after liberation, Auschwitz became an international political event.
It is no coincidence, and I feel that we should spare a moment asking
ourselves: why now, why Auschwitz?
Living in a
scientific technological environment, it is natural for most commentators
to judge any given narrative reflecting on its positive contents,
ie the story it tells, the facts it picks up on and the message
it conveys. When it comes to Auschwitz, it is always the terrifying
numbers, Mengele and the selection, the clinical mass murder, the
Gas Chambers, the trains, the famous Arbeit Macht Frei above the
front gate, the death march just before liberation etc. And yet,
I would argue that it is at least as enlightening to expose that
which the Auschwitz narrative is there to conceal. Every historical
tale can operate as a smoke screen; narratives are very effective
in encouraging collective blindness. Auschwitz and the Holocaust
narrative, in this sense, are no different.
As it seems,
without engaging ourselves with the many questions concerning the
validity of the widely accepted holocaust narrative, we can safely
ask what the Auschwitz Narrative is there to serve. Who benefits
from the Auschwitz account? We are entitled to ask why the official
holocaust narrative is so widely promoted by different and opposing
political institutions. Is it the result of a highly sophisticated
and orchestrated Jewish propaganda? I am not so sure anymore.
Bush, a man who is far
from being eloquent where verbal capabilities are concerned,
was unexpectedly articulate in
presenting that very
post-Auschwitz western axiom:
you are either with us or against us.
On the surface,
the answer to these questions is simple, the devastating image of
the Auschwitz and the Nazi Judeocide is a self-sufficient argument
against nationalism, racism and totalitarianism. Within the state
of acceptance of the holocaust tale, any of these three is regarded
as an enemy of humanity. But then, one must admit that it is neither
nationalism, racism nor totalitarianism that killed so many innocent
human beings in Auschwitz. Ideologies do not kill, it is always
people who kill, regardless of their ideologies.
But it goes
a bit further, with the image of Auschwitz in the back of our minds,
our western liberal thinkers and politicians are enthusiastically
depicting a naive vision of our social reality, presenting us with
a simplistic binary division. On the one hand, we find the open
society, on the other, we find its many enemies. Following this
worldview, there is only one open society, but many different enemies;
and yet, it is important to mention that the open society is an
empty signifier, in practice it means very little, not to say nothing.
As it seems, in order to become a member in the exclusive open club,
one simply must join the right wars. President
Bush, a man who is far from being eloquent where verbal capabilities
are concerned, was unexpectedly articulate in presenting that very
post-Auschwitz western axiom: you are either with us or against
"with us" means that
you are not supposed to ask
too many questions
about our own immoral conduct.
us", namely being amongst the "open", means that
you believe that it was us who liberated Europe, it was us who liberated
Auschwitz, it was us who saved the Jews, and it is us who still
bring the notion of democracy to the most remote corners of this
boiling planet. Being "with us" means that you accept
the fact that we are the voice of the free world. It means as well
that you know that you are unconditionally free. It is basically
a new form of tautology: you are free even if you aren't.
Being "with us" means that you believe that the world
is rapidly progressing towards a greater divide, namely a cultural
clash, in which you are a good innocent Judeo-Christian enlightened
being, and the rest are dark fundamental evils or at least potential
evil. Being "with us" means that
you are not supposed to ask too many questions about our own immoral
conduct. For instance, you don't ask why Bomber Harris &
co. murdered 850,000 German civilians, targeting German cities rather
than Nazi industrial infrastructure.
Being a free
being in an open society means that you should never raise questions
about Hiroshima. In case you are stupid enough to raise the issue,
you had better be clever enough to accept the official lie: it was
the best way to bring this horrible war to an end. Being a free
being you won't raise questions regarding the morality behind leaving
2,000,000 fatalities in Vietnam. Being "with us" means
that you don't have to ask all those silly annoying questions because
Auschwitz is the ultimate in evil. Auschwitz is the bedrock of human
wickedness and don't you ever forget that it was us who put it to
too far from the residency
of the American president,
there is a big Holocaust museum
dedicated to the memory of the Jewish
people and their heroic liberators.
This museum is not about people or
even about crimes against humanity,
it is about the maintenance
of the illusion of the open society.
It is about the maintenance
of a very specific narrative.
It is all about how we are right,
and they, whoever they are,
are categorically wrong.
Let us put
the truth in place, Auschwitz was beyond doubt a horrible place,
but unfortunately it isn't the ultimate evil, just because evil
has neither limit nor scale. But, to be historically accurate, it
wasn't even us who liberated Auschwitz. As it appears, it was Stalin,
the other evil. It was Stalin who gave so many Jewish, POWs, political
prisoners, gypsies and inmates the chance to see daylight. But again,
being a free being in an open society you don't really have to pay
attention to minor historical details.
It would seem
that Auschwitz is essential within our righteous western self image.
When Iraqi oil is in demand, the American president will equate
Saddam with Hitler. Next we will learn that the Iraqi people should
be liberated from their 'Auschwitz'. We already know the inevitable
Auschwitz is so crucial for the American policy makers, it isn't
surprising that not too far from the residency of the American president,
there is a big Holocaust museum dedicated to the memory of the Jewish
people and their heroic liberators. This museum is not about people
or even about crimes against humanity, it is about the maintenance
of the illusion of the open society. It is about the maintenance
of a very specific narrative. It is all about how we are right,
and they, whoever they are, are categorically wrong.
railways to Auschwitz
nor Auschwitz itself was
ever bombed neither
by the Royal Air Force nor
by the American Air Force.
is not really about Jewish suffering. I assume that there will be
some basic facts that the museum won't share with its visitors:
for instance, it will not tell the passing crowd that the American
government adopted a highly restrictive immigration policy that
was never modified between 1933-1944, in order to block Jewish immigration.
It will avoid the fact that the American government refused or obstructed
German offers of negotiation to remove Jews from Nazi controlled
territories. Most importantly, it will hide the fact that the US
air force was not instructed to disrupt the Nazi killing machine.
Neither railways to Auschwitz nor Auschwitz
itself was ever bombed neither by the Royal Air Force nor by the
American Air Force. It seems as if a real murderous negligence
was involved in the American decision making on the issue alongside
the war. For instance, on 20 August 1944, 127 flying fortress escorted
by one hundred Mustang fighters successfully dropped their bombs
on a factory less than five miles from Auschwitz. Not a single plane
was diverted to attack the death camp.
won't appear in the American Holocaust museum. They simply don't
fit into the heroic and righteous American self-image. The history
of Auschwitz is in fact a story of brutal Anglo American negligence.
The acceptable Auschwitz narrative is basically a myth that is there
to support the American expansionist practice. Auschwitz
is the moral pillar of the American ideology.
Holocaust museum is there to tell Americans what may happen when
everything goes wrong. As sad as it may sound, in contemporary America
everything is going wrong, despite the museum. The reason is simple,
when the image of evil is brewed within your cultural heritage as
the discourse of the other, you may as well become blind to the
fact that you yourself are already evil. Like their Israeli brothers,
the Americans forgot how to look at themselves.
In the case
of America, the Holocaust narrative serves the right wing expansionist
philosophy. In order to prevent another Auschwitz, the Americans
will send their armies to Vietnam, Korea, Iraq. They are always
the liberators. Till the end of the cold war, there were communists
to fight with, a real concrete evil; but now the evil is becoming
more and more abstract. In fact, the only way to materialise the
vague enemy is to equate it with Hitler.
Holocaust museum is there
to tell Americans what may happen
when everything goes wrong.
As sad as it may sound,
in contemporary America
everything is going wrong,
despite the museum.
The reason is simple,
when the image of evil is
brewed within your cultural heritage
as the discourse of the other,
you may as well become blind
to the fact that you yourself
are already evil.
is slightly different. As strange as it may sound, in Europe it
is the parliamentary left that is capitalising on Auschwitz. As
long as Auschwitz is there deeply entrenched within the daily discourse,
the right wing can never raise their heads. The European mainstream
left is totally dependent on the Holocaust narrative and the Auschwitz
As it seems, Auschwitz is the last left barricade against the possibility
of right wing revival. In Europe, any sense of national aspiration,
or even just a demographic concern that may sound like xenophobia
is immediately addressed as an awakening of Nazism. Within this
oppressive world view, people are not allowed to express any affection
towards their land. Furthermore, being politically dependent on
the image of the Jewish innocent victim, the European mainstream
left can never fully support the Palestinian cause.
As it may seem,
Auschwitz stands as a symbol of partnership between the European
parliamentary left and the American expansionist right. For both,
Auschwitz stands as an icon of threat against the image of open
society, within the prospect of this fatal bond, any European genuine
left is destined to be pushed to the margin. Any form of genuine
left inspired by red aspirations is doomed to be presented as a
subversive and radical outlook. In March 1998, Robin Cook, then
the British foreign minister, paid a diplomatic visit to Israel.
While there, Cook rightly refused to visit Yad Vashem, claiming
that he was concerned with the future rather than with the past.
It wasn't long before Cook lost his job. The refusal to bow to the
Auschwitz tale cost Cook his job. It wasn't the Jews who ousted
him out of the foreign ministry. It was the Labour Party that kicked
him out, a parliamentary European left institute.
is there to maintain the myth of open society; it is there to present
an illusion of liberated Western identity. As long as Auschwitz
is there, in the core of our discourse, we are everything but liberated.
There is life after Auschwitz and this life belongs to us. We had
better do something with it. If there is something we should never
do, then that is taking other people's lives in the name of Auschwitz.
And apparently, this is exactly what we are doing.
was born in Israel and served in the Israeli military. He is the
author of the new novel A Guide to the Perplexed. Atzmon is also
one of the most accomplished jazz saxophonists in Europe. His recent
CD, Exile, was named the year's best jazz CD by the BBC. He now
lives in London and can be reached at: [email protected]
first appeared on Counterpunch Weekend Edition January 29 / 30,
2005. CounterPunch is one of the top 10 sites for political journalism
on the net. Edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St Clair, CounterPunch
sets out to tell the facts and name the names whether in battles
against the war machine, big business or the rapers of nature.]
You can buy the Gilad Atzmon albums, Musik and Exile, at http://www.jazzcds.co.uk/store/commerce.cgi?product=GiladAtzmon.
Atzmon also played on Robert Wyatt's Cuckooland which is a BigO
Album of the Year 2003.
to download free Gilad Atzmon MP3s.