Pat Buchanan’s anti-Semitic, ahistorical screed about Hitler and World War II (linked through Matthew Yglesias) has caught some attention today, although not nearly enough considering that this is the same man who accused Sonia Sotomayor of being a racist:
Following Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Pat Buchanan went to eleven. He said that Sotomayor “believed discrimination against white males is okay”; he said she believed in “tribal justice” and “preached and practiced race discrimination against white males”; and he generally spent a great deal of time accusing Sonia Sotomayor of being a racist. He didn’t even attempt to give her the benefit of the doubt — being Puerto Rican in a country built by white people, Sotomayor was by definition the enemy.
But you know who Buchanan does think deserves the benefit of the doubt? Adolf Hitler. No, I’m not breaking Godwin’s Law or comparing conservatives to Nazis. Here’s Pat, in a column titled, “Did Hitler Want War?”:
Comes the response: The war guarantee was not about Danzig, or even about Poland. It was about the moral and strategic imperative “to stop Hitler” after he showed, by tearing up the Munich pact and Czechoslovakia with it, that he was out to conquer the world. And this Nazi beast could not be allowed to do that. If true, a fair point.
Americans, after all, were prepared to use atom bombs to keep the Red Army from the Channel. But where is the evidence that Adolf Hitler, whose victims as of March 1939 were a fraction of Gen. Pinochet ‘s, or Fidel Castro’s, was out to conquer the world?
Most of the commentary focuses on Buchanan’s History for Dummies analysis of the causes of World War II. I want to look at his anti-Semitism — which obviously in one sense is implicit in his very thesis that Hitler never intended to invade Poland or start a war. But it does actually become explicit in a few places, and I want to note those.
Here is the first:
On Sept. 1, 1939, 70 years ago, the German Army crossed the Polish frontier. On Sept. 3, Britain declared war.
Six years later, 50 million Christians and Jews had perished.
The sentence I emphasized is the crucial one — the short paragraph above it is just for context.
And in the next paragraph:
By May 1945, Red Army hordes occupied all the great capitals of Central Europe: Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Berlin. A hundred million Christians were under the heel of the most barbarous tyranny in history: the Bolshevik regime of the greatest terrorist of them all, Joseph Stalin.
Again, the bolded sentence is the one to look at. This may not be as obvious if you are not Jewish, but that lumping together of Christian and Jewish deaths — conveying the idea that they were of equal significance — was a very commonly used tactic in Britain and the United States to deny or trivialize what Hitler was doing to European Jewry, either out of blatant anti-Semitism or out of an unwillingness to take any significant action to save Europe’s Jewish population (which also was rooted in anti-Semitism).
My point is not that Christians and other non-Jews did not suffer under the Nazis, as well as under Stalin, or that they were not victimized and killed in great numbers. Obviously, they were. But the millions of Christians who died during World War II were not killed as Christians. And if that seems like a meaningless distinction, it’s not: By treating the planned, deliberate, very close to successful attempt to exterminate the entire European Jewish population as just part of the total number of war dead, Buchanan is denying the reality of genocide.
And then there is this sentence:
“Hitler wanted to end the war in 1940, almost two years before the trains began to roll to the camps.”
Clearly, he’s saying that Hitler never had any intention of murdering the entire Jewish population of Europe — if the Western Allies hadn’t pushed him so, he never would have done it. Of course, in order to believe this, you have to ignore
- the Nuremberg Laws, which, beginning in 1935, singled out Jews for harsh restrictions, discrimination, and persecutions. The crucial thing to remember about these laws is that they were specifically grounded in Nazi racial ideology. They were not just superficial or transitory measures.
- Kristallnacht, a savage orgy of violence against Jewish property and Jewish lives that took place over two nights in November, 1938. Kristallnacht is widely recognized and understood to be the real beginning of the Holocaust. It marked the point at which Jews, who up until that point had “merely” been subject to legalized discrimination and harassment, began to be the targets of outright violence, and murder.
- The camps — at least some of them — that would eventually be used to gas and cremate millions of Jews were already in place long before “the trains began to roll” to them. Dachau, Buchenwald, and Ravensbruck were all constructed and opened before 1940.
- The law requiring all Jews to wear a yellow star — the Star of David — was passed in December 1939.
- The first ghetto for Jews — in Piotrekow, Poland — was established in November 1939. The following year, the Warsaw Ghetto was created.
Steve Benen guesses that nothing much will come of this:
Anyone want to lay odds on whether this interferes with Buchanan’s role as a high-profile political commentator? I’m guessing his status in the media establishment goes unaffected. It always does.
I have to agree with him — and it’s a disgrace.