In yesterday's piece on the out of control rise in anti-semitic attacks in France, I referenced this essay I wrote back in 2006 on why Jews should seriously think about leaving most of Western Europe. After quoting it briefly and saying that there's very little of it I would change today, almost 7 years later, I finished by saying that a lot of Europeans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.
That phrase caught the attention of a couple of long time readers who asked what I meant (and in one case, took issue with it).
Here's exactly what I meant, and my explanation may perhaps be of some interest.
Simply stated, Hitler didn't operate in a vacuum. And it wasn't just Germans, as you find when you actually take a little time to study the Holocaust, a unique event in history for a number of reasons although to observe how it's constantly tossed around freely at every conceivable occasion you'd never know it.
Unlike America, Europe was historically and officially anti-semitic. While we certainly had and have Jew hatred here, it was never government sanctioned, it was never de jure, legal. As a matter of fact, George Washington and most of the rest of the Founders were almost philo-semitic. Washington even made the point of sending a remarkable letter to the congregants of the Truro Synagogue in Rhode Island ( first and largest in America) telling them that 'the children of Abraham' would be welcome to live in America in peace as full citizens. He was telling them they need not fear the political change would result in their having to pull up stakes again.
It was different in Europe.
To give you an idea of how remarkable Washington's letter of assurance was, in 'enlightened' Britain, Jews had only been allowed to live there as recently as 1656, when Oliver Cromwell readmitted them after they had been expelled from England in the 13th Century. Even then, Jews were not allowed to serve in Parliament or in government positions until much later, 1829. They weren't legally allowed to live in Sweden until 1715, Norway until 1850, and not allowed for many years per se in Spain, Portugal, or any of their colonies in Africa or the New World after the expulsion of 1492. In places like the German states, Poland and Russia, their status was marginal and subject to the whims of whomever was in power. So George Washington's letter was a very big deal.It defined the entire relationship between Jews and the American Republic.
A lot of Jew hatred in Europe came courtesy of the Catholic Church and Martin Luther, whose history was somewhat like Mohammed's, believe it or not. In the beginning, Luther said a a great deal about tolerance and used the Church's anti-semitism as a talking point against them, figuring that the Jews would come flocking in to become Lutherans and Protestants. But like Mohammed, when most of the Jews said no thank you, he became one of the most violent anti-semites in history.
When Hitler came to power, Jew hatred was an established mainstream thread in a lot of Europe. There was no secret as to what was going in Germany during the 1930's but frankly, the people who gave a damn were in the minority...and that was by no means limited to Germans and Germany. Few countries would give German Jews visas to emigrate, unless they had influential friends or were someone like Einstein who might be useful.
That included America, by the way. Avowed Jew Haters like Father Coughlin were major public figures, the Ivy League had strict quotas on admitting Jews, and many neighborhoods, clubs and even hotels boasted covenants that barred Jews. The State Department, then as now, had a decent quotient of anti-semites and delayed and avoided issuing visas to Jews fleeing Germany even when they were available...although there were some Americans who risked quite a lot in order to do what they could, just as there were in other countries.
Britain did its bit to expand the death toll of the Holocaust by defying international law and the terms of the Palestine Mandate by closing off Palestine to all Jewish immigration in 1938, when Jews were desperately trying to flee. Needless to say, very few of them were welcome in Britain. Later, in 1944, the British stonewalled a deal Himmler offered to the allies to exchange a million Jews bound for the concentration camps for a few trucks, some soap, and some coffee.
As Hitler gained control of Europe, a number of countries reacted in surprising ways. Some countries (Finland, Denmark, Italy, Bulgaria, the Serbs) tried to save as many Jews as they could. In countries with a high incidence of long standing Jew hatred, there were some incredibly heroic and decent people, but a lot of the locals not only turned their backs while their neighbors were dragged off to the camps, in many cases ( Norway, Austria, France, Poland,the Baltic States, the Ukraine, Romania, Croatia for example) the natives were downright enthusiastic and actually helped round the Jews up and turn them over to the Nazis, even though they had a damned good idea of what was in store for them. In Poland, for example, Cardinal Glemp was actually telling the Poles that it was the Jews fault the Nazis were in Poland and that it was a good thing that the Nazis were getting rid of them.
I remember an experience related by one woman's who survived the Holocaust as a little child (can you imagine experiencing that as a child?) Rebbetzen Jungries, who was rounded up by the Hungarian Arrow Cross militia with her family to be turned over to the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz. As she and her family were being marched out of their apartment to the truck, she took her favorite doll with her, only to have it snatched away from her by one of her neighbors. When she started crying, this lovely woman told her "Shut up you dirty little Jew. You won't need this where you're going."
My point here is that many Europeans behaved with incredible cowardice and indecency. No matter what they pretended later, they pretty much knew what Hitler had in store for a bunch of innocent men, women and children whose only crime was that they were Jews, and they only thing they cared about was looking out for number one and dividing up any spoils that were left over.
The last Jews who were murdered in Europe as a result of the Holocaust were killed in Kielce, and by Poles, not Germans. They actually had the nerve to survive the camps and come back to try to reclaim their old homes.
You see, to a lot of Europeans, the Jews were, you know, a problem. A lot of them liked and approved of how the Nazis handled that problem, or at least had no particular concern about it. Afterwards, since the Nazis handled a lot of the dirty work and were able to be conveniently fingered as the sole culprits, many of these same Europeans could pretend they never heard or saw anything.
Europeans have always had a totally unjustified view of themselves as civilized, decent and humane, as opposed to, say, we loutish, brutal Americans. The Holocaust and their own cooperation with it gives the lie to that conceit. For a few years, while the memory was still fresh, there was at least a certain undercurrent of shame. The Holocaust and their enthusiastic cooperation at worst and their tacit acceptance at best made them look in the mirror and have to smell the excrement of their souls instead of being able to keep pretending it was perfume. They hated that, and harbored a deep resentment towards the Jews for for surviving as living witnesses to their worst moments and an admonishment before G-d and man.
Virtually the only country in Europe that has ever attempted to deal with these feelings on a national level was Germany.
Over the years, a lot of that European resentment was conveniently transferred to a more socially acceptable target, the Jewish State, the Zionists. And it continues to remain a not so covert theme in Europe's media and academia, especially as the Holocaust survivors conveniently die off and it's easier to forget what happened, or even to deny that it happened at all.
That (along with the need to appease their growing Muslim populations) is where the 'anti-Zionism', the frequent comparison of Israel with the Nazis, the notions of a ' Palestinian Holocaust', the blood libel cartoons come from. It's why a lot of the Brits and others aren't all that upset at dropping teaching about the Holocaust, especially since they can blame it on Muslim sensibilities. It's their way of subconsciously (or not so subconsciously) saying to the world and to history, "See, look. We aren't so evil. Look at what the Jews are doing! Look at how evil those ZioNazis are! Besides if they were just out of the picture, the Muslims would be satisfied, we'd have peace and quiet and we could forget all about the whole thing anyway."
That's why a lot of Europeans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.And why it carries over in hatred and resentment towards Israel today, for being so inconsiderate as to continue to insist on surviving.