Scrapbookpages Blog

September 15, 2015

Hannah Arendt and her opinion about the role of the Jewish leaders in the Holocaust

The name Hannah Arendt came up in a comment today, so I am expanding on this subject on my blog.

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt

The name Hannah Arendt used to be a household word, but today’s young people might not be familiar with her name, nor her writing. It used to be that, if you did not know who Hannah Arendt was, you were obviously not a college graduate. Her reporting on the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem was, at one time, world famous; her words were studied in colleges throughout America.

Wolf Murmelstein, who is a regular reader of my blog, mentioned Arendt in a comment.  He thinks that she got the story of Theresienstadt completely wrong.  Wolf was a child at Theresienstadt; he is the son of Benjamin Murmelstein, the last Jewish Elder of the camp.

My photo of an old building at Theresienstadt

My photo of an old building at Theresienstadt

My photo of an old building at Theresienstadt which has the date 1941 on it

My photo of an old building at Theresienstadt which has the date 1941 on it

This quote from Wikipedia tells who Hannah Arendt was:

JohannaHannahArendt[3] (/ˈɛərənt/ or /ˈɑrənt/; German: [ˈaːʀənt];[4] 14 October 1906 – 4 December 1975) was a German-born political theorist. Though often described as a philosopher, she rejected that label on the grounds that philosophy is concerned with “man in the singular” and instead described herself as a political theorist because her work centers on the fact that “men, not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world.”[5] An assimilated Jew, she escaped Europe during the Holocaust and became an American citizen. Her works deal with the nature of power, and the subjects of politics, direct democracy, authority, and totalitarianism. The Hannah Arendt Prize is named in her honor.

=======

A few years ago, Dr. Murmelstein sent me a series of essays, including an essay in which he included information about Hannah Arendt.

The following quote is from his essay, which you can read in full on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Contributions/Murmelstein/JudenratQuestion.html

Begin quote:
The opinion of Hanna Arendt that the Jewish Leaders, by their “participation,” had helped the Nazis to hasten the deportations, hardly meets any test of consistency:

Hanna Arendt, in 1940, was able to go to New York and stay safe there, because there had been Jewish Leaders and volunteers who “participated” in order to help fellow Jews to leave Nazi-Fascist ruled Europe.

Jewish Leaders certainly were not stronger than the various army commanders and statesmen who surrendered to Nazi Germany. Jewish communities in those times of darkness stood in an often hostile or, at least, indifferent environment.

As a disciple of the Nazi Philosopher Heidegger, Hanna Arendt is hardly entitled to pass judgment on Jewish Leaders, who were almost all Martyrs. On the other hand, it should be discussed whether, or how, Hanna Arendt’s opinions had been influenced by Heidegger’s theories.

When reporting on the Eichmann trial, Hanna Arendt failed to note that Attorney General Hausner had not called a witness like Benjamin Murmelstein to give evidence.

But at a certain moment, the Nazis realized that the tale of “resettlement of Jews for work” could hardly justify deportation of aged or sick persons, war officers holding medals for merit, etc.

Furthermore, as explained by Heinrich Himmler: “Germans all agree on the idea of getting rid of the Jews. But then every German has his own Jews, stating that this is a righteous Jew; send away the others but let him stay here.” What Himmler did not explain was that some Germans could not be ignored at all. Besides, there were among the Jews highly qualified persons well known abroad, who could not simply disappear in the East.

The solution was THERESIENSTADT, a little town in Bohemia surrounded by walls and with many barracks, just on the Reich border, now better known under the Czech name TEREZIN. There Eichmann had the opportunity to set up a Ghetto under his own authority and to show the real meaning of his “great ideas.” Many Germans could then “be at peace with their conscience” having obtained for their “righteous Jew” – a relative, a divorced wife, etc. – a place in the “Model Ghetto.” Qualified Jews, known abroad, could for a while, send postcards.

From October 1941 until September 1942, Benjamin Murmelstein had to watch the deportations. At Yom Kippur 1942, he had a nervous crisis of desperation about things that happened in that year. He was in doubt about being ritually qualified to lead the prayer service for the very few believing Jews still in Vienna.

From the beginning to the end of the deportation waves, almost all Jews had been deported from Vienna. Besides the very few believing Jews – community staff members – there were many persons in mixed marriage and descendants of Jewish parents or grand-parents. In that year Benjamin Murmelstein had to face the Vienna Branch of the CENTRAL OFFICE FOR JEWISH EMIGRATION where the rule was “promises are valid only when served.” Amid harsh orders, he tried to save what was possible.

The number of the few believing Jews for the community staff had been the result of a difficult “bargaining” (requests had to be submitted in a suitable form) with SS Ltd Alois (Anton) Brunner. At end of August 1942, Benjamin Murmelstein, with his family, was about to be sent to Terezin. But Eichmann decided to delay the “re-organization” of Terezin “Jewish Self-Government.”

Read more at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Contributions/Murmelstein/JudenratQuestion.html