Holocaust Europe wants to cover up: A shocking new book by a leading....

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Holocaust Europe wants to cover up: A shocking new book by a leading academic details how countries from Norway to France colluded in the mass slaughter of the Jews. No wonder they're now rewriting history to hide the truth

By Tony Rennell

Published: 22:48, 27 January 2023 | Updated: 22:56, 27 January 2023

Given their religious taboos, it was a particularly humiliating fate for Jews herded into pigsties, of all places.  But much worse was to come for the inmates of this makeshift concentration camp on what had been a state farm. Eleven thousand of them were crammed into a space deemed fit for only 7,000 pigs, then callously abandoned.  After bartering their clothes for food that never arrived, they were left virtually naked, just rags and scraps of newspaper to cover them, as temperatures in the winter of 1941 plunged to minus 40. They starved and froze to death.  Their plight was a matter of amusement for the local government official, who would drop in to inspect 'the Yids', as he called them. He'd divert himself by taking pictures of them 'grazing' on their hands and knees, forced to find whatever sustenance they could from plant roots, twigs, leaves, human excrement and even dead bodies. Rape by their guards was commonplace. So was suicide.  Here was a different type of mass murder from the way the Holocaust is normally reported in conventional histories, which concentrate our minds on the 'industrialised' killing in death camps such as Auschwitz, the so-called 'final solution', with trainloads arriving and being almost instantaneously dispatched to the gas chambers and the crematoria.  But this was only part of the story, argues leading Holocaust specialist Professor Dan Stone, in a new book that turns on their head some of the widely-held notions about that terrible era of genocide 80 years ago.  We certainly tend to get wrong just how widespread the Holocaust was, argues Stone, who is director of the Holocaust Research Institute at Royal Holloway, University of London.  The fact that we need to get our heads around and which many countries still find uncomfortable and refuse to recognise is that the Holocaust was not solely a German project, but a pan-European crime with tens of thousands of active perpetrators all over the continent.  The horrific killings described above took place beyond the boundaries of the Third Reich and its annexed satellites, in Transnistria, part of the western edge of Ukraine occupied by Romania.  Indeed, it was in remote Transnistria that the single largest massacre of the Holocaust took place — carried out not by Germans, but by Romanian gendarmes, Ukrainian auxiliaries and local militia.  An outbreak of typhus in a camp, spread by lice and fleas, was the excuse to butcher the bulk of the 54,000 inmates. They were forced into two locked stables, which were doused with petrol and set ablaze, while others were led to a ravine in a nearby forest where they were shot. The remaining Jews were made to dig pits to bury the dead, doing so with their bare hands in the bitter cold. Thousands more froze to death.  Stone writes: 'Although the persecution of the Jews that led to the Holocaust was a German project a point which cannot be overemphasised it chimed with the programs of many European fascist and authoritarian regimes. Without the willing participation of so many collaborators across Europe, the Germans would have found it much harder to kill so many Jews.'

On the basis of recent research, Stone says, rather than a tale of German occupation, deportation and murder in death camps, the Holocaust should really be seen as a series of interlocking local genocides. The Holocaust was certainly driven, and largely perpetrated by Germans, but actual participation went much further.  Countries such as France, Norway, Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania persecuted, expelled and killed Jews. And they did so, not under duress from Berlin, but because to do so fitted with their own long-held anti-Semitic views and nationalist aspiration.  How else, Stone asks, can you explain how the Nazis were able to deport Jews across Europe and beyond, from Norway to Crete, Alderney to the Caucasus, the Baltic states to North Africa?

Collaboration and complicity were everywhere. To make his point, Stone quotes a riddle. 'What do a Swiss banker and a Polish peasant have in common? Answer: a golden tooth extracted from the jaws of a Jewish corpse.'

It is not always recognised that German Jews made up no more than a few per cent of the Holocaust's six million victims. The vast majority were traditional, observant Jews living in small towns or shtetls in Eastern Europe. Moreover, most of them were slaughtered face-to-face before the SS-run death camps were even fully conceived, let alone operational.  Millions died not in gas chambers, but gunned down en masse in fields, forests and swamps. Many more were starved and worked to death.  As land in the East fell to the German army advancing into the Soviet Union after June 1941 and areas containing vast numbers of Jews were overrun, special mobile SS killing units, the Einsatzgruppen, followed up, forcing them out of their homes at gunpoint to be massacred in cold blood.  After one such operation and there were thousands of them a German soldier described to his wife in a letter home how 'with the first truckload of women and children, my hand shook somewhat as I fired, but one gets used to it. At the tenth truckload, I aimed calmly and shot straight. Infants flew through the air in high arches, and we shot them in mid-air before they fell.'

In another town not far away, another soldier recorded in his diary how he volunteered willingly for the task as a thousand Jews assembled in the town square and were marched to a deep trench full of water in a nearby swamp. 'The first ten had to place themselves next to this trench and undress, then they had to get into the water and the firing squad, that's to say we, were standing over them.  Ten shots, ten Jews brought down. We kept going until we had finished them all. Only a few managed to keep their composure. Women clung to their men and children to their mothers. It was a spectacle we won't forget quickly.'

A few days later, the same soldier was involved in another execution, 'but here there was no swamp, just some sandy ground. So we 'inserted' the Jews there in the sand'.

A horrified local recalled how for days afterwards, blood kept rising to the top of the pit, 'like the ground was breathing it was alive'.

Mass, face-to-face killings like this such as Babi Yar in Ukraine, where 34,000 were put to death over a 36-hour period were the norm.  By skipping over incidents like this, and concentrating on Auschwitz, Sobibor, Treblinka and the other death camps while not diminishing in any way how monstrous those places were we are in danger of misrepresenting the Holocaust and perhaps even underplaying some of its true horrors. We have failed unflinchingly to face the terrible reality of the Holocaust, Stone writes, not least when coverage of it focuses on the heroism of survivors.  The Nazis had a genocidal fantasy of a 'world without Jews' that they wanted to make a reality. But so, too, did many other European countries, whose dreams of creating ethnically pure nations chimed with Hitler's goals.  Nazi movements such as Norway's Nasjonal Samling or the Dutch Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging (NSB) believed in his vision of a racially cleansed Europe, and thought their national interests were best served in a Europe united under German hegemony. Now, more than 70 years on, some are still in denial about this history.  This week, analysis by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany revealed that the number of Dutch adults who believe the Holocaust is a myth was higher than any country previously surveyed.  These numbers are particularly high among Dutch Millennials and Gen Z, where nearly one-quarter (23 per cent) believe the Holocaust is a myth, or the number of Jews killed has been greatly exaggerated, while 12 per cent are unsure.  Wartime fascist regimes in Slovakia and Croatia displayed outright hostility towards the Jews. In Croatia, they were forced to wear a 'Z' mark on their front and back; one of the country's leaders described Jews as 'insatiable and poisonous parasites'.

Individuals from Denmark to Bosnia signed up to join the Waffen-SS. Ukrainians acted as camp guards. In Greece, the occupying German forces relied heavily on local assistance to deport the 56,000 Jews of Salonika to their deaths in Auschwitz.  In Norway, France and Hungary, local police rounded up, guarded and deported Jews; in Slovakia, the impetus to deport Jews came from the local fascist regime rather than from the Germans. In Romania, the regime grasped the opportunity provided by the German plans to carry out a Holocaust of its own in Transnistria.  Unlike occupied Poland, where the state was overrun by the Nazis, these were independent, or quasi-independent, states choosing to participate and finding reasons and resources to do so.  Bulgaria is remembered for refusing to surrender 'its' Jews to the Nazis, but that didn't stop its leaders from handing over Jews in neighbouring Thrace and Macedonia that it had just occupied. Seven thousand of them died in Treblinka. Hungary also refused to surrender its Jewish populations to the Germans though it hardly treated them well, forcing them into labour battalions. But it lost that independent decision-making when the Germans marched in and took over in 1944.  Among the first arrivals in Budapest was the dreaded Adolf Eichmann, with his Sonderkommando unit of 150 to 200 men, who were experts in extermination. Less than two months later, 437,000 people almost all the Jews of Hungary had been dispatched to Auschwitz, their rapid deportation assisted by Hungarian collaborators.  The fact is that the genocide of the Jews could not have been so thorough and brutal without active collaboration across a Europe that was widely anti-Semitic, as we can see from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's Encyclopedia Of Camps And Ghettos.  This lists sites where Jews were held and died. It is more than 900 pages long and contains information on almost 700 places from the far north of Norway to the Atlas Mountains, from Brittany to Ukraine with not a single one of them a camp administered by the Germans.  Some governments took the initiative themselves. The Vichy government in France, for example, pre-empted the Nazis by introducing its Statut des Juifs, the legislation to arrest and deport Jews from France, without the Nazis' encouragement.  In the Netherlands, the Germans deported 75 per cent of its Jews, just over 100,000 people, to be killed, the highest proportion in Western Europe helped by the efficiency of the Dutch civil service, and their willingness to do the job without considering the moral implications of their actions.  In Norway, there was considerable resistance to Nazi rule, but in November 1942, Norwegian plainclothes policemen rounded up 532 Jews in Oslo and drove them in taxis to a German ship waiting in the harbour. They were shipped to Germany and then sent by train to Auschwitz and gassed on arrival.  The Holocaust even spread beyond the boundaries of Europe. Jews in North Africa were subjected to French and Italian racial laws, had their property stolen, and were interned and made to perform forced labour. Some ended up in death camps in Europe.  Nor did that deep-rooted racism disappear with the defeat of the Nazis. When displaced Jews the few who had survived, that is returned to Poland they were subjected to violent attacks. Hungarian Jews were met with incredulity and disdain by those who had stolen their homes and were unwilling to hand them back.  Recognising that the scope of the Holocaust implicates the whole of Europe, Stone argues, is important because some countries are now attempting to whitewash their past. The Polish government has tried to silence historians who have uncovered information about Poles who handed Jews over to the Nazi occupiers.  Similarly, memorials and museums in Hungary selectively interpret the past to make that nation appear an innocent victim or rescuer of Jews, rather than the active participant that it was.  But what troubles him even more is his fear that the Holocaust as a subject of study and of remembrance is being filed away in a far too convenient box, its horrors contained, treated as a one-off that can be laid at the door of the Nazi regime and a few quislings. It is being consigned to 'history', something that happened a long time ago, never to be repeated, with no relevance to today.  Acknowledging how widespread the collaboration went in Europe, and how easily so many nations drifted into doing unspeakable things is important, he argues, because we live in an age of increasing nationalism, Right-wing populism and xenophobia.  The lesson he wants us to press home from the Holocaust, is not just about intolerance or hatred or the dangers of bullying, which, he fears, is what conventional Holocaust education and commemoration teaches. It is that deep and irrational passions can move human beings to collude in terrible things. And nothing in the end can stop people from supporting these dark forces in times of crisis.  Dismissing the Holocaust as vicious actions of a mad regime is complacent and dangerous. There were political, religious, cultural and social reasons that enabled it to happen and these circumstances, Stone insists, threaten us again.  'Fascism is not yet in power, but it is knocking on the door. If we refuse to deal with this challenge, then the post-war order built on internationalism and individual freedom will be decisively done away with and we will have sleepwalked into authoritarianism.'


*  Adapted from The Holocaust: An Unfinished History by Dan Stone, published by Pelican at £22. © Dan Stone 2023. To order a copy for £19.80 (offer valid to 12/02/23; UK P&P free on orders over £20), visit www.mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937.