Like everyone else in the Holocaust business, we have followed the events surrounding the rising of a mediatic star known as Jonah Goldhagen. On his book, it was easy to detrermine, even before it had been made available to us, that is was just another piece of crap. We could hear what most of the scholars, among those with whom we entertain the deepest disagreements, were saying. A further examination of the book itself and the elements of the controversy fully confirmed that Goldhagen was the type of unidimensional mind that any science rejects with a smile. In German they called it "monokausal"!! This poor fellow has dug in the traditional anti-Germanism the idea that ordinary German have been rabidly antisemites and full of an active hate that made them kill Jews with pleasure. In the process, he suggests to reevaluate the whole German history, presumably since Tacitus onwards. The word "crazy" is not ours: it will be found in the review published by the old-established New Left Review, in which we had many friends, in London.
The thesis of the book is not only ridiculous but plainly false. Almost all scholars agree on this. So, there should not be any problem. But the success story of the book raises two problems. First, the divorce between those "who know", who have condemned the wunderkind as a plagiarist and a monomaniac, with formidable arguments, and those who do not know, who have supported him without reservation. This was perfectly epitomized at the meeting which hwas held in 1996 at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, meeting on which we'll provide some information. The speakers bashed Goldhagen on the head. The crowd, made up of young Jewish HMM customers, applauded Goldie frenetically. This we could see in Europe on a German TV channel. The press -- which is the ultimate refinement in ignorance --, the community leaders, the Jewish militants all were raptuously enjoying the single explanation that explained everuthing of the past: the Germans were bad. Many of those who had never before considered such a stupid creed were now engulfed by the wave of the Goldimania that swept the press. Reviews were published everywhere. We could then see that those who are supposed to know, and to whom we address so many critical commentaries, have almost no weight, at least on the American scene.
Although it is difficult to gauge the real effect on the population at large, at least we could see that the mediatic world was swept away by a Jewish desire to demonize Germany, half a century after WWII.
The second problem has been the behavior of the Germans themselves. The very first reviews of the book were rather negative. Buit very soon, more enthusiatic comments cropped up in the German Press. A German edition was prepared. And His Holiness Goldie hismself visited Germany in the summer of 1996. It was a complete success. Critics had to shut up. Goldie spoke to packed audiences and the sales rocketted. The way that the Germans have thus internalized the American arrogance and the Jewish guilt-making is quite astonishing. We remind of course what Jurgen Habermas said during the Historikerstreit (Quarrel of the Historians): "The only patriotism which does not make us foreign to the West is the constitutional patriotism", i.e. rooted not in a country, a history, a tradition, but in an abstract set of laws (Die Zeit, 11 July 1986). The result of half a century of political reeducation shows that most Germans have been brain-damaged. Much more in the West that in the East. The gullibility of the new generations has reached unknown summits. They buy any stuff that says they are, still today, unredeemable criminals. Nobody knows what the long term effect of such an unprecedented collective masochism will have, and its backlash when it comes.
We cannot exclude the possibility that Goldie is mentally sick, with some kind of sexual deviation, as shown by these lines:
"The Germans (male anf female guards in the Helmbrechts Camp) made love in barracks next to enormous privation and incessant cruelty. What did they talk about when their heads rested quietly on their pillows, when they were smoking their cigarettes in those relaxing moments after their physical needs had been met? Did one relate to another accounts of a particularly amusing beating that she or he had administered or observed, of the rush of power that engulfed her when the righteous adrenalin of Jew-beating caused her body to pulse with energy?" (p. 339).
While keeping an eye on the developments, we did not intervene. We had more pressing demands. But recently two reviews of the book appeared which we believe are extremely well-done and reach the bottom of the Goldhagen bag. We thought our readers would be interested by them, knowing perfectly well that their authors are not revisionists, at least in our sense of the word; but we are not sectarian. We are interested in good scholarship, serious work and the refusal of ideological comitments to support the last totalitarianism of our time which has transformed Palestine into a vast concentration camp (with millions of Polish, German, Ukrainian and Russian guards).
We thus have some material in the matter of reviewing Goldie's book in several critical manners:
Raul Hilberg, our old acquaintance wrote a small piece to please his disciple Claude Lanzmann.We now also display the French version which appeared in Les Temps Modernes
Norman Finkelstein, the most widely devastating and complete review.
Ruth Bettina Birn, a specialist of the Ludwigsburg archives. She hit the raw nerve and Goldie lost his composure
Extracts of Birn's paper:
The evidence itself has not been examined by reviewers, because most of them are not familiar with Mr Goldhagen's sources. In fact, the author uses historical documents only to a minimal extent; apart from some Nuremberg documents and a few files from the German Federal Archives, he relies mainly on secondary literature. (196)
In light of this paucity of sources, it is not surprising that Goldhagen's book hag neither a bibliography nor a listing of archival sources.(197)
On the Police battalions: Consequently, he has not dealt with any of the extensive materials on the Order Police (apart from four files from the R 19 collection in the Bundesarchiv Koblenz), though he could have avoided a number of basic mistakes through a closer acquaintance with the subject (198)
Why has Goldhagen concentrated exclusively on Police Battalion 101 when there are roughly one hundred and fifty investigations of other police battalions to choose from? While it would make sense in the context of a larger study to revisit this one case, it is peculiar to concentrate on this one case when it has already been evaluated by a reputed historian.(199)
The inadequacy of conclusions which are reached by not using a comparative approach is clearly illustrated by Goldhagen's discussion of the decision-making process within the phenomenon of the Holocaust. The lack of a comparative approach also illustrates that he, himself, ignores his own warning about the uncritical use of sources. He is not adverse to using exculpatory statements if it suits his line of argument.(202)
Goldhagen habitually dismisses as inadequate the works of the most respected scholars of the Holocaust, yet refers repeatedly to his own B.A. work (p 583, n. 45) (203)
Revisionist Goldie? Goldhagen offers evasive explanations for non-German perpetrators: 'The Germans had defeated, repressed and dehumanized Ukrainians and there were pressures operating on the Ukrainians that did not exist for the Germans' (pp. 408-9). He also states that the 'German's conduct towards their eastern European minions... was generally draconian' (p. 409). Apart from smacking considerably of standard revisionism, these assumptions certainly do not apply to the Arajs Commando (209)
Goldhagen's book is not driven by sources, be they primary or secondary ones. He does not allow the witness statements he uses to speak for themselves. He uses material as an underpinning for his pre-conceived theory. (210)
Goldhagen has not one shred of a fact to rely on here. Everything is written in the 'if' style used in bad historical novels. This is not true historical research. (213)
Anti-semitism is a demonological, hallucinatory force, out of the reach of ordinary perception. (215)
Although Goldhagen's argument is illogical, its function is clear; the Holocaust is now firmly outside the realm of ordinary people's actions and it is over historically. The Holocaust is sanitized. (215)
About this last one, we have noticed an article appearing in the 4 November 1997 "Feuilleton" section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Entitled "Der Schutz des allmaechtigen Autors -- Rechtsanwaelte lesen lassen: Wie Daniel Jonah Goldhagen mit seinen Kritikern verfaehrt," the article concerns a review of Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners by Ruth Bettina Birn, in collaboration with Volker Riess. The review appeared in the Historical Journal, 40, 1 (1997):195-215, published by Cambridge University Press. Goldhagen recently responded in the latest issue of German Politics and Society.
According to the FAZ article, the following supposedly occurred:
1/ a London attorney wrote Birn after publication of her review, accused Birn of defaming the character of Goldhagen, and included a listing of supposed misrepresentations of Goldhagen's work in her review.
2/ the letter from the attorney supposedly also demanded a public apology and retraction.
3/ Concerning the legal process begun by the attorney's letter and its implications, the FAZ article states: "Sieben Tage Frist wurden zur Antwort gewaehrt. Sechs lange Jahre hat dagegen Daniel Goldhagen nun Zeit zu ueberlegen, ob er den naechsten Schritt tun will. Ruth Bettina Birn publiziert somit auf Bewaehrung."
There follows a lengthy list of alleged false representations, filling up several pages. The letter closes with the demand that she apologize publicly and take back everything that the accuser finds objectionable. Furthermore, Birn was advised that any further dissemination of her article would be viewed as an aggravating circumstance. There were seven days in which to answer [the accusation]. Goldhagen, on the other hand, has six long years in which to consider whether to pursue the next step
The article makes this general statement about the significance of the event: "Das Neuartige und Ungewoehnliche dieses Vorgangs liegt darin, dass hier ein Autor versucht, wissenschaftliche Kritik nicht durch Argumente zu widerlegen, sondern mit dem Hinweis auf ein eventuell einzuleitendes Gerichtsverfahren zu unterbinden. Dergleichen ist in der 'scientific community' unueblich." (The new and unusual character of this development lies in the fact that here we have an author wich does not oppose arguments against a scientific critique, but hints at possible law suits. This is unheard of in the 'scientific community').
We have a near-complete translation of the FAZ article.
In 1997 discussions are going on . For instance M. Richard Libowitz [email@example.com] relates to H-Golocaust on 28 November 1997:
I attended the American Academy of Religion meetings in San Francisco this past week, one feature of which was a panel on "Hitler's Willing Executioners". The panelists were Richard Rubenstein, Doris Bergen, Martin Rumscheidt and Michael Berenbaum. Thomas Idinopoulos and Katherina von Kellenbach were the respondents. Marilyn Nefsky chaired the 2 1/2 hour session.
The discussion focused upon several areas. There was a consensus that the Goldhagen work -- as scholarship -- was sloppy and superficial. The sense of the panel and audience about the effects of the book was not as unified but there seemed a general feeling that the contention made about the German character let people "off the hook". How can someone (or a group) be blamed for something that is innate within them?
There was surprisingly little discussion of the threatened law suit beyond a sense that it was absurd."
But the pieces by Finkelstein and Birn will probably give a new dimension, as this comment by a Holocaust professional shows:
If not covered already on the list, members will be interested in the front page story of THE FORWARD (National Jewish newspaper in English) entitled "Goldhagen Now Called a Plotter on Behalf of Zionist Conspiracy." The article indicates that Norman Finkelstein, described as "a notorious ideological opponent of the State of Israel," has written a book to be published by Holt entitled A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth.
Mention of Finkelstein's earlier critique is perhaps familiar to you. The article mentions that he has had considerable success in Europe, with 15 editorials in German newspapers.
Finkelstein's other comments criticize "the bankruptcy of one body of literature on the Nazi Holocaust."
I would like to stress that my sense of the debate is that it has nothing to do with the normal debate on Hitler's Willing Executioners, but has everything to do with a new attack on Zionism and Israel's legitimacy, as well as Holocaust studies. Leon Wieseltier, editor of The New Republic has tried to lobby Holt not to publish the book.
Dr. Stephen Feinstein, Acting Director, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies University of Minnesota.
There was much talk on the attempts to put pressure on the publishers to desist from producing Finkelstein's book. Those who try to dictate their will to the publishin,g communaity have been emboldened by their success in having the last book by David Irving suppressed at the last minut by St Martin's Press which caved in to organized pressure from the Jewish organizations. These neo-Stalinian practices will grow on if nobody stops them.
But we can see ground preparations when critiques of Goldie's book are equated to the scum of the earth, the abominable Holocaust denyers!!!!
I am under the impression that the busy buddies trying at every opportunity to undermine Goldhagen's book are not doing themselves any favor, except for getting their proverbial 15 minutes of fame. The criticisms are for the most part petty and not very scholarly. The critics often do not have anything of significance published on the topic. It is very encouraging that the German public does not listen to these nay-sayers. The Germans want to confront the truth and the truth is not farther then their closest relatives' bookshelves and closets (this evidence is the hardest for the critics to accept). I think that anti-Goldhagen exorcisms are a waste of time. I pity those who consider these sorry events contributions to our study of Holocaust. Fascinated by their own eloquence, many of the critics are only a short distance from the "revisionists" denying the Holocaust.
On <H-HOLOCAUST@h-net.msu.edu> Sat, 29 Nov 1997. Now the next phase
Goldie has got supporters or at least scholars prepared to pay attention to his arguments. This too should be recorded here. See the post by J. Riemer.
Now the next phase has been the publication of a book composed of the reviews by Finkelsetin and Birn. This created a wave of censorship as the big Canadian Jewish groups launched a concerted attack to prevent the publication of the book. But, finally, the book was published under the following title: A Nation on Trial. The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth, by Henry Holt and Cy, New York, in early 1998, ISBN 0-8050-5871-0. The book contains some additions which are not present here. The controversy was very violent afterward while Mr. Finkelstein travelled to Palestine and made some declarations there extremelu critical of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians. In these circumstances, he displayed what we call courage and we are pleased to salute him.
It appears that Miss Birn has worked with OSI, the infamous US body which made this nuclear attack on Human Rights called the Demjanjuk Affair. She is pack-hunting former (supposed) Nazis in their 80's. She has all the possible credentials of "antifascism". But here is the principle of the Jewish pressure groups : THIS IS NOT ENOUGH. They not only want to rule the public opinion, they want an ABSOLUTE rule. The fate of Miss Birn will show it.
In 1999, Finkelstein and Birn published their articles against Goldie in a book which infuriated the judeocrats of Le Monde. We have the French text on our French site.
Goldhagen's book has just been translated in Hebrew. We have a word on the review published in Ha-aretz.
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