American involvement in Russia was part of an Allied Intervention into Russia rather than an actual invasion. President Wilson authorized limited military force in Russia but no formal declaration of war was ever authorized by the American Congress. Wilson ordered 5,000 men to occupy Arkhangelsk and around 8,000 to Vladivostok, a port city on the far eastern reaches of Russia. The American “expeditionary” forces were not part of a concerted American war effort but rather an American commitment made out of the emerging European debates that followed the First World War. Wilson was also known to use limited occupational forces to achieve political goals. One example is his 1914 occupation of the Mexican port city Veracruz to influence the success of a U.S. friendly Mexican government, obviously Veracruz is a different story but it demonstrates that Wilson used Executive power to authorize military occupations that were not necessarily outright invasions or declarations of war.
Importantly the number of around 13,000 thousand American soldiers was considerably less than the commitments of Czechoslovakia’s (50,000), France’s (12,000) and Britain’s (40,000). Moreover the strategic importance of the areas occupied by America were also minor in comparison to other zones of conflict and the role of America was manifestly less significant than the contributions of her Allies. General Graves who commanded the American contingent present in Siberia (American Expeditionary Force Siberia) had the aim of protecting American military equipment and American capital investment that was still in Russia after the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II. Graves’ other objectives included safe guarding the exit of the Czech legion from Russian territory and to assist the reorganization of the new Russian government.
You have to take into account that Russia in 1918 was vastly different from the Communist state that we understand it to have been throughout the twentieth century. In 1918 it was not clear that the Bolsheviks would emerge as victors, the Red Army faced opponents on four fronts to control a comparatively small area compared to the huge country we know Russia is today. The map I’ve linked at the bottom shows the extent of Bolshevik control in 1919, Archangelsk is just at the top, Vladivostok where most of the Americans were stationed is located thousands of kilometers to the east and Americans stationed there engaged in a limited role against Russian Cossacks, a group separate to the Revolutionary Bolsheviks.
Wilson’s motivations for sending American troops were numerous but stemmed from his willingness to see through his own vision for a post war peace process. He was pressured by allies to commit to Russian intervention and he likely did so in a diplomatic measure to ensure he had some leverage in the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. Undoubtedly Wilson was more concerned with fostering a democratic environment in Europe (and protecting physical American interests in Russia) rather than in participating in a huge mobilization against Russia after the toll of the First World War. The intervention was certainly no secret, Congressmen, Newspapers and Citizens were alert to the experiences of American soldiers stationed in the frozen port cities and campaigned for the men to be returned. Generally Americans opposed intervention and largely felt that their commitment in the First World War had been sufficient enough in aiding allied European nations. Additionally many Americans did not share the international spirit that Wilson pushed in the post-war peace conferences. President Warren Harding who followed Wilson’s administration condemned the intervention as a complete mistake.
Here are a couple of good sources if you want to develop some of the ideas that I’ve written here:
(It wasn’t an invasion, it was an intervention authorized by the President and not Congress and the American people knew about it.)
*Maybe the best quick read to get the bet settled that isn’t a wikipedia article.
*The introduction here will help you get a better idea on some of the context surrounding the intervention.
The Supreme Court ruling on BURWELL, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, ET AL. v. HOBBY LOBBY STORES, INC. has now opened up the precedent (ignoring how narrowly tailored the ruling was to only contraception) that under the RFRA, even if its a compelling government interest, the state cannot mandate any firm with sincere religious beliefs to carry out a requirement, so long as the government can pick up the slack? It seems like the least restrictive means will always be making the government do it instead and not restrict at all anyone’s religious beliefs.
On page 46 of the opinion, Alito writes: “Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs. Other coverage requirements, such as immunizations, may be supported by different interests (for example, the need to combat the spread of infectious diseases) and may involve different arguments about the least restrictive means of providing them.”
This certainly leaves open the possibility that the Court could rule differently on the “least restrictive means” issue in the future, but his language in section V-B, which discusses the “least restrictive means” test, seems to indicate that it is a difficult standard to pass. On page 41 of the opinion, he indicates that “the most straightforward way of [meeting the least restrictive means test] would be for the Government to assume the cost.” He also says that “HHS has not shown … that this is not a viable alternative.” This seems to indicate that if such a challenge were to come up regarding vaccination or blood transfusions, or whatever else, the burden would be on the Department of Health and Human Services to show that it would be impractical for the Government to cover the cost. That would be quite the burden for the Government to prove.
Ginsberg seems to agree with that reading in her dissent. On page 29 on the dissent, she writes, “And where is the stopping point to the ‘let the government pay’ alternative? Suppose an employer’s sincerely held religious belief is offended by health coverage of vaccines, or paying the minimum wage, … or according women equal pay for substantially similar work…? Does it rank as a less restrictive alternative to require the government to provide the money or benefit to which the employer has a religion-based objection?” In addition to indicating that the Court’s logic could prove problematic in the future, she asserts that it is flawed at present, saying, “In sum, in view of what Congress sought to accomplish, i.e., comprehensive preventive care for women furnished through employer-based health plans, none of the proffered alternatives would satisfactorily serve the compelling interests to which Congress responded.”
I agree with Justice Ginsberg on many points here, especially the last few pages of her dissent. Justice Alito attempts to narrow his ruling as much as possible, but leaves a lot of questions unanswered as to the basis for his narrow ruling. To me, the most compelling arguments come from sections III-4 and IV (pages 27-35) of Ginsberg’s dissent. She basically asserts that the Court’s ruling has much broader implications than it intends, and poses quite a few questions about the basis for the narrow ruling.
I am also inclined to agree with her reasoning that the Court should have no business in determining which religious views are legitimate and which are not, and that religious exemptions from generally applicable law should be reserved for groups that are organized “for a religious purpose” and/or “engaged primarily in carrying out that religious purpose”.
The Supreme Court ruling can be found here: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/13-354_olp1.pdf
Justice Ginsburg’s dissent here: http://www.scribd.com/mobile/doc/231974154
There is little evidence of much inquisition-inflicted torture outside those directly related to the conditions of imprisonment in 13/14th century.
The papal bull Ad exterpanda restricted torture in its same authorization of it: no breaking bones. It doesn’t say what one should do, but emphasizes imprisonment. The unstated concomitant tortures of prison were variously hunger, disease, cold, close confinement and shackling.
In fact the most famous of inquisitors and author of key inquisition manuals, Bernardo Gui, explicitly states in the early 14th c in his Practica inquisitionis that imprisonment is the most effective method for extracting confession. A review of Gui’s registers the Liber sententiarum, which are fairly detailed, shows imprisonment being highly varied in type (from a style of short house arrest to multi-year). Gui also suggests psychological techniques such as threats against family and friends being discovered as heretics, or threats they will be ‘outed’ by family and friends, all driving to the ‘relief’ of confession, ‘relief’ that the worst punishment for everyone in your social circle has been avoided.
Although we should generally dismiss the view that torture such as the ‘rack’ or ‘flaying’ or other such dramatic ideas for this period of inquisition for lack of evidence, or rather misinterpretation of the use of the word ‘torture’ found in sources, we should see clearly the totality of the consequences of imprisonment mentioned above. The best source on this is James Given’s Inquisition and Medieval Society: Power, Discipline, and Resistance in Languedoc (Cornell, 1997), in particular chapter ‘Inquisitor’s Techniques’.
Below is the letter from the consuls of Carcassonne complaining about the local inquisitor Jean Galand at the end of the 13th century, 50 years on since the establishment of the first real inquisitions at Toulouse. This is wholly taken from Given’s book above, and he suggests there is perhaps some exaggeration in it:
We feel ourselves aggrieved in that you, contrary to the use and custom observed by your predecessors in the inquisition, have made a new prison, called the mur. Truly this could be called with good cause a hell. For in it you have constructed little cells for the purpose of tormenting and torturing people. Some of these cells are dark and airless, so the those lodged there cannot tell if it is day or night, and they are continuously deprived of air and light. In other cells there are kept miserable wretches laden with shackles, some of wood, some of iron. Nor can they lie down except on the frigid ground. They have endured torments like these day and night for a long time. In other miserable places in the prison, not only is there no light or air, but food is rarely distributed, and then only bread and water.
Many prisoners have been put in similar situations, in which several, because of severity of their tortures, have lost limbs and have been completely incapacitated. Many, because of the unbearable conditions and their great suffering, have died a most cruel death. In these prisons there is constantly heard an immense wailing, weeping, groaning, and gnashing of teeth. What more can one say? For these prisoners life is a torment and death a comfort. And thus coerced they say that what is false is true, choosing to die once rather than endure more torture. As a result of these false and coerced confessions not only do those making the confessions perish, but so do the innocent people named by them […]
In this we can see the use of the verb ‘torture’ in its abstracted, descriptive sense. This use has been co-opted into historiographical narrative about medieval inquisition as a capital-t ‘Torture’, divorcing it from context. It has thus been merged with our understanding of medieval secular torture and punishment which did involve various (famous) forms of corporal torture.
At the same time, we can see this as skillful use of the concept of ‘torture-that-isn’t-really-torture’ by ecclesiastics; it allowed claims by popes, legates, inquisitors that it was simply ‘imprisonment’ and that the conditions of imprisonment were the fault of the imprisoned: they inflict it upon themselves. This is a more subtle view, but makes clearer our understanding of the relationship between Christian notions of sin and punishment within an ethic of self-punishment that are distinctly medieval, and which we live with today.
What was the Roman Imperial Cult?
Well, first of all, throw everything you know about separating religion and politics from each other out of the window. The Roman Imperial Cult is one of the most ingenious ways in global world history of keeping order in an empire. It was a mix of religion, politics and propaganda that is hard to grasp the extent of fully.
Who did they worship?
They worshipped the numen and the genius of the Emperor, but also the genii of the entire imperial family. A loose modern translation would be the life spirit and the soul of the living Emperor. The genius is something that everyone in the empire had, and you could certainly pray to your mother’s genius if you wanted to. The numen was unique to the living Emperor. It was thanks to the numen that the Roman Empire was such a great place. The reason for which they could hold back the barbarians on the borders, enjoy gladiatorial games, walk safely on the streets, and so on.
How did it work?
To keep this immense structure in a constant and working condition it required a mass of different priesthoods and priests, as well as governors who were determined to make sure that everyone followed suit. Very few decisions about they cult emerged from the city of Rome itself. Instead most of the decisions regarding the cult were decided on a local level, either regionally or within a municipality. Thanks to this we have altars showing Gaius and Lucius Caesar, despite them never actually becoming Emperors.
What about the deification?
Only certain Emperors did in fact get deified. Although all Emperors up to and including Diocletian were divus <name>, but only a few of them got the title divi <name> when they died. The case of divi is a complicated matter which has to do with the priesthood flamines. Flamines were priests that belonged to temples, and temples were only allowed to be erected for gods. Certainly not for living Emperors.
They exception to the rule is Tiberius, who refused to have himself treated as a potential god. A refusal that was only acknowledged in the West; the East had a different history of ruler worship and did not play by the same rules as the West. Emperors that were in fact deified were divus Augustus, divus Claudius and divus Vespasianus, among others.
Did any women get deified?
Yes! Most importantly Livia, the wife of Augustus, who died 13 years after her husband. When she died in 27 AD her son Tiberius was Emperor and it has been speculated that it played part in the defification. Nonetheless, Livia Augusta became diva Augusta when she died, one of few women to hold that title.
What did the propaganda look like?
My personal favorite is this statue, called Augustus of prima porta.
Notice they artwork on the breastplate, the stout facial features, the prominent stance and the combination of a breastplate and a toga. Now imagine that it was painted as well.
Most people in the Roman Empire would never have met or even seen the Emperor. Instead this, and images like this one, is what they would be seeing. On coins, statues or similar. What they see is the pater patriae, the father of the fatherland. The man that keeps peace and prosperity in the empire through his wisdom and intelligence.
So, what can we learn from this cult today? The Roman Imperial Cult is a prime example of how a politician can use various ways to get the people on his or her side. It is also a great example of how religion can be used to strengthen the power structure in a state. More than anything it shows us the power of something else, something that distances itself somewhat from both politics and religion – the sense of belonging.
Many people today have trouble finding their true identity. So were the case also when Augustus came to power in the Roman Empire. The Imperial Cult joined together (almost) everyone in a mutual cult worship that both meant that you were Roman and at the same time that the people across the borders were not Romans.
There are lots of things to learn from this cult, a cult that kept the Roman Empire prosperous for 250 years, before the importance of the cult started to decline in favor of Christianity. If you have a hard time imagining it working in modern times, I suggest you take a look at Vladimir Putin.
Often times in history we confront extremely challenging and provoking question, none more so than whether Mithraism was the most metal religion…
The Mithraic mysteries are a fascinating little cult because it was extremely prevalent, yet we know almost nothing about it. There are a handful of literary mentions of it, but the lionshare of information on it comes from its iconography, which places Classical archaeologists in the same place most archaeologists are all the time in reconstructing religious belief from imagery. Because of this, its importance has been exaggerated somewhat in the modern world, and it is not uncommon to see it appropriated by assorted kooks and new agey people today. There is also a persistent story going around that it is the basis for Christianity and Jesus is a redressed Mithras: what the justification for this claim is I will never know. Within the Roman Empire it was of profound importance within the army and within the networks of freedmen and others who made up the Imperial household bureaucracy. That being said, it was never given official sanction, and no Mithraic site has ever been found within the confines of a military camp.
Its origins are a little vague: it was once widely accepted that it was an Eastern import from the Persian Empire, a rather reasonable conclusion given that Mithras was an Iranian deity of great antiquity. However, more research on the Persians has shown that the Mithraic cult was really quite unlike anything that actually existed within Persia itself, rather, the Eastern elements were borrowed to make the imagery more exotic and antique-seeming. Interestingly, Mithraic sanctuaries closer to Persia show a greater prevalence of imagery that was ‘accurate” to Iranian belief, so it seems that those with familiarity with Iran purposefully shifted the imagery to be more authentic.
Even without witches and Jesuses, however, it is a fascinating example of the sort of religious diversity within the Early Imperial period of the Roman Empire.
I read a really good history of the Southern Baptist Convention, a couple of years ago (sadly, I forget both author and title) that documented the conscious decision by which the national leadership of the SBC, during the Reconstruction, made a conscious decision to be the voice of moral authority on the Confederate revisionist side, to embrace and defend the religious and social complaints of the former slave-holding class in the old Confederacy. So by the time of the rise of the Religious Right as we know it, the Southern Baptist Church had already invested nearly 100 years in raising, training, and providing volunteers for pro-segregation candidates in both political parties. After Democratic President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, that put the Southern Baptist Church firmly on the Republican side.
Also in 1964, at the presidential nominating convention (per the speeches and writings of Goldwater delegate and best-sellling conspiracy theory author John Stormer), was the meeting of the Republican Anti-Communist Caucus at which the leader of the top fundamentalist seminary in America, Dallas Theological Seminary, committed to revising the curriculum to persuade all future fundamentalist ministers that fighting Communism was Christian cause number one, and to teach that it was therefore a religious duty of all Christians to support politicians from what they saw as the only reliable anti-socialist, anti-communist party, the Republicans.
In 1968, the Pope of the Catholic Church issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae, which, among other things, banned the practice of contraception or abortion. By 1968, feminism was already seen as a left-wing political cause for long enough that it was being paid lip-service by even center-left politicians in the Democratic Party, which fairly rapidly coalesced into the current situation where observant Catholics feel forced into supporting the only anti-feminist political party, the Republicans.
In the second volume of his auto-biography, Francis Schaeffer, Jr., the son of the famous evangelist (and founder of the modern fundamentalist movement) Francis Schaeffer, documents that it was his personal revulsion to the idea of legal abortion, after 1973 Roe v Wade, that persuaded him to argue his father into telling wealthy Protestant fundamentalists that opposition to abortion was the most important Christian cause, and that they needed to donate money that funded the founding of Moral Majority. Schaeffer Junior says that he approached politicians in both parties, offering them the support of Moral Majority if they would denounce legal abortion, making the argument to Democrats that the traditional Catholic origins of organized labor and their traditional embrace of government regulation made anti-abortion a Democratic cause, only to find himself out-maneuvered by feminists on the platform committees and organizing committees. So, he says, he had no choice but, as their lead fund-raiser, to encourage early Moral Majority leaders to embrace Republicans, and their embrace of traditional rural values (see neo-Confederacy, above), as the only hope of seeing legal abortion overturned. (A decision he now says he regrets, but feels that the feminists left him with no alternative.)
(*Post-1964, the Southern Baptist Church embraced the Republican Party for segregationist reasons; post-1973, Moral Majority and the Catholic bishops both embraced the Republican Party for anti-feminism reasons.)
[This is limited to Europe and the Middle East.]
Amanat states that religions originating in the Middle East – Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam – all share broadly similar apocalyptic beliefs, often in a millennialist framework. This was, perhaps, partly a way of understanding the passage of time in general.
An obvious focus of millennialist beliefs was the year 1000. Fried argues that Europe broadly awaited the end of the world then, and any extraordinary events, even seasonal changes, were seen as prophetic. For example, it was reported that blood rained for three days in Aquitane in 1027. The Duke of Aquitane immediately informed the king, and the agitated Robert the Pious immediately wrote to Gauzlin of Fleury for clerical advice. Around the turn of the millenium, signs were observed by everyone, from the peasantry to the high aristocracy, to ascertain the time of the end of the world. It has even been argued that these apocalyptic expectations were the cause of an enhanced awareness of sin and thus the extraordinary piety around the 11th century, part of the causation for so many major medieval developments such as the crusades. This was, of course, part of a magical worldview shared by all social strata, and the statement in the Scripture that no one knows the day and the hour of the apocalypse except God surely did little to ease any fears. On the other hand, it should be remembered that this was also a time of intense violence and disorder, in which royal powers in France in particular were too weak to enforce justice: hence local warfare was very prevalent.
It seems, indeed, that apocalyptic fears arise most often in times of rapid change or disorder. Sebeos, writing in Armenia in the 7th century following the early Muslim invasions that both destroyed the Persian Empire and much reduced the power and prestige of the Byzantines quickly defaulted to an apocalyptic conclusion in the face of these events. He sees the Arab invasions as a fulfilment of Daniel’s prophecy: “This fourth, arising from the south is the Kingdom of Ishmael, just as the archangel explained (to Daniel), “The fourth beast, the fourth kingdom, shall arise, which shall be greater than all kingdoms; and it will consume the whole earth”. Furthermore, he concludes: “‘The day of [the Arabs’] destruction is close; the Lord has arrived upon them in readiness”. Turmoil and quick political change were thus something that brought the end of times into the mind of a historian. This was not, however, unique to Armenia, and Byzantine authors of the period also predicted that the End was close at hand. For the Byzantines, the time was one of decline not only in military terms but also economically, and politically the empire saw coups d’etat.
Similarly, the Mongols, who invaded much of Eastern Europe and the Middle East in the 13th century, were promptly cast into an apocalyptic role as the tribes of Gog and Magog who too signaled the end of the world. These two occasions of millennialist fears appear to be an attempt to put new circumstances into a familiar framework of a Christian conception of history. If God willed all that happened, it had to be the case that the armies invading Christian lands would have been part of his plan. Historical moments found meaning through the way in which they were linked to divine intentions. Of course, after the situation became more permanent more pragmatic policies were followed: the Latin Christendom, for example, attempted to make alliances with the Mongols to gain influence and territory in the Middle East.
Millennialism around c. 1000 seems to have been more linked to general disorder, the year 1000, and the generally pessimistic Medieval world view: degeneration, after the Classical times or even Charlemagne’s reign, was apparent, and supernatural occurrences such as the rain of blood were further signs that the end was nigh. This is probably also the reason why apocalyptic fears were not as prominent in more prosperous times, or after great military successes. One of the most prominent aspects of an imminent apocalypse was a struggle between Good and Evil, and this could easily explain military conflicts and barbarian invasions that were incomprehensible if not part of “God’s plan” for mankind.
The important thing to know about the general European context of Jewish-Gentile relations is that Jews were considered an existential ‘other” and were persecuted in varying levels at varying times. This period roughly from the end of the Roman Empire to the end of the 19th century can be thought of as anti-Judaism because as opposed to anti-Semitism there was no racial component. Jews were hated because of their religion and/or religious heritage (deicide –killing of Christ — using blood of Gentile children in the making of matzah — blood libel — etc.) What this meant is that if a Jew converted or stopped practicing then they could “potentially” be accepted. There are some examples of this not being the case, especially during the Inquisition, where Spanish Catholics feared the rise of secret Jews that would corrupt their faith. The point in bringing up this is that the Nazis along with others in Europe changed the reason for hating Jews. With the rise of modern thought, old religious prejudices were archaic and antiquated. Instead, Nazis saw Jews as racial antagonists, born with the goal of destroying the Aryan people. This grew out of a horrible misinterpretation of Darwin, and morphed into a battle of the races. Germans as well as other European host societies in the late 18th early 19th century that hard large prominent Jewish populations often talked of Jews as being parasites or cancers. Given this context, killing Jews wasn’t so much murdering innocent people as it was a simple medical operation to make the German people healthy again. The other thing this meant was that even if a Jew converted, they would still be a Jew “by blood”. If you genetic code or your blood is what causes you to be bad or want to destroy Aryans, then there is nothing you can do, it’s just a simple fact of biology. Even babies have to be killed if you follow this logic. Although the baby can do no harm now, it has the “biological potential” to destroy you and it is evolved to do exactly that. Kill it or be killed yourself. As you will see as wee progress throughout these stages, one of the overriding causes of prejudice is fear. This absolutely fear and feeling of being hard done. Everything bad that has ever happened can be wrapped up and blamed on the Jews. And when everything is the fault of the Jew it is very easy to go from simply denying them rights, to eventually extermination. But I am getting ahead of myself here.
*The introduction of race and modern thought changed the hatred of Jews from old religious prejudice, to racial biological opposition.
Another pre-stage issue that ought to be discussed is many of the stereo-types of Jews as well as the historical circumstances that caused them to develop. Even today everyone knows of the “banker Jew” or the “rich greedy Jew”. This develops directly as a response to two issues: First, Jews are barred from owning land throughout much if not the entirety of the pre-modern period. One of the few occupations that Jews could work in was as money-lenders or “court-Jews” where unlike their Christian counterparts who could not charge interest due to religious law regarding usury, Jews were able to loan money for profit and a very very select few were able to become successful this way. I make an emphasis of how small this group is specifically because some people misconstrue this and interpret this as all Jews were successful bankers. Not only is this far from the truth, but Jews also had a stereo-type for being poor and dirty and ruining cities because of the condition of their ghettos. I believe Goethe even remarks on this when discussing the city of Frankfurt and the appalling condition of Frankfurt’s Jewish quarter. I bring this up to emphasize that stereo-types of Jews are created with pre-conceived notions of their being something wrong with Jews. When they are successful it is because they are greedy and steal from the poor average Christian. When they are poor it is because they did not accept Christ and they are stupid and what have you. No matter what Jews did, it was always bad. Specifically though, this becomes even more important in the modern period with the unbridled expansion and revolution of capitalism and industry. I don’t know why but for some reason people seem to gloss over how revolutionary (in the sense of completely changing the accepted order) the advent of capitalism and industry were for the average person. When in the course of a single generation you go from small family in home production to the massive factories of coal and steel, where children lose arms and families can barely afford to eat while behemoths of iron race by you with the power of a hundred horses and can take you across entire nations to distant lands and different peoples … it is quite simply too much for some people. In this age all of these problems and new developments seem awful and people wonder why this is all happening. People fall back on their old prejudices but with a new flavor. The Jews did this. They are the ones that invented capitalism and are profiting from it. Look at all these rich Jewish businessmen and bankers. They are the ones that have destroyed the traditional European economy and family. They are the ones that force your husband to work in the mines while the rich live lives of luxury beyond your comprehension.
This part is where it gets tricky though. Jews also get blamed for the anti-thesis of capitalism as well: communism. Marx being a Jew as well as many younger radical Jews such as Trotsky being a part of the movement means that the whole project becomes a Jewish conspiracy. Once again, anything and everything that can and does go wrong is blamed on the Jews. Secret military documents leaked to your enemy? Blame Dreyfuss the Jew. Hate the excesses of capitalism? Blame the Rothschilds and join a nationalist socialist party. Hate communism as well or more? Hate Trostky and Marx and join a nationalist socialist party. It is a completely self-containing and self-fulfilling system. If you go looking for a Jewish conspiracy you will find one whether its there or not.
*Old prejudices with a new modern twist create a nasty environment.
Okay so hopefully you get the sense now that Jew-hatred has always been a thing, but it is changing at a critical juncture in time and it is doing so with some nasty effects. There has always been pogroms where killing Jews is okay, but this is small scale. I think what you want to get to is the wholesale slaughter and destruction of the Jews. I am trying to only hit the major points, but there is so much to know (Influence of WWI, Failings of the Weimar Republic and how that relates to anti-Semitism, why the most progressive moments for Jews were also the most fraught, the developments of Eugenics and the Zyklon B program etc.)!
Stage 1: Legal Persecution (ca. 1933 – 1938)
This period from roughly when the Nazis and Hitler take power to Kristallnacht are important because it codifies into law the differentiation between Jew and German. The most obvious example is the Nuremburg Laws of 1935 which banned Jews from public office and government jobs (a really big deal in Germany), denied them equal citizenship, boycotted Jewish businesses, and a host of other legal implications both nationally and locally. The idea was that if the Nazis could deprive Jews of their rights they would be able to control them and prevent their scheming and influence from infiltrating important aspects of German society. But for all this is worth, this is far from the mass extermination of Jews. What begins to change the equation is the introduction of violence — kristallnacht.
Stage 2: Violence, War and Ghettoization (ca. 1938 – 1941)
Kristallnacht is a weird thing. Nazis tried to portray this event as the organic rising up of the average German against the Jewish oppressor and heroically destroying their sources of power. Actually, this was an orchestrated pogrom of sorts with national offices specifically telling party members to wear ordinary clothes so that it could seem like it was natural even though it wasn’t. In fact, there were many cases of fire departments being called out to contain the flames only to synagogues or Jewish businesses and many German families were outraged that they would not put out the fires in the Jewish buildings. For the most part though it was a successful experiment in mobilizing Germans to attack Jews while the average German passively accepted it. There was some outcry granted, but nothing massive. We know this because even in the latter stages Nazis seem to react to democratic impulses. A famous case being Germans protesting their Jewish husbands/wives being deported to concentration camps and succeeding in getting their shipments stopped. The major point that one should draw from Kristallnach is that violence is okay now. One last thing to note is that at this time, it was still possible to get out of Germany. Even people as high up the Nazi command as Eichmann advocated for forcing the Jews to immigrate to Israel. The point is that while things are getting bad for Jews, extermination is still way off in the distance. This period ends with the start of the war. The war radicalizes and changes everything.
Germany had a large population of Jews prior to the war and it is important to note that a majority of German Jews survive the Holocaust. This is not true in Poland. With Germany’s invasion of Poland, Germany suddenly has added millions of Jews to its empire and something has to be done about it. It is decided that the already existing system of concentration camps for political prisoners and some Jews is to be expanded massively. However, even with this expansion there is simply not enough room for all the of these Jews to be successfully controlled and so it is opted that the ghettos of Warsaw and Krakow are to be utilized as well. Here is where ghetto, concentration camp, and extermination camps need to be differentiated. Concentration camps are nothing new, they were used in South Africa well before the war, and are used in the U.S. during the war for Japanese prisoners. The idea is that if you have an enemy, if you concentrate them all in one place, you can contain them and prevent them from doing anything bad. Ghettos are a little bit different. While the same principle of concentration is being applied, they are actually massive walled off sections of cities that Jews were already living in. The issue with ghettos unlike concentration camps is that as the war progressed Nazis began to massively overcrowd them and massively under-supply them. There is still not a lot of organized killing, although it does happen, especially during the uprisings that take place in some of the ghettos, but most Jews in these ghettos are dying of disease and starvation. To the Nazis, this seems like the “Jewish Problem” is solving itself. The issue becomes completely compounded and un-manageable after the invasion of the Soviet Union in ’43.
*Kristallnacht introduces violence and concentration begins prior to the war, but the war begins the actual killing of Jews although it is mostly passive through starvation and disease in the ghettos.
Stage 3: Einsatzgruppen and Death Camps (1943 – 1945)
With the invasion of the Soviet Union which includes much of Eastern Europe, Ukraine, Russia Germany now controls almost the entirety of the Jews of Europe. There is simply no resources, time, or interest in concentrating Jews and slowly waiting for them to die out. The war is raging and Germany is becoming stretched thin. In addition, due to the structure of the Nazi government, unlike many caricatures of the Germans of being extremely efficient and organized, Hitler ran the empire very loosely and would hold meetings with his top staff and make suggestions. These suggestions were then made into policy by his officials who were all competing for Hitler’s favor and affection. As the war went on this competition became more intense as generals and different branches sought to out do each other. When Hitler would muse on the Jewish issue, top leaders would attempt to find the easiest way to get rid of the Jews. This is how the Final Solution began.
Now as for the specifics, many of the Jews that were killed in the Holocaust were murdered by Einsatzgruppen. These were groups of typically reservists called up into SS units with the task of rounding up Jews in towns where the main German army had already advanced through, recording names and taking valuables, and then individually taking them out into a forest or field outside the town and putting a bullet in the back of their head. This is where you start to see some of the mass graves and it is gruesome work. Average Germans with no other options are forced to wipe out entire villages and populations of Jews.
This still isn’t fast enough for the Nazis and the war has taken a very dour turn for the Germans by 1944. It is in this period that the extermination camps are increasingly utilized although they were actually constructed and being utilized to an extent as early as 1942. People are often surprised at how late this occurs considering how many Jews die in camps and the fact that many believe that this was Hitler’s plan all along. This just goes to show how radicalized and efficient the Germans had to become. Death camps as opposed to the labor or concentration camps are simply factories for murder. There are two lines, one for those who might be able to provide some labor temporarily, and on for women, children, the sick, the elderly, etc. The lines were usually decided by a doctor who would give a cursory look and decide if you would live or die. If you were in the line marked for death you would be march into a locker room of sorts where you would be told to remove all valuables and clothing and prepare for showers and decontamination. They would then be herded into rooms with what looked like shower heads but were actually dispersal agents for the gas. The doors would be locked, the gas administered, the gas would be released and then the bodies would be collected and sent to the massive incinerators to be burned. It was a conveyor belt of unceremonious carnage and the culmination of old world hate and modern ingenuity and efficiency.
*Towards the end of the war Germany pushes for more efficiency and a quicker solution to the “Jewish Problem” beginning with simply shooting individual Jews, to the gas chambers and incinerators of Auschwitz II.
So that’s basically how they did it. Another major issue that I did not address is the role played by non-Jews in the Holocaust. Jews were not the only ones killed in the Holocaust and it is important to understand why. It was really cathartic for me to write all of this out and try to address this massive topic and do it the justice it deserves. Some people think that the Holocaust is this horrible thing that we can’t even begin to comprehend because it is so evil, but it is our moral obligation to look at human events even when they are the most difficult and attempt to look at the evidence and analyze what happened. Part of the reason I study and talk about this topic is because I think of history as a sort of justice. People should know how and why they died. It wasn’t because of some unimaginable evil. It was the actions and choices of human beings just like you and me effected by the currents of thought and history just like you and me.
- “The Pity of It All” by Amos Elon
- “The Jew in the Modern World: A Documentary History” by Paul Mendes-Flohr & Jehuda Reinharz
- “Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland” by Christopher Browning
- “Night” by Elie Weisel
- “If This is A Man” by Primo Levi
- “Because of Romek: A Holocaust Survivor’s Memoir” by David Farber
Basically, Britain ruled Ireland like a colony – like they ruled in America or in India. The Irish didn’t like this but it was much harder for them to win their independence due to Britain being right the fuck there. There were also many loyalists in Ireland, further muddying the situation, as well as Irish men in the British army fighting against the IRA.
Initially Britain decided to give them representation in parliament instead of their independence, like what N. Ireland has now. That gave rise to a conflict within the IRA, with some of the rebels wanting to end the war and accept the offer of being represented in the legislature, and some of the rebels wanting to continue to fight until Britain gave them complete independence. The separatist faction of the IRA tended to be socialists who wanted independence from England so they could make significant changes to the political and economic workings of Ireland. The others were not exactly loyalists but were capitalists who thought that home rule would be good enough to turn things around without seizing the means of production from private owners and whatnot.
Somewhere along the line, religion came into it, with England being an officially Protestant nation and Ireland being officially Catholic.
So now you had Protestants being attacked in the Republic, Catholics being attacked in the North, the IRA blowing up everything British on both sides of the line, an argument within the IRA about socialism vs. capitalism leading to them to split into to the National Army (the official standing army of the Republic of Ireland) and the irregulars and thereafter into several different factions, with the British army trying to suppress all of the above from all directions.
The West Bank situation might be pretty comparable to this in about 20 or 30 years. Currently Israel is trying to settle loyalist families in the area, displacing the Palestinians. Eventually they might reach an uneasy peace with Palestinians and Israeli living side-by-side but still hating each other. Eventually the Palestinians start to want independence but Israel is reluctant to give up the tax income that the area represents so they offer the Palestinians self-government as long as they continue to pay taxes. Some Palestinians are OK with this, but some want to evict the Israelis entirely, who they see as the cause of the Palestinians’ suffering, and seize their land and incomes and distribute them among the Palestinians as reparations… do you see where this is going?