The Final Solution Was about Something More Than Racism

April 23 2018

Racism—not occasional prejudice but a worldview that posits the “biological” inferiority and superiority of different groups of humans—constituted a crucial component of Nazism. Yet while the Third Reich applied this set of ideas to the Jews—not to mention Africans, Slavs, Gypsies, and others—racial thinking alone does not explain what motivated the Holocaust, as Jeffrey Herf writes:

[R]acial anti-Semitism, with its elements of physical revulsion, sexual panic, and assumption of clear, easily recognizable physical differences, had obvious parallels with European and American racism toward Africans and, later, African-Americans. Like other forms of racism, including that of the slaveholding American South, this anti-Semitism associated [deficiencies] of inward character with specific physiological attributes. . . .

The core, [however], of the radical anti-Semitism that justified and accompanied the Holocaust was a conspiracy theory that ascribed not inferiority but [instead] enormous power to what it alleged was an international Jewish conspiracy that sought the destruction of the Nazi regime and the extermination of the German population. Its key component was prefigured in the infamous forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. . . .

The evidence of Nazi wartime propaganda indicates that the legend of a murderous international Jewish conspiracy—more than the biological obsessions about blood, race, and sex of the Nuremberg race laws [which imposed legal discrimination against German Jews in the 1930s]—lurked at the core of Nazi propaganda, and indeed constituted the distinctively genocidal component of Nazi ideology. The Nazis claimed that because “international Jewry” was waging a war of extermination against Germany, the Nazi regime had an obligation to “exterminate” and “annihilate” Europe’s Jews in self-defense. . . .

From the perspective of the Nazi leadership, “the war against the Jews” was not only the Holocaust. It was also the war against Britain, the Soviet Union, the United States, and their allies. . . . These were two components of a single battle-to-the-death between Germany and international Jewry. .

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More about: Anti-Semitism, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Nazism, Racism

War with Iran Isn’t on the Horizon. So Why All the Arguments against It?

As the U.S. has responded to Iranian provocations in the Persian Gulf, various observers in the press have argued that National Security Advisor John Bolton somehow seeks to drag President Trump into a war with Iran against his will. Matthew Continetti points out the absurdities of this argument, and its origins:

Never mind that President Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, and Bolton have not said a single word about a preemptive strike, much less a full-scale war, against Iran. Never mind that the president’s reluctance for overseas intervention is well known. The “anti-war” cries are not about context, and they are certainly not about deterring Iran. Their goal is saving President Obama’s nuclear deal by manipulating Trump into firing Bolton and extending a lifeline to the regime.

It’s a storyline that originated in Iran. Toward the end of April, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif showed up in New York and gave an interview to Reuters where he said, “I don’t think [Trump] wants war,” but “that doesn’t exclude him basically being lured into one” by Bolton. . . . And now this regime talking point is everywhere. “It’s John Bolton’s world. Trump is just living in it,” write two former Obama officials in the Los Angeles Times. “John Bolton is Donald Trump’s war whisperer,” writes Peter Bergen on CNN.com. . . .

Recall Obama’s deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes’s admission to the New York Times Magazine in 2016 [that] “We created an echo chamber” to attack the Iran deal’s opponents through leaks and tips to the D.C. press. . . . Members of the echo chamber aren’t for attacking Iran, but they are all for slandering its American opponents. The latest target is Bolton. . . .

The Iranians are in a box. U.S. sanctions are crushing the economy, but if they leave the agreement with Europe they will be back to square one. To escape the box you try to punch your way out. That’s why Iran has assumed a threatening posture: provoking an American attack could bolster waning domestic support for the regime and divide the Western alliance.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Javad Zarif, John Bolton, U.S. Foreign policy