Thursday, February 27, 2014

And what does that funny cross we kept saluting mean again?

     Take a look at the young man in this picture. You might recognize him: Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. But ignore his celebrity, if you can, and just examine his face, his features. What do you think? An ordinary-looking fellow, correct? Not handsome, particularly, not ugly either. Slightly receding hairline, perhaps, largish jaw. Now notice his nose. A fairly nondescript nose. Not one that would command attention. A little triangular, perhaps. Maybe a little pointed, if you were asked to comment upon it. But certainly not the first thing you'd notice. And his lips? If anything, a little thin.
     Now look at this caricature of Zuckerberg that appeared Friday in Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of the largest newspaper in Germany. Setting aside, for the moment, the fact the Zuckerberg is portrayed as an octopus. The caption reads, in German, "Krake-Zuckerberg," or "Zuckerberg Octopus."  Notice anything particularly exaggerated in the drawing? His nose, certainly. And his thick, fleshy lips.
     Did I mention that Zuckerberg is Jewish? He is.
     In one of his tentacles, he holds the logo for WhatsApp, the messaging company Facebook just bought for $16 billion. You'd think that WhatsApp was some beloved bit of German culture—BMW, perhaps—and not a five-year-old California tech start-up that most of the world never heard of before Facebook bought it.
     Nor is the octopus image random.
     “The nefarious Jew/octopus was a caricature deployed by Nazis. That was used pretty much as a staple by the Nazis in terms of their hateful campaign against the Jews in the 1930s," Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper, an associate the Simon Weisenthal Center, told the news site Algemeiner. "[An] exaggerated Jewish nose removes any question if this was unconscious anti-Semitism.”
    Unconscious? The artist, Burkhard Mohr, told the Jerusalem Post that he was "shocked" anyone could view his cartoon as anti-semitic.
    “Anti-Semitism and racism are ideologies which are totally foreign to me,” he said. ‘It is the last thing I would do, to defame people because of their nationality, religious view or origin.’
     That "totally foreign" is more chilling than the drawing itself. If we take him at his word, and there's no reason not to, it's a sobering reminder why people should learn about the past, in all its frequent ugliness. Then maybe these ideologies wouldn't be quite so foreign, and not quite so easy to fall into, consciously or unconsciously.
    "Those who cannot remember the past," as George Santayana wrote, "are condemned to repeat it." Luckily the world is here to remind the Germans about their — and our — horrific past, because they don't seem to remember it, and we'll be damned if we're going to let them start repeating it.







13 comments:

  1. Great column. Santayana was right and so are you. (By the way, if time permits, take a poll of the newsroom and see how many can identify Santayana. My guess, less than 5%.)

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  2. Neil,

    As you know, I've taken on holocaust deniers online in the past and so I am very familiar with the staples of Nazi attacks upon Jews. However, I did not at first make the same connection you did between Zuckerberg's caricature and the anti-Semitic "octopus" posters. Of course, part of that is probably due to my not knowing that Zuckerberg is a Jew. As those who experienced those days pass away, historical ignorance will be a fertile ground for the anti-semites.

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  3. Everytime the Germans say they've really, really changed, they go & prove they haven't.

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    1. You don't want to tar them all with the acts of one, or a few -- that's sort of the bigots' stock and trade. But it sure is tempting -- you can see why it's so popular.

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    2. Neil,

      Forgive my being such a nitpicky bastard as to question a phrase employed on the absolute bottom rung of the impressive ladder of all your multitudinous written endeavors -- a blog-comment reply:

      "that's sort of the bigots' stock and trade"

      http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/stock.html

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    3. Do I have to go searching? Is it "stock in trade"? Just say it.

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    4. Sorry about that. I guess I used that link to be more authoritative, rather than it being my opinion. Well, I also thought that, as a wordsmith, you might find that website interesting, if you weren't familiar with it. Yes, it's "stock in trade."

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    5. Sadly the time has come for Jewish cemetaries to have to hire security guards 24/7. What I don't get is where Trump's election gives them open season for this. Not that I like the guy but he did allow Jews into one country club that others' wouldn't and not only his son in law but one of his dil's has Jewish ties. So he doesn't seem anti SEmitic.

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    6. Well amazingly Trump actually sounded semi-professional yesterday. He must have stuck to the prewritten script.

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  4. For a short course in 20th Century anti-semitism and the attitudes that made Holocoust not unthinkable I would recommend a recent book titled "The Pope and Mussolini," an exhaustively documented examination of relations between the Vatican and Il Duce. Pope Pius XI supported Fascism because Mussolini agreed to make Italy a Catholic country, which meant supressing the evils being done by "Protestants, Jews, Masons and Bolsheviks." Although the Pope turned out to be uneasy with racism, and probably came to realize he'd made a bargain with the Devil, official and semi-official Church organs regularly published highly influential and vicious anti-Semitic libels. Particularly revealing is a discussion about the pains the Vatican took after the 1938 race laws were passed to distinguish beteen Catholic/Faschist anti-semitism (good) and Nazi/pagan anti-semitism (bad). The Church adhered to the belief that Jews could be saved by conversion, but Mussolini folllowed the Nazi 'once a Jew, always a Jew,' line and about 10,000 Italian Jews ended up in Aushwitz.

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    1. Where did you get this?
      Pius XI was about to condemn the Nazis when he died & replaced by that flat out Nazi sympathizer Pius XII, who should have been executed as a war criminal!

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  5. That Becca is too anti German. ;)

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