Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Saul Friedlander: A Weaver of History and Memory

Last night Professor Saul Friedlander spoke at Emory. I had the privilege of introducing him. Some of the people present asked me to post my remarks. Here they are:

When I first encountered Saul Friedlander in 1978 he broke my heart. Over the course of the next many years, as I came to know him as a colleague and a friend, I quickly recognized that there was so much he had to teach us about the history and historiography of the Holocaust. Then in 2007, he did it again. He broke my heart.

In 1978 it was my reading of his small, but critically acclaimed When Memory Comes, which left me so shattered. In the still small voice of a young boy, Friedlander tells his own story. This simple-yet- complex, mature-yet-childlike story is rightfully considered one of the great memoirs of the period.

In addition he has added to our storehouse of knowledge with, among others, Probing the Limits of Representation, Reflections of Nazism, History and Psychoanalysis, Kurt Gerstein, and Pius XII and the Third Reich. He spent 16 years writing his most recent two volumes, Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1933-1941 and The Years of Extermination, 1941-1944. They provide a sweeping – yet in-depth – analysis of the entire period. The latter won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction. As someone who teaches courses on the history of the Holocaust, I was delighted to learn that Orna Kenan has just completed an abridged version – 450 pages – of these two books.

Born in Prague, Friedlander and his family came to France in 1940. When the Nazi vise grew tighter, his parents placed him a Catholic boarding school and attempted to escape to Switzerland. They were turned back, arrested, and ultimately murdered at Auschwitz. Friedlander, not fully aware of his own identity, seriously considered converting to Catholicism. When he discovered his own past, he became a Zionist and eventually immigrated to Israel on the Irgun ship "Altalena".

His contribution to our field is so vast and multi-faceted that it is hard to summarize it. Yet in the interests of brevity, because you have come to hear from Saul Friedlander and not about Saul Friedlander, let me focus on two aspects of his work.

In The Years of Extermination, -- with its all-encompassing analysis of the broad swatch of events that comprised the Shoah, he synthesizes the research of a myriad of scholars. In so doing, Professor Friedlander demonstrates that synthesis in the hands of a master historian is an art. After weaving together their research, he then, in his own voice, not only adds to it, but enhances and deepens what they have taught us. It is this book which so devastated me.

He can do in a single paragraph or even a sentence, what others cannot do in entire books. Let me illustrate with one selection from the book:

Not one social group, not one religious community; not one scholarly institution or professional association in Germany and throughout Europe declared its solidarity with the Jews (some of the Christian churches declared that converted Jews were part of the flock up to a point), to the contrary many social constituencies, many power groups were directly involved in the expropriation of Jews and anxious, be it out of greed, for their wholesale disappearance. Thus Nazi and anti-Jewish policies could unfold to their most extreme levels without the interference of any major countervailing influences..

The other aspect of his work and the topic upon which he will focus tonight is his insistence that to tell the history of the Holocaust one must include the voice of the victim. There are historians who have, not only ignored that voice, but argued that it is unreliable and must, therefore, be eschewed. Saul Friedlander says, au contraire: the documents and printed record may be crucial, but without the personal perspective the story is incomplete.

We are exceptionally grateful that with all the demands on his time he has agreed to include us on his schedule. We are grateful for that but we – both those of us in this field and all of us who treasure great scholarship – are even more grateful that when memory came, it came to a man who tells the story of this event with the rigor and unparalleled excellence of a master historian and the sensitivity of a person whose life has been marked by it.

Many historians have grappled with telling this story but about Saul Friedlander we can say, paraphrasing the Book of Proverbs, ata alita al kulam, you have surpassed them all.

16 comments:

Ludovic said...

"Not one social group (...) declared its solidarity with the Jews" : at which date ? Was that before 10 march 1937, the date of "Mit Brennender Sorge" ? Or does it imply that "Mit Brennender Sorge" does not count as a gesture of solidarity of the Catholics with the Jews ?

Do we have examples of social groups declaring their solidarity with Japanese Americans, when they were deported to concentration camps ?

hockey hound said...

"Not one social group, not one religious community; not one scholarly institution or professional association in Germany and throughout Europe declared its solidarity with the Jews (some of the Christian churches declared that converted Jews were part of the flock up to a point)"

When I read this statement, I was reminded of a comedian last night on tv commenting on the fact that the present pope was formerly an Hitler Youth during the Holocaust. He asked his audience, "How does this guy go from being an Hitler Youth to becoming the Pope?"

I'm reminded also of reading long ago an article on a Karl Barth book published in 1942, a book in which was not mentioned, not even once, the fact that Jews at that time in Germany were being slaughtered by the Nazis.

It's the insouciance of certain people when confronted with blatent anti-Jewish hatred that I have never been able to understand. Anti-Jewish hatred does not concern them. They look at antisemitism as "interalia"-among other things. They don't see anti-Jewish hatred as being an insalubrious ingredient to society. I just don't get it.

These are the same people who are now obfuscating and equivocating about the anti-Jewish content of the Koran and the religion of Islam. For me it's the Nazi era happening all over again, only this time it has Islamic overtones instead of Christian.

hockey hound said...

"Not one social group, not one religious community; not one scholarly institution or professional association in Germany and throughout Europe declared its solidarity with the Jews (some of the Christian churches declared that converted Jews were part of the flock up to a point)"

When I read this statement, I was reminded of a comedian last night on tv commenting on the fact that the present pope was formerly an Hitler Youth during the Holocaust. He asked his audience, "How does this guy go from being an Hitler Youth to becoming the Pope?"

I'm reminded also of reading long ago an article on a Karl Barth book published in 1942, a book in which was not mentioned, not even once, the fact that Jews at that time in Germany were being slaughtered by the Nazis.

It's the insouciance of certain people when confronted with blatent anti-Jewish hatred that I have never been able to understand. Anti-Jewish hatred does not concern them. They look at antisemitism as "interalia"-among other things. They don't see anti-Jewish hatred as being an insalubrious ingredient to society. I just don't get it.

These are the same people who are now obfuscating and equivocating about the anti-Jewish content of the Koran and the religion of Islam. For me it's the Nazi era happening all over again, only this time it has Islamic overtones instead of Christian.

hockey hound said...

"Do we have examples of social groups declaring their solidarity with Japanese Americans, when they were deported to concentration camps?"

The Americans (and the Canadians as well) were not committing genocide against the Japanese they interned inland from the Pacific coast. What is your point, Ludovic? Are you implying that the Nazi extermination program (and it was a program) did not target the Jews specifically? Or are you saying the Catholics of Eastern and Western Europe did in fact protest against Nazi concentration and extermination camps?

Oh, I get it: It's not enough for you that the Jews profile the issue of 6 million of their very own murdered by the Nazi killing machine, you hold them responsible for addressing and ameliorating ever other human tragedy in history. You'll just have to be patient, Ludovic, since there is presently the issue of Hamas' intended genocide against [the Jews of] Israel to be dealt with immediately. When they're finished with that pressing issue, perhaps then you can renew your blaming them for all the evils and neglected injustices of the world.

FAIIRPLAY said...

The fact is: All major European nations were pro-german and because of this collaborators. In France the actual resistance, measured by the number of occupation troops killed, was 'virtually nil'. Resentment Yes, resistance No. Even the English [I'm English] were pro-German, and British Politicians an absolute disgrace. For instance it was Bevin, a Labour MP, who said [when asked to help German Jews] words to the effect of 'What on earth do we want with German Jews', and it was his kind who blockaded the Mediteranean sea and access to Palestine. We also need to remember that the same day Churchill give his famous 'We shall fight them on the beaches speech', he had diplomats out trying to arrange a truce and ceasefire. I'm certain that if the truce terms insisted on the Brits handing over all their Jews for extermination it would have been done. On a personal level it was chastening for me when I visited Prague and discovered the young had no knowledge of the war, no one had heard of Heydrich, and whilst I was stood in the actual road he had been assasinated on - I could find no one locally who knew of, or could recall the incident, or could point out the actual spot. It's a fact of life that the average gentile person associates Jews with Indians, Pakistani's, Moslems and Asians and primarily as foreigners [to them] An USA opinion poll supported this. In Poland they equate Jews with criminals, and concentration camps with criminal prevention / detention prisons. Sadly Saul Frielander and 6 million others found this out the hard way. Ask the Jews, ask the gypsies, ask ex Nazi- guards, ask the people of Israel?

Ludovic said...

Hockey Hound, if one takes the view that the nazi anti-jewish policies should have been opposed at an early stage, which means at a stage when almost nobody could have guessed that they would lead to a genocide, the nazi policies and the Roosevelt policies are not incommensurable. At that early stage only.

I tried to find an answer to my first question on whether "Mit Brennender Sorge" counts as a gesture of solidarity with the Jews, and found the following one in a text by Martin Rhonheimer, a university professor and catholic priest :

"The question, however, is not what the Church’s theological position with regard to Nazi racism and anti-Semitism was in 1937, but whether Church statements were clear enough for everyone to realize that the Church included Jews in its pastoral concern, thus summoning Christian consciences to solidarity with them. In light of what we have seen, it seems clear that the answer to this question must be No. "

However, he quotes Hitler as saying : "I have been attacked because of my handling of the Jewish question", in april 1933, after a meeting with the representative of the German Bishops’ Conference.

Martin Rhonheimer, "The Holocaust: What Was Not Said", First Things, November 2003. http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=548

hockey hound said...

"When they're finished with that pressing issue, perhaps then you can renew your blaming them for all the evils and neglected injustices of the world."

What I meant to say in my statement above (I don't write so well when I'm peeved) is that Ludovic will have to wait an eternity until the Jewish people can get a break long enough from their enemies' arrows in order to address his concerns about all other evils and injustices in the world.

This blaming the Jews for every evil in the world, or counterpoising WW2 loss of life and habitat to Israel's defence of its Jewish citizens, is an attribute typical of all anti-Semites. It's also typical of contemporary anti-Semites to bad-mouth America (I guess Ludovic does not know Canada also interned Japanese civilians during WW2). I wonder if Ludovic is aware of the culpable measure of European complicity in Nazi atrocities perpetrated against the Jewish people. What is your point, Ludovic?

If you know the Americans at all, Ludovic, I'm sure you will be able to search not too far to discover that, yes, there were social groups in the USA (and probably Canada too) who protested against the internment of Japanese civilians. And these were "internment camps", not "concentration camps" according to the cognitive interpretation of that term today, Ludovic.

Again, what is your point? Are you saying that German and Eastern European Catholics went all out to assist the Jews during the Holocaust? No, they didn't. Nor did "social groups" American or Canadian protest too loudly about the Japanese being interned to camps west of the Pacific coast. The difference is, we didn't gas the Japanese, or starve them to death, or beat them to death, or freeze them to death, or murder their children with clubs and rifle butts or dash their little heads against truck rims, or bury their families entire in lime pits, or a thousand other horrible deaths I don't have time to list right now.

Again, what is your point, Ludovic?

"It's easier to find faults in others than virtues in oneself." -Yiddish proverb

Freddy said...

A history of racism
By: Fred Kahn
Posted: 2/10/09
I arrived in the United States on March 3, 1952, from Belgium, having survived the Holocaust. I must admit my ignorance - until then, I was totally unaware of people discriminating against others because of their different skin color.

At the time, a black person could not use the same restroom as white people, a black person could not be served in some restaurants, and a black student at this university could not sit down and eat at a restaurant in College Park. A black person could not play football, basketball or any other sports at the university.

At that time, some of the humiliation inflicted on black people was almost the same as that inflicted by the Nazis on Jews in Germany in the 1930s, well before they were deported to death camps. For me, this is an intensely personal issue - the parents who reared me were among those sent to the death camps.

That was the America I discovered to my surprise. Before my immigration, I was unaware of the segregation in the U.S. Given my personal history, I instinctively dismissed any such behavior as abhorrent. I am pleased to report that I was always open-minded. For example, when I was in the U.S. Army in 1953 (soon after it was desegregated), I had as many black buddies as any other.

In my junior year at the university, I was appointed to the U.S. delegation to the Brussels World's Fair in 1958. The dean asked me to room with a dark-skinned fellow worker because nobody else wanted to room with him. Among those who refused were lighter-skinned "Negroes," the term in usage at the time.

During the six months I roomed with John Yancey from Brooklyn, N.Y., I learned a great deal about the life of darker-skinned Americans. He and I were pictured together in 1958 in a national black magazine.

In November 1959, I was involved in an event that led to the desegregation of restaurants in College Park. A fellow black student was discriminated against and refused service in my company. The incident was reported in a local paper and featured in an editorial by The Diamondback.

Fifty years ago, an exhibit featured at the U.S. Pavilion at the world's fair, titled "Unfinished Business" and depicting racial problems in the U.S., was forced to close during the fair because of political pressure. The exhibit depicted the unfinished business regarding equality of Americans and admitted the then-awful discrimination still rampant in 1958.

Ten of my colleagues, including my roommate, who worked at the exhibit, as well as now Professor Emeritus of the university of maryland Charles Butterworth, wrote a letter of protest to then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who acknowledged it in a response to the American guides of the U.S. Pavilion.

Although economic problems are at center stage as the nation's unfinished business, the U.S. has to grapple with the "unfinished business" of eliminating any trace of racial discrimination wherever it now subtly exists. The election of President Obama is a major step forward, but it does not mean that the still-lingering racial discrimination in some areas can be dismissed. It does not mean that the gap in education, especially substantial among blacks and minorities, can be ignored. As students at this university, you all have a responsibility to seize the moment and contribute to a more perfect country where all skin colors, nationalities and religions are equally respected.

Fred Kahn is a university alumnus of the University of Maryland who graduated in 1960 and a former Diamondback columnist. He can be reached at lejeune42@yahoo.com.

FAIIRPLAY said...

Fred Kahn,

'Take a big bow'. Well said and well done' With respect: Fairplay.

[dalefarmer@ntlworld.com]

hockey hound said...

"...at a stage when almost nobody could have guessed that they would lead to a genocide"

Your statement betrays an ignorance of the Holocaust. It was common knowledge that Hitler intended violence against the Jews long before even 1933. Again, what is your point, Ludovic? I must be missing something here.

"the nazi policies and the Roosevelt policies are not incommensurable"

Are you comparing the Roosevelt policies with Nazi policies? What Roosevelt policies would you be referring to, Ludovic? I'm sorry, I can't remember Roosevelt threatening violence against the Jewish people. And the Americans DID save Europe from the Nazis, although Europe no longer appreciates this fact of history. So, again, what is your point? I have NO idea what you're driving at, Ludovic. Perhaps you have some angry grudge against the Americans. Are you from Eastern Europe?

StGuyFawkes said...

To Ludovic,

Pius XI's encyclical, "Mit Brennender Sorge" seems to me more like an expression of solidarity with the German Church than an expression of solidarity with the Jewish people.

It was a considerable gesture, nonetheless.

Pius XI's chief concern was the murderous birth of the "Total State" which the Nazis had in effect deified and made into an object of unholy idolization.

Pio Duodecimo used an expression which Benedict XVI uses as did JP-II. He refers to the Nazi regime as a pagan religion of "Blood and Soil" whose interest is to annhilate the Christian religion and destroy mankind with the worship of race.

In that encyclical, Pius XI also shows fatherly concern, or "solidarity" if you will, with German parents who muct entrust their children to youth groups (Hitler Youth) which have as their purpose the de-Christianization and paganization of children.

These expressions of Papal politics are especially interesting since, as you know, the ghost author of "Mit Brennender Sorge" (tr. "With Burning Anxiety") was one Eugenio Pacelli, that is, the future Pius XII.

There are a lot of other expressions of the utter Godlessness of the nazis which would repay study.

As for the question of this being an expression of solidarity with Jews I'd have to say no, it is not. It does seem to be a very powerful, and rather early warning of the danger posed to Christian civilization by Adolf Hitler. There is even a passage where Pius refers to Hitler as a kind of blasphemous "racial Jesus".

This brings me to a comment somewhat far afield, but close at hand also.

As you no doubt know, tomorrow Benedict XVI, or at least the Vatican Secy. of State will meet with a Council of Presidents of Jewish Organizations over the Williamson controversy.

Let all of us pray for a good outcome to that meeting.

I believe that "Mit Brennender Sorge" is a text that shows despite all our differences Catholics and Jews have a very powerful mutual interest in preserving the memory of the Holocaust.

The Shoah for Jews is a signal and unprecedented event in their history of victimization and persecution.

For Catholics the holocaust is a time which asks us to reflect on our failings, and to reflect on a violent attempt to pull out Christian and western civilization by the roots, in order to replace it with a race religion.

These viewpoints on the same event are very, very different.

Yet I believe that they may be seen as complementary, and that this can be done without "Christianizing" the Holocaust.

In fact, these divergent viewpoints must be seen as complementary if the memory of the Holocaust shall continue to move and change future generations of gentiles.

I say this because I have little doubt that our Jewish brothers and sisters shall succeed in keeping the memories of the Shoah vivid and green for future generations of Jews.

I suspect, however that this mission shall fail with respect to "the nations". I fear that in a generation or two most gentiles will regard the Shoah with the same detachment they now view the Irish potato famine.

This may seem harsh but forgetfulness is the price of modernity.

The spreading sleep drug of negationism is an early symptom of our future of forgetfulness.

Our generation is lucky to still know living survivors of the camps. These survivors testimony dashes the sophistry of the Zundels and Irvings.

However, as their witness retreats into recordings and books the ability to keep in mind the truth of their suffering will become harder.

This why Catholic Jewish relations are so important to both communities.

Only the Catholic Church is a virtual "Time Machine" whose mission is to knit together all the events of human history in a coherant narrative and make what happened a thousand years ago seem like it was just yesterday. (They do this in a thousand ways by penetrating folk culture -- I'm thinking of holy cards, processions, religous commemorations, etc.)

Only the Church, The Roman Catholic Church, among the gentiles, has the international reach and international authority to take up the Holocaust as a signal event in human history and the history of the Church.

Only the Catholic Church can insure that the witness of the dead becomes part of the living education of Christians until the end of time.

I believe the real object of Catholic Jewish relations should be to find a way for the Catholic CHurch to officially recognize the Holocaust as part of her Church History and thus teach, and re-teach it to generations of goyim all through the ages.

There is here, I know, a great danger of "christianizing the holocaust". We saw that problem in the controversy over the canonization of Sr. Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).

Nonetheless, the greater danger is that the world will someday come to see the Shoah as a fragment of Jewish history having little relation to future generations of French or Hungarians.

Ask yourself what a Latin American will think of the Holocaust in the year 2300.

Let's put it another way.

Ask yourself, how much does the average Englishman think about the Irish potato famine?

Now ask yourself, how much does he think about the attack of the Spanish Armada?

He thinks about the Armada a lot more because the Armada is a part of his religious history.

So also, the Holocaust must be made into part of Catholic religious history.

Wouldn't it be great if the Council of Presidents of Jewish Organizations asked for that tomorrow?

They should start by asking the former Hitler Youth for an Encyclical on the subject.

hockey hound said...

'...this can be done without "Christianizing" the Holocaust."

The Holocaust, by virtue of Christianity's complicity in its precipitation and in Christian Europe's collaboration with Nazi Germany's systematic genocide of the Jews, is forever segmental of Christianity's history- whether Christians choose to acknowledge this or not. You choose, however, to exculpate Chrisitianity from complicity in the Holocaust.

"I fear that in a generation or two most gentiles will regard the Shoah with the same detachment they now view the Irish potato famine."

Your fear is unfounded and a waste of your time, Guy Fawkes. You have obviously not been involved in fighting anti-Jewish hatred. There are many, many of us who despise the very suggestion that the Holocaust will be forgotten. It will not be forgotten. "Never Again!"

'There is here, I know, a great danger of "christianizing the holocaust".'

No, the greater danger is that "Christian civilization" would teach their children to forget (with the help of Christian apologists like yourself) the complicity of Christianity in the Holocaust. "De-Christianizing" the Holocaust would be tantamount to revising the veridical history of the Holocaust.

"...the Holocaust must be made into part of Catholic religious history"

Not to worry, Guy Fawkes. Those Jewish survivors's testimony you have somehow managed to misrepresent as delible have forever connected the Holocaust to "Catholic religious history". That history will never fade from view. You have no idea of what you are speaking. This is obvious to me.

"Ask yourself what a Latin American will think of the Holocaust in the year 2300"

Your statement reminds me of yet another line by Louis Simpson:

"Because you have destroyed your life in this corner of the earth, you have destroyed it all over the world."

The Holocaust will be remembered (as well as Christianity's complicity in its execution) in Latin America too, Guy Fawkes. I remember when the protests were happening in the shipyards of Gdansk, Poland, and it was reported that certain Catholic Poles were blaming Jews for their troubles, my mother (OBM) (who had Jewish friends in Toronto) became distressed that "they're going to start killing Jews again!" If my mother, way and gone in rural (and I mean rural) Ontario can remember the Holocaust, then Latin America will rmember the Holocaust in 2300. The systematic genocide of six million Jewish men, women, and children is an indelible horror.

"They should start by asking the former Hitler Youth for an Encyclical on the subject"

I leave with you fragments of the history of the Hitler Youth (since you use the term so insouciantly) you may not be familiar with (but your "former Hitler Youth" Pope would surely be cognizant of):

'Three days later, one of the death marches, mostly of Auschwitz survivors, reached the area of Belsen. One of the survivors, Menachem Weinryb, later recalled:

"One night we stopped near the town of Gardelegen. We lay down in a field and several Germans went to consult about what they should do. They returned with a lot of young people from the Hitler Youth and with members of the police force from the town.
"They chased us all into a large barn. Since we were five to six thousand people, the wall of the barn collapsed from the pressure of the mass of people, and many of us fled. The Germans poured out petrol and set the barn on fire. Several thousand people were burned alive.
"Those of us who managed to escape lay down in the nearby wood and heard the heart-rending screams of the victims. This was on April 13 (1945)."' -Martin Gilbert, The Holocaust

'On May 2, in Lubeck harbour, several hundred Jews who had been evacuated from Stutthof were taken out in small boats to be put on board two large ships in the harbour...The captains of these ships refused to take them, however; they already had 7,500 Jews on board. The small boats were ordered back to shore. But as they neared land in the early hours of May 3, and the starving Jews tried to clamour ashore, SS men, Hitler Youth and German Marines opened fire on them with machine guns. More than five hundred were killed. Only 351 survived.' -Martin Gilbert, The Holocaust

Deborah Lipstadt said...

Mit Brennender Sorge" may have expressed solidarity but when it came time for the deportation of Jews from Rome -- and the Vatican knew precisely what their fate would be -- the Germans worried that the Pope, who is after all the Bishop of Rome, might protest.

They were assured that the Pope would say nothing. And that is precisely what he did. The deportations continued even as the Allies were on Rome's doorstep.

StGuyFawkes said...

Dr. Lipstadt,

As I said, "Mit Brennender Sorge" was an expression of solidarity with the German Church. It expressed solidarity with Nazism's victims only indirectly, if at all.

As for the crimes of ommission committed by Pius XII let me say first off I'm new to the controversy. I'm sure you, and your readers are in better command of the major sources, than I am.

However, my take on the particularly blood chilling details of Pius' pusilanimity in the face of Nazi murders is different than many of Pius' critics.

I see him as a career diplomat whose narrow approach to the Papacy was to fret continually over his thinning political capital which he used parsimoniously to help Jews when he could, but only when it seemed a "safe bet" he wouldn't face repercussions.

It's not a noble portrait and it pales by comparison with his descendant JOhn XXIII who took greater risks on behalf of Jews than Pius. However, it does seem consistent with the approach of a man who believed his first obligation was to see that the organization of the Church survived intact and was able to pick through the rubble.

Pius seemed to be always trying to shore up what little bits of power he had in a world where the micorscopically insignificant Vatican city state was protected by fey-looking Swiss guards holding machine guns.

The two big questions that lurk beneath the denunciations of Pius' critics are 1.) What was his actual scope of action, and more importantly, 2.) What did he perceive to be his scope of action?

THere are some situations like the one you cited where "with the allies at his doorstep" Pius' failures to act seem complicitous with murder.

A lot depends on what you think Pius was thinking. My guess is that his overall view was to protect, The Church, The Church always the Church -- as you would expect of a lifelong Vaticanista.

Of course his definition of "The CHurch" was narrower than his descendant John XXIII and that's one of the reasons we have the controversial benefits of Vatican II.

As resistance fighter and ecrivain Francois Mauriac pointed out, the Church's dishonorable behavior during WWII might not have happened had the Second Vatican Council been called in say 1937.

A wild assertion, but an interesting one.

I must say that the criticisms of PIus remind me a lot of Hannah Arendt's savaging of the Jewish Councils in her EICHMAN IN JERUSALEM.

I've been re-reading Elizabeth Young-Bruhl's long chapter on the EICHMAN controversy. As you know, Arendt's critics accused her of coldbloodedness for asserting that the Jewish Councils were in effect collaborating with the Nazis by their failure to realize their political opportunities to thwart Nazi demands.

Arendt's critics asserted in effect, "What political opportunities, and if there were any can you really blame our Jews for being afraid to risk their necks in taking them?"

Arendt of course, always wanting political actors to don a toga and assume the profile of Themistocles, was stern in her rejection of the all too human behavior of the COuncils.

So also, I notice, Pius' critics seem very sharp at noticing, in hindsight, his missed opportunities for heroic demonstration which we can now see might have saved many, many lives. And they are quick to call it collaboration.

My question is, before we write down Pius and the Jewish councils as "collabos", let's ask, could it be that we are taking too little estimate of the kind of Pope he was and the template of a Papacy he was working from. Are we not takig too little estimate of his humanity, or weakness in the face of danger, or his simple religious obligation to save the Church first.

To put it brutally, he may have thought the Jews were "not his job". Or more precisely, not people he could save if he wished to survive and save others Jews (and gentiles)down the line.

To that extent I agree with your Friedlander quote. No one social organization, or government or body reached out to help the Jews.

StGuyFawkes said...

Dr. Lipstadt,

Regarding my previous comment, I rush to add, I do NOT want to say that Pius XII was in mortal danger or in any way under the same existential pressure as members of the Jewish Councils.

I only mean to point out an analogy between the manner in which Hannah Arendt took the Councils to task, and the criticisms of Pius XII.

You may add this comment as a P.S> in my previous or post it separately.

Best Wishes

hockey hound said...

"...his simple religious obligation to save the Church first."

What hogwash.

"the Church's dishonorable behavior during WWII might not have happened had the Second Vatican Council been called in say 1937."

More hogwash. This statement is totally ridiculous.

'the Jewish councils as "collabos"'

Whatever have the "Jewish councils" to do with a discussion of Williamson's denial of the veridical history of the Holocaust?