Will Zuzak; DAWIDOW1.001 = The Holocaust and the Historians; 1986-10-00
             A Critique of "The Holocaust and the Historians"
        Author: Lucy S. Dawidowicz, Harvard University Press (1981)

The key to reading this work is in the very last sentence in the text: "To preserve his intellectual honesty, the historian must apply the same kind of scepticism with which he regards all historical sources to whatever religious or political dogma claims his allegiance." In fact, the reader would be well advised to read this book from back to front. In the Afterword, Ms. Dawidowicz provides us with several useful quotations of advice:

  "...historians do not always turn out to be reliable guides to the recovery of the past."

  "Every people has used its history to justify itself in its own eyes and in the eyes of the world and every people has enlisted its historians to that end."

  "Study the historian before you begin to study the facts."

  "...our time have suffered no dearth of historians who have been willing to subvert their craft in the service of political dogma."

  "Lying in history can also take more devious forms than---outright falsifications or obliterations of the past."

  Chapter 6 ends up being an apologia for the collaboration of the Judenrate ("the Jewish councils that the Germans established to help them administer the ghettos of Eastern Europe") with the German Gestapo. Ms. Dawidowicz readily admits that "In many ghettos---the Jews regarded the officials of the Judenrate with dislike, distrust and sometimes contempt." and that "resistance groups carried out a considerable number of death sentences against members of the Jewish police who had behaved with exceptional brutality or against Jews who worked as informers for the Gestapo." However, she finds the rather innocuous statement of Hannah Arendt in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem that "wherever Jews lived, there were recognized Jewish leaders, and this leadership, almost without exception, cooperated in one way or another, for one reason or another, with the Nazis," as a "monstrous and altogether unfounded charge." She complains that American scholars "lacked altogether that necessary empathy with which a historian reconstructs a period of the past, an empathy even more necessary to understand that terrible period of the Holocaust." She pleads for "more understanding of the moral predicament in which the officials of the Judenrate found themselves."

  Earlier in the book, she shows no such empathy and understanding concerning other ethnic peoples caught in the tragedy of World War II. She recognizes that "for most Jews,---the Holocaust remains their central experience - a trauma, a nightmare, an obsession." But she does not recognize that World War II was also a nightmare for millions of other hapless victims.

  In Chapter 2, Ms. Dawidowicz chides English and American historians of non-Jewish origin for being insufficiently interested in Jews in general and the Jewish World War II experience in particular. The Americans were too squeamish to touch ugly ideas like racism and in Britain "snobbery and anti-Semitism were indivisibly coupled."

  Chapter 3 is dedicated to continuing the fifty year old diatribe against the German people and culture. No amount of self-flagellation and penance is enough to satisfy Ms. Dawidowicz. Only Karl Bracher, in his Die Deutsche Diktatur, who "has placed anti-Semitism and the destruction of the Jews in the very center of his book" meets with her approval especially since "it is not a value-free work, neither dispassionate nor evenhanded."

  The opening statement in Chapter 5 is that "Today barely 5000 Jews live in Poland" which would come as a surprise to most inhabitants of Poland. This is the longest chapter in the book and Ms. Dawidowicz goes to great lengths to convince the reader that hatred of the Jews was the main pre-occupation of the Polish people ("with significant exceptions on the left") from the last third of the nineteenth century to the present day. We list some of the more offensive and/or interesting quotations:

  -"This new course in nationalist aspirations in the last third of the nineteenth century introduced anti-Semitism as another factor in Polish nationalism."

  -"the anti-Jewish prejudices long inculcated by the church found new expression in economic competition, as the Poles aimed to displace the Jews in business and light industry."

  -"the Polish nationalist movement embarked on its inexorable anti-Semitic course. The Endecja---placed anti-Semitism at the center of its nationalist goals."

  -"Joseph Pilsudski---concluded opportunistically that the tide of anti-Semitism was irresistible."

  -"in the 1920s the Polish government embarked on a campaign to deprive Jews of their rights and their livelihoods."

  -"a few hundred Poles were executed for helping Jews, while probably many thousands more helped, or tried to help. ---But most of the 30 million Poles did nothing on behalf of the Jews, satisfied to observe how the germans were now solving their Jewish problem."

  -"vicious anti-Semitism of the Polish partisans."

  -"the National Armed Forces accumulated an impressive record of murdering Jews who had escaped into the woods."

  -"By the end of 1945 some 170,000 Jews were repatriated from the Soviet Union."

  -"Finding no haven there, the Jews began a westward trek, through Czechoslovakia, into displaced persons' camps in West Germany. By the end of 1946 some 150,000 Jews had departed from Poland, leaving behind no more than 90,000."

  In 1956 "Since some Jewish communists had been identified with the party's Stalinist wing and, still worse, with its police apparatus, they became targets of public disapproval."

  -"Acting on Moscow's order,---Gomulka's new regime launched a purge of Jews first from positions of top party leadership and then from sensitive posts in the government and the army."  

Since we are not sufficiently knowledgeable in Polish history, we shall leave the task of dealing with these racial slurs to Polish historians.

  Of most interest to us is Chapter 4 which ostensibly deals with the USSR but whose main purpose appears to be the defamation of Ukrainians and other ethnic peoples within the USSR. Throughout the text there are references to Ukraine or Ukrainians on pages 2,10, 73, 79, 80, 81, 83, 84, 85, 86, 91, 95.

  Ms. Dawidowicz views the aspirations for freedom of the enslaved peoples within the Soviet Union and their fight against Bolshevik tyranny as collaboration with the National Socialists and therefore equivalent to murder of the Jews. For example, on page 73:

 "...collaboration of many Russians, Ukrainians and other nationalities with the German occupiers", "the active collaboration of the Soviet population in the murder of Jews, despite Soviet claims to have outlawed anti-Semitism", "The Soviet Union did not take part in the war which began on September 1, 1939, with Germany's invasion of Poland..." [The historical fact is that the Bolsheviks collaborated with the National Socialists in dismembering Poland.]

  On page 80 she claims that the Germans "found substantial numbers of Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, White Russians, Ukrainians, Great Russians, Tartars, Kalmyks and others willing to collaborate with them.---Some peoples, especially the Ukrainians, wanted national autonomy---; others simply sought revenge for past Soviet brutality and persecution." "A common spirit binding the disaffected peoples with the Germans was their pervasive anti-Semitism.---the Germans and their helpers slaughtered---." Once again Ms. Dawidowicz parrots the KGB-sponsored line that those who fought for freedom against Soviet tyranny were murderers of Jews.

  Also on this page, there are two specific racial slurs against Ukrainians which must be answered. "The Ukrainians became Germany's most diligent collaborators. They even turned up as helpers in the murder of Jews as far from home as Warsaw, where they served as auxiliaries to General Jurgen Stroop's SS troops in putting down the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto in April-May 1943." For justification of this statement, Ms. Dawidowicz refers to a list of names in a certain battalion. If Ms. Dawidowicz had read this list more carefully, then on the basis of such "rigorous historical research" she would have concluded that more Jews than Ukrainians were members of this battalion.

  The second racial slur is doubly cruel and vicious: "Helping the Germans kill the Jews must have become a commonplace experience in the Soviet Union, for the trace of bad conscience became a sardonic joke in Russian folk humour. Andrei Sinyavsky, in his testimony from the slave-labour camp of Dubrovlag, noted that when someone groaned and screamed in his sleep, the usual comment of his listeners was "dreaming of Yids": 'The "YIds" come at night to strangle and torment the sleeping man who, presumably, had taken part in atrocities against them at some time or other. Of course, he saw nothing wrong in helping to "liquidate" them at the time, but now they come back - in dreams.'

  First of all, the person screaming in his sleep was far more likely dreaming of the "Yid" KGB interrogator who was trying to torture a false confession from his victim. To our knowledge not one concentration camp inmate in the USSR has ever been sentenced for "liquidating" Jews. The statement is equivalent to accusing a Jewish concentration camp survivor who screams in his sleep of harbouring a bad conscience for having "liquidated" Nazis.

  Secondly, since Sinyavsky was incarcerated in the mid-1970s and "liquidation" of the Jews presumably took place in the early 1940s in Ukraine and Baltic regions, his "sardonic joke" must have been at the expense of Ukrainian and/or Baltic "nationalists" who had been incarcerated by the millions after the war and who had thus been inhabitants of the Gulag Archipelago for over 30 years.

  Also note that in this passage and on page 83 in a quotation attributed to Anatoli Kuznetsov concerning Babyn Yar: "Where they shot the Yids?---memorial---to some lousy Yids?", we see the Ukrainian word "Zhyd" (i.e. Jew) rather than the Russian word "Yevrei" (i.e. Hebrew). Do Ms. Dawidowicz and Mr. Sinyavsky not know that "Zhyd" was outlawed in favour of "Yevrei" because Russified Jews in the Communist Party and KGB apparatus felt insulted by the Ukrainian word even though it was derived from the Yiddish language and is identical to the Polish word for Jew? It is rather ironical that they use the terminology which, during the 1920s and 1930s in Ukraine, was punishable by six months in prison for use of the word "Zhyd" and two years in the Gulag for the term "parkhatij Zhyd". Such is the basis of "Soviet claims to have outlawed anti-Semitism" mentioned above. And yet on page 81 she asserts that "anti-Semitism...was as intense at the highest levels of the Soviet bureaucracy as among the Ukrainian peasants."

  Ms. Dawidowicz's attitude towards the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (p. 81) which "began to issue a Yiddish newspaper called Eynikayt ("Unity") in June 1942" under the direction of "novelist Ilya Ehrenburg" and "Soviet journalist Vassilii Grossman" is most interesting. Despite the fact that "Western observers have long presumed that this Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee operated under the direction of the NKVD, having been created only to rally worldwide Jewish support for the Soviet Union" she does not question the validity of the "documentary materials" supplied by the NKVD for Western audiences. Apparently neither did the Canadian Jewish Congress who were "trying to fight fascism and anti-Semitism" as stated by Harold Samuel Gerson (subsequently convicted for espionage) in his testimony before the Kellock-Tascherau Royal Commission of 1946. Presumably it was such "documentary materials" which Samuel Bronfman of the Canadian Jewish Congress presented the Canadian Government during the summer of 1950 in his attempts to prevent immigration of members of the Ukrainian Halychyna Division to Canada.

  However, when in 1946 "Eynikayt published an editorial article which criticized Jewish wartime literature for its parochialism" since "the German-fascist murders of the Jewish population are depicted as isolated and are not integrated with the Hitlerite killings of the Soviet people in general", Ms. Dawidowicz accuses the Soviet Union of trying to erase the "Holocaust...from the records of Soviet history."

  The terror and deceit of the Cheka-GPU-NKVD-KGB are the most constant themes in the history of the Soviet Union from December 20, 1917, to the present day. Aside from the two references to the "NKVD" and the "police apparatus" quoted above, Ms. Dawidowicz completely omits this aspect of Soviet history in her book except in a negative indirect way by accusing the peoples of the USSR of collaborating with the National Socialists for the purpose of murdering Jews rather than fighting against Communist tyranny. It is interesting that she could not find one example of Jews fighting against Communist tyranny during World War II. Perhaps it is because "Such socialist and social-Zionist ideas and ideologies continued to permeate the youth of East European Jewry between the two wars,..." as she states on page 131. It is also curious that Ms. Dawidowicz states (p. 7) that "About 10,000 Poles were killed in the first year of German occupation" but she never mentions the Katyn Forest Massacre where the Bolsheviks executed up to 12,000 Polish officers and intellectuals.

  Let us assure Ms. Dawidowicz that the peoples of the USSR and Poland also decry (p. 83) that "The scholarly literature somehow managed totally to overlook the presence of the Jews in Soviet history, past and present." But such literature should also include the very large presence of Jews in the Communist Party , the Soviet bureaucracy and the secret police apparatus, not some version edited to suit Ms. Dawidowicz's slanted historical perspective.

  Let us examine one final quotation which appears to be the key to understanding the purpose of The Holocaust and the Historians. This "Are you still beating your wife?" type of statement appears on page 126: "In modern times, Jews came to believe also in the moral force of their history, in the compelling power which the history of Jewish sufferings and martyrdom could exercise on non-Jews and thereby purge them of their Jew-hatred." In other words, if Gentile readers can be imbued with a collective guilt complex concerning past Jewish suffering, they will refrain from making legitimate criticisms of present Jewish actions and policies. And the Jewish reader should become evermore convinced that the whole world hates Jews and should reciprocate in kind.

  If Ms. Dawidowicz truly believes in the validity of this statement and in the contents of her book, then it is indeed tragic how the trauma of the Jewish experience during World War II has affected her perspective on Gentiles. Hatred can only beget hatred. Rather than promoting respect and understanding between Jews and Gentiles, this book is far more likely to exacerbate the already strained relations. For this reason, this book must be classified as hate literature and any reader, whether Jew or Gentile should be careful not to fall into the vicious cycle of hate that such literature promotes.

(Montreal Branch) October, 1986
Will Zuzak; DAWIDOW1.001 = The Holocaust and the Historians; 1986-10-00