Monday, April 02, 2018

Rubin and Schwanitz can't tell Ukraine from East Prussia.

Author: Sergey Romanov
While researching the topic of the Mufti's collaboration with the Nazis I stumbled upon a really embarrassing series of mistakes in Barry Rubin's and Wolfgang G. Schwanitz's Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Yale University Press, 2014).

The authors zealously struggle to pin as many crimes on the Mufti (surely an execrable Nazi collaborator) as they can get away with, specifically they try to show the plausibility of him having visited some extermination camps including Auschwitz (even though there is no credible evidence of such a visit). And so they write on p. 164:
The Hungarian Jewish leader Rudolf Kastner testified that Wisliceny told him in 1944 - when he would have had no motive to make such a story up - about al-Husaini’s visit to the Auschwitz gas chambers. The story seems credible, especially after the discovery of pages in Himmler’s office calendar that prove beyond reasonable doubt that the two men met in the Ukrainian town of Zhitomir, near Auschwitz (see Figure 22). And al-Husaini was traveling back and forth through Poland in June and July 1943.
And on pp. 184-5:
It was at the site of such an extermination campaign, in the village of Zhitomir, just east of Kiev, where Himmler and al-Husaini met on July 4, 1943. The previous year Jews in the area had been wiped out by the Germans. Now the village had been renamed Hochwald and was the site of Himmler’s field headquarters. He traveled there on his own private train named “Heinrich,” after himself, managed by an SS officer, Josef Tiefenbacher.
The story of this meeting between Himmler and al-Husaini can only be told now, using materials from Russian archives. Al-Husaini mentions it vaguely in his memoirs. Along the way, al-Husaini visited some places in Poland and the USSR that the Germans had captured. There is an interesting mystery here. Simon Wiesenthal, who conducted the most thorough contemporary research on al-Husaini’s wartime activities, thought the grand mufti had visited Auschwitz or other German death camps in May. It is also possible, however, that al-Husaini did so, accompanied by Eichmann and his aide Alois Brunner, on his way to Zhitomir. Also conveniently located for a possible visit along the route were the Treblinka and Majdanek concentration camps.
OK, the first glaring problem is that Wiesenthal never sourced his claims about the Mufti's alleged visits to Auschwitz and Majdanek (or his claim that he "let himself be introduced to the camp guards and complimented the most able SS men"). So he would be useless as a source already on this basis. But he was also known as a serial exaggerator (see the excellent biography by Tom Segev, Simon Wiesenthal: The Life and Legends) who did not hesitate to make up facts when it suited him:
Yehuda Bauer, an Israeli Holocaust scholar who chairs the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, said he warned his friend Wiesenthal, who died in 2005, about spreading the false notion that the Holocaust claimed 11 million victims – 6 million Jews and 5 million non-Jews.
“I said to him, ‘Simon, you are telling a lie,’” Bauer recalled in an interview Tuesday. “He said, ‘Sometimes you need to do that to get the results for things you think are essential.’”
One would expect any conscientious researcher to mention this. Instead these authors, not content with Wiesenthal's claims about Auschwitz and Majdanek, also throw Treblinka into the mix (p. 189: "the Oybin and Zhitomir meeting schedules make Simon Wiesenthal’s findings on al-Husaini’s visits en route to the death camps of Auschwitz, Maidanek, and Treblinka all the more plausible").

That aside, let's list further problems with these paragraphs.

1. Zhitomir is not (and was not) a village but a city. And has been a city since the Kievan Rus.

2. Zhitomir is about 700 km from Auschwitz as the crow flies and more by road. Not anywhere "near" Auschwitz.

3. Himmler and the Mufti did, indeed, meet at Hochwald. But Hochwald, contrary to what the authors state, was Himmler's field residence in East Prussia near Pozezdrze. The village was called Großgarten from 1938 to 1945, and indeed in the schedule that the authors helpfully publish on p. 186 we see arrival in Großgarten.

Pozezrdze is 650+ km away from Zhitomir and 480+ km from Auschwitz.

So much for the authors' geographic argument.

Now, the source of the mistake seems to be clear - the schedule mentions a trip to Hegewaldheim, and Himmler's residence in Zhitomir was called Hegewald. But "Hegewald" was also the initial name of his Großgarten residence (from a nearby forest) and the name was transferred to the Zhitomir residence on 15.07.1942, whereas the Großgarten residence was renamed into Hochwald (P. Witte et al., Der Dienstkalender Heinrich Himmlers 1941/42, 1999, p. 36). Hegewaldheim (named after the same forest) on the other hand was a nearby resort with a lakeside restaurant (which still seems to exist in the village Żabinka) where Himmler liked to spend time with his guests. The authors wrongly claim that "Himmler's home" was at Hegewaldheim (p. 189).

Some of this may be somewhat confusing, but that's not an excuse since the authors themselves correctly called the residence that the Mufti visited "Hochwald" - and that was solely the name of the East Prussian residence, something which they should have known.

A very clear example of superficial, subpar scholarship.

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