Humanity has seen many genocides since our ancestors killed off all the Neanderthals…
The Holocaust is different.
How is this genocide different from all other genocides?
There is a qualitative difference between ordinary enraged insanity and the carefully planned and managed destruction of an entire people (one of the founders of our civilization) carried out by one the most developed and cultured peoples of that same civilization.
It is the end of the idea, the hope, the faith, that material progress leads to spiritual progress.
The difference between any other genocide and the Holocaust is that in the Holocaust all the techniques of over a century of miraculous scientific and technical “progress”, were applied to the task.
The Holocaust is not just another pogrom, ethnic cleansing or enraged genocide. It is the industrial scale, ice-cold destruction of an entire group of human beings using all the tools of modern logistics, recycling and information management, just as if the victims were nothing more than pigs or chickens going to market. The ultimate in depersonalization, in dehumanization: it is the summit of humanity’s alienation from itself. It is the dark side of all the material progress made since the industrial revolution… All modern progress since the Enlightenment devoted to evil.
Because of the symbolism involved the Holocaust is not the same as, for example, the Turkish genocide of Armenians, or the atrocities of Rwanda. Why not?
Germany, pre-Hitler, represented the cutting edge of technology, science and “kultur“: the land of Einstein and Adorno, not “just” Bach, Beethoven, Hegel, Kant, Marx and Goethe. The Jews themselves, of course, before anything else, wrote the Bible, which is nothing less than the founding document of our entire western civilization.
So we are not talking about the individual suffering involved, which is not in any way different from that of Armenians or Rwandans, but rather the suicide of any moral authority our civilization could claim to possess. That loss was summed up by Gandhi when he was asked what he thought of Western civilization, “It would be a good idea”, the Mahatma replied.
In many senses our modern, western civilization died in Auschwitz
I think while we are on subject, I should go on record as saying that, for all the reasons that I have stated above, I am in total agreement with the Jewish position that the Holocaust was totally unique and cannot be compared to any other event in history.
But, for the same reason of its uniqueness, I think that it is sinfully frivolous to cheapen something as unique as the Holocaust by blandishing it as moral blackmail to cover the carefully organized and methodical oppression, humiliation and displacement of the Palestinian people.