Friday, August 7, 2009

No ambiguity -- just like an old western

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Part of the myth that the Holocaust true-believers buy into is the myth of the Second World War as the “Good War.” Americans love the Second World War because there is no ambiguity --it is about good and evil – that’s it. Vietnam wasn’t like that. Neither was Iraq.

We love World War Two in movies and TV for the same reason – it’s good guys versus bad guys. Simple. Fun. Entertainment. Like an old western.

When the true-believers first discover Holocaust revisionism, or those who spout the heresy that all is not as it seems, they are aghast. After all, this is the clearest example of good and evil in a conflict that was about good and evil. This one is black and white. No shades of grey.

The Holocaust is proven fact. The bad guys (the Nazis) did it. Not only did they do it, but they admitted that they did it. We held trials, they admitted it, and they were hanged for their crimes. End of story. It’s all up to Hollywood now.

When the revisionists say all is not as it seems. When we ask for forensic information, when we ask for documents, when we ask for proof, the true-believers get angry – very angry. Such questions are not just about a historical event, they take on an entire world view—a world view about good and evil – about morality.

The Nazis admitted it! You can hear them shout. They are torn between considering revisionists idiots or evil creatures attempting to resurrect a long dead Reich.

Many of those true-believers don’t like the war on terror. They don’t like the American treatment of Muslims accused of terror. They don’t like the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. They particularly disliked Bush, because among other things he sanctioned torture. Torture is not only un-American, it is pointless. With torture so-called Muslim terrorists may admit to all sorts of crimes – but the confession is worthless. Who might not tell their accusers what they wanted to hear to stop the pain of torture?

Torture however did not begin with the war on terror. In fact, torture was used to get many of those admissions from the Nazis that we cling to as proof of the most horrific crimes of the Second World War.

According to historian Montgomery Belgion:

“Soon interrogations [of SS members] began. They were of three kinds. The first kind was a straightforward matter of question and answer. If, however, the result of an interrogation of this kind was not what the investigator was bent on obtaining, one of the second kind followed, it might be forthwith. A suspect was made to remove his coat and shirt, and to pass his hands inside his belt or inside the top of his trousers. His arms were then strapped to his body. He was told to stand to attention in the middle of the floor space. An American soldier was stationed on either side of him, and a third faced his back. The investigator sat at a table and ordered him to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Each time he failed to reply, or replied the opposite of what was expected of him, the American soldier on one side of him would strike him in the bare stomach with the edge of his hand while the solder on the other side kicked him. He was thereby thrown off his balance, and as he swayed backwards the solder behind fetched him a crack on the back of the head. The effect of this was to push him towards the upright again, and as this happened he was struck in the face. In this style questioning went on for, perhaps, two hours at a stretch.

A suspect was then conducted back to his bare cell, his face bloody, his eyes blackened and half-closed, his mouth so tumefied that he could hardly open it to drink, his bruised lower jaw making him incapable of biting his small lump of bread, his body red and blue. So long as no ‘confession’ was forthcoming, suspects were kept on bread and water. They were allowed to wash only every other day, and they were not allowed to shave.

The third kind of interrogation commonly took place in an underground cell. Several such interrogations might go on at the same time, and a German policeman wearing a white armband was stationed on the stairs in order to prevent anybody from coming down and hearing in the passage the cries and moans audible from behind several of a row of closed doors. This third kind of interrogation usually went on till a suspect had become unconscious.

Once a suspect had ‘confessed’, he was promised hot food and a blanket. In fact, he might not be given a blanket; he might be left to discover his own next time he went to the washroom where it had been place; his own-that is to say, the blanket that had been taken from him on arrival. As for the hot food, that might be forgotten too.

It was useless for a suspect to later on to withdraw his ‘confession’ and to say that it had been obtained from him under duress. The ‘confession’ figured as the principal evidence at his trial, and the sentence was pronounced on the strength of it.”

Torture also involved the psychological torture of claims to have imprisoned one’s spouse or children and that they would be executed if a confession was not forthcoming.

On April 26, 1946 Julius Streicher stated in the evidence of the Nuremberg trials that he was kept for four days in a cell without clothes. He went on, “I was made to kiss negroes’ feet. I was whipped. I had to drink saliva. My mouth was forced open with a piece of wood, and then I was spat on. When I asked for a drink of water, I was taken to a latrine and told ‘Drink.’

Many of the accused Nazis were detained in camps with the official names “Ashcan” and “Dustbin.”

Abu Ghraib was not new. We did nothing worse at Abu Ghraib than we did at Ashcan and Dustbin. But Iraq was not the “good war.” There is room for grey on that one. We have trouble accepting that the good and evil caricatures of the “Good War” might not be reflective of the truth.

We hate ambiguity in our image of the Second World War. We hate the ramifications of the torture that resulted in the ‘confessions’ that prove the outrageous crimes that we now call “Holocaust.” We hate letting that grey slip into the one thing we are so certain of. It sort of ruins everything. It’s like the day I learned of the massacre at Wounded Knee. The old westerns were never the same.

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