I was reading an article about fundamentalist religion in America, and I came upon the statistic that there are about six million Jews in the United States, give or take a bit.
I don’t know about everyone else, but the number six million is permanently burned into my brain as the approximate number of Jews murdered by Hitler and his pals. I can’t hear that number without thinking about that fact. It’s probably the same for anyone who was raised in a Jewish family.
So, in case we’ve run out of fresh ways to be horrified by the Holocaust, we can imagine that every single Jew in the U.S. is murdered. That gives an idea of what happened in Europe. Holy cow.
Incidentally, when I was a kid, I used to think that those Jews died in the war like soldiers die in wars. I remember thinking, “yeah, it’s sad, but people die in wars. Why do we get so much more indignant when they’re Jewish?” I didn’t get quite get it. Something to remember when my future kid starts to learn history.
This is kind of beside the point, but I was just trying to come up with a snide comment about you sitting a little kid down and telling it to her straight and her freaking out. I was going to be joking, but I couldn’t word it so it was obvious that I don’t think you’d do that. However, it got me to thinking about how history is presented to children. In first grade or so, we have them re-enact Thanksgiving. Some of the kids are indians, some are pilgrims. We have them read about the slaves and Abraham Lincoln. And so on and so forth, some of the history lessons are firmly imprinted onto every American’s memory.
At what point do we present history as it really was? When do we talk about the betrayals and murder and pestilence and greed?
When does “No More Kings” with its good-colonists/bad-king dichotomy change into bad-colonists/bad-king/poor injuns? This kind of thing always makes my brain hurt.
“No More Kings” is a Schoolhouse Rock cartoon, by the way.
And then, at some point, we have to say that “bad colonists/poor Indians” isn’t necessarily as nuanced as it should be either. The Indians got the short end of the stick, but they weren’t above massacre as a means to an end.
To tell you the truth, I don’t know when I learned about the nuances. I don’t remember when I learned that there are still really kings alive, and that they’re not all tyrants.
In fact, I don’t know when I learned that even with King George, most Englishmen considered themselves free, and WERE free compared to much of the world.
Probably not until I wanted to learn more, and after people stopped trying to teach me.
I keep getting further afield from your post. Heh. Anyway:
Yeah, and then there’s the complicity of certain African tribes in selling prisoners of war to slavers in order to deprive enemy tribes of their warriors.
How do you teach kids history and keep them from thinking everybody’s either a villain or a victim? Do we repress our seemingly inherent tendency towards heroic narrative? How old must you be to appreciate multi-dimensional historical characters with flaws like JFK and MLK and Thomas Jefferson? I hear Rosa Parks liked to step on ants.
It reminds me of a song. I love this song.
Why are all our heroes so imperfect
Why do they always bring me down
Why are all our heroes so imperfect
The statue in the park has lost his crown
William Faulkner drunk and depressed
Dorothy Parker mean, drunk and depressed
And that guy in Seven Years in Tibet
turned out to be a nazi
The founding fathers all had slaves,
the explorers slaughtered the braves,
The Old Testament God can be so petty
Paul McCartney jealous of John,
even more so now that he’s gone
Dylan was so mean to Donovan in that movie
Pablo Picasso cruel to his wives
My favorite poets took their own lives
Orson Welles peaked at 25, ballooned before our eyes
and he sold bad wine
Heard Babe Ruth was full of malice
Lewis Carroll I’m sure did Alice
Plato in the cave with those very young boys
TS Elliott hated Jews, FDR didn’t save the Jews
All the French joined the resistance after the war
Raymond Chandler drunk and depressed
Tennessee Williams drunk and depressed
Think I’ll just get drunk and depressed.
Good God, anyone looking for a reason to find Faulkner imperfect should just read one of his books.
Of course, when I said that, an angel died. And someone, somewhere, said, “my hero, weeklyrob, is so mean about Faulkner.”
I’ve pointed out before that Hitler was a bit of an amateur compared to Stalin. How many of Uncle Joe’s 80 million civilian victims were Jewish?
I never pictured the Holocost victims as soldiers. I’d seen the pictures fairly young. This was very disturbing to a young mind, but some things *should* be disturbing, and not sanitized.
History is generally presented in a form so sanitized and spun that it’s fundamentally fiction. Abe Lincoln, for instance, said that he’d force legalized slavery on every state if that would hold the Union together. Read his EP. Some “Great Emancipator”! The American Civil War was clearly not about slavery—it was legal in parts of the North throughout the War! I like the bit about Parks and ants. If that was her worst sin, good for her.
This whole process of presenting some individuals as perfect helps lead children into hero-worship. How does that work after they learn that their hero shoots up smack, drives drunk, beats his wife, rapes hotel employees, steals from his employers, etc.? Do the kids drop their heros, or decide the hero’s shortcomings aren’t important?
I probably shouldn’t even argue about Faulkner.
No doubt that Stalin murdered more than Hitler (I really think it was somewhere between 20 and 50 million, but don’t tell Zook). But growing up as a Jew, you hear a lot less about mass murders that included Jews than you do about a specific attempt to murder all Jews in Europe (and the world, if possible).
As far as the soldier thing, I really should have said, “people,” not soldiers. That is, one country invades, and the country being invaded has a lot of people killed. Women, children, and the lot. I saw pics and heard stories from actual survivors very early (in summer camp, in Hebrew school, etc.), but I didn’t grasp it until later (and by later, I maybe mean 10 or so).
I don’t know if there’s any truly authoritative source for Joe’s victim count, so I just keep using the one I have. Zook seems to have dropped off the face of the ROM, just when he was at his most prolific. More and more I suspect medical intervention. However, his parrot foolsrushin remains, and according to another poster is the same person as another of ROM’s most prolific nut cases. I can see your point about it being different when a particular group is targeted, as opposed to being part of a larger target. Of course Hitler had targets other than Jews, but they were a specific target, where I don’t think they were with Stalin.
Okay, not exactly on target, but here you go anyway.
We’ve been mentioning that Hitler and WWII-era Germans were mean to Jews for several years. But I’ve only just started discussing it in any greater detail, beginning with one very good book called “Counting the Stars.” I’ll mention it again when your daughter hits 9. 🙂
Frankly, I’m much more at ease discussing sex in some detail than the Holocaust. One is about love, sharing, and feeling good. The other is incomprehensible horror. Learning the truth about the Holocaust is a loss of innocence for any kid, but esp. for Jewish kids.
Which brings me to one more point that I’ve realized recently through various experiences: to most Jews, I think the Holocaust is still discussed in terms of current events. It led to Israel, it’s reflected in some of the Iranian and other Arab crazy talk, etc. To non-Jews, I think it’s ancient history. Relevant history, but history nonetheless.
I think that the 80 million number is only claimed by your source if you include, “the forced collectivization of Soviet agriculture… and the squandering of life in excess of all requirements of military necessity during World War II.”
I guess it may be true, but a lot of that is only arguably murder (and arguably not), and obviously the military deaths weren’t civilians.
Stalin did murder more people than Hitler. But not 80 million, according to my usual definition of murder.
Hitler had targets other than Jews, and those targets should also feel differently about Hitler than they do about Stalin.
Anonymous (who I assume is JL): Interesting about the history thing. And as far as the book, maybe you could mention it sometime before my daughter turns nine. I’m not sure I’m that patient!
Anonymous: We can only hope that the Nazis weren’t “mean” to the Jews, but rather several sigma to the left.
Don’t you think German kids are especially shocked by the Holocost? What about Polish, French, and others whose countrymen directly assisted? What about American, British, and others whose countrymen (esp. leaders) assisted in less direct ways? The Holocost was an international obscenity, involving many countries and ethnicities.
Rob: part of the purpose of the forced collectivization was to rid the country of unwanted potential rebels in the Ukraine. The food was removed from the bread basket, and the locals who grew the food starved. This was quite intentional, IMO. The squandering of life during the war included such practices as forcing civilians, at gunpoint, to march across mine fields. When Churchill offered Stalin a new kind of minesweeper, Stalin said “No thanks. We have people for that.” These deaths were during war, but weren’t military in the normal sense.
FTR, I don’t consider either the Holocost, nor the deaths in the USSR, Cambodia, etc. to be “murder”. How’s *that* for a contraversal, baiting statement? Maybe I should start a thread in ROM…
Anonymous was talking about how he discusses the Holocaust with his little girls. “Mean” is probably ok for now.
And I disagree that the British, American, Polish, and etc. non-Jews look at the Holocaust in anything close to the same way that British, American, Polish, and etc. Jews do. The closest is maybe the Germans, who really do carry it with them. It was an international obscenity, but that doesn’t change whether, and how, people look at it differently.
We’re also going to have to agree to very much disagree on the Stalin thing. We read the facts differently.
Your “murder” statement is certainly controversial. Why not write it up and I’ll post it here as a guest blog post? Your audio file was nice to get, but it wasn’t really a post. More like an extended hello. 🙂
The “mean” comment was a math nerd bit. I think I’m funny.
I agree that kids of different cultures are shocked in different ways about historical events like the Holocost—some relating to the victims, some to the perpetrators, some to the enablers, etc. I was just saying that one may be just as shocked (degree) to find that “his” people helped in the commission of such an atrocity as another would be to find that “his” people were the target. Hopefully, most Jewish kids decide they won’t let anything like that happen again, while most German kids decide they won’t let anythbing like that happen again. Would you rather find that your grandfather was tortured to death, or that he tortured others? Either one would be very upsetting to me. And I don’t even know your grandfather.
It *is* a bit harder to read the facts on Stalin than on Hitler. Hitler et al were so meticulous in their recording, and so outspoken in their intentions, that only the most blindered can pretend the Holocost was significantly other than it was. With Stalin and party, there was a lot more subterfuge, and both the facts and the intentions behind them are murkier.
My “murder” statement was one of those quasi-troll bits based on nit-picking. If I were to post in ROM about it, I wouldn’t provide the reasoning, just the claim. That would bring the expected screams of indignation. Or maybe I *would* post the reasoning, but add some to it to make *that* more incenciary. I probably won’t do either, since the forum is mostly dead.
The original comment wasn’t about the degree of being shocked, exactly. I can be shocked by Lot’s daughters seducing him. But that was a long time ago.
The point was about current events vs. history. To me, the Holocaust isn’t just about my grandfather and someone else’s grandfather.
It’s also about people who are alive today and want to kill me. The Holocaust isn’t just something bad that happened back in the day. It was an outbreak of feeling that’s still just under the surface for a lot of people around the world. It’s still current events and still informs the way that a lot of Jews think about other current events.
The original statement was “esp. for Jewish kids”. “Especially”, to me, is a matter of degree.
Yikes! I’d completely forgotten that there are still people who would go on another Jew-killing rampage given the chance. You’re right—it makes a big difference if learning about the Holocost brings that to one’s mind. I’m afraid that I can’t even really imagine having so many people want me dead because of something like ethnicity. Sure, there’s always the Black Muslims, and similar groups, but they’re kind of a joke. I hope you’re greatly overestimating the degree of violent antisemitism still alive, but I fear you are not.