Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Single Sickest Thing I've Come Across in Reading about the Holocaust? Maybe. I'm Too Horrified to Think Clearly.

BrunoSchulz The Infante and Her Dwarves
The first time I went to Poland, I didn't go to Auschwitz. I was a teenager. I had flown on money I earned as a nurse's aide. When I was in high school, I made sure to be absent the day (yes really just one day) we were going to study the Holocaust and watch the film.

A lot of life had to happen before I was ready to write a dissertation that had anything to do with the Holocaust. Before I was ready to write "Bieganski." Basically, Indiana University happened. I saw so much darkness in my experience there. No need to go into detail here. Most people know the story. For those who don't there's the essay "A Small Miracle" online here.

So yeah Indiana University prepared me to write about evil and corruption.

I finally went to Auschwitz, watched the films, read the memoirs.

From my reading and listening, there are incidents that stay with me. I pray for the victims. Specific victims, people whose identifying features I remember. That one Russian woman, a suspected spy. What eight Germans did to her, before finishing her off with grenades. I pray for her, and others.

I don't read this stuff much anymore. I don't anticipate writing any further on the topic so I don't need to. It is a relief. I read and write about other things, now. Thank you, God.

As it happens, the other day I stumbled across what may be the single sickest thing I have read in my reading about the Holocaust and World War II. It happened accidentally.

Peter Sean Bradley, prodigious Amazon reviewer and Facebook friend, posted an article about an actor, perhaps it was Chris Pratt, saying that his Christian faith prevented him from doing sex scenes.

I said, oh, that's so silly. Sex scenes are essential to art. I reeled off a series of films that would be vitiated by the removal of their sex scenes, from "Coming Home" to "Gone with the Wind" to "Swept Away" to "Besieged" to "Schindler's List." There's a sex scene in "Schindler's List" that brings home to me how vulnerable women were.

Amon Goeth was the Nazi commandant of the Plaszow concentration camp. His dogs were trained to tear human beings apart. He shot random Jews from the window of his office. His victims, of course, included women and children.

According to Wikipedia, "On 13 September 1944 Goeth was relieved of his position and charged by the SS with theft of Jewish property (which belonged to the state, according to Nazi legislation), failure to provide adequate food to the prisoners under his charge, violation of concentration camp regulations regarding the treatment and punishment of prisoners, and allowing unauthorised access to camp personnel records by prisoners and non-commissioned officers."

Even the Nazis didn't like Goeth.

After the war, Goeth was tried for war crimes and for "personally killing, maiming and torturing a substantial, albeit unidentified number of people." His last words were "Heil Hitler."

Ralph Fiennes played the part of Amon Goeth in the film "Schindler's List." His performance was widely praised.

The sex scene in "Schindler's List" without which the movie would be so much less features Goeth harassing his helpless and terrified Jewish maid, Helen Hirsch. Hirsch was a real person. In the film she's played by Embeth Davidtz, very well.

Hirsch has retreated to the basement. She is wearing a light cotton slip. She is bathing so the slip is wet. Her body's contours are revealed. Goeth comes down and "converses" with her, though he supplies both sides of the conversation. He says he wishes he could connect with her. He fondles her. Then he brutally beats her.

I wanted to share that scene with Peter and so I googled the words "Amon Goeth" and immediately Google filled in the rest of the search for me with these words: "Amon Goeth Helen Hirsch fanfiction."

I wanted to puke right then and there.

Wanted to throw the computer across the room.

Fanfiction. Amateur authors writing romance novels about Amon Goeth and Helen Hirsch, and posting them online for others to read.

I clicked on only one: "Fallen." I skimmed some of it; didn't read the whole thing. What I read was pretty vanilla. In one scene, Goeth takes Helen into the woods to shoot her to death, but kisses her instead.

Okay, look. I wasn't born yesterday. I didn't just fall off the potato truck. I know there is some weird shit out there. I've read Andrea Dworkin's devastating article about Nazi-themed porn.

But this is just way beyond what I can handle. It disturbs in its very vanilla-ness.

Amon Goeth isn't some fevered fantasy. He was a real person and he was evil.

Helen Hirsch wasn't living the dream. She was innocent and robbed of what so many of us can take for granted – normalcy.

"Fallen" has received hundreds of comments. Maybe thousands; I didn't linger on the page. These aren't the type of people you could sweep under the rug. They sound like moms, housewives, school teachers maybe. Wanting a Nazi to kiss a Jew he just tried to kill.

I thought about this blog post for days. I thought, I really need to come up with some deep, complex analysis.

And then I thought, screw it, I can't. I just can't. 


  1. That is an odd mutation.

    There is something similar in The Deputy by Rolf Hochhuth, the famous anti-Pius play, filled with distortions and lies and possibly part of a Soviet disinformation campaign.

    I was surprised by the fact that the main character of The Deputy is a "good" SS officer who works at Auschwitz. This officer is opposed to the murder of Jews and tries to alert the papal nuncio. The SS officer is so good that he keeps a Jew in his apartment in order to shield him from, well, the SS, and he arranges for the Jew to escape Germany.

    Such a nice SS officer.

    My review:

    //The first surprise - which amazingly has never been mentioned in the many books on the Pius Controversy that I've read - is that the Protestant former Hitler Youth playwright, Rolf Hochhuth, selects an SS officer as the moral paragon to compare Pope Pius XII against.

    Why has no one ever mentioned this obvious bit of "excusing by accusing"? Why aren't there any discussions of The Deputy framed around the obvious psychology of excusing his past and country by presenting a "noble SS officer" and making the issue about how the Pope in Rome did not stop Germans from murdering Jews?

    The play is equally awful in its shallow melodrama. The villains of the play are unreservedly villainous; the heroes are noble, through and through. The exemplary SS officer, for example, doesn't merely spill state secrets to the Papal Nuncio, he actually hides a Jews in his apartment and drops off food for other Jews being sheltered in Berlin.

    Awww.....such nice SS officers.

    One can imagine that this is the image of the SS that the young Hochuth formed as a Hitler Youth, and undoubtedly cherished thereafter. The SS really weren't the villains, they would have been noble, if only they had been permitted, but the Pope - who actually did shelter Jews - is the real villain.//

    I wondered then - and now - WTF is going on?

    Is it some atavistic psychological need to redeem the villain?

    I think that was what was going on with Hochhuth. I think that he needed to have the people he admired in his youth - SS officers - be redeemed by this imaginary character. At the same time, the evil parts of the SS have to be "unlearned" and shifted to a stock villain, which for a Nazi-educated Protestant German would be Catholicism.

  2. I had first watched Schindler's list in my preteens, not understanding many aspects of the movie, I had still judged Amon Goeth as a monster . I, in my teens now ,rewatched the movie some time ago and I dare say I have a better understanding of its plot concept, and characters. The writers who have romanticised Goeth's obsession with Helen and portrayed him as a multidimensional Byronic character have grossly,foolishly and rather sadistically violated the the memories of Helen Hirsch. I too have read the fanfictions and I don't entirely find the portrayal entirely bizarre after reading a particular authors note which basically said that the writer was writing the story based on the film characters potrayed by Embeth Davitz and Ralph Fiennes. Their exceptional performances may have fuelled the urge of amateurs to romanticise a "villain's" obsession which is undoubtedly not the case for the real victim. I cannot justify my "partial" sympathy to these writers (and indulgence in such stories) without quoting Ishika from Kafka on the shore,who in turn quotes Yeats -"it's all a question of imagination. Out responsibility begins with our power to imagine.its as Yeats said"in dreams begin responsibility ". In their imagination, Goeth sometimes turns amorous and sometimes has a a profound epiphany about his "love" for Hirsch. Which is entirely untrue. Because men like Goeth and Adolf Eichmann were unable to imagine a world without Hitler's fascist rule, they failed to recognise their transgressions and blindly followed their ideals to their death. And such people deserve no redemption because they are unable of experiencing it. I believe such stories could only be written and enjoyed by people with a distorted sense of love and no scruples

    1. Ranjini thank you so much for this thoughtful post. I really appreciate it.

    2. Many people look at them like movie characters. They're write fanfictions about Heydrich or Gobbels. This generation has forgotten about war and the pain that comes with war. I have a wattpad account so I searched about ww2 fanfictions and see a lot of books about the Nazis falling in love with one of the Jewish prisoners. The writers believe that it is romantic and able to work. When I first saw Schindler’s list, I liked the Amon / Helen pair. I was a fool and I literally know nothing about that world ... I feel so stupid...

  3. I think people just want to redeem even bad characters and recognise that humans are complex, shades of good and evil and all that.. And in doing so, they make fan fictions that focuses on changing the character's choices towards the potential for good instead of evil. It's probably murking up history but it gives the imaginary character a chance to work towards redemption where in real life, he made bad choices and continued to be evil, so its wasted potential.

    Sometimes it's also to explore at what point does a common person fall and become brainwashed by ideologies? It's easy we wouldn't do it to other people, but what if we were brought up indoctrinated to think of others as lesser, as not humans.. It's very easy to be blinded by hatred and not question ideologies

    Just like how we don't question the ideology of raising livestock to the slaughter, We don't see them as beings alive that are worthy of living their own lives.. We see them as food. As objects of us to manipulate, grow, fatten, kill and eat. Their pain don't matter to us.

    The Nazis sees the Jews as less than humans too so it was okay for them. To the animals, we'd be nazis too.

    It's really scary when you think about how indoctrinated we all are by our own ideologies and then we blame other people who rose above the ideologies (like vegans) and call them weird and crazy, when we're the ones supporting gassing animals in gas chambers too.

    However, I do agree that abusive relationships shouldn't be romanticized.


Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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