Arendt, Human Rights, and Nazi Genocide
This paper provides a critique of this doctrine. Looking closely at Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism, we will pursue a critical analysis of not only the concept of human rights as she understood it but also the conception of history underlying her understanding. We will specifically focus on Arendt's treatment of the state and imperialism, examining how her understanding of each informs her conception of Nazism in general and the genocide of European Jewry in particular.[v] Specifically, we will examine the widely held belief, advanced by Arendt and a majority of historians, that the Nazi genocide was not designed or intended to advance the material interests of the German nation-state. Arendt and others contend, rather, that the systematic industrialized mass murder of European Jews reflected an anti-utilitarian manifestation of murderous ideology set loose amidst the collapse of Western legal and ethical traditions. An implication of this interpretation is that those seeking to prevent a recurrence of the horrors of World War II ought to commit themselves to the dual tasks of condemning ideologies perceived as dangerous while reforming international legal institutions so as to safeguard the vulnerable. We challenge the notion that the Nazi destruction of European Jews was anti-utilitarian. Relying on secondary historical texts, and informed by Theodor Adorno's and Max Horkheimer's notion of instrumental reason, we will conduct a synthesis of selected scholarly research and interpretations, providing an historical account that maintains that the Nazi genocide was, from the perspective of the German state and the global context in which it resided, rational. Our discussion of human rights will be based on this historical understanding.
In Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism[vi] the subject of human rights is addressed following a lengthy analysis of some of the great horrors of the past two centuries, so that when she turns to the topic it is with bitterness and apparent criticality. "This very phrase ‘human rights,'" she writes, "became for all concerned - victims, persecutors, and onlookers alike - the evidence of hopeless idealism or fumbling feeble-minded hypocrisy."[vii] Examining the mass denationalizations and ensuing refugee crises of interwar Europe, Arendt remarks that "No paradox of contemporary politics is filled with a more poignant irony than the discrepancy between the efforts of well-meaning idealists who stubbornly insist on regarding as ‘inalienable' those human rights, which are enjoyed only by citizens of the most prosperous and civilized countries, and the situation of the rightless themselves."[viii] Tracing the origins of the concept to the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man, Arendt points to human rights' apparently intrinsic contradiction: though designated as inalienable and universal, human rights came into being within the context of nation-states insistent on their sovereignty; "acknowledging nothing superior to (themselves),"[ix] they ultimately recognized human rights only as national rights
The full implication of this identification of the rights of man with the rights of peoples in the European nation-state system came to light only when a growing number of people and peoples suddenly appeared whose elementary rights were as little safeguarded by the ordinary functioning of nation-states in the middle of Europe as they would have been in the heart of Africa. The Rights of Man, after all, had been defined as ‘inalienable' because they were supposed to be independent of all governments; but it turned out that the moment human beings lacked their own government and had to fall back upon their minimum rights, no authority was left to protect them and no institution was willing to guarantee them.... The Rights of Man, supposedly inalienable, proved to be unenforceable - even in countries whose constitutions were based upon them - whenever people appeared who were no longer citizens of any sovereign state.[x]
This critique, it should be noted, does not constitute a rejection of human rights, but is rather a lament to their failed application. Indeed, in her 1950 preface, Arendt argues the need for a new, updated system of rights
Antisemitism (not merely the hatred of Jews), imperialism (not merely conquest), totalitarianism (not merely dictatorship) - one after the other, one more brutally than the other, have demonstrated that human dignity needs a new guarantee which can be found only in a new political principle, in a new law on earth, whose validity this time must comprehend the whole of humanity while its power must remain strictly limited, rooted in and controlled by newly defined territorial entities.[xi]
While Arendt addresses an obvious issue that the very notion of human rights suggests, namely, that "what we must call a ‘human right' today would have (previously) been thought of as a general characteristic of the human condition which no tyrant could take away,"[xii] she nevertheless argues that the advent of a "new global political situation"[xiii] has turned rights into a necessity. Analyzing the Judeocide, Arendt emphasizes that "The point is that a condition of complete rightlessness was created before the right to life was challenged."[xiv] Maintaining that the original authority of the Declaration of Human Rights, i.e. "nature," has become obsolete, Arendt proposes establishing a new system of rights where "the right to have rights, or the right of every individual to belong to humanity, should be guaranteed by humanity itself."[xv]
Arendt's advocacy of human rights can be understood as a consequence of her defense of the state. In the specific case of Jewish history she identifies a positive correlation between the welfare of Europe's Jews and that of the state, suggesting that "modern anti-Semitism grew in proportion as traditional nationalism declined, and reached its climax at the exact moment when the European system of nation-states and its precarious balance of power crashed."[xvi]
More generally, she presents a positive depiction of the state by distinguishing it from what she claims to be its opposite: imperialism. Arendt understands imperialism as a result of the "overproduction of capital and its accompanying complete reversal of economic and moral values" and the ensuing transition from "mere trade in goods and mere profit from production (to) trade in capital itself...."[xvii] While she notes that "Imperialism was born when the ruling class in capitalist production came up against national limitations to its economic expansion (and that the) bourgeoisie turned to politics out of economic necessity; for it did not want to give up the capitalist system whose inherent law is constant economic growth,"[xviii] she simultaneously maintains that "Expansion as a permanent and supreme aim of politics is the central political idea of imperialism."[xix] Significantly, Arendt describes the advent of imperial expansion as resulting from a "curious kind of economic crisis, the overproduction of capital and the emergence of ‘superfluous' money, the result of oversaving, which could no longer find productive investment within the national borders."[xx] That Arendt sees as "curious" what Marxist theorists of imperialism describe as predictable and inevitable reflects a tendency to explicate historical transformation through caprice and personal psychology:
Here, in backward regions without industries and political organization, where violence was given more latitude than in any Western country, the so-called laws of capitalism were actually allowed to create realities. The bourgeoisie's empty desire (rather than obligation) to have money beget money as men beget men had remained an ugly dream so long as money had to go the long way of investment in production; not money had begotten money, but men had made things and money. The secret of the new happy fulfillment was precisely that economic laws no longer stood in the way of the greed of the owning classes. Money could finally beget money because power, with complete disregard for all laws - economic as well as ethical - could appropriate wealth.[xxi] (Italics mine)
Interestingly in light of her rejection of what she consistently terms "so-called" economic laws, Arendt conveys an important insight regarding the formation of imperialism, namely that "...the original sin of simple robbery, which centuries ago had made possible the ‘original accumulation of capital' (Marx) and had started all further accumulation, had eventually to be repeated lest the motor of accumulation suddenly die down."[xxii] Nevertheless, Arendt insists on the "inner contradiction of the two principles"[xxiii] of nationalism and imperialism, referring approvingly to J.H. Hobson, who "was the first to recognize both the fundamental opposition of imperialism and nationalism and the tendency of nationalism to become imperialist. He called imperialism a perversion of nationalism ‘in which nations... transform the wholesale stimulative rivalry of various national types into the cut-throat struggle of competing empires.'"[xxiv] While Arendt concedes that "Expansion gave nationalism a new lease on life,"[xxv] observing that it was in an imperial context, "far from home (where) a citizen of England, Germany, or France (could) be nothing but an Englishman or German or Frenchman"[xxvi] - that is, imperialism reproduced nationalism - she nonetheless regards imperialism as a perversion of a hitherto innocuous phenomenon. Her impressive description of European colonial horrors in late nineteenth-century Africa, "the Boers' extermination of Hottentot tribes, the wild murdering by Carl Peters in German Southeast Africa, the decimation of the peaceful Congo population - from 20 to 40 million reduced to 8 million people,"[xxvii] is capped by a "worst of all"[xxviii] lamenting the "triumphant introduction of such means of pacification into ordinary, respectable foreign policies"[xxix] (italics mine). Has she then forgotten her earlier recognition that the "original sin" of capital accumulation in fact proceeds in perpetuity so long as there is capitalism?[xxx]
It is not solely the idea of the state that Arendt advances, but also the system of capitalism itself. Condemning the prohibition of what she calls "normal capitalist development"[xxxi] under the Boers, she maintains that "the neglect of all authentic industrial enterprise was the most solid guarantee... against a normal end of race society,"[xxxii] averring that a "normal market for labor and merchandise would have liquidated the privileges of race."[xxxiii] What is ultimately at issue for Arendt is that "Imperialism therefore was willing to abandon the so-called laws of capitalist production and their egalitarian tendencies, so long as profits from specific investments were safe."[xxxiv] Condemning this deviation, she argues that "Modern power conditions which make national sovereignty a mockery except for giant nation states, the rise of imperialism, and the pan-movements undermined the stability of Europe's nation-state system from the outside. None of these factors, however, had sprung directly from the tradition and the institutions of nation-states themselves."[xxxv]
The emergence of imperialism and this alleged collapse of the nation-state system were, in Arendt's view, central preconditions for the rise of totalitarianism. It is this phenomenon, distinguished by its overriding irrationality, that informs Arendt's interpretation of the Judeocide. "The structurelessness of the totalitarian state," she tells us, "its neglect of material interests, its emancipation from the profit motive, and its nonutilitarian attitudes in general have more than anything else contributed to making contemporary politics well-nigh unpredictable."[xxxvi] Later, she warns, "Common sense trained in utilitarian thinking is helpless against this ideological supersense, since totalitarian regimes establish a functioning world of no-sense."[xxxvii] Pronouncing "the end of the bourgeois era of profits and power...," Arendt explains that "The aggressiveness of totalitarianism springs not from lust for power, and if it feverishly seeks to expand, it does so neither for expansion's sake nor for profit, but only for ideological reasons...."[xxxviii] Accordingly, the Nazi concentration camps served no rational function. Portraying a popular conception of Nazi racism gone mad, Arendt asserts
The concentration camp as an institution was not established for the sake of any possible labor yield.... (So that the) incredibility of the horrors is closely bound up with their economic uselessness. The Nazis carried this uselessness to the point of anti-utility when in the midst of the war, despite the shortages of building material and rolling stock, they set up enormous, costly extermination factories and transported millions of people back and forth.[xxxix]
Arendt is not alone in this understanding of the genocide as irrational. A great number of contemporary historians similarly maintain an interpretation of the Judeocide as having been detrimental to German wartime interests. Presenting a dichotomy pitting economics and military aims against ideology, a dominant historiographical trend postulates, like Arendt, the supremacy of the latter at the expense of the former. Enzo Traverso writes that the genocide was characterized by "a constant tension between extermination and exploitation... resolved in the end in favor of extermination."[xl] Traverso goes on to record that Raul Hilberg insists on the "fundamentally anti-economic character"[xli] of the Judeocide: "‘The Polish Jews,'" Traverso quotes Hilberg, "‘were annihilated in a process in which economic factors were truly secondary.'"[xlii] Advancing Hilberg's argument, Traverso maintains that, "The economic and military irrationality of the deportation of the Hungarian Jews in the spring of 1944, not to mention that of the Jews of Corfu, needs no emphasis."[xliii] Critiquing classical Marxism's failure to grasp the role of ideology in the genocide, the Marxist Traverso focuses specifically on Ernest Mandel and his The Meaning of the Second World War.[xliv] "Mandel grasped a fatal interconnection at the heart of the Final Solution between racism and industrial modernity, between capitalism's partial rationality and overall irrationality, but he had difficulty in admitting that this genocide was determined ‘in the final analysis' by ideology, despite the material interests (and military priorities) of German imperialism."[xlv] Noting that historians Ulrich Herbert and Christopher Browning both agree that "the racist worldview was not one aspect among others, but a genuine ‘fixed point of the system,'"[xlvi] Traverso stretches the economics-ideology dichotomy to a breaking point, approaching a straw man of the Marxist analysis, as we shall see, in writing "The Jewish genocide cannot be understood in depth as a function of the class interests of big German capital - this is, in truth, the interpretive criterion in the final analysis of all Marxist theories of fascism...."[xlvii]
Moishe Postone similarly describes the Judeocide as an irrational historical event, writing that it was characterized by "its apparent lack of functionality. It seems not to have been a means to another end. The Jews were not murdered for military/security reasons, for example, nor as a consequence of demographic-economic planning."[xlviii] Echoing Arendt et al., Postone criticizes the failure of functional interpretations "to explain why, in the last years of war, as the German forces were being routed by the Red Army, equipment and personnel were diverted from possible military purposes in order to transport Jews to the gas chambers from places as far away as the island of Rhodes."[xlix] In the same collection of essays, Saul Friedländer presents a similar argument, observing that explanations referring to Nazi "‘instrumental rationality' (cannot) apply to the deportations of the Jews from western Europe immediately after total extermination in the East began, or to the deportations from Norway, Saloniki, or the island of Rhodes."[l] The primary cause of the Judeocide for these writers is instead explicable through ideology. Specifically, as Postone writes, "anti-Semitism is the only category that directly addresses the issue of extermination and does so historically."[li]
Postone's assertion brings up two immediate issues. The first is that a great deal of the scholarship on the Judeocide is already largely in agreement with his statement.[lii] Intentionalist scholars see the genocide as an outcome of Hitler's early worldview, applied consciously and consistently beginning with his political activity of the early 1920s to the Nazi ascension of power, continuing through the Nuremburg Laws and Kristallnacht and culminating in the Final Solution. Focusing on Nazi, predominantly Hitler's, writings and speeches, these historians see the role of anti-Semitic ideology, linearly and inexorably expressed, as the chief determining component of the Judeocide.[liii] While intentionalists respond to the putatively anti-utilitarian character of the Judeocide, an historical interpretation emphasizing a linear progression struggles to account for the multiple contradictions and shifts in Nazi Jewish policy preceding its implementation. Until 1941, for instance, the Nazi leadership pursued the Madagascar Plan, where European Jewry were to be exiled to that island and would thus not be, at least in the near term, doomed to physical destruction;[liv] after this point the borders were sealed locking Jews into the Reich, an immediate precondition for their by then oncoming systematic murder. The functionalist camp, by contrast, emphasizes the view of a "twisted road to Auschwitz,"[lv] attributing the numerous shifts and inconsistencies in Nazi policies to a combination of bureaucratic competition leading to a "cumulative radicalizing process,"[lvi] unforeseen developments resulting from the war in the east,[lvii] and other practical factors not exclusively or primarily driven by anti-Semitism per se. The limitation of these interpretations is, as noted above, their apparent incapacity to explain the fact that, as Friedländer puts it, "only one group was hounded all over the continent, to the very last individual, to the very last day of German presence: the Jews."[lviii]
While Christopher Browning observes that by the late 1980s the intentionalist-functionalist debate "began to waver as scholars searched for some form of synthesis incorporating elements (from both interpretations)...,"[lix] Postone notes that the entire debate perpetuates "a classical antinomy of will versus impersonal, objective mechanisms, but (additionally) neither position helps clarify any possible relation between the Holocaust and larger historical developments."[lx] Postone proceeds to summarize several analyses emphasizing just these larger historical developments, briefly noting the attempts of the fascism and totalitarianism frameworks, before stating that efforts "to interpret Nazism and the Holocaust with reference to such (historical) developments basically subsume the Holocaust under those developments, thereby obscuring its specificity."[lxi]
Postone then proceeds to proffer his own historical framework for the Judeocide mindful of this specifically anti-Semitic character
Modern anti-Semitism, then, is a particularly pernicious fetish form. Its power and danger result from its comprehensive worldview, which explains and gives form to certain modes of anticapitalist discontent in a manner that leaves capitalism intact, by attacking personifications of its social form. Anti-Semitism so understood allows one to grasp an essential moment of Nazism as a fetishized anticapitalist movement, one characterized by a hatred of the abstract, a hypostatization of the existing concrete, and single-minded, ruthless - but not necessarily hate-filled - mission: to rid the world of the source of all evil. Modern anti-Semitism, then, is a revolt against history as constituted by capitalism, mis-recognized as a Jewish conspiracy. Within such an ideological framework, that conspiracy must be destroyed if the world is to be saved. This ideology was an absolutely necessary condition for the Holocaust....[lxii]
This interpretation presents several problems. Firstly, Postone, after noting that the Judeocide must be understood through the rubric of anti-Semitic ideology, asserts that "racist and biologistic thinking" cannot account for a "program of total extermination. For that, one must focus on modern anti-Semitism's central element - the idea of the Jews as a world historical threat to life."[lxiii] Yet, Postone offers no explanation as to how racial-biological anti-Semitism did not conceive of the Jew as a "world historical threat to life" (we argue below that it did). At the same time, as seen above, his own conception of an anti-Semitism that did see Jews as a "threat to life" is based on the notion of the Jew as the personification of abstract capitalism; thus, "Jews became objects of the displaced fury generated by the far-reaching and pervasive effects of the historical dynamic of capitalism, the victims of a fetishized, perverse attempt to liberate humanity from the historical process."[lxiv] Yet, the assertion that the effects of capitalism were indeed understood by the Nazis as a "threat to life" - resulting in a "displaced fury" leading to the murder of "all Jews everywhere (from Norway to Rhodes)"[lxv] - is in no way evidenced, and is in fact barely argued. Perhaps this is because this interpretation of anti-Semitism does not conform to the realities of Nazi ideology and practice, as Nazi hatred was most evinced toward the Jews and communism.[lxvi]
Anti-Semitic ideology indeed played an essential role in the Nazi genocide, but we do not see this role of ideology as being in conflict with the utilitarian aims of the German state. Instead, using the conception of anti-Semitism outlined below, we will argue that the genocide was motored by the material aims of the German nation-state, which converged with a particular anti-Semitic ideology that rationalized the genocide and ultimately made it also necessary.
Anti-Semitism during the interwar period was a global phenomenon. France of the Dreyfus Affair and Czarist Russia of the great pogroms were emblematic of a turn-of-the century Europe awash in Jew hatred. Poland, Rumania, Ukraine, Lithuania, Hungary, as well, not mentioning the US, where Charles Coughlin's vitriolic anti-Semitism attracted millions to his weekly radio performances and Klan membership likewise numbered in the millions, also all featured rampant anti-Semitism. An oft-noted irony in the fact that it was indeed Germany that destroyed Europe's Jews, a country seen to embody the vanguard of Western civilization prior to 1933, is that Jews there had appeared to obtain an unsurpassed degree of assimilation.[lxvii] Nevertheless, Germany also, and in many ways in particular, was rife with anti-Semitism. Its defeat in the First World War, accompanied by the devastating and humiliating decrees of Versailles, provoked a distinctive strain of political anti-Semitism. Klaus Fischer, in his A History of an Obsession, enumerates some of its many manifestations
(Jews were accused of) having undermined the war effort by shirking their military duties, exploiting the national-economic resources for their own material gains, encouraging the influx of foreign Jews as cheap workers but actually as compatriots in their racial complicity to subvert German blood, and mobilizing their radical press to undermine the war effort. In the second place, Jews were blamed for giving aid and comfort to revolutionaries and to the vindictive statesmen who were enslaving the German people through reparations, territorial losses, and impudent slights and humiliations. In the third place, the Judeophobes rejected the democratic Weimar Republic as a ‘Jew Republic' because its constitution was written by a Jew and its democratic features were (allegedly) crafted in such a way as to benefit Jews. Finally, as the cultural changes released by the First World War began to register on the lives of the German people, Judeophobes almost immediately began to blame the Jews for every negative repercussion, ranging from the perceived decadence of modernism to the socioeconomic misfortunes afflicting broad sections of the population.[lxviii]
Yet it is not by examining this type of nationally particularistic political anti-Semitism that we can apprehend industrialized genocide. Instead, insofar as we can understand anti-Semitic ideology as an integral component of the Judeocide, we must turn to the more universal phenomenon of racial-biology. The foundation of Nazi ideology consisted of its, largely unoriginal, conception of a social world divided into races. The German "nation," or people, sits atop this hierarchy, along with Scandinavians and other "Aryans," as the world's Master Race. Below them follow various inferior races, the "darker" ones of southeast Europe for example, and at the bottom rests those whose only life purpose is to be illiterate slaves for the Aryans, such as Ukrainians and Poles. The Jews, by contrast, are unique in that they are not accorded a position within this hierarchy, but instead exist outside of it.[lxix] Viewing the state as a ‘"living organism,"'[lxx] the Jews were conceived, in pseudo-scientific racial biological terms, as not merely a virus attacking their "host's" body, but as a parasitic "anti-virus" attacking the host's very immune system. Not then a "race," but an "anti-race"[lxxi] bent on the "host's" very annihilation, this racialized application of "Darwinist"[lxxii] notions of "survival of the fittest," informed by the ubiquitous practice of racist eugenics and anthropology,[lxxiii] resulted in a worldview where the Nazis must literally kill or be killed. This theory represented a qualitative shift in the history of anti-Semitic ideology, as previously an often religious-oriented anti-Semitism was directed toward "reforming" or "saving" the Jew. Racial anti-Semitism, by contrast, necessitated that the Jew, as a biological entity, be destroyed.[lxxiv]
A second strain of highly virulent modern anti-Semitism appeared following the 1917 revolution in the idea of Judeobolshevism. Seeing Bolshevism and Judaism as a unified entity in which the former serves as a vehicle for the global designs of the latter, the concept identified as "Jewish" - in part due to the proportionately high number of Jewish communists, including Marx himself - what the bourgeoisie[lxxv] perceived as international communism's existential threat. A property-less, atheistic, internationalist movement was seen as threatening the very existence of the nation-state in general and Germany in particular:[lxxvi] the "nation" was threatened through the idea of an international proletariat allying with class over country; the "state" was materially threatened by communism's dismissal of territorial boundaries and its negation of private property. On a social level, communism's radical questioning of all matters, including gender relations and the role of the family, similarly appeared to German conservatives and liberals as an existential threat, likened to a "flood" in its relentless drive to violate all the status quo's boundaries.[lxxvii]
The two varieties of anti-Semitism described above, which viewed the Jew as either an "anti-race" or "Judeobolshevist," both conceived of the Jew as presenting a "threat to life," though not an abstraction of "life" removed from any and all social historical context, but life as Nazism conceived it: that is, the Jew was seen as an existential threat to the German nation-state. For these two strains of anti-Semitism, while apparently dissimilar, are in fact united by a common conception of the Jew as nationless. The "nation" of the modern nation-state was seen, in Nazi eyes, as one and the same as the "race" constituting it. The Jewish "anti-race" was therefore seen as an "anti-nation," a menacing potential negation of the German nation. Similarly, and more concretely, communist internationalism, personified in the Jew according to the Judeobolshevist conception, was also seen as an existential threat to the German state, thus German "life." This component of Nazi anti-Semitism, seeing the Jew as nationless, also accounts for the Nazis seemingly contradictory contention that the Jew simultaneously personified communism and capitalism: the uniting element is internationalism, or, more exactly, nationlessness.
Postone's argument for the primacy of anti-Semitism in the Judeocide brings us to our second issue arising from his approach: considering that, as noted above, anti-Semitism was ubiquitous in the first half of the twentieth century, how then does one account for the fact that it was Germany that devised and executed the genocide?[lxxviii] Postone does not attempt to account for the particular role of Germany, but instead introduces a more general historical framework through situating the genocide into Eric Hobsbawm's historical conception of an "Age of Catastrophe," a framework in which "The temporal patternings discerned... are general and overarching, encompassing many countries and regions. They imply large-scale historical processes that cannot be adequately explained in terms of particular state policies or local contingencies."[lxxix]
However, Postone does make a single reference to the fact that the Judeocide was perpetrated first and foremost by Germany, and it is instructive that this is in his mentioning the existence of a "possible German Sonderweg (Special Path)."[lxxx] In trying to grasp how Germany came to the particular historical juncture in which it committed the Judeocide, we must indeed be cognizant of, in addition to the fact that the genocide was executed during the most violent and destructive war in human history, the particular path of German history. Upon achieving this, we can proceed to a comparative analysis with other states, allowing us to determine how truly special the German path was, and, whatever the case, what this implies to an understanding of the Judeocide.
The Sonderweg thesis, most notably postulated by Fritz Fischer and Hans-Ulrich Wehler,[lxxxi] argues that Germany followed a unique path of historical development resulting from its failure to undergo a successful bourgeois revolution. The inability of that class to take power, specifically in 1848, led to an "asymmetrical" nation in which a highly advanced technological and industrial economy coexisted with essentially "feudal" social and political institutions. A component of this interpretation holds that Germany, achieving nationhood rather late compared to its neighbors, exhibited a tendency of defining itself by contrast to what it was not.[lxxxii] Traumatized by Napoleon's conquest of Prussia, featuring the compulsory billeting of Frenchman and other humiliations attendant to military occupation, Germans were forever impressed by the hypocrisy separating the rhetoric of 1789 from the rough and forced imposition of bourgeois republicanism on the ground. An already fragile young Germany,[lxxxiii] situated between the great powers of France and Russia, hereafter increasingly defined itself by default. It was not, and would not be, the perceived mass corruption and backwardness of Czarism, and it likewise insisted on being nothing like the "democratic" and "republican," let alone Catholic, French. Germany was to be "German," a formulation that constructed itself as the "anti-" nation: anti-Catholic, anti-bourgeois, anti-democratic, anti-communist, anti-capitalist, anti-Jewish and anti-Revolution. The quintessential manifestation and culmination of the Sonderweg, its proponents hold, was Nazism.[lxxxiv]
This theory, however, where phenomena of the 1930s and 1940s are viewed as inevitable outcomes of historical continuities reaching back at least a century, is of course doomed to downplay, or ignore, the tremendous tumult characterizing the early twentieth-century. Seeing Nazism as an expression of long-term historical trajectories necessarily diminishes the impact World War I, the Russian Revolution, Versailles, hyperinflation and the Great Depression had on its formation. Moreover, as David Blackbourn and Geoff Eley have argued, the theory of a German "special" path assumes the existence of a "normal" one, paved by Britain and France, from which Germany deviated.[lxxxv] Thus wary of assumptions of "normality," we now turn to a brief comparative analysis.
In his The Origins of the Second World War AJP Taylor observes that in matters of foreign policy Hitler's only crime was being a "German."[lxxxvi] While Taylor's comment was made in reference to the brutal imperialism of Britain and France, a comparison of Germany to Japan and Italy proves more compelling for purposes of situating Nazi violence in the historical context of World War II. It is not a question of whether the cumulative violence of the Axis powers was more violent than that of British and French imperialism, but the fact that the world crisis culminating in World War II affected different groups of imperial powers - who can be roughly broken into the old and new - in different ways. To a certain degree, Robert A. Brady's description of Germany - possessing the ‘"economic limbs of a giant only to be confined in space fit for a pigmy [;]... bottled up, a highly industrialized Germany would explode"'[lxxxvii] - is also applicable to the other revisionist powers: Italy and Japan. Indeed, in understanding fascism as an historical movement we are well served to eschew notions of so-called national susceptibility in favor of analyzing the eventual Axis powers in relation to their imperial rivals, specifically in terms of understanding the latter (i.e., Britain and France) as defenders of a status quo maintained via the exclusion of newcomers arriving "for a place in the sun too late...."[lxxxviii] Nicos Poulantzas is cognizant of this when writing
In short, although the revolution was made in the weakest link in the chain (Russia), fascism arose in the next two links, i.e. those which were, relatively speaking, the weakest in Europe at the time. In no sense do I mean that fascism was fated to happen there, any more than the Bolshevik Revolution was fated to occur in the weakest link. I simply mean that in the particular conjunctures of class struggle in these countries, which for a whole series of reasons led to such different results, their position in the imperialist chain was of crucial importance.[lxxxix] (Italics his)
The coexistence of, on the one hand, traditional colonial powers in Britain and France whose considerable international political power outpaced their declining economic and military strength, and on the other hand, newcomers whose burgeoning economic and military strength was denied concomitant political power, laid the groundwork for a furious military challenge to the global status quo by the revanchist forces.
Japan, Italy and Germany were all overtaken during the interwar period by fascist regimes that responded to the international crisis in capitalism by violently suppressing labor internally while fashioning hyper-aggressive ideological imperialist politics externally.[xc] Japan's 1931 invasion of Manchuria resulted in mass atrocities that it repeated throughout Asia over the next fourteen years, slaughtering, raping and enslaving tens of millions. Most notoriously perhaps was Japan's invasion of Nanking, where it proceeded to murder approximately 300,000 Chinese POWs and civilians, raping and torturing innumerable others.[xci]
In his description of Italy's 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, Mark Mazower writes
The fighting itself was conducted with unprecedented brutality by the Italians, who were desperate for a quick victory: gas and chemical warfare, as well as saturation bombing, killed enormous numbers, as did the detention and concentration camps that the Italians brought with them from the pacification campaigns of a few years earlier against the nomadic Senussi. Around 3,000 Italians died compared with tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians. Neither later nor at the time did this kind of bloodshed occasion much criticism; inside Italy, the victory marked the high point of Mussolini's reign, a "golden age" of "Fascist empire."[xcii]
It is noteworthy that Italian plans for empire were, like the designs of Japan and Germany, informed and justified by an unyielding racist worldview that considered domination of foreign peoples a birthright and obligation.[xciii] It is also significant that Japanese, Italian and German plans for empire did not originate with their respective fascist governments, but instead reflected long-held aims for territorial expansion finally being officially articulated and advanced.
As such, it is essential to emphasize the enormity and all-encompassing nature of the Second World War. Arno Mayer describes the period of 1914-1945 as a "Second Thirty Years War," likening it as well to the Crusades.[xciv] Emphasizing an existential dialectical struggle between revolution and counterrevolution springing from the 1917 Revolution, Mayer writes
The general crisis of the seventeenth century, not unlike that of the twentieth, touched all major aspects of civil and political society, of cultural and intellectual life. Such moments of crisis are uncommon, short-lived, and convulsive.... new developments were fiercely contested by champions of vested interests and orthodox ideas who enlisted obscurantist forces in their efforts to stem or reverse the course of history.[xcv]
Germany did not initiate World War II to merely recover territorial losses lost in World War I but to conquer all of Europe and eventually the globe. Hitler was keenly aware that the war "was a struggle for the social and political future of the continent itself,"[xcvi] proclaiming, ‘"the struggle now beginning will decide the fate of the German nation for the next thousand years.'"[xcvii] It was through victory in Nazi "total war" that this "Thousand Year Reich" would be established. Hitler's concept of a New Order was no flight of fancy, but rather involved detailed economic planning conducted by technocrats and planners within the Reich bureaucracy in which Germany would sit atop an economically integrated Europe open to German investment and commodities - a "continental bloc (from which) both the United States and Great Britain were to be excluded."[xcviii] Inspired by the imperial models established by its enemies, Germany envisioned the Ukraine as "‘that new Indian Empire.'"[xcix] Similarly, Mazower notes, Nazi theorist Carl Schmitt looked to the United States' Monroe Doctrine as a precedent establishing the right of continental domination secured from interference by foreign competition.[c] Indeed, Hitler's New Order was hardly original as a general concept, but instead represented a pastiche of international imperialism's various models and concepts - from its use of concentration camps originally invented in South Africa, with their barbed wire conceived on the United State's western frontier, to the conception of the Ukraine as a ‘"California of Europe'"[ci] - applied to German conquest.
This ambition of "‘organizing' Europe into a vast continental economy"[cii] went hand and hand with a program of mass expulsion and colonization. Christopher Browning describes how early in the war, "Hitler's demographic engineers were already preparing for a massive population shuffle in which the expulsion of the Jews was but one aspect... (and) even more grandiose schemes of Generalplan Ost were on the drawing boards, entailing the uprooting and removal of over thirty million people, solely on racial grounds."[ciii] Or as Mazower puts it, "Expulsion and colonization, extermination and social provision, were the two sides of the same imperial coin.... Genocide and resettlement were inextricably linked, for Hitler's war aimed at the complete racial reconstitution of Europe."[civ]
It has been remarked that Arendt's work is instructive, and distinctive, for situating the Judeocide in an imperial context.[cv] Pursuing her comparison of "totalitarianisms," Arendt describes the historical origins and ideological character of Europe's pan-national movements, writing, "Nazism and Bolshevism owe more to Pan-Germanism and Pan-Slavism (respectively) than to any other ideology or political movement."[cvi] Indeed, Germany's African colonies were pursued and administered in the spirit of this ideology, so that they "became the most fertile soil for the flowering of what later was to become the Nazi elite."[cvii] Because and in spite of its relatively limited overseas colonies, German pan-nationalism looked to establishing "colonies on the continent."[cviii]
Arendt conceives of the pan-nationalist movements as resulting from a synthesis of the "frustrated ambitions of countries which did not get their share in the sudden expansion of the eighties"[cix] and tribal nationalism: i.e. an outcome of "those peoples who had not participated in national emancipation and had not achieved the sovereignty of a nation-state."[cx] Characteristic of these movements was their particularly virulent brand of anti-Semitism. This resulted, Arendt suggests, from an intractable hostility to their respective governments leading to a discovery of "the hidden connections between the Jewish communities and the European nation-states."[cxi] In Austria, where Pan-Germans proffered their allegiance to Bismarck versus the Habsburg Emperor, anti-Semitism became especially aggressive "because the Jews then appeared as agents not only of an oppressive state machine but of a foreign oppressor."[cxii] This largely materialist account of the origins of pan-nationalism's anti-Semitism notwithstanding, Arendt's interpretation ultimately transforms into an exclusive focus on abstract ideology. "The clue to the sudden emergence of anti-Semitism as the center of a whole outlook on life and the world... lies in the nature of tribalism rather than in political facts and circumstances."[cxiii] Arendt's position that pan-German anti-Semitism "followed only the peculiar logic of an ideology"[cxiv] is axiomatic for her ultimate belief that "Social factors, unaccounted for in political or economic history... changed the course that mere political anti-Semitism would have taken if left to itself, and which might have resulted in anti-Jewish legislation and even mass expulsion but hardly in wholesale extermination."[cxv]
This interpretation rests then on conceptualizing the Judeocide through sociological or psychological factors. Prefiguring Postone's onus on Jewish "rootlessness,"[cxvi] Arendt describes the pan-movements as "rootless" phenomena whose "claim to chosenness could clash seriously only with the Jewish claim."[cxvii] Attributing the ideological basis of the Judeocide at least partially to a form of "envy,"[cxviii] Arendt explains, "The hatred of the racists against the Jews sprang from a superstitious apprehension that it actually might be the Jews, and not themselves, whom God had chosen, to whom success was granted by divine providence."[cxix]
It then presents another inconsistency in Arendt's analysis that she describes the pre-history of the Judeocide by noting
The growing concern with foreign policy of the imperialist-minded bourgeoisie and its growing influence on the state machinery was accompanied by the steadfast refusal of the largest segment of Jewish wealth to engage itself in industrial enterprises and to leave the tradition of capital trading. All this taken together almost ended the economic usefulness to the state of the Jews as a group...(and earlier, she submits) The Jews, here as elsewhere, were unable or unwilling to develop along industrial capitalist lines, so that the net result of their activities was a scattered, inefficient organization of consumption without an adequate system of production. The Jewish positions were an obstacle for a normal capitalistic development because they looked as though they were the only ones from which economic advancement might be expected without being capable of fulfilling this expectation.... For centuries they had been middlemen between the nobility and peasantry; now they formed a middle class without fulfilling its productive functions and were indeed one of the elements that stood in the way of industrialization and capitalization.[cxx]
We submit that Arendt's striking inconsistency in discussing the ideological origins of the Judeocide[cxxi] is a consequence of her equally inconsistent treatment of nationalism and imperialism, viewing the latter as both an outcome of and contradiction to the former. In doing so, Arendt distinguishes between "Harmless national sentiments expressed... in what we know today to be racial terms"[cxxii] and the murderous policies associated with imperial racism.[cxxiii] Arendt's grasp of history has her agreeing with Luxemburg's observation that "‘imperialism is the political expression of the accumulation of capital in its competition for the possession of the remainders of the noncapitalistic world,"'[cxxiv] while her insistence on defending the state has her distinguishing imperialism from all that came before it, a case of "expansion for expansion's sake"[cxxv] culminating in "totalitarianism." Imperialism, Arendt insists, represents "an entirely new concept,"[cxxvi] fundamentally incompatible with the nation-state since "the genuine consent at (the state's) base cannot be stretched indefinitely, and is only rarely, and with difficulty, won from conquered peoples."[cxxvii]
The idea of imperialism as constituting a break from nationalism parallels Arendt's and Postone's acceptance of the idea of a German Sonderweg. Both ideas entail the assumption of a deviation, or corruption, of historical processes not already inherently flawed. The former corruption is attributable to the unpatriotic "greed" of businessmen while the Sonderweg's premise holds that Germany approached the turning point in its history and "failed to turn."[cxxviii] Arendt's half-correct description of German expansion as an outgrowth of intractable domestic class conflict fails to note that the German "escape forward"[cxxix] less addressed class antagonism than partly transplanted it internationally vis-à-vis rival states.[cxxx] Similarly, Postone's anti-Semitism is conversely presented as either bearing no particular relationship to the German state (but instead as part of a general historical pseudo-anti-capitalist movement articulated not by "Germany" but a purely [erroneous] ideological conception of "National Socialism") or as being associated with a German Sonderweg. Though seemingly contradictory, both conceptions - German non-specific and specific - are characterized by their totalizing nature. Rather than seeing the Judeocide as occurring within an historical context of ferocious struggle between states, driven by capitalism's insatiable search for new areas of exploitation, Postone's "displaced" quasi-struggle removes Germany from not only its relationships with its enemies but from the entire global system. Proffering an exclusively anti-Semitic sine qua non separable from Germany's other war aims and conduct deems factors such as the slaughter of the Gypsies,[cxxxi] the euthanasia programs,[cxxxii] and the mass enlistment of non-Nazis in carrying out the genocide irrelevant to comprehending the Judeocide. Moishe Postone takes Arendt's notions of totality to their end conclusion: an historical explanation that neither historicizes nor explains.
As stated above, anti-Semitism represented an essential component of the Judeocide, and one cannot hope to comprehend the latter without accounting for the former. However, the geopolitical, or utilitarian, aims of Germany were not mutually exclusive to anti-Semitic ideology nor ultimately to the Judeocide itself. Rather, an historical convergence between, on one hand, the material needs and aims of the German state, and, on the other hand, anti-Semitic ideologies - specifically in the dual forms that saw the Jew as a biological "anti-race" and a "Judeobolshevist" outlined above - mandated the physical destruction of an entire population. The Judeocide could only have come into being with both of these factors; neither would have been sufficient alone. However, because we will argue that German material aims constituted the driving force of the genocide, we can suggest that, were there not already genocidal anti-Semitic ideologies, Germany would have invented them. Alternately, the existence of genocidal anti-Semitic ideologies divorced from the reality of a nation-state seeking a mass "de-population" would not have required the creation of a state to come and animate those ideologies. In historical reality, however, German material aims and genocidal anti-Semitism interacted through a dialectical relationship and the origins, evolution and ultimate manifestation of one cannot be understood apart from the other. It is with recourse to the idea of this dialectic that we now turn to Götz Aly's and Susanne Heim's materialist explanation of the Judeocide.
To begin with, we must reject out of hand Arendt's conception of Nazism as an expression of totalitarianism wholly uninterested in profit and given to "economic uselessness" and "anti-utility."[cxxxiii] Nazism emerged within a context of capitalism in crisis. Weimar capitalists withdrew their support from the constitutional democracy as a result of the insurmountable "contradiction between the demands of democracy and the needs of capitalism."[cxxxiv] In a domestic version of the international struggle then raging,[cxxxv] Weimar's mass labor movement's political power outpaced its (para-) military and economic power. Having forced repeated concessions from big business (including an extensive tax-based welfare state), which served to "confiscate business's profits,"[cxxxvi] Weimar capitalism's insurmountable contradictions discouraged investment, leading capital to ultimately overthrow the republic and place the Nazis into power. The latter resolved these contradictions through smashing unions, outlawing the communist and socialist parties, freezing wages and subsidizing big business.[cxxxvii]
Furthermore, Nazi Germany embodied an extremely successful capitalism. Ernest Mandel writes, "The best indicator of the capitalist nature of the Third Reich was the steep increase in profits which, for corporations alone, rose from 3 billion RM in 1933 to 14 billion RM in 1942-43 (gross profits)."[cxxxviii] Nor is Arendt's contention of the Nazi concentration camps' economic irrationality accurate.[cxxxix] Mazower notes that camp inmates "provided the basis for the main economic activity of the SS, which by 1944 extended from mining to heavy industry; from land reclamation to scientific ‘research'... (culminating in) a rapid expansion of slave labour in munitions, in aircraft construction and particularly in building the underground missile works at ‘Dora' and Peenemünde."[cxl] Presenting a challenge to the contention that anti-Semitic ideology always overrode immediate war aims, Mazower notes that, at the height of the armaments crisis in 1944, anti-Semitism was "for the first time...overridden and Hungarian Jews were moved from Auschwitz as additional labourers."[cxli]
Aly and Heim argue that the plans for the Final Solution, while put into effect by the Nazi leadership, "evolved from studies and proposals (conducted from September 1939 to the summer of 1941) of subordinate (largely non-Nazi) planning officials, gradually moving from the lower to the higher echelons."[cxlii] The Nazis were committed to incorporating agrarian Poland, so as to profitably exploit rather than be drained by it, into the greater economy of expanding German hegemony. Unable to extract labor productivity from Poland's ossified economy, characterized by poor labor organization and insufficient capital, the Nazis nonetheless largely neglected the General Government for the first six months of the war. In March 1940 these technocrats created a plan to rationalize the Polish economy, a ‘"German development program,' (where) every planning step amounted to an attempt to decrease the density of the population or, at least, prevent further population growth." It was recommended that this decrease in the population be achieved by eliminating Poland's large Jewish community. The bulk of Poland's Jews lived in severe poverty, prohibiting the application of hitherto standard Nazi "Judenpolitik" involving expropriation and costly emigration. Simultaneously, the planners identified the "locally limited Jewish trade" as an obstacle to the eastern markets and thus to "imperialist penetration." "The so-called Eastern Jews (Ostjuden) thus represented a social ‘mass problem' whose ‘solution' would simultaneously make a large part of visible Polish poverty disappear."
As the war went on and Germany conquered the remainder of Poland in addition to other territories, capital and material resources became increasingly scarce and could thus not be managed: "the only remaining economic factor that planners of this ilk could actually modify was the number and composition of the population....
By taking the optimal organization of labor, rather than the sustenance of human beings, as the yardstick for economic organization, the existing forces of production, and thus social conditions based on might, are accepted as fixed variables, while the number of human beings can be varied through administrative measures of the state.
Mass murder as a means to "rationalized population reduction" was not limited to the east or Jews, but also occurred in southeast Europe. Aly and Heim note that I.G. Farben saw the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Serbs by the Ustasha as "a constructive contribution to the solution of the overpopulation problem in the Balkans."
A consequence of Germany's rationalization of the Polish economy was to set the labor force ‘"free,'" creating asymmetrical conditions where the labor force was now stratified into those who worked more intensely than before and increased numbers of those now fully unemployed. This latter "palpable overpopulation" and the question of who should and who should not be part of it were issues "managed by the state." The ghettoized Jews thus constituted the "unproductive overpopulation." Their destruction
meant a massive saving... (including) foodstuffs that would, at least in theory, supply the Polish armaments workers with more food. If that succeeded, according to the realistic assumption of the generals commanding the German war economy, then work productivity would increase more than if two half-starved workers shared a work place between them. Overpopulation theories and ruthless economic rationalization provided an immanently rational reason for the destruction of the Jews.
We find the above argument striking for two reasons. The first is its persuasiveness as a theory accounting for the destruction of Poland's Jews.[cxliii] The second is for its apparent inability to account for the destruction of the rest of Europe's Jews. Aly and Heim do not shirk the question of why it was the Jews per se who were designated superfluous in Poland. Indeed, they acknowledge the enormous role played by, as much as socio-economic factors, anti-Semitic ideology: the de-population plans "intersected with racial ideology," they write. "And from the amalgam of both elements, resulted the plans for and implementation of the destruction of millions of human beings." Yet, this theory of economic rationalization and overpopulation, while offering an explanation for the destruction of Polish Jews, and perhaps even all Jews living in the "backwards" east, does not account for the deportation and destruction of Western, socio-economically-"advanced," Jews, nor can it account for the frenzied searches for and deportations of Jews living in small islands in and along the Mediterranean.[cxliv]
Although Aly's and Heim's interpretation appears insufficient for explaining why the Nazis attempted to murder every single Jew throughout Europe, this does not, however, mean that we should abandon the theory altogether. This theory can take us part if not most of the way to understanding why Germany carried out the systematic, industrialized and costly murder of six million Jews. Apparent manifestations of anti-utilitarian anti-Semitic ideology do not negate this theory, but instead indicate that the Judeocide resulted from an interaction between reinforcing material and ideological aims. It is perhaps then significant that while plans for the Final Solution originated, as Aly and Heim suggest, from non-Nazi technocrats, it was embraced and implemented by the highly ideological Nazi leadership. While Aly's and Heim's argument indicates that the two groups came from distinct ideological positions, they were united in their dedication to the promotion of the perceived interests of the German state.
The phenomenon of nation-states committing genocide, especially through the establishment or reconstitution of their very formation - whether as a Thousand-Year Reich or as a democratic republic - is nothing novel. The United States was founded on the physical extermination of Native Americans and Native American culture, just as Turkey only came into being as a "nation," composed of a religiously, ethnically and linguistically cohesive social body, by committing genocide against the Armenians and mass slaughter and expulsion of the Kurds.
In this regard, the Judeocide can be seen as representative. Nazi plans for "Aryan" domination atop a racially stratified European "New Order," which led to the expulsion of not just Jews but Gypsies, Poles, French, social and political "criminals" and gays, among others, can indeed be seen as "irrational" in a general sense. And it is in this context of an arbitrary and insane "scientific" understanding of racial "survival of the fittest" that Jews were seen as, more than merely unfit to live, requiring death. However, the insanity of the latter position, we must stress, though resulting in a quantitatively and perhaps qualitatively distinctive crime, is no more arbitrary or insane than the very idea that there exists fixed groups of people "racially" or otherwise defined constituting something called "nations" whose destiny lies in their assumption of state power. It is useless to speak of the "irrationality" of the Nazi genocide without addressing the irrationality of this underlying concept.
It is our contention that the Judeocide can be reasonably understood by reference to an historical convergence produced by, on one hand, the massive material exigencies embedded in the construction of a Thousand-Year Reich, including both the expropriation of land and wealth associated with primitive accumulation as well as de-population policies resulting from "economic rationalization," and on the other hand, the perception by Nazi leaders of real or imagined existential threats to the German "nation," constituted in both racial-biological anti-Semitism and notions of "Judeobolshevism." If the Final Solution originated amongst lower-level technocrats as part of a de-population strategy of economic rationalization, it turned into something else in the hands of the Nazi leadership who ordered the Judeocide. As far as the latter were concerned, diverting military equipment from the battlefront so as to accelerate the destruction of Europe's Jews was not irrational in the least. On the level of anti-Semitic ideology, Jews were very much the enemy - not to "life," but to the life of the German nation-state. On the level of laying the material basis for a Thousand-Year Reich - whose hyper-imperial ideology cannot in the last analysis be divorced from its hyper-imperial requirements for primitive accumulation including "economic rationalization" - diverting military equipment from the war to the genocide, similarly, did not express irrationality. Within the logic of capitalism, in fact, nothing could be more rational than incurring a temporary loss for the sake of a future gain.
In Ernest Mandel's concluding chapter to The Meaning of the Second World War he writes
[T]he Second World War indeed solved nothing, i.e. removed none of the basic causes of the intensifying crisis of survival of human civilization and humankind itself. Hitler has disappeared, but the tide of destructiveness and barbarism keeps rising, albeit in more variegated forms and a less concentrated way (if World War III can be avoided). For the underlying cause of that destructiveness remains. It is the expansionist dynamic of competition, capital accumulation and imperialism increasingly turned against itself, i.e. boomeranging from the ‘periphery' into the ‘centre', with all the destructive potential this expansion and self-assertion harbours in the face of growing resistance and defiance from millions, if not hundreds of millions, of human beings.[cxlv]
It is with this understanding that World War II "indeed solved nothing" that we return to Arendt and the discourse of human rights. While her proposal for a new human rights, "the right to have rights," is to be guaranteed by an abstract notion of "humanity," her defense of states and capitalism, i.e. the status quo, means that "humanity" will just the same continue to operate within the same old reality that regularly produces the crises that the doctrine of rights is only equipped, at its theoretical optimum, to recognize or respond to. Alain Badiou notes that the concept of rights represents a fundamentally reactive ideology guaranteed to reproduce the material causes of the "violations" ostensibly in question. The human rights discourse, Badiou writes, takes the existence of evil, versus the potential for proactive good, for its point of departure.[cxlvi] This resulting naturalization of "evil," viewing it as a universal given existing apart from its historical context, achieves nothing more than the naturalization of the status quo. The great majority who are upset by the effects of the latter are handed human rights, a doctrine allowing you to pursue "answers" so long as they obscure the existence of the state.
As Giorgio Agamben notes, rights derive their historical significance from the fact that they are given. The state establishes its authority through this offering, which has no meaning apart from the resulting power that the now-possible confiscation returns upon the state. Agamben writes
Yet it is time to stop regarding declarations of rights as proclamations of eternal, metajuridical values binding the legislator (in fact, without much success) to respect eternal ethical principles, and to begin to consider them according to their real historical function in the modern nation state. The same bare life that in the ancien regime was politically neutral and belonged to God as creaturely life... now fully enters into the structure of the state and even becomes the earthly foundation of the state's legitimacy and sovereignty.[cxlvii]
The result is an historical regression. For it is only through the existence and allocation of rights that there can be a state of being called "rightless." Agamben suggests that "we must seriously consider Arendt's claim that the fates of human rights and the nation-state are bound together such that the decline and crisis of the one necessarily implies the end of the other."[cxlviii] He, however, versus she, recognizes that any conception of rights emanating within a system of capitalist nation-states will ultimately be no less arbitrary than that of state power itself.
That abstract protections against being murdered by foreigners who have invaded one's country without acquiring the proper legal sanctioning from the UN are considered human rights, versus rights protecting one from death through starvation or homelessness, less reflect a "universal" hierarchy of values than the particular political context of 1945, namely, the Cold War. For while it was in purported response to the horrors of World War II that the United Nations re-issued the concept, the grave war crimes of Churchill and Roosevelt, the UN's biggest promoters, required that they indeed be future-oriented lest they end up in prison themselves.
Looking at the world since 1945 would lead one to conclude that there has never been an idea that has so utterly failed. Genocide, war, famine, poverty, hunger and disease have only increased since the advent of the UN and its declaration of rights. Nonetheless, the proponents of human rights and their appendage of so-called humanitarian intervention ask: Shouldn't we at least try to do something? And here is an instance, if nowhere else, where Arendt's notion of totalitarianism might be of some value. For those who advocate for human rights do not account for the fact that both rights and the horrors they arguably aim to diminish come from the same totality: the bourgeois state. The notion of "at least trying" then changes from a testament of remarkable tenacity in the face of repeated historic failures to an active engagement in the reproduction of the problem. Badiou asks
Who can fail to see that in our humanitarian expeditions, interventions, embarkations of charitable legionnaires, the Subject presumed to be universal is split? On the side of the victims, the haggard animal exposed on television screens. On the side of the benefactors, conscience and the imperative to intervene. And why does this splitting always assign the same roles to the same sides? Who cannot see that this ethics which rests on the misery of the world hides, behind its victim-Man, the good-Man, the white-Man?[cxlix]
In her most astute description of the Nazi genocide, Arendt writes
The insane mass manufacture of corpses is preceded by the historically and politically intelligible preparation of living corpses. The impetus and what is more important, the silent consent to such unprecedented conditions are the products of those events which in a period of political disintegration suddenly and unexpectedly made hundreds of thousands of human beings homeless, stateless, outlawed and unwanted, while millions of human beings were made economically superfluous and socially burdensome by unemployment.[cl]
Continuing, however, Arendt asserts that, "This in turn could only happen because the Rights of Man, which had never been philosophically established but merely formulated, which had never been politically secured but merely proclaimed, have, in their traditional form, lost all validity."[cli] Here Arendt is quite wrong. The Judeocide did not occur because human rights lost their validity. The fact of the Nazi genocide, and all the genocides and other horrors that have continued in its path, reveals that human rights never had validity. At best, the concept is like the liar who is honest as long as he does not speak. Human rights "work" as long as they do not have to. At worst, or, in actuality, human rights can be seen as embodying public relations for the absent conscience of imperialism expressed through the secularized language of liberal domination.
[i] Corey Robin, "Dragon Slayers," London Review of Books Vol. 29 No. 1 (January 4, 2007). Robin enumerates the great number of conferences, meetings and other academic gatherings commemorating Arendt's recent one-hundredth birthday, in addition to the plethora of new collections and re-issues of her work, including new works on her work, such as Elisabeth Young-Bruehl's Why Arendt Matters.
[ii] Rejecting the practice of viewing Nazism as a form of fascism, totalitarianism's point of departure was to unite Nazism and Stalinism under a single rubric. Critics note that totalitarianism's emphasis on psychological "systems and techniques of rule," as opposed to a focus on causality and the various political-economic forces that it suggests, functioned to obfuscate Nazism's and Stalinism's substantial differences in favor of an interpretation whose relative acceptance in the West was recognized as inseparable from its political utility; that is, the idea of totalitarianism incriminated the USSR as Nazi-like while distancing Western capitalism from Nazi fascism and notions of capitalism in crisis. See Ian Kershaw, The Nazi Dictatorship (New York: Edward Arnold, 1993), 30, 17-39.
[iv] An internet search for "Hannah Arendt" and "human rights" turns up approximately a quarter of a million hits, representing a sixth of the total hits that searching her name by itself produces. It is likewise difficult to come across an academic text regarding human rights that does not refer to Arendt. For a representative defense of Arendt and human rights see Jeffrey C. Isaac, "Hannah Arendt on Human Rights and the Limits of Exposure, or Why Noam Chomsky is Wrong About the Meaning of Kosovo," in Social Research Summer, 2002. For critiques of Arendt and human rights see Alain Badiou's Metapolitics (London: Verso, 2005) and Ethics (London: Verso, 2002) as well as Giorgio Agamben's State of Exception (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2005) and Homo Sacer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998). For a particularly eloquent critique of the discourse of human rights, though one that does not discuss Arendt, see "The Business About Human Rights," originally in German by Gegenstandpunkt, re-written in English it can be found online at http://www.ruthlesscriticism.com/human_rights.htm
[v] There has been a great deal of discussion regarding the naming of what is commonly known as the Holocaust. That term has been criticized first and foremost for its etymological and religious roots, connoting a "whole" "offering." This notion of sacrifice, putting the Nazis in the position of those making an offering, is obviously problematic. The Hebrew term Shoah, meaning destruction, is preferable, but I, along with others such as Arno Mayer, prefer the term Judeocide for its linguistic specificity and avoidance of metaphor. Enzo Traverso regrets the adoption of Holocaust over merely Auschwitz, since the former, a metaphor, lends itself to mystifying the event - which some in the realm of Jewish Studies, such as Elie Wiesel, appear to embrace. Auschwitz of course, one of six death camps, not mentioning the mass executions which Babi Yar was only one of a great many, death marches, etc., does not convey the totality of the event. Of more direct concern is of course the fact that the Jews were hardly the only victims of the Nazis. The term Judeocide excludes the murder of half a million Gypsies, Poles, Russians, and innumerable political prisoners, gays, and others. That said, the Jews were quantitatively and qualitatively targeted with a singular determination, and any naming of the event should acknowledge this specificity. In light of the above, I will refer to it as either the "Judeocide" or the Nazi genocide.
[vi] Hannah Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973).
[vii] Ibid., 269.
[viii] Ibid., 279.
[ix] Ibid., 230.
[x] Ibid., 291-293.
[xi] Ibid., ix.
[xii] Ibid., 297.
[xiii] Ibid., 297.
[xiv] Ibid., 296.
[xv] Ibid., 298.
[xvi] Ibid., 3.
[xvii] Ibid., 200-1.
[xviii] Ibid., 126.
[xix] Ibid., 125.
[xx] Ibid., 135.
[xxi] Ibid., 137-8.
[xxii] Ibid., 148.
[xxiii] Ibid., 153.
[xxiv] Ibid., 153.
[xxv] Ibid., 154.
[xxvi] Ibid., 154.
[xxvii] Ibid., 185.
[xxviii] Ibid., 185.
[xxix] Ibid., 185.
[xxx] After crediting Arendt for situating the Judeocide in the history of imperialism, Mahmood Mamdani observes that her, "blind spot was the New World. Both racism and genocide had occurred in the American colonies earlier than in South Africa. The near decimation of Native Americans through a combination of slaughter, disease, and dislocation was, after all, the first recorded genocide in modern history," in Good Muslim Bad Muslim (New York: Doubleday, 2004), 6.
[xxxi] Arendt., 203.
[xxxii] Ibid., 203.
[xxxiii] Ibid., 203. For a cogent refutation of the idea that there has ever existed something called a "normal" market for capitalism, divorced from the social-historical forces of class domination, monopolies, military intervention, as well as institutionalized racism, see Douglas Dowd's Capitalism and its Economics (London: Pluto Press, 2000). Arendt here is subscribing to an ahistorical mystification that is in fact a frequent neoclassical political-economic trope.
[xxxiv] Ibid., 204.
[xxxv] Ibid., 269-70.
[xxxvi] Ibid., 418-19.
[xxxvii] Ibid., 458.
[xxxviii] Ibid., 458.
[xxxix] Ibid., 444-5.
[xl] Enzo Traverso Understanding the Nazi Genocide (London: Pluto Press, 1999), 58.
[xli] Ibid., 58.
[xlii] Ibid., 58
[xliii] Ibid., 58.
[xliv] Ernest Mandel, The Meaning of the Second World War (London: Verso, 1986). Its shortcomings concerning the Judeocide notwithstanding, this is one of the more incisive and engaging short texts explicating World War II.
[xlv] Traverso, 59.
[xlvi] Ibid., 59.
[xlvii] Ibid., 60.
[xlviii] Moishe Postone, "The Holocaust and the Trajectory of the Twentieth Century," in Catastrophe and Meaning, ed. Moishe Postone and Santner, Eric (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 84.
[xlix] Ibid., 84.
[l] Saul Friedländer, "Ideology and Extermination: The Immediate Origins of the ‘Final Solution,'" in Catastrophe and Meaning, ed. Moishe Postone and Santner, Eric (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 20.
[li] Postone, 87.
[lii] Ibid., 85. In the same volume of essays, Shulamit Volkov notes, "Various protestations notwithstanding, almost all historians finally make use of anti-Semitism as the single most important element in analyzing the road to Auschwitz - twisted or direct," in "Anti-Semitism as Explanation: For and Against," Catastrophe and Meaning, ed. Moishe Postone and Santner, Eric (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 34. Postone however claims to seek through the introduction of a general historical framework to go beyond the intentionalist tendency of "reducing issues of ideology to those of intention and motivation," 85.
[liii] See Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners (New York: Vintage Books, 1996) for a particularly extreme version of the intentionalist interpretation. For criticisms of Goldhagen see Norman Finkelstein's and Ruth Bettina Birn's trenchant and systematic A Nation on Trial (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1998). See also Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men (New York: HarperCollins, 1992). For the German reception of Goldhagen's work see Unwilling Germans? Ed. Robert Shandley (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).
[liv] See Christopher Browning, "Nazi Resettlement Policy and the Search for a Solution to the Jewish Question, 1939-1941," in The Path to Genocide (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), particularly 18-20.
[lv] Karl Schleunes quoted in Christopher Browning's "Beyond ‘Intentionalism' and ‘Functionalism': The Decision for the Final Solution Reconsidered," in ibid., 86-124. For more on the intentionalism-functionalism debate, and for an excellent summary of the subject's major historiographical issues, see Ian Kerhaw's The Nazi Dictatorship (New York: Routledge, Chapman and Hall, Inc., 1993).
[lvi] Hans Mommsen, "The Conditions for Carrying Out the Holocaust: Comments on Daniel Goldhagen's Book," in Hyping the Holocaust, ed. Franklin H. Littell (Merion Station, PA: Merion Westfield Press International, 1997), 36.
[lvii] See, as one example, Arno Mayer's Why Did the Heavens not Darken? (New York: Pantheon Books, 1988). In an unorthodox and heavily criticized interpretation, Mayer argues that the decision for the ‘Final Solution' was brought about not at the height of the German military successes in the USSR (i.e. in the summer of 1941), but was instead made once the USSR had taken the initiative, i.e, after it had become apparent that the Nazis would lose the war. The Judeocide, resulting in part from a Crusade-like religious opposition to "Judeobolshevism," can then be seen, according to Mayer, as a result of the Nazi system's "death throes." For a critique of Mayer, see Christopher Browning, "The Holocaust as By-product?," in The Path to Genocide (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 77-85.
[lviii] Friedlander, 20.
[lix] Browning, 88.
[lx] Postone, 85.
[lxi] Ibid., 86.
[lxii] Ibid., 95. Or as August Bebel famously put it: "anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools."
[lxiii] Ibid., 87.
[lxiv] Ibid., 106. Postone, and Werner Bonefeld building on his study, notes that anti-Semitism consistently described Jews as abstract, fluid, universal, mobile, intangible, rootless, landless, represented by money and society, all of which were attempting to destroy the German Volk, community, rooted to the land through farming, industry, blood and soil. See Werner Bonefeld's "Notes on Anti-Semitism" in Common Sense No. 21.
[lxv] Ibid., 86. Italics his.
[lxvi] The limited role played by anti-capitalist rhetoric in the Nazi movement (the cynical inclusion of "Socialism" in "National Socialism," for instance) was a conscious political ploy to attract authentic socialists and communists to the party. Once in power, the Nazis' first acts included the abolition of the socialist and communist parties as well as independent labor unions, in addition to "resolving" a raging collective bargaining conflict between capital and labor - to the sole benefit of capital. The Nazis, in deed if not always word, solved Weimar's rupturing crisis in capitalism to the benefit of capital, preserving that system and rolling back the threat of a communist revolt - which is indeed why the Nazis garnered mass economic support from big capital and industrialists in Germany and beyond. The slender and remaining element of the Nazi movement that appeared to take "anti-capitalism" at all seriously, Ernst Rohm's SA, with its threats of a "second revolution (sic)," was eradicated during the 1934 purge, "The Night of the Long Knives."
Ironically, Postone's description of the Judeocide's mechanics of "displaced fury" originating in opposition to capitalism resembles earlier accounts of the general phenomenon of counterrevolution and fascism, see Arno Mayer's Dynamics of Counterrevolution in Europe, 1870-1956 (New York: Harper, 1971), which Postone rejects in relation to the Judeocide for their lack of specificity to anti-Semitism. His analysis can of course be accused of ignoring the specificity of nearly everything except anti-Semitism. This culminates in a quasi-psychological, ahistorical (for even National Socialism is detached from its relationship to the German state, while any comparison to other imperial genocides is automatically precluded) and rather conservative explanation: Jews were annihilated as part of a "mission" against "evil" that came about from opposition to capitalism.
[lxvii] Douglas Dowd notes that by the late 1920s, "Germany was the scientific and intellectual Mecca, to which scientists, artists, writers, film-makers, musicians from across the world flocked for inspiration, education, or joy. There has been no such place like it since" (italics his), in Capitalism and its Economics, 60. For the history of the Jews in Germany see Amos Elon's The Pity of It All (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2002).
[lxviii] Klaus P. Fischer, The History of an Obsession (New York: Continuum, 1998), 130.
[lxix] This description of Nazi racial ideology is based in part on lectures by Mary Lowenthal Felstiner at San Francisco State University in her course "Holocaust and Genocide," spring, 1999. See her To Paint Her Life (Berkeley: University of California, 1997), Michael Burleigh's and Wolfgang Wipperman's The Racial State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), and George L. Mosse's Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism. For the symbiotic relationship between Nazi racism and their colonial practices in the east, see Mark Mazower's Dark Continent (New York: Vintage, 2000), 138-181.
[lxx] Hitler quoted in Mazower, 69.
[lxxi] Felstiner. Postone writes, "Within this racialized imaginary, the Jews are not so much an inferior race as an antirace, responsible for historical processes that are profoundly dangerous and destructive to the social ‘health' of other peoples - a threat to life itself," 89 (italics his).
[lxxii] For it was not Darwin who coined the phrase "Survival of the fittest," as is frequently assumed, but the philosopher Herbert Spencer.
[lxxiii] See Mosse. For an analysis of the racism embedded in the general historical practice of anthropology see Nicholas De Genova's Working the Boundaries (Durham: Duke University Press), 2005.
[lxxiv] Mosse notes that Jews "were not only singled out because of so-called signs of physical degeneration, or their so-called lack of productivity, but also because of their supposed criminality," 219. Basing Nazi theories of criminality on the ideas of Cesare Lombroso, Mosse writes, Jewish "degeneration" "was proved by physical deformations of the skull... Phrenology had added to this concept not only the assertion... that ‘the heads of all thieves resemble each other more or less in shape,' but also that criminals, because they are ‘immoderate,' are rootless ‘and relapse into nomadism.'" Mirroring the racial-biological belief that held that the Jews were incapable of being reformed, "Lombroso had believed that habitual criminals could not be rehabilitated since their very physical appearance was involved in their actions, and that they must therefore suffer the death penalty. The Jews because of their race were regarded as habitual criminals by the Nazis and therefore rightly doomed to destruction," 220.
[lxxv] Lest one attribute brutal anti-communism solely to the Right, it must be recalled that it was the Social Democrats who employed the proto-fascist Freikorps in the murders of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht and the violent suppression of revolution in order to preserve the capitalist order following World War I.
[lxxvi] For the political and social-economic chaos following World War I, featuring military revolts and revolutionary uprisings; relative geographic proximity to the USSR; the knowledge that Marxist theorists predicted that the revolution would occur in an already industrialized country, such as Germany, and that its continued existence required its exportation from the USSR, all gave non-revolutionary Germans a sense of, perhaps justified, dread.
[lxxvii] Klaus Theweleit's Male Fantasies' (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1987) famed study of the Freikorps provides an analysis of German fascism and the manner in which its hyper-patriarchal conceptions of women reflected and informed its understanding of the Bolshevism that it was in dialectical conflict with. Theweleit specifically draws on a wealth of ubiquitous images and conceptions in German culture in unlocking the psycho- sociological mechanisms both animating fascism on that level while providing that movement with its visceral ambivalence. The fascist conception of women was based on its revulsion of freed female sexuality, as opposed to the restricted sexuality of tradition and the Mother, linking the sexual threat, itself intertwined with conceptions of the water, with international revolution. Theweleit's chief motif is water and the flood specifically. In contrast to the manipulated rocks, trees, bushes and grass of the landscaped garden (as depicted in Goethe's Elective Affinities), water fundamentally threatens the dry and elevated land of the patriarchal state; it respects not boundaries, either within marriage or state borders. For two examples of German literature featuring intensive water/flood motifs see Elective Affinities and Gunter Grass's The Tin Drum.
[lxxviii] Postone is of course cognizant of the fact that his treatment largely elides the question of Germany: "Such an investigation would require levels of mediation I cannot undertake here," 88. Continuing, Postone writes, "my intention is not to explain why Nazism and modern anti-Semitism became hegemonic in Germany. Rather, I shall attempt to determine more closely what it was that became hegemonic by suggesting an analysis of modern anti-Semitism that indicates its intrinsic connection to National Socialism in terms than can mediate between an analysis of the Holocaust and large-scale historical processes in the twentieth century" (italics his), 88.
[lxxix] Ibid., 83.
[lxxx] Ibid., 88. Postone notes however that "the issue of a possible German Sonderweg is relevant for the question of levels of mediation; not, however, for the nature and constitution of the ideology itself."
[lxxxi] See Hans-Ulrich Wehler, The German Empire 1871-1918 (Leamington Spa: Berg Publishers, 1985).
[lxxxii] Arendt shares this view: "Insofar as German national feelings had not been the fruit of a genuine national development but rather the reaction to foreign occupation, national doctrines were of a peculiar negative character, destined to create a wall around the people, to act as substitutes for frontiers which could not be clearly defined either geographically or historically," 167.
[lxxxiii] "Germany" was of course shattered into over three hundred principalities in 1648 via the Treaty of Westphalia that concluded the Thirty Years War.
[lxxxiv] We are referring exclusively to postwar adherents of the Sonderweg Thesis. The theory dates to the nineteenth century, but its prewar conception of German uniqueness then implied superiority rather than inferiority.
[lxxxv] David Blackbourn and Eley, Geoff, The Peculiarities of German History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984). Blackbourn's and Eley's seminal critique proceeds to challenge the presupposition that Germany's 1848 revolution in fact failed. After the revolution, they argue, Germany's bourgeoisie indeed obtained the establishment of the legal apparatus that was a prerequisite for capitalist development. Germany, following 1848, was additionally awarded some of the most advanced social reforms in the world. Yet, it is this question of the bourgeoisie being awarded "liberties" as opposed to winning them that informs the Sonderweg's conception of an uncommonly obedient and slavish German national "character."
[lxxxvi] A.J.P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961). Hitler of course was from Austria.
[lxxxvii] Quoted in Dowd, 59.
[lxxxviii] Daniel Guerin, Fascism (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1973), 23.
[lxxxix] Nicos Poulantzas, Fascism and Dictatorship (London: Lowe and Brydone Printers, Ltd., 1979), 24.
[xc] For those who doubt the underlying relationship between capitalism and fascism, it is useful to recall Karl Polanyi's summation: "In reality, the part played by fascism was determined by one factor: the condition of the market system. During the period 1917-23 governments occasionally sought fascist help to restore law and order: no more was needed to set the market system going. Fascism remained undeveloped. In the period 1924-29, when the restoration of the market system seemed ensured, fascism faded out as a political force altogether. After 1930 market economy was in a general crisis. Within a few years fascism was a world power," in The Great Transformation (Boston: Beacon Press, 1944), 242.
[xci] Chalmers Johnson writes, "It may be pointless to try to establish which World War Two Axis aggressor, Germany or Japan, was the more brutal to the peoples it victimized. The Germans killed six million Jews and 20 million Russians; the Japanese slaughtered as many as 30 million Filipinos, Malays, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Indonesians and Burmese, at least 23 million of them ethnic Chinese. Both nations looted the countries they conquered on a monumental scale, though Japan plundered more, over a longer period, than the Nazis. Both conquerors enslaved millions and exploited them as forced labourers - and, in the case of the Japanese, as prostitutes for front-line troops. If you were a Nazi prisoner of war from Britain, America, Australia, New Zealand or Canada (but not Russia) you faced a 4 per cent chance of not surviving the war; the death rate for Allied POWs held by the Japanese was nearly 30 per cent," in "The Looting of Asia," London Review of Books, Vol. 25 No. 22 (November 20, 2003).
Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking (New York: Basic Books, 1997), whose subtitle is "The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II," is credited with increasing public awareness of this comparatively overlooked subject.
[xcii] Mazower, 72.
[xciii] Like Nazism, Italian Fascism's domination varied according to the "race" of its victims. Mazower: "Considerations of racial ‘prestige' led the authorities to try to regulate sexual and other contacts between Italians and Ethiopians, in ways that they had not considered in Libya or on Rhodes," 72.
[xciv] Mayer, Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?
[xcv] Ibid., 20.
[xcvi] Mazower, 140.
[xcvii] Quoted in Ibid., 143.
[xcviii] Ibid., 151. Mazower also notes, "In so far as there was a Nazi vision for Europe, it belonged to the sphere of economics, not politics," 150.
[xcix] Quoted in Ibid., 146.
[c] Ibid., 147.
[ci] From an SS pamphlet, quote in Ibid., 144. Poland, meanwhile, would provide a pool of slave labor, while Crimea, according to Hitler, "‘will be our Riviera,'" and Croatia, "‘a tourists' paradise for us.'" Quoted in Ibid., 143.
[cii] Ibid., 151.
[ciii] Browning, in "The Holocaust as By-product?," in The Path to Genocide, 85.
[civ] Mazower, 159, 180.
[cv] See Mamdani's Good Muslim, Bad Muslim. He notes, "The history she sketched was that of European settlers killing off native populations. Arendt understood the history of imperialism through the workings of racism and bureaucracy, institutions forged in the course of European expansion into the non-European world: ‘Of the two main political devices of imperialist rule, race was discovered in South Africa, and bureaucracy in Algeria, Egypt and India,'" 6.
[cvi] Arendt, 222.
[cvii] Ibid., 206.
[cviii] Ibid., 223. Arendt quotes Ernst Hasse, writing in 1907 that, "The Central and Eastern European nations, which had no colonial possessions and little hope for overseas expansion, now decided that they ‘had the same right to expand as other great peoples and that if [they were] not granted this possibility overseas, [they would] be forced to do it in Europe,'" 222-223.
[cix] Ibid., 227.
[cx] Continuing, Arendt writes, "Wherever the two frustrations were combined, as in multinational Austria-Hungary and Russia, the pan-movements naturally found their most fertile soil," 227.
[cxi] Ibid., 228.
[cxii] Ibid., 228.
[cxiii] Ibid., 229.
[cxiv] Ibid., 229.
[cxv] Ibid., 87.
[cxvi] Ibid., 232.
[cxvii] Ibid., 239.
[cxviii] "It is a ‘truism' that has not been made truer by repetition that anti-Semitism is only a form of envy. But in relation to Jewish chosenness it is true enough," ibid., 241.
[cxix] Ibid., 242.
[cxx] Ibid., 354, 29.
[cxxi] Where the interpretation goes from explaining that "the Jews then appeared as agents not only of an oppressive state machine but of a foreign oppressor" to the statement that, "The true significance of the pan-movements' anti-Semitism is that hatred of the Jews was, for the first time, severed from all actual experience concerning the Jewish people, political, social, or economic, and followed only the peculiar logic of an ideology." Ibid., 228,229.
[cxxii] Ibid., 165. This "Harmless" "race-thinking was invented in an effort to unite the people against foreign domination."
[cxxiii] Ibid., 183-4. "It is highly probable that the thinking in terms of race would have disappeared in due time together with other irresponsible opinions of the nineteenth century, if the ‘Scramble for Africa' and the new era of imperialism had not exposed Western humanity to new and shocking experiences. Imperialism would have necessitated the invention of racism as the only possible ‘explanation' and excuse for its deeds, even if no race-thinking had ever existed in the civilized world. Since, however, race-thinking did exist, it proved to be a powerful help to racism. The very existence of an opinion which could boast of a certain tradition served to hide the destructive forces of the new doctrine which, without this appearance of national respectability or the seeming sanction of tradition, might have disclosed its utter incompatibility with all Western political and moral standards of the past."
[cxxiv] Arendt refers to this statement by Rosa Luxumburg as a "brilliant insight," 148, footnote 45.
[cxxv] Ibid., 187.
[cxxvi] Ibid., 125.
[cxxvii] Ibid., 126. We do not agree with Arendt's description of the state's basis laying in "genuine consent," but hold that the state's existence requires the construction, or mere representation, of genuine consent reproduced in perpetuity by means of nationalist ideologies. See Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1991) and Eric Hobsbawm's and Terence Ranger's Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).
[cxxviii] Taylor, 68.
[cxxix] Fritz Fischer submitted this interpretation of World War I as a consequence of German domestic crises in Germany's Aims in the First World War (New York: W.W. Norton, 1961). The ensuing historiographical debate, the "Fischer Controversy," was characterized by the hostile reaction to the thesis by conservative German historians, a conflict replayed in reverse form during the mid-1980s following conservatives comparisons of Nazi atrocities to those committed by the Soviets: the so-called "Historians' Quarrel." See Charles Maier's The Unmasterable Past (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988).
[cxxx] Arendt, 152.
[cxxxi] In which some 500,000 Gypsies were murdered. See Isabel Fonseca's Bury Me Standing (New York: Knopf, 1995.)
[cxxxii] The euthanasia programs killed approximately 70,000 individuals deemed mentally or physically "unfit for life." See Mosse, 217-218. On a strictly material level, Mazower notes that techniques used for the gassing of Jews in Poland were transplanted by personnel who had received their training through the euthanasia program in the Reich. Mazower, 169.
[cxxxiii] Arendt, 445.
[cxxxiv] David Abraham, The Collapse of the Weimar Republic (New York: Holmes and Meier Publishers, 1986), xv.
[cxxxv] Where, as described above, politically powerful but economically and militarily (comparatively) weak rivals suppressed the expansion of an economically and militarily powerful but politically weak Germany.
[cxxxvi] Ibid., 273. Not mentioning the obstacles to profit due to reparations and, after 1929, the Depression.
[cxxxvii] While Henry Ashby Turner Jr. argues that big business was not responsible for the appointment of Hitler to power, he nonetheless notes that Weimar's system of social programs (Socialpolitik) had "despite employers' objections, expanded through the 1920s.... (In) the virtually unanimous opinion of the country's capitalists, the burgeoning Socialpolitik of the Republic amounted to a burdensome, even, crippling, intrusion of state power into economic affairs that contravened all sound principles and imperiled the country's recovery." Similarly, Turner notes that Franz von Papen, a principal in orchestrating Hitler's appointment, "had come to enjoy the virtually unanimous and enthusiastic support of big business," in German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 38-9, 345. For an argument advancing the thesis that big business was indeed directly responsible for placing Hitler into power, see Abraham.
[cxxxviii] Mandel, 190, footnote 7. Mandel continues, "In the electrical and electrical equipment industry, net profits rose from 100 million RM in 1933 to 481 million RM in 1939, 594 million RM in 1940 and 645 million RM in 1941. Eichholtz, vol. 2, p. 566."
[cxxxix] Comparing the Nazi camps to the Soviet gulags, Arendt writes, "The concentration camp as an institution was not established for the sake of any possible labor yield; the only permanent economic function of the camps has been the financing of their own supervisory apparatus; thus from the economic point of view the concentration camps exist mostly for their own sake," 444.
[cxl] Mazower, 175.
[cxli] Ibid., 175. However, this is likely a case of the exception proving the rule. In any event, this anomaly alone, of Jews being temporarily "saved" in this manner, does not in itself overturn Arendt's, Traverso's, Postone's et al.'s argument, although it suggests a more complex and heterogeneous Nazi structure behind the genocide than their analyses indicate.
[cxlii] All quotes are from Götz Aly and Heim, Susanne, "The Economics of the Final Solution," Simon Wiesenthal Annual 5, Chapter 1, Part 1.
[cxliii] Browning furnishes a critique of Aly's and Heim's thesis in "German Technocrats, Jewish Labor, and the Final Solution: A Reply to Götz Aly and Susanne Heim," The Path to Genocide. Describing their interpretation as "brilliant and provocative," Browning nonetheless challenges its central tenets of economic rationalism. Drawing on the work of historian Ulrich Herbert, Browning writes that "Heim and Aly totally ignore the watershed change in economic perceptions that took place among Germans between the fall of 1941 and the spring of 1942, and the changing interplay between ideological and economic factors that resulted," 72-73. In sum, "The ghetto was not liquidated because no employment could be found for its incarcerated inhabitants to cover the cost of its existence or because productivity was so low that machines were cheaper than paying starvation wages; rather it was liquidated in spite of the growing demand for Jewish labor and the ghetto's rapidly increasing production," 75. We suggest that the issue of labor shortages has to be viewed from the vantage point of the overarching and long-term economic considerations of the Reich, regardless of fluctuations in labor availability and the labor requirements of particular German businesses; while the latter indeed sought to exploit Jewish labor, this essentially slave-labor could not produce the surplus-value required for overall German economic growth. What Browning then describes is a contradiction within capitalism as understood by Marx.
Regarding the question of the potential expulsion of the Jews, Browning argues that it was partly in the context of the failure of several German expulsion plans (specifically the Lublin Reservation and then the Madagascar Plan - the latter never came to fruition because it was predicated on the defeat of Britain, whose navy precluded a potential German transfer to the former French colony), along with the ever-growing numbers of Jews in Reich territory following the invasion of the USSR, in which the plan for mass extermination originated. See Browning, 18-20.
[cxliv] See Felstiner's To Paint Her Life.
[cxlv] Mandel, 171.
[cxlvi] Alain Badiou, Ethics (London: Verso, 2001), 4-17.
[cxlvii] Giorgio Agamben Homo Sacer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), 127.
[cxlviii] Ibid., 134.
[cxlix] Badiou, 13.
[cl] Arendt, 447.
[cli] Ibid., 447.