The past few weeks have seen vandalism at Jewish cemeteries, bomb threats at Jewish community centers, and an administration that seemed to have problems remembering that the Holocaust involved killing Jews while also refusing to acknowledge the widespread increase of racially and religiously charged violence we have been experiencing since the election.
If you’re not white, you need to be more careful than you were before November 8th.
Are comparisons to post-World War I Germany off base, or are they appropriate? Could a Holocaust happen here?
There is a debate in some circles over whether or not the Holocaust represents a unique event. Some feel that comparing it to any other event diminishes its horror.
But part of evaluating whether or not a Holocaust could happen again is looking at the perpetrators. Were they somehow unique, or was it more about the circumstances than the people?
A recent book about the Rorschach Test discusses what happened when a pair of researchers used the test on the men who were imprisoned and stood trial at Nuremberg after the war.
As early as 1946, even before the Nuremberg verdicts were handed down, Kelley published a paper stating that the defendants were “essentially sane,” though in some cases abnormal. He didn’t discuss the Rorschachs specifically, but he argued “not only that such personalities are not unique or insane, but also that they could be duplicated in any country of the world today.”
Let me repeat that last phrase: any country of the world today.
The conclusion of the article is even more chilling.
“Cheap and dangerous” American politicians, Kelley wrote, were using race-baiting and white supremacy for political gain “just one year after the end of the war”—an allusion to Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi and Eugene Talmadge of Georgia; he also referred to “the power politics of Huey Long, who enforced his opinions by police control.” These were “the same racial prejudices that the Nazis preached,” the very “same words that rang through the corridors of Nuremberg Jail.” In short, there was “little in America today which could prevent the establishment of a Nazilike state.”
That was in 1947, of course, but if you think things look better now than they did 71 years ago, I don’t know what to tell you. The scale of the Holocaust is terrible. The numbers are so huge that it’s tough to grasp.
The scale of the Holocaust is terrible. The numbers are so huge that it’s tough to grasp. But don’t let the scale distract you. Given the same opportunity, plenty of other men would do the same.
As I wrote this, word of a bomb threat at the Anti-Defamation League in San Francisco hit my twitter feed. Earlier in the day I read about a French Holocaust historian, who happens to have been born in Egypt, was nearly deported when he landed in the U.S. on his way to speak at a university.
Yeah, it could happen here.