Thursday, January 21, 2016

Arendt on Trial. New Book About Eichmann Trial Challenges Hannah Arendt's Criticism of Jewish Council

Arendt on Trial
Michelle SieffMarch 14, 2011Image: Nextbook/Schoken

The Eichmann Trial
By Deborah Lipstadt
Nextbook/Schocken, 272 pages, $24.95

In 1961, the young state of Israel tried and executed the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. Hannah Arendt covered the trial for the New Yorker, an account that was published in 1963 as “Eichmann in Jerusalem.” Arendt did not set out to write a journalistic trial narrative. Instead, she articulated a series of provocative and critical judgments about the trial, the wartime role of Europe’s Jewish Councils (the infamous Judenrats) and Eichmann’s motives. The book ignited a firestorm of controversy that, 50 years later, still crackles. Her book remains the lens through which people view the Eichmann trial.
Challenging Arendt: Deborah Lipstadt, the author of ?The Eichmann Trial.?

Image: Nextbook/Schoken

Challenging Arendt: Deborah Lipstadt, the author of ?The Eichmann Trial.?

With her new book, “The Eichmann Trial,” historian Deborah Lipstadt attempts to refute Arendt’s main arguments. On the cover is an iconic image of Arendt — pearl-bedecked and pensive, a cigarette dangling from her fingers — and an entire chapter of the book discusses her arguments. Although other scholars have re-examined the Eichmann trial — most notably the Israeli historian Hannah Yablonka, in a book published in English in 2004 as “The State of Israel vs. Adolf Eichmann” — Lipstadt aims to reach a wider audience.

Especially when compared to Arendt, who was more concerned with the whys and wherefores than the whats, Lipstadt has written a reliable guide to the basic facts of the trial. Lipstadt succinctly describes the key events in chronological order: Israel’s abduction of Eichmann in Argentina; the selection of the prosecutor, defense attorney and judges; the media response to the trial; the prosecutor’s chilling opening statement; the testimony of the survivor witnesses; Eichmann’s testimony; the judgment and the impassioned debate over the death sentence.

Arendt bitterly criticized the Jewish Councils for helping the Nazis compile lists of Jews to be deported. This observation was the one that sparked the violent outrage in American Jewish circles because of her insinuation that the Nazi authorities and Jewish Councils were equally culpable. Lipstadt vehemently challenges Arendt’s argument, noting that the Einsatzgruppen murdered thousands of Jews in the Soviet territories, which had no Jewish Councils. In her mind, this proves that Arendt exaggerated the importance of the Jewish Councils.

True. But Lipstadt has the advantage of 50 years of historical research, much of which was spurred by Arendt’s provocative argument. And, ironically, Lipstadt’s narrative ultimately persuades me that Arendt’s spotlight on the actions of the Jewish Councils was justified at the time. Lipstadt vividly describes how, during the testimony of a Hungarian Jewish Council member, Pinchas Freudinger, a spectator began shouting and accused Freudinger of being responsible for the death of his family. It was a Holocaust victim in the courtroom who accused the Jewish Councils of moral culpability. Arendt’s contribution was to analyze a complicated moral issue — raised by a Holocaust victim at the trial — with her characteristic erudition, seriousness and fearlessness.

Arendt’s book is most notorious for its portrait of Eichmann’s motives. Based on her analysis of his statements and testimony, Arendt contended that Eichmann was not motivated by a fanatical hatred of Jews. Other than a desire to advance his career and obey his superiors, he had no real motives at all, she maintained. Arendt concluded that Eichmann’s “sheer thoughtlessness” revealed the “banality of evil.”

Lipstadt argues that, to the contrary, Eichmann was a committed anti-Semite. Sometimes Lipstadt’s prose has the whiff of a dogmatic rant; but she also marshals some compelling evidence, some of which was not part of the trial and hence not available to Arendt. She points to Eichmann’s speech to his men, in which he declared he would go to his grave fulfilled because he had murdered millions of Jews. Lipstadt also invokes as evidence a memoir written by Eichmann during the trial, which was sealed in Israel’s archives but released to assist Lipstadt in her own trial in 2000 against Holocaust denier David Irving.

Though she doesn’t provide details, Lipstadt contends that the memoir proves that Arendt “was just plain wrong about Eichmann.” In a fascinating description of Judge Benjamin Halevi’s questioning of Eichmann, she also recounts how Eichmann compromised his defense that he was just following orders by admitting he exempted several Jews from deportation.

Even if Lipstadt is correct about Eichmann — and in his 2004 biography of Eichmann, historian David Cesarani precisely documented Eichmann’s anti-Semitism — Arendt was still onto an important idea. The bloody post-Holocaust history of genocides provides ample evidence of the “banality of evil.” Some very chilling evidence appears in the book “Machete Season,” by French journalist Jean Hatzfeld. Hatzfeld conducted extended interviews with a group of imprisoned Rwandan genocidaires. Throughout the book, they speak of the killing as a business and a job, without any reference to moral considerations.

In her conclusion, Lipstadt argues that the decision by the prosecutor, Attorney General Gideon Hausner, to include survivor testimonies, despite no direct legal need for it, was the most important aspect of the trial. Drawing on the empirical work of other scholars, she argues that, by allowing victims to tell their stories publicly, the trial changed the perception and status of Holocaust victims in Israeli society. In Lipstadt’s mind, this was the trial’s greatest legacy. Her conclusion also challenges an Arendtian judgment. Arendt had criticized Hausner for injecting political goals into the trial. She specifically criticized the focus on Jewish suffering and the victim testimonies: “For this case was built on what the Jews had suffered, not on what Eichmann had done,” she lamented.

Arendt’s view was based on a doctrine — which she made explicit — about the purpose of trials, even trials of war criminals. “The purpose of a trial is to render justice, and nothing else,” she maintained. By defending the trial on the grounds that it integrated victims into Israeli society, Lipstadt assumes that war crimes trials can and should further more expansive goals, such as the political objective of nation-building. Since the Eichmann trial, in the wake of the bloody conflicts of the 1990s, war crimes trials have proliferated. Modern human rights groups have defended these trials on the grounds that they further classic political goals, such as peace and democratic consolidation.

Our contemporary discussions about what law scholar Ruti Teitel named “transitional justice” are often muddled, because there is little explicit philosophical debate — let alone consensus — about the appropriate goals and standards by which such trials should be assessed. This conceptual miasma might be one reason there are so few empirical studies on the impact of war crimes trials. This is a shame, since these trials are a tremendous experiment in virtuous politics. Arendt criticized the Eichmann trial because it injected politics into law. By defending the trial because of its political consequences, Lipstadt lays out an alternative doctrine. Who’s right? For anyone concerned about the legacy of Eichmann and the future of war crimes trials, it’s an essential question.

Michelle Sieff is a research fellow at the Yale Initiative for the Study of Antisemitism.

Source: Forward/Haaretz

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Wall Street’s Think Tank: The Council on Foreign Relations and the Empire of Neoliberal Geopolitics, 1976-2014

Wall Street’s Think Tank: The Council on Foreign Relations and the Empire of Neoliberal Geopolitics, 1976-2014
by Laurence H. Shoup

The Council on Foreign Relations is the most influential foreign-policy think tank in the United States, claiming among its members a high percentage of government officials, media figures, and establishment elite. For decades it kept a low profile even while it shaped policy, advised presidents, and helped shore up U.S. hegemony following the Second World War. In 1977, Laurence H. Shoup and William Minter published the first in-depth study of the CFR, Imperial Brain Trust, an explosive work that traced the activities and influence of the CFR from its origins in the 1920s through the Cold War.

Now, Laurence H. Shoup returns with this long-awaited sequel, which brings the story up to date. Wall Street’s Think Tank follows the CFR from the 1970s through the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union to the present. It explains how members responded to rapid changes in the world scene: globalization, the rise of China, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the launch of a “War on Terror,” among other major developments. Shoup argues that the CFR now operates in an era of “Neoliberal Geopolitics,” a worldwide paradigm that its members helped to establish and that reflects the interests of the U.S. ruling class, but is not without challengers. Wall Street’s Think Tank is an essential guide to understanding the Council on Foreign Relations and the shadow it casts over recent history and current events.
Wall Street’s Think Tank is a very important book, and its information is essential for an understanding of how our politics, and the world’s, has come to its sorry state.

—Joan Roelofs, Counterpunch

Forty years ago, Laurence Shoup and William Minter published their book Imperial Brain Trust, a careful and highly informative analysis of World War II planning for the postwar world by the Council of Foreign Relations and the State Department, plans that were then implemented, establishing much of the framework of postwar history. In this new study, Shoup carries their inquiry forward with a very revealing account of how a small group of planners drawn from sectors of concentrated private and state power, closely linked, along with ‘experts’ whose commitments are congenial to their ends, have set the contours for much of recent history, not least the neoliberal assault that has had a generally destructive impact on populations while serving as an effective instrument of class war. A welcome and very valuable contribution.

—Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Laurence Shoup reveals, as nobody has before, the actual workings of the Council on Foreign Relations. He names the names, explores the connections, and details the penetration of this beast as it shapes and expresses the will of the United States ruling class in the period of its global hegemony. As this approaches its end, we may expect the Council to continue to play a decisive role. In any event, no one can claim to understand U.S. imperialism without reference to Shoup’s masterful work.

—Joel Kovel, author, The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World?

Lucidly written and deeply informed, this book reveals how the super-rich class organizes itself into a consciously directed, ruling plutocracy. Shoup offers a treasure of insights into a subject that seldom gets the attention it very much needs.

—Michael Parenti, author, The Face of Imperialism and Profit Pathology and Other Indecencies

This book will be a formidable resource for those looking for the ‘American’ fraction of the transnational capitalist class in an era when the hegemony of the U.S. state is being seriously challenged.

—Leslie Sklair, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics

Wall Street’s Think Tank is an invaluable supplement to Laurence Shoup’s earlier book, Imperial Brain Trust, as it chronicles the subsequent history and composition of the Council on Foreign Relations over the last five decades. It thus records how the CFR’s early advocacy of the Vietnam War led to a reversal in 1968 of both Council and U.S. policy, followed by a restructuring of the CFR itself. Did this mean that the CFR avoided the widespread campaign before 2003 to press America into another disastrous war in Iraq? Not at all: The CFR, as Shoup documents, played a leading role in this largely dishonest effort. Underlying both campaigns Shoup shows the on-going presence in the CFR of the international oil majors, as well as of related financial interests, such as the Rockefellers and their spokesmen. Shoup persuasively demonstrates how U.S. foreign policies are still (as in the 1950s) formulated at the CFR before they are adopted in Washington. While it may be more challenged than before by other think tanks, none can begin to match its international outreach. This is a must read for those wishing to understand the dynamics of U.S. hegemony.

—Peter Dale Scott, Professor Emeritus of English, University of California, Berkeley; author, The American Deep State

Praise for Imperial Brain Trust:
The first in-depth analysis of the activities and influence of the most important private institution in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy. Shoup and Minter’s work is based on detailed research, including examination of material hitherto unavailable to the public. This work will stand as a milestone.

—Library Journal

[A] masterpiece of documented analysis of one of the most successful influences on American national policy…. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, Wall Street’s Think Tank is an essential and strongly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections.

—Paul T. Vogel, The Midwest Book Review

Laurence H. Shoup received his Ph.D. in History from Northwestern University in 1974. He is the author of several books, including Imperial Brain Trust (with William Minter) and Rulers and Rebels: A People’s History of Early California, 1769-1901, as well as many articles in scholarly and popular publications. He has taught U.S. history at the University of Illinois, San Francisco State University, Sonoma State University, and has been active in the anti-war and social justice movements since the 1960s.

Source: Monthly Review

Sunday, January 17, 2016

La increíble y olvidada historia de los judíos que lucharon en la Guerra Civil española

La participación de los judíos venidos de Palestina en la Guerra Civil española ha sido ignorada tanto por sionistas como por comunistas. Su relato quita el hipo

Robert Capa inmortalizó la ceremonia de despedida de las Brigadas Internacionales.

Miguel Ayuso
Tags: Guerra Civil Palestina Guerra Historia Judaísmo

Tiempo de lectura11 min
17.01.2016 – 05:00 H.

La historia de las Brigadas Internacionales es bien conocida. Casi 60.000 voluntarios extranjeros de 54 países participaron en la Guerra Civil española para luchar contra el avance del fascismo en Europa. Lo que poca gente sabe es que entre 4.000 y 8.000 judíos participaron en la guerra y, de estos, casi 200 hombres y mujeres abandonaron Palestina –un lugar al que habían llegado huyendo del creciente antisemitismo de Europa– para luchar por los ideales comunistas y detener el avance de una ideología que amenazaba su misma existencia sobre la faz de la tierra.

La participación de los judíos venidos de Palestina en la Guerra Civil –que incluso se unieron a otros hebreos en su propio batallón, la Unidad Botwin–, fue sistemáticamente ignorada tanto por sionistas, que querían retener a los jóvenes en Palestina de cara a la formación del futuro estado de Israel (el 99% de los voluntarios tenían menos de 33 años), como por comunistas, que se oponían a la ocupación judía en la región. Sólo en años recientes han visto la luz un buen puñado de cartas que los brigadistas judíos enviaron a sus seres queridos. Y éstas ofrecen una nueva perspectiva de su experiencia en España.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Le origini culturali del nazismo

L'intento del libro Genocidio di Georges Bensoussan, ora tradotto in italiano, è indagare quali sono le origini culturali del nazismo: si occupa cosí di un tema classico nella storia delle idee, in cui questa disciplina dispiega la sua grande importanza per comprendere la storia, ma anche tutti i suoi trabocchetti e i suoi terreni scivolosi, tutte le sue soluzioni facili e ingannevoli.

È possibile trattare delle origini culturali del Terzo Reich solo se si è convinti che il fenomeno nazionalsocialista non rappresenti una malattia repentina nella storia tedesca, ma sia stato preparato da autori, temi, discussioni, che in qualche modo lo hanno reso possibile.

È opportuno chiedersi subito se "origini" sia da intendere come "cause": ricostruire le correnti intellettuali che stanno a monte della nascita del regime hitleriano significa rintracciare il punto di partenza di atteggiamenti, stili di pensiero, convinzioni, che hanno avuto quel regime come effetto? Ovvero: la storia delle idee può essere illuminata a posteriori dall'esito al quale le idee individuate come origini hanno condotto? La forza della cultura uscirebbe molto rinvigorita da una simile convinzione, ma anche con una responsabilità che non sappiamo quanto sia lecito attribuirle.

Il termine "origini" non si impegna in una simile affermazione, ma suggerisce in realtà, anche quando non lo dice in modo esplicito, che le premesse culturali sono essenziali nella formazione e nell'affermazione di un simile regime. Preparano il terreno indispensabile mettendo in circolazione questioni e accenti che formano il contenuto ideologico del regime a venire, predispongono ad ascoltare con attenzione e con favore parole d'ordine altrimenti inaccettabili, insegnano a non reagire in modo decisamente negativo ai provvedimenti del governo che assume il potere. In definitiva, ogni ricerca che si incammini per questa strada tenta di rintracciare quali parti delle premesse intellettuali siano state messe in pratica dal regime che poi si è affermato. Una volta che le ha identificate, definisce quelle parti come le origini culturali di tale regime.

Bensoussan rintraccia le origini culturali del nazismo in cinque correnti, che colloca tutte tra la seconda metà dell'Ottocento e gli anni Venti del Novecento: l'antilluminismo, il biologismo applicato alla storia e alla cultura, il culto della violenza, l'antisemitismo, il pessimismo culturale. Definisce il nazismo esclusivamente in termini di sterminio degli ebrei. Collega in modo stretto le correnti culturali che ha individuato con il nazismo cosí concepito. In questo percorso, a prima vista lineare, si nascondono più interrogativi che risposte, più soluzioni apparenti che indagini circostanziate, e a ogni proposta di spiegazione si affiancano altrettanti dubbi.

Iniziamo dall'antilluminismo: con questo termine Bensoussan intende la ripresa, alla fine del XIX secolo, del pessimismo radicale sulla natura umana (che proprio per questo esige il controllo sui cittadini da parte di uno stato forte) che era stato tipico degli autori controrivoluzionari, dei quali viene preso a esempio e tipo ideale Joseph de Maistre. Essi, a loro volta, basavano le loro teorie su un cristianesimo controriformista che vedeva il mondo invaso dal diavolo, destinato a una catastrofe, bisognoso di salvezza. Da qui deriverebbe il pessimismo culturale fin-de-siècle che vedeva il mondo sotto il segno della decadenza.

Peccato che le correnti culturali siano meno univoche di quanto possano apparire a prima vista. Proprio di uno dei maggiori illuministi, Voltaire, era la convinzione dell'esistenza delle razze e della gerarchia fra di esse, mentre non tutto il pensiero critico della Rivoluzione francese si fa ridurre a

reazione. Esiste anche la posizione liberalconservatrice espressa da uno dei primi e maggiori autori che riflettono criticamente sul 1789, Edmund Burke. Lo stesso vale per il pessimismo culturale: questo non era solo di matrice cristiana, come nel testo si sostiene, ma anche neopagana, vagamente spiritualista, e nient'affatto caratterizzata in senso religioso.

Ancor più difficile è identificare un suo preciso esito politico. La salvezza dal declino del mondo moderno era osservata da parti diverse, opposte: il presente veniva criticato perché troppo democratico o perché lo era troppo poco, perché troppo astratto o troppo concreto, perché impotente o perché malato di efficientismo; la salvezza dal declino era pensata come ancien régime o come un mondo di uomini liberi e uguali che potessero coltivare la loro anima.

Si può essere pessimisti sulla natura umana senza per questo vedere con favore le camere a gas, si può leggere nel mondo moderno un declino inarrestabile senza per questo sposare le ragioni dell'Olocausto. Inoltre, l'odio per la democrazia, lo spirito borghese, il parlamentarismo, proveniva in quel periodo da destra e da sinistra: e anche se sommiamo la critica alla democrazia con l'idea che l'uomo non sia buono per natura, e perfino con l'idea che la civiltà sia in una fase declinante, ciò che ne risulta non è necessariamente una posizione fascista (come Bensoussan afferma), ma semplicemente antimodernista.

È arduo sostenere che l'antimodernismo coincida con il fascismo, dal momento che l'equazione non torna da nessuna delle due parti. Da un lato il fascismo, cosí come il nazismo, fu anche fede nello sviluppo, nella creazione di uno stato e di un uomo nuovi, nell'industria, nel futuro, nella modernità; dall'altro, l'antimodernismo non è necessariamente la premessa del totalitarismo, tanto è vero che esiste anche un antimodernismo di sinistra.

Anche per quel che concerne il biologismo e il razzismo, che per Bensoussan preparano lo sterminio, le domande sono numerose. È vero che la cancellazione dell'umanità dell'uomo effettuata dal nazismo prende avvio dallo studio scientifico dell'essere umano che lo considera come un animale tra gli altri animali? Tutto il darwinismo sociale può essere considerato alla luce della soppressione dei deboli, di coloro che risultano perdenti nella lotta per la sopravvivenza applicata alla società? In un infiacchimento degli esseri umani credeva, a esempio, un autore come George Orwell, a proposito del quale è difficile parlare di simpatie naziste. Dell'onnipresenza dell'idea di razza nel periodo esaminato il volume offre un quadro inquietante, ma dubitiamo che l'idea di razza implicasse per tutti coloro che la utilizzavano una gerarchia fra le razze, un miglioramento da apportare a esse, la soppressione di una parte della popolazione.

Scrive Bensoussan: «Nel momento in cui la classe porta allo scontro (ma, anche, al compromesso), la razza genera l'idea di sterminio». Occorre notare che vi sono stati stermini (come quello staliniano) che non muovevano dall'idea di razza; vi sono stati scontri generati dalla prospettiva di classe che si sono tradotti in genocidi (si veda la Cambogia), mentre la razza, nella quale crede, non conduce tutta la cultura scientista di fine Ottocento al razzismo, tanto che molti positivisti sono sostenitori di un riformismo socialista che del darwinismo riprende solo l'evoluzione intesa come un progresso lento e inevitabile che elimina la necessità della rivoluzione.

Nelle premesse culturali del nazismo a essere in questione è la modernità: «L'ossessione della razza … è da mettere in relazione con la perdita dei punti di riferimento in un mondo diventato inintelligibile, e segna quella linea di sicurezza in un momento in cui ogni limite sembra svanire». Quasi che la responsabilità della centralità della razza in quel periodo sia da attribuire a un mondo che perdeva radici, sicurezza, si modificava troppo velocemente per gli esseri umani, lasciando una terra sconvolta e un cielo vuoto.

Bensoussan legge il pessimismo culturale in senso antiebraico poiché a suo parere fa dell'ebreo il simbolo della modernità. Ma il pessimismo culturale è decisamente critico di una modernità urbana, sradicata, artificiale: non è necessariamente antiebraico, cosí come non lo è l'antimodernismo. Per Oswald Spengler (uno dei maggiori esponenti del pessimismo culturale di quegli anni), il nomade

abitatore delle megalopoli contemporanee, sradicato da ogni terra, era il prototipo dell'uomo moderno, non dell'ebreo. Il fatto che antisemiti e critici della modernità di fine Ottocento dirigano i loro strali verso le stesse caratteristiche – urbanesimo, industrialismo, freddezza, impersonalità, artificialità crescente della vita – non autorizza a identificare le due correnti. Scrive Bensoussan: «Sinonimo di eredità da trasmettere, la razza è ciò che resta di fronte all'angoscia per l'opera distruttrice del tempo, e a maggior ragione sotto un cielo vuoto». Ma l'antisemitismo non è affatto un esito scontato di quell'atteggiamento che vede nella modernità una caduta. Si legge: «L'ebreo è necessario al nostro mondo, poiché la sua presunta malvagità cristallizza l'inquietudine sorta da un universo nuovo e incomprensibile». Certo, è innegabile che l'ebreo abbia fatto da capro espiatorio: come tutti i capri espiatori, ha compattato chi lo condannava e lo uccideva. Ma è possibile ricondurre l'antisemitismo al disagio della modernità? Se cosí fosse, perché ogni paese moderno non ha avuto il suo antisemitismo?

La sostanza del nazismo consiste, a giudizio dell'autore, nello sterminio degli ebrei, cioè nel genocidio del titolo. Ovvio che il razzismo, l'antigiudaismo, l'ideologia guerresca, il machismo, il darwinismo sociale, siano riconosciuti quali sue premesse. L'antigiudaismo caratterizza l'Occidente dal Medioevo in poi: resta da spiegare perché proprio in quel momento divenne un'idea-forza capace di tradursi nella tragedia della Shoah. Se quelle premesse sono pressoché tautologiche, siamo certi che il pessimismo culturale rappresenti una premessa altrettanto ovvia, altrettanto indiscutibile del nazismo? Il pessimismo culturale esprime una ripulsa della modernità e la convinzione che un'epoca dalle caratteristiche cosí negative condurrà a una fine dei tempi, a una catastrofe certa. È importante il tentativo di prendere sul serio questa corrente: ma si tratta di una corrente culturale assai composita, che da questa indagine risulta invece appiattita: è difficile, poi, indicare quale sia la sua traduzione politica, arduo addirittura affermare se ne abbia una. Peraltro, il pessimismo culturale non coincide completamente con l'impostazione che il nazionalsocialismo dà alla sua visione della storia né alla sua considerazione del progresso materiale, del valore dell'industrialismo e della modernità.

Come regime reale, il nazismo non poteva essere troppo nostalgico, e doveva, accanto al vagheggiamento di epoche più organiche, più comunitarie, più solidali, più artigianali nella storia del mondo, promuovere la propria industria per competere ad armi pari con le altre nazioni. La stessa cosa accade nel fascismo italiano, dove la contrapposizione fra un'epoca di crisi storica e di declino (che coincideva con l'epoca liberale, e anche con l'urbanesimo, il macchinismo, l'egoismo individualista) e un'epoca alta che coincideva con il fascismo e si caratterizzava con un ritorno alla terra, all'artigianato, al lavoro delle mani, alla corporazione medievale, doveva comunque fare i conti con la promozione della grande industria, di quelle macchine che sciupano il mondo e che erano tanto deprecate.

L'esaltazione della violenza e della guerra che Bensoussan individua nella cultura europea tra 1880 e 1914 può essere ricondotta per intero a preparazione del sistematico stato di eccezione del nazismo e alle sue violenze? Può essere ritenuta «la matrice di una brutalizzazione della società» accentuata poi dalla Grande Guerra? In verità, nell'esaltazione della violenza tra la fine del XIX e gli inizi del XX secolo confluiscono elementi molto diversi: il marxismo ortodosso che rifiuta il compromesso revisionista con il parlamentarismo, la lotta alla società borghese di Georges Sorel, l'anarchismo e i primi movimenti nazionalisti di massa. Dalla critica a una società che elimina dalla vita degli uomini la competizione e il progresso riducendoli a meccanismi tutti uguali, dal richiamo alla necessità della lotta anche cruenta, possono essere tratte conseguenze diverse: da un vitalismo individuale alla definizione del conflitto e della competizione come molle dello sviluppo, dall'esaltazione della selezione a favore dei migliori in quella lotta che è la vita al richiamo a non abbandonarsi agli automatismi sociali.

Le origini culturali del nazismo

GEORGE BENSOUSSAN, Genocidio. Una passione europea, a cura di Frediano Sessi, trad. di Carlo Saletti e Lanfranco Di Genio, Venezia, Marsilio, pp. 396

MICHELA NACCI insegna Storia delle dottrine politiche all'Università dell'Aquila. La sua opera più recente è Storia culturale della Repubblica (Bruno Mondadori, 2009).

Source: La Rivista dei Libri

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Götz Aly: «Todos los alemanes, nazis o no, sacaron provecho del asesinato expoliador»

Sostiene que «el cien por cien» de alemanes se acomodó al régimen nazi seducidos por prebendas y beneficios a costa del patrimonio robado a los judíos exterminados, deportados y en países ocupados
Actualizado 10/03/2006 - 09:47:26


MADRID. Tras el terremoto que desencadenó en Alemania, el profesor Götz Aly presenta en España «La utopía nazi» (Crítica). Aly relata para ABC las claves de cómo Hitler «compró» el silencio de los alemanes y cómo pudo suceder tanta locura, atrocidad y crimen:El asesinato expoliador: «Quienes se niegan a hablar de las ventajas dusfrutadas por millones de alemanes corrientes no deberían atreverse a hablar del nacionalsocialismo ni del Holocausto». Ningún régimen cometió tantos crímenes como el nazi. ¿El nacionalsocialismo y el Holocausto estaban intrínsecamente ligados a las prebendas que adquirieron la gran mayoría de alemanes? Sí, y sobre todo el pueblo llano. Eso no quiere decir que la gente adinerada no se hubiese beneficiado, pero es importante tener en cuenta que todos los alemanes, independientemente de si eran nazis o no, sacaron beneficio de esta política de la expoliación y del asesinato expoliador».

La «mesa judía»: «Los métodos de enriquecimiento eran muy modernos. El flujo del dinero. Las víctimas alemanas de los bombardeos británicos y estadounidenses fueron indemnizadas con los muebles de los judíos de Bélgica, Holanda, Francia o Luxemburgo. Era un beneficio bastante directo. También recibían ropa de judíos de Praga o de Viena. Yo tengo un tío que recibió una mesa y hasta el final de sus días la llamaba «la mesa judía».

El estraperlo: En los países ocupados, por ejemplo Francia, se expropiaban los bienes de los judíos y sus propiedades se vendían a ciudadanos franceses. Fíjese: no a alemanes, sino a franceses. Por lo tanto, superficialmente no había ningún alemán que sacaba beneficio, pero el dinero que se recaudaba con estas ventas de bienes expropiados iba al presupuesto de gastos de ocupación alemán, que era sumamente elevado. Todo este dinero que procedía de las expropiaciones de judíos franceses iba a parar ahí. Y todos los soldados alemanes desplegados en Francia recibían su buena paga en francos franceses. Con este dinero los soldados enviaban paquetes a Alemania, compraban vino francés... En todas las pagas había una parte que procedía de las expropiaciones de judíos. Con el dinero del presupuesto de gastos de ocupación los alemanes también compraban alimentos para Alemania. Parte del dinero con que se pagaban esos alimentos procedía asimismo de las expropiaciones judías».

Los «beneficiarios»: «El cien por cien de la población alemana se benefició de las prebendas del régimen nazi. En mi libro hablo del escritor alemán Heinrich Böll. Su familia era antinazi declarada, pero analizando sus cartas nos damos cuenta del beneficio que sacó la familia Böll a costa de los países europeos ocupados».

El antisemitismo: «Los alemanes que hicieron posible el nazismo «actuaron» para beneficiarse económicamente de la trágica situación. Pero nunca hay que crear una oposición de los argumentos ideológico y material. Yo no estoy diciendo que el antisemitismo no tuviera importancia, sino que fue uno de los elementos que hizo posible ese régimen. La política social del régimen nazi en beneficio del pueblo llano fue otro factor».

Las «medidas» del genocida: «El carisma de Hitler era menos importante que el aspecto económico. Durante la Guerra pronunció muy pocos discursos, pero aumentó las jubilaciones en un 15 por ciento, incrementó los sueldos y salarios e hizo que el alemán medio no tuviera que pagar ningún impuesto de guerra. Y esto ayudó a estabilizar la situación. También creó un sentimiento de «justicia social» en Alemania. Por ejemplo, en los 12 años del régimen nazi en ningún momento hubo un aumento de los impuestos para la clase obrera, mientras que el impuesto de sociedades en 1933 era del 20 por ciento y en 1942 se elevaba al 55 por ciento. Es decir, más del 50 por ciento subió el impuesto de sociedades. Las empresas, a pesar de ello, tuvieron beneficios en la guerra, pero no hay que subestimar el efecto público de esta medida. Son métodos del moderno Estado Social redistribuidor».

¿Qué rastro queda hoy de Hitler en Alemania? «Muchos. El boletín en el que se publicaban las leyes del Reich alemán, después de 1945, siguió teniendo vigencia en un 90 por ciento. Aunque parezca increíble decirlo y nos de escalofrío, al régimen de Hitler le debemos muchas cosas que hoy en día nos parecen totalmente normales. Por ejemplo: el régimen agrario de la Unión Europea, que proporcionaba garantías y subvenciones tan elevadas a los agricultores. Eso se inventó en 1934 en Alemania para los agricultores alemanes. En la Europa ocupada se crearon muchos impuestos que no existían en el resto de países. También se le debe una parte de las leyes sociales en Alemania, la normativa de circulación de tráfico, la nueva ley de sociedades anónimas, acabar con las grandes propiedades de los terratenientes, con los latifundistas, los fideicomisos...

Contra el olvido: «Hay que ayudar a las víctimas del terror nazi escribiendo y dándoles voz para que puedan pronunciarse. Es muy importante que no simplifiquemos el Holocausto. No sucedió al margen de la Historia. Tenemos que aproximarlo y analizarlo porque es el resultado de un Estado ultramoderno y superdesarrollado con un alto grado de distribución de las tareas y muy bien organizado».

Source: ABC (España)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Father of Koch Brothers Helped Build Nazi Oil Refinery, Book Says


The father of the billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch helped construct a major oil refinery in Nazi Germany that was personally approved by Adolf Hitler, according to a new history of the Kochs and other wealthy families.

The book, “Dark Money,” by Jane Mayer, traces the rise of the modern conservative movement through the activism and money of a handful of rich donors: among them Richard Mellon Scaife, an heir to the Mellon banking fortune, and Harry and Lynde Bradley, brothers who became wealthy in part from military contracts but poured millions into anti-government philanthropy.

But the book is largely focused on the Koch family, stretching back to its involvement in the far-right John Birch Society and the political and business activities of the father, Fred C. Koch, who found some of his earliest business success overseas in the years leading up to World War II. One venture was a partnership with the American Nazi sympathizer William Rhodes Davis, who, according to Ms. Mayer, hired Mr. Koch to help build the third-largest oil refinery in the Third Reich, a critical industrial cog in Hitler’s war machine.

David H. Koch, left, and Charles G. Koch
Paul Vernon/Associated Press; Bo Rader/The Wichita Eagle, via Associated Press
The episode is not mentioned in an online history published by Koch Industries, the company that Mr. Koch later founded and passed on to his sons.

Ken Spain, a spokesman for Koch Industries, said company officials had declined to participate in Ms. Mayer’s book and had not yet read it.

“If the content of the book is reflective of Ms. Mayer’s previous reporting of the Koch family, Koch Industries or Charles’s and David’s political involvement, then we expect to have deep disagreements and strong objections to her interpretation of the facts and their sourcing,” Mr. Spain said.

Ms. Mayer, a staff writer at The New Yorker, presents the Kochs and other families as the hidden and self-interested hands behind the rise and growth of the modern conservative movement. Philanthropists and political donors who poured hundreds of millions of dollars into think tanks, political organizations and scholarships, they helped win acceptance for anti-government and anti-tax policies that would protect their businesses and personal fortunes, she writes, all under the guise of promoting the public interest.

The Kochs, the Scaifes, the Bradleys and the DeVos family of Michigan “were among a small, rarefied group of hugely wealthy, archconservative families that for decades poured money, often with little public disclosure, into influencing how the Americans thought and voted,” the book says.

Many of the families owned businesses that clashed with environmental or workplace regulators, come under federal or state investigation, or waged battles over their tax bills with the Internal Revenue Service, Ms. Mayer reports. The Kochs’ vast political network, a major force in Republican politics today, was “originally designed as a means of off-loading the costs of the Koch Industries environmental and regulatory fights onto others” by persuading other rich business owners to contribute to Koch-controlled political groups, Ms. Mayer writes, citing an associate of the two brothers.

Mr. Scaife, who died in 2014, donated upward of a billion dollars to conservative causes, according to “Dark Money,” which cites his own unpublished memoirs. Mr. Scaife was driven in part, Ms. Mayer writes, by a tax loophole that granted him his inheritance tax free through a trust, so long as the trust donated its net income to charity for 20 years. “Isn’t it grand how tax law gets written?” Mr. Scaife wrote.

In Ms. Mayer’s telling, the Kochs helped bankroll — through a skein of nonprofit organizations with minimal public disclosure — decades of victories in state capitals and in Washington, often leaving no fingerprints. She credits groups financed by the Kochs and their allies with providing support for the Tea Party movement, along with the public relations strategies used to shrink public support for the Affordable Care Act and for President Obama’s proposals to mitigate climate change.

The Koch network also provided funding to fine-tune budget proposals from Representative Paul D. Ryan, such as cuts to Social Security, so they would be more palatable to voters, according to the book. The Kochs were so influential among conservative lawmakers, Ms. Mayer reports, that in 2011, Representative John A. Boehner, then the House speaker, visited David Koch to ask for his help in resolving a debt ceiling stalemate.

“Dark Money” also contains revelations from a private history of the Kochs commissioned by David’s twin brother, William, during a lengthy legal battle with Charles and David over control of Koch Industries.

Ms. Mayer describes a sealed 1982 deposition in which William Koch recalled participating in an attempt by Charles and David to blackmail their fourth and eldest brother, Frederick, into relinquishing any claim to the family business by threatening to tell their father that he was gay.

David Koch has since described himself as socially liberal and as a supporter of same-sex marriage.


Correction: January 12, 2016
An earlier version of a capsule summary for this article misspelled the surname of the author of a new book about the history of the Koch family. She is Jane Mayer, not Meyer.

Source: New York Times

Koch Executive Disputes Book’s Account of Founder’s Role in Nazi Refinery (NY Times)
Review: Jane Mayer’s ‘Dark Money,’ About the Koch Brothers’ Fortune and Influence (NY Times)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Hitler, Mein Kampf. A critical edition

From the satirical weekly Simplicissimus,
31st August 1925 (in Bavarian dialect):
"The booklet costs twelve Marks? A
little expensive, neighbour...You
don't have any matches by chance?"
On 31 December 2015, 70 years after Hitler’s death, the copyright will expire on his book Mein Kampf. Immediately after that expiration date, the Institute for Contemporary History intends to present to the public an annotated critical edition of this work.

Central in critical commentary are the deconstruction and contextualisation of Hitler’s book. How did his theses arise? What aims was he pursuing in writing Mein Kampf? What social support did Hitler’s assertions have among his contemporaries? What consequences did his claims and asseverations have after 1933? And in particular: given the present state of knowledge, what can we counterpose to Hitler’s innumerable assertions, lies and expressions of intent?

This is not only a task for historiography. In the view of the powerful symbolic value still attached to Hitler’s book, the task of demystifying Mein Kampf is also a contribution to historical information and political education.

What is Mein Kampf?

Mein Kampf is Hitler’s most important programmatic text. He composed it between 1924 and 1926 in two volumes. In a strongly stylized form, Volume 1 centres on Hitler’s biography and the early history of the Nazi party (NSDAP) and its predecessor organization, the German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, DAP). Volume 2 mainly deals with the political programme of the National Socialists. Large sections of Volume 1 were written during Hitler’s incarceration in Landsberg am Lech subsequent to his abortive coup attempt in November 1923. Its failure, his imprisonment and the prohibition of the NSDAP interrupted Hitler’s political career. He utilised this time in order to weld everything that he had previously experienced, read and thought into an ideology in written form, and to develop a new perspective and strategy for his now outlawed party. After his release from prison, Hitler wrote much of the second volume at his mountain retreat in Obersalzberg. Once Hitler was installed as Reich Chancellor in January 1933, sales of the book skyrocketed, and it became a bestseller. Down to 1945, it was translated into 18 languages and 12 million copies were sold.

After Hitler’s suicide and the collapse of the Nazi regime in 1945, the victorious Allied powers transferred the rights to Hitler’s book to the Free State of Bavaria. The Bavarian state government then repeatedly employed the copyright in its possession to prevent any new printing of the work. But with the expiration of the copyright 70 years after Hitler’s death, effective 1 January 2016, this legal instrument is no longer available.

Why a critical scholarly edition?

Mein Kampf is one of the central source documents of National Socialism. Writing in 1981, the historian Eberhard Jäckel stressed its importance and impact: ‘Perhaps never in history did a ruler write down before he came to power what he was to do afterwards as precisely as Adolf Hitler. For that reason alone, the document deserves attention. Otherwise the early notes and accounts, speeches and books that Hitler wrote would at best be solely of biographical interest. It is only their translation into reality that raises them to the level of a historical source’.

Hitler’s politics, the war and crimes he initiated, changed the world completely. It was for that reason that all extant texts he authored – his speeches, his early notes and observations, his conversations with diplomats, his ‘monologues’ in the Führer Headquarters, his instructions for the conduct of the war and finally likewise his last will and testament − were published long ago. By contrast, we still have no scholarly edited critical version of the most extensive of Hitler’s writings, and also to a certain extent his most personal. Since the war’s end, Mein Kampf has only been published in extracts in Germany – a gap that has long been considered a desideratum in research on National Socialism.

The aim of this edition is thus to present Mein Kampf as a salient source document for contemporary history, to describe the context of the genesis of Hitler’s worldview, to reveal his predecessors in thought and mentality as well to contrast his ideas and assertions with the findings of modern research.

In preparing scholarly editions of National Socialist texts, the Institute for Contemporary History can point to a varied and wide-ranging expertise: for example, the collection of Hitlers Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen 1925-1933 (Hitler’s Speeches, Writings and Directives, 1925-1933), published between 1991 and 1998/2003, encompasses 12 volumes. In 1961, the Institute for Contemporary History also published Hitler’s Zweites Buch (Second Book). In the 1990s the Institute brought out the diaries of Joseph Goebbels and recently published the diaries of the NSDAP ‘chief ideologue’, Alfred Rosenberg. For that reason, it is only consistent if now the Institute also takes up this challenge of a critical edition of Mein Kampf, dealing with a textual source that certainly does not present itself like other historical documents. Rather, what is necessary, along with sober and precise scholarly expertise, is a critical encounter with Hitler’s text, in sum: an edition with a point of view.

A contribution to political education

Preparing scientific commentary on Mein Kampf is not only a scholarly task. There is hardly any book that is more overladen with such a multitude of myths, that awakens such disgust and anxiety, that ignites curiosity and stirs speculation, while simultaneously exuding an aura of the mysterious and forbidden – a taboo that can prove for some commercially lucrative.

Consequently, this critical edition of Mein Kampf also views itself as a contribution to historical-political information and education. It seeks to thoroughly deconstruct Hitler's propaganda in a lasting manner and thus to undermine the still effective symbolic power of the book. In this way, it also makes it possible to counter an ideological-propagandistic and commercial misuse of Mein Kampf.

After all, despite all the debates about republication, Hitler’s book has long been accessible in a variety of ways: on the shelves of used book shops, in legally printed English translation or a mouse click away on the Internet – Mein Kampf is out there and every year manages to find new readers, agitators and commercial profiteers.

For that reason as well, the task of a annotated critical edition is to render the debate objective and to put forward a serious alternative, a counter-text to the uncritical and unfiltered dissemination of Hitler’s propaganda, lies, half-truths and vicious tirades. The scholarly edition prepared by the Institute for Contemporary History is oriented to political education, and thus consciously seeks in form and style to reach a broad readership. By means of a kind of ‘framing’ of the original text in the form of an introduction and detailed commentary, a subtext to Mein Kampf is constructed. Through these annotations, it quickly becomes clear how Hitler’s ideology arose, just how selective and distorted his perception of reality was, and and it becomes possible to show the link between its formulation in Mein Kampf and the political practice and its terrible consequences after 1933.

How do the editors work?
Nazi period advertisment: "The
Book of the Germans. Adolf Hitler:
Mein Kampf. Eher Verlag [Eher
Publishing]. Distribution 4 million"

Two historians, under the direction of Christian Hartmann, are currently at work in the Institute for Contemporary History on the critical edition of Mein Kampf. They are structuring the original text by providing explanatory introductions to each individual chapter; through more than 3,500 annotations, they address a broad spectrum of variegated tasks by providing:
  1. Objective information on persons and events described
  2. Clarification of central ideological concepts
  3. Disclosure of the source materials Hitler utilised
  4. Explanation of the roots of various concepts in the history of ideas
  5. Contextualisation of aspects contemporaneous to the text
  6. Correction of errors and one-sided accounts
  7. Development of a perspective on the consequences of Hitler’s book
  8. New contributions in relevant fundamental research

Unusually in the context of an edition of a book, the editorial team is also examining the period after 1933, thus comparing Hitler’s programmatic ideas with his political actions in the time period 1933-1945.

The core editorial team, which in the peak phase of its work on the edition consisted of five historians, is further supported by experts from a number of other scientific fields in order to better evaluate Hitler’s myriad assertions in the light of the findings of modern research. To that end, external interdisciplinary advisors have also been consulted from a range of scholarly disciplines, including German Studies, human genetics, Japanology, Jewish Studies, art history, the educational sciences and economic history.

The team at the Institute for Contemporary History also encompasses special editorial staff for copy-editing and manuscript preparation, indexing and the precise textual comparison of seven select printings of Mein Kampf, along with a number of student assistants. Besides, the team is additionally able to benefit significantly from the broad professional infrastructure of the entire Institute for Contemporary History, with its many staff members specialized in research on the period of National Socialism, and its wealth of relevant library and archival resources.

In order to retain all areas of copyright, and also to counter possible commercial utilisation of this sensitive topic, Hitler, Mein Kampf – eine kritische Edition is to be self-published directly by the Institute for Contemporary History. The scheduled date of publication will be immediately after expiration of the original copyright in January 2016.

Current information on the debate regarding the publication of Mein Kampf can be found here:

Mein Kampf in public discussion

Hitler, Mein Kampf. A Critical Edition - in German

Direct acquisition and pre-orders

BUGRIM Verlagsauslieferung
Saalburgstr. 3
12099 Berlin

Tel.: 0049-30-606 84 57
Fax: 0049-30-606 34 76

E-Mail: bugrim[at]
Download an information leaflet on the edition (in German).

ed. on behalf of the Institute for Contemporary History
Munich – Berlin by Christian Hartmann, Thomas Vordermayer, Othmar Plöckinger, Roman Töppel
with contributions by Edith Raim, Pascal Trees, Angelika Reizle, Martina Seewald-Mooser

Munich 2016
ISBN 978-3-9814052-3-1

approx. 2000 pages, with coloured illustrations, bound, cloth, without dust jacket
59,- Euro (D)

Publication date:
Available in bookstores as of January 2016

Press enquiries:

Simone Paulmichl
Head of Press & Public Relations

Source: Institut für Zeitgeschichte website

Friday, January 8, 2016

La guerra civil de Pérez-Reverte

Una vez más, España demuestra no ser un país como los de nuestro entorno. En otros países no sería pensable un libro como el que ha escrito Arturo Pérez-Reverte sobre la guerra civil

Presentación del libro "La guerra civil contada a los jóvenes" de Arturo Pérez-Reverte. (EFE)
Juan Carlos Monedero
Arturo Pérez Reverte - Guerra Civil - Juan Carlos Monedero
Tiempo de lectura11 min
08.01.2016 – 12:03 H.

España no es un país como los de nuestro entorno. En los países de nuestro entorno no podría ser Presidente alguien que manda un sms a su tesorero encarcelado diciéndole “sé fuerte”. En los países de nuestro entorno no sería pensable un libro como el que ha escrito Arturo Pérez-Reverte sobre la guerra civil. Precisamente por estar dirigido a los jóvenes. Los jóvenes españoles, en otro país, tendrían una clara referencia de la guerra civil desde la escuela. De la misma manera que tienen claro en Alemania lo que significó el nazismo y lo estudian no solamente para no repetirlo sino que lo recuerdan para elogiar a las víctimas y colocar en su panteón de héroes a los que combatieron el totalitarismo. Igual que en Italia estudian desde niños la locura del fascismo de Mussolini o en Francia aprenden a respetar a la Resistencia que luchó contra los nazis y los colaboracionistas.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Who’s Afraid of Mein Kampf?

A copy of Adolf Hitler's book Mein Kampf from 1940 in Berlin, Germany
Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters
As Hitler's infamous book enters the public domain, its history shows that censorship can't stop dangerous ideas.

Steven Luckert Dec 31, 2015 Global

Adolf Hitler’s notorious book is about to get a new lease on life. The copyright for Mein Kampf, which has been held for 70 years by the government of the German state of Bavaria, expires at midnight on December 31, 2015. From that moment on, any publisher interested in reprinting the Nazi leader’s virulently anti-Semitic, racist tome will be free to do so.

That realization has spawned understandable fears, especially in Germany itself, where the work has been banned since the author’s death. But in January it will be republished in the country for the first time since World War II ended, albeit in heavily annotated form. Some worry that Mein Kampf will once again be a bestseller in the lands where the Holocaust occurred, a symbolic posthumous victory for its author. At a time when anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia are on the rise in Europe, its republication could foment ethnic and religious hatred. The growth of militant populist right-wing parties throughout Europe, including in Germany, shows that such fears have a basis in fact.
Related Story

Understanding Hitler’s Anti-Semitism

But the history of the book, and of Hitler’s words more generally, demonstrates that there’s no clear-cut relationship between banning speech and halting the spread of ideas. The Nazi party grew despite Germany’s early efforts to curb Hitler’s speech; by the same token, today, his ideas are repudiated around the world despite being more widely accessible than ever before. The story is instructive as Europe and the United States continue to grapple with the question of how to combat newer extremist ideologies.

This is not the first time that Hitler’s words have generated public concern. Following his conviction for high treason in 1924, various German state governments barred the Nazi leader from public speaking for several years. It was during this low time in his political career that he penned Mein Kampf. The overpriced book was not an immediate bestseller; its sales dramatically increased only when the Nazi Party rose from insignificance to political prominence after 1930. By the end of 1932, close to 230,000 copies had been sold.

The Great Depression created a conducive environment for Nazi messaging. Millions of Germans cast their votes for the extremist movement, but the vast majority of them had neither read Mein Kampf nor subscribed to a Nazi newspaper. The Nazis reached huge audiences with much more appealing propaganda. Hitler the orator influenced far greater numbers than Hitler the writer. It was only after he came to power in 1933 that Mein Kampf became a staple on German bookshelves. Thereafter, Germany rapidly became a closed marketplace of ideas, where censorship and book banning ruled and anti-Semitism and racism were unassailable tenets of the new regime.

Today, Mein Kampf is available in more languages and countries than it was during the Nazi era. With only a few keystrokes one can download a copy, in any one of a variety of languages, off the Internet for free. Neo-Nazis—or ISIS fanatics, or any other extremists—haven’t had to wait until 2016 to get the text, and legal prohibitions haven’t stopped anyone from obtaining or disseminating it: If people want it, they already have it.

Moreover, the Bavarian government’s record of enforcing copyright has been spotty at best, and not due to a lack of effort. In countries where its legal authority was recognized, republication of Mein Kampf was denied. Yet in the Middle East, and even in some European countries, some publishers just thumbed their noses at German copyright law.

In the United States, Mein Kampf has never been prohibited, though some Jewish organizations opposed the sale of the book in 1933, at a time when populist demagogues were spreading their vitriolic anti-Semitism. Mein Kampf was not even banned when the United States went to war against Nazi Germany. In fact, the book’s U.S. publisher, Houghton Mifflin, urged Americans to study Mein Kampf as part of their patriotic responsibilities, and advertised it in The New York Times Book Review in 1944.

U.S. agencies analyzed the book to understand what made Hitler tick and how to best reform German society after the war. Members of the American public, too, tried to better understand the nature of the enemy by perusing Mein Kampf. In early 1939, just months before war broke out in Europe, an unabridged, critical, annotated English edition appeared in American bookshops. Libraries acquired multiple copies of Mein Kampf to feed the demand, and GIs slogged through it on military bases. Its availability did nothing to change American public opinion in favor of Nazi Germany.
The death and destruction caused by the Nazi regime did more to discredit Mein Kampf than any ban.

However, in postwar Germany, the Allies, including the United States, took a hard line on Mein Kampf. They banned the book and made its dissemination a criminal offense. At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, Soviet, British, and American leaders had pledged “to destroy German militarism and Nazism and to ensure that Germany will never again be able to disturb the peace of the world.” To this end, Allied occupation forces dissolved and prohibited the Nazi Party and affiliated organizations and revoked Nazi laws. They also ordered the removal of all Nazi and militarist propaganda from German public life.

As part of this policy, American authorities in Germany pulped tons of Nazi literature, including Mein Kampf, to print new textbooks, newspapers, and other materials. In October 1945, American military officials staged an impressive ceremony before newsreel cameras in which the lead type used to print Mein Kampf was melted down to produce page plates for the first postwar German newspaper in the U.S. zone.

By March 1947, the cleansing of Nazi literature from German public life was so successful that Library of Congress staff complained that—despite the millions of copies of Mein Kampf that had been printed by the Nazis—they couldn’t find 150 copies for transport to American universities.

The thoroughness of the Allied purge of Hitler’s words reflects just how dangerous occupation authorities thought they were in postwar Germany. Prosecutors at the Nuremberg trials cited Hitler’s magnum opus as evidence that Germany’s leaders had conspired to commit crimes against humanity. Major F. Elwyn Jones, junior counsel for the United Kingdom, described Hitler’s book as key to understanding the Nazis’ plans for genocide: “From Mein Kampf the way leads directly to the furnaces of Auschwitz and the gas chambers of Maidanek.[sic].”

But Germany today is a very different place, and so is the world. The death and destruction caused by the Nazi regime did more to discredit Mein Kampf than any ban. In seven decades of democracy, Germans have been exposed to both Hitler’s words and Hitler’s crimes in films, print, and school. Neither the release of his unpublished second book in 1961, nor that of a mammoth edition of his collected speeches in the 1990s, triggered a major resurgence of Nazism in Germany or elsewhere.

Given Germany’s past, and the critical role the ideology expressed in Mein Kampf played in the Nazi destruction of European Jewry, vigilance is entirely appropriate. Understandably, some Holocaust survivors and organizations, such as the World Jewish Congress, have called for a continued ban on republishing the book. Germany’s Central Council of Jews has taken a different position, arguing that although the lapse of Mein Kampf ‘s copyright represents a potential danger, knowledge of the text is essential for understanding the Holocaust and National Socialism, and that the organization would not oppose the publication of the new critical, annotated edition published by Munich’s respected Institute of Contemporary History.

Sensitive to these concerns, German authorities have taken precautions to mitigate the threat when Mein Kampf’s copyright expires. Several German state officials have indicated that they will prohibit any editions designed to incite racial, ethnic, or religious hatred under the nation’s strict laws on dangerous speech.
With the rapid expansion of the Internet, it is nearly impossible to suppress the spread of ideas, both good and bad.

Other German representatives believe that using selected excerpts from the critical edition of Mein Kampf will help to immunize young people from extremism. Josef Kraus, the longtime president of Germany’s teachers’ association, has pointed out that keeping silent or banning the book could have more dangerous consequences than publishing it. In today’s environment, it is better to discuss Mein Kampf openly and critically in the classroom than to have curious students seek it out on the Internet, where teachers will have no chance of influencing them.

The public debate about Mein Kampf raises a much broader question on how best to confront dangerous propaganda in today’s constantly changing information environment. With the rapid expansion of the Internet, and social media in particular, it is nearly impossible to fully suppress the spread of ideas, both good and bad. ISIS, for example, has repeatedly displayed its ability to disseminate its pernicious messages globally, even when governments or media providers take down the group’s videos or tweets. Tech-savvy extremists know how to navigate the deep labyrinths of the web to find new venues from which to transmit hate. Finding appropriate ways of addressing this problem is now the world’s collective challenge. Censorship is too feeble a weapon to defeat dangerous speech.

Source: The Atlantic

Monday, January 4, 2016

Michael S. Bryant. Confronting the "Good Death": Nazi Euthanasia on Trial, 1945-1953

Unpunished and Unreformed

Michael S. Bryant's Confronting the "Good Death" is a legal history of the postwar Nazi euthanasia trials conducted from 1945 until 1953 by U.S. and German courts in what would become the Federal Republic of Germany. In the Nazi context, euthanasia, of course, meant the murder of mentally and physically ill people without their request or consent. Meaningful legal confrontation after the war, Bryant shows, was short-lived and seriously flawed. His thesis is that the reason for the failure of various courts to punish the killers lies in the fact that "[f]or both Americans and West Germans, concerns about preserving or recuperating sovereign power consistently bedeviled the neutral quest for justice" (p. 2).

In the first chapter, Bryant provides a concise history of the Nazi euthanasia program and its administration. The chapter begins by describing the ways in which competition for scarce material and human resources during the First World War devalued the lives of mental patients, and extends beyond the Nazi killing of the mentally ill and weak to the elimination of any "life unworthy of life," including German women traumatized by allied bombing, tubercular Russian laborers, Jews, and Gypsies. This background chapter, based on existing historiography, emphasizes continuities in personnel, technologies of killing, victim control techniques, and rationalization processes that extended the moral possibility of mass murder from euthanasia to the Holocaust.

Bryant underscores the economic rationale behind the destruction of those who euthanasia proponents regarded as "useless eaters." This was indeed a critical consideration, particularly in connection with allocating resources in anticipation for and during war. However, since both the allied and German courts took pains to consider the motivations behind the perpetrators' actions, it would have been helpful if Bryant had given more attention to the larger racial ideology behind eugenics. The mentally ill and retarded were deemed not only useless, but also genetically dangerous, and this was important to the medical killers who saw themselves as physicians to the nation first and to the individual patient only secondly. Racial ideology, not merely "uselessness," was even more of a factor in the deaths of other groups that Nazis marked for mass murder. A more extensive treatment of ideological motives could have set the stage for a useful discussion of comparisons between racial hygiene programs targeting "worthless" Germans and those aimed at perceived racial outsiders. Most outsider groups were, as Bryant points out, able-minded and able-bodied who could, and often did, contribute useful work to the Nazis and their war effort.

Bryant's own research forms the basis of chapters 2 through 5, which treat the U.S. euthanasia trials from 1945 through 1947 and the German trials in three different phases from 1946 through 1953. The study focuses narrowly on a close reading of the texts created by the trials themselves--transcripts and verdicts--in search of evidence of extrajudicial influences on their outcomes.

Bryant describes two sets of U.S. euthanasia trials. The United States Army conducted the first set in October 1945 against members of the medical staff of the Hadmar killing center in Hesse-Nassau. The second set was part of the Nuremberg medical trials between November 1946 and August 1947. In both instances, the defendants were charged with war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity. The last category was not defined until the Allies created and agreed to the London Charter in August 1945. Unlike German courts that began trying euthanasia cases in 1946, U.S. courts apparently had few qualms about invoking an ex post facto law against Nazi murderers. However, they were extremely hesitant to put Germany's internal domestic affairs on trial, because, Bryant claims, they did not want to establish a precedent that in the future could subject the United States to a similar international tribunal which would undermine its sovereignty. To get around the sovereignty issue, the United States interpreted euthanasia (as well as other National Socialist atrocities) as an extension of aggressive war by claiming that disabled persons were killed in order to dedicate medical supplies, hospital spaces, and personnel to a grand plan of subjugating the people of Europe. To attach this war-related motive to individual perpetrators, they then adopted the questionable tactic of holding all members of criminal organizations (like the Nazi Party) jointly and severally liable for the same grand conspiracy against peace.

Bryant's thesis is difficult to prove with the types of sources he uses. None of the trial records or the correspondence between various actors actually states that the main reason for the circuitous prosecution strategies chosen was to preserve or regain state sovereignty. However, it is plausible enough in the American case, given the U.S. history of avoiding such challenges to its autonomy from international organizations. It is less convincing for the Germany, where there were simply too many additional motives, and too many personal and group interests militating against conviction to assign precedence to national sovereignty. Among other factors, the author lists confusion over investigative and court jurisdictions, statutes of limitations, the feeling among many Germans that Allied war crime trials were enforcing a mere "victor's justice," the desire of both Germans and Americans to tie Germany firmly to the West during the Cold War, and Konrad Adenauer's insistence on reintegrating former Nazis into the German civil service, including the judiciary.

Reservations aside, Confronting the "Good Death" is an important book that deserves a wide readership. Despite the fact that Americans and Germans started out determined to see Nazi atrocities revealed and punished, both quickly abandoned vigorous prosecution. The contorted legal logic that ultimately led courts to exonerate and even commend men and women, who in some cases had murdered hundreds of helpless patients with their own hands, is astounding. Anyone interested in broad issues surrounding the administration of international justice; medical ethics; human rights; tensions between morality, law, and politics; or the ways that societies retrospectively deal with wartime atrocities will find a compelling case study in Bryant's work.

Michael S. Bryant. Confronting the "Good Death": Nazi Euthanasia on Trial, 1945-1953. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2005. x + 269 pp. (cloth), ISBN 978-0-87081-809-7.

Reviewed by Lora Knight (Department of History, Southern Virginia University)
Published on H-Eugenics (January, 2008)

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Citation: Lora Knight. Review of Bryant, Michael S., Confronting the "Good Death": Nazi Euthanasia on Trial, 1945-1953. H-Eugenics, H-Net Reviews. January, 2008.

Source: H-Net/H-Eugenics