The Holocaust Obsession

[First published May 12, 2005] To avoid any misunderstanding, I must say at the beginning that I stand with all those who absolutely condemn the Holocaust. It was one of the most despicable acts of evil in history. I have done much research on it, and have written on it in my book, Democide: Nazi Genocide and Mass Murder (link here), and calculate that the number of Jews murdered, often gruesomely and painfully, amount to about 5,291,000.

That said, I think there is a gross distortion of history with the near total emphasis on Hitler and his Holocaust to the exclusion of genocide and mass murder by those whose murdering regimes rivaled the Holocaust, or killed even many more by an order of magnitude. With the number of their victims in parenthesis in millions, I have in mind Stalin (42.7) Mao (since 1928 = 37.8), Chiang Kai-shek (10.2), Lenin (4), and Tojo (4). Compare the memorial Museums built, the movies and TV programs shown, and the paragraphs written in textbooks on the Holocaust compared to what is written or shown about just the tens of milions murdered by the world’s deadliest killer of all time, Stalin.

And yet, in Russia they are now erecting statues in Stalin’s honor. And it has taken many years for those trying to get the funds and site permissions to built a modest memorial to the communist murder of about 110,000,000 people (about 21 times the Holocaust toll). So far, they have raised $300,000 of the $600,000 they see necessary. I can’t even guess at the huge sums appropriated or gifted for the many Holocaust museums and memorials.

Just to get some other measure of this incredible disparity, I used Google. Key words “Stalin (dead OR murder OR genocide OR democide OR killed)” = 989,000 links; Stalin = 1,868 links

“Hitler (dead OR Holocaust OR murder OR genocide OR democide OR killed)” = 1,260,000 links; “Holocaust” = 4,667.

Besides the disparity in treatment of democide across regimes and countries, even for Hitler’s mass murders the focus in on the Jews and few others. Counting the Holocaust, Hitler murdered about 21,000,000 people. The table below provides the statistical breakdown.

Not counting Jews, the Nazis killed about 2,400,000 Poles, 3,000,000 Ukrainians, 1,400 Byelorussians, and 1,593,000 ethnic Russians, all Slavs. They were often murdered because they were Slavs, as Jews were murdered because they were Jews, and the total Slavs thus killed amounts to 10,547,000, many more than Jews killed.

Oh yes, I sometimes read that the Holocaust was special because the Jews were singled out by virtue of their ethnicity/religion. Well, so were Slavs, or regarding my post of two days ago, so were Hindus and Bengalis by Pakistan in their genocide in 1971, and so were Tutsi by Hutu in the Rwandan genocide. And so on for all cases of genocide. However, for me genocide is not a special case at all, but simply a kind of murder by government.

Is the death of a Jew to be thought more horrible because he was a Jew than the murder by quota of some Russian, Chinese, or Vietnamese? One might say that at least those murdered in genocide died because of something about them, and not simply to contribute to a quota. But still, what about those murdered for political reasons or because they stopped clapping for the “leader” too soon, or draped a newspaper temporarily over a bust of Lenin, or had a Western book in their possession, or could speak English, or had a college education, or wore glasses. All these deaths are pitiful and to be condemned. Purposely extended agony, medical experiments, gruesome torture, and painful deaths distinguish no group. Dictator’s creative ability to contrive the most horrible deaths extends to all of them.

All these poor souls deserve recognition. At least we can do them all the honor of learning from their horror. They all should get a memorials.


Link of Note

”Genocidal Threats Demand More Than Just Memorializing” (5/13/05) By Yehuda Bauer

Yehuda Bauer I know well and we once taught a class together. He is a foremost Holocaust scholar, a professor of Holocaust studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a member of the Israel Academy of Science, and the author of “Rethinking the Holocaust”.

He says:

Each genocide is different, but it would be a mistake to dismiss the similarities. Foremost among them is the suffering of the victims. There is no better or worse genocide, just as there is no better or worse murder, no better or worse torture. There is no scale to measure suffering. Jews, Armenians or Poles who were martyred and murdered all suffered the same. . . . The Holocaust was not unique, because that would mean that it could never happen again, to anyone, Jewish or otherwise. This is simply not true. The Holocaust was perpetrated by humans, for human reasons, and anything done by humans can be repeated — not in exactly the same form, but in similar or parallel ways.


Never Again Series

2 Responses to The Holocaust Obsession

  1. Yes. It’s a tragedy when any innocent person is murdered. And the life of any individual should not be valued over that of another. However, what the above post does not recognize is that the Nazis succeeded in wiping out a major fraction (about 40%)of the world’s Jewish population. Of all the genocides mentioned in the post, none represented the killing of such a large portion of a group. The only ethnic group with similar documented losses in proportion to their population were the Armenians, of which about one-third were killed by the Turks. Also, the Holocaust was extremely well-documented, in part due to the German penchant for meticulous record-keeping.

  2. Nathaniel says:

    True, but the Germans were trying to kill everyone. Sure, they got closer for Jews since there were fewer of them, but they had plans to murder pretty much everybody in the world. I mean, their geopolitical strategy for Russia was to invade it, murder every single Russian, and use the then-empty country as farmland to support the growing German population.

    I’m Jewish myself, and the Holocaust was a terrible event (I lost relatives in it), but we need some perspective. The Jews were by no means the first victims of something like this, nor were they the last.

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