The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Moral Inequivalencies

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Moral Inequivalencies

After denying that the Nazis intended to exterminate the Jews, revisionists then argue that what the Nazis treatment of the Jews is really no different from what other nations do to their perceived enemies. Revisionists point out, for example, that the U.S. government obliterated two Japanese cities with atomic weapons--the first and only government in history to so swiftly eliminate a civilian population (Irving, 1994). Furthermore, Americans also concentrated Japanese- Americans in camps, not unlike, revisionists argue, what the Germans did to their perceived internal enemy--the Jews (Cole, 1994). This particular theme, and many others (e.g., the bombing of Dresden), have a not-so-hidden agenda to implicate America and Britain as guilty co- equals, along with Germany, for the mass destruction of the Second World War.

But there is a big difference between two nations fighting one another with trained and armed militia, versus the systematic and organized killing of a group of unarmed, unsuspecting, deceived group of people, many in the same nation, not in self-defense, not to gain more territory or raw materials or wealth, but simply because they are different in some way. At his trial in Jerusalem Adolf Eichmann, one of the chief planners and organizers of the Final Solution, tried to make the moral equivalency argument. But the judge nailed him, as this sequence from the trial shows (Russell, 1963, pp. 278-279):

Judge Benjamin Halevi to Eichmann: You have often compared the extermination of the Jews with the bombing raids on German cities and you compared the murder of Jewish women and children with the death of German women in aerial bombardments. Surely it must be clear to you that there is a basic distinction between these two things. On the one hand the bombing is used as an instrument of forcing the enemy to surrender. Just as the Germans tried to force the British to surrender by their bombing. In that case it is a war objective to bring an armed enemy to his knees.

On the other hand, when you take unarmed Jewish men, women, and children from their homes, hand them over to the Gestapo, and then send them to Auschwitz for extermination it is an entirely different thing, is it not?

Eichmann: The difference is enormous. But at that time these crimes had been legalized by the state and the responsibility, therefore, belongs to those who issued the orders.

Halevi: But you must know surely that there are internationally recognized Laws and Customs of War whereby the civilian population is protected from actions which are not essential for the prosecution of the war itself.

Eichmann: Yes, I'm aware of that.

Halevi: Did you never feel a conflict of loyalties between your duty and your conscious?

Eichmann: I suppose one could call it an internal split. It was a personal dilemma when one swayed from one extreme to the other.

Halevi: One had to overlook and forget one's conscience.

Eichmann: Yes, one could put it that way.

Work Cited

Shermer, Michael. "Proving the Holocaust: The Refutation of Revisionism & the Restoration of History," Skeptic, Vol. 2, No. 4, Altadena, California, June, 1994. Published by the Skeptics Society, 2761 N. Marengo Ave., Altadena, CA 91001, (818) 794-3119.

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