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The Holocaust Industry - Norman Finkelstein
by KSamman
20 May 2001 19:06 UTC
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The Holocaust Industry and anti-semitism



Will THE HOLOCAUST INDUSTRY Incite Anti-Semitism?

By Norman G. Finkelstein

The main thesis of my new book is that The Holocaust has effectively become
an industry. Jewish elites, acting in concert with the US government, exploit
the horrific suffering of the millions of Jews exterminated during World War
II and the few who managed to survive for power and profit. In its ruthless
exploitation of Jewish suffering, the Holocaust industry has arguably become
a fomenter of anti-Semitism and a purveyor of Holocaust denial.

The book is divided into three chapters. In the first chapter I explore the
genesis of the Holocaust industry. During the postwar years American Jewish
leaders, eager to please the US government as it aligned with a barely
de-Nazified West Germany, banished The Holocaust from public discourse. After
the June 1967 Middle East war, Israel became a key ally of the US. American
Jewish elites, hitherto wary of Israel (they feared the bogey of "dual
loyalty"), fervently embraced the Jewish state. For Jews now stood on the
front lines defending American interests against the retrograde Third
World/Arab hordes. Supporting Israel accordingly facilitated Jewish
assimilation in the US. Posing as the natural interlocutors between the US
government and its "strategic asset" in the Middle East, Jewish elites could
also enter the inner sanctums of American power. To deflect criticism,
American Jewish elites "remembered" the Nazi holocaust which, ideologically
recast, proved a potent weapon.

In chapter 2, I critically scrutinize the central dogmas of Holocaust
ideology: (1) The Holocaust marks a categorically unique event, and (2) The
Holocaust marks the climax of an irrational, eternal Gentile hatred of Jews.
The main proponent of the "uniqueness" doctrine is Elie Wiesel. For Wiesel,
The Holocaust "leads into darkness," "negates all answers," "defies both
knowledge and description," and so forth. Such formulations obscure more than
they illuminate. The "uniqueness" doctrine, although intellectually

stifling and morally discreditable (the suffering of non-Jewish victims
"cannot compare"), persists on account of its political utility. Unique
suffering confers unique entitlement.

According to the complementary Holocaust dogma of "eternal Gentile hatred,"
Jews were exterminated during World War II because all Gentiles, be it as
active perpetrators or as passive collaborators, wanted them dead. Daniel
Jonah Goldhagen's ponderous effort to prove one variant of this dogma in
Hitler's Willing Executioners lacked scholarly value. But like the
"uniqueness" doctrine, it has proven to be politically useful. To account for
criticism of Israel, American writer Cynthia Ozick had a ready answer: "The
world wants to wipe out the Jews...the world has always wanted to wipe out
the Jews." Indeed this dogma confers total license: intent as the Gentiles
always are on murdering Jews, Jews have every right to protect themselves,
however they see fit. Deploring the "Holocaust lesson" of eternal Gentile
hatred, respected Israeli scholar Boas Evron observes that it is "really
tantamount to a deliberate breeding of paranoia....This mentality...condones
in advance any inhuman treatment of non-Jews, for the prevailing mythology is
that 'all people collaborated with the Nazis in the destruction of Jewry,'
hence everything is permissible to Jews in their relationship to other

Holocaust dogma exerts a pernicious influence on scholarship. Consider for
example Guenter Lewy's The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies. Published this
past year by Oxford University Press and praised by Holocaust historian Saul
Friedlander for its "great compassion," the central thesis of this study is
that Gypsies didn't suffer like the Jews - indeed, didn't even suffer a
genocide - during World War II. Lewy's argument goes like this: Gypsies were
ruthlessly slaughtered by the Einsatzgruppen like the Jews, but only because
they were suspected of spying; Gypsies were deported to Auschwitz like the
Jews, but only "to get rid of them, not to kill them;" Gypsies were gassed at
Chelmno like the Jews, but only because they had contracted typhus; most of
the few remaining Gypsies were sterilized like the Jews, not however to
prevent their propagation but only to "prevent contamination of 'German
blood.'" It's not hard to imagine the public and scholarly reaction if one
replaced Gypsies with Jews in Lewy's book.

In my last chapter I explore the material compensation issue. I contend that
the Holocaust industry is guilty of a "double shakedown": it misappropriates
monies from European governments as well as from the actual survivors of Nazi
persecution. Even the official history of the Jewish Claims Conference
acknowledges that the Conference made improper use of the monies originally
earmarked by the German government for Holocaust victims. During the recent
slave-labor negotiations, the Claims Conference put forth wildly inflated
figures for still living former Jewish slave-laborers. In doing so, the
Conference forces a radical revision of our understanding of the Nazi
holocaust: increasing the number of survivors means decreasing the number of
victims. Indeed, the numbers used by the Claims Conference place it
uncomfortably close to the arguments of Holocaust revisionists. "If everyone
who claims to be a survivor actually is one," my mother (a concentration camp
survivor) used to exclaim, "who did Hitler kill?"

Nearly all the charges the Holocaust industry leveled against the Swiss banks
were either false or grossly hypocritical. The definitive Volcker Committee
report found that the Swiss banks did not systematically deny Holocaust
victims or their heirs access to accounts after the war and did not
systematically destroy bank records to cover their tracks. My book's most
important finding was that, alongside Switzerland, the United States was also
a primary safe haven for transferrable Jewish assets before and during World
War II. The obvious question is, What happened to the dormant Holocaust-era
accounts in American banks? During the Congressional hearings on the Swiss
banks, one expert witness - Seymour Rubin of American University - was called
to testify on this matter. Rubin concluded that the record of the American
banks was worse than the record of the Swiss banks: "The United States took
only very limited measures to identify heirless assets in the United States,
and made available...a mere $500,000, in contrast to the $32,000,000
acknowledged by Swiss banks even prior to the Volcker inquiry." The New York
Times devoted a full page of its book review to a savage ad hominem assault
on me; it made no mention of this remarkable - and damning - revelation. The
Holocaust industry demanded a final settlement with the Swiss bankers before
the Volcker committee completed its work because "needy Holocaust victims are
dying every day." Yet once the Swiss agreed to a $1.25 billion settlement in
August 1998, the urgency suddenly vanished. Two years have elapsed but not a
single cent of the Swiss monies has been distributed to the actual claimants.

The Holocaust industry has diminished the moral stature of the Jewish
people's martyrdom. For this reason alone it deserves public censure. Many
well-meaning Germans worry that my book may incite anti-Semitism. I respect
and fully share this concern. To deny the danger would be disingenuous. Yet,
moral action is never unalloyed: there are always unintended or undesired
repercussions. To decide whether to proceed one must exercise judgment -
hopefully good judgment but at least judgment in good faith. It is primarily
the ruthless and reckless tactics of the Holocaust industry that foment
anti-Semitism. During the slave-labor negotiations, I met privately with a
member of the German delegation holding unimpeachable moral credentials. For
several hours he defended the Claims Conference as vehemently as I denounced
it. Just before leaving, however, he turned to me and said: "I'll be honest
with you. On our side, we all feel like we're being blackmailed." I suspect
that privately many decent Germans agree -

regrettably, with good reason. One can also assume that many decent Swiss
privately echo these sentiments. And it is not difficult to guess what East
Europeans think as the Holocaust industry, falsely claiming as its own the
property of murdered Jews, presses for an acceleration in the pace of
property evictions. Incidentally, while American Jewish organizations have
called for a worldwide boycott of the new Austrian government, Stuart
Eizenstat, US Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and the Holocaust industry's
chief diplomat, entered restitution negotiations with this same Austrian
government and then acclaimed it for having "shown leadership and not just in
Austria but leadership to the rest of Europe and to the world about how one
can reconcile with one's past, and how one can heal wounds even many decades
later." The purpose of my book is to facilitate a long overdue open debate.
Kept under wraps in deference to "political correctness," the discontent will
only fester. To avert a resurgence of anti-Semitism, the Holocaust profiteers
must be publicly exposed and repudiated.

Finally, I emphatically believe that the Nazi holocaust should be studied.
Yet one cannot learn anything substantive until and unless the Holocaust
industry is shut down. Meaningful historical inquiry practically requires
that comparisons be made. And what significant moral lesson can possibly be
drawn from a dogma that reduces the Nazi holocaust to a Manichaean struggle
between Gentiles and Jews? Holocaust dogmatism preempts understanding the
crucial individual and historical dimensions of Nazism. In The Holocaust
Industry I attempt to represent my parents' legacy. The main lesson they
imparted is that we should always compare. To make out moral distinctions
between "our" suffering and "theirs" is itself a moral travesty. "Do not
compare" is the mantra of moral blackmailers.

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