June 11, 2009


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As Michael Burleigh, a leading historian of the Third Reich, has pointed out in a commentary on Singer’s work, eliminating defectives in pre-Nazi Germany was exactly what opened the door to the Holocaust. In his book Confronting the Nazi Past, Burleigh writes, “Singer omits to mention that one of the essential elements of [Nazi] propaganda was the denial of personality to their victims.” He adds that Singer is “displaying remarkable naiveté” when he suggests that the choices that would have to be made in evaluating a prospective defective for elimination would be in trustworthy hands if doctors were in charge. Burleigh notes that the Nazi euthanasia program was led by scientists and psychiatrists, people drawn from the best-educated and most “civilized” ranks of a sophisticated secular medical class not too different from the academic class Singer himself belongs to.

June 12, 2009

At first I thought writing about the Holocaust was a foolish thing to attempt. There are thousands of books on the subject. They range from children's books to scholarly works. Whatever could be said about it has probably already been said by others, many of whom lived through it.

That said, it's a major event in the 20th century and anyone writing a blog about religion can't simply link to a wiki entry about Auschwitz and move on.

Right or wrong, here are my views.

Most of the Holocaust books deal with the event in isolation. The approach I would like to take is to look at the history of religious violence in Europe and tie it into the Holocaust. The Holocaust didn't materialize out of thin air.

Killing the others
Modern Europe is one of the most secular places on the planet. The churches have gone from being at the center of life and power to tourist destinations. Of course it wasn't always that way. The Europeans have been killing Jews, other Christians and Muslims for more than a thousand years.

Two of the bloodiest periods were the Crusades (1096-1270) and an age of Religious Wars (1560-1715).

There were nine Crusaders. The stated objective was to retake the holy land for Christianity. However, the Crusaders didn't confine their zeal for killing to Muslims. They killed about ____ Cathers in southern France (the Catholic Church considered the Cathers heretics). They sacked the Eastern Orthodox city of Constantinople and of course they killed Jews. The Crusaders felt that it didn't make sense to go off and kill Muslims in the holy land while nonbelievers (Jews) remained in the country they were leaving.

Jews were murdered in England ....

Crusades (1096-1270)
killing of the Cathars

Anabaptist killing (1520-1530)

Europe in the Age of Religious Wars, 1560-1715 (witchcraft, inquisition etc)


Spanish (Catholics) killing the Dutch
The French Wars of Religion (Catholics vs Huguenots) 2 to 4 million dead
Thirty Year War 3 to 11.5 million dead

The point of all this is that Europe was a very intolerant place and the Jews were often tolerated for a time before they weren't tolerated.

Did the pogroms become greater?

Did they cut off escape routes?

Start with religious intolerance in Europe. Go after anyone who is different. The others. mention Cathers, Anabaptist, French wars of Religion

Pogroms were local. Jews were able to leave. Some places welcomed them.

map of Jewish expulsions.

Holocaust almost all of Europe. Germany's had almost all of Europe. No Jews in Spain.

Jews had escape routes in the past. Local population was more interested in getting rid of them.

WWII no escape routes and Germans wanted them all dead.

They also had the help of many local populations. Guards - many locals and locals helped identify Jews

Questions -- why did the Germans want them all dead verse kicking them out of Europe?

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