I have come to the conclusion, not once but several times, that, as far as I am concerned, I do not agree with legislation that makes it illegal to utter pronouncements claiming that there was no Holocaust. I do not want to muzzle any of this because it is a sign of weakness not of strength when you try to shut somebody up. Yes, there is always a risk. Nothing in life is without risk, but you have to make rational decisions about everything.
[We must examine] those aspects of what happened which are still taboo. What is taboo is the life of a terminal Jewish community in some ghetto and the notion that some people died first, then other people died next, still other people died last [...] Example: the first to die were the poorest of the poor.
"Is he suggesting that some people were thrown to the wolves, that they were less capable of surviving (fewer resources, perhaps), or that they didn't have skills that were useful to the Nazis so they weren't kept alive to work? I'm having trouble parsing."
Hilberg saved his more scathing critiques for Nora Levin, Lucy Dawidowicz, and Hannah Arendt. Nora Levin's The Holocaust (1968) borrowed heavily from both Gerald Reitlinger's work and Hilberg's (pp. 142-43). Lucy Dawidowicz's The War Against the Jews (1975) builds "largely on secondary sources and conveying nothing whatever that could be called new." The second half of her work addressed the basic issue of Jewish resistance. Dawidowicz, according to Hilberg, included into her ranks of Jewish resisters "soup ladlers and all others in the ghettos who staved off starvation and despair." Hilberg strongly suggested that "nostalgic Jewish readers" would find here "vaguely consoling words, [which] could be easily clutched by all those who did not wish to look deeper." Recounting Henry Friedlander's contribution to the American Historical Review in 1982, Hilberg listed twenty-three key authors whose works Dawidowicz did not use in her own work. Hilberg finished Dawidowicz with the statement: "To be sure, Dawidowicz has not been taken all that seriously by historians" (pp. 145-47).
Hannah Arendt's works on totalitarianism and her accounts of the Eichmann trial were important inspirations for Hilberg. Upon reviewing her work Eichmann in Jerusalem (1964), Hilberg was startled to find no footnotes and only a minor acknowledgement of her use of his work and that of Reitlinger's. Hilberg pointed out, furthermore, that Arendt's "reliance upon my book had already been noticed by several reviewers." As for Arendt's concept of the banality of evil, Hilberg stressed that Arendt never understood "the pathways that Eichmann found in the thicket of the German administrative machine for his unprecedented actions. ... There was no 'banality' in this 'evil.'" Furthermore, Arendt separated "Jewish leaders from the Jewish populace" to account for Jewish cooperation in the destruction. However, Arendt's response to Hilberg's The Destruction of European Jewry was negative. Writing to Karl Jaspers in 1964, Arendt wrote: "His book is really excellent, but only because it is a simple report. A more general, introductory chapter is beneath a singed pig" (p. 155). Hilberg does not let Arendt off the hook. Hilberg stated that Arendt reestablished ties with a lover from her days as a student, namely Martin Heidegger, and sought to rehabilitate him. Hilberg's point is obvious.
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