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Ed Driscoll

Crimes and Misdemeanors and the Dachau Gift Shop

February 16th, 2014 - 6:25 pm

“You Wouldn’t Believe What I Saw in the Dachau Gift Shop,” is the memorable headline atop a new article by Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg.com. Immediately below said memorable headline is is an even more memorable photo that Goldberg took at — and here’s a phrase you rarely hear all that often — the Dachau Gift Shop — the gift shop at the Dachau concentration camp, which he had recently visited:

Before I go any further, a confession: This photograph would get me fired by the Associated Press, which has strict rules about manipulating imagery. I manipulated this image by moving the Philip Roth biography to the spot just below the Woody Allen biography in order to intensify the deep ridiculousness of a concentration camp gift shop selling biographies of Philip Roth and Woody Allen. The Roth biography had previously sat on an adjacent rack, alongside biographies of Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud.

I visited Dachau one afternoon during the Munich Security Conference with a friend, Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post. Visiting Dachau seemed like a particularly appropriate thing for us to do: At a panel discussion about Syria the previous night, a succession of very powerful people argued that they, and the governments and institutions they represent, are powerless to stop Bashar al-Assad from murdering Syrian citizens with whom he disagrees.

At this discussion, Anne-Marie Slaughter, the former State Department official, became exercised, comparing this attitude to the indifference of the world to the Holocaust as it was taking place. “In the United States, we often ask, ‘Why didn’t Roosevelt bomb the trains?’ We aren’t very different,” she said.

I should underscore that this discussion about the West’s powerlessness in the face of fascist evil was taking place in Munich.

Though I am sometimes critical of attempts to compare current-day atrocities to the Holocaust, Slaughter’s analogy seemed appropriate. The Holocaust is the Holocaust, a sui generis, industrialized and scientifically advanced attempt — and a partially successful one — to exterminate an entire ethnic group without regard to nationality or borders. But Slaughter is right to argue that Syria exists on the same continuum of horror and that the response of the so-called civilized world should be a source of shame.

Perhaps a pair of tweets from Allen’s former muse could place that last sentence into context:

mia_farrow_then_and_now_8-30-13-2

And note that Farrow co-starred in Allen’s 1989 film Crimes and Misdemeanors, which was Woody’s movie-length apologia for the same Nietzschian Will to Power that fueled those who built Dachau in 1933. And Crimes and Misdemeanors also ties into the placement of Philip Roth in Goldberg’s photo. As Goldberg very likely knows, the two men have long had strangely intertwined and feuding professional careers. Claire Blume played the spouse of Martin Landau’s coldly-plotting lead character in that film, and would be married to Roth for six years, beginning the year after Crimes and Misdemeanors’ release.

Top Rated Comments   
Here's a tangential query. Mark Steyn appears to have had an enormous falling out with the editors of NRO. His essays no longer appear there since the dust up between him and the utterly incoherent Jason Lee Steorts. So why hasn't PJ Media snapped him up?
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sometimes you hear American and European Jews complaining the Allies should have liberated the Camps earlier. My Dad fought in the 4th Armored Division under Patton and they were opposed by a little thing called the German Army. Dad lost many friends killed in the advance and was wounded 2 times himself. How dare they complain that Liberation wasn't "fast enough". ONLY the Americans gave a damn. The Russians and the rest of Europe just didn't give a damn about the Jews and certainly didn't resist Hitler to prevent formation of the Camps. I've pretty well had it with European pompous, stuffed shirt, sanctimonious, moral superiority to the "stupid Americans".
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is something uniquely infuriating about the Chairborne Rangers of the Future bloviating about what Eisenhower, Churchill, and Roosevelt "should have done" via a vis the holocaust, when that criticism is moral, as opposed to simply offering divergent strategies to win the war. It is the same with the "Japan was about to surrender (hah), why did we drop the bomb?" crowd.

The Chairborne's all make the same error. They simply do not place themselves in the shoes of the people who were there, and were making life-or-death decisions at the time based on the only info they had, and they make themselves morally superior to those people at the same time. It is odious in the extreme.

Yes, it is true that some knew, some "knew", or thought they did (maybe had the story right but the facts wrong)... and many did not. It is also true, for the record, the the British were master propagandists in the First World War, and many European Jews would pay a price for that thirty years later. Was someone "at fault" for that?

So why did the Allies not bomb these mysterious camps that most planners knew little about? Maybe because all of their efforts, at an astonishing cost in lives to air crews, was spent destroying the regime that was carrying out the holocaust. How dare they not prolong the war, even if for a few days, in order to accomplish.... what exactly? Nobody is quite sure what those camps are about, or what their deal is. Because it is 1944, remember? And the liberations are still a year in the future.

BTW, go make the rounds, and find out how many people know what the 'Gulag Archipelago' really was, what really occurred there, or the facts about Stalin's starvation of the Ukraine, and Mao's great leap forward. How many know now, not to mention at the time. Now give me the "how could they not know" rap.

I guess the same reason that I am a rabid foam-at-the-mouth anti-conspiricist. Nothing grinds my gears quite like those who at heart look at history for the purpose of proving their own moral superiority over those who were there. And those people quite frankly, were, in so many ways, better men and women than so many of us will ever be.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (23)
All Comments   (23)
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Is the comparison between the Nazi extermination of Jews and Assad's attempt to crush dissent reasonable?

In the case of Syria, aren't all of the players Islamic? My understanding is that they're all just different varieties of Muslim.

Beyond that, a dictator simply trying to crush opposition seems quite different than a dictator bent on seeking out people, regardless of their political opposition, and exterminating them where ever they might live simply due to their ethnicity.

Those things seem SO VERY DIFFERENT to me.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
In the case of Syria, aren't all of the players Islamic? My understanding is that they're all just different varieties of Muslim.

Assad is an Alawite as are most of the elites in Syria. However, the Alawites are only roughly 10% of the population as I understand it. Some Muslims see them as Muslims but many do not. Wikipedia lists the major groups on each side of the question. Most Syrians are not Alawites. As usual, there are major differences between Sunnis and Shi'ites as well as fundamentalist and more moderate groups within each.

Comparisons to Nazi Germany seem questionable at best. Maybe if the Jews were running Germany and then they persecuted Lutherans the analogy would be better. Even then, the Syrians haven't really left their own territory (aside from a few raids over the border into Lebanon or Turkey). The Germans occupied almost all of Europe. Most of the people they killed where not killed within the borders of prewar Germany; they were killed in German-occupied territory, especially in Poland and Ukraine.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here's a tangential query. Mark Steyn appears to have had an enormous falling out with the editors of NRO. His essays no longer appear there since the dust up between him and the utterly incoherent Jason Lee Steorts. So why hasn't PJ Media snapped him up?
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'd think that the Dachau Gift Shop -- which does make sense -- would focus only on items relevant to the tragedy of 1930s-1940s Europe and especially the tragedy of Jews and others within Germany proper. Biographies of post-WWII Jews seem like strange merchandise.
I might also use a name like Dachau Memorial Items rather than "gift shop." That's just me.
In terms of Iraq and Syria and intervention: people like Barack Obama and Mia Farrow sure have a hard time understanding national interest and also opportunity. Iraq was in a condition to be knocked over at a low cost (as wars go) and it was -- the recovery was the hard part, not the regime change. Iraq presented an opportunity to alter a threat that wasn't yet imminent but predictably would be imminent.
Syria has presented no such opportunity and far less of a threat.
I see others have addressed the question of why the Allies didn't go after the concentration camps earlier. The nature of war -- you go after the enemy's strength first.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
All good points about Iraq, but nobody seems to remember that, at the time G. W. Bush invaded, the world was still at war with Iraq. Gulf war I was not complete and was still just a cease fire, contingent on Iraq allowing weapons inspectors full access to the country and ability to find and dispose of the WMD's. There were some 14ish UN resolutions condemning Iraq between the cease fire and the invasion because Iraq did not live up to the terms of the cease fire. The later invasion was the continuation and finalization of Gulf war I and was to enforce all of those UN resolutions that were passed for many months before the final invasion.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is the correct version of history, and is almost universally ignored. People forget that the original Gulf War ended with a negotiated cease fire, and that Saddam systematically flouted the accords when he detected weakness in the US, i.e. the Slick Willie Presidency.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Iraqis were shooting at American planes. Case closed.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
I fail to see a major parallel between the happenings in Syria and the Nazi death camps. There are heavily armed camps fighting on both sides in Syria. There is no parallel with the defenseless Jews (and others) of Europe. There are non-combatants being killed as well, but if that is the measure of atrocity (which perhaps it should be), our own actions should be judged harshly, as well. How many women and children has Barack Obama killed whilst portraying his alter ego, the Drone Ranger?
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sometimes you hear American and European Jews complaining the Allies should have liberated the Camps earlier. My Dad fought in the 4th Armored Division under Patton and they were opposed by a little thing called the German Army. Dad lost many friends killed in the advance and was wounded 2 times himself. How dare they complain that Liberation wasn't "fast enough". ONLY the Americans gave a damn. The Russians and the rest of Europe just didn't give a damn about the Jews and certainly didn't resist Hitler to prevent formation of the Camps. I've pretty well had it with European pompous, stuffed shirt, sanctimonious, moral superiority to the "stupid Americans".
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
OK, those people were stupid. And the Americans were better, although it was Eisenhower, not Patton, who tried to help.

The proper question is why the West (including the US):
1. Refused to bomb the camps
2. Refused to bomb the rail lines to the camps.
3. Refused the Jews refuge. (This is the big one.)
4. Refused to make reasonable deals which could have saved a large number.
5. Refused to take strong, non-military action early on when Hitler could have been discouraged.

8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
The West's responsibility was to win the war. As late as The Bulge, December 1944, it was still possible for Germany to prevent its own unconditional surrender with a little luck. Why didn't the US liberate the prisoner camps in Malaysia, the Philippenes, and elsewhere in the Pacific before defeating the Japanese? Because we might not have won the war. In retrospect, your enemy's collapse seems inevitable; in the real world, you do everything you can to defeat him before you start worrying about the prison camps.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Effing-A buddy. My Dad drove the third truck across Remagen Bridge, and he was going just as fast as he could, thanks Luftwaffe. I reminded WJ Clinton of this when he first made Go Faster a foreign-apology issue. The 99th was a Pittsburgh unit; a lot of them were "American Jews" (and many of the others, more German than the Germans). From LeHavre to Metz (Ardennes included) was the fastest advance in the history of warfare. I knew scores of those guys, and what happened after they liberated the Dachau outcamps was the one thing they didn't want to talk about.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dachau was more for political prisoners and wasn't an extermination camp as such, IIRC. Not that it was Club Med...

PS We were blowing up trains. They were mostly the ones supplying the fighting fronts.

And we didn't have fighters that could go all the way to Germany and back until spring '44, when everything was thrown into supporting the Normandy landings.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've been to Dachau. Whether it was for 'political' prisoners or not, I've seen the ovens. And felt the overpowering foreboding that permeates the place. It is full of haunted souls.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is something uniquely infuriating about the Chairborne Rangers of the Future bloviating about what Eisenhower, Churchill, and Roosevelt "should have done" via a vis the holocaust, when that criticism is moral, as opposed to simply offering divergent strategies to win the war. It is the same with the "Japan was about to surrender (hah), why did we drop the bomb?" crowd.

The Chairborne's all make the same error. They simply do not place themselves in the shoes of the people who were there, and were making life-or-death decisions at the time based on the only info they had, and they make themselves morally superior to those people at the same time. It is odious in the extreme.

Yes, it is true that some knew, some "knew", or thought they did (maybe had the story right but the facts wrong)... and many did not. It is also true, for the record, the the British were master propagandists in the First World War, and many European Jews would pay a price for that thirty years later. Was someone "at fault" for that?

So why did the Allies not bomb these mysterious camps that most planners knew little about? Maybe because all of their efforts, at an astonishing cost in lives to air crews, was spent destroying the regime that was carrying out the holocaust. How dare they not prolong the war, even if for a few days, in order to accomplish.... what exactly? Nobody is quite sure what those camps are about, or what their deal is. Because it is 1944, remember? And the liberations are still a year in the future.

BTW, go make the rounds, and find out how many people know what the 'Gulag Archipelago' really was, what really occurred there, or the facts about Stalin's starvation of the Ukraine, and Mao's great leap forward. How many know now, not to mention at the time. Now give me the "how could they not know" rap.

I guess the same reason that I am a rabid foam-at-the-mouth anti-conspiricist. Nothing grinds my gears quite like those who at heart look at history for the purpose of proving their own moral superiority over those who were there. And those people quite frankly, were, in so many ways, better men and women than so many of us will ever be.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
The planners may not have known, but those at the top did. There's no conspiracy or hindsight, people were screaming this at the time. I agree with you regarding "go faster" but there were other things that could have been done, not all military, particularly before the war. The truth is that the bluebloods in State and the Foreign Office did not want "those" people in the US or the UK or "Palestine". You know, the same group of bluebloods that contained so many Soviet spies.

And, from the bottom of my heart, I thank your father and his buddies for what they did. Those American GIs (as opposed to the British and Russians) could do no wrong as far as I'm concerned.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
To make matters worst (if possible) that same hand-wringing crowd continues that very "Chairborne" (good word) act today. "There were no WMD in Iraq and everyone knew". "It was Bush's war.", ad nauseam and this happened in the recent past. The twisting of history (current and ancient) to fit their world view (which they just KNOW is oh so right) is sickening.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Every last one of these "Chairborne Rangers" (I concur that this is a great name) are operating with 20/20 Hindsight. They are all relying on information that only emerged years or decades after the event. Sure, if all of those things had been known in 1943/44, the Allies might have proceeded differently but I have yet to see how they could have reasonably changed their strategy based on what was reliably known at the time.

Would it have been wonderful if we could have saved more of the Jews (and non-Jews, of which there were many) from annihilation in WW II? Of course it would! Show me the evidence that the decision makers had at the time that was more than rumours or whispers or remarks from individuals who might not be deemed reliable sources. Then we can make a reasonable judgment about whether the leaders really did know what was happening in those camps. Even then, a case might well have been made that destroying the German Army was still going to save more lives in the long run than attempts to liberate camps behind the enemy lines.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why does Dachau have a gift shop?
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Same as any other museum, to help pay for operating the place.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
You cannot stop evil until you first recognize its existence. The Left's entire worldview is predicated on the belief that moral evil does not exist. This is what so freaked them out about 9/11: the visible, tangible, undeniable evidence that evil exists in the world and the only way to stop it is to fight it, to beat it back, to war against it and destroy it.

To let 9/11 stand as a day of infamy, to let Bush succeed in putting paid to that rape-room butcher Saddam was to completely and utterly invalidate their worldview, their secular religion, their very reason for being.

I will remind PJM readers once again that our current Lightbringer began his political career in the living room of a man whose printed manifesto called for doing to 25% of the US population what Assad is currently doing to his.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Given that the left loves to exclaim that Saddam Hussein was installed into the Iraq government by the Reagan administration, one would think (there's that word again) they (the left) would be happy to be rid of him.

Actually, as I see things now, the US has turned into a divided nation where a national socialist democrat doing X is fine but never for anyone with an (R) after their name. They are not fighting on principle, which is any republican's first mistake; They are fighting on dogma and for the benefit of the party in the same style as the recruiting tools for the Wehrmacht of 1935. They are "Buying and lying" to them. However, the Wehrmacht required military service for all the freebies.

The current national socialists engineering our home-grown nightmare will only call in the markers when the money flood slows and the people who are used to free stuff start to screech and howl. For now, it's a "something for nothing" game paid for by you and me and all the other people who pay their taxes.

It is especially disturbing to consider the consequences of their actions in just a few short years. That is, when a responsible, fiscally conservative government shuts off their spigot of free money. It'll be a violent upheaval where the give-me's demand their free stuff.

Gonna get a lot worse before it gets any better.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm kinda taken aback that there's a gift shop at the site of Dachau Concentration Camp. It's kinda like having one at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or Gettysburg Cemetery. Some places should be places of reverence, above tourist trap commercialism. I guess not.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
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