Monday, 16 August 2010
Auschwitz – American Kitsch
Auschwitz Replaces Massada as Israel's Foundational Myth
I first visited a concentration/extermination camp in the early 1990’s at Sachsenhausen, north of Berlin. Like Auschwitz it had the infamous ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (Work Makes You Free). Unlike Auschwitz there was no fanfare, a headphone to listen to, but the camp was not advertised to the outside world and there were few visitors. This summer, as part of a larger tour of Europe, I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau with my son Tom.
The first thing that struck me about Auschwitz-Birkenau today was that it has in essence become one stop on the tourist itinerary. Signs even tell you that you need a tour guide to go round. Like most people, we paid about £20 each to a tour company to provide transport in a minibus, (seating 26) to take us there and hire a guide.
After about an hour you know you are near when you see a sign for Oswiecim the Polish village which was partly destroyed, to make way for this complex of extermination and labour camps. The first places to greet us as we entered were a fast food place and then the café.
We were allocated a guide with whom we had to stick at all times since there so many other tour guides and groups. An indication that Auschwitz is now the centre of different national interests is that signs were in English, Polish and Hebrew, the latter a language that few of those murdered would have understood, since the main language of East European Jews was Yiddish.
It was also in the mid-1990’s that I first experienced how the lessons of the holocaust have been appropriated and harnessed by the West and Israel for their own politico-economic interests. I visited the Holocaust museum in Washington DC where I read an inscription containing the poem for which Pastor Niemoller\; ‘First they came for the Communists, Trade Unionists, Jews and then me.’ Except that Communists had been replaced by Socialists.
What also became clear about the tour guides is that they are essentially rehearsing a script. We were told that no one had escaped from the inner circle of Auschwitz. There were 2 rings of watch towers. When I told her this was not so and that Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, and later two more Jews, had done just this, she at first suggested they had worked on outside gangs. In fact Vrba and his companion worked in Canada, the name given to the massive warehouse where the goods of those murdered were sorted and sifted. She confused the Riegner telegram of August 1942, which the Zionists and Stephen Wise suppressed until November of that year, which first announced the final solution to the world with when Roosevelt first learnt of Auschwitz – 1943 from a Polish agent and in 1944 from the Auschwitz Protocols of Vrba/Wetzler. Likewise she was unaware that Soviet prisoners of war were the first to be gassed in a peasant’s hut in September 1941, predating the Wannsee conference, where plans for the final solution were allegedly drawn up, by 4 months. (see Christopher Browning’s The Final Solution, pp. 356-7)
It was in short an error-strewn explanation acceptable to all who have a vested interest in Auschwitz as the justification for Israel’s oppression today. Poland, being a good friend of Israel, conducts the tours accordingly. Instead of the solemnity of Sachsenhausen there is the tourist fanfare of Auschwitz. In short Auschwitz-Birkenau is a money spinner for the Polish state and in return loads of Israeli Jewish high-school students visit in order to learn one of the foundational lessons of why Israel came into being. Auschwitz, whose bombing the Zionists failed to campaign around at the time (Ben-Gurion opposing idea altogether) and to whom nearly half a million Hungarian Jews were deported in the spring of 1944 after the Zionists had done a deal to save the elite of Hungarian Jewry, is now used to justify further racism and murder, whilst the remaining survivors of the holocaust live in poverty in Israel and America as Zionist organisations have siphoned off the funds.
It goes without saying that to see the heap of prosthetic limbs and the mounds of clothing, to say nothing of the victims, especially the child victims of Auschwitz, is heart-rending. It is unfortunate that Auschwitz, the symbol of fascist barbarity, the deliberate and industrial extermination of millions of people, has been harnessed to justify the cruelties of Zionism. Just as the goal of Nazism was to make Germany Jew-free, so today Zionism’s goal is the Judification of the Negev and Galilee.
Perhaps this brought out best when I asked, in both the Auschwitz and the Birkenau bookshops whether there was anything written by Rudolph Vrba, who together with Alfred Wetzler, were the second and third Jewish escapees who had broken out of Auschwitz on April 9th 1944 and reached Slovakia 15 days later. Their Auschwitz Protocols described the camp and its purpose in detail yet in Hungary itself the Zionist leadership sat on it. When eventually they were publicised thanks to Swiss newspapers and then a BBC broadcast, the deportations halted and and estimated 200,000 Hungarian Jews were saved.
Maybe I had expected something more from the visit, possibly the quiet horror which is all that remains of Sachsenhausen, instead Auschwitz has become a tourist destination.