“Beyond Anne Frank: The Dutch Tell Their Full Holocaust Story” – The New York Times

“A memorial wall and a new Holocaust museum reflect a push in the Netherlands to give a more complete understanding of what happened under Nazi occupation.”

Source: Beyond Anne Frank: The Dutch Tell Their Full Holocaust Story – The New York Times

Advertisements

“The Historian Whitewashing Ukraine’s Past “| Foreign Policy

This is indicative of another troubling trend across the globe: “When it comes to politics and history, an accurate memory can be a dangerous thing. In Ukraine, as the country struggles with its identity, that’s doubly true. While Ukrainian political parties try to push the country toward Europe or Russia, a young, rising Ukrainian historian named Volodymyr Viatrovych has placed himself at the center of that fight. Advocating a nationalist, revisionist history that glorifies the country’s move to independence — and purges bloody and opportunistic chapters — Viatrovych has attempted to redraft the country’s modern history to whitewash Ukrainian nationalist groups’ involvement in the Holocaust and mass ethnic cleansing of Poles during World War II. And right now, he’s winning.”

Read the entire article here: The Historian Whitewashing Ukraine’s Past | Foreign Policy

“Croatia’s Far Right Weaponizes the Past” | Foreign Policy

Unbelievable! How can Croats think that this is a good idea? Weren’t the first two times bad enough? This is also likely to provoke an equally nationalistic response from Serbia, which then will further provoke Croats leading to an ever-increasing radical nationalism. Let’s hope the story doesn’t end like it

“The EU’s newest member, Croatia, has an unabashed and strong-willed fascist in its new cabinet — one who makes the right-wingers in power in Hungary and Poland look like wimps.”

Source: Croatia’s Far Right Weaponizes the Past | Foreign Policy

” Polish leaders threaten fate of nearly finished WWII museum” – Daily Reflector

The Museum of the Second World War may be a casualty of Poland’s rightward turn. Only a Polish-centered museum will do for this nationalist government. This would be unfortunate. As the historian Timothy Snyder points out, “the government’s concept of a museum focusing solely on Westerplatte and Poland’s military struggle in 1939 would result in a narrowly focused exhibit that would not appeal to a wider international audience.”

Read the entire story here: – Daily Reflector

Behind the New German Right by Jan-Werner Müller | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

“The rhetoric of the rapidly growing Alternative for Germany party and its supporters indicates a potentially profound shift in German political culture: it is now possible to be an outspoken nationalist without being associated with—or, for that matter, without having to say anything about—the Nazi past.”

Jan-Werner Muller explains that “the AfD has fed off and in turn encouraged a radical street movement, the “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West,” or Pegida, that has no equivalent elsewhere in Europe. And perhaps most important, the AfD’s warnings about the “slow cultural extinction” of Germany that supposedly will result from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming of more than a million refugees have been echoed by a number of prominent intellectuals. In fact, the conceptual underpinnings for what one AfD ideologue has called “avant-garde conservatism” can be found in the recent work of several mainstream German writers and philosophers. Never since the end of the Nazi era has a right-wing party enjoyed such broad cultural support. ”

This does not bode well for the future of Germany, or Europe as a whole, if things continue in this direction. But  I think it is only if another major event (terrorist attack(s), severe economic downturn, another major wave of immigrants, etc.) befalls the German people will these groups be in a position to take power. Still, this is not good! Don’t they remember their own history?

Source: Behind the New German Right by Jan-Werner Müller | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

“Balkan Poison, Revisited” by Tim Judah | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

The horrific wars that tore Yugoslavia apart offer a window into the dark side of human nature. At a time when ethnic and religious violence has become widespread across the globe, revisiting these wars could prove useful. Just as the UN tribunals for war crimes committed during these Balkan wars wind down Tim Judah, a seasoned war correspondent who frequently reported on these wars, has chosen to reassess their legacy.

Last month (March 24) Radovan Karadzic, one of the Bosnian Serb leaders, was sentenced to forty years in prison for various war crimes and genocide. The UN tribunal has yet to declare a verdict in the case of Ratko Mladic, the leader of the Bosnian Serb army  who led the killing of 7,000 men in Srebrenica.  The biggest fish, Slobodan Milosevic, the former president of the Republic of Serbia who did much to stir up nationalist sentiments and hatred, died while his trial was still underway in March 2006.

Assessing the situation today Judah notes that “so much more could be done by Balkan leaders to address the legacies of these brutal conflicts, which have not yet really become history. Sometimes it looks like they are not capable of or interested in doing so and verdicts like the Karadžić one gave Serbian and Bosniak leaders an opportunity to beat nationalist drums again and remind their voters that they had better vote for them or the enemy would one day be back.” This is exactly the dilemma that perpetuates the violence in never-ending cycles of revenge. And it is not just demagogues who are to blame for this situation. They are only rewarded with power because ordinary people give it to them, because they are enamored with their nationalist rhetoric. They are made to feel special through national myths of past greatness and current innocence. They are not responsible for their present woes, it is “the other” who is responsible. It’s a powerful message. Many are unable, or unwilling, to resist the siren song of nationalism.

Source: Balkan Poison, Revisited by Tim Judah | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

“Israel: The Broken Silence by David Shulman” | The New York Review of Books

We can learn from history if we are willing to. We remember the Holocaust because of the important lessons it provides. “Never again” is the mantra. Unfortunately, we keep making the same mistakes.

If any peoples should have learned the lessons of exclusion and hate it should have been the Jews. Of course, many Jews have. Unfortunately, the leaders of the Israeli state have learned nothing from the past. This period does provides amble evidence of the dangers of nationalism and racism, especially when they become the guiding principles of authoritarian regimes.

Yet they are making the same mistakes with similar  (but not identical) consequences. This time they (the Israeli government and their right-wing supporters) are the victimizers. They may justify their behavior in the name of self-defense, but what they have actually done is locked themselves into a cycle of never-ending violence and revenge.

David Shulman explains the unfortunate situation in Israel today.

An excerpt: “But Israeli McCarthyism has an additional, distinctive element that deepens the madness. It is directly linked to Israel’s colonial project in the occupied Palestinian territories. Anyone who opposes the occupation in word or deed is now at risk. For the right, patriotism is synonymous with occupation and all that comes with it, above all the dispossession and expulsion of Palestinians and the theft of their lands. One can hear overtly racist rationalizations of this aim any day on the public radio talk shows. Put simply, the occupation system as a whole is ruled by the logic of stark division between the privileged Israeli occupiers and the Palestinian occupied, who are totally disenfranchised and stripped of all basic human rights.”

Source: Israel: The Broken Silence by David Shulman | The New York Review of Books

AP U.S. History Update: “Why Oklahoma Lawmakers Want to Ban AP US History” — NYMag

The battle against the AP U.S. History framework continues. Oklahoma and Georgia conservatives are trying to get their way by defunding the program.  They claim the test “emphasizes ‘what is bad about America’ and doesn’t teach ‘American exceptionalism.'”

In other words, they don’t want students to learn history, they want to indoctrinate students in a patriotic vision of U.S. history that ignores all past wrongs. Our future depends on having citizens who can make informed decisions. They cannot do this if they are taught a one-sided, triumphal version of history. We are currently paying the price for the ignorance of a sizable portion of our citizenry. If we want to keep our democracy and create a better future, we need a historically literate population. Let’s hope the efforts in Oklahoma and Georgia fail!

Source: Why Oklahoma Lawmakers Want to Ban AP US History — NYMag

Should we be concerned about the dangerous ideas in Hitler’s Manifesto? “Mein Kampf Enters the Public Domain” – The Atlantic

“As Hitler’s infamous book enters the public domain, its history shows that censorship can’t stop dangerous ideas.” Censorship has never worked (Exhibit A:  The Catholic Church’s Index of Forbidden Books, Index Librorum Prohibitorum ).

The concern about public access to Mein Kampf is understandable, but unfounded.  Those who are inclined towards those ideas already have access to the text via the Internet. And the ideas contained in Mein Kampf have spread so extensively there is no way to prevent access to them (unless we’re willing to take drastic measures in violation of our own values).

As Abraham Foxman, author of the introduction to Houghton Mifflin reprint of Mein Kampf, described the book this way: “Its theories are extremist, immoral, and seem to promise war and catastrophe if taken seriously.” (xxi) This is not a call to ban it but instead to take it seriously. He noted that the first time around we ignored it, resulting in “a tragedy of unprecedented proportions.” The lesson, he continues, is “the lesson of vigilance and responsibility, of not closing our eyes to the evil around us.” Ignoring it will not make “the evil” go away.

As far as I’m concerned the more people who read Mein Kampf the better. The ideas found in this work are so horrific and extreme that I’m confident (barring extraordinary circumstances) most people will reject the hateful and destructive ideas contained in it. Those who are unfamiliar with the ideas advanced by Hitler are more susceptible to falling under their spell.  Rather than trying to deny access to such ideas, we should counter them with reason and evidence.

And, as the author of The Atlantic article points out: “In today’s environment, it is better to discuss Mein Kampf openly and critically in the classroom than to have curious students seek it out on the Internet, where teachers will have no chance of influencing them.”

If you haven’t read Hitler’s despicable work, I would highly recommend it. I say this confident that you won’t be persuaded by his sentiments.

Source: Mein Kampf Enters the Public Domain – The Atlantic

“The Return of History” – The New York Times

“From the Islamic State to Sri Lanka, modern people are looking to connect with an ancient past.”

This is nothing new. Golden Age myths have long been useful to ambitious demagogues. This narrative is at the heart of all nationalist movements. The basic formula consists of a simplistic narrative of a glorious past of a particular group (whether national, ethnic, or religious) whose decline must be explained. Someone must be responsible this decline. Enter scapegoat (usually a marginalized, feared, or hated minority).  The same pattern can be seen from Nazi Germany, to Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbiain the 1990s, as well as the present movements from Donald Trump (“We’re going to take our country back”) to Vladimir Putin in Russia, to the Islamic State, etc.

The anecdote is not less history, but more history. The distortions of these white-washed histories and their purposes need to be exposed. The comforts these narratives provide do not justify their existence. The consequences are too dangerous.

Source: The Return of History – The New York Times