Remembering Auschwitz

It was 70-years ago today that the advancing Russian army came upon the Nazi’s Jewish extermination factory at Auschwitz, and so the air is sure to be thick with somber meditations upon the Meaning of it. For my part, I’m not sure that it Means anything at all — except, perhaps, that Mark Twain had it right when he dismissed humankind as “the damned human race.”

But, of course, as everyone knows, ol’ Twain was quite the jokester.

A few things will not be remarked amidst the dreary cliché photos of piles of abandoned shoes, their former owners vanished up the crematorium chimneys:

  • “Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without belief in a devil.”

    Eric Hoffer

    Germany’s systematic anti-semitism was not a freak, one-off event inspired by the humiliations of Versailles; in fact, it had been deeply embedded in German culture since the Protestant Reformation. From Martin Luther’s odious On the Jews and Their Lies:

    Moreover, they are nothing but thieves and robbers who daily eat no morsel and wear no thread of clothing which they have not stolen and pilfered from us by means of their accursed usury. Thus they live from day to day, together with wife and child, by theft and robbery, as arch­thieves and robbers, in the most impenitent security.

    There are 300 or so more pages of the same in that book (I own a copy), and it inspired centuries of pogroms at the hands of the Godly.

    What is more, as Hannah Arendt documented and complained for decades, the concentration camp guards returned to their homes at the end of the war and suffered no public odium, not even after the depravities of the camps had been revealed. Indeed, like Southern Baptists who learn that Pastor Bubba is w-a-a-a-y too friendly with the children’s choir, the German public rallied to the guards’ defense, insisting that the guards had no choice but to exterminate the Jews in order to protect themselves from their licentiousness and shameless squalor.

  • Anyone who has read Thomas Wolfe’s You Can’t Go Home Again is aware that the Final Solution was underway by the latter 1930s; if an American writer without official connections could learn of it, then it is not believable that the United States government didn’t know of it. There has never been a very thorough airing of the government’s failure to acknowledge the mass extermination underway; there are probably two reasons:

    1. Some, like Joseph Kennedy, Ambassador to the Court of St. James, admired the Nazis and didn’t actually care that the Jews were being exterminated. Recall, too, that the American KKK was a Methodist and Baptist enterprise that targeted Jews and Catholics as cruelly as it targeted blacks; if the public had known what the Nazis were up to, a very great many of them would undoubtedly have approved.

    2. But there would almost certainly have been public pressure to launch the cross-channel invasion earlier than we actually did, too — before the Italians had been rolled-up and southern Europe and the Mediterranean were securely in Allied hands; that would have wholly undone the military strategy.

  • Before Hitler’s rise to power, Germany was considered one of the most advanced and civilized countries of Europe, universally admired for its advances in the arts, in philosophy, in the sciences. But when the Brownshirts began howling about “Jewish science” — Jewish physics are something distinct from Good Ol’ Aryan Boy physics? — and “Jewish philosophy” and “Jewish arts” … the intellectuals quailed, shut up, turned tail, and fled. Some, such as philosopher Martin Heidegger, actually went over to the Dark Side and gave the Nazis a paper-thin veneer of intellectual respectability and relieved conscience.

    It is a commonplace that firm and decisive action by Britain and the United States could have arrested Hitler’s depredations before the war even began. The German intelligentsia were equally negligent.

  • The appalling evil of Nazism is not an ancient horror, something in the distant past and which humankind has since outgrown. Some of its perpetrators are among us still, as are the no-longer-young men who cinched-up their belts and grabbed their guns and stopped them. Neither barbarism, nor decency, is ever very far away; which prevails in public affairs depends upon which the leadership chooses to summon.

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The Will to Power

Book Two: A Criticism of the Highest Values That Have Prevailed Hitherto
I: Criticism of Religion

§197   The psychological pre-requisites: Ignorance and lack of culture, the sort of ignorance which has unlearned every kind of shame: let any one imagine those impudent saints in the heart of Athens.

The Jewish instinct of a chosen people: they appropriate all the virtues, without further ado, as their own and regard the rest of the world as their opposite; this is a profound sign of spiritual depravity.

The total lack of real aims and real duties, for which other virtues are required than those of the bigot — the State undertook this work for them: and the impudent people still behaved as though they had no need of the State.

“Except ye become as little children –” Oh, how far we are from this psychological naivete!

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Dismal theology tweet for the day

Warren Throckmorton observes:

This is a discouraging development. Another indicator that ecclesiastical leaders are disconnected from the academics in their own tradition.

Ha! Discouraging … yes, but Throckmorton is mistaken if he believes the evangelical leadership are disconnected; they are not. What they are is amoral and indifferent. Barton is a trustworthy draw for the yahoos, and that matters more than the fact that he is a well-documented fantasist and liar.

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The Will to Power

Book Two: A Criticism of the Highest Values That Have Prevailed Hitherto
I: Criticism of Religion

§196   Christianity only resumes the fight which had already been begun against the classical ideal and noble religion.

As a matter of fact, the whole process of transformation is only an adaptation to the needs and to the level of intelligence of religious masses then existing: those masses which believed in Isis, Mithras, Dionysos and the “great mother”, and which demanded the following things of a religion: (1) hopes of a beyond, (2) the bloody phantasmagoria of animal sacrifice (the mystery), (3) holy legend and the redeeming deed, (4) asceticism, denial of the world, superstitious “purification”, (5) a hierarchy as a part of the community. In short, Christianity everywhere fitted the already prevailing and increasing anti-pagan tendency of those cults which Epicurus combated, or more exactly, those religions proper to the lower herd, women, slaves and ignoble classes.

The misunderstandings are therefore the following:

  1. The immortality of the individual.

  2. The assumed existence of another world.

  3. The absurd notion of punishment and expiation in the heart of the interpretation of existence.

  4. The profanation of the divine nature of man, instead of its accentuation, and the construction of a very profound chasm, which can only be crossed by the help of a miracle or by means of the most thorough self-contempt1.

  5. The whole world of corrupted imagination and morbid passion, instead of a simple and loving life of action, instead of Buddhistic happiness attainable on earth.

  6. An ecclesiastical order with a priesthood, theology, cults and sacraments; in short, everything that Jesus of Nazareth combated.

  7. The miraculous in everything and everybody, superstition too: while precisely the trait which distinguished Judaism and primitive Christianity was their repugnance to miracles and their relative rationalism.

– – – – –
1   “Y’all are no damn good.”  Seriously: Go listen to a Southern Baptist sermon; they are the exemplars for Nietzsche’s criticism — and America’s largest denomination, and the engine of the insane right-wing malice that now resolutely frustrates governanace.

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The Will to Power

Book Two: A Criticism of the Highest Values That Have Prevailed Hitherto
I: Criticism of Religion

§195   “Christianity” has become something fundamentally different from what its Founder wished it to be. It is the great anti-pagan movement of antiquity, formulated with the use of the life, teaching and “words” of the Founder of Christianity, but interpreted quite arbitrarily, according to a scheme embodying profoundly different needs: translated into the language of all the subterranean religions then existing.

It is the rise of Pessimism ( — whereas Jesus wished to bring the peace and the happiness of the lambs): and moreover the Pessimism of the weak, of the inferior, of the suffering and of the oppressed.

Its mortal enemies are (1) Power, whether in the form of character, intellect, or taste and “worldliness”; (2) the “good cheer” of classical times, the noble levity and scepticism, hard pride, eccentric dissipation and cold self-sufficiency of the sage, Greek refinement in manners, words and form. Its mortal enemy is as much the Roman as the Greek.

The attempt on the part of anti-paganism to establish itself on a philosophical basis and to make its tenets possible: it shows a taste for the ambiguous figures of antique culture and above all for Plato, who was, more than any other, an anti-Hellene and Semite in instinct — It also shows a taste for Stoicism, which is essentially the work of Semites (“dignity” is regarded as severity, law; virtue is held to be greatness, self-responsibility, authority, greatest sovereignty over oneself — this is Semitic. The Stoic is an Arabian sheik wrapped in Greek togas and notions).

I can’t think offhand of anyplace in Nietzsche’s published writings where he puts the thought quite the way he does in the highlighted section, but it is consistent with the anthropology presented in The Antichrist — a popular movement of underachieving losers against their betters. Once again, if you think Nietzsche overstates his case, go listen to a Southern Baptist sermon.

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