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The Differences in Anti-Semitism Across Countries – “Eichmann in Jerusalem” – Hannah Arendt

April 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Culture, Genocide, History, Humanism, Leadership, Morality, Philosophy, WW2

The end of the world, though carried through with remarkable monotony, took almost as many different shapes and appearances as there existed countries in Europe. This will come as no surprise to the historian familiar with the development of European nations and with the rise of the nation-state system, but it came as a great surprise to the Nazis, who were genuinely convinced that anti-Semitism could become the common denominator that would unite all Europe. This was a huge and costly error. It quickly turned out that in practice, though perhaps not in theory, there existed great differences among anti-Semites in the various countries. What was even more annoying, though it might easily have been predicted, was that the German “radical” variety was fully appreciated only by those peoples in the East—the Ukrainians, the Estonians, the Latvians, the Lithuanians, and, to some extent, the Rumanians—whom the Nazis had decided to regard as “subhuman” barbarian hordes. Notably deficient in proper hostility toward the Jews were the Scandinavian nations (Knut Hamsun and Sven Hedin were exceptions), which, according to the Nazis, were Germany’s blood brethren.

Italy and Bulgaria sabotaged German orders and indulged in a complicated game of double-dealing and double-crossing. saving their Jews by a tour de force of sheer ingenuity, but they never contested the policy as such. That was totally different from what the Danes did. When the Germans approached them rather cautiously about introducing the yellow badge, they were simply told that the King would be the first to wear it, and the Danish government officials were careful to point out that anti-Jewish measures of any sort would cause their own immediate resignation.

Sweden once more led the way with regard to practical measures, by distributing entry permits, and Switzerland, Spain, and Portugal followed her example, so that finally about thirty-three thousand Jews were living in special houses in Budapest under the protection of neutral countries. The Allies had received and made public a list of seventy men whom they knew to be the chief culprits, and Roosevelt had sent an ultimatum threatening that “Hungary’s fate will not be like any other civilized nation … unless the deportations are stopped.” The point was driven home by an unusually heavy air raid on Budapest on July 2. Thus pressed from all sides, Horthy gave the order to stop the deportations, and one of the most damning pieces of evidence against Eichmann was the rather obvious fact that he had not obeyed “the old fool’s” order but, in mid-July, deported another fifteen hundred Jews who were at hand in a concentration camp near Budapest.

the lesson of such stories is simple and within everybody’s grasp. Politically speaking, it is that under conditions of terror most people will comply but some people will not, just as the lesson of the countries to which the Final Solution was proposed is that “it could happen” in most places but it did not happen everywhere.


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