Drop a shovel most anywhere in the ground in Israel and you’re bound to find some ancient treasure – other than oil, that is. This is not surprising, considering culture and civilizations have existed in Israel for thousands of years. Excavations and digs dot the map here, offering a glimpse of the more than three millennia since Joshua entered the land of Israel. Logically, the quality and comprehensiveness of the discoveries and the recording of history improves as the Timeline of History marches on to the present day.
Today, certain fields of study — for example, Holocaust research — are well-mined, and significant revelations are unexpected.
That is why the results of the recently-released study by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum are mind-boggling.
After an exhaustive and authoritative 13-year study, it was determined that there were 42,500 Holocaust-related sites throughout Europe. The sites included concentration camps; forced labor camps; thousands of camps for euthanizing the elderly and infirm; ghettos; prisoner-of-war camps; and sites euphemistically named “care” centers, in which atrocities against Jewish and non-Jewish women occurred.
The results were presented by the researchers this past January at the German Historical Institute in Washington. The institute’s director, Hartmut Berghoff, remarked that he and fellow Holocaust scholars, stupefied by the facts, “had to make sure [we] had heard it correctly when the lead researchers previewed their findings.” He added, “The numbers are so much higher than what we originally thought. We knew before how horrible life in the camps and ghettos was, but the numbers are unbelievable.”
The camps varied in size from half a million Jews crammed into the Warsaw Ghetto to a site as small as München-Schwabing in Germany, where as few as a dozen prisoners from the Dachau concentration camp performed the mundane chores and manual labor for an abusive civilian Nazi supporter. The focal points of the 42,500 sites were Germany and Poland and, according to Dr. Martin Dean, who co-authored the study with Dr. Geoffrey Megargee, the sheer number of the sites, ubiquitous in Germany, meant that despite claims to the contrary, the vast majority of the German people were aware of Nazi atrocities.
“You literally could not go anywhere in Germany without running into forced labor camps, P.O.W. camps, concentration camps,” he said. “They were everywhere.”
The data supports Dr. Dean’s claim that the majority of Germans were aware of the presence of local cogs in the Nazi machinery which exploited, abused, or terminated Nazi prisoners. What of the “minority”? Is it plausible that even a minority of Germans or Poles were unaware of the “industry” that surrounded them? The only claim to ignorance is due to an active attempt to have remained so, like the effort it takes an ostrich to bury its head. Implicitly, the ostrich is aware that things are going on around it; it merely chooses not to see, and this was the approach of the conveniently ignorant Germans of World War II.
According to Dr. Megargee, based on available data the research team expected to find around 7,000 Nazi camps and ghettos. This estimate proved to be approximately 16% of the final tally, roughly the same percentage as the tip of an iceberg which constitutes approximately 13% of an iceberg’s entire volume. This metaphor is apt: How many more acts of anti-Semitism remain submerged beyond criticism or condemnation, or are mislabeled?
Hate crimes are found to be devoid of prejudice; vile anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli media, books, or exhibitions are hailed as art, such as the poem penned by Germany’s Nobel Prize winner Gunter Grass. Prominent media pundits are able to use Nazi-esque terms when referring to Jews or Israel and be chastised for failing to meet “professional standards,” rather for racism. The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland recently ruled as such for Irish media commentator Vincent Browne, for referring to Israel as a “cancer” on his popular nightly show. Like Grass, Browne claims that he is not an anti-Semite but merely a critic of Israel, and stated in an interview with an Irish newspaper that he in fact is the victim of prejudice, employing the victimizer-as-victim defense. “What I resent is the suggestion that because you’re critical of Israel, you’re automatically anti-Semitic. I don’t think that’s acceptable,” he said.
Prominent world leaders and politicians on a regular basis verbally attack Israel or deny the Holocaust with impunity. Israel’s putative peace partner and president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, in his doctoral dissertation, claimed there were no gas chambers and no six million. Egypt’s present government is led by ministers who claim the Holocaust is an industry concocted as a partnership between the United States and Israel to exploit the Arabs. Beppe Grillo, Italy’s new political sensation and leader of the largest party in the country, referred to Israel as “an assassin that must be put on trial for crimes against humanity” for its actions during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2009.
Philosopher Edmund Burke is credited with saying that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. The 42,500 death sites identified in the study by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum demonstrate conclusively that an entire nation, Germany — and for that matter, most of Europe — were either “good men” who did nothing, thereby participating in the Holocaust passively, or not “good men,” who explicitly or implicitly agreed with the Nazis. In either case, 20 million people were killed in the Holocaust, of whom six million were Jews. Has the world heeded Burke’s warning, or will people of good conscience continue to allow Jews and Israel to be subjected to the noxious fumes of the rhetoric of the leaders of Iran, Egypt, and much of Europe? I leave you with a final question: If Edmund Burke had learned that for nearly 20 years a future senator listened to the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and anti-American invective of his spiritual advisor yet remained a devoted congregant in the church, neither saying nor doing anything, would Burke have voted for him to be president?
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at msolomon@Hamodia.com