By Mickey Z (World News Trust)
“Once you hear the details of victory, it is hard to distinguish it from defeat.”
There’s an animal liberation meme making the rounds in which the image of a railway car loaded with doomed pigs is juxtaposed with this oft-quoted line from Dr. Helmut Kaplan:
“Our grandchildren will ask us one day: Where were you during the Holocaust of the animals? What did you do against these horrifying crimes? We won’t be able to offer the same excuse for the second time, that we didn’t know.”
Upon encountering this meme, I had two immediate thoughts:
- The use of the word “Holocaust” in relation to factory farming is both accurate and appropriate.
- The excuse that the world “didn’t know” about the Nazi Holocaust is an enduring and spurious fabrication.
Since one or both of these thoughts will be deemed “controversial” by some, please allow me to elaborate…
“Destruction or slaughter on a mass scale”
Thanks to some very focused efforts, the term “Holocaust” has become uniquely associated with humans of Jewish ethnicity or heritage. While the scores of communists, Roma, homosexuals, and dissidents murdered in Nazi concentration camps would obviously not concur with such limited word usage, what are we to say of the ubiquitous packed trains, warehousing, experimentation, gassing, and targeted slaughter of non-human earthlings?
It has been estimated that in all the wars and genocides in recorded history, a total of 619 million humans have been killed. That same number — 619 million animals — are murdered every five days for “food” by an industry that is the number one source of human-created greenhouse gases.
Is this not a holocaust, as in: “destruction or slaughter on a mass scale?”
How does it disrespect the nightmarish experiences of humans to utilize the same word to describe a practice that is threatening all life on the planet? To grow indignant when “Holocaust” is used to accurately describe the ongoing horrors imposed upon non-humans is to betray one’s speciesist bias and expose a glaring compassion blind spot.
“Auschwitz,” wrote Theodor Adorno, “begins wherever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they’re only animals.”
“Surprise and pain”
If there was ever a litmus test for discerning a good war from a bad war, history provided it during WWII. Indeed, the most frequently evoked after-the-fact rationale for the deadliest war in history being labeled a moral battle was the Allies’ supposed aim to stop the Nazi Holocaust.
Hitler’s “final solution” took the lives of roughly six million Jews along with millions more Slavs, Eastern Europeans, Roma, homosexuals, labor leaders, and suspected communists. If decency played any role, the United States. would have taken action against Germany some time during the 1930s.
Howard Zinn explains that simply put, “the plight of Jews in German-occupied Europe, which many people thought was at the heart of the war against the Axis, was not a concern to Roosevelt … [who] failed to take steps that might have saved thousands of lives. He did not see it as a high priority.”
As Benjamin V. Cohen, an advisor to FDR, later commented, “When you are in a dirty war, some will suffer more than others … Things ought to have been different, but war is different, and we live in an imperfect world.”
Swirling around the subject of the Holocaust in our “imperfect world” are many questions. Who knew about Hitler’s plan and when? What was done to stop it? Were there complicit roles played by factions within the United States?
While volumes have been written to correctly challenge those contemptible historical criminals who deny the Nazi death camps ever existed, one of the more subtle forms of denial is rarely questioned or even mentioned. This particular negation involves the deep-seated belief that the West was simply not aware of the extent of Nazi Germany’s atrocities until the war was nearly over and once they knew the truth, they acted expediently to save lives.
To accept this fiction is to enable oneself to believe that the inaction of the Allies was due merely to lack of information. Apologists can pretend that the details of the Holocaust were not known and if they had been, the United States would have intervened, but as historian Kenneth C. Davis explains:
“Prior to the American entry into the war, the Nazi treatment of Jews evoked little more than a weak diplomatic condemnation. It is clear that Roosevelt knew about the treatment of the Jews in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, and about the methodical, systematic destruction of the Jews during the Holocaust. Clearly, saving the Jews and other groups that Hitler was destroying en masse was not a critical issue for American war planners.”
Indeed, when a resolution was introduced in January 1934 (!) asking the Senate and the President to express “surprise and pain” at the German treatment of the Jews, the resolution never got out of committee. Such inaction was not reversed even as more specific details began to reach the average American.
On Oc. 30, 1939, the New York Times wrote of “freight cars … full of people” heading eastward and broached the subject of the “complete elimination of the Jews from European life” which, according to the Times, appeared to be “a fixed German policy.”
As for the particulars on the Nazi final solution, as early as July 1941, the New York Yiddish dailies offered stories of Jews massacred by Germans in Russia. Three months later, the New York Times wrote of eyewitness accounts of 10,000-15,000 Jews slaughtered in Galicia.
The German persecution and mass murder of Eastern European Jews was indeed a poorly kept secret and the United States and its Allies cannot honestly or realistically hide behind the excuse of ignorance. Even when the Nazis themselves initiated proposals to ship Jews from both Germany and Czechoslovakia to Western countries or even Palestine, the Allied nations could never get beyond negotiations and the rescue plans never materialized.
One particularly egregious example was the 1939 journey of the St. Louis. Carrying 1,128 German Jewish refugees from Europe, the ocean liner was turned back by U.S. officials because the German immigration quota had been met. The St. Louis then returned to Europe where the refugees found temporary sanctuary in France, Great Britain, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Most were eventually captured by the Nazis and shipped to death camps.
“The rescue of European Jewry,” writes Henry L. Feingold in The Politics of Rescue, “especially after the failure to act during the refugee phase [1939-1941], was so severely circumscribed by Nazi determination that it would have required an inordinate passion to save lives and a huge reservoir of good will toward Jews to achieve it. Such passion to save Jewish lives did not exist in the potential receiving nations.”
With a lack of public acknowledgement from the Roosevelt Administration, U.S. public opinion was not aroused. This, Feingold believes, convinced men like Goebbels that the “Allies approved or were at least indifferent to the fate of the Jews.”
Goebbels’s line of thinking was not too far from the truth. Even when eyewitness accounts from Auschwitz reached the U.S. Department of War and some in the Roosevelt Administration were pushing for the bombing of the death camp or at least the railways leading to it, the word came down that air power could not be diverted from vital “industrial target system.”
It was claimed by American military planners, according to Feingold, that Auschwitz was “beyond the maximum range of medium bombardment, diver bombers and fighter bombers located in [the] United Kingdom, France or Italy.”
Reality: Allied bombers passed within five miles of Auschwitz in August 1944.
In March of 1943, Frida Kirchway, editor of The Nation, summed up the situation succinctly: “In this country, you and I, the President and the Congress and the State Department are accessories to the crime and share Hitler’s guilt. If we behaved like humane and generous people instead of complacent cowardly ones, the two million lying today in the earth of Poland … would be alive and safe. We had it in our power to rescue this doomed people and yet we did not lift a hand to do it.”
In April 1943, an editorial in the London New Statesman and Nation contemplated the legacy of Allied indifference to the victims of the Nazi Holocaust, predicting “when historians relate this story of extermination, they will find it, from first to last, all but incredible.”
That editorial writer, it turns out, was far too optimistic.
Which side are you on?
While Helmut Kaplan may have inadvertently bought into the alluring Good War deception, he does ask two germane questions: “Where were you during the Holocaust of the animals? What did you do against these horrifying crimes?”
Yes, we are once again choosing unforgivable indifference in the face of omnicidal carnage.
The global animal by-products industry not only confines, tortures, and murders 53 billion land animals each year, it also consumes and destroys one-third of the planet’s landbase and is the number one source of human-created greenhouse gases.
Yet again, the universe has provided us with an opportunity to step up, save lives, and chart a new course.
The choice is yours: Will you continue with your beloved bacon jokes or will you surrender the privilege of speciesism?
Choose wisely, comrades. Our future hangs in the balance.
Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on a couple of obscure websites called Facebook and Twitter. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.
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