fbpx
Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Was Europe Complicit in the Holocaust? A New Book Says Yes

Hitler did not fail to notice that the western democracies were slow to open their doors to Jewish refugees.

Enjoying this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

The chain of events that led to Kristallnacht began in Warsaw during the summer of 1938, as we are shown in the opening pages of “Europe Against the Jews, 1880-1945” by Götz Aly, translated by Jefferson Chase (Henry Holt & Co. /Metropolitan Books).

The Polish government issued an order that revoked the Polish citizenship of Jews who had been living in Nazi Germany for more than five years. “In response, at the end of October, German police arrested 17,000 Polish Jews, brought them to the Polish border, and forced them across,” Aly explains. He leaves out the tragic story of Herschel Grynszpan, whose parents were among the deported Jews and who assassinated a German diplomat in Paris as an act of protest against their maltreatment, thus providing Hitler with a pretext for the excesses of Kristallnacht. But he marks Kristallnacht as the turning point that put Germany on the path to the Holocaust.

Aly concedes the Germans alone were responsible for conceiving of the Holocaust, building the infrastructure of mass murder, and putting the machinery into operation, but he also insists “the genocide could not have been carried out solely by those who initiated it.” Indeed, he shows us the culpability of “administrators, police, state officials and thousands of non-German helpers who all played a role in the atrocities.” The point of his book is to spread the blame: “There is no way we can comprehend the pace and extent of the Holocaust if we restrict our focus to the German centers of command.”

Aly, a leading German historian of the Holocaust, is the recipient of the National Jewish Book Award as well as Germany’s prestigious Heinrich Mann Prize. His 2011 book, “Why the Germans? Why the Jews?: Envy, Race Hatred and the Prehistory of the Holocaust,” was reviewed in the Jewish Journal, and his new book can be seen as a kind of sequel, if only because Aly widens the lens to take in the persecution of the Jewish people by people and governments outside of Germany.

As I am sure he knew in advance, Aly’s book will be deeply off-putting to readers across Europe. He offers a catalog of the anti-Semitic ideas, policies and actions that are found in European history outside of Germany and before Hitler’s ascent to power. At the turn of the 20th century, Lithuanian anti-Semites warned that “Jews would turn Lithuania into the ‘Polish province of New Palestine.’ ” During the two years following the end of World War I, more than 1,500 pogroms took place in Ukraine. “Hitler cited France as an example of how he wanted to impose ethnic categories,” Aly writes, “if necessary with brute force.” The Hungarian fascist party known as Arrow Cross, “while related to the National Socialists was more radical”; its members “became reliable pillars in the new populist Communist regime after 1945,” a fact that explains the “stubborn refusal after the Second World War to talk about the Holocaust.” Croatia did not merely turn over its Jewish citizens to the Germans for deportation, but carried out its own program of mass murder.

Significantly, Aly finds only “two notable exceptions to the voluntary participation in the Holocaust” among the allied and occupied countries of Europe. One is Denmark, whose entire Jewish population was saved, and the other is Belgium, whose officials “refused to become complicit” and forced the Germans to do their own dirty work. When called upon to manufacture and distribute Star of David patches, the mayor of Brussels bravely declared, “Many Jews are Belgian citizens, and moreover we cannot commit ourselves to enforcing an edict that so obviously runs contrary to the dignity of human beings, whoever they may be.” The SS general who served as German military administrator was forced to send a sheepish message to Himmler: “Appreciation for the Jewish question not very widespread here” was the message the head of the German military administration sent to Himmler.

Even the United States attracts his attention, and he pointedly invites us to ponder the state of mind of Americans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, when he confronts us with the following uncomfortable fact: “In August 1920, the New York Times quoted the publisher of the Jewish Daily News, Leon Kamaiky, describing the situation and dreams of Polish Jews as follows: ‘If there were in existence a ship that could hold 3,000,000 human beings, the 3,000,000 Jews of Poland would board it and escape to America.’ ” Such fears contributed to the decision of the U.S. government to adopt a closed-door immigration policy that reduced the number of Jewish arrivals from nearly one million between 1901 and 1910 to only 18,000 from 1931 to 1935.

Hitler did not fail to notice that the western democracies were quick to criticize his anti-Semitic policies but slow to open their doors to Jewish refugees. Nor did Hitler’s future ally, Romania, one of whose leaders issued a dire warning in an interview with a Nazi party newspaper: “We have to force the Western democracies to choose between opening up new territories for Jewish immigration or accepting a violent solution to the conflict.” Among the members of the British Commonwealth, as it happened, only Australia offered to accept Jewish refugees, but limited its hospitality to an annual quota of 500 Jewish souls.

Aly repeatedly assures us he seeks only to reveal the origins and workings of the Holocaust in their entirety and not to diminish the German responsibility for its crimes against humanity. But he insists that some blame attaches to “the countries they occupied or dominated,” where anti-Semitism had existed long before Adolf Hitler found a way to recruit his willing foreign collaborators.


Jonathan Kirsch, book editor of the Journal, is the author of “The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat and a Murder in Paris.”

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Articles

Man Who Held Anti-Semitic Sign at Ohio Protest Wanted to Target Jews at Kent State, Report Says

A man who held an anti-Semitic sign at an April rally in Columbus, Ohio, reportedly sought to target Jews at Kent State University. The Cleveland...

Bench Near Minneapolis Synagogue Vandalized With Swastikas

(JTA) — A bus stop near a synagogue in Minneapolis was vandalized with swastikas. The graffiti was discovered Tuesday on a bench outside Shir Tikvah...

ADL Report Highlights ‘Significant Trend of Anti-Semitism’ in ‘the Anti-Israel Movement on Campus’

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a report on May 27 highlighting how anti-Semitism permeates “the anti-Israel movement on .” The report acknowledged that although the...

A New Relief Fund Is Providing Aid to Jews of Color Who Are Struggling Due to Coronavirus

(JTA) — A new relief fund is providing financial aid to Jews of color who are struggling economically due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Jews...

Pandemic Times Episode 47: The Value of Storytelling

New David Suissa Podcast Every Morning at 11 a.m. A conversation on the unique power of storytelling with Rutger Bruining in London, founder of Story...

Obituaries: May 29, 2020

Beth Abramowitz died May 12 at 54. Survived by mother Barbara; father Abraham; brother David. Hillside  Louis Bauman died May 7 at 84. Survived by wife Myrna;...

Letters: Jewish Virtual Weddings, Masa Israel’s Legacy 

Prager’s Lockdown Story Dennis Prager’s “The Worldwide Lockdown May Be the Greatest Mistake in History” (May 8) validly complains that the left too often dismisses...

American Jews, This Shavuot it’s Time We Rededicate Ourselves to Social Justice

In April, we celebrated Passover during a modern-day plague. Over the past two months, the world has seen the horrors of that plague unfold....

Holidays and the Environment: From Shavuot to Dairy to Desalination

To prevent public gatherings during COVID-19, Lag BaOmer took place without bonfires, resulting in a significant reduction in air pollution. Now, Shavuot will be...

Israeli Defense Ministry: Gaucher’s Disease Drugs Can Treat COVID-19

The Israeli Defense Ministry announced on May 26 that the Israeli Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) has determined that two drugs used for Gaucher’s...

Culture


‘Love & Stuff’ Sees Life, Death and Motherhood Through a Jewish Lens

How do you cope with both the death of a parent and the artifacts she left behind, while preparing to become a mother yourself...

Jews of Color Campaign Goes Viral After Article Relegates Them to a Statistic

Numbers have always held significance in Jewish culture, but without purpose, they can be harmful. This was borne out in a May 17 eJewish...

A Savory Shavuot Feast With a Sweet Finale

It was a sacred tradition. We would load up our minivans with lots and lots of food and our kids and head to the...

Why Summer Camp Is So Important to American Jews

Every summer, tens of thousands of American Jewish kids leave their homes, board buses and planes, and spend a month or two together on...

Diane Warren’s ‘I’m Standing with You’ Music Video to Raise Funds for COVID-19 Response

“I’m Standing with You,” songwriter Diane Warren’s Oscar-nominated theme from the movie “Breakthrough,” has gone global in a new video in support of the...

Latest Articles
Latest

Man Who Held Anti-Semitic Sign at Ohio Protest Wanted to Target Jews at Kent State, Report Says

A man who held an anti-Semitic sign at an April rally in Columbus, Ohio, reportedly sought to target Jews at Kent State University. The Cleveland...

Bench Near Minneapolis Synagogue Vandalized With Swastikas

(JTA) — A bus stop near a synagogue in Minneapolis was vandalized with swastikas. The graffiti was discovered Tuesday on a bench outside Shir Tikvah...

ADL Report Highlights ‘Significant Trend of Anti-Semitism’ in ‘the Anti-Israel Movement on Campus’

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a report on May 27 highlighting how anti-Semitism permeates “the anti-Israel movement on .” The report acknowledged that although the...

A New Relief Fund Is Providing Aid to Jews of Color Who Are Struggling Due to Coronavirus

(JTA) — A new relief fund is providing financial aid to Jews of color who are struggling economically due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Jews...

Pandemic Times Episode 47: The Value of Storytelling

New David Suissa Podcast Every Morning at 11 a.m. A conversation on the unique power of storytelling with Rutger Bruining in London, founder of Story...

Hollywood


‘Love & Stuff’ Sees Life, Death and Motherhood Through a Jewish Lens

How do you cope with both the death of a parent and the artifacts she left behind, while preparing to become a mother yourself...

‘Arrowverse’ Showrunner Greg Berlanti on Whether He’s Jewish or Not

Greg Berlanti is the executive producer of “Arrow,” “Supergirl,” “Titans,” “Riverdale” and “The Flash.” Between keeping his die-hard DC fans satisfied, the mega-producer also...

Jewish Grandpa Seeks Out The Family Who Hid Him From Nazis in Documentary “The Starfish”

New York director and producer, Tyler Gildin, through his media company Gildin Media, released a documentary titled The Starfish, exploring the life story of his grandfather,...

Podcasts

Pandemic Times Episode 47: The Value of Storytelling

New David Suissa Podcast Every Morning at 11 a.m. A conversation on the unique power of storytelling with Rutger Bruining in London, founder of Story...

Matti Friedman: Israel’s forgotten war

Shmuel Rosner and Matti Friedman discuss Matti's new book, "Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier's Story of a Forgotten War," Israel's war in Lebanon and why it...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

x