BONN (Sep. 27)
The Zentralrat, the governing body of West Germany’s Jewish community, has issued a strong warning against continuing efforts by certain German scholars to downgrade the magnitude of Nazi crimes against the Jews and who argue that the Holocaust was no more “unique” than other mass killings in modern history.
That view is being disseminated by the revisionist school of German thinkers and academics whose theses seem to be that Nazi war crimes were no worse than others and Germans therefore should not feel exceptional guilt for their past.
A leading proponent of revisionism is Prof. Ernst Nolte of the Free University of Berlin who has given academic respectability to revisionist theories. Nolte’s assertions are taken seriously in some scholarly quarters because of his intellectual credentials. He is author of papers which have become classic textbooks for historians of fascism and totalitarianism.
In two recent books and in an interview in the mass circulation Die Welt, Nolte maintained it is the task of historians to examine the rationality of Hitler’s ideology and Nazi behavior, including their campaign to exterminate the Jews.
According to Nolte, the Soviet Gulag preceded the Holocaust and was partly responsible for it because the Nazis viewed the Communist threat largely as a Jewish one.
HITLER HAD RIGHT
Apart from the technical use of gas to kill Jews, there was nothing new in the extermination of Jews, Nolte says. He maintained that Hitler had the right to treat Jews as prisoners of war because Dr. Chaim Weizmann, leader of the World Zionist movement, declared in 1939 that the Jews would be on the side of Germany’s adversaries.
Nolte believes the use of gas to kill ideological opponents can be traced to a suggestion by Kurt Tucholosky, a leftwing Jewish satirist and intellectual in the 1920s, and is therefore a relevant fact in discussing Nazi deeds.
The professor used his interview to attack his opponents, singling out President Richard Von Weizsaecker of the Federal Republic and Chancellor Helmut Kohl. According to Nolte, a warning should be given against tendencies to create a myth of evil Germans who are allegedly doomed for generations to come because of what Hitler did.