The Oscar for Denial

And the Winner Is -- The American People

Kate Winslet’s Academy Award for Best Actress in The Reader surely disappointed and outraged Ron Rosenbaum. Amid the torrent of nonsense glutting US media since the movie award nominations were announced, Rosenbaum’s objections to The Reader were far more substantive and accusatory.

In his Slate column, Rosenbaum attacked the “essential metaphorical thrust” of the film, which he said aimed “to exculpate Nazi-era Germans from knowing complicity in the Final Solution.” Rosenbaum decried the notion of honoring “a film that asks us to empathize with an unrepentant mass murderer and intimates that ‘ordinary Germans’ were ignorant of the extermination until after the war…”

Rosenbaum indicted “the Kate Winslet character’s ‘illiteracy’: She’s a stand-in for the German people and their supposed inability to ‘read’ the signs that mass murder was being done in their name, by their fellow citizens. To which one can only say: What a crock!”

In fact it is a crock, a willful misreading of The Reader to lump it in with a genre of films which exploit the Holocaust (e.g., Life is Beautiful, winner of several Academy Awards). Bernard Schlink, author of the novel on which the film The Reader is based, told an interviewer in December: “It’s definitely not a movie about the Holocaust. It’s about a generation trying to come to terms with what they had to learn about their parents’ generation.”

But Rosenbaum’s Shoah sensitivities are Manichean. He concedes nothing to the moral and emotional complexities within or between the characters, especially in the film’s central relationship between Michael and Hanna.

Michael’s passionate affair with the much-older Hanna at first uplifts his adolescence. But when, as a law student, he witnesses her murder trial, along with other former Nazi concentration camp guards, he is devastated. Michael believes that Hanna has admitted to writing a report about the death of 300 Jewish prisoners, trapped in a burning church, in order to avoid revealing her illiteracy.

Michael tells his law professor (Bruno Ganz) that he has knowledge relevant to the trial, perhaps in the defendant’s favor. The older professor urges Michael to speak up: You don’t want to be like us and do nothing do you? Here Ganz is referring to his own silent wartime generation. But Michael cannot bring himself to visit Hanna during her trial, even though he knows her illiteracy has probably condemned her to a far greater penalty than her equally — or perhaps surpassingly — guilty comrades.

The other guards have no moral sense. But they are rewarded for their lies and stonewalling, receiving much lighter sentences than Hanna, who simply blurts out the truth, takes the rap and ends up sentenced to life in prison. She admits to having no moral sense, and therefore must be the more strongly condemned. Does this really create undue sympathy for Hanna, as Rosenbaum suggests? At the end of the film, an escaped victim (Lena Olin) explicitly asks the adult Michael (Ralph Fiennes) if he thinks Hanna’s illiteracy mitigates her guilt. And he says no.

As one of the law students in the film declares, the question is not who knew about the extermination of the Jews. There were hundreds of camps all over Europe. Everybody knew. “My parents, my teachers, everyone.” The question is, what did they do about it? The answer is: Nothing. As the student says to the bemused Ganz: “The only question is why you didn’t all just kill yourselves?”

Rosenbaum incorrectly accuses The Reader of claiming that most Germans were ignorant of the the Holocaust. The film’s underlying assumption is far more damning: everybody knew, but nobody acted on that knowledge. Of course, as Samantha Power recounts in her Pulitzer-Prize winning study of genocide, A Problem From Hell, the United States was also well aware of Hitler’s extermination of European Jewry before and during World War Two and also chose to do nothing.

Power’s book is a shocking indictment of American neutrality in the face of evil, during the Holocaust and other systematic programs of genocide all around the world — in Turkey, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq and elsewhere — over the past hundred years. “The key question” writes Power, after presenting hundreds of pages of documented evidence, “… is: Why does the United States stand so idly by? The most common response is, ‘We didn’t know.’ This is not true.”

“Because the savagery of genocide so defies our everyday experience, many of us failed to wrap our minds around it,” Power says. “Bystanders were thus able to retreat to the ‘twilight between knowing and not knowing.’” It was easier not to probe for certainty because uncertainty did not demand any action. Power concludes that America failed to act against genocide not because the country lacked knowledge or influence but because it did not have the will to act. U.S. officials “were not prepared to invest the military, financial, diplomatic, or domestic political capital needed to stop it.”

Now the United States faces a new moral crisis, the subversion of our own legal and moral values by high officials of our own government. We are, in this moment, as awash in complicity and willful denial as the principled middle-class denizens of the Third Reich. We are the Good Germans of the new millennium in Bush America because we knew about the illegal kidnappings and tortures, the self-serving legalisms that subverted the Geneva accords and papered over Constitutional lapses, the lies that led us into conquest and occupation. Starting well before the invasion of Iraq — which millions around the globe protested in unprecedented numbers before it occurred — we knew the “weapons of mass destruction” and Saddam’s connections to al-Qaeda were bullshit excuses. But many millions of us tried to pretend that we really weren’t sure.

In his Sunday column entitled: “What We Don’t Know Will Hurt Us,” Frank Rich remarked upon this “American reluctance to absorb, let alone prepare for, bad news. We are plugged into more information sources than anyone could have imagined even 15 years ago… Yet we are constantly shocked, shocked by the foreseeable.” Or as Bob Dylan put it, in the context of race relations a generation ago, “How many times must a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see?”

We know, deep inside us we know, as the Germans who kept their heads down and tried to lead ‘normal’ lives while genocide exploded all around them, in their name, by their own government, knew, that our government has committed terrible atrocities at home and abroad. If we do nothing to bring these crimes to light and their perpetrators to justice, then we are as guilty and worthy of moral condemnation as the war generation of silent Germans whom Ron Rosenbaum rightly abhors.

For Bernard Schlink, this knowledge, that his parents’ generation denied, “makes me aware how thin the ice is on which we live.” Schlink believed that German culture and institutions like courts, universities, churches, unions and political parties “all seemed so solid.” And yet it all broke down, “relatively easily.” In America too. Somehow we allowed our government to invade a country that had committed no aggression toward the United States. We allowed our government to declare an emergency in order to violate human rights of many thousands of individuals, to commit torture, to incarcerate people for years without trial or hearings of any kind. And today we continue the violence in Afghanistan and Iraq and Pakistan. We continue to jail and abuse individuals without charges. And we all know it’s wrong. And it’s time to deal with it before our “land of the free” is irreparably compromised.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy has laid out The Case for a Truth Commission (Time, Feb 20). As Leahy says: “For much of this decade, we have read about and witnessed such abuses as the scandal at Abu Ghraib, the disclosure of torture memos and the revelations about the warrantless surveillance of Americans. We need to get to the bottom of what happened — and why — to make sure it never happens again… to find the truth….

“But to repair the damage of the past eight years and restore America’s reputation and standing in the world, we should not simply turn the page without being able first to read it…. We need to get to the bottom of what went wrong after a dangerous and disastrous diversion from American law and values. The American people have a right to know what their government has done in their names.”

It’s not just our right. It’s a fundamental need. German society is still — and may always be — in recovery, not just from the atrocities committed in its name, by its leaders, but from the silent acquiescence of the millions who lacked the will to speak up against what they knew was wrong. To sweep the crimes and excesses of the Bush-Cheney years under the rug would destroy the American soul. The world needs the American sense of justice now more than ever. But we forfeit our moral authority if we do not take responsibility for the crimes of the Bush-Cheney years. Samantha Power is now an adviser to Barack Obama. Nobody knows better than she does the moral imperative for admitting and redressing the moral lapses of government. We must hope that she wields her influence to make the machinery of government responsive to the deepest needs of our culture. Karl Rove continues to flaunt congressional subpoenas to testify. He figures he can stonewall indefinitely, that there will be no day of reckoning for lawless U.S. officials. We must do everything in our power to prove him wrong.

James is the author of Shooting the Truth: the Rise of American Documentaries (Praeger 2006), and Acting Like It Matters: John Malpede and the Los Angeles Poverty Department, (2015). He lives in Quito, Ecuador. Read other articles by James.

41 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Max Shields said on February 24th, 2009 at 11:40am #

    The writer states: “To sweep the crimes and excesses of the Bush-Cheney years under the rug would destroy the American soul. The world needs the American sense of justice now more than ever. But we forfeit our moral authority if we do not take responsibility for the crimes of the Bush-Cheney years. Samantha Power is now an adviser to Barack Obama. Nobody knows better than she does the moral imperative for admitting and redressing the moral lapses of government. We must hope that she wields her influence to make the machinery of government responsive to the deepest needs of our culture.”

    Samantha “interventionist from hell” Power (the Dem answer to Dick “Darth Vadar” Cheney…is going to do what!?!?!

    This woman has a list of invasion she’d like to get on the Obama foreign policy agenda, and you expect/want her to do what!?!?!

    Could you please direct me to the “American soul” I’ve yet to find it.

  2. Don Hawkins said on February 24th, 2009 at 1:04pm #

    This comment was put on DV a few months ago I forget her name but brilliant in it’s simplicity

    one gigantic boat, we are all in it together. some rich, some poor, some supposed to be our smart ones, but it seems the dumb have figured out whats going on, but feel powerless to do anything about it! theres a behind the scene agenda, been there since time imortal. ok, you smart ones, what do we do about it? it’s only about good verses evil, who can change a mans heart!!!!!!!!! thats really the bottom line, its the human heart condition!!! unknown author

    You gota have heart.

  3. brian said on February 24th, 2009 at 2:42pm #

    ‘Rosenbaum indicted “the Kate Winslet character’s ‘illiteracy’: She’s a stand-in for the German people and their supposed inability to ‘read’ the signs that mass murder was being done in their name, by their fellow citizens. To which one can only say: What a crock!” ‘

    with the Gaza invasion by israel, you will find many jews and other zionists also illiterate, whether willingly or blindly. What is Rosenbaum’s view on the recent Holocaust in gaza?

  4. Brian Koontz said on February 24th, 2009 at 5:37pm #

    Greed is fueling all of this – the Germans believed that by remaining naive and obedient they would be led to peace and prosperity (for themselves, not for others). And the Americans now believe the exact same thing – they are morally identical to Nazi-era Germans.

    It doesn’t matter how many people the American state and multinational corporations kill. It doesn’t matter how many become impoverished. THEIR suffering makes no difference to Americans. As long as it’s done under the expectation of an increase in the “standard of living” of Americans, it gets the thumbs up.

    So the American people will support Obama’s military actions in Afghanistan as long as they expect those actions to be part of pacifying the world and letting the world get on with it’s free market business, of which Americans play a dominant role. The “War on Terror” is nothing other than an attempt to pacify the world (including of course any un-pacified elements with the United States) and maximize the profit for multinational corporations.

    Despite assertions by the writer of this article citing some noble “American soul”, Western imperialism has gone on for centuries and American imperialism has gone on for more than a century (more than that if one includes the chattel slave trade), with minimal and ineffectual resistance within the West.

    Only now, when America faces the loss of its imperial status due to a fading empire, does the movement to end American imperialism gain (some) momentum. The “American soul” is shifting toward morality at precisely the time when it’s immorality is becoming imperiled by reality. Does that sound like true morality to you, or just more American pragmatism? Even a bully becomes passive when his hands are tied together.

    Unfortunately it’s not just Americans and not just the West which are problematic. The West could not have built it’s global empire without the support both of local foreign elite and the complicity of *their* people. So for example, South Korea is a hopeful rising global power (read, emergent imperialist state) and that hope is reflected in a fondness of it’s people for the United States. And the way things are going, India and China as well may build empires of their own in the coming centuries. There’s no proof I’ve ever seen that ANY dominant civilized people will not happily become imperialists if they become able to implement that.

    The strands of solutions therefore break down into “end dominance” (anarchist democracy) or “end civilization” (primitivism).

    In this age of terror, desperation, and approaching annihilation we may be moving toward a new left/right configuration – hierarchical capitalism on the right, populist democracy in the center, and primitivism on the left.

  5. Peter said on February 24th, 2009 at 11:31pm #

    There were approximately 500,000 Jews in Germany when Hitler came to power in 1933. Germany was a country of approximately 80 million people. Many Jews left Germany before the war started. While anti-semitism existed (as it did everywhere) and in fact ethnic prejudice between all Europeans existed (Germans and Poles, French and Germans, British and Irish, etc.), not everyone witnessed what was done to this small minority. Concentration camps were not put in the middle of towns and none of the “death camps” were in Germany – they were all in Poland. So while people knew the government was against Jews, most did not know the extent of what was going on. Certainly people in Berlin witnessed Kristallnacht, the few nights when Nazis attacked Jews in public, but that went on for a few nights, not 365 days a year which is about how often people in the USA see those pictures.

    Frankly, most people had other things on their minds. Germany would soon be at war with almost the whole world, with U-boats attacking ships off the east coast of the USA, troops first in France, then in North Africa fighting British and Americans and most of Germany’s forces in battle in Russia. Most people were concerned about their own sons wherever they were. When the bombing started that was one more thing on their minds.

    Hitler got into power because enough Germans supported Hitler and Hindenburg eventually gave him the chancellorship against his own better judgement. There were many millions of Germans that did not support Hitler (Socialists, Communists, etc.) but once he was in power, you didn’t have much choice. Hitler got into power because Germany had been a country with the strongest military in the world and the world leader in every scientific field as well as engineering. Before 1945 Germany dominated the Nobel Prizes, receiving more than any other country in the world. Germans were proud and the allies inflicted the most pain, humiliation and theft of resources they could on the defeated country after WW I.

    During WW I the British had a blockade on Germany in order to starve the German population to death. For six months after the WW I had ended, the British kept the blockade going. Over 1 million Germans died as a result of starvation. The Americans and French supported this, gloating over it in the press. The allies took huge amounts of land from Germany and Austria (Hitler’s birthplace). Northern Schleswig was given to Denmark, Eupen and Malmedy given to Belgium, Alsace-Lorraine given to France, Danzig (population 90% German) was made a Free City, Memel given to Lithuania, Eastern upper Silesia given to Poland and the Polish Corridor, a huge chunk of German territory was given to Poland. Millions of Germans were now living in foreign lands and what remained of Germany was split in two and divided by a chunk of land given to Poland that became know as the “Polish Corridor”. East Prussia was separated from the rest of Germany. This doesn’t even cover what was done to Austria and the Austto-Hungarian Empire that also had huge amounts of territory stolen from her. Bohemia and Moravia, including 3.5 million Germans from the Sudetenland was taken from Austria to create the new country of Czechoslovakia. WW II was a surprise to very few people in Europe and the way the “allies” refused to negotiate with Germany for the return of certain lands, that is why WW II occurred.

  6. Phil said on February 25th, 2009 at 6:44am #

    A couple little corrections.

    “Somehow we allowed our government to invade two countries that had committed no aggression toward the United States (one of which we invaded twice).”

    “we forfeit our moral authority if we do not take responsibility for the crimes of the Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush-Cheney years (as well as their predecessors going back at least half a century).”

    There, now that’s a little more honest.

    It’s well and good to start with the most obvious/recent of the US government’s crimes against humanity, but any path to justice also requires recognizing that it’s not one bad administration or a few rotten apples, but the entire system itself.

  7. Max Shields said on February 25th, 2009 at 7:01am #

    While Obama speaks of a “recovery” and attempts to “connect” with the “pain” of the American people, we have wars raging, and fund proxies elsewhere. This is the price of “prosperity” and always has been.

    Words like prosperity need to be understood. What is it to be prosperous? When and how are these missions decided?

    Recovering what was, is the pathology of denial. It is in our politics and in the general atmosphere. “I’m losing” whatever, and “I want it back” seems the presumptive chorus. The “American Dream” belongs to who? Who decided what the dream is and that it is one worthy of repetition and the basis for running the US hither and yon across the globe, occupying and destroying lives, and the environment in a quest for what? American properity, the American Dream?

    Today, we have a mad rush to recover without questioning. It is better to not think about it, but rather keep pumping the dead patient with oxygen.

    What does one do with 300 million people who keep falling for the illusion without question. Less than 5% of the world’s population demanding a “Dream” built on the exploits of others with as little to no cost to themselves. It’s a cancer. And like all cancers must run its course until there is no more.

  8. Shabnam said on February 25th, 2009 at 9:25am #

    Although we are witness to wide publicity on holocaust in WWII, the Iranian (Persian) Holocaust during the WWI (1917-1919 ) has been ignored. Iranian genocide is written by Mohammad Gholi Majd under “‘The Great Famine and Genocide in Persia, 1917 – 1910” where 8 to 10 million Iranians perished due to British Imperialist war policy decision making not to import food from England or another country in order to feed their illegal occupying troops in Iran during WW1, instead they diverted the Iranian crops to feed British troops and let Iranians die out of starvation and hunger. The British war policy was also responsible for the famine of 1917-1919, making it the greatest calamity in Persia’s history. In this book, Mohammad Gholi Majd argues that Persia was the greatest VICTIMS of World War I and also the victim of possibly the worst GENOCITE of the 20th century. Using U.S. State Department records, as well as Persian and British sources, Majd describes and documents a veritable Holocaust about which practically NOTHING has been written. It is the first book in Majd’s World War I trilogy.

  9. Peter said on February 25th, 2009 at 9:39am #

    To Shabnam,

    Those look like interesting books. I may buy the one about the famine that Britain caused. I’m a little surprised that the USA would have stolen antiquities from Persia (Iran). Not because Americans would not do such a thing, but because most archaeologists were from Europe.

  10. Allan Gurfinkle said on February 25th, 2009 at 10:58am #

    The idea that German knew of the killing of Jews in ‘death camps’ is absurd. In the first place, there are now alleged to be only six death camps, all in Poland. Two are still standing, Auschwitz and Majdanek. If you point out, as Bishop Richand Williamson did, that the ‘gas chamber’ shown to visitors at Auschwitz has an unsealed wooden door and therefore could not possibly been used as a gas chamber, you may be condemned and deported as Williamson has been, from Argentina to Britain, or arrested if you are in Germany or several other European countries. The whole question of the holocaust needs to be reexamined.

  11. Shabnam said on February 25th, 2009 at 12:53pm #

    Thank you for your interest about the sake of Persian Antiquities. The issue of Antiquities is on for many years and since Iran and US have no diplomatic relations thus make it harder for Iran to protect her National treasures. Due to zionist power we witness violation of many International laws to get what they want and the ‘International community’ is impotent to send a strong message to these thieves to back off and tell them that your criminal activities against Palestinian, Lebanese and others has consequences. The International community is fed up with these violators O Int. Law who think they are above the law and since they are ‘chosen people’ they can get away with murders. The story tell us that:
    In September of 1997, a suicide attack, in realization to Israel’s war crimes against Palestinians, on a shopping mall in Jerusalem killed five people. Hamas claimed responsibility. Two Hamas operatives were arrested and brought to trial where they were convicted.
    In 2001, American survivors and families of the victims of the 1997 Hamas suicide bombing sued Hamas and The Islamic Republic of Iran in the United States Federal Court in the District of Columbia, arguing that since Islamic Republic of Iran supports Hamas therefore is guilty. Israel should end to her criminal activities against defenseless people including end the occupation of Palestine and stop stealing Palestinian land through bombing, confiscation, settlement activities and more to prevent retaliation. Since Hamas had no known assets in the United States worth pursuing, the Zionists went after Iran assets.
    With no diplomatic relations since 1979, in 1984, the U.S. Department of State designated the Islamic Republic of Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism, so the Federal Court agreed and the sovereign immunity of Iran was waived for the purpose of the lawsuit. Islamic Republic of Iran ignored the lawsuit to show that their action is illegal.
    Without any of the defendants appearing in court, the case was quickly decided and in September of 2003, millions of dollars were awarded in default judgment to the plaintiffs and another $300 million was added to the default judgment in punitive damages, bringing the total judgment to $423.5 million.
    To get this illegal generous hand out, Zionists started to go after every single museum in the United States and Europe to cash in, for Hamas retaliation against terrorist activities of Israel. Iran has nothing to do with it. The Rubin plaintiffs made a connection: ancient footprints of the Persian Kings were tied to the shoes of modern Iranian Islamic Republic.
    Please consult the provided link. This issue is very important to Iranians and I hope, probably wishful thinking, Obama follows a different path from his predecessors.

  12. Peter said on February 25th, 2009 at 2:56pm #

    To Shabnam:

    Its interesting what you say. It makes sense too. They used a similar tactic to get European Banks (Switzerland was a big target) to pay billions of dollars to Jewish organizations to compensate for money the Swiss supposedly kept and did not give the heirs of holocaust victims who supposedly deposited money in Swiss banks before WW II.

    American Jewish groups made threats to the Swiss International banks that Switzerland would suffer if the Swiss did not pay billions. With our US gov’t in their pocket, they have the power to make good on their threats.

    The academic Norman Finkelstein studied what was going on. He met the top Swiss politician involved. He wrote a book called “The Holocaust Industry” in which he said the jewish groups used “blackmail” and “extortion” to force the Swiss to pay (I believe 5 billion dollars) to the Jewish American groups. He said the dollar amounts Swiss banks held for accounts opened by Jews before and during the war was relatively small after studying everything. The money taken from the Swiss eventually went to Jewish fat-cat lawyers and to create holocaust studies programs for more anti-German propaganda. The money didn’t even go to the holocaust survivors or their heirs as it was supposed to. When the holocaust survivors complained, several of these lawyers and leaders of these groups were fired from their positions. See

  13. Ron Horn said on February 25th, 2009 at 4:32pm #

    I agree with brian above. The current Israelis are the “good Germans” in relation to the Palestinians.

  14. Shabnam said on February 26th, 2009 at 2:46am #

    Thank you for your information. I am familiar with Finklestein’s case and his book; however, we have another case which is similar to Finklestein. The new victim is Joel Kovel who has been terminated from his Position at Bard College for his opposition to Zionism and support of ONE STATE solution contrary to Noam Chomsky who says nothing about Zionism, rejects one state solution, presents Israel a powerful ‘client state’ that performs a lot of ‘good services’ for the empire, label Gaza Holocaust as US war, is against Israel Boycott and divest from Israel. Joel Kovel has written a book called “Overcoming

  15. Josie Michel-Brüning said on February 26th, 2009 at 10:30am #

    As a German Woman in her sixties, I’m deeply moved by reading all this.
    My mother was already in her sixties when she dared to confess to me, finally, that she did know about the transportations of Jewish people into “KZs”. – I think, there is no “American” soul to rely on, but only a “human” soul.
    In our days, despite of our shameful experience during the Nazi time, many Germans, above all our government (Angela Merkel embracing George Bush) is guilty again for what is happening in Afghanistan, in Iraq, Gaza and elsewhere.
    The human opportunism in general is to blame!!!

  16. Peter said on February 26th, 2009 at 11:05pm #

    My parents were from Germany too. My mother was 18 and my father 14 when the war ended. My father was too young to know of such things. I could not speak with my father easily about the war. He did not like the constant anti-German media in this country (the USA). My mother (like myself) did not like what the media says about Germans either, but she was easier to talk to.

    I spoke with her often about the war years. I wanted to know what someone who was there had to say as opposed to listening or reading to what American’s or others who were not there said.

    Being 18 in 1945, of course that meant she was a child for most of Hitler’s reign. I never spoke to my grandparents, so maybe more mature (older) people knew more. I asked her often because I was interested in her experiences and the history. She could only tell me a few things. Once , when she visited Memel, my mother and my grandmother met a Jewish neighbor. They started talking, but the man said they should not be seen talking to one another or they could get in trouble. She also said when she was a young girl she remembered stores windows being smashed one day and an old woman sitting down and crying. She didn’t remember what year it was, but I’m guessing this was Kristallnacht. I don’t even think she knew this was against jews. Her father was a police detective. She told me he once had to deliver an order to a jewish doctor that he either had to close his office or leave Germany. I don’t remember which it was anymore. While a movie would probably present my grandfather as a Nazi for delivering that order, he was not. He was patriotic, but did not like Hitler and was more of a social democrat. She also mentioned that there were a few Jewish kids in her class. One had gone to England and she said the others pulled out of class at one time or another, but she knew nothing of what happened to them. This was a one on one conversation between me and her and she was speaking truthfully. I don’t believe she held anything back. She told me many other things, but that is all she could tell me of what she knew of jews during the war.

    My mother had her own experiences I asked her about. Her family was from the east and lost their homeland and several homes. My mother was born in Memel, which became Klaipeda Lithuania after the WW I (but Germans lived there until the end of WW II when they fled or were expelled). At one time my great grandmother owned an apartment complex (a few apartments) there. My family also had a summer home in Konigsberg (east Prussia), which became Kaliningrad Russia after the war. They lost that home to Russians. I visited Kaliningrad a few months ago and visited the tiny village where they had their home. My mother grew up in a different city called Brieg, which was given to Poland after the war. She never saw any of these places after 1945.

    At the end of the war she was fleeing the Russian army and heading west. She was caught by Czechs and imprisoned by Russians (or the other way around, I don’t remember any more). When she is telling me this she began to cry. My mother and the other German women with her were stripped naked and humiliated. She told me she wasn’t raped and I believe her. But if she had been raped, I don’t know if she would have told me.

    Josie, there were many things going on in the war and I believe Germany committed terrible atrocities, but also that terrible atrocities were committed against Germany. You said your mother knew jews were being transported to concentration camps. That itself does not mean much. Did she know what was going on in those camps? I assume not, because you don’t say that. Since there were 500,000 jews in Germany, not many people out of a population of about 80 million people, but still someone had to witness these people being transported east. But did they have any idea where they were going or what was going to happen to them. Americans in California also witnessed 100,00 Japanese being arrested and shipped off. They didn’t protest and and other Americans moved into their homes. They didn’t know what would happen to them either. If the Americans had been committing atrocities inside their concentration camps, I doubt if most American citizens would have known about it.

    Also, consider this. I have a copy of an article the German historian Jorg Friedrich wrote for the Los Angeles Times a few years ago during the war in Iraq. The title of the article is “Today, civilians deaths are a failure; in WW II, they were intentional”. Writing about the bombing of Germany he says. “Forty-five thousand people were killed in Hamburg during the air attacks:50,000 in Dresden, 12,000 in Berlin, 10,000 in Kassel, 5,500 in Frankfurt and so on. In Pforzheim, a city of 63,000, one third of the population was incinerated in one night in February 1945, even as the war was coming to a close. Night after night, entire cities were lighted on fire, like non-nuclear versions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Never before in modern history had a civilian population endured such a military assault”. Unlike atrocities against jews, the bombing was witnessed by everyone. Weren’t these atrocities? Wasn’t his mass-murder? Two million German women were raped (many gang raped, some as many as 10 times) and then many were killed afterwards like their husbands and children by Russian soldiers. Weren’t these atrocities? Have you ever heard of any Russians, Americans or Brits being tried for war crimes?

    Americans erect huge holocaust museums for an event that took place in Europe. We have several now. But we have no memorials for what Americans did to African slaves or the native Indian population that Americans decimated. Isn’t this hypocritical? Should Germany erect memorials for the Africans and Indians the Americans murdered. Thats how ridiculous American behavior is.

  17. Peter said on February 26th, 2009 at 11:15pm #

    Correction: In reference to the Japanese, the above should read “Americans in California also witnessed 100,000 Japanese being arrested and shipped off”

  18. Tree said on February 27th, 2009 at 7:22am #

    Peter, how many Native Americans live in Germany and contribute to it’s finances and culture? How about the descendants of African slaves? I would assume next to none, which is why there are no memorials to Native Americans and African slaves in Germany.
    In America, there is a large population of Jews that were displaced and/or survived World War II and their descendents. They have established communities in America and many have contributed to universities and the arts, among many other things.
    Go to Washington DC, you will find a museum dedicated to Native Americans, one to African Americans and one to the Holocaust. That’s hardly an imbalance.

  19. Shabnam said on February 27th, 2009 at 7:36am #

    Thank you very much for sharing your true story with us. Other people should do the same to show that experiencing ‘holocaust’ is not limited to one group. As we have seen Gaza has recently experienced her own holocaust by those who have erected an apartheid states on stolen land of Palestine.
    More than 400000 Gypsies were killed in WWII but zionists do not allow any memorial museum to be built since Zionists propagandists think it will damage their DOGMA that Jewish experience is ‘unique’ in the history of mankind which is of course a lie. More than 8 million Iranians were perished during WWI due to British occupying force war policy in Iran where they diverted Iranian crops to feet their own troops and left Iranians to die out of hunger. This is a war crime and according to Mohammad Majd, probably the worse genocide in the 20th century, yet there is even no recognition by the British war criminals who occupied Iran during the WWI who are part of the western power, but, of course, people and especially Iranians never forget this crime.
    According to Norman Finklestein in “the holocaust industry”, Gypsy Holocaust memorial has been denied for the following reasons:

    Multiple motives lurked behind the museum’s marginalizing of the Gypsy genocide.
    First: one simply couldn’t compare the loss of Gypsy and Jewish life. Ridiculing the call for Gypsy representation on the US holocaust Memorial Council as ‘cockamamie,’ executive director Rabbi Seymour Siegel doubted whether Gypsies even “existed” as a people: “There should be some recognition or acknowledgment of the gypsy people .. if there is such a thing.”

    Second: acknowledging the Gypsy genocide meant the loss of an exclusive Jewish franchise over The Holocaust, with a commensurate loss of Jewish ‘moral capital.’

    Third: if the Nazis persecuted Gypsies and Jews alike, the dogma that The Holocaust marked the climax of a millennial Gentile hatred of Jews was clearly untenable. Likewise, if Gentile envy spurred the Jewish genocide, did envy also spur the Gypsy genocide? In the museum’s permanent exhibition, non-Jewish victims of Nazism receive only token recognition.

    Finally, the Holocaust museum’s political agenda has also been shaped by the Israel-Palestine conflict. Before serving as the museum’s director, Walter Reich wrote a paean to Joan Peters’s fraudulent From Time Immemorial, which claimed that Palestine was literally empty before Zionist colonization. Under State Department pressure, Reich was forced to resign after refusing to invite Yasir Arafat, now a compliant American ally, to visit the museum.

  20. Peter said on February 27th, 2009 at 12:45pm #

    Many people contributed to the USA’s success, not just jews. Jews make up approximately two percent of the USA’s population. Thats right, 2%! There are much bigger, Irish, Black, Italian and even German communities. But when these people come here they don’t demand memorials be built for what happened to their grandparents in Europe. Your reasoning is crap. There are people from all over the world that live in the USA and many have suffered greatly as a result of wars and atrocities, but only jews have a memorial to their suffering and the USA completely ignores the atrocities it perpetrated on its own people (Indians and Blacks). The USA is not only hypocritical, but ridiculous for commemorating an atrocity that happened somewhere else in the world. As I said, by that idiotic reasoning Germany should build a memorial for what Americans did to Blacks. Germany has a small black population now.

    There are several holocaust museums in the USA. One in Washington DC and one in Los Angeles. They are big and they get coverage in the media. You said there are museums for native Americans and Africans. There should be memorials commemorating atrocities committed against them. If there is such a thing, Americans have not been told about it. That would take space or time away from a news broadcast where they want to talk about the holocaust, which is a subject discussed every day in the media.

  21. Tree said on February 27th, 2009 at 1:00pm #

    Peter, my comment addressed the last paragraph of your comment, which was weak and lacked common sense, yet you still don’t have a clue. Please don’t speak for all Americans and what they don’t know or have not been told as it’s clear you’re only stating what you don’t know.
    By the way, the next time you’re in Boston, visit the Irish Famine Memorial.

  22. Peter said on February 27th, 2009 at 1:21pm #


    You’re welcome. More than 50 million people died in WW II. About 6 million Jews and 50 million gentiles. 25 million Soviets and 8 million Germans.

    WW II started 20 years after WW I ended and what started the war had almost nothing to do with Jews. It was about land that was taken from Germany and placing millions of Germans in foreign countries. Jews had an interest in persuading Britain and the USA to attack Germany, but these same countries fought Germany in WW I when anti-semitism had nothing to do with the war.

    History has been distorted by the coverage of the suffering of jews so that now many people think thats what the war was about. The Americans and British committed their own atrocities against Germans. But they are also guilty of supporting the biggest mass murderer – Stalin. Stalin relocated, killed or shipped off to Siberia huge numbers of Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians , many never to be seen again. Stalin’s NKVD whose leader was Jewish (as were many people in Stalin’s Gov’t) committed awful atrocities in the Baltic countries. So much so, that Latvians Estonians and Lithuanians joined up with the German army to fight the Soviets. There is no American memorial for these peoples suffering. The Soviets killed 10,000 Polish officers and members of the Polish Intelligentsia and they tried to blame it on Germany. In 1991 the Russian leadership admitted their country had done this. Just last month, two thousand German civilians were found in what is now part of Poland (formerly Marburg, Germany). Their skulls showed they had been shot through the head. This atrocity was perpetrated by Poles or Soviets. They are pretty sure it was the Soviets. Many people suffered in the war and the allies perpetrated their share of atrocities.

  23. Peter said on February 27th, 2009 at 1:40pm #

    You should learn how to read, because you clearly don’t have a clue what is wrong with your nonsensical statements and reasoning. If you are capable, read my whole statement above, not just the last paragraph. You should take your own advice and not speak for all Americans. I’ve lived in the USA my whole life and like others living here, I know what the media covers. Anyone with just a little interest in such things has heard of the holocaust museums. Almost no one would knows of your Irish museum, Indian or African museum.

    Read Shabnam’s statement above where he explains how the jewish groups prevented others being recognized in the holocaust museum. You clearly are out of your realm here. That is why you defend the USA’s hypocritical and ridiculous notion of recognizing the suffering of Jews that suffered in Europe, but no one else suffering and ignoring the atrocities the USA committed. You need to read more, or at least learn how to read.

  24. Tree said on February 27th, 2009 at 1:59pm #

    I’m not defending anything.
    People who don’t have their heads up their asses know about the Heye Museum, the Irish Famine Memorial, the Anacostia Museum etc. etc. ad nauseum.
    You commented on why there are no memorials in Germany to Native Americans and African Americans. I told you why, because they are not an influential part of German culture unlike Jews in America which are. That is not defending anything, it’s simply a fact of life.
    If you don’t like it, do what all the other people have done. Form a committee, raise money and erect a memorial to your favorite tragic cause. But please don’t ask such silly questions as why there is no memorial to Native Americans in Germany.

  25. Peter said on February 27th, 2009 at 2:24pm #

    Maybe if you took your head out of your ass you could think better. The American holocaust museums are known around the world. The other museums you mentioned get virtually no mention (or no mention at all) in the media and for that reason are hardly known at all, including within the USA.

    The fact that jews have influence does not alter the fact that its hypocritical and ridiculous to have a memorial to their suffering in Europe located in this country. Having a memorial to Native Americans in Germany makes as much sense.

    So at least you recognize the problem is that Jewish groups have created this hypocritical situation in the USA. Other people come here to become Americans. So rather than break up and lobby for other ridiculous memorials, Americans have to lobby against jewish groups such as AIPAC and the ADL that lobby for holocaust recognition, attacking foreign countries like Iran and to get the USA to supply Israel with jets so they can massacre Palestinians. Your suggestion to organize was the first thing you’ve said that makes sense.

  26. Tree said on February 27th, 2009 at 2:50pm #

    Peter, you’re clearly misinformed about a lot of things and apparently have not read a major newspaper in a long time if you think no one has heard of the museums that make up the Smithsonian, in particular the Heye Musuem which was in the news quite a bit about a year ago.
    They are not known to YOU yet you insist on speaking for the entire world in an attempt to make your argument work.
    Furthermore, whether or not these museums and memorials, or any other museum/memorial in America, gets media attention does not change the fact that they exist, that countless people visit them and that they are viable contributors to our culture. Clearly some are more popular than others for a variety of reasons.
    In fact, all you’ve proven from your argument is how well the Holocaust Museums are advertised, your own personal interest in them and how little interest you have in museums and memorials in general, unless you try to make a point, which has failed anyway.

    As for having my head up my ass–I have a degree in Art History with a concentration in Museum Studies. I have worked in galleries and a university museum so I know what I’m talking about here. You do not, which is why you think it’s hypocritical to have a Holocaust Museum in America.
    If you want to continue on insisting you know the state of museums and memorials and what the world thinks of them, by all means continue. I could use a laugh.

    As I mentioned, I am not defending much of anything here. You made a very misinformed statement and I simply tried to explain to you why there would be no Native American memorial in Germany. Apparently, this was too much common sense for you.

  27. Peter said on February 27th, 2009 at 3:09pm #

    No, Tree you are the misinformed one and you are the one that have made misinformed statements. I know perfectly well why there are no Native American memorials in Germany and I pointed out how hypocritical it is to have holocaust memorials in this country.

    I’ve been to the Smithsonian. I read major newspapers every day. Do you?From what I remember, the Smithsonian has museums, not memorials to suffering, which is precisely what the holocaust museum is. A memorial to suffering, that jewish groups made sure only included Jews and excluded everyone else. So, thats great that you know so much about museums. Now come back to the dicsussion on memorials which the holocaust museum is and the Smithsonian and Heye is not.

  28. Peter said on February 27th, 2009 at 3:26pm #

    The Anacostia Museum also is not a memorial. So, what does it have to do with our discussion?

  29. Peter said on February 27th, 2009 at 4:09pm #

    The Irish Famine Memorial in Boston also is not a war memorial, nor a memorial to genocide. Its a memorial to the famine the Irish suffered from, which had to do with a number of things and its website only contains a vague reference to colonization. It does not accuse the British of perpetrating an atrocity against the Irish. So again, this is clearly different.

  30. Tree said on February 27th, 2009 at 4:57pm #

    You wrote: “But when these people come here they don’t demand memorials be built for what happened to their grandparents in Europe. Your reasoning is crap. There are people from all over the world that live in the USA and many have suffered greatly as a result of wars and atrocities, but only jews have a memorial to their suffering and the USA completely ignores the atrocities it perpetrated on its own people (Indians and Blacks).”

    I responded: By the way, the next time you’re in Boston, visit the Irish Famine Memorial.

    You wrote: “The Anacostia Museum also is not a memorial. So, what does it have to do with our discussion?”
    It’s called a Holocaust MUSEUM in DC, not memorial.

    Please take the time to connect the dots. You don’t seem to be aware of your own comments.

    You also wrote: “That would take space or time away from a news broadcast where they want to talk about the holocaust, which is a subject discussed every day in the media.”
    This is hyperbole. The irony being that the Holocaust is in fact discussed obsessively every day on this website.

  31. Peter said on February 27th, 2009 at 5:44pm #

    The Holocaust museum, as the name says and as what the museum shows people teaches about and memorializes the suffering of Jews in Europe. The other museums don’t commemorate suffering or its not the central or sole focus of those museums.

    If you had the intelligence you could have been a lawyer.

  32. Peter said on February 27th, 2009 at 5:48pm #

    Actually its full name is United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Type it in and it will bring you directly to the site. Is there anything else you would like to argue about?

  33. Tree said on February 27th, 2009 at 5:56pm #

    Peter, you’re an idiot. I’ve wasted enough time with you.

  34. Peter said on February 27th, 2009 at 6:15pm #

    According to its website, The Irish Famine memorial in Boston is a “$1 million park ” The Washington and LA Holocaust museums are multi billion dollar museums/memorials. The US federal government also contributed money to having them built (or at least for the one in Washington). One million dollars will buy you a nice house in California, the billions of dollars spent on just the Washington holocaust museum could buy you a major corporation. You do know the difference between 1 million dollars and several billion I assume, don’t you?

    If you type in Holocaust museum you will see that in addition to LA and Washington, Dallas, Houston, Southwest Florida, El Paso and many, many other cities in the US have at least one Holocaust museum.

    The holocaust is discussed everyday. Thats a fact and you must have your head up your ass if you don’t know this. This year there were about five movies made about the holocaust. Kate Winslet won best actress for her part in “The Reader”, a hollywood holocaust movie. How many movies were made about slavery or the genocide of the American Indian this year?

  35. Danny Ray said on February 27th, 2009 at 6:52pm #

    Well Tree, If you want the opinion of a chimp just released from a reeducation camp I will have to sat that your last post was spot on:-)

  36. Shabnam said on February 27th, 2009 at 8:48pm #

    You are right. Many movies are made on Jewish holocaust. We are not only bombard by many movies on Jewish experience but hundreds of books that are shelved in the Public libraries on Jewish holocaust. If anyone bothers to go to a public library in major cities in the United States, shelf after shelf are packed with this kind of books, however, we do not see that many books on other genocides. It’s true that more books are written on this subject since this community has a lot of resources and it is easier for them to publish them. It took me ONE YEAR to bring one book on the subject of Iranian genocide during the WWI to a public library. I insisted to have the book in the library. The entire public library system holds ONLY ONE COPY of this book. Dr. Mohammad Goli Majd, according to his own words, had a lot of problems to publish this book in the US. Many groups do not have the same resources, like Jewish community, to bring their stories to the public. Another obstacle is that many who are in the position of ordering books are pro zionist, therefore, they bring many books on Jewish holocaust but are not willing to purchase books on other genocide. The librarian was willing to borrow the book from other states not to buy it. Majd’s book was only $35.00.

    In addition, I have noticed whenever there is killing of Palestinian in the occupied land, PBS airs the WWII films. Lately, during the Gaza holocaust PBS almost daily showed WWII series to have peoples’ mind focused on WWII holocaust. On the other hand, there was Obama and other officials who kept their silence during the Gaza genocide and said nothing against Israel war crimes. Major media followed the official line that ‘Israel has a right to self defense.” PBS followed the same line.

  37. Peter said on February 27th, 2009 at 10:21pm #

    I’ve noticed the same things you have and I’ve had similar experiences. Bookstores are the same as libraries. They contain several shelves of Jewish history, with many books about the holocaust. German history basically is a shelve or two about Hitler and some other books on Nazis.

    Germany had more Nobel Prizes than any country in the world through 1945. Germans led the world in science and engineeering for over a century. They gave the world Beethoven, Mozart and Bach. The USA got its space program and jet from the Germans. They brought the German rocket scientists to the USA to build their rockets and brought the jet back from Germany so they could replicate it. The USA got its pharmaceutical industry from Germany. They stole the German companies US divisions from Schering and Merck during the world wars and those are the USA’s biggest pharmaceutical companies today. But in the bookstores the German history shelf contains a shelf of books about NAZIS and nothing else.

    Finkelstein is another example. His books are bestsellers in some foreign countries. He’s never once been invited to speak on a television program or to write an article for a newspaper. But that filthy pig Thomas Friedman gets to spew his hate every day in the New York Times.

  38. Tree said on February 28th, 2009 at 6:23am #

    Hi Danny Ray, thanks (I think?)

    People tell themselves the same stories over and over again. If you don’t like the stories, there are plenty of ways to find new ones. Sitting around and complaining about the same old stories just isn’t that productive.

  39. Tree said on February 28th, 2009 at 8:41am #

    Danny Ray, you owe me a proper response to our debate on the Feb. 19 post and you owe me an email, so put down the banana and start typing.

    By the way, Mozart was Austrian.
    The German rocket scientists came to America because it was better than the alternative. Werner von Braun was hardly a hero, but he was a good PR man and would do whatever it would take to build his rockets. My father worked with them, by the way, and he was never too impressed with von Braun.

  40. Suthiano said on February 28th, 2009 at 10:09am #

    Since Tree took away a couple:

    The peak of German intellectual culture: Goethe, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Marx, Wagner, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Heidegger… And then WWII and the reshaping of the national identity.

    No slouches there… In fact some of the most amazing minds that have ever extended themselves into recorded thought.

    Oh, and Mozart may have been Austrian, but so was Hitler.

  41. sastry.m said on March 13th, 2009 at 8:49am #

    Of all Europeans who visited India the Germans stood unique in their appreciation of Indian holy scriptures such as the Vedas, the Upanishads and above all the widely acclaimed Bhagavadgita . The message they convey to all humanity is to get rid of all suffering by a clear understanding of what is the Absolute Truth of Eternal Reality and what is the Conceptual Truth in a relativistically projected world of Reality by means of inference and definition. Many German intellectuals have conveyed their greatest appreciation of knowledge and wisdom contained therein and dedicated their lives to their propagation at European Universities. The Holy Books of Great Religions implore to repose faith in their teachings but the Indian Philosophy seeks to inculcate clarity of discrimination between Eternal and Ephemeral. If so where do we human beings fail? And why the so called “White man’s burden” of imparting progress to an ignorant world had fallen upon their own selves by millions of tons of war waged bombs? Now the wisdom of Allied Victors is being put to Test to answer their accusations against the vanquished Germans.