Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Ugly Voice on Zionism By Way of Burning Synagogues

The Ugly Voice, in Episode 9, focuses primarily on an article by Ben Hecht published in Reader’s Digest in February 1943. However, before he begins discussing Hecht’s article, he tells us something about the gas chambers at Treblinka, i.e., that the building’s entry was covered with a shroud looted from a synagogue. (The model he shows in Episode 7 us of the Treblinka gas chambers also indicates that there was also a large Star of David over the doorway where this curtain hung, but the UV never mentions this, although it also goes toward proving the intention to fool the Jews entering the killing installation that they would not be harmed.)

(Incidentally, I noticed for the first time on Yom Kippur -- Sunday, October 1, 2006 -- that the very inscription cited by Arad ["This is the gateway to God. Righteous men will pass through."] is written in Hebrew over the bimah in the synagogue I go to. The synagogue I go to was originally a Romanian-American, Yiddish-speaking Orthodox shul before the Conservative movement took it over. So I assume this inscription was fairly common in Eastern Europe.)

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Despite the fact that both of his “go-to” Holocaust authors, Arad and Hilberg, mention this curtain having been there, the UV tells us that this is atrocity propaganda and not to be believed. Why not? Because atrocity propaganda about synagogue burnings and lootings were common, but, as he attempts to show us with Hecht’s article, they are not believable. Never mind that the curtain is also mentioned in the Düsseldorf District Court’s judgment at the 1st Treblinka trial (translation courtesy of Roberto):

The gable at the front wall was decorated with a huge Star of David. The entrance itself was closed by a heavy, dark curtain, which was obviously from a synagogue and bore the following inscription in Hebrew letters and language: "This is the gate through which the righteous enter."

As West German criminal investigations and judgments are a subject that the Ugly Voice barely even addresses, it is not surprising he didn’t know that a detail he attributed to atrocity propaganda was actually confirmed by eyewitness testimonies at a trial conducted according to a constitutional state’s procedural rules.

The three cases UV cites from Hecht’s article are the burning of synagogues in Freiburg, Germany, and the towns of Szczucin and Wloclawek, both in Poland, the latter being a town in the Warthegau that was annexed to the Reich after Poland’s capitulation to the Nazis.

Before getting into these stories in greater detail, it’s important to note that the UV tells us that these stories are so unbelievable that “even Raul Hilberg doesn’t believe them.” And how does he prove to us that Raul Hilberg doesn’t believe that synagogues in these cities were burned? He looks at Hilberg’s index and doesn’t find in there any mentions of synagogues being burned by anyone but German civilians in 1938.

So, if I’m following the UV’s “reasoning” correctly, then because Hilberg doesn’t mention something in his history of the Holocaust, then it never happened? This strains the laws of logic so far that I’m surprised the universe didn’t implode when the UV tried this angle. It's akin to saying that, because the name of a French aristocrat guillotined during the Reign of Terror doesn't appear in a book about the French Revolution, then the aristocrat never existed.

Anyway, it’s funny that the UV should mention synagogues being burned by German civilians in 1938. He probably is not aware that this is a reference to Kristallnacht, and that’s exactly the evening when the synagogue in Freiburg was burned. If you go to Freiburg today, you can visit the Platz der alten Synagoge (Place of the Old Synagogue) and read on a placard about how the synagogue was burned in November 1938.

As for the incidents in Szczucin and Wloclawek, while Hilberg might not mention them, other Holocaust historians do. Philip Friedman, in his book Their Brothers’ Keepers, mentions the attack on the synagogue in Szczucin explicitly, on p. 126. Notably the description given by Friedman is nearly identical to that given by Hecht, right down to the dating of the attack on Yom Kippur (Sept. 23, 1939), the women being made to run the gauntlet, and, of course, the synagogue being burned. The Szczucin attack is cited by Friedman as having appeared in Inter-Allied Review, No. 3, published in March 1941.

The attack in Wloclawek is apparently better known. It is reported by Jacob Katz in Documents on the Holocaust, pp. 185ff, and in The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, p. 1453, this volume edited by Shmuel Spector and Geoffrey Wigoder. Interestingly, none of these authors cite Hecht as their source, which pretty much blows up the theory that Hecht made the stories up. Rather, several writers happened upon the same stories at different points in time. This is because the stories are true.

But never mind all that. Hilberg doesn’t mention these things, so we can be sure they didn’t happen.

Next UV works on Hecht’s numbers, which are admittedly faulty. Hecht wrote in early 1943 that 2 million Jews had already been murdered and that even the most conservative estimates would guess that, by the time the war was over, there would be 4 million murdered Jews in total at least.

The UV tells us that this is impossible, considering that the four Kremas at Birkenau were not up and running yet in February 1943 (as if the majority of the victims of the Nazi genocide of the Jews had perished in the gas chambers of Birkenau and not at the execution pits of the Einsatzgruppen and other mobile killing units, in the camps of Aktion Reinhard(t) or from starvation, disease, exposure and mistreatment in ghettoes and camps – see for instance Hilberg’s breakdown of deaths by cause), and he uses Hilberg to bolster his point here. It’s funny, then, that he doesn’t compare Hecht’s figure of 2 million murdered Jews in February 1943 to Hilberg’s own figures on p. 1220 of Destruction. According to Hilberg (see his breakdown of deaths by year) by the end of 1942, nearly 4 million Jews had already been killed. What’s truly ironic is that, in a film that’s supposed to be about the Reinhard(t) camps, the UV doesn’t take into account the death toll from these camps when considering Hecht’s now obviously very conservative estimate.

The UV’s next point of contention is that, in counting up 6 million Jews (actually 6.1 million when we look at Hecht’s figures more closely) at one point living in eight European countries, Hecht didn’t count enough countries to get a total of six million if compared to Hilberg’s figures, based on seventeen countries’ Jewish populations (versus Hecht’s eight countries).

Here’s where we should make a very important point and one that can’t be made too often when dealing with Holocaust deniers: Journalists are not historians. And Hecht’s not even a journalist; he’s a playwright and screenwriter, as we’ve already been told by the UV himself. On top of all this, Hilberg is crunching his numbers sixteen years after the end of the war, whereas Hecht was doing his analysis more than two years before the war had ended.

Another very important point: Hecht uses the six million figure exactly once in the essay. Here it is:

Of these 6,000,000 Jews almost a third have already been massacred by Germans, Rumanians and Hungarians, and the most conservative of the scorekeepers estimate that before the war ends at least another third will have been done to death. (emphasis mine)

Note that nowhere does Hecht predict that all 6,000,000 will die.

Back to the numbers -- Hecht’s country totals go as follows:

Poland 3,000,000
Germany 900,000
Hungary 750,000
Romania 900,000
Czechoslovakia 150,000
France, the Netherlands, and Belgium combined

Total 6,100,000

These numbers are not correct, UV tells us. For instance, he says, Hilberg tells us there were only 240,000 Jews in Germany in 1939 – not 900,000. This is more UV sleight-of-hand, however. Hecht’s number is the pre-Hitler Jewish population of Germany – not the population on the eve of war, after the majority of German Jews had emigrated abroad.

Next UV compares the Hungary figures: Hecht has 750,000, while Hilberg has only 400,000. Last, UV compares Hecht’s 150,000 Jews in Czechoslovakia to Hilberg’s 315,000. These numbers are of such discrepancy that it may appear as if Hecht has made a grave error.

But, in fact, it again depends, as in the case of Germany, on when the population figure is being measured. In the case of Hungary, you must also count Jews in Romania and other countries that Hungary annexed land from before and during the war. One of these countries was Czechoslovakia, which, as any good student of World War II knows, first lost the Sudetenland and then Bohemia and Moravia to Germany before the war even began. Slovakia was cut off from the country, and part of Slovakia was given to Hungary. With borders shifting this fluidly over such an extended period of time – not to mention the exodus of some Czech Jews before the war began as in the case of Germany and Austria – it is no wonder that Hecht’s “at the moment” numbers are at discrepancy with Hilberg.

The “third problem” that UV details on the casualty figures is the number of survivors that Hilberg provides. Hilberg “concedes,” for instance, that Jews hid, fled, survived camps, etc. But all this is beside Hecht’s point. Hecht is not saying that all the Jews in the eight countries he lists (not to mention Russia, which Hecht says – and the UV omits – will not be as badly affected) have all been murdered in February 1943. And his prediction is that, in the worst-case scenario, perhaps they’ll all be killed.

Of course the UV’s intention behind all this fussing is to “back up” the claim he makes at the end of his clip: that the “six million figure” had been established by the “storytellers” before the end of the war. This claim is so silly that it is hardly worth addressing; suffice to say that, already at the time of Nuremberg Trial of the Major War Criminals, the order of magnitude of the killing became apparent not only from contemporary documents and depositions from insider witnesses – namely the affidavit of Wilhelm Hoettl, mentioned in Chapter XII of the documentary record Nazi Conspiracy and Agression Volume 1, but also from a study by an Anglo-American Committee completed in April 1946, the results of which are shown here next to the very careful and conservative estimates of Gerald Reitlinger, who honestly pointed out that some of his figures – namely those regarding the USSR, which are way below what recent research has established – were conjectural due to the lack of reliable information at the time of his book’s writing. Later research, which includes Hilberg's study and the detailed country studies published in the volume Dimensionen des Völkermords by Wolfgang Benz et al., the two books representing the extremes of the "5 to 6 million" spectrum, has shown that Reitlinger's figures were indeed too conservative, and the minimum reasonable estimate is 5 million.

The UV ends this piece by telling us what Ben Hecht did during and after the war. He joined the Irgun terrorist organization in Palestine run by Menachem Begin, for one thing. At the time of his writing, the Irgun was advocating a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan River – a point the UV makes sure we learn.

Hecht also wrote a play (among many other things) called A Flag is Born in which, the UV tells us, a Treblinka survivor named David creates the Zionist flag out of a prayer shawl.

The UV reminds us at this point that the prayer shawl is appearing again as it did in the stories above from Freiburg and Poland. Which is to say that this is a trope in the big hoax that is the Holocaust.

Unfortunately for the UV, the original Zionist flag was fashioned from the prayer shawl, a point which is even admitted to at this anti-Zionist Web site.

So why does the UV bring in the information about Hecht's right-wing Zionism? What bearing could it possibly have on the truth or falsity of Hecht's arguments in the Reader's Digest article?

Here the UV has tipped his hand, so to speak. Like most Holocaust deniers, he doesn't just have a problem with "the orthodox version" of events. Rather, he has a problem with Jews. Thus his obvious problem with Zionism: Were Israel populated by non-Jews, would the UV mention it at all in his film? And yet Israel is populated mostly by Jews, and we hear about Israel in the very first clip of this film.

Not very bright, Mr. Ugly Voice. You've exposed your prejudices and, thus, your motivation. Now the rest is icing on the cake.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, UV's mention of Israel right at the beginning gave it all away. It wasn't even relevant. The only he could have for mentioning it was anti-semitism, which told you how objective he was going to be.


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