Winnipeg Jewish Review  
Site Search:
Home  |  Archives  |  Contact Us
Features Local Israel Next Generation Arts/Op-Eds Editorial/Letters Links Obituary/In Memoriam

Bryan Schwartz


Dr. Bryan Schwartz, April 24, 2012

*The historical truth of the centrality of antisemitism to producing the Holocaust has been known and settled since the war.
*Each of three outstanding historians of the Holocaust [Davidowicz, Kershaw, and Browning] can only be read as identifying antisemitism as the central cause of the Holocaust.
*How is it "helpful" in understanding history to downplay the central, organizing and integrating cause of an event?
*Just how sensitive is it to use the word "privilege" at all in connection with a victim's Jewish identity during the Holocaust?
*For the sake of moral and intellectual clarity, and to avoid aiding and abetting all the ways modern antisemites seek to deny, diminish or trivialize the final solution, the term Holocaust should be applied to the distinctive catastrophe inflicted upon the Jewish people by those who drew on millennia of antisemitic dogma, emotion and practice to define and act upon their program of annihilation.

* A museum of human rights is being built in Winnipeg. When its exhibits address the Holocaust, will it fully and fairly convey the Jewish dimension of the Holocaust? Or will students learn little or nothing of how Nazi anti-Semitism draw on a long and tragic history of hatred and mistreatment of Jews, how hatred of the Jew was the fundamental and driving cause of the Holocaust, and how antisemitism remains a problem today in most parts of the world, even to a limited but still significant extent in Canada today?


Adam Muller has made assertions in these pages that are untenable. There can be little doubt that there are survivors within this community who will find them offensive and hurtful.
Muller takes issue with saying that anti-Semitism was the central cause of the Holocaust. Antisemitism was merely one of the significant causes. Referring to a central cause is "difficult" and "unhelpful". We need, he says, a more "nuanced" and "fine grained" approach.
Muller proceeds to not only downplay the importance of Jewish identity not only to the cause of the crime but to the experience of the victims.
The historical truth of the centrality of antisemitism to producing the Holocaust has been known and settled since the war. Anyone remotely familiar with the final solution knows the thrust of Mein Kampf, the progression of antisemitic measures from Nuremberg through Kristallnacht, and the massive documentation of the targeting of Jews and their murder by the perpetrators, by war crimes tribunals and by reputable historians. Why does a known and fundamental truth, recognized by any reasonably well informed member of the general public and accepted by professional historians need to be obfuscated? To whom is this "helpful"? To modern anti-Semites and Israel haters who wish, as much as possible, to downplay the Jewish dimension of the Holocaust?
When the editor of this newspaper rightly challenged his comments, and reminds readers of the existence of Hitler and of his rabid antisemitism, Muller sneers at her "reductive intentionalism."
Muller's jargon referring to "intentionalism" seems to allude to a discussion among historians, some time ago, about the extent to which Hitler planned the final solution long in advance, and expressly ordered its implementation. Some suggest that officials below Hitler, looking to achieve Hitler's policy of rendering Reich-controlled territories judenrein, to some extent initiated or proposed some of the escalation from episodic massacre to wholesale extermination.
The "crude intentionalism" epithet thrown by Muller, in all his "humility" would extend to highly respected authorities on the Holocaust such as Lucy Davidowicz. She argues in her magisterial study Hitler's War Against the Jews that Hitler already had a master plan to exterminate Jews in 1919.
A leading historian of Nazi Germany and the second world war, Ian Kershaw in his chapter "Hitler Decides to Kill the Jews", from Fateful Choices (2007) writes of Hitler's pre-eminent role that:
"while no written order has been found...Hitler's fingerprints are all over the 'final solution'. Jews would doubtless have suffered discrimination under any nationalist leader in Germany at the time. The transformation into all-outside genocide nevertheless needed Hitler. When in March, 1942, Goebbels described Hitler as the unswerving champion and spokesman of a 'radical solution' to the 'Jewish question' he was stating the obvious. Without Hitler the 'final solution' would have been unthinkable.
Kershaw concludes that the Holocaust arose from the "earlier aim, absolutely intrinsic to Nazism" to 'remove' [the Jews]". Only deportation from Germany could have prevented the genocide there. Once Hitler invaded other countries, deportation of the large Jewish population under Nazi control was impossible, and genocide was inevitable. Only the prevention of the Second World War, the removal of Hitler from within, or a swift military defeat - which was impossible - could have prevented the Holocaust, concludes Kershaw.
Christopher Browning, another outstanding historian in the area, in the Origins of the Holocaust (2004), refers to the "working towards the Fuhrer" principle in the following terms:
"the emotional and ideological priority of Hitler's anti-Semitism and the wider understanding of history as racial struggle in which it was embedded was shared by much of the Nazi leadership and party. They defined and gave meaning to the politics of the Third Reich. They also provided the regime with a spur and a direction for ceaseless dynamism and movement. With the polycratic regime, Hitler did not have to devise a blueprint, timetable or grand design of solving the "Jewish question." He merely had to proclaim its continuing existence and reward those who vied in bringing forth various the end, "final solutions" would become the only ones worthy of submission to Hitler...and in the case of the war that Hitler both intended and prophesied in January,1939, an acceptable final solution would result in the destruction of the Jewish race in Europe..."
Browning relates that Hitler was obsessed wit
<<Previous Article       Next Article >>
Subscribe to the Winnipeg Jewish Review
  • Limmud Winnipeg Inc.
  • Jewish Federation of Winnipeg
  • Premier Best Western
  • Coughlin Insurance
  • Joyce Rykiss
  • Munroe Pharmacy
  • TD Canada Trust
  • Imperial Soap
  • Nick's Inn
  • Roseman Corp.
  • Rady Jewish Community Centre
  • Laufman Reprographics
  • Maric Homes
  • Artista Homes
  • Southwynn Homes
  • Tradesman Mechanical
  • Taverna Rodos
  • Accurate Lawn & Garden
  • Dr. Gary Levine
  • Fetching Style
  • West Kildonan Auto Service
  • Kristina's Fine Greek Cuisine
  • Nikos
  • Sarel Canada
  • Santa Lucia Pizza
  • Center for Near East Policy Research
  • Roofco Winnipeg Roofing
  • Center for Near East Policy Research
  • Nachum Bedein
Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.