hero of American Jewry after she singlehandedly inflicted a devastating blow on Holocaust-denial in the West in her famous London courtroom victory in 2000 over master-denier David Irving, who had sued Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, for libel. The London Times said of Lipstadt's victory: "History has had its day in court and scored a crushing victory."

Lipstadt described US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman’s controversial comments about the causal connection between the Arab-Israeli conflict and Muslim anti-Semitism as “stupid”, adding that “he sounded as if he was rationalizing anti-Semitism.” But, she said, the reaction to his statements had also been “over the top."

Lipstadt decried the “hysteria” and “neuroses” of many Jews and Israelis who compare the current situation in Europe and in the Middle East to the Holocaust era. “People go nuts here, they go nuts. There’s no nuance, there’s no middle ground, it’s taking any shade of grey and stomping on it. There are no voices of calm, there are no voices of reason, not in this country, not in Israel. "

“This is the kind of thing that scares me,” she said. “Jews have always been neurotic – I mean everyone’s neurotic, we just recognize it more – but we’ve raised our neuroses to a level that’s not healthy. We should eschew hysteria, but we don’t. Hysteria is never useful."

The New York-born Lipstadt said that President Barack Obama’s “flatfooted” handling of Israel at the beginning of his term “gave an opening to Republicans in America and to ‘Republicans’ in Israel.” She said that “more and more Jews are scared and here’s someone [the Republicans, CS] who is going to protect them. It’s so over-the-top irrational.”

Lipstadt rebuffed suggestions that what she describes as the “unhealthy neuroses” of the Jews in 2011 is a direct outgrowth of the legacy of the Eichmann trial. “The Eichmann trial was a pivotal moment in the history of Israel, in the history of Zionism. It personalized the Shoah, and it was the beginning of change in the Israeli attitude toward Shoah survivors.”

One of the more controversial chapters in Lipstadt’s new book deals with Hannah Arendt, whose own book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil was immensely popular in the West in the years following the trial but was roundly condemned by Jews and Israelis. Though Lipstadt demolishes Arendt’s main theses that Eichmann was but a bureaucratic cog in the Nazi machine and denounces here criticism of the Judenrats in Nazi-occupied Europe - she does find some positive points in Arendt’s coverage of the trial, including her observation that “for the first time since the year 70, when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, Jews were able to sit in judgment on crimes committed against their own people."

Arendt, says Lipstadt, “was mean and cruel, but she captured something very essential about the trial.”

Read the full transcript of the interview here.

Follow me on Twitter @ChemiShalev
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Chemi Shalev
Haaretz Correspondent

Source: Haaretz (Israel)
http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/west-of-eden/top-holocaust-scholar-blasts-holocaust-abuse-by-u-s-israeli-politicians-1.401821

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Markets in the Name of Socialism: The Left-Wing Origins of Neoliberalism

Winner of the 2013 Morris Rosenberg Award, sponsored by the District of Columbia Sociological Society.

The worldwide spread of neoliberalism has transformed economies, polities, and societies everywhere. In conventional accounts, American and Western European economists, such as Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek, sold neoliberalism by popularizing their free-market ideas and radical criticisms of the state. Rather than focusing on the agency of a few prominent, conservative economists, Markets in the Name of Socialism reveals a dialogue among many economists on both sides of the Iron Curtain about democracy, socialism, and markets. These discussions led to the transformations of 1989 and, unintentionally, the rise of neoliberalism.

This book takes a truly transnational look at economists' professional outlook over 100 years across the capitalist West and the socialist East. Clearly translating complicated economic ideas and neoliberal theories, it presents a significant reinterpretation of Cold War history, the fall of communism, and the rise of today's dominant economic ideology.

About the author

Johanna Bockman is Associate Professor of Sociology at George Mason University. Her current research explores socialist entrepreneurship, the debt crisis of the 1980s, Yugoslav socialism in Latin America, and gentrification in Washington, D.C.

Source: Stanford University Press
http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=21002

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Max Wallace. The American Axis: Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and the Rise of the Third Reich

On a recent flight to St. Louis (no less), while still reading the book under review, I was asked if I would recommend it. My neighbor, a self-professed history-buff, could not help notice the striking cover--Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford next to Auschwitz-Birkenau and a swastika--and the title that linked this "American Axis" to the rise of the Third Reich. What follows is my ambivalent endorsement.

The book was not written for an academic audience to whom it will yield few new insights--in spite of the somewhat sensationalist advertisement of new disclosures and revelations on the two protagonists. The author, Max Wallace, is an investigative journalist and this accounts for both the strength and the weakness of his story. His style is dramatic and captivating, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. The narrative is organized exclusively around the two central figures with a gallery of secondary characters ranging from alleged Nazi spies and military attachés to slave labor victims in "supporting roles." The story of Ford's and Lindbergh's anti-Semitism and racism, and their deliberate as well as unwitting efforts to assist the Nazis is an important one and should be told to a wider audience. But the account is lacking in interpretative focus and occasionally in historical perspective.

The book weaves together the genesis of Ford's and Lindbergh's racial notions, their professional dealings with Germany and their private admiration for the Third Reich. Wallace uses the existing literature on his two fallen heroes as well as Lindbergh's private papers and the Ford Company archives. Yet his account is not a biographical one. Overall Lindbergh emerges as more of a complex, real-life character from these pages; Wallace's portrait of Anne Morrow Lindbergh is nuanced and at times even moving (p. 247ff.). By contrast Ford's personality remains vague and Wallace's explanation of how and why he acquired his anti-Semitic views is not entirely convincing. In 1920 Ford began serializing articles on the "Jewish Question" based on the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion in his newspaper the Dearborn Independent, outlining a worldwide sinister Jewish conspiracy as detailed in the forgery. Subsequently he published the collection as a pamphlet, The International Jew, and effectively distributed it through the Ford Company's national and international network of dealerships. Wallace reviews and rejects as deficient alternative explanations of how Ford--that "hitherto shy, gentle ... and in some respects quite enlightened" man (p. 16)--had come to adopt these malicious lies. The author instead introduces as the real culprit Ernest Gustav Liebold, a Detroit-born German-American, who became both the Dearborn Independent's general manager and Henry Ford's trusted personal secretary. A 1918 "most secret" military intelligence document reported that Liebold is "considered to be a German spy" (p. 25), although the investigation remained inconclusive. Over the next three hundred pages Liebold remains a shadowy figure. Wallace insinuates that Liebold is both responsible for Ford's anti-Semitism and for his company's attempts to prevent and undermine the American war effort in both World War I and World War II.

But Liebold is also shadowy in that Wallace neither develops his character and motivations (or the makeup of his anti-Semitism) nor the specific nature of his ties to Germany from 1918 through 1941. He has contacts with Franz von Papen (pp. 131, 225), Kurt Ludecke (the Nazis' "chief fund raiser" in the 1920s, p. 49ff) and perhaps Heinrich Albert, one of the members of the board of directors of German Ford Werke since the 1930s. By page 318 Liebold has evolved into "probably a Nazi spy" but the evidence remains shaky and confusing, and consists of a few official Nazi (p. 146) or older German contacts, the significance of which Wallace cannot fully illuminate. This never explicitly-made line of argumentation then would read as follows: during World War I an unconfirmed German spy set Henry Ford up to develop anti-Semitic views which, by the time of World War II, would lead the Ford Company to undermine the American military efforts against Nazi Germany. My problem is less with the validity of this interpretation than with the lack of specific and convincing evidence that it was Liebold who was behind all of this activity; too often the argument is based on conjecture (131ff., 144, 318f.). Rather than focusing on how Ford came to be an anti-Semite (as if anti-Semitism were a contagious disease one could only catch through close personal contact), it is the story of the public and political consequences of Ford's anti-Semitism that is really the more interesting one.

No less frustrating is the reversal of the above-outlined argument in chapter 2, "The Fuehrer's Inspiration." Much is made of Ford's portrait in Hitler's office in 1931 (p. 2) and Baldur von Schirach's defense at the Nuremberg trial: "If [Ford] said the Jews were to blame, naturally we believed him" (p. 42). Surely, the Nazis did not have to rely on Ford as a teacher of anti-Semitism? Here, too, the claim of Ford's influence on the Nazis is not contextualized.[1] Wallace instead offers the opinion by another historian emphasizing "the role that Russian émigrés played in laying the ideological groundwork for the Holocaust" (p. 63).[2] Wallace uses this point to explain the significance of the White Russian Boris Brasol who is the most direct link between Ford (via Liebold, of course) and the Nazis and also the conduit for a possible financial donation to the NSDAP. The driving force behind Wallace's account is the existence of links between people who move like chess figures across board. The author establishes far-flung connections between his two protagonists and Germany, but much of the context is missing. Occasionally, the reason for the lack of historical perspective is Wallace's unfamiliarity with important secondary literature on his subject. The reference for his account of American controversy over boycotting the Berlin Olympics in 1936 is a 2001 article on China in the National Review Online (p. 415f.). But the main problem of Wallace's book is not a failure to adhere to academic standards of referencing or source criticism. At issue is a broader concern that historians and journalists share: we tell a story in order to advance an argument, to give meaning to an otherwise confusing and chaotic assemblage of facts and events. It is in this endeavor that Wallace's meandering account falls somewhat short. Instead we learn intermittently some juicy tidbits that do not pertain to the author's immediate subject matter: for example, Kurt Vonnegut once wrote an admiring piece in a student paper on the isolationist "lonely eagle" (p. 275) and George W. Bush's maternal great-grandfather "has been described by a U.S. Justice Department investigator as 'one of Hitler's most powerful financial supporters in the United States'" (p. 349).

Later chapters explore the relationship between the Ford Company (Dearborn) and its German subsidiary Ford Werke during World War II. It is a story of "business as usual": the German profits were "placed in an escrow account for distribution to the American parent company after the war" (p. 329). These profits, Wallace rightly highlights, were in part based on forced labor.[3] Wallace is also correct in challenging the notion--offered as the conclusion of a recent investigation that Dearborn had conducted into the problem of wartime profits from its European, Nazi-dominated subsidiaries--that Ford "had to use labor provided by the German government" (p. 335). The German controlled Ford plants in Europe had, even before the outbreak of the war and with the consent of Dearborn, turned into "an arsenal of Nazism" (pp. 228f., 340).

The story of Lindbergh's misguided views and actions is also advanced through a narrative of secondary figures. Lindbergh--in spite of a father who is portrayed as more racist than ordinary white Americans at the time (p. 83)--acquired his racial views through his close association and friendship with the French scientist Alexis Carrel. The aviator's obsessions with racial purity were subsequently further bent in a direction of admiration for the Nazi project by the American military attaché to Germany, Truman Smith (pp. 104-111, 381). And it is the latter who invited Lindbergh and his wife "in the name of Göring" to visit the Third Reich at the time of the Olympic Games (p. 112ff.) Not surprisingly, Lindbergh was deeply impressed not only by "the organized vitality of Germany" but more importantly by a state that sought to realize his own ideals: "science and technology harnessed for the preservation of a superior race" (p. 118). As a result of the exclusive focus on the aviator, the dramatic and complex story of the Czechoslovak crisis is told with Lindbergh and his exaggerated reports on the German air force playing the decisive role in tilting British policy towards appeasement (pp. 165, 167-171). Wallace's chapter ignores the military, political and diplomatic reality of the British situation in 1938.[4]

Lindbergh, probably even more so than Ford, emerges at times in this book as an unsuspecting dupe of more sinister forces working in the background (p. 208). I am not convinced that this conspiratorial approach to history serves Wallace's endeavor to establish personal responsibility for politically damaging actions. The point to make about the problematic role of the two flawed heroes concerns the impact of their anti-Semitic, racist, pro-Nazi public activities, speeches or publications over the course of more than a decade on American public opinion. The Roosevelt administration, in the meantime, tried to rally the same public around a program of aid to Britain and subsequently in a heavily ideological mobilization characterized Nazism as an assault on civilization. Ford and Lindbergh in turn found this civilization not threatened by the Germans but by the Russians. The fact that both received a Nazi medal, which was evidently well-deserved, and that they refused to return them is telling. Particularly in the last chapter, Wallace tries hard to give the impression of a fair and balanced portrait of the "lonely eagle," defending him against Harold Ickes's public as well as Roosevelt's private accusations of being a "Nazi." This highlights one the book's more problematic aspects: the incongruity between the title and jacket design suggesting a crucial role of this "American Axis" in the rise of the Third Reich and the nuanced conclusion that the author "discovered no smoking gun proving that Lindbergh was motivated by anything but sincere--albeit misguided--motives for this prewar isolationist activities or that he was disloyal to America" (p. 378). Between title and conclusion lies the substance of the book: characterized by the absence of an explicitly stated argument, a detailed, yet narrowly focused narrative suggests that their racist convictions led Ford and Lindbergh to take a benevolent and admiring view of the Third Reich, and partly knowingly, partly unwittingly served Nazi interests.

From the dust jacket we learn that Wallace is a "Holocaust researcher" but he exhibits little scholarly background on the Third Reich itself. (To refer to Adolf Hitler as "another German philosopher" [p. 43] in the same sentence with Hegel is not helpful to his overall point.) He cites some relevant secondary literature on specific aspects of World War II, for example Nazi Fifth Column activities in the United States, anti-Semitism in the U.S. army, and forced labor in the German Ford Werke, but he does not use it to establish the urgently needed interpretive context for the events detailed in this book. Most sorely missing is a proper analysis of American anti-Semitism as a prerequisite for understanding how Americans confronted the Third Reich. Wallace, even though citing studies by Leonard Dinnerstein and Myron Scholnick, neither defines the nature of American anti-Semitism nor does he seem to understand the effect it had on the American public perception of and official responses to the Third Reich--a story told by Deborah Lipstadt, Richard Breitman, David Wyman and others. Its relevance lay in the role which even the mildest forms of social prejudice and, in particular, the Roosevelt administration's concern over these prejudices played in devising responses to Nazi Germany. Within the context of Wallace's narrower focus, it would have been helpful at least to clarify the difference between Ford's hatred fantasizing about a Jewish political-economic conspiracy and Lindbergh's obsession with racial purity. But for Wallace anti-Semitism is a monolithic, timeless, unchanging phenomenon.

Max Wallace has written a passionate, though sprawling, narrative that serves an important educational purpose: rather than continuing to admire these two deeply flawed individuals we should appreciate both the political impact of their racial beliefs and the nature of their misguided attraction to Nazi Germany. But his book is not yet a conclusive assessment of the historical role these two public figures played in German-American relations in the 1930s and 40s.

Notes

[1]. For an important primary source on Hitler's pre-1933 views of the United States, its automotive industry and his admiration for an immigration policy that produced "racially first-rate Americans" see Gerhard L. Weinberg, Hitler's Second Book: The Unpublished Sequel to Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler (New York: Enigma Books, 2003), pp. 107, 109, 111-118. For the development of "Fordism" during the Third Reich cf. Philipp Gassert, Amerika im Dritten Reich: Ideologie, Propaganda und Volksmeinung, 1933-1945 (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1997).

[2]. The dissertation proposal on which this assertion is based, incidentally, turns into a dissertation only a few footnotes later, p. 408, n. 101, 106.

[3]. The essence of Wallace's argument with more historical context can also be found in Bernd Greiner, Die Morgenthau Legende. Zur Geschichte eines umstrittenen Plans (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 1995), pp. 112f., 115f.; and Reinhold Billstein, Karola Fings, Antia Kugler and Nicholas Levis, Working for the Enemy: Ford, General Motors and Forced Labor in Germany during the Second World War (New York: Berghahn, 2000).

[4]. Gerhard L. Weinberg, The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany: Starting World War II, 1937-1939 (Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1994), pp. 313-464.

*Max Wallace. The American Axis: Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and the Rise of the Third Reich. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2003. ix + 465 pp. $27.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-312-29022-1.

Reviewed by Michaela Hoenicke Moore (Department of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Published on H-German (May, 2004)

Source: H-Net
http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=9274

Monday, October 12, 2015

East Germany's Handling of the Holocaust

In the decade after 1989, the German Democratic Republic's (self-)image as the "better Germany"--the negation of fascist Germany and the embodiment of the antifascist resistance--was vigorously contested. Scholars, politicians, intellectuals, and publicists critically scrutinized the GDR's handling of the National Socialist past.[1] Deficiencies and blind spots in its treatment of victims of the Holocaust were exposed, as was its pragmatic integration of former Nazis. A new consensus held that, in contrast with its self-depiction, the GDR was by no means "better" than the Federal Republic of Germany, which it had mercilessly attacked as the barely tamed continuation of fascist interests. Instead, the many shortcomings of West Germany's efforts to "come to terms" with the Nazi past now appeared as unfortunate bumps on the road to an honest, self-critical approach to German responsibility for Nazi genocide, while the GDR's mendacious antifascism, having amounted to little more than an instrument for regime legitimation, met its deserved end in 1989-90.[2]

By the turn of the millennium at the latest, researchers interested in more complex accounts identified deficiencies in the prevailing understanding. These included its primary focus on the 1940s and 1950s, its overwhelming focus on the communist regime, and its treatment of the GDR in isolation from (or at best in isolated comparison with) the Federal Republic.[3] Numerous questions remained: to what extent did the regime control and manipulate efforts to address (or ignore) the past? Were such efforts merely "instrumentalized" for political ends, or was there a genuine interest in facing up to (aspects of) Nazism and if so, where? Is it possible to speak of East German antifascisms beyond the official doctrine (which might conceivably have persisted after 1989)? To what extent did change occur over the decades? And what was the nature of the interaction of the two Germanys in this area--their Beziehungsgeschichte? A further question that is worth posing at the end of the second decade after 1989 concerns the possibility of moving beyond the predominantly judgmental post-Wende discourse to write the history of East German handling of the Nazi past, indeed the history of postwar Germany in general, without the highly normative and evaluative approach that dominated the scholarship of the 1990s. In addressing diverse dimensions of East Germany's handling of the legacies of Nazi persecution and genocide of the Jews, the three books under discussion suggest ambiguous and complex answers to these questions.

The ostensible focus of Christian Dirks's well-written work is an examination of the East German counterpart to the famous and much-studied Frankfurt am Main "Auschwitz trial" of 1963-65.[4] Dirks treats the "GDR's Auschwitz trial" not only as a component of East German judicial history, but also as an aspect of East Germany's and West Germany's Beziehungsgeschichte. Yet these are not Dirks's only aims. He also seeks to contribute to research into Nazi perpetrators by examining the roles of SS doctors at Auschwitz, in particular that of the trial's defendant Horst Fischer, who served there from late 1942 and from 1943 as deputy chief SS doctor. Accordingly, the actual trial is addressed only in the final of three sections, which, although it spans about 140 pages, almost seems brief after nearly 200 pages of what might otherwise constitute background information, were it not for Dirks's ambitions with regard to perpetrator research.

The first section provides an overview of prosecutions of Nazi criminals by Soviet tribunals and East German courts between 1945 and 1955. It also discusses East Germany's propaganda campaigns against the Federal Republic in the 1950s and 1960s over its unmastered Nazi past and the compromised pasts of its elites. Drawing on extensive secondary literature, this section, like the whole book, is systematic and thorough. At times it seems excessively so, although some points that initially seem superfluous (such as somewhat confused references to Soviet internment camps) do fall into place eventually. Dirks might have taken a little more care with his use of contested terms such as "collective guilt" (p. 35), but he convincingly draws out the early and enduring "instrumentalization of prosecutions of Nazi crimes for the political-propagandistic goals of the rulers" in the Soviet Occupied Zone (SBZ) (p. 37), including their timing in conjunction with trials of similar crimes in the western zones, the absence of systematic prosecutions, and a preference for a small number of highly publicized trials. The discussion also suggests, more implicitly, the relative absence of prosecutions of crimes directly associated with the Holocaust. In discussing the SED's propaganda campaigns against the Federal Republic, Dirks stresses the basic accuracy of many of East Berlin's charges against Bonn, due to the fact that the denazified old "elites in the state, the economy, the academy, and the military were almost completely reinstated" in the 1950s (p. 55), in contrast to which the GDR claimed to have expunged fascism, root and branch.

Yet, as Dirks argues in his conclusion, "the only thing systematic about the criminal prosecution of Nazi crimes in the GDR was the consistent oversight of its own deficits in this area" (p. 330). As is well known, many former Nazis integrated themselves into East German society, with or without undergoing denazification. Fischer (1912-66) is an example. Dirks's second section addresses Fischer's path from petit bourgeois origins and early orphanhood in Dresden, via a medical degree at Berlin University and membership in the SS since late 1933, to Auschwitz. It also presents his avoidance of detection at war's end and his 1946 move to Spreenhagen in provincial Brandenburg, where he practiced as the local physician until his arrest in 1965. This section is perhaps the book's strongest; it provides a gripping account of one individual's path to becoming a professional killer, as well as a detailed examination of doctors' roles within the SS machinery of exploitation and extermination. That Dirks's account is so rich is due not least to extensive statements Fischer made in custody, Dirks's examination of which--combined with his utilization of existing literature, including that produced by prisoner-functionaries such as Hermann Langbein, who worked alongside Fischer--constitutes a significant contribution to the literature. Fischer's various activities and responsibilities at Auschwitz included combating typhus epidemics (among SS personnel and prisoners); undertaking "selections" on the ramp at Birkenau and in the hospital at the Monowitz satellite camp run by the SS for IG Farben; conducting experiments on patients; supervising mass murder in the gas chambers; and overseeing the death march following the camp's evacuation. This section offers valuable insights into the power struggles both within the SS and between the SS and IG Farben at Auschwitz, as well as into the selection processes from the perspective of an SS doctor. Dirks also discusses Auschwitz's SS doctors' social and family life. While Fischer was clearly not one of the most brutal SS doctors or officers, he made no serious attempt to be transferred away from Auschwitz. Dirks's attribution to him of "a pronounced sense of injustice" while there (p. 186) comes somewhat as a surprise, partly because we never really get inside Fischer's head, despite his extensive subsequent testimony. Dirks's plausible final assessment is that Fischer was "no small cog within the National Socialist machinery of extermination, of which he became a part through a fatal mix of antisemitism, indifference, careerism, and enrichment" (p. 168).

Although several of his colleagues had faced trial, by the late 1940s Fischer believed he had evaded responsibility for his actions. Dirks stresses that such optimism was not unjustified, because Fischer's whereabouts were unknown to the authorities outside the GDR that were investigating him. Indeed, only Fischer's negative attitude toward the GDR and frequent visits to West Berlin attracted the attention of the district Stasi office in the early 1960s. In 1965, he was identified as the SS doctor about whom Stasi headquarters had, coincidentally, only recently registered incriminating material. His arrest was announced after a delay of several months, just as the second Frankfurt Auschwitz trial began. Such timing reflected East Berlin's desire to gain influence over and pursue a counter-trial to the proceedings in Frankfurt. After plans to transform the first Frankfurt trial into a "tribunal against IG Farben" and its successor companies failed (p. 224), Fischer's arrest offered the East German authorities a welcome opportunity to highlight the company's role at Monowitz and more broadly in the development of Nazi policies of exploitation and extermination. In the context of West German and international debates about statutes of limitations for Nazi crimes, the GDR also sought to position itself as the only German state that was pursuing a rigorous course of justice against those responsible. Dirks highlights the Stasi's extensive planning for the trial, including instructions to the press about appropriate interpretations, selection of audience members, the development of an accompanying exhibit, and the instruction to execute Fischer. Dirks also discusses the role Fischer played in the Frankfurt trials, including the significance of his admissions in securing a verdict in the second trial. This section testifies to the importance of Beziehungsgeschichte for understanding both East and West German developments.

Dirks's discussion of Fischer's trial stresses that the indictment, expert witness testimony, and judgment were all directed against IG Farben as much as against Fischer, who was held responsible for the murder of seventy thousand people (almost one hundred a day, as the verdict observed). Dirks repeatedly notes that, propaganda aside, their descriptions of the history of Auschwitz in general and the role of IG Farben in particular largely accord with current historiography. The prosecution and prominent East German witnesses also sought to condemn the Federal Republic, which was even blamed for the embarrassing fact that such a major criminal had lived undetected in the GDR for two decades. Meanwhile, Fischer's defense, led by Wolfgang Vogel, had a difficult task in light of the overwhelming evidence and Fischer's extensive confession. The High Court of Justice accepted the prosecution's case--with the exception of the charge that Fischer had ordered the use of Zyklon B gas--and sentenced him to death. Dirks gives brief accounts of East and West German press coverage of the verdict, of the mainly sympathetic and occasionally antisemitic responses of the local Spreenhagen population, of discussions of the trial within various East German institutions, and of Fischer's own remarkably contrite letters to his wife after his sentencing. Some of these subsections are rather descriptive, with chunks of reported speech, but they help to support Dirks's insistence that efforts to understand such trials must go beyond analyzing judgments and demonstrate the value of in-depth examinations of individual trials.

Dirks's discussion of the trial's conformity to the principles of the rule of law and its "show trial" character is less satisfying. On the one hand, his assessment that the trial formally conformed to rule-of-law principles--despite the predetermined verdict--is disconcerting. On the other hand, his claim that it had all the hallmarks of a show trial is unsatisfying. Three points--raised not least by Dirks's quotation of Stasi boss Erich Mielke to the effect that Fischer had to be brought to "feel required to give the world the opportunity to see the crimes of the fascists in their entire barbarity, heinousness, and hypocrisy" (p. 211)--warrant further consideration. First, Mielke's statement and Dirks's reference to Fischer's "preparation" by the Stasi (p. 333) suggest that Fischer's confession may have been extracted under duress, a point that does not otherwise feature in Dirks's account. Second, as Andreas Hilger has argued, such trials were less "show trials" than "demonstration trials," because the crimes (of Fischer and IG Farben) did not have to be invented.[5] Finally, despite the undeniably dominant role played by the regime's political aims, Mielke's statement suggests that Fischer's trial also served a more legitimate desire to expose Nazi crimes, which, to be sure, was only acted upon when opportune. Despite not fully addressing these points, Dirks's book is an important addition not only to the literature on the GDR's handling of the Nazi past and East-West German Beziehungsgeschichte in this area, but also to the study of Auschwitz and of doctors' roles in the Holocaust.

In contrast with Dirks's substantial investigation, Harald Schmid provides a single citation for the actual history of Reichskristallnacht. Schmid's study is an expanded version of a part of his dissertation on the pogrom's commemoration in the Federal Republic.[6] With laudable brevity, he presents the changing contexts, actors, and interpretations of the pogrom, from the KPD's immediate sympathetic response in 1938--with which Erich Honecker still sought to legitimize the GDR in the 1980s--through a commemorative demonstration of New Forum supporters in Leipzig on the night the Berlin Wall fell. With the exception of a single archival record, Schmid's sources are contemporary publications, from Neues Deutschland to Jewish community periodicals. Otherwise, he draws on already considerable literature on the situation of Jews and the handling of the Holocaust in the GDR, including some brief, older studies on his very topic. Schmid's study makes an exemplary effort at analyzing his subject within the changing contexts of the East-West conflict, the GDR's philosophy of history, its confrontation and competition with the Federal Republic, its policy toward Israel, and the state of its Jewish community. Indeed, Schmid synthesizes recent research on antifascism, highlighting its functions for the regime but also acknowledging that it cannot be reduced to these. He strikes a similarly nuanced note on the GDR's handling of the Holocaust, arguing that even if the latter was not taboo in the GDR, the fact that no specific sense of obligation towards its Jewish victims arose itself constituted "a damning indictment" of official antifascism (p. 17).

After two introductory chapters, the study proceeds chronologically. While the Nazis' Jewish victims were included, but received no special place in, Soviet zone commemorations of the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Fascism, commemoration on and around November 9 was devoted primarily to celebrating the 1917 Russian and 1918 German revolutions, behind which the 1938 pogrom would remain secondary for decades. Nevertheless, Jewish communities commemorated the pogrom, initially in league with, but soon as second fiddle to the Association of the Nazi Regime's Persecuted (VVN). Postwar antisemitism and the prewar responsibility of bystanders were openly discussed in 1947 and 1948, even if only exceptional figures like Paul Merker placed antisemitism at the center of their understanding of fascism. Despite the Stalinization of the SED and the development of Soviet bloc anti-Zionism, Schmid shows that, in contrast to previous claims, the pogrom continued to be commemorated by Jewish communities and the VVN between 1949 and 1953, but that depictions of Jews' past persecution became increasingly "anonymous" (p. 36), while contemporary anti-Zionism and "anti-cosmopolitanism" led to the emigration of a third of the GDR's small Jewish community. By 1953, critical discussion of the roles of bystanders had disappeared, while newspaper coverage paid more attention to West Germany's alleged crypto-fascism than to the events of 1938. Attacks on the West (for which the anniversary often simply provided an occasion) increased in subsequent years, but the pogrom's twentieth anniversary signaled to GDR authorities that they were falling behind the Federal Republic, where prominent state representatives participated in commemoration, in contrast with the low-level CDU representatives who participated in the GDR.

Only beginning in 1963 did the pogrom's anniversary even begin to approach the significance of the GDR's major commemorative dates. Moreover, its commemoration now assumed certain characteristics that would remain largely intact until 1988: first and foremost, a pact between the regime and the leadership of the East German Jewish communities to exchange official attention from the former for political subordination and declarations of loyalty from the latter, but also the increasing activism of the Protestant churches. An anomaly occurred in 1967 with a unique attempt at joint commemoration of the 1918 revolution and the 1938 pogrom. Otherwise, a degree of ritualization set in, as did a quantitative increase in commemorative events (to twenty-two events in fifteen East German cities in 1968 compared with seventy-five events in forty-four cities in the West). Schmid stresses that unlike the diverse civil society initiatives and coalitions responsible in the West, most events in the East were organized by Jewish communities, with state representatives as invited guests. Moreover, they had an affirmative rather than critical character, except where the Federal Republic was concerned. Difficult questions about past or present antisemitism, about bystanders or compensation, were absent. These characteristics persisted into the 1970s, threatened primarily by the dwindling Jewish population, which meant that only Berlin and Leipzig held ceremonies every year. The 1970s saw the beginning of a Jewish-Christian rapprochement, with representatives of the two religions participating in each other's ceremonies, and Protestant leaders reviving discussion of the complicity of the churches and the general population.

As Schmid argues, "the wall preventing deepened understanding of the system of the 'Third Reich' stood throughout the entire existence of the GDR, but increasing cracks emerged in the last decade and a half" (p. 78), a development he views in parallel with the broader differentiation of East German society and the SED's gradual loss of control. He interprets 1978 as a twofold turning point in the anniversary's commemoration, when a new record of forty-four events marked the pogrom's fortieth anniversary. On the one hand, for the first time Neues Deutschland granted the pogrom an identity separate from and comparable with, if still secondary to that of the 1918 revolution. Such prominence pointed to the careful planning by the state secretariat for churches, the SED Central Committee and the Stasi, not least with a view to direct competition with the West. On the other hand, Schmid demonstrates that alternative forms emerged, such as seminars and silent marches, organized by new actors: thirty events were explicitly church-run, heralding the emergence of a "commemorative dissidence" (p. 100).

In part to maintain the impression of leadership and control, efforts at state planning and manipulation increased through to 1988, when more than 140 commemorative events took place in over sixty cities and towns, including a special sitting of the Volkskammer. Schmid concludes: "[a]ll in all a massively forced commemoration without parallel" (p. 115). New features in the late 1980s were more dialogue and competition across the German-German border, and the regime's increased interest in promoting its activities to the English-speaking world. Inevitably, increased official attention to the victims of Nazi persecution gave East German dissidents occasion to criticize contemporary problems such as xenophobia and neo-Nazism as well as the regime's own repressive character. In 1989, state actors were preoccupied with trying to cling to power, so the few commemorative activities were church-led or independent. The opening of the border on the evening of November 9 meant the end of commemorating the 1938 pogrom in the GDR.

Schmid's book provides a compact account of that history, which he conceives as part of a wider Beziehungsgeschichte with the Federal Republic over the legacy of the Nazi past. He rejects simplistic and deterministic interpretations, insisting, for example, that the inflationary commemoration in 1988 not be seen merely as instrumentalization. Like Dirks, Schmid acknowledges the correct content of much SED propaganda against the West. He also notes the biological or personal legitimacy of many East German leaders' antifascist positions. Yet, a "specifically East German" commemoration of Reichskristallnacht remains elusive (p. 133). Moreover, despite asking "what remains" (p. 135), Schmid does not look beyond 1989. These limitations can perhaps be attributed to his study's (undefined) focus on November 9 as a "political" day of commemoration. Although he mentions the treatment of the Holocaust by individual East German historians and in GDR literature in general, he does not seek to provide a broader cultural history of the pogrom's reception in the GDR. For instance, he refers to a 1968 commemorative event featuring prominent East German authors, but instead of delving into their approaches, he merely recounts how Neues Deutschland reported the event. Indeed, we learn little of the content of alternative activities, which virtually disappear in Schmid's final analysis and comparison with the West: "In retrospect, commemoration in the SED dictatorship, which was always functionalized and directed by the state and allowed only limited room for maneuver for autonomous social memory, stands against the relatively autonomous, genuinely democratic West German development" (p. 135).

While Schmid's book does not look beyond 1989 and most of his East-West comparisons refer readers to his separate study of western commemoration of Reichskristallnacht, Jan Philipp Spannuth's dissertation on restitution of "Aryanized" property attempts a more comprehensive approach. By way of background, Spannuth provides a concise history of "Aryanization" between 1933 and 1945, differentiating three phases: first, 1933 to 1937, a period of seemingly "voluntary" sales resulting from anti-Jewish boycotts and the general political climate; second, 1937-1938 as a period of radicalization, at the end of which "Aryanization" by private parties was all but complete; finally, from 1939, a period in which the German Reich acquired the remaining property of Jews by virtue of their imposed denaturalization through emigration or deportation.

The core of Spannuth's study begins in its third chapter, with a reconstruction of the vigorous discussion about restitution in the SBZ, which was prompted in 1946 by a bill from British-occupied Hamburg. Spannuth demonstrates some support for restitution within the SED, but that property confiscated from "Nazi activists and war criminals," indeed all state property, was always to be excluded. In early 1948 the SED Central Secretariat accepted a bill prepared by Merker and Helmut Lehmann that granted restitution to victims residing in Germany whose property had not been nationalized after 1945. Yet opposition--particularly from the Central Secretariat's legal department--defeated not only the more radical demands of SBZ Jewish communities, but also this modest proposal. Spannuth argues that such opposition was due less to budgetary concerns and the desire to integrate former Nazis than to anti-capitalist ideology tinged with antisemitism. He suggests, plausibly, that it constituted the logical continuation of tendencies apparent in the earlier debate about recognizing Jews as "victims of fascism," where the intention to exclude them because "they did not fight" (p. 64) had been modified for tactical reasons. Those reasons were no longer compelling in 1949, while objections to restoring private property were all the stronger during the accelerating construction of socialism. At times Spannuth seems torn between interpreting the invocation of anti-capitalist ideology as a mere fig-leaf and seeing it as a genuine objection to the restitution of private property. Either way, a 1949 Regulation for the Recognition, Provision and Compensation of the Nazis' Persecuted did not encompass restitution. Indeed, as Spannuth demonstrates, it was based not on a "bourgeois" notion of compensation for individual losses, but on a socialist understanding of welfare entitlements grounded in the generic fact of persecution.

Beyond these debates within the SED, several initiatives occurred elsewhere, particularly at the level of the Länder, most of which went nowhere. Spannuth shows the marginality of the Soviet authorities, whose sole achievement in this area was the restitution to Jewish communities of at least 122 communal properties--synagogues, cemeteries, schools, etc.--under its 1948 Order No. 82, which "returned" properties confiscated under the Nazis to political parties, mass organizations, and religious organizations in the SBZ. This was the only official restitution measure for "Aryanized" property in the SBZ/GDR (with the exception of Thuringia, addressed below).

East German authorities nevertheless faced claims for the restitution of individual property, particularly that acquired by the German Reich and now in the hands of the GDR. According to Spannuth, local authorities occasionally acted on a sense of natural justice and re-entered returning Jewish owners' names in title registers. Such actions prompted Justice Minister Max Fechner to intervene with the aim of securing formerly Jewish property for the GDR. Against the opposition of some officials, properties seized by the Third Reich were prevented from being returned to their rightful Jewish owners, even where the latter were still on the title register. Some sporadic postwar restitutions were even reversed, with ownership passing, again, to the state. Only occasionally did the authorities ameliorate this scandalous situation by granting the rightful owners "privileges" such as occupancy. The victims' only avenue for redress--and only if they lived in the SBZ/GDR--was civil action, which produced mixed results in the few cases in the 1940s and early 50s. Meanwhile, private "Aryanizers" who were not expropriated after 1945 benefited just as the state did. Only a small number were criminally prosecuted, and postwar expropriations of "Nazi activists and war criminals" did not target "Aryanizers."

One of the strengths of Spannuth's book lies in his use of case studies that highlight the complexity of the subject matter and bring to life what might otherwise be a dry, legal topic. The first chapter presents the case of a Jewish hotelier on the island of Rügen who was able to re-acquire two of his "Aryanized" properties but could only administer, rather than re-acquire, his largest hotel because it had been sequestered by the Soviets. Having resumed his business, he was arrested in 1953 as part of "Aktion Rose," which expropriated private gastronomic and other businesses on the Baltic coast. In his trial--which ended with a ten-year sentence for him--his persecution under the Nazis won him no sympathy; indeed, Spannuth shows how his postwar efforts to regain his property were held against him as indicating his failure to learn the lesson of fascism. His entire property was nationalized. After 1990, the Treuhandanstalt sold the various properties to private investors, with the proceeds divided among his descendants and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany (JCC).

In chapter 5, Spannuth presents two regional case studies that add further nuance and depth to his analysis. The first is the case of a 1945 restitution law in Thuringia, the first of its kind in Germany and the only example in the SBZ/GDR. Under the law, an Office for Compensation began an active search for "Aryanized" property and a Special Commissioner for the Administration of Formerly Jewish Property confiscated realty and firms, placed them under stewardship, and made changes to title registers. The law had numerous flaws, not least that the property of estates without heirs would fall to the Thuringian state, but some problems were resolved in favor of the victims. Spannuth estimates that most cases of "Aryanization" in Thuringia were registered and that approximately 60 percent ended in restitution. Approximately 300 properties (of 770 registered claims) were restored to their former owners, who mostly resided abroad. The situation with businesses was less positive, as postwar sequestrations could not be reversed. Yet even successful claimants faced problems if they were not GDR citizens, especially beginning in 1951, when the property of non-citizens was placed under state administration. As early as 1948, the SED indicated its interest not only in a quick end to the Thuringian arrangements, but also in acquiring the property seized under their aegis, and the law was repealed in 1952. Despite its demise and the fact that only those few victims who returned to the SBZ/GDR ultimately benefited, Spannuth rightly stresses that Thuringia provides a singular example of a serious German, rather than occupation-authority, initiative towards restitution, which shows, moreover, that the Soviet occupation authorities were not opposed to restitution.

The second regional case study is that of East Berlin. In 1946 the Allies established an office in Berlin to secure "Aryanized" Jewish property expropriated by the German Reich with a view to restitution. Following the city's division, the Soviet commandant created a similar office for the eastern sector, expanding its responsibilities to private property. Confiscations ended in August 1949 and confiscated property eventually fell under the control of the Berlin People's Housing Administration. By 1955, the city administration was confronted with claims from former owners, mainly "Aryanizers," and proposed to accede to them. According to the proposal, the original Jewish owners were either adequately compensated as Victims of Fascism if GDR citizens, or were undeserving "Israelite capitalists" if abroad (p. 141). The administration was satisfied that if the "Aryanizers" had been "active Nazis or war criminals," they would have been expropriated after the war. Despite concerns about a revival of the restitution question, in 1957 the GDR Finance Ministry approved the move, thus bowing indirectly to "popular" pressure, or rather, pressure from the "Aryanizers." The previous Jewish owners were not informed and the decision was not publicized. According to Spannuth, most of the properties were heavily burdened by debt, and it is unclear how many claims were made. Overall, he suggests, serious preparations were undertaken in Berlin in the 1940s for later restitution, but ultimately the East German state simply acquired a large amount of property, an outcome reinforced by the fact that the state automatically acquired property belonging to anyone who fled the country.

In chapter 6 Spannuth turns to the familiar history of the GDR's evasion, through to 1989, of international pressure to compensate the victims of Nazism living abroad. Spannuth argues that insistence on the need to await a final peace treaty was both hypocritical (because the SED intended largely to uphold its refusal even then) and naive. Spannuth highlights the anti-Zionism and antisemitism behind official positions on this question. Here, and throughout, he largely confirms the findings of Jeffrey Herf, Angelika Timm, and others, finding a fluid border between anti-Zionism and antisemitism even in the Office for the Legal Protection of the Property of the GDR, which administered much formerly Jewish property. However, Spannuth's account also indicates that suggestions that East German overtures to the JCC in the 1970s and 1980s were based merely on antisemitic assumptions about the power of the Jewish lobby in the United States overlook that both U.S. and JCC officials drew explicit connections between compensation and most-favored-nation status in the United States.

Ultimately, Spannuth suggests, a combination of "Marxist dogmatism," "material covetousness," and antisemitism explains the SED's refusal to meet the basic demands of the victims through to 1989 (p. 164). However, he rightly insists that some elements in various sections of the bureaucracy and the judiciary, at the Länder and local level and even in the upper echelons of the SED, favored a more sympathetic approach. Given such welcome differentiation, Spannuth's occasional references to a unitary "GDR" position or "GDR-rhetoric," rather than to the GDR government or the SED, are remarkably undifferentiated. His location of the end of the GDR in 1989 rather than 1990 is simply inaccurate.

In contrast with the GDR's commemorative culture(s), which, Schmid suggests, simply evaporated in 1990, the unfinished business of restitution became a major issue in that year. In chapter 8, Spannuth analyzes the positions of the governments led by Hans Modrow and de Mazière and the issue's treatment during and after the unification process. Although the expressions of responsibility for the Nazi past by representatives of the new governments and the Volkskammer were new in tone and content, firm commitments were not forthcoming. Early negotiations over unification raised fears that property nationalized after 1945 might be privatized or restored without reference to its previous "Aryanization." Thanks largely to prompting by the JCC and the U.S. government; both East and West German authorities ensured that this did not occur. As is well known, the West German government's preference for restitution won out against the East German government's preference for compensation. Nevertheless, the GDR's only freely elected parliament and government adhered to the Treaty of Unification, including the appendaged property law that recognized property losses under the Third Reich as a basis for restitution claims. Spannuth goes on to discuss the details of restitution regulations and the practice of restitution in selected eastern states (again with useful examples), concluding that responsible offices conscientiously sought to do justice to difficult problems and to cast light on often dark and dubious expropriations. He also attempts a preliminary stock-taking based on data up to 1999 (which reflects the period of data collection for his dissertation, but seems old for a book published in 2007). In total, Spannuth estimates that the JCC and individuals made approximately 130,000 claims on a total value of approximately 10.5 billion Euros. The success rate, he estimates with considerable caution, approximated 19 percent for the JCC and 60 percent for private claims.

Spannuth's concluding diachronic comparison of post-GDR restitution with earlier efforts in the West is the least satisfying part of the book, for several reasons. First, he does not assess the quantitative "success" of western restitution relative to the regional Jewish population as he does elsewhere in the book, but merely points to the high total sums paid under Allied statutes and the Federal Restitution Law, which he does not subject to a comparative analysis with the figures for the eastern states after 1990. Second, his overall characterization of western restitution is dominated by the total sums of restitution and compensation achieved over the decades and by progressive judgments of the 1950s, and not by qualitative considerations, such as the significant social, bureaucratic, and judicial resistance to restitution in the 1940s and 1950s, which he dubs "silent sabotage" (p. 227). Third, the comparison mutates into a search for lessons learned by the 1990s from the earlier experiences and the broader history of facing up to the Nazi past in the West. Here, Spannuth notes qualitative improvements in the 1990s, which he attributes to the influence of those western experiences before 1990 and of western bureaucrats and judges thereafter. Certainly, western bureaucrats were primarily responsible for the Treaty of Unification and its accompanying legislation, but Spannuth effectively concedes that his own suggestion that those responsible for the subsequent development of restitution policy and practice were westerners is mere supposition. He overlooks support for restitution within the GDR (particularly in 1990) as well as the possibility that easterners might also have learned certain lessons, or that they simply applied and upheld the restitution law of the reunified country after 1990. Moreover, the claim that the Federal Republic had learned the lessons of its earlier restitution experience is weakened by the fact that the judgments Spannuth cites as evidence were not made until 1998 or 1999, which suggests that the lessons had not been well learned by 1990 and that a new set of experiences was required to tease them out. These shortcomings in the final chapter, attributable in part to the fact that Spannuth could not draw on the first monograph on western restitution, do not detract substantially from what is otherwise a systematic and nuanced study and a significant contribution to the literature on the handling of the Nazi past in the SBZ/GDR and reunified Germany. Like the other books under discussion, it will likely be the standard work on its topic for some time.

What do these books say about the current state of research in light of the deficiencies and questions outlined at the beginning? First, they indicate that research has certainly moved beyond the 1940s and 1950s, with the books discussed here addressing the 1960s, the decades through 1989, or even the end of the first post-unification decade. Secondly, they confirm the strength of the SED regime's desire for a monopoly on, and the extent of its efforts to control, the interpretation of policies toward the past. They also provide much support for the view that the GDR failed to address the legacies of Nazism and especially the persecution of the Jews. Indeed, they identify not only the regime's pragmatic failure to punish major and minor Nazi criminals, to provide restitution to Jewish victims, and to reflect critically on the Nazi past, but also its own antisemitism and desire to hold on to "Aryanized" property. They offer substantial support to the damning interpretation outlined at the outset. However, third, all three books also suggest, if less emphatically, that a monolithic regime-centered interpretation is insufficient. To varying degrees, they indicate the existence of alternative, dissenting discourses or of internal nuances within the regime. Nevertheless, these remain marginal to the authors' overall interpretations. Such alternative views, like those from below, could be given more weight, as could their development after 1989. Fourth, in small ways, the three books also point to the substantive accuracy or the personal legitimacy of certain aspects even of official approaches to the past or its legacy, such as accounts of IG Farben's role at Auschwitz or the tainted pasts of Federal Republican elites, which are often overlooked in critiques of the regime's "instrumentalization" of the past. Fifth, although the authors make some effort to understand GDR policies and practices on their own terms, they still view the GDR from outside, from the perspective of the Federal Republic, which features not only as the most obvious and necessary point of comparison, but often also as the authorial locus, as indicated by Schmid's references to "here" (meaning the FRG) and "there" (meaning the GDR). Sixth, they indicate that the challenge of Beziehungsgeschichte is being taken up, albeit unevenly. Considerable attention is paid to the impact of western developments on the East, but considerably less to influences in the other direction. Moreover, it is noteworthy that separate monographs have recently been published, in one case even by the same author, on the comparable subject in the West; synthetic studies of East and West are the exception. Finally, and perhaps unsurprisingly given the subject matter, moral and normative preoccupations remain and, although the books are by no means uncritical of developments there, the Federal Republic (of the late 1980s or later) still features as the interpretative and evaluative norm. In short, progress has been made, but we are still some way from historicization.

Notes

[1]. For a more recent rehearsal of the standard critique, see Manfred Agethen, Eckhard Jesse, and Ehrhardt Neubert, eds., Der missbrauchte Antifaschismus: DDR-Staatsdoktrin und Lebenslüge der deutschen Linken (Freiburg: Herder, 2002). For a critical discussion of post-Wende debate about East German antifascism, see Robert Erlinghagen, Die Diskussion um den Begriff des Antifaschismus seit 1989/90 (Berlin: Argument Verlag, 1997). For a discussion of the handling of antifascism and related matters by federal politicians and their allied scholars in the context of "working through" the East German past, see Andrew H. Beattie, Playing Politics with History: The Bundestag Inquiries into East Germany (New York: Berghahn Books, 2008), 161-193.

[2]. For a more sophisticated version of this narrative, see Jeffrey Herf, "Legacies of Divided Memory and the Berlin Republic," in Germany at Fifty-Five: Berlin ist nicht Bonn?, ed. James Sperling (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), 83-111.

[3]. See Jürgen Danyel, "DDR-Antifaschismus: Rückblick auf zehn Jahre Diskussion, offene Fragen und Forschungsperspektiven," in Vielstimmiges Schweigen: Neue Studien zum DDR-Antifaschismus, eds. Annette Leo and Peter Reif-Spirek (Berlin: Metropol, 2001), 7-19.

[4]. See Alan Steinweis, "Review of Pendas, Devin O., The Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial, 1963-1965: Genocide, History, and the Limits of the Law," H-German, H-Net Reviews. December, 2006. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=12646 .

[5]. Andreas Hilger, "'Die Gerechtigkeit nehme ihren Lauf'? Die Bestrafung deutsche Kriegs- und Gewaltverbrecher in der Sowjetunion und der SBZ/DDR," in Transnationale Vergangenheitspolitik: Der Umgang mit deutschen Kriegsverbrechern in Europa nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg, ed. Norbert Frei (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2006), 180-246, here p. 215.

[6]. Harald Schmid, Erinnern an den "Tag der Schuld": Das Novemberpogrom von 1938 in der deutschen Geschichtspolitik (Hamburg: Dölling & Galitz, 2001).

[7]. Jürgen Lillteicher, Raub, Recht und Restitution: Die Rückerstattung jüdischen Eigentums in der frühen Bundesrepublik (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2007). See Berthold Unfried, "Review of Lillteicher, Jürgen, Raub, Recht und Restitution: Die Rückerstattung jüdischen Eigentums in der frühen Bundesrepublik and Spannuth, Jan Philipp, Rückerstattung Ost: Der Umgang der DDR mit dem 'arisierten' und enteigneten Eigentum der Juden und die Gestaltung der Rückerstattung im wiedervereinigten Deutschland," H-Soz-u-Kult, H-Net Reviews. October, 2007. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=22008 .

Books:

Christian Dirks. "Die Verbrechen der anderen": Auschwitz und der Auschwitz-Prozess der DDR. Das Verfahren gegen den KZ-Arzt Dr. Horst Fischer. Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh Verlag, 2005. 408 pp. EUR 42.90 (cloth), ISBN 978-3-506-71363-6.

Harald Schmid. Antifaschismus und Judenverfolgung: Die "Reichskristallnacht" als politischer Gedenktag in der DDR. Hannah-Arendt-Institut für Totalitarismusforschung Berichte und Studien. Göttingen: V&R unipress, 2004. 153 pp. EUR 16.80 (paper), ISBN 978-3-89971-146-2.

Jan Philipp Spannuth. Rückerstattung Ost: Der Umgang der DDR mit dem "arisierten" und enteigneten Eigentum der Juden und die Gestaltung der Rückerstattung im wiedervereinigten Deutschland. Essen: Klartext Verlag, 2007. 255 pp. EUR 27.90 (paper), ISBN 978-3-89861-656-0.

Reviewed by Andrew Beattie (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales [Sydney])
Published on H-German (May, 2009)
Commissioned by Susan R. Boettcher

Source: H-Net
https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=24456

Saturday, October 3, 2015

“El mito de la alergia francesa al fascismo”. Un debate historiográfico

Daniel Canales Ciudad: Licenciado en Historia por la Universidad de Zaragoza y máster en Historia Contemporánea. Su línea de investigación es el estudio de la dictadura franquista en perspectiva comparada.

El ascenso de la extrema derecha en las últimas elecciones europeas es un hecho, y es para preocuparse que partidos como Amanecer Dorado en Grecia o el Jobbik en Hungría se hayan convertido en fuerzas políticas con representación parlamentaria en Europa y sus países. No resulta extraño, respecto al fascismo, que el presente y el futuro pesen más que el pasado, más en países en los que la crisis, la corrupción y los abusos de poder se han traducido en una progresiva desafección respecto de la política tradicional. Sin ser lo mismo, aunque integrándolo dentro del mismo espectro político, el Frente Nacional se ha aprovechado de esa desafección en Francia, un país en el que además del vertiginoso ascenso del partido de Marine Le Pen, habría que destacar el alto nivel de abstención que ha alcanzado cerca del 60% del electorado y que, con todo, ha beneficiado sobremanera al propio FN.

Como ya comentamos en un artículo anterior, intentaremos llevar este análisis hasta nuestros días, pero a nuestra manera, a través de un previo i minucioso examen del pasado más inmediato de Francia que nos permita ver las claves históricas para entender el presente, desarrollando en este caso, algo importantísimo que se cito de pasada en el otro artículo como es el “mito de la alergia” al fascismo en Francia combinado con el mito de la Resistencia. Así pues, en este artículo nos centraremos en la extrema derecha francesa en el período de entreguerras, y sobre todo en el debate historiográfico alrededor de este fenómeno, en la medida en que el Frente Nacional viene a heredar y a actualizar discursos y prácticas[1] que en los años treinta tuvieron una importante incidencia en la vida política y social de la III República. De hecho, fue el movimiento de la extrema derecha de la Croix de Feu, reconvertido en 1936 en el Parti Social Français (PSF) tras la prohibición de las ligas paramilitares por el gobierno de Leon Blum, el partido con mayor número de militantes, cerca de un millón en 1939, y que contaba con una amplia red de organizaciones y publicaciones donde el nacionalismo, la idea de regeneración y los ataques al parlamentarismo y el comunismo ofrecían un espacio de renovación política frente a los caducos partidos tradicionales de la III República.

De hecho, este partido ha pasado a ocupar el centro de un debate historiográfico de una larga trayectoria acerca de si hubo o no fascismo en Francia, en tanto que movimiento político con capacidad de plantear un proyecto autoritario y alternativo frente a la III República como sí hubo en Italia, Alemania y España, donde el fascismo, tal como lo entiende Ferran Gallego, fue capaz de movilizar un electorado mayoritario de clase media especialmente rural, y de modernizar y cohesionar en torno a sí a gran parte de la derecha radical y nacionalista en torno a un proyecto político encaminado a la construcción de un orden que superase los conflictos de la modernidad democrática y liberal[2]. Y es que catalogar a la CF/PSF dentro de los fascismos europeos de la época es especialmente relevante por eso mismo. Por ello nos ha sido inevitable acercarnos y presentar un debate historiográfico que también afecta, como no, al fantasma de Vichy, asunto en el que los trabajos de Robert Paxton tuvieron un papel clave en la recuperación de un pasado complicado de digerir por parte de la historiografía oficial francesa.

Ahora bien, respecto al fascismo, aquélla sigue manteniendo, salvo algunas excepciones, la que se ha venido a conocer como “tesis de la inmunidad”[3], la cual se convirtió en todo un dogma historiográfico desde la aparición del libro de René Rémond, La droite en France de 1815 à nos jours, en 1954[4]. A este respecto, acercarnos a este debate nos puede aportar una cierta perspectiva a la hora de plantearnos el mismo problema aquí en España. Y es que durante años, aquí como en Francia, gran parte de la comunidad historiográfica, amparándose en definiciones estrictamente genéricas del fascismo, y tal como plantea Julián Casanova, ha inventado «múltiples marbetes, términos y conceptos peculiarísimos, en un intento, que ha cosechado notables éxitos, de absolver el franquismo – y al orden social y político que consolidó – del estigma fascista»[5]. En Francia ese estigma se eliminó por una suerte de cultura política nacional que se presentaba inseparable de los valores republicanos, lo cual no deja de ser una venda con la que taparse los ojos frente a una realidad reacia a esencialismos de ese tipo, los cuales dificultan la lectura no sólo del pasado, sino también del presente[6].

Externalizar el fascismo, reducirlo a su más mínima expresión o hasta negarlo fue algo muy común en el contexto europeo de la segunda posguerra. Mientras en España Franco consolidaba el nacional catolicismo como ideología del régimen, sin perder un ápice de su retórica excluyente y capacidad represiva, los historiadores franceses e italianos construían nuevos referentes a partir de los que ofrecer una narración apropiada para la construcción de unas identidades nacionales renovadas y apropiadas al nuevo contexto. Tras los iniciales juicios y purgas, Francia e Italia debían mirar hacia delante, en la dirección de su reconstrucción y su desarrollo económico y social, y olvidar las divisiones y conflictos de su pasado más inmediato. En Italia Benedetto Croce hablaba del período fascista como una especie de enfermedad. Al igual que en Francia, donde el fascismo sería literalmente extirpado de su historia nacional y el período de Vichy quedaría en un paréntesis febril entre la III y la IV República, un producto de la derrota y la ocupación alemana. En este sentido, toda una sociedad debía ocultar el trauma de la derrota, del colaboracionismo y de Vichy.

Los tribunales oficiales franceses se encargarían de castigar a los colaboradores por delitos de traición a la patria, aunque se alejaría intencionadamente el fantasma de la responsabilidad de los ciudadanos franceses en la guerra[7]. De esta manera, no se castigó a ningún francés por crímenes contra la humanidad, siendo éstos imputados exclusivamente a los alemanes[8]. Por su parte, en el espacio público se extendería la memoria de la Resistencia como sujeto nacional y en la que prácticamente todos franceses tenían cabida. La lucha partisana contra el invasor venía a desdeñar el colaboracionismo y Vichy, y pasaba a convertirse en el nuevo espacio de referencia y representatividad de la nación. Esa misma voluntad es la que vemos claramente en la historiografía, que junto a tribunales y políticas memoriales del Estado, se configuraron como los principales arquitectos de las lecturas nacionales del pasado. Las palabras de François Bédarida y Jean Pierre Azema al respecto son muy ilustrativas: «dans le couple Vichy/Résistance, la priorité a longtemps joué au profit de l’historiographie de la Résistance au détriment de celle de Vichy. Tout concourait en effet a privilégier la première plutôt que la seconde: un objet historique exaltant, une demande sociale forte, une vertu éducative […], une mémoire a la fois glorieuse et dominante»[9].

Si Robert Aron publicaba su Histoire de Vichy en 1954 con la que alejaba el fantasma del colaboracionismo[10], René Rémond, en ese mismo año, haría lo suyo respecto al fascismo advirtiendo que aquél había sido una importación desde el exterior realizada por grupos marginales y sin apenas capacidad de movilización. Esta tesis se convertiría en un componente esencial de una excepcionalidad francesa basada en el compromiso permanente de la derecha francesa, a diferencia de sus homólogas italiana o alemana, con los principios democráticos y constitucionales, un compromiso que se renovaba a través del nuevo mito de la Resistencia y que tomó forma inmediatamente después de la Liberación. El argumento principal de Rémond era que el fascismo no tenía espacio político en Francia, puesto que no pertenecía a ninguna de las tres familias de la derecha francesa que él había reconocido: la derecha contrarrevolucionaria, la conservadora y la bonapartista. De este modo, movimientos de masas como el Parti Social Français y el propio régimen de Vichy sólo podrían explicarse a partir de una de estas tres tradiciones, nunca podríamos hablar de fascismo. Sternhell explica cómo este libro se convirtió en una especie de biblia para varias generaciones de estudiantes e historiadores que asimilaban una idea cómoda y autocomplaciente de su pasado nacional más inmediato[11].

Y es que es bastante significativo que quienes atacasen dichas tesis fuesen historiadores de fuera[12], en la misma medida que fue Robert Paxton, un historiador norteamericano, quien atacó las tesis de Robert Aron afirmando que tanto Pétain como Laval fueron colaboradores activos con los alemanes y que las medidas adoptadas durante el período de Vichy, entre ellas la deportación de miles de judíos a los campos de exterminio[13], fueron responsabilidad de las autoridades francesas. En cuanto a la tesis de la inmunidad, fue Ernst Nolte, en su ya clásica trilogía sobre el fascismo europeo, quien situó en Action Française el precursor de la ideología fascista[14]. Pero fue el historiador israelí Zeev Sternhell quien irrumpió con más fuerza en el debate, pues no sólo rechazaba esa supuesta inmunidad francesa al fascismo, sino que también situaba sus orígenes culturales e ideológicos en la convergencia entre el nacionalismo de Maurice Barrès y Charles Maurras y el revisionismo marxista y vitalista de Georges Sorel[15]. Sus obras generaron un intenso debate provocando respuestas por parte de historiadores como Serge Berstein o Michel Winock, discípulos de Rémond y que venían a actualizar las tesis de la inmunidad frente a las ideas de Sternhell.

Por otro lado, el debate tomaba un cariz más académico en la medida en que muchos comentarios iban encaminados hacia la crítica de la perspectiva puramente intelectual que tomaba Sternhell para entender el fascismo[16]. Y es que la historia de las ideas adoptada por Sternhell le permitió rastrear una tradición política francesa que iría desde el último tercio del siglo XIX, pasando por el asunto Dreyfus y que desembocaría en Vichy en 1940, lo que permitía además señalar el carácter puramente francés del régimen[17]. Esa historia estrictamente intelectual sería muy criticada por historiadores franceses como Winock o Julliard para quienes, Sternhell ignoraba la dimensión social y política de la realidad en sus investigaciones. Por su parte, Serge Berstein le achacaba una definición demasiado ambigua del fascismo, lo que le permitía introducir cualquier experiencia que se amoldase a unos marcos bastante flexibles[18]. Pierre Milza coincide con esta crítica cuando dice que Sternhell utiliza la noción de fascismo para «todas expresiones de hostilidad a la democracia parlamentaria burguesa»[19].

Siendo bastante acertadas todas esas críticas respecto al método empleado por Sternhell, el caso es que tanto Winock, Julliard, Berstein o Milza, todos ellos franceses, mantienen la idea de la excepcionalidad francesa y de un cierto esencialismo nacional, retomando los argumentos dados por Rémond, quien reeditaría en 1982 su obra[20] y en el que se permitiría actualizar por sí mismo sus argumentos y atender a los puntos centrales sobre los que giraba el debate. De esta manera, admitiría la atracción que ejerció el fascismo sobre algunos intelectuales como Brasillach o Drieu la Rochelle y la existencia de grupos fascistas en Francia como el Faisceau de George Valois, Solidarité Française de Réné Coty, el Parti Popular Français de Doriot o el Francisme de Marcel Bucard, pero que nunca llegaron a ser verdaderos movimientos de masas como el italiano o el alemán. En cuanto a la Croix de Feu / Parti Social Français, una de las claves del debate, lo encajaría dentro de la derecha bonapartista y reduciría su estética y capacidad movilizadora a un especie de «scoutisme politique pour grandes personnes»[21]. En esta línea se mantendría Jacques Nobécourt[22], quien hizo un exhaustivo estudio con fuente primaria, accediendo por primera vez a los archivos personales del líder de la Croix de Feu iCoronel De la Rocque del Parti Social Français, François de La Rocque, echando por tierra los argumentos de quienes como Robert Soucy[23], William Irvine[24] o Kevin Passmore[25] desde el exterior habían catalogado a la organización de fascista.

A día de hoy el debate en torno a CF/PSF y el fascismo francés aún está abierto y siguen apareciendo publicaciones[26] que intentan salir adelante en el análisis del fenómeno dejando en un segundo plano si fue fascista o no, contextualizando la III República en el panorama europeo de la época. Así, se avanza ahora ya no analizando el discurso y la ideología de la organización liderada por De La Roque, sino sus estrategias y posibilidades de conquistar el poder, advirtiendo, además, que las categorías políticas utilizadas para definir a la derecha francesa por Rémond y sus acólitos no dejan de ser excesivamente herméticas y estáticas[27]. En este sentido, más que al fascismo en sí, deberíamos estudiar el proceso de fascistización que vive la derecha europea y su electorado a lo largo de los años treinta. Ésta fue provocada por una crisis económica y política que rebosó, para muchos, los límites del parlamentarismo y la democracia como sistema para la resolución de los conflictos de unas sociedades en transformación. De esta manera, y atendiendo al contexto político, social e intelectual de la II República, Ferran Gallego ha analizado el proceso de fascistización de la derecha española señalando la permeabilidad de ésta respecto a la nueva cultura política que ofrecía la posibilidad de una unión nacional en torno a un proyecto de modernización y regeneración nacional.

Tanto Alemania, como Italia, España o Francia compartieron esas mismas dinámicas en diferentes escenarios y con sus respectivas particularidades. Éstas son las que hicieron que en Francia no triunfase una solución autoritaria a los problemas que vivía la III República, durante la cual ni la violencia política, ni la crítica al parlamentarismo, ni los discursos de redención nacional estuvieron ausentes[28]. De ahí que un análisis comparado entre las diversas experiencias ofrezca una interpretación que se aleje de esencialismos y excepcionalismos que, como dice Ferran Gallego respecto a España, permiten interpretar su pasado «como el de una nación cuyos problemas y propuestas de solución siempre eran ajenos a los conflictos y procedimientos que se habían experimentado en el continente»[29].

[1] Arnaud ESQUERRE et Luc BOLSTANSKI: “Fron national: de quel peuple parle-t-on?”, Libération, 29 de mayo de 2014

[2] Ferran GALLEGO: El evangelio fascista. La formación de la cultura política del franquismo (1930-1950), Barcelona, Crítica, 2014

[3] Para ver la historia de dicho debate Marc ANGENOT: “L’immunité de la France envers le fascisme: un demi-siècle de polémiques historiennes” en Discours Social, vol. XXXI, 2009. Disponible en red: http://marcangenot.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/immunit%C3%A9-fran%C3%A7aise-au-fascisme-complet-format-DS.pdf

Ver también, Michel DOBRY (dir.), Le mythe de l’allergie française au fascisme, Albin Michel, París, 2003

[4] René RÉMOND: La droite en France de 1815 à nos jours. Continuité et diversité d’une tradition politique, Paris, Aubier, 1954

[5] Julián CASANOVA, “La sombra del franquismo: ignorar la historia y huir del pasado”, en Julián CASANOVA, El pasado oculto: fascismo y violencia en Aragón (1936-1939), Madrid, Siglo XXI, 1992 p. 13

[6] Ya en 2003, ante el éxito cosechado por Le Pen en 2002 cuando llegó a la segunda vuelta de las elecciones presidenciales, numerosos sociólogos y politólogos coordinados bajo la dirección de Daniel Bensaid alertaron de los peligros y trazaron varios análisis sobre la extrema derecha del siglo XXI. “Noveaux mostres et vieux démons: déconstruire l’extrême droite”, Contretemps, nº8, 2003. Disponible en red: http://www.contretemps.eu/sites/default/files/Contretemps%2008.pdf

El interés académico por el Frente Nacional no ha dejado de aumentar, tal como lo demuestran los recientes congresos y publicaciones aparecidos en Francia a raíz del ascenso del partido bajo el liderazgo de Jean Mary Le Pen. Ver: Charlotte ROTMAN: “Le Front national, «objet scientifique», Libération, 20 de junio de 2013

[7] Entre 1944 y 1951 se llegaron a sentenciar 6763 personas a muerte, de las que se ejecutaron 791. Las purgas afectaron a cerca de 350.000 personas, aunque la mayoría «de sus vidas y carreras no se vieron dramáticamente afectadas». Tony JUDT, Postguerra: una historia de Europa desde 1945, Madrid, Taurus, 2006, p. 83

[8] Para ver las implicaciones de la culpabilidad exclusiva de Alemania, Íbidem, p. 91

[9] Traducción nuestra: “en el binomio Vichy/Resistencia, la prioridad ha jugado durante mucho tiempo a favor de la historiografía de la Resistencia en detrimento de la de Vichy. Todo ha contribuido, en efecto, a privilegiar la primera por encima de la segunda: un objeto histórico exaltado, una demanda social fuerte, unas virtudes educativas [...], una memoria a la vez gloriosa y dominante” en Jean Pierre AZEMA et François BEDARIDA: “L’historisation de la Résistence” en Esprit, enero 1994, p.21. Disponible en red: http://www.esprit.presse.fr/archive/review/article.php?code=10982

[10] Éste diferenció entre la Francia de Pétain y la Francia de Laval, siendo la primera una solución para el mantenimiento de la soberanía nacional y una especie de escudo frente a la invasión alemana, mientras que la segunda representaba el colaboracionismo que se restringía a personalidades muy concretas y aliados de los alemanes. Robert ARON y Georgette ELGEY: Histoire de Vichy, 1940-1944, Paris, Artheme Fayard, 1954.

[11] Íbidem, p.32

[12] Esto lo podemos ver a la perfección en el libro France in the era of Fascism, en el que se ataca y se pone en tela de juicio la supuesta tesis de la inmunidad francesa al fascismo. Como señala su coordinador, Brian Jenkis, todos los historiadores que han aportado investigaciones para el libro son todos no franceses, a excepción de Michel Dobry.

[13] La cinta Le Chagrin et la Pietié, del documentalista Marcel Ophuls provocó también una gran conmoción, estrenándose en los cines franceses en 1971 dos años antes de que se publicase en Francia el libro de Paxton.

[14] Ernst NOLTE: Der Faschismus in seiner Epoche. Action francaise – Italienischer Faschismus – Nationalsozialismus, Münich, R. Piper, 1963. Traducido al francés siete años después, Ernst NOLTE: Le fascisme dans son époque, Paris, Julliard, 1970.

[15] Zeev STERNHELL: La droite révolutionnaire. 1885-1914 : Les origines francaises du fascisme, Paris, Seuil, 1978. También Zeev STERNHELL, Ni droite ni gauche. L’idèologie fasciste en France, París, Fayard, 2000 [1983]

[16] Un análisis del debate suscitado por las teorías de Sternhell en Antonio COSTA PINTO, “Fascist ideology revisited: Zeev Sternhell and his critics” en European History Quartely, núm. 16 (1986), pp. 465-483

[17] Zeev STERNHELL, “Morphology of Fascism in France”, en Brian JENKINS (ed.) (2005), pp. 22-64

[18] Antonio COSTA PINTO (1986)., p. 474

[19] Pierre MILZA, “Fascisme français” en J-F. SIRINELLI (ed.) (1995), p. 357. Aparece en Brian JENKINS (ed.) (2005), p. 200

[20] René RÉMOND: Les droites en France, Paris Aubier Montaigne, 1982

[21] Íbidem, p. 214

[22] Jacques NOBÉCOURT: Le Colonel de la Rocque ou les pièges du nationalisme crètien, París, Fayard, 1996

[23] Robert SOUCY: French Fascism: the Second Wave 1933-39, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1995, obra que no se traduciría al francés hasta nueve años más tarde, en 2004, lo cual muestra el poco interés que había entre los historiadores franceses por la historia que se generaba desde fuera y que ponía en tela de juicio, como ya lo había hecho Sternhell, la tesis de la inmunidad.

[24] William D. IRVINE, “Fascism in France and the strange case of Croix de Feu”, en The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 63, Núm. 2 (1991), pp.271-295

[25] Kevin PASSMORE: From Liberalism to Fascism: The Right in a French Province, 1928-1939, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997.

[26] Sean KENNEDY: Reconciling France against Democracy: the Croix de feu and the Parti social français. Montreal, McGill-Queen’s, 2007.

[27] Brian JENKINS: “The Right-Wing Leagues and Electoral Politics in Interwar France”, History Compass, nº 5/4 (2007), pp. 1359-1381

[28] Una propuesta para el estudio de la violencia política en la Francia del período de entreguerras en Chris MILLINGTON: “Political Violence in Interwar France”, en History Compass, nº 10/3 (2012), pp. 246-259

[29] Ferran GALLEGO: El evangelio fascista… p.17

Source: El Mito de Sisif (blog from Catalunya)
http://elmitedesisif.cat/es/fascismo/el-mito-de-la-alergia-francesa-al-fascismo-un-debate-historiografico/

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