Seventy years ago today, the massed armies of the Third Reich poured across the Polish border, marking the official start of World War II. It would require nearly six years, millions of deaths, and the combined might of the Soviet Union, United States, Great Britain, and numerous other nations to bring the war to an end, with Hitler utterly defeated. I mark this occasion because of my interest in World War II history, the Holocaust, Holocaust denial, and because my heritage is Polish through my father’s side. Another thing that needs to be understood about September 1, 1939 is that it marked the date when the Holocaust kicked into high gear, because the invasion of Poland placed vast new tracts of land under Hitler’s control, and these tracts of land had large numbers of Jews, whom he hated. The repression and killing began virtually immediately and escalated even further after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. Up until the war, the progressive repression, elimination of rights, exploitation, expulsion, and killing of Jews had been building relatively slowly, but war led to an exponential increase in the intensity of Hitler’s violence against the Jews. The war allowed repression to turn exterminationist.
The reason I bring this up is that the other day I saw the absolute dumbest example of Holocaust denial I’ve ever seen. Believe me, I’ve been in some of the deepest, darkest depths of Holocaust denial discussion boards, right in the heart of some of the nastiest, vilest, most despicable white power rangers, and I can’t recall anything this ignorant of history and brain dead at the same time. It’s also a perfect example of crank magnetism, in that he’s someone who’s very well known around ScienceBlogs for his creationist proclivities and is known to show up to troll the comments of several blogs when the topic of evolution comes up. His sheer crankitude surpasses that of even many anti-vaccine zealots that I encounter. (Hmmm. I wonder if he’s into anti-vaccine quackery and “alternative medicine,” too.)
Yes, I’m referring to Larry Fafarman, who apparently can’t distinguish fantasy from reality, as he demonstrates in a post entitled Inglourious Basterds and the problem of Jew identification.
Oh, god, the stupid so burns:
I went to see the recently-released movie “Inglourious Basterds” — a holocaust-themed movie — because I wanted to see how it handled the problem of Nazi identification of Jews and non-Jews in the holocaust. I have long contended that a “systematic” Jewish holocaust was impossible because the Nazis had no objective and reliable ways of identifying Jews and non-Jews. Of course, the movie glosses over this problem of Jew identification — the Jewish characters in the movie don’t even look Jewish. Also, the movie begins with Nazis hunting Jewish farmers in the French countryside; if you are going to exterminate six-million Jews, you can’t afford to spend much time hunting individual Jews.
I happened to have seen Inglourious Basterds. It’s most definitely not a history movie. In fact, it’s about as far from a history movie as I can imagine, given that it completely rewrites the history of World War II. Consequently, looking to a Quentin Tarantino movie, one that he has openly described as fantasy, for evidence of how Nazis identified Jews is about as misguided as looking to The Three Stooges’ You Nazty Spy! or I’ll Never Heil Again for realistic World War II history. Personally, I consciously had to shut down my nitpicking urge to point out the historical inaccuracies early in the movie. Fortunately, I succeeded, or the end of the movie would have shattered my fragile eggshell mind. (What that rewriting of World War II history is, I won’t say, in case some of my readers who want to see the movie have not yet seen it.)
But even dumber is the observation that, because a character in a Quentin Tarantino movie written to be a fantasy about World War II, an SS officer named Col. Hans Lanza (a.k.a. “the Jew Hunter”) was portrayed in the first scene of this movie looking for Jews in hiding, then the Holocaust couldn’t happened and the Nazis couldn’t possibly have murdered six million Jews. Apparently, Larry hasn’t heard of the mobile killing units, the Einsatzgruppen, mobile killing units who rounded up Jews and shot them by the hundreds and even thousands. Or how Jews like Ann Frank did indeed hide in the houses of gentiles willing to protect them from the Germans and were indeed found. It’s not that I’m defending the historicity of a movie like Inglourious Basterds, but when I see such “reasoning” used by Larry to deny the Holocaust, reasoning he’s used on many occasions before, his mantra being, “A ‘systematic’ Jewish holocaust was impossible because the Nazis had no objective and reliable ways of identifying Jews and non-Jews.”
Once again, Larry demonstrates his ability to create a black hole of ignorance that sucks in all knowledge and intelligence, rendering it stupid, too. Indeed, it never ceases to amaze me how ignorant morons like Fafarman are about the very history they try to deny. He clearly does not know that the Nazis expended an enormous amount of thought, resources, and effort on disinguishing Jews from non-Jews. In fact, the Nazis did not decide who was and was not a Jew by whether or not they “looked Jewish,” although it is true that Nazi racial hygienists did try to come up with measurements that would allow them to distinguish Jew from non-Jew. Rather, the Nazis enacted the Nuremberg Laws in 1935 in the first place. The first purpose of these laws was to strip Jews of virtually all rights. However, the second purpose was to define who was a Jew and who was Mischling (having Jewish ancestry but not enough to be considered Jewish under Nazi law).
In effect the Nuremberg laws systematized the identification of Jews and tried to make it as objective as the Nazis could. Under these laws, a Jew was defined as (1) anyone having three or more Jewish grandparents regardless of whether he self-identified as a Jew or practiced the Jewish religion or (2) anyone having two Jewish grandparents who either:
- Practiced the Jewish religion
- Were married to a Jew
- Had a Jewish parent, even if illegitimate
This latter category of Jews were known as Geltungsjude (“Jews by legal validity”). People who didn’t fall under any of the above conditions but had two Jewish grandparents were Mischling of the first degree, while anyone with only one Jewish grandparent was Mischling of the second degree, “Mischling” meaning “crossbreed” or “mixed.” In any case, the point is that the Nazis had a fairly straightforward definition of who was and was not a Jew based on their defining Jews as a race rather than a religion. In essence, they tried to define Jews by genetics rather than than self-identification or practicing the Jewish religion. True, there may have been gray areas, and there were even legal cases in Nazi Germany over who would and would not be considered a Jew, but it was very, very systematic, and, yes, about as “objective” as such a process could be made. It is also true that the basis of the systematized and objective standards of the Nuremberg Laws were based on a dubious conception of Jews as a race, but they were very systematic.
The Nazis tried very hard to make them so. Their criteria were somewhat arbitrarily chosen, but they were objective and had virtually nothing to do with whether a person “looked Jewish” or not. Of course, even if the Nazis didn’t have an “objective” system for identifying Jews, that would not be an argument that they couldn’t possibly have systematically murdered so many Jews. It’s a classic non sequitur to argue that.
Although I haven’t taken much notice of Larry for two years, I did once nominate him for the stupidest Holocaust denier of them all. He didn’t quite win the award (someone going by the ‘nym “Liberator” did, when he equated Adolf Hitler to Thomas Jefferson), but he appears to be trying to make a comeback to take the crown for himself.