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December 11, 2010

Posted by Abi Sutherland at 12:04 PM *

I ran across an interesting article (Dutch) the other day about a recently-discovered diplomatic cable. It was sent in the midst of a foreign occupation, and casts serious doubt on the unity of the resistance to the occupiers’ brutal ethnic cleansing. At best, it’s an ambiguous narrative. At worst, it’s an indictment of an entire government. It was secret, and kept so, until long after the conflict was over.

This is not about Wikileaks. Or, at least, not directly.

The message (pdf, Dutch) is dated September 2, 1943, and was sent from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to all of the other ministers of the government in exile in London. This copy, addressed to the Ministry of Justice, surfaced in the Dutch embassy in Switzerland; it references a message that passed through Bern on its way to England. It deals with the attitudes of Dutch people toward the Jews in hiding in their own communities during the Nazi occupation.

(Pause for historical context.)

A few interesting dates:

Sep 1939 War in Europe. The Netherlands declares neutrality, which was its successful strategy for surviving World War I
Oct 1939 The first refugees from the east arrive in Westerbork Camp, a detention camp set up to house people (mostly Jewish) fleeing Nazi Germany.
May 10, 1940 Germany invades the Netherlands.
The Dutch royal family escape capture and flee to London
May 15, 1940 After the catastrophic bombing of Rotterdam, and under threat of similar treatment to Utrecht, the Netherlands surrenders.
A Dutch government in exile is formed in London
Jun-Nov 1940 The German occupying forces institute anti-Jewish measures.
This is made easier because Dutch records include religious affiliation*.
Feb 24-27, 1941   A general strike against the anti-Jewish measures is organized by non-Jews; the first resistance of its kind in occupied Europe.
It is swiftly and unpleasantly put down, with reprisals and hefty fines in the main cities that participated.
Jan 1942 Jews are forced to move from the provinces into the Amsterdam ghetto.
Jun 1942 Deportation of Jews to Westerbork, and thence eastward to “labor camps” in Germany begins.
Many Jewish families, on receiving deportation notices, go into hiding‡
Sep 2, 1943 Ministry of Foreign Affairs sends a telegram to the other ministers based on information sent through Bern
Sep 29, 1943 The last Jews are deported from the Amsterdam ghetto.
May 5, 1945 Liberation of the Netherlands

A few relevant numbers:

Population of the Netherlands, 1939   8,729,000
People self-identifying as Jews in the Netherlands, 1939   139,717
Population of the Netherlands, 1946   9,304,000
People self-identifying as Jews in the Netherlands, 1946   34,379
Jews who survived the war by hiding   25,000 (est)
People in hiding in the Netherlands, Sep 1944   350,000 (est)
Households hiding people in the Netherlands, Sep 1944   60,000 (est)

Basically, as everyone who’s read Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl knows, many of the Jews in the Netherlands who survived World War 2 did so by hiding in houses and offices. But the Jews were not the only ones who went into hiding (in Dutch, onderduiken, diving under). Men between the ages of 18 and 45 were being conscripted into German factories; many of them hid rather than go east. Dutch householders also stashed students, strikers, resistance members, and Allied soldiers in their attics.

The German occupying government punished the hosts of non-Jewish onderduikers with hunger: they confiscated their ration cards. The penalty for hiding Jewish people, meanwhile, was to be deported with them. A third of the hosts of Jews did not survive the war themselves.

The resistance movement included a number of organizations to help host all sorts of onderduikers, forging money and ration cards to feed this secret population. Although many Dutch people were ambivalent about Jews (sigh), the practice of hiding people had significant support.

(Back to the narrative.)

So here’s my translation of the telegraph:

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
London, 2 September 1943
Diplomatic Affairs Division


I have the honor to inform you that the minister in Bern has sent me the following telegram in code:
For some time, there have been reports coming out of the Netherlands regarding disappointments encountered in hiding Jews and protecting their assets. The betrayal of Christian hosts and other helpers happens frequently, as does the reporting of hiding-places of jewelry and suchlike, to save themselves or out of cowardice. This is creating a growing anti-Jewish sentiment, entirely independent of German propaganda.

Therefore I have the impression that the appointment of Jews in higher government positions is not well perceived in the Netherlands, and is not conducive to trust in the Government.
I am reporting the above to Your Excellency because I think that you will appreciate being informed about the representation of the mood in the Netherlands that the preceding telegram contains.

I am writing this same letter to all of our counterparts.


That last paragraph is at least as tangled and indirect in the original Dutch as I have rendered it in English, by the way. I think it’s a deliberate, deniable distancing, a way of warning the recipients that someone was saying this stuff, but not expressing an opinion on who. It doesn’t read, to me, as an agreement with the telegram, or even a belief in it as an accurate reflection of Dutch sentiment. The historians quoted in the newspaper article where I found it disagree. They seem to take it as an indication of the Dutch cabinet’s attitude at the time. And yet they also seem astonished by it. I do not know that I trust their reactions.

I also do not have any information about Jews in official positions in the Dutch government in exile. I have looked, and I’d expect such a fact to be prominently visible, given the times. And I can find no evidence of a cabinet reshuffle whose direction such a telegram might have been attempting to influence. In other words, I can’t see why the telegraph was written and sent when it was.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs in question, Eelko van Kleffens, had a long and distinguished career. He was in favor of neutrality for the Netherlands until it became impossible, then served effectively in the Foreign Ministry throughout the war. He wrote a powerful account of the German invasion, Juggernaut over Holland, which was widely read both in Britain and the Netherlands. After the war, he served as ambassador to the US, then to Portugal. He was instrumental in founding both the Benelux union (which was one of the seeds of the European Union) and the UN. He was elected President of the United Nations in 1954. I could find no evidence of anyone describing him as anti-Semitic at any point in his public career.

The point, if there is one:

I started researching this telegram as a sidelight to the Wikileaks narrative, wondering what would have happened had it been made public in 1943. I don’t think it would have been a good thing; it might have mistaken the motivations of an (I believe) innocent man who went on to do good things, or increased the tensions between hosts and onderduikers, or ratcheted up the fear of Dutch Jews about their fellow countrymen.

But the story isn’t that simple; the parallel isn’t that good. Government secrecy in 2010 is not like government secrecy in 1943: not in volume, not in average criticality, not in the nature of the threats we face. What I think should have happened in 1943 is not what I think should happen now. It’s complicated, like history tends to be.

And yet there is a symmetry, a similarity-in-shape that feels relevant. It’s not really about the release of government communications. It’s about whom we side with, whom (or what) we hide and from whom, and how we hide them. While explicitly excluding any Godwin comparisons, I think the impulse to protect the vulnerable against the mighty is the common thread between 1943 and the present. But now we’re not talking about human beings in tanks coming after other human beings in attics. Now it’s servers and data, denial of service and withdrawal of services, information and knowledge.

I think WikiLeaks is going to dive under the surface of the internet soon, and that other organizations will follow it. I think people of good will will be hiding files on data keys like refugees in an attic, passing IP addresses like forged ration books, and picking up stray information like downed airmen.

And I think there will be stories about how these organizations turn against their hosts—or are said to do so—with the same layered unreality as that message from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

* The role of religion in Dutch public life played a complicated part in the Holocaust. On the one hand, the fact that the Jews were easily identifiable made it easier for the Nazis to round them up. On the other hand, the German occupiers tried to set up single institutions in place of the “pillarized” system of paired Catholic/Protestant ones. The Catholic Church refused to participate in any of them, and formed a natural core of and cover for resistance to the occupation thereafter†.
† Keeping, alas, its mixed record on the treatment of Jews.
‡ Among them, the Frank family in Amsterdam, who were served notice on July 5, 1942.

Comments on Onderduiken:
#1 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 04:07 PM:

Why that document should have classified and remained Secret: It contained a literal translation of a coded dispatch, which could have been used to break the code.

#2 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 04:12 PM:

Thank you, Abi. One of my early formative experiences was reading Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place -- then obsessively reading everything else I could get my hands on, concerning the German occupation of Holland -- so a lot of what you're talking about is deeply familiar to me, in the way that treasured childhood stories burned deep into the mind, early, ring familiar even decades later.

In terms of the wikileaks parallel, I'll not that there are currently over 1600 mirrors online, but indeed, the insurance file has been quietly downloaded and seeded. At this time, it's a bit as if TPTB hit a drop of mercury with a hammer -- but then, the structure, philosophical predilection, and design of the internet tends to treat attempted censorship like damage, and responds by forging multiple routes around the damaged area.

#4 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 04:23 PM:

Jim @1:

Interesting. I had not thought of it in those terms. Civilian mindset, I guess.

So when a code book, or a code method becomes obsolete, does anyone go through and declassify the stuff that was classified only for that reason? (Bet not; that would be a lot of trouble.)

#5 ::: johannes ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 04:26 PM:

there are some serious historical inaccuracies in your article. you should read presser's ondergang.

#6 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 04:31 PM:

This is tangential to the topic in some ways, but seems frighteningly relevant in others: Overt anti-Semitism in the Texas Tea Party.

TPer John Cook, Texas State Republican Executive Committee member:
"I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office. They’re the people that do the best jobs over all."

Cook insists he is not prejudiced against Jews:
"They’re some of my best friends," he said of Jews, naming two friends of his. "I’m not bigoted at all; I’m not racist."


#7 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 04:40 PM:

Mac @2:

I cannot remember the title of my formative book about those times was; it was neither The Hiding Place nor Diary of a Young Girl. It was fictional, but pulled few punches. (I'm still baffled that they didn't just give us an original text to work with.)

It's odd* and deeply powerful, living here in the Netherlands and thinking about this. I first learned about the February strike by reading the plaque under the monument in Zaandam; this stuff is local history. The grandparents of my kids' friends will have been toddlers in the Hunger Winter. The oldest people in the village remember the occupation.

* Odd to me, I mean, having first learned about World War 2 while living in far away California. That safe distance is gone, and I wasn't quite ready for the reality of dealing with it in its native landscape.

#8 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 04:46 PM:

Powell's has an English translation under the title "Ashes in the Wind", ISBN 9780285638136.

#9 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 04:53 PM:

jonannes @5:

Please tell me which specific facts are wrong. I did check all of the numbers and dates, which tell their dreadful story without any need for embellishment. Three-quarters of Dutch Jews died; it was one of the worst proportions in Europe.

I also carefully avoided any impression that the Dutch were unified in their protection of the Jews. Like most of the nations put to the test, they varied in their response from the heroic to the monstrous.

I'm aware that it's a sensitive subject, even now*, and that interpretations of the facts I cited vary. Anyone who wants to learn more should certainly include Presser's work in their reading.

* I had an American colleague in my Dutch company throw the word "nazi" around in the context of strictly checking a particular setting in a particular system. He was taken aside and quietly asked to choose a different phrasing.

#10 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 04:56 PM:

The Anne Frank Museum has a very interesting immersive 3D representation of the Frank family's secret hiding place. You can click through doors and explore the small spaces. Keep the sound on; there's a background of small noises that can add to the shut-in paranoia of the location. It may be sounds of things happening outside (was the building near a factory?), but it gives the impression of strange footsteps approaching a lot of the time.

We all like to think we'd be heroic and shelter our Jewish neighbor. I hope I can go to my grave believing that, and that things won't get to where I have to find out for sure how my ideals withstand the sound of boots at the door.

#11 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 04:58 PM:

Hmm. The problem the authorities face in WikiLeaks is that you can't unring a bell -- and WL have a mighty big bell, protected by the resilience of the Internet.

#12 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 05:04 PM:

Kip @10: We all like to think we'd be heroic and shelter our Jewish neighbor.

The thing I was brought up to aspire to (in this regard) is that I'd be smart enough to see the trouble coming and get out before it came down.

#13 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 05:17 PM:

Interesting, Avram.

I was brought up to recognize trouble in the same manner, but broke with that upbringing.
My husband's grandparents did indeed shelter people in the attic of her home in the Netherlands. Some of the people they hid were Jews, others were resistance workers and fighters.

Years of contemplation have made it clear to me that *that* is the standard I aspire to: to be able to shelter people if needed, and fight against the forces of fascism when and where they (inevitably) rise again.
History will not repeat itself at the same level of detail. The people we are likely to be called upon to shelter won't be Jews but rather undocumented workers or practicing Muslims.

#14 ::: Alter S. Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 05:23 PM:

Abi, @9:

The highest percentages of the Jewish population that were killed in Europe were in Poland, Lithuania, and Germany, IIRC.

Where the Netherlands stands out is that it was the most compliant country in turning over Jews to Nazi authorities in Western Europe, outside of Germany. Italy did better. France did better. Depending on sources, Austria may have done better.

#15 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 05:39 PM:

Alter S Reiss @14:

I've read various explanations of the ratio, not all of which boil down to simply being compliant. The religious "pillarization" of Dutch society, originally intended to keep the balance between Catholics and Protestants, meant that the records of who was Jewish were clear, complete, and easy to get at. (Note that the number of people self-identifying as Jews* in my post are not round figures. They're not estimates.)

And, living here, I can tell you that it's not an easy place to hide and move populations of people. I could stash entire villages in the hills of France where I've vacationed, tuck encampments unseen in the glens of Scotland where I used to live, but this flat, crowded country really does not give one a lot of places to go, nor avenues to move them by.

This is not to say that the Dutch population were saints. But it wasn't just a case of everyone handing their neighbors over to the Nazis either.

* A phrase I used to differentiate from the Nazis' definition of Jewishness

#16 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 06:00 PM:

Alter, 14: There were fewer Dutch collaborators than French ones? I...are you sure?

#17 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 06:01 PM:

And of course I meant "more." This is not my day. (I also should have said "proportionately.")

#18 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 06:29 PM:

The book I read, as a child, that told me what little I knew then about the Nazi occupation of Holland was Hilda Van Stockum's The Winged Watchman. That was in grade school; Anne Frank's diary came a few years later.

(It was a pretty good book. It had food shortages, and underground resistance newspapers, and a clandestine radio, and a downed Allied fighter pilot, and the youngest daughter of the family who wasn't actually the youngest daughter of the family at all . . . informative stuff without being grim.)

#19 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 06:30 PM:

abi @ 4:
So when a code book, or a code method becomes obsolete, does anyone go through and declassify the stuff that was classified only for that reason?

No, because as long as any traffic that was sent using that cryptosystem is still classified, you can't declassify anything that could be used to break that cryptosystem. It's SOP for anyone monitoring another nation's encrypted communications to record them so that they can be decrypted later if and when the encoding cryptosystem is cracked.

Similarly, though I am fairly sure that a certain US cryptosystem was captured by non-US personnel in 1968, and some reason to believe that in fact it was compromised much earlier than that (early 1950's), any technical information about the system was not declassified until many years later; until, in fact it was possible for any hobbyist with a personal computer to crack it in a matter of hours at worst.

#20 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 06:40 PM:

Alter S. Reiss @ 14:
The highest percentages of the Jewish population that were killed in Europe were in Poland, Lithuania, and Germany, IIRC.

I believe this is correct. The figures I have seen for Poland show that 90% of the originally 3 million Jews were killed. On a grimly ironic note, the Poles continued to persecute the Jews after the war: pogroms and riots killed hundreds of Jews between 1944 and 1948, and in that time more than 100,000 of the remaining Jews emigrated from Poland.

#21 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 06:55 PM:

You get similar anti-Semitish towards Jewish refugees in Britain during WWII -- Orwell reports it, and you see it in contemporary fiction.

I happened on this video earlier this week. It's the Frank family photographs, against the actual places. And if you've seen "Ghosts of Amsterdam" you might like Ghosts of Auschwitz which was almost too much for me.

Avram: If they came for you, you'd need to get away. The question is what we do when they come for our neighbours, when we can sit here quite safely going about our lives, not part of the them who have to escape. "Never again" doesn't mean never again the Nazis and the Jews, it means never again for anybody.

#22 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 07:25 PM:

Jo, I know, but that's not the message that was emphasized in my upbringing.

Or, come to think of it, the one that I hear now from my relatives.

#23 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 07:27 PM:

Lee, #6, a post with what I heard in a restaurant yesterday.

Dena Shunra, #13, Avram is Jewish. I think his getting out is the right thing to do, not just to be safe, but for you to have room for another person.

#24 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 08:28 PM:

Lee #6: The "some of my best friends" line should, of course, always receive the response "No shit?"

#25 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 08:49 PM:

Marilee @23 and others:

I think Jo Walton's point is critical here. History doesn't repeat itself, it just rhymes. No one here's is arguing that a Jew living in Amsterdam in 1940 had the duty to do more than try and save himself and his family, but I think that if the same Jew were living in Rwanda in 1994 we might hope that he would try to do more than save himself.

If by "next time" you mean "the next time they come for the Jews" then this sort of thinking makes sense. But that's sort of a tribal way of looking at things, one which always sees the Jews as victims, never as bystanders or perpetrators. This thinking might be understandable, but it is, to my mind, regrettable. In its most extreme forms it feeds into the ultranationalism we see at the far right of Israeli politcs where "never again" shades into "do unto others before they do unto you."

(Which is not to say this is in any way uniquely a Jewish or Israeli phenomenon, every group has its version of this tribalism. I'm just saying it would be nice if the lesson all of us took from the horrible bloodshed of the 20th century was that sometimes we need to look beyond our tribal identity, rather than constantly guarding our tribe from any perceived threat.)

#26 ::: Springtime for Spacers ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 10:17 PM:

An anecdote here: I used to work as an archaeological digger. In most places that I've worked the archaeologists were popular with the locals, who were fascinated with what we were digging up and made us welcome in the local pubs and shops.

The one place where this was not the case was Valkenburg in the Netherlands (not the former air base but the smaller one near the coast). The dig was in the centre of town and our hole in the ground, caravans and spoil heaps had taken over part of the town square (normally used for parking).The first we English diggers knew about it was when the local paper published a photo of us goofing around on the spoil heap, accompaning a story which basically said what the hell are these people doing here, making a mess and taking over our parking spaces.

This was in 1980 so I'm struggling a bit with the details, please forgive me if I get anything wrong. The explanation for the hostility supplied by the Dutch archaeiologists was as follows: A major series of digs looking at the old Roman settlement had been carried out during the second world war by archaologists from Amsterdam. They were taking advantage of the large number of bomb craters caused by allied bombing. Not only was this an obvious source of resentment but the nearby University at Dresden had closed rather than sack its Jewish staff whereas the Amsterdam university had complied and stayed operational. So the archaeologists were seen as collaberators taking advantage of the town's misfortune.

This antipathy had even spread to the town's Roman history itself. The lines of the Roman settlement were marked out on the present day streets in yellow. I gave a number of site tours to locals and none of them knew what the markings were.

It was, incidentally, rather challenging giving tours in a mixture of English and Dutch. I had learned some relevant terms and with one couple who spoke virtually no English it consisted of nothing more than pointing at die mure (the wall) and die slote (the ditch){dutch spelling probably all wrong}. We had to mount a weekend watch on the site and I also learned another useful phrase for when the local kids wanted to use the site as a playground, "Niet in de werkput!" It was already obvious that the kids were contemptuous of the English diggers, they would gather round imitating us in their annoying excellent English. We countered this by speaking to each other in Franglais when they were around. Anyhow I was thrilled to find out that a snarl of "Niet in de Werkput" was enough to get the kids scurrying out of the trench in alarm.

#27 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 11:53 PM:

Abi #4 So when a code book, or a code method becomes obsolete, does anyone go through and declassify the stuff that was classified only for that reason? (Bet not; that would be a lot of trouble.)

There's an automatic declassification and downgrading schedule. After a certain number of years (generally 25), Top Secret drops to Secret, Secret drops to Classified, and Classified drops to Unclassified.

Only a small number of things are exempt from automatic declassification. These include Formerly Restricted Data (FRD), which is essentially the nuclear secrets.

#28 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 11:55 PM:

Marilee, I believe Dena had a Jewish upbringing, too.

As did I. And the message I got about "learn to spot when it's time to get out of town" emphasized that the Holocaust wasn't the first time that They came for the Jews, just the most recent and dramatic, and that "Never again" was a hope but not at all a certainty.

I didn't, as far as I can tell, lose any family in the camps. At least, not any that the family here was still in touch with -- because we only really know the ones who cut out of Russia and related areas in 1888, because of the pogroms and the conscription. One of my great-great-grandfathers chopped off his own trigger finger with an axe, because it was widely believed that, in the czar's army, Jews were sent to walk ahead to trip the land mines.

"Know when to cut and run" goes pretty deep, in my childhood training. Because I was taught it would be me they were coming for.

Learning to recognize that it might not be me they're coming for, and how to be an ally of the present target? That's something I had to work out on my own, and still need to work on. Because in my guts, I'm still convinced it's going to be me.

#29 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2010, 11:59 PM:

Fragano @ 24:

When I hear that phrase I'm tempted to reply, "You mean you have friends?"

#30 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 12:06 AM:

Jo Walton @ 21:
"Never again" doesn't mean never again the Nazis and the Jews, it means never again for anybody.

I have spent many years trying to figure out how it could mean anything but the latter, even though it's obvious that a lot of people think it must mean the former. The only conclusion I've been able to reach is that for many people revenge is something you pay forward if you can't pay it back.

#31 ::: Alter S. Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 12:24 AM:

TexAnne, 16:

As Abi points out, it's not quite as simple as fewer collaborators--there are other differences in circumstances. But a Jewish person in France under the Nazis was something close to three times as likely to survive than they would in the Netherlands.

#32 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 12:41 AM:

I'm pretty well convinced that "when" is a more important question than "what." If everyone who would later wish they'd known to do something had in fact realized how bad things were about to get in time to act, I don't think it's of critical importance that they all do exactly the right thing.

The really hard part is knowing that it's necessary to act. If you can see that, and judge the time correctly, figuring out whether to leave, make a public stand, or help your neighbors hide isn't nearly as problematic (since even the wrong answers are much better than doing nothing).

Just as a thought experiment, how does the history of WWII change if everyone in Germany and Austria who would later* oppose fascism had left the country after, say, the Night of the Long Knives? No heroics, no help for a neighbor, just simple emigration. It wouldn't have fixed everything, but I think those years would have looked a lot different.

*Of course we're talking here of people who were at the time leery of Nazism but were still hoping that it wasn't really that bad, or that it would get better, or that people would come to their senses. Ernst Röhm probably did later regret his support of Hitler, but for these purposes he doesn't even come close to the folks I'm thinking of.

#33 ::: EClaire sees some very weird spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 04:07 AM:

Copying comments upthread?

#34 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 06:29 AM:

Bruce @19

It's once of the principles of cryptosystems that the security of the system shouldn't depend on knowledge of the process used. So that 1968 incident (the USS Pueblo, I suppose) shouldn't have been a disaster.

The trouble is that the rule isn't as clear in the real world. Take an Enigma machine as an example. The basic method was published in patents and Enigma machines were sold commercially. But part of the "process", the wiring of the wheels, was also part of the "key", and couldn't be readily changed, when a particular class of machine was compromised. (Anyway, the cryptographers were working out these details without seeing the machine.)

There was a lot of stuff on the USS Pueblo.

#35 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 07:08 AM:

The conversation here highlights one of those silent and crucial disagreements about the Holocaust, one that bleeds into the present day. See, different people say "never again" and mean different things by it. Because different people see the same events through different lenses.

Was the Holocaust an unprecedented event, a shocking reverse in the slow upward climb of European† moral history? Or was it the culmination of a long and essentially coherent pattern of persecution of Jews in Europe†?

If it's the former, then a commitment that it will never happen again is a commitment to watch the political climate, to use my vote and my voice against the move toward that dark place*, and in the end, to shelter my neighbor, whoever he may be, from what I cannot prevent.

If it's the latter, then I must support things that make Jews in particular safer, even if I disagree with them‡.

Of course, the messy and difficult thing is that the Holocaust was both and neither. Each view excludes some crucial elements of the whole story: either we elide the Armenian genocide, or we gloss over the murder of the Roma, the gays, and the disabled. Each leads to difficult choices in pursuit of laudable, important goals. And, inevitably, the two views lead to two impassioned groups of people on opposite sides of more than one bitter argument.

And this is how you know that it was a monstrosity: it's still doing damage to us today.

† Which has a substantial impact on certain countries outside Europe, such as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
* Even if I then speak and vote to my personal disadvantage. "Never" is not "until it becomes inconvenient".
‡ I am treading carefully because I don't know if I have the gumption to moderate a thread that delves into the detail of this matter.

#36 ::: Branko Collin ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 07:33 AM:

@5, Johannes: the book is available in digital form at DBNL. From reading bits of the introduction it immediately becomes clear that the author glosses over the complicity of the Dutch. For example: "The murderers were the Germans, the murdered the Jews."

Perhaps the author did not want to make an already complex subject more complex. But his approach fails to make the book the pinnacle of either succinctness or completeness, and that is one reason why you will have to qualify your statement. "Read this book" is not a fair argument.

#37 ::: Branko Collin ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 07:48 AM:

Remy Jon Ming once made an infographic called "Who do we remember", which refers to the Dutch Remembrance of the Dead. If you follow the link you will see an image of which the text is too small to be readable, but I can make out the following:

Persecution of Jews: 102,000
Deaths caused by decreased general health: 50,000
Civilian victims of warfare: 30,000
Victims of the famine of 1944-1945: 15,000-25,000
Imprisoned civilians in Dutch India: 13,000-16,800
Died because of forced labour in Germany: ?,500
Died as Japanese prisoners of war: ?,200
Dutch volunteers in the German army: 4,000-6,000
Died in prisons and concentration camps in Germany: 4,400
and so on...

#38 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 08:31 AM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #29: That's an excellent response too. I shall definitely have to remember it.

#39 ::: rgh ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 08:51 AM:

@Avram - I recall that Primo Levi records that when he would talk to schoolchildren about the Holocaust, why didn't you get out and why didn't you fight back would always be their questions. There are multiple reasons why people don't respond until it's too late.

#40 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 11:11 AM:

abi #37: Was the Holocaust an unprecedented event, a shocking reverse in the slow upward climb of European moral history? Or was it the culmination of a long and essentially coherent pattern of persecution of Jews in Europe?

If it's the former, then a commitment that it will never happen again is a commitment to watch the political climate, to use my vote and my voice against the move toward that dark place, and in the end, to shelter my neighbor, whoever he may be, from what I cannot prevent.

If it's the latter, then I must support things that make Jews in particular safer, even if I disagree with them.

I think it was part of a long pattern of persecution of Jews, but I'm not sure what you mean by "essentially coherent" (or by "culmination", which seems to imply an overarching plan); it was the *end* because it shocked people into stopping, but that doesn't imply that everything else was leading up to it in some teleological sense, IMO.

Each instance of persecution of Jews, each residual bit of ill-feeling toward Jews, made it that much easier to point to them the next time you needed someone to blame. That's a pattern. But it's not a plot. The N+1st person in the pattern is himself/herself in the grip of the irrational prejudice created by the previous N instances of anti-Semitism, and while we may admire people who can break free of that kind of societal prejudice, it seems to be a sad truth about our species that they just aren't that common. (I don't want to excuse Hitler as a mere front man for the Zeitgeist, but ISTM that if it hadn't been in his favor he would have failed and been a mere crank. Without the ability to rerun history we can't IMO know to what extent Hitler was a replaceable part, a bit of debris on the edge of the tsunami that only thinks it has summoned, and is commanding, a mighty wave.)

However, I disagree with your conclusion; the fact that in Europe, in the past thousand or so years, it was Jews who got picked on every time someone in power in Europe needed a scapegoat does not mean that Jews are more at risk in other times and places -- including in Europe *now*, where the current whipping boy seems to be Muslims. The Holocaust itself seems to have broken the pattern that created it. There's nothing special about Jews, they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time (even though the wrong time lasted several centuries).

And of course in theory there's nothing stopping some future population of Jews (there's something disturbing about the term "the Jews", as if once you've seen one Jew you've seen them all) from becoming the next *perpetrators* any place and time they have the power to do so -- they're human like the rest of us, and we learn from history that we do not learn from history.

Devin #32: Of course we're talking here of people who were at the time leery of Nazism but were still hoping that it wasn't really that bad, or that it would get better, or that people would come to their senses.

What if you feel that way *now* about the Tea Party, or the PVV? (Neither of which is targeting Jews specifically, but their methods and rhetoric are unpleasantly familiar.) I do indeed hope that neither of those political movements will become as bad as the Nazis and that they will come to their senses. But what if they don't?

#41 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 11:42 AM:

chris @42:

I think it was part of a long pattern of persecution of Jews, but I'm not sure what you mean by "essentially coherent" (or by "culmination", which seems to imply an overarching plan); it was the *end* because it shocked people into stopping, but that doesn't imply that everything else was leading up to it in some teleological sense, IMO.

I meant "culmination" more in the sense of "final instance of it", though of course that's not guaranteed, people being what they are.

And perhaps "coherent" was the wrong word. "Consistent" might be better. I was reaching for the notion that historically, persecution of the Jewish populations of European countries has followed certain certain steps each time, like popular demonization, legal exclusion, ghettoization and looting. There's a coherence from persecution to persecution, even if the collection of them does not describe a pre-determined arc.

However, I disagree with your conclusion; the fact that in Europe, in the past thousand or so years, it was Jews who got picked on every time someone in power in Europe needed a scapegoat does not mean that Jews are more at risk in other times and places

It's not my conclusion; it's simply the logical extension of one of the two views I was explaining. In point of fact, I tend more toward the first view and its implications; it's my Muslim neighbors I worry about now.

we learn from history that we do not learn from history


#42 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 12:07 PM:

When I was in the Balkans during the wars I saw that many of the Europeans who said "Never Again!" just turned away when the victims of genocide were Bosnian Muslims who were just barely observant. And it was a Dutch battalion that caved in at Srebrenica: poorly trained, poorly led and not at supported by a pack of poltroons at the headquarters of UNPROFOR.

#43 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 01:38 PM:

chris, #42: What if you feel that way *now* about the Tea Party, or the PVV? (Neither of which is targeting Jews specifically, but their methods and rhetoric are unpleasantly familiar.) I do indeed hope that neither of those political movements will become as bad as the Nazis and that they will come to their senses. But what if they don't?

First off, the TPers are indeed targeting Jews specifically -- or at least targeting specific people because they are Jewish; see my link @6.

So... what you said. So far, it seems that every time they do something which you'd think would completely disgust any normal and decent person, it doesn't, and the excesses just get worse and worse. At what point do you do something (something beyond arguing against their positions anywhere you can, that is), and what do you do?

#44 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 03:36 PM:

abi @ 47:

I fear that the Holocaust overshadowed and pushed out of public knowledge some of the previous genocides committed by European imperialism against other groups than the Jews: the destruction of the Congo in the late 19th century, the persecution of the Aborigines in Australia, some of the more local actions of the British in India and Afghanistan, etc.

chris @ 42:
it was the *end* because it shocked people into stopping

As I pointed out in #20, people didn't stop persecuting and killing Jews when the camps were liberated and the films were shown to the world.

in Europe *now*, where the current whipping boy seems to be Muslims.

And Romany, at least in France and the countries that were carved out of Czechoslovakia. Unfortunately this particular persecution seems to be happening well under the radar for the US. I don't know how well it's been publicized in Europe.

#45 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 04:42 PM:

What does "Never Again" mean in practice? It took a world war to shut down the Holocaust, and the war was intended to end Nazi expansionism, not the Holocaust.

My impression is that so long as a genocidal government stays within its own borders, not much will be done to prevent genocide. Am I missing something?

The North Korean government is arguably genocidal. Now what?

One category of arguments for invading Iraq was that Hussein was a proto-Hitler, and had certainly committed ethnically based mass murder. The results have not been entirely satisfactory.

#46 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 05:48 PM:

Bruce @46 In this context, it is helpful to read Avrum Burg's book, "Defeating Hitler".

Citing Dr. Yair Oron's work, Burg states that nearly 170 million people were killed between 1900 and 1987 century in genocidal attacks. (this appears in pages 237-238 of the Hebrew edition, with a full reference in footnote 81.)
Approximately 6 million of those were killed due to perceived affiliation with Judaism.

One would find it hard to dispute Burg's affiliation with the Jewish religion - he was the Speaker of the Knesset and the chair of the Jewish Agency. He is not - by any stretch of the word - an anti-Semite. And he is very clear on this point: genocides are not. about. Jews. They're about humans.

I recommend Burg's book (meandering as it may be) as an excellent read in what might be doable to prevent further genocides. Of *any nation*.

#47 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 06:07 PM:

I didn't mean to imply that there's nothing worth doing-- it's worthwhile to oppose genocide if it seems to be building up, to welcome refugees, to get out, to protect the helpless-- but all of that together doesn't add up to making sure that no more genocides will happen.

A guarantee of no genocides seems to be equivalent to having people of at least moderate good will in charge of the whole planet.

#48 ::: Yarrow ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 06:18 PM:

...having people of at least moderate good will in charge of the whole planet

Works for me!

#49 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 06:18 PM:

Of course in #46 I was referring to abi's comment #43, not the then future comment at #47. Clearly too much thiotimoline in my diet.

#50 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 06:34 PM:

Dena Shumra @ 48:

Thank you for the citation. I'm familiar with other books that make the same basic point; my point is more about the common perception of the nature and history of genocide. It seems that most, but not all, of the human race is condemned to repeat history.

Several years ago I read a short story/essay written right around the beginning of this century that referenced a paper written in the beginning of the 20th century estimating the total number of people killed by group violence (war, genocide, planned famine, etc.) in the 19th century. The author of the 21st century piece concluded that similar violence in the 20th century was not cause for pessimism about the future just as the author of the original essay refused to give up his optimism for the future. I went looking for that recent essay under the impression it had been written by Kim Stanley Robinson, but could not find it in any bibliography of his work, nor could I persuade Google to find it for me. Does anyone know it?

#51 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 06:38 PM:

It's not an essay, it's a story. It's "The History of the Twentieth Century, with Illustrations" and it came out in the early nineties -- I read it in a Year's Best, but I expect it is also in one of Robinson's collections.

#53 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 08:15 PM:

The Texas Tea Party doesn't want Jews.

Admittedly, I don't know of large groups of Jews being hurt in the US, but there's a lot of it going around in work, housing, volunteerism, and so forth.

#54 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 09:48 PM:

"The root of all sin is in treating people as things." (paraphrased from many people, including Terry Pratchett.)

"Things" come in groups. "People" come as individuals, with their own quirks, beliefs, and actions. One cannot say "The Dutch people assisted in the Holocaust" any more than one can say "The Dutch fought the Holocaust with all of their might." One can say that many of the Dutch helped their neighbors and suffered a terrible price because of it, and that many of the Dutch who might have been on the fence were frightened into compliance, and that some others amongst the Dutch were informants, and so on.

I find that as time goes on, I get more and more sensitive to that kind of language. I recall when I read a newspaper article that, in all innocence, wrote about a group of various races getting together so that (for example) the white folk could "understand the black perspective." Unconscious assumption of a monolithic perspective on life, check. So very divisive.

P.S. Anti-Semitism is, unfortunately, alive and well in Europe as well as the U.S. and (of course) the Middle East. I see the stories pop up every so often and it seems to me that they're getting more blase about it, which makes me worried.

#55 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 11:37 PM:

@45, 55: I stand corrected. And even more disturbed -- what kind of person wouldn't be bothered by following in the Nazis' footsteps?

#56 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2010, 08:22 AM:

From the link at 55:

“My favorite person that’s ever been on this earth is a Jew,” he said. “How can they possibly think that if Jesus Christ is a Jew, and he’s my favorite person that’s ever been on this earth?”

So the logic of his position is that Jesus Christ would not be fit for public office in Texas. Now that's setting the bar high!

#57 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2010, 08:30 AM:

Marilee #55: You will note that Mr Cook, when taxed with anti-Semitism, immediately came up with "some of my best friends are Jewish." We seem condemned not just to stupidity, but to reruns of stupidity.

#58 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2010, 08:59 AM:

chris @58:

I got stuck on this bit:

"I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office. They’re the people that do the best jobs over all."

Does that mean that he wishes there had been a Christian conservative available for the job of founder of his religion? I guess a Jewish revolutionary was only acceptable in the absence of a Republican candidate.

#59 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2010, 09:57 AM:

I'm fascinated, in a sick way, by the original phenomenon that persecution of a group (with some consequences for defenders of the group) should lead to an increase in anti-group sentiment among the general population. So much for love of the underdog. Or perhaps it's the way that suburban bigotry will always find an excuse. I remember hearing back in the 90s about jews coming back to Berlin and stirring up the old resentments by reclaiming their property.

On the wikileaks thing, imagine this cable released in late 1945, or 1950. Good or bad? Maybe even salutary.

#60 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2010, 12:18 PM:

Paul #61: Essentially, the persecutors are setting an example for others. The more publicity they get, the more influence they have.

#61 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2010, 06:42 PM:

So the logic of his position is that Jesus Christ would not be fit for public office in Texas. Now that's setting the bar high!

He also wasn't born in America and didn't speak English.

#62 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2010, 07:36 PM:

chris y, #58: No, he makes a special exception for that. "My favorite person who ever lived in the world was Jewish, so how can I be anti-Semitic?"

Easily, twithead. And Jesus would say the same. I swear, if Jesus came back tomorrow and saw some of the things being done in his name, he'd never stop throwing up.

#63 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2010, 08:33 PM:

Also... As a lifelong atheist,* maybe my perspective here is skewed, but I think the idea that Jesus is your favorite person is a little strange.

I mean, I could give some examples of people who I think are really, really good people. And I admire them. But my favorite person of all time? Not necessarily on that list. "The person I admire most," sure. But to me, "favorite" indicates affection more than admiration.

*And an ancestral Catholic, a faith which also endorses the idea that you might find a closer identification with someone besides the big guy, and provides a bevy of saints to choose from.

#64 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2010, 08:43 PM:

Devin, 65: I'm a practicing Christian, and I think it's strange too. (OTOH, I'm an old-school Episcopalian, one of God's Frozen People, and any public discussion of my beliefs still feels like Something That Is Not Done.)

#65 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2010, 09:11 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 30
I don't know, I tend to assume it springs from a deep and abiding cynicism and fear. If "Never Ever Again for Anyone" is assumed to be unachievable, then at least "never again for me and mine," and devil take the hindmost...

#66 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2010, 10:43 PM:

Devin, TexAnne: Not so strange... after all, Jesus rarely contradicts them or calls them out for their misdeeds (and never in public), never actually gets in their way, and officially Loves Them without their having to do anything in return. Not to mention, Jesus is the ultimate Powerful Person, and status-seekers are always looking for Powerful People to brown-nose and claim as friends.

Cynical, me? Well, yes.... (Also a Jewish Pagan Atheist.)

#67 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2010, 11:56 PM:

TexAnne @ 66... I'm an old-school Episcopalian, one of God's Frozen People

Say what?

#68 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 12:03 AM:

Serge, 69: You know how the Jews are God's chosen people? Episcopalians are God's frozen people. (We're pretty much why the term "WASP" was invented.)

#69 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 12:39 AM:

And the Presbyterians are often called (and have been known to call themselves) the Frozen Chosen, for similar reasons.

#70 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 01:10 AM:

As a Roaming Catholic, I can't say I share Cook's rather Buddy Jesus* attitude. But I did spend some time in Young Life way back when, and I've certainly seen people taking the idea of a "personal relationship with Christ" in that kind of weird direction before.

* I always found the fact that it was the Catholics who came up with that in Dogma to be rather unrealistic. It struck me as more of an alalalalalalaleluia-Protestant thing.

#71 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 01:15 AM:

"I always found the fact that it was the Catholics who came up with that in Dogma to be rather unrealistic. It struck me as more of an alalalalalalaleluia-Protestant thing."

Really? Evil Rob and I were laughing our asses off at that film because of all the in-jokes. Particularly the George Carlin character—we knew that priest.

Maybe it's a Jesuit thing. Not *all* of the Jesuits, but a visible minority.

#72 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 01:20 AM:

Oh, there are lots of Catholic in-jokes, and it's a funny film. I just thought that Buddy Jesus, in particular, was a pretty Prot concept. I would have preferred a line of cuddly saints with big heads and huge eyes, rather like Powerpuff girls.

#73 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 01:47 AM:

On the topic of the thread...I actually started having what I expect to be an extended and complex conversation with my kids last night. It was the combination of two things that set me off:

1. While writing Christmas* cards for her classmates, Fiona mentioned that she felt that one boy's (Zakarija) name was "foreign"†. I pointed out at the time that we're pretty foreign in the Netherlands ourselves, and put some weight on her extremely foreign middle name (Chenoweth is..not Dutch). But I was bothered.

2. We got talking about World War 2 in the Netherlands, and I explained, in very simple and gentle terms, about the Holocaust. Very high-level, very careful, explanation.

So last night I sat down and talked a little about the temptation to label other people as "not belonging" and "foreign", and about how there are people who get treated as foreign-but-OK (like us) and people who get treated as bad-foreign. We talked a little about perceptions of Muslims, Muslims we know, and about Geert Wilders (not by name).

I asked them not to bring it up at school until we've talked more and they have a more nuanced view. At the moment it's pretty cartoonish. We'll talk more, but it came up. It's time.

That's my commitment to "never again".

* Yes, even the non-Christian kids; that's the custom. They're all santas and robins and kittens and say "prettige feestdagen": Happy Holidays.
† Actually, she doesn't like him because he teases her. But that's the kind of seed that can grow into many kinds of tree.

#74 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 05:44 AM:

TexAnne @ 70... Episcopalians are God's frozen people. (We're pretty much why the term "WASP" was invented.)

I dunno, but my experience with Episcopalians has been that they're anything but cold. Maybe it's because I worked with one of them, a woman who was quite funny, and warm, and a priest with her own Bay-Area-influenced variation on the ceremonial robes. Or, as Robin Williams said at the funeral of the Bay Area's own hilarious Episcopalin,columnist Herb Caen, it has all the fun of being a Catholic, but without the Guilt. :-)

#75 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 05:48 AM:

B Durbin @ 73... The movie has in its favor Alan Rickman as Metatron, an angel who bemoans that God declared that he and his kind can't get drunk.

#76 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 08:12 AM:

TexAnne #66: "God's Frozen People".

I thought that was Presbyterians.

#77 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 12:43 PM:

All I remember is the quote "we're Lutherans. We know which part of 'The Cathedral and the Bizarre' we're in". I'm not, but it applies to us, too.

I'm a member of the United Church of Canada (unfortunately, there's no simple adjective for us). My particular congregation is way on the liberal end of a church traditionally on the liberal end (so much so that the Conservative Columnists complain that we should stick to saving souls and stay out of politics. Next week when they talk about "good Christian values" in their politicians...but that's why I don't read the Sun), in Canada, which of course is already loony left (from a U.S. perspective). But our tradition is good Scottish Presbyterian (our church was founded many years pre-Union). The conflicts between the very conservative-looking building and worship structure and the very liberal theology are - interesting.

Re: Ms. Edwards and that "Christian" Douglas: Dude, she talked about faith in the power of resilience and hope. Where is not God in hope? In faith? Does God not have many names, but must be called literally (well, not literally - but with one of the Acceptable References (to the hearer) to the Great Name) and is not "the least of these" (Matt.25) and "the Samaritan/Muslim" (Luke 10:25-36) not your Neighbour as well as your neighbour, according to the literal words of that Jew you profess to hold in the highest esteem? So, if Douglas thinks the two are not equivalent, which Jesus is he following?

#78 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 01:25 PM:

To be honest, my guess as to why churches call themselves "God's Frozen People" has to do with big buildings in cold climates combined with the usual poverty of the parish church.

Many are called, but pews are frozen.

#79 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 01:47 PM:

I saw what you did just now, Abi. Shaaaaame...

#80 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 01:55 PM:

abi @ 80: That is brilliant! In other words, I wish I'd thought of it myself.

#81 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 02:36 PM:


#82 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 03:15 PM:

Anybody else remembers (and enjoyed) 2006's short-lived TV series "The Book of Daniel", about an Episcopalian priest played by Aidann Quinn?

#83 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 03:15 PM:

abi @ 72: "and I've certainly seen people taking the idea of a "personal relationship with Christ" in that kind of weird direction before."

I remember being told by a Religion-major friend of mine about an order of nuns who believed that if they "married Jesus" (joined the order and remained celibate) on earth, in Heaven they would literally be his wife--explicitly including matrimonial relations. I tried googling, but there was, um, a lot of chaff. I did find this though, which is honestly even weirder.

#84 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 04:03 PM:

The Uncyclopedia has an interesting article on Republican Jesus (NSFW language, may cause hives to conservatives).

#85 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 09:42 PM:

Serge @ 84: I watched the full series of The Book of Daniel on DVD this year. It was a textbook example of how networks screw good series by fiddling with the schedule. The writer and his ideas deserved better than they got. Worth the watch even though it ends with a cliffhanger and numerous loose threads due to being canceled.

#86 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 10:30 PM:

Allam Beatty @ 87... Does the DVD set contain episodes that were never aired? As for why "The Book of Daniel" was cancelled, I was under the impression that Certain People found it disrespectful. I, on the other hand, found that, while it did poke fun, it also went to the heart of what This Is All About. Not sure I'm expressing myself well.

#87 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2010, 09:04 AM:

heresiarch #85: Ah, The Family, once known as The Children of God, founded by David Berg, aka, Moses David. Known for their recruiting method of "flirty fishing", i.e., the more attractive female members would draw young men into the movement by having sexual intercourse with them. The young men would raise funds for the church by begging for money on the streets. One result of this was the sight of young white men begging for money on the streets of Kingston, Jamaica. I found this both bemusing and amusing.

#88 ::: grendelkhan ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2010, 10:24 AM:

Bruce Cohen @30 and following:

This reminds me rather strongly of the problem with Harry Potter's symbolism of evil. It's not a problem specific to Potter, but it's especially visible there.

The bad guys--the Death Eaters--in the last few movies swan around in black outfits, their leader kills disloyal subordinates, and I think at one point (in the books, at least) they throw up the Nazi salute. (I'm not kidding.) They also practice a version of early-twentieth-century racism with the serial numbers filed down, against "mudbloods" and "blood traitors". About as subtle as the KKK. So, the bad guys look pretty much exactly like Nazis. And that's how we know they're bad guys.

But the people actually facing fascism in the twentieth century didn't have these referents! The sight of mass rallies with armbands and swastikas didn't immediately set off their Evil Alarms. And yet the big lesson people seem to have learned from World War II is, "people who dress like Nazis are evil".

People nowadays are precisely as unprepared to face fascism as they were in the 1920s. Back then, it appeared wearing unfamiliar decor, and I guarantee you, it will next time as well--wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross, as the saying goes.

So, if you're wondering why the main lesson of the Holocaust seems to be that this will Never Again happen to Jews, or maybe white people in general, it's because it's surprisingly difficult to see history the way it looked to people who lived it.

#89 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2010, 12:15 PM:

Apparently, one of the potential-Nazi groups in Britain wore green shirts. It started out as the Kibbo Kift, a sort of alternative to the Boy Scouts that turned overtly political.

#90 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2010, 07:33 PM:

grendelkhan @ 90:

I think you're right, but I've got to confess that my comment at 30 was somewhat more coy than it should have been, in part because I didn't want to start flamewar about the Middle East "peace process". I was alluding not to the general attitude towards the Holocaust, but the specific attitude of many American Jews and politically conservative Israeli Jews (many of whom emigrated from America). It's an attitude I, as a very progressive American Jew, have been hit over the head with time and time again.

#91 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2010, 08:00 PM:

Serge @ 88: Yes, the DVD set of The Book of Daniel includes four unaired episodes. It sounds like your appreciation of it was similar to mine. Although I got mildly irked at all the times when the family should have sought legal advice but didn't.

#92 ::: grendelkhan ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2010, 11:49 PM:

Bruce, I'm faintly familiar with that. While the majority of the American Jews I know belong to the great tradition of American liberalism (marching for civil rights in the '60s, doing social work or working in inner-city clinics), there's the occasional outlier who's really keen on anti-Arab (or anti-Muslim, or both--it all gets mixed together) bigotry.

There's a very, very strong disconnect between the progressive and neoconservative political leanings in Jewish-American society. The vast majority of American Jews lean liberal, but some of the leading voices in neoconservatism belong to the very same group, and their voices are disproportionately seen as representative.

Or were you talking more about the tendency of even otherwise-progressive Jews to hold rather startlingly bigoted views about assimilation (I have nothing against gentiles, but I wouldn't want my daughter marrying one) and about Israel?

#93 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2010, 12:12 AM:

I wouldn't want my (hypothetical) daughter to marry Senator Joe Lieberman (if he gets divorced again), but that's a political statement.

#94 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2010, 12:28 AM:


Right the first time; I was talking about the anti-Arab / Muslim bigotry and the progressive / neoconservative split. They don't always occur in the same person, but there's some correlation. My experience isn't very recent, it's mostly from the late '90s and early '00s because I've been able to restrict my socializing since I retired to people I really like and respect. But one good example is my in-laws; who were fairly liberal early on, but who became politically conservative as they got older, and became virulently anti-Arab during the First Intifadah and then vociferously anti-Muslim after 9/11. They spent all their time after 1999 or 2000 watching CNN and being alarmed by all the violence they saw reported there.

But I'm also really bothered by the anti-assimilationist and ultra-Zionist attitude of a lot American Jews. They remind me of the Irish-Americans who used to send money to the IRA in the 1970s and '80s, who were quite willing to fund violence in support of their romantic and utterly unrealistic notions about the political realities in the Promised Land.

Even after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin I still had some hope that the Israeli government would realize that it could not continue at the same level of bellicosity as before, but by the end of the 20th century, I'd pretty much given up hope.

#95 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2010, 08:36 AM:

I think "Never Again" is a good rallying cry, but as I said at #47, there are practical difficulties with actually enforcing it.

On the logical level, there's a missing detail. Never [what?] again.

It isn't hard to extend it from mass murder of Jews to mass murder of anyone, but there's an detail about the prototype which sets some limits. Jews in Nazi territories didn't fight back a lot-- partly from lack of resources, partly because they were lied to, and partly (I think) for cultural reasons.

I've been horrified by the extent to which Jews I know-- gentle people who care about ethics and/or who think that caring about truth as extremely important-- just don't see Palestinians as human.

I don't know how some Palestinians decided that randomly killing civilians was a good idea, but it's a policy that destroys trust. I also don't know what proportion of Palestinians support random murder of civilians, but at least some of them don't.

My take on this is extrapolation from my own situation. I don't know whether my neighbors are terrorists, nor can I control whether they are terrorists. I would not take it well if I were punished for something I can't know about or control.

For this level of discussion, it doesn't matter whether terrorists commit suicide in their attacks. It shows a scary level of determination, but even without suicide, terrorism makes trust extremely difficult.

I believe without proof that if Palestinian terrorists had limited themselves to attacks on soldiers and anti-Palestinian politicians that the situation wouldn't be as bad as it is, even if civilians were killed in those attacks. Having clear targets who weren't the general population wouldn't look as much like total hostility.

Back to Never Again.... one piece of it is Israel as refuge. The sorry record of the world in in failing to take in Jewish refugees during the Holocaust is part of what drives Israeli politics.

I don't know how much it matters, but anti-Semites took the lack of a Jewish homeland as evidence that God hates Jews.

Another piece is that it took millenia to get that land back. It isn't likely to happen twice.

Even if there isn't a rational chance of losing Israel, the symbolism is strong stuff.

I don't think Nazi comparisons make a huge amount of sense. Israel vs. Palestine doesn't remind me of the Nazis and does remind me of England vs. Ireland. How hard would that have been to settle if the fight had been over London?

#96 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2010, 10:40 AM:

grendelkhan@90: And that's how we know they're bad guys.

I'm reminded of a video game I saw in the garbage bin once, which read roughly "Fight werewolves, vampires, mummies and Nazis."

Popular culture has raised the figure of the Nazi to a kind of bogeyman that has nothing to do with the real horror of Nazism. Nazis are almost always presented as alien, while the terrifying truth is every last one of us could have been a -rather willful, if unsatisfied - cog in the machine. That is if not a first-hand victim, obviously.

I think the most chilling piece of writing I read this year was the circulaire* organizing the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup. Perfectly neutral and efficient. Could have been about anything really (if you ignore the surreal twist of the Police Officer's name). You'd barely suspect it's about organized genocide. Reading it, I kept wondering how many such documents are read everyday without the people reading it acknowledging to themselves that they're perpetrating a crime, just because of the language used.

Having said all that, I must confess still loving myself some Hellboy.

*Best transcription I could find. Sorry, in French.

#97 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2010, 11:22 AM:

Wikipedia suggests that a circulaire is an administrative document, clarifying the interpretation of regulations. Most of the French is beyond me, but I noticed the word "derogation", which in the EU context is an exception to a rule. So it sort of fits.

#98 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2010, 01:41 PM:

Dave Bell, #99: The dérogations are a list of the people who don't have to report. Jews married to non-Jews, women close to giving birth, and so forth. I have just enough French to pick out some of it.

#99 ::: grendelkhan ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2010, 09:47 AM:

@98 MD²: That is awesome. It's like when a work of profound evil is described as being "inhuman"--no, the whole point is that it was done by humans, humans who share a great deal with any of the rest of us.

Learning about genocide should be terrifying, but not because there are zombie Nazis out there who might roll into town and make lampshades from your skin; it's terrifying because, enraged by tribalistic rhetoric (which is hardly in short supply) and spurred on by charismatic leaders (which are quite familiar) neighbors shucked the last vestiges of their decency and turned each other in to the secret police. Given a few paper-thin justifications (I thought they were being Resettled In The East; I never directly killed anyone; I only carried out orders to kill--I didn't make the decision), people not notably different from the people you know and love will kill you and everyone you care about. Hell, you might kill your neighbors, depending on how the chips fall.

It was certainly enough to keep a teenager with an active imagination up at night, when I first learned about it.

#100 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2010, 05:33 PM:

Re the circulaire: I ran it thru Google Translate, and then cleaned up what few of the irregularities I could from my own (limited) knowledge of French. The result is here, if anyone wants to take a look at it in English. Further language corrections are welcome. Also, "chilling" is exactly the right description.

#101 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2010, 04:48 PM:

I'm reading this thread rather late, but Lee's translated version of the memo is indeed creepy.

The worst part is the normalness of the whole thing. Just another day at work, following orders, doing your job, filling out the forms. I wonder about the policemen who followed these orders. I guess they must have had some pretty good idea what was happening--thousands upon thousands of people disappear onto trains and are never heard from again, it doesn't take a genius to guess that nothing good is happening to them when they reach the other end of the train ride. But I also imagine many of them must have kept some ambiguity about what was happening in their own minds[1], convincing themselves that somehow they weren't rounding people up for shipping to murder factories. And I wonder what else was going on in their minds, to make them follow these orders. Didn't many of those policemen have Jewish friends or at least acquaintances? I guess some must have helped some friends escape somehow.

The parallels with our torture policies and our bloody, horrible wars are obvious--I imagine one reason the Bush and Obama administrations[2] have pushed back so hard on unfiltered images from the wars and the release of torture photos and such is the need to keep that bubble of available ambiguity, to allow people who don't want to know to avoid knowing exactly what's behind the "defend us from Islamofacists" rhetoric, the flag-waving about the good works of our saintly Terminators in uniform, or the video-game-like images we're allowed to see on our weirdly propaganda-like mass media.

And further, perhaps this is one of those things that's necessary for nations or societies or large organizations to function--perhaps without the ability to plug your nose to the stench of the incinerators and plug your ears to the screams from the torture chambers, you just can't keep a whole country all pointed in the same direction and functioning smoothly.

[1] I'm reminded of Peggy Noonan's infamous "walk on by" column, in which she responded to the news of our torture program by suggesting that some things were better left shrouded in mystery and not thought about. Though to be fair, the world was awash in concentration camps and gulags and such, and not everyone so locked up was really murdered. Maybe they didn't really know for sure what was happening.

[2] Yes, they're in the same category in my mind. I wish to God they weren't.

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