Echoes of the Holocaust

by Rebecca Bynum (March 2010)
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Rowman and Littlefield, 2010
260 pgs.

he first thing that strikes one in assessing Professor Rubenstein’s work, aside from his tight, non-nonsense style and meticulously detailed research, is the overall emphasis he places on what Richard Weaver termed the “metaphysical dream” of the peoples and players in the drama of history. Rubenstein is a man who understands the Nazi worldview as well as anyone alive and understands also that it was not a fluke, but grew from the soil of industrial modernity in which men are measured in terms of production and consumption and the cold facts of competition make the elimination of “surplus populations” a constant, looming temptation for governments both internally and externally.

Though World War II effectively shattered the Nazi dream of racial superiority and world domination, it did not shatter its underlying anti-Christian social Darwinism, nor did it change the fact that we are living through the age of the death of God, which Rubenstein sees as a statement about human culture and not God himself. Even Islam, for all its religious fanaticism, in the final analysis, offers only the forced conformity to a dead god-as-system. Furthermore, modern social Darwinist theories are opening the door wide for genocide by contending that culture is genetic, and therefore, in the case of competing cultures, the “fitter” culture will inevitably annihilate the lesser one. This would logically occur not through cultural assimilation (the replacing of one metaphysical dream by another), but through genocide. We see this in the threat of nuclear jihad on the part of Iran as well as in the deep-seated fear that we ourselves may forced to commit genocide against Muslims which has led to a dangerous and widespread denial of the Islamic problem. Islam and the Western world are quickly becoming locked in a struggle for cultural survival and the pressure is growing for the West to sacrifice Israel in the hope of peace the same way Czechoslovakia was sacrificed to Hitler. It is fitting, therefore, that one of the most important living thinkers on the Holocaust and genocide in the Twentieth Century should assess the situation facing the Twenty-first. His assessment is grim.

Dr. Rubenstein begins Jihad and Genocide with a very thorough appraisal of basic Islamic doctrine and a concise but accurate analysis of the most important and influential modern Muslim theorists, Sayyid Qutb, Mawlana Mawdudi and Abdullah Azzam. Though this is an area covered by many writers on this subject, due to his painstaking research, Rubenstein brings forth numerous interesting details and connections of which few are aware. An excerpt from this chapter,
Jihad versus Jahiliyya: The Seminal Islamist Doctrine of Sayyid Qutb was published in our February issue.
As one of the world’s foremost scholars on the Holocaust, Rubenstein draws stunning parallels and contrasts between Nazism and Islam. He begins by comparing the Nazi method of Jewish cultural annihilation (that is, total genocide) to that of the Muslim Turks in their annihilation of the Armenian culture. Women and children were killed in both cases, but the Muslim Turks absorbed some of the Armenians into their society by forcing women, helpless after their menfolk had been killed, into concubinage and by simply converting the children. In both cases the result is the same – cultural obliteration. The Turks, however, were not concerned with bloodlines in the case of the Armenians. The Nazis, on the other hand, viewed culture, belief and genetics as one interlocking whole and so Jews, even those who had converted to Christianity, were still considered inferior and a danger to the German race and nation.

Where the Jews were concerned, the Nazis and Arab Muslims were as one on the perceived necessity for their total annihilation. Professor Rubenstein explores the role of Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, in great detail. The Mufti has been the subject of some revisionist speculation concerning his relationship with Hitler and other top Nazis, but Dr. Rubenstein places this in clear and unequivocal perspective so that any speculation on the Mufti’s role in formulating the Final Solution is firmly put to rest.

The Mufti’s main concern, besides securing a leading role for himself in the Arab world, was to prevent Jewish immigration to Palestine and to gain assurance that those Jews who did escape Europe for Palestine would be eliminated by the Germans. For this he sought Hitler’s personal guarantee.
Like the Germans, the Mufti saw the Soviet Union as a mortal enemy. A Soviet victory would have been disastrous for his plans to include the Soviet Union’s Muslims in an independent greater Muslim state. Although pleased when he learned of Hitler’s plans for the Jews, he wanted the German leader to issue a public declaration formally recognizing the right of the Arab states to attain full independence. Hitler refused, pointing out that “Germany was now engaged in severe battles to force the gateway to the northern Caucasus region.” He explained that the German plan involved a Wehrmacht sweep through southern Russia and the Caucasus into Iran, Iraq and the Middle East on one side while, in a vast pincer movement, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps conquered Northern Africa, Egypt, Palestine and Syria from the other. Had Hitler succeeded, Germany would have gained control of this strategic region and its petroleum reserves, Britain would have lost her empire, and Germany would have become the dominant world power. With a collaborationist Vichy French regime in control of Syria and Lebanon, Hitler did not want to create problems for Vichy or for Italy, which would have opposed the creation of a potentially strong Arab entity on the southern shores of the Mediterranean, Mussolini’s Mare Nostrum.[1]

Of course, this pincer movement split Hitler’s forces as a time when a concentrated Blitzkrieg on the major Soviet cities could have taken the Soviets out of the war. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, however, was hampered by the lack of petroleum for his forces in North Africa which became a factor in his defeat at the hands of British Field Marshal Montgomery, so the need for the Germans to seize those oil fields is plain.

An interesting side issue is raised concerning Field Marshal Rommel and the part he would have played in the extermination of the Jews of Palestine had he prevailed in North Africa. In a certain sense, Rommel was elevated by the Allies in order to magnify the British victory at El Alamein. Said Winston Churchill at the time, “We have a very daring and skilful opponent against us, and, may I say across the havoc of war, a great general.” And though Rommel was not a member of the Nazi party, he was close to Hitler and owed the Fuhrer his entire career. Rommel rose through the Hitler bodyguard from the time he arranged security at a Nuremberg rally for Hitler in the early 1930s. Hitler liked him and promoted him whenever possible. Rubenstein clearly does not truck with the idea that Rommel was a soldier’s soldier who never got his hands dirty during the war. Rubenstein brings out the little known fact that there were Einsatzkommando units already stationed in Athens, poised to enter Egypt had Rommel defeated Montgomery. These were equipped with mobile gassing trucks which could dispatch up to 60 Jews at a time on route to their gravesites. Rommel would have overseen the Final Solution for the Jews of Palestine had the war gone Germany’s way.

Of course, one can argue about exactly what Rommel knew, but in the end, that argument collapses, because on some level, everyone knew; just as we all know the genocidal intent of the Muslim states toward Israel even if we’re not privy to their actual plans. If there were a nuclear strike on Tel Aviv tomorrow, not one person on earth would be genuinely surprised. We also know that the Islamic Republic of Iran cannot be dealt with the way the Soviet Union was because the risk of nuclear retaliatory annihilation may not be a deterrent for the mullahs. And as Rubenstein emphasizes, it is the religious authorities of Iran who have the power to make the decision on a nuclear strike and thereby to fulfill Islamic prophesy by embracing national martyrdom. Rubenstein also explores the question of whether Israel could survive a nuclear strike, but if there were a coordinated ground assault from Syria and possibly Jordan at the same time, it’s very doubtful.

In addition to being a student of history, Rubenstein is also a student of psychology. He doesn’t write history in terms of disembodied historic forces playing upon hapless individuals. His history is driven by men of flesh and blood whose actions are psychologically conditioned by their worldview and experience. The most poignant aspects of Rubenstein’s body of work concerns the meek acceptance of the Jews of their fate at the hands of the Nazis and not only acceptance, but active collaboration in some cases, born of the denial of reality coupled with the hope for the survival of a remnant. In The Cunning of History, he writes:

One of the elements conditioning the compliant Jewish response to the process of extermination was their own history. The last time Jews had taken up arms against an enemy was during the Judeo-Roman Wars of 66-70 C. E. and 131-35 C.E. On both occasions, they fought valiantly and lost disastrously. Those who during the first Judeo-Roman was had counseled submission and surrender were installed by the victors as the religious and political leaders of the Jewish people. The religious leaders of the European diaspora for almost two thousand years were the spiritual heirs of the Pharisees and rabbis who rose to political and religious dominance only after they had been selected by the Romans as their “loyal and non-seditious agents.” Thus, diaspora Judaism began in the aftermath of catastrophic military defeat and survived by developing a culture of surrender and submission in consequence of that defeat. Until the bloody wars with the Romans, the Jews had been a violent, troublesome, rebellious nation. Their transformation from a warrior people of the sword into a submissive people of the book led by plebian scribes and scholars took several generations. By the year 200 C.E., Jewish character had undergone one of the most radical psychological and cultural transformations in history. Rabbinic Judaism is the result of that transformation. It shaped Jewish character and conditioned Jewish responses in the diaspora for two thousand years. Long after Western Jews were secularized and considered themselves “emancipated” from their ancient traditions, they continued as an organized community to respond to overlords as had those who surrendered to the Romans. No matter how grave the provocation, the Jewish Community instinctively avoided violent response. They sought to avert hostile action by bribery, petitions for mercy, or appeals to the religious or moral sentiments of their adversaries.

That is why during the Holocaust the Germans were able to incorporate the existing Jewish leadership and organizations into their bureaucracy and thereby to direct Jews to cooperate in their own extermination.

In the Warsaw Ghetto and in Lodz, Poland, the Jewish council, or Judenrat, did not resist German directives even when the Germans demanded the “selection” of 10,000 Jews a day for deportation. Jewish bureaucrats made the selection; Jewish police rounded up the victims.

When resistance was finally organized in the Warsaw Ghetto, they were forced to shoot the leader of the Jewish police along with several others in order to overthrow and replace the existing Jewish Council.

Regarding Europe today, at a time of sharply increasing antisemitic attacks and a growing atmosphere of persecution, it is hard to discern any organized and active Jewish resistance. We see instead an emphasis on “interfaith dialogue” along with increased emigration from Europe on the part of young Jews who see the writing on the wall for their children. Last year during Israel's brief war in Gaza, a small demonstration in Malmo, Sweden in favor of Israel was attacked by a screaming mob of Arabs and Swedish leftists, who threw bottles and firecrackers as the police passively looked on and did nothing. The mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, insisted to 
The Sunday Telegraph that he was opposed to anti-Semitism, but added: “I believe these are anti-Israel attacks, connected to the war in Gaza. We want Malmo to be cosmopolitan and safe for everybody and we have taken action. I have started a dialogue forum. There haven't been any attacks on Jewish people, and if Jews from the city want to move to Israel that is not a matter for Malmo.”[4] Meanwhile, Malmo’s synagogue employs full time security guards along with rocket-proof glass for the windows, and the Jewish kindergarten is equipped with thick steel doors. This pattern is repeating all over Europe and Great Britain.

And even after the Holocaust and in the face of the most strident genocidal rhetoric, the denial on the part of both Jewish organizations and secular Western governments continues.

Rubenstein takes us through the rise of the oil weapon and how in the 1970’s the foreign policy as well as immigration policies of France and other European states had begun to be held hostage to Arab oil. One begins to see the development of dhimmi psychology in which it is easier to blame Israel and America (and certainly a great deal of European anti-Americanism contains an antisemitic component) than for European states to face their own impotence in the face of Arab blackmail. There is also, of course, a great deal of satisfaction in thinking of Jewish Israelis as the “new Nazis” assuaging as it does, the conscience of nations, which in turn have their own patterns of denial.

Rubenstein’s final chapter, “The Fruits of Rage,” explores the Muslim psychological makeup in terms of honor, shame and rage and draws a parallel with the German psychological state after World War I and especially that of Adolph Hitler.

Imperial Germany declared war on Russia on August 1, 1914 and on France two days later. On August 5, 1914, Hitler volunteered for service and served with the Second Reserve Battalion of the Second Bavarian Infantry, known as the List Regiment, for the duration of the war. The unit first saw combat on October 29, 1914. After four days of fighting, the regiment was reduced in number from 3,600 to 611. The depressingly high casualty rate did not dampen Hitler’s enthusiasm for the war. He identified with Germany’s struggle in a deeply personal way. He found his element in his regiment and in the war itself. He was apparently content to serve as a dispatch runner for the duration. According to Ian Kershaw, one of Hitler’s most authoritative biographers, “from all indications, Hitler was a committed, rather than simply conscientious and dutiful, soldier, and did not lack physical courage.” Wounded slightly by shrapnel in October 1916, he was hospitalized in Berlin until December 1, 1916. He returned to his regiment on March 5, 1917.  On August 4, 1918, he received the Iron Cross, First Class, a rare achievement for a corporal.
On the night of October 13, 1918, Hitler was painfully wounded in a British gas attack. By the next morning he was blind and was shipped to a hospital in Pasewalk near Stettin. It was there that he learned “the shattering news of defeat and revolution,” what he called “the greatest villainy of the century.”

The German High Command actually wanted to take the entire country down in flames rather than submit to the humiliation of defeat. It was not long before Hitler and many other Germans turned their shame into rage against the eternal scapegoat – the Jews.

The stab-in-the-back legend (Dolchstoß in den Rücken) offered an enormously potent means of shifting responsibility so that German “honor” could be preserved. Nor was it difficult to identify a suitable “betrayer.” The legend had its roots in two powerful traditions, the Nibelungen Saga in which Siegfried, the dragon-slaying hero, is stabbed in the back by Hagen von Tronje, and the New Testament narrative in which Jesus is betrayed by Judas Iscariot with a loving kiss. Over the centuries, Jews have been identified with Judas as the paradigmatic betrayer within Christendom. More often than not, whenever the stronger community met with grave misfortune, Jews were punished as calamity’s alleged authors. 

Muslim rage against Jewish military victory and economic success in the heart of the Dar al Islam is likewise born of shame in their own impotence. Like Rubenstein, I believe that a Muslim victory against Israel would result in a second Holocaust and I don’t find credible some Arab protestations about deporting Jews back to Europe. I also doubt the West as a whole could ever recover from such horror as the responsibility ultimately lies with the Western world as Israel is part of that world. On the other hand, there is hope that this century will absorb the lessons of the century just past. Our leaders could do no better than to begin this sobering process by carefully reading Jihad and Genocide.

[1] Rubenstein, Richard L., Jihad and Genocide (Rowman and Littlefield, 2010) pgs 79-80
[2] Rubenstein, Richard L., The Cunning of History: The Holocaust and the American Future (Perennial, an imprint of Harper Collins, 1975, reprint 2001) pg. 70
[3] Ibid. pg. 74
[4] Meo, Nick “Jews leave Swedish city after sharp rise an Anti-Semitic hate crimes” The Sunday Telegraph Feb. 21, 2010

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