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The Holocaust Industry - Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering

Norman Finkelstein's book on the Holocaust Industry is guided by his parents' legacy. Both of them were survivors of the Warsaw ghetto and the Nazi concentration camps. Thus, the author has a personal interest in preserving the historical record of the Nazi holocaust. Finkelstein's book documents how the Holocaust Industry transformed the Nazi holocaust into an ideological construct.
The Holocaust Industry by Norman Finkelstein
The Holocaust Industry by Norman Finkelstein
The first essay shows how the ideology of the holocaust has become an important part of U.S. Jewish life and contemporary intellectual culture. Finkelstein argues that the dominant exposition of the Holocaust is based on political and class interests that portray Jews as the sole victims. It also serves to rationalize Israel's subjugation of Palestinians. Whereas Peter Novick maintains that the use of the memory of the Holocaust is arbitrary and not guided by interests, Finkelstein demonstrates that material interests, as well as ideological motivations, are very important factors behind the Holocaust Industry's distortions. He argues that there was a general indifference to the Nazi holocaust in the United States, even among American Jews, until Israel's June 1967 war during which it occupied Sinai, West Bank, Gaza, and Golan Heights. Prior to this conquest the number of scholarly studies was rather limited.

After the June 1967 war, as Israel became firmly entrenched as a U.S. ally in the Middle East, the Holocaust Industry began to flourish. The use of the memory of the Holocaust advanced vested interests of the official U.S. Jewish organizations. In turn, Israel as a bastion of U.S. interest in the Middle East contributed to Jewish assimilation into American mainstream. Instead of drawing any moral lessons from the Nazi holocaust or engaging in serious scholarly historical research, the Holocaust Industry was, and still is, interested in deflecting criticisms of Israel.

Finkelstein argues that for the Holocaust Industry two theses are critical. First, the holocaust is a unique event. Second, it is a climax of an irrational gentile hatred of Jews. The author shows that the facts are contrary to the claims of the Holocaust Industry. The Nazi holocaust is not a uniquely Jewish event. It is well known that Roma (gypsies), communists, Russians, Poles, gays, disabled, and others were also victims of the Nazi and were slaughtered mercilessly. It is disgraceful to try to "monopolize" the Nazi holocaust. The claim of uniqueness is a form of denial because it is based on the dismissal or the trivialization of the suffering of others.

Finkelstein exposes Elie Wiesel, the leading spokesperson of the Holocaust Industry. Israeli politician Abba Eban once quipped, "There's no business like Shoah business." If there was ever a master of the Shoah business, then Elie Wiesel is its grand master—he charges a "standard fee of $25,000 (plus chauffeured limousine)" for purporting to reveal the "secret" of Auschwitz.

The ideological advocates of the Holocaust Industry are dismissive of normal scholarly practices of inquiry, introspection, and comparison. There is no intellectual or moral reason for not comparing the sufferings of one group to another. If anything the suggestion that the pains of others pale in comparison is an immoral one. Some advocates of the Holocaust Industry claim that the Nazi holocaust is special because the Jews suffered. They also assert that the murderous impulse of the Gentile (non-Jews) is eternal and innate. Hence, they share the implicit or explicit assumption of the anti- Semites that killing Jews is a normal phenomenon. Finkelstein discusses how the Holocaust Industry has promoted notable frauds and works of forgery, such as Jerzy Kosinki and Binjamin Wilkomirsi. The Holocaust Industry basically ignores the role of Count Folke Bernadotte in rescuing Jews from Nazis. It is not kosher to bring up the name of Count Bernadotte because LEHI (Stern gang), a terrorist organization, apparently assassinated him. Yitzak Shamir, who later served as Israel's Prime Minister, was one of the leaders of LEHI.

Finkelstein's third essay is titled, "The Double Shakedown." The number of survivors of the Nazi holocaust at the end of the war ranged from 60,000 to 100,000. Taking the upper bound of the original estimate of approximately 100,000 survivors of the Nazi holocaust at the time of the liberation of the camps and further assuming that one-fourth of the initial number of survivors is alive today, this would mean that are about 25,000 survivors in 2000 (the time of publication of the book). Finkelstein's mother used to ask, "If everyone who claims to be a survivor actually is one, who did Hitler kill?" The Holocaust Industry exaggerates the number of survivors alive today. For instance, the Holocaust Industry has claimed that 135,000 former Jewish slave workers are alive today. This would imply that about 600,000 were alive after the war. That would mean about half a million less dead than the total number of 5.2 million victims of the Nazi holocaust.

Finkelstein's analysis of how the reparation issue has been played out provides insights into the machinations of the Holocaust Industry. Germany paid $60 billion of reparations. While this does not in any way mitigate Nazi crimes, if compared to the United States' failure to pay for the damages inflicted on the Vietnamese, this stands out as an honorable example. Germany reached three different agreements: with individual claimants, with the state of Israel, and with the Conference of Jewish Claims. The Claims conference was supposed to assist those who fell through the cracks and those who received only minimal compensation.

However, one learns the sad story of Finkelstein's mother, a survivor of Majdanek camp and slave labor camps. She received $3,500 in compensation. The agreement that the German authorities reached with the Claims Conference stipulated that the monies would be assigned to those Jewish survivors who had not been adequately compensated by German courts. However, the Claims conference violated this agreement and used these funds for what they called the rehabilitation of communities. It provided money for some individuals: rabbis and "outstanding Jewish leaders." The leaders of the Holocaust Industry organizations were more interested in helping themselves than the victims of the Nazi holocaust. The monies received were also used for Zionist purposes. Finkelstein shows that the Holocaust Industry has provided a lot of lucrative opportunities for big shots. Former U.S. Senator D'Amato pocketed $350 per hour. In six months he bagged $103,000. Former U.S. Undersecretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger netted an annual salary of $300,000 for his services to the Holocaust Industry.

Some of the activities of the Holocaust Industry lawyers are truly amazing. Edward Fagan charged $600 per hour. One lawyer obtained $2,400 for reading Tom Bower's Nazi Gold. Finkelstein compares the Holocaust Industry to an extortion racket. It consists of a "double shakedown" that tries to get the maximum amount of money out of European countries and to reduce payments to Jewish victims of the Nazi holocaust.

The Holocaust Industry's threat of economic boycotts against Swiss companies was effective. Swiss banks were particularly vulnerable to the threats of a U.S. boycott. As a result, in a class action settlement, the Swiss agreed to pay $1.25 billion to avoid the threat of economic sanctions and long and costly legal battle with the Holocaust Industry.

The Holocaust Industry's alleged urgency of reparations and concerns for the victims vanished as soon as the Swiss banks signed agreements and doled out the cash. It was decided that "worthy" organizations would get the money. Following the Holocaust Industry's skimming off of Switzerland, German companies quickly reached a settlement, perhaps fearing that they would be facing boycotts.

In his conclusion, Finkelstein brings up the ugly facts that are generally ignored, unacknowledged, and whitewashed. The American conquest of the West, its massacre of Native Americans, provided a model for Hitler. The holocaust is frequently used to characterize the crimes of the official enemies of the United States' ruling elite and rationalize its incursions. Meanwhile U.S. ruling elite's complicity in widespread massacres in Central America, East Timor, or Turkey's Kurdish areas are left out of history, mainstream press, and social sciences. He mentions that around 10 million Africans perished in Congo between 1891 and 1911, yet little has been written about such atrocities. Finkelstein's book will play no small part in exposing the exploitation of the memory of the Nazi holocaust.

The Holocaust Industry will not just alienate the Holocaust Industry, but also professional anti- Semites, racists, and conspiracy theorists because Finkelstein attempts to restore the scholarly study of the Nazi holocaust and free it from the shackles of frauds and hypocrites. It would have been useful to have a list of dramatis personae of the Holocaust Industry. A chart listing the prime movers and the main organizations of the Industry, showing their organizational relationships might also have been helpful.

It is hoped that the effect of the book will be to encourage candid criticisms of the nefarious Holocaust Industry. Arguably the Holocaust Industry's primary victims are those in whose name it operates. Finkelstein should be credited for writing a well-researched book that can help shutdown the Holocaust Industry when the public becomes aware of its dishonesty and its vulgar exploitation of Jewish suffering.

interview with Finkelstein, and his website too 05.Apr.2004 14:16