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Book Summary: Ideology of Death: Why the Holocaust Happened

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Book Summary: Ideology of Death: Why the Holocaust Happened

Postby spacefem » Thu Jan 26, 18:54 2012

I read a 400 page book about the Holocaust. Ideology of Death: Why the Holocaust Happened in Germany by John Weiss.

My goal was to figure out how people can let ~12 million of their neighbors be murdered. I've read first-person books about the Holocaust... Diary of Anne Frank, Night, Man's Search for Meaning. They are striking and emotional accounts. But I felt like I was missing part of the story, that to really understand how this happened I'd have to get above it, drop the emotion and be analytical about it. Less disturbing, more thinking. It didn't really work out like I'd planned.

When you talk about the Holocaust people automatically go to Adolf Hitler. In fact I've been in plenty of discussions about "great & influential leaders" and the name of Hitler comes up, there's always someone saying "Hey maybe he was evil but he got so many people to do what he wanted them to!" We get this picture in our heads of this lone maniacal psychopath, combined with amazing leadership and speaking skills, brainwashing part of the population while another part sits in ignorant bliss, only to be shocked later when the death camps are revealed.

So the modern world is safe because that guy is dead, right? Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Darfur... just other flukes, right? Who knows how these things happen!

Well, this book gave me a feeling that we can know, and it's an awful feeling, and it's changed me and messed with me and colored everything I've heard while reading it, I totally missed my goal of being analytical.

The history literally starts at 0 AD with religious debate. Then mid-evil laws... form Christian trade guilds and armies, forbid Jews from participating, they can do the jobs we won't do like money lending. Then self-fulfilling prophecies... Jews aren't artists or warriors! They must be, somehow, worth less than us.

Throw in some heroes: Martin Luther was incredibly anti-Semitic. Add identity: da Vinci, Galileo, and the enlightenment scientists who are showing us that there are bigger things than us? They are not us. We are an agricultural society, set apart in our ways.

Add a complicated world of foreign trade and fluctuating prices that are hard to understand. Find someone to blame for your problems.

Add social Darwinism. How can humanity evolve to be something greater if we don't identify what holds us back? Doesn't paler skin, lighter hair, a smaller nose, a taller skull, mean you should be further along the timeline?

Keep blaming a people for your problems. Keep holding to your identity, and start denying that those people are like you. Cities are more tolerant of diversity because they have to be, because the walls fall down when you live by different people, so Jews move to the cities... but Germans are this agricultural, traditional, holding true-to-ourselves people! Jews are simply not Germans.

"It does not matter that if a Jew is born in Germany: a horse that is born in the cowshed is still no cow" - Hermann Ahlwardt, Journalist and Antisemitic People's Party founder, 1895


Let it all build up. Antisemitism sells well in politics. Antisemitic leaders get elected, and moderates shift a little further over to keep their spots...

Then WWI breaks out. Germany loses. Why? Why did our leaders sign those treaties? And why did we lose? What was holding us back?

Our race is evolved... if we want to rise we just need to get rid of the parts that aren't. we'll win the next war because we'll be ourselves.

Elect leaders who speak openly about the final solution to our "problems". Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals...

Then it starts slowly, with executing criminals, sterilization programs, then euthanasia, and it gets worse, and everyone keeps making it worse.

In Italy, Mussolini called for Jews to be sent to camps because of his alliance with Hitler. But "logistical issues" kept happening and 4/5 of Italian Jews survived the war. People don't just sit around while their neighbors are killed. It takes generations for that to happen.

It takes these gradual seeping.

And that's what's so disturbing, because I see it everywhere around me. Every time a politician shifts his position a little closer to an extreme to get elected. The email forwards about sterilizing welfare recipients. The talk about how children of immigrants don't deserve citizenship, it doesn't matter what they have to offer society, they are not us, they hold us back. You realize that people don't change, and this is the stuff, if it gets worse, if the leaders get more powerful, if a few key people hit a few lucky positions, over 50 or 100 years... it could happen again. Would I be able to speak up? When? Where's the line? At killing? If killing IS WRONG, why do we still have a death penalty, and war?

It wasn't Hitler's amazing oratorical skills, he was a simple man and a failure at most other things and he was good at putting things in terms people could understand, but mostly because he just didn't have a whole lot of complicated things to say. He deserves no credit for greatness, unless it's for being a great racist, because that's the only thing he never compromised on.

Millions of innocent people were murdered, we said "never again", and it keeps happening again, because we want to make the story so simple and about one man vs. the world. But it was the world that caused this... our world. We still live in the same place.
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Re: Book Summary: Ideology of Death: Why the Holocaust Happe

Postby monk » Thu Jan 26, 19:27 2012

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it--always."
Gandhi

So we fight. We speak out. We take a moment to "reply to all" on those inflammatory emails with a short paragraph on why you think it's bigoted/racist/homophobic or however it's abhorent. Recommend books like the one you just did. If you are afraid to speak yourself, forward the email to an anonymous email account and reply to it from there.

Support those that want the good types of change even if it's just a few dollars here and there. Get to know your neighbors even if they're bigoted asshats and let your tolerance rub off on them.

Make that kind of holocaust impossible in your own back yard and hope your example eventually shines through to those other places and that our next generation will send out ambassadors to help prevent it.

Remember that for every Germany there was an England, a France, a U.S. that might have been slow to respond but was nonetheless completely unstoppable when it was motivated.

Take into account that since WWII the number of places where democracy and basic freedoms are to be had IS growing but only because people like you keep promoting it.
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Re: Book Summary: Ideology of Death: Why the Holocaust Happe

Postby dwarp » Fri Jan 27, 7:41 2012

This book sounds like a course I took in undergrad, "Understanding the Holocaust". Like you, I figured it was going to start circa maybe WWI, but no. The last two weeks of class were discussion on Nazi propaganda, but the rest was just this big revelation of how deep anti-Semitism really ran, what political actions and movements catered to these feelings, starting all the way with the Romans. What struck me the most is that my professor, a 60 year-old Jewish man born and raised in Chicago, would have Holocaust deniers in his classroom, simply there to negate what he told us. I didn't realize those people still existed. (Richard S. Levy, by the way, if anyone wants to check out any of his books. Really great guy, one of my favorite professors.)

Not only as a Jew, but as a human being, it's terrifying for me to think about the fact that these things still go on. The Xenophobia that most "Western" countries have exhibited in the past decade or so (post 9/11 particularly) is alarming in many ways. I've talked to people who say "Why do we need to talk about the Holocaust anymore? You guys bring it up like this giant guilt trip. Yes, it was terrible, but it happened in 1930-40." They don't understand exactly what this book and my college professor were trying to impress upon us. I read a book last semester, Casting Out: The eviction of Muslims from western law and politics, which takes the same approach with Muslims and others from Arab countries. She discusses "orientalism" and how people have always seen the Middle East in a certain, stereotypical way, which causes them to subconsciously racially profile what she classifies as "brown people" (ie: basically anyone who isn't Caucasian)...really interesting, but scary stuff. Makes you realize the potential for another sort of Holocaust right here in the United States.

MTV ran a public service announcement of sorts where they spliced film of a modern group of people in with footage from the Holocaust, the message being "History repeats itself". I suggest everyone watch it, it really haunted me for a few days. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DscwPz1ULds
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Re: Book Summary: Ideology of Death: Why the Holocaust Happe

Postby Sonic# » Fri Jan 27, 10:52 2012

It sounds like a good book, Spacefem, and your impassioned comparison of its subject to today has really made me think, especially about the language of ghettoization and expellation that comes up with discussions of immigration and welfare. "Gradual seeping," yes.

And I always think of The Prioress's Tale, one of the most problematic tales in The Canterbury Tales, written in the 1380s. This was written 150 years after Jews were expelled from England. It utterly villifies the Jews, accusing them of the martyrdom of a young boy. The Jews get killed, the boy's soul goes to God, and all is well, which is to say: what the flying fuck? Chaucer writes about villainous Jews while falling into so many stereotypes, and yet there are no Jews openly in England, nor will there be for 300 years. Whence the need to write this? Whence the anger and suspicion? Scholars work on the question - I want to see his answer, both for what it will say then and what it will say to the creeping xenophobic rhetoric of today.
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Re: Book Summary: Ideology of Death: Why the Holocaust Happe

Postby Aum » Fri Jan 27, 22:10 2012

I don't have much to add, other than... when I visited the holocaust museum in Cambodia, saw the stacks of skulls, the torture rooms, the barbed wire put across facility balconies to prevent people from committing suicide to avoid more torture, and a country that lost 1/4 of its adult population most of whom were professionals and academics and now children have to fill their roles: you can't chalk it all up to one person. It takes participation or silent consent of an entire civilization for such things to happen. It requires people to take it lying down, and to obey authority. It is fear consciousness, it's the reptile brain taking over. It is the monkey mind and nothing greater.

It's incredibly ironic that Hitler talked about German strength and superiority. Given what happened, it seems to me that German society failed miserably to keep its thinking cap on.

I'm afraid to say this because I hope it's not true... but humanity is doomed to repeat this, and I think the next time it happens will be somewhere frighteningly close to home.
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Re: Book Summary: Ideology of Death: Why the Holocaust Happe

Postby Eravial » Sat Jan 28, 1:05 2012

That does sound like a fascinating book. I recently watched "The Wave," which is a 2008 German film based off the social experiment "The Third Wave," in which a high school teacher turned his class into a fascist society. This film shows essentially that - in a week-long project on autocracy, the teacher turns the students, denying that dictatorial rule/holocaust could ever happen again, into a thriving body based on groupthink. It was pretty interesting, and it's on Netflix streaming currently.
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Re: Book Summary: Ideology of Death: Why the Holocaust Happe

Postby Axiomatic » Sat Jan 28, 11:44 2012

spacefem wrote:Then WWI breaks out. Germany loses. Why? Why did our leaders sign those treaties? And why did we lose? What was holding us back?


There's a bit more to this.

You have a state press. There is a war on. To keep up morale, the press writes about how well the war is going, and how our heroic boys on the front are heroically fighting and smashing the enemy forces at every turn, and if we behind the front lines will only support our troops a little bit longer, victory is assured.

Then, one day, out of the blue, your country capitulates. Your army surrenders. You're faced with brutal war reparations.

What the fuck just happened? Everything was going so well! We were winning, damnit! Why the hell did we surrender if things were going so well? This is treason!

Who the fuck betrayed us? Who the hell Stabbed Us In The Back?
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Re: Book Summary: Ideology of Death: Why the Holocaust Happe

Postby Amuro » Fri Feb 3, 0:45 2012

Well I'm not so sure people actually letting 12 million of their neighbors get murdered now if we talk about just the Jews. Most of the Jews killed in the holocaust weren't even from Germany they were from from Poland, Russia, a whole lot of other European counties. Polish and Russian people really couldn't do any thing about it they were fighting a war people forget that German didn't really have big Jewish population by the time they started to actually make laws against Jewish people. But as for racism and xenophobia in the west well every country on this planet has a problem with racism and xenophobia from the U.S. to Canada, to The Netherlands, to Mexico, to China, to Nigeria, to Qatar and the UAE. Also when it comes to genocide in today's world well the simple fact is people don't wanna be bothered with taking some type of action (military) to prevent or stop it. All we as a society can do is apply diplomatic pressure and if it's countries supporting the government that's committing the genocide well their wont be any change especially if it's a non western country(Capital and resources makes the world go round). But there is one thing a lot of people don't wanna own up to and it's that a lot people don't look at Africans as people. Some people may lie to them selves but deep down they don't. This psa speaks for itself.

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