Saturday, December 24, 2016

Was Hitler Christian? Was Nazism Christian?

This article appears at FrontPage Magazine here

Hitler is the trump card. Even if you hold a royal flush, if your opponent plays the Hitler card, you lose. Those arguing for Western Civilization or the Judeo-Christian tradition frequently fold when confronted by the mustachioed monster. Mention of Hitler is used to insist that we need to throw out the baby, throw out the bath water, and accept just about any alternative to Western Civilization as more peaceful, less genocidal, shinier and newer.

What is the genesis of Political Correctness? One good place to start seeking for that genesis is the West's horrified backlash against, and attempt to compensate for, Nazism.

In the early twentieth century, society's best and the brightest, including US presidents, The New York Times and The Atlantic Monthly, Ivy League Universities and Congress accepted scientific racism. This Darwin-inspired worldview placed Nordic people at the pinnacle of human evolution. Planned Parenthood's Margaret Sanger advised abortion and sterilization for less-evolved humans. Carl Brigham invented intelligence tests, the ancestors of the SAT, that proved Polish immigrants incapable of education. Madison Grant, cofounder of the Bronx Zoo and board member at the Museum of Natural History, recommended elimination of the unfit. Hitler dubbed Grant's 1916 book Passing of the Great Race his "Bible." At the Nuremberg Trials, Baldur von Schirach, head of the Hitler Youth, would blame another publication from America's scientific racism era, Henry Ford's The International Jew, for his becoming an anti-Semite.

Grant and Lothrop Stoddard positioned their scientific racism in opposition to Christianity. Racism was supported by science, they insisted. Christianity was absurd, and its championing of the oppressed weakened society. 

What happened? How did a society that had been excessively arrogant a hundred years ago become a society that expresses Politically Correct self-condemnation and shame today? World War II happened.

Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin killed more people than Hitler. Tamerlane, the fourteenth-century "Sword of Islam," killed five percent of the world's population. There are two important differences between other notorious genocides and Nazism. We read of Tamerlane's mountains of skulls, his 1398 massacre of a hundred thousand infidels in Delhi, and his burying alive four thousand Armenian Christians in the name of Islam, but we do not witness these horrors. Hollywood directors did not film the eighteen million prisoners of the Soviet Gulag. Hollywood directors like Alfred Hitchcock and George Stevens did participate in documentation of Nazi concentration camps. We don't just read about Nazi horrors; we see them in documentary footage produced by experts.

There is a second important difference between the Holocaust and other horrors. Russia with its serfs, czars, and commissars, perennial enemy of Bond films; China, land of foot-binders and dog-eaters: they are alien to us. The Nazis are us. Germany was democratic, secular, capitalist, educated and industrialized. Beethoven, Einstein, Thomas Mann, hot dogs, hamburgers, Christmas trees: all German. More Americans trace their ancestry back to Germany than to any other country. English is a Germanic language.

Americans watching film footage of Nazis horrors felt shattered in a way that reading of a fourteenth-century massacre of Hindus by a Muslim could never shatter them. We in the West have looked at Nazi crimes and said, "There is something wrong with us. We must change."

If quality X is associated with Hitler, we want to reject quality X. Hitler was a vegetarian; if someone wanted to prove that Hitler did what he did because he was a vegetarian, we might reject vegetarianism. This "logic" is fodder for jokes: "Do you drink water? So did Hitler!" an internet meme mock accuses.

It is exactly because the Hitler card is played against Western Civilization that everyone ought to read Richard Weikart's new book, Hitler's Religion: The Twisted Beliefs that Drove the Third Reich. The book's substance justifies Weikart's clam that it is "the most extensive to date in the English language" on its topic. Weikart makes the case that Hitler's God was a Darwin-inspired, non-personal, pantheistic deity exacting a pitiless survival-of-the-fittest-through-struggle morality. Neither Hitler nor Nazism were Christian, and the elimination of Christianity was certainly one of the long-term goals of Nazism. Previous canonical scholars have asserted part or all of Weikart's main thesis; thus, his book should not be controversial.

Certainly when Nazism was arising, its flamboyant flirtations with Neo-Paganism and its attacks on Christianity were so obvious that in 1942, Polish-Jewish artist Artur Szyk depicted Hitler as the anti-Christ. Nazism declared itself a break with the Judeo-Christian tradition, obedient to science in a way that Christianity could never be, and a return to Pagan values rooted in one's natal blood and soil. In his 1930 book The Myth of the Twentieth Century, Nazi theorist Alfred Rosenberg declared the "collapse" of all that had come before and a "new dawn" and "new faith" a "new light" a "new mission:" "blood and blood, race and race, folk and folk." "That is the task of our century; to create a new human type out of a new view of life." Goebbels wrote in his novel Michael of "demolishing his old faith world." "The churches have failed. Totally failed. Millions await a new religion."

The Third Reich flag is one of the most famous and in-your-face graphic designs in history: red field, white disc, black swastika. Dating back at least 11,000 years, the swastika is a near universal Pagan symbol for eternity, representing the path of the sun in the sky. TIME film critic Richard Corliss called the Hitler of Leni Riefenstahl's infamous 1935 film, Triumph of the Will, a "Wagnerian deity." Riefenstahl's 1938 film Olympia, documenting the 1936 Berlin Olympics, opens with a lengthy homage to Ancient Greece and Rome. Marble gods appear to spring to life in the bodies of German athletes. This homage makes clear that Nazism plans to skip over the inconvenient rise of Christianity and resurrect virile Pagan virtues. Hitler regarded pre-Christian Rome as humanity's high point. The Luftwaffe bombed Coventry's 14th century cathedral to a ruin, but Hitler would not allow Athens to be bombed.

Nazi Neo-Paganism was a lived experienced that bonded followers to one another and inspired them to reject their own reason and adopt the group's morality. Historian Manfred Gailus wrote that Nazi religiosity was felt as "a mass experience, cult, ritual, as highly symbolic and sacred actions in the context of a novel NS annual calendar of festivals and celebrations of life." "The whole country was as if under a kind of a spell," reported Brunhilde Pomsel, Goebbels' secretary, in 2016.

Living, nocturnal swastikas constituted of thousands of marchers carrying torches high aloft, the Blutfahne ceremony, in which a new swastika was consecrated through physical contact with a flag bearing Nazi blood, or the roll call for the martyrs of the Beer Hall Putsch: Nazis were diabolically clever at creating rituals that erased the past and sucked the participant into a new ethic. These rituals intoxicate audiences, even today. The London Times called Olympia "visually ravishing." The spectacle, the camaraderie, the meaning, order and self-discipline, the loss of self and sacrificial surrender to a moving historical wave: watching Nazi spectacle, one is both moved and one is horrified by being moved. We are not immune to fascism's appeal.

Nazi Neo-Paganism was inscribed into material culture including grave markers, jewelry and clothing. The SS insignia is in fact two runes: the doppelte Siegrune. Runes were letters of an ancient Germanic alphabet used in divination and magic. During the Nazi era, an extra key was added to German typewriters to make possible the typing of the double sieg rune with one stroke. The hagal rune was used at weddings to symbolize unshakeable faith in Nazism. The todesrune replaced the Christian cross in death notices and grave markers.

Nazi ritual inserted itself into spaces previously occupied by Christianity. Speer's "Cathedral of Light," created with anti-aircraft searchlights, was a new kind of church. The swastika was paraded through the streets at the center of a simulated monstrance – the golden container of the Eucharist. In classrooms, crucifixes were removed and replaced with Hitler's photo. Hitler youth meetings were held on Sunday morning to make it impossible to attend church. Hitler youth sang "We need no Christian virtue. We follow not Christ but Horst Wessel." "This [Nazi] cult cycle competed with the traditional Christian cycle," writes Gailus.

Nazism's targeting of Christianity, like its Neo-Pagan spectacles, was also obvious to the nervously watching world. By 1937, 12,000 Catholic priests had been persecuted by the Nazi regime. The Dachau concentration camp established a priests' barracks for clergy in 1940. Catholic presses were closed. Catholic dissidents were murdered during the 1934 Night of the Long Knives. In 1935, seven hundred pastors of the Confessing Church were arrested. Catholic schools were disbanded. One of the first and one of the few wartime Hollywood films to address concentration camps was titled The Seventh Cross. The film's title suggests American awareness of Nazism's anti-Christian stance.

In short, it's hardly a leap to refer to Nazism as anti-Christian and Neo-Pagan.

Why, then, is Weikart's book so essential?

Because Hitler is the trump card, and cultural warriors want badly to play him.

Recent years have seen a new trend in publishing about the Holocaust. Authors link Nazism to Christianity. Richard Steigmann-Gall's 2004 The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity 1919-1945 is one such book.

The Holy Reich states that "Christianity did not constitute a barrier to Nazism." And that Nazi Germany was waging "a war in the name of Christianity." Steigmann-Gall quotes John 16:2 "Whoever kills you will think he is offering a service to God." This verse appears to support Steigmann-Gall's insistence that Nazis were Christians murdering in obedience to unambiguous Biblical commands to do so. An Amazon reviewer says that Holy Reich convinced him that "the Nazis were inspired by Jesus' message as delivered by the New Testament."

New Atheists also play the Hitler card. The Richard Dawkins Foundation hosts a piece by Michael Sherlock stating "Hitler was a Christian … Christianity played a pivotal part in the heinous atrocities [committed by Hitler's] Christian Nazi Party." In his last interview, Christopher Hitchens insisted that 1930s fascism was equivalent to an "extreme-right Catholic party." Atheist actor Stephen Fry attributed the Holocaust to right-wing Polish Catholics.

Are recent revisionist histories and New Atheist proselytizers correct? Was Hitler Christian? Was Nazism? No. And that "no" matters a lot.

None of us are Ancient Greek Pagans, but it would matter to us if Ancient Greece were misrepresented, because Ancient Greece is our roots. It matters to non-Christians when Christianity is represented as inherently genocidal and sadistic, because Christianity is one of the foundations of Western Civilization. When presidents insist that Islamic terror is merely payback for crimes committed by Christian Crusaders against inoffensive practitioners of the Religion of Peace, that matters. When universities teach that the only place Jews could thrive in pre-modern Europe was the "paradise" of "tolerant" "Golden Age" Al-Andalus, that matters. When social engineers declare that our Founding Fathers' understanding of the right to life or the concept of marriage are merely waste products of a benighted worldview, that matters. When atheist ethicists like Peter Singer tell us that parents should be allowed to murder their own children, that matters. When Michael Shermer and Steven Pinker produce well-reviewed books that insist that as time passes evolution makes mankind more secular and more ethical, that matters.

It always matters when a scorched-earth Utopian comes along and says, "Everything about the past is corrupt, and everyone who came before us was a fool. Let's erase the past and start fresh with a blank slate." "Pure" people who offer this menu item tend to rack up large body counts. Christianity's impact on Western Civilization is one baby and one basin of bath water we cannot allow to be falsified. The hero we need in this battle in the culture war is Richard Weikart.

Weikart points out that anyone who, as Hitchens does, quotes Hitler as if his every word were scrupulously true is naïve at best and consciously lying at worst. Hitler was a ruthless opportunist. Hitler's 1938 insistence that the Sudetenland was "the last territorial demand I have to make in Europe" was one of the most notorious and consequential lies in history. Hitler mentions God in Mein Kampf; New Atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens insist that these mentions prove that Hitler was a Christian.

Let's get real. Hitler mentioned God for two reasons: he was playing to his audience, and he was couching his own beliefs in language his followers would naively swallow. Hitler recognized that most Germans were Christian and that overt expression of his own contempt for Christianity would unnecessarily alienate people he wanted to keep on his team. Weikart makes this point abundantly clear with ample and unambiguous quotes from Hitler speaking with trusted intimates like Albert Speer, Martin Bormann, and Joseph Goebbels.

When Nazis did praise "Christianity" or "Jesus," they were invoking an invented version of each, a version exclusive to Nazism, a version that Nazis themselves jettisoned when it ceased to serve their purposes. The Nazi Jesus was the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier. He performed no miracles. He was a violent, armed, blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan warrior against Jewish capitalism. Jews crucified him for this and he died, period. His death saved no one.

The Bible records that Jesus was the divine son of God. He performed miracles. Jesus was Jewish, the Temple was Jewish, and Jesus' milieu was Jewish. Romans crucified him. Jesus chose not to fight back, but went like a lamb to slaughter. He rose from the dead, thus saving mankind. His opponent was not capitalism but original sin. Hitler denounced these beliefs as a "Jewish plot" to destroy the Ancient Pagan world. In any case, by 1940, Nazism's so-called "Positive Christianity" was abandoned as a failed scheme.

When Hitler mentioned God, this is what he meant: the laws of nature reward unquestioning loyalty to one's own breed and constant struggle to the death with outsiders and inferior specimens. God – in the form of natural cause and effect – rewards those who struggle for their own folk. This struggle is so ruthless that Germans ought to have many children in order that the bulk of them die, preserving the most fit. Hitler guestimated that killing seventy to eighty percent of German babies would result in an improved species.

The Lebensborn program mass produced German babies through breeding SS men with unwed women. Also, Nazis kidnapped tens of thousands of Polish children who showed what the Nazis assessed as Aryan traits. Kidnapped children were tested. If tests showed these children to be undesirable, they were killed in Auschwitz. If tests proved that they exhibited authentic Nordic traits, they were forcibly Germanized. Discipline of these kidnapped children was harsh. In one instance, institutionalized children undergoing Germanization were required to watch an SS man use a butcher's ax to decapitate a misbehaving twelve-year-old Polish boy.

Conversely, 400,000 Germans with illnesses like epilepsy, alcoholism and depression were sterilized. Aktion T-4 murdered 200,000 handicapped Germans. The doctors and nurses who carried out these killings began the program by murdering German newborns and children under three years old.

Nazi mass-murder began with German babies and ended in an orgy of suicides. "We spoke about committing suicide as other people talk about fashions," reported Traudl Junge, Hitler's secretary. Suicidal Nazis often took entire families with them. Magda Goebbels rejected offers of escape. Rather, she fed her own six children cyanide before killing herself.

If Weikart is correct, what to make of all the new books identifying Nazism with Christianity? An Amazon reviewer called The Holy Reich "The most important study on Nazism. Ever." Is that Amazon reviewer wrong? Yes, he is wrong.

In 2007 and 2013, The Journal of Contemporary History published several scholars' critiques of The Holy Reich. These scholars include Manfred Gailus, Irving Hexham, Ernst Piper, and Samuel Koehne. These scholars make the following points about The Holy Reich. The book includes numerous errors of fact, including, in one instance, misspelling one historical figure's name three different ways. "So considerable is the catalogue of skewed and distorted constructions and misinterpretations, of factual errors and slapdash work that I cannot pass over them without comment," complained Manfred Gailus.

There's more. Steigmann-Gall does not refer to pertinent scholarship, and he cherry-picks quotes that support his thesis, and leaves out material, often from the same source, that contradicts his thesis. Steigmann-Gall never addresses why Christians resisted Nazism while citing Christianity as their motive for that resistance.

Historian Ernst Piper simply states that "the contention that National Socialism was a profoundly anti-Christian movement endured for so long not because it was convenient for researchers not to prove otherwise but because it is a fact." Samuel Koehne dismisses Holy Reich in similarly global terms.

As mentioned above, Steigmann-Gall quotes Christian scripture in a way that implies that the Bible orders Christians to murder Jews. It doesn't. That quote is about early Christians being martyred for their faith.

Most readers will remain completely unaware of scholarly detractors from Steigmann-Gall's work. Most readers will see a book entitled Holy Reich, view its cover photo of Hitler under a cross, and decide that yes, Nazism was Christian.

In Hitler's Religion, Richard Weikart takes Steigmann-Gall on repeatedly. In a telling passage, Weikart reveals some hidden truths about Steigmann-Gall's deceptive cover for Holy Reich. The cover depicts Hitler exiting a church. A brightly lit cross appears to spring from Hitler's head.  

Not so fast, Weikart warns. He reveals that the 1932 photograph was used in the 1933 propaganda pamphlet Hitler as No One Knows Him. Under it appeared the caption, "Hitler, the supposed 'heretic' leaving the Marinekirche [sic]." (Alas the Nazi pamphlet even misspelled the name of the church. The correct spelling is Marienkirche.) The photo's original caption is telling. It reveals that Christians were condemning Hitler as a "heretic," and that that criticism was causing damage. Nazis realized that they needed to sell him as a Christian. The cover of Hitler as No One Knows Him is a hideously awkward shot of Hitler casually lounging in an alpine meadow, a dog next to him. No intelligent person would accept this warm and cuddly Hitler at face value, nor should anyone uncritically embrace Hitler in the doorway of a church. Indeed, in the 1938 version of the pamphlet, the cross has been airbrushed out of the photo. The caption has been changed. The 1938 caption reads, "after sightseeing in the historic Marinekirche [sic]." By that time, Nazis were closer to abandoning the pretense that they were Christian, and more willing to signal that to them, Christianity was ready to be relegated to the dustbin of history.

Jews and Christians are important allies in the culture wars. An artificial construction of Nazism as Christian should not be a roadblock to our alliance. To anyone tempted to support this fallacy, please consider.

Understanding genocide as something Westerners, Christians, or white people do hampers our understanding of genocide as a phenomenon. In 1969, anthropologist Christy Turner began presenting evidence of a genocide of Anasazi by Toltecs in the Four Corners area. Toltecs mass-murdered Anasazi, and then ate their flesh. This genocide took place a thousand years ago, before Columbus arrived. Native Americans and Turner's fellow anthropologists were scandalized and refused to believe his irrefutable forensic evidence. Many insist that genocide was strictly a practice of European Christians, and they insist on denying that this Native American genocide ever took place.

Christophobes allege that only two thousand years of uninterrupted hatred could cause humans to commit genocide. There are two things wrong with this assertion. First, the Cambodian and Rwandan genocides were not preceded by millennia of training. We need to acknowledge that humans commit genocide even without thousands of years of rehearsal.

Second, anti-Semitism is a pathology. Like TB and plague, it spreads and retreats with historical circumstances. Christians have not practiced two thousand years of hate. There have been periods and regions when Christians were anti-Semitic, others when they were philosemitic, and still others when they were more or less indifferent. To understand genocide, we must understand temporary and local conditions that facilitate hatred.

Understanding anti-Semitism as a purely Christian phenomenon forces us to ignore the Roman, Pagan persecution of Jews of 70 AD, arguably the most cataclysmic persecution Jews endured before the Holocaust. Roman Pagans drove Jews out of Jerusalem and into diaspora, ending Temple Judaism and beginning rabbinical Judaism, and contributed to a massive drop in the world population of Jews, a population drop from which Jews did not recover for centuries. Roman Pagans renamed Judea "Palestine" in order to erase even the memory of Jews ever having lived there. We can't understand Pagan anti-Semitism, Islamic anti-Semitism, or left-wing anti-Semitism on today's campuses if we insist that anti-Semitism is a Christian monopoly.

Falsely identifying Nazism as a Christian phenomenon prevents us from understanding Nazism. Sam Harris, in his "Atheist Manifesto," writes, "The anti-Semitism that built the Nazi crematoria brick by brick was a direct inheritance from medieval Christianity." Harris insists, without support, that the Vatican perpetuated the blood libel "as late as 1914." Harris doesn't mention that popes, going back at least to the thirteenth century, took the lead in repeatedly and emphatically condemning blood libel.

I have three questions for Sam Harris. First, why did the Nazis themselves explicitly reject what you say? Again and again Nazis said that any anti-Jewish statements in Christianity were wrong, because they were about theological disagreements, not blood. Nazis did cite exactly the Darwin-inspired, race justifications that Weikart quotes at length. Read the actual words of scientific racists and Nazis, from Lothrop Stoddard and Madison Grant to Heinrich Himmler. Again and again, you will discover them speaking words that New Atheists themselves speak: "Christianity is absurd and unproven and it causes us to err through sentimentality. Science alone represents objective truth." Christians have confronted and atoned for Christians' failures. When will New Atheists acknowledge that their approach contributed to genocide?

Nazis didn't murder only Jews. Nazis murdered three million Soviet POWs, and caused the death of an estimated 13.7 million Soviet civilians. In justifying their crimes against Jews, Slavs, and others, Nazis cited identical race-based justifications.  

In speeches to his men, Heinrich Himmler offered a new ethic that justified the murder of Christian Slavs and Jews. Himmler said, "In Poland in weather forty degrees below zero, where we had to haul away thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, where we had to have the toughness – you should hear this but also forget it again immediately – to shoot thousands of leading Poles … The proud soldier says, 'My God, why do I have to do that, this ridiculous job here!' – It is much easier to go into combat with a company than to suppress an obstructive population of low cultural level, or to carry out executions, or to haul away people…

One basic principle must be the absolute rule for the S.S. men. We must be honest, decent, loyal, and comradely to members of our own blood and nobody else. What happens to a Russian and a Czech does not interest me in the least. What the nations can offer in the way of good blood of our type we will take, if necessary by kidnapping their children and raising them here with us.

Whether nations live in prosperity or starve to death interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves for our culture: otherwise it is of no interest to me. Whether ten thousand Russian females fall down from exhaustion while digging an anti-tank ditch interests me only in so far as the anti-tank ditch for Germany is finished."

I ask Sam Harris, if, as you say, the crematoria that incinerated Jews were constructed of Christian ideas, what about the crematoria that incinerated German children culled as evolutionarily unfit, or the Polish Catholics identified as Germans' enemies in Nazism's "survival of the fittest" morality?

It is undeniable that Nazism focused on Jews in a way that it did not focus on others, and that Nazis murdered almost six million Jews, or sixty percent of the world population. This is exceptional and is deservedly treated as exceptional. It is also true that anti-Semitism has been a plague in Christianity, and that Christians must never shirk the struggle against anti-Semitism. We all know that most Germans, including Germans who committed atrocities, identified as Christian. All these facts demand and receive massive attention. I have only praise for books like Robert P. Erickson's Complicity in the Holocaust: Churches and Universities in Nazi Germany that demonstrate how Germany's best and brightest, from university professors to theologians, abandoned their core values. There's a difference between saying that Christians distorted their faith to support Nazism and saying that Nazism is Christian.

Every semester I ask my university students what group the Nazis mass murdered first and last, even after they surrendered to the Allies. "Nazis murdered Jews first," my students respond. No. Communists. No. Homosexuals. No.

When I tell them it was handicapped Germans, they are dumbstruck and unbelieving. They have no pattern into which to fit this fact. They have been taught that Nazism is a function of Christianity, and a damning blot on Western Civilization. They have not been taught about how Nazi anti-Semitism fits into a Darwin-inspired, Neo-Pagan, nationalist worldview.

My students don't know that Hitler expressed genocidal intent for Poles: "I have placed my death-head formation in readiness … with orders to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language." Poles were shot by Einsatzgruppen. Approximately two million non-Jewish Polish civilians were murdered. Auschwitz was initially created, and run for its first 18 months, as a center of internment of Poles. Poles were tortured, dispossessed, and the subject of medical experimentation. Polish bodies were turned into soap. Between 1.5 and 3 million Poles were conscripted into forced labor. Almost twenty percent of Polish priests were murdered.

Even as the advancing, victorious Red Army was within sight of soon-to-be-defeated Germans, even as the Allies advanced from the west, German soldiers went building to building in Warsaw, killing civilians with flamethrowers, targeting churches, museums, and libraries. Himmler ordered, "The city must completely disappear from the surface of the earth … No stone can remain standing. Every building must be razed to its foundation." There was no military reason for this. Sam Harris' "explanation" that Christianity is responsible for Nazism is revealed as patently inadequate when one considers what Nazi Germany did to Catholic Poles, or the German handicapped, or Soviet POWs, or Romani.

Richard Weikart's explanation works.

Danusha Goska is the author of Save Send Delete

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Lukasz Urban: "A Pole Who Fought for His Life" Truck Driver Murdered by Terrorist

Source:  Daily Mail
"It was really clear that he was fighting for his life. His face was swollen and bloodied. Police informed me that he had suffered gunshot wounds. Despite being stabbed he was shot dead." - Urban's cousin, Ariel Zurawski, interviewed by AP. 

Polish Driver Murdered, Truck Hijacked in German Christmas Market Terror Attack

Reports are that the driver of the truck used for the Berlin Christmas Market terror attack was a Polish man who was murdered. Daily Mail article here

Monday, December 5, 2016

Trying to Talk to Trump Supporters

Folks, I know I have not posted on this blog in a long time, and I apologize. The reasons are complex.

In any case, I am posting here an account of an encounter I had on Facebook. I don't mention Poland once in this essay, but astute readers will understand why I post this here, as well as on my other blog, Save Send Delete. 

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed. I read a post from a friend. I felt like I was reading someone else's vomit. I walked away from the computer and tried to forget. I knew if I responded I would not be heard. I knew if I responded I risked hurting someone. I knew that someone had already hurt me, and nothing would erase that post from my memory. Even as I tried to forget the post, a reply kept formulating itself in my head. The post, and its hate, were a puzzle. I was compelled to piece its disparate parts into a pattern in order to make better sense of the world I suddenly found myself inhabiting. The post was a diabolical labyrinth constructed of words; I need to craft my escape, marshalling my own words.

A woman for whom I feel genuine affection and respect re-posted a thousand-word rant by "Mark."

Mark was excoriating anyone who criticized Donald J. Trump. Trump's critics, Mark insisted, were intolerant, convulsive, tyrannical, dictatorial, reactionary, insidious, pablum-feeding lapdogs of left-wing academics and little snowflake students who are crippled by anxiety when viewing the American flag and therefore outlaw its display. These teachers and students want to force America into a homogenized, contrived, politically correct image. These inflammatory words are all Mark's, taken directly from his rant. The rant took special exception to any comparison of Trump to Hitler.

Mark identified the populations to blame for turning America into a dystopian nightmare: teachers, students and the press. He named no other individual or group as guilty. Not Bernie Madoff. Not Wall Street and the 2008 crash. Not drug dealers and the heroin epidemic. Not mass shootings like Newtown or absentee fathers or misguided wars or lead-polluted water or income inequality or Kim Kardashian. No. Just teachers. Just students.

One response to Mark's screed made mention of how Trump would protect America from "dangerous immigrants."

Nowhere in the screed did Mark mention by name any real critic of Donald Trump. Mark never cited a single article critiquing Donald Trump. Mark never quoted a single real teacher or a single real student or one real immigrant.

Mark said that leftists say that Trump is exactly like Hitler. Mark seemed to find it important to insist that Trump would never murder tens of millions of civilians.

I haven't seen any serious commentary by a significant journalist or other public figure saying that Trump is exactly like Hitler, and no serious critique suggests that Trump will murder tens of millions of civilians.

Clearly, Mark was not talking about real opponents.

Clearly, Mark was condemning the monsters plotting under his bed, the gremlins slithering through his nightmares, the worst possible imaginings of alt-right conspiracy theorists. He located all of America's enemies in classrooms and in media.

Mark's hatred of teachers and students reminded me of some great dialogue from Ship of Fools.

Siegfried Rieber: You know it is a historical fact that the Jews are the basis of all our misfortunes.
Julius Lowenthal: Of course it is. The Jews and the bicycle riders.
Siegfried Rieber: Why the bicycle riders?
Julius Lowenthal: Why the Jews?

Why the teachers? The students? The immigrants?

Mark was shadow-boxing a caricature of a fantasy of a right-wing man who hates students and teachers and people who didn't vote for Donald Trump.

This ritual erection and defeat of straw men, constant in Team Trump rhetoric, matters.

Straw men, imaginary enemies, stereotypes rather than flesh-and-blood persons: these are what you encounter in the Malleus Maleficarum, The Witches' Hammer, the go-to manual for witch hunters. You encounter straw men in the transcripts of Stalinist show trials, in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion: in propaganda that panders to and reflects the fears of the paranoid or merely misanthropic. Lies crafted to stir up hatred and make any reconciliation or even mere respect impossible litter propaganda.

Ethics require that we encounter real persons. Civics require that we encounter real persons. Truth requires this encounter. Solving problems requires it. Friendship is impossible without this encounter, as is compassion. You must encounter the person in front of you, not your imaginings about that person. Ecce homo. Behold the man. Not the man your imagination dreamt up – the man God created.

I wondered if Mark had ever entered a university classroom, or met a teacher or a student. I wanted Mark and my Facebook friend who shared Mark's screed to come to my classroom, to meet me as a teacher, as a child of immigrants, to meet my students. Flesh and blood. Real people.

Would they call me a "dangerous immigrant" to my face? Would they mock my students as "special snowflakes" to their young faces?

Would Mark look me right in my big blue eyes and call me a convulsing, tyrannical, dictatorial, concentration-camp-capo wannabe?

Why would Mark, a successful person, a published author, lie like this? Fantasize like this?  Catastrophize like this? And, at a moment of national tension, work to stir up hatred against his fellow citizens?


More on this question, below. Because I think I've found the answer, and it's probably not what you think. And you can tell me if I have it wrong.

Look, I said. No serious person is saying that Trump is exactly like Hitler.

But responsible people have pointed out that Trump is a demagogue, that he plays some of the same devious games that all demagogues, including Hitler, play.  

Patriots need to address this:  

The ADL report on the unprecedented flow of hate during the Trump campaign. See here:

Teachers report an increase in bullying at schools, bullying overtly inspired by Trump, e.g., "Trump is going to throw you over the wall." "Trump that bitch" is now a phrase. Students shout "Hail Trump" or merely "Trump, Trump" when harassing others. See here

Frank Navarro, a 1997 Mandel Fellow at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and a teacher with forty years' experience, pointed out some parallels between Trump and Hitler. And was promptly told he had to stop teaching.

Two-hundred fifty Jewish scholars, on November 15, 2016, released an agonized statement. They wrote

"As scholars of Jewish history, we are acutely attuned to the fragility of democracies and the consequences for minorities when democracies fail to live up to their highest principles … in the wake of Donald Trump’s electoral victory, it is time to re-evaluate where the country stands. The election campaign was marked by unprecedented expressions of racial, ethnic, gender-based, and religious hatred."

I mentioned celebrated Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt's stating that Trump's appointment of Steve Bannon was "a game-changer" in how decent people address bigotry.  

Facebook friend Otto Gross also felt compelled to speak up. Otto's essay "Ripples of Sin" describes growing up with parents who had been Nazis. His perspective is wise, unique, and worthy of respect. (Otto's essay here:

In response to our posts, Otto and I were called "presumptuous" "rotting," "corrupt," "anti-intellectual," "profoundly ignorant," and "violently anti-Semitic" "leftists." We "denigrated" the actual suffering of Jews in order to express "annoyance" at a "politician." We were told we had contributed to the "devolution" of the conversation, like drunks at a bar. We were "separate" from real "working class Americans" who would reject us like the deviants that we are.

We were told that we had just "called your fellow Americans Nazis" and that we had just said that "Trump is Hitler."

We had never called anyone a Nazi. We had not said that Trump was Hitler. Otto laughed at being called a "leftist." He's never voted for a Democrat in his life.

Working class? My father was a coal miner. My mother cleaned houses. Otto's father was a metal worker. His mother did farm labor. I have worked as a nurse's aide, carpenter, and live-in domestic servant. Otto has pumped gas and mopped up hospital waste.

The Facebook posters shouting at us that we are not "working class" live lives of wealth, power, and influence.

These objective facts made no difference to Team Trump. Team Trump was doing what Team Trump does: obstinately erecting and strenuously demonizing a completely imaginary straw man.

They could work up fuming outrage to condemn Otto and me, people who posed no threat to them, but could not even acknowledge the hundreds of hate crimes that spiked directly after Trump's election. (See here:

I threw in the towel and retreated. My friend was choosing a fact-free world in which I, a teacher and a child of immigrants, was the ogre.

Then something odd happened.

A couple of the participants communicated to me, in public and in private, virtual resumes.

In one follow-up, thousand-word post, the poster used the word "I," "me," and "my" fifty times: "I've done this, this, and this. I have this and this accomplishment. I have done all these important things! I have been well-assessed! I am a good person!"

I was confused. All of this "I" stuff struck me as complete non-sequiturs. Weren't we talking about the Big Picture? About our nation, the United States of America?

And then it hit me.

People who voted for Trump feel shamed. It's a stigma, a taint.

Those who feel shamed are doing two things:

First, they discredit those who note Trump's flaws as beyond the pale – as drunks, as extreme leftists, insidious, special snowflakes, anti-American, elitist. We are so bad our perceptions are worthless.

And they must distort any criticism of Trump into a parody – "You are saying that Trump is just like Hitler! That's ridiculous! Trump will never murder millions!"

When you distort critiques of Trump that badly, he comes out looking relatively good. "Hey! He'll never murder millions so he must be an okay guy!"

As a teacher, I struggle to play my part in keeping the American dream alive. That's why I keep trying to talk to Trump voters. So far, though, I have gotten nowhere. The Team Trump trademark post-truth approach pulverizes language and drives us all lightyears apart.

Mostly what I encounter are logical fallacies.

Ad hominem: "You are an insidious leftist."

Change the subject: "Hillary Clinton is Satan."

Outright lies. "Trump won in a landslide. The votes for Hillary Clinton were illegal. Hillary Clinton murdered JFK Jr!"

Now that Trump has won, it appears to be important to Team Trump to reduce all of us who didn't vote for Trump to a marginally inhuman status, and to dismiss any criticism of him as extremist violations of Godwin's Law.

I'm worried for my country. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Die Polish Scum. Hate Crimes Against Poles on Increase in Post-Brexit England

Polish workers on a street corner in West London. AP photo Source
National Public Radio reports:

"According to British police, reports of hate crimes in the United Kingdom rose in the months after the Brexit vote in June to leave the European Union. The most alarming case happened at the end of August - the beating death of a Polish man in Harlow, a town north of London.

Father Bogdan Kot presided over the funeral last month of Arek Jozwik, a 40-year-old factory worker. Surrounded by scores of Polish mourners, Father Kot asked the question on many people's minds.

'Why God allowed for this to happen? Why this good man, hard-working man, gentle man had to die?'"


"HIND: I mean, now I feel scared, obviously. My wife feels scared. We want to know what's going to happen next. After I've been here so long and, you know, contributing to the country, we don't feel welcome anymore.

LANGFITT: Police say reports of hate crimes in most of the U.K. have been up nearly one-third since the week before the Brexit vote. Some EU embassies told The Guardian newspaper they'd also seen an increase in abuse of their citizens. Most of the targets were Poles or people mistaken for Poles. And that's not news to Magda Grzymkowska.

MAGDA GRZYMKOWSKA: Every week, it's happening something like this. And every week, we have article in our newspaper.

LANGFITT: Grzymkowska edits Tydzien Polski. It's a Polish weekly based in London. She cited a case last month in the English midlands where a man ordered a student of Polish descent to speak English."

Read full report here

Poland Taught France How to Use the Fork

The BBC reports:

"Poland 'taught the French how to use a fork', a Polish deputy minister has said, amid a continuing row over a cancelled defence contract.

Deputy Defence Minister Bartosz Kownacki also accused the French of lacking 'class' after losing the multi-billion dollar contract to build 50 Airbus Caracal helicopters for Poland.

A Law and Justice party spokeswoman said the remarks were 'unfortunate'.

Poland is to buy US Black Hawks instead. Airbus has threatened to sue.

Speaking on TV, Mr Kownacki accused France of responding by withdrawing the offer of free accommodation and a car for the Polish delegation at a defence fair in Paris next week.

'They are a people who learned to eat with a fork from us a few centuries ago. So maybe this is why they are behaving in this way now,' he said.

MPs from the opposition Civic Platform party called for him to be fired."

Wikipedia gives a history of fork use, including this excerpt, which you can read in full here:

"The first recorded introduction of the fork to Western Europe, as recorded by the theologian and cardinal Peter Damian,[9] was by Theophano Sklereina the Byzantine wife of Holy Roman Emperor Otto II, who nonchalantly wielded one at an Imperial banquet in 972, astonishing her Western hosts.[10] By the 11th century, the table fork had become increasingly prevalent in the Italian peninsula. It gained a following in Italy before any other Western European region because of historical ties with Byzantium, and continued to gain popularity due to the increasing presence of pasta in the Italian diet.[11] At first, pasta was consumed using a long wooden spike, but this eventually evolved into three spikes, a design better suited to gathering the noodles.[12]

In Italy, it became commonplace by the 14th century and was almost universally used by the merchant and upper classes by 1600. It was proper for a guest to arrive with his own fork and spoon enclosed in a box called a cadena; this usage was introduced to the French court with Catherine de' Medici's entourage. In Portugal, forks were first used at the time of Infanta Beatrice, Duchess of Viseu, King Manuel I of Portugal's mother[13] around 1450. However, forks were not commonly used in Western Europe until the 16th century when they became part of Italian etiquette.[14] The utensil had also gained some currency in Spain by this time,[15] and its use gradually spread to France. Nevertheless, most of Europe did not adopt use of the fork until the 18th century.[6]"

My comment: "Poland taught France how to use a fork" is unhelpful boasting.

Thanks to Otto for sending this in.

Read the full BBC article here

Monday, October 10, 2016

Andrzej Wajda, Filmmaker, Genius. March 6, 1926 – October 9, 2016

Andrzej Wajda March 6, 1926 – October 9, 2016. Filmmaker. Genius. Every Polonian and every lover of cinematic art owes him a debt of gratitude.

Below, my reviews of two of his films, The Promised Land and Katyn.

If I had all day, I'd write about more of his films, all day. I'd write about how they changed my life.

I don't have all day. So just the two reviews, below, which I hope you will read.

Thank you.

The Promised Land is a visual feast, fast-paced, and every bit as ruthless as the cutthroat characters it depicts. The topic – the Industrial Revolution, and the characters – immoral greedy monsters – are ugly and mean, but Wajda's filmmaking is so virtuosic you watch just for the sheer craft, splendor, and runaway train of a plot. I find it hard to sit through movies where there are no sympathetic main characters and no possibility of a happy ending, but The Promised Land is addictively watchable. There's an orgy, a tiger, several mutilated bodies, fires, riots, history, and Wojciech Kilar's driving, award-winning score.

Anyone interested in the Industrial Revolution should see this movie. Fans of Dickens' "Oliver Twist" and Gaskell's "North and South" really must see it. I wish I could require my students to watch it. Wajda was determined to get every detail correct. In the DVD's extra features, an assistant director discusses a scene of indigent paupers receiving charity food. Wajda's team discovered that the indigent were fed from long, metal tables with bowls built right into them. They rebuilt such a table just for this scene, lasting a few minutes. They had special wooden spoons made, and then weathered them by soaking them in oil. The paupers' rags were similarly weathered. There is a lengthy scene where Anna (Anna Nehrebecka), a country aristocrat, travels to the city. The camera follows Anna and lays out Lodz before her in all its gritty, noxious detail: smoking chimneys, workers' funerals, fighting men, the Jewish quarter. The scene looks like documentary footage of a late nineteenth-century industrial city.

The Promised Land also takes the viewer into the mansions of Lodz, almost ridiculous in their sumptuousness, plunked down in so much filth, squalor, and despair. Ornate winding staircases, gilt-encrusted columns and ceiling murals lure on industrialists willing to wring every last penny from their desperate employees.

The Promised Land depicts Lodz's emergence as a textile manufacturing hub. Three friends, one a Polish aristocrat, one a Jew, and one a German, strive to build their own factory. They have few resources and must do dirty things to make their dreams of unlimited wealth a reality. Blond Karol (Daniel Olbrychski) has the face of a cherub and the soul of a serial killer. His entire being is omnivorous greed. Moryc (Wojciech Pszoniak) cheats another Jew to get his stake. After doing so, he practically collapses from the strain, and then breaks the fourth wall, winking at the audience. He's just an actor playing a part, he reminds us, as they all are, playing any part they want to get their highest ideal: cash.

The film also depicts workers and their plight. A dewy young mill hand is lured into prostitution. Others are consumed by the machines they work. Scenes of mutilated flesh are quite graphic, and yet not sensationalistic. This is the price poor people pay for bread, the film shows us. The camera does not linger. It keeps moving. Just like Lodz, just like men chasing cash, just like history.

There are a few characters who aren't utterly despicable. They appear, make small squeaks of decency, self-respect, and dignity, and are crushed by the inevitable. There is a stunning scene that is quite different from anything else in the film. The film moves quickly and purposefully, but in this scene men meet in a small room to play classical music. The scene is not at all essential to the plot. It moves with atypical languor. The scene seems to say, "Yes, people in Lodz had souls." That reminder makes the surrounding greed-induced frenzy all the more disturbing.

Some viewers protest The Promised Land as an anti-Semitic film, because of unpleasant Jewish characters. Indeed, there are unpleasant Jewish characters in the film. Virtually *every* character in the film is unpleasant – even the pretty, innocent child lured into prostitution. The film does not allow you to pity her, but implies that she was complicit in her own downfall. Further, every character is unpleasant in an ethnically- gender-, and socioeconomic-class-coded way. That is, the Polish peasants are unpleasant in a stereotypical way associated with peasants, the one priest is unpleasant in a way associated with priests. The men are bad men, the women are bad women. The priest is onscreen for minutes only, but he leers at a pretty factory hand. Anna has a big heart, but she is ineffectual and not smart enough to see through Karol. Other women are whores or idiots. The Polish aristocrat aggressively sells out every high ideal his ancestors held dear. He desecrates an image of Poland's icon, the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. The Germans are either sadistic and autocratic or lumpen and dull. The Polish peasant who manages to rise above his station is an insufferable, loud-mouthed boor. This film isn't anti-Semitic; it is brutally misanthropic. It depicts people at their worst.

Again, it is Wajda's virtuosic filmmaking that makes all this endurable. At a key moment, a rock flies through a window. That rock means much – the inevitable march of history that has brought industrialists high and might also bring them very, very low. Any other filmmaker would probably have handled the rock through a window as a crashing sound followed by a thud. Wajda films this scene with such skill and poetry that the rock becomes a character in the film. It demands, and gets, the viewer's full attention. Subsequent action is filmed *from the rock's point of view.* Poland is a small, distant, and much contested country. It's filmmaking like that that amply earned Wajda his honorary Academy Award.

I watched Katyn on a home computer screen. Even in that limited format, Katyn had an impact on me comparable to such cinematic greats as "Lawrence of Arabia." I cried throughout most of the film. I resolved that many of my relationships would be different. I remembered people I had known who reminded me of characters in the movie. After the film ended, I felt that I could not listen to the radio or read the newspaper or listen to anyone speak. I just needed to allow the film to sink into me.

Naysayers have critiqued Katyn as boring and dull. If you need a film to depict war, occupation, and atrocity as shiny, compact, and compelling as a sports car, then you should listen to those naysayers; don't watch "Katyn," rather, watch the very silly, teen fanboy-friendly Quentin Tarantino flic, "Inglorious Bastards." If you've seen enough Hollywood productions jam-packed with sexy Nazis and happy endings, and you want to take in a film that dares to depict, in eyeblinks, what war, atrocity, and occupation looked like and felt like to real people, then by all means see "Katyn." One of the many features that I admired: Katyn's Nazis are not sexy. They are not Tom Cruise, Liam Neeson, Christoph Waltz. Katyn's Nazis are brutal, repugnant thugs.

I respect this movie. There are too few movies about which I'd say that. It shows the courage not to attempt to weave an uplifting, feel-good atrocity narrative that leaves the viewer with a smile. This isn't "Schindler's List." "Schindler's List" is a very good movie, but this isn't that. It is, rather, very much like what World War Two and the subsequent Soviet occupation sounded like to me when I listened to my own older friends and relatives, who lived through both. This is disjointed narrative, stories that seem headed for redemption or even ecstasy but that end in random death, that end in aborted normalcy, aborted joy, aborted meaning. I felt, in watching these cold, pale, stoic characters, as if I were, once again, sitting across the table from older Eastern European friends and relatives. Yes, that's what they looked like. Yes, those are the facial expressions they assumed when they talked about the uncle who was rounded up and never heard from again, the daring, handsome lad who ended up in a mass grave – or when they pointedly did *not* talk about these people. The gravestone whose inscription dares to tell the truth; the tearing down of a propaganda poster; the Red Army soldier who struggles to do the right thing by a widow, who won't yet admit that she is a widow; the singing of exactly the right Christmas carol at exactly the right moment: those are exactly the heroic gestures that no one ever saw, that went unrecorded, that only one person lived to tell about, to tell me. Here they are, onscreen.

When a movie is named Katyn the viewer knows how it will end; it's kind of like a movie named "Auschwitz" or "Kolyma" or "Wounded Knee." There isn't going to be a surprise ending. I was still surprised by the ending, by how courageous and moving I found it. Once again, Andrzej Wajda managed to wow the filmgoer in me. And he managed to move the human in me.

See "Katyn." See a movie you can respect, a movie that is worth your time.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Good. The Bad, and Bieganski, by Michal Karski

The Good, the Bad and Bieganski

Michal Karski

BLONDIE: Hey, Tuco. What’s happening with the Nazi Gold Train? You got any answers for me, amigo?

TUCO: What are you after, you sly son of a bitch? I know your sort. Who sent you? The Fat Man? You self-righteous Polonistas drive me up the wall. Always complaining about something.

BLONDIE: You planning on teaming up with Angel Eyes? You remember what happened in 1934?

TUCO: Yeah, I remember what happened in 1934 and how he double-crossed me back in Nazi-occupied Poland. I wouldn’t team up with Angel Eyes if you made me president of the US of A. Now what do you want from me, Kowalski.? I’m a busy man, you know. I’m a journalist these days. Respectable. You can’t pin anything on me. I pay my taxes.

BLONDIE: Wrong film, Tuco. I ain’t Kowalski. And what’s that you just said about Poland? Did I hear you right? Did you hear that, Angel Eyes, or was I dreaming?

ANGEL EYES: Big mistake, Tuco. You are one ignorant hombre and you’re gonna pay for that. Everyone knows you should have said ‘German-Nazi-occupied Poland’.

BLONDIE: Both completely off the mark. ‘Cause Poland wasn’t occupied until 1939. I’m gonna make life hell for the both of you.

TUCO: Look – anybody can make a mistake. Gimme a break.

BLONDIE: I’m gonna have to give you and your journo friends some history books.

TUCO: History books? We don’t need no stinkin’ history books. We know everything there is to know.

BLONDIE: Do you really? Who was president of Poland in 1934?

TUCO: Er – Frederic Chopin?

BLONDIE: Try again.

TUCO: Was it Arch Stanton?

BLONDIE: Not even close.

ANGEL EYES: Paderewski?

BLONDIE: Getting warmer…

TUCO: I know. It was that guy with the moustache.

BLONDIE: Which guy with the moustache?

ANGEL EYES: I know. He means Pilsudski.

BLONDIE: And was Poland under Nazi-German occupation at the time of Pilsudski?


BLONDIE: Not only was Poland not occupied in 1934 but Pilsudski wanted to crush the German Nazis before they got too powerful. He had his critics of course but how many people know that he wanted a preventive war to stop Hitler back in 1933? If he had persuaded the Brits and the French to go along, we’d be calling him a hero today instead of accusing him of being a dictator. Read this.

ANGEL EYES: I didn’t know that, Blondie. Don’t shoot, amigo. I’ll take those history books…

TUCO: Blondie, old friend. I always knew Pilsudski was a good anti-Nazi president.

BLONDIE: Wrong again, Tuco.

TUCO: B-b-but what do you mean? Isn’t that right?

BLONDIE: Pilsudski wasn’t the president. He may have been the power behind the throne but the actual president was Ignacy Moscicki.

TUCO: That’s what I said. Mos Stanton. I mispronounced it a little…



Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype describes a stereotype of Poles and other Eastern Europeans as the world's worst anti-Semites. That stereotype is so powerful that it often supersedes, in people's imaginations, the reality of Nazi Germany.

People giving greater weight to the stereotype of Poles as quintessential anti-Semites and not attending to the reality of Nazi Germany is demonstrated frequently in classrooms, Holocaust education curricula, and in a recent news article that referred to 1934 Poland as a Nazi state.

The facts, as covered in Bieganski. Nazism was a German product, and a product of wider Western trends. You can read more about that at "Nazism's Foundations and Inspirations," here.

Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany in September, 1939. It was also invaded by Soviet Russia.

Nazis committed horrible crimes in wartime, occupied Poland, 1939-1945. To attribute those crimes committed against both Polish non-Jews and Polish Jews to Poland is inaccurate, to say the least.

Michal Karski, author of the above blog, writes:

A week or so ago, UK news outlet Yahoo News managed to describe Poland of 1934 – unbelievably -  as “Nazi Poland”. After immediate protests from Poles and Polonians, some of whom (unfortunately) insisted on the change to “Nazi-occupied Poland”, the article was amended in line with the complaints. The wording of the corrected version now made it seem that Poland was occupied by the Nazis in 1934. After more complaints, the editors of the article finally got it right

Is this material for satire? You be the judge… If we don’t laugh at the astounding ignorance of some of our western journalists, we’d only end up despairing.