Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 27, 2005

How many times do we say "never again"?


Yesterday, the ceremonies marking the 60th year of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops took place. (At the time I write, it is barely worth a mention on the CNN website)

These ceremonies have taken an unprecedented importance in Europe as many realise that this is probably the last such ceremony with the survivors of the death camps still alive, still there to bear witness, to tell us "this was not just a nightmare - this is not just in the imagination of a few deranged people - no, this was real, I saw it, I survived it".

I have spent the last week reading and listening to amazing, horrifying, unbelievable stories - many of them are speaking up for the first time ever. (See here, here and here for such a testimony in French. You can also go here for the Shoah Visual History Foundation)

We said, "never again". The Nuremberg trials took place, trying to treat fairly some of the worst criminals in the history of the world, and mostly succeeded. Important precedents were set, based on justice and the law. "Crimes against humanity" were defined. The Geneva Conventions were extended to civilian populations in 1949.

And yet... Indonesia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Biafra, Somalia, and many more I am not listing took place since then. Iraq is coming really close to falling into that same category (some will say it already has). Can there be hope?

Can we say that the fact that Europe is united is a sign of hope, because it happened, or something to cause despair, because it shows that the only way to get there seems to be through the total destruction of peoples and of their will to fight? Is the only way to stop force, and abuse of force, is an even bigger use of force? And who will control that even bigger force?

"Quid custodiet ipsos custodes?" was asked a couple of millenia ago. We have not come closer to the answer. We only have bigger sticks. Pity us.

Posted by Jérôme à Paris on January 27, 2005 at 21:39 UTC | Permalink


One of my favorite Latin quotes, Jérôme, along with:

Qui rides? Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur.
(Who are you to laugh? Change the name, and the story is told of you.)

Posted by: Kate_Storm | Jan 27 2005 21:45 utc | 1

Nice quote, Kate.

This reminds me of what one French humorist said 20 years ago about Jean-Marie Le Pen, when he was just starting to become popular with his cynical exploitation of French racism and fears:

"You can laugh about everything, but not with everyone"

Posted by: Jérôme | Jan 27 2005 21:52 utc | 2

They sent Cheney to represent us. He's probably strolling around and jotting down ideas.

Posted by: OkieByAccident | Jan 27 2005 22:01 utc | 3

Horrifying stories? I'd say this should be pretty much required viewing, if our current societies were able to watch films longer than 2 hours.

Posted by: Clueless Joe | Jan 27 2005 22:25 utc | 4


i'm afraid we learnt nothing - nothing at all - except the bad lessons

raul hilberg was correct - all the steps that led to the shoah were not new - they were adapted from old laws & prejudices. i don't have his book with me - but he characterises all the steps - laws, ghettoisation, territorial imperatives, exclusion - but he said in the systematic way they used anhilation was new - was something that the germans had invented - that the mass production of death was a german invention

nothing was learnt

we possess a genocidal character - somewhere in our souls & that is what dante was teaching us - & in his way so too beckett

we needed to adress that question - we didn't. from korea till today - we have continued in a long line of anhilations. the of of them all is the victims doing exactly the same thing to the palestinians. they are liquidating a population - they are killing without prejudice all their dreams & desires & the actual killing of the physical entity of the palestinian people seems to me sometimes only a question of time

in the east - whether it is poland in ukraine - in all the baltic - in russia - in fact in large swathes of the east the heartpulse of extirminatory practices towards the jews still exists except there are no jews. poland is judenfrei - for all intents & purposes & it likes it that way - never once has it or the ukraine really spoke of their shame & their guilt - nor explained to the world that after the second waorld war there were a number of significant pogroms

no the stain of that genocidal practice is still with us - yugoslavia was another eyeopening lesson - soo too the way czechs deal with gypsies is not a thousand miles away from the ideas that fed fascism

the west lives off the burial ground of all the murders that have been committed in civilisation's name, in democracy's name

we've learnt nothing - as finklestein has sd in his book even with the shoah we are so degraded that we have created a shoahbusiness

we can treat the third world with the indignity we do because we have learnt nothing

the american empire is built on a genocidal practice - to speak numbers is yet another way to try to make the sordid clean

our hearts are not clear - a jean marie le pen could not exist - if they were - or any of the creeps that direct our beautiful europe - who hate jews & arabs in equal measure - who instead of celebrating difference try to exterminate it

i go back to the vietnamese because they fought 'a beautiful war' - they fought for something that transcends the petit vulgarities of modern man. they were not absolutists neither religiously nor politically. their 'communism' is a complete integration of what the vietnamese people are

as i've sd often here - i don't see any essential difference between the american administration & al quaeda - i don't see any fundamental difference in their character - they detest people in the name of their fucking gods & their civilisations & they will go on killing more & more people to that end

we are going through the circles of hell - yet there is something in humanity which is capable of transformation & it is often found in struggle -i hope beyond all reasonable measure - that we can honour the struggle of the peoples that proceeded us - especially the indigenous people who have never lost their physical relation to the terre

in sadness

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jan 27 2005 22:33 utc | 5

"You can laugh about everything, but not with everyone"

Very nice, indeed, Jérôme. I've added it to the gargantuan file. ;-)

Posted by: Kate_Storm | Jan 27 2005 22:40 utc | 6

rememberinggiap: nothing was learnt

Nope. But, "civilization" as we "know" it is not about learning, is it? It is all about stasis. Learning jostles everything about, and hints at chaos, and makes a lot of people very anxious. Can't have anxiety. No sir.

Barkeep! More Soma for the house.

Posted by: Kate_Storm | Jan 27 2005 22:44 utc | 7

What has deeply impressed me through visits to Auschwitz and other death machine camps was their industrialisation. In this, we Germans were the first and only (so far). Having studied industrial engineering adds to my understanding and horror of the systematics of this.

Mathematic optimization methods were used to coordinate the train arrivals - just enough to feed the stoves at optimal capacity. System engineering was used to optimize "throughput" -i.e. masskilling- in every "production" stage. Geography, landscaping and social communication science was used to keep the undertaking undectable for the unschooled eye.

Only few of the German people, in my view as a whole responsible for Auschwitz, did know what was really happening. The overwhelming number of people killed were not from Germany - they were not missed as personal neighbours by the nation responsible. (Iraqi dead on US TV anyone?). Information was not available, even if one tried to get some. Sophisticated methods and serious money was used to keep them focused on other things.

Throughout the killing of Disabled, Jews, Homosexuals, Gypsies, Guerillas, PoW's, German Insurgents, every item was used or experimented with to find an industrial use. Hairs of hundredhousands were systematical used as a "product" to fill matraces. Gold teath from the dead were used to buy foreign commodoities. They experimented with human skin for leather use. Bones of the killed were supposed to be boiled for soap.

This, the scientific, engineered, consience-free economical use of mass killing, is -to me- the singularity that marks Auschwitz and my shame.

There are dimensional differences between the frightend soldier from rural somewhere shooting the driver of an Iraqi car that doesn´t stop at a checkpoint and the engineering Professor doing experiments and thermodynamic calculations to optimze gas concentrations for killing in closed rooms.

On other levels I get doubts about a singularity. A tenure Professors writing torture arguments, studied folks planing attacks at several counties obvious to create hundredhousands of death for their personal ideology enforcement, a mass of people who do not want to know, even if the infomation is only some typed letters away.

It is not industrialized killings -yet-, but the current killing -in the big picture- is for enrichment, in dollars, or for the personal conviction of Ariel Sharon or others. The mass of people is ignorant - they just do not want to know, even if they could, - their house is not bombed, - yet.

The flights to bomb Iraqi citizens are highly optimized. There are quite sophisticated mathematical models developed and used to coordinate them.

Some well studied economist are trying to optimize the outcome of the current wars for themselfs and then, maybe, their society. No, they currenly do not need matrace fillings. They need oil, and decent returns on their investments.

What will they do if they feel there is a lack of soap?

Posted by: b | Jan 27 2005 23:32 utc | 8

rememberinggiap... I should have also introduced my comment with the disclaimer I don't think it to be about a genocidal character. It was the introduction of the new and improved "civilization" five to ten thousand years ago that did it.

The whole "genocidal character" thing to me sounds terribly deterministic and not accurate. I don't think of flawed beings and brains. I think instead of flawed visions, plans, and programs, interlocked with the strict hierarchical systems of the first of the most organized civilizations.

Posted by: Kate_Storm | Jan 27 2005 23:35 utc | 9


that is hilberg point - the industrialisation of death - in shoah the film - when he says it he says it so slowly, so calmly - holding in his hand - a document showing arrivals & departures from birkenau - his respect for paper - the trail - the traces - has taught many of us what scholarship really means

if we take browning's work & even that of goldhagen (who hilberg violently disagrees with) - there can be little doubt that people 'knew' - as we 'know' what is happening in city upon city , village upon village in iraq

no we do not 'know' the details - because they are hidden from us & because we benefit from not 'knowing' - not in the way that the buffoon forgettingcantnotfondetc would have it - but in the sense that it is necessary to disarm & disable any form of possible resistance

the extermination of european jewry had both a jurisprudential & medical origin - after all it was the T4 who were in charge directly of all the killings of disabled people at hademar(?) which german people did 'know' & oppossed & which in that way was stopped but in reality continued in other forms like the infamous 'commissar order' - which the german army included in their project

there was a specifically german character to all this - especially that of industrialisation & eugenics but it had deep & longing roots in nearly all countries. it had many exponents but the germans were the first practitioners

the polish also had exterminatory practices that they used from time to time in the twentieth century but until the nazis arrived it had not taken the orgiastic character which it became - where public celebrations of the murder of jews were common - as they were in most of the baltic & parts of russia - the people participated - openly

even in beautiful trieste there is the infamous st sabana(?) where under globotnik the italians participated in this terrible task

for me today - as is proved in iraq - as elsewhere - the people 'know' but do not care until they are next in line

that is our tragedy

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jan 27 2005 23:55 utc | 10

Off the subject but relevent in a sence. A site to go to is:

Posted by: jdp | Jan 28 2005 0:09 utc | 11

just read the hersh interview - so many resonances - terrible resonances

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jan 28 2005 0:11 utc | 12

And, of course, IBM was there helping the Nazis organize it every step of the way.

Posted by: SusanG | Jan 28 2005 0:25 utc | 13

Blood has been harder to dam back than water.
Just when we think we have it impounded safe
Behind new barrier walls (and let it chafe!),
It breaks away in some new kind of slaughter.
We choose to say it is let loose by the devil;
But power of blood itself releases blood.
It goes by might of being such a flood
Held high at so unnatural a level.
It will have outlet, brave and not so brave.
Weapons of war and implements of peace
Are but the points at which it finds release.
And now it is once more the tidal wave
That wen it has swept by leaves summits stained.
Oh, blood will out. It cannot be contained.
--"The Flood" (Robert Frost)

Posted by: alabama | Jan 28 2005 0:44 utc | 14

Alabama... Frost is my self-adopted grandfather. Sigh. I wrote a poem to him ten or more years ago, and right now I can't find my book, THE book... the collected works. I wan't to quote "The Lesson for Today" I hate good intentions, even when they're mine. Grrrrr... I'll find it. More later.

Posted by: Kate_Storm | Jan 28 2005 2:31 utc | 15

Nuclear Incident in Montana !!!
Apparently we had a little problem with the silo doors on 200 of our missiles in Montana last Friday - the things flew open. Silo doors are something other countries watch with spy satellites because one takes a dim view of silo doors popping open: they're only supposed to open when missiles are about to launch. Doors popping open presents the risk that other countries will launch-on-warning, which, as the old bumper sticker had it, can ruin your whole day.


Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jan 28 2005 7:05 utc | 16

Now posted at Kos for your friendly (and effective) European morning recommendations...

Posted by: Jérôme | Jan 28 2005 7:29 utc | 17

--you're a song to see: whose
all (you're a sight to sing)
poems are opening,
as if an earth was
playing at birthdays

Each(a wish
no bigger than) in roguish
am of fragrance
dances a honeydunce;
whirling's a frantic
struts a pendantic

proud or humble,
equally they're welcome
--as if the humble proud
smallest bud testified
"giving( and giving
only )is living"

worlds of prose mind
utterly beyond is
brief that how infinite
(deeply immediate
fleet and profound this)
beautiful kindness

sweet, such(past can's
every can't)immensest
mysteries contradict
a deathful realm of fact
--by their precision
evolving vision

tree of jubilee:with
aeons of( trivial
merely) existence,all
when may not measure
a now of your treasure

blithe each shameless
gaiety of blossom
--blissfully nonchalant
wise and each ignorant
what despair preaches

myriad wonder
people of a person;
joyful your any new
(every more only you)
most emanation
creates creation

lovetree!least the
rose alive must three,must
four and( to quite become
nothing )five times,proclaim
fate isn't fatal
--a heart her each petal


by e.e. cummings.

Posted by: Ar | Jan 28 2005 13:07 utc | 18

Haunted Ground - Poland to Palestine

the headline is mine - i have perhaps too strong an attraction to alliteration - the rest below is quoted, but expresses very well what i have thought for decades - as a gentile i have refrained from pointing it out to my jewish friends, some of whom have been so close to me that they told me the joke of the difference between a pizza and a jew - the pizza doesn't scream when you put it in the oven - but since the hour is getting late, let us not talk falsely - and when b speaks of his shame as a german, i have been feeling more intensely than ever my shame as an american - last year i would argue with friends that america had done more good than bad in the world, but now i have to admit - not recently - and of course the foundation of the u.s. of a. is built on the genocide of the native americans, and the bricks were mortared together with the blood of the negroes - as i understand it, the essence of jesus's message is - you can be forgiven - but to be forgiven you must repent, and that repentance is what america has not yet brought itself to, and in fact the so-called "christian right" works to bring us further away from it - but i go on too long - here is what i believe is worth reading


When an individual, a group or an entire society live with a dark secret or are in denial about something important in their past, they cannot experience peace. It is simply impossible to live a 'normal' or peaceful life on a foundation of lies and secrecy.

Denying the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948, trying to not think about the consequences of long years of brutal occupation, and just wishing for it all to go away is no more than a fantasy. In family therapy there is an accepted principle that unless serious injustices are addressed, there cannot be real peace. Families that protect dark secrets always pay a heavy price. I watched Israeli intellectuals on TV engage in genuine discussion trying to analyse and understand why things are so bad in Israel. They raised every possible reason for the situation other than the most obvious one - Israel's history.

It was excruciating to watch but also familiar. I have never seen a society so steeped in denial as Israeli society. The entire spectrum of Israeli politics is in denial about Israel's history and this is why I do not have much faith in the Israeli left. The handful that are not in denial like Dr Ilan Pappe who visited Australia last year, or Dr Uri Davis, exist outside this spectrum. Their research into the events of 1948 and the circumstances surrounding the birth of the state of Israel is not discussed on public television and is not in Israeli history books. The average Israeli does not even know who they are. Although published by reputable publishers like Cambridge University Press, Dr Pappe's books have so far been refused publication in Hebrew. The reason offered is that they lack academic merit.

The way most Israelis perceive their own history is as if they have always been the weak victim. The question of whether or not it was morally right or even wise to create a state at the expense of another people is never raised. No one in the mainstream questions the validity of democracy in a country where the right for citizenship is based on race (you can only become an Israeli citizen if you can prove that your mother is Jewish).

When Israelis engage in 'peace talks' it is important to understand their basic position. They have no real interest in a solution that goes to the core of their problem. They are like an individual who wants his or her symptoms to go away but refuses to do anything about their real causes. A wish 'to be left alone' is not much of a basis for a sustainable peace, at least not without another act of ethnic cleansing. Five million Palestinians are there to remind Israel of its past, and they are not going anywhere.

If a day comes, and I hope it does, when Israelis decide to stop living in denial, they will have to realize that real peace will only come through justice. Justice in this context means one thing, that the ideal of an exclusively Jewish state at the cost of an entire people might have to be abandoned. Only a bi-national state and a right of return for the Palestinian refugees will come close enough to rectifying some of the injustices committed in 1948 and since. Having been ethnically cleansed, this is also what the Palestinians are entitled to under international law and common human decency.

This could be Israel's atonement. It will also be Israel's opportunity to free itself from carrying this burden of guilt that I believe is making their lives and the lives of the Palestinians a nightmare. Yes, it will be a challenge. But it will offer a possibility of real and sustainable peace both for Israelis and for Palestinians, possibly for the entire region. Continuing with the mentality and policy of denial will lead nowhere, and will continue to cost the lives and well being of many more people and communities.

[Avigail Abarbanel is a former Israeli and a former Staff Sergeant in the Israeli military. She is a psychotherapist/counsellor in private practice in Canberra Australia and an activist for Palestinian rights. This article appeared originally in Peace Palestine]


Posted by: mistah charley | Jan 28 2005 14:55 utc | 19

It seems thatSchroder disagrees with you, though his purpose is not condemnatory but preventative. I'm afraid ordinary Americans will be judged the same way in the future over Iraq, though such a judgement should probably go back decades.

Posted by: lonesomeG | Jan 28 2005 15:05 utc | 20

OK it is WSWS, and the WhizWhiz is not everyone's cuppa, but their comments on>Cheney at Auschwitz are interesting:

Who is Cheney to represent the American people at Auschwitz? The US vice president is identified with the most right-wing political forces in America. In the 1980s, as a Republican congressman from Wyoming, he acted as a defender of the Apartheid regime in South Africa, voting against a resolution calling for an end to the quarter-century imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. Currying favor with homegrown racists, he likewise voted against the decision to make Martin Luther King’s birthday an official holiday.

As defense secretary in the administration of Bush the elder and in his current role as vice president, he has been the most vociferous proponent of the use of military force to achieve Washington’s global aims. He oversaw the first Persian Gulf War and acted as a principal organizer of the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, orchestrating a campaign of public deception and propaganda that had no precedent since the days of the Hitlerite “big lie.”

In between, he enriched himself as the chief executive officer of the oil industry giant Halliburton, a principal Pentagon contractor from whose war profiteering the vice president stands to reap future dividends.

Cheney’s entire political and business career strongly suggests that if, by a twist of fate, he had grown to maturity in pre-war Germany rather than in the post-war United States, he would have found his way either into the Nazi regime or among the corporate criminals who financed the Nazis and profited off of the slave labor of concentration camp inmates.[...]

In Europe in general, and Poland in particular, Bush’s failure to attend the commemoration himself was taken as a significant slight. An even more glaring expression of Washington’s indifference apparently went unnoticed—at least by the pliant media. Sections of Cheney’s speech were lifted virtually unchanged from an address given by Bush when the US president and his wife made a quick tour of the camp a year-and-a-half ago (see: “A presidential visit to Auschwitz: The Holocaust and the Bush family fortune”).

Cheney, like Bush before him, came to Auschwitz with one purpose in mind: to twist and exploit the atrocities of Hitlerite fascism to justify Washington’s own acts of aggression and inhumanity.

(I have changed the order of these para from the original).

Posted by: DeAnander | Jan 28 2005 18:34 utc | 21

And>one more: How Much Do We Learn From Evil?

Sam Smith asks whether the focus of all our "Holocaust Studies" is misplaced, and quotes They Thought They Were Free [I really must read it] author Martin Mayer:

"Now I see a little better how Nazism overcame Germany. . . It was what most Germans wanted -- or, under pressure of combined reality and illusion, came to want. They wanted it; they got it; and they liked it. I came back home a little afraid for my country, afraid of what it might want, and get, and like, under pressure of combined reality and illusions. I felt -- and feel -- that it was not German Man that I had met, but Man. He happened to be in Germany under certain conditions. He might be here, under certain conditions. He might, under certain conditions, be I."

and Sam responds:

Here is the part of the Holocaust that is most frequently denied. Not that millions were slaughtered but that those who did the deed might under certain conditions be either you or I. And we would do it, as Adolph Eichmann had suggested, simply by finding the right words for it, what he called 'office talk.' It is this unrecognized, undiscussed denial, especially at moments of solemn observance, that most frightens me. And our recovery does not lie in still more talk, ceremonies, and professions of horror. It lies instead in the study, honor, and practice of the good and the decent. If you watch good people closely, their good comes as naturally as evil came to Eichmann. It does not have to be propped up with memories of great wrongs; it is just the everyday unconscious behavior of those graced with honor: the banality of decency. We need perhaps a museum of the good, curricula in decency studies, and practice in their skills and rhythms. We need peace experts instead of military experts talking about Iraq on Fox TV.

the whole thing is worth a read, one of Sam's better efforts.

Posted by: DeAnander | Jan 28 2005 18:45 utc | 22

DeAnander - Cheney clearly expressed how he felt about Auschwitz

At yesterday's gathering of world leaders in southern Poland to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the United States was represented by Vice President Cheney. The ceremony at the Nazi death camp was outdoors, so those in attendance, such as French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin, were wearing dark, formal overcoats and dress shoes or boots. Because it was cold and snowing, they were also wearing gentlemen's hats. In short, they were dressed for the inclement weather as well as the sobriety and dignity of the event.

The vice president, however, was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower.

Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because he was wearing an olive drab parka with a fur-trimmed hood. It is embroidered with his name. It reminded one of the way in which children's clothes are inscribed with their names before they are sent away to camp. And indeed, the vice president looked like an awkward boy amid the well-dressed adults.

Like other attendees, the vice president was wearing a hat. But it was not a fedora or a Stetson or a fur hat or any kind of hat that one might wear to a memorial service as the representative of one's country. Instead, it was a knit ski cap, embroidered with the words "Staff 2001." It was the kind of hat a conventioneer might find in a goodie bag.

It is also worth mentioning that Cheney was wearing hiking boots -- thick, brown, lace-up ones. Did he think he was going to have to hike the 44 miles from Krakow -- where he had made remarks earlier in the day -- to Auschwitz? WaPo

Posted by: b | Jan 28 2005 20:23 utc | 23

These psychopaths flaunt, mock and laugh at us and the world and the most fucked up thing about it is far to few see it. America's soul is like the walking dead. Mother/Father FUCK THEM FOR THEY KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THEY DO!

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jan 28 2005 22:48 utc | 24

Holocaust time once more. Maybe better this year. Or worse. Who knows. Worse, probably. Bad, certainly.

There is Marta, Bosnian, ebullient, flirtatious, flamboyant, poor, opinionated. She lives with her aunt and other children, the aunt comes to every PTA meeting.

And Stefan, he is Swiss, he looks like Heidi’s brother, bue eyed, stalwart, up. Stef has never set foot in Poland but speaks Polish and some Russian too. His father has passed every scrap, every detail, of his history to Stef. The father comes to PTA, every time. Quiet. Sometimes forceful.

And Farik. Swiss, yes. Father a doctor, mother a something good, he is darker than a Tuareg, sharp, now half his hair is orange - blue would be better. He is cool and smooth, girl friends and all but you feel a darkness.

Once the Holocaust is over, you will learn that his grand-father, his grand-uncle, and his uncle were tortured to death by Aussaresses. You finally looked him up in the register and saw that he arrived as an unaccompanied minor, at Kloten airport, age 6, no baggage. You don’t know what his mother went through -- many years later, you will find out.

Farik will be, to your surprise, the first to leave the class, well after the Holocaust. He will be gone, no news.

There is Sebastian, by the window. No worries there. His grandmother survived, you never saw her, never asked, heard from the others, and Sebastian told you a little. She died last year. Sebastian was at school next day. His parents have never come to the school.

The one who scares you is Max. He always sits right in back, dressed in black. He speaks Italian, and dialect, and reads German and English, and has top marks in languages. English, you know, he taught himself. His area of expertise is WW2, he has read all the books, and then some. Max knows more than you.

It is going to be a hard Holocaust.

Posted by: Blackie | Jan 29 2005 0:39 utc | 25

Thank you so much, Mistah Charlie. I consider that article by Avigail Abarbanel to be the final word on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, all that anyone ever need read on the subject. Everything else is just details or wrong...IMNSHO.

Also, thanks De for the link to WSWS. I

Posted by: stoy | Jan 30 2005 20:29 utc | 26

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