The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/s/sack.john/1997/sack.0497


Forum:  Book Preview                        Section:  An Eye for an Eye
Subj:  Eye for an Eye
 
 
To   :  Michael  S. Curtis, 105135,436        4/30/97 12:28 PM
From :  John Sack, 76711,3235                #13352
 
Thank you, Mike.  Im sure that youre not aware that Goldhagens review has been
completely discredited since it was published four years ago in The New
Republic.   A professor at the University of California wrote in The Nation,
"Goldhagen seriously distorts history," and even the London Jewish Chronicle
said, "Goldhagen strays from professionalism into passion."  
 
In February this year, I wrote a signed editorial in The Harvard Crimson that
challenged Professor Goldhagen to a public debate, anytime.  He still hasnt
accepted, or even answered me, but here is a part of my Crimson editorial:  
 
A zealous assistant professor at Harvard named Daniel Jonah Goldhagenlet loose
a volley of hatchets against An Eye for an Eye.  
 
Goldhagen hinted that I, a Jew, was an anti-Semite.  He said I was morally
sloppy and intellectually tawdry.  He called my 65 pages of endnotes
bewildering, and he complained that Id written, "Hath not a Jew eyes?  Hath not
a Jew passions?" but hadnt attributed this to the English playwright William
Shakespeare ("Many readers will not know").  Goldhagen said Id done outright
fictionalization, although all the scholars whod check my bewildering notes at
the German Federal Archives would write, "The story is there," "The facts are
correct," "The writing is watertight."  The sharpest of Goldhagens hatchets
went at my "outrageous claims" about the Jewish commandant of the camp at
Schwientochlowitz, near Auschwitz, although my claims that the man killed the
Germans with clubs, crowbars, stools, and the Germans own crutches would be
confirmed by 60 Minutes, The New York Times, and the German newspaper Die Zeit.
 
 
In The New Republic, Goldhagen lied.  He said that I hadnt written things that,
at a glance, a freshman (in high school) could ascertain that I had.  In An Eye
for an Eye Id written in highly legible type of the commandant at Lamsdorf, "He
insisted (and all the Jews accepted) that he was a Polish Catholic," but
Goldhagen claimed, "It is only in the notes, eighty pages away. . . that the
unusually diligent reader will discover [that] he was a Polish Catholic." 
Goldhagens hatchets were two-headed ones, for he also claimed that Id written
things that I hadnt.  Our high-school freshman could read in An Eye for an Eye
that 75 percent of the officersthe majors, captains, lieutenantsin the Office
of State Security in the province of Silesia in February 1945 were Jews, but
Goldhagen claimed that Id written that "75 percent of those in the Office of
State Security in Silesia were Jews."   Of those?  Of those what?  The
adjective in a nouns disguise was Goldhagens awkward way of concealing from
innocent readers that I had been writing of officers only.  
 
May I go on?  Having misrepresented me, Goldhagen then refuted me with
statistics about the officers and the privates, about Silesia and the rest of
Poland, and about an antithetical era.  Goldhagen wrote, "We know how many Jews
were in the Office of State Security.  According to a tabulation of November
21, 1945, by Boleslaw Bierut, then President of Poland, the Office of State
Security  had 438 Jews.  438!  Not Sacks 75 percent but 1.7 percent. . . ." 
"Uh, no," says our high-school thirteen-year-old, for Id clearly written that
Jews left the Office "as early as June 1945," that "hundreds of Jews escaped
from the Office" by September 1945, and that "all but a scattering of Jews
returned to the Torah and Talmud and fled from the Office by December 1945." 
If, as Goldhagen said, there were 438 Jews in the Office as late as November
21, 1945, thats sixty times more than Id ever mentioned in An Eye for an Eye,
though when I reported this in a letter to The New Republic, the editors (my
avowed defenders) wouldnt publish it, and when I bought a $425 ad, the editors
wouldnt publish that.  
 
What would entice a Harvard assistant professor to act as [the New Republics]
willing executioner?  "The facts are," Goldhagen said in The New Republic, his
certitude unencumbered by certainty, "that Jews did not run the Polish Office
of State Security."  Oh?  A full professor at Columbia told New York, "The
great majority ofofficers were certainly Jews."  A professor in Warsaw found a
whos who of the 447 top officers from 1944 to 1953, and thirty percent declared
they were Jews.  (How many Jews didnt declare it?  How many deserted in 1945?) 
A professor at the University of California wrote in The Nation, "Goldhagen
seriously distorts history," and even the London Jewish Chronicle said,
"Goldhagen strays from professionalism into passion."  
 
What was the source of Goldhagens unprofessional fit?  His piece in The New
Republic had such disregard for his Universitys motto that he may just have
been seeking to immunize his upcoming book from any eyewitness evidence that
what we must learn from the Holocaust isnt that all Jews are good and all
Germans are bad.  And yet I cant swear that a germ of veritas doesnt lurk in
Goldhagens screed.  Let Truth and Falsehood grapple, said Miltonlet former
student and present professor debate at some forum in Cambridge what we Jews
did or didnt do after the Holocaust.  Professor Goldhagen, I challenge you.  


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