Kosovo, Holocaust and Differences
(Posted to this site on 7/23/2000)
By Mark Nataupsky
Reprinted from the Daily Press, page A11, Opinion section, Thursday July 29, 1999
President Clinton told us that we needed to take the lead in NATO’s bombing in Yugoslavia to prevent another Holocaust. Now peacekeepers are displaying evidence of mass murders. Do the mass graves and the ethnic cleansing add up to another Holocaust? How do the two scenarios compare?
The Holocaust is the most extreme instance in a continuum of killing. This continuum, a concept introduced to me by Professor Yehuda Bauer in Israel, includes the following: killing an individual; mass murder; ethnocide; genocide; Holocaust.
We can compare the continuum with a medical model in which we study an extreme form of a disease to recognize and treat less severe forms of the disease. In that way, we should study Kosovo in the light of the Holocaust while we recognize both their similarities and their differences.
The Nazis were not going to gain a territory or an economic advantage by killing the Jewish people who represented less than l/2 of l percent of the country’s population. They were integrated into the German communities and they were contributing to the success of the German economy. There was no way for the Jewish people to escape.
In Kosovo, a key issue is land. As in many other instances of genocide or ethnic cleansing, the people can escape by moving away. That opportunity to escape does not diminish the severity of the horrible atrocity in Kosovo, but it does distinguish it from the Holocaust.
In all of the less extreme forms of killing, the people had an opportunity to avert being killed if they changed their religion, moved away, or changed some aspect of their behavior.
For example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses would be released from the camps if they would agree to serve in the German army. Although it was a poor choice for those people, they did have a choice.
In the Holocaust, even people who had no idea that a grandparent had been Jewish were defined as Jewish by the Nazis, and that marked them for death. They had no choices. Hitler tried to eradicate any trace of the existence of the Jewish people.
Other very important differences make the Holocaust unique in history.
In the Holocaust, the goal was to kill Jews for the sake of killing Jews, and that was Hitler’s top priority. Toward the end of the war, his generals told him they needed to use the trains to move troops and supplies. If he delayed the killing of Jews, he had a chance of winning a military victory. He then could return to the killing of Jews.
Instead of devoting the war resources to fighting the military battles, Hitler kept the top priority to transport Jews to their death.
Groups of people were shot in Kosovo and other horrible crimes against humanity were committed. The streams of people who freely crossed the borders from Kosovo to neighboring countries made this situation very different from the Holocaust.
Unique in the Holocaust was the fact that the German government passed laws that had the effect of enabling the Holocaust. This was a state-sponsored program with the force of its laws behind it.
The Holocaust is the only case in which a government tried to legalize the killing of an entire group of people. Those who were brought to trial as war criminals stated they were only following orders.
The verdicts dearly showed the need to use moral behavior in the face of immoral laws. We should remember that German soldiers who could not continue the assignment as members of the mobile killing squads were reassigned without anything bad happening to them.
We need to study the relationship of Kosovo and the Holocaust. We need to examine the similarities and differences to help assure we do not have another Holocaust. Not to any people. Never again. Nowhere.
Nataupsky is president of the Holocaust Education Foundation, which is based in Newport News.
TABLE of CONTENTS
- Op-Ed: Lessons today from Sophie Scholl’s anti-Nazi resistance
- Arieh Lebowitz Response to Deniers
- TWO PERSPECTIVES —both are right
- Equality, Fairness and Justice
- Thou Shalt Not be a Bystander
- Kosovo, Holocaust and Differences
- Remembering the Holocaust’s 5 Million Others
- Response to “Remembering the Holocaust’s 5 Million Others”