SS Thinking and the Holocaust

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We see people as actors, not as victims; we see them deliberating, rather than being seduced. This collection offers extraordinary insights into why Germans became Nazis, and how a Nazi mother in Germany came to disagree with her beloved anti-Nazi daughter in Holland. In the end, the letters indicate just how self-absorbed Germans were by their sense of having been victimized, which means that the question of World War I remains relevant to World War II, even if the Nazi leaders themselves wanted something far more than a victory in a rerun of World War I. Can we ever fully explain the Nazi phenomenon?

And what should we learn from it? What makes the problem of explaining the Nazis so vexing is the inadequacy of interpretations that rely on factors such as downward mobility, national humiliation or economic privation. The same goes for those factors the Nazis and their supporters cited, such as the solidarity of the national community, the centrality of race, and the requirement to revise universal moral practices in order to insure the survival of Germany. Scholars constantly shuttle back and forth between explanations that work from the outside in and those that work from the inside out; they analyze political, social, and economic variables, but they also listen to how the Nazis made sense of themselves.

In this way, there is no final resolution. What we can learn is the following: we need to be careful how we interpret human behavior. If it is extreme, is it because people are seduced or brainwashed? Or is it more complicated? Are people naturally decent, except in difficult situations?

We wonder why we were not more astonished in the s, as the Nazis came to power. Are there other issues today that we neglect but which our grandchildren will think more problematic - perhaps the fact that illegal immigrants test our empathy, that our prison population does not attract our attention? Can the Holocaust ever be depicted through artistic means? Can it be romanticized, as the great Polish director, Andrzej Wajda, did with his Korczak? Can it be fictionalized as the maverick American filmmaker, Quentin Tarantino, did in his bleak, violent comedy Inglourious Basterds? Source: IMDb.

Thinking about the Holocaust we are forced to confront the unthinkable. Can this be done? It must be done. Undoubtedly, the movie is both profound and important, but its meaning is open to different interpretations.

Persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany

What I find particularly troubling is the depiction of the moral dilemmas that Korczak faced, and what they tell us about the possibility of redemption in the face of radical evil. To make sense of the problems that these movies raise, I will enlist Hannah Arendt, Primo Levi and Jean Amery — three key thinkers who have decisively shaped our views on European history. The problem of artistic representation of the Holocaust is not new.

We have come a long way though. But this is what he feared. His assertion conveyed the idea that no form of representation could ever do justice to the awfulness of the Holocaust. It is transfigured and stripped of some of its horror, and with this, injustice is already done to the victims. In a similar vein, the documentary filmmaker Claude Lanzmann argued,. The Holocaust is unique […] since horror in the absolute degree cannot be communicated. To pretend that one has done so is to commit the gravest of transgressions. Yet, if representation of the Holocaust is impermissible, how are we to remember the event?

Transportation to camps – The Holocaust Explained: Designed for schools

How do we communicate it to our students? And remember and communicate it, we must. Adorno revised his famous statement hinting at a way of approaching this dilemma:. Perennial suffering has as much right to expression as a tortured man has to scream; hence it may have been wrong to say that after Auschwitz you could no longer write poems.

This is the debt we all owe to people like Primo Levi. He went through the hell that was Auschwitz with his dignity intact and managed to write a compelling testimony of his experience. This accomplishment is a tremendous source of hope. Through his writings, Levi restored our confidence in the good of man. He enabled us to restore the basic beliefs of the Enlightenment.

Even after the Holocaust, or indeed, particularly after the Holocaust, we introduce our students to great thinkers and their ideas, because we believe that this is the way to improve our society and ourselves. This is the joy and purpose of teaching the humanities. In fact, the current study is inspired by an influential Australian public intellectual and an outstanding colleague, Robert Manne, with whom I was fortunate to teach a subject about twentieth century European history at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

Manne identified two contrapuntal strands in If This is a Man :.

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Yet throughout the book there is a counterpoint, an undertow pulling in the opposite direction, which allows us to see that while all this is generally true none of it is unqualifiedly so. To my mind, this incident amounts to the most compelling defence of humanities, as that kind of human endeavour that might appear to be useless, yet is and remains essential to our lives.

The purpose of their conversation is as prosaic as it is bizarre: through Dante, Levi is teaching his friend Italian. For a moment I forget who I am and where I am. Surely there has never been a more powerful statement testifying to the value of poetry, or the value of humanities in general. But can we maintain our confidence in the transformative nature of education when facing the abyss that the rise of Nazism in Germany presents to the West? Can we still remain children of the Enlightenment?


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Yes, we can and we must, argues Wajda through Korczak, echoing Primo Levi. Through his writings, Amery sought to prevent this. Korczak certainly believed in the power of learning. The movie shows the great Polish-Jewish educationalist as a practical man who did everything he could to protect his children against Nazi barbarism. The problem is that despite his heroic effort, he was unable to do enough.

To be sure, it seems to be miraculous that Korczak managed to run a decent and well-ordered orphanage in the midst of the inhumane conditions of the Warsaw Ghetto; but ultimately he proved powerless against the Nazi killing machine. Towards the end of the movie, the orphanage is dismantled and its inhabitants moved to a place with no return; they perish in Treblinka. As the movie shows, Korczak, as a prominent figure, had many admirers who offered to help him escape. This is what turned him into a saintly figure for both the Jews and the Poles, who rightly admire his dedication and courage.

And so does Robert Manne. This sounds pleasing and appears to reflect our moral intuition. Maybe it is right. We want to believe in the possibility of man being good, even when facing the horror of Nazism. Though he can show anger when confronting indifference and evil, Korczak appears incapable of hatred and extends empathy even towards his enemies. It also translates into a very powerful scene in the movie.

As Korczak is watering flowers in the windows of the orphanage, he observes a German soldier and ponders his fate with a cool detachment that belies his precarious predicament:. I am watering the flowers. My bald head in the window. What a splendid target. He has a rifle. Why is he standing and looking on calmly? He has no orders to shoot. And perhaps he was a village teacher in civilian life, or a notary, a street sweeper in Leipzig, a waiter in Cologne? What would he do if I nodded to him? He obeyed the directive to protect his family from any retaliation.

Upon arriving at the police station he notes that he and other gay men were beaten. Some gay men who resisted the SS had their fingernails pulled out. Others had their bowels punctured, causing them to bleed profusely. After his arrest he was sent to the concentration camp at Schirmeck. There, Seel stated that during a morning roll-call, the Nazi commander announced a public execution.

A man was brought out, and Seel recognized his face. It was the face of his eighteen-year-old lover from Mulhouse. Seel states that the SS guards then stripped the clothes off his lover, placed a metal bucket over his head, and released trained German Shepherd dogs on him, which mauled him to death. Rudolf Brazda , believed to be the last surviving person who was sent to a Nazi concentration camp because of his homosexuality, died in France in August , aged Brazda was sent to Buchenwald in August and held there until its liberation by U.

Brazda, who settled in France after the war, was later awarded the Legion of Honour. Arising from the dominant discourse of the Jewish suffering during the years of Nazi domination, and building on the divergence of differential victimhoods brought to light by studies of the Roma and the mentally ill, who suffered massively under the eugenics programs of the Third Reich , the idea of a Gay Holocaust was first explored in the early s. However, extensive research on the topic was impeded by a continuation of Nazi policies on homosexuals in post-war East and West Germany and continued western notions of homophobia.

The word genocide was generated from a need for new terminology in order to understand the gravity of the crimes committed by the Nazis. The debate on the Gay Holocaust is therefore a highly loaded debate which would result in an international acknowledgement of state sponsored homophobia as a precursor to genocide should the proponents of the Gay Holocaust succeed.

However the United Nations definition does not include sexual orientation or even social and political groups within its qualifications for the crime. Genocide by the U. A lack of research means that there is relatively little data on the dispersion of gay men throughout the camps. However, Heinz Heger suggests in his book The Men with the Pink Triangle that they were subjected to harsher labor than smaller targeted groups, such as the political prisoners, and furthermore suffered a much higher mortality rate.

The Jews were the only group targeted by the Nazi regime for complete annihilation regardless of their identification or place of residence. However, Jews were not the only group to be targeted by the Nazis, leading to a debate as to whether other groups should be counted as Holocaust victims.

Spurlin has suggested that restricting the definition of "Holocaust" to Jews fosters a misrepresentation of history and devalues the suffering of other victims of Nazi atrocities. The Austrian Jewish Shoah survivor Simon Wiesenthal argued, for example, that "the Holocaust transcended the confines of Jewish community and that there were other victims.

The Civil Rights Movement of the United States saw an emergence of victim claims through revision and appropriation of historical narratives. The shift from the traditionally conservative notion of history as the story of power and those who held it, social historians emerged with narratives of those who suffered and resisted these powers. African Americans created their own narrative, as firmly based on evidence as the discourses already in existence, as part of a social movement towards civil rights based on a history of victimization and racism.

Along similar lines, the gay and lesbian movement in the United States also utilized revisionism to write the narrative that had only just garnered an audience willing to validate it.


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There were two processes at work in this new discourse, revisionism and appropriation, which Arlene Stein teases out in her article Whose Memory, Whose Victimhood? The revisionist project was taken on in a variety of mediums, historical literature being only one of many. The play Bent and a limited number of memoirs which recall The Diary of Anne Frank coincided with the appropriation of the pink triangle as a symbol of the new movement and a reminder to "never forget". Historical works would turn focus on the nature and intent of Nazi policy. Heinz Heger , Gunter Grau and Richard Plant all contributed greatly to the early Holocaust discourse which emerged throughout the s and early s.

These early revisionist discourses were joined by a popular movement of appropriation, which invoked the global memory of the Holocaust to shed light on social disparities for homosexuals within the United States.


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  • The Holocaust frame was used again in the early s, this time in relation to right-wing homophobic campaigns throughout the United States. The conservative response yielded a new discourse working against the Gay Holocaust academia, which emphasized the gay and lesbian revisionism as a victimist discourse which sought sympathy and recognition as a pragmatic means of garnering special status and civil rights outside those of the moral majority.

    From Andrzej Wajda's

    The victimist argument raises a central tenet as to the reasons for which the discourse of a Gay Holocaust has experienced so much resistance politically and popularly in the conscious of the public. Alyson M. Cole addresses the anti-victim discourse that has emerged in western politics since the end of the s. She asserts "anti-victimists transformed discussions of social obligation, compensations and remedial or restorative procedures into criticisms of the alleged propensity of self-anointed victims to engage in objectionable conduct.

    Cole refutes what she sees as problems in the anti-victim arguments. In the s, work was done on the Gay Holocaust and rather than emphasizing the severity of destruction to communities or the exclusivity of the genocidal process of the Nazi regime, it focuses on the intersections of social constructions such as gender and sexuality within the context of social organization and political domination.

    Rather than being autonomous policies, "They were part of a much larger strategy of social disenfranchisement and the marking of enemies From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This is the latest accepted revision , reviewed on 23 September Persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany Memorial "to the gay and lesbian victims of National Socialism" in Cologne : The inscription on the left side of the monument to the viewer's right from the angle depicted reads " Totgeschlagen — Totgeschwiegen " "Struck Dead — Hushed Up".

    Memorial "to the gay and lesbian victims of National Socialism" Homomonument. See also: Sexual orientation change efforts and Nazi human experimentation. This section relies largely or entirely on a single source. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. Please help improve this article by introducing citations to additional sources. December LGBT portal. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved February 26, Associated Press. Deutsche Welle. The Nazi extermination of homosexuals.

    Stein and Day. A Separate Category of Prisoners". Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. Retrieved August 10, Journal of Contemporary History.

    Former Auschwitz guard apologises to Holocaust victims

    Hidden Holocaust? Gay and Lesbian Persecution in Germany, Translated by Camiller, Patrick. Social Outsiders in Nazi Germany. Heinrich Himmler. New York: Oxford University Press.