Olson’s First Rule Applied

Murphy’s law and others give not exactly hard and fast guidelines for prediction of events and interpretations. My (just coined as such) first Rule is the following

Conventional Historical Wisdom is always wrong.

In what follows this will be applied to the third rail of historical discourse … vis a vis to suggest that the Jewish narrative concerning the Holocaust is wrong. This may or may not be a historical third high voltage line as suggested above, but there are blogging/pirate rules that state any you mentions Nazis loses the argument … and Nazis will be noted in this piece.

For a long time references to the Holocaust have bothered me, in that the focus on that particular feature of German/Nazi atrocities has overwhelmed our historical recall of other Nazi (and concomitant Soviet ones). When one recalls mass murders in the mid 20th century …. with rare exceptions only one thing will be recalled and the others minimized or forgotten. This is wrong. Do not misunderstand, the fault for this lies with historians, teachers and educators … not with the Jewish people. Their memory, their remembrance is apt and warranted. What is not is for the rest of us to forget that this was just a small part of a larger horrific picture.

If, in a recent non-mass killing like that at Columbine, if 10 persons had been killed of which 4 Muslims had been killed if conventional wisdom called this an attack on Islam that would be wrong. It would not be wrong for Islamic faith communities to remember this in their own way. It would however be wrong for everyone to do that. Similarly remembering the mass murders of the 20th century in Eastern Europe as being only about the Holocaust would also be wrong.  This is however, the conventional story.

In this text, the link is an abstract for a book which I recently read (page forward the abstract is about 4 pages long), this notes the systematic mass murders which took place in little over a decade in one region, that bounded by St. Petersburg/Leningrad in the North and the Southern borders of the Ukraine and Poland in the South. From 1932 to 1946 as this book recounts a conservative estimate counts over 14 million individuals were killed deliberately by the Nazi and Soviet regimes. (Note: the book is called Bloodlands, by Timothy Snyder)

Additionally the Nazi “Final Solution” was in essence, plan “B”.  The “Final Solution” was originally intended to not be implemented until after victory had been attained in the East. The initial plan, called the “Hunger Plan”, had called for the deliberate starvation of 30 million inhabitants of rural Western Poland and the Eastern Ukraine to provide farmland for German agriculture to base itself. Hitler’s “Hunger Plan” failed, but not for lack of trying or lack of moderate success. The failure to achieve “lightning victory” in the East (or for that matter anything resembling victory at all) derailed that. But in the mean-time some 3 million Soviet prisoners of war and millions of other urban inhabitants were killed by starvation, e.g., Leningrad.  The basic flaw/failure of the “Hunger Plan” was that it is remarkably hard to starve farmers without tight local control and command, something which a wartime invader does not have. Threatening to starve farmers absent tight controls means food is cached and eaten locally, something a farm and farming community can easily do. When the German High command realized that their Hunger plan was not possible, they dialed up the backup/later plan with results we all know well.

The Final Solution was, by Professor Snyder’s count, one of 5 large government programs to commit mass murder in the region. If one were to take Mr Snyder’s intellectual coverage as a guide, 2 of 10 chapters are on the Nazi’s killing of Jews. Similarly if our memory, our remembrance, our attention were correctly apportioned, the Holocaust and its remembrance would be one fifth of the coverage of mass murders in the mid 20th century. Conventional historical wisdom concentrates its attention on the Holocaust-as-genocide. Conventional wisdom is also wrong. For every movie, book, press coverage on or about the Holocaust, if conventional wisdom was correct, there would be four others, on Katyn (and German equivalents), on the Great Terror, on Holodomor, on the Hunger plan, and so on.

To me this seems similar to the early 21st centuries focus on the Sudan and the mass murders there, which were dwarfed by more than an order of magnitude in every way by mass murders in the Congo. But all the attention was on the former not the latter. Why?

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19 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    Do you not think the ‘hunger plan’ would have worked had Hitler achieved lightening victory and literally kicked the farmers off their land to be replaced by German famers? I believe his vision was to mirror what happened in the US to Native Americans, not necessarily forcing all of them to starve to death but to dramatically reduce the amount of land they occupied as settlers took over all the good land. Stalin, though, for all his faults, had force industrialized his country and was able to mount a counter-attack in a way the Native Americans could never have done.

    But let’s imagine Hitler had won and had caused say 50 million deaths in Russia as he had it ‘settled’ by Germans and wiped Europe clean of Jews (I don’t think Germany would have ever been able to pull off an invasion of the US nor do I think the US would have adopted Nazi style oppression of US Jews if Hitler had won as depicted in some alternative history novels like Philip K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle). I still think the Holocaust would be remembered as ‘worse’ in some respects than the Russian Holocaust tha tnever happened. Why?

    Well as you point out its not about numbers of people dead. I think it would be about the victory of an idea. Israel was founded on the assumption that without an actual country or land, Jews could never be safe in this world. In some respects, Hitler agreed. Nazi philosophy was premised on racial stock that was tied to a land.

    Cosmopolitianism is I think a good umbrella term to mean all 19th and 20th century ideologies fascists were reacting against (such as liberalism/socialism/modernism) that all implicitly embraced the opposite idea. That one can be a ‘citizen of the world’, that one’s blood ties do not matter. The slew of modern ideologies all differed greatly, but they all shared that aspect. Socialists dreamed of German workers and French workers uniting in, say, a shared strike for higher wages. Classical liberals loved the idea that British, American and European finaciers did business without regard to borders. If you want a mental image, all these cosmopolitian ideologies probably envisioned a distant future that was sort of like Star Trek where everyone worked together and racial differences were just interesting water cooler conversation. Fascists probably viewed the future these people were trying to make like modern day Somalia….a dysfunctional hell hole with no traditions, no solidarity, just an endless array of minor ‘war lords’ fighting over burnt out buildings.

    I think antisemitism became so important in Europe in the 19th century because no matter what ‘flavor’ you were into, Jews represented the test case of this idea. Being a people without a land, Jews were citizens of multiple countries. A successful cosmpolitian society (whether it be socialist, liberal, or whatnot) would have Jews in it and they would help it do well. Fascists, though, believed that people had to be tied to common blood and traditions period. Jews could be tolerated in premodern times because there was little or no question of this but not in modern times. Hence their obsession not only in bringing down Jews but also other ‘stateless people’ like gypsies and their obsession against modernism such as abstract art. I think its important to think about the motivations of the fascists and to understand it was a bit more subtle than simply a barbaric grunt to just kill everyone who wasn’t Aryan.

    The ‘Hunger plan’ in contrast was less dramatic. It was simply a battle over land which was a zero sum game that humanity has been playing since the beginning of history. Yes it would have been horrible, but as an idea it was just about who was going to exploit the fertile land in the east. The Holocaust, though, was a war against the idea that society could successfully organize around liberal principles. And for Jews, of course, it was existential. If the ‘Hunger Plan’ had worked, various groups would have probably been pushed beyond the Urals and would have settled there with great hardship, but it was about the land more than the existence of the people. With Jews, however, it was the people. Hitler wanted them all wiped out, not simply moved around. Pushing them out of Germany was but a first step. It’s interesting to speculate, however, what would have happened if Israel had been established at the end of WWI rather than WWII. Would Hitler have accepted Jews then as having their own land and simply have demanded that they remove themselves from Europe

  2. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    Do you not think the ‘hunger plan’ would have worked had Hitler achieved lightening victory and literally kicked the farmers off their land to be replaced by German famers?

    First the Hunger Plan was to be in place during the invasion, not afterwards. Afterwards, given the reasons why hunger worked on farmers for Stalin 10 years earlier but did not for Hitler would not have changed immediately if victory was achieved.

    I still think the Holocaust would be remembered as ‘worse’ in some respects than the Russian Holocaust tha tnever happened. Why?

    Well as you point out its not about numbers of people dead. I think it would be about the victory of an idea.

    Except that there were five (!) ideas. Did you read that abstract? Five. Each of the killings (including the Hunger Plan) were idea/ideologically based. Holodomor was a war for an idea, to industrialize and modernize the Soviet State, collectivization of farming was the proximate cause of starvation in the Ukraine. The Great Terror was a retreat from the reaction to the prior, this was the only mass murder in the region that isn’t about an idea … and the one second in prominence in the public memory. The Soviet/German killings in Poland during 1939 was about de-Enlightement another idea. The Hunger plan was “colonial demodernization” and so on. They all were about ideas. Only one survives in the public mind. Why?

  3. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    You might also like the other Timothy Snyder book I recently read … Reconstruction of Nations. Lithuania dominates the first part of the book. How did they become a Nation? They were more like the US than you suppose, a nation about an idea that is. When Lithuania started getting a National identity in the early 20th century almost nobody spoke Lithuanian, in the cities most spoke Polish and Yiddish and were Catholic and Jewish, in the countryside they spoke Belorussian and were Orthodox. How that came to be set aside is, well, complicated.

  4. Boonton says:

    Afterwards, given the reasons why hunger worked on farmers for Stalin 10 years earlier but did not for Hitler would not have changed immediately if victory was achieved.

    Again I believe the model Hitler was using was what happened to Native Americans in the US. He couldn’t pull that off in Russia, though, because the Russian army was at the door. If the Russian army had been totally defeated had say Russia agreed to accept redrawn borders pushing the USSR deeply into Asia then it would have been safe to move civilian German settlers into the areas.

    Holodomor was a war for an idea, to industrialize and modernize the Soviet State, collectivization of farming was the proximate cause of starvation in the Ukraine. The Great Terror was a retreat from the reaction to the prior, this was the only mass murder in the region that isn’t about an idea … and the one second in prominence in the public memory. The Soviet/German killings in Poland during 1939 was about de-Enlightement another idea. The Hunger plan was “colonial demodernization” and so on.

    Some ideas are bigger than others. The idea I labeled ‘cosmopolitianism’ runs the gamut from liberal capitalist economies like Victorian England to the USSR and even Maoist China. All of them share commonalities that fascism opposed, namely delinking society from blood and land. The defeat of a lesser idea like collectivising farms would still keep the society in the field of the larger idea of cosmopolitianism. A true fascist victory over the ‘uber-idea’ of cosmopolitianism would have been an earth shattering historic event….like the fall of the Roman Empire. Hence the Holocaust has such historic weight for even non-Jews. It represented the most serious existential attack made on the modern paradign to date.*

    * Take w/a grain of salt. One could argue that the Roman Empire was also a cosmopolitian orientated society.

  5. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    The point is the rural portions of the hunger plan didn’t work because its hard to starve farmers, who were a primary target of the program. They have closer access to food than you do (and can hide stores and so on). Where the hunger plan did work was in cities like Kiev, Lviv/Lvov/Lwow, and places like Lenningrad. In occupied territory in conjunction with the Jewish ghetto-ization, Jews suffered in those cities more than others. The urban part was in tune with the “de-industrialization” concept/idea and that, as noted, worked “better”.

  6. Boonton says:

    The point is the rural portions of the hunger plan didn’t work because its hard to starve farmers, who were a primary target of the program. They have closer access to food than you do (and can hide stores and so on). …

    Not if you force them off their farms and give their farms to German farmers. That’s not something you can easily do while bullets are still flying, though. I’m trying to picture a counterfactual here where Stalin’s army collapsed as quickly as the Polish army, which I’m sure is what Hitler was hoping for. In that case would ‘de-industrialization’ have really been implemented in the cities? I think Hitler’s vision would be to basically leave the cities more or less as is but let Germans move in and ‘own’ them. The ‘natives’ would then be reduced to grunt workers at best.

  7. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    But that’s not a “Hunger Plan” its a Relocation plan. It wasn’t the plan. The were to be starved in place. See wiki.

    And more to the point, you didn’t even know about this plan, prior to this discussion and it killed almost as many as the Holocaust. Right? It’s a failure of history (Olson’s First Rule, eh?)

  8. Boonton says:

    And more to the point, you didn’t even know about this plan, prior to this discussion and it killed almost as many as the Holocaust. Right? It’s a failure of history

    Actually its not as I made the argument that the Holocaust was more important and as such I, a casual reader of history, should know more about it than the Hunger Plan (which I did).

    Remember I argued that importance here isn’t just a numbers game about which plan killed more people. I reject the implicit argument that these things should be judged by just inputting the # of casualities into an Excel spreadsheet and sorting.

    The Holocaust represented an attack on the nature of our civilization (i.e. society organized under various types of Cosmopolitian philosophies) that if it was successful would have had a much greater historical impact on world history than if the Hunger Plan had worked.

  9. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    Remember I argued that importance here isn’t just a numbers game about which plan killed more people. I reject the implicit argument that these things should be judged by just inputting the # of casualities into an Excel spreadsheet and sorting.

    Agreed. I never said so. I’m not so much sure you knew much about the Hunger Plan because you keep misrepresenting it. It was not a relocation plan. It was about starvation. “Move them off their farms” is a different plan.

    You had heard of “der Backeplan” or “der Hungerplan” prior to this conversation? How is a de-industrialization plan not contrary to our civilization?

    How was “de-Enlightenment” not a similar attack on the nature of our civilization?

    Your argument that “non-cosmopolitan” as the basis of the anti-semitism is a larger affront than de-industrialization and de-Enlightenment needs buffing up. On what basis do you think education and non-farm labor (manufacturing and development) are not important to our civilization in a way that international appeal is not?

  10. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    Actually its not as I made the argument that the Holocaust was more important

    You didn’t make a distinction between nationalism and ideas which a larger than such boundaries and that standing against those ideas (and the horror that mass murder on the idea of nationalism represents) separates it from the other mass murders.

    German nationalists and Stalin’s Marxists both killed over 100k of Polish intelligentsia in a concerted effort to de-Enlighten, to get rid by murder the educated people of Poland. This is was done for national purposes, an attempt to remove Poland’s identity by killing of its education/elite. What I’m missing is the separation you pretend, the difference in kind between mass murder for this idea and mass murder for nationalism. You make a “Nationalism/Cosmopolitanism” juxtaposition which you cite as unique for the Holocaust. What I’m missing is how “Nationalism/Education” fails that test.

    Likewise, the Hunger Plan, was a direct plan to de-urbanize. To erase cities and industry from a region by means of murder by starvation. How is this not an attack on “the nature of our civilization?”, especially in a way in which this strongly differs from the Holocaust. Now you might (although having denied the importance of “numbers of casualties” you can’t look to the 100k in the prior paragraph as less important than the 4+ million Jews killed in the Final Solution or 4+ million (non-Jewish) killed by the Hunger Plan. So here we have “Nationalism/Industrialization” or “Nationalism/Life” question … how does that fail (although you offer that “Nationalism/”Eradication of everyone living there” is just the normal course of conquest … except it isn’t. Not since Ghengis and the Mongols have conquerors slaughtered whole populations … usually conquerors rule and dominate not eradicate). Eradication of population must be in direct opposition to the nature of civilization (even more than National/Cosmo).

    The only one of these, from causes identified by Mr Snyder, the Holodomor might be seen as an idea not that is not contrary “to the nature of civilization.” Deliberately mass murdering millions (by starving them) as part of an industrialization plan perhaps isn’t against “the nature of civilization” but it takes a perhaps a more nuanced view of the nature of civilization to make that claim. I’m not ready to go there. Is that the claim you are making?

    However, I’m curious. Lemont has a large ethnic Lithuanian and Polish population. Our kids learned about the Great Terror in middle school, they read “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” in 7th or 8th grade. Do kids in New Jersey read that as a matter of course? What are kids in New Jersey taught about the Great Terror in the Soviet Union? My kids haven’t heard of Holodomor or Kolyma or Katyn forest from school? How about any kids you know? Can you take a sample?

  11. Boonton says:

    Reading the wikipedia article a few observations:

    1. This was a logistics plan in Germany’s war machine. If Germany had scored a lightening and clear defeat of Stalin’s army roads and rails would have been built and the area would have been settled by German farmers.

    2. This isn’t exactly something new, there is a long history of armies feeding themselves by looting. The ability to construct long supply chains to keep armies fed is probably the most expensive aspect of war.

    3. The plan largely worked, the idea wasn’t to empty the land by starving everyone, the idea was to make sure the Germans got fed first and that worked for a while. German civilians in Poland got full rations of 2613 calories a day while Poles got only 699 and Jews 184. Starvation in the USSR likewise increased as it was deprived of food from farms in occupied territories.

    I think you’re right that the farmers themselves didn’t starve for the most part. Even if the Germans denied them the ability to supply their output to Russians, the framers themselves probably could arrange to keep enough food for themselves and their families. But if Germany had won the war against Russia it would have simply begun a new process of taking farms from the farmers and giving them to German settlers.

    You had heard of “der Backeplan” or “der Hungerplan” prior to this conversation? How is a de-industrialization plan not contrary to our civilization?

    Not quite following you here. The Hunger Plan was not a de-industrialization plan, it sounds like a plan to steal another country’s food supply. I could be wrong but I don’t think there was that much industry in that part of the USSR and the Germans would have probably have kept it for their own use rather than destroy it. Come to think of it, I don’t think there’s ever been a real example of a ‘de-industrialization’ plan implemented in history. I believe Winston Churchill had proposed a post-war plan to de-industrialize Germany and force it back to an agricultural nation but I don’t think that plan was ever taken seriously.

    How was “de-Enlightenment” not a similar attack on the nature of our civilization?

    The Englightenment was essentially the creation of Cosmopolitanism. As I pointed out, fascists were rejecting that and seeking a pre-modern philosophy of civilization based on blood and land. You can indeed have a civilization premised on that. In itself it isn’t like a violation of the laws of physics or anything.

    On what basis do you think education and non-farm labor (manufacturing and development) are not important to our civilization in a way that international appeal is not?

    The facists had no objection to education and manufacturing. Just because they rejected the insights of the Enlightenment doesn’t mean they were some type of Amish-like sect trying to revert society back to 1200 AD. In fact their attack on the Enlightenment was so serious because they were proposing to ‘have it all’. Science, technology, new discoveries etc. and a society linked to blood and land and not cosmopolitianism. To see what type of threat they were, consider that throughout WWII German science was often ahead of the allies and even after WWII the victors poached German tech and scientists to help them develop their rocket programs.

  12. Boonton says:

    BTW, I suggest you research Generalplan Ost. This was essentially the ‘real plan’ Germany had for Poland and the nations of the USSR. Areas would be ‘Germanified’ by various percentages over the course of a generation through a combination of extermination, deportation and forcing ‘natives’ into second class pseudo-slave status. The idea wasn’t to try to starve everyone there to death and then move into an empty country.

  13. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    First off, according to Mr Snyder part of the plan was to starve the farmers to get their land. It is not unreasonable to think they’d think this was possible it had been done only 10 years earlier. Second, it didn’t work. Kiev and other large cities in the Ukraine weren’t effectively starved as was planned, they didn’t have the resources to blockade those cities in the way they did in Leningrad. Third, Mr Snyder makes the claim that the failure of the Hunger Plan impelled them to turn other options, which in this case was to move up the timetable on the Final Solution. Fourth, in case you didn’t know industry is not based in rural regions. When you plan to completely depopulate and destroy cities the question is why? To what end? The answer … it was a plan of de-industrialization. To make this a rural/farming only region.

    Calling de-Enlightenment a product of Cosmopolitianism isn’t going to give you separation between what conceptually being done in the Holocaust and the mass murder of everyone you could find with a higher education in Poland.

    Look. You say number don’t matter and that in fact race/religion (the essential facet of genocide based on identity) isn’t the important reason why we learn about the Holocaust. There were mass murders of the college educated in Poland in the Molotov/Ribbentrop (sp) division of Poland … done by both parties, Soviet and by Nazis. Why is that mass murder not as important as the Holocaust. Why forget the one and not the other?

    The facists had no objection to education and manufacturing.

    See above. They singled out and killed college educated people. How is that not having an objection to education.

  14. Boonton says:

    That might have been but wikipedia clearly puts the Hunger Plan as part of the war in order to provide support to the German army (as well as Germans in places like Poland). The rations themselves seem to reveal this. Germans got 100% of their needs, everyone else got less. Why bother giving any rations at all if your goal was to simply starve everyone out of the cities and the farms?

    More importantly, the Ostplan indicates the larger aim *after* the war was to depopulate and make the east more German. Clearly the plan did not envision an empty country with nothing but the decaying bodies of the starved to clear away.

    Fourth, in case you didn’t know industry is not based in rural regions. When you plan to completely depopulate and destroy cities the question is why

    Clearly that wasn’t the plan. The Germans were prefectly capable of systematically, block by block, leveling the cities they blockaded. They didn’t do so because they eventually wanted to move into those cities and use their buildings and industries. In fact destroying the population was not desired, what was desired was decreasing the population to ‘make room’ for German settlers and then recasting society in the East to be run by elite Germans with Salves as lower class laborers with second class status.

    Calling de-Enlightenment a product of Cosmopolitianism isn’t going to give you separation between what conceptually being done in the Holocaust and the mass murder of everyone you could find with a higher education in Poland.

    The Holocaust was the murder of all Jews (or attempted murder), not a selective killing of highly educated Jews or rich Jews or Jews with certain positions in society. At this point we should note that the Holocaust extended into the East where Jews were to be killed wherever Nazi Germany came into contact wit h them. You can’t say the same ambition was part of the Hunger Plan. Non-Jewish Poles, for example, were given rations. POWs of Polish descent captured from American or British forces were not slated for extermination.

    Look. You say number don’t matter and that in fact race/religion (the essential facet of genocide based on identity) isn’t the important reason why we learn about the Holocaust. There were mass murders of the college educated in Poland in the Molotov/Ribbentrop (sp) division of Poland … done by both parties, Soviet and by Nazis. Why is that mass murder not as important as the Holocaust. Why forget the one and not the other?

    I don’t think either should be forgotten, and I don’t think ‘numbers don’t matter’. Any mass slaughter of people creates its own gravity no matter what other issues there may be around it. But there are other issues here and I think the most important threat posed by fascism was the attack on cosmopolitianism. I think you can include the destruction of Poland and suffering inflicted on eastern Russia as part of that. Clearly an implication of the belief that society should be based on blood and land carries with it a belief that stronger societies should dominate weaker ones and that presumption clearly provides a lot of motivation for both the Hunger Plan and the GeneralPlan Ost. But the war against Jews was the capstone of the attack on Cosmopolitianism and the Enlightenment. As a stateless people, the Jews were an existential enemy to fascism while Poles could be respected as a people….but subjected as a weaker people.

    Here I think we venture into the areas were this ceases to be a simple game of comparing numbers. Cosmopolitian societies (which includes both the UK, USSR, and US) were perfectly capable of doing vicious, evil things. But I think Cosmopolitianism itself put a limit on that. The premise that blood is not all that important limits, but sadly does not eliminate, the motivation to try to wipe out a whole bloodline from humanity. If the Nazis had won and established a post-Englightenment Age were civilization rejected Cosmopolitianism there would have been many more Polands and many more Hunger Plans. (Note this is not the same as saying the Nazis would have had to have literally taken over the world….a smashing victory in WWII could have established Fascist ideas as the norm eventually coming to dominate the gov’ts and societies of countries like the UK and US without a single German boot ever setting foot on its soil).

  15. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    Why bother giving any rations at all if your goal was to simply starve everyone out of the cities and the farms?

    You’re doing it again. I’d bet you know the answer to that. (I’ll give you chance, remember the frog and the very hot vs gradually heating water).

    Clearly that wasn’t the plan.

    Did you read the linked abstract?

    The Holocaust was the murder of all Jews (or attempted murder), not a selective killing of highly educated Jews or rich Jews or Jews with certain positions in society […] You can’t say the same ambition was part of the Hunger Plan. Non-Jewish Poles, for example, were given rations. POWs of Polish descent captured from American or British forces were not slated for extermination.

    There are two separate killings here. The Hunger plan (de-Industrialization as cited by Mr Synder) and the de-Enlightenment (which was carried out by Nazis and the Soviets in jointly occupied Poland) and accomplished by shooting them (not starving them).

    I don’t think either should be forgotten, and I don’t think ‘numbers don’t matter’.

    But we (mostly) have forgotten all but the Holocaust. That doesn’t make sense logically or numerically.

    Did you query your friends and family? My kids had not heard of any of those things even though the Great Terror was taught (by the Denisovich book, they knew of Gulags but didn’t know the term “Great Terror”). They had never heard of Holodomor. They had vaguely remembered seeing a movie on Katyn forest but forgot the names and details.

    Cosmopolitian societies (which includes both the UK, USSR, and US) were perfectly capable of doing vicious, evil things. But I think Cosmopolitianism itself put a limit on that.

    Interesting that you’d put USSR (and I’d assume other Marxist nations) on that list. The “Black Book of Communism” puts mass murder numbers at about 100 million for “Cosmopolitan” regimes of the 20th century. Wanna rethink that claim.

  16. Boonton says:

    There are two separate killings here. The Hunger plan (de-Industrialization as cited by Mr Synder) and the de-Enlightenment (which was carried out by Nazis and the Soviets in jointly occupied Poland) and accomplished by shooting them (not starving them).

    Again starving a population is not ‘de-industrialization’. If that word means anything, it would seem to mean taking away an area’s industry which has nothing to do with its people. Planned starvation, if anything, sounds like the opposite…..finding a way to get rid of a people without damaging the industry too much.

    Ditto for ‘de-Enlightenment’. The Enlightenment was not about ‘discovering’ killing people was wrong. Any Medieval theologian could have said that 1000 years ago. The Enlightenment was about the concept of Cosmopolitianism and yes from that the USSR sprung out just as much as liberal socieities did. The Soviets did seek to destroy Poland’s higher culture and its status as a unique nation. But it did so with the purpose of subjecting them to their concept of the ‘Soviet Man’, which in theory had nothing to do with race. Indeed after WWII the USSR had no problem with Poland and Polish people existing as long as they did under a Communist government.

    But we (mostly) have forgotten all but the Holocaust. That doesn’t make sense logically or numerically.

    Agreed, my only argument is that I think the Holocaust deserves precedent. That’s not to say the rest doesn’t merit more attention.

    Interesting that you’d put USSR (and I’d assume other Marxist nations) on that list.

    Keep in mind that Marx was an Enlightenment man and a Classical Economist at that! Fascism traces its origins to the Romantic movement which was a *rejection* of the Enlightenment. Assumptions like culture is just an artifact of a society’s economic means of production, that individuals are essentialy ‘blank slates’ who will either be as good or bad as society influences them to be are all quite Enlightenment orientated ideas that fascists were keen to reject totally. These ideas can indeed lead you to decent places (i.e. universal human rights, a liberal society where everyone is treated equally) but they can also lead you to very unhappy places (i.e. people are just ‘raw material’ to be molded by the state).

    The “Black Book of Communism” puts mass murder numbers at about 100 million for “Cosmopolitan” regimes of the 20th century. Wanna rethink that claim.

    Nope, You’re citing a numerator without a denominator. The denominator here is “the amount of destructive power the regime held in its hands”. That number was ‘quite a bit’ when you consider both sides of the Cold War amassed tens of thousands of megatons of nuclear weapons. We are lucky that this conflict came just before the true nuclear age hit, otherwise we’d still have pools of radioactive dust floating around.

    The other side of this question then is to imagine what that ratio would have been for a hypothetical block of non-cosmopolitian civilizations with equal tech and firepower? I think a fascist block would have nuked its way well past 100M in less than a few years in their ‘Ostplans’. Likewise I don’t think a Cold War could even exist in a non-cosmopolitian world. A fascist East and West bloc would have been much more likely to ‘push the button’ IMO. One of the saving graces about Cosmopolitianism is that it offers the possibility of conversion. The Soviet chiefton could argue that the West could be converted to Communism through less hostile means than a full frontal attack, the Westernor could do the same. Neither position is at odds directly with their ideology. The non-cosmopolitian ideology is not as flexible. It has nothing to do with the other guy’s beliefs, he must be dominated and unless the other guy is willing to surrender, he is going to fight back using the same ideology.

  17. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    Again starving a population is not ‘de-industrialization’.

    Not per se, but a plan to take a nation with farms and industry and convert it to only farms (with different people farming the land) is in turn de-industrializing the land.

    Planned starvation, if anything, sounds like the opposite…..finding a way to get rid of a people without damaging the industry too much.

    I think it’s not about a pre-Nuclear age Neutron bomb but just because they thought it was the least expensive way to do it.

    The Enlightenment was not about ‘discovering’ killing people was wrong.

    Who said it was. It was about learning. Killing educated people in a place can be described as de-Enlightening the region.

    The Soviets did seek to destroy Poland’s higher culture and its status as a unique nation.

    And you are giving a pass to the Nazis? Why?

    Indeed after WWII the USSR had no problem with Poland and Polish people existing as long as they did under a Communist government.

    Are you so confident you know how Stalin treated the Polish people post War?

    The other side of this question then is to imagine what that ratio would have been for a hypothetical block of non-cosmopolitian civilizations with equal tech and firepower?

    You still haven’t established a separation between the willingness to kill by Cosmo/non-Cosmo nations. Who many of their own did Fascist Italy kill compared to Cosmo Soviets? Hmmm?

    Agreed, my only argument is that I think the Holocaust deserves precedent.

    Yes. And you haven’t established the reason for its uniqueness, for why it might deserve precedent. If anything you’ve done the reverse. If the Holocaust was “against” your Cosmo credo then that would be expected and therefore ho-hum. The slaughter of millions that is within your preconceptions should be, if anything, more troubling than that which is against.

  18. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Another thought on this. The term “genocide” is of relatively recent coinage. When Ottoman’s were slaughtering Armenians because they were Armenians there was no such word. This is retroactively termed as genocide. Genocide, killing a people based on national, religous, or other specific identity has been identify and the Holocaust fits that definition.

    These other mass murders are not so well defined. Killing 200k people identified by education. Killing 3-5 million because of place and profession. These aren’t genocide. So they aren’t in the list of genocides, so those people trying to “Never Forget” genocide and deciding that’s what a primary evil to halt don’t remember these other “mass murders by states” because they aren’t on a neat list.

    Could it just be bad ontology? That because It doesn’t fit some neat categories -> so it didn’t happen or wasn’t important?

  19. Boonton says:

    These other mass murders are not so well defined. Killing 200k people identified by education. Killing 3-5 million because of place and profession. These aren’t genocide. So they aren’t in the list of genocides, so those people trying to “Never Forget” genocide and deciding that’s what a primary evil to halt don’t remember these other “mass murders by states” because they aren’t on a neat list.

    There does seem to be a distinction made between killing 200K people because they are highly educated and killing 200K people because they represent the entire population of some small ethnic group. In terms of raw numbers, the two would be equal but the second case would not only wipe out 200K people but also presumably wipe out the entire culture, possibly even a language. If China killed all educated Chinese people, it would be a horrible slaughter. But Chinese culture would still continue.