The Führer Furor
February 10, 2000
Governments, demonstrators, pundits, and even
musicians are protesting the inclusion of the Austrian Freedom Party in
the new Conservative government. The Freedom Party is of course led by
Jörg Haider, Februarys Hitler of the Month.
The rise of Jörg Haider
country whose role in the Holocaust still awaits clarification is more
than unsettling, its shameful and unforgivable, says the
great Jewish pianist Andras Schiff, canceling a scheduled concert at the
Austrian embassy in Washington. Several governments, including the
United States, have already announced sanctions against Austria because
of Haiders anti-immigrant politics and controversial remarks
about the Third Reich. He reminds people of Hitler.
Haider were a Communist! Communists still participate, without
international indignation, in European coalitions. Despite the rather
sanguinary history of the socialist republics from Russia to
Cambodia, which have resulted in a hundred million abbreviated life spans,
nobody is seriously disgraced by choosing to associate himself with the
name, symbols, and history of Communism.
Liberal opinion has trivialized
Communism by censuring anti-Communism as McCarthyism
and ridiculing those who see Commies under every bed. But
hysterically free-associating people with Hitler (d. 1945) is still
considered normal behavior. In spite of Stalin, you can still name your kid
Joseph (thank God!); but dont name him Adolf!
Since the late 1960s Hitler and
Nazism have become synonymous less with World War II than with the
program of mass-murder now known as the Holocaust, though the
term Holocaust was never used by either Hitler or his enemies
Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, or even
Uncle Joe Stalin. Today the term is ubiquitous, and several
countries have actually made it a crime to doubt that the Holocaust
The Holocaust has become so many
things: memory, cautionary lesson, guilt trip, metaphor, explanation, and
though unique in history perpetually imminent danger. It
can happen again at any time, regardless of circumstances, defying normal
laws of causality, without such preconditions as a Hitler, a world war, a
Versailles Treaty, and economic catastrophe.
Moreover, everyone is guilty, not just
Hitler and the Nazis. The stain of guilt for the Holocaust has spread to all
the German people, the Allies, Pope Pius XII, the Catholic Church as a
whole, the authors of the Gospels who originated the anti-Semitism that
would result, two millennia later, in genocide; not to mention such
anti-Semitic authors and artists as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Voltaire,
Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Wagner, G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, T.S. Eliot,
and Ezra Pound.
The Holocaust has entered the realm
of science fiction. In novels and movies like The Boys from Brazil
and Marathon Man, new little Hitlers can be cloned,
or a handful of octogenarian Nazis hiding in South America can launch the
whole thing all over again. Talk about a Master Race!
As a symbol with such limitless
potential, the Holocaust can even be turned against the Jews themselves.
Critics and enemies of Israel liken its racially discriminatory policies
on immigration, residence, citizenship, and even marriage
to Hitlers. And in truth, Jörg Haider has little to teach the
Israelis about abusing and excluding minorities.
Which hasnt prevented the
Israeli government from recalling its ambassador from Austria, with
appropriate moral bluster: We are calling on the free world, all the
democracies, to isolate this neo-fascist government, says one
Israeli official, unblushingly. Perhaps he has forgotten such Israeli
leaders as Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, and Benjamin Netanyahu. All
Israeli practices, however brutal, are justified as necessary exercises in
Since the danger is eternally
imminent, there is no limit to what may be done in the name of avoiding
another Holocaust. Normal standards of decency, prudence, and rhetorical
restraint may be set aside when a budding Hitler is spotted. A minor local
politician sparks a worldwide furor; a dissident historian of World War II
is denounced as one of the most dangerous spokespersons for
Holocaust denial. Dangerous? Yes! If you deny the first one, you see,
youre promoting the next one. (Even Holocaust denial
can cause a Holocaust.)
Thus an endless anti-Hitler frenzy
becomes a form of moral witness. It makes the McCarthy Era seem like a
moment of calm.
Archive Table of Contents
SOBRANS home page