Repeating History.


Toleration does not moderate radicals: it incites them.

Duly Noted. George Handlery

It is a common place that history does not repeat itself. As so often, this shibboleth panders to a partial truth. Indeed, history’s does not condemn us to bear its repeat performance. It is the ignorant that cause the past’s suffering to return to haunt us.

Memoirs, documentations, and grilled acquaintances tell a recurring story about the Holocaust. Survivors had an interesting response to the “but why did you not leave while you could”? Yes, they were well aware of anti-Semitism. They were also cognizant that, the National Socialists program promised their liquidation. As Islamists put it today, there was then, too, a stated will to “decapitate” the many that they disliked. The Nazi program –unlike that of the Bolsheviks- was not only not a secret but was even advertised to drum up support. There are contemporary movements that act analogously.

The question is why the clearly targeted did not respond by fleeing while they could. What kept the future victims at the scene of the crime to come were not jobs, status or property. The reason to stay was that, the stated policy was not believed to be seriously meant. As a child, I recall my family holding a conclave as the Iron Curtain came down. Should we abandon everything and start anew abroad? Language and employability were not a hindrance. What decided the matter was the “family graves” and that “it” cannot turn out to be as bad as proclaimed. Later this sounded ironical when we were about to join the departed in those prized graves a bit prematurely.

For the contemporaries, what became  the 20th century in the center and the east of Europe seemed unimaginable. Today, as we know more, comparable scenarios brewing should not be put off as a creation of an overactive fantasy. The “impossible” has shaped our past and should be seen as a realistic future scenario.

Why is the lesson ignored that the unbelievable can happen? To our possible peril, the mayhem of the past is “ethnicized”. The Germans did it. Or the Russians were the ones. Strange people that one prefers not to know about were culprits and the victims. This gives comfort even if most groups of mankind are capable of atrocities. (Just think of Chinese and the Japanese, the Armenians and Turks, Tamils and….). The point is that, we tend to limit disturbing events to a time and to people in a manner that insulates us from them. This, the pressure to bear good news, and the lullaby-fantasies of ideologues, combines to hinder emerging threats from penetrating our cocoon. The fact-denying political culture that emerged in advanced societies enables these to ignore coming threats. This impairs their ability to cope with budding challenges even if these openly announce their planned destruction.

The foregoing has alerted to the recurring of the past and those features of our culture that facilitate that. The generalization had a purpose. It served to justify the presentation of the gist of a report from Malmo, Sweden. Sweden is not exactly the place associated with racial hatred on the loose. Nevertheless, categories of victims and perpetrators acting under special rules emerge. A few years ago, when my son was working for a Ph.D. in the area, I was told to avoid that town. It was not correct to mention it, but recalcitrant immigrants were said to make the place unsafe.

With that said, an essay in a top-rated paper undergoing a leftward slide (NZZ, 10. 10.) deserves reconstruction. Its specifics shed light on a general condition, and the situation depicted could resemble one the reader recognizes from close to home.

Malmo has 300 thousand inhabitants of which 70 thousand are Muslims. Most of these live and think like “at home” which they have fled claiming persecution. By being often unemployable in a modern economy and also by their choice, they are a closed community that dominates a section of the town. Therefore, in some zones, unemployment is 85% and the residents can live their life without contact to Swedish society. Excepted are agencies that allocate welfare. The situation is stable as the town gives an eighty percent majority to the Left. As elsewhere, the vote reflects the wishes of those that received citizenship without integration. Admittance to citizenship as a right spreads and determines elections and politics as redistribution.

The consequences for Malmo’s Jews are rather severe. The recommendation of the Wiesenthal Center against travel to the town is an expression of conditions. Here a few items to illustrate the details.

  1. To protect their community center, the Jews asked for permission to set up observation cameras with a view of the sidewalk. The city council declined permission.
  2. An “artist” has placed a sculpture before that center. He used canisters bearing “Cyclone B” inscriptions.
  3. The Jewish soccer club is exposed to racial curses. Jews are regularly attacked (see “A”). The cemetery has been vandalized.
  4. A choir of eight graders shouted “Jewish pig” at their instructor. A fourth grader asked a teacher whether he is a Jew. Then he promised, “We will kill all Jews”.

The city’s Red mayor called upon Jews on Holocaust Day to disassociate from Israel’s role in Gaza. In an interview, however, he felt that all was well and that that Malmo accepts neither anti-Semitism nor Zionism. One suspects that Jews walking around in public, resting in a grave, or teaching class might be practicing offensive Zionism.

The foregoing teaches a lesson. The right to immunity granted to some can impair the right of others to exist. In general, our norms that express rights can conflict with other values. Acting out the freedom of religion when a faith discovers an insult in the practice of others, is an example. Ethnic pride may include the denigration of other groups. The freedom of assembly can limit public security. Free speech may incite violence against disliked elements.

Let us take these collisions a step further. We can conclude that, the freedom that has become a system in advanced countries can be abused to the detriment of liberty in general. The retort to that is that the problem, if it exists at all, is local, minor, as such not grave and therefore, time will fix it. This ignores that radicalism allowed to be rampant, does not recede: it gains in force. Since we have already been there, one can affirm that self-indulging illusions die hard. Harder than people, in any case.