I think I may have missed something important in my initial take on the assault and attempted kidnapping of Elie Wiesel by a Holocaust denier. Are you familiar with this Feb. 1 incident? Don’t be surprised if you missed it; for some reason, this emblematic outrage has been largely ignored by the media.
Perhaps the lack of coverage of the attack on the Nobel Prize–winning Holocaust survivor is understandable: It’s one of the most deeply depressing, dispiriting, demoralizing and sickening stories that one can imagine. On every level.
I didn’t read anything about it until a week or so after it happened, when a friend e-mailed me the San Francisco Examiner online account of it. A later report claimed that the police delayed releasing details while they searched for the suspect. The only clue to the cretin’s identity in media reports at the time is from a pseudonymous Holocaust-denier posting on the Web site Ziopedia, which calls itself “anti-Zionist” but turns out to be a cyber-nexus for Holocaust denial.
In case you missed it, Mr. Wiesel, 78, who won a Nobel Prize in 1986 for his memoirs and novels of the Holocaust, suddenly found himself in a microcosmic American nightmare. Returning to his room after a talk at a San Francisco hotel, he was dragged out of the elevator by a demented denier who attacked Mr. Wiesel and started yelling at him that he had to “tell the truth”—the truth, for this sick moron, being that the Holocaust didn’t happen.
According to the poster on Ziopedia (who used the same name as a New Jersey man arrested on Feb. 17 for the crime), the thug planned to forcibly convey Mr. Wiesel—whom he called “the Pope of the Holocaust religion”—into his hotel room (he claimed to have been stalking him for weeks), where he planned to torture him into “confessing” that the Holocaust and Mr. Wiesel’s account of his experiences in it were lies.
Fortunately, the cops intervened before Mr. Wiesel—who survived Hitler—could be tormented by one of Hitler’s modern Mini-Me’s.
My initial reaction was to place the blame on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranian president’s dimwit Holocaust-deniers’ “conference”—last month’s convocation of vicious Jew-hating clowns—served, for certain infantile goons, to validate and empower their drooling nuttery.
While it’s true that if Mr. Ahmadinejad hadn’t “enabled” this pinhead punk, Internet filth might have well done it, nonetheless, I think there’s something deeper than the Iranian connection behind this repellent incident.
For one thing, there’s the way that Holocaust denial has become a familiar weapon in the arsenal of a certain element of the “anti-Zionist” spectrum. They use Holocaust denial like Mr. Ahmadinejad does—as part of a strategy to delegitimize the state of Israel preliminary to wiping it “off the map.” The Holocaust deniers have in common with other anti-Zionists the belief that the Jewish state’s only legitimacy comes from the guilt of the West for mass murder. The Holocaust deniers say the same thing, ignoring the fact that Jews lived there for thousands of years and that the Balfour Declaration antedated the Holocaust by two decades—only they just say that the Holocaust didn’t happen; it was a fabrication used to guilt-trip the West.
But, as I said, I’ve come to think there’s something deeper here: I’ve come to think the assault on a Holocaust survivor is an extreme symptom of something very dark, something that extends beyond the sick paranoia of Holocaust-deniers: a subterranean, subtextual anger at Holocaust survivors. A resentment of their presence—because they’re still alive to remind us of our shame, the shame of Western civilization. A civilization that, in perverse form, gave birth to the Holocaust, and at the very least stood aside and allowed it to happen.
Resentment at Holocaust survivors? After all they’ve suffered? Yes, alas: They are uncomfortable reminders in their witness to the depth that human nature can fall to in what was regarded as one of the most highly civilized and cultured nation states in history. They tell us something that we don’t want to know about who we are as a species, and it’s not something that we want to be reminded of.
What’s more, Holocaust survivors are witness to the criminal indifference of the world. And they are Jewish. If only they’d go away.
They’re dying, but they’re still here. Their sight provokes some to physical violence, enrages those who want to believe in the goodness of man and a loving God. If only they’d go away.
Romney: Ignorant or Brain-Dead?
Let me append one further incident that I find in some way related to the attack on a Holocaust survivor by a Holocaust denier, because it involved another kind of denial of the truth—knowing indifference, which is perhaps even worse.
This was the lack of attention that was paid to the fact that Mitt Romney announced his Presidential candidacy at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn Michigan. As far as I know, only the National Council of Jewish Democrats protested the fact that Mr. Romney chose to honor in this way Hitler’s personal idol, the man from whom he absorbed the form and essence of his racist anti-Semitic ideology.
Yes, Ford made many serviceable cars, and his family later tried to make reparations for his worldwide hate campaign. But, as I point out in my book Explaining Hitler, no single person had more influence on the success of Hitler and the Nazi Party than Henry Ford with the influence of his vile publication The International Jew (a modernization of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion), his subsidies, and his international validation of murderous anti-Semitism as a modernist creed.
No wonder there was a life-sized portrait of Henry Ford in Hitler’s Munich Nazi party headquarters during his rise to power. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a life-sized portrait—or any hint—of Adolf Hitler in the Henry Ford Museum. But he’s there. Ford’s had less influence on history with his mass-production of cars than he did with his mass production of hate. It’s, as has been said in another context, an inconvenient truth.
It’s funny—while I haven’t read all the reports of the Romney event, I didn’t see any that recalled Henry Ford’s Hitler connection. Some may have, but for most it was too inconvenient, I guess. There were a few reports of the National Council of Jewish Democrats’ protest, but that was all; there wasn’t a single word of protest from any of the other candidates of either party, as far as I can tell.
Could Mr. Romney be so ignorant that he didn’t know Henry Ford’s history? I wouldn’t rule it out. But it’s worse if he did know it and chose the Ford Museum anyway. Some might argue it’s different in degree, but not in kind, from Ronald Reagan choosing the home base of the racist murderers of civil-rights workers in Mississippi as the venue for the first major speech of his Presidential campaign, or laying a wreath at Bitburg, where SS soldiers are buried.
His father, George Romney, was famous for saying he’d been “brainwashed.” The son sounds brain-dead. His Henry Ford appearance was as much of an assault on history, on truth, as the Holocaust denier’s attack on the inconvenient Holocaust survivor.