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In my view, there is a uniqueness of the Holocaust, but not as a global quality, instead as one in 'Western' culture, in the self-image of 'Western' culture.

It was the height of barbarity in the middle of civilisation, using all the industrial efficiency of civilisation. Whereas colonial massacres (whether with industrial efficiency or not) were safely far away for 'Western' public consciousness to stay ignorant, and other massacres in the 'West' could be categorised as throwbacks to barbarity.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 03:20:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhabs a good comparison is with aerial bombing. In the European consciousness, Guernica is the archetype of the horror of 'fighting' against a civilian population from high above. However, in Guernica, the Nazis only applied a colonial method for thr firt time in Europe. It was pioneered in the North African colonies by the Spanish, Italian and French colonialists (and their ocassional US hired guns) before WWI, and  brought to its full bloom by the British Empire (under none other than WWII 'hero' "Bomber" Harris).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 03:26:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then why does the firebombing of Dresden not occupy the same place in Western consciousness as the carpet bombing of Gernika?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 05:10:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why would it? Dresden was not a 'first'.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 05:17:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually I'm not sure it doesn't. In America the Dresden bombing is better known than Guernica, perhaps in part due to Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five.  Dresden is far more part of the German consciousness than Guernica is, or for that matter the German destruction of various cities during WWII. In Poland Dresden is also better known than Guernica.  On the other hand it makes sense for Guernica to be a larger part of Spanish collective memory than Dresden - it was the Spanish who were its victims (or Basques I guess if one wishes to quibble)
by MarekNYC on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 05:19:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Regarding Gernika, it pissed me off to no end when a Basque nationalist leader whose father fought alongside Franco said something like "for us the bombs and for Madrid the paintings" in reference to the Gernika painting being in a Madrid museum, conveniently forgetting that Madrid endured almost 3 years of Franco's siege and aerial bombings.

The history of a people is too often just a list of grievances.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 05:27:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]

(Second from left)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 05:42:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, we all thought we were civilized 200 years ago too...

I think you hit it on the head: what seems to frighten us the most about the Holocaust was that it happened in 20th Century Europe, righ under our modern noses.  

Says more about how much we overestimate our supposed civility than the uniqueness of the Holocaust, I think.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 04:31:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, we all thought we were civilized 200 years ago too...

Do you mean the Napoleonic Wars? Methinks those were less terrible even compared to WWI. Same for the Seven Years' War. You'd have to go back to the Thirty Years' War. And that indeed is a good comparison: it brought a lot of changes.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 04:41:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Poemless, on second thought, I possibly misunderstood what you meant.

However, the Thirty Years' War comparison might still be worth to expound on. That war faced up Christian Europe with the ugliness of romanticised feudal wars and heroised religious wars. In this case, the source of ignorance was not so much the distance of colonies, but (a) the small circle of effect of previous wars and (b) the effectiveness of victors' writing of history. But the Thirty Years' War laid waste to a very large area, included even more countries among the warring parties, and ended in a stalemate. The results included the appearance of rules of war, the rise of diplomacy, the final break of the unity of the Church, thus the spread of secularism, and the rise of the Enlightement.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 04:53:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Was referring to The United States.  The Trail of Tears was in the early 1800's.  But to be fair, the killing off of Native Americas began as soon as Europeans set foot on the continent, 300 years earlier.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 04:53:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, that's what you meant. However, that was on the periphery of 'Western' civilisation, one of the many colonial crimes I referred to, which it was easy to ignore for the masses at the center.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 05:00:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What's the difference.

Between over 100,000 dead Iraqis and six million dead Jews?

Time? Body Count?

Where do you draw the border? Millions of dead Jews are more legitimate than millions of dead Native Americans? Because of time?

Why do MY people and MY history have to be buried?

Because of... time?

The Normans killed the Saxons and the who killed the Picts in return for killing the Celts.

Atlantic Free Press

by ghandi (expatforums@gmail.com) on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 04:52:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you responding to DoDo?  I'm in agreement with you.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 04:55:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No one spoke of this or that being more legitimate.

In fact, we were speaking about the very same hypocrisy you protest against. Please read it back.

The Normans killed the Saxons and the who killed the Picts in return for killing the Celts.

Well, neither of those were genocides (nowhere near what was done to Native Americans), as today's English people's DNA shows. But even if true, the modern Western sense of 'civilisation' is of something after the Dark Ages, thus yes time is a factor.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 04:57:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What's the difference.

Between over 100,000 dead Iraqis and six million dead Jews?

Where do you draw the line?  Does the sentence "What's the difference between three thousand dead New Yorkers and millions of dead Native Americans" strike you as a reasonable statement? If not then again I ask, where should the line be drawn?

You might also notice that I explicitly included the extermination of Native Americans as one of those cases where one can sensibly argue that they are comparable to the Shoah. At the same time the two events played out in a very different manner so one can compare and contrast away. For example, the Native Americans were subject to a centuries long persecution that was much more intense than that suffered by the European Jews prior to the Nazis. Another example - there was no concerted, all encompassing period of extermination of Native Americans comparable to what happened to the Jews in 1941-5.

(A couple commenters seem to have a problem with my use of the term 'Holocaust' in its common colloquial sense of the extermination of European Jews by the Nazis, perhaps a substitution of the term 'Shoah' will placate them)

by MarekNYC on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 05:10:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think anyone is suggesting the circumstances in any genocide are identical, that they are not all unique in their own way.  Or that some occurred in far away places or a long long time ago.

That's hardly the point.

The point is that they are all legitimate, all horrid, and no one group of victims can, or should want to, claim some title of "worst genocide ever."  Although I imagine that many FEEL that their situation was worst.  And feeling that is ok; it is expected.  But asking others to feel that way too is NOT ok.

This shouldn't some kind of contest where the winner of the most exceptional genocide award gets the most exceptional treatment.  How offensive.  

It's history, it's life, it's about gaining understanding and receiving acknowledgement and allowing everyone's story to be told (er, not here on ET, of course.  Not enough room.  But you get the picture).


Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 05:22:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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