Monday, August 8, 2011

Poor Kanye West - People Think He's Hitler?

Here is the quote I provided the Daily Mail in response to Kanye West comparing himself to Hitler. (See the preivous post for the original TMZ post.)

Kanye West's remarks at a recent concert in England, in which he claimed being so misunderstood people look at him as if he were Hitler, only suggests how little he understands. He certainly misunderstands the supreme unattractiveness of his "poor me" self-pitying martyrdom act. He misunderstands the vast gulf between his actions, no matter how wrong they may be or how wrong people they are, and those of the single biggest mass murderer in history. And he misunderstands the great responsibility he holds in his hands together with his microphone.

Kanye West Compares Himself to Hitler at England Concert

This just in from TMZ: Call him Air Fuhrer ... because this weekend, Kanye West compared himself to both Michael Jordan and Adolf Hitler during a performance in England.

West was performing at the Big Chill music festival Saturday night ... when he went on one of his signature rants ... this time focusing on the hardships of being so painfully misunderstood.

"I walk through the hotel and I walk down the street, and people look at me like I'm f**king insane ... like I'm Hitler."

He continued, "One day the light will shine through and one day people will understand everything I ever did."

Moments later, Kanye suggested that he needed to be the MJ of music, "Michael Jordan changed so much in basketball, he took his power to make a difference. It's so much f**king going on in music right now and somebody has to make a f**king difference."

Michael Jordan and Hitler folks ... Michael Jordan. And Hitler.

Monday, July 4, 2011

"Midnight and Paris" - To What Era Would I Return?

The Woody Allen film currently playing in theaters, "Midnight in Paris," might not seem to have any connection to the Holocaust.

Allen produced a somewhat nourishing, very tasty love poem to Paris that feels often like the result of combining "Manhattan" and "Annie Hall" and translating the union into French. Its sustenance comes from its central theme, that happiness only can be found in the present, whatever limitations that present may have.

In the climactic scene, Gil and Adriana realize they have very different ideas of where in time they would really like to live. By going to the 1920s, Gil realizes his nostalgia is only denial. Adriana, less evolved, finds the thrill of the 1890s Belle Epoque magnetic.

At one point Gil lists off all the things the 1920s never knew. I silently added 'the Holocaust' to the list. The time I would like to return to, just for a moment, is a time when no one had ever heard of -- and thus could not conceive of -- the Holocaust.

It would be critical to retain my self-awareness as a post-Auschwitz human being. Otherwise the time travel would be useless. But what would it be like to experience that Adam and Eve-like innocence?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

German Court Convicts Demjanjuk

The best thing about the Demjanjuk conviction (read the L.A. Times Article) is that the case works from the bottom up. The low level functionary - Demjanjuk was only a guard at Sobibor -- is brought to justice.

The worst thing is that for every Himmler or Eichman, there were many multiple Demjanjuks. Thus this conviction is too little, too late. There should have been hundreds, if not thousands, of such trials running continuously for the last 65 years.

Demjanjuk's defense has been mistaken identity. It should have been selective prosecution.

Demjanuk also claims he himself was a victim of the war. I don't doubt that. Just recently, Father Desbois, who has made a career out of detailing the mass murders of Jews throughout the Ukraine, met with the staff at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. In his discussion with us, he talked about the unctuous moral relativism that existed under the Nazi occupation. It is this relativism that allowed neighbors to not only betray neighbors, but to kill them. (And it is our deeper understanding of this relativism that has kept some of us up at night lately.)

Yet not all citizens rose to the level of direct perpetrator within the atmosphere of moral pollution and victimization imposed first by the Soviets, then by the Nazis. Demjanjuk, however, as was shown in Germany, elected to join the SS. He was not tried and convicted for his suffering during the Soviet-imposed famine that effectuated mass murder amongst the Ukrainians, or for his participation in the Soviet Army or for the inhumanities he experienced as a Soviet POW. He was tried and convicted for what he did after those experiences.

The L.A. Times article discusses the critical role the Trawnicki identity card played in convicting Demjanjuk. The year I lived in Jerusalem, I worked on the Demjanjuk trial conducted there. I became familiar with some of the testimony establishing the veracity of that document. I am therefore not troubled by the FBI's questioning of that document, an internal FBI discussion that has recently been revealed. Law enforcement's job is to question evidence and evaluate its potential effectiveness in a courtroom.

The questioning by itself does not suggest the document is fake. The German court's admission of the document, and the document's ability to withstand challenges to its authenticity so that it could help support a conviction, is what matters.

I am also not concerned that Israeli jurisprudence ultimately overthrew Demjanjuk's death sentence conviction. In fact, I am thrilled by it. Just as I am thrilled by Germany's commitment to trying Demjanjuk for different crimes. It shows the rule of law survives and flourishes. And the rule of law is one of the most important protections we have against the moral pollution that lead to the Holocaust.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Perils of "Holocaust Hegemony...and its Perils"

There is little I like about "Holocaust Hegemony...and its Perils", Sam Schulman’s article in the January 3/January 10, 2011 issue of The Weekly Standard.

The very least thing I don’t like about the article is that it used a photograph from the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust without permission and, when it first did so, did not credit the photographer.

I don’t like that Mr. Schulman writes his own rules of argument by failing to define explicitly what he considers to be “Holocaust hegemony.” He derives this term from the title of a University of Toronto school of education Master’s Thesis, which is the prick that spurs Schulman’s extensive discontent. Mr. Schulman’s failure to define Holocaust hegemony leaves the reader struggling, throughout the essay, to understand his true target. The convenience of a slippery definition of terms is it affords Mr. Schulman the leeway to be prosecutor, judge and jury of whatever indictment he cares to bring.

Mr. Schulman makes broad assertions and presents them as facts, a rhetorical technique I never like. What is his basis for stating that anti-Semites and anti-Zionists are well-informed about the Holocaust, that they authentically regret its murders of Jews, and that they “openly regret that those European Jews who escaped the Nazis by fleeing to Palestine were not murdered as well?” Did he take a poll? And if the last assertion is true, its repugnancy deserves direct condemnation, not a passing feint.

And I don’t like him challenging the understanding that the Holocaust is, to use his term, “nonpareil.” Historical facts make it very clear the mass murder of European Jews was unlike any other genocide before or since. These facts include but are by no means limited to: Hitler’s publication of a manifesto expressing his murderous contempt of Jews; his public targeting of Jews in a systematic campaign occurring over many years; and, the systematic evolution of killing technology.

But what I really don’t like about Mr. Schulman’s article is the aggregate effect of these offenses. He relies on shifting rules of engagement, unproven assertions, and an incorrect statement of facts to blame Holocaust education for genocide and virulent anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Do we blame fire departments for the continuing existence of fires and for arson?

Mr. Schulman includes amongst the evils empowered by Holocaust education “Communists and fellow travelers.” Communism, as a force exported against democracy, ceased to be a threat no later than the collapse of the Soviet Union, if not earlier; ‘fellow travelers’ is a McCarthy-era phrase, rendered meaningless by its maniacal over-use and best left in the last century. And he concludes his piece with a rant charging the left in general, with “apologizing for terrorism.” This slippery slope, sky-is-falling diatribe is simply ridiculous.

I do like Mr. Schulman’s statement that “Holocaust education…will never pry…people from their defects of character and judgment.” Education cannot enter a closed mind. Those harboring the closed-minded defects of character and judgment that include Jew- and Israel-hatred, as well as racism, intolerance, and a lack of any compassion for the “other,” will never participate in Holocaust education. They will not read any of the great books that Mr. Schulman admits have been written about the Holocaust. Nor will they darken the doorstep of any “beautiful museums that have been built.” But we book writers and beautiful museum builders are there for those whose minds are already open to the idea that we might make the 21st century a little better than the 20th. And we stand ready to shine at least a candle of light into whatever crack might miraculously split in the minds of the others. To do otherwise would be merely to curse the darkness.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Read our NY Times Review!