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Hannah Arendt: Eichmann in Jerusalem

March 12, 2015

Just received this in an email and thought I should pass on this thoughtful and positive reflection on how to respond to anti-semiticism.

FROM ARENDT, ABOUT DENMARK: “The story of the Danish Jews is sui generis, and the behavior of the Danish people and their government was unique among all the countries of Europe—whether occupied, or a partner of the Axis, or neutral and truly independent. One is tempted to recommend the story as required reading in political science for all students who wish to learn something about the enormous power potential inherent in non-violent action and in resistance to an opponent possessing vastly superior means of violence. … of the three [countries] that were in the German sphere of influence [and that were opposed to the “final solution”] … only the Danes dared speak out on the subject to their German masters. …

When the Germans approached them rather cautiously about introducing the yellow badge, they were simply told that the King would be the first to wear it, and the Danish government officials were careful to point out that anti-Jewish measures of any sort would cause their own immediate resignation. It was decisive in this whole matter that the Germans did not even succeed in introducing the vitally important distinction between native Danes of Jewish origin … and the fourteen hundred German Jewish refugees who had found asylum in the country prior to the war. …

What happened then was truly amazing; compared with what took place in other European countries, everything went topsy-turvy. … riots broke out in Danish shipyards, where the dock workers refused to repair German ships and then went on strike. The German military commander proclaimed a state of emergency and imposed martial law, and Himmler thought this was the right moment to tackle the Jewish question …

What he did not reckon with was that—quite apart from Danish resistance—the German officials who had been living in the country for years were no longer the same. Not only did General von Hannecken, the military commander, refuse to put troops at the disposal of the Reich plenipotentiary …; the special S.S. units … employed in Denmark very frequently objected to “the measures they were ordered to carry out … [Despite Eichmann sending a ruthless enforcer to Denmark] von Hannecken refused even to issue a decree requiring all Jews to report for work. …[Later, when police sent from Germany came to take Jews to Theresienstadt concentration camp, the Reich plenipotentiary] told them they were not permitted to break into apartments, because the Danish police might then interfere, and they were not supposed to fight it out with the Danes.

Hence they could seize only those Jews who voluntarily opened their doors … [when the Jews were scheduled to be taken to the camp] a German shipping agent … having probably been tipped off by [the plenipotentiary] himself, had revealed the whole plan to the Danish government officials, who, in turn, had hurriedly informed the heads of the Jewish community. They, in marked contrast to Jewish leaders in other countries, had then communicated the news openly in the synagogues on the occasion of the New Year services. The Jews had just time enough to leave their apartments and go into hiding, which was very easy in Denmark, because … ‘all sections of the Danish people, from the King down to simple citizens,’ stood ready to receive them.”

The Danish fishing fleet then helped evacuate Danish Jews to Sweden, the poor Jews having their passage paid by wealthy Danish citizens. “It is the only case we know of in which the Nazis met with open native resistance, and the result seems to have been that those exposed to it changed their minds. … they had met resistance based on principle, and their ‘toughness’ had melted like butter in the sun. … That the ideal of ‘toughness,’ except, perhaps, for a few half-demented brutes, was nothing but a myth of self-deception, concealing a ruthless desire for conformity at any price, was clearly revealed at the Nuremberg trials, where the defendants accused and betrayed each other and assured the world that they ‘had always been against it’”.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. krwordgazer permalink
    March 14, 2015 8:06 pm

    This is fascinating.

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